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Lord St. John of Fawsley: My Lords, will the Minister turn his mind to an equally important problem related to telephone kiosks; that is, the multiplication of kitsch-designed conflicting kiosks throughout the capital and the country? Is he aware that the Royal Fine Art Commission was responsible for a competition which resulted in the classic Gilbert Scott telephone kiosks? Having cleared up the call girls, will the Government see that a similar competition is organised today?

Lord Haskel: My Lords, I shall certainly bring the noble Lord's comments to the attention of my right honourable friend. However, the concern in the Question about phone boxes is that they should be available for use and that people should not be deterred from using them.

Lord Annan: My Lords, does the Minister agree that prostitution is an evil that will always be with us? One of the most disastrous occurrences in recent years was the decision by the Law Lords to ban the Ladies Directory. That directory was an inoffensive--in one sense--publication which no one was compelled to buy. It was put on display discreetly at newsagents. When it was banned, having been described by the Law Lords as immoral, it was inevitably newsagents who had to be harried by the

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police to remove the cards with which telephone kiosks are now inundated. Does the Minister agree that the matter needs to be re-examined?

Lord Haskel: My Lords, I hesitate to trespass on the territory to which the noble Lord invites me to move. All I can say is that prostitution is not illegal in this country. However, whatever way information is disseminated, it must not cause offence to other people.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, can the Minister say what on earth is the use of barring a telephone call when the girl can obtain another application, perhaps using the name Mimi instead of Fifi?

Lord Haskel: My Lords, the girls can use other telephones and other telephone companies. That is one of the results of privatisation of the telephone business. Oftel is looking into the matter. British Telecom is not able to bar calls of other telephone companies; that would be contrary to its licence. Oftel is looking into the problem to see whether it can be dealt with.

Lord Henley: My Lords, can the noble Lord expand on what his right honourable friend the Home Secretary said last week about possibly using the crime and disorder Bill to bring in changes in legislation and possibly increasing the powers of the police? Has further thought been given by his colleagues in the Home Office to amendments which might help alleviate the problem?

Lord Haskel: My Lords, the noble Lord is right in saying that the matter was raised in another place last Friday. Existing legislation allows for prosecution for criminal damage in the case of stickers and for littering in the case of cards. Westminster City Council has used the legislation to prosecute carders. However, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary is considering, as he said during the debate on the policing of London, dealing with the issue. I am sure that the noble Lord has read the remarks of my right honourable friend in Hansard. I am certain he will let us know his decision in a short while.

Lord Palmer: My Lords, following the question from my noble friend Lord Annan, does the Minister agree that the advertisements have a certain advantage, particularly for the millions of visitors who come to London during the year?

Lord Haskel: My Lords, research shows that people who visit London find the advertising less objectionable than the citizens of London. I can only

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repeat that it deters people from using the public facility of call boxes. That is the problem to which the Government must pay attention.

Beer Imports: Illegal Sales

3.4 p.m.

Lord Evans of Parkside asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What consideration they have given to curbing the amount of beer imported into the United Kingdom for illegal resale.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, this Government take excise smuggling and fraud very seriously. Customs are currently deploying additional officers to frontline work in the Dover area to counter those involved. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced a review of alcohol and tobacco fraud involving a working party with the key trade associations to look at the effect of commercial fraud, smuggling and cross-border shopping. The Financial Secretary has set the review team a very challenging deadline of 31st December to present options for addressing those issues.

Lord Evans of Parkside: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. Is he aware that over 1 million gallons of beer are imported into Britain from France every single week? A great deal of it is then resold illegally in this country. Is the Minister aware that because of that criminal activity there are substantial job losses in pubs, working men's clubs and breweries and even a number of closures?

Does my noble friend accept that the prime reason for the smuggling is that the duty on a pint of beer in Great Britain is six times greater than in France? If that is the case, can he explain to me how putting another penny duty on a pint of beer will help stem the tide of beer coming into the country?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, my noble friend is very sure of his figures. I am less sure about how much beer is entering this country illegally, mainly because those who do it do not declare it to the statistical authorities.

As to my noble friend's supplementary question about the difference between our duty and that in other European countries, he is quite right. But the cost of reducing our duty to French levels--and I note that the brewers are not suggesting it--would be over £3 billion. That would be equivalent to an extra 1 per cent. on VAT or 2p on income tax. As for the increase in duty in the last Budget, that was simply in line with inflation.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the Brewers Association of Scotland has identified the fact that seven lorries a week are known to be illegally selling beer in Edinburgh? Can the

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Minister tell me how that can be an economic activity, considering that the lorry would have to travel 800 miles in order to complete its task?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, we touched on those issues when we discussed the Question of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, on whisky at the end of June this year. I am unsure how anyone can know that seven, six or eight lorries are entering Scotland illegally. If those who have the figures are certain of them, I wish they would inform us. We should be glad to know.

Training and Enterprise Councils

3.8 p.m.

Lord Dormand of Easington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to make any structural or functional changes to training and enterprise councils.

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): My Lords, we greatly value the important work TECs are doing at the local level to raise skill levels and foster enterprise. We recognise the benefit to local partnerships of a strong private sector contribution. There are therefore no plans to make fundamental changes to the structure and functions of TECs. We do, however, see scope for TECs to improve their performance, and a range of work is in hand to raise the performance of all TECs towards the level of the best. For example, I point to the work being done jointly with the TEC National Council to encourage TECs to benchmark themselves against each other and other organisations and to share good practice effectively.

Lord Dormand of Easington: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that valuable and comprehensive reply. Does she accept that there is a considerable variation throughout the country in the effectiveness of training enterprise councils? I recognise what she just said, but does she agree that much still needs to be done with local accountability and improvement in local partnerships? Does she further agree that an important method of raising standards is to have training inspection of individual providers? That is extremely important. Is anything being done in that respect?

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for raising these different issues in relation to TECs. It is true that performance varies significantly among TECs across the country. That is why, in partnership with the TEC movement, we are taking forward a range of measures to try to improve performance.

My noble friend asked about ensuring that TECs are more locally accountable. He is right in suggesting that TECs must account effectively to their local communities. The TEC movement is conscious that it needs to do more in that area. This week the TEC

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National Council is launching a revised framework for the local accountability of TECs which responds to recommendations made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Nolan.

In response to my noble friend's third question, on inspection, we have launched a training and standards council to be responsible for a new external inspection procedure for TECs which will be in operation by next April.

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