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Mr. Brooke : I have obviously seen the amendment that my hon. Friend tabled to an early-day motion on that subject. The director general will announce the name of the operator this week, so it would be improper of me to make any hypothetical observations on his announcement.
Mr. Brooke : I enjoyed attending the launch of the "Marshall Plan of the Mind" exhibition in the House, where I had various discussions but of a purely informal nature. The main responsibility for that initiative rests with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.
Mr. Barnes : Why is this crude capitalist propaganda being pushed out in the Russian media with the help of the Government know-how funds, and why does it have charitable status ? Why does not the programme show what life is really like in free market Britain, with 5 million
Column 11unemployed, a third of our children living in poverty, 500,000 people on housing lists and 500,000 building workers out of work ?
Mr. Brooke : The hon. Gentleman misses the point of the programme. The purpose of the "Marshall Plan of the Mind" is to assist the people of Russia to make progress economically over a wide front and in a number of imaginative ways. The BBC has received extremely enthusiastic responses from the Russian audiences that have seen it and, frankly, the hon. Gentleman's question was a disgrace.
Mr. Peter Bottomley : Has not that question at least provided my right hon. Friend with the opportunity to share with the House the true facts about the "Marshall Plan of the Mind" ? Would not it be a good thing if World Service Television and the "Marshall Plan of the Mind" were as successful as World Service on radio ?
Should not we continue to demonstrate the benefits of flexible economics and politics and of dedication to self-improvement which, in many ways, has allowed this country to lead the world in broadcasting, publishing and spreading many of our technical skills ?
Mr. Brooke : I am most grateful to my hon. Friend. The BBC's reputation around the world has been earned because the world knows that the BBC tells of life in this country as it is. I am likewise grateful to my hon. Friend for rebutting the suggestions made by the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes).
Mr. Khabra : Does the Minister recall that I wrote to him and to the Prime Minister to express anxiety about the previous Tory council's decision to sell the town hall, which is a public property used for the benefit of the community ? Will he join me in applauding the new Labour- controlled Ealing council's decision to take it off the market and preserve it for the benefit of the community ? Does he agree that it was the unpopular policies pursued by the then Tory administration in Ealing which led to its losing heavily to the Labour party in the local election ?
Mr. Sproat : The hon. Gentleman's question has nothing to do with me in my capacity as a Minister at the Department of National Heritage but if he believes that the town hall should be listed, I should be glad to receive further evidence from him.
Mr. Sproat : Domestic tourism generated approximately £19.7 billion in 1992 while overseas visitors spent £9.2 billion here in 1993, some 17 per cent. more than in 1992. An all-time record 19.1 million overseas visitors came to
Column 12the United Kingdom in 1993, an increase of 3 per cent. on 1992. There are encouraging signs that 1994 will also be a good year for the industry.
Mr. Arnold : Is not it significant that, despite a world recession, record numbers of tourists are coming to the United Kingdom and that their spending has increased vastly ? Will my hon. Friend comment on the work of the British tourism authorities and the part that they have played, through their offices abroad, in that significant success ?
Mr. Sproat : Yes, I am glad to acknowledge the role played by the British tourism authorities. Their role is extremely important, which is why we have increased their funding at a time of recession and cuts elsewhere. As for visitors, the number coming from north America may have been underestimated ; there may be more than we have accounted for so far.
Sir Ivan Lawrence : Will my right hon. Friend do his best to ensure that, consistent with the requirement of the National Lottery etc. Act, the director of Oflot chooses as the operator of the lottery the company that can guarantee the largest possible return for the arts, sport, heritage and charities ? That is, after all, the reason why the lottery was set up.
Mr. Brooke : I have absolute confidence in the decision that the Director General of Oflot will make and that he will make it in accordance with the wording of the Act to which my hon. and learned Friend has just referred.
Mr. Sproat : I have received an enormous number of representations, both orally and in writing, about the damaging effect of regulations on tourism businesses. Very few of these fall under my Department.
Mrs. Browning : Does my hon. Friend agree that the burden of over- regulation on the tourism industry has been onerous ? Although that problem may not fall directly on his Department, will he please liaise with the necessary Departments of Government so that he can impress on other Ministers exactly how important this industry is, especially to the west country, and how burdens are stopping small businesses, especially in the tourism areas, progressing ?
Mr. Sproat : Yes, I gladly agree with my hon. Friend, especially on tourism in the west country. She plays a major part in helping to draw the attention of the House to its importance. We have discovered more than 90
Column 13regulations that have impacted badly on the tourist industry. We have divided them into seven main sections and I have taken them up individually with the Ministers responsible in other Departments. We are certainly seeing some progress.
29. Mr. Mullin : To ask the Attorney-General if he will make a statement on the decision of the Crown Prosecution Service not to call the former PC Giles as a witness in respect of the prosecution of Malcolm Kennedy.
Mr. Mullin : Does the Attorney-General recall that when the Lord Chief Justice quashed Mr. Kennedy's conviction, he said that all the new evidence should be put before a new jury ? Why, then, did the Crown Prosecution Service go to such lengths to keep the evidence of PC Giles from the jury ? Is the Attorney-General aware that there is a widespread feeling among those who take an interest in those matters that a serious miscarriage of justice has occurred in this case ?
The Attorney-General : The hon. Gentleman should remember that those are matters for the independent courts. The issue was fully canvassed before the court and ruled on by the judge. The defendant's advisers will, no doubt, be considering whether to take the matter further on appeal.
Mr. Jenkin : May I draw my hon. and learned Friend's attention to the excellent working relationship between the Colchester police and the Crown Prosecution Service ? Is not this an example that other forces should follow ?
The Solicitor-General : No visit to the Crown Prosecution Service is complete without a visit to the police administration support unit which serves it. The units ensure that files are properly prepared before the police submit them to the Crown Prosecution Service. When I was in Chelmsford, I found that there was excellent co-operation between administration support units and the CPS, including in the area to which my hon. Friend referred.
Mr. Bermingham : Does the Solicitor-General agree, having visited Colchester, as he visited other offices, that there is a persistent problem in the Crown Prosecution Service--the inconsistency in the decisions on whether to prosecute ? Now that the number of areas has been reduced to 13, a greater consistency in prosecution policy should be achievable.
The Solicitor-General : When I went to Sheffield, I had a long talk with one of the senior Crown prosecutors, who is known to the hon. Gentleman. Like the Crown prosecutors at Chelmsford and Colchester, she made no such complaint.
Mr. Winnick : I note that reply. Would the Attorney-General do his very best to stop the way in which some Government supporters are undoubtedly orchestrating attempts to discredit the Scott inquiry before it reaches its conclusions ? Should not the Scott inquiry be fully supported as it looks into the ways in which, undoubtedly, Parliament was lied to over arms being sent to one of the most criminal regimes ?
Mr. Burns : Is not the best advice that my right and learned hon. Friend can give that people should await the announcement of the results of the Scott inquiry, and then he would not have to put up with silly questions such as that ?
Mr. John Morris : Does the Attorney-General recall his recent answer that the special nature of the certificates signed by the President of the Board of Trade was expressly drawn to Lord Justice Scott's attention ? He said that
"it leapt from the page".--[ Official Report , 25 April 1994 ; Vol. 242, c. 14.]
Is that the best answer that he can give ? Does he still feel that he has carried out his obligation to the President ? Does he recall telling the inquiry that his certificate was "ambiguous" and that it did not reflect clearly the President's view that documents should have been disclosed ? Would not it be better for the Attorney-General to do himself justice and to volunteer to go back to the inquiry ?
"Nobody reading that specially designed certificate who had any understanding of the subject of public interest immunity could fail to realise that it was a special certificate designed to leave the decision on whether the documents should be disclosed to the defence to the judge."-- [ Official Report , 25 April 1994 ; Vol. 242, c. 14.] I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman understands that.
Mr. Maclennan : Did the Attorney-General give the same general advice to both the President of the Board of Trade and the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to their duty on disclosure ? If he did, why do their evidence and their public statements appear to be so contradictory ?
Mr. Steen : I am grateful to the Attorney-General for the full investigations that he has made into the case of Mrs. Chappell, an elderly lady who was knocked over on a pedestrian crossing and who had to wait a year, which was far too long, before the magistrates court finally made a decision. Will he confirm that, although the Crown Prosecution Service was not at fault, there were delays, both in the courts and by the police ? Will he ensure that some investigation is made so that the public have greater confidence in the speed at which justice is carried out and that there is not such incompetence as there was in that case ?
The Attorney-General : The first thing to make clear is that, of course, the Crown Prosecution Service comes into a case only when it is drawn to its attention by the police. In that case, it took the police some time to investigate. However, it also took some time to bring the case on to trial, not least because of a request by the defence for quite a long adjournment.
The Solicitor-General : My right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General last visited offices of the Crown Prosecution Service in the Severn-Thames area, of which Hereford and Worcester is a part, in November of last year and will be visiting another office in the same area next month.
Mr. Luff : During those visits to Crown Prosecution Service offices, has my right hon. and learned Friend had his attention drawn to the fact that discontinuance rates are falling sharply all around the country ? Should not that development be warmly welcomed ?
The Solicitor-General : My hon. Friend is quite right. Not only are discontinuances falling, but case loads are rising. The number of discontinuances fell from about 193,000 in 1992 to 175,000 last year. The number of cases received has risen in the magistrates court for the quarter ending March 1994 by 1.7 per cent. and in the Crown court by 2.4 per cent.
Column 16being satisfactorily dealt with by various authorities ? Is not it time to review all aspects of charging in the light of recent cases ?
The Solicitor-General : My hon. Friend's advice is well given. We have set up a working group, which will be staffed by both police and senior CPS lawyers, to ensure that there is greater consistency of charges in assault cases. If my hon. Friend were to spend 15 minutes behind the desk of the custody suite at his local police station, he would see the circumstances in which the custody officer has to decide what is the appropriate charge in any given case. If, a few weeks later, he were to go to his local branch office of the CPS and see the circumstances in which the same case were reviewed by a lawyer, who will have far more information available to him, he would recognise that it is not surprising that charges sometimes have to be altered. That is not a criticism of either the police or the lawyers who deal with a particular case.
40. Mr. Gunnell : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what funding from his Department was spent on development in Belize in 1993-94 ; and what is planned for the current year.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Mark Lennox-Boyd) : Expenditure for 1993-9was in excess of £5 million and we expect to maintain that level in 1994-95.
Mr. Gunnell : Given the £9 million reduction in defence spending does the Minister feel that there is a case for increasing development aid to Belize ? An increase would allow, as it were, for some of the difficulties that are continuing because of illicit drug trafficking. Would not increasing development in the area strengthen the economy and strengthen the fight against drug trafficking ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : Aid has been increasing modestly over the past few years. From the year before last to last year it was increased. We hope to meet the problems that Belize has by retaining in part, in the defence area, a resident training programme of about 100 men and a substantial aid programme. The aid represents a large sum per head--it is £30 per capita. We are already helping with the Southern highway, and we shall possibly consider giving more aid.
Mr. Matthew Banks : Does my hon. Friend agree that, in the context of Belize and other lesser developed nations, it is quality that counts, not quantity, and that the British overseas aid programme is one of the finest in the world ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : My hon. Friend is right. Our aid programme is one of the finest in the world. It is targeted to the poorest nations and it has proved extremely effective. It has often been commented on by international agencies when comparing one country's aid programme with another.
41. Mr. Gapes : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what criteria are used in determining whether there has been gross human rights abuse in countries in receipt of British aid.
Mr. Gapes : Why is it that China is the fifth country in the list of countries receiving British aid, why is Indonesia the 11th, why has Britain's aid to China increased from £21 million to £35 million last year and why did we spend £21 million on Indonesia ? Given their appalling human rights records--Tiananmen square on the one hand and East Timor on the other--why is it that we give aid and trade provision support to China and Indonesia ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : I know that the hon. Gentleman takes an interest in Chinese affairs and is a member of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs. The views that he expresses are very much out of line with those of the Select Committee, which in its report suggested that it was only right that we should continue to have a relationship with China. The principles of aid have to take into account not only human rights, which the hon. Gentleman has identified, but other factors. China is a large country in which we have a modest programme. It is wiser to be in there discussing matters and making our views known to the Chinese than to be breaking off any relationship with them.
Sir John Stanley : As Rwanda must be one of the countries in which the most gross abuses of human rights are occurring, what steps will the Government now take to take further measures to save life in that country and to alleviate the desperate suffering that is occurring there ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : My right hon. Friend raises the most dreadful and barbaric tragedy in the world at this moment. He will be aware that we have announced emergency relief aid worth £3.3 million in the past few weeks. I have no doubt that further consideration to other assistance will be given in due course.
Mr. Harvey : Should not the human rights records of countries be considered consistently throughout the aid programme ? Given that countries like Kenya and Malawi have, at various points in time, had aid withdrawn, why do large sums continue to be given to Indonesia, particularly given the record of East Timor ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : As I have said, every country must be considered on a case-by-case basis. We make our concerns about human rights very clearly known in Indonesia. However, there are attempts to improve the situation and Indonesia has a terrific record of relieving poverty. The incidence of poverty in 1970 was 60 per cent. and that was reduced to 15 per cent. in 1990. Aid for what is still a relatively poor country, and for what was a very poor country, is being extremely well used.
Mr. Tom Clarke : Does the Minister agree that, despite its history, Uganda's human rights performance has improved immensely ? In view of that, how are the Government going to respond to the President's plea for
Column 18assistance to deal with the problem of the 40,000 or more bodies in Lake Victoria, which are a result of the genocide in Rwanda ? Does not the international community have a responsibility to respond to that plea in the light of the forthcoming catastrophe in public health both in Uganda and in neighbouring countries ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : Most certainly we recognise that terrible aspect of what is already a terrible problem. We are responding to the appeal of President Museveni by giving assistance to the Save the Children Fund, which is working with the Lutheran World Service to clear and to bury the bodies on the north-western shores of Lake Victoria.
Mr. Cash : Will my hon. Friend accept from the Conservative Benches that we, too, are deeply concerned about the situation in Rwanda and about the problems set out by the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) with regard to Lake Victoria ? Will my hon. Friend also consider the fact that one of the reasons why Uganda would have difficulty in providing the necessary resources is that one third of its entire budget goes on paying back interest on debt ? Would not it be sensible to recognise that Uganda has now, with the recent elections, established a degree of stability that should lead us to do everything possible to suspend the debt in Uganda as an example to the rest of Africa ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : My hon. Friend will be aware that Britain was foremost in initiating the Trinidad terms for debt relief and that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, did so in 1990. Twenty-two countries have benefited, 17 in Africa. However, that debt relief is based on criteria which have been carefully worked out to help the poorest nations, not the middle-income nations. Those criteria must apply wherever debt relief is applied. If Uganda comes within those criteria--I cannot at the moment answer my hon. Friend on that point--it will be eligible for consideration by the Paris Club.
42. Mr. Wareing : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had in the European Union Council of Ministers about the levels of overseas aid provided by member countries.
Mr. Wareing : Has the Minister been able to explain to his European counterparts how Britain, alone among European Union countries to have the benefit of revenues from North sea oil over the past decade, spends only 0.30 per cent. of gross national product on overseas aid, which is well below the 0.45 per cent. average of European Community countries ? Can he perhaps take advice from some of his counterparts in the EC about how that position might be improved ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : The important thing for the hon. Gentleman to bear in mind is that in the past eight years our aid volumes have increased by 10 per cent. in real terms, that 80 per cent. of the aid is targeted to the poorest
Column 19countries and that there is a substantial amount of private investment from Britain in the poor world--half of the European Community total of overseas investment, about £1.7 billion worth in 1992, came from Britain.
Mr. Lester : Will my hon. Friend confirm that the British Government play a major part in influencing the spending of the European development fund so that it fulfils the policy that we pursue with our fund, and therefore achieves the most good ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : Yes, my hon. Friend is quite right. We play a leading role in aid co-ordination in the European Community and are great supporters of the Horizon 2000 initiative, which promotes co-ordination at all levels between member states. Several of our leading officials are seconded to the European Community to help the community to determine its aid budget priorities.
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