|Previous Section||Home Page|
Mr. Brooke : The Director-General of the National Lottery announced on 25 May that he had selected the Camelot Group plc to run the national lottery. I understand that Camelot will launch the national lottery with an on-line lotto game in November 1994. The date when tickets will go on sale has not been decided.
Mr. O'Hara : Is the Secretary of State aware that, according to a recent report in the Financial Times , part of the Camelot consortium, named G-Tech, is considering using the UK lottery network in a bid for a national benefits distribution contract ? Is the right hon. Gentleman further aware that, in a letter to my hon. Friend the Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam), the Director-General of Oflot confessed that he had not known of that interest of G-Tech until he read about it in the press ? Will the Secretary of State give the House an undertaking now that he will not allow Camelot or any part of it to make such use of the UK lottery network ?
Mr. Brooke : That question is probably as much for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services as for me. I did see the report, and it is a subject on which I have already asked questions.
Mr. Robert Banks : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the operation of the national lottery will have an effect on pools companies ? Will he carefully examine ways in which we could level up the marketing activities of pools companies with those of the national lottery, bearing in mind the excellent work done by the Football Trust ? Will my right hon. Friend investigate that matter, so that a decision on advertising and other factors will be based on a level playing field ?
Mr. Brooke : The levelling up that my hon. Friend described was widely discussed when the National Lottery etc. Bill went through the House, and a series of concessions were made to pools companies at that stage--sufficient to secure all-party support when the Bill received its Third Reading. The matter has already been widely considered, but I notice that it has re-emerged.
Mr. Brooke : Following the round of consultations that I held last year with different sectors of the film industry, I am considering a number of proposals aimed at encouraging investment in British film production. I will announce the Government's conclusions in due course. However, it is for individual film and television producers to decide where they wish to make their films or programmes, and it would be inappropriate for the Government to offer financial or other inducements favouring one region over another.
Ms Quin : In his consultations, did the Secretary of State come to realise the concern that exists in the regions and in Britain as a whole about the way in which we seem to be losing out, in film opportunities, to other parts of Europe ? For example, Scotland lost a film to Ireland and a film about Cornwall was shot in North Rhine-Westphalia because of German support for the film industry. Does the Minister believe that there should be roughly equal terms for film-making throughout Europe ?
Mr. Brooke : I am aware of a number of the issues that the hon. Lady mentioned. I am glad to say that last year the number of films made in this country increased and the papers this very weekend contained news of the massive recruitment of extras in the Fort William area to make one film and in Barmouth, Wales for yet another forthcoming production. I agree with the hon. Lady, however, that, just as we have no interest in asserting one region over another within the United Kingdom, it would be desirable if that did not happen in Europe either.
30. Dr. Spink : To ask the right hon. Member for Selby, representing the Church Commissioners, if he will make a statement on the Church Commissioners' response to the recommendations of the Archbishops' Commission on the organisation of the Church of England.
Mr. Michael Alison (Second Church Estates Commissioner, representing the Church Commissioners) : The Turnbull Commission is not expected to report before summer 1995. The Church Commissioners stand ready, with an open mind, to respond to its recommendations.
Dr. Spink : I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Does he welcome the clarification by Prince Charles, reported in The Times today, that he would not wish to change the coronation oath and that he supports the establishment of the Church of England ? In view of the General Synod's vote in York today on the disestablishment of that Church, does my right hon. Friend think that it would be regrettable if the Church were seen to be trying to distance itself from moral issues, society and even politics at this time when we need it so much ?
Mr. Alison : Like my hon. Friend, I am delighted to hear of the positive endorsement by the Prince of Wales of establishment for the Church of England. I very much hope that that Church, which, as my hon. Friend pointed out, is debating those issues in York at its General Synod, will endorse the attitude of the Prince of Wales and will underline and support the existing close and constructive links between Church and state, which bring appreciable benefits, both spiritual and material, to both communities.
31. Mr. Simon Hughes : To ask the right hon. Member for Selby, representing the Church Commissioners, if he will make a statement on the future level of clergy fees for funerals and their relationship to the Church Commissioners' contribution to the overall stipend.
Mr. Alison : The commissioners have prepared a draft parochial fees order, to take effect from 1 January 1995, which will be presented to the General Synod today and which, it is believed, will result in fees representing a more realistic contribution to the costs of the Church. Fees payable to the clergy fund about 7 per cent. of the total stipend bill, but that bears no direct relationship to the annual sums that the commissioners make available towards stipends.
Mr. Hughes : The right hon. Gentleman has not told the House the position, which is that the proposal means that fees for funerals are likely to increase by three times, from £50 to £150, which is nothing short of appalling for many poor parishioners. Will the right hon. Gentleman make it absolutely clear to the Church that it is not right that, because of the Church Commissioners' mistakes, the poorest in society should be charged more to bury their dead ?
Mr. Alison : I do not recognise the hon. Gentleman's figures. Fees are due to increase, on average, by 28 per cent. The total fee for a funeral service is set to rise from £43 to £55. The fee for a burial in a churchyard is significantly less than that for a burial in a local authority cemetery.
Mr. Harry Greenway : Will my right hon. Friend confirm that clergymen will always take into account the needs of poor people, whether in regard to fees for funerals or to anything else ? Will he also ensure that clergymen conducting funerals, especially on a conveyor basis at
Column 660crematoriums, know the sex of the person who is being buried and take more care to ensure that the service is genuinely spiritual, which is what it is intended to be, but so often is not ?
Mr. Alison : My hon. Friend has presented a horrific scenario involving "conveyor belts" at crematoriums. If he is prepared to carry out a personal survey of crematoriums throughout the metropolis and let me have a report, I shall be glad to arrange for a proper evaluation of the survey.
32. Mr. Frank Field : To ask the right hon. Member for Selby, representing the Church Commissioners, what cost has been incurred so far and what is the estimated cost 20 years hence of the compensation measures following the ordination of women Measures.
Mr. Alison : The total cost of the financial provision over the next 10 years for the number of clergy expected to have resigned by the end of this month--July 1994--is estimated to be £7.5 million. We are unable to estimate the total cost over 20 years, as that will depend on how many clergy have resigned by the year 2004.
Mr. Alison : That will depend on the extent to which it becomes a real cost. The sums expended will naturally result in sums being saved, because stipends will no longer be payable to those who have resigned. We shall have to make a precise assessment of the net position, but the contribution made by the Church Commissioners to all the dioceses is viewed as a global entity. I think that it would be impossible to specify the net figure that we are discussing within that entity.
38. Mr. Lidington : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will make a statement about the Government's policy concerning charging for access to the Public Record Office.
The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Mr. John M. Taylor) : The Public Record Office recently completed its report on its services and charges. The Lord Chancellor will make a decision about the report's recommendations in the autumn, when he has considered the views of his advisory council on public records.
Mr. Lidington : Will my hon. Friend place in the Library a copy of the survey of users of the Public Record Office, so that it is available to right hon. and hon. Members ? Will he and the Lord Chancellor continue to bear in mind the fact that many scholars and other users of the public records have low incomes, and should not be inconvenienced by the prospect of a high charge ?
Mr. John M. Taylor : The independence of the judiciary is a fundamental constitutional principle. The Lord Chancellor is concerned at all times to safeguard the independence of the judiciary and the judicial process.
Mr. Hutton : How can that statement be reconciled with the treatment earlier this year of Mr. Justice Wood, who was effectively forced to resign from the Bench after the Lord Chancellor's Department attempted to interfere directly with the operation of the employment appeals tribunal ? Does not that prove--at least in respect of that case--that the Government's commitment to the independence of the judiciary is something of a sham ?
Mr. Taylor : Certainly not. The Lord Chancellor was endeavouring to ensure that procedures put in place by this honourable House were followed by the tribunal in England and in Wales, as well as in Scotland. The Lord Chancellor made a full statement about the matter during a debate in the other place on 27 April ; I recommend the Hansard report of that debate.
Mr. Tracey : I am sure that every hon. Member strongly supports the independence of the judiciary. Will my hon. Friend say something about arranging more conferences on sentencing, especially for magistrates, so that magistrates courts do not reach so many of the disparate decisions that throw the whole Bench into confusion and disrespect ?
Mr. Taylor : I can tell my hon. Friend that the Lord Chancellor's Department gives judicial training the highest priority, as does the Lord Chancellor himself. We strongly support and encourage the work of the Judicial Studies Board, and of magistrates benches which arrange training for themselves.
Mr. Boateng : If the Minister and the Lord Chancellor are so concerned about judicial independence, will he tell the House why he proposes, in the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill, to enable industrial tribunals and social security tribunals to be put into the private sector ? What possible benefit will that bring to the public ? How can spending more than £500,000 in so doing be justified, and what safeguards will then exist for the independence of the judiciary ?
Mr. Taylor : The technical scope of the legislation is narrow in respect of judicial functions. The Government have already amended it to acknowledge the constitutional position of judicial independence and they remain adamant that they will do nothing, whether in the context of the Bill or otherwise, that might erode the independence or probity of the judicial process.
Column 662is demonstrated by the on-going implementation of the civil justice review and the establishment of Lord Woolf's review.
Mr. Ottaway : I welcome that reply, particularly as it is only a few weeks since the Master of the Rolls described the high cost of civil litigation as a cancer at the heart of the British judicial system. Is not the best way to reduce that high cost to lower lawyers' fees ? To that extent, should not we generate a real market in lawyers' fees by insisting that they publish their fees ? Would not it be in the public interest for large partnerships, which turn over hundreds of millions of pounds a year, to publish their accounts ?
Mr. Taylor : Legal fees are a major factor in the high cost of litigation. My hon. Friend's proposal about publishing accounts is extremely interesting and the Law Society would find it interesting too, coming as it does from my hon. Friend, with all his commercial legal experience.
Mr. Steen : Is the Minister aware that the House is greatly concerned about the number of people who clearly should not receive legal aid under the civil list, as they have no right to do so, but who receive large sums of taxpayers' money to pursue or defend actions ? Will the Minister ensure that an immediate review is conducted into the number of people receiving legal aid for civil cases when they should not be doing so ? The public purse should not be paying for it.
Mr. Taylor : The Lord Chancellor's Department is conducting a fundamental review, which will cover the areas to which my hon. Friend refers. The issues that he raises are of great importance. As Members of Parliament, we all have a part to play in encouraging our constituents to complain if they think that there is a case where legal aid has been unmerited. Anyone can complain to the Legal Aid Board, and I would encourage people to do so.
Mr. Vaz : Will the Minister take the opportunity to deplore the action of Messrs Simmons and Simmons, the solicitors acting on behalf of the Sheik of Abu Dhabi, who have written to the Legal Aid Board to prevent former BCCI employees from obtaining legal aid ? Is not it wrong that solicitors acting for a foreign Government should seek to deny British citizens the right to legal aid ?
Mr. Taylor : The hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that the solicitors' profession is independent and self-regulating, but there are mechanisms for complaints about solicitors' work and the hon. Gentleman will be familiar with those mechanisms.
Column 663England it can be given, with impunity, to millionaires. Will the Lord Chancellor and the Attorney-General consider the matter, because it is a wrong on the public that the poor should pay for the rich to litigate ?
Mr. Taylor : Anyone litigating in the English courts is entitled to legal aid, regardless of nationality, subject to a test of means and of the merits of the case. The Legal Aid Board is required by regulation to disregard in its means assessment of an application for legal aid all assets that are the subject matter of the dispute. That is because those assets cannot be considered the resources of the applicant while the ownership is in dispute. I am aware of the cases that have caused great concern. The Legal Aid Board is looking into them, and so will the Lord Chancellor and I.
33. Mr. Barnes : To ask the right hon. Member for Selby, representing the Church Commissioners, what representations he has received since 29 June on the financial consequences of disestablishment of the Church.
Mr. Barnes : It is a bit surprising that there was not one letter, following Jonathan Dimbleby's interview with the Prince of Wales--one from the Prince himself. He obviously decided that he would write to the archbishop instead, withdrawing his initial position. Is not it a good idea that the Church should be disestablished ? That would mean that everyone with different faiths and beliefs, and those with none, could begin to be considered within the state. It would be a particularly good idea for Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland, who could then see that the British state did not have an established church.
Mr. Alison : I do not think that any non-Anglican Church in the British Isles, in England and in Wales or in the United Kingdom is in any way disadvantaged by the establishment of the Church of England. On the contrary, all derive benefit from the close relationship with an historic and traditional source of Christian truth and teaching, which is orthodox and catholic in its sweep and embrace, and which is shared, endorsed and propagated by the Churches of every non-Anglican denomination in the British Isles.
Mr. Nicholls : Does my right hon. Friend agree that, whatever view one might take about the present soundness or doctrinal orthodoxy of the leadership of the Church of England, with an established Church, every English person has, as an automatic birthright, the right to belong to the Church of England ? That is an extraordinary thing and if it were taken away by some of the more liberally persuaded people in the Church of England, a great national Church would be turned into nothing more than a tiny sect.
Mr. Alison : I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. It must be borne in mind that there are probably as many communicant Anglicans in the House of Commons as there are members of the House of Laity in the General Synod. To that extent, Parliament is much more accessible to those whom one might call fellow travellers, who have sympathy with the Church of England. It is to the House of
Column 664Commons--to colleagues here--that they look instinctively to express their views, their aspirations and their fears about the Church of England.
34. Mr. Enright : To ask the right hon. Member for Selby, as representing the Church Commissioners, what capital funds have been set aside to assist in church regeneration programmes in small pit villages.
Mr. Alison : The commissioners' primary duty is to manage their assets for the benefit of the clergy, both serving and retired. There are therefore no funds set aside specifically for the purpose to which the question refers, although our financial support for the clergy is concentrated on the needier dioceses--for example, Wakefield, which covers the hon. Gentleman's constituency--where such villages are often situated.
Mr. Enright : Does not the right hon. Gentleman find it odd that a small congregation in Kinsley, which has inherited a down-at-heel, broken- down church and is trying to put it to rights, is having immense difficulty in getting funds from the Church while it sees funds easily going to those who have opposed the ordination of women ? Is not there some imbalance there ?
Mr. Alison : It is always possible to find one head of expenditure which sits uneasily with other heads of disbursement or with other heads of cost. Looking at the picture in the round, it is true to say that as much money as possible is allocated to poorer dioceses, such as the diocese of Wakefield, to help churches such as the one to which the hon. Gentleman has referred. I give him a personal undertaking, especially in the light of our brief exchange in the Tea Room earlier, that I shall approach the Bishop of Wakefield, if the hon. Gentleman will give me details of the church with which he is particularly concerned, to see whether we can help in the obviously strained situation in the village which the hon. Gentleman has described.
35. Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the right hon. Member for Selby, representing the Church Commissioners, if he will make a statement on the pay and emoluments of flying bishops ; from what date payments will be made ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Alison : The Bishop of Beverley and the Bishop of Ebbsfleet took up their appointments as provincial episcopal visitors on 7 March and 29 April respectively. Their stipends are £19,895 a year and are in line with those paid to suffragan bishops. They are also provided with housing.
Mr. Greenway : Will the flying bishops have a role in administering to the 139 clergymen who have left the Church of England following the decision to ordain women ? How many more ordained clergymen are expected to follow them ? Will those bishops, like all other bishops, have a relationship with members of the royal family ?
Column 665in addition to the 160 who will have resigned by the end of July. I am quite certain that those 66 who have not yet resigned but are thinking of doing so will be having interviews and taking pastoral advice from the two provincial bishops to whom I have referred.
|Next Section (Debates)