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Mr. Walker : I am sure that my hon. Friend regrets that several Opposition Members, representing Welsh constituencies, are not as enthusiastic as he is about the considerable inward investment in Wales, the considerable volume of new businesses that are being created in Wales and the wide diversity of free enterprise economies that are now taking place in Wales which, I am afraid, leave no place for Socialism in the future.
Mr. Barry Jones : May I remind the right hon. Gentleman of the sharp attack on high interest rates that was made by the CBI director for Wales, the much respected Mr. Kelsall? Did the right hon. Gentleman see the reference by the Cardiff chamber of trade to high interest rates being "a headache"? Does he agree that the policies of the Chancellor of the Exchequer are creating difficulties that imperil the Welsh economy's capacity for recovery? We all know that the right hon. Gentleman disagrees with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on high interest rates, but what is he going to do besides making coded attacks?
Mr. Walker : One thing I will not do is be lectured by a Minister of a former Administration, under whom high interest rates and penal taxation were combined with high inflation. There was very real damage during that period, which compares with last year when there was record inward investment, record regional assistance and regional
Column 682aid, record factory building and record numbers of new businesses. I am delighted that the CBI in Wales is delighted at the progress being made.
Mr. Morgan : I welcome that comprehensive answer. It must be a record for comprehensiveness. Without pressing the Minister on the absent statistics, may I ask him whether as a matter of principle he has yet made up his mind about accepting appeals from bank nurses? In England they appear to have been told that they can appeal against their grading, but they cannot do so in Wales despite the heavy responsibilities which, like night nurses, they carry in the hospital service.
Mr. Grist : I think that the hon. Gentleman has been in correspondence with us. Bank nurses have never had the right of appeal and it is not the case, as some people have asserted, that this has been removed from them by their employers. There is an exception in some cases where a bank nurse works regular hours each week and where she might be classed as a part-time member of staff. I think that that is where the misunderstanding with England may have come about.
13. Mr. Harry Barnes : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what assessment he has made of the implications of the introduction of poll tax for the percentage of the population of Wales of 18 years and over who will appear on the electoral register for 1989.
Mr. Barnes : By common usage and common sense, the community charge is generally known as the poll tax because it taxes people per head. Are people liable to lose their political heads by not registering for payment either on the poll tax register or on the electoral register, and will that not affect Wales as well as England and Scotland?
Mr. Grist : I think that the hon. Gentleman makes the wish father of the thought. Over 99 per cent. of people in Scotland have registered for the community charge despite the best efforts of what I regard as some irresponsible Opposition Members.
31. Mr. Rooker : To ask the Attorney-General if he will make a statement on the progress of consideration by the Director of Public Prosecutions and the director of serious fraud office of the inspectors' report on the takeover of the House of Fraser and the contents of the book "A Hero from Zero".
Mr. Rooker : I thank the Solicitor-General for that reply. Does he accept that it is six months this week since the serious fraud office received the inspector's report on the House of Fraser? Will he confirm that there is no undue delay in reaching a decision one way or the other simply because people in high places are involved? Does he accept that the longer the delay in reaching a decision, the greater will be the concern of the thousands of House of Fraser employees who have been bought and sold by international business men as if they were pawns? It appears from the report that they are, in the words of one of the judges, being bought and sold
"from cash from under the mattress."
Mr. Tim Smith : Does the Solicitor-General have any additional information about the book "A Hero from Zero"? Could he tell the House the selling price, how many copies have been sold and whether it has yet appeared in the best-seller lists? Will he be recommending it for the Booker prize for fiction?
Mr. Mullin : Does the Attorney-General not agree that it is extraordinary that these two rogues, the Al Fayed brothers, have pulled off one of the biggest stings in British financial history? They have misled the Government and their merchant bankers, Kleinwort Benson, and have breached the Companies Act. Will the
Attorney-General tell us whether it is out of concern for those in high places whose reputation is at stake that he has waited so long to take any sort of action in this case?
The Attorney-General : I think that my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General has dealt with that part of the hon. Gentleman's lengthy question which falls within the responsibility of the Law Officer.
Mr. Lawrence : Did my right hon. and learned Friend discuss with the Director of Public Prosecutions the Green Paper on the future of the legal professions? In particular, is he aware that if solicitor members of the Crown Prosecution Service, or any other solicitors, are accorded extended rights of audience in the higher courts, there will be no reason for youngsters entering the legal profession to choose the Bar with its much lower early earnings, and, as a result, the Bar will wither away? Is that part of the Government's intention?
Mr. John Morris : While I welcome the appointment of a distinguished lawyer as Director of Public Prosecutions, is it not time to consult the head of the Civil Service on whether a top administrator should be drafted in to support him? Will the Attorney-General accept that there is deep concern, at a senior level within the CPS, about achieving its objectives and providing an organisation of which young lawyers can be proud? Will he now examine the concern about the divorce between those who make the policy and those who handle case work and the undue pressure to produce bits of paper as tools of management? Since "tinkering with the system"--to quote the Sunday Times --is ineffective, would the right hon. and learned Gentleman object to some of the administrative
responsibilities of himself, the Lord Chancellor and the Government's legal service generally being subjected to the scrutiny of a Select Committee?
The Attorney-General : I have full confidence in the administration of the Crown Prosecution Service under the directorship of the DPP, Mr. Allan Green. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will know that there are always difficulties when one sets up a new service, as has been the case here. However, it is more constructive and helpful generally to those who have worked extremely hard and effectively within the service, admittedly understaffed in the lawyers' section in its first two years, to reflect on the views of, for example, the president of the Association of Chief of Police Officers, the chairman of the Magistrates Association and the deputy assistant commissioner, who heads the Metropolitan police liaison with the CPS. All of them have remarked recently on the great improvement in the performance of the CPS in comparison with its early months.
33. Mr. Ken Hargreaves : To ask the Attorney-General how many prosecutions were brought by the Crown Prosecutions Service under the Infant Life Preservation Act 1929 in 1988 and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Hargreaves : May I suggest that the Infant Life Preservation Act is not being implemented? As it gives no protection to children capable of being born alive or, for that matter, to babies being born alive and left to die, would it not be better to repeal it?
The Solicitor-General : My hon. Friend probably misunderstands the requirements of the Infant Life Preservation Act. The case that he has in mind was carefully looked into and it is clear that there was no evidence on which anybody could have been charged. The Act could, nevertheless, be helpful in appropriate circumstances.
Miss Widdecombe : Bearing in mind that the Carlisle baby was born alive, are we to assume that the Infant Life Preservation Act not only fails to give coverage to those capable of being born alive but gives no recourse in law to the parents of a child born alive but allowed to die?
The Attorney-General : I have recently announced a new recruitment campaign, led by a senior lawyer in the Crown Prosecution Service, aimed at reducing its current shortfall of some 400 lawyers. The Government's acceptance last week of Sir Robert Andrew's recommendations for an improvement in the pay of Government lawyers will be of significant help to our efforts.
Mr. Vaz : I listened carefully to the reply given by the Attorney- General to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) and I agree that we should congratulate those who work in the service on the enormous work that they do under great pressure. However, is not the operation of the CPS approaching a crisis? In Leicester, only 10 of the 22 established posts for lawyers have been filled. Although this is a new service, is it not important that we have an independent inquiry into the way in which the service is operated, because of the staffing levels? I say this as a friend of the service and as one who campaigned for the establishment of an independent service.
The Attorney-General : I am grateful for what the hon. Gentleman has said and for his support of the service, which is acknowledged and much appreciated. The answer to his question about an independent inquiry is no. The difficulties are well known. The CPS is deploying its bait for recruits in a pool that is already overfished. Contrary to popular impression, there is a shortage of lawyers. We have to make the CPS more attractive, and we are already succeeding in that because of the pay increase that I was able to announce towards the end of last year. Sir Robert Andrew's recommendations hold further promise for improvement. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, but it would only be an unnecessary distraction if the inquiry that he suggests took place.
Mr. Hind : Will my right hon. and learned Friend bear in mind that once the Green Paper, to be published on Wednesday, comes before hon. Members, pressure will inevitably develop for the Crown Prosecution Service to be able to hire its own barristers to undertake Crown court cases? Will he therefore consider, when the matter is raised, that at present salary levels, senior juniors with 15 or 20 years' experience who are currently carrying out prosecutions for the service at the Old Bailey and in Crown courts throughout the country, will not be attracted to the service?
The Attorney-General : Those are considerations that might usefully arise after the publication of the Green Paper. I hope that my hon. Friend will excuse me if I do not follow him into those realms now.
Mr. Allen : Will the Minister meet representatives of War on Want to discuss the overseas aid provided by the Government? At 0.28 per cent. of GNP, it is shameful and nowhere near the United Nations recommended level of 0.7 per cent. of GNP. Will he take the opportunity to read the fourth report of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs and set a timetable for the Government to do their duty by the United Nations and the people who require aid, and ensure that they meet the United Nations target?
Mr. Patten : I shall be delighted to meet representatives of War on Want, or other non-governmental organisations, at any time. I shall be happy to point out to them that our aid programme is set to increase by 5 per cent. in real terms and 18 per cent. in cash terms over the coming public expenditure period. To those figures I hope that we can now add the substantial additional assistance that will be provided to Nigeria.
Mr. Jacques Arnold : Were my hon. Friend to meet representatives of War on Want, would he express the view of many voluntary workers that War on Want should spend less time on party political bashing in this country and more time on providing additional assistance to those in need abroad, where it should be actively involved?
Mr. Patten : War on Want's campaign material is not balanced or objective and I suspect that it is not meant to be. Its content is a matter for the trustees and, from time to time, for the Charity Commissioners.
Miss Lestor : If the Minister meets representatives from War on Want or any other agency, no doubt they will remind him that the Prime Minister, when referring to the Government's 1981 overseas aid spending, said :
"When economic circumstances permit, we will move towards the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent. of GNP."
War on Want and others, including the Select Committee, remind the Government that, as the Christian Aid report published this month states, official development assistance is now only 64 per cent. of its real value in 1979. Therefore, it depends on from where the Minister selects his figures. Will the Minister say when a timetable will be set to meet the United Nations target?
Mr. Patten : Our position on a target is the same as that of our predecessors, the previous Labour Government. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and my other right hon. Friends will be able to point to the real terms increase of our aid programme as an indication of what we can do with a stronger economy.
45. Mr. Teddy Taylor : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the current level of aid being given to Pakistan to assist with the provision for refugees from Afghanistan ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Chris Patten : We have provided about £60 million of aid since 1980 through United Nations agencies and non-governmental organisations for the relief and support of Afghan refugees in Pakistan. Our contribution this financial year is £10 million.
Mr. Butler : Will my hon. Friend confirm that no aid will be given to prop up the Kabul regime? After the fall of the regime, will aid be given for crop substitution to prevent the problem of drugs arising from that area?
Mr. Patten : We shall not be providing any aid to the Kabul regime. We shall continue to provide assistance through international organisations such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Red Cross and through non-governmental organisations such as the admirable Afghan Aid. I hope that we shall be able to provide assistance for crop substitution programmes. We support some good ones that are just over the border in Pakistan. I look forward to the day when in a free Afghanistan we can provide similar assistance to such projects there.
Mr. Taylor : Does my hon. Friend agree that although Pakistan is a poor country it has set an example to the world in the dignity, understanding and charity with which it has looked after so many refugees for such a long time? Bearing in mind that those refugees are unlikely ever to return to Afghanistan even if the war comes to an end and peace is restored, does my hon. Friend accept that the free world has a continuing responsibility to Pakistan?
Mr. Patten : I endorse what my hon. Friend has said about the role that Pakistan has played in hosting so many refugees for so long. Having seen some of the camps near Peshawar, I think that he is entirely right to give the Pakistan Government a good deal of credit for the way in which they have behaved over the past few years. I hope that he is being pessimistic in suggesting that there will not be a substantial return of refugees to Afghanistan. Such return as there is will depend on peace and stability in that country. We hope that those conditions will return, but in the meantime we shall continue to provide assistance through every channel that is available.
46. Sir Russell Johnston : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what development assistance Her Majesty's Government have offered to Burundi following the widespread killings there in October.
Sir Russell Johnston : Is there stability now and have the massacres ceased? Has any more development assistance been offered within the country since the European Community provided about 650 million ecu in August?
Column 688contribution, to which we contributed about £115,000. We are substantial contributors to the UNHCR's programmes in Africa as a whole, spending about £13.6 million on its African programmes last year. The hon. Gentleman will know that we do not have a permanent diplomatic mission in Burundi, but we believe that the situation is calm at present and that the majority of refugees have returned. We welcome the recent steps to increase Hutu representation in the Cabinet. We hope that the president will introduce Hutu officers into the ruling military committee for national salvation.
Mr. Chris Patten : We continue to support Nigeria through our substantial technical co-operation programme, which includes assistance to the education sector. Trade opportunities in Nigeria should benefit from the ecomomic adjustment programme on which we hope Nigeria is about to reach agreement with the International Monetary Fund. We have offered Nigeria a grant of US$100 million in 1989 on condition that the IMF standby arrangement is approved and that other donors make a substantial contribution.
Mr. Speller : I thank my hon. Friend for his useful answer. Does he accept that if a young person is trained in a host country such as the United Kingdom, the odds are that he will use British methods, equipment and machinery for the rest of his working life? Does he accept also that any cut in aid to overseas countries for education will be in every sense counter-productive for our commercial interests in the years to come?
Mr. Patten : I sympathise with my hon. Friend's argument though I do not think that matters are as mechanistic as he suggests. I am grateful for the work that he does through the West Africa committee to improve Anglo- Nigerian relations and to draw attention to the arguments that he has adduced. I am sure that he will be delighted to know that our technical co- operation and training programme in Nigeria is set to grow quite substantially. We shall be training about 365 Nigerians in the United Kingdom this year, and we intend to increase that figure to about 470 next year.
49. Mr. Wigley : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the Government's policy on giving to third world countries which suffer from famine, surplus food produced in Britain ; whether this forms an integral part of the overseas aid programme ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Chris Patten : We give priority to meeting requirements for famine and other emergencies under our food aid programme, which is an integral part of the overseas aid programme. We seek to purchase food from the most appropriate source, making use of both surpluses in developing countries and surpluses produced in Britain and other European Community countries.
Mr. Wigley : Does the Minister accept that there is something immoral in there being such massive food mountains in the West and pressure --indeed financial inducements--on producers to reduce production when people are dying of famine? Thousands have died of famine during this hour of Question Time. Is there no way in which we can be more positive about the logistics and mechanisms involved in diverting food to those who need it?
Mr. Patten : I sympathise with the thrust of the hon. Gentleman's argument, which is why we made reform of the European Community's food aid programme one of our major priorities during our presidency of the Council of Ministers. We succeeded in implementing that priority
Column 690task. Food surpluses, questions about which should perhaps be directed to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, can ultimately be tackled only through international action to reform agricultural policies in the richer countries of the world. We have been prominent in pressing for reform, but there is nothing more important to developing countries than continuing liberalisation of trade arrangements, and especially reductions in agricultural subsidies.
That the Food Protection (Emergency Prohibitions) Order 1989 (S.I., 1989, No. 3) be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.-- [Mr. John M. Taylor.]
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