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Mr. Sumberg : May I tell my right hon. Friend of the widespread concern in my constituency at the way in which his budget is being spent on the M62 relief road ? He has now acquired a number of houses in my constituency. Many of them are empty and many are in disrepair. There is widespread concern among my constituents about who will take tenancy of those properties. Will my right hon. Friend urgently look at the management that is undertaken by the Highways Agency so that we can put a decent, sensible system into operation ?
Mr. Dobson : The Secretary of State has acknowledged that this year he is spending more than £2 billion of taxpayers' money on building new roads. Could he change his priorities and allow Railtrack to spend £5 million on settling the signalling staff's dispute ? Is not that what it would have done with its offer of 5.7 per cent. if the Secretary of State had not intervened and stopped the payment ? If the right hon. Gentleman says that he cannot take the money from the roads programme, would he consider
Column 13diverting it from his privatisation programme ? He is pouring £5 million into the pockets of one firm of City lawyers which is to advise him on privatisation. Does not he think that most passengers would consider the money better spent on the signalling staff ?
Mr. MacGregor : I assure the hon. Gentleman that the money that we are spending on our rail reforms will ensure a much better railway for the future. The intention is to attract more passengers and freight on to rail. That is why I am concerned about the current strike : at the very moment when we can attract more freight on to rail, it is discouraging people and companies. I note that the hon. Gentleman still refuses to condemn this thoroughly unnecessary strike.
The Attorney-General (Sir Nicholas Lyell) : Since 1988, the Serious Fraud Office has made a real contribution to the investigation and prosecution of serious fraud. A number of detailed recommendations of the recent review have already been implemented ; others are in hand, and others are being studied.
Mr. Sykes : Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the fraud police are doing an excellent job, and that eight times out of 10 they get their man ? [Interruption.] Will Opposition Members please stop gibbering ? One might as well go to London zoo. Would not joint vetting further improve those tremendous statistics ?
The Attorney-General : My hon. Friend is entirely right. The Serious Fraud Office has a commendable record in achieving convictions in the cases that it brings to trial ; in more than 80 per cent. of cases, the principal architect of the fraud has been brought to justice.
My hon. Friend is also right to mention joint vetting between the Serious Fraud Office and the fraud investigation group of the Crown Prosecution Service. They are getting together to decide which case should go to which body, starting next week. I commend that move.
Mr. John Morris : Is the effectiveness of prosecutions likely to be enhanced or diminished by the departure from office of the Attorney- General's Parliamentary Private Secretary ? Will he give a categorical assurance that he was not approached by his ex-PPS as an intermediary in the case of Mr. Charrington and that the Paymaster General--who is responsible for Customs--was not approached either ? Will the Attorney- General clear the air in regard to why his PPS has departed and, I understand, is not to be replaced ?
Column 14Does he accept that many believe that serious fraud should be tried not by juries but by technical assessors, as recommended by the Roskill report ?
The Attorney-General : My hon. Friend has expressed a view which is supported by a number of people. At present, I do not share that view ; over the past 13 years, during which I have considered the matter carefully, the principal difficulties have tended to arise from the need to arrange an effectively mounted prosecution and to ensure that judges with the difficult and onerous task of trying the cases are properly trained and have the right background.
Sir Ivan Lawrence : Is not it a fact that the Customs and Excise prosecuting authority is fiercely independent and is not swayed by anything that any Member of Parliament may ask, or not ask, of its favour ? It is sometimes influenced by the advice that it gets from the Attorney-General, but it is always fiercely independent in making its decisions.
The Attorney-General : My hon. and learned Friend is entirely right. The right hon. and learned Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) has already received answers to his questions. If he would only refer back to them, he would not bother to ask them again.
30. Mr. Winnick : To ask the Attorney-General if he will make a statement on the progress of beginning prosecution proceedings in the United Kingdom against those held responsible for Nazi war crimes.
The Attorney-General : The Metropolitan police war crimes unit is continuing to investigate about 28 cases and has submitted interim reports to the Crown Prosecution Service in 10 of those. Police inquiries are not yet complete and no decisions can be taken about prosecutions until they are.
Mr. Winnick : Is not there all the difference between what may happen in the heat of battle, as in the Falklands war in hand-to-hand fighting--although I do not condone anything improper that might have occurred, even then--and the systematic, cold-blooded murder of men, women and children, as was the case with the Nazi war crimes ? What sort of message would go out to those committing such crimes, be it in Rwanda or Bosnia, if those who had committed the most terrible crimes against humanity were not brought to justice simply because of the delay of time ? They should not have come to Britain in the first place, but if they have come to Britain and there is evidence against them, should not they be tried, regardless of time ?
The Attorney-General : The House made its views on this matter clear when the War Crimes Bill came before it. That Bill has passed into law and the police are properly carrying out the investigations and will, in due course, make their report to the Director of Public Prosecutions. The matter will then be considered in accordance with the law.
Mr. Jacques Arnold : Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that if there are allegations against anyone resident in this country who may have participated in heinous crimes in concentration camps on the continent during the last war, the public believe that those people should be investigated and prosecuted, if necessary ?
Mr. Jamieson : Is the Solicitor-General satisfied that more than £2 million of taxpayers' money was used on Sir John May's inquiry, which had no power to subpoena witnesses or to call documents and yet absolved from blame all those involved with miscarriage of justice, except those people cleared by the Court of Appeal ? Does not he know a cheaper source of whitewash ?
Mr. Townsend : Can my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that more than £8 million has been set aside for war crime prosecutions this year, but none for next year ? How is evidence to be obtained from foreign countries concerning alleged events that took place more than 50 years ago ? Will he take a close look at what happened in Australia, Canada and Israel, where they went down a similar path and ran into serious trouble ?
The Attorney-General : My hon. Friend is right--£8 million had been provisionally set aside in the event that prosecutions took place this year. I well understand my hon. Friend's views on the matter. It is difficult to investigate events that took place 50 years ago. That is why it has to be done carefully and scrupulously, as I assure my hon. Friend is being done.
Mr. Tony Banks : Will the Minister accept that time can in no way discharge the heinousness of the crimes that were perpetrated by some of the Nazis against a large of number of people, including Jews ? Under the circumstances, £8 million is money well worth spending.
Column 16did not happen 50 years ago so that the question whether there is a realistic prospect of conviction of any person can be properly evaluated.
Mr. O'Brien : Is the Attorney-General aware that, as a result of his questionable involvement in the decisions relating to the prosecutions of Matrix Churchill, 600 people working for that company lost their jobs ? Before he perhaps loses his job in the next few days, would not it be right for him to say that his involvement in that incident was regrettable and to apologise to those workers ?
The Attorney-General : No. If the hon. Gentleman, who is a lawyer himself, does the subject justice and takes the trouble to read and think carefully about my part and the part of others, he will realise that it was done carefully and with complete integrity, in accordance with the law as it was understood at the time.
36. Mr. Rowe : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to provide further assistance to British non-governmental organisations working to assist development.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Mark Lennox-Boyd) : The 14 per cent. increase for the joint funding scheme and 8 per cent. for the volunteer sending programme for 1994-95 are very significant increases at present.
Mr. Rowe : I thank my hon. Friend for that reply, but can he give the House an assurance that the tragedy, and the urgent requirements, of the refugees flooding into Zaire from Rwanda are being carefully considered by his Department and that action will be taken to make it as easy as possible for NGOs to get every possible assistance as quickly as possible ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : I know that non-governmental organisations will be assisting. At present, there are three aircraft. Two aircraft are on their way--one to Entebbe and the other to Nairobi. The first is the largest and will be unloaded in Entebbe ; the second will arrive in Nairobi and wait for clearance to travel to Goma. A third aircraft is leaving tomorrow. Those aircraft are taking emergency humanitarian relief items which have been sent as a result of the assessment that was made, before the weekend's television pictures, by the ODA mission which, only last week, visited the area, including the particular spot where so many of the refugees are.
Column 17there is a need for significant extra help to deal with what is not simply the immediate crisis of refugees fleeing from Rwanda but what is likely to be the long and medium-term duty to look after them--certainly in the indefinite future. Given that the Government have made special additional allocations in the past when there has been a particular crisis in another part of the world, can the Minister undertake to the House that that is under active consideration and that, if necessary, such money will be forthcoming from the British Government ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : We certainly remain ready to do more. As the hon. Gentleman is aware, since the crisis began, £11 million has been committed bilaterally for refugees and displaced people in the area. The assistance being delivered by the three aircraft to which I just referred, which is worth some £2 million, is additional to that.
Lady Olga Maitland : Does my hon. Friend agree that the extra resources given to non-governmental organisations is money well spent, especially bearing in mind that the non-governmental organisations have specialised knowledge, such as I saw in their family planning programmes in Malawi ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : My hon. Friend is right. Non-governmental organisations generally react swiftly, are flexible and can get into remote areas more quickly than anyone else. It is for that reason that over the past three years we have doubled our overall funding to non-governmental organisations from £65 million to £150 million a year.
Mr. Tom Clarke : Will the Minister focus on the fact that there are now perhaps 1 million or more refugees from Rwanda in Goma in eastern Zaire ? Is he aware that representatives of British aid agencies today described the situation there as "wall-to-wall bodies", and that the emergency facing the region is on a scale unlike anything ever seen, even in Africa ? What has the Minister done to implement UN decisions on humanitarian relief for Rwanda and on other measures to assist aid agencies in the distribution of vital emergency relief ? Does the Minister recognise that hundreds of thousands of people are in real danger in Goma and elsewhere, and that humanitarian intervention on a massive scale is now absolutely necessary ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : Yes, we have responded and continue to do so. As I said in my earlier answers, ODA officials were there only last week. They assessed what we could do immediately, and we are doing it. Goma airport is still closed, but we hope that it will be open tomorrow so that the second aircraft which I mentioned can land there, and the third aircraft can land on Wednesday.
41. Mr. Ottaway : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on preparations for the United Nations international conference on population and development.
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : Yes, we very much hope that in the next two years- -we have a planning figure in mind--we will spend some £100 million on family planning. That will be a 60 per cent. increase over current spending, which is already high and has increased every year since 1991. It will be vital for more to be spent in that sector following the conference.
Mr. Ottaway : I add my congratulations to my hon. Friend on the huge increase in funding which was announced last week by Baroness Chalker in what I believe to have been a significant speech. Will my hon. Friend reject any criticism of the increase, and can he tell us what are the prospects of some of our European partners matching the increase in funding before the Cairo summit ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : Every second, almost three babies are born into the world and I very much agree with the impact of my hon. Friend's argument. We will certainly press all our European Union colleagues, and those responsible for the Commission's aid programme generally, to increase spending in that sector. We believe that the conference comes at a most critical junction, and it may well determine, through action and policy, whether the population of the world doubles or trebles in the next century. If we do the right things, it will only double.
Mr. Rooker : Will the Minister accept congratulations on the positive response that the Government have shown with regard to this important issue ? In respect of the conference in September, will he attempt to get his officials briefed so that they are not misguided by the propaganda emanating from certain quarters to the effect that it is now the feminist position in the third world that women want to continue having more and more babies ? That must be absolute nonsense and part of some religious propaganda organisation. It is in the interests of the whole population of the planet that population control is widespread.
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : It is most certainly in the interests of us all, and I agree with the hon. Gentleman. It is particularly in the interests of many women and their partners in the third world. Over half of the couples in the world practise family planning now, but we believe that at least 100 million families who would like to plan their families do not have access to family planning advice and services.
Mrs. Clwyd : Given that the population of East Timor has already been eradicated by one third due to the action of the Indonesian Government, may I ask the Minister immediately to investigate the atrocities in East Timor last week, when a further four people were killed and 74 imprisoned
Madam Speaker : Order. The question concerns world population and the conference, and is not about atrocities. As interesting as her question may be, I fear that the hon. Lady is way off the beam on both points.
Mr. Lidington : Does my hon. Friend agree that the good record of economic growth in Uganda since President Museveni took power illustrates the advantages of good government in generating benefits for the entire population of such countries and the sense of tying our own overseas aid policy to that principle ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : My hon. Friend is quite right : Uganda has been a good story in recent years. British bilateral aid stands at about £34 million a year and has remained at that level in recent years. There is a great deal of approval of Uganda's economic policies, which have led to economic growth of about 5 per cent. a year since 1987. Tomorrow, at the World bank's consultative meeting in Paris, we shall announce a new pledge of some £20 million of balance of payments support for the current year.
Mr. Arnold : Is not one of the greatest problems facing our overseas development programme the fact that it runs the danger of developing a complete reliance on what I would call the begging bowl mentality ? Is not it important for our own overseas aid programme to concentrate on projects that allow self-help and thereby allow people to earn money and self- respect ?
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : Self-help is central to the whole aid programme. I must tell my hon. Friend that most poor people in developing countries are extremely self-reliant. Our aid programme tries to help village and neighbourhood committees to look after water supplies, to maintain drains, to run kindergartens and to do other similar things. My hon. Friend might like to consider that when we spend between 80 and 85 per cent. of our bilateral aid in low-income countries, that is, of course, helping the poor to help themselves.
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