Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South-East) : I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 20 for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,
"the letter sent yesterday afternoon by Mr. Tom Crosby, London's acting chief ambulance officer, and the threat to the accident and emergency service presently being offered by ambulance crews." Yesterday afternoon, a little after 3.30 pm, all 71 London ambulance stations received a letter warning the crews that if they continued to respond to direct 999 calls from hospitals, doctors, members of the public and even some police officers, they would not only be in direct contravention of management instructions, but would leave themselves liable for criminal prosecution for the theft of ambulances.
The precise words of Mr. Crosby's letter were :
"Driving on the public highway in a vehicle taken without its owner's consent and without authorised (by a controller) insurance cover will conceivably be constructed as breaches in the criminal law."
That is not only blackmail of the worst order, but also continues to use the lives of sick and ill patients as a stick with which to beat the ambulance crews to accept a pay cut by tightening up the lock-out of ambulance workers in London. It forces ambulance crews to choose between their patients' lives and their own possible criminal prosecution.
If Mr. Crosby is serious, what does he expect to happen? Are the police to arrest the crews as they leave the ambulance stations on mercy missions? Ambulance workers will not be bullied. The more they are kicked in the teeth by Mr. Crosby and the Secretary of State for
Column 184Health, the more it brings them together. The action and determination of the caring women and men of this country's ambulance service is spreading.
If this urgent debate is not granted, a further week must pass before we are allowed to make a subsequent application. From midnight tonight, workers in Coventry, Warwickshire and the rest of the west midlands will escalate their action and, in their words, take the London road. As in London, the 999 service in my area will be preserved at all costs because accident and emergency crews are pledged to provide it, whether they are paid or suspended. This escalation is the sole responsibility of a hard- faced and hard-hearted Secretary of State and his craven hireling, Mr. Crosby. Mr. Crosby should be sacked. The Secretary of State should resign. The Army should be withdrawn. The workers should be paid a living wage before the Government's tactics put yet another life at risk. I urge you to grant this application, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker : The hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist) asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely,
"The letter of Acting Chief Ambulance Officer Crosby and the provision of an accident and emergency service by ambulance workers."
As the House knows, under Standing Order No. 20, I have to announce my decision without giving reasons. I have listened with care to what the hon. Gentleman has said and, as he knows, I have to decide whether his application should be given precedence over the business already set down for today or for tomorrow. I regret that in this case, the matters raised do not meet the requirments of the Standing Order, and I therefore cannot submit his application to the House.
Mr. Robin Cook (Livingston) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. On Friday, the Lobby was briefed on the basis that today we would hear a statement on the White Paper on community care. This afternoon, a written answer was deposited in the Library, which opens with the following sentence from the Secretary of State for Health : "I am pleased to be able to announce that our White Paper, Caring for People : Community Care in the next Decade and Beyond' will be published on Thursday 16 November."
As the House will immediately appreciate, Thursday is the one sitting day of the week on which it is not possible to make an oral statement to the House. That is presumably why that day was chosen. This choice of date is an affront to the House. In 15 years as a Member of Parliament I cannot recall a single occasion on which a Minister was prepared to say that a White Paper was ready for publication but will not be published until the day on which the House rises.
The House knows how pressing is this issue. It also knows from the press reports how controversial some elements of that White Paper will be, such as the proposal to put the home help service out to private contract. I submit that it would be an outrage if that White Paper was produced on the day on which the Secretary of State could avoid answering questions in the House.
As you will be aware, Mr. Speaker, it is the function of your office to defend the right of the House to challenge and scrutinise Ministers. I invite the representatives of the Government who are present, including the Leader of the House, the Secretary of State and the Chief Whip, to assure the House that, if it is not possible to produce this White Paper before Prorogation, the White Paper will not be published before the House sits again.
Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I support entirely what the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) has said. It is a scandal and an outrage that this procedure is being used. That is compounded by the fact that the press is now carrying reports that the Health Bill, which will be produced only six or seven days after the White Paper, will contain the Government's implementation of contents of the White Paper. Does that not show the contempt with which the Government are treating the House of Commons?
The Secretary of State for Health (Mr. Kenneth Clarke) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. As the House will know, this White Paper arises from a statement that I made in the House a short time ago, setting out the policy and the Government's decisions in the light of the Griffiths report on community care. That statement was reasonably non-controversial. Large parts of it received a welcome on both sides of the House. It was my intention to produce this White Paper before the House rose, but I regret to say that it is still with the printers and it is not possible to produce it before Thursday this week.
Column 186The publication of this White Paper would not normally give rise to any need for a statement. Nor are its contents, as leaked by the hon. Member for Peckham (Ms. Harman), accurately described. The White Paper will follow quite naturally from the statement that I made a few weeks ago.
It was precisely to avoid allegations that I was trying to smuggle out the White Paper on the day the House was prorogued that I decided to answer that written question today and to acknowledge openly that it would not be possible to produce the White Paper before Thursday. I shall be in London on Thursday and shall be freely available, and if the White Paper produces a sensational new controversy, I look forward to answering in the usual way. However, I do not think that it will contain more than useful detail. It certainly will not enlarge the level of controversy beyond the very limited extent to which there is controversy around this statement at the moment.
Mr. Robin Cook : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Secretary of State may well be in London on Thursday, but the House will not be sitting on Thursday. That is the point at issue. I am entirely willing, if the Secretary of State is going to tell us-- [Interruption.] This is a serious matter which touches on the privilege of the House. If the Secretary of State is telling the House that he cannot produce the White Paper today or tomorrow because of printing difficulties, that is entirely acceptable. However, I invite the Secretary of State to assure the House that the White Paper will not be published while the House is not sitting, and that it will be retained until an occasion when the Secretary of State can make a statement to the House and can answer questions in the House.
Mr. Kenneth Clarke : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I have spent about 18 months being accused of dragging my feet over Griffiths and community care and of not producing policy quickly enough. I am now producing a White Paper as readily as possible in line with the statement that I made to the House. Everybody wishes to know the detail of the policy, and the White Paper is being eagerly awaited. I do not propose to delay it and have explained the reasons why it cannot be produced before Thursday.
If the hon. Gentleman is alarmed by the reports, created by his hon. Friend the Member for Peckham, that the White Paper is somehow about privatising home helps and the caring services, he can be reassured that it contains no such proposals, and that it is in line with the statement that I have given.
Several Hon. Members rose --
Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey) rose
Mr. Hughes rose --
Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) : On a different point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to draw to your attention and to the attention of the House written question No. 289 on today's Order Paper, on the Government's response to the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Brogan and others concerning detention under the prevention of terrorism legislation. This is a matter of such importance that my hon. Friends and I were astounded to learn that, not only has that written question been tabled--we believe it to be what is known in the House as a planted question--but the Government have used the written answer to make a statement on this most important matter.
When the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989 was going through the House, as a member of the Standing Committee I recall that we were assured that, when the matter of permanent derogation came up, the Secretary of State for the Home Department would make a statement to the House. We believe that it is an abuse of the House that, yet again, the Government have smuggled out a most important decision on a day such as this under the guise of a written answer.
Mr. Speaker : Of course, it is not a matter for me whether questions are answered in the form of a written answer or not. It is not a matter of order. Whatever sympathy I have with having statements made in the House, they tend to greatly delay our business. I must remind the House that today we have a timetable motion, followed by opposed private business and then a prayer. The House will appreciate that the opposed private business can go on for three hours, whatever time it is entered upon, which might affect the time for the prayer.
Mr. Cryer rose --
Mr. McNamara : I will bear in mind what you have said, Mr. Speaker, but what concerns me is that in their reply the Government talk about the threat posed by terrorism connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland and then state :
"The power to hold terrorist suspects for a period of up to seven years"--
Mr. Cryer : Do you recall, Mr. Speaker, that when, in the past, statements have not been made and publications have not been provided, there has been some difficulty with Black Rod getting into the Chamber and bringing the Session of Parliament to an end? Black Rod needs permission to enter the Chamber because of the age-old tradition that, as the representative of the monarch, Black Rod can enter only with our permission. If the Government do not provide information--it has happened in the past--the Commons might refuse Black Rod entry, and that refusal would be in order.
Mr. Wallace : Yes. You will be aware, Mr. Speaker, that, often late at night, the House is invited to approve what in the past were called rate support grant orders and what are now called revenue support grant orders. In a recent revenue support grant instrument, a substantial error was made by the Scottish Office in regard to the amount due to the city of Glasgow district council. It is my information that the Secretary of State for Scotland intends to issue a statement in Scotland tonight on that matter. As there is an admission that one important error has been made, and as it is likely that other important errors may appear in measures passed by the House, do you agree that it would be more appropriate for the Secretary of State or another Scottish Minister to explain that error to the House and be available to be questioned about it?
Mr. Corbyn : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. When making his application under Standing Order No. 20, my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist) raised the question of a letter from the chief of the London ambulance service
Mr. Speaker : Order. No. I have told the House that, whatever happens tonight, opposed private business may go on for three hours. That will affect the prayer. I believe that, in the interests of the whole House, we should now move on.
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Overseas Development and Co-operation Act 1980 to ensure that the bulk of United Kingdom official development assistance is concentrated on the poorest countries and the poorest people living in them and that a substantial proportion of aid spending is devoted to agricultural rural development to benefit especially women and children ; and to require the Overseas Development Administration to establish a timetable during which overall official United Nations aid targets may be reached.
My Bill sets out priorities and moral imperatives for overseas aid. It highlights the hypocricy of a Government who laud personal giving to the Third world but more than cancel that out with public parsimony. The Bill must be campaigned for in the short term and, under the next Labour Government, should be implemented. It insists that those in the refugee camps whom we can film, we can also feed. A wealthy country which fails to meet its responsibilities to the Third world exposes its own moral inadequacies.
The 1980s should have been a decade of advancement in the developing world. Instead, it has been a time of ever-increasing debt and of the negative transfer of resources from the developing to the developed world. Debt owned by the developing world now totals about £700 billion, an increase of one third in the last four years. In 1985, developing countries paid their creditors $29 billion more in interest and principal than they received in aid. Those trends are continuing. In other words, the situation is deteriorating. As UNICEF recently disclosed, average family incomes in Africa and Latin America have fallen by between 10 and 25 per cent. since 1980. The poorest groups are the hardest hit. An increasing number are finding it more difficult to obtain even the basic necessities of life. Child malnutrition is now on the increase in most developing countries. Governments in debt must reduce their social services bills, which means reduced health care and less education. Without falling into the simplification of citing goodies and baddies, it is clear that Her Majesty's Government must take at least some share of the blame. Since 1979, they have allowed Britain's aid programme substantially to deteriorate. In real terms, Britain's aid budget was allowed to fall by 36 per cent. between 1979 and 1987. In terms of percentage of GNP--a crucial measure recognised by all donor nations--the figures are equally damning. In the last year of the last Labour Government, British aid had reached the level of 0.52 per cent., of GNP, and the United Nations goal of 0.7 per cent. of GNP was in sight. The incoming Tory Government reversed that trend and began to downgrade the importance of aid. It declined steadily year by year, until, by 1987, it had reached the miserable figure of 0.28 per cent. of GNP. In 1988, it made a small recovery, rallying to 0.32 per cent.
In theory, the Government are committed to achieving the United Nations target "when economic circumstances permit". The Prime Minister said that at the 1983 general election. We have since heard that phrase in a different context. In evidence to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, the Secretary of State for the Environment described the United Nations target as "slightly spurious". That reveals the true Tory attitude.
Column 190The decline in British aid as a percentage of GNP has reduced us from sixth in the league table of the 18 Western aid givers in 1979 to 14th today. Those figures should be deeply embarrassing, as other countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands seem to manage the target and those that do not are at least edging towards it. For instance, since 1979 Italy has increased its aid by 300 per cent., using the same criterion.
Clearly, the Government have no commitment to the 0.7 per cent. figure. That is why, in December 1988, Britain was criticised by other donor nations in the development assistance committee of the Organisation for Economc Co-operation and Development when it called on this Government to
"reverse the downward trend in the United Kingdom's ODA/GNP ratio and to make sustained progress towards the 0.7 per cent. ODA target."
Of course that target is achievable, and the Bill demands a timetable to achieve it. We hear much about the Government's budget surplus, part of which is being used to pay off the national debt. Surely that should be a lower priority than the opportunity to benefit the poorest citizens of the world. The next Labour Government will not confuse priorities, and will work towards the 0.7 per cent. target. It is not a "spurious" figure, and we will achieve it in the lifetime of one Parliament--five years.
It is not just the amount of aid which matters, but its quality, and the Bill recognises that. The Government have presided over a deterioration in standards. The last Labour Government had an enviable record in delivering effective aid where it was needed--in the poorest countries, among the poor and disadvantaged social groups. Those criteria seem to have been lost in the general downgrading of aid under the Government. The Government seem prepared to praise charity events such as Live Aid and Comic Relief, but when it comes to finding money themselves, their attitude changes. It is astonishing that, despite the crisis in Africa in the past decade, and during a period of massive individual giving in this country, British aid to Africa suffered a decline of 26.5 per cent. between 1979 and 1987. British people are generous, but the British Government apparently do not share their concern. That is a tragedy and an outrage.
The Government do not seem to know the meaning of the word "quality" when it comes to aid. They are far keener on providing easy loans for middle- income countries, and on winning contracts for British exporting firms than on providing effectively targeted aid. Where they do provide funds, they can be way off the mark. For instance, British aid to Bangladesh has tended to be concentrated on large infrastructure and industry projects such as the electric power project for Dhaka. Yet the majority of the population live in rural areas, so it is difficult to see what they will gain from those projects. Aid needs to be properly targeted if it is to do most good. That is why we must reject the notion of the Overseas Development Administration as an adjunct of the Department of Trade and Industry. If the Government supported British industry at home rather than manipulating aid funds for use abroad, we would all be better off. Of course there is a role for British industry in overseas aid and aid giving is not totally altruistic. British firms will gain from the export of necessary items. However, as the
Column 191Bill insists, aid should be targeted on the most needy. The Department of Trade and Industry should not be the master of policy. Aid policy must be sensitive to environmental concerns and there should be a special place for women. There ought to be a women's unit within the ODA--as the Bill sets out--to take account of women's views and needs. In Africa, women form the majority of the food growers in the economy and their essential role in child rearing makes their importance for future development almost impossible to exaggerate. Yet, under the ODA United Kingdom aid programme, only one in six training places go to Third- world women.
We have a duty not only to make bilateral aid more effective. We have a key role to play also in multilateral aid, as over 40 per cent. of all United Kingdom aid is administered through international institutions. In 1987, £540 million of British aid went through multilateral institutions, principally the EC, the United Nations and the World Bank. The bulk of such moneys, however, is not used as efficiently as it could be. We are a major contributor to the EC--over half our multilateral aid goes to its European development fund and food aid programme. We should work towards an improvement in the administration of such aid. Far too much emphasis is still placed in the EC on large prestige projects. That, too, runs against the spirit of my Bill.
The overseas aid debate does not occupy a sufficiently high place on the political agenda. The problem does not lie with lack of concern at individual level, as is demonstrated by the response to the images of famine and despair when they are presented to the British public. It lies in large measure in the lack of information about the Government's niggardly role and the specific use of the aid programme. The Bill may help in a small way to stimulate debate. Question put and agreed to.
Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Brian Wilson, Miss Joan Lestor, Mr. Bernie Grant, Mr. Tom Clarke, Ms. Marjorie Mowlam, Mr. Sam Galbraith, Mr. David Blunkett, Mr. Keith Vaz, Mr. George Galloway, Mr. Donald Anderson, Ms. Diane Abbott and Mrs. Ann Clwyd.
Mr. Brian Wilson accordingly presented a Bill to amend the Overseas Development and Co-operation Act 1980 to ensure that the bulk of United Kingdom official development assistance is concentrated on the poorest countries and the poorest people living in them and that a substantial proportion of aid spending is devoted to agricultural rural development to benefit especially women and children ; and to require the Overseas Development Administration to establish a timetable during which overall official United Nations aid targets may be reached : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Wednesday 15 November and to be printed. [Bill 220.]
That the Order of the House [3rd May] be supplemented as follows :
Lords Amendments 1.--(1) The proceedings on Consideration of the Lords Amendments shall be completed at this day's sitting and shall for the purposes of paragraph 13 of the Order [3rd May] be regarded as proceedings on an allotted day.
(2) The Order in which those proceedings are to be taken shall be Lords Amendment 18, Lords Amendment 25, Lords Amendment 80, Lords Amendment 1, Lords Amendment 66 and 67, Lords Amendment 81, Lords Amendments 83 to 88, Lords Amendment 2, Lords Amendment 40, Lords Amendment 44, Lords Amendment 62, Lords Amendment 65, Lords Amendment 92, Lords Amendments 68 to 78, Lords Amendment 9, Lords Amendment 47, Lords Amendment 52, Lords Amendments 56 to 61, Lords Amendments 63 and 64, Lords Amendment 79, Lords Amendment 91, Lords Amendments 93 and 94, Lords Amendment 3, Lords Amendments 5 to 8, Lords Amendments 11 to 13, Lords Amendments 20 and 21, Lords Amendments 26 to 29, Lords Amendments 48 to 51, Lords Amendments 53 to 55, Lords Amendment 4, Lords Amendment 17, Lords Amendment 39, Lords Amendment 10, Lords Amendments 14 and 15, Lords Amendment 82, Lords Amendments 89 and 90, Lords Amendment 16, Lords Amendment 19, Lords Amendments 22 to 24, Lords Amendments 41 to 43, Lords Amendments 30 to 38, and Lords Amendments 45 and 46.
(3) Subject to the provisions of the Order [3rd May], each part of those proceedings shall, if not previously brought to a conclusion, be brought to a conclusion at the end of such period beginning with the commencement of the proceedings on the Motion for this Order as is of the length specified in the second column of the Table set out below.
Table file CD891114.000 not available
2.--(1) For the purposes of bringing any proceedings to a conclusion in accordance with paragraph 1 above--
(a) Mr. Speaker shall first put forthwith any Question which has already been proposed from the Chair and not yet decided and, if that Question is for the amendment of a Lords Amendment, shall then put forthwith the Question on any further Amendment of the said Lords Amendment moved by a Minister of the Crown and on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown, That this House doth agree or disagree with the Lords in the said Lords Amendment or, as the case may be, in the said Lords Amendment as amended ;
(b) Mr. Speaker shall then designate such of the remaining Lords Amendments as appear to him to involve questions of Privilege and shall--
(i) put forthwith the Question on any Amendment moved by a Minister of the Crown to a Lords Amendment and then put forthwith the Question on any Motion made
Column 193by a Minister of the Crown, That this House doth agree or disagree with the Lords in their Amendment, or as the case may be, in their Amendment as amended ;
(ii) put forthwith the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in a Lords Amendment ;
(iii) put forthwith with respect to the Amendments designated by Mr. Speaker which have not been disposed of the Question, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendments ; and (iv) put forthwith the Question, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the remaining Lords Amendments ;
(c) as soon as the House has agreed or disagreed with the Lords in any of their Amendments Mr. Speaker shall put forthwith a separate Question on any other Amendment moved by a Minister of the Crown relevant to that Lords Amendment.
(2) Proceedings under sub-paragraph (1) above shall not be interrupted under any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House.
Stages subsequent to first Consideration of Lords Amendments 3.--(1) The proceedings on any further Message from the Lords on the Bill shall be brought to a conclusion one hour after the commencement of the proceedings.
(2) For the purpose of bringing those proceedings to a conclusion-- (
(a) Mr. Speaker shall first put forthwith any Question which has already been proposed from the Chair and not yet decided, and shall then put forthwith the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown which is related to the Question already proposed from the Chair ;