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Lord Rowallan: My Lords, is it not a fact that ACPO receives considerable funds from the Government to the tune of nearly £0.5 million, in addition to receiving further funds of nearly £1 million from police authorities throughout the country, and that, as it is a limited company, those funds do not appear in ACPO's books?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, as I have said previously, the Home Office allocated £458,000 to the costs of running the secretariat and the local authorities provided £330,000 in 1996-97 and £669,000 in 1997-98. Those sums did not appear in ACPO Limited's accounts because ACPO Limited was not then constituted. For the future, ACPO Limited, now being a public limited company, will have to produce its accounts in the format required by the companies legislation. That is what I said on the last occasion that this Question was put to me in the past few weeks.

Lord Judd: My Lords, further to his answer to the noble Lord, Lord Harris, does not my noble friend agree that the Association of Chief Police Officers makes extremely interesting and important announcements and comments on some of the major social issues facing Britain at the moment and, by its comments and insights, informs the whole process of policy formulation to a very valuable extent?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, my noble friend is absolutely right. There are important public debates, some of which are reflected in your Lordships' House, and ACPO plainly has a proper, important and central role to play in the conduct of those debates. It adds value to the public debate.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, given the comparatively large sums of money which the Minister mentioned, can noble Lords and Members of the other place see the advice which has been given by ACPO? Is the Home Office ever in a position to ask ACPO for advice on particular issues, and, if so, will the Minister ask ACPO to give advice on the policing of gypsy sites, which has been a matter of considerable complaint recently, particularly after the incident in which a six year-old boy was killed during an eviction on a site in Enfield last October?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the advice given is often published. I refer, for instance, to the

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excellent Home Office report on intimidation and vulnerable witnesses, into which ACPO had an input. If one wants to read such reports, one can generally see what ACPO's policies have been. If there is any specific question about police misbehaviour, that should be directed to the chief constable or the police authority concerned. If the noble Lord has no satisfaction, I shall then be perfectly happy to take up the matter myself. However, I do not believe that the relationship between ACPO and the Home Office is at all secretive.

The Earl of Lytton: My Lords, does the Minister accept that one of the reasons for the continued line of questioning by noble Lords on the Floor of the House and in Written Questions is his failure to provide me and other noble Lords with any details of the activities of ACPO beyond a two-item breakdown of an annual Home Office allocation of £458,000? Does the Minister agree that that does not amount to transparency or accountability?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the last time I answered this Question I said that the sum of £458,000 contributed to the cost of staff salaries and other administrative costs, such as stationery, cleaning and communications. We do not give that as a global sum to ACPO but pay specific invoices. I am content that that is proper accountability of public funds.

Government Documents: Disclosure

3.31 p.m.

Lord Renton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether their policy of more open government enables secret departmental information to be disclosed to people with a commercial interest in it.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, of course not. Disclosing confidential official information that would give someone an improper financial advantage is a serious disciplinary offence, and in some circumstances it may be a criminal offence.

Lord Renton: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his Answer so far as it goes. Can he inform the House why there have been so many leaks and premature disclosures of government documents in the past 12 months? Does he agree that the time has come for the Government to insist that civil servants and others in their employ should at last honour their contracts of employment?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, of course the Government insist that those in their employ honour their contracts of employment. Yesterday the Prime Minister said:

    "I have instructed the Cabinet Secretary ... to revise the rules that we inherited that govern such contacts and to strengthen them in any way that he thinks fit. In particular, there can be no circumstances that ever justify either passing confidential or inside information to a lobbyist, or the granting of any improper preferential access to, or influence on, Government. These rules will

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    be strengthened and they will be published. Anyone found breaching them will be out on his ear".--[Official Report, Commons, 8/7/98; col. 1065.]

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, can the Minister inform the House when the proposed freedom of information Bill is to be introduced which is the supposed flagship of the Government's policy of openness? Can the Minister say whether it will lead to redundancies among spin doctors on the one hand and lobbyists on the other?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Lord well knows that the preparation of a freedom of information Bill is well in hand and will be available for introduction next Session, if it is included in the Queen's Speech.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, do the Government recognise that they have brought many of these woes on to their own head? Has the attention of the Government been drawn to the excellent first letter in The Times yesterday by the director-general of one of the major trade associations which states that the way in which the Government now formulate and announce policy, in many cases bypassing normal civil service channels, has given rise to this new industry that has brought such wrath upon their heads?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I have read that letter, which is as unspecific as the second question of the noble Lord, Lord Renton. If the noble Lord wishes to ask me about any particular example in which information has been given other than to Parliament I shall gladly answer, but it is very difficult to answer generalised allegations.

Lord McNally: My Lords, I should declare an interest as a director of a company that has a public affairs division. Will the Government respond to a united call by the industry for a proper register in Parliament of those who act as lobbyists? Does the Minister agree that if the Government set standards perhaps by a return to more formal decision-making in Whitehall, backed by a freedom of information Act and a register, that will do a great deal to restore public confidence?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, as the noble Lord well knows, some of the allegations that have been made in recent days relate to firms that are members of the professional organisation to which he refers and some that are not. Clearly that raises the question of whether official recognition should be given in the form of a register to a proper professional organisation. I have no doubt that my colleagues will consider that. The noble Lord is also right that the Government's freedom of information proposals which so far are only in the form of a White Paper will contribute to a proper relationship between government and the outside world.

Baroness Pitkeathley: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that, although the word "lobbying" has become somewhat discredited in recent days, there are

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perfectly proper uses of lobbying represented by the many national charities with which Members of your Lordships' House are connected?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, it is proper that public sector organisations, charities and businesses should seek to have their views represented to government. It is essential for government business that those interests should be represented in a proper and responsible way.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that the Government should listen rather less to the coterie of lobbyists and advisers who make up the inner circle of those close to the Prime Minister and Ministers and considerably more to your Lordships' House, in particular the wise advice that this House gave to the Government on Tuesday of this week? Furthermore, will the noble Lord make available a list of all contacts between Market Access, the company that employed the hapless Mr. Draper, and Ministers since 1st May last year?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Lord is trying his luck if he asks me to deal with the Teaching and Higher Education Bill in response to the original Question. The answer to his second question is, of course not. It would be utterly absurd for the Government to list contacts between Ministers and outside bodies. Once one started to do that one would spend more time recording than making policy.

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