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Mr. Sproat : My right hon. Friend's visits to public swimming pools have been curtailed since he became Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. His last visit was to the pool in Basingstoke in August last year, which he greatly enjoyed.
I have an important question about the battle that seems to be going on between the Minister's Department and the Department for Education Does he understand the concern about swimming and young people, especially in regard to the national curriculum ? As Minister for sport, what is he doing to ensure that all youngsters will not just be taken along to swimming pools and, once they can swim, told, "That is it : no more swimming", but will be able to swim regularly and properly as part of the national curriculum ?
Mr. Sproat : I very much hope that they will continue to do so. As the hon. Lady no doubt knows, under the national curriculum, young people must now be able to swim 25 m by the age of 11. I hope that, having learnt to do so, they will continue to swim.
Mr. Spring : Given the importance of swimming as an excellent exercise for people of all ages, can my hon. Friend confirm that the national lottery is likely to enable the construction and development of many more public swimming pools ?
Mr. Skinner : Is the Minister aware that if he went to Bolsover, he would not be able to visit the swimming pool ? A few years ago, a Select Committee investigating subsidence decided to visit the Bolsover pool and found that it was riddled with subsidence. The net result was its
Column 11closure. Now that the Government are talking about closing down the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation, will they provide money from the new CISWO so that Bolsover can get its baths back ?
Mr. Sproat : The hon. Gentleman will know that CISWO is a matter for the Department of Trade and Industry. I very much hope that it will be protected. As for the Bolsover swimming pool, it would certainly be eligible for funds from the national lottery, either to refurbish it or to rebuild it in a place where there was no subsidence, but which was also in Bolsover.
Mr. Brooke : By law, one fifth of the net proceeds of the national lottery will be distributed by the Arts Council towards expenditure on, or connected with, the arts, including film and crafts. That substantial amount of extra money will allow a major enhancement of the fabric of arts provision in the United Kingdom. The arts may also benefit from projects supported by the Millennium Commission.
Mr. Jessel : While the national lottery will help the arts, is my right hon. Friend aware that some arts items are so urgent that they really cannot be expected to wait for funds from the national lottery proceeds ? For example, funds ought to be found in the very next year for items such as the repair of the Albert memorial.
Mr. Brooke : I am grateful to my hon. Friend, whose concern for the performing arts is known throughout the House. There has been a fairly constant canard that my Department has diverted money to the Albert memorial and away from the Arts Council. I assure my hon. Friend that I regard repairs to the Albert memorial as urgent, but my Department has voted no money for that in the next year.
Dr. Godman : Is it reasonable to expect a substantial contribution to be made from national lottery moneys for the building and staffing of the proposed Royal Scottish gallery of art while maintaining, given its excellence, the Scottish national portrait gallery ?
Mr. Peter Ainsworth : Does my right hon. Friend accept that, important and welcome though the extra money from the national lottery will be, it is equally important to ensure that it is distributed fairly and sensibly ? Will he comment on that in the light of some recent rather unpredictable decisions by the Arts Council ?
Mr. Brooke : The Arts Council, like the other distributors, is preparing its plans for when it will have money available from the national lottery. I do not know how far advanced its plans are, but it will no doubt hear my hon. Friend's question.
19. Mr. Fabricant : To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what plans he has to enforce the ban of interviews by Sinn Fein representatives on news broadcasts uplinked from the United Kingdom and transmitted by satellite ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Brooke : Broadcasters licensed in the United Kingdom, whatever the source of their interviews, must abide by the restrictions and it is for the appropriate broadcasting regulatory authorities to enforce them.
Mr. Fabricant : Is my right hon. Friend aware that certain broadcasters in the United Kingdom are uplinking transmissions to satellites, which are rebroadcasting "Radio France", the "Voice of Israel", "Radio Sweden" and the "Voice of America", and are experiencing great difficulty in extricating quotes from Sinn Fein ? Can he think of some ways in which those broadcasters can be assisted ?
Mr. Brooke : Enforcement of the restrictions and revocation of a radio licence would be a matter for the Radio Authority, but satellite broadcasting is nothing new : it has been with us since the restrictions were introduced.
Mr. Brooke : At the beginning of last month, I answered a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Lady Olga Maitland) in which I said that the Government would keep that matter under constant review.
Mr. Brooke : Government measures aimed at encouraging the retention of fine arts heritage in the United Kingdom include the provision of grants to museums, galleries and funding bodies that assist in purchases, a number of tax reliefs that encourage support for the heritage and the Waverley system of export controls.
Mr. Carrington : Is my right hon. Friend aware of the considerable concern about the way in which the Waverley rules operate in practice ? Will he look at the considerable pressure that is building up to extend the period allowed for fund-raising activities to purchase works of art identified under the Waverley rules for retention in this country ?
Mr. Brooke : I announced--after consultation and in the context of an application in regard to "The Three Graces" by Canova--that I would be prepared, as from July, to consider a longer period for items of major importance.
Mr. Sproat : The Department of National Heritage is arranging a programme of civilian events nationwide and encouraging other events to run alongside those organised by the Ministry of Defence and to complement those arranged by local authorities, tourist boards and others. Details will be announced at a launch in April.
Mr. Orme : Is the Minister satisfied that those who participated in D-day--the foot soldiers--will be properly recognised ? Many important events are taking place, with visitors from overseas, but the most important people are those who carried out the D-day landings.
Mr. Sproat : Yes, I agree 100 per cent. with the right hon. Gentleman. I shall make it my business to make absolutely sure that private soldiers, corporals and others get equal billing with generals, field marshals and presidents.
Mr. Hawkins : Does my hon. Friend recognise that there are a number of very active committees, including one in my constituency, whose members are doing a tremendous amount of work in their spare time to prepare for the 50th anniversary of the D-day landings ? Will my hon. Friend be able to ensure that there is support for such committees in all parts of the country, including that which is working so successfully in Blackpool ?
Mr. Sproat : Yes, I gladly pay special tribute to what Blackpool has achieved. It has suggested a tremendous number of entertainments and events to celebrate the 50th anniversary of D-day. I hope that other places around the country will take a lead from that and not think that D-day involves only the south of England, because it involves all the parts of the country from which the soldiers, sailors and airmen departed originally.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. William Waldegrave) : The objective of the national week, which starts on 18 March, is to promote a better appreciation among the general public of the invaluable contribution that science, engineering and technology make to our well- being as a nation.
Mr. Coombs : Is my right hon. Friend aware of the fact that Mr. Isambard Kingdom Brunel will be lecturing at the railway museum in my constituency on 26 March about his achievements in science and technology ? Is not the promotion of greater awareness of science among the general public something which could usefully be undertaken by the research councils also located in my constituency ?
Mr. Waldegrave : As a Member representing a Bristol constituency, I am astounded by the news that my hon. Friend brings, but it shows the wonders of modern science. I hope that all hon. Members will support the activities of this week. I have taken the liberty of sending a copy of the British Association's programme to every hon. Member today.
The Parliamentary Secretary, Office of Public Service and Science (Mr. David Davis) : On 2 February, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster announced a range of initiatives worth £15.4 million to focus our research and postgraduate effort on wealth creation and the quality of life. In addition, last Monday we initiated the latest stage of Technology Foresight when my right hon. Friend announced the sector panels that will carry out that foresight.
Mr. Flynn : Apart from the miracle of resurrection that has just been mentioned, the true miracle of science in the next few years will be the development of supercomputers and information highways. How can the Imperial Science college in my constituency take advantage of them when Mr. John Mulvey of Save British Science has said that, by cutting investment, the Government have proved that they have no faith in the future of British research ? Why is it that one single campus in America--the Massachusetts Institute of Technology--has more supercomputers than the whole of the United Kingdom ?
Mr. Mans : Does my hon. Friend agree that, to improve the application of scientific inventions, it is important for his Department, the Ministry of Defence and the Department of Trade and Industry to get together to ensure that inventions made in one sector are moved across to others so that the best use is made of them ?
Mr. Davis : My hon. Friend raises an important point. I hope that he noticed, in the Central Statistical Office figures published last week, that the 1 per cent. reduction in defence research and development spending in 1992 was more than made up for by a 5 per cent. increase in civil research and development. That is the sort of thing which I hope to see more of in the future.
Dr. Bray : If the Minister has examined the strategic research activities of Germany, Japan and the United States, can he justify the effective closure of all the principal applied laboratories under Government control and, in particular, can he justify the type of review taking place in the National Engineering Laboratory in East Kilbride ?
Mr. Davis : The hon. Gentleman is wrong in talking about "the effective closure". The whole purpose of the review exercise is to improve value for money for the taxpayer and to deliver a better service in the national interest.
Mr. Dafis : Bearing in mind that industrial success springs largely from scientific research, does the Minister agree that Wales is seriously disadvantaged by the absurdly low level of funding--2 per cent. of the research councils' funding--for research establishments there ? Is not that grossly discriminatory against Wales ? Will the Minister ensure that the position does not get even worse by intervening to prevent the closure of the Welsh office of the British Geological Survey at Aberystwyth ?
Mr. Davis : The hon. Gentleman does not do Welsh scientists any service by suggesting that they should be funded on the basis of where in the United Kingdom the research establishment stands. The research councils rightly look for the best value for money, the best sites and the centres of excellence, all of which factors they will use in determining where the money is spent. That is the best way in which to determine where money goes. I am sure that Sir John Cadogan, who is himself a Welshman, would agree with me.
Mr. Waldegrave : We have received a number of such representations, but, given the success of the charter mark scheme over the past two years, we believe that the basic purpose of the charter marks should remain the same.
Mr. Brandreth : I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that reply. Is he aware that there are businesses, services and others in my constituency that are still uncertain about what the charter mark programme will deliver for them and how they can become involved ? What is my right hon. Friend planning to do to increase awareness of the value of the programme and accessibility to it ?
Mr. Waldegrave : We have had thousands of contacts from public services throughout the country. I am sorry if those in my hon. Friend's constituency feel that they have been left out. I am sure that there are many potential winners in the Chester area and I look forward to receiving their applications by 30 June.
Mr. Enright : Can the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster explain how Yorkshire Water won such an award ? Was it because it had the most unjust water metering system in the country or was it because it cut off one of the highest numbers of customers in the country ?
Mr. Nicholls : Does my right hon. Friend agree that although the programme must have the support of Government, it must be taken forward and driven on the ground by scientists and technologists if the contribution to wealth creation and general competitiveness is to be maintained in practice ?
Column 16foresight exercise is to link those designing and selling products with those who have ideas for the development of future key technologies.
Dr. Moonie : Although I confirm our support for Technology Foresight, may I ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether he agrees that the system of peer review used by the research councils is the best method of assessing the relative merits of basic research projects ?
Mr. Waldegrave : The hon. Gentleman raises a big question. I have studied the counter-examples such as Lovelock, which was mentioned in the newspaper today. There must be dual funding and there must be room and freedom for universities to back original ideas. None the less, peer group remains, and should remain, the underlying key basis for decisions.
Dr. Michael Clark : Has my right hon. Friend had the opportunity to study the report on Technology Foresight prepared by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology ? If he has, would he care to commend the work done by that body, with regard not only to the report but all the pamphlets, reports and publications that it is now preparing for parliamentarians so that they may better be able to understand science ?
Mr. Mackinlay : Is not there an urgent need for opportunities to be given to hon. Members and to others so that they are able to probe and scrutinise the political conduct of the Law Officers--not only the conduct of the Attorney-General but, especially, that of the Lord Chancellor, in the light of weekend reports of him prevailing on Lord Justice Wood to resign early and what Lord Justice Purchase referred to as his
"unconstitutional attack on judicial independence"?
Mr. John Marshall : Is not one of the issues that concerns parents most the quality of education in local authority schools ? Is my right hon. Friend surprised that the advocates of local government do not believe in publishing the facts about that ?
Column 17at the same time, they are signing public interest immunity certificates to prevent disclosure of what is embarrassing to them ? Is not the automatic and blanket concealment of a whole class of documents on the ground of public interest, irrespective of content, a complete denial of open government ? Will the Chancellor therefore secure a change in the rules so that Ministers are directed to use those certificates, if at all, solely when they believe that the national interest is genuinely at stake and not merely for their own sordid, political convenience ?
Mr. Waldegrave : The hon. Gentleman should know better. Public interest immunity certificates have been signed by Ministers of both parties over many years. I have no doubt that the debates that will take place in the coming week and after Sir Richard Scott reports will take the issue rather further forward than the ignorant remarks of the hon. Gentleman.
Mr. Matthew Taylor : How will the Minister publicise the new rights of the public to information ? Will he make resources available to the ombudsman to allow any requests for work that may arise from those rights to be met ?
Mr. Waldegrave : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me the opportunity to say again that we have doubled the resources available to the ombudsman. He is right that, for the new system to be given a fair chance of working, the ombudsman must have the necessary resources. I agree with the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) that it is quite right under the charter to spend resources on, for example, leafleting people to ensure that they know of their rights. Indeed, the hon. Member for Oldham, West said that we have not done enough of that.
Mr. Peter Bottomley : Will my right hon. Friend remind the House and the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) of the words of Lord Justice Bingham on public interest immunity certificates ? He said that Ministers had the right to waive rights but not the right to waive duties. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman and the press should pay attention to what the judges themselves have said on that matter.
Mr. Barnes : Is not there a lot of work to be done on openness because privatisation has helped to close down a Select Committee of the House--that dealing with energy--agency arrangements mean that we cannot ask questions about certain matters and the closing of Parliament for vast periods again means that scrutiny cannot take place during that time ? Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman's Department can influence other Departments and become involved in charters that say something.
Mr. Waldegrave : It is not true that one cannot ask questions of agencies and it is absolutely essential that hon. Members should do so. As for the hon. Gentleman inviting me to draw having shorter recesses to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, I shall do so, but not in the certainty that he will be pleased with the idea.
Mr. Waldegrave : The Government's policy was set out in November 1991 in the White Paper "Competing for Quality". Since April 1992, civil service activities worth £1.1 billion have been market tested or otherwise examined under the programme to see how value for money can best be improved.
Mr. Waldegrave : We shall shortly be publishing the details of the gains that have been made in quality and value for money when we publish the citizens charter White Paper for this year. The gains to the public and to the taxpayer have been great indeed.
Mr. McAllion : Will the Minister confirm that other Ministers in the Government have been told to apply the prior options test to every departmental activity for which they are responsible and that, under that test, they are required to consider direct
privatisation--contracting directly to the private sector--before they even consider putting the activity out to competitive tender ? Does not that show that the Government are not in the least interested in competition in the provision of public services, so keen are they to hand out big fat contracts to their friends in the private sector ?
Mr. Waldegrave : That perhaps defines the difference between the two parties : we want to look at every activity of government to see, first, whether it needs to be done and, secondly, whether government needs to do it. The hon. Gentleman looks at matters from the other point of view and says that every activity should prima facie be undertaken by the state. That is the difference between our two parties.
34. Mrs. Angela Knight : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what estimate he has as to the number of women involved in research in science and engineering in (a) 1969 and (b) at the latest available date.
Mr. David Davis : There are no figures available centrally to indicate the number of women engaged in research in the private sector. University statistics show an increase in the number of full-time women postgraduates in science and engineering from 1,400 to well over 8,000 ; and in full-time academic staff from under 900 to well over 3,000. Those figures do not include the former polytechnics or the Open university.
Mrs. Knight : Although the numbers have evidently increased dramatically since 1969 when I went to university, women still represent a relatively small proportion of those involved in science and engineering. Does my hon. Friend agree with me about two of the reasons for that--first, the advice that girls receive at school, which needs to be improved and, secondly, the continuing lack of awareness of the fact that science and
Column 19engineering qualifications can lead not just to research but to a wide range of opportunities in business, industry and even politics ?
Mr. Davis : I share my hon. Friend's opinion about improvements in the level of advice leading to more scientific careers being pursued. After all, it is clear that businesses where there are highly technically qualified senior managers do better. My hon. Friend referred to politics. She is a scientist, as am I, but perhaps the best example is to be found in the other place, where there is someone who, having dominated this Chamber for over a decade, would reinforce our view.
Mr. Miller : Given the importance of the question, will the Minister look carefully at the make-up of the teams governing the foresight exercise and ensure that the number of women increases ? Hon. Members on both sides of the House recognise that it is important to appoint the best people to the teams. We welcome the fact that a woman has now been appointed to one of the teams, but will the Minister consider the matter carefully and seek to increase the representation of women in that sector ?
Mr. Davis : I am glad that the hon. Gentleman recognises that a woman has been appointed to the Technology Foresight steering group, although I have to say to him that she was appointed because she was the best person for the job. Subject to that, I am entirely willing and happy to see significant improvements in the number of women involved in all aspects of science, including that which directs where we shall go in the future.
Mr. Fabricant : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the promotion of Megalab on "Tomorrow's World" and BBC Radio 1 is a marvellous initiative to encourage interest in science among young people and children ? Does he further agree that not enough people know about science ? Will he commend the Megalab experiment to hon. Members ?