Previous Section Home Page

Mr. Lloyd : My hon. Friend rightly said that the yield from national insurance contributions represents 16 per cent. of Government receipts, compared with income tax which represents 23 per cent. Naturally, the DSS-- particularly my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State--makes representations to and has discussions with the Chancellor and the Treasury about how much such revenue should be applied. I am sure that my hon. Friend took special pleasure from the reductions that were made in NICs for the lower paid in the last Budget.

Mr. Flynn : The huge anticipated increase in national insurance yields is sufficient to give, from October, an increase of £3 per week for a single pensioner and £5 per

Column 12

week for a pensioner couple. Does the Minister agree that anyone other than the Government plundering the national insurance fund would end up in court on a charge of fraud? Do the Government intend to continue to attempt not to pay the Treasury supplement which has been paid for three quarters of a century? Is the Minister aware that if the supplement were paid at the same rate as in 1979, a single pensioner would now be receiving an additional £11.50 per week and a pensioner couple an additional £18 per week? When will the Government stop using the national insurance fund to steal from pensioners? Directors enjoying an annual increase of 27 per cent. are steaming ahead in the first -class carriage while pensioners are in a detached, third-class carriage moving rapidly backwards.

Mr. Lloyd : If any stealing was done, it was when the last Labour Government imposed the 3.5 per cent. surcharge on industry. That was a huge burden on business, but we have got rid of it. There will be no short- changing of pensioners. They will receive the full increase, according to inflation, to which they are entitled this autumn. In addition, the poorest pensioners--those on income support, those over 75, and those over 60 who are disabled--will receive an extra increase in October. That shows not merely that pensioners receive their full entitlement from the fund but that we look after those who are least well off.

Family Credit

12. Mr. Amos : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many more families are in receipt of family credit than received family income supplement ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Moore : My best estimate of the underlying caseload for family credit is 315,000, compared with around 220,000 on the same basis for family income supplement.

Mr. Amos : I am delighted to see how successful family credit has been. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is time to abolish child benefit and add that money to family credit so that more people in the greatest need can be assisted rather than state money being given to rich people who do not need it?

Mr. Moore : As I said earlier, we provide £9 billion in support for families with children, £4.5 billion of which is provided through child benefit. As my right hon. Friend the Minister for Social Security said in an earlier debate, the Government aim to provide--not only because of our manifesto commitment to child benefit but because it is my statutory duty--a judicious mix of intelligent targeting through income support, child premiums, family credit and child benefit to help families with children. The Government would not maintain that commitment as strongly as we do unless he believed that that mix was right.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : In the light of the continuing industrial action on the railways and the statement made by the National Union of Railwaymen and others that railwaymen are grossly underpaid, will the Secretary of State set up and inquiry to report rapidly on the number of NUR members and other people working on the railways who are earning poverty wages and being forced to draw, in effect, a public subsidy to subsidise their wages?

Column 13

Mr. Moore : I am always intrigued by the way in which the hon. Gentleman manages to get so many different issues into one question. I shall continue to do as is my duty--

Mr. Campbell-Savours : Set up an inquiry.

Mr. Moore : The hon. Gentleman is always extremely articulate from a sedentary position. [Interruption.] If he and other Opposition Members can contain themselves for 30 seconds, I will seek to answer the question. The Government are fortunately able to spend about £400 million this year on support for families on low incomes as against about £180 million on family income supplement and as opposed to the £48 million spent on similar families when Labour was last tragically in office. The sum spent was so low due to Labour's appalling inability to run the economy. That is the difference and I am sure that the House will endorse it.


Ministerial Conduct

54. Mr. Dalyell : To ask the Attorney-General why, pursuant to his answer of 12 June Official Report , column 549, he does not accept the premise that it is important to our system of government that Ministers do not tell lies to the House of Commons.

The Attorney-General (Sir Patrick Mayhew) : No sensible construction of my answer can support that assertion.

Mr. Dalyell : Does the Attorney-General believe the leak from Sir Leon Brittan, who complains that Mr. Ingham and Mr. Powell approved the disclosure of his letter? How, as a Law Officer of all things in this Government, can he remain easy when he sees the people who abused his own actions more prominent in Madrid than the Foreign Secretary?

The Attorney-General : I am afraid that I cannot encourage the hon. Gentleman by adding anything to the answer that I gave on 8 May to his hon. Friend for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick).

Mr. Teddy Taylor : If my right hon. and learned Friend cannot do anything about that, can he at least do something to protect the people against political parties which constantly sing songs proclaiming people's power and red flags, but then say that they want to surrender all power to Brussels and the bureaucrats?

The Attorney-General : I am expected to be extremely versatile in this position, but my authority does not extend to taking any such steps as would satisfy my hon. Friend.

Mr. Winnick : Are we to believe that someone in Government lied about the leaking of the letter, but that parliamentary convention does not allow the Attorney-General to say so? Do we take it that civil servants at No. 10 lied, or is the Attorney-General telling the House that he believes what we believe about the leaking of that letter, but that as a member of the Government he is hardly in a position to say so?

The Attorney-General : I thought that I had dealt as usefully as was within my power with much the same question from the hon. Gentleman on 8 May.

Column 14

Mr. John Marshall : Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that if

"Brevity is the soul of wit"

constant repetition must be the sign of a most unoriginal mind?

The Attorney-General : We all have our own styles, but as I have a frog in my throat I had better emulate those who practise brevity.

Today" Newspaper Story

55. Mr. Mullin : To ask the Attorney-General what action for interference with the course of justice he has taken against the Today newspaper for its front-page story on 11 May headed, "Maggie IRA Bomb Squad Seized" concerning the arrest of three Irishmen who were later released.

The Attorney-General : The matter is under consideration.

Mr. Mullin : Does the Attorney-General agree that such newspaper reports give credence to the belief that an Irishman cannot hope for a fair trial in this country?

The Attorney-General : No, Sir. The hon. Gentleman does no service to the administration of justice in this country by asking such a question, but I do not suppose that he intends to.

Mr. Stanbrook : Under his powers to restrain interference with the course of justice, will my right hon. and learned Friend consider the leader of the Storehouse group, who has announced that he intends that his shops should open on Sundays in clear breach of the law? Can he not be committed?

Mr. Speaker : Order. I do not believe that that question has anything to do with the IRA.

Personal Injury Cases

56. Mr. Allen : To ask the Attonery-General what measures are in hand to assist county courts in meeting the additional caseload of personal injury cases transferred to their jurisdiction ; and if he will make a statement.

The Solicitor-General (Sir Nicholas Lyell) : Such cases are increasingly concentrated in 43 trials centres, which are organised to guarantee a continuous hearing in all the longer cases and thus make efficient use both of court rooms and of judges' time, and provide a better service to litigants.

Mr. Allen : Is the Solicitor-General aware that one of the main avenues through which ordinary people on normal incomes come into contact with justice is through personal injury cases? Will he therefore take particular steps to ensure that there are no unnecessary delays in bringing such cases to court? Those cases, many of which involve trade unionists and others injured at work, are being delayed because they are being transferred to the county courts. Will the Solicitor-General take steps to improve the situation? A number of county courts are now issuing notices of delays, of which I have a number of examples. One case recently brought to my attention is of Luton county court, where no foreseeable date is given for

Column 15

such cases coming to court. That is tragic for the individuals involved. What does the Solicitor-General intend to do about it?

The Solicitor-General : My primary answer was that the longer cases should be concentrated into particular trial centres. However, the hon. Gentleman can rest assured that our objectives--not only in the civil justice review, which was announced recently, but in the proposed rule changes to come next January in advance of the civil justice review--are to achieve the aims that the hon. Gentleman set out.

Mr. Fraser : Is the Solicitor-General aware of some of the inadequacies and inefficiencies of the county courts? Camelford county court, for example, stopped sending out notices in June because the postal budget had been spent and notices had to wait until the following month. Can the Solicitor-General confirm that the rule for county courts will not be penny-pinching justice, but the efficient and speedy administration of justice for all?

The Solicitor-General : I confess that I was not aware of that idiosyncrasy of Camelford county court, but I will have the matter looked into and write to the hon. Gentleman.


57. Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the Attorney-General what qualities the Lord Chancellor looks for in prospective judges ; and if he will make a statement.

The Attorney-General : High Court and circuit judges are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor. The criteria for selection are judicial potential, ability, experience, reputation and personal inrtegrity.

Mr. Greenway : I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for that reply. Is he satisfied that, in practice, all those appointed to be judges, including Judge Pickles, satisfy those criteria? Is there any prospect within the reforms envisaged for the legal profession of the appointment of lay judges--properly advised, perhaps, in view of the judges' role in advising on the law? Would it be possible to appoint people such as ex- bishops-- [Interruption.] --ex-headmasters and even ex-Cabinet Ministers to be judges?

The Attorney-General : My right hon. and noble Friend the Lord Chancellor attaches the greatest importance to the criteria that I have mentioned. Great care is taken and there is wide consultation on the appointment of judges. Whether there would be a higher incidence of the totality of those criteria if eligibility for the higher courts and higher judges were extended as my hon. Friend suggests is a matter for debate that he may like to take up elsewhere.

Mr. Skinner : Is it true that the bottom line of the application form that the Lord Chancellor overlooks says, "Is he one of us?" in accordance with the Prime Minister's dictum, and how many judges are freemasons? Has the Attorney-General done a survey on that? If the threatened strike of barristers and others goes ahead at the Royal Courts of Justice--it was put off a short time ago--will the strike breakers feature prominently as future judges and will the Economic League be given a list of the strike leaders? Will all that be taken into account?

Column 16

The Attorney-General : The hon. Gentleman will find that the selection of judges is made far more widely by the present Lord Chancellor, and by all his predecessors of either party, than would be the case if the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends were ever in a position to appoint judges.

Mr. Rowe : Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that for cases involving children and young people there is considerable merit in having a judge whose taste in music post-dates the Beatles? For cases involving children, will he consider appointing the equivalent of the French juge d'enfants, who is often a much younger person on his or her way up the legal ladder?

The Attorney-General : I very much take my hon. Friend's point. Jurisdiction over the family and especially over children is of the highest importance and calls for special qualities. My right hon. Friend the Lord Chancellor seeks to appoint to the family division judges who demonstrate those qualities and his appointments meet with considerable success. It is not necessarily a question of one's taste in music, which could be pre- Beatles as well as post-Beatles.

Immigration Rules

58. Mr. Cohen : To ask the Attorney-General if he will make a statement on the recent correspondence between the Treasury solicitors and immigration adjudicators concerning the application of the immigration rules in appeal hearings.

The Solicitor-General : The Treasury Solicitor wrote not to adjudicators but to the president of the immigration appeal tribunal, on whose behalf he had acted as legal adviser in the judicial review proceedings. I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer given by my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General to the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) on 9 June.

Mr. Cohen : Has not the Attorney-General had to admit that there was a blatant attempt to interfere with the judiciary in immigration tribunal cases, and is not that interference of constitutional significance? Who was responsible? Was it a Minister or the staff of a Minister? Will the Solicitor-General explain? Should there not be a public apology?

The Solicitor-General : If the hon. Gentleman had taken the trouble to read the reply to his hon. Friend, he would have found his questions answered and his mind set at rest.



59. Dr. Kim Howells : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to increase development grants to Peru.

The Minister for Overseas Development (Mr. Chris Patten) : I have no plans at present for an increase. It is likely that we shall maintain our programme of technical co-operation to Peru at approximately current levels for the foreseeable future.

Dr. Howells : Given the way in which certain British companies are growing fat by tearing the mineral wealth

Column 17

and the rain forests out of South America, why do we allocate such miserable amounts of aid to countries such as Peru, which are struggling democracies attempting to rebuild their economies? As those countries are trying to prevent themselves from becoming dominated by the drugs barons who grow drugs there and since the British Government set up such a hue and cry about fighting those drugs barons when the drugs come into this country, why is more money not given to help those struggling democracies to overcome the problem at source?

Mr. Patten : The hon. Gentleman has covered a broad waterfront, with a number of non sequiturs en route. I shall be interested to discuss the problem of tropical rain forests with him when I return from Brazil in a week or two.

On the hon. Gentleman's point about the total size of our programme in Peru, we have never had large programmes in Latin America--under Governments of either party--because much of our aid is concentrated on Commonwealth countries and on the poorest countries. We have a programme of about £1 million in Peru, but I remind the hon. Gentleman that there are 77 countries poorer than Peru.

Mr. Jacques Arnold : Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the biggest difficulties about development programmes with Peru is that country's inability to sort out its international financial affairs? Is it not high time that the Peruvian Government buckled down to sorting out their debts and financial position, as much of the rest of Latin America has already done?

Mr. Patten : Peru's best chance of getting more capital aid lies in reconciliation with the multilateral banks with which it is at present in arrears.

Non-commercial Aid

60. Mr. John Evans : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what proportion of the gross national product is accounted for in non-commercial aid to developing countries in (a) 1975, (b) 1980, (c) 1985 and (d) 1989.

Mr. Chris Patten : United Kingdom net official development assistance and grants by United Kingdom voluntary agencies represented 0.41 per cent. of GNP in 1975, and 0.37 per cent. in both 1980 and 1985. The figure for 1989 will not be available until next year. The provisional figure for 1988 is 0.35 per cent.

Mr. Evans : Will the Minister take this opportunity to deny the scandalous story in yesterday's edition of The Observer to the effect that recent British non-commercial development aid to Malaysia was tied to the purchase of British armaments?

Mr. Patten : I have denied that story many times. It is quite an old story. It first surfaced in The Guardian in June last year and has since been recycled in The Observer. I denied it most recently and explicitly in evidence to the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Mr. Jack : I wish my right hon. Friend well on his forthcoming trip to Brazil. Will he confirm that one of the most effective ways in which Britain can help with

Column 18

non-commerical aid is by making expertise available to countries such as Brazil to help them deal with their forestry problems?

Mr. Patten : My hon. Friend is entirely correct. We have as much expertise on tropical forestry matters in this country as exists anywhere else in the world and some splendid experts, such as Dr. Prance, a member of our recent environmental mission to Brazil.

Third World Development

61. Mr. John Marshall : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what studies his Department has sponsored of the role of the free market in fostering economic development in the Third world.

Mr. Chris Patten : My Department is sponsoring a range of studies. They include assessment of the more liberal economic policies that many developing countries are pursuing under structural adjustment programmes and the role of market forces in stimulating agriculture, forestry, industry and foreign trade.

Mr. Marshall : First, I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his appointment to the Privy Council. Does he agree that in the Third world, as elsewhere, there is a strong correlation between economic growth and the adoption of a social market economy? Will he therefore concentrate our economic assistance on those countries that have had the foresight to adopt the social market economy rather than indulging in a mindless morass of Marxism and Socialism?

Mr. Patten : I am much obliged to my hon. Friend for his kind personal reference and I am lost in envy at his final alliteration. I can confirm what my hon. Friend said about the importance of market forces and the price mechanism in supporting sustainable economic development. We have put an increasing amount of our aid into supporting economic reform programmes which are more likely to encourage the development of the private sector and inward private investment. I am delighted that so many countries are pursuing more sensible economic policies and I note that the leader of the Labour party, Peter Mandelson, is also more in favour of market economics these days.

Mr. Tom Clarke : Has the right hon. Gentleman had his attention drawn to the exposure by the Daily Record of conditions on the tea plantations in Bangladesh of James Finlay and Company? Will he join me in deploring the outrageous exploitation of labour, including child labour? Does he accept that that is the unacceptable face of the free market in the Third world and, if so, will he bring the matter to the attention of the Commonwealth Development Corporation?

Mr. Patten : I have not seen the report to which the hon. Gentleman draws attention, although I condemn such exploitation wherever it occurs. We are involved in a number of projects on the tea estates of Bangladesh to improve housing and other social conditions. That is a sensible and important use of our aid money. I hope that private sector companies as well as public sector companies will do all that they can to ensure social equity as well as market forces as the best engines of economic growth.

Column 19

Andean Countries

62. Mr. Sheerman : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking to increase aid to the Andean group of countries.

Mr. Chris Patten : I have no plans at present to increase aid levels to the Andean group of countries. I expect our aid programmes to those countries to be maintained at approximately current levels for the foreseeable future.

Mr. Sheerman : I congratulate the Minister on his promotion. Is it not about time that he seized the opportunities of his office and started to do something for undeveloped countries, notably those in South America where, after 10 years of Conservative Government, only a measly £10 million flows from this wealthy country to countries that are struggling for democracy and struggling to fight drugs and poverty? When will the Minister do something?

Mr. Patten : I will answer that question as though it were a string of compliments. I know of the hon. Gentleman's interest in the region and his particular interest in Peru, which is as welcome in that country as in this. I repeat what I said earlier. We have traditionally concentrated our aid programmes on the Commonwealth and on poorer countries. If we are likely to do more in Latin America, it will almost certainly be due to our growing interest and concern about environmental issues. That is one reason why, as I said earlier, I am going to Brazil later today.

Overseas Development Administration Silver Jubilee

63. Mr. Greg Knight : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to celebrate the Overseas Development Administration's silver jubilee.

Mr. Chris Patten : On 28 June my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, in the presence of Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal, hosted a reception at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to mark the publication of an anniversary edition of the ODA's annual review. Copies are being distributed widely. Earlier that day, I launched at the Royal Society of Arts two new specially commissioned videos on the key issues of the environment and the role of science in development.

Column 20

Mr. Knight : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the best way to celebrate 25 years of aid is to give further encouragement to those charities and other non-governmental organisations which have played such a significant part in development? Should we not be encouraging more volunteers to go to developing countries?

Mr. Patten : I very much agree with my hon. Friend. We helped 60 charitable agencies last year in long-term development work covering 800 projects. We should be able to do more this year, having increased the funds available for the joint funding scheme by just over 40 per cent. We are also increasing the amount of financial assistance to volunteering agencies. This year their grant will have risen by just over 20 per cent. I hope that the number of volunteers will increase from about 1,300 now to about 1,500 by 1990.

Miss Lestor : Enjoyable though the celebrations were last week--the right hon. Gentleman was kind enough to invite me--I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman has seen in the jubilee edition of "Overseas Development", the ODA newspaper, the anger expressed by former Minister Dame Judith Hart at the Government's record in the past 10 years. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that there is more to celebrate in 25 years of ODA than glossy brochures and pleasant receptions, much though we all enjoyed them? Will the right hon. Gentleman mark the occasion by announcing his timetable for British aid to reach 0.7 per cent of GNP, bearing in mind that if press speculation is correct and he leaves ODA this summer he will leave behind a drop in aid in real terms of 18 per cent. since 1979?

Mr. Patten : In response to the hon. Lady's latter point, I think it was someone like Cardinal Manning--or perhaps it was Lord St. John of Fawsley--who said :

"I do not ask to see

The distant scene ; one step enough for me."

In response to the hon. Lady's first point, the fact that we quote Baroness Hart in our publication does not show that we agree with her, but merely that we believe in a plural society. I am delighted that this year the aid programme is growing by 12 per cent. in cash terms and 7 per cent. in real terms.

Next Section (Debates)

  Home Page