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Farm Incomes

14. Mr. Letwin: What estimate he has made of future trends in farm incomes in the United Kingdom. [33767]

Dr. John Cunningham: It is difficult to predict the trend in farm incomes because of the many factors involved. I am kept informed by officials on how specific market developments could impact on farm incomes.

Mr. Letwin: Is the Minister aware that, for many farmers in my constituency, that answer will seem very odd? They have performed their own calculations and believe that they will be out of business next year due to the present state of the pound and the Minister's steadfast refusal to apply for agrimonetary compensation at the level they require.

Dr. Cunningham: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely wrong on that final point. The announcement that I made in December, and confirmed earlier this year, was based on agrimonetary compensation.

Mr. Letwin: It was a small amount.

Dr. Cunningham: The hon. Gentleman clearly does not understand. He says that it was a small amount, but it was virtually all that was available in agrimonetary compensation for the beef sector at that point.

Mr. Bradshaw: Does my right hon. Friend agree that farming incomes are particularly vulnerable to currency fluctuations? Does he therefore welcome the support of the National Farmers Union for the single European currency? Does he agree that it is absolutely ludicrous for the Conservative party to claim to be the friend of the farmer when it is still viscerally opposed to the single European currency?

Dr. Cunningham: My hon. Friend puts it very succinctly, and I agree with him.

Common Agricultural Policy

15. Mr. Wilkinson: If he discussed the reform of the common agricultural policy with the Minister of Agriculture of Chile during his recent visit to the United Kingdom. [33768]

Dr. John Cunningham: My noble Friend Lord Donoughue met the Chilean Minister of Agriculture on Thursday 5 March. Reform of the common agricultural policy was one of the items that they discussed.

Mr. Wilkinson: I am not surprised at that answer inasmuch as it must seem extraordinarily perverse that the

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United Kingdom allows itself to be part of a European Union agricultural policy that deliberately excludes some of the very best and cheapest agricultural produce in the world, such as that from Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. As the European Union's agricultural policy is up for review, could not only the consequences of enlargement but the paramount importance of satisfying the need for British consumers to get the best possible and most economic deal be taken into account?

Dr. Cunningham: I am delighted to agree with the hon. Gentleman; he is absolutely right. We should lose no opportunity to press for reform of the common agricultural policy, because of this country's support for successful enlargement of the Union, because of the impending next round of the World Trade Organisation talks on liberalisation and because, as the hon. Gentleman says, we want to give our consumers the best value for money and the best choice in the food that they buy.

Fishing Industry (Coastal Management Schemes)

16. Mr. Quinn: What consultations he has had recently with leaders of the fishing industry with regard to coastal management schemes. [33769]

Mr. Morley: I plan to meet leaders of the fishing industry shortly to discuss their recent paper on zonal and coastal state management.

Mr. Quinn: I thank my hon. Friend for that answer and suggest that it would be useful if he could visit fishing communities in Scarborough and Whitby and along the rest of the North Yorkshire coast to receive from them in person the thanks that they have expressed to me for the good start that the Government have made with fishing policy.

Mr. Morley: I am grateful for my hon. Friend's comments. I am always more than willing to meet people from the fishing industry in fishing ports to talk about issues of concern. It is true that we have brought stability to an industry that has lacked it for many years, by getting to grips with the issue of multi-annual guidance programmes III and IV after years of delay.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL

The Attorney-General was asked--

International Bribery

24. Mr. Bayley: What advice he has given the Government on the implementation of the EU and OECD conventions on international bribery. [33782]

The Attorney-General (Mr. John Morris): Officials in the departments for which I am responsible are involved in providing assistance in such matters, but my hon. Friend will know that, by convention, advice given by the Law Officers, and even the fact of its existence, is not disclosed outside Government.

Mr. Bayley: What action are the Government taking during the United Kingdom's presidency of the EU to combat corruption in the public and private sectors?

The Attorney-General: I know of my hon. Friend's strong interest in this matter. Indeed, he introduced a Bill

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on the subject in February. The Government have been a strong supporter of measures to penalise corruption. As president, the United Kingdom is taking forward a Luxembourg presidency initiative on corruption in the private sector, which will build on and complement existing EU legislation against corruption of officials. Furthermore, a detailed report being produced by the presidency and the Commission evaluates existing anti-corruption measures in both the first and third pillars.

Mr. Ian Bruce: Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell us more about what the Government are trying to do to ensure that our EU partners are not using bribery or other corrupt practices to obtain contracts in other parts of the world? During my visits to other countries, I have heard that Britain often loses out because companies, rightly, are not willing to engage in bribery and corruption with officials in countries such as the former Soviet Union, whereas some other notable large countries in the EU appear only too pleased to do so, to win contracts from Britain.

The Attorney-General: I am sure that my right hon. Friends who will be concerned with such matters in any discussions will seek to do what they can within the European Union to ensure that there is a level playing field. In our domestic law, we can deal only with offences committed within the jurisdiction.

Mr. Skinner: As we are told that Cyprus is trying to join the European Union and will thus be affected to some extent by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and all the other areas of influence, will my right hon. and learned Friend tell me whether, if discussions take place, the Government will tell the people of Cyprus that we shall bargain to ensure that Asil Nadir is brought back to this country as part of any deal so that he can tell us precisely when he handed the money over to the Tory party and what steps will be taken to give it back to the shareholders who were robbed of it in the first place?

The Attorney-General: I know of my hon. Friend's repeated concern and interest in this matter, which I suspect will not arise during the discussions. I shall take it up with my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.

Crown Prosecution Service

25. Sir Nicholas Lyell: When he now expects to receive the report of the committee reviewing the work and organisation of the Crown Prosecution Service. [33784]

The Attorney-General: Sir Iain Glidewell has informed me that he will not now be able to finalise his report this month, as he had hoped. Both he and I understand how important it is to the staff of the CPS that it should be completed as quickly as possible. I am satisfied that the review team is proceeding as expeditiously as it can, consistent with thoroughness.

Sir Nicholas Lyell: Pending receipt of the report, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman cast his mind back to when he was in opposition and recall how critical he was of the CPS in relation to discontinuances? Has he noticed his own most recent figures, which show that,

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during the months he has had responsibility, they seem to have gone up somewhat? What is more, those discontinued before the first hearing seem to have dropped. Can he given an explanation and assure the House that the CPS has all the backing it needs?

The Attorney-General: I can assure the right hon. and learned Gentleman that the CPS has the backing it needs. This matter comes under the terms of reference of the Glidewell report, and the House would be right to await the report before forming a view. Evidence is required, but the right hon. and learned Gentleman is quite right to draw attention to recent figures.

Mr. Barnes: In North-East Derbyshire, we cannot get the CPS to prosecute motorcyclists, or bodies organising them, who misuse designated bridleways and bridlepaths. Might the review provide some opportunity to allow the CPS to do its work, or might we need a change in the law?

The Attorney-General: I shall draw that matter to the attention of the Director, although these are substantially matters for the police in the first instance.

26. Mr. Clifton-Brown: If he will make a statement on the review of the Crown Prosecution Service. [33785]

The Attorney-General: I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer I gave a few moments ago to the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Bedfordshire (Sir N. Lyell).

Mr. Clifton-Brown: Is the Attorney-General aware that the CPS's computer system, SCOPE, had to be abandoned, at a huge loss of public money, because it was unable to cope with the new teamworking practices introduced by the CPS? This means that the CPS is now without any computer system that allows its branches to communicate with each other, let alone with every police force in England and Wales. What will the Attorney- General do to ensure this unsatisfactory situation is resolved?

The Attorney-General: I am aware of the interest and the criticism of the hon. Gentleman, who raised this matter in a Select Committee. I am grateful to him for giving notice of his question. SCOPE is a basic tracking and management system and, where installed, performs those functions adequately. It has been overtaken as the CPS changed and greater demands were made of the system. The CPS is pursuing methods to meet those needs, including consideration of the private finance initiative. I attach importance to compatibility with the remainder of the criminal justice system and I know that the Glidewell review is considering the issue.

Mr. Campbell-Savours: In light of press reports on the Glidewell review, can my right hon. and learned Friend tell the House whether it is proposed to restructure the CPS to 30 or 42 separate areas?

The Attorney-General: I am glad my hon. Friend has raised this matter, because there has been a misconception about it during the past few weeks. We took office with a commitment to restructure the CPS to 42 areas so as to align CPS areas with police force areas. That was the

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object of the exercise and it remains the policy. Sir Iain Glidewell's terms of reference are clear and require that his recommendations are on the basis of the service being organised into 42 areas.

Mr. Soames: Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman join me in paying tribute to the work of the Crown Prosecution Service in West Sussex, in particular the division run from Horsham, which looks after the magistrates court in Haywards Heath? Does he agree that it does a remarkably good job, despite the fact that it is short staffed and under great pressure? The most important thing that the CPS needs to carry out its task to the best of its ability is a little more money.

The Attorney-General: I understand why the hon. Gentleman presses for more public expenditure, but he knows the remit under which we have decided to operate. I am glad that he has paid tribute to his local staff--a large number of very hard-working and hard-pressed men and women work in the CPS. The Glidewell report is considering the means to ensure that the resources that are available are used to the best advantage and that lawyers get on with prosecuting and managers get on with managing, so that there is not the current undue mix.

Mr. Bermingham: Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that the Glidewell report will thoroughly review the working relationships between the police and the Crown Prosecution Service?

The Attorney-General: Yes. My hon. Friend raises an important issue. Concern that the relationship was not as smooth as it could be was a big factor in our decision to set up the review and to align police and CPS areas. It is also a specific topic in the review's terms of reference. The House will be aware that a very experienced former chief constable and inspector of constabularies, Sir Geoffrey Dear, is one of the team of three, which includes, of course, Sir Iain as chairman.


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