|Previous Section||Home Page|
Column 691dependent upon the nuclear power industry? Does that not demonstrate that the Labour party's commitment to phase out nuclear power by the year 2000 makes absolutely no sense at all when one is considering future employment in this country?
Mr. Spicer : I agree with my hon. Friend. I should have thought that the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) would be particularly concerned about the threat to his party's fortunes if his party's policy, which does not favour the nuclear industry, were to be implemented. While I was researching the answer to my hon. Friend's question, I discovered the interesting fact that close to the constituency of the hon. Member for Sedgefield, 1,000 people are employed on a £9.5 million contract for Sizewell B and that in Stockton, South, which is also close to the hon. Gentleman's constituency, there is a £31 million contract for Sizewell B. One of the people who would be extremely worried, I should have thought- -if the Labour party's policy on nuclear power were to be
implemented--would be the official energy spokesman for the Labour party.
Mr. Eadie : Since the hon. Gentleman is giving statistics relating to the nuclear power industry, and the energy industry in particular, will he confirm that in the last seven or eight years between 150,000 and 155,000 jobs have been lost in the mining industry?
Mr. Spicer : I confirm that--or at least around those figures. However, the output from the mining industry in that period was almost identical to what it was before, when there was all that extra employment. We very nearly doubled productivity in that period. That is one of the reasons why our coal mining industry will be able to compete against the rest of the world.
Mr. Douglas : Following that answer, do the Minister's figures include those for employment in the South of Scotland electricity board's nuclear capacity? Will he compare and contrast that with the figures relating to coal production for electricity in Scotland? When will an agreement be concluded to safeguard the remaining jobs in the coal mining industry between the South of Scotland electricity board and British Coal so that we may retain some jobs in the coal industry in Scotland?
Mr. Spicer : I think that the hon. Gentleman is straying away from the question, which relates to jobs in the nuclear industry. However, I confirm that the figures that I gave are for the United Kingdom as a whole. As to the specific point that he raised, that is currently the subject of negotiations. The Government very much hope that the result of the negotiations will be to the benefit of the coal industry and of electricity consumers. That has to be part of the equation.
Column 692policies for the development of the North sea and has led to the massive extension of the proven reserves in our part of the North sea?
Mr. Morrison : I can confirm to my hon. Friend that there is a very high level of interest in the North sea. I hope that when we are able to announce the 11th round it will prove very successful. That means that we can look forward with more than hope to North sea oil and gas for longer than people had orginally thought.
Mr. Doran : The Minister paints a very rosy picture, and I share some of his optimism, but there is a cloud on the horizon--the serious skill shortage in the North sea which threatens future development and possibly current production. What steps does the Minister propose to take to encourage the oil industry to improve its lamentable training record?
Mr. Morrison : The hon. Gentleman will perhaps be pleased to hear that the matter was discussed at the most recent meeting that I had with Oilco--the oil industry liaison committee--attended by the employers and the trade unions and further discussions will take place. I agree that the manpower in the North sea is vital for its further development. Its success has been achieved because of that manpower.
The Minister for the Arts (Mr. Richard Luce) : The Secretary of State for Education and Science and I support the place of the arts in education. The national curriculum ensures this. As I announced in the House on 23 May, my right hon. Friend and I are funding research into good practice to demonstrate the range of educational opportunities available in the contemporary arts, museums and galleries, and public libraries.
Mr. Greenway : Will my right hon. Friend note that it has taken this Conservative Government to make art and music a compulsory part of the school curriculum for all children, and that the previous philistinic Labour Governments never did anything but talk about it? Where do art and education come together specifically for the benefit of London children?
Mr. Luce : It is, of course, a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science, who should be given credit for ensuring that for the first time music is a compulsory subject in school. The new curriculum makes it possible to include almost every facet of art in one form or another and I hope that teachers will take advantage of that. In regard to my hon. Friend's second question, there are a number of examples of good practice in London. The national maritime museum has an excellent scheme for children through the Armada exhibition ; the royal opera house has workshops and works with schools, as does the English National Opera, and the London Mozart Players have an excellent education scheme in Croydon.
Mr. Cohen : The Minister will recall his answer to me which showed that an increasing number of museums are beginning to charge for school parties. Will the Minister condemn that as bad practice? Will he confirm that by charging for school parties the heritage and the important educational value of items in those museums are no longer accessible to many school children?
Mr. Luce : The hon. Gentleman is referring to the new guidelines on school activities within school hours. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science has already pointed out that parents can make voluntary contributions. However, I have undertaken with my right hon. Friend carefully to monitor the progress on this because we are anxious to ensure that the access of schools to important centres of art and to museums is not only maintained, but strengthened.
Mr. Fisher : Is the Minister aware that the number of school visits to theatres, dance performances, museums and concerts has fallen dramatically in recent weeks as a direct result of Government changes in funding school visits through the Education Reform Act? Is he aware that the national theatre's excellent production of Adrian Mitchell's play "The Pied Piper" had to cancel a week's performances because of Government changes making it extremely difficult for schools to make out-of-school visits? How is that helping arts companies or arts education in schools? Is that good practice?
Mr. Luce : As I said earlier, I have undertaken to monitor progress and to ensure that there is no setback in terms of the number of schools visiting arts institutions. There is no overwhelming evidence to suggest that what the hon. Gentleman says is right. In one or two examples, much of the misunderstanding has been about the guidelines. Those guidelines are clear. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science has set out what schools can do to ensure that they maintain contact with arts organisations.
Mr. Luce : I am pleased to say that business sponsorship has increased from £500,000 a year in 1976 to over £30 million today. The Government's business sponsorship incentive scheme has brought nearly £25 million new money to the arts and to museums.
Mr. Luce : It is interesting that the Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts has undertaken research which demonstrates that about 90 per cent. of all the organisations that become first-time sponsors decide to remain sponsors because they regard it as a good investment. That is most encouraging. For the first time under our scheme, we have had 1,000 first-time sponsors, so the House can see the scale of the increase in support through sponsorship.
Mr. Maclennan : I welcome that increase, but what is the Minister's view on the deficit in sponsorship in respect of the innovative and experimental arts, which, by their nature, attract small audiences?
Mr. Luce : There are increasing examples of sponsorship to support creativity and innovation. I do not remember whether the hon. Gentleman was in the Chamber during the debate on the arts some 10 days ago, when I announced that the Arts Council had established an endowment scheme designed especially to give support through the private sector--although it is managed by the Arts Council--for innovation and experimentation. Of course, the Arts Council already does that with the taxpayer's money, and that is partly the role of the taxpayer.
Mr. Fishburn : Is my right hon. Friend aware that English National Ballet, of which I am a director, has taken the lead in business sponsorship? None the less, this cannot possibly enable the company to survive, unless the Government find a way of providing an adequate subsidy from their pocket after the community charge is introduced. Is my right hon. Friend aware that, as a director, I have a responsibility under the Insolvency Act 1986 to suggest that that ballet company should close if that money is not forthcoming soon?
Mr. Luce : I am very much aware of the important role that my hon. Friend plays in English National Ballet. I acknowledge his point that there is considerable concern about the possible effect of the introduction of the community charge, especially with respect to Westminster city council, on English National Opera and English National Ballet. I am in touch with the chairman and will keep in touch with my hon. Friend about this matter.
Mr. Greenway : I am sure that my right hon. Friend welcomes the recent success of the "Carmen" production at Earl's Court, given that the two London opera companies receive the lion's share of the Arts Council's support for opera. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, for the regional opera companies, Arts Council and local authority funding is vital to their existence and to achieving a wider audience? Is he aware that, in its 10th anniversary season, Opera North achieved 90 per cent. audience penetration?
Mr. Luce : I am aware of my hon. Friend's close interest in Opera North, which is based in Leeds and sets high standards. Regional opera has been able to achieve the highest possible quality only through a measure of taxpayers' support. My hon. Friend rightly drew attention to other private sector activities, such as Carmen at Earl's Court. I understand that recent performances attracted audiences of 95,000. Other companies in the private sector, such as D'Oyly Carte opera company, are attracting large audiences.
Mr. Wilson : Is the Minister aware that Opera North receives money from local government? I congratulate him on being the first Minister whom I have heard express a squeak of concern about the implications of the community charge. I suggest that as well as addressing those concerns to the chairmen of various boards, he addresses them forcefully to his colleagues in Government, who have been oblivious to the effects of the poll tax on local authorities' ability to raise and spend money at their discretion on projects, including the arts, that benefit the community.
Mr. Luce : My earlier answer on the community charge was related especially to Westminster city council, which has indicated that it has particular problems, unlike other authorities. I hope that borough councils in London will play their part in supporting the important English National Ballet and English National Opera.
Mr. Luce : National museums and galleries are active in lending artefacts to local museums and galleries. I am specifically encouraging further such activity through my funding provided to the Museums and Galleries Commission's travelling exhibitions unit.
Mr. Soames : I thank my right hon. Friend for that good news. Is he aware that the high cost of insuring art exhibits is one of the reasons why borough councils and others are deterred from making full use of the increased facilities that the Department has offered? What steps will my right hon. Friend take to make the procedure easier and to assist them with insurances?
Mr. Luce : My hon. Friend has put his finger on what was the problem in the past. He might be interested to know that in 1988-89 no less than £1 billion of Government indemnity has been provided. That is a record figure and has saved the national museums and galleries £5 million in commercial insurance. The scheme plays a leading role in facilitating lending.
Column 696representatives of Civil Service trade unions both centrally and during visits to Departments. Matters of mutual interest are discussed.
Mr. Allen : Is the Minister aware that the senior civil servant in every Government Department has been replaced since the Prime Minister took office? That treatment is almost as ruthless as her treatment of the 1979 Cabinet. Does the Minister support that policy? If not, what steps will he take to restore some impartiality to the senior Civil Service?
Mr. Luce : I do not understand what the hon. Gentleman means by every senior civil servant. If he is talking about permanent secretaries, perhaps he needs reminding that we have been in office since 1979. It is not surprising that many permanent secretaries have changed and that many of them have retired. To suggest that any of our senior civil servants are not impartial but partial is a serious allegation.
Mr. Bennett : From those figures do we take it that the Government's policy to disperse civil servants from London and the south-east to the regions has stopped? Does he accept that there is still a strong argument for encouraging civil servants and Government Departments to move to the north-west, which has a far more attractive environment than London and the south-east?
Mr. Luce : There is no question of stopping the policy of relocation ; on the contrary, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security recently announced that 1,000 jobs will be relocated out of London to Glasgow, Belfast and Wigan. Wigan, which is part of Greater Manchester, will get another 260 civil servants. The hon. Gentleman should also take note of the fact that my right hon. Friend the Paymaster General recently announced that no less than 34,000 Civil Service jobs are under review with the possibility of relocation in other areas. I think that the motive for doing so is getting stronger every day.
76. Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the Minister for the Civil Service how many Civil Service jobs in the London area have been agencified ; how many are expected to be agencified during the next two years ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Luce : This information is not readily available to my Department. The location of staff in agencies is a matter for the Departments and agencies concerned. But I hope very much that, like other Government activities, they will continue to review the location of their work, including localities which are the focus of the Government's regional and urban policies.
Mr. Greenway : I hope that my right hon. Friend will find the new logistic terms "agencified" and "agencification" expressive if somewhat ugly. If civil servant jobs are agencified will my right hon. Friend ensure that it is done sensitively and that it pays regard to the morale of the people who are moved of such a scheme? Will he seek an early agencification of passport office jobs with a view to ending all the trouble that we have had there and getting the half a million passports that people are seeking for their holidays out to them?
Mr. Luce : On the latter point about the passport office, my hon. Friend may recall that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has made it plain that the passport office is a serious candidate to become an agency as soon as possible--that is now being studied. All the evidence so far suggests that morale is good in the seven agencies already established. They know precisely what their targets and objectives are. That is something that helps the management of the Civil Service and helps morale.
Mr. Maclennan : Will the Minister please acknowledge that he makes it more difficult for the Secretary of State for Education and Science to introduce a core curriculum in English if he accepts, without comment, the ugly and incomprehensible word "agencified"?
Mr. Luce : Seven executive agencies have already been set up, and Departments are working on more than 30 other proposals. Those include the whole social security operation and, in my own Department, the Civil Service recruitment agency and the occupational health service.
Mr. Coombs : Is my right hon. Friend aware that his commitment to continue the relocation of civil servants out of London will be widely welcomed on the Conservative Benches? Will he couple that with a commitment to a continuing reduction in the total number of civil servants, in particular those who must work in London and are therefore held to ransom to Mr. Jimmy Knapp who has recently replaced his better rail campaign with a no rail campaign?
Mr. Luce : In the past 10 years, the size of the Civil Service has been reduced by roughly 21 per cent. and now it is certainly a slimmed-down and professional service. It is worth noting that four out of five civil servants are employed outside the Greater London area, and with the policy for relocation, that number is expected to increase.
Mr. Janner : Does the Minister recognise that many agencies, whether they are in public or in private hands, have been responsible for much of the unlawful discrimination against people on grounds of sex and race? His Department is now to meet that problem through the action programme, which the Labour party welcomed when he announced it. What will he now do with the agencies to see that they do not discriminate in a way that is unlawful and wrong?
Column 698those who serve in agencies continue to be civil servants. The hon. and learned Gentleman is, therefore, right to stress that the agencies will have the same objective. Objectives and targets are set under the framework agreements formed in the agencies. I envisage that in the setting up of all agencies it will be a clear intention that the principle of equality of opportunity in every area should be clearly established.
Mr. John Greenway : When considering agencies over the next year or so, will my right hon. Friend take the opportunity to move more Civil Service jobs out of London into the provinces, especially the north? Is he aware that there is a symposium tomorrow by York city council supported by other local authorities in north Yorkshire for that very purpose?
Mr. Luce : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing that to my attention. It is worth repeating that my right hon. Friend the Paymaster General has made it plain that 34,000 Civil Service jobs are now under review with a view to considering whether they should be relocated in other parts of the country. If even part of that relocation takes place, it will be a substantial addition to the 12, 000 people who have moved out of London since 1979.
Mr. Luce : None, Sir. But my officials have held discussions with representatives of the Council of Civil Service Unions on the Office for the Minister for the Civil Service study "Service to the Public" and on training in this area.
Mr. Fisher : Does the Minister agree that the service to the public in both the passport office and the Department of Social Security might be improved by employing more civil servants? If more civil servants had been employed, many of the problems in the passport office this summer would not have existed. If there were more civil servants in the Department of Social Security, rather than simply having to administer, they could give welfare advice to claimants who need the benefits that they are not getting at the moment.
Mr. Luce : I am glad, of course, that an agreement has now been reached in the passport office and, as the hon. Gentleman probably knows, it will lead to an increase in the number of civil servants there. With regard to the passport office and to the Department of Social Security, I come back to the establishment of agencies for which clear performance targets and objectives can be set, including objectives on the quality of service to the public. The House will have noted that my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury made an admirable speech last week, drawing attention to the importance of the quality of Government services to the public.
Column 699as an executive agency. That takes the total of agencies that have been set up to seven with over 30 further activities announced as candidates.
Mr. Soames : In view of the considerable success of the agencies, especially in respect to the motivation of those who work for them, will my right hon. Friend confirm that he intends to press ahead with the agencies as quickly as possible and across the board?
Column 700State for Social Security announced last month his plan to establish an agency for the Department of Social Security, which includes 87,000 civil servants, is an indication of the importance that we attach to this reform.
|Next Section (Debates)