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Mr. Scott : I certainly agree. As all the countries of Europe and developing countries face pressures on their social security budgets, it is right that we should plan to meet those pressures sooner than many of our neighbours have been able to do, and not be compelled to adopt the short- term, panicky measures to which some of them have been driven.
Column 628security to the leaders of the Mafia and the heads of Mafia organisations ? If it is not, perhaps he would follow their example and so ensure that the leaders of Sinn Fein/IRA, including Mr. Gerard Adams, do not draw income support and thus become entitled to legal aid to challenge Government decisions ?
Mr. Scott : I am not sure that I would like to delve too far into practices in Italy in respect of the Mafia, but I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the remarks made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State earlier in these exchanges, in which he promised to draw a certain gentleman's position to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
Mr. Flynn : How will investment in science be aided by the Government's frantic review of 53 science institutions in 90 days ? Does the Minister agree with Michael Atiyah, the president of the Royal Society, who said that scientific considerations had been totally disregarded in the panic to privatise and that there was no chance of any sensible outcome of the review ? Will the Government's neglect of science mean that British workers become the coolies of the Atlantic rim countries ?
Mr. Waldegrave : The president of the Royal Society did not quite say that. The scrutiny study of the ownership and future of Government research establishments is, like any other scrutiny study, rightly ensuring that we get the best value for money. That must be vital for science, as for anything else.
Mrs. Gillan : Will my right hon. Friend accept the congratulations of the House on the Government's investment in British science week last week, which was so successful, and on retaining the size of the science budget ? Is not the commitment being shown by the Government the very commitment to British science that we require ?
Mr. Waldegrave : My hon. Friend is right. As The Daily Telegraph said today, the £150,000 spent on science week was well invested. On my hon. Friend's second point, Save British Science, a pressure group, agrees that I have kept my promise to protect the science budget last year and next year. We intend to ensure that there is proper investment in the science base.
29. Mr. Alan W. Williams : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what is the budget for the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council for 1994-95 ; and what proportion of this is devoted to CERN.
Column 629announced on 2 February that the allocation for the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council was £184.9 million in 1994-95. In that year, we expect the CERN contribution to be about £56 million. That is some 30 per cent. of that funding.
Mr. Williams : Does the Minister agree that research in particle physics is extremely expensive for relatively low spin-off or industrial application and that, looking to the future, we really must make every effort to persuade the United States and possibly Japan to become involved in the work of CERN ?
director-general of CERN to encourage as many non-member states, including those that the hon. Gentleman mentioned, to join in the funding of the large hadron collider project, which is the biggest and perhaps most important super-physics project of this decade.
Mr. Ian Bruce : What part of the budget is likely to be spent with AEA Technology and the new company that will come out of AEA Technology ? Can my hon. Friend give any good news to my constituents at Winfrith about new projects that they may be able to win in their new privatised stake ?
Mr. Davis : I cannot tell my hon. Friend the exact figures for any contracts about to be won by AEA Technology. One thing I will say, however, is that there is a great deal of spin-off from CERN in practical as well as theoretical science in cryogenics, magnetic science and computers. We do the most possible to ensure that British firms get the best possible slice of that action.
Mr. Wareing : In view of the Chancellor's recent statement about the correctness of the telling of lies by Ministers, will the code of practice be entitled "If You Believe This, You Will Believe Anything" ? May I suggest the provision of guidelines to let people know the sort of questions that may or may not be answered correctly by Ministers--or might a reprint of the Tory party's election manifesto suffice ?
Mr. Jacques Arnold : Will my right hon. Friend have a word about open government with the leader of Tameside borough council who, when asked for an inquiry into the Tameside Enterprises Ltd. scandal involving old people's homes, responded to the seven councillors concerned by suspending the lot of them ?
Mr. Matthew Taylor : The ombudsman's current remit in regard to the code of practice does not include personnel matters. That is understandable in relation to individual cases, but may we have an assurance that, on freedom of information principles, it will cover information relating to any material about the political backgrounds of individuals who may be subject to appointment or approval by Ministers in Departments ?
Mr. Meacher : How can the Government pretend that they support open government when five years ago--as we now know--they allowed three men to go to prison for engaging in illegal arms deals with Iran, rather than reveal that they had fully colluded in those men's activities ? Furthermore, three years later they would have allowed three Matrix Churchill executives to go to prison for engaging in arms deals with Iraq, rather than reveal that they had fully colluded in those activities as well.
As Minister with responsibility for open government, the right hon. Gentleman has said that he believes that it is right, in exceptional circumstances, to lie to Parliament. Does he also think it right--even in exceptional circumstances--to allow innocent men to go to prison to protect a Government cover-up ? If he does not, how can he remain a member of a Government who clearly do ?
Mr. Waldegrave : I now understand why Hugo Young said, in a recent article, that the peak of the hon. Gentleman's career occurred when he was junior Minister for garbage in the last Labour Government. I think that he would be wise at least to read the evidence about public immunity that is being presented to Scott. He will find that public immunity was, quite correctly, claimed on various occasions by Labour Ministers as well.
Mr. Waldegrave : Following the resounding success of the first national science week, which ended yesterday, the Government are already in discussion with the British Association for the Advancement of Science about funding for a second week in 1995.
Mr. Dickens : I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the initiative that produced national science, technology and engineering week, which was a great and unqualified successes. Does he agree that it was brain power that made ours one of the great industrial nations of the world and led to many inventions--radar, television and the jet engine, to mention but a few ? Will he now build on the great success of his initiative by ensuring that he maintains a good budget for science, technology and engineering and makes this country once more a forerunner in the industrial world ?
Column 631than 1 million people took part in events up and down the country. My hon. Friend is right, however ; we need to become better at applying the ideas that we invent, so that we can earn our living by them.
Dr. Fox : I am probably the last person from whom my right hon. Friend would expect to hear the question that I am about to put to him. Will he recognise the impressive contribution that the BBC has made to national science week ? Was not it a pleasant surprise to get up in the morning and see on "Breakfast News" something positive, in terms of science, about Britain, instead of Mr. Witchell's usual niggling questioning ? Would not it be nice if the BBC were to do this on a regular basis ?
Mr. Waldegrave : I congratulate the BBC on its contribution to science week. It has by far the most impressive science unit of all broadcasting organisations in the world. Its commitment to broadcasting on science and engineering is perhaps one example of what happens when a large arts-based organisation is run by an engineer.
Mr. Campbell-Savours : Why have we allowed flat screen television technology to disappear to Japan and other countries in the far east although it was invented in the United Kingdom ? Why did not we, with all the commercial resources that are available to us, develop the technology ? What has the right hon. Gentleman been doing about this ?
Mr. Waldegrave : I sympathise with the hon. Gentleman's frustration. Flat screen television technology was indeed partly, although not wholly, invented here. The objectives of the Technology Foresight exercise and of all our reforms of the research councils are to bring industry and the science base closer together so that such things happen less often.
Mrs. Anne Campbell : Following the publication of the report "The Rising Tide", which is aimed at promoting opportunities for women in science, engineering and technology, can the Secretary of State tell us how he intends to implement the recommendations that it contains ?
Mr. David Davis : The privatised utilities have an enviable record in implementing the principles of the citizens charter. Some of their many achievements include a fall in real prices for domestic customers of 6 per cent. for electricity, 21 per cent. for gas and 35 per cent. for British Telecom. In addition, they have raised many quality initiatives, and they are excellent flag carriers for the citizens charter movement.
Mr. Riddick : I thank my hon. Friend for his first-rate reply. Is he aware that privatisation has not only brought prices down but led to a dramatic improvement in the quality of service to customers ? For example, public
Column 632telephones now work, and it takes five days to have a telephone installed in one's home, instead of the six months of the bad old nationalised days. Is not it the case that privatisation has been a massive winner, not only for the Government but for consumers ?
Mr. Davis : My hon. Friend is entirely right. He has long been an advocate of privatisation, freedom and competition in the interests of the consumer. The competition, quality and charter initiatives are all Government policies in which these are used to the full.
Mr. Enright : I thank the Chancellor for his letter of apology for telling me an untruth the last time he was at the Dispatch Box. I should like to pursue the matter, which concerns Yorkshire Water. Why on earth was Diane Scott sacked from the chair of Ofwat in Yorkshire--the only person to be sacked--with no justification whatsoever ? Three people resigned from Ofwat in protest. Is not that scandalous, and does it not deserve whatever is the opposite of a citizens chartermark ?
Mr. Davis : Frankly, that is a matter for the director-general of Ofwat. The activities of the regulator have worked very much in the public interest in the past decade. At this point, I cannot comment on the activities of an individual chairman.
Mr. Mans : In relation to the citizens charter initiative, will my hon. Friend take particular note of NORWEB, which has cut its electricity prices to such an extent that, despite the imposition of VAT, pensioners in my constituency of Wyre will pay less for electricity this year than they paid last year ?
Mr. Davis : I am happy to commend the activities of NORWEB, which is not alone in this matter. In fact, most electricity boards have done the same and it is reflected in the fact that gas and electricity disconnections have been more than halved and are now at the lowest level ever. That is also a reflection of the charter initiative in the utilities.
Mr. Garrett : Surely the most obvious response of privatised industries has been to increase prices, boost their directors' salaries and fire their workers ? Why does not the citizens charter apply to citizens who are employees ?
Mr. Davis : I wonder where the hon. Gentleman has been for the past five minutes while I have been telling the House about the reduction in prices in most of the privatised utilities. He clearly has no idea what he is talking about.
33. Mr. Alan Howarth : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will make an annual report to Parliament on the operation of the code of practice on Government information due to come into operation on 4 April.
Mr. Howarth : Does my right hon. Friend accept that his reply will be extensively welcomed, but is he yet in a position to say what the scope of his report will be ? Will it, for example, include an account of the progress of the revised security classification system announced last week
Column 633and the extent of his success in ensuring that only those documents are restricted that genuinely need to be so classified ?
Mr. Waldegrave : I had thought that the essential report would be one that gave an account of requests under the code, applications to the ombudsman and so on, but I will consider with care why my hon. Friend said.
Mr. Gunnell : Does that mean that on 4 April the permanent secretaries' handbook will be placed in the Library so that hon. Members can read the advice given to the permanent secretaries on their behaviour ? Can the right hon. Gentleman assure us that the whole of the permanent secretaries' handbook has been passed to Lord Justice Scott for his consideration ?
Mr. Waldegrave : All the papers for which Sir Richard Scott has asked have been passed to him. The code of practice, which comes into play on 4 April, will mean a major freeing of public information. The Campaign for Freedom of Information which, of course, wants to go further, described the new role for the ombudsman as "a valuable step forward".
Mr. Coombs : I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the fact that the timetable for the reorganisation of the research councils set out in the White Paper last summer has been met. Are not congratulations also due to the staff of the research councils in my constituency who are enabling that to happen ? Does my right hon. Friend agree that, as a result of the reorganisation of the structure of the research councils, the opportunity is now offered for encouragement and for a boost to industrial competitiveness through the work of the research councils in helping industry ?
Mr. Waldegrave : I agree with my hon. Friend and join him in paying warm tribute to the staff of the research councils who have enabled the timetable to be met and especially, although not only, to the staff of the former Science and Engineering Research Council out of which two completely new research councils have been formed. I believe that the policy and intention set out in the White Paper will now be achieved for the good of the country.
Column 634laboratories were taken from them and grouped under a civil research agency, which would remove them from application and from the science base ?
Mr. Waldegrave : As the hon. Gentleman knows very well, there is a wide range of different research establishments and research stations belonging either to Departments or to research councils. From time to time, it is right to examine them across the board to ascertain the best form of ownership for them, but nothing will be done to damage the long-term commitment of the research councils to basic science.
Mr. David Shaw : Will my right hon. Friend comment on the fact that it is often believed that there is far too much pure research in this country and not enough emphasis on getting research products into the marketplace ? What is being done to enable British products to be marketed around the world ?
Mr. Waldegrave : It is essential to maintain Britain's contribution to basic science, but in the area of generic and strategic research where applications are in mind, my hon. Friend is entirely right ; we should bring our academic base closer to industry. That is the whole purpose of the White Paper policy.
Mr. Barnes : Is not the east midlands pilot scheme, charterline, costly and unused ? It costs £400 to deal with a call, partly because only 10 calls are dealt with every four hours. Would not it be better if the resources were made available to the local authorities in the area, such as the North East Derbyshire council, where few phone calls are made to the charterline, which is 275th out of 295 councils in terms of resources per head made available by the Government ? Is not it time to scrap that experiment ?
Mr. Davis : The hon. Gentleman got one thing right in that little speech--it was an experiment or a pilot scheme. However, what he got wrong was that he added all the start-up costs to get the number that he reached. If I were in charge of the allocation of money to local authorities, I certainly would not give any more money to Derbyshire county council, which, at the previous count, according to the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, was owed £34 million in uncollected community charge. The interest on that alone would more than pay for charterline.
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