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Lady Olga Maitland: Will my right hon. Friend confirm that overseas investment in Wales has amounted to 75,000 jobs? Does he agree that those jobs, which have brought undoubted revival to Wales, will be at risk as a result of the burdens that will be introduced by over-regulation through the Welsh Assembly and, if a Labour Government ever came into being, by signing up to the social chapter and the minimum wage? Is that not a cruel trick on the people of Wales?
Mr. Hague: My hon. Friend is right. Seventy-five thousand people in Wales now work for overseas-owned companies, and, as was announced recently, many thousands more jobs are already in the pipeline. That has been instrumental in bringing unemployment in Wales--last month's figures show that it is down--below 100,000 for the first time in many years. We wish to continue that record, but it could not continue if this country were to sign up to a minimum wage, the social chapter and every other job-destroying measure advocated by the Labour party.
Mr. Donald Anderson: When the Secretary of State and his colleagues give vent to negative and carping criticism of the European Union, will they stop and consider that one of the major reasons why industrialists come to this country is that we are a launching pad for the European Union? The Secretary of State and his colleagues should stop and consider the damage that is done to Wales by their criticisms [Interruption.]
2 Dec 1996 : Column 664The Government are fully committed to making a resounding success of our membership of Europe. It is a factor in bringing new jobs and new investment into this country. Access to a huge market and to the prospering market that we have in the United Kingdom certainly helps to bring inward investors in. There is no doubt about that whatever.
The Attorney-General (Sir Nicholas Lyell): Extradition is primarily a matter for the Home Office, but the Crown Prosecution Service is currently assisting in the implementation of extradition proceedings in respect of some 380 cases involving a substantial number of the 120 countries with which we have extradition arrangements.
Mr. Booth: In recalling to the House that the Government were instrumental in reforming the 1870 and 1967 legislation on extradition, may I ask my right hon. and learned Friend to assure the House that extradition law is important as a priority in his work as Attorney-General?
The Attorney-General: Yes, I can certainly give my hon. Friend that assurance, in relation to the great diversity of extradition cases, both inward and outward, seeking to bring people back to this country and assisting other countries to obtain extradition in proper cases, and in relation to cases in respect of the Republic of Ireland.
Mr. John Morris: Like the Attorney-General, the Opposition are anxious that our extradition arrangements with Ireland work properly. Can he give an assurance that there is full co-operation between his office and that of his counterpart in Ireland, and that in individual cases we meet the requirement of the Irish courts?
The Attorney-General: I can indeed give the right hon. and learned Gentleman that assurance. He is well aware of the sensitivities in that difficult area, but I am able to assure him that there is a constructive working relationship between those for whom I am responsible and their counterparts in the Republic of Ireland.
The Solicitor-General (Sir Derek Spencer): The collective Government position was set out in their response to the report of the National Heritage Select Committee on privacy and media intrusion, published on 17 July 1995.
2 Dec 1996 : Column 665bearing in mind the sad hopelessness of the Press Complaints Commission? In view of the sensible suggestions made by--among others--Mrs. Norma Major in September about illegitimate intrusions into children's privacy and the family privacy of people in public life, should we not look again at the strict laws that exist in France and other countries to see whether we can possibly draft appropriate future legislation?
The Solicitor-General: I am obliged to my hon. Friend, but he should not write off the Press Complaints Commission quite so speedily. We believe that, since the appointment of Lord Wakeham, we have the best chance in years for effective self-regulation. The commission has a lay majority and is independent of the industry. If we are to go the way of legislation, we need law that is clear, intelligible and enforceable, and, as our paper makes clear, we are not persuaded that we have been able to find such criminal offences. There was no unanimity that a civil tort should be introduced.
Mr. Winnick: The Press Complaints Commission is a wash-out, and no one takes it seriously. Is it not of interest that the late President of France had a private relationship, out of which a child was born, but not until his dying days--when he clearly wanted it to be known--was that made public in the newspapers? It may be argued that public figures should be subject to press intrusion, but there is no justification for the private lives of individuals who are not involved in public life and are not engaged in criminality to be investigated by, and exposed in, the press, causing them embarrassment. They are not politicians, so why should they be subjected to such intrusion?
The Solicitor-General: The duties of the Law Officers are many and various, but we are not responsible for what goes on in France, nor for French law. The law in each country reflects its culture and domestic attitudes. A number of criminal cases each year are launched on the back of investigative journalism. Investigative journalism plays an important part in disclosing wrongdoing and hypocrisy. Before we start to lay down the law, we should ensure that we do not do more harm than good.
Sir Patrick Cormack: Does my hon. and learned Friend realise that many people in the House and outside will find his answer bordering on the complacent? They thought that the White Paper response to a serious situation last year was wholly inadequate. Will he promise to think again, and even to convene a meeting of hon. Members who are concerned about this matter?
The Solicitor-General: I am well aware of my hon. Friend's interest in this matter and of the Bill that he introduced, which exemplified the difficulties. With the greatest respect, I say that it was a disproportionate response to a particular problem. I will see to it that his comments are passed on to the Secretary of State for National Heritage, who is responsible for policy in this area.
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The Attorney-General: The Treasury Solicitor's Department, which became an executive agency in April, has produced its first business plan for the year 1996-97 and will publish an annual report and accounts, in common with the Government property lawyers. The Crown Prosecution Service and the Serious Fraud Office already produce statutory reports.
Sir Ivan Lawrence: Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that, in his Department, as in all others, it is red tape that clogs speedy processes and makes financial accountability to the House so difficult? Will he congratulate Derbyshire police on having shown how they can process a juvenile shoplifter in under three and a quarter hours, when other far less efficient police forces are unable to do so in under three days?
The Attorney-General: My hon. and learned Friend raises an important point. To be fair to the other police forces, Derbyshire police showed that there had been a misunderstanding the previous Saturday when a journalist wandered into a police station in London, and was under the impression that it required 41 forms to cause a guilty juvenile shoplifter to be brought to court. That turned out to be wholly fictitious. The 41 forms were the total number of forms that could be used in that police station for any reason. To deal with a guilty plea of that nature requires five forms for an adult and an extra form for a juvenile. That point was helpfully brought out by my hon. and learned Friend and by the Derbyshire police.
Mr. Alex Carlile: Does the Attorney-General agree that the proper financial accountability of his Department will depend in part upon it being shown that the Crown Prosecution Service is able to provide good value for money? How can that be provided while swingeing cuts continue to be made in the number of lawyers who are employed by the CPS so that it is not able to deal with all the cases that come before it with due dispatch?
The Attorney-General: Uncharacteristically, the hon. and learned Gentleman is wide of the mark on the facts. He will realise, if he examines the matter, that there are currently more than 2,000 Crown prosecutors, which is double the number that there were when the CPS was established, and that that figure is not far short of the maximum. While the current budgets are demanding, they are also realistic and I am confident, given the work load that is coming forward for the CPS, that it has the resources to do the job.