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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I can certainly confirm that as long as we are not members of EMU we shall not be members of the executive board or the governing council. The noble Lord is ahead of me in his reading of the Financial Times. My understanding is that the general council exists to cover both the "ins" and the "outs" and covers relationships between the two, and also that we shall be represented on that council. As regards the question of what decisions are being taken, a great number of them are already either incorporated in the treaty or have been taken by the European Monetary Institute, of which we are members.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, while I appreciate that the Government do not intend to join the euro at this stage and that they will not have any say in who will become president of the European Central Bank, perhaps the Minister can share with us whether in general terms, if the Government were in a position to influence the matter, they would prefer a German banker who believed in sound money or a French banker who did not.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, that is a good try, but I am not in any way going to respond to the noble Lord's invitation to me to exhibit xenophobia. As I understand it, the choice is not between a German banker and a French banker, but between a Dutch banker and a German banker.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am constantly being tempted. I have been tempted into xenophobia and now I am being tempted into a conspiracy theory. I shall not follow my noble friend down that road.
Lord Peston: My Lords, I am sure that the question is neither xenophobic nor one of conspiracy. The noble Lords, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish and Lord Renton, put their fingers on something which is of fundamental importance to this country. Therefore, is my noble friend aware that if what they say has any remote connection with the truth--and I believe that it does--there are enormously serious consequences for this country in our laggardness in getting involved with EMU? Those of us who try to be as supportive as we can of the Government are placed in great difficulties when we see the most important decisions facing this country, of which we have just had a very good example, still being left to others and we revert to what has always troubled us--namely, our propensity to complain in the future about things we could do something about now.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, in terms of the original Question, I believe that our inability to take part in the choice of the presidency of the European Central Bank is a relatively small price to pay. But of course my noble friend is perfectly entitled to widen the debate and I always enjoy it when he does. We have taken the view, which was reported to Parliament and debated there on 27th October, that there are sound economic reasons--notably the need for sustainable economic convergence--which make it impossible for us to join EMU at the outset.
Lord Jenkins of Hillhead: My Lords, is the Minister aware that if Europe is run by a Franco-German partnership, as the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, alleges, it is not due to any treaty of 1963 but to the persistent detachment of Britain, which he so strongly advocates, but which I hope--not yet with total confidence--this Government are in the process of correcting?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I have no intention of getting involved in a debate between the noble Lord and my noble friend Lord Bruce of Donington. As regards the more important matter which the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, raised, I am delighted to hear, because I believe he is right, that we are showing a very different attitude towards Europe from that of our predecessors. We are the first Government to say that there are no constitutional bars to our membership of European monetary union and that we intend to enter it in due course.
Viscount Waverley: My Lords, the UK presidency comes at a crucial moment where a spare seat by rotation could be considered. Can the Minister say whether it is wise to have the influence of politics over single currency monetary authorities, which would arguably impact its credibility? If so, what measures can be introduced to deflect such a circumstance?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am not entirely sure that I understand the noble Viscount's question. If he is referring to the executive board or the governing council of the European Central Bank, it is indeed open to those bodies to keep spare seats available at the outset. But we have no indication as to whether or not they intend to do so.
Against that background, I give your Lordships the following figures for Prison Service expenditure on prisoner education: £36,956,000 in 1995-96; £34,481,000 in 1996-97. The service estimates that in 1997-98 it will have spent £36,266,000.
The Earl of Longford: My Lords, may I venture to ask the much respected Minister whether he will allow me to share his obvious discomfort at giving such a distressing Answer? Is he aware that this country is said to be--I am glad to think that it is--richer than ever and we are getting richer and richer, but we are also given to understand that our prison population is increasing? Am I correct in saying that the amount that is spent on education in prisons is decreasing in real terms? Can the Minister provide any conceivable justification for that?
Lord Judd: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that in any civilized approach to penal policy, the biggest challenge of all is the rehabilitation of prisoners, and that in terms of prisoners' rehabilitation it is difficult to think of a higher priority than education? Therefore, can my noble friend reassure us that the Government are committed, as resources permit, to giving education within the prison system the priority that it deserves?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend for that question. Rehabilitation is enormously important, as I indicated a few days ago, and that is why we are intent on introducing the tagging scheme, which will give those prisoners who are serving between three months and four years and who are within two months of the end of their incarceration the opportunity to return to the community. That is an important aspect of rehabilitation. I can absolutely confirm that, when the resources are available, we intend to tackle these long-lying, deep-seated problems in the prison regime, but we cannot do everything overnight.
Lord Monkswell: My Lords, bearing in mind that expenditure on education in the Prison Service is devolved to individual governors, can the Minister tell the House what variation there is in such expenditure between the different establishments and whether the Home Office conducts any research about the outcome of the differential education expenditure in our prisons?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, we are intending to appoint a director of regimes at prison board level, with assistant directors responsible for different components of the prison system. One of those assistant directors will have specific responsibility for regime services. We would expect those assistant directors to be in place not later than January of the coming year.
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