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Lord Henley: My Lords, I regret to say that I did not know about the Better Welsh Campaign, but I am very grateful to the noble Lord for bringing it to the attention of the House. I am sure that all noble Lords will have taken on board what he had to say.
Lord Quirk: My Lords, does the Minister agree that even if his office extended to being able to provide better English in Scotland or in Wales, it would be a grotesque misuse of public funds in view of the admirable English spoken west of Shrewsbury and north of the Border? Does the Minister further agree that the Better English Campaign, so admirably led by Mr. Trevor McDonald, would do well to concentrate its attention on English in a relatively public role--I am not thinking of radio and television but of railway station announcements and telephonists responding to outside calls whether in hospitals, police stations or, indeed, in government departments? Would it not be a marvellous achievement if someone telephoning the DFEE did not have to ask for the response to be repeated because the initial response sounded both uneducated and unemployable?
Lord Henley: My Lords, I apologise if the noble Lord had some problems in ringing my own department. As regards the main part of his question, it is a matter for Mr. Trevor McDonald as to how he develops the Better English Campaign. I am sure he will take note of some of the very helpful suggestions that the noble Lord has put forward. If he cares to know more of what the campaign is proposing I can send him a copy of the original press release which Mr. McDonald issued, giving some idea of the initiatives he intends to pursue.
Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, can the noble Lord say whether the campaign will deal not only with unnecessary words but also with unnecessary and undesirable pronunciation such as the glottal stop?
Lord Henley: My Lords, the campaign is designed to promote good spoken English. As I made clear earlier, it is for Mr. McDonald to decide on his priorities. Again, I am sure that he will take note of what the noble Lord said.
Lord Henley: My Lords, I always find that most government literature is written with the most admirable clarity. I certainly notice that my noble friend Lord Peyton seems to have little difficulty in understanding it, especially when he brings it before this House.
Lord Morris of Castle Morris: My Lords, is it not a fact that Mr. Trevor McDonald said publicly that he was astounded at reports that some universities had to run remedial training classes in English for undergraduates? Is the Minister aware that many of us who have been connected with universities were by no means astounded--indeed, we were distinctly underwhelmed--since such remedial classes were common in universities throughout the 1980s, even for those with good grade A-levels in English who had been admitted to read for a degree in English? Can the Minister tell the House what steps the Better English Campaign is taking, or will be encouraged to take, to ameliorate this very regrettable situation?
Lord Henley: My Lords, the Better English Campaign is just one part of our efforts to raise standards. The raising of those standards has been at the heart of all the reforms we have pursued in terms of the national curriculum, national tests, teacher assessment and performance tables. I could go on. Our aim is to raise the standard of spoken and written English. We shall continue to pursue those reforms, probably with the opposition of the Opposition.
Lord Beloff: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that it is a handicap to this admirable campaign when the University of Oxford appoints to the Murdoch Chair of Communications a lady who does not believe in the importance of correct English and who is then brought forward by the BBC as an appropriate Reith lecturer?
Lord Henley: My Lords, I understand that my noble friend is a great believer in academic freedom. As a result, I believe he will accept that I am not responsible for the decisions of Oxford University.
The Lord Privy Seal (Viscount Cranborne): My Lords, I know that this subject excites a great deal of interest in your Lordships' House, and rightly so. I observe, however, that two more Questions remain. Your Lordships may feel that the time has come to move on.
The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): My Lords, at last week's meetings of the IMF and the World Bank, there was agreement that the burden of debt is unsustainable for a number of heavily indebted poor countries, and that action is needed to reduce it so as not to put at risk their reform efforts. Ministers, led by my right honourable friend the Chancellor, agreed that the IMF and the World Bank will move swiftly to make specific proposals to enable agreement to be reached at the institution's annual meetings.
Lord Judd: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that encouraging reply. Will he accept that he has the full support of this side of the House in all that the Government can do to encourage speed in restructuring the debts of the poorest countries? Does he not agree that one severe handicap at the moment is the reluctance of the International Monetary Fund to play its part? Can the Minister assure the House that at the G7 summit in June all possible pressure will be mobilised to persuade the IMF to restructure its enhanced structural adjustment programme with more concessional terms, perhaps financed by the sale of some of the gold stocks at the disposal of the IMF?
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Judd, for his support. He gave it to me when we last addressed this matter. We would like to see far quicker progress than we have made so far, but it takes time to reach agreement between the members of the IMF. We are pressing for a resolution of the debt problem. The fund's managing director and most other members of the IMF support this move. They want that body to make a real contribution to a solution in the context of a continuing, enhanced structural adjustment facility. A few members of the fund, regrettably, still oppose the modest sale of IMF gold which we and the managing director have proposed as a means of financing this project. We shall continue to work on this matter and to press for some form of agreement to be obtained in the autumn.
Lord Redesdale: My Lords, I congratulate the Chancellor on the initiative he has taken on debt relief, which I welcome. Does the Minister agree that the six-year time lag which some countries will have to face before they qualify for debt relief may be seen to be too long?
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, it depends on the position of each individual country. With regard to the countries most seriously affected by their very large debt overhang, the sooner they have a solution to the problem the quicker they can get on with trying to restore their economies and bringing some
Baroness Lockwood: My Lords, does the Minister agree that in dealing with this problem time is of the essence? Further, is he aware that for less than what is currently being spent by some of the poorer countries on debt repayment it would be possible by the end of the century, through social investment, to save the lives of around 21 million African children and provide 90 million girls with primary education? Therefore, will the Government undertake to continue this pressure until a speedy solution is found to this problem, which is so desperately needed?
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, the noble Baroness very graphically underlines the problem, which can be helped greatly by a resolution of the debt problems in the poorest countries in the world. I can only underline what I have already said; namely, that as regards multilateral debt, we are doing our very best to bring to a successful conclusion the plans brought forward and supported by Kenneth Clarke to sell some gold, invest it in resources which will generate interest and use that to reduce the burden of debt on the poorest countries.
Viscount Brentford: My Lords, will my noble friend ensure that my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer recognises that two issues are involved in relation to debt: the relief of interest on the debt and the cancellation of some of the debt which, frankly, will never be repaid by some of the less developed countries?
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