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Lord Clark of Kempston: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that it is quite illogical to think that there is any connection between the competitive position of our economy and the so-called difference between the rich and the poor? Does he further agree that one thing that would certainly hit our competitive position in world markets is the adoption of the social chapter? Finally, does he not agree that, compared with the standard of living in 1979, the standard of living today has increased for everyone?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I can confirm that the standard of living under this Government is substantially greater than it was under their predecessor.

Lord Eatwell: For everyone, my Lords?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, across the board. We believe that the best way to increase it is to have a flexible labour market. We further believe that the fossilisation and ossification that would result from the

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imposition of the policies contained in the social chapter would be detrimental to the interests of the British people as a whole.

Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, is it not the case that it is the Government's policy that the poor should have great aspirations and that the trickle-down policy should have a long way to trickle? Should not the Government be congratulated on the remarkable degree to which they have carried out this policy?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, we believe that the policies we have been pursuing are those which will act to the best benefit of society as a whole.

Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, is it not a fact that the poverty line is a very arbitrary line? What matters is what a given amount of work in terms of minutes and hours will buy. The cost of a bottle of whisky has fallen substantially over the past 20 years in terms of minutes of work, and other products bought by people—for example, pints of beer—also fall into that category.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, my noble friend is right that it is the value of what one earns that is crucial. But we must not forget in this debate that there is the problem which must be addressed of those who are at the least prosperous end of the income spectrum. That is why we have focused the efforts that we are making to help people on those whom we consider and identify as being most disadvantaged. That has been the thrust of our policy and we believe it is an appropriate complement to a policy of encouraging incentives.

Baroness David: My Lords, reverting to the Minister's earlier answer to the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, about nursery education and education for 16 to 19 year-olds, if education is so important to the Government, does the noble Lord not think it very odd that the pay review body's recommendation on teachers' pay has not been followed? A great many children who would have had nursery education in the coming year will not be able to have it as the funding has not been granted.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, with regard to the detail of the teachers' pay round, that matter is still outstanding. But it is the case that family credit child care allowance will help around 150,000 low-income families to combine work with family responsibility. In addition, there is a £10 top-up for those on family credit working more than 30 hours, announced in the 1994 Budget, which will further help those who wish to combine full-time work with family responsibilities. We believe that this shows the Government's commitment in that direction.

Lord Barnett: My Lords, perhaps I may be allowed to congratulate the noble Lord on carrying out his duties as Deputy Chief Whip which, with all the other work that he does in your Lordships' House, certainly ensures that we get value for money from him, if not from any other Minister. Reverting to the noble Lord's answer to the noble Lord, Lord Clark, that there has been an increase in living standards overall in the past 16 years,

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can he tell us whether in any other developed country over the past 16 years there has not been such an increase?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his kind comments. We could probably agree that the definition of a civilised country is one where the standard of living has gone up.

Lord Rea: My Lords, with regard to the standard of living, does the noble Lord know of important work that has been done at the Trafford Institute of the University of Sussex which shows that there is a greater increase in expectation of life in those developed countries which have the most fair distribution of income as distinct from ours, which has an increasing divide between the extremes of income?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I am not aware of the study to which the noble Lord alludes, but I am interested to hear his comments about what it contains.

Lord Hooson: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that the inequality regarding educational opportunity at the lower end of the spectrum is the key question disturbing people of all parties who have any concern about the future of this country? Is that not what the Rowntree Report is really concentrating on?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, the Rowntree Report addresses a number of matters. As I said earlier, the matter of education and educational opportunities is exercising the country as a whole. It is because we on these Benches have been concerned about these matters that we have over the past 10 years introduced a number of changes in education which we believe will be to the advantage of the nation as a whole.

Lord Eatwell: My Lords, does the Minister recall that in his Mais Lecture on 4th May 1994 the Chancellor of the Exchequer said:

    "The gap between the highest paid and the lowest paid will continue to widen"?

He then said:

    "This is inevitable and probably desirable".

Does the Minister agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that inequality is set to increase; and how much more inequality does he think is desirable?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, what is desirable is to improve the lot of all of our citizens, and in particular to improve the lot of those who are least well off. The policies which we on these Benches advocate are ones which will achieve that in the world rather than tinkering along the lines suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, which will not create wealth. We cannot help those who are most disadvantaged in society if we destroy wealth. We must apply wealth.

Lord Eatwell: My Lords, am I to take it that the Minister's answer is that he disagrees with the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

Lord Inglewood: No, my Lords, not with the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Lord Molloy: My Lords, in addition to the foundation mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, there are

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many foundations which examine all kinds of issues. Do the Government take notice of any of them? Should they not at least examine their recommendations, or do they regard their work as a waste of time?

Lord Inglewood: No, my Lords. The Government listen; and on the basis of what they have heard they form their policies.

Lord Richard: My Lords, we should not leave this Question without congratulating the Minister on something which he said. We are inventing a new category of people in our society. I think he called them "the least prosperous end of the income spectrum". Is it not a fact that in the old days they were called "the poor"?

Lord Inglewood: Yes, my Lords.

World War II: 50th Anniversary Commemoration

3.30 p.m.

The Lord Privy Seal (Viscount Cranborne): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I should like to make a short statement about the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. A ceremony is to be held in Westminster Hall, when both Houses will attend and Addresses will be presented to Her Majesty the Queen, to which she will reply. The date and time of the event is Friday, 5th May, at noon. It is proposed that a reception be held in the hall after the ceremony.

It is hoped by my noble friend the Lord Chancellor and the Speaker that as many Members of both Houses as possible will participate. It is intended that spouses and other family members will be able to accompany them. Representatives of veterans and other organisations will also be invited.

To help with the planning of this event, a notice will be circulated to all Peers in the next few days asking whether they will be attending and whether they wish to be accompanied by up to two members of their families. If demand for places is high, there may need to be a ballot. I know that all your Lordships will wish to be as helpful as possible and to make the ceremony a memorable one for all who participate.

Crown Agents Bill [H.L.]

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lady Chalker of Wallasey, I beg to introduce a Bill to provide for the vesting of the property, rights and liabilities of the Crown Agents in a company nominated by the Secretary of State, and for the subsequent dissolution of the Crown Agents; and for connected purposes. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a first time.—(Lord Inglewood.)

On Question, Bill read a first time, and to be printed.

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