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Column 12refusals by local planning authorities in Wales ; and how many planning appeals he has upheld against authorities' decisions during the past 12 months.
Mr. Peter Walker : All representations made to the Department about the planning merits of an appeal are taken into account in arriving at my decisions. Out of 1,060 appeals decided during the past 12 months, 343 were allowed.
Mr. Wigley : Does the Secretary of State accept that when large- scale tourist projects are considered by local authorities they should be given the go-ahead only if the local community wants the project in that form, and that if there is a threat to the environment, the social fabric or the culture of the area, the project should not go ahead? Given the threat posed by some such projects, and the fact that when tourist projects occur it is important that they have the backing of the local community-- which, after all, is supposed to welcome the people who come to its area-- should not the final decision rest with the local authorities and not with the Welsh Office?
Mr. Walker : The hon. Gentleman is really saying that there should be no rights of appeal on certain projects, but that would be a dangerous position to adopt. Many planning applications are made in Wales and in the rest of the country to which people in the immediate locality object, but to which a wider range of people do not object because of the job opportunities and the new activities created--indeed, they probably support such projects. So far, under all Governments, there has been a right of appeal, and that is perfectly correct. The figures that I have given show that out of 1, 060 appeals, 343 were allowed, so the large bulk were rejected. To take away the right of appeal because a local authority has made a decision would be a mistake.
Dr. Marek : Will the Minister admit that his penny-pinching policies in previous years regarding the construction of the A55 led to some of those accidents? In a spirit of co-operation with the opposition that is felt by everyone in north Wales, will he undertake to ensure that the dangerous right turns into oncoming traffic on the dual carriageway sections of that road are closed off and grade separated underpasses provided instead?
Mr. Roberts : All the improvements that we have carried out on the A55 have improved the accident rate. Currently the A55 is a mix of single and dual carriageways and its accident rate is equal to the national average. The total number of fatal and serious personal injury road accidents on the A55 has fallen in each of the past three years. We are, of course, always looking at ways in which to improve road safety.
The Minister for the Arts (Mr. Richard Luce) : On 29 June I attended the opening by Her Majesty the Queen of a substantial redevelopment of the Imperial War museum's main building. This impressive project has significantly increased the museum's gallery space and is an excellent example of the many imaginative developments both under way and in planning at the national museums and galleries.
Mr. Mans : I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Does he agree that that project is an excellent example of co-operation between the public and private sector? Will he take this opportunity to congratulate the staff and the director of the museum on the recent refurbishment work and the way in which they carried it out?
Mr. Luce : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks. I certainly join him in congratulating the director and staff on a remarkable achievement. It is interesting to note that that redevelopment cost £16.7 million altogether. The Government contributed just over £12 million and the rest came from the private sector. The project is a fine example of joint funding by the public and the private sector.
Mr. Robert Sheldon : While welcoming the improvements in the Imperial War museum, will the right hon. Gentleman turn his attention to those other museums which, in the words of the Public Accounts Committee which took evidence on this matter in October last year, have faced
"a major breakdown over many years in the proper stewardship of major national assets"?
Museums are a striking example of failure to deal with the problem of inflation as well as the problem of lack of repair work over many years. The problems that we are now facing at the Victoria and Albert museum and other major national institutions must be dealt with properly and can be dealt with only by the injection of substantial sums of money.
Mr. Luce : That is exactly why, over the four years beginning 1987- 88, I took the decision to increase by 53 per cent. the amount of money available for building and maintenance. The money allocated for building and maintenance this year will amount to £48 million, rising to £55 million by 1991. The right hon. Gentleman knows that there is three-year funding, but I have retained a certain flexibility in relation to building and maintenance so that in years two and three I can respond to the particular demands of particular institutions. I naturally attach great importance to the maintenance of such buildings.
Mr. Harry Greenway : Can my right hon. Friend say whether the Imperial War museum is bound by national agreements on pay and staffing levels and what effect that has upon that and other museums? Is it right to straitjacket museums in that way? Should they not make their own arrangements on pay and staffing levels as they see fit?
Mr. Luce : My hon. Friend has raised an important point. Since 1963, all the main national institutions have been linked to Civil Service pay and conditions, but some of the national institutions are looking for new ways in which to approach this problem and are coming forward with ideas. I believe that the main way forward must be more flexible pay arrangements for each institution. Museums are free to operate such a scheme under present arrangements and there is nothing to stop them moving forward in that direction.
Mr. Luce : In 1988-89 the total salary costs of the Office of Arts and Libraries sponsored national museums and galleries represented 90 per cent. of annual Government grant-in-aid for running costs and 56 per cent. of the institutions' total grant-in-aid from the arts programme.
Dr. Marek : Is the Minister aware that the percentage is creeping up? For example, this year for the V and A 98 per cent. of the total grant is used for running costs. Will the Minister try to correct the problem not by cutting the number of museum staff or their salaries, but by ensuring that the funding for museums is put on a proper basis so that staff have a high morale and good salaries, and the pictures and exhibits are not at risk, as stated in the letter from the five chairmen of the national musuems which is on the Prime Minister's desk this afternoon?
Mr. Luce : Before responding to the hon. Gentleman's point, I must make it absolutely plain that the past few years have seen an unprecedented expansion and refurbishment of our national institutions--ranging from the Tate galleries to the Imperial War museum and the National Portrait gallery, which has extended its position in north Wales, to a range of other refurbishments which have been quite dramatic and unprecedented. The hon. Gentleman is right, of course--it is essential to ensure that the buildings are maintained in good condition. That is why since 1979 there has been a 50 per cent. increase in real terms in the amount of money for building and maintenance, and why I am putting extra money into that work in the present four-year period. I take my responsibility for the welfare of those institutions very seriously, and I take serious note of the views expressed by the chairmen and directors.
Mr. Jessel : Does my right hon. Friend agree that that substantial increase in real terms since 1979 is highly important? Does he further agree that inflation is the one thing which threatens to erode the benefits of that increase? Does it not follow, therefore, that the museums--like everyone else--should support policies which bring down inflation?
The issues that we are discussing arise from my request that all institutions should have corporate strategies, forecasting five to 10 years ahead what they need to remain
Column 15in good shape, and from their untying from the Property Services Agency, which has revealed certain additional requirements. Those issues have been revealed in the past few months and I shall take them on board.
Mr. Fisher : Does the Minister agree with the five chairmen of the national galleries and museums who, having prepared corporate plans as requested, have written to the Prime Minister today to say that unless the Government provide extra money before the next pay round in the autumn, galleries will close, exhibitions will be fewer, staff will be cut, opening hours will be shorter and works of art will be at risk? Does the Minister agree that the present situation is the result of 10 years of neglect by the Government of our museum world, as documented by the Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office, and in particular the result of a grant increase this year of only 2.5 per cent. when inflation is 8 per cent. and wage rises are 8 per cent. plus? Will the Minister go to the Chancellor and fight for more money for our national museums, or will he sit idly by and let them crumble?
Mr. Luce : The hon. Gentleman should be careful about suggesting that there have been cuts to the national museums and galleries over the past 10 years. If he makes such suggestions, I shall make comparisons with what happened under Labour Governments, which would not show his party in a healthy light. There has been a 25 per cent. increase in real terms in overall funding for our national institutions and a 50 per cent. increase for building and maintenance. That was our response to the urgent demands of the chairmen and directors of those institutions. As I said, the corporate strategies have now revealed further priorities. For example, officials at the Victoria and Albert museum have said that they require £100 million over 10 years. I have already earmarked a minimum of £25 million for the next three years. The gap between what the museum requires and what it is likely to receive from the Government is not very large.
Mr. Bowis : Perhaps my right hon. Friend will agree that this week the theatres should not miss the opportunity to pay tribute to the great actor whom we have lost in the past few days, Lawrence Olivier. We shall greatly miss his stage presence, but the memory of his acting and production will, I suspect, never leave us. He had a great interest in theatre of all sizes, but not even Archie Rice would have appeared on the stages to which this question refers.
Small theatres are having enormous problems, as my right hon. Friend knows, because they are expected to meet the absurd requirements applying to cinemas, drinking clubs and large theatres. Some small theatres are having to close because of the 48-hour rule. Will my right hon. Friend talk to the Home Secretary to see whether that burden can be lifted?
Column 16genius added new heights of achievement to British drama, and his contributions as a director of the Royal National theatre and the Chichester theatre led to great achievements for both institutions. My hon. Friend has been in touch with me about small theatres and pub theatres and I have been in touch with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, especially about the licensing laws, which are principally a matter for him. It may help, however, if I explain that the Greater London Arts Association has invited the pub theatre network to put together the necessary information so that an approach can be made to the London boroughs so as to ensure that the law is operated as fairly and consistently as possible.
52. Mr. Allen : To ask the Minister for the Civil Service what representations he has received seeking the introduction of an induction course at Sunningdale for all new hon. Members after the next general election.
The Minister of State, Privy Council Office (Mr. Richard Luce) : Introductory briefing sessions about the Civil Service were held for hon. Members of all parties during 1988. The facility for briefing Members remains available at any time through the usual channels.
Mr. Allen : The briefings that took place were exceptionally good and I commend them to new Members who are elected next time. It is important that new Members find their way around. Novices and virgins in parliamentary procedure such as myself need all the assistance that we can get. That particularly applies to Conservative Members, who have to learn all the techniques of planted questions and planted supplementaries with which Opposition Members are unfamiliar. Does the Minister agree that it will be all the more important to hold an intensive induction course after the next election, when there will be more than 100 new Labour Members?
Mr. Luce : I am glad that the hon. Gentleman took advantage of that facility and thought it valuable. It is available not just for new Members but for any Member who feels at any time that he needs to know more about how the Civil Service operates and about the changes and reforms taking place.
Mr. John Marshall : Will my right hon. Friend confirm that when he arranged such a course for Labour Members after the last election, only three turned up? Does he feel that that was value for money for the taxpayer?
Mr. Luce : It might mean that Labour Members were pessimistic about their chances after the next election. Whatever the reason, the existence of such a facility is valuable, especially to new Members who knew little about the Civil Service, in helping to get rid of some preconceptions and teaching Members a little more about how it operates.
53. Mr. Dalyell : To ask the Minister for the Civil Service if he has received further representations from the Institution of Professional Civil Servants seeking talks about the code of ethics for Government information officers.
Mr. Luce : Yes, I am already doing so. The Civil Service seeks to employ staff of the highest quality of both sexes and recognises the importance of providing good child care facilities if it is to recruit and retain such staff.
Mr. Mitchell : I thank my right hon. Friend for that encouraging reply. Does he agree that the effects of the demographic trough of which we are all aware, which mean that in Nottinghamshire 30 per cent. fewer children will be leaving school by 1995, underline the importance of good- quality child care, of career breaks and of other ways of encouraging part- timers back to work?
Mr. Luce : My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the demographic changes. There will be a substantial fall in the number of 16 to 19-year-olds in the next five or six years. That means that we shall have to look more widely to recruit the most able people, to keep up the standards of the Civil Service. I hope that as a result of our equal opportunities policy we shall be able to recruit more women to the service. There are a number of schemes--self-financing holiday schemes, care-parent schemes, and value-for-money nurseries--being established. There is also the evolution of part-time work, job-sharing and flexible working opportunities, all of which should help to recruit more people, particularly women, in the next five or six years.
Mrs. Clwyd : As this country has one of the worst records in Europe on child care provision, why do the Government not put their money where their mouth is and enable local education authorities to make statutory provision for child care facilities?
Mr. Luce : The hon. Lady must put that question to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science. My concern is with the provision in the Civil Service. We are providing facilities to enable us to recruit and retain the best and most competent people, including women. We have to grapple with that problem. We are providing an increasing range of facilities which should encourage able women to stay rather than leave, as well as encouraging more to join the service.
Mr. Barnes : Has there been any discussion about the freezing of the mileage allowance over the past two years, which seems a particularly mean- minded approach to the Civil Service? Have there been any consultations about shifting the Civil Service Commission to agency status, or is that, too, to be done without consultation? Should not the Government at least adopt a policy of no annihilation without consultation?
Mr. Luce : The hon. Gentleman's first question is principally for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I have already announced on behalf of the Government that, except for high grades, more recruitment can be done by Government Departments and that a Government agency is to be established which can recruit on a competitive basis for all levels and grades within the service and for all Departments. I have already had discussions with trade union leaders about that. It will lead to an improved service and an even more effective way of recruiting the best people.
Dr. Marek : A few weeks ago, staff at passport offices had to take industrial action to make the point that the service provided by the Government was not properly staffed. The Prime Minister said that the civil servants could not care a damn. What is the Minister's view?
Mr. Luce : The hon. Gentleman knows that there has been an increase in the number of civil servants at the passport office. Incidentally, he should note that the passport office is a candidate to become a Government agency, where targets can be established to provide the best possible performance, including performance to the public. That is an important part of the reforms announced by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in February last year, which are designed to improve the service to the public.
56. Mr. Teddy Taylor : To ask the Minister for the Civil Service how many persons in the Civil Service are engaged in the consideration of matters relating to the European Community ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Taylor : As Britain seems to get a particularly rotten deal from the Common Market with the highest ever net contribution and trade deficit and as all member states except ourselves are blissfully ignoring decisions of the European Court, would it not be appropriate for some civil servants to watch the position to see whether Britain could get a relatively fairer deal rather than the present dreadful one?
Column 19said that whether he is right or wrong it is essential that the civil servants who advise Ministers are well equipped to do so, knowledgeable about the Community and heavily involved in it. If we want British interests to be served properly, that is the right thing to do. That is why we provide a range of facilities, courses and assistance to civil servants.
Mr. Fisher : What assurances did the Minister give the trade unions about the level of staffing at the new British library, and about the future level of staffing at our national galleries and museums?
Mr. Luce : I have not had discussions with the union leaders about the level of staffing at the British library, but hon. Gentlemen should note that the support for the British library from the taxpayers is substantial. We have committed no less than £400 million of taxpayers' money to the new British library, based at St. Pancras. The hon. Gentleman should welcome that warmly.
59. Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the Minister for the Civil Service how many civil servants there are in his Department at the current time ; how many there were on 3 May, 1979 and 1974, respectively ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Luce : There are 944 civil servants within the responsibility of the Office of the Minister for the Civil Service. Of these, 640 are employed in areas which have assumed, or are planning to assume, agency status.
As the office did not come into being until 1 October 1987, there are no previous comparative figures.
Mr. Greenway : Will my right hon. Friend give the overall number for the Civil Service? In so doing, will he note that there are far fewer civil servants now than there were 10 years ago, and will he join me in congratulating the reduced number of civil servants on a greatly improved output of work? Does this not show that we did not need a vast army of civil servants to run this country and never shall?
Mr. Luce : My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the size of the Civil Service, which has been reduced by 21 per cent. in the last decade. He is also right to draw attention to the fact that we now have not only a slimmed down Civil Service but a highly professional service, which does an outstanding job in advising the Government of the day.
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