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Mr. Wigley : Does the Minister accept that in 1985 the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys identified 6 million informal carers in Britain, 3.7 million of whom were bearing the main care burden? Does not the Minister's figure of 30,000 pale into significance compared with that need? Will he make resources available to meet the main need of the bulk of carers?

Mr. Scott : As the hon. Gentleman says, many carers are caring for people in their own homes in an informal manner. We should need vast resources to pay a significant premium to every one of them. Incidentally, I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman, who is normally a very generous man, did not at least acknowledge that we have taken a step in the right direction.

Mr. Favell : Is it not irresponsible for the Opposition to try to pretend that only they care for the carers?

Mr. Scott : Indeed. I believe that by this significant move in introducing the premium we have shown that we recognise the role of carers.

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Child Benefit

9. Mr Bernie Grant : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security whether he has any plans to review the uprating of child benefit.

Mr. Newton : It remains the Government's policy to review the rate of child benefit each year in the light of all the relevant circumstances.

Mr. Grant : What does the Minister have to say to the poor people in my constituency who, for more than two years, have had to live on a pittance of £7.25 a week from a miserable and miserly Government? Will he tell us what is the Government's estimate of the cost of bringing up a child in any part of today's Britain that he cares to consider?

Mr. Newton : I make two points in response to the hon. Gentleman. First, so far as I am aware, under no Government has it been suggested that either child benefit or its predecessors would meet the full costs of bringing up children. The benefits make a contribution. Secondly, if the hon. Gentleman really means the poor people in his constituency, the increases above the normal uprating, which I made in income support and in family credit, and which were of more benefit than a child benefit increase, would have benefited nearly a quarter of the nation's children.

Mr. Dykes : Nonetheless, with the increase in the rate of inflation, which is at least 60 per cent. more than we expected by now, and the fact that high interest rates also add to the rate of inflation, could the Government look at this matter again?

Mr. Newton : My hon. Friend will have heard what I said. I am well aware of his views on the matter. I ask him to take into account the fact that, at more or less the same time as the uprating statement, virtually every family in the land benefited by about £3 a week--if both partners were working, they benefited by about £6 a week--from reductions in national insurance contributions and consequent increases in take-home pay.

Mr. Meacher : Why has the Secretary of State cynically abandoned the Government's clear election pledge in 1987 to continue to uprate child benefit as then? If his argument is targeting, why does he not regard child benefit with a 100 per cent. take-up as much better targeted than family credit, which has less than 60 per cent. take-up? If his argument is incentives, why does he not accept that child benefit, which is not means tested, offers a much bigger incentive to return to work than family credit does? Why should mothers with child benefit not get an increase just as much as mothers with family credit?

Mr. Newton : First, the hon. Gentleman has misrepresented what was in the Conservative manifesto. [Interruption.] He has quite straightforwardly misrepresented it. Secondly, as I said in response to an earlier question, there is no possibility, under any Government, of levels of child benefit that would do as much for the less well-off working families as is done by family credit. In the present circumstances, it is right to steer additional help in that direction.

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Computerisation Programme

10. Mr. Knox : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will make a statement on the progress of the social security computerisation programme.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard : The Department's highly complex £1.7 billion strategy for the computerisation of the payment of social security benefits is proceeding as planned. The pilot exercise in 23 local offices has been completed and the systems are being introduced nationally office by office.

Mr. Knox : Is my hon. Friend satisfied that the work is being carried out sufficiently quickly and can she give us any idea when the programme will be implemented?

Mrs. Shephard : My hon. Friend asks about the speed of completion. As one would expect with an operation of this scale, the Department has had some anxiety about teething problems with the introduction of the computerised programme. We are, in fact, proceeding according to programme but because of staff anxieties about some of the problems of introducing specific programmes we are extending the time scale for staff savings to July 1990. Within those limits, the programme is proceeding according to plan.

Mr. Speaker : Question No. 11. Mr. Terry Fields-- [Interruption.] Question No. 12. Mr. Michael Stern--

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Why was no Opposition Member called to ask a supplementary question to Question No. 10?

Mr. Speaker : Because the hon. Member for Liverpool, Broadgreen (Mr. Fields) was not present. I called Mr. Michael Stern for the next Question.

Mr. Campbell-Savours rose--

Mr. Speaker : I call Mr. Michael Stern. It is now 10 minutes past three.

Boarding School Costs

12. Mr. Stern : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security under what circumstances costs incurred by the parent of a child at boarding school during term time are recognised for social security purposes.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard : There is no explicit provision in social security to meet such costs.

Mr. Stern : Is my hon. Friend aware that in certain areas of social pressure, such as those that I represent in Southmead and Lockleaze, a child who is sent into boarding provision, with clear educational need for such provision, can often suffer because the parent is deprived of income support or child benefit? Will my hon. Friend look into any possible easement of the provisions?

Mrs. Shephard : I understand that my hon. Friend has written to me about a particular case and as soon as I receive his letter, I shall, of course, look into the circumstances of it.

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Wilding Report

88. Mr. Haynes : To ask the Minister for the Arts what representations he has received from people in the east midlands on the Wilding report.

The Minister for the Arts (Mr. Richard Luce) : I have received many representations from individuals and organisations in the east midlands about the Wilding report.

Mr. Haynes : Is the Minister aware that we in the east midlands are not very happy about the Wilding report? If the Minister takes note of what we are saying, he will realise that the report suggests creating a massive region from Chesterfield all the way down to Worcester, so how remote will the east midlands be then? I am making representations to the Minister and I should like him to have a serious look at this and to leave the east midlands where it is. It should be considered a region in its own right, as it is now, so far as the arts are concerned so that a proper service can be provided to the east midlands.

Mr. Luce : I am beginning to think that an Arts Council grant should be earmarked to preserve the excellent and colourful contributions that the hon. Gentleman always makes to this House. The purpose of the Wilding report is to bring coherence to the way in which funds for the arts are administered in order to serve the arts better and to enable the public to enjoy the best in the arts. That is the whole point of the Wilding report. Of course, I shall take into account the hon. Gentleman's anxieties about boundaries. That matter can be looked at, but the report contains many recommendations that should be taken seriously.

Arts Council

89. Mr. Butler : To ask the Minister for the Arts by what percentage the Arts Council's grant will rise over the three years to 1992- 93.

Mr. Luce : I am glad to have been able to announce recently an increase of 22 per cent. in the Arts Council's grant-in-aid over the next three years.

Mr. Butler : I congratulate my right hon. Friend on that significant increase. Will it facilitate an increase in incentive funding which, as my right hon. Friend knows, is important for the future of the arts?

Mr. Luce : I am grateful to my hon. Friend. The increase shows a renewed sense of strong commitment to the expansion of the arts in this country. My hon. Friend has put his finger on it because in the past few years there has been a dramatic increase in private sector funding for the arts. There have also been increased audiences and increased attendances at museums. There has been a dramatic expansion of the arts. In the 1987 manifesto, we committed ourselves to maintain taxpayers' support for the arts so as to underpin that expansion.

Mr. Buchan : The Minister will be aware that I and many others congratulate him on the fight that he has put up for expenditure on the arts, but unfortunately he is up against a philistine Government. If one adds the percentage increase for last year to that for this year, it is

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barely above the inflation rate and for the next two years, to 1992-93, it is massively below the inflation rate. We congratulate the Minister on his fight, but we deplore the behaviour of the philistine Government.

Mr. Luce : I thank the hon. Gentleman for his generous opening remarks, but if he regards the Government as philistine, when real resources for the arts overall have gone up in the past 10 years, what would he call the Labour Government of the 1970s? There has been a dramatic expansion in the arts--attendance at theatres, orchestras and cinemas has gone up, museums have expanded and galleries have been refurbished. Under this Government the arts have expanded dramatically.

Mr. Jessel : Does not the splendid increase of £66 million prove once and for all that the Conservative Government are not philistines, but truly care about the arts? Is it not time that the Opposition stopped displaying their carping and miserable attitude?

Mr. Luce : My hon. Friend is absolutely right. As a Government we have repeatedly committed ourselves to maintaining taxpayers' support for the arts, and that is precisely what we have done. With that basic underpinning from the taxpayer, real resources have expanded as a result of fuelling from the private sector, which has provided extra money for the arts.

Mr. Fisher : I warmly congratulate the Minister on his achievement, but before he collapses from shock I must point out to him that, even after this increase, Britain is still at the bottom of the European league for arts and cultural spending, spending just one third of 1 per cent. of central Government expenditure. I ask the Minister to join me in a public campaign with the slogan "1 per cent. for the arts". If the Minister could achieve that, the arts would be truly valued in this country and artists and arts audiences given the status that they deserve.

Mr. Luce : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his generous opening remarks about the expansion of funding available for the arts. The benchmark for the arts in this country is whether we have a higher standard of drama, music and higher standards in our museums than in any other European country. We can say with great pride that our standards are as good as--and, in some cases, better than--those in other countries. That is the litmus test and the benchmark--it is not how much taxpayers' money is spent overall, but whether we have succeeded in having the best quality arts. I believe that we have.

Wilding Report

90. Mr. Devlin : To ask the Minister for the Arts if he will visit the northern region to receive representations on the Wilding report.

Mr. Luce : I frequently visit the northern region and I have already received many representations from individuals and organisations there about the Wilding report.

Mr. Devlin : When my right hon. Friend receives representations about the Wilding report, will he bear in mind that Yorkshire Arts has a good record for balancing the interests of different metropolitan areas, whereas Northern Arts has consistently followed a Newcastle-based bias in the allocation of funding in the northern

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region? Many advantages would come from amalgamating the two regions--not least, Teesside would gain a proper level of resourcing and would also benefit from the streamlining of funding, and the recent increase which we welcome.

Mr. Luce : I note the views that my hon. Friend has expressed. There are conflicting views about what the boundaries should be and I shall take them all seriously into account. I attach importance to the cohesion of regional arts associations and I pay tribute to the excellent work done by administrators all over the country. My concern, like theirs, must be to minimise bureaucracy and to streamline administration so that the arts benefit.

Mr. Beith : Does the Minister realise that the proposal to join Northern Arts and Yorkshire Arts can only be classed as an imaginative piece of science fiction? Nobody could reasonably attempt to plan local concerts, arts support and promotion in areas as far apart as Berwick-upon- Tweed, Alnwick and Bradford.

Mr. Luce : Again I note the hon. Gentleman's views. Consultation will continue until the end of December and I shall take all views into account. I remind the House that the Wilding report is about ensuring that when we distribute taxpayers' money to the arts those arts benefit, that the public's accessibility to the best in arts benefits, and that we have a good non-bureaucratic administration to distrubute that money.

Arts Council

91. Miss Emma Nicholson : To ask the Minister for the Arts when he last met the chairman of the Arts Council ; and what was discussed.

Mr. Luce : I meet Mr. Palumbo regularly to discuss matters of mutual interest.

Miss Nicholson : I understand that Mr. Peter Palumbo greeted my right hon. Friend's historic settlement by saying that it was a historic day for the arts. It was not a historic day for the disabled. I have totally failed in my capacity as chairman of ADAPT to get any of that money to help us identify and alter arts premises in public libraries to be disabled-friendly. I am delighted that my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea (Mr. Scott), the Minister with responsibility for the disabled, is with us. Will he and my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts join together to try to obtain some money from the Arts Council for that? Since we have turned the House of Commons into a place of entertainment, will the Minister with responsibility for the disabled join my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to ensure that subtitling for the deaf is built into the televising of the House of Commons?

Mr. Luce : I acknowledge and thank my hon. Friend for the work that she does as chairman of ADAPT, which is intended to improve accessibility for disabled people to arts organisations of all kinds. With that in mind, I recently agreed to earmark money from my own central budget to help this process along. The Arts Council has a disability officer, as does the Museums and Galleries Commission. I shall do whatever I can to ensure that ADAPT meets with great success.

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Wilding Report

92. Mr. Hinchliffe : To ask the Minister for the Arts what representations he has received from the Yorkshire and Humberside area regarding the contents of the Wilding report.

Mr. Luce : I have received many representations from individuals and organisations in Yorkshire and Humberside about the Wilding report.

Mr. Hinchliffe : Is the Minister aware of the fundamental differences between the cultural identity of Yorkshire and the north-east-- in particular, the fact that Yorkshire has a much closer cultural identity with the Humberside area, which the report includes in a different region? Is the Minister aware that there are fundamental differences between the Geordie and the Tyke?

Mr. Luce : I note the hon. Gentleman's views. In my experience, both Northern Arts and Yorkshire Arts do an outstanding job, and I will certainly take that into account.


Trade Unions

122. Mr. Fisher : To ask the Minister for the Civil Service when he last met representatives of the Civil Service trade unions ; and what subjects were discussed.

The Minister of State, Privy Council Office (Mr. Richard Luce) : I meet representatives of the Civil Service unions from time to time. A wide range of subjects is discussed.

Mr. Fisher : When the Minister meets the unions, will he give an undertaking that he will not seek to break the national agreement which exists? He knows that if he did so in relation to the south bank, there would be a domino effect on other arts centres around the country which would be disastrous and lead to chaos throughout the arts.

Mr. Luce : Although that is principally a question for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor, I know of no policy to break national agreements in the way suggested by the hon. Gentleman. It is important for recruitment and retention that we develop policies of the greatest possible degree of pay flexibility. That is being developed in the Civil Service. It enables us to deal more effectively with the recruitment and retention problems which are our responsibility.

Mr. Jacques Arnold : When my right hon. Friend meets the people with a vested interest in national negotiations, will he discuss with them the purchasing power of pay in different parts of the country? Will he bear in mind that areas such as Gravesham which are slightly beyond the limits of the Greater London and fringe allowance are being short-changed? Is it not time that we changed to a regional pay system?

Mr. Luce : My hon. Friend is right--there is increasing recognition of the need to allow variations and flexibility for skills and geographic areas if we are to recruit the right people and skills. That is already developing within the agency process of the Civil Service. For instance HMSO in Norwich has considerable freedom when negotiating pay agreements.

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Dr. Marek : Will the Minister confirm that since the Government took office more than 10 years ago and abolished pay comparability with the private sector, civil servants' pay has fallen behind by 20 per cent.? Is that not why the Government cannot find Civil Service staff in London, and why, on the Minister's own admission, more than a third--34 per cent.--of benefit claims at the Ealing social security office contain errors and why morale is at rock bottom?

Mr. Luce : The hon. Gentleman raises a number of questions. To suggest, as he did, that morale is at rock bottom is far from the truth. I travel round the country and see the Civil Service in varying roles and showing standards of excellent and ever better service to the public. Broader questions about Civil Service pay are a matter for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Mr. Kirkhope : Has my right hon. Friend had discussions on further management training with Civil Service trade unions? Surely we need better management training for civil servants in these difficult times.

Mr. Luce : My hon. Friend is right. The Civil Service spends about 6 per cent. of the total cost of salaries--that is £300 million--on training and improving standards in the Civil Service. I am pleased to be able to say that I have earmarked a further £1 million of challenge fund money to enhance training standards further in the Civil Service next year.

Ethnic Monitoring

123. Mr. Janner : To ask the Minister for the Civil Service whether he will make a statement concerning the progress of ethnic monitoring within the Civil Service.

Mr. Luce : Departments are making good progress in developing monitoring systems in line with the code of practice of the Commission for Racial Equality.

Mr. Janner : Does the Minister accept that there is not one black person in grade one, two or three of the Civil Service, only two in grade four and a handful in grades five, six and seven? In the interests of equality and fairness, which apparently some of his hon. Friends do not want, will he accept that those figures show gross discrimination? What steps is he taking to avoid that continuing in the future?

Mr. Luce : Although black and Asian people are broadly fairly represented in proportion to the working population in the Civil Service-- some 4.2 per cent.--it is true that in grades seven and above black and Asian people represent only about 1.5 per cent. Civil Service promotion is based on equality of opportunity and on merit. For that reason, we are devising a programme of action to ensure that equality of opportunity works effectively in all areas, including ethnic minorities.

Mr. Marlow : Will my right hon. Friend look very carefully at the implications of dividing people by race, as the one area in which that would get the overwhelming support of the population of Britain is in relation to the people who are allowed to immigrate into this country?

Mr. Luce : My concern is employment in the Civil Service. I want the Civil Service to be open to all people,

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based on merit, if they can prove ability, whatever their background, sex or ethnic origin. We want the broadest-based service that we can achieve.

Disciplinary Action

124. Mr. Dalyell : To ask the Minister for the Civil Service if he will issue guidelines on appropriate disciplinary action to be taken against senior civil servants who authorise the disclosure of Law Officers' advice to the Government.

Mr. Luce : General guidelines already exist.

Mr. Dalyell : As we know from Sir Leon Brittan that they improperly approved the leaking of a letter from the Law Officers, may we assume that the Minister for the Civil Service will be giving a carpeting to Mr. Bernard Ingham and to Charles Powell? Is the reason that he did not give them a carpeting that the Prime Minister, on 26 January 1986, did something that, were I so indelicate as to mention it, would mean that Mr. Speaker would suspend me for five days?

Mr. Luce : What we can assume from the experience of the past four years, is that the hon. Gentleman has an obsession with that issue. We have debated those matters time and again, and I am delighted to be able to defend both Mr. Powell and Mr. Ingham, who are outstanding civil servants who are prepared to serve Governments of whatever complexion.

Mr. Aitken : Would my right hon. Friend consider not issuing disciplinary action against civil servants, but shutting up the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) by encouraging civil servants not to have a protective attitude towards the Law Officers' advice? As my right hon. Friend is the Minister for open government, is it not in the public interest for Law Officers' advice to be known? The Law Officers were not backward in publishing their advice on the "Spycatcher" affair. Why should it not be possible, for example for the Law Officers' advice in relation to the haemophiliacs' action to obtain compensation, to be published freely with encouragement from the Government?

Mr. Luce : That is a matter of judgment for the Law Officers. The guidelines are quite clear. Further to the first part of my hon. Friend's question, if I succeed in shutting up the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), I think that it will be my most outstanding achievement ever.

Trade Unions

125. Mr. Allen : To ask the Minister for the Civil Service what discussions he has had with trade unions representing the Civil Service.

Mr. Luce : I refer the hon. Member to the reply that I gave earlier to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher).

Mr. Allen : I congratulate the Minister and his colleagues on their policy to redistribute Civil Service jobs to other regions away from the south-east. Will he consider a little more carefully the possibility of getting some balance in that redistribution? In the east midlands, and particularly in Nottingham, we have appropriate sites and skilled personnel who would be happy if jobs were

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relocated in the region, yet we always seem to be bypassed. Will the Minister consider that and consult his colleagues so that some of the redistributed Civil Service jobs come to the east midlands?

Mr. Luce : I know of the hon. Gentleman's interest in the Civil Service as a whole. Questions about relocation are for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but I must stress the number of civil servants we are moving north and to the hon. Gentleman's area. For example, it has already been announced that a large number of Inland Revenue civil servants will move to Nottingham. Since 1987, various Departments have identified no fewer than 14,000 jobs to be moved out of the south-east to various parts of the country. I think that that is solid progress in the right direction.


126. Mr. Watts To ask the Minister for the Civil Service what progress there has been in setting up Civil Service agencies ; and if he will make a statement.

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Mr. Luce : Progress is good. There are now 10 agencies and a further 41 candidates under consideration, including three in Northern Ireland. Improvements in management fostered by Next Steps are already resulting in more efficient service to customers and better value for the taxpayer.

Mr. Watts : Is my right hon. Friend satisfied with the rate of progress with which agencies are being set up, particularly with the conversion of some of the larger Civil Service functions to agency status?

Mr. Luce : Yes, I am. We are making remarkable progress. No fewer than 180,000 jobs on the list of candidates are now designed or planned to become agencies in due course.

The most important point to stress is that, as part of the process of creating agencies, it is crucial to try to improve the quality of service to the public. That is already beginning to be achieved with new agencies such as the vehicle inspectorate and companies house. We can look forward to similar improvements on a much wider scale.

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