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Sir Roger Moate: I welcome the progress that my right hon. Friend has mentioned towards rail privatisation, but should not we recollect that, under public ownership, the last Labour Government cut public sector rail investment year after year and that the Labour Government before that closed 4,000 miles of track? Does not that emphasise the fact that if we are to have a railway of which we can be proud, it will be achieved only through private sector investment and private enterprise?
Dr. Mawhinney: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Neither he nor I would want to add to the embarrassment of the Labour party, but, as I understand it, its proposals are to take British Rail back into the public sector, so that it can continue to decline in relative terms as it has for the past 40 years.
Mr. Meacher: Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that, when the Railways Bill was being considered in Committee, Ministers promised that passenger train services would be franchised on the basis of the current timetable, whereas the franchising director has now revealed that there will be major cuts; that through-ticketing stations would remain as now, yet the Rail Regulator has now revealed that there will be huge reductions; that there would be no investment hiatus as a result of privatisation, yet this year, for the first time since the war, there are no new orders for rolling stock; and that Railtrack would remain in the public sector until last, yet it is being offered first for sale to fit in with the Chancellor's Budget arithmetic? Is not it true that every single promise that Ministers have made--that services would improve under privatisation-- has now clearly been shown to be false? Is not it high time that the Government listened for once to the 85 per cent. of the electorate-- including a majority of Conservatives--who now demand that the crazy idea of privatising the railways be scrapped?
Dr. Mawhinney: To quote a distinguished former Prime Minister, "No, no, no." I will take time tomorrow yet again to try to explain to the hon. Gentleman--who has no idea how the private sector works, but given his background he would not--precisely the benefits that will accrue to passengers: wait until tomorrow.
The Attorney-General (Sir Nicholas Lyell): Since the House of Lords gave judgment in the case of Private Clegg, I have received as Attorney- General representations from eight hon. Members and some 23 members of the public.
Sir Michael Neubert: Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that the British public find it difficult to understand how in a rapid burst of fire, consisting of four shots at split-second intervals, the first three can be lawful but the fourth not, and that they may have concluded that, if guilt is established in this case, fault may lie with the law rather than Private Clegg? Will he and his colleagues in government review very thoroughly the circumstances of the case to ensure, if necessary, that the law is amended to accord more closely with the British sense of justice?
The Attorney-General: I recognise, as does everybody in the House, the very difficult position that soldiers--young and less young--in Northern Ireland face in their exacting duties. That said, the law of Northern Ireland applies to all citizens. The facts of the case were carefully and independently considered by the prosecuting authorities and then independently adjudicated upon by the courts. I would advise my hon. Friend, and anyone else who wishes to study the matter closely, to read carefully the judgments of the House of Lords to understand how the facts were deployed.
On my hon. Friend's final point, my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has made it clear that this aspect of the law on murder and manslaughter is to be carefully reviewed.
Mr. Sutcliffe: In the light of the representations that he has received, will the Attorney-General make known his view on tonight's "Panorama" programme on the Lee Clegg case, involving a mock trial? Does he feel any anxiety lest, given the haste with which the programme was made, it will not consider any of the new evidence acquired by Clegg's legal advisers? Indeed, the programme has not even interviewed them. Is the Attorney-General concerned about the effect that that might have on the due process of law?
The Attorney-General: Like the hon. Gentleman, of course, I have not yet seen the programme that is to be broadcast tonight, and I shall not rush into judgment on it. Obviously, the subject as a whole is a matter of the greatest public interest, but I think that we can be confident that the Northern Ireland courts would not be influenced by such a programme.
The important questions of public law that must be considered in relation to the murder-manslaughter issue will, as I have said, be examined carefully.
Mr. Beith: Leaving aside the possibility of any retrial involving new evidence, may I ask how soon Private Clegg could be released under the present procedures outlined to the House by the Prime Minister? Does the Attorney-General not agree that many members of the public think that Private Clegg should be released very
Column 14soon, given the time that he has already served and the fact that what happened occurred while he was carrying out his duty?
The Attorney-General: The case of any young soldier in this position is a matter of the greatest public concern, but the question of release by the Secretary of State is a quasi-judicial one that must be looked into very carefully in consultation with the high judiciary, and treated accordingly. It would not be for me to say more about that question.
Mr. Ashby: Like my right hon. and learned Friend, I am a lawyer. One sometimes finds that an excessively legalistic approach, such as that adopted in the Court of Appeal in the Private Clegg case, flies in the face of what the public see as common sense. The public often feel, in respect--
Mr. Ashby: Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the public would be anxious for that excessively legalistic approach not to be used in any way to cover up an attempt to be too political about the outcome? In other words, does he agree that Private Clegg should be treated like anyone else?
The Attorney-General: I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that the law applies to all citizens equally, but I do not think that he has been fair to the Court of Appeal of Northern Ireland, which examined the matter very carefully. That Court of Appeal first suggested the investigation of the area of law, which investigation my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary is now arranging. My hon. Friend will wish to take that into account before issuing any further strictures.
Mr. Donald Anderson: Will the Attorney-General gently remind some of his hon. Friends that a tragic case such as this should make us all thankful that capital punishment no longer exists in this country? Will the inter-ministerial review that was announced by the Home Secretary on 24 January be restricted to the narrow question of whether disproportionate force which negates self-defence can nevertheless reduce a murder charge to manslaughter, or will it consider the wider question of whether a mandatory life sentence for murder is appropriate? Will the inter-ministerial team consider the narrow issue or the wider one?
The Attorney-General: My right hon. and learned Friend will study the hon. Gentleman's words, but I understand that the narrow aspect will be under consideration, rather than the entire question of the mandatory life sentence.
Column 15lawyers and support staff clear accountability and responsibility for cases from their receipt until their conclusion.
Mr. Hawkins: Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that improving the relationship between the police and the Crown Prosecution Service is crucial? Does he further agree that the recent steps to cut unnecessary police and Crown Prosecution Service paperwork are extremely welcome?
The Attorney-General: Yes, I agree with my hon. Friend on both matters. A very close working relationship between police and prosecutor is obviously essential. Each has an independent function, but they must work in harmony in carrying out those functions. The abbreviated files review has been in operation on a pilot basis in six police areas over the past six months. That six-month period will shortly come to an end, when it will be possible to evaluate the review and, I hope, find a way to cut paperwork.
Mrs. Roche: Does the Attorney-General agree that another factor that would help the efficiency of the Crown Prosecution Service is better public support? Would not such support be helped if victims of crime were consulted by the Crown Prosecution Service before charges were downgraded or dropped by prosecutors? Is not it a disgrace that the Government failed to back Labour's proposals to do just that?
The Attorney-General: I think that the answer to the last part of the hon. Lady's question is no, because I do not think that the proposals, in so far as they differ from what is already happening, were necessarily fully thought through. That said, the Crown Prosecution Service aims, in close liaison with the police, to keep in close contact with victims so that their attitude and approach can properly be taken into account at the early stages and at any stage when a charge has to be reviewed and possibly downgraded.
Lady Olga Maitland: Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the police need to be encouraged by the Crown Prosecution Service taking up cases that are before it? Is he aware of the case in my constituency of William Cocklin, an enraged father whose daughter had been attacked by three young men? The police were called but they said that they could not take the matter any further because they doubted that there was sufficient evidence. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that if the police had taken up that case that father would not have taken the law into his own hands and ended up on a kidnapping charge?
The Attorney-General: I am not aware of the details of my hon. Friend's constituent's case, but close harmony and close working between the police and the Crown Prosecution Service are very important to ensure that the public and justice are served.
Column 16The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Tony Baldry): The Government will continue to deliver a large and effective bilateral aid programme and are working to ensure that our substantial and growing multilateral commitments are similarly effective.
Mr. Baldry: British bilateral aid is best. It is high quality and well delivered, which is why we want a bilateral programme that is as large as possible. It is also why this year and for the next three years, year on year, we have provided extra money for the aid budget. Of course there will be times when we have to work with other countries in the United Nations and in Europe, and we need to ensure that such multilateral aid is delivered as efficiently and effectively as British aid.
Mr. Tyler: Will the Minister be a little more forthcoming about the balance that he seeks between bilateral and multilateral aid? Is there a level below which he thinks bilateral aid would not be viable?
Mr. Baldry: No, we need to ensure as large a bilateral aid programme as possible. Clearly, sometimes we shall have to work with colleagues either in the United Nations or within the European Union to deliver effective aid programmes, and we have to ensure that there is a proper balance.
Sir John Stanley: Given the huge diversion of our available overseas aid money to the European Union, does my hon. Friend agree that the imperative is greater than ever for the Government to take new steps to establish whether value for money is being obtained for this increasing share of our overseas aid budget? What steps are the Government taking to achieve that?
Mr. Baldry: We want to ensure that development aid is effective and, of course, we need to ensure that European Union aid is effective. We are determined to ensure the greatest possible effectiveness of EU aid. A Council of Ministers declaration on development policy to the year 2000 was agreed in 1992, and it set out objectives for EU aid similar to ours. We seek to ensure that those are fully reflected in all EU-funded activities throughout the world. A number of Overseas Development Administration staff are seconded to key positions in the Commission to strengthen systems and to advise on key overseas development sectors. We are always seeking to develop contacts between ODA staff and their counterparts in Brussels, to share experiences and improve co-ordination. My right hon. Friend is right: we contribute a substantial amount of money to the European Union development budget and we need to ensure that every single penny of it is spent as efficiently and cost-effectively as United Kingdom bilateral aid.
Mr. Enright: Will the Minister explain why the multilateral aid with the United Nations and the European Union that we are spending in Cambodia is not matched by our bilateral aid in that country? Unilaterally, the Government have treated our own non-governmental
Column 17organisations as though they were backpackers; they have not consulted them. Will he reconsider the ODA's unilateral decision to withdraw finance from those NGOs?
Mr. Baldry: I think that the hon. Gentleman is confusing a number of issues. We support a number of projects throughout the world, including in Cambodia. Tragically, in recent months a number of United Kingdom citizens have been kidnapped and murdered in Cambodia, which has caused considerable sadness to their families and many other people. Cambodia is a distinctly dangerous country at the moment so it must behove the ODA, as a responsible employer, to ensure that those working with it are not put at unnecessary risk. The ODA has been in deep discussions with all NGOs working in Cambodia about the position--
Mr. Baldry: I assure the hon. Gentleman that there has been the clearest and closest consultation with NGOs in Cambodia. We co-operate closely and effectively with NGOs throughout the world and we want to carry them with us in our decisions. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman has been inadvertently misled.
40. Mr. Brandreth: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has received concerning the UNICEF report on the state of the world's children; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Baldry: We have so far received a number of letters from hon. Members concerning the UNICEF report on the state of the world's children. The priority objectives of our aid programme reflect the goals of the world summit for children. Last year we gave more than £23 million to UNICEF.
Mr. Brandreth: Does my hon. Friend recall that in 1990 the world summit for children set specific goals for reducing deaths, malnutrition, disease and disability among children in the developing world? Does he agree that the report shows that the majority of countries, including the United Kingdom, have already achieved the majority of those goals? Although the report presents many challenges, it recognises many achievements, especially in immunisation programmes.
Mr. Baldry: I certainly support what my hon. Friend says. We were all saddened by the death of James Grant, UNICEF's executive director, who did so much to promote immunisation. At the end of the 1970s, fewer than 10 per cent. of the world's children were being immunised and measles, whooping cough, tetanus and diphtheria were claiming the lives of more than 13,000 children every day of every year. For a decade, we and others have worked with UNICEF to ensure the immunisation of at least 80 per cent. of the world's children. The attainment of that goal and the sustained
Column 18year-on-year achievement of that target has meant the prevention of almost 3 million child deaths a year. That is an outstanding achievement, which is largely unrecognised.
If the Minister and the Government endorse and welcome the report, and if we are to stay on target in the areas that the report highlights, how can the Minister allow the aid budget to deteriorate, as it has done, and stabilise at its current level of just 0.31 per cent., making us 14th out of the 21 development assistance committee countries-- [Interruption.] I simply asked the Minister how he could justify that-- [Interruption.]
Miss Lestor: If the Minister has read the report, I am sure that he will share my concern that overall levels of aid from industrialised nations have fallen and that a growing proportion of gross national product is going towards the cost of peacekeeping operations. That cost has risen dramatically and the shift of expenditure from the causes of catastrophe to its consequences should be considered very seriously indeed. This is a new situation. Will the hon. Gentleman comment on that?
Mr. Baldry: Let me help the hon. Lady with the various questions that she has asked. On the world summit for children report, of course alleviating poverty, especially among most vulnerable groups such as children, is the top priority of our aid programme. That is why the projects and programmes that we fund cover the range of education, health, child survival, water and sanitation, and child protection objectives that were agreed at the summit. For example, we provide assistance for street children in Brazil, Peru and eastern Europe, for slum improvement projects in India and for family and community health care in Ghana and Pakistan. Our emergency relief in countries such as Rwanda, Angola, Somalia and Sudan targets all people at risk, including mothers and children. We can be proud of that aid programme.
On the aid programme level-- [Interruption.] The hon. Lady asked three questions and I am seeking to respond to them. We have been through the aid budget before. If the hon. Lady considers the figures that were announced by my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, she will realise that he increased the aid programme: it is a plus figure. We are the sixth largest aid donor worldwide. This year, our aid budget is £2.2 billion. The latest Organisation for Economic Co- operation and Development figures show that the UK was one of only seven countries to increase official aid in 1993. If the hon. Lady considers the forward spending figures, she will realise that, for the coming three years, we are increasing our aid budget year on year.
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