Previous Section Home Page

Mr. Dorrell: My Department has already taken up a number of regulatory issues of concern to the tourist industry and some progress has been made. We shall continue to seek the easing or removal of administrative and bureaucratic burdens that impair the industry's ability to compete effectively with other countries.

Mr. Sweeney: Is my right hon. Friend aware of the relief that that will bring to many of my constituents given that tourism is important in the Vale of Glamorgan, where we have several miles of lovely coastline, some beautiful scenery and a number of beaches? Barry island has been much improved in recent years with the help of a grant from the Welsh Office. When an opportunity arises, would my right hon. Friend care to visit the Vale of Glamorgan and experience for himself some of the excellent hotels and guest houses available at a reasonable price?

Mr. Dorrell: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his invitation. He makes an important point, because any industry that is subject to a regulatory burden is subject to costs being imposed on it by Parliament or the Government. It is essential that, before imposing those costs, we ask whether good value will be incurred as a result. That is the test that we shall apply to each regulation, existing and proposed, that affects the tourist industry.

Rugby Football

11. Mr. Hinchliffe: To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what steps he is taking to deal with discrimination against rugby league players by the Rugby Football Union.

Mr. Sproat: The regulations of independent and properly constituted governing bodies of sport are a matter for them, but I have met representatives from the Rugby Football Union, the Rugby Football League and the International Rugby Football Board to discuss the issue of discrimination, and I remain hopeful that there can be positive dialogue between the two codes for the benefit of the sport as a whole.

Mr. Hinchliffe: In the course of the Minister's welcome efforts to deal with that matter, has he had an opportunity to study the comments of Mr. Mike Catt, the England rugby union international who is currently under investigation for receiving payments for playing rugby union? He is reported as having said this weekend that, if he is banned, everybody else will have to be banned as well. Given that the only real difference now between top league and union players is the fact that league players pay national insurance and income tax, is it not about time

Column 1203

that the rugby union authorities recognised the utter nonsense of its proposed three-year ban on league players who choose to return to union?

Mr. Sproat: I had the great pleasure and privilege this weekend of speaking to Mr. Mike Catt and the rest of the Bath team--and what a team, what a club! I agree that we have a serious problem with professionalism and amateurism. I pay tribute to the work that the hon. Gentleman did on the Sports Discrimination Bill, which concentrated minds on the matter and as a consequence of which we are making progress. I also saw Mr. Vernon Pugh, who said that we must all be "reasonable" about this matter. I hope that he will be. I am sure that the authorities will be and that we shall make real progress--it is to be hoped, next year, which is the centenary year of rugby league.

Mr. Waller: Has my hon. Friend noticed recent legal developments in Australia which have evidently caused the International Rugby Football Board to consider a change in its position relating to those players who have formerly played rugby league? As the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe) said, among the best-paid sportsmen in this country are some top rugby union players. Might it not be reasonable to conclude that a ban on former rugby league players would be a restraint on trade?

Mr. Sproat: I have studied the cases of Brett Papworth, Tony Melrose, and Brett Iti in New Zealand, and it would be interesting if those were to provide precedents for what happened in our courts. As for restraint of trade, it is true that the Rugby Football Union allows rugby union players to make money--not directly from rugby, although obviously that money is made because they play rugby. Although I am no lawyer, I should have thought that, prima facie, the court would want to take that into account if someone such as Mr. Stuart Evans wanted to take his case to court.

Mr. Bermingham: But does the Minister agree that discrimination between the two codes extends not only to payment but to investment? Perhaps he and his Department will bear in mind the needs of rugby league, and especially the effects on rugby league grounds of the Taylor committee's findings, which now restrict the sport.

Mr. Sproat: I agree, and there is a basic unfairness about the central point that trouble at football grounds is mainly caused at soccer matches and soccer receives all the help, whereas no trouble is caused at rugby league matches and rugby league receives little help. I want to find a way of sorting that out.

Encouragement of Sport

12. Mr. Harry Greenway: To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what steps he is taking to ensure that sport plays a regular part in the life of every (a) child and (b) adult.

Mr. Sproat: The Department of National Heritage supports the provision of sporting opportunities for both children and adults through the grant in aid that we give the Sports Council and the funding that we provide for

Column 1204

Sportsmatch. The Department has also been responsible for the establishment of the national lottery, which will provide a significant new source of funding for sport.

Mr. Greenway: Does my hon. Friend agree that, although it is most valuable for children to play games outside the school curriculum, in clubs where adults also play and enjoy them, it is extremely valuable and important for children to play games at school, in the school ethos, with all the civilising influences that that has? Does he agree that there is something in team games for every child at school, including the rabbit?

Mr. Sproat: Yes. Nothing has been said in the House this afternoon with which I agree more. It is extremely important that team games be taught, not only through governing bodies and outside sports clubs--which is vital--but in the ethos of schools. Team games are just as beneficial for rabbits as they are for anyone else.

Mr. Miller: Will the Minister discuss with his colleagues in the Department of the Environment the gap of provision that occurs in the context of medium-sized towns such as Ellesmere Port, where, because money has tended to drift towards the larger centres in and around the north- west, there are enormous gaps? The Minister can tackle that in consultation with his friends in the Department of the Environment and the Department for Education. It is about time that they did something about it.

Mr. Sproat: I agree with the hon. Gentleman. At this moment, we are having extremely helpful talks with the Department for Education, which are advancing steadily. We also have a register of sports pitches for the first time--we got it at the end of last year. I would be glad to have a talk with the hon. Gentleman to discuss any detailed proposals that he has in mind.

Mr. Haselhurst: In emphasising the importance of sport in school, will my hon. Friend accept that a sport such as cricket is especially difficult for many schools to handle out of hours because of transport problems and so on, and that it is therefore important, if that sport is to receive the boost that it deserves, that support be given to the voluntary clubs that are willing to play a part in coaching and encouraging youngsters to develop and extend their love of what is, after all, one of our most traditional games?

Mr. Sproat: What my hon. Friend says is absolutely true. I have asked the Sports Council specifically to make recommendations as to how sports clubs can help young people--how they can link with schools more to achieve the ends that my right hon. Friend and I wish to be achieved with regard to cricket and other team games.

National Lottery

17. Mr. Ainger: To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage which bodies will be responsible for distributing national lottery funds to organisations seeking to promote and assist children's play in England and Wales.

Mr. Sproat: It is for all the national lottery distributing bodies operating in England and Wales to consider the eligibility of projects submitted by children's play organisations in the light of the requirements of the

Column 1205

National Lottery Etc. Act 1993 and the policy directions issued by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State under that Act.

Mr. Ainger: Does the Minister accept that, now that we are a fortnight away from the introduction of the national lottery, it is unacceptable that organisations supporting children's play still do not know which distribution body will deal with play? Is it not outrageous that, literally 14 days away from the start of the national lottery, those many organisations throughout England and Wales do not know to whom they should apply?

Mr. Sproat: No, it is not outrageous. In practice, applications will be received from 4 January so there is plenty of time. The overwhelming majority of the 11 distributing bodies will issue their guidelines this month. The matter will then be clear. To be fair, a difference of opinion exists as to whether children's play comes under the Sports Council but it certainly comes under charities and the Millennium Commission. We shall sort out the Sports Council point in good time.

Mr. Ian Bruce: Does my hon. Friend agree that it is gratifying that hon. Members on both sides of the House--even the Liberal Democrats--are keen to see money from the lotteries that have been set up by the Government being spent? Will he take the warmest congratulations of the House on pushing forward with that policy? All hon. Members look forward to having the opportunity on 14 November to buy a ticket and to donate to a charity at the same time.

Mr. Sproat: Yes.


Matrix Churchill

30. Mr. Mike O'Brien: To ask the Attorney-General what representations he has received in the last month about the impact of decisions he has made on the former workers at Matrix Churchill.

The Attorney-General (Sir Nicholas Lyell): I have received only one representation on this matter. It arrived from the hon. Gentleman this morning.

Mr. O'Brien: I just wanted to be sure that the Attorney-General did not forget, as national newspapers seem to have forgotten, that hundreds of Matrix Churchill workers lost their jobs as a result of his decision to prosecute the directors. If he has any sympathy for those workers, many of whom are my constituents, will he say that, if the Government are criticised in the Scott report, he and the Government will take steps to ensure that those workers and their families are compensated for the loss of their livelihood which arose as a result of their decision?

The Attorney-General: Without being unsympathetic to the workers, I should like to say that the hon. Gentleman should not start rewriting history. First, he knows that Customs and Excise is an independent prosecuting authority and took its decision in that capacity some 18 months before I became significantly involved. Secondly, he has understandably already ventilated his

Column 1206

views on the matter--in a debate on 14 April this year involving his hon. Friends, my hon. Friends and the Department of Trade and Industry.

Mr. Matthew Banks: Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm and make it clear to the House that the decision to prosecute in this case was taken early in 1991 before any reference was made to my right hon. and learned Friend? Will he also confirm that, in any case, he would not normally be involved in such a decision to prosecute, given that Customs and Excise is an independent prosecuting authority?

The Attorney-General: My hon. Friend is right on both of those two points. There was an 18-month gap between the two. Any future questions on this matter must await the views of the inquiry and Lord Justice Scott.

Mr. Asil Nadir

31. Mr. Spellar: To ask the Attorney-General if he will make a statement about progress in the case of Mr. Asil Nadir.

The Attorney General: Mr. Asil Nadir remains outside the jurisdiction in circumstances which make it impossible at present to execute the warrant for his arrest or to seek his extradition. Interpol has been notified of the warrant.

Mr. Spellar: Is it not about time that the Government started to progress with a little bit more enthusiasm and energy? Will the Minister accept that, if they do not, there will be considerable suspicion not just in the House but in the rest of the country that they do not want Mr. Nadir back because they are afraid that he will do the same to them as Mr. Al Fayed did?

The Attorney-General: The Serious Fraud Office and I would welcome Mr. Asil Nadir's return at once to face trial on the charges on which he stands charged. The SFO is ready to prosecute him as soon as he returns.

Mrs. Angela Knight: While investigating the case of Mr. Asil Nadir, will my right hon. and learned Friend also ask the SFO to investigate the case of the editor of The Guardian who has used a stolen letter heading--

Madam Speaker: Order. The hon. Lady must resume her seat. Her comments do not relate to this question.

Mr. John Morris: Will the Attorney-General assure the House that-- unlike what happens with many other wealthy defendants--there will be no question of legal aid being granted in this case? As the Lord Chancellor is investigating the whole question of criminal legal aid being granted to people with considerable resources, when the right hon. and learned Gentleman is consulted on this matter, will he bear in mind the criteria of fairness and efficiency in the courts on the one hand and the lack of civil legal aid for many of our constituents on the other?

The Attorney-General: The right hon. and learned Gentleman--

Mr. Peter Bottomley: That is disgraceful; biased.

Madam Speaker: Order. If there is a point of order for me, perhaps the hon. Member for Eltham (Mr. Bottomley) will raise it at the end of questions. I did not quite hear

Column 1207

what he said, and I should like to hear it clearly then. [Interruption.] Order. I shall hear the point of order at the end of questions.

The Attorney-General: As the right hon. and learned Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) knows, although legal aid questions used to be answered by Law Officers, they are now a matter for the Lord Chancellor. I have no doubt that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will want to raise his question on a more appropriate occasion.

War Crimes Act 1991

32. Mr. John Marshall: To ask the Attorney-General if he will make a statement about the operation of the War Crimes Act 1991.

The Attorney-General: Police investigations in seven cases have now reached the stage where they have been referred to the Crown Prosecution Service to consider whether or not to seek my consent to prosecute. Investigations continue in these and other cases.

Mr. Marshall: Will my right hon. and learned Friend assure me that those prosecutions will be brought speedily while the witnesses are still alive and that the war crimes unit will be retained until decisions are made in each of these cases?

The Attorney-General: As my hon. Friend realises, these cases are extremely complex, but they are being pressed forward as fast as is reasonably possible. I shall certainly bear my hon. Friend's important points in mind.

Mr. Janner: Will the Attorney-General recognise that what the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) has said is right? The longer time goes on, the more difficult it becomes to prosecute people even if there is sufficient evidence of personal involvement in mass murder. What sort of time scale does the right hon. and learned Gentleman have in mind for these cases to come to him?

The Attorney-General: Of course I recognise what the hon. and learned Gentleman says. Not only did these events happen a very long time ago but those involved are necessarily quite old--and that does require that the cases be pushed forward as fast as they properly can be. That is how they will be pushed forward.

Scott Inquiry

33. Mrs. Roche: To ask the Attorney-General what requests his Department has received to give further evidence to the Scott inquiry.

The Attorney-General: Since 12 May 1994 when I last answered a question on this subject, three officials in the Departments for which I have ministerial responsibility have been asked to give some further evidence in writing.

Mrs. Roche: In consideration of that further evidence, does the Attorney-General now agree with Lord Justice Scott that it is unthinkable that public interest immunity

Column 1208

was used to cover documents in the Matrix Churchill affair? Will he answer my question with a straight yes or no?

The Attorney-General: The answer to the hon. Lady's first question is a matter for Lord Justice Scott, so I shall not answer that one. And I do not believe that she correctly quotes him in any event.

Crown Prosecution Service

34. Mr. Waterson: To ask the Attorney-General how many offices of the Crown Prosecution Service he has visited in the last six months; and if he will make a statement.

The Attorney General: Since April I have visited four offices of the Crown Prosecution Service--in Maidstone, Newcastle, Chippenham, and Camberwell.

Mr. Waterson: I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend for that answer. Is he wholly satisfied that the relationship between the police and the Crown Prosecution Service is all that it might be, particularly when it comes to preparing cases for prosecution?

The Attorney-General: A good and close working relationship between the police and the CPS is essential if cases are to be brought speedily and efficiently to trial. I know from my visits that in most parts of the country that is well realised. The challenge is to bring the standard in both services up to the level of the best in both services. That done, we shall be doing very well indeed.

Mr. Bermingham: Does the Attorney-General agree that in the 13 areas in which the CPS and its offices are contained there is a wide divergence of prosecuting policy? Quality control, for want of a better word, is not always the same in one area as in another. Would it not be a good idea to take steps to strengthen that side of the service, giving staff more input, so that people prosecuted in Newcastle and Exeter are prosecuted on the same basis?

The Attorney-General: The hon. Gentleman is thinking along the same lines as the Crown Prosecution Service in the sense that it and the police are working to establish high standards of charging practice, to cut paperwork and bureaucracy to that which is strictly necessary for the task, and to see that high standards of liaison exist between the police and the CPS and vice versa. They are making significant progress in those directions.

Lenient Sentences

35. Mr. Hawkins: To ask the Attorney-General if he will make a statement about the recent extension of his powers to refer cases to the Court of Appeal as unduly lenient sentences.

The Attorney-General: My power to apply for leave to refer a sentence which I consider to be unduly lenient was extended in March 1994 to cover offences of indecent assault, making threats to kill, and cruelty or neglect of a child.

Column 1209

My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has now announced the Government's intention further to extend my power to include sentences imposed in cases of serious or complex fraud.

Mr. Hawkins: I welcome my right hon. and learned Friend's answer. Can he confirm that, so far, sentences have been increased in 83 per cent. of cases referred to the Court of Appeal under the measure? The Labour party voted against that measure in 1991. So much for being "tough on crime". Will my right hon. and learned Friend further confirm that one of the sentences that it may be possible to refer is that for the crime of forgery? Will he look carefully at forgery offences, even those that are committed by editors of national newspapers?

The Attorney-General: My hon. Friend is right to say that the Court of Appeal has increased sentences in about 83 per cent. of those cases for which it has given me leave to refer to it. It is also worth pointing out that the legislation has produced a significant increase in sentences in areas where it bites. That is valuable, and should be recognised by all hon. Members irrespective of whether they voted for the legislation.



39. Mr. Hinchliffe: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the current level of British Government aid to Bangladesh.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Tony Baldry): I estimate that Britain provided more than £55 million in aid to Bangladesh in the financial year 1993-94.

Mr. Hinchliffe: Is the Minister aware that, through the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, an all-party delegation went to Bangladesh in September and looked directly at the way in which that country is tackling some enormous problems? As a member of that delegation, I impress upon the Minister the crucial role of British aid for many of the projects that are helping Bangladesh to recover from some extreme difficulties. Will he look specifically at the impact of British overseas aid on Bangladesh and, in particular, will he defend our contribution in the current budgetary process?

Mr. Baldry: I know that the hon. Gentleman takes a close interest in Bangladesh, which is the recipient of Britain's second largest, bilateral aid programme. That shows that we are focusing our efforts where they are most needed--on the poorest. That is why nearly 80 per cent. of our bilateral aid goes to the poorest countries. In Bangladesh we are helping to tackle the root causes of poverty by investment through Government and non-governmental organisations and through help with family planning, health, education and rural credits. We also support infrastructure projects such as the Dhaka power project and electricity distribution. That has meant that new workshops and factories for textiles and metalworking have sprung up to take advantage of newly available power supplies. We estimate that nearly 250,000 jobs are being created in that way, primarily for women.

Column 1210

I fully support what the hon. Gentleman says about the quality of our aid programme for Bangladesh, which we shall certainly continue to support.

Miss Emma Nicholson: What proportion of the aid for Bangladesh is spent on preventive health care? I am thinking particularly of the outcome in Bangladesh, with reference to British aid, of the recent world population conference in Cairo.

Mr. Baldry: I cannot give my hon. Friend exact figures, but clearly the international conference in Cairo on population and development was a notable success. The conference agreed strategies for better reproductive health, which include access to family planning facilities. Over the next two years, we intend to approve 50 new health and population projects and commit more than £100 million to help to ensure that mothers are better able to have children by choice and not by chance. Some of those projects will certainly be in Bangladesh.


40. Mr. Corbett: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assistance is being given to the new Government of Rwanda to help with rehabilitation and reconstruction; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Baldry: Since April, we have provided £60 million of emergency aid. Of that, almost £2 million has gone to non-governmental organisations involved in programmes for immediate rehabilitation in Rwanda, mainly concerned with seeds and tool provision, the restarting of health care services and tracing and registration of unaccompanied children.

Mr. Corbett: That help is welcome, but can the hon. Gentleman confirm that the Government plan to cut bilateral aid to Africa by £60 million over the next three years? Does he understand that money invested now in long-term development will save lives and money in future emergencies?

Mr. Baldry: The hon. Gentleman heard me say that we have just committed £60 million to Rwanda alone. British aid has grown significantly during recent years--by 10 per cent. in real terms since 1987 -88. This year's budget is almost £50 million higher than last year's. Indeed, in 1993 the United Kingdom was one of only seven countries in the world to increase its aid in real terms. We are the sixth largest aid donor worldwide.

The size of our programmes is by no means the only factor; quality is also important, and our programmes are practical and effective. The quality of our aid programme is recognised worldwide, and it is one of which we can all be proud.

Mr. Waterson: Does my hon. Friend agree that the speed of reaction and the generosity of this country in responding to tragedies such as that in Rwanda is second to none? Is it not positively churlish to suggest otherwise?

Mr. Baldry: I hope that our achievements in Rwanda speak for themselves. The United Kingdom can be proud of what we have been doing in Rwanda. We have provided considerable support to a number of voluntary and non-governmental organisations; ODA cargo-handling teams have been working in the region since the start of the crisis; and since mid-July the ODA

Column 1211

has organised more than 30 relief flights from the United Kingdom to Goma, containing vehicles, blankets, high-energy biscuits, water tankers, plastic sheeting and specialist staff. The water tanker team daily provides a third of a million litres of clean, life- saving water to refugee camps around Goma. We have contributed £60 million to relief aid in Rwanda. Britain is playing her part in the reconstruction of Rwanda and is helping to save lives there.

Miss Lestor: The hon. Gentleman referred to the need for water. Is he aware of the report in the Daily Mirror today, which has been confirmed by Oxfam, to the effect that a fleet of water tanker lorries intended for Rwanda and already painted in the United Nations white colours is rotting away on a disused airfield in Diss in Norfolk? The Minister must be aware, as the whole country is aware, that in Rwanda in July, 6,000 people a day were dying from lack of clean water. The use of those water tankers could have saved the lives of people who died from cholera and waterborne diseases. Will the hon. Gentleman authorise an immediate investigation into the truth of the report and the role that the UN played--or failed to play- -in getting that water to Rwanda?

Mr. Baldry: I welcome the hon. Lady to her new post on the Opposition Front Bench. We are investigating the allegations, as we want all humanitarian actions to be as effective as possible. However, she may have been misled. I have a copy of a fax showing that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees told the Daily Mirror on 28 October--some three days ago--that the UNHCR owns no water tankers in Britain, is not negotiating to purchase any in Britain and has never been in any negotiations to purchase any in Britain. My understanding is that the water tankers to which the hon. Lady referred were bought by an American firm from the Soviet army some time ago. That firm has never been in negotiations to sell them to the UN.

On the question of action by the ODA, we made immediate arrangements to transfer water tankers from Bosnia to Rwanda to meet the needs there. As I said

Column 1212

earlier, water tankers from the United Kingdom are daily providing a third of a million litres of clean water to refugee camps around Goma.

Mr. Matthew Banks: Does my hon. Friend agree that it is not the quantity of aid to Rwanda that is significant but its quality? In any case, the British overseas aid programme is one of the finest of its kind in the world.

Mr. Baldry: I entirely agree. All independent assessments of overseas aid programmes have concluded that United Kingdom programmes are of high quality, and we are determined that they will remain so.

42. Mr. Carrington: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what support is being given to help non-governmental work in Rwanda.

Mr. Baldry: Since 6 April we have specifically provided £15.5 million to non-governmental organisations implementing emergency relief programmes to displaced and refugee Rwandans.

Mr. Carrington: Does my hon. Friend agree that NGOs are providing effective assistance in Rwanda and that their work is the best way of getting assistance to the people in that unhappy country?

Mr. Baldry: I entirely agree, which is why we have been providing considerable support to NGOs for CARE's emergency relief operations in south-west Rwanda, and have part-funded Oxfam's water provision programme in Goma and the Save the Children Fund's health and child-tracing programme in north-west and south-west Rwanda. Often, NGOs can get to areas that recognised Governments or Government bodies cannot reach, which is why we have increasingly been working with NGOs in Rwanda and elsewhere in the world.

House of Commons Writing Paper

Madam Speaker: I have a brief statement to make following accounts of the misuse of House of Commons writing paper by The Guardian newspaper.

The House makes facilities available to the press so that our proceedings may be reported, not so that the name of the House can be used to give false authority to a newspaper's own activities. I take this matter very seriously indeed. I have asked the Serjeant at Arms to investigate all the circumstances, so that I can decide what further action it would be appropriate to take. I shall not have anything further to say until I receive the Serjeant's report.

Next Section (Debates)

  Home Page