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Sir Wyn Roberts : Since 1979, total spending by central Government on the roads programme in Wales is over £2.4 billion, including £434 million transport grant. Twenty-five miles of motorway and 154 miles of trunk road have been completed. Ten major improvement schemes totalling almost 30 miles are under construction.
Sir Wyn Roberts : I am happy to tell my hon. Friend that a start on the A40 Llandeilo northern bypass is being made today. Tenders have also been invited for the A470 Pentrebach to Cefn Coed bypass and the A5 Glyn Bends schemes. We are also active with the A40 Whitland bypass and four new starts are expected using transport grant : the
Column 658third Dee crossing, the Rithland bypass, the Swansea valley dualling of the A4067 and the Bridgend cross-valley link.
The Parliamentary Secretary, Office of Public Service and Science (Mr. David Davis) : My officials have consulted other Departments about the way in which codes of conduct in the wider public sector deal with freemasonry.
Mr. Mullin : Is it asking too much from Ministers who say that they believe in open government to require magistrates, police officers, civil servants and local government officers who are freemasons to declare that fact ? How is it possible to maintain public confidence in public institutions when members of those public institutions belong to a secret society, one aim of which is mutual
Mr. Davis : As the hon. Gentleman knows, when the civil service code was revised in May, it required freemasons and to disclose their membership when there was a conflict of interest. Specifically with regard to the police, police rules make it clear that private interests should not conflict, or be seen to conflict, with the impartial performance of duty. That message is reinforced by specific reminders from some chief constables that officers should consider whether freemasonry and perceived impartiality are compatible. Ultimately it is for individuals to decide, so long as there is no breach of police discipline.
Mr. Meacher : Is not the basis of corruption that decisions are taken in public life, not on arm's-length merit, but because of hidden and partisan relationships ? If so, why are the Government so feeble about all this--whether it is freemasonry in public life, or banning tobacco advertising, or gongs and honours for secret services rendered, or the award of large foreign contracts to a small clique of favoured companies without tender and subsidised improperly by the aid and trade provision ? Is not that because the finances of the Tory party, and so much of the power of this Tory Government, are built on a wholesale corruption machine ?
Mr. Davis : On the disclosure of freemasonry. If that is the case, I cannot agree that a legal requirement for disclosure would help. It would simply create a vast bureaucracy and legislative framework which would be avoided by precisely the people whom we are trying to catch--those who are corrupt or misusing public office or public money.
Mr. Davis : The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) tempts me. I suspect that there are fewer freemasons in the Government than there are members of the hon. Gentleman's family on the payroll of Derbyshire county council.
The local councils have guidelines that cover this matter.
Mr. Skinner : One of the problems about freemasonry, even more so than in the past, is that, as the Government are running organisations on the basis of quangos, patronage and preference, it is pretty clear that thousands and thousands of jobs that used to be done by councillors accountable to the public will now be done by people nominated, in the main, by the Tory Government and their local apparatchiks. The net result will be even stronger freemasonry. That is why Members of Parliament who are freemasons should have their membership recorded in the Register.
Mr. Davis : The hon. Gentleman is wrong--again. Since 1979, the number of quangos has been reduced from about 2,100 to about 1,400. The hon. Gentleman is adding all sorts of bodies, such as the boards of grant- maintained schools, which are now more, rather than less, accountable to the public than they were previously. As for appointments to quangos, we hear much heckling from the Opposition Front Bench, particularly from the hon. Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Garrett), who, if I remember correctly, was appointed to the West Midlands Enterprise Board--a Labour placeman on a quango that has done nothing but lose the public more than £6 million in the past few years.
30. Mr. Raynsford : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how much his Department intends to spend in 1994-95 on publicity publications and public relations relating to the citizens charter.
Mr. David Davis : The charter unit has no separate publicity budget. Media, production and distribution costs for projects carried out by the charter unit are expected to be just over £1.6 million in this financial year. The budget for 1994-95 will be finalised shortly.
Mr. Raynsford : On the day when thousands of my constituents and millions of people throughout the country suffered long, cold waits and delays-- presumably, once again, because the wrong type of snow was falling on our railway lines-- will the Minister admit that what is required is investment to improve our public services, rather than the production of yet more charter brochures, which, as everyone knows, are simply not worth the cost of the paper on which they are printed ?
Mr. Davis : Since the hon. Gentleman has raised the question of British Rail, rather than take his view, I shall take the view of Michael Patterson, the secretary of the British Rail passengers watchdog body, the Central Transport Consultative Committee. Mr. Patterson has said :
Column 660"The charter is definitely a good thing. The right to claim refunds when trains are late, or the giving of discounts on season tickets on lines where trains are unpunctual wouldn't have happened without the Charter."
That puts pressure on the management of British Rail to run the service properly and to make sure that trains are on time.
Mr. Dickens : Was not it the Conservative party which gave workers their rights, tenants their rights, parents their rights, passengers their rights and hospital patients their rights ? This is the only party which has had the guts to come up with legislation to ensure that people are provided with the services to which they are entitled.
Mr. Davis : As ever, my hon. Friend is exactly right. I should add that the Labour party is always happy to talk about rights, but is never happy to do anything about delivering them. These charters give information about the rights that people, in their dealings with public services, can expect. They encourage improved performance and they are worth the very small amount of money that goes into supporting them.
Mr. Winnick : In view of the Conservative Government's appalling record--an all-time low--what will the hon. Gentleman's Department do to improve their reputation ? Bearing in mind the fact that the Department is responsible for public relations, may I ask why it has so miserably failed the Prime Minister ?
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. William Waldegrave) : The orders for the new research councils have been approved and I have appointed all but one of the new chairmen and chief executives. Sir John Cadogan has started as Director-General of Research Councils and, on his advice, I have allocated £15.5 million of the science budget in 1994- 95 for special initiatives in support of White Paper policies. The Council for Science and Technology has met twice. I expect shortly to announce details of our technology foresight programme. The first forward look of science and technology policy will be published in April.
Mr. Day : My right hon. Friend will be aware of the importance of that White Paper to my constituency, with its deep involvement and that of surrounding constituencies in high technology industries. Does he agree that the recent speech by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee set out clearly the Government's commitment to the future of science and technology as set out in the White Paper ? Does he further agree that it is vital to industries not only in and around my constituency but throughout the country that the White Paper and scientific and technological development are successful in future ?
Column 661Parliamentary and Scientific Committee was well received. There is general all-party agreement that we need to apply science and technology more effectively to wealth creation and to the improvement of our people.
Mr. Miller : When will we see real progress with the foresight programme ? The Minister says that there is broad agreement for the need to make progress, but we really need action. Otherwise, the right hon. Gentleman will just go down as being the Minister for the "foresight saga".
Mr. Waldegrave : The technology foresight programme must involve real consensus among its partners from industry, academia and Government. I shall announce towards the end of this month or early next month the conclusions of the widespread consultations that we held. The programme will be in action this year.
Mr. Waldegrave : My office is providing funds to the British Association for the Advancement of Science to promote the first national week of science this March. More than 1,000 events will take place throughout the United Kingdom and I am sure that many right hon. and hon. Members will want to take part and to help make the week a success.
Mr. Knapman : I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his excellent initiative to improve public understanding of science. Does he agree that is a basic objective of the excellent White Paper that he published last July ?
Mr. Waldegrave : One point that came across most strongly to me when I talked to scientists at the bench was that they did not begrudge the expenditure of a little money from the science budget for that purpose. At the weekend, we saw the publication of the rather depressing results of a European Commission poll, which showed that Britain's population is less well-informed scientifically than any other in the European Community. I take that with a pinch of salt, but it was depressing news. There is much work to be done.
Mr. Alan W. Williams : While Britain has 118,000 research scientists and engineers, Japan has 583,000. Japan has twice our population but five times the number of research scientists and engineers. Although the number of British students in higher education has increased from 122,000 to 200,000 since 1987, only 3, 000 of them are studying science. Does the Minister agree that there is a manpower problem--and, if so, what is he doing about it ?
Mr. Waldegrave : The Government have put in place perhaps the most fundamental series of reforms, including the national curriculum reforms, to improve the position. The overall comparison between this country and the average for OECD countries shows that we score pretty well for scientifically and technically qualified people. However, there is no room for complacency. I accept the hon. Gentleman's argument that we must do better.
33. Mr. David Martin : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what number of civil servants are now employed in the next steps agencies ; what was the figure a year ago ; and what forecast has been made for the next 12 months.
Mr. Waldegrave : More than 346,000 civil servants, 60 per cent. of the total, are currently employed in executive agencies or other organisations working on next steps lines. That compares with 298,000 a year ago. Functions covering a further 88,000 civil servants are under consideration for agency status.
Mr. Martin : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the next steps programme is probably the most radical reform of the civil service for about 100 years ? Will he continue to emphasise not only the value for money, but the ways in which accountability is improved, especially in the devolving of decision-making nearer to those affected by decisions ?
Mr. Waldegrave : I am a strong supporter of the principle of devolution to decision-takers nearest to the action. That is the principle involved in the agencies. I believe that the agencies are a great step forward and they will be shown to provide better service for people who rely on their services and better value for money for the taxpayer.
Mr. Flynn : Is not the problem that the next step after these next steps is privatisation, contractorisation and management buy-out--the effective destruction of the civil service ? As there are 31,000 civil servants in Wales, with more in my constituency than in any other Welsh constituency, will the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster consider what is happening at DVOIT--the Driver, Vehicles and Operators Information Technology agency--and at the Accounts Services Agency ? While those firms are offered to the highest bidder, will the right hon. Gentleman give a guarantee that if they are bought out, they will not be relocated in other parts of the United Kingdom, or in Dusseldorf or Taiwan ? Will he make it a condition that if those jobs are sold off, as is currently happening, they cannot be relocated out of Wales ?
Mr. Waldegrave : Where better service can be provided more cost effectively, it is right for the Government to look to outside contracts and, where it is right, to privatisation. The Government have been right to pursue that course. I do not believe that it would be legal in the European Community directive to specify where the work should be done when a job is put out to contract. However, the efficiency of many of the organisations in Wales to which the hon. Gentleman refers means that they will be strong competitors for work where it is market tested.
Mr. Ian Bruce : Does my right hon. Friend recall that we are currently looking at the next steps possibilities for AEA Technology in Winfrith in my constituency ? Will he reassure my constituents who are employed there that an early decision will be made ? That early decision would enable the firm to create more jobs and to expand its excellent science base.
Column 663which my hon. Friend refers. Those skills are great and may, although I do not want to pre-empt any decision, gain from being allowed to compete in a wider market.
Mr. David Davis : As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster made clear to the House on 4 November, provisional figures for the Departments indicate that savings are considerable. That is why we are pressing ahead with a further programme. Full details and savings from the "Competing for Quality" initiative are being compiled and will be published shortly in the citizens charter second report.
Mr. Garrett : Will the Minister confirm that those savings never include the departmental costs of preparing for market testing and that, for example, the Department of the Environment spent £250,000 preparing to market test its information technology section and has since dropped the idea ? Will he also confirm that the largest single contractor under market testing, EDS, which has taken on the Inland Revenue information technology and computing facilities, is demanding an extra £50 million to pay for the proposed redundancies ?
Mr. Davis : The first benefit of market testing is a £100 million saving this year, which could be used to provide some 10 schools or a couple of hospitals or 50,000 primary school places, all of which are important. It also ensures that we have persistently high quality. In all the cases that we surveyed, the quality was at least as good as it was before and, for 30 per cent. of cases, it had improved.
35. Mr. Gordon Prentice : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what steps he is taking to make the Council of the Duchy of Lancaster more representative of the population of Lancashire in terms of gender, race and social class.
Mr. Waldegrave : The Council of the Duchy of Lancaster acts as an advisory body to me, as Chancellor of the Duchy, as it has to my predecessors. Members of the council are selected for their specialist expertise in the matters on which their advice is sought.
Mr. Prentice : Has the Chancellor seen early-day motion 599 ? It calls on him to open up meetings of the council, which are currently held in secret, and to publish minutes and make them publicly available. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is faintly ironic that the Minister for open government should preside over secret meetings ? Is not it about time that he let some light shine in on this murky, shady corner of the establishment ?
Mr. Waldegrave : That is foolish language, which I think would offend the many distinguished members of the Labour party who have held my office on exactly the same terms. The council advises me and I am accountable for the decisions that are made.
Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the hon. Member for Pendle (Mr Prentice) appears to have a bee in his tam o' shanter in regard to the Duchy fund ? Have not the citizens of Lancashire done a great deal better from the fund than did the citizens of Hammersmith when the hon. Gentleman was leader of that council and lost a lot of money ?
Mr. Waldegrave : It does not behove me to give advice to the hon. Member for Pendle (Mr Prentice), but I urge him--as a Scotsman and as a former distinguished leader of a London borough council--to go a little slow on telling the people of Lancashire how to behave until he has my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman) a bit more onside.
Mr. Jeff Rooker presented a Bill to entitle residents of Gibraltar to vote as electors in an English constituency in elections to the European Parliament ; to amend the European Parliamentary Elections Act 1978 ; and for connected purposes : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 15 April, and to be printed. [Bill 47.]
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