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Mr. John Hutton (Barrow and Furness) : Can the Foreign Secretary confirm that the six attacking Bosnian aircraft were first identified by NATO command only during the attack on Novi Travnik or shortly thereafter ? If that is not so, is not it a matter of serious concern that the attacks were allowed to take place ? Given that the six aircraft were engaged after the bombing mission on Novi Travnik, why on earth was it necessary to give the aircraft two separate warnings ?

Mr. Hurd : Because that is the agreed procedure, to avoid unnecessary bloodshed. I believe that the majority of the House would feel that the operation was remarkably effective and successful.

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Lloyd's Membership

4.13 pm

Mr. Peter Hain (Neath) : On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Is it in your power to rule that Members of this House comply with the Register of Members' Interests in respect of declaring their membership of syndicates in Lloyds ? If they do not, they are defying the will of the House.

Madam Speaker : Perhaps I can be helpful to the House. The matter was referred to yesterday. It may be helpful if I draw attention to the terms of reference of the Select Committee on Members' Interests, which includes the words :

"to consider any proposals made by Members or others as to the form and content of the register and to consider any specific complaints made in relation to the registering or declaring of interests." The hon. Gentleman should pose his questions to the Select Committee. In view of that Committee's responsibility, I wish to make it clear that I shall entertain no further points on the subject.

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Elimination of Poverty in Retirement

4.15 pm

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) : I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require local authorities and health authorities to monitor the condition of their retired population, to eliminate standing charges on gas, electricity and water, to exempt pensioners from licence charges and telephone rental, to extend pensioners' concessionary fare schemes, to make provision for the calculation of old age pensions by reference to average earnings, and to appoint a Minister with responsibility for retired people.

We are in the throes of a debate on the future of the welfare state. Day by day, various Ministers pluck out of the air yet more and new statistics to claim that this country can no longer afford universal benefits or a universal welfare state. But, since 1979, that very same Government have presided over an economic strategy in which the richest fifth of the population has increased its share of national income from 35 to 43 per cent., while the share of the poorest fifth has dropped to a mere 6 per cent. of national income--from 10 per cent. in 1979, even then an inadequate figure. In Britain, welfare spending as a proportion of both national income and Government expenditure is considerably and significantly lower than in other European countries.

Yesterday, the Under-Secretary of State for Social Security, in an answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Williams) let the cat out of the bag. He was finally brought to the Dispatch Box to admit that, since 1979, average earnings in this country have risen by 35 per cent., and the average state old-age pension has risen by 3.2 per cent. Yet the same Minister claimed that pensioners' average income has risen by 39 per cent. during that period.

What the Minister fails to discuss or admit is that the supposed 39 per cent. increase in the average income of pensioners hides a multitude of sins. It disregards the fact that many older pensioners, particularly older women pensioners, have no access to occupational pension schemes, savings or investments. They are not the people who read the Financial Times to see how their shares are going : they are the people who wonder how they will be able to pay their gas or electricity bills at the end of each quarter.

The use of global average figures is a dangerous trend. Groups that we used to refer to as on the lunatic right and now just think of as completely loopy--such as the No Turning Back group and the Adam Smith Institute--seem to be trying to join in the debate.

The No Turning Back group proposes the abolition of the state earnings- related pension scheme and offers the opt-out of state pensions in return for bribery in the form of national insurance payments. The same Government now pay more and more money into the national insurance fund as a means of promoting the private pension industry. I believe that the Government's pension strategy is largely about promoting the private pension industry, at the expense of the welfare state and the principles of a state scheme.

Yesterday, the Adam Smith Institute came out in its true colours and went even further : it proposed the wholesale abolition of the welfare state. Some Conservative Members propose the destruction of the welfare state in its entirety. The Secretary of State claims that he is the great defender of the welfare state, but, under questioning, he admits that, if the Government stay in office until the end of the

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century, the state old-age pension will be reduced to a mere 10 per cent. of average earnings, from a high of 26 per cent. when the last Labour Government left office. Inadequate though it was, the pension then was considerably better than it is now.

This is not the first time that I have introduced such a Bill. In fact, it is the 11th time that I have introduced the same or a similar Bill designed to set out a comprehensive programme to improve the lot of the elderly in this country. The way in which the elderly are treated is a measure of a society's civilisation. The way that we in this country treat our elderly population is a standing disgrace. Too many of them live in poverty, too many die of hypothermia and too many live in fear of their gas, electricity and telephone bills, and having to pay for their television licence.

The Bill is a comprehensive measure. It would require the appointment of a Minister to co-ordinate all aspects of policies for the elderly. They are concerned not simply about pensions, but about education, recreation, culture and a variety of subjects, including housing.

It would also require both local authorities and local health authorities to produce an annual report explaining what they do for their elderly population, what services they provide, how they provide them, what the life expectancy is, and how effective the services are, because too many housebound, bedridden elderly people are suffering from enormous cuts in social services expenditure. They are not in a position to lobby, either here or at town halls. They are the victims of Government spending cuts in respect of local health authorities and local councils.

In addition, value added tax is a wholly regressive form of taxation. The compensation measures proposed by the Government, which they plan to introduce in April, are wholly inadequate. They take no account of the regional differences in fuel bills. Fuel bills tend to be higher where it is colder. Scottish bills tend to be higher than English bills, and so forth.

Likewise, the standing charges for gas, electricity and water, the telephone rental and the television licence fee are like another poll tax for low-income households. In the Bill, I propose that the vast profits being made by the privatised gas, electricity and water companies should instead be put to good use by being channelled into abolishing the standing charges for pensioner households, both to save them money and to protect them from having supplies being cut off.

The right to be able to get about is crucial. In London, we are very proud of the travel permit scheme for pensioners. Its introduction was a great achievement by the Labour-controlled Greater London council, and it has been a mighty struggle to maintain it. Similar schemes have been introduced in many other cities. I believe, however,

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that it should be extended to the whole country. If the Republic of Ireland can provide a national travel scheme for its retired people, why can this country not do it ?

I come now to the crucial part of the Bill. Too many elderly people live in great poverty. Too many are unable to make ends meet. Too many have no savings, and those who have them find that the savings are often eaten up because of the rules on the use of savings before housing benefit and the like are paid.

I therefore propose that the first thing to be done is the recalculation of the state old-age pension to restore the link that was so cruelly and brutally broken in 1980. Until 1975, the basis of the calculation of the pension each April was the link between it and average earnings. The basis is now the average price rise, which means that, as a proportion of average earnings, the state old-age pension has fallen and fallen. As I said earlier, it is due to fall to a mere 10 per cent.

I propose that the link be restored, and that we aim to be able to pay a state old-age pension of half average earnings. It could be achieved, although it would require considerable expenditure, and it would bring us somewhere near the European average in countries where they are trying to protect and look after their elderly.

Those who campaigned a century ago for the principle of a welfare state and for a state old-age pension to banish for ever the fear of the workhouse and of poverty in old age would be appalled if they could have foreseen that, in 1994, we would live in a society which, having achieved a universal welfare state, was prepared to preside over its destruction in favour of greed and private profit. My Bill seeks to do something different. It seeks to recognise that the richest in the country have done very well over the past 15 years. We spend far too much money on arms ; we could be spending it on socially useful things. We are allowing too many hospitals and social services to be destroyed. The Bill goes some way towards redressing the balance, and eliminating once and for all the fear and misery of poverty in retirement.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Jeremy Corbyn, Mr. Harry Cohen, Mr. Dennis Skinner, Mr. Don Dixon, Mrs. Alice Mahon, Mr. Llew Smith, Mr. Alan Simpson, Mr. Malcolm Chisholm, Ms Mildred Gordon, Mr. Bernie Grant, Mr. Tony Banks and Mr. Bob Cryer.

Elimination of Poverty in Retirement

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn accordingly presented a Bill to require local authorities and health authorities to monitor the condition of their retired population, to eliminate standing charges on gas, electricity and water, to exempt pensioners from licence charges and telephone rental, to extend pensioners' concessionary fare schemes, to make provision for the calculation of old age pensions by reference to average earnings, and to appoint a Minister with responsibility for retired people : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 11 March, and to be printed. [Bill 62.]

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Orders of the Day

Opposition Day --

[5th Allotted Day]


Overseas Aid

Madam Speaker : I have selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.

4.24 pm

Sir David Steel (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale) : I beg to move,

That this House notes with concern the high proportion of British aid that is tied to the purchase of British goods and services ; notes the remarkable coincidence between defence-related contracts and the allocation of British aid ; further notes that many of the companies who have benefited from such deals are major donors to the Conservative Party ; believes that allegations relating to the Pergau Dam affair have seriously undermined the credibility of the British aid programme ; condemns the past conduct of Her Majesty's Government in relation to this matter ; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to restore the public's confidence in British aid by setting a timetable for achieving the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent. GNP, reducing the proportion of tied aid and increasing the proportion which is spent on the basic human needs of the poorest people.

In opening the debate, I intend to advance five propositions : first, that the Pergau dam project was a costly mistake to which the Government should never have committed taxpayers' money ; secondly, that the only possible explanation for that error was the Government's eagerness to lubricate the trade channels with Malaysia and especially the arms trade ; thirdly, that, as in the case with arms to Iraq, the Government proclaimed one policy to Parliament and the public, but, in reality, pursued another ; fourthly, that there has been an unhealthy use of the overseas aid programme generally to assist arms sales around the world ; and, fifthly, that there has been an equally unhealthy dominance in the receipt of the aid and trade provision by firms that are donors to the Conservative party. In conclusion, I shall propose changes in policy to ensure that those wholly unacceptable happenings do not recur.

I begin, therefore, with the decision to support the Pergau dam project. In 1987, which was a year before the Government got committed by the then Prime Minister to supporting that project, the World bank's power sector had advised against that hydro-electric project and suggested instead that Malaysia should concentrate on gas-fired electricity generation until the turn of the century. The Malaysian Government turned down a less expensive tender for such a power station, which, incidentally, British companies were well placed to supply and which would have been far less environmentally damaging.

That was before the then Defence Secretary's now notorious visit to Malaysia in March 1988, when he signed a protocol on arms sales in conjunction with a promise on aid, and before the equally notorious visit by the then Prime Minister. Having got hooked on the project, the Overseas Development Agency sent a team to Malaysia to assess the project. The Public Accounts Committee has described that as the shortest project appraisal ever to come

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before it. Nevertheless, the then Prime Minister offered the Malaysian Prime Minister support for the project, conditional on full economic appraisal.

A year later, in February 1990, the ODA concluded that the dam was a "very bad buy" and the Department for Trade and Industry proposed a review of the Malaysian power sector. Nevertheless, the Malaysian Government were determined to proceed and, in February 1991, the then Permanent Secretary to the ODA, Sir Tim Lankester, told Ministers that the proposal, which was not some flea-bite incidental project but the largest single funding ever to be made by our overseas aid programme, was

"unequivocally a bad one in economic terms"

and an

"abuse of the aid programme".

Sir Tim told our Public Accounts Committee a few weeks ago that he therefore required ministerial orders to go ahead with the payments. Mr. Rais Yatin, who was Foreign Minister of Malaysia at the start of those discussions, has said that the deal was a "gross irregularity".

In its report last year, the National Audit Office drew attention to the history of errors in the project and concluded that the cost to the British taxpayer was £234 million, plus more than £50 million for funding soft loans.

Among the first duties of Parliament are the voting of moneys to Governments and the check on their use. We should be failing in our most fundamental duty if we did not censure the Government for their assent to that expenditure.

That brings me to the question, why ? The answer is that, so keen were Ministers to re-establish trade with Malaysia that they set aside a series of normal procedures to enable them to do so. There was, first, the agreement made by George Younger, now Lord Younger of Prestwick, to link an arms sales package with the promise of aid. He says :

"a verbal understanding was given by somebody--to link the aid to the defence contract".

The House is entitled to know who that somebody was.

Mr. Alex Carlile (Montgomery) : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the relationship between British and Malaysian Ministers became unacceptably cosy, and that there are grounds for investigating the basis on which public interest immunity certificates were signed by Ministers against the interests of Mr. Lorrain Osman, who was then in Pentonville prison in London, which, if they had not been signed, might have led to the disclosure of documents that would have enabled Mr. Osman to present his defence in a proper fashion ?

Sir David Steel : I agree with my hon. and learned Friend that there is a case for looking into that connection. In preparing what is inevitably a wide-ranging speech, I decided not to go down that alley, but it is one well worth exploring and I hope that hon. Members will do so in the debate.

I have a copy of the subsequent memorandum of understanding that was signed by the two Prime Ministers after a meeting from which all officials were excluded. As it is classified as secret, I shall not read any of it to the House. Suffice it to say that it contains some unusual provisions, including the use of concessionary interest rates by private banks to be guaranteed by the Government, rather than the normal export credit guarantee arrangements, the establishment of permanent units in our

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Ministry of Defence and in Malaysia to oversee the contracts and the provision of military training, as well as a list of various arms suppliers.

Here I have to be blunt and say that, in the course of batting for Britain, which our former Prime Minister did extremely well, her close circle often seems to have been involved. In this case, Sir Tim Bell, well known as her public relations adviser, is also adviser to the Malaysian Prime Minister and to Tam Sri Armugam, who controls GEC Malaysia, and was heavily involved in some of the contracts under the deal.

Another person who helped broker parts of the deal is Mr. Steve Tipping, a business associate of Mr. Mark Thatcher and, indeed, best man at his wedding. Tim Bell told the The Sunday Times when asked to clarify Tipping's exact role :

"What he does for a living is introduce people to each other". That is lucky for him. It is clear that between them, George Younger, Margaret Thatcher and persons unknown made the deal, which also included an agreement to give Malaysian Airlines a landing slot at Heathrow airport, for which the Treasury had to fork out more than £2 million of public money as compensation to British Airways. I now turn to the deception of Parliament. According to the Alan Clark school of thought, none of it, including possible payments to middle men or politicians into Swiss bank accounts, is at all untoward in the determined pursuit of British business interests. [Interruption.] Some Conservative Members say, "Hear, hear", but it is not the stated policy of Her Majesty's Government.

I do not want to get hung up on the argument about whether it was illegal, but it was certainly wholly against the ODA's declared policy objectives and the published guidelines of the aid and trade provision which specifically exclude as eligible "equipment for military purposes".

Mr. James Paice (Cambridgeshire, South-East) : Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the principal responsibility of the British Government, of any persuasion, must be to look after British interests first ? In that context, is it not quite clear, after the events of Thursday and Friday onwards concerning the Malaysian trade embargo against Britain, that countless thousands of British jobs are at risk ? Would not the right hon. Gentleman be doing Britain more good, and doing more for British jobs by calming the situation down rather than stoking the fire, which he is actively doing ?

Sir David Steel : I will come on to my suggestions about the best way of pursuing British interests towards the end of my speech. But if the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that deception, backhanders or anything of that kind should be part of British policy, let us have that stated as British policy. What I am complaining about is that the policy pursued in this case was different from the public policy that was declared to us in Parliament. More than that, Ministers constantly denied any link between arms supplies and aid in several answers to parliamentary questions. I shall give two examples. In November 1989, the then Prime Minister told the House :

"Overseas aid is frequently used to finance civil engineering contracts ... It is not used in connection with sales of military equipment."--[ Official Report , 14 November 1989 ; Vol. 160, c. 121 .]

That was already untrue by the time she said it.

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In December 1991, the Minister for Overseas Development, the then Mrs. Chalker, told the House :

"There is no question of linking aid and arms deals'".--[ Official Report , 20 December 1991 ; Vol. 201, c. 331 .]

But there was a question, and she had already been overruled in that instance.

The columns of Hansard are littered with such denials. As late as 26 January this year, when asked to confirm or deny the specific allegation that aid to Pergau was linked to arms sales, the Prime Minister wrote in a letter to me that the

"Memorandum of Understanding did not cover aid."

I cannot accuse the Prime Minister of telling me a lie, because you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, would rule me out of order, and he is technically correct. It is not there. But he and other Ministers have been miserly with their veracity, right up to Sunday, when the Foreign Secretary, in a phrase that ranks alongside "economical with the truth", told us that the two had for a time become entangled. One of my conclusions is that, as in the arms to Iraq fiasco, the Government have become not only sloppy in their use of power but cavalier in their treatment of the House, and have sought to mislead us by concealing the truth until finally found out.

Mr. David Harris (St. Ives) : The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that some of us who are on the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs are in a difficult position. Indeed, I have just come from the Foreign Office, where I was looking through some of the papers. I ask him to accept that all these points will be looked into carefully by the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs. I think that he will perhaps want to reconsider some of the points that he makes when the whole story is known. I hope very much that that is so.

Sir David Steel : I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I have looked carefully at all the papers relating to this matter and am choosing my words extremely carefully. I believe that the House was misled in the parliamentary answers that were given, because it is undeniable that aid

Mr. Harris : Has the right hon. Gentleman read it ?

Sir David Steel : I have read the memorandum of understanding. Of course there is no reference to it, but if the hon. Gentleman had been following me closely, he would have heard that George Younger, as he then was, made it quite clear that a verbal commitment was given by somebody to promise the aid. I am asking the question that I hope the hon. Member will ask as a member of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs : Who was that person ? I invite him to ask that question.

My fourth proposition is that the Pergau dam affair illustrates something that has gone wrong with our aid and trade provision. There has been a growing correlation between increased aid programmes to other countries and arms sales contracts. Malaysia is not a poor country ; its gross national product per capita is $2,500. The amount spent on the Pergau dam project alone, every single year from now through to 2000, exceeds what we gave last year to the whole of Somalia or Ethiopia, each of whose gross national product per head is only just over $100.

Mr. Bowen Wells (Hertford and Stortford) : Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the kind of aid that is

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given to Somalia will not be under the aid and trade provision and therefore cannot be truly classified in the same way as the aid given on the Pergau dam ?

Sir David Steel : I accept that it comes out of a different part of the ODA, but the hon. Gentleman will agree that the total, both the trade and aid provision and the ordinary aid programme, amounts to our overseas aid budget. They are together. I shall talk in a moment about the inadequacy of the total packages. Obviously, money spent on one is not available for the other ; that is the point that I am making.

Even further removed from poverty is Oman, with a gross national product per capita of over $6,000--higher than the figure in Portugal, a European Community aid-giving country. Its aid from Britain has doubled during the lifetime of the present Government, and it currently ranks third in the list of purchasers of arms from Britain. For 1994, defence spending is planned to occupy 30 per cent. of Oman's national budget. Thailand and Jordan are other better-off countries with increasing aid receipts and growing arms purchases from Britain.

Most offensive of all, however, are the sales and aid programmes for undesirable regimes. Let us take Ecuador, for example. In comparison with neighbouring Colombia and El Salvador--which share the same level of poverty--Ecuador receives growing British aid. It currently amounts to 0.33p per head, as against 0.07p and 0.04p in the other two countries. The difference is that Ecuador is the fifth largest purchaser of British arms. In 1991, the Ecuadorian human rights commission registered 23 cases of unlawful killing and 38 of torture.

Even more striking is the case of Indonesia, where our aid programme has quadrupled under the present Government. It has become the fourth largest purchaser of British armaments. Since 1975, when Indonesia invaded its neighbour East Timor, a third of the population--some 200,000 people--has been killed. In 1991, the army massacred 100 civilians at a funeral in the East Timor capital. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights has condemned Indonesia. Last year's Amnesty International report lists more than 180 prisoners of conscience, and states :

"Torture and ill treatment of political detainees, peaceful demonstrations and criminal suspects were common and resulted in some deaths. Government forces extrajudicially executed scores of alleged supporters of independence in Aceh and East Timor."

Some countries, such as Belgium, have suspended their aid to Indonesia ; others, such as the United States, have banned arms sales. Britain has increased both. I believe that most people in this country find that wholly unacceptable, and would prefer us not to sell arms to unsavoury regimes-- and certainly not to lubricate those sales by using parts of our limited aid budget.

I agree with what Lady Chalker, the Minister for Overseas Development, said in a lecture a couple of years ago :

"excessive military expenditure can create political and military insecurity. It can also seriously damage development by pre-empting resources."

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset) : I am trying to follow the right hon. Gentleman's argument about the public policy of a political party, and what a party says when it goes overseas. Will he confirm that his own party was quick to congratulate the new Liberal Canadian Government on their economic policies, when they had just announced the cancellation of a helicopter project which would have been

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very expensive for the Canadian taxpayer ? The leader of the right hon. Gentleman's party, the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown), then told the local press that he had dispatched the right hon. Gentleman to ask the Canadian Government to reinstate the project.

Sir David Steel : With great respect, that has nothing to do with what I am talking about. I assure the hon. Gentleman, however, that I have indeed discussed the matter with Canadian Ministers. It is evident from the Canadian Liberal election programme, which is clearly set out, that it was designed to reduce the defence budget and increase the aid budget. I have been trying to argue that case here.

In a recent Foreign Office publication, the Government said that they attempted to promote good government through their aid programme. It seems highly selective. In the foreword, the Foreign Secretary writes :

"The more open a society is, the more transparent the decisions of government, the more difficult it is to hide corruption and the abuse of human rights."

Those are fine words, but tell that to the Malaysians and the Indonesians!

My fifth observation relates to the connection between firms that benefit from the aid and trade provision, and donations to the Conservative party and its allied organisations. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) should listen to what I am going to say before intervening.

The fact is that companies linked by such donations have been the main beneficiaries of the aid and trade provision--to the tune of 42 per cent.-- since the Government came to power. They include Cementation International- -owned by Trafalgar House--Balfour Beatty, GEC, AMEC International, Biwater and Davy ; not to mention the walk-on part of our old friend the privatised British Airways. I am not alleging that there is anything as corrupt as a direct link between those companies' donations to the party in government and their receipt of aid and trade provision from the Government : perish the thought. It is just that the two have, in a somewhat unseemly manner, "become entangled".

Mr. Simon Burns (Chelmsford) : May I return to the right hon. Gentleman's earlier point ? He mentioned both GEC and Malaysia. No doubt he knows quite a bit about my constituency from his previous role as leader of the Liberal party ; he will know that it contains four GEC companies, which employ people who have been hard hit by defence-related redundancies. Over the past week, those workers have become extremely nervous and concerned about the threat of trade with Malaysia, where they are involved in non- military contracts such as the airport project.

What would the right hon. Gentleman do if redundancies were announced in Chelmsford as a result of pathetic, naive debates of this kind ? Will he consider reading an article in The Times by Peter Riddell, which puts the whole issue into perspective ?

Sir David Steel : If any redundancies were declared in Chelmsford, I would say that the hon. Gentleman should look to his own Government, who got into this mess in the first place--unless he is seeking to defend the actions that I have described ; I am not sure whether he is or not.

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What are we going to do about all this ? Let me take the last point first. Over the years, the House has on several occasions dodged the issue of the funding of political parties. I believe that such corporate donations should be outlawed. I am not in favour of state grants for political parties, but I believe that there is a case for examining a scheme whereby each individual citizen was allowed to donate a small fixed amount from his or her tax bill--say £50--to the party of his or her choice. That would provide an element of public subsidy for democracy, but according to the individual's choice--leaving space for the political parties to go out and get it. That is my first proposal for a change in policy. My second is that we should legislate, as the United States Congress has done, against arms sales to regimes with appalling human rights records. I do not believe that the American action is foolproof, but at least it is a start in the right direction.

Thirdly, I am well aware of the argument--which appears to be supported by some Conservative Members--that, if we do not engage in arms trade sweeteners, payments to middle men or bribery, to put it crudely, others may nip in and secure the contracts. The Organisation for Economic Co- operation and Development is well aware of that, and has established a working party on illicit payments.

Mr. Burns : The right hon. Gentleman does not understand.

Sir David Steel : I am trying to tell the hon. Member for Chelmsford something. For more than two years, the working party has been battling against the indifference of the British and Japanese participants. I want an assurance from the Government that they will take the issue seriously, and help the OECD to reach an internationally accepted code of behaviour. In the meantime, we should look at the American legislation, which is punitive to the extent of imposing $2 million fines and five years in gaol for corrupt payments.

Mr. Tim Renton (Mid-Sussex) : I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way, but I think that he must agree that he is misinforming the House about that OECD examination. My understanding is that it is a proposition put forward by the United States, because of the stringency of its domestic law, but it is being discussed, debated and in some degree opposed, not only by Britain and by Japan, but by all our continental European neighbours, because they simply do not think that it is pertinent to their legislation. It is totally unfair, therefore, for the right hon. Gentleman, as it were, to put Britain alone in dock in that context.

Sir David Steel : I did not put Britain alone in the dock. I said simply that my information was that Britain and Japan had been dragging their feet in that working party, which has been going on, not for two months, but for two years. If the right hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton) is suggesting that some of our European Community partners are also dragging their feet, I find that equally deplorable. I am saying that it is no good advancing the argument that if we do not behave badly someone

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