HC Deb 23 November 1992 vol 214 cc601-2
30. Mr. Flynn

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what new charters he intends to introduce.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. William Waldegrave

Twenty-seven charters have been published so far. My noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor will publish his courts charter on Wednesday, and five more charters will be published in the next six months.

Mr. Flynn

Does the Chancellor think that our democracy would be improved by the introduction of a voters charter, which would create an elected second Chamber and put controls on national spending at election time? The Register of Members' Interests for the previous Parliament showed that 14 per cent. of Labour Members had outside jobs, whereas 85 per cent. of Conservative Members had two, three and sometimes four or five salaries from outside. As name tags are a main feature of the charters, would not a voters charter benefit from having a list that hon. Members could wear on their lapels showing the companies that are filling those Members' pockets with money, so that voters and the House would know whether Members were speaking on behalf of their constituents or on behalf of Megagreed plc?

Mr. Waldegrave

I am afraid that the question goes a little wider than my responsibilities, wide though they are. I used to be a supporter of an elected upper Chamber, and if we had one with a solid Conservative majority, which would be the result, we might have less difficulty in that Chamber. I hear what the hon. Gentleman says about the other matters and will report them to the Leader of the House, who is the proper recipient.

Mr. Nicholls

Does my right hon. Friend agree that what he said today about the courts charter will be most welcome news to members of the public, witnesses and practitioners who have had to cope with the vagaries of the system? Will he accept my word for it that the way in which listing hearings take place often shows scant regard for those who need to use the criminal courts and simply means that important items are decided according to the whim of court listing clerks?

Mr. Waldegrave

I believe that my noble and learned Friend's charter will be widely welcomed, but I must leave it to him to present it on Wednesday. Many of my constituents, perhaps like those of other hon. Members, have been disappointed by the way in which they have been treated by the courts whether as witnesses or as victims. The charter will be welcome in setting proper targets for the courts' treatment of people.

Ms. Mowlam

Does the Minister accept that the letters that I have received from constituents do not talk about the wonders of the charter, but show that they think that the Minister's handling of it has made it more of a farce than an asset to consumers? Does he accept that his credibility as a Minister is in doubt when he claims, as he has in the House, to have no departmental responsibility for monitoring specific charters or for providing information? Despite that, he still believes that he is the Minister for open government. Surely his failure to stand up to Ministers at the Foreign Office means that he is not up to the job.

Mr. Waldegrave

I think that the hon. Member may have strayed into the wrong debate. If, as an Opposition spokesman, she did not receive letters criticising the Government there would not be much point in her existence. The point of the central campaign is to get charters established throughout the public service. That has been done and I think that the hon. Member will find that the White Paper that we publish on Wednesday will catalogue formidable progress in the past year.