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Column 11aware that the Lib-Lab pact in Essex county council has recently suspended all design work on those two important schemes ? Is not that shameful ?
Mr. Key : I am surprised in one sense because I know that the A130 was a contender for transport supplementary grant. That means that it will not be available later. On the other hand, I am not surprised because I happen to have two newspaper headlines from different ends of the country, one of which refers to the Liberals describing a bypass as an "environmental obscenity" and the other which states : "Liberals back call for a motorway."
There we are.
Sir Fergus Montgomery : Does my hon. Friend agree that Manchester airport has been a great success story ? Does he further agree that perhaps if Manchester airport were privatised, it would be an even greater success story ?
Mr. Norris : I am delighted to see my hon. Friend here this afternoon and I confirm that I agreed with absolutely every word he said. There is a benefit there measured literally in hundreds of millions of pounds available to the hard-pressed charge payers in Manchester.
Mr. Pike : Does the Minister accept that the reality with Manchester airport is that the local authorities in the area have been prepared to invest in that airport over many years ? There is no information, or anything else, to show that that success will not best continue in the public sector. In view of that, would not privatisation be absolute nonsense ?
Mr. Norris : One has only to look at the success of the British Airports Authority to see how wrong is the hon. Gentleman. However well Manchester airport is doing in the public sector, it will do a damn sight better for all concerned in the private sector.
Mr. Norris : It is a general proposition that private operators are better at operating companies such as Manchester airport than local authorities, which are sensibly constituted for a different purpose. On that basis, my hon. Friend is entirely right. The great thing is that it would be very much in the interests of the people of the region not only that the airport flourishes but that the proceeds are devoted more appropriately to the many pressing needs in that area.
Mr. Gunnell : Is not it the height of hypocrisy for Tory Members, including the Prime Minister, last week to slag off Manchester city council because of its capital debt and then to take measures to get rid of one of the council's major assets, which has achieved its quality because of the superb work done in Manchester ? Why do not the
Column 12Government end the hypocrisy and show that they are willing to pay tribute to local authority enterprise, which has given us the positive airport in Manchester that exists there ?
Mr. Norris : I shall quietly tell the hon. Gentleman later what the link is between slagging off Manchester for its large public debt and the sale of an asset that could reduce that debt. I should have thought that that was obvious to most people. Certainly, in this case, if the council were serious about running its financial affairs prudently, it would welcome and, indeed, promote the sale of Manchester airport as a valuable asset.
Mr. Robinson : Once again, my right hon. Friend is talking about getting more passengers back on to the track. Will he join me in condemning the scare stories that are being put about, especially by the Liberal Democrats in towns such as Frome and Bruton, that stations are to close on 1 April, when we have improved the procedures and made it more difficult to close stations ?
Mr. Freeman : I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. The Liberal Democrats in the south-west of England are deliberately engendering fears in the minds of passengers by forecasting station closures that will not happen.
Mr. Olner : In these days of increased competition, is the Minister aware of the disastrous route on the west coast main line ? Today, literally thousands of passengers from early in the morning until early this afternoon have been delayed, yet again, by signalling problems ? How does he think competition will assist that line without the Government putting money into the infrastructure ?
Mr. Freeman : We confidently expect resignalling work on the west coast main line, to be done by a consortium of private sector companies, to begin next summer, and that the work will be done faster than the public sector would have been able to do it.
Mr. Robertson : In view of the substantial liberalisation package that the United Kingdom has tabled, which includes the opening of all regional airports including Aberdeen in the north-east of Scotland, is not it totally unreasonable for the United States Government, who purport to support liberalisation, to refuse further to negotiate in order to achieve it ?
Mr. MacGregor : I agree with my hon. Friend that we tabled proposals that took liberalisation substantially further than anything that we had previously offered. He is right to draw attention to the fact that we proposed immediately completely to open up regional airports everywhere, and also offered further improvements at Heathrow and Gatwick. I greatly regretted that the United States called off the talks. I have been trying to get them going again. Now that the United States has given the 12-months continuation of the BA-USAir code sharing, I hope that we can take up the cudgels and try to reach agreement.
Mr. Freeman : The Government's plans for transferring British Rail Maintenance Ltd. to the private sector offer the best prospects for the future of the Eastleigh depot. A privately owned company will be free to bid for railway rolling stock maintenance throughout the railway industry and for other business.
Mr. Denham : Is not the Minister aware that yet another 180 jobs were lost at BRML in Eastleigh last week and that many jobs at BRML could be secured if work that has been done there in the past continued to be allocated to Eastleigh ? Does he accept that he has never given any instructions to the British Rail board to maximise the work that is being done at Eastleigh depot ? Are not those workers, that community and my constituents suffering from the Government's dogma, which insists on pushing work out to other companies rather than continuing to be done at BRML ?
Mr. Freeman : It would be highly improper for the Government to issue instructions to British Rail to place contracts anywhere. That is what the Opposition would do, and look at the problems that they faced in the 1970s.
I invite the hon. Gentleman to agree that the reason for the reduced work load at Eastleigh and at other BRML depots is that modern technology in building railway rolling stock means that less heavy maintenance is needed halfway through their lives. Why does not the hon. Gentleman adopt a positive rather than negative attitude to the future of the Eastleigh depot ?
The Attorney-General (Sir Nicholas Lyell) : No record has been kept of the number of public interest immunity certificates signed by a Law Officer over the last 10 years. Any certificate would have been specifically drafted for the particular case.
Column 14and say that they had no discretion but to sign what was put in front of them while other Ministers are allowed to write their own certificates ? Surely that is an abuse of power which the Attorney-General has failed to bring to heel. Does not the evidence that has been published and put before the Scott inquiry this morning condemn the right hon. and learned Gentleman for negligence in that respect ?
The Attorney-General : I do not think that any one of the points made by the hon. Gentleman on the subject is correct. I am to give evidence to the Scott inquiry on Thursday and I look forward to doing so.
Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman : Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that the purpose of public interest immunity certificates is simply to put the facts before the judge and that it is for the judge to decide whether those should be disclosed to the defence ?
Mr. Fraser : Can the Attorney-General say whether the President of the Board of Trade was correct when he said that the attention of the judge and the defence would be drawn to his specially abbreviated form of public interest immunity certificate ?
The Solicitor-General (Sir Derek Spencer) : When the Crown Prosecution Service is deciding whether to continue proceedings the interests of the victim are an important factor in determining the balance of the public interest.
Mr. Coombs : My hon. and learned Friend will be well aware of the strong public feeling on the recent Roberts case in Plymouth. Is he absolutely satisfied that the interests of the families of people such as Jonathan Roberts are sufficiently taken into consideration by the judicial system ?
The Solicitor-General : My right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General has already called for the papers in that case and in another case in which the same judge sentenced the following day. My right hon. and learned Friend will receive advice from Treasury Counsel and will then make up his mind whether the sentences were unduly lenient. If he comes to that conclusion, he will refer the cases to the Court of Appeal for review.
Column 15learned Friend the Attorney-General refers sentences to it as unduly lenient. It also does that in other appropriate circumstances, as it sees fit.
Mr. Nicholls : Is not it a fact that even where a tariff exists, the judge still has the ultimate responsibility to set a sentence between the minimum and maximum prescribed by law ? Ultimately, it is his job to make that decision and to stand by it.
The Solicitor-General : The judiciary is independent of political influence. Anyone who has had any experience as a judge in court knows that sentencing requires sense and sensibility. It is one thing to sentence as a paper exercise and another to do it when one can see the whites of the defendant's eyes.
Mr. Maclennan : Is the Solicitor-General aware of the concern throughout Britain about the rarity of the preferring of charges of manslaughter where death has been caused by careless or dangerous driving ? Will he look into the exceptional circumstances that are deemed to be necessary to bring such charges ? Will he have some discussion about the matter with the Crown Prosecution Service ?
The Solicitor-General : The hon. Gentleman is a little behind the times. Recently, we increased the maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving and other similar offences from five to 10 years. In any event, in the case of Seymour, a House of Lords decision made plain what are the appropriate circumstances for preferring a charge of manslaughter.
The Solicitor-General : The Crown Prosecution Service takes into account the considerations and exceptions to bail set out in the Bail Act 1976 and any other relevant information available to it, including material from the police, the probation service and other sources.
Mr. Ainsworth : Is my hon. and learned Friend aware of the widespread public concern about the number of people who re-offend while out on bail ? Is not that a dangerous loophole, which law-abiding people throughout Britain have a right to see closed as soon as possible ?
The Solicitor-General : It is, and we are closing it. The first measure that we have taken is already on the statute book. The Bail (Amendment) Act 1993, which is the responsibility of my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham (Mr. Stephen), will give the prosecution the right of appeal against the decision of a magistrates court to grant bail. Also, two provisions in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill, if enacted, will remove the presumption of bail for defendants charged with indictable and either-way offences and refuse bail in cases of persons charged with homicide or rape, if they have previously been convicted of either offence.
The Attorney-General : Public interest immunity certificates are one of the subjects under investigation by Lord Justice Scott. The Government will give careful consideration to any conclusions and recommendations in his report.
Mr. Skinner : Does the Attorney-General realise that in asking the House to believe what he told my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) earlier--that the Department has not kept records of the number of people who signed the certificates in the past 10 years-- he must be guilty of either a cover-up or incompetence ? When the President of the Board of Trade refused to sign the certificate, did not it cross the Attorney-General's mind that he should have told those people who were heading for the court that it was wrong for them to be sent to gaol when he was bending the law on their behalf ?
Mr. Peter Bottomley : Will my right hon. and learned Friend turn his mind to the best guidance on the use of public interest immunity certificates, which is contained in footnotes in a law book in print so small that most people commenting on that, whether in the House or in the press, have not been able to read it ? Will he consider whether an enlarged version of what is in the law book could be made available to everyone ?
The Attorney-General : My hon. Friend is right that the footnotes to the "Supreme Court Practice" are in print suitable for a prayer book. An enlarging photocopier might be of considerable assistance.
The Attorney-General : The Metropolitan police war crimes unit is still actively pursuing its inquiries under the War Crimes Act 1991. Those inquiries are not yet complete and the question of a possible prosecution or prosecutions cannot be considered until they are concluded.
Mr. Townsend : Does my right hon. and learned Friend recall that when that legislation came before the House, many Conservative Members voted against it, including Cabinet Ministers ? Does he appreciate that it is costing millions of pounds ? About 10 detectives are being employed pursuing it, and would not they be much better employed seeking serious villains in Greater London ?
39. Sir David Knox : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress has been made by the Overseas Development Administration since 1991 in implementing its population initiative.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Mark Lennox-Boyd) : Forty-five new bilateral projects have now been funded, involving commitments of £37.5 million. A further £54.6 million of additional multilateral aid has been committed.
Sir David Knox : I congratulate my hon. Friend on the progress that has been made. What steps are being taken to encourage other countries, especially those in the European Union, to give further assistance to population initiatives ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : Yes, we promote population initiatives wherever we can. We must press the idea more on the European Community. The ODA helped to plan and present a population seminar in Brussels on 28 February, which was attended by a large number of senior EC officials. We are also helping the Commission to plan new programmes in Egypt and in Kenya.
42. Sir Michael Neubert : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what changes he proposes to the criteria for the choice of countries to receive overseas aid from the United Kingdom.
Sir Michael Neubert : Is not Dr. Mahathir's letter to the Financial Times confirmation of the damage done by the persistently negative character of our media, aided and abetted by Her Majesty's official Opposition, who are, with cavalier disregard, prepared to put, in the one case, proprietorial profit and, in the other, partisan political advantage, ahead of British people's jobs ? Will my hon. Friend make it clear that the money for the Pergau dam was in the form of a loan, that that loan, with a British project, would have gone towards paying a British company and that, in the world we live in, such assistance makes every kind of sense ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : I can confirm that it was in the form of a loan on concessional terms. Of course we are proud of the fact that we have a free press in Britain, but I have to agree with my hon. Friend that some newspapers have written nonsense and made some serious inaccuracies. As for the role of the Opposition in that, I can conclude only that they somehow seem to believe that there is good politics in destroying British jobs.
Sir David Steel : Will the Minister consider the example of the Governments of Japan, of the Netherlands, of Denmark and of other countries, all of whom make the spending of the recipient country on military matters one of the criteria for deciding their aid budget ? If they decide that Indonesia is rich enough to spend vast sums on armaments, why do we alone decide that it should receive large quantities of aid ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : The right hon. Gentleman is wrong to allege that Indonesia is spending such a high percentage of its gross domestic product on armaments. It is spending less than 2 per cent. of its gross domestic product on armaments. Indonesia is a fine example of a country with a sound record of economic management. In 1970, about 60 per cent. of the population was living below the poverty line ; by 1990, only 15 per cent. were. When we speak about what other countries are doing, I should like the right hon. Gentleman to bear in mind the fact that 5 per cent. of the British aid budget is for aid and trade provision projects such as Pergau, compared with the 14 per cent. of the German aid budget and the 28 per cent. of the Austrian aid budget spent in that way.
Mr. Wells : Will my hon. Friend include in the criteria that he is developing countries whose economies have been ruined by policies pursued by the European Community--for example, the banana protocol and banana GATT arrangements, which will undoubtedly undermine the Caribbean banana industry ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : We shall consider in any part of the world countries with the right criteria--those with a per capita income of less than $700 a year--for ATP projects that would benefit the country, the aid programme, British industry and British jobs.
Mr. Tom Clarke : Does the Minister accept that the Opposition will always support projects that are developmentally sound ? If so, I trust that he will dismiss the views of Sir Timothy Lankester, which have been disowned by the hon. Member for Romford (Sir M. Neubert). On the allocation of limited aid funds, does the Minister accept that some countries are absolutely crippled by debt ? For instance, a third of Uganda's revenue is being used to service debt at the expense of health, education, pure water and other important needs. Will he therefore encourage the International Monetary Fund and the World bank to take a more reasonable view of those appalling problems than that taken by some Conservative Members ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : I am glad that the hon. Gentleman supports the ATP programme, because it was invented by the last Labour Government. I am glad to say that the Pergau project will be worth 29,000 man years for British workers and that 110 British subcontractors and suppliers will gain business from it. The hon. Gentleman knows that Britain has led the way in debt relief. In 1990, we launched the Trinidad terms--18 countries, 13 of which are in Africa, have benefited so far from that--and we have relieved developing countries of more than £1 billion of the aid debt burden.
43. Mr. Deva : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps the Overseas Development Administration takes to ensure that all aid projects are assessed for their environmental sustainability.
Column 19countries will be further strengthened by the recent signing of the global environmental facility ? Will he elaborate on how that might help ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : Yes. Following the recent negotiations in Geneva, I am delighted to report that the GEF was successfully restructured and replenished. Britain pledged £89.5 million worth of support. The global environmental facility will help to alleviate global environmental threats. The agreement must be good news for the implementation of the climate change and biodiversity conventions.
Mr. Campbell-Savours : When the Pergau dam proposal was first put to the ODA, did not it fail the appraisal procedure to which the Minister referred ? On the so-called "loan" given to the Malaysians, who is paying the difference between the rate at which the Malaysians received the money and the cost of borrowing the money in the United Kingdom ? Is not the difference paid by British taxpayers ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : The hon. Gentleman is wrong. The environmental and social impacts of the Pergau project are negligible compared with other dam schemes. The review of environmental information concluded that there were no environmental issues that would prejudice funding. The project has incurred minimal adverse impact on primary rain forest and rare wildlife species. Obviously, taxpayers, through the aid budget, fund the concessional nature of the loan.
Mr. Jacques Arnold : Are not the various projects funded by Britain in the tropical rain forests in Brazil precise examples of the fact that our aid programme is devoted to environmental sustainability ?
Column 20impact. The ODA has an environmental appraisal manual, which was first published in 1989. Some 1,800 copies have been distributed, all staff are trained in using the manual and training is on-going.
Ms Eagle : Given that it is now clear that the ODA contribution to the Pergau dam project has been used to facilitate the accumulation of massive profits from privatisation for a few rich Malaysian individuals, will the Minister consider asking the Malaysian Government whether they believe that overseas aid is being abused ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : Some £4 billion worth of British exports have been assisted by the aid and trade provision. I have set out the benefits that have derived from the Pergau contract. Ministers have nothing whatsoever to be ashamed of.
Mr. John Marshall : Is my hon. Friend aware that most people are amazed at the Opposition's campaign against a project that has resulted in the trebling of British exports to Malaysia and that they regard the campaign against the project as stupid and inane ? The campaign is putting at risk tens of thousands of jobs in this country. The Opposition should, instead, be commending the Government for helping British industry.
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