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Mr. Lloyd : If the hon. Gentleman held as many surgeries as he implies, he would know that many of the forms are much better and clearer. Part of the exercise in which we are engaged is designed to ensure that all the information is immediately available and simple to follow, so that even the hon. Gentleman will be able to understand the forms.
Mr. Alfred Morris : Does the Minister recall that reducing paperwork and simplifying the system were among the reasons given for savaging benefits, not least for disabled people on 11 April? Now that we have the
Column 12authoritative evidence of the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys about mass deprivation among disabled people, will any or all of those cuts be reversed?
Mr. Lloyd : Overall, there were no cuts in April. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, spending this year on social security is higher than it was last year. The changes that have been made have directed money to those most in need. The right hon. Gentleman also knows that the largest changes were in income support, where there is a special premium for the disabled. The other disablement benefits will be examined thoroughly again when we have all the OPCS reports. Therefore, the area in which the right hon. Gentleman is interested benefited in April this year and there is more to come.
Mr. Jack : In the review of paperwork, will my hon. Friend ensure that he maintains on paper a supply of the excellent information to citizens advice bureaux, Age Concern and other organisations which give information to the public about our benefits?
Mr. Wray : Does the Minister agree that there are 30,000 youngsters living in cardboard boxes and anywhere else they can find shelter because of the Government's draconian cuts in social security? Do the Government listen to people such as the royal family who are appalled and shocked--
Mr. Lloyd : I do not believe the figure of 30,000 young people, none of whom are excluded from housing benefit, which is available to any person --and young person--whose income is below the qualifying amount and who does not have capital of £8,000. In addition, they are guaranteed a place on a YTS scheme. Rather than continuing to talk of those who have nowhere to live or no income, the hon. Gentleman should draw their attention to the fact that there is a ready scheme that provides income, and a social security system that enables housing benefit to be paid to them.
Mr. Rowe : I thank my hon. Friend for that reassuring reply. Does he agree that a number of voluntary organisations and others are deeply concerned about the short-term future of a number of hostels, especially those
Column 13for young people leaving residential care? Will he assure us that they are mistaken in believing that changes in the social security system are responsible for that anxiety or ensure that none of the hostels are closed before the report of the targeting review appears?
Mr. Lloyd : I think that my hon. Friend may be referring to the proposed changes in hostel board and lodging. We are examining the replies that have been given and will introduce a fair system for hostels. We recognise the value of their work and intend to ensure that they continue to do that work.
69. Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the right hon. Member for Selby, as representing the Church Commissioners, if he will list the numbers and main responsibilities of (a) clergy and (b) other staff in the cathedrals where the Church Commissioners have some responsibility for payments ; how many cathedrals are involved ; and if he will make a statement.
The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Representing Church Commissioners (Mr. Michael Alison) : For each cathedral, except Oxford and Sodor and Man, the commissioners pay the stipend of the dean or provost and of two residentiary canons. This amounts to a total of 123 clergy in 41 cathedrals. The commissioners also make block grants to these 41 cathedrals towards the pay of other clergy and lay employees. They have no information about the total number of employees who benefit. The responsibilities of cathedral staff are determined by the chapter in accordance with cathedral statutes.
Mr. Greenway : Will my right hon. Friend confirm that hundreds of thousands of people are flocking into cathedrals, which offer a big mission opportunity to the Church? Will they not be completely mystified and will not their concept of the Deity be annihilated if present anti-sexist language proposed for the Prayer Book and God is allowed through Synod and Parliament?
Mr. Alison : My hon. Friend's question arises in the context of cathedrals. I am glad to be able to give him a neutral response--a cathedral is neither a he nor a she but an it. I reassure my hon. Friend that many years will have to elapse before cathedral liturgies are bowdlerised to get rid of any reference to the male gender.
Mr. Alison : A legal aid fund was established under the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure 1963 to assist with costs that a complainant or accused person might incur in connection with proceedings relating to an offence under that Measure. Legal aid may also be given in respect of proceedings arising out of loss of office.
Column 14Boscombe, which is in my constituency? Objectors have been informed by the diocese that they may be liable for ecclesiastical court costs if they exercise their right to object. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, without legal aid, those of my constituents who cannot afford such a risk are effectively being denied the right to object, and will he raise this matter of principle with the commissioners?
Mr. Alison : My hon. Friend can be relaxed about this on behalf of his constituents. He is referring to a case that may arise under a so- called faculty application in the consistory court. I am glad to be able to tell my hon. Friend that the chancellor of the consistory court will not usually order the objector to pay the costs, unless he considers the objection to be unreasonable or vexatious. Applications for a faculty may be made without individuals having to incur the cost of employing legal representation.
Mr. Chapman : Given that millions of people visit some of our cathedrals and hundreds of thousands visit most other cathedrals each year, could the Church Commissioners, with their responsibility for such matters, at least positively encourage charging the public to visit cathedrals, and thereby recognise the escalating costs of wear and tear? Should there not be admission charges on Mondays to Saturdays at least, with free access to certain parts of cathedrals for those who truly wish to worship on their own?
Mr. Alison : I note my hon. Friend's point. I am grateful for the obvious concern that he has expressed about the income and costs of maintenance of cathedrals. Some cathedrals charge an entrance fee, but, alas, the additional income cannot be relied on as a regular source, because of the obvious peaks and troughs in the tourist season. Some cathedrals prefer not even to charge mid-week visitors, as some may wish to worship. Therefore, it would be wrong to try to impose any central pattern of admission charges.
Mr. Alison : The scale of charges to avoid selling things like Mappa Mundi would be so gigantic as to make it questionable whether the cathedrals would in any sense be able to meet the scale of costs involved, in Hereford, for example, where the sum of £7 million is quoted as the minimum required for the refurbishment and maintenance of the fabric.
Mr. Rowe : Has the time not come for the care of the fabric of these great buildings to fall on the Government? Many Christians in this country find a clear distinction between the business of having to concentrate vast resources, and clerics' and laymen's time, on trying to preserve buildings, and seeking the cure of souls.
Mr. Alison : My hon. Friend knows that, through various subordinate and intermediate agencies such as English Heritage and other bodies, the Government contribute a considerable sum of money to the maintenance of parish churches, many of which have extreme historical value. It has hitherto been thought that the glamour, scale and photogenic qualities of our cathedrals have been sources for generating their own flow of income. I take note of what my hon. Friend says. I have absolutely no means of committing the Government to any contributions to cathedrals.
Mr. Cryer : Does the right hon. Member endorse the policy of those cathedrals that do not charge? Will he consider providing more support from the Government? Does he agree that such buildings should be supported collectively, rather than face the possibility of being privatised, selling tourist services to the highest bidder, and maximising revenue through several slick, nasty public relations and commercial promotions, which would destroy the nature of cathedrals?
Mr. Alison : The hon. Gentleman referred to cathedrals being privatised. I am glad to say that they have not hitherto been in the public domain. It is a matter of publicising them, rather than privatising them-- publicising them with a view to getting as much care and concern as they need to mobilise general national support from all people of good will to help them with their ongoing costs. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that, given that we have 42 splendid cathedrals, the level at which they are maintained, their beauty and viability remain a testimony to the considerable resources they and private institutions have been able to raise over past centuries.
73. Mr. David Martin : To ask the right hon. Member for Selby, as representing the Church Commissioners, if the Church Commissioners will take steps to prevent the demolition of St. Jude's church, Southsea.
Mr. Alison : The commissioners have not received proposals from the diocese involving St. Jude's church, although I understand that its future is under consideration by the diocese. I am arranging to provide my hon. Friend with an explanatory leaflet about the procedure that would apply were proposals to be submitted to the commissioners. He will note from it that, should such proposals be received, he may make representations to the commissioners.
Mr. Martin : I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that reply. Will he convey to the commissioners the great strength of feeling among many of my constituents about the demolition of this church, which has been proposed by the parochial council, and that it will be opposed as strongly as possible by those constituents who wish to see such an important church retain its parish function?
The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Wakeham) : No, Sir. The operation of disabled parking spaces in Star Chamber Court was reviewed by the Accommodation and Administration Sub-Committee in January this year when it was confirmed that 12 parking spaces should be reserved for disabled drivers and the remaining five spaces should be available for use by right hon. and hon. Members.
Mr. Butler : Is my right hon. Friend aware that the parking spaces for the disabled appear to have been abused by able-bodied Members of the House? Is that not a bad example to set to private car parks which, I understand, suffer from similar abuse?
Mr. Wakeham : I am quite sure that my hon. Friend is right to say that it sets a bad example. I understand that those spaces are checked at regular intervals by the authorities of the House and that those who have parked there without authority are reminded either personally or in writing not to use the spaces reserved for the disabled.
Mr. Wigley : Can the Lord President give us an assurance that, when the new buildings are complete, not only parking spaces but the need for disabled people to have access to the buildings used by Members of Parliament for meeting delegations, and associated matters, will be kept in mind and that there will be full provision?
Mr. Wakeham : I am sure that those matters will be kept in mind. I shall take the opportunity raised by the hon. Gentleman's question to remind the Sub-Committee of the Services Committee to bear those points specifically in mind.
76. Mr. Spearing : To ask the Lord President of the Council if he has received from the General Medical Council a copy of its response to the report entitled, "A Patient Voice at the GMC", by one of its members, Mrs. Jean Robinson.
Mr. Spearing : Can the Lord President put the reply into the Library? Does he not agree that major charges were made in Mrs. Robinson's report, to which the GMC should respond, especially as a major duty laid on it by the House is the protection of the public? No doubt the Government will wish to proceed by agreement, but does the Lord President agree that it is time for the GMC to come up with its own proposals to restore public confidence in its procedures, so that it can deal effectively with those few members of the profession who let down the profession and the public?
Mr. Wakeham : I am not sure whether I am entitled to put a copy of that document in the Library, but I shall check on that. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the GMC set up a working party in May 1987 to review the procedures relating to alleged neglect or disregard of
Column 17professional responsibilities. Mrs. Robinson is a member of that working party and will, no doubt, ensure that her views are well understood by members of the working party.
Sir Anthony Grant : Does my right hon. Friend recall the tragic death of Harriet English, the daughter of my agent and constituent? I have twice raised in the House the matter of those tragic circumstances. Do not the facts of this case, as of a number of others, show that there is an urgent need for the reform of the GMC's procedures?
Mr. Wakeham : I certainly know about the tragic case to which my hon. Friend refers and I know the parents well. Indeed, it is a tragic case. Of course, the GMC has produced new rules, which are now before the Privy Council. It is considering the matters raised by Mrs. Robinson's report--and other matters. Whether it comes forward with further new rules is a question for it in the first instance, rather than me.
77. Mrs. Margaret Ewing : To ask the Lord President of the Council what estimate he has of savings resulting from the failure to nominate a Select Committee on Scottish Affairs during the parliamentary Session, 1987 -88.
Mr. Wakeham : No precise estimate of the savings is possible, but the expenses borne by the House of Commons Administration vote for the Scottish Affairs Committee 1986-87 were £22,774. In addition, the gross costs of printing and publishing the proceedings of the Committee were £44,985.
Mrs. Ewing : Does the Lord President of the Council accept that that is a very small sum to pay for the scrutiny of a major Government Department? If the problems in setting up the Committee relate to the political dynamism of Scotland rather than to a cost-paring exercise, would it not be appropriate for the Government to recognise the political aspirations of the people of Scotland, shown recently both in the Govan by- election result and in opinion polls which suggest that the alternative is to establish a Scottish Government with communications to the European Community?
Mr. Wakeham : The hon. Lady anticipates to some degree the debate that we are to have tomorrow. I assure her that cost is not the reason why it has not been possible to set up the Committee ; there are other reasons, which will be revealed in the debate tomorrow.
Mr. Gow : Would it assist my right hon. Friend in setting up the Select Committee if he knew that my hon. Friends the Members for Holland with Boston (Sir R. Body) and for Crawley (Mr. Soames)--and even the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow)--would all be prepared to serve on it?
Mr. Neil Hamilton : Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of us are surprised that there have been reductions in expenditure on any aspect of Scottish affairs in recent years? Might not these savings therefore be regarded as a desirable precedent?
Mr. Allen : Now that Members' salaries are certainly adequate, will the Lord President of the Council advise those of us who wish to perform our duties effectively both here and at home how we can get adequate allowances to provide us with sufficient staff both here and in our constituencies?
Mr. Wakeham : It is quite clear from our recent debate on procedure that the hon. Gentleman has a special view of the role of Parliament, which I do not think is shared by any other right hon. or hon. Member. Anyway, I hope that he has a nice trip to America.
Sir John Stokes : Does my right hon. Friend agree that over the years we have debated our salaries, those of assistants, secretaries and office costs ad nauseam? Some time ago we settled on a proper basis how the matter should be dealt with, and there is therefore no reason to raise it again.
Mr. Wakeham : My hon. Friend is quite right, but I do not think that his advice will necessarily be accepted by all hon. Members. Salaries have been raised regularly and have now been placed on a more satisfactory basis and hon. Members must agree that the office costs allowance has been raised by a considerable amount in recent years.
Mr. Tony Banks : Is the Lord President of the Council aware that the Prime Minister and all her offices now cost the taxpayer more than the entire Civil List? Does he think that that represents value for money?
Mr. Brandon-Bravo : My right hon. Friend will know that I, too, represent the city of Nottingham. Will he take it from me that the citizens of Nottingham will think that it comes ill from the hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen), who has campaigned against the policies of the Government, to seek a higher salary and more financial help for the work that he does not do in the city of Nottingham?
Mr. Wakeham : I have enough difficulties in answering questions about Leicester in the House without getting involved in Nottingham. I can only say that my hon. Friend represents his constituents extremely well.
Mr. Marlow : May I put it to my right hon. Friend that the last thing we should do is to set up a system of allowances so that the Opposition can set up a vipers' nest of cadet apparatchiks in every Labour constituency in the country?
Mr. Allen : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Brandon-Bravo) made an unpleasant and personal attack on me. It was imputed that I had asked for more salary for myself rather than put a question about the level of provision of service for Members of Parliament. Could that allegation be withdrawn?
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