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Mr. Dalyell : In the view of many of us, it is absolutely absurd--so long as there is a Conservative Government--to move the right hon. Gentleman from that post at this stage in developments on the White Paper. Why on earth shift him at this stage ?
In a scientific context, there is no more popular subject than astronomy. As a schoolteacher for many years, I was involved in running astronomy societies. Hon. Members may ask why I move on from science to refer to astronomy. The reason is straightforward. This week we have seen newspaper headlines about the collision caused by the comet Shoemaker Levy, travelling at about 135 mph, crashing into the planet Jupiter. That is a remarkable event, and I could talk about it at length, but hon. Members on both sides of the House will be relieved to know that I shall not do so.
My point, which links with what I said earlier about music and art, is that the study of astronomy and of other sciences is popular at all levels in society, and that that encourages a rational approach to the problems of society. That provides a counterbalance. I remember, when I was young, reading that when there was an eclipse of the sun, people in Africa banged drums to drive the evil dragon away. I regard that as equivalent to the nonsense about astrology that we can now read in the tabloids every day.
I favour the rational approach of astronomy, which is why I mention all the news about the comet and about Jupiter, which I find of great interest. However, hon. Members need not worry ; I shall not speak for too long, but the subject is important-- [Interruption.] I know the hon. Member for Walsall, North well enough to know that he will support what I say about a rational approach to society's problems.
Mr. Thompson : It is part of the process of education to encourage detached observation and analysis of phenomena. If that had not taken place over the years, civilisation would not have progressed ; and that progress will not continue unless we all encourage a detached, scientific analytical approach to the problems that we face. I hope that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will recognise, even if no one else does, that I am making a serious point- -and one that is also valid in the context of our parliamentary debates.
I do not want to make too much of my final comment, but it is sad that observation of the parliamentary process by the media now seems to be propelled by forces other than the detached approach that was taken in the past--in 1948 or in 1958, for example. I have done some research and made comparisons, using The Times , The Guardian and all the other newspapers. Hon. Members will be pleased to hear that I am not going to go into all that research in detail, but I have studied the approach in 1948, 1958, 1968, 1988 and 1994.
There has been a change from that detached approach. Dare I say that gossip, and ego trips for some journalists in the privileged surroundings here, seem to have taken over ? My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, in a recent letter to The Times , appealed for the restoration of that newspaper as a newspaper of record. I fear that, under its present ownership, there is little prospect of that.
Mr. Tom Cox (Tooting) : This week sees marches and rallies in this country and in many countries throughout the world in remembrance of the brutal invasion of the island of Cyprus by the Turkish army 20 years ago. I am sure that every hon. Member is aware that Cyprus is a member of the British Commonwealth, and that we are one of the guarantor powers for that island.
I know that there are hon. Members on both sides, to their credit, who have been deeply involved in Cyprus since that invasion. They, like me, have seen the continuing talks over the years, during which hopes were built up that, at long last, there would be an honourable settlement, only to see those hopes destroyed--due, without doubt, to the attitude of Mr. Denktash, the Turkish Cypriot spokesman, and the attitude of the Turkish Government in Ankara.
During all these years, we have seen action after action by Mr. Denktash to delay and to destroy any discussion that would lead to the unification of the island. We have seen the actions he has taken and the actions that he still supports. There are thousands of Turkish troops in the occupied northern area of Cyprus and many thousands of Turkish settlers have been brought into northern Cyprus.
Some years ago, we saw the establishment of the so-called "independent state of Northern Cyprus", a state that is recognised only by Turkey of all the countries in the world. To the credit of this Government, they have never been prepared to recognise that independent state created by Mr. Denktash.
Recently, we have had the confidence-building measures under the leadership of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Sadly, they have got nowhere. Recently, the Secretary-General has clearly said whom he blames for the lack of progress in the talks for which he has been responsible. Against that background of 20 years, one
Column 337has the right to ask where the British Government stand and what action they will take so that meaningful progress can begin to be made.
I am a member of the Council of Europe. Two years ago, a Spanish deputy, Mr. Cuco, a member of the Council of Europe, was requested by the Council to produce a report on the illegal settlers in northern Cyprus. He clearly stated in his report that the presence of the illegal settlers in the north of the island would make a settlement far more difficult. He also clearly said that the people brought from mainland Turkey were deeply resented by true Turkish Cypriots. Despite that report, and despite all the years during which the Turkish mainland settlers were brought to northern Cyprus, what did the British Government do ? The answer, clearly and regrettably, is nothing.
Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East) : The hon. Gentleman above all is the great champion, quite rightly, of this good cause. Does he agree that the island must be united to be properly economically viable, and that the Turkish Government should now heed international public opinion ? The sooner the island is reunited, the better for all of us.
Mr. Cox : I totally agree with the hon. Member. He also has a superb record on Cyprus. He has given me the opportunity to make this point. Whichever party we belong to, we work for a united Cyprus. We do not work for the benefit of the Greek Cypriots. We work for a united Cyprus for the benefit of both Greek and Turkish Cypriots whose home is on the island of Cyprus. The hon. Gentleman is so right in his comments.
I recently attended a meeting in Strasbourg of the political affairs committee of the Council of Europe. The committee had invited representatives of the political parties in Cyprus--the Greek parties and the Turkish parties--to come to Strasbourg to outline what they saw as a possible settlement.
It was extremely regrettable that, within moments of the Turkish Cypriot representatives starting to speak, it became clear that they did not want a settlement. They made comments such as, "Turkish troops under no circumstances will leave the island." They also said that, if Turkey became a member of the European Union, the Turkish Cypriots would do everything in their power to obstruct and cause problems if Cyprus was allowed to become a member of the European Union.
I have to say that the Prime Minister's statement in the House on the recent Corfu summit, on 27 June, in which he replied to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser), has given great comfort to Mr. Denktash and to Turkey. The Prime Minister said that, unless there was a settlement, Cyprus would not be supported in its application for entry to the European Union. I shall read out a few brief quotations that will clearly show the House the attitude that Turkey repeatedly takes on the issue of Cyprus. The speaker of the Turkish Grand National Assembly, addressing a meeting of the Ankara Chamber of Commerce on 25 April this year, said :
"Turkey's rights in Cyprus stem from International Law and the presence of Turkish troops in Cyprus is a consequence of this. Turkey cannot endanger itself with regard to the Cyprus issue without any return."
Column 338Mr. Denktash, to whom I have already referred, said of the Greek Cypriots on a radio programme on 10 May this year :
"If they become EU members then as of their membership date we join Turkey and the issue ends there. The Turkish Grand National Assembly should enact a resolution and declare our union with Turkey the very moment that the Greek Cypriots become an EU members. There is no other alternative."
The final quotation is from Mr. Ecevit, the leader of the Democratic party of Turkey. He said in an interview on 25 June this year :
"On 20 July 1974 peace came to Cyprus. As far as the Turkish Cypriots are concerned the problem was solved that day."
Against that background, what action are the Government to take ? I again remind the House that we are one of the guarantor powers of the island of Cyprus. For years, many of us, irrespective of party, who have questioned the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary of the day have been told that the British Government fully support the efforts of the United Nations. The Secretary-General of the United Nations recently expressed his views. Do we support those views ? If we do, surely now is the time for the Government to act and to support his work.
In a decision by the European Court of Justice taken earlier this month, bans were imposed against any Turkish Cypriot citrus fruits and potatoes being allowed into countries of the European Union. I ask the Leader of the House whether the British Government support that ruling. If they do, I hope that they will say so, loud and clear.
Twenty years have passed. Cyprus is the only country in Europe that is still divided by a wall : that is the tragic indictment of the lack of meaningful progress over those long 20 years in resolving the tragedy of Cyprus. When shall we hear the Government's views and their proposals for ending the tragedy ? When shall we see the reunification of the island of Cyprus ?
As the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) said, and as I said in my reply to him, all of us in the House who are interested in the future of Cyprus are interested in the people of Cyprus, be they Greek or Turkish Cypriots. We look for answers from the Government to end this continuing tragedy, which has brought such appalling poverty and problems, certainly to northern Cyprus, and which has brought great heartache to the people of Cyprus. When will that tragedy end, and when will the island of Cyprus be reunited ? When will the prosperity that it can achieve start to be developed ?
Sir Anthony Grant (Cambridgeshire, South-West) : While not agreeing with everything that the hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) said, I must say that no hon. Member has fought so vigorously over many years for his Cypriot constituents as the hon. Gentleman.
Before the House rises, I wish to raise a matter under the Financial Services Act 1986. As the House will recall, the Act was, in the words of the Economic Secretary to the Treasury as recently as 3 May 1994 in a letter to me :
"to provide a high standard of protection for investors". Under the Act, the Securities and Investments Board was set up as the overall umbrella, and a whole series of self-regulating organisations such as FIMBRA--the Financial Intermediaries, Managers and Brokers Regulatory Organisation-- were set up under that board. Recently, a new body to embrace all those self-regulating organisations--the Personal Investment
Column 339Authority--was set up. After a rather shaky start, it began operating on only Monday this week. It has received 3,666 applications for membership, and I have been told that 1,139 firms have been admitted. I am glad that a firm in my constituency, Stuart and Verity, was one of the first to be admitted.
The problem arises over a firm which describes itself in an advertisement as :
"Britain's Leading Retirement Income Specialists".
I refer to the firm of Knight Williams and Co. Ltd. The company says that it handles £500 million-worth of investments for 24,000 people. I should make it absolutely clear at the start that I am not making any accusations whatever of any dishonesty on the part of that firm. However, I wish to draw attention to the difficulties that a great number of people have experienced over the years, having used the firm's services.
In advertisements in 1989 and 1990, the firm made statements such as :
"We can help you earn a high regular monthly income"
"We can show you how to provide for the capital growth you will need to keep pace with the cost of living over the coming years". A nice Larry cartoon showed a post man trying to put a fat cheque through the letter box and the key point made by the firm was that it would provide income, growth and peace of mind.
On the basis of those advertisements, my constituents Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Jordan, a retired couple, invested some £32,500 in January 1990, and also paid £5,500 in initial charges. After four and a half years, their investment is worth £27,300, so they have lost substantially on any basis. They are deeply concerned about, and have investigated, the way in which Knight Williams conducts its affairs. That has attracted the attention of the press.
In February 1994, The Sunday Telegraph carried out a considerable investigation and pointed out :
independent financial adviser
"is meant to recommend products from across the market. But most of Knight Williams' new business ends up in its own unit trusts. These carry some of the highest charges in the unit trust industry--6.375 per cent. initial and 2.5 per cent. annual".
A minute from the firm described how its salesmen should operate. One of the categories of salesmen listed was :
"the Clever Dick' who sells non KW', is disruptive' and a compliance nightmare'."
The minute says that the way to deal with such salesmen is to make them toe the line. The article in The Sunday Telegraph included the view taken by a leading stock broker :
"It must be difficult for a Knight Williams salesman not to recommend in- house products. These funds may perform well in spite of high charges but are they a function of independent financial advice ? I fear not".
Lest it should seem that I am engaged in an attack on a rival of any sort, I declare an interest in Barclays bank which is a financial adviser. But there is no question whatever of any competition or rivalry in that respect ; it is entirely a constituency matter which I am raising.
My constituents referred the matter to the SIB and FIMBRA, but the only course that could be taken under the rules was to go to arbitration. In his evidence to the Treasury Select Committee, Mr. Jordan said :
"The process of arbitration is a veritable minefield fraught with difficulties for lay people. It is, for better or worse, an adversarial
Column 340procedure which means that independent financial advisers defending a complaint from a lay member of the public are able to flex their legal and financial muscles because only they have the necessary economic resources to do so."
If the unfortunate investor fails before arbitration, the SIB can only suggest that he has recourse through the courts, which is enormously expensive. The SIB can give orders to FIMBRA only if it has breached its rules, and FIMBRA can punish the company in question only if it has breached the rules. My constituent therefore ran up against a brick wall.
Since then, more than 40 Members of Parliament have received similar complaints from their constituents about Knight Williams. Most of the constituents are elderly retired people who are seeking to provide for their old age by following the advice given by that firm. So far as I could work out from letters from hon. Members, nearly all the constituents have suffered financial losses in the process. I have taken the matter up--as, indeed, have more than 40 hon. Members--with the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, who has taken a close interest in the matter. The Treasury Select Committee has also taken a close interest in the matter, and it has had evidence, certainly from my constituent, which it is carefully considering.
As a result of the concerns expressed not only by me but by many other hon. Members, an early-day motion was tabled yesterday in the name of the right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) and other distinguished hon. Members, expressing the House's concern at the number of complaints received by hon. Members from their constituents, many of whom are retired people, and the apparent inability of SIB and/or FIMBRA to bring full light to bear on the subject. I should make it clear that although the PIA is now operating, it is not taking over earlier cases ; they must be cleared up by the old self-regulating organisations. Early-day motion 1545 also urged the Government to institute a thorough inquiry into the whole matter.
Without making any accusations of dishonesty, I am asking my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to urge the Economic Secretary to the Treasury to pursue his inquiries to bring light to bear on the whole matter in the interests of a large number of constituents, to examine the way in which the Financial Services Act is operating and to question whether there is any better way in which redress can be obtained for these unfortunate constituents.
I am the joint chair of a newly formed all-party group on breast cancer. During the past few months we have taken evidence from some of the most eminent clinicians and scientists. Their evidence has led me to conclude that the interests of patients would be best served if the Government took the approach of establishing a national action plan on breast cancer, similar to that established in America last year.
Breast cancer is a major killer of women in this country. One in 12 women are affected by it and nearly 30,000 new cases are diagnosed every year, which is about 480 a week. Nearly 16,000 deaths occur every year, which is equivalent to one woman dying every 30 minutes. Worldwide, the
Column 341figures are no better. It is the biggest cancer killer in the world, with 250,000 deaths a year from breast cancer. Those are devastating statistics.
What is even more worrying is the growth in that disease. Some weeks ago, Professor Baum of the Royal Marsden hospital told our committee :
"We are losing the war against breast cancer. Any modest improvements in case survival or mortality rates are being eclipsed by the real increase in the incidence of the disease. Sadly the foot soldiers in this war are the women themselves and I am convinced that if the battle is to be won in the long term then the lay public have to be reminded well in advance of them developing the disease that the responsibility for seeking its cure must be shared between the public and the profession alike."
This week, Professor Gusterson of the Institute of Cancer Research and Professor Adrian Harris of the John Radcliffe hospital, Oxford, put to the all-party group the case for a national action plan on breast cancer and they were extremely convincing. They referred to what happened in America after a petition from 2.6 million Americans calling for a comprehensive plan to end the breast cancer epidemic was presented to President Clinton.
Shortly afterwards, President Clinton announced that the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Donna Shalala, would convene a conference to develop a national action plan on breast cancer. From its inception, that conference was intended to involve the whole spectrum of individuals, groups and organisations concerned with this awful disease.
Mr. Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh, Leith) : Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the most alarming things that the professors told us on Tuesday was not only that the money spent on research into cancer in Britain was less than that spent in America and other European countries, but that although the majority of funding in those countries is provided by their Governments, only one tenth of British funding is provided by our Government while nine tenths comes from charity ? Is that not appalling ? It is also borne out in Scotland, where, of 11 consultant oncologists--too small a number in itself--seven are funded by charities.
Invitations to the conference in America were sent to 150 representatives from advocacy groups, consumers, academics, scientists, educationists, health care specialists as well as to people who had suffered from breast cancer. The participants worked together in a unique, unprecedented partnership and produced an excellent policy document entitled "A National Action Plan on Breast Cancer", containing eminently sensible suggestions which make an effort to tackle the epidemic.
Even more exciting was the fact that, following the conference, the United States Department of Defence produced a grant of $210 million for a breast cancer research programme and within a short time that plan was up and running. What a wonderful way to spend the peace dividend--as my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Chisholm) has said, the comparison with the amount of money devoted to research in Britain should make us ashamed of the pittance that is offered here.
The problem with funding research in Britain is, as my hon. Friend said, that it is mainly offered by charities and is not supplied by the Government. In any event, that source of Government revenue is badly affected in a recession. An added problem has been caused by the
Column 342introduction of changes in the NHS and the fragmentation of a national comprehensive service. Professor Harris told our group that another worrying factor for people who want to conduct research into this killer disease is that trusts are now reluctant to store material from biopsies in pathology laboratories because of the cost of storage. That valuable material will, however, be needed urgently for future research.
I hope to persuade the all-party cancer group that we should launch a national petition to get the Government to adopt a national plan on breast cancer. Something urgent needs to be done to combat a major killer of women in this country. I am pleased to have had the opportunity to raise this important matter before the House adjourns.
Sir Ivan Lawrence (Burton) : A year ago, on the last day of the summer term, I raised in an Adjournment debate the immense problems facing the British brewing industry--in which I declare a modest interest--arising from, among other problems, the ridiculous burden of excise duty on beer which our European competitors do not have to carry. That burden is seriously weakening the industry.
Since that debate, I must unhappily report that the situation has not improved. The industry--of which my Burton constituency is, of course, the centre, with great names such as Ind Coope, Marstons and Bass--employs 3,000 of my constituents directly and many thousands indirectly. It also plays a vital part in Britain's economy because, in all, it employs about 900,000 people--more than the number employed in the construction industry, three times as many as in the energy and water industries and five times the number in the motor industry.
Consumers spend £13.5 billion a year on beer, which is more than they spend on cars, clothing, electricity, gas, coal and all sorts of other durable goods. The industry provides Government with £4.3 billion a year, which is equivalent to 3p on income tax. The British pub is a national institution, which is patronised by one third of adults once a week, and 70 per cent. of tourists prefer the British pub to their own bars back home.
The British brewing industry has doubled its output in the past five years ; yet we are penalising it--and ourselves--excessively and unjustly. Alarmingly, as beer sales through the on-trade have fallen by 27 per cent.- -from 38 million barrels in 1979 to 28 million today--beer duty has gone up 36 per cent. and the sales taxes beer by 59 per cent. while wine and spirits have enjoyed an almost equivalent decrease in tax and beer duty paid by our European partners has remained static.
We in Britain consume 21 per cent. of all the beer drunk in the European Community ; yet we pay 55 per cent. of the Community's beer duty. That is preposterous. There is no doubt that taxation is a major cause--I accept that it is not the only cause--of the decline in the market. Germans pay only 4p a pint in beer duty, the French and the Belgians pay 5p and 8p respectively, but we in Britain are required to pay 33p. That enormous differential and the fact that the limit for personal imports from France and elsewhere on the continent has risen to 110 litres--that is the amount that each of us can bring into the United Kingdom for personal consumption- -has brought about the phenomenon of cross-border shopping.
Passenger car movements via Dover rose by 12 per cent. in the first quarter of this year. More people than ever are
Column 343buying their beer abroad. Truckloads of beer, purchased by Britons in Calais, are being brought back to the UK and British beer sales in pubs throughout the country have fallen by 1 million pints a day. It appears that 39 per cent. of licensees believe that the importation of beer has affected the use of their pubs ; 26 per cent. of them have seen a decrease in their trade, 31 per cent. of them say that if the problem continues and grows they will reduce staff hours, 24 per cent. say that they will work even longer hours and 18 per cent. say that they will move out of the business.
Even more alarming is the growth of criminal bootlegging. On 18 May The Independent quoted a Customs and Excise investigator who said :
"When the single market opened up on 1 January 1993 the trade in cheap beer was carried out by young Jack the lads flogging the stuff at car boot sales. But now organised criminals are involved with outlets at nightclubs, off licences, working mens' clubs and illicit drinking dens."
The seriousness of that aspect was confirmed last week to the Select Committee on Home Affairs by the head of the national criminal intelligence service, whose main concern is organised crime. This new situation is serious and it is becoming worse.
The Government have helped a little, but hardly enough. In the past year, since my previous short debate, my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was worried by cross-border shopping, has ensured that there has been no increase in duty on beer or spirits. He took that decision in last year's Budget, when there was only a 1.9 per cent. increase in duty on any alcoholic drink. The Government have also been trying to increase the harmonisation of excise duties at the Council of Ministers. Realistically, however, any plea to other countries to raise their excise duties to the levels which prevail in the UK is unlikely to fall on receptive ears. Nor do we want to remove from nation states the right to fix their own tax rates.
What can be done to stop the decline in our brewing industry ? My right hon. Friend the Paymaster General told me in a letter that I received two days ago that Customs and Excise has calculated that a reduction in excise duty to French and German levels would lead to Revenue receipt losses of between £3 billion and £4 billion. Clearly that could not be countenanced.
The Brewers and Licensed Retailers Association--the successor to the Brewers Society--commissioned the Henley centre to establish the accuracy of the Customs and Excise assessment. The centre found that a 50 per cent. reduction in duty to 16p would lead to a price reduction which would reverse the downward trend in the beer market and substantially increase revenues other than beer tax by, for example, increasing employment in brewing, clubs and pubs as well as in the supply of goods and services by a total of about 90,000 by 1999.
At the same time, it would reduce the duty lost to the UK by payments of duty to France, Germany and elsewhere and generate an additional £300 million for the Government by 1997. It would benefit the Exchequer by £1 billion by 1999. The Brewers and Licensed Retailers Association and the brewers themselves have observed that when on two previous occasions this century Governments
Column 344reduced beer duty to revive sales--by 37 per cent. in 1933 and 28 per cent. in 1959--the beer sales market turned up and the industry returned to long-term growth.
Before the House rises for the summer recess, I ask my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to invite my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Customs and Excise to look again at their figures in the light of the work undertaken by the Henley centre and to consider whether it is possible to reverse the decline in the brewing industry by a 50 per cent. cut in beer duty. Apart from the gratitude of the industry and of my constituents who depend on the industry, they would have the thanks of the all-party beer group, whose members care very much about the problem.
Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) : As we are soon to embark on a long summer recess, it would surely have been appropriate for the Prime Minister to make a statement about the likely new President of the European Commission. I see in their places my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) and the hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan Smith), who raised the matter in points of order. It seems that they agree with me.
The Prime Minister made much of the fact that he vetoed the candidate he did not like, the Prime Minister of Belgium. He gave the impression that that candidate's views were unacceptable. It is interesting that the person who is now likely to be the new President has made it clear that he shares entirely all the views of the candidate who was vetoed by the Prime Minister, including those on a single currency, more integration and a federal Europe.
Those are the views of Mr. Santer, who is likely to be the new President. If he holds views identical to those of Mr. Dehaene, who was vetoed--he admits he does--why should he be approved by the British Government ?
We can come to the conclusion only that as on so many other matters concerning the European Union the Government are prepared to give in--in this instance they did so within a few days--after a display of opposition.
Mr. Winnick : It will be interesting to see the reaction of the Government. As I have said, if one candidate has been vetoed because of his views, there is no reason why someone else who holds identical views on the future of the European Union should be supported. The attitude of the British Labour Members of the European Parliament may be somewhat different from mine in some respects, but in this instance there may be some consistency. The Government show no consistency.
As we go into the long summer recess, we know that the Government's standing--certainly domestically--is extremely low. We saw that clearly in the Euro and local elections. No one would dispute the fact that the results were not good for the Government.
The Government no doubt think that the reshuffle will help them, but most British people could not care less who is the Minister for this or the Secretary of State for that. They are concerned only about policies and their own position. As most people have been penalised in the past 12