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Mr. Barry Jones : Has the Department not failed to meet the challenge of the 30 per cent. Club, the importation of poisonous waste and the filthy condition of many of our beaches? Why should my frightened constituents see poisonous soil from Rotterdam dumped at the bottom of their gardens, and why should the citizens of Torfaen grow ever more apprehensive about the Rechem smokestack? Does the right hon. Gentleman plan to stop the import of poisonous waste into Wales? I remind him that the Karin B wanted to dock at Neath. We want an end to these matters.

Mr. Walker : As the hon. Gentleman will know from his ministerial experience, the disposal of waste is under strict independent and impartial control, and no waste that fails those controls can come into this country, be used in this country or have any application in this country.

On the state of the beaches and the water, I urge the hon. Gentleman to examine the capital investment programmes to improve the rivers, beaches and water systems of Wales that have taken place in the lifetime of this Government. We should compare that with the total stagnation in investment under the Labour Government.

Housing

12. Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of Wales what action he has taken to ascertain the views of Welsh local authorities on the future of housing in Wales.

Mr. Grist : Local authorities have been extensively consulted about the Government's policy proposals, and I have regular discussions with local authorities in the forum of the Welsh Housing Consultative Committee.

Mr. Flynn : Does the Minister agree that, according to the new voting rules approved by the Government in the Housing Act 1988, the Labour party won the general elections of 1979, 1983 and 1987? That is especially true in Torbay, where non-voters are counted as having voted in favour of Government policy. The non-voters are the lazy, the apathetic, the sick and the dead. In Torbay, 2,200 voters were outvoted by 700. Is that not a breach of democracy as serious as the selective franchise, the 30-year Parliaments and the rotten boroughs of the previous century? The same thing is happening in Wales. Is the Minister on the side of democracy, or on the side of vote-rigging?

Mr. Grist : I think that I speak not only for this side of the House when I say that other hon. Members may believe that the hon. Gentleman and the Labour party know more about rotten boroughs than we have forgotten about them.


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Wales Railway Centre

13. Mr. Adley : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales when he intends to visit the Wales railway centre in Cardiff ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Peter Walker : I wish to visit the centre. I am pleased that it has received financial support from various public bodies and that this has enabled good progress to be made with the project.

Mr. Adley : While thanking my right hon. Friend for that reply, and welcoming the efforts of Cardiff Bay development corporation and the local authorities in renovating south Cardiff, may I ask my right hon. Friend to take note of the fact that if the Wales railway centre is to achieve its objective it must maintain a rail link, not only with Cardiff city centre, but with the new heritage park in the Rhondda, which he has supported substantially, and with the Big Pit at Blaenavon? Will he ensure that that vital point is not lost as discussions proceed?

Mr. Walker : Given my hon. Friend's expertise on railways both here and overseas, I shall of course take careful note of his points.

Council House Rents

14. Mr. Rowlands : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what his Department's latest estimate is of the amount of council house rent arrears since April ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Grist : The only figures held centrally on local authority rent arrears refer to the end of the financial year. Local authorities' projections for the end of 1988-89 are incomplete but currently stand at £5.3 million.

Mr. Rowlands : Is the Minister aware that there has been a dramatic increase in arrears since April--50 per cent. in some of the communities that I represent--mainly as a result of cuts in housing benefit? Does he agree that those cuts in benefit are hitting some of the poorer tenants? What additional new action do the Government propose to alleviate the disadvantages of those people and the growing arrears of local authorities?

Mr. Grist : The hon. Gentleman might be interested to know that the estimated figures show a 2.1 per cent. shortfall of arrears compared with the total rent bill. It was 1.9 per cent. in the last financial year, 1987- 88, 2 per cent. in 1986-87 and 2.6 per cent. in 1985-86. It is currently 2.1 per cent. There has been little, if any, change in arrears as a percentage of the total rent bill.

THE ARTS

Ethnic Minority Arts

27. Mr. Bernie Grant : To ask the Minister for the Arts if he will publish a table showing detailed expenditure by the Arts Council on ethnic minority arts by the Arts Council in (a) 1985-86, (b) 1986-87, (c) 1987-88, by (i) department, (ii) client and (iii) type of funding, whether revenue, annual or project.

The Minister for the Arts (Mr. Richard Luce) : The Arts Council report on ethnic minority arts, now due in the new


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year, will contain details on these matters. In the meantime, I refer the hon. Member to the answer that I gave on 28 April to the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz).

Mr. Grant : Is it true that a paltry sum of less than 2 per cent. of Arts Council grants goes to black-led arts companies? Is that not a disgraceful undervaluing of those companies? Does the Minister agree that the abolition of the GLC and the Government-inspired cuts in local authority funding mean that black arts companies are finding increasing difficulty in getting funding, and what does he intend to do about that?

Mr. Luce : I think it is true that the ethnic minority arts, principally the Caribbean and Asian arts, have an important contribution to make to the diversity of arts in this country. The Arts Council has a clear objective, which is to set aside 4 per cent. of its resources to help sustain that development. At the moment it is undertaking a review of its support for ethnic minority arts and is planning to hold a seminar in the new year, which I plan to attend.

Mr. Soames : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the abolition of the GLC has had a remarkably beneficial effect on the funding of arts in London? Secondly, does he agree that, although it is true that the Caribbean arts have much to offer to the rich diversity of arts in our national life, nevertheless the question of ethnic funding is not the one to be considered? What matters is whether it is a worthy subject to be funded.

Mr. Luce : My hon. Friend is right on the latter point. Many Asian and Caribbean minority arts activities are worthy of being funded and the Arts Council is moving in that direction. The decision must be taken on the grounds of artistic merit and on those grounds alone. My hon. Friend mentioned the abolition of the GLC. I recall that three years ago there were prognostications of gloom and despondency by the Opposition about what would happen on the abolition of the metropolitan authorities. The opposite has been the case and the arts have been sustained in all those areas.

Mappa Mundi

28. Mr. Simon Hughes : To ask the Minister for the Arts if he has any plans to take action to ensure that the Mappa Mundi is retained by Hereford cathedral for public display in Hereford ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Luce : I am keeping in close touch with developments. In particular, I note that Hereford city council has taken a positive approach to the problem of the potential sale of the Mappa Mundi. I understand that my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack), in his capacity as chairman of the all-party heritage committee, has had an informal meeting with the dean of Hereford, Lord Charteris, chairman of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, Lord Gowrie, chairman of Sotheby's, and my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford (Mr. Shepherd), who I know is playing a constructive role in all this. I now understand that the dean and chapter of Hereford cathedral have met today to consider the situation. In the light of all this, I hope that it will be possible to find a solution acceptable to all the parties.


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Mr. Hughes : As a Herefordian, may I ask the Minister whether he will confirm that less than an hour ago the dean and chapter decided that until the matter is resolved they have no plans to revoke the decision to sell? In that event, what is needed from the Minister is a clear announcement that the Government support the retention of the Mappa Mundi in Hereford. They must say that they will work with the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the British Library to ensure that the moneys are forthcoming and that no stone will be left unturned to ensure that the map returns to where it was created and where it belongs. The Government must ensure that the heritage of our cathedrals is not sold off through auction rooms to the highest bidders no matter where they might be in the world.

Mr. Luce : I have yet to learn precisely what was discussed today by the dean and chapter. I have no shadow of doubt about the importance of this object to our heritage and the importance that the people of Hereford, let alone the cathedral authorities, attach to it. I recognise that fully. The chairman of the National Heritage Memorial Fund has already said that he would be prepared, because he has taxpayers' money at his disposal, to consider playing a role on behalf of the taxpayer, but I draw the attention of the House to the fact that all past experience and practice in this sector have shown that where an object deserves retention in this country the most sensible basis for a solution is an effective partnership between the public and the private sectors, and one that is acceptable to all parties. I will do whatever I can to help reach an effective solution along those lines.

Mr. Colin Shepherd : The close interest that my right hon. Friend is taking in this matter will be well received in Hereford, and on a far broader basis than that, because this is an important matter. I am not aware of the outcome of today's meeting of the Hereford chapter, but if the dean and chapter seek a meeting with my right hon. Friend, will he respond favourably to requests from me to arrange such a meeting?

Mr. Luce : I acknowledge the role that my hon. Friend is playing in all this. If the dean and chapter ask for a meeting I shall be happy to meet them and to hear their viewpoint.

Mr. Robert Sheldon : Is it not time to define certain treasures which must not be sold abroad, whatever the circumstances, by people who simply want to raise money? Italy and other countries with considerable treasures do better than we do in this respect by preventing the export of certain treasures. Should we not define certain categories to fit into that?

Mr. Luce : Each European country has a different procedure to deal with this matter. Italy places an almost total ban on the export of nearly all objects of heritage importance. I am not sure that I believe that to be the right way to proceed. We have to preserve the ability of people to sell their own objects, to preserve an element of market forces in all this, and to allow trade across national boundaries. History shows that in the past 200 years the number of objects that we have imported is a factor to be taken into account. Against that, it is important that we have procedures which allow us to preserve heritage items of the greatest importance. For that reason, it is important


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e have in existence the National Heritage Memorial Fund, which has substantial amounts of taxpayers' money at its disposal to help in this direction. Mr. Cormack : Is my right hon. Friend aware that iwas clear, not only from the meeting that we held last week, to which he referred, but from conversations that I had yesterday and today with Lord Charteris and the chapter clerk, that everyone concerned is desperately anxious to see a solution which leaves the map in Hereford cathedral, but also does something to help the cathedral's real problems? Is not Lord Charteris in an extremely difficult position while the map remains on offer? Would it not be exceptionally helpful if, accepting the real desire to help, the dean and chapter would withdraw the map from public auction, at least for the time being?

Mr. Luce : I am grateful for the constructive role that my hon. Friend is playing in this, with all his knowledge of these issues. I must leave it to the judgment of Lord Charteris, as chairman of the National Heritage Memorial Fund. What is the point of establishing such bodies unless I take their advice? If I were to ignore their advice, that would be wrong. I have no shadow of doubt that it is important to preserve the Nappa Mundi in this country--it is an important object of art and it is also important to the people of Hereford--and I shall play a prominent role in helping to achieve just that.

Mr. Fisher : The House will have heard the Minister's fine words, but will he respond to the very moderate and constructive remarks made by the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack)? If he fails to do that, and in the light of his reply to the question from my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon), the House will have no alternative but to realise that the Government are introducing market forces even into this area of policy. The House will consider that a disgrace.

Mr. Luce : I cannot see how the hon. Gentleman can make that deduction from my remarks about the Mappa Mundi and its importance. I have no difficulty saying that I hope that a solution can be found that will lead to the map's withdrawal from auction on the market. It is important to preserve the map in this country and all parties concerned must work to that end. I have already pledged to do my best in that direction.

Secondments

53. Mr. Chapman : To ask the Minister for the Civil Service if he will give the latest number of secondments between the Civil Service and industry ; and if he will make a statement.

The Minister of State, Privy Council Office (Mr. Richard Luce) : A significant number of serving civil servants now have experience in the private sector as a result of secondments. There were nearly 500 secondments of three months or more between the Civil Service and industry in 1987. I hope that the recent White Paper on releasing enterprise will continue this process.

Mr. Chapman : I very much welcome the increased number of secondments between the Civil Service and industry. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the numbers are still too few? Given the understandable


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practical difficulties that can exist, will he take further initiatives to encourage part-time secondments between industry and the Civil Service, and encourage civil servants to take non- executive directorships in businesses, to the mutual benefit both of business and of the Civil Service?

Mr. Luce : I agree with my hon. Friend, who has taken a close interest in these matters for some time. The answer to the problem does not lie in one solution; for example, simply in two-year secondments between the private sector and business, which is already doing well. The answer lies in a number of solutions, including short-term loans, Whitehall and industry schemes and part-time executives, of which there are 45 at the moment. The answer lies in a package of means whereby there can be a greater interchange between the private sector and the Civil Service.

Civil Service Unions

54. Mr. Harry Barnes : To ask the Minister for the Civil Service when he last met representatives of the Civil Service unions ; and what matters he discussed.

55. Mr. Winnick : To ask the Minister for the Civil Service when he last met Civil Service unions ; and what subjects were discussed.

59. Mr. Allen : To ask the Minister for the Civil Service when he last met representatives of the Civil Service unions ; and what matters were discussed.

Mr. Luce : I have meetings from time to time with representatives of Civil Service trade unions both centrally and during visits to Civil Service establishments. A wide variety of matters are raised.

Mr. Barnes : Did the Minister discuss the basic principles of trade unionism with the Civil Service trade unions which are to negotiate wages and conditions on behalf of their members under agreed and established procedures? Why are those rights denied to workers in GCHQ? The Government present themselves as dynamic and thrusting, but again they are reactionary in going back to legislation which this House got rid of some time before 1824, which had banned combination of workers.

Mr. Luce : Over the last four years the position on GCHQ has been made absolutely clear. It is only with security and intelligence organisations that the rules apply with regard to trade unions. GCHQ depends on continuity of service 24 hours a day flowing at all times in the national interest and in the interests of our national security. From 1979 to 1981, 10,000 working days were lost as a result of action. That was not acceptable in the interests of our national security. My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary and his team have been taking pains over four years to deal with the real individual problems that have arisen as a result of the decision.

Mr. Winnick : Has the Minister heard from the Civil Service unions whether they intend to tell Mr. Gorbachev when he visits Britain that they are very much in favour of the basic rights being introduced in the Soviet Union at long last, while the Civil Service unions are trying to defend our existing rights, including the rights of people at GCHQ to belong to a trade union?


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Mr. Luce : If the hon. Gentleman is seeking to draw an exact parallel between the conditions of trade unions in Britain and in the Eastern bloc, he had better go and live in the Eastern bloc and find out for himself.

Mr. Allen : Will the Minister comment on the scandal of the Intervention Board for Agricultural Produce computer programme--the private programme introduced for intervention board pricing? Will he make a statement in the very near future on how people who have been unduly affected by that computer catastrophe will be assisted?

Mr. Luce : As I understand the scheme to which the hon. Gentleman refers, it is principally a matter for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to whom such questions should be directed.

Mr. Holt : Will my right hon. Friend say whether he has discussed the relocation of Civil Service departments in the north of England, particularly in the light of the report produced in June last year by two middle-ranking officials stating that in their opinion senior civil servants would not wish to live in the north of England?

Mr. Luce : Earlier this year my right hon. Friend the Paymaster General set out the framework of the Government's broad policy towards the relocation of civil servants in other parts of the country. As my hon. Friend is aware, four out of five civil servants work outside London, and there is now considerable encouragement to Departments, most of which are taking seriously the possibility--on the grounds of recruitment and retention and on other grounds--of moving more civil servants to other areas.

Mr. Soames : When my right hon. Friend next meets the Civil Service unions, will he pass on to them my admiration for the immense tact, discretion and thoroughness with which the DHSS office in Crawley deals with various matters? Will he tell them that it would be greatly in their interests to concentrate on trying to get their other members to behave in the way that their members in Crawley behave?

Mr. Luce : I am grateful for what my hon. Friend has said and for the tribute that he paid to offices in his constituency and the high standards of conduct of the civil servants there.

Dr. Marek : The Minister cannot get away from the great gulf that exists in the minds of the public in relation to GCHQ when they perceive their Prime Minister preaching and supporting free trade unions in Poland but abolishing free trade unions in Britain. If the free trade unions in Britain went to the Minister and said that they wished to negotiate a no- strike deal, with no holds barred, so that, to use the Minister's words, information could continue to flow and there would be no interruption in service, in return for being able to organise GCHQ freely, would he talk to them?


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Mr. Luce : The hon. Gentleman is very familiar with the reasons for that. It is quite clear that the rule on trade unions applies only to security and intelligence institutions. GCHQ did have disruption, losing 10,000 working days between 1979 and 1981. The continuous free flow of information from that institution is essential in our national interest. It was on those grounds alone that the decision was taken. The decision applies only to security and intelligence institutions.

Agency System

58. Mr. French : To ask the Minister for the Civil Service if he will make a statement on the progress towards establishing agencies within the Civil Service.

Mr. Luce : With permission, Mr. Speaker, I shall answer this question and question 56 together.

Mr. Speaker : Order. The right hon. Gentleman cannot do that. We have already passed question 56.

Mr. Luce : I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I will answer question 58 alone.

Two agencies have been set up, about 30 more have been announced and more are in the pipeline, I shall be making a progress report to the House before too long.

Mr. French : Does my right hon. Friend accept that the agency system will greatly improve the managerial abilities of civil servants, but only if adequate provision is made for management training? Will he tell the House what provisions he has in mind?

Mr. Luce : My hon. Friend is absolutely right. One of the main purposes of the establishment of the agencies is to devolve decision-making down the line of management in the Civil Service, and to give managers in the Civil Service greater authority and enable them to take more decisions themselves. It is essential that we should have proper training policies to enable them to become even better managers. To that end I have earmarked an additional £1 million, which will be used as a form of challenge funding with Departments to stimulate better training.

Mr. Madden : Will the Minister take action to ensure that the agencies do not place contracts with the Economic League--the jobs blacklisting organisation? Will he ensure that they do not place security contracts with the Securicor group or Group 4 Total Security Limited, which have had Government contracts for many years and subscribe to the Economic League?

Mr. Luce : The important point is that members of the agencies will be members of the Civil Service, under the direct control and overall responsibility of the Secretary of State, with delegated responsibility to the chief executive. Broadly speaking, the standards maintained by the Civil Service and the Departments will be maintained by the agencies.


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