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Mr. Hanson: Is the Minister aware that in north Wales there is widespread concern about a number of issues, especially education and the police? Is he aware that on Wednesday Clwyd county council will meet to discuss major cuts in services as a result of his settlement? Only today I learned that north Wales will lose at least 60 police officers this year because of the settlement proposed for the police force. Will the Minister review both points as a matter of urgency, as people in north Wales are concerned about the results of the settlement?
Mr. Jones: The hon. Gentleman should know that spending on education in Clwyd is a matter for Clwyd education authority. There is a change from this year in police spending throughout Wales. For the first time, the Welsh Office is involved in setting spending levels for the police authorities in Wales. Prospective standard spending assessments have been set for each of the four, and we are consulting on that before we make our final decisions.
13. Mr. Michael: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what steps he is taking to ensure that the work of voluntary organisations is not damaged during the process of local government reorganisation in Wales.
Mr. Richards: From the outset, my right hon. Friend and I have been keen to safeguard the interests of the voluntary sector. The White Paper, "A Charter for the Future," emphasised the important role played by the sector in the delivery of local services. That message is reinforced in the guidance issued to transition committees.
In drawing up their service delivery plans for 1 April 1996, I expect authorities to consult the voluntary sector, to build on existing arrangements and to set out their strategy for working with the voluntary sector.
Mr. Michael: Those are fine words, but what does the Minister intend to do in practice? Does he not realise that local authorities are not only suffering the constraints of the tightened finances as a result of Government decisions but will bear the burden of increased costs due to reorganisation? At present, many voluntary organisations receive some money from counties and some from districts. In those straitened circumstances, how will the
Column 447Minister ensure that the finances available to many voluntary organisations are maintained and do not drop as a result of reorganisation?
Mr. Richards: The work of voluntary organisations is valued greatly, certainly on the Conservative Benches. The latest available figures for direct grants to voluntary bodies for 1993-94 is £14.1 million. In addition, there are indirect grants provided by other bodies such as education authorities and local authorities.
Mrs. Roche: Given that efforts have so far failed to lead to the return of Asil Nadir from the illegal regime of occupied northern Cyprus, is it not about time that pressure was exerted on the Turkish Government, who really control the situation, or are the Government of this country are apprehensive about what Asil Nadir will reveal about secret Tory party donations?
The Solicitor-General: The hon. Lady cannot have been present in the Chamber when I dealt with that question on previous occasions. We are anxious that Asil Nadir should return to this country at the earliest opportunity to stand trial, and we have encouraged him to do so. The matter of donations to party funds was considered by the Department of Trade and Industry and then by the Serious Fraud Office. The decision about the charges to be preferred against Mr. Asil Nadir was taken by the Serious Fraud Office, an independent investigating and prosecuting authority, without reference to any Ministers or to either of the Law Officers.
The Solicitor-General: As I have already said, we are very keen that Asil Nadir should come back to this country. He has nothing to fear, and we should be interested in what he has to say about the charges that have been preferred.
The Attorney-General (Sir Nicholas Lyell): On 4 May 1993 I provided the Irish Attorney-General with the usual documentation in support of a request for the extradition of Father Brendan Smyth. Father Smyth subsequently returned voluntarily to Northern Ireland, appeared in court on 21 January 1994 and was later sentenced to four years imprisonment for offences of child abuse.
Column 448reported that Brendan Smyth had been interviewed by the Royal Ulster Constabulary early in 1990 in connection with child abuse complaints, that the priest had admitted wrongdoing, but was not arrested? Why did it take from then until early 1993 for the Attorney-General to seek his arrest and extradition and why did not he press with his opposite number in Dublin for an early extradition following that notice being served on the Garda?
The Attorney-General: To take the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question first, as the hon. Gentleman knows since his holiday in Ireland and his 25 questions to the House on this subject, officials in my Department did press on three occasions, in September, October and November 1993. Returning to the earlier time, however, there were indeed investigations by the Royal Ulster Constabulary in 1990 and 1991 and into 1992. It was hoped and expected at that time that Brendan Smyth would present himself for arrest in Northern Ireland. That did not take place and it then became necessary to prepare the extradition papers. Further events or suspicions of criminality arose in early 1993.
Mr. Peter Bottomley: Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that when I tabled a question on these matters he referred me to the answers that he had already given to the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay) and that the information has been published in Dublin and elsewhere on several occasions when my right hon. and learned Friend's office pushed for the extradition papers to be processed? Will he also confirm that it is quite normal, in sad cases like this, for the priest, minister or vicar concerned to make himself available to the police, and that it is rare for the person concerned to go outside the jurisdiction?
The Attorney-General: On both points, I confirm what my hon. Friend has said. There was a real expectation, or at least a real hope, that Brendan Smyth would make himself available in the early stages. As for the detail of the matter, those who wish to read it can do so in extenso in the papers referred to by my hon. Friend.
Mr. Trimble: The Attorney-General referred to the reminders that were sent by his office to the Irish on a monthly basis. Were they just reminders, or did they actually press for action? If it was the latter, what response was received from the Irish authorities? What did the official in Dublin, who we are told was dealing with the matter, say to the Attorney-General? Did the Irish at any stage raise technical legal objections? Did they at any stage refer to the earlier Duggan case?
Mr. Donald Anderson: The key charge against the Attorney-General in this matter is that he was so laid back as to be horizontal in respect of what is a very grave matter. Can he confirm that, in the eight months between April 1993 and January 1994, when Mr. Smyth, or Father Smyth, voluntarily surrendered himself to the Northern Irish authorities, no action had been taken by the Irish Government? Did the right hon. and learned Gentleman not think that it was time for him to intervene personally?
Column 449How much longer after that eight months would he have allowed this grave matter to drag on without bothering to intervene himself?
The Attorney-General: I think that the hon. Gentleman, whom I welcome to his new post on the Opposition Front Bench, has spent more time on working out his question than on reading the background. He will discover that not only did I send the detailed statements of facts and law in May 1993, but that that was followed up by my Department, as I have said, in September, October and November 1993. There were also contacts through other offices and agencies involved. It was clear at the end of November 1993 that Brendan Smyth was likely to come back of his own accord. That was communicated to Dublin in December 1993, and the rest is history.
Several hon. Members rose --
Madam Speaker: Order. I was in fact calling Mr. Anderson to ask question No. 24. This is an example of how Front-Bench Members can sometimes have two bites at the cherry while Back Benchers do not get any of the cherry. I must now tell the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) that I assume that he has asked question No. 24 and a Back Bencher should have an opportunity.
The Attorney-General: The Crown Prosecution Service has referred the cases of seven potential defendants to Treasury counsel for advice. The papers are voluminous and complex. They will be dealt with as quickly as possible.
Mr. Townsend: Will my right hon. and learned Friend remind the House what changes will have to be made to the law of the land to deal with the problems of evidence in cases which go back more than 50 years? Is he yet in a position to explain that no one will go to prison after that very expensive and elaborate business?
The Attorney-General: To take the second part of my hon. Friend's question first, as he will appreciate, the question of anybody going to prison will depend, first, on there being prosecutions and, secondly, on there being convictions. One should not jump those guns. Both will depend on evidence. A case will not be brought unless there is sufficient evidence to give a realistic prospect of conviction.
Mr. Alex Carlile: Whether or not there are prosecutions, does the Attorney-General recognise that there is great concern that such matters have taken so long to be processed? Will he encourage Treasury counsel and
Column 450whoever else is involved to supply their opinions quickly, so that a decision can be reached with the utmost dispatch?
The Attorney-General: Yes, indeed. I recognise and share exactly the hon. and learned Gentleman's view. It is well understood by Treasury counsel. It is a detailed matter, but it has been given close, urgent and careful attention.
30. Mr. Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement defining the Government's policy as to how, and to what extent, aid should be tied to trade.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Tony Baldry): We give aid to promote economic and social development in other countries. Wherever practical, we aim to use United Kingdom goods and services to achieve that.
Mr. Mackinlay: Will the Minister reflect that there is now widespread public opinion that it is an abuse of the aid programme to tie it to trade, particularly when such projects include metro systems in Ankara, in a state which is an applicant member of the European Union? Should not aid be related exclusively to waging war on poverty and promoting health and education?
Mr. Baldry: Aid and trade provision was established by the Labour Government in 1977. Like much of Labour party policy, however, it is obviously re-written by the day. ATP has enabled the United Kingdom to promote development in areas where British companies have much to offer. It is a successful scheme. It is successful in helping poorer countries. It is successful also in that the £1.4 billion which has been committed to support development in poorer countries has led to nearly £4 billion of British exports, which must be good news for Britain, for British jobs and for countries which have benefited from such projects. Not surprisingly, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee concluded that ATP should continue.
Mr. Waterson: What is my hon. Friend's view of the Opposition's point that one should never make defence sales to countries that are in receipt of British aid? Has he figures to show the number of British jobs that would be lost if such a policy were adopted?
Mr. Baldry: It would be a bizarre approach if the Opposition suggested that we should never contemplate defence sales in countries to which we give aid. We would be entitled to ask how many employees of companies such as British Aerospace, GEC, Rolls-Royce, Racal, Perkins, Vickers and hundreds of other United Kingdom defence exporters would accept losing their jobs for such specious dogma.
Secondly, as the Minister is aware, fewer than a third of ATP applications in 1989-90 and 1990-91 were granted. Surely other ATP projects could have been funded if the
Column 451Government had not gone ahead with the Pergau dam project. Is it not therefore disgraceful, as many people constantly point out, for the Government to say that they cannot restore the money that has already been spent on Pergau and on other projects? The pathetic excuse constantly trotted out is that the system of annual budgets means that the books for those years have been closed. Much good could have been done and could still be done if the Government would restore that money.
Mr. Baldry: First, the House will be grateful to the hon. Lady for setting out Labour party policy. As Labour party policy seems to change by the day, we are grateful for daily updates. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made the position in respect of money from the court judgment absolutely clear before Christmas. It is clear, and I am surprised that the hon. Lady has difficulty with it. We decided that funding from the reserve will be provided to meet the costs of four projects, thus releasing an extra £34.5 million this year and £31 million next year for overseas development. Every reasonable hon. Member would consider that to be an equitable solution.
Mr. Jacques Arnold: Are not four-wheel drive British vehicles such as those made by Rover and also British technology in agriculture, the water industry and many public utilities vital to developing countries? Is it not good for Britain and for the developing countries if, in the process of granting such aid, we tie in trade for Britain? Does that not show the hypocrisy of the Opposition?
Mr. Baldry: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We work with British companies and consultants, as we do with British non-governmental organisations such as Oxfam and the Save the Children fund, because they provide the advice, know-how, products and experience which are of benefit to the development of the countries that we help. We should be proud that British money, talent and expertise are devoted to helping many of the poorest people in the world.
Mr. Prentice: Does the Minister not appreciate the bewilderment of people that the largest single slice of overseas aid should go to Malaysia, a country which exports cars to the United Kingdom? Is there not a case for refocusing our aid effort to those parts of the world which are poverty- stricken and which need the support that we can give them?
Mr. Baldry: The hon. Gentleman should first read the statistics on British overseas aid for 1994. He might then pose a more accurate question. Nine of the 10 biggest aid recipients last year were poor countries in Africa and Asia, while Bosnia was the other main recipient. We have a substantial aid programme of some £2.2 billion which has been praised for its quality. The programme is focused on helping the poorest in the world, and we can all be proud of it.
Column 452flexible in addressing human crises? But would not the budget be better distributed on a sectoral rather than a regional basis? That would be particularly applicable in relation to population policy.
Mr. Baldry: It is indeed a large budget of some £2.2 billion and we are the sixth largest aid donor worldwide. It is growing, and the next three years will see year-on-year increases in the aid budget. It is a quality budget. Christian Aid recently commented:
"The UK has capacity and considerable experience both in development and in the management of crises. The quality of the UK's overall contribution to long-term development is recognised to be high."
That is one of the leading NGOs commenting on UK aid.
In addition to giving money to the poorest countries, we also discuss their aid programmes with them. We seek to do that on seven principles, including support of economic reform, helping to achieve good government, enhancing productive capacity and financing activities which directly benefit poor people. Those are set out in detail in the ODA annual review. We recognise that we must promote particular policies as well as helping poor countries.
Mr. Flynn: Does the Minister agree that since power was devolved from Moscow to Riga, Tallin and Vilnius, the know-how fund has made a marvellous contribution--it is a small contribution, but important--to the growth in the self-confidence and the economies of the Baltic states?
As Estonia has a smaller population than Wales and Latvia has a smaller population than Scotland, would it not be worthwhile to use the know-how fund to set up a small seminar for the Prime Minister and the Cabinet so that he and they can know how devolution liberates, unifies and creates prosperity?
Mr. Baldry: That was a good try. I thank the hon. Gentleman for the first part of his question, which fairly summarised the advantages of the know-how fund and its contribution to helping the transformation of state- run communist societies to market-led, pluralist democracies in eastern Europe. However, he rather spoilt it by the second part.
Mr. Ian Bruce: Will my hon. Friend tell the House whether people in eastern European countries are asking about privatisation? Is he as pleased as I was that the hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) was so loud in his praise of privatisation when we were in Romania together? The hon. Gentleman seemed more enthusiastic about privatisation taking place than I was.
Mr. Baldry: The Labour party may be somewhat embarrassed by the know -how fund. The aim of part of it is to assist privatisation in eastern Europe. All those countries have recognised the need to move to market
Column 453economies while the Labour party is still grappling with whether it wants to abandon the 1918 commitment to the public ownership of all means of production, distribution and exchange.
Mr. Baldry: Our aid to the Palestinians is not given to the Palestine Liberation Organisation. In 1994 we spent approximately £12 million bilaterally and through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
Column 454Palestinians by one route or another if the middle east peace process is to continue. On that strain, does he recognise that some 75 per cent. of the population of Jordan are Palestinians? In view of their courageous and skilful entry into the peace process, will he arrange for the write-off of the Jordanian debt to Britain, which in any event will not be repaid to? This is the right time to make that gesture.
Mr. Baldry: In a sense, we have done as the hon. and learned Gentleman asks. Following the Washington declaration by Israel and Jordan, all aid debts owed by Jordan to Britain have been written off. The agreement to bring that into effect was signed on 11 December last year. I hope that that is good news for the hon. and learned Gentleman. We recognise that Jordan, having concluded its own bilateral peace treaty with Israel, has made a significant contribution to the peace process in the middle east. That is why all aid debts owed by Jordan to Britain have been written off.
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