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Mr. Morrison : I think that the hon. Gentleman misunderstands the Government's position. If he had read the newspapers, he would be aware of references to energy efficiency on virtually every page of every newspaper. That is entirely thanks to the Government putting it at the top of the list of priorities some time ago. Our campaign has worked successfully. That is why hundreds of thousands of people take energy efficiency far more seriously than ever before.
The hon. Gentleman will know also, if he bothers to look at the statistics, that between 1983, when the campaign started, and 1987 some £2.4 billion has been saved, thanks to the work of the energy efficiency office in making everyone aware of energy efficiency. The Government take the matter very seriously.
Mr. Hargreaves : That is a disappointing reply, although I realise that the last time my right hon. Friend accepted my invitation to visit Hyndburn it cost the Department for which he was then responsible a great deal of money. I ask him to reconsider his reply so that he can see how we spent the money that he allocated to us and how Government money has assisted us in creating new jobs and industry and attracting the Zeri project to Hyndburn, with 2,700 jobs in the pipeline. Will my right hon. Friend do his best to ensure that, in this new situation, services at Accrington Victoria hospital are not diminished?
Mr. Baker : As my hon. Friend well knows, I have visited Hyndburn in many capacities. I remember canvassing for him in the 1983 election, when we won the seat against the odds, and I remember supporting him in 1987. I look forward to supporting him in 1991 or 1992, when he will be returned again as the Member for Hyndburn. One reason why he will be returned is that unemployment in his constituency has fallen by some 56 per cent. over the past three years.
Mr. Pike : If the right hon. Gentleman agreed to go to Hyndburn, how would he explain to the people of Lancashire and Hyndburn the poll tax bills that they will have to pay, given that more than 70 per cent. of the people in the terraced houses in north-east Lancashire will lose considerably?
Mr. Baker : The hon. Gentleman should remember that in the first year of the community charge some £700 million will flow to those authorities in receipt of safety net money. In addition, £100 million will flow to those areas which have a low level of domestic rates and there will be £300 million in transitional relief. Many people in Lancashire will benefit from that.
Mr. Baldry : That is a great pity, because a bunch of people are wandering around the country masquerading under the red rose of Lancashire and of St. George. Should not that scandalous state of affairs be reported to the College of Arms, which could then devise a legitimate heraldic device for the group in question--a windbag rampant, perhaps?
Mr. Baker : Many people in Lancashire bitterly resent the fact that the symbol of Lancashire, the red rose, has been hijacked by the Labour party. The red rose of Lancashire is a symbol of unity, not of division, so its use in that way is a complete charade because the Labour party has not changed its policies. Its symbol remains the red flag, as was shown by the fact that 10 days ago Labour Members stood up in the Chamber and sang it.
Mr. Jack : My right hon. Friend will know from his assiduous attention to the economic activity within the county of Lancashire that that activity is under threat due to the irresponsible action by aerospace workers at the British Aerospace Strand road site in their misguided pursuit of a 35-hour week. Will my right hon. Friend join me in condemning this action, which will ruin the productivity and competitiveness of one of Lancashire's most important industries?
Mr. Baker : I completely support my hon. Friend. With wage demands of that kind, one has to be aware of what will happen to the competitiveness of British industry, which has been improved enormously in the past 10 years in Lancashire, as elsewhere. In the north-west, there has been a 10.4 per cent. increase in the number of businesses since we have been in office, which has added to the prosperity of the north-west. I hope that that will not be weakened or threatened by such irresponsible claims.
Column 20Duchy? Does he not consider it appropriate at this stage to pluck up the courage to stand for the leadership of the Tory party? He might even win, and thank me afterwards.
Mr. Baker : I looked carefully at all the questions asked of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster over the past 10 years, and especially those asked of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) when he held the Chancellorship of the Duchy of Lancaster and also the chairmanship of the Tory party. I found that the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) asked almost exactly the same question three years ago. He was saying that that we would not win the 1987 election, but we did. Now he is saying that we shall not win the next election, but we shall--not least because the hon. Gentleman has a very small majority and I look on the constituency of Walsall, North as a Tory gain.
Sir Peter Hordern (Chairman of the Public Accounts Commission) : The commission last met on 16 May when among the subjects discussed was a report by the National Audit Office auditors on accommodation arrangements at the NAO headquarters building.
Mr. Allen : Has the Chairman met Dr. Bill Jack, the new Comptroller and Auditor-General for Northern Ireland, and, if so, has he discussed with him the levels of staffing and remuneration for that office? Has he had a chance yet to look at the estimates from the Public Accounts Commission?
Sir Peter Hordern : We have not yet had a chance to meet Dr. Jack since his appointment. However, we were able to meet him before then. On behalf of the House, I congratulate Dr. Jack on his appointment and also to pay tribute to his predecessor, Mr. Calvert, who bore the office of the Comptroller and Auditor-General Northern Ireland very well for nine years. The Public Accounts Commission expects to consider the estimates for next year on 12 December.
Mr. Tim Smith : What steps is the Public Accounts Commission taking to ensure that there are no unnecessary restrictions or impediments to the National Audit Office employing the best possible staff at all levels? Is my hon. Friend satisfied that the Comptroller and Auditor General in particular and his staff generally are paid the proper rate for the job?
Sir Peter Hordern : The commission is satisfied that the staff of the Comptroller and Auditor General are paid at competitive rates and also have the benefit of extra earnings for merit awards. I regret to say, however, that that is not the case for the Comptroller and Auditor General himself or for the Comptroller and Auditor General Northern Ireland. We have made representations on that to the Government and propose to do so again.
Mr. Squire : Has my right hon. Friend been able to assist some of the residents of the county palatine? Has he found, as I have found in my constituency, that although people are clear about the Government's defence policies, they are thoroughly confused about the Opposition's defence policies and wholly ignorant of those of the Social Democrats?
Mr. Andrew F. Bennett : When the Chancellor is next in Lancashire, will he consider the appointment of justices of the peace? Does he accept that justices of the peace in the whole of the area for which he is responsible show a preponderance of people from middle-class and Right-wing backgrounds, rather than a good balance across the community? The right hon. Gentleman's predecessor gave a clear commitment in the House to ensure that more JPs came from working-class backgrounds within the area for which he was responsible. Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that that commitment is carried out?
Mr. Baker : I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's criticism, because it is unfair. That aspect of my responsibilities is important. I presided at a magistrates meeting in the Wirral and I am anxious that people appointed to the honourable and important role of justice of the peace represent broad bands of society. I make every effort to ensure that that is the case, as do my advisers.
Mr. Michael Alison (Second Church Estates Commissioners, Representing Church Commissioners) : The archbishop's expenses are reimbursed by the Church Commissioners on a quarterly basis. No claim has yet been made in respect of the period in question, but the archbishop's private office was kind enough to tell me informally, in advance of submitting a claim, that the cost was in the region of £8, 500.
Column 22whose activities will cause schisms in the Church of England, will my right hon. Friend consider giving similar resources to those who oppose those activities?
Mr. Alison : My hon. Friend singles out just one of the matters that divide the Church of England and the Church of Rome. Many sections of the Church of England have expressed gratitude and received encouragement as a result of the archbishop's visit to the Pope.
89. Mr. Allen : To ask the Lord President of the Council if he will take steps to allow hon. Members to have the same facility as some outside organisations in receiving the televised picture of the Chamber in their own offices.
Mr. Allen : The Lord President will be aware that more than 40 organisations outside the House will be able to receive the live television pictures, including South African television, Israeli television and Government Departments. At this very moment, Mr. Bernard Ingham--he who must be relayed--may well be receiving the television picture live. For all we know, he may be whispering into the Lord President's ear a startling and direct reply to my question. Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman prepared to extend the facility to hon. Members in their offices?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : The hon. Gentleman knows that that is essentially a matter not for me but for the House. Sound broadcasting access is accorded to several organisations outside the House and to certain Departments of State. It has been decided that the television feed should be similarly available to those organisations and people. The Select Committee on Broadcasting and subsequently the Select Committee on Televising of Proceedings of the House decided that no such facilities should be provided for hon. Members, save in the Lobbies. The reasons given were, first, that it would be expensive--perhaps not the most important reason--secondly, that it would be intrusive to hon. Members who share rooms and, thirdly and most importantly, that it would diminish the likelihood of hon. Members being present in the Chamber. The latter reason impressed the Select Committee and that is how the matter stands.
Mr. Dykes : Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the hon. Gentleman's suggestion would be a bad idea because, as my right hon. and learned Friend inferred, it would keep hon. Members away from the Chamber? The House has consistently avoided sound radio broadcasting of the proceedings in hon. Members' offices for just that reason. However, as hon. Members in various parts of the House will need to see what is happening in the Chamber, would it not be a good idea for my right hon. and learned Friend to discuss with the House authorities the provision of an adequate number of monitors in various locations?
Column 23Committee may consider the matter again in the future, but it was unanimous in recommending against provision of facilities beyond those currently available.
Dr. Cunningham : Will the Lord President of the Council keep an open mind on the matter? Why should we not review it at the end of the experimental period? Is it not rather curious that we are to provide the facility for people in the media and others--who, for all I know, may include press officers in Government Departments--but deny it to hon. Members? Can we not consider the matter again when the experiment is over?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : Both the hon. Gentleman and I will have to keep an open mind because we serve on the Select Committee which will be reviewing developments in the months ahead. The matter was considered by the Select Committee, which reached a unanimous conclusion. The burden of proof in the opposite direction must therefore be discharged.
Mr. Butler : Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that if Sky Television provides full coverage of the House, as it intends to do, hon. Members will be able to provide facilities in their offices for themselves?
Mr. Wallace : Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman reflect on the fact that, from next Tuesday, the many organisations that will have access to our televised proceedings, will be able to witness the trivial banter that we have just heard, which is known as questions to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman reflect on the question rota, bearing in mind the fact that we have to go through that exercise but have no opportunity to address questions to Scottish Law Officers?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : I shall certainly consider that matter with the seriousness that it deserves, but I repudiate absolutely the allegation that viewers would be unimpressed by the splendid performance of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.
90. Mr. Rooker : To ask the Lord President of the Council when he expects the circular reminding right hon. and hon. Members about the need to provide contracts of employment to the Fees Office in respect of staff to be issued.
Mr. Rooker : Will the Lord President confirm that staff employed by hon. Members and paid by the Fees Office are supposed to have contracts of employment lodged with the Fees Office but that on 30 June this year only 709 of the 1,287 staff paid by the Fees Office and employed by hon. Members had such contracts lodged? That is simply not on. Hon. Members are not famed for being good employers and I hope that the Lord President will pursue the matter after the issue of the circular to make sure that the laggards toe the line and become decent employers.
Sir Geoffrey Howe : The number of hon. Members who have complied is broadly in line with the figure given by the hon. Gentleman. He is right that the relevant resolution of the House passed on 21 July 1987 makes arrangements requiring a statement to be lodged by hon. Members who use the Fees Office to pay their staff. That followed the recommendation of the Top Salaries Review Body some time before. The fact that a reminder letter is to be issued later this month shows that the matter is being taken seriously.
Mr. Squire : The news that the Lord President has just given will be greeted with some concern. Can my right hon. and learned Friend say whether the omissions include staff employed for longer than two or three years? If so, does he agree that that is all the more scandalous?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : In general terms, the documents have been lodged more regularly on behalf of newly employed staff because both employer and employee have been made familiar with the requirement at the start of the contract period, whereas the obligation has not been complied with significantly in respect of longer-serving staff who may well have been accustomed to operating in a more informal world. That is the reason for the difference in the figures.
Sir Geoffrey Howe : The Privy Council Office has no budget allocated specifically to press and public relations, and employs no press or information staff. A very small proportion of the office's staffing and administration costs arises from the handling of such matters but it could not be accurately quantified.
Mr. Winnick : Does the Lord President consider that if he had more to spend on press and publicity he would be on a more equal footing with Mr. Ingham, who is increasingly being seen as the real deputy Prime Minister?
Mr. Thurnham : Will my right hon. and learned Friend see what he can do to avoid the disturbance created by testing the Division Bells at 9 o'clock every morning when hon. Members are at their desks trying to work and make telephone calls? What is the statistical justification for testing the Division Bells every day? Could not the engineers test them just as well at 2.30 pm as at 9 am?
Column 25time. It has been found to be convenient for that relatively unadvanced piece of technology. It seems to work satisfactorily and it does not disturb as many hon. Members at 9 am as it might later in the day. My hon. Friend is among a relatively small minority of hon. Members to be found on the premises complaining about the early testing of the alarm systems.
Mr. Dalyell : As one of the House of Common's best remembered Law Officers, does the Lord President think it proper that we should give House room to a civil servant whom Leon Brittan tells us behaved totally improperly in the matter of the Law Officer's letter--unless, that is, the Prime Minister on 27 January did something which, were I to name it, would lead to my being suspended for 20 days?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : The hon. Gentleman is the only hon. Member who continues to have that particular obsession, although the House may be glad that it has replaced the Belgrano in his mind. I invite him to give up this obsession as decisively as he gave up the other.
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