Previous Section Home Page

Sir Wyn Roberts : I suggest that the hon. Gentleman stops ranting at me and starts hectoring his own Labour council, because Clwyd has managed a real-terms cut this


Column 546

year, when Welsh local education authorities as a whole have managed an increase. It grieves me, as it should grieve the hon. Gentleman, that his Labour friends on the council are acting out of political pique--it seems--against school children.

European Union --

14. Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what new proposals he has to strengthen links between Wales and the European Union.

Mr. Redwood : Links have recently been strengthened by Wales's achievement of one extra Member of the European Parliament--although we trust that that Member will give proper representation to the interests of Wales--and, of course, by the development of the Committee of the Regions. The main way in which Wales is looked after is through strong representation in the Council of Ministers similar to the strength of representation that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister showed at the recent summit.

Mr. Flynn : I thank the Secretary of State for Wales for campaigning in the European and local elections in my constituency and congratulate him on his campaign. It helped us to achieve the best results that the Labour party has had this century. Can he tell us why one vote in 12 is a veto in the European Council, but when 86 per cent. of the votes in Wales are against the Government, we still have no voice to stop Tory legislation in Wales ?

Mr. Redwood : In order to modify Conservative legislation, Opposition Members need to get a majority in this House of Commons. I look forward to the match in the next general election, when I am sure that we shall reaffirm our majority for the United Kingdom as a whole.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL --

Racial Hatred Prosecutions --

20. Mr. Gapes : To ask the Attorney-General how many prosecutions there have been for incitement to racial hatred in each year since 1979 ; and how many cases were referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions each year.

The Attorney-General (Sir Nicholas Lyell) : Since 1979, 79 defendants have been prosecuted for offences concerning incitement to racial hatred. I am placing a breakdown by year in the Library. Records of cases by reference to possible offences are not maintained.

Mr. Gapes : In view of the serious increase in the anti-Semitic and racist material being circulated in Britain and the increase in material being put out by neo-Nazi groups and an extremist group called Hizb ut Tahrir, which has been operating in my constituency, is not it about time that serious consideration was given to taking up the views of the Home Affairs Select Committee about strengthening and enforcing the law against all those who incite racial hatred ?

The Attorney-General : I entirely understand and share the hon. Gentleman's concern. I have had constructive meetings recently with the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the all-party committee on race and community, both of which centred on the aspects to which the hon. Gentleman refers. I have to make it clear, and it is worth


Column 547

the whole country bearing it in mind, that the groups which disseminate this disgraceful material can be extremely cunning. Every effort that can be made by the public, the hon. Gentleman and anyone else to bring to the attention of the police the necessary material to find the perpetrators should be made.

I should add one thing. In relation to some of the other material, I draw attention to the recent amendment in the Criminal Justice Bill to add a section beyond section 4 of the Public Order Act 1986 to introduce a new offence of causing intentional harassment, alarm and distress.

Sir Ivan Lawrence : Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware not only that the racial minority groups in Britain do not feel that the law adequately protects them against the evil of racism but that, five years ago, a report of the Home Affairs Select Committee recommended that the Crown Prosecution Service should monitor the outcome of all racial incidents cases but it has so far failed to do so ? The Home Affairs Select Committee has again recommended that that action be taken. Will my right hon. and learned Friend consider that recommendation more positively this time than his predecessor did last time ?

The Attorney-General : I will certainly take up the point that my hon. and learned Friend makes. He will be glad to know that it is already being taken up by the Director of Public Prosecutions. Two steps are in hand. The first is that in Greater London, where many of the problems occur, awareness training is beginning for 300 members of the Crown Prosecution Service. Secondly, a working group is examining precisely the point that my hon. and learned Friend makes about monitoring, with a view to constructive action in the near future.

Mr. Alex Carlile : Does the Attorney-General agree that where successful prosecutions are brought, the sentence should be more reflective of the hurt caused than of the oddity and eccentricity of the causer ?

The Attorney-General : Without commenting on individual sentences, let me say that I well recognise the force of the hon. and learned Gentleman's point, and I am sure that it will be widely recognised in the relevant quarters.

Crown Prosecution Service --

21. Mr. Barnes : To ask the Attorney-General if he will make a statement on the work of the Crown Prosecution Service.

The Solicitor-General (Sir Derek Spencer) : The Crown Prosecution Service dealt with 1,454,239 cases in the magistrates court and 114, 521 cases in the Crown court in the past year, and is responsible for conducting prosecutions fairly, effectively and efficiently.

Mr. Barnes : The Crown Prosecution Service has issued a document in support of the victims of crime and is seeking to assist them according to its policy statement. How can the Crown Prosecution Service do that when, in many of the cases referred to it by the police--including cases of racial harassment, which we have heard about--it decides that there will be no prosecution ? Is not there a requirement that there should be more effective


Column 548

prosecution by the Crown Prosecution Service so that victims can begin to be in a position where assistance can be given to them ?

The Solicitor-General : The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that the criteria that the Crown Prosecution Service applies in deciding whether to bring cases are clearly set out in the revised code, and I hope that the effect of the clarified criteria will lead to more prosecutions. In fact, the discontinuance rate, to which he referred, has fallen in the past year from 13.5 to 12.9 per cent. in the magistrates court and from 8.1 to 7.6 per cent. in the Crown court, so things are not quite as gloomy as the hon. Gentleman would have us believe.

Mr. Brandreth : I welcome the publication of the revised code of practice for Crown prosecutors, written as it is in good plain English. Can my hon. and learned Friend use this opportunity to praise the work of the CPS in Chester, especially its current priority of improved working relations with the police ?

The Solicitor-General : I willingly do that. As well as being written in plain English, the code is written in plain Welsh.

Mr. John Morris : I welcome, with pleasure, the annual report of the Director of Public Prosecutions. Does the Solicitor-General agree with her view that the new code

"may have the effect of bringing more criminals to trial" ? Will he keep well in mind the disquiet expressed last autumn that, while the Home Secretary was presiding over an ever-rising crime wave, there were dozens of empty courts, especially in the Crown courts, because of the failure to prosecute ? Can we be assured that the CPS will no longer lay itself open to be accused of pursuing fewer serious charges than justified, despite the dismay recently expressed by a senior judge at Snaresbrook Crown court ?

The Solicitor-General : The facts do not justify that complaint. If one analyses the more serious cases that are dealt with in the Crown courts, one sees that the indictable-only cases component--that is what the right hon. and learned Gentleman and I, in the trade, call heavy cases--has gone up from 18 per cent. of completed cases in 1991-92 to 21 per cent. in the past year.

Sir Anthony Grant : Was the recent prosecution of PC Guscott launched by the Crown Prosecution Service or by the police ? Whoever actually launched it, can my hon. and learned Friend tell the blithering idiots that they should have a little bit of common sense and that any such prosecutions in the future will be intolerable ?

The Solicitor-General : The police referred the file to the Crown Prosecution Service which, applying the criteria which applies to all cases, decided that it was a proper case to prosecute. Let me emphasise that, in this country, prosecutions are taken without reference to any political pressure or any hue and cry that might result after the case is brought. Police Constable Guscott struck the young man in hot blood. He recognised that. He pleaded guilty when the charge was put to him.

Serious Fraud Office --

23. Mr. Bayley : To ask the Attorney-General if he will make a statement about the work of the Serious Fraud Office.


Column 549

The Attorney-General : The Serious Fraud Office is currently working on the investigation and prosecution of 51 cases of serious and/or complex fraud.

Mr. Bayley : Does the Attorney-General support the proposal, which is being canvassed widely at the moment, that many serious frauds should in future be dealt with not by criminal proceedings but by City regulatory bodies ? Has he looked at the most recent report from the SFO to this House, which shows that the average amount of money involved in the 48 cases under consideration when the report was presented to us is in excess of £100 million ? If the courts are to be less used in future, at what level of money will a fraud be regarded as serious enough to press criminal proceedings in a court of law ?

The Attorney-General : The cases that come before the SFO are, by and large, very big, heavy and complex cases. I agree that the SFO should consider carefully with the regulators whether there is a case for certain of the cases that it is considering prosecuting being dealt with by regulators. Where there is substantial plundering of public or private moneys by the alleged offenders, that is a proper case for prosecution in a court of law.

OVERSEAS DEVELOPMENT --

Malawi --

29. Mr. Spring : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assistance the ODA is providing to the newly elected democratic Government in Malawi.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Mark Lennox-Boyd) : We are increasing our aid to Malawi to help the new Government to pursue their economic and political reform programmes and to mitigate the effects of poor rains.

Mr. Spring : Given the attention that has recently been paid to the arrival of another democracy in Africa, will my hon. Friend join me in welcoming the establishment of democratic government in Malawi ? What discussions have taken place with President Muluzi about furthering relationships between the United Kingdom and Malawi ?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd : I am happy to endorse my hon. Friend's words. The new president was in Britain recently and met my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and other Ministers. We wish to encourage the new Government, and this year we are increasing substantially our bilateral aid --of which we are the largest donor--to some £30 million.

Mrs. Dunwoody : The Minister will be aware that awards given to Malawi in the past for medical help are being altered substantially. Will he undertake to look closely at the way in which overseas aid is granted ? The fact that the people of Malawi were so determined to vote in their general election, and that it was such a fair and free election, is to their enormous credit and we must do everything that we can to help them.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd : I know of the hon. Lady's great interest in health matters in Malawi and her specialist knowledge of them. As she knows, we are making changes,


Column 550

with the aim of giving more emphasis to primary health care in rural areas, and we will be developing plans to do just that.

Sir David Steel : May I press the Minister to do more than simply welcome the election of the democratic Government in Malawi under President Muluzi ? When will the British Government restore fully the cuts made on human rights grounds during the time of Dr. Banda ?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd : We have substantially increased our aid this year and I understand that it is as high as it has ever been, if not higher. That is as a result of the recognition that we should help that country, which, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, we encouraged to hold elections. I think that we have honoured what he pressing me on.

Gaza and Jericho --

30. Mr. Janner : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what he proposes to allocate for aid in Gaza and Jericho in the current year.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Douglas Hurd) : We expect to provide £70 million over the three financial years from 1994-95 in help to the Palestinians and support for the middle east peace process. That includes our share of the European programme of help to the west bank and Gaza, our contribution to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East and our own bilateral technical co-operation programme. My figure includes help to the rest of the west bank and to Palestinian refugees generally, as well as to Gaza and Jericho.

Mr. Janner : The right hon. Gentleman understands the importance of the Palestine Liberation Organisation succeeding in managing the economies of both Gaza and Jericho. May I thank the Government for what they have done so far in increasing aid, but ask that much more be done to ensure that that management proves highly successful in the future, because if it does not, there will be trouble for all ?

Mr. Hurd : The hon. and learned Gentleman is entirely right. The administration of the Gaza strip and Jericho is not easy by any standards. We had begun by thinking that we would not give help for recurrent costs, but we are now doing so, in response to arguments from persons such as the hon. and learned Gentleman.

Mr. John Marshall : Does my right hon. Friend accept that if the Palestinian people's expectations that their living standards will rise are not fulfilled there is a danger that Muslim fundamentalists will increase their sway in that part of the world ? Will he therefore press the European Union not only to give aid but to trade on an increasing scale with Gaza and Jericho ?

Mr. Hurd : Immediate aid has been given, about which I have just given some account. Training programmes are also offered. For example, we are helping to train senior Palestinian police officers at Bramshill. Trade is also taking place, as my hon. Friend mentioned. It is also important that the Palestinian leadership should be seen to assert its control in the area and I hope that it will not be too long before Mr. Arafat returns Jericho.


Column 551

Cambodia --

31. Mr. Mullin : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what contribution the United Kingdom is making to the clearance of mines in Cambodia ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Hurd : Since October 1991, we have contributed more than £1.7 million.

Mr. Mullin : Does the Foreign Secretary agree that we should undertake to make a long-term commitment to mine clearance in Cambodia ? Does he also agree that, having once invested a considerable sum in undermining the Government of Cambodia, we should spend as least as much on aiding their survival in the wake of democratic elections ?

Mr. Hurd : I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's premise. We join in offering substantial help to the new Cambodia. In June 1992, we pledged $30 million at the Tokyo conference. Of that, $24 million has been committed to specific activities and $14 million actually spent. We are clearly and rightly involved.

Mr. Lester : Will my right hon. Friend confirm that none of the mines laid in Cambodia were supplied from Britain but all came from other countries ? Does he agree that the money and resources that we have devoted towards clearing them is greater than that given by the majority of other countries, because it is designed to try to give the Cambodian Government the facility to deal with the difficult problem ?

Mr. Hurd : Yes. The second point is correct and I believe that the first one is also.

Mr. Tom Clarke : Does the Secretary of State accept that land mines are a major obstacle to development in Cambodia and many other countries ? Is he aware that one doctor working in Cambodia has said that land mines are being cleared an arm and a leg at a time ? Does he accept that 10 times as many civilians as soldiers are killed by land mines and that the only solution is a complete ban on the export of anti-personnel mines ?

Mr. Hurd : We supported last year's motion at the United Nations for a moratorium on land mine exports. There is a lot of confusion about the matter. We believe that there is still a legitimate role for land mines-- for example, in protecting an RAF airfield. We believe, however, that there should be clear rules on their use, on how they should be placed and on what safeguards should be applied. Those rules are contained in the UN weaponry convention. We have now decided to ratify the additional protocols attached to the Geneva conventions and we hope that the whole process for this country will be completed by the end of this year.


Column 552

Aid Programmes --

32. Mr. Fabricant : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to target aid by ring fencing donations for specific aid programmes.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd : Our bilateral aid is carefully planned to meet recipients' priority development needs. We monitor all stages of implementation to ensure that our contributions are used as planned and not diverted to other purposes.

Mr. Fabricant : I am relieved to hear that answer. My hon. Friend will know that I fully support the know-how and other funds given to the former Soviet Union, but does he accept that the Russian Federation is still involved in programmes such as the

biopreparat--chemical warfare--programme ? Therefore, is not it important that we ensure that the money is directed to where it is intended ?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd : Aid diversion is a problem in all aid programmes and ODA officials are fully aware of that. We are not deeply concerned about diversion of our aid because we have procedures to prevent any damage of that kind.

AIDS (Central Africa) --

33. Mr. Mike O'Brien : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assistance is being provided to central African countries to deal with the incidence of AIDS.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd : So far this year, we have committed some £49 million to health projects, up to half of which is for projects that deal with sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS.

Mr. O'Brien : With 9 million people in sub-Saharan Africa infected with HIV, that works out at about £4 a patient. It is not very good, is it ? Does the Minister realise that, in many sub-Saharan countries, up to half the population is under 15 years told and therefore not sexually active yet ? Is there not, therefore, the potential for a major contribution by this country to an education programme on that matter, which might begin to slow the progress of the disease ?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd : As I touched on in my answer--I could explain it further in a discussion or letter to the hon. Gentleman--our contribution is not just for AIDS matters but for wider programmes of the kind that he describes. Those include educational and other programmes about sexually transmitted diseases and other such matters. If the hon. Gentleman studies deeper, he will find that ODA Ministers are directing their minds to that matter.


Next Section (Debates)

  Home Page