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Mr. Bottomley : A review of the traffic on that stretch of road does not suggest that a dual carriageway is justified, but we shall see what we can do by widening and providing overtaking stretches, which is just as important.
11. Mr. Simon Hughes : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many (a) deaths, (b) major injuries and (c) minor injuries there were in non-movement accidents during 1988 on British Rail property in Great Britain.
Mr. Portillo : Full railway accident statistics for 1988 will be published in the chief inspecting officer of railways' annual report later in the year. The information presently available shows 17 deaths, of which 14 were those of trespassers or suicides, 310 major injuries and 3,864 minor injuries.
Mr. Hughes : I am grateful to the Minister for those figures. Is it not clear from the recent inquest on my constituent Paul Elvin, who died at Euston, that British Rail does not enforce the rules governing the employment of contractors on its premises and that it does not comply with the rules that require it to ensure, for example, that there are circuit breakers to turn off the mains cables if there is someone on the line? Will he guarantee that the railway inspectorate will prosecute where there is clear evidence of criminal failure by British Rail and others working on its property, as that has not happened often enough in the past?
Mr. Portillo : I am not familiar with the case to which the hon. Gentleman refers, although I shall definitely look into it. These are matters for the Health and Safety Commission and the railway inspectorate. In the broadest terms, I can confirm that both those bodies have the power to prosecute when it seems appropriate to do so.
Mr. Peter Bottomley : None. Consultants have been engaged to carry out assessment studies in four parts of the capital with very severe transport-related problems. They are currently assessing and testing a wide range of options which contain some road elements. Their reports are expected later this summer. We have also commissioned a study of the area around Heathrow and south-west London.
Mr. Cox : Is the Minister aware that, whatever he may say, there is growing concern among constituents in many parts of London about the potential development of major "road improvements" in their area because they will not be improvements of the environment in which many of our constituents live ; they will be problems? Will he give an assurance that, before there is any major road development in London, if local residents call for a public inquiry, he will support it?
Mr. Bottomley : Yes. I go further than that and invite the hon. Gentleman to go to the Rochester Way relief road, which was the last road built in inner London and started by the GLC under the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) and supported by a Labour council. The hon. Gentleman will see the environmental relief, the casualty reduction, and the opportunity for more jobs. I wish that the hon. Gentleman and others would spend as much time being concerned about the nearly 500 people who die every year on London's roads--the equivalent of a Sheffield Hillsborough every 10 weeks--and the thousands of people in London who are injured on our roads. Those issues need to be tackled with public transport and some road changes as well.
The Minister for the Arts (Mr. Richard Luce) : I met Lord Rees-Mogg on 21 March and we discussed a number of matters of mutual interest. I shall be meeting Mr. Palumbo in his capacity as the new chairman of the Arts Council shortly.
Mr. Knapman : I join my right hon. Friend in thanking Lord Rees-Mogg for his seven years of dedicated work for the Arts Council and welcoming Mr. Palumbo, who has some important but difficult decisions to make. Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that the principle of arm's length funding for the arts will continue?
Mr. Luce : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his tribute to Lord Rees-Mogg for his outstanding seven years as chairman of the Arts Council and for wishing Mr. Palumbo every success in his new task. I strongly reaffirm that we shall continue to allocate funds within a given total to the Arts Council and that the arm's length principle will continue.
Mr. Robert Sheldon : Will the Minister point out that, according to the Government publication, British Business, nearly £4 billion comes from the arts and overseas earnings, and that £1.5 billion of that is from cultural tourism? Will he point out, further, that it makes economic good sense to continue subsidies at a much higher level and that is he aware that that article in a Government publication should prompt him to press the Treasury and the Government for more money for the arts?
Mr. Luce : The right hon. Gentleman is right to point out the important contribution which the arts make to the economy. Those findings emerged principally from the Policy Studies Institute, which partly funded that study. The arts world is expanding successfully with many new audiences, not just with taxpayers' money but joint partnerships in which the private sector is playing a leading role.
Mr Goodlad : Will my right hon. Friend discuss with the chairman of the Arts Council the funding of the royal national theatre? Is he aware that, despite greatly increased subventions to the Arts Council, funding for the royal national theatre has seriously fallen behind the rate of inflation and that that is a serious threat to the artistic standards of one of our greatest institutions? Will he consider direct funding by his Department along the lines of that for the British Museum?
Mr. Luce : On the latter point, I must make it plain that I wish to continue the arm's length policy. It is not right that civil servants and Ministers in Whitehall should take specific decisions on the allocation of funds to the arts. It must be for the Arts Council and regional arts associations to do that.
My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the value of the royal national theatre, and I am grateful to him for doing that. Last year 10 per cent. extra funds were given to
Column 650the Arts Council, and part of that was through incentive funding and extra money for tourism. In both cases, the royal national theatre stands to gain.
Mr. Tony Banks : When the Minister next meets Mr. Palumbo will he discuss with him the enormous cultural contribution that is made by the British Broadcasting Corporation? At the moment, that cultural contribution to this country is being jeopardised by the Government's White Paper proposals on broadcasting and the hypocritical, provocative action of top management of giving themselves a 30 per cent. pay hike, while offering BBC workers a pay cut. Will he comment on that?
Mr. Luce : I welcome the hon. Gentleman to his temporary role as Opposition Front Bench spokesman on arts. However, he has not done his research because broadcasting is the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. There is no doubt that broadcasting will play a key role in the arts. Under the White Paper and the proposed reforms, it has an even bigger role to play, with a wider range of choice.
Mr. Holt : Does my right hon. Friend accept that while he must not necessarily give directions in the allocation of funds, he might give a hint that when the Arts Council is giving money to American sculptors to produce a tipsy bottle as a memento of Captain Cook's discovery of Australia, he might bring some pressure to bear and not agree with the outgoing chairman that that was perfectly appropriate spending of British money?
Mr. Luce : It is for the Arts Council to judge and for hon. Members to express their views if they like or dislike a particular form of support. However, this gives me an opportunity to say that the most important role of the Arts Council--the expenditure of money--is to strengthen the standards of excellence in the arts. That must be a priority both in London and outside and I am glad that Mr. Palumbo stressed the importance of that in his opening remarks when he first came to the Arts Council.
Mr. Smith : Will the Minister ensure that as the Wilding inquiry into the structure of arts administration in London and elsewhere gets under way, part of Mr. Wilding's consideration will relate to the threat from property development to many arts enterprises and organisations in inner London? Will he do so particularly in the light of current pressures in the Tottenham Court road area where an actors' agency, two theatre groups, two film production agencies and the Directors Guild are all threatened by development proposals currently under appeal to the Secretary of State for the Environment? Will he ensure that those issues involving a major threat to the life of valuable arts institutions in inner London will form part of Mr. Wilding's inquiry?
Mr. Luce : I take note of the hon. Gentleman's comments and I will look into it. However, I am not convinced that that is necessarily part of Mr. Wilding's terms of reference for his review, which is to look at the relationship between the allocation of money from central Government to the Arts Council and in turn to the regional arts associations, the coherence of funding for the arts and to improve the structural procedures for the disbursement of arts money.
Mr. Harry Greenway : When my right hon. Friend next meets the director of the Greater London Arts Association, will he express robust support for the new lady director of the Victoria and Albert museum in her efforts to restructure staffing at the museum in the interests of the museum and its visitors?
Mr. Luce : I recently had the opportunity last Monday to visit the Victoria and Albert museum. I am full of of admiration for the work carried out by the director, the staff, curators and administrators.
66. Mr. Maclennan : To ask the Minister for the Arts what discussions he has had with the Arts Council on the allocation of funds for the rehearsal of contemporary British music by the London orchestras.
Mr. Luce : The allocation of funds to the London orchestras is a matter for the Arts Council. While I do not seek to influence the council's artistic judgments, I fully support its policy of encouraging artistic excellence, including the performance of well-rehearsed contemporary music.
Mr. Maclennan : Is the Minister aware that while it is sometimes relatively straightforward to obtain sponsorship money for the first performances of contemporary British music, it is more difficult to keep that music in the repertory? If that music is to enjoy success, it needs additional assistance. While recognising that that is primarily a matter for the Arts Council, will he at least undertake to consider discussing the matter?
Mr. Luce : That really is the reason for the answer that I have just given. Of course it is true that much sponsorship goes to the traditional arts, although there is increasing evidence that sponsorship is going towards innovative or experimental arts. That is one reason why the Arts Council has decided to use taxpayers' money to encourage the four London orchestras which play some contemporary music.
Mr. Luce : As with all art forms, I look to the Arts Council for advice about the development of dance. My hon. Friend will be aware that the Arts Council is currently considering a wide-ranging report about the future of dance.
Mr. Bowis : Will my right hon. Friend take a brisk two-step, first to the Arts Council to discuss with it the criteria by which it allocates money for the arts, and to express the concern of this House that there might be some
Column 652risk of the council not including a solution to funding for the Northern Ballet? Will he then take a brisk step on to the chairman of British Rail and discuss with him his recent statements that he may be considering withdrawing the entertainment express contract, which, of course, gives great support to touring companies, including dance companies?
Mr. Luce : On my hon. Friend's latter point, I note the concern that has been expressed by many people in the arts world. I have been in touch with the chairman of British Rail to draw his attention to the widespread anxiety about that matters and I hope that he will take these views into account.
As to dance policy, the Arts Council is considering the independent report. My hon. Friend drew attention to the Northern Ballet. There was a very impressive Adjournment debate in this House, which was widely attended. I took the chance to convey to the chairman of the Arts Council the strong views of the House, and I know that he will take those views into account.
Mr. Flannery : Did the Minister discuss with the chairman of the Arts Council the details of the Northern Ballet, Manchester, which tours more than any other company, and for which there is very deep affection throughout the north, and, indeed, in a much wider area, so that its continuance can be assured?
Mr. Luce : I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I have drawn very strongly to the attention of the chairman of the Arts Council the views of this House, which have been widely expressed, about the value of the Northern Ballet. It is, of course, for the council to make the decision. I should point out that it is not a final decision, that this is just one of a number of options that have been put forward in an independent report, which the council will have to consider shortly.
The Minister of State, Privy Council Office (Mr. Richard 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 is raised.
Mr. Favell : Has my right hon. Friend had any discussions with leaders of trade unions about regional pay? Does he agree with me that earnings in the private sector vary widely from region to region, and that similar market conditions ought to prevail in the Civil Service? Does he agree that the fact that there is not regional pay is one of the greatest obstructions when it comes to Civil Service Departments moving to regions of high unemployment?
Column 653cater for the problems of recruitment and retention in different areas--different in terms of skills, or geographically. In fact, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced very recently that the maximum rate of the London pay addition will be increased to £1,000 per annum. Of course, the rates have to be negotiated. I understand that at the moment they apply to 50,000 civil servants. The recruitment and retention problems of particular areas have to be taken into account, but a degree of flexibility is now developing.
Mr. Barnes : Has the Minister discussed a 10-point code of ethics for press officers with the Institution of Professional Civil Servants, whose members are opposed to becoming political hacks? Should a Government who claim to support individualism be operating a Ministry of Propaganda from 10 Downing street?
Mr. Luce : On the question of Government publicity, there are very clearly laid down procedures. The hon. Gentleman referred to a code of ethics. I do not know whether he was referring to individual civil servants or to the question of publicity as a whole. If he was referring to individual civil servants, I would point out that in December 1987 very clear guidelines were laid down as to what steps individual civil servants may take if they have grievances.
Sir Anthony Grant : Will my right hon. Friend discuss with the Civil Service unions the essential importance of honesty among public servants? Will he warn them of the long-term consequences of breaches of confidence concerning documents in their possession, and of the effect of such breaches on democracy and democratic control as a whole?
Mr. Luce : My hon. Friend must be right to draw attention to this matter, which is of concern. It is only a tiny minority of civil servants who are doing a grave disservice to the rest of the Civil Service which provides an outstanding service to the elected Government of the day and will continue to so do.
Mr. Beith : Will the Minister advise civil servants what they should do if they form the view that their ministerial head would not mind if they leaked certain correspondence, such as letters from the Solicitor-General?
Mr. Luce : The position is absolutely clear. There are disciplinary procedures which the permanent secretary of the particular Department can take. If a civil servant disobeys the rules, disciplinary proceedings can be taken.
Mr. Boswell : Will my right hon. Friend take a fresh look at the possibility of introducing an entirely independent assessment of disputes in the limited number of cases, sometimes involving principle rather than large sums, where Ministers have been unable to resolve the matter to the satisfaction of hon. Members and their constituents?
Dr. Marek : Does the Minister agree that in the past there was no need for a code of practice for information officers but that with the present incumbent of 10 Downing street the position is different? Does he agree that it is wrong of Mr. Bernard Ingham to tell the police who its
Column 654director of public affairs should be and wrong of any Minister to ask any information officer to enter the political arena? Will he, therefore, pursue the establishment of an impartial and mutually agreed code of practice for information officers and ensure that there is no victimisation if it is invoked by any civil servant?
Mr. Luce : The procedures are clearly and carefully laid down and there are no difficulties with them. Each Department has a clear understanding of what they are. I am not sure what the hon. Gentleman is worried about.
91. Mr. Rooker To ask the Minister for the Civil service how many civil servants have a legal qualification.
Mr. Rooker : As only two of those lawyers are allocated by the serious fraud office to deal with the House of Fraser-Lonrho affairs and as one of them advised against and was overruled only by the assistant director, Ms. Chase, could we have a few more Government lawyers put on this case so that at least they can begin to get round to interviewing the leading protagonists? Obviously, with only two on the job, they have not got round to doing that.
Mr. Luce : I have enough questions to answer in the House and I will not be drawn into answering on the Lonrho case. Although we have had some success in recruiting lawyers for the Government legal service and the Crown prosecution service, we are still short of a large number.
Mr. Luce : In the light of current developments in Civil Service management, Departments will be free to carry out their own recruitment to all except the senior grades and their fast stream feeder entries, subject to rules laid down to safeguard the principle of selection on merit by fair and open competition. I announced these plans on 13 April 1989 in a written reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins).
Sir Hal Miller : While I am sure that the Departments would welcome the greater freedom and responsibility thus imposed on them by the Minister, how will he assure the rest of us that the quality of service, seniority and qualifications will be ensured so that throughout the country we may maintain the level of service and the morale of the Civil Service?
Mr. Luce : I hope that in general the concept of delegating more authority to individual Departments to carry out the bulk of their recruitment policies is the right one. They are in the best position to judge what recruits they need. Nevertheless, I acknowledge my hon. Friend's point about the need to maintain the highest standards. It will be up to the commission to recommend to the Minister for the Civil Service rules that should be followed by all
Column 655Departments relating to such matters as, for example, fair and open competition, selection on merit and the impartiality of the service.
Mr. Haynes : Is the Minister aware that there are difficulties in appointing civil servants? I remember the Minister coming to the Dispatch Box and telling me that he had been to their annual conference. I asked him what the morale was like at that conference. It was not very good. That was because of the Government's massive cuts in local government. Why do the Government not back off and make the money available? Then we would get the right people for the jobs?
Mr. Luce : It is interesting that the hon. Gentleman believes that I have responsibility for local government as well as for the Civil Service. I visit Civil Service offices around the country, so I can tell the hon. Gentleman that the vast bulk of the Civil Service is doing an outstanding job and its morale is good. It is a slimmed-down, highly professional and very impartial service.
Mr. Luce : Five executive agencies have now been established following the launch last week of the National Weights and Measures and Warren Spring Laboratories. Around 30 more have been announced as candidates.
Mr. Watts : In thanking my right hon. Friend for that encouraging reply about progress so far, may I ask him to tell the House what other candidates are at present under active consideration, and when he will be in a position to make a further statement?
Column 656progress of Civil Service agencies. Within the next two or three months there should be statements about a number of other areas, including the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre, the Department of Social Security's resettlement units and the employment services. There may, of course, be others, too.
Mr. Dalyell : How about a title such as, "Recent developments in Civil Service ethics, which allow a principal private secretary to the Prime Minister to authorise and to give approval to the unauthorised disclosure of a Law Officer's letter"? If that title is not good enough, how about, "The role of a principal private secretary to the Prime Minister in preserving the Prime Minister from a position of having misled the House of Commons and the consequences of misbehaviour"?
Mr. Luce : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for providing me with that additional information. It feels like 17. The position is absolutely clear. We have made statements time and again in the House. I am glad to say that Mr. Powell, who served me in 1980 when I was Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs with responsibility for Africa, is an outstanding civil servant.
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