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Column 12states. In 1990, the GDP per head figures for Dyfed, Gwynedd, Wales, the United Kingdom and the EC were 10,484, 11,977, 12,131, 14,583 and 14,488 units, respectively.
Mr. Ainger : The Minister's reply confirms my worst fears that Dyfed and Gwynedd are among the lowest areas in Europe. From the figures given by the right hon. Gentleman, it would appear that we have the highest levels of poverty and unemployment.
Will the Minister assure me that the review being undertaken within the Welsh Development Agency will include no reduction in the efforts of the agency in trying to improve the situation in the rural parts of Dyfed and of Gwynedd? Does the Minister accept that rumours are circulating that there may be significant cuts in the rural initiative currently being undertaken by the WDA? Will he assure the House that that will not take place, bearing in mind the figures that he has just announced?
Sir Wyn Roberts : We should perhaps also bear it in mind that the cost of living in Wales may be rather lower than in other parts of the country. We should certainly bear it in mind that Wales is one of the most beautiful parts of Europe. I remind the hon. Gentleman of what I said earlier--that since April 1990, earnings have risen by some 21.2 per cent. in Wales compared with 20.4 per cent. in Great Britain. So we are making progress. Of course, it is very much in our interests and it is one of our ends and objectives to raise income levels in Wales.
As for west Wales and the Welsh Development Agency, the hon. Gentleman will be aware of the announcement made in January, which included the upgrading of urban development activities, enhanced rural development facilities in the area, enhanced marketing by the Wales tourist board, improved services to the local business community, and the appointment of an executive to promote inward investment in the area. Two of the travel-to-work areas-- Fishguard and Haverfordwest--were upgraded to development area status.
The hon. Gentleman's point about the WDA is a matter for the WDA, but I am sure that it, and we in Government, will bear the hon. Gentleman's thoughts in mind. We are as anxious as he is to do our best by west Wales.
27. Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the right hon. Member for Selby, as representing the Church Commissioners what submissions the Church Commissioners have had concerning proposed pay and allowances for bishops with extra-territorial jurisdiction ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Michael Alison (Second Church Estates Commissioner, representing the Church Commissioners) : The Act of Synod will provide for the appointment of up to three new suffragan bishops to act as provincial episcopal visitors. Their remuneration will be the same as that of other suffragan bishops. Housing and a car will be provided and working expenses will be reimbursed.
Column 13in last Friday's debate that priests and congregations committed to a male priesthood be properly looked after when females--ladies--are ordained as priests in a few months' time? Will he give an assurance that the Act of Synod measure which deals with the matter will give proper moral and real authority to those bishops committed to protecting those congregations and to serving them?
Mr. Alison : I am delighted that my hon. Friend has underscored the need for the co-called Act of Synod to have real teeth and real moral authority. I shall convey the anxiety that my hon. Friend has expressed to the General Synod when it meets at Church house next week to discuss the very point that my hon. Friend has raised. The Synod will underscore the need for an Act which is adequate. If it is not adequate, the House will insist that a Measure be brought before the House to create a statutory provision.
Mr. Frank Field : What action does the Estates Commission intend to take on the line in the Lambeth report about the scandalous loss of Church Commissioners' assets which said that the fastest growing area of expenditure was bishops' residences?
Mr. Alison : The bishops, led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, have launched a first diagnostic analysis of the funds and finances of the Church Commissioners. The New Testament utterance, "Physician, heal thyself", will be only too readily applied by those who have initiated this physicians' diagnosis.
28. Mr. Shersby : To ask the right hon. Member for Selby, as representing the Church Commissioners what is the policy of the Church Commissioners towards the investment of their funds in firms which trade on Sundays.
Mr. Shersby : Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of the retailing firms in which the Church Commissioners invest have indicated to their Members of Parliament, including myself, that their preference is for option 2--the proposals of the Sunday Shopping Hours Reform Council--which would allow larger shops to open for six hours and smaller ones to open all day? Will my right hon. Friend be kind enough to bear that in mind and to convey the information that I have given the House today to the Church Commissioners?
Mr. Alison : I am delighted to hear from my hon. Friend that so large a number of retailers fall into the category that he has just designated. It is my hope and expectation that the group that he has specified will be able to co-ordinate that approach with the group that I personally support--the Keep Sunday Special group. I hope that, between us, we shall have a framework of law which offers full but generous and reasonable regulation for Sunday trading. Of course, the Church Commissioners are there to observe the law, not in any way to attempt to make it. We shall observe it through our shopping retail outlets as assiduously as possible as soon as the law is as clear as possible.
The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department(Mr. John M. Taylor) : The Lord Chancellor is responsible for a wide range of judicial appointments in Northern Ireland. His policy is to appoint to each judicial post the candidate who appears to him to be best qualified regardless of gender, ethnic origin, political affiliation or religion.
Mr. Trimble : I must ask the Minister for further assurances in this matter in view of a rather disturbing incident that I heard about recently whereby a Roman Catholic barrister practising in Northern Ireland was approached by an Irish civil servant--a civil servant in the employ of the Republic of Ireland--and asked if he would be interested in taking a specific judicial appointment. I hasten to add that the appointment was not one within the gift of the Lord Chancellor. In view of that incident, which was improper, I ask the Minister to be sure that there is no interference by the Irish Republic in judicial appointments at any level. Can he ensure that the merit principle is properly vindicated and that there is no dilution in the quality of the Northern Ireland judiciary for political considerations?
Mr. Taylor : The hon. Gentleman takes me by surprise in this matter. He will not be surprised if I say that, not knowing, I have not been briefed, either. Now that he has put the matter in the public domain by raising it on the Floor of the House, if he wants to write to me indicating whatever terms--confidential or open--I will certainly look into it for him.
Mr. John M. Taylor : The answer to my hon. Friend's question is none. It is rare for anyone below the age of 27 to be appointed. However, there is no bar to appointment, and a 26-year-old has recently been appointed.
Mr. Greenway : Will my hon. Friend bear in mind the great gulf that seems to exist between young offenders and the magistracy, and that the best discipline in schools, in my long experience of schools, comes from that administered to children by their peers? They make the wisest and fairest decisions and ones that are most respected by other children. Does my hon. Friend agree that younger magistrates are needed to cope with the current problems of juvenile crime--and end the fuddy-duddy approach of some of the older magistrates and judges in this area? [Interruption.]
Mr. Taylor : Clearly, the House is not of one mind on this subject. However, it may like some information. No figures are kept on the ages of appointment of magistrates, but a recent sample of 875 new appointments showed--
Column 15this may surprise the House--that 22 per cent. were under 40, 33 per cent. between 40 and 45, 24 per cent. between 46 and 50, and 21 per cent. 51 and over. I found that evenness of spread quite healthy.
Mr. Janner : Does the Minister agree that what matters with the judiciary, whether magistrates or judges, is not age but whether they have ordinary common sense and administer justice properly? For example, the Lord Chancellor may have information on the age of Judge Prosser who saw fit to say that a well-known disease, repetitive strain injury, did not exist and should not be on the medical casebooks. Surely we could have some indication of the Lord Chancellor's approach to that sort of case, whatever the age of the judge or magistrate.
Mr. Taylor : In the case of magistrates, I think that personal suitability is fairly well defined as good character and repute and the ability to command the confidence of both the public and colleagues. As for judges, which the question is not about, there are already arrangements under which unfit judges may retire on health grounds whatever their age. [Hon. Members :-- "RSI?"] Meanwhile, the Royal Commission has considered the appraisal of judges, and its recommendations will be considered in due course.
Sir Ivan Lawrence : Is it not obvious that age and experience are important matters in the selection of judges, and that it cannot be for the confidence of the British people that young, inexperienced and immature magistrates are making judgments in serious matters? The Government's policy sounds sensible and intelligent--provided that a higher proportion of magistrates in the middle age range are selected.
Mr. Taylor : I had already reached the same conclusion about the virtues of the Government as my hon. and learned Friend. I shall take account of what he says about maturity. Plainly, maturity and experience are qualities that should be sought, but we do not want a bench on which there is no younger representation.
Mr. John M. Taylor : The existing legislation on reporting of court proceedings is clear. I have no plans, nor has the Lord Chancellor, to issue guidance to the judiciary who, independent of the Government, apply the legislation for which my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department has responsibility.
Mr. Soley : Is not the Minister missing the point? He must be aware of the case of the Taylor sisters who appealed successfully because of inaccurate media coverage. He will be aware of the police officers in the Birmingham Six case. Surely it is time to expect the media to report not only accurately but impartially between prosecution and defence so that press freedom is not sacrificed for wrongful conviction and vice versa.
Mr. Taylor : I respect the hon. Gentleman for his past work in these areas and no doubt I shall respect his present and future work. He invites me to speak about the Birmingham Six police case. In many ways, that case was
Column 16wholly exceptional. The decision was entirely for the trial judge. However, in staying the proceedings the judge held that the combination of delay, adverse publicity and the impossibility of isolating the very narrow prosecution case from the much wider matrix of events from 1975 was such as to render a fair trial impossible.
Mr. Maclennan : Is the Minister aware that there are severe restraints on academic examination of juries' attitudes, and that it would be helpful in considering this matter to have greater knowledge of how juries work and think? Will he look at the possibility of opening the work of juries to academic consideration?
Mr. Taylor : I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. The deliberations on the Runciman report would provide exactly the right context in which to take the issue forward, as the hon. Gentleman would like to do.
Mr. John Marshall : My hon. Friend will have seen the coverage of the Austin Donellan case. Does he agree that in such cases the defendant should have the same right of anonymity, at least until proved guilty, as the victim of such crimes quite rightly deserves?
Mr. Taylor : I am well aware of these arguments. I thank my hon. Friend for raising the matter and advise him that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department has asked his officials to undertake a review of the question of anonymity in rape cases and in other sexual cases and of the interests of both parties in such cases.
Mr. Skinner : The Government did not say that about trade union leaders, who they said were out of touch with their members and should be subject to re-election every five years. How else can we make judges accountable, especially in the light of what they have said recently about rape cases and repetitive strain injury--
It is high time that the Government introduced a system of accountability, but they will not do so because too many people in this place, especially those on the Tory Benches, are part and parcel of the judiciary-- barristers, solicitors and all the rest of them. That is the real reason why the Government do not want
Mr. Taylor : I am about to give the answer. The Royal Commission has considered the appraisal of judges and its recommendations will be deliberated upon. That represents some new thinking, which I believe will be welcome on both sides of the Chamber.
Mr. Jessel : If we are to avoid the election of judges, is not the corollary that judges must show that they broadly respect both public policy and public opinion? Is it not unhelpful when two such leading figures as the Lord Chief Justice and the Master of the Rolls are in open disagreement about what the law should be? Should not the Lord Chancellor ask them to desist from such pronouncements?
Mr. Taylor : There are conventions in the House about commenting on judges and what judges may say. Hon. Members may feel that this is an occasion on which to make such comments, but I am not sure that a member of the Executive should intrude into a matter of judicial independence.
Mr. Boateng : While the Minister and his Department have responsibility for the appointment of judges, and at a time of record levels of public concern about crime and the commission or criminal offences, is it not worrying that one day last months 24 courts in the south-east of England were closed for want of work? At the same time, on one day at the beginning of last month at the Snaresbrook crown court, offences of conspiracy to supply heroin and cocaine and offences involving arson with intent to endanger life were not heard because of a shortage of judges--there being insufficient money to pay for recorders or assistant recorders. Is not the Minister's Department presiding over a rather bizarre position, and what does he intend to do about it?
Mr. Taylor : It is not true that Crown courts are standing idle, although some sittings have been reduced to reflect the downturn in receipts for trial. Sittings will be restored later in the year if receipts increase. Sitting days have been reduced by only 2 per cent. compared with last year, despite a reduction in receipts of more than 15 per cent. in the first quarter of this year.
40. Mr. Mullin : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what plans he has to make freemasonry a publicly declarable interest for members of the judiciary ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Mullin : Does the Minister agree that there is nothing more corrosive of public confidence in the judiciary than the knowledge that many judges and magistrates are members of a secret society, one of whose aims is mutual self-advancement?
Mr. Taylor : I have answered a similar question from the hon. Gentleman in the past. The critical thing about the judge's appointment is that he takes a judicial oath. [ Hon. Members-- : "Or she."] I beg the House's pardon--or she.
The judge takes a judicial oath which binds him to consider any interest that he may have, to observe whether it could conflict with any matter before him and to excuse himself from the bench if he considers that there is such a conflict of interest.
41. Mr. Roger Evans : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what criteria are being adopted for the amalgamation of petty sessional divisions ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Evans : Will my hon. Friend reconsider his reply and emphasise much more significantly the importance of providing local courts for the convenience of local witnesses and local parties ? The insistence on a certain number of sittings is a criterion which ignores the factor of convenience to the public.
Mr. Taylor : The proposals that the Lord Chancellor has made are so far indicative only. Consultation will follow if a local view emerges which is held to be an improvement. I share with my hon. Friend, however, the opinion that the criteria for amalgamating petty sessional divisions are different from the criteria for the amalgamation of magistrates courts committee areas. He asked about the former and my earlier reply was about that.
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