|Previous Section||Home Page|
Mr. Morrison : As the hon. Gentleman has probably heard my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State say, both in this Question Time and on previous occasions, we believe that the generation of electricity by gas will be on the increase in the next decade.
Mr. Griffiths : What will be the upper and lower limits of the nuclear levy? How much will that cost the taxpayer and what would be the advantage to the consumer if coal-fired power stations were allowed to compete freely and on the same basis with nuclear power?
Mr. Wakeham : The cost of nuclear power is being paid for by the consumer. A fossil fuel levy, or a nuclear levy as the hon. Gentleman refers to it, will not change those arrangements. For the reasons that I gave in my original answer, I am not in a position to quote the amount of fossil fuel levy. However, the decision that I made with regard to nuclear power on 9 November will mean that the fossil fuel levy will be somewhat lower than it would otherwise have been.
Mr. Wardell : Will the Minister give the House a guarantee that the scheme will not be delayed unnecessarily by his Department? The scheme will generate 7 per cent. of the electricity demand of England and Wales from a renewable source, allow 200,000 man years of employment during construction and create up to 30,000 additional jobs, which will tremendously boost the
Column 12south Wales economy. It will reduce the effect of the greenhouse problem and it will not create an acid rain problem. Will the Minister give us that guarantee?
Mr. Morrison : I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I agree wholeheartedly with everything that he has said. The financing and the commercial objectives have, however, to be considered. The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that the sums involved in the construction of a barrage of such a magnitude are vast, and that problem is not easily overcome. Financial considerations must be addressed carefully because the cost per kilowatt hour would appear to be of considerable magnitude for the first 30 or 40 years. Subject to that, I wish the project as much of a fair wind as the hon. Gentleman does, subject to environmental and other considerations.
Mr. Jack : That was an excellent answer. My right hon. Friend will be aware at this Christmas time of the joy that can be brought to people through brass band music. I ask my right hon. Friend, on behalf of the Freckleton prize brass band in my constituency, if he will do all in his power to ask North West Arts why it is not as yet giving any help to small village-based community music, such as brass bands? The Freckleton prize brass band is saying to me that my right hon. Friend should ask North West Arts to put some brass back into its band.
Mr. Luce : I appreciate my hon. Friend's interest in brass bands in the area that he represents. He will know that I do not take decisions in the precise allocation of funding for brass bands or any other arts. It is a matter for North West Arts and, to some extent, for the Arts Council. I hope that my hon. Friend will put his question directly to them.
Mr. Pike : Does the Minister recognise the serious threat to the provision for the arts in the north-west next year arising from the introduction of poll tax, which will make it extremely difficult for many local authorities to maintain the present level of funding? Will this not place in jeopardy financial provision for the Halle orchestra, the Mechanics arts centre and the Townelet museum and art gallery in Burnley?
Mr Luce : I have every conviction that any local authority with a pride in its arts activity will continue to have that pride. It will be directly accountable to ratepayers for whatever support it decides to give. It is interesting to reflect that in Scotland, where the community charge has been operating for several months, the level of local authority support for the arts continues at a reasonable level.
Mr. Donald Thompson : You will remember, Mr. Speaker, visiting the Terrace when seven brass bands played earlier this year, and the men, women and young people who played in those bands remember your visit
Column 13with pleasure. May I support my hon. Friend the Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack) and at the risk of sounding slightly ethnic, ask my right hon. Friend the Minister for more brass for brass.
82. Mr. Dalyell : To ask the Minister for the Arts what representations he has had from the Society of Antiquaries about problems of identified stolen art treasures being auctioned in sale rooms abroad ; the difficulties of reacquiral of such objects by the churches and other organisations from whom they were stolen ; and the need for Her Majesty's Government to satisfy article 7 of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation convention, relating to a wide definition of cultural property.
Mr. Luce : I appreciate the importance of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question about stolen works of art, or alleged stolen works of art, and the Icklingham case of Roman bronzes is foremost in everybody's mind at the moment. I am seeing my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Sir E. Griffiths) on this issue tomorrow. I have thought carefully about the UNESCO convention, but various other avenues are available to us. It is right to say that the Metropolitan police arts and antiques squad has been reconstituted. A computerised data base to index stolen art works is about to be set up. That will take place in January. The trade is already operating two codes of practice. The various procedures are fairly widespread. I remain to be convinced that the UNESCO convention, which is a fairly bureaucractic and cumbersome procedure, is the right way to deal with this difficult problem.
Mr. Cormack : As a fellow of the society, may I ask my right hon. Friend to reconsider this whole issue very carefully? It is a serious matter. As UNESCO is no longer the absolute charade that it was a few years ago, it would help enormously if my right hon. Friend would ratify the convention.
Mr. Luce : Of course I take my hon. Friend's question seriously, but there is a general point to be made. The whole question of export controls is to be reviewed under the 1992 procedure, and that will apply to works of art and the restitution of works of art. The matter can be considered in that context.
Mr. Fisher : The Minister knows that the measures that he has outlined will not secure the return of the bronzes, which are now in New York. Does he accept that he has responsibility for our heritage and, in particular, those bronzes, which were illegally excavated, illegally exported and, in effect, have been stolen from Mr. Browning, who has a good claim to them?
Column 14If the Minister is serious about the matter, will he raise it with the United States Government? Is not that the only way of ensuring that the bronzes are returned to their rightful country, Great Britain?
Mr. Luce : Of course I am serious about the issue, but, as the hon. Gentleman knows, the police are currently investigating the matter. There has not yet been a court case to prove that the bronzes were stolen. If there is, and if that is the conclusion, further action can be taken.
Mr. Luce : I am grateful to my hon. Friend because one of the most important parts of my recent decision to increase the three-year funding is to put added focus on improving the fabric of our national museums and galleries to ensure that they are in good shape during the 1990s. It is a campaign of unprecedented importance and I have earmarked £180 million over the next three years to that effect.
Mr. Boyes : In this the 150th year of photography, do not the Government stand condemned for doing precious little about such a major and important historical event? Will the Minister ensure that some cash from that 24 per cent. rise in his budget goes into photography so that young photographers and galleries can do something for themselves, because the Government, typically, are doing nothing for them?
Mr. Luce : I am surprised at the hon. Gentleman's question. He knows that the science museum in Bradford has an extension housing the national museum of photography, film and television. It is a major centre of great importance to the whole of the country. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman should suggest that there is little support for photography. This evening I am going to the royal academy to view a major exhibition of photography. There is a great deal of support for photography throughout the country.
Mr. Yeo : Does my right hon. Friend agree that this major and exciting project underlines the Government's commitment to the arts in all their forms? Will he take this opportunity to confirm that the British museum reading room will remain open?
Column 15open under the overall responsibility of the British museum after the British library has moved to the new St. Pancras building. On my hon. Friend's first question, which is of great importance, the new British library is the Government's biggest civil construction today and the biggest cultural construction of the century. There could be no better evidence of the Government's commitment to the arts and the library world than this major new centre of excellence. It will provide remarkably improved services to the reader, in much better environmental conditions, and it will all be located in one building instead of the present 18.
Mr. Fearn : Among the matters that were discussed, did the Minister talk about the allocation for the education budget that North West Arts would be allowing this time? It appears that money for education connected with the arts is being cut, and North West Arts is concerned about that. It means that children in school will not receive what they have been receiving in the past.
Mr. Luce : It is for North West Arts to decide how much work it does in that area. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science and I are carrying out a joint study on best practice in terms of the relationship between schools and artistic activities through theatres, museums, galleries, and so on. My right hon. Friend and I attach great importance to that and hope that it will lead to enhanced arts activity in the schools.
Mr. Butler : Does my right hon. Friend believe that North West Arts has sufficient funds to fund the "In your own words" project, about which I have written to him and which has achieved a great deal of international recognition?
103. Mr. Dalyell : To ask the Minister for the Civil Service if he will specify the particular guidelines, pursuant to Official Report, 27 November, column 436, which apply to action being taken against senior civil servants who authorise the disclosure of Law Officers' advice to the Government.
The Minister of State, Privy Council Office (Mr. Richard Luce) : Such a situation would be covered by the general guidelines in the Civil Service pay and conditions of service code, a copy of which is available in the Library of the House.
Mr. Dalyell : Had they not been engaged in protecting their Prime Minister from being found out by the House, would not Mr. Ingham and Mr. Powell have been liable to the same kind of criminal charges which, for a lesser offence, Clive Ponting faced? Once persons, however eminent, get away with these bad habits, as with Rover and the way in which the Prime Minister got rid of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, do they not do the same thing again in relation to the House which, were I so indelicate as to mention it, would mean that I would be suspended until Christmas?
Mr. Luce : I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman did not go into more detail. We have been over this time and again. I have explained to the hon. Gentleman that there are detailed guidelines and he has no doubt referred to the copy that is available in the Library. On Westland, the matter has been debated on many occasions and I have nothing further to add.
Dr. Marek : Does the Minister believe that European Commissioner Sir Leon Brittan was right when he said that Messrs Ingham and Powell improperly disclosed a Law Officer's report? If the Minister believes that, why are those two people in a completely different category from anyone else in the Civil Service? The Minister at least owes civil servants an answer to that question.
Mr. Luce : As I have already said, and am delighted to say again, I have nothing further to add in relation to that case other than to say that Mr. Ingham and Mr. Powell are outstanding civil servants.
Mr. Luce : Guidance on the circumstances in which civil servants may attend or participate in activities organised by outside bodies is set out in the personnel management handbook, copies of which are available in the Library of the House.
Mr. Wigley : Is the Minister aware that, according to recent press reports, civil servants have been attending committees of the Centre for Policy Studies, a body established by Sir Keith Joseph and the Prime Minister a few years ago? Will he confirm that civil servants are at liberty to attend briefing committees of bodies that are associated with political parties?
Mr. Luce : Clear guidelines are set down as to what civil servants can and cannot do. One key criterion is whether or not a particular organisation is part of a party political organisation. That is not the case in respect of the Centre for Policy Studies. Clear guidelines lay down that if civil servants attend meetings they must show impartiality, observe the confidences of Government, and show discretion in respect of any controversial issues.
Mr. Tim Smith : I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his contribution to the White Paper on the financing and accountability of next steps agencies. It is a great step forward in the programme for setting up agencies within Government.
Column 17Mr. Luce : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in the White Paper a new trading funds Bill, which will allow many of the newly constructed agencies of Government to operate within more commercial disciplines. That is good both for management and for the best use of Government resources.
Mr. Winnick : Does the Minister agree that this country has a long and honourable tradition of civil servants, including senior civil servants, being divorced from party politics? Is it not unfortunate that a number of civil servants, certainly those based at No. 10--Mr. Ingham and Mr. Powell immediately come to mind--are very much associated in the minds of right hon. and hon. Members and in the minds of the public with a Conservative Government?
Mr. Luce : I am surprised at the hon. Gentleman's question. He knows as well as I do that the Civil Service demontrates the highest standards of impartiality. There is no shadow of doubt about that. It has demonstrated that impartiality under Labour Governments as well as under the present Government.
Mr. Bowis : Does my right hon. Friend agree that we should encourage families to visit museums and galleries, but that all too often they are closed in the early evening, at weekends and on bank holidays, which are the very times when families could visit them? Will my right hon. Friend encourage the Civil Service unions to play their part in making possible an extension of opening hours?
Mr. Luce : I am impressed by the more flexible opening hours that museums now operate. Recently, the Victoria and Albert museum, for example, reintroduced Friday opening as a result of voluntary donations. The natural history museum has extended its Sunday opening hours, closing at 6 pm instead of 1 pm, and the imperial war museum is open daily from 10 am to 6 pm. That all demonstrates greater flexibility and concern for the public interest.
Mr. Tony Banks : I associate myself with the question asked by the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis). Clearly one wants to encourage higher museum attendances through more flexible hours, but would not another way of doing that be to drop all admission charges, whether voluntary or mandatory, because they become a tax on knowledge?
Mr. Luce : I am interested that the hon. Gentleman should involve himself in the question of museum attendances, because this year will see higher attendances at British museums than ever before in our history. A total of 100 million people will have visited our museums,
Column 18compared with 68 million four years ago. The degree of support for, and attendance at, museums is at an unprecedented level.
Mr. Favell : Does my right hon. Friend agree that if a private sector organisation were to carry the value of stock that is carried by the average museum, it would have to remain open all the hours that God sends, and certainly at times most convenient to the public?
Mr. Luce : My hon. Friend is right, but his remarks stray a little from the subject of the Civil Service. Museums and galleries have a large reserve of works of art, but there is more and more evidence that they lend them out to other institutions. I am doing all that I can to encourage that process.
Mr. Skinner : Notwithstanding all the Government's recent attacks on the pay of various sections of the working class, especially the ambulance crews, will the Minister confirm to the Civil Service unions that the Government do not have a pay policy? They were elected not to have one in 1979. As the Government's official policy on devaluation is rapidly taking place--there has been a 13 per cent. reduction in the past 12 months, which probably equates to a three percentage point increase on the inflation index--will the Minister tell those unions that their pay should be increased by at least that amount, on top of the 13 per cent?
Mr. Luce : I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman does not realise that Civil Service pay and the pay of specific groups, such as the ambulance men is the responsibility of individual Departments or for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to decide. I am startled that the hon. Gentleman prefaced his question by talking in class terms. Nothing is more divisive than considering public issues in terms of class and nothing could be more neolithic than the hon. Gentleman's attitude.
108. Mr. Fisher : To ask the Minister for the Civil Service if he will make a statement on measures taken to ensure the safety and maintain the morale of civil servants at risk from terrorist activity.
Mr. Luce : There are a number of precautions in place to protect civil servants against the risk of terrorist attack. Other contingency measures are ready to be implemented if needed. It would not be in the public interest to reveal individual measures.
Mr. Fisher : Does the Minister accept that Government buildings other than those of the Ministry of Defence, need protection against terrorist attacks? What will he do to reassure civil servants who work in those buildings that the Government are concerned for their safety?
Column 19Mr. Luce : The hon. Gentleman is right. The first concern of Ministers must be the safety of their civil servants. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that all the necessary steps are being taken to maintain a proper level of security, whether protection is provided by civil servants or by other agencies.
|Next Section (Debates)