Previous Section Home Page

Road Casualties

11. Mr. Colin Shepherd : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will indicate the general trend in road casualty figures.

Mr. Channon : Casualties in road accidents reached a post-war peak of over 397,000 in 1965. Since then, the trend has generally been downwards. In 1987, the latest year for which full details are available, there were 311,500 casualties. During the same period, the trend for deaths in road accidents has also been downwards, falling from 7,950 in 1965 to 5,125 in 1987.

Provisional figures for 1988 show a slight upturn in total casualties to 321,700, but road deaths show a continued fall, to an estimated 5,041 in 1988.

Mr. Shepherd : Does my right hon. Friend agree that many families will be eternally grateful to him for his success in bringing down the number of road deaths, although, naturally, there is still some concern about road casualties? What action is my right hon. Friend taking in respect of the various organisations that have an interest in making representations on his response to the North report?

Mr. Channon : I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend. My predecessors, my colleagues in the Department and the Department itself have done an immense amount of work on this important topic. In July 1987, I set the target of reducing road casualties by one third by the year 2000. Traffic is increasing considerably. My hon. Friend rightly referred to the North report. Naturally, we shall carefully consider any representation that has been made to us. We have already received a large number, and we are considering them carefully. We have already been able to take some action about high risk offenders.

Mr. Roger King : My right hon. Friend will be aware that one way of combating the road casualty figures is to make sure that motor vehicles are roadworthy. Would he care to comment on the European meeting of Ministers, at which a new tyre directive was devised, and tell us when it is proposed to be introduced?

Mr. Channon : I thought that my hon. Friend would be pleased about the new tyre directive. I read his powerful

Column 548

speech a few days before the European Council meeting. I am not sure whether I am in total agreement with him about the matter, but I think that he will be pleased about the new 1.6 mm tyre tread directive which will come into force in the middle of 1990. If I have that detail wrong, I will write to my hon. Friend.

Channel Tunnel

14. Mr. Gerald Bowden : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what representations he has received from British Rail about the need for a second Channel tunnel rail terminal at Waterloo in addition to that at King's Cross ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Portillo : British Rail has been planning for some years to locate its London terminal for Channel tunnel passenger trains at Waterloo and for it to be in operation by 1993. Powers for that were granted in the Channel Tunnel Act 1987. It is now proposing to locate a second London international passenger station at King's Cross.

Mr. Bowden : Will my hon. Friend confirm that the only reason for such a grandiose arrangement at Waterloo is to accommodate the passport and immigration controls and for the convenience of Customs clearance? Is it not time that the authorities brought their procedures into line with those on the continent, where Customs, passport and immigration controls are done on the train? There would then be no need to have such a grand, expensive development at Waterloo.

Mr. Portillo : I do not think that my hon. Friend is entirely right in saying that that is the only reason. A large numberof passengers will use the services, and that is why British Rail is having to think about two termini to cope with more than 15 million passengers a year. The Customs clearance matters are not settled. They are still being discussed within the Government. I recognise the force of the argument that, for the convenience of customers, it is much the easiest thing to have the same sort of arrangement as we have at airports, whereby people would carry their suitcases through Customs and clear quickly after they have left their trains.

Mr. Spearing : Have the Government not made a complete mess of the matter? Is it a fact that British Rail representatives told the Select Commitee that they did not need another terminal other than at Waterloo? We now need one at King's Cross and, apparently, a third one at Waterloo. Is it not time that the Government had a complete strategic survey of the matter to include other sites such as Stratford and show the country that they mean what they say about the planning and transport inquiries on which a question was answered earlier this afternoon?

Mr. Portillo : I am rather confused by the hon. Gentleman's reference to a third terminal at Waterloo. My understanding is that there is to be a terminal at Waterloo. That is covered in the Channel Tunnel Act 1987. The proposal is now for a second terminal at King's Cross. There is no proposal for a third terminal. It is for British Rail to demonstrate whether it should be at King's Cross or at Stratford. During the debates on the King's Cross Bill there will be an opportunity for the hon. Gentleman and others to consider the important arguments that have been made in favour of King's Cross as against Stratford.

Column 549


18. Mr. Michael Brown : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how much his Department is spending on drink-drive advertising in the current year.

Mr. Peter Bottomley : About £2 million is being spent on new television commercials, air time, new publicity materials, and support for local road safety officer campaigns. That relatively small sum is multiplied many times by the coverage of the subject in the media, including thoughful television coverage, such as the recent BBC "Horizon" programme, and by reporting of drink-drive cases. The campaign is being heavily supported by material produced by the Brewers Society, by individual brewers and by the club movement.

Mr. Brown : Does my hon. Friend agree that that is a vast amount of public money? While I am sure that we would all agree that that is absolutely necessary, does he agree that it is hardly logical? Surely the media in their news bulletins should give as much attention to lives lost through drink-driving as they do to any rail or aeroplane disaster.

Mr. Bottomley : It is true that, if between 800 and 900 people lost their lives in the air, at sea or on the railways, the media would be concentrating all the time on why and how that happened. If I had had the courage I would have announced this morning that no public money was to be spent on advertising, because then every television programme and newspaper would have to be explaining why drink-driving is so dangerous. I have not such courage.


Advice to Ministers

Mr. Dalyell : To ask the Attorney-General, pursuant to his oral reply to the hon. Member for Walsall, North on 8 May, Official Report, column 553, what assessment he had made of the implications for the treatment of documents containing his advice to Ministers and others of the recently revised Cabinet Office guidance on Government information.

The Attorney-General (Sir Patrick Mayhew) : None.

Mr. Dalyell : As one who sat on this Bench and heard Jack Profumo make statements to the House, does the Attorney agree with Harold Macmillan that it is rather important to our system of government that Ministers do not tell lies to the House? In those circumstances, as a major Law Officer of the Crown, what did he think when he heard that Sir Leon Brittan had said that the most intimate advisers to the Prime Minister, Mr. Powell and Mr. Ingham, had absolutely abused his letter raising question on the Prime Minister's behaviour? Is the senior Law Officer entirely happy in that rather bad company?

The Attorney-General : As the question began with a premise that I most certainly do not accept, I have nothing that I can usefully add in response to it.

Column 550

Director of Public Prosecutions

40. Mr. Janner : To ask the Attorney-General when he last met the Director of Public Prosecutions ; and what matters were discussed.

The Solicitor-General (Sir Nicholas Lyell) : On 7 June. We discussed a variety of matters of Departmental interest.

Mr. Janner : Did the Minister discuss with the Director of Public Prosecutions the inability of the law to deal with cases of incitement to racial violence and the likelihood of greater danger as a result of the Rushdie affair? Does he agree that the law is not capable of dealing adequately with such public order offences and that it should be strengthened? Are the Government considering such strengthening?

The Solicitor-General : Policy is, of course, a matter for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, but basically, no, I do not agree with the premise of the hon. and learned Gentleman's question. I do not believe that anything that he has put in his question has made it out.

Mr. Stanbrook : Will my hon. and learned Friend please discuss with the DPP the implications of the case of Gooch, who was convicted at the Old Bailey of the manslaughter of his wife, my constituent, where the judge said that there was no justification for accepting the plea to manslaughter rather than the charge for which he was brought before the court, namely murder? In cases of that kind, would it not be better for the CPS to clear a reduction from the charge of murder with the trial judge privately beforehand and thus avoid giving the impression in court that the reduction in the charge had been done at the convenience of the CPS?

The Solicitor-General : I shall certainly look into the matter and write to my hon. Friend. It may be useful to say that, against an open question, it would be helpful if my hon. Friend could either write a letter or put down a specific question.

Mr. Fraser : Can the Solicitor-General help us on the question of prior publicity and prosecutions? Does he recall that in December the Attorney-General told the House, in the Father Ryan case, that juries have a "scrupulous disregard" of what they see and hear elsewhere and that the risk of publicity affecting their ability to try a case fairly does not exist? Can he say, first, whether those remarks and those of the Prime Minister applied only to the Ryan case or are they general? Secondly, can he say that there is no doctrine applied by the Director of Public Prosecutions to the effect that the prior publication of reports, such as the King's Cross report or a Department of Trade and Industry inspector's report, acts as a debarment to a subsequent prosecution? Thirdly, can he tell us why the consideration by the Director of DTI reports is taking so long?

The Solicitor-General : It would be in rare cases that prior publication became a debarment to prosecution, but one must look at each case on its merits. The House will have in mind particular cases in recent weeks, which would obviously have a very different effect from other cases that we have discussed.

Column 551

City Fraud

41. Mr. Skinner : To ask the Attorney-General whether he has any plans to meet the Director of Public Prosecutions regarding City fraud ; and if he will make a statement.

The Attorney-General : I meet the Director of Public Prosecutions for discussions frequently, and plan to continue to do so. Subjects include the handling of fraud cases, whether arising in the City or elewhere. Some cases of serious and complex fraud, however, are now handled by the serious fraud office.

Mr. Skinner : I wonder whether the Attorney-General or the DPP have a quiet little chuckle to themselves when they meet and discuss things such as City fraud as opposed to laws affecting trade unions? Is it not rather odd that in our society people such as Peter Cameron-Webb and Peter Dixon-- city fraudsters who got away with £40 million--are not extradited now that five years has elapsed and yet when workers go before the courts, the judges find the appropriate sentences in some old or new law book in order to hammer the railwaymen, the miners, the seafarers and now the dockers? Surely the truth of the matter is that in our society, run by the Tory Government, there is one law for the bosses and City crooks and one for the workers.

The Attorney-General : I am afraid that, yet again, the wish has been the father to the thought. The confusion in the question lies between the ability to extradite from the United States in which we are bound by--

Mr. Skinner : You let them go.

The Attorney-General : The hon. Gentleman asked a question as well as making a long speech and I am giving him the credit of expecting an answer to it, which I am trying to give.

In the case of extradition from the United States, we are bound by the provision of the United States extradition law. In the case of prosecution for fraudulent and criminal conduct we are bound by our own provisions. The hon. Gentleman refers to the Lloyd's scandals. He may know, but he did not mention it because it did not suit him, that there is a prosecution now in train against a number of those who have been charged with offences in the course of the Lloyd's scandals. Under the administration of the serious fraud office and the Office of the DPP I can tell the hon. Gentleman that the criminal law is administered without fear or favour, affection of ill will.

Mr. Latham : Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that he and his fellow Law Officers take such offences extremely seriously? Will he also confirm that they are being dealt with as quickly as they can by the police, because that does not always appear to be the case?

The Attorney-General : I confirm each of those questions, but the police, of course, are outside my ministerial responsibility. I suggest that the attitude of this Government to serious fraud may be judged by the fact that we have invited Parliament to legislate to introduce the serious fraud office, with unique powers, which have led to cases bring brought to court months and sometimes years earlier than would otherwise have been possible. The House need not accept my word on that, but take the word of the Commissioner of Police for the City of London in

Column 552

his most recently published report, in which he paid great tribute to the serious fraud office at the end of its first year of operations.


42. Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Attorney-General what is his policy in respect of the prosecution of diplomats.

The Attorney-General : Individuals enjoying diplomatic immunity may not by law be prosecuted unless there is a waiver of that immunity on behalf of the diplomat's own state. Whether it is appropriate to seek such a waiver is a matter for my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary.

The question whether a diplomat should be prosecuted will, subject to waiver, be determined by reference to the code for Crown prosecutors.

Mr. Banks : Is the Attorney-General aware of the scandal of unpaid parking fines that a number of embassies have been running up? Is it not about time that he asked his right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary to go for a waiver of diplomatic immunity against those individuals who are persistent offenders? If he cannot obtain a waiver, he should declare them persona non grata, because it is about time that some stern action was taken against those people.

The Attorney-General : I agree with the hon. Gentleman that there is great public resentment about those who abuse diplomatic status in the way that he has described. Whether a waiver should be applied for has to be a matter for my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary who, I can assure the hon. Gentleman, will be made aware of the hon. Gentleman's feelings.

EC (Fines)

43. Mr. Teddy Taylor : To ask the Attorney-General if he will publish a paper outlining the rights of access to United Kingdom courts for individuals and companies which have fines imposed on them by the European Community ; and if he will make a statement.

The Solicitor-General : No, Sir. National courts have no power to review the legality of fines imposed by the European Commission. Individuals and companies who wish to test the legality of such fines, may institute proceedings against the Commission in the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

Mr. Taylor : Could my hon. and learned Friend say whether, as one who believes in justice, he is worried that, under the mergers directive, the European Community can appoint inspectors who can walk into any British company that they think might be affected, obtain access to its premises, demand to see its papers, ask for information on the spot, and if they are not satisfied with the information, impose immediate fines of many tens of thousands of pounds, even per day? Is it not an outrage that, in a country which believes in democracy and the rule of law, individuals can be fined massive sums, and their only recourse is to go to the European Court, which might actually increase the fines? Are not the Government willing to take seriously the fact that the basis of British law, that

Column 553

one should have access to the courts before fines are imposed, is totally undermined both by this directive and one other that preceded it?

The Solicitor-General : I read my hon. Friend's speech in the recent debate and the answer given on behalf of the Department of Trade and Industry. From a legal aspect, any such company has a right of recourse to the European Court of Justice at Luxembourg.--

Mr. Taylor : Three years later.

The Solicitor-General : Whether or not the fine is valid must be decided by the European Court of Justice, to which companies have access. However, the policy matters, as my hon. Friend will appreciate, were those raised in the debate and answered on behalf of the Department of Trade and Industry.



45. Mr. Watts : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he has any plans to visit Nigeria.

The Minister for Overseas Development (Mr. Chris Patten) : My right hon. and learned Friend hopes to visit Nigeria for the next round of United Kingdom-Nigeria bilateral talks. The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs my right hon. Friend for Wallasey (Mr. Chalker) will be visiting Nigeria from 25 to 27 June to open an oil and gas seminar.

I visited Nigeria from 25 to 31 May, to attend the 25th anniversary meetings of the African development bank and fund, to discuss our biliateral aid programme with Nigerian Ministers and to visit technical co- operation projects.

Mr. Watts : In considering further our bilateral aid programme will my right hon. Friend consider giving priority to increasing the number of training places for Nigerians at United Kingdom educational institutions, including the Thames Valley college in my constituency , which has longstanding connections with Nigeria?

Mr. Patten : I know how distinguished a record the institution has in providing training for people from other countries. This year, in the United Kingdom, we shall be training about 480 students from Nigeria in one discipline or another, with the help of taxpayers' funds. We hope to increase that figure to 600, or more.

Mr. Winnick : When the visit to Nigeria takes place, will the British position on current events in China be explained? Will the Minister explain to the Nigerian Government our deep concern over the way in which British citizens involved in the media are being roughed up and subjected to brutal treatment by security thugs in China?

Mr. Patten : I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on the way in which he introduced that extremely important question on to the Floor of the House. Of course, we make clear our concern about those issues to everyone, and I am sure that the Nigerians are as concerned about them as others. Since I was in China last month, in Tiananmen

Column 554

square at the beginning of the demonstrations and hoped, like the rest of the House, for a different outcome, I very much share the concern of the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Soames : Is my hon. Friend aware that there are no elephants in Nigeria but that, if there were, he should tell the Nigerian Government that although this Government have taken dramatic and important steps to ban the import of ivory, they have left out one important thing : ivory can be stained by smoking, so the clause that forbids the import of all new ivory should be extended to cover the import of all ivory.

Mr. Patten : There are many places in which one would not find the elephant, including my hon. Friend's constituency. However, he raises a point of considerable importance. He was right to draw attention to the intitiative taken by my noble Friend the Minister of State, Department of the Environment. I shall certainly draw my hon. Friend's comments to the attention of my noble Friend.

My hon. Friend will also be aware that we are doing a good deal in Zimbabwe, Kenya and elsewhere to support the strengthening of the institutions in those countries which help to conserve wildlife.

Mr. Speaker : I hope that the House will agree that we should not go wide of the question. To do so is to the detriment of those who have questions lower down the Order Paper.

African Development Bank

48. Miss Widdecombe : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the annual meeting of the African development bank in Abuja.

Mr. Chris Patten : I attended, as governor for the United Kingdom, the recent annual meetings of the African development bank and fund in Abuja, Nigeria. The meeting also marked the 25th anniversary of the bank's establishment. We reviewed the bank's policies and programmes and we affirmed the importance of using its resources effectively particularly in view of the difficult challenges facing many African countries. I was asked to give a keynote speech on behalf of the non-regional member countries.

Miss Widdecombe : Will my hon. Friend also confirm that, in addition to helping the bank to support structural development, he will try to persuade it to do more to protect the African environment?

Mr. Patten : I very much share my hon. Friend's point of view. In one of the two speeches I made at the bank's meeting I set out our concern about environmental issues. The threat posed to marginal land by population pressure and by environmental degradation is well understood. We know the impact of tropical deforestation. We have therefore launched a significant forestry initiative under the aegis of the tropical forestry action plan, and eight countries in Africa are participating in it.

Mr. Tony Banks : Since there are some elephants left in east and central Africa, will the Minister, when he goes to the meeting, encourage the making of loans to the African countries which are doing their best to try to protect their remaining herds of elephants? What can the hon.

Column 555

Gentleman's Department do to support African countries which are taking a highly responsible attitude to the conservation of elephants?

Mr. Patten : As I said in reply to an earlier question on this subject, we are already providing funds in grant form to help other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, such as Kenya and Zimbabwe, to strengthen their conservation departments, so that not only elephant but other wildlife can be preserved. In Kenya, we have a large programme which we are considering increasing, not least by the provision of capital equipment such as radios and trucks.


49. Mr. Skinner : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what was the proportion of gross national product given in overseas aid in 1979 and in 1988 or the latest available year ; and if he will make a statement.

51. Mr. Corbyn : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what was the proportion of gross national product given in overseas aid in 1979 and in 1988 or the latest available year.

Mr. Chris Patten : The proportion of GNP given in net official development assistance in 1979 was 0.51 per cent. In 1988 it is provisionally estimated at 0.32 per cent. Mr. Skinner : Those are abysmal figures. At a time when the Government have been able to pay back more than £14 billion of Britain's national debt in the past financial year it would have made much more sense if the figures the Minister gave had been at last comparable to the United Nations 0.7 per cent of GNP. That, on top of giving aid to some of these countries to pay off their debts, would have been a much more worthwhile gesture from one of the most developed countries--ours--even though it is run by a Tory Government. Why does not the Minister make amends this time? The Chancellor will tell him that there will be another massive pay-off of the national debt this year. Why does not the Minister ask him for a large proportion of that--say £1 billion--to help Third world countries?

Mr. Patten : Last year the hon. Gentleman and others criticised me when I announced that our aid/GNP figure had fallen. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman is so

Column 556

reticent with his congratulations now that I have announced that it increased by 14 per cent. in 1988 over 1987. The House will know that, for me, the vital figure is the one for the total volume of our aid programme. I am pleased to say that that is increasing this year over the planned figure for last year by 12 per cent. in cash terms or 7 per cent. in real terms.

Mr. Jacques Arnold : Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the principal problems for the ratio is the rapid growth in our GNP, and that the figure that developing countries are looking for is the absolute amount that has been put into their countries and on what it is being spent?

Mr. Patten : Of course my hon. Friend is right. This year we shall spend about £165 million more on our aid programme than was planned to be spent last year. If there were to be a Labour Government--perish the thought--I am sure that they would be able rapidly to increase the aid/GNP proportion because the growth rate would fall like a stone.

Miss Lestor : If the Minister is looking for some sort of praise, I shall say to him that I am glad that pressure from the Opposition and from the aid lobby in particular has enabled him to make the announcement of the small increase in the amount of GNP devoted to aid. However, it is extremely small and he is well aware that the figure is well below the average for members of the European Community, for which the last figure given was .50 per cent. of GNP. Does he not agree that it is deplorable that not only are we well below standards in the EEC on the provision of clean water, and on consumer protection and employment protection rights, but we are below standard on the provision of aid to the Third world? When will he come to the House and announce a timetable for reaching the UN target of 0.7 per cent.?

Mr. Patten : I thank the hon. Lady for what I take to have been a bouquet in the earlier part of the question. I am not sure whether the latter part of her question will have ignited the European election campaign to the fever pitch that we all expect by Thursday. Once again I say to the hon. Lady that the figure that I announced for our aid/GNP proportion represents a 14 per cent. increase in 1988 over 1987. It is not without significance that our aid programme this year is 7 per cent. higher in real terms and 12 per cent. higher in cash terms than last year.

Next Section (Debates)

  Home Page