Motion made, and Question proposed,
That this House, at its rising to-morrow, do adjourn
until Monday 17th October.—[Mr. Newton.]
§ 3.56 Pm
§ Sir Geoffrey Pattie (Chertsey and Walton)
The House should not adjourn for the summer recess without having an opportunity to consider the National Audit Office report of 29 June 1994, dealing with the policies of the Department of Transport on the acquisition, management and disposal of land and property that has been purchased for road construction. Once again, the Department appears to be seen in a poor light, showing inadequate management and an apparent indifference to the anxieties and suffering of individual people living in their own homes.
On the schemes examined by the National Audit Office, the Department median average time to announce the preferred route was 10 years from the time of the original announcement, and a further six years to reach the compulsory purchase stage. Two schemes that the National Audit Office examined took 20 years or more.
The only part of the National Audit Office report in which the Department receives some encouragement is from section 2.24 onwards, concerning informing the public, but even there there are shortcomings, which are identified in section 2.26:In April 1994 the Highways Agency published their acquisitions charter statement, 'Your Home and Trunk Road Proposals', which aims to provide homeowners with clear and straightforward information on the type of compensation available for those whose property is affected and the stages at which they can claim. The charter statement does not commit the Highways Agency, however, to publicising on individual schemes the point at which discretionary purchase applications will be considered.That is important.
Part 3 of the National Audit Office report gives the main cause for concern up and down the country, particularly in my constituency. It is the part dealing with the management of land and property. Section 3.4 of the informative report states:The Internal Audit examination in 1991 (paragraph 1.6) noted that the managing agreements then in force lacked clear guidance and objectives on rent levels, rent arrears, maintenance expenditure and vacancy levels. Although the Department issued further guidance on these matters in 1992, five of the 14 agents responding to the National Audit Office survey considered that the guidance still lacked clarity on some areas such as security costs.On the important subject of monitoring performance, paragraph 3.6 states:The Department do not analyse and compare the performance of regions and agents and they do not, therefore, have information to identify variations and to help focus on particular problem areas. The Department's lack of computerised information until recently has also severely hampered their ability to monitor achievements.On the subject of vacancy levels, section 3.9 states:The National Audit Office found that at 31 March 1993 for all land and property owned by the Department there were rent arrears of £2 million or 21 per cent. of total collectable incomefor that particular year.
In paragraph 3.11, the report states:The National Audit Office found that by 31 March 1993 for the 2350 residential agent managed properties, rent arrears of £1.2 million had accumulated, or about 20 per cent. of total collectable income for 1992–93. This compares with 17 per cent. one year earlier and 14 per cent. at 31 March 1987.In my constituency, the problem has been exacerbated. Behind all the statistics produced by the National Audit 325 Office lie real life stories. One example involves an address at New Haw in my constituency—41, Pinewood avenue. A letter sent to me by the chief executive of Runnymede borough council stated:A particular property at 41 Pinewood Avenue provides a graphic illustration of the sorts of problems that local residents have to tolerate. It was acquired in 1993 and squatters broke in in October/November 1993. The terrified family next door contacted the agents many miles away in Guildford but received no response. Numerous telephone calls to the Department of Transport at Dorking and letters also resulted in no response. During this time the squatters arrived at any time day and night with loud music and drug pushing. Police patrolled but squatters used rear access along the motorway to escape raids. The Department of Transport officials at Dorking were very defensive and unco-operative, often with an unpleasant attitude with little or no concern for the problems of residents and their quality of life. Endless further delays and finally court action resulted in the squatters being evicted at the end of May this year, some six/seven months of absolute misery for local residents. As though this was not enough the Department of Transport and their managing agents left this property unsecured even after eviction and squatters made further attempts to break back into the premises.Only after representations by the local authority and myself was priority given to the particular property—short-let tenants have now been installed.
Many people are surprised at the attitude of the Department of Transport to the public and local authorities. It seems to make little attempt to be user-sensitive or to try to understand the anxieties of local people. The upheaval caused by the planning and construction of a motorway is a traumatic experience for anyone. To add to that trauma, the problems of squatting, vandalism and drug-related activities is completely unacceptable in this day and age, and all the more so when those activities result from mismanagement on the part of the Department.
What Runnymede borough council finds so extraordinary about the whole matter is that it has devised a scheme to cope with homelessness in its area. It has developed an effective private partnership scheme under which private landlords make their properties available for families who would otherwise be homeless. The properties are handed back at the end of the tenancy agreement and the families are rehoused in other suitable properties. The properties are well looked after, there are no voids, there is a sensible income and homeless people get somewhere to live. All that shows a well-managed housing policy, and Runnymede offered to provide that service to the Department of Transport for the usual fees. No reply has been forthcoming.
§ Sir Michael Grylls (Surrey, North-West)
My right hon. Friend and I have the pleasure of sharing Runnymede borough council, which crosses our two constituencies. It really is a pleasure most of the time, but it has not been a pleasure during the planning stage of the link road. It has caused absolute havoc for people living in Thorpe and Egham—a very nice village and a very nice town. Many properties have been blighted and I hope that my right hon. Friend will mention that in his speech. It is almost impossible for people to move. People with a growing family who need an extra bedroom for the children find it impossible to get rid of their houses at anything other than knock-down prices. Devastation has been caused and the Department of Transport should be doing something about it.
§ Sir Geoffrey Pattie
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who draws attention to the problems that his constituents share with mine. Over both our areas, about 120 properties have been acquired by the Department.
A local authority with a proven record on managing housing stock well and to the advantage of all concerned has been spurned by the Department. That has led to the problems and mismanagement that I have described anti to the additional costs to the public purse that have been highlighted so well in the National Audit Office report.
§ 4.7 pm
§ Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)
It is difficult to know whether to congratulate or commiserate with the Leader of the House on surviving this morning's slaughter in Downing street.
I want to refer in this debate to two important decisions of this House still awaiting implementation, about each of which we are entitled to at least an oral ministerial statement before we rise for the summer recess. The first concerns the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill which, since I first presented it to the House for First Reading in 1991, has had over 40 hours of parliamentary debate. I am told that that is rather longer than it took to dispatch King Charles I.
In an attempt to end what is now being called the "filibuster of the century", the hon. Member for Exeter (Sir J. Hannam) moved a motion on 29 April in the following terms:That, in the opinion of this House, Her Majesty's Ministers should provide sufficient time on the floor of the House before 27th May 1994 to allow all remaining stages of the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill to be completed, and that sufficient time be provided before the end of the Session for the consideration of any Amendments to the Bill which may be made by the House of Lords."—[Official Report, 29 April 1994; Vol. 242, c. 497.]Like the Bill itself, the motion had strong backing in all parts of the House and it was approved, after nearly five hours of debate, without a single vote against.
A speech on the motion from the Minister for Social Security and Disabled People left the Bill's supporters here and all across Britain with high hopes that its Report stage, due the following Friday, was being approached by the Government in a spirit of honest endeavour to reach common ground with the Bill's all-party sponsors. Unless words had lost their meaning, it was said, the Minister was at the very least committed by that speech to ensure fair play at the Bill's Report stage on 6 May. But then came a rude awakening.
It was discovered that in fact the Minister, even before he spoke on the hon. Member for Exeter's motion, had already given instructions for the Bill to be destroyed. Within four days of the Minister's speech, 80 new amendments to the Bill were tabled en bloc, all in the names of five Conservative Members. The amendments were drafted for them, at taxpayers' expense, by the Office of Parliamentary Counsel on instructions given by the Minister for Social Security and Disabled People on 20 April, nine days before his speech of 29 April on the motion of the hon. Member for Exeter. Inevitably the effect of the amendments was to ensure that the Bill would be talked out on Report.
There were attempts at first to give the impression that the 80 amendments had been drafted by the five Members themselves. That impression was corrected by the Leader of the House in a parliamentary reply to me on 6 May, in which he confirmed that all the amendments were drafted 327 by the Office of Parliamentary Counsel. Subsequently there were two statements of unreserved apology for misleading the House in proceedings on the Bill: one by the Minister himself, and the other by the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Lady Olga Maitland). But their statements were scant consolation for Britain's 6.5 million disabled people. For them, as they have since made clear to all Members, the wrecking of the Bill was an unforgivable act.
They feel deceived and betrayed. They point out that the Bill had the support of a clear majority of Members; that it had been given a Second Reading in the House of Lords on three occasions and completed all its stages there as long ago as November 1992; that the Bill's sponsors had consulted both very widely and in detail about its provisions; and that the response to that consultation had been strongly positive. They recall the motion of the hon. Member for Exeter and they regard the Government's failure to implement it as contemptuous of this House. Above all, they ask why, if the Government felt that their case was even remotely defensible, there was so much deceit and deception in responding to the Bill at a time when the Prime Minister was stressing his determination to restorethe highest standards in public life.The Leader of the House may say that we have now had the Minister's statement of last Friday and seen the consultative document. But that is no answer to disabled people who ask, in anguish and with anger, what trust they can ever have in Ministers who promise consultation while continuing even to ignore the opinion of the House of Commons itself. If they can ignore the House, whose preference for the Bill over all the alternatives was clearly expressed in its approval of the motion on 29 April, then whose opinions are they ever likely to accept if they differ from the Government's own? That is the question leading representatives of disabled people are asking after the Minister's statement last Friday. They complain bitterly of being forced to trade a good and viable Bill for a promissory note of little face value, let alone real value.
As Leader of the House, the right hon. Gentleman has a duty in this debate to respond to the very deeply felt concern among disabled people, more especially about the apparent futility of the parliamentary process when, as it seems to them, the decision taken by this House on 29 April has been so unceremoniously dumped by the Government and without any attempt at justification.
The right hon. Gentleman must know that the motion the House approved on 29 April was by no means extravagant. To opt for extravagance is not the way of the hon. Member for Exeter. All that his motion sought was an hour or so of parliamentary time to meet the strongly reaffirmed call from disabled people for full citizenship, and, as the hon. Member for Exeter said in moving the motion:We are not asking for the impossible or even for the original. Between 1951 and 1985, private Members' Bills were given Government time, of which 33 were granted extra time by Conservative Governments. Library records show that, between 1979 and 1986, four private Members' balloted Bills were given Government time. All those Bills show that, where there is a parliamentary will, there is a parliamentary way."—[Official Report, 29 April; Vol. 242, c. 505.]328 It is still not too late for the Government to make the only worthwhile apology for their scandalously indefensible treatment of the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill. They can do so by honouring the decision taken by the House on 29 April. Time can still be found for the Bill's remaining stages before this Session ends, and I implore the right hon. Gentleman now to accept the will of the House as expressed by its approval of the motion of the hon. Member for Exeter.
The Government's treatment of that motion is not an isolated case. There is now the further case of the motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay) on the welfare of the ex-service community, which the House approved on 1 July 1994. It is a motion in which I have an interest to declare, but not a financial one, as honorary parliamentary adviser to the Royal British Legion. My hon. Friend's motion was in the following terms:That this House, mindful of the increasing needs of the United Kingdom's ageing ex-service population and the many problems of younger members of the ex-service community in direct consequence of 'Options for Change', considers that there is now a pressing need for a sub-Department of Ex-Service Affairs within an existing Ministry and with a designated Minister to be responsible, as the only fundamental and long-term solution for the case and welfare of ex-service people and their dependants; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government now to respond positively to the Royal British Legion's urgent call for a sub-department to be established.The issue addressed by that motion is one about which the ex-service community feels very strongly. This year's Royal British Legion conference, which spoke for 800,000 legion members, voted unanimously to press the Government to establish the sub-department.
At a time when bits and pieces of responsibility for ex-service affairs are scattered all over Whitehall, ex-service organisations want someone in Government to focus attention on all their concerns: a Minister in an existing Department who can provide full access to the whole Government through a single Whitehall door. They do not seek to emulate other countries with full-blown departments of state for veterans' affairs, but simply to make life easier for the ex-service community here in the UK—not least the war disabled and war bereaved—by achieving a modest and common-sense change in the machinery of government.
For ex-service organisations, in representing their members' interests, now to have to deal with 17 different Ministries is bureaucratic and inefficient, costly to the taxpayer, damaging to the reputations of Whitehall and Westminster, and hurtful to the ex-service community. Who can doubt that all the tension there was recently between the Government and the ex-service community over the 50th anniversary of D-day could have been avoided if there had been more sensitivity to and awareness of that community's wishes than could be achieved under existing arrangements?
In a parliamentary question to the Prime Minister, I askedif he will be meeting representatives of the Royal British Legion to discuss the approval by the House on 1 July of the resolution on the welfare of ex-service people; and what representation he has had from the Legion in regard to a meeting".His answer was:We welcome continuing close contact with the Royal British Legion and other service organisations. A request for a meeting has been received from the Royal British Legion and is being considered at present."—[Official Report, 14 July 1994; Vol. 246, c. 712.]329 My question gave the Prime Minister an opportunity to assure the ex-service community that the Government recognise the importance to them of the decision taken by the House on 1 July; but his reply ignored the decision, even though the Royal British Legion's request to see him was expressly for the purpose of discussing that decision.
Not content with his response, I tabled a further parliamentary question to the Prime Minister requesting a clear statement of the Government's intentions. I asked himif it is his intention at present or at any time in the future to implement the Resolution of the House of 1 July on the welfare of ex-service people".His reply of 15 July was:We have no such plans at present".—[Official Report, 15 July 1994; Vol. 246, c. 778.]That reply will be widely seen, and not only in the ex-service community, as grossly unsatisfactory. It does nothing for the Government's reputation and is demeaning of this House. The Leader of the House, who made plain his respect for the ex-service organisations here last Thursday, must surely now recognise the concern provoked by the Government's contemptuous dismissal of the decision taken by the House to help their members. What on earth is the use of allocating parliamentary time for private Members' motions when, if they are approved, the Government act as if they had never been debated? Is that not to denigrate and diminish this House?
Will the right hon. Gentleman now arrange very urgently for oral ministerial statements on the Government's response to the motions approved both on the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill on 29 April and the welfare of the ex-service community on 1 July? In discharge of his responsibilities to all Members of the House, will he also do his best to ensure that the response in each case is both positive and worthy of the people whom the two motions sought to help? After all, they are people whose claims on the attention of this House deserve the highest priority.
§ Mr. Peter Temple-Morris (Leominster)
I welcome this opportunity and am grateful for the fact that I can make a speech about my constituency. The subject that I wish to address is important to my constituents, and, indeed, many hon. Members, on both sides of the House—local government reorganisation and the unfolding reports of the Local Government Commissioners.
As far as Hereford-Worcester is concerned, in the old county of Hereford, there is considerable concern about that. The detail of that concern can be made clear to the House, and I, and other hon. Members, hope to participate in the debates, which, I dare say, will come during the next Session and next year. But at this stage, in terms of the background of the 1972 reorganisation, before we get on to the present one, nothing produces such strong feelings—few things do—as interfering with people's local government boundaries. Within parties, it divides—Conservative against Conservative, Labour against Labour. It generates an awful lot of feeling across the country. We have been brave enough to embark on a further reform, and the message that I am giving is that, now that we have done so, we will have to finish it.
The county of Hereford was merged with Worcestershire in 1972. There was great uncertainty about before that time with the Redcliffe-Maude commission 330 under the previous Labour Government. The intensity of feeling as a result nearly caused the loss of two Conservative seats. It is a relevant warning for the future. My hon. Friend the Member for Hereford (Mr. Shepherd) has championed the cause of Herefordshire and, indeed, is associated with much of what I have to say. We need to know where we stand. We intend to conclude the inquiries and recommendations on which we have embarked. I would be grateful for any ministerial assurance that can be given along those lines.
The existing county of Hereford-Worcester has had a comparatively brief local government life of 20 years. It has worked very well. I am the only cross-border Member of Parliament, in the sense that my constituency is two thirds Herefordshire—the old county—and one third Worcestershire. Worcestershire has four times more people than Herefordshire and has been a very great support, not least over rural schools and libraries. All those things and the finance that comes from a good base in that regard can be used to support the rural areas.
My tribute to the existing county is very relevant to the proposals for change. The Local Government Commission has now delivered its first report; its recommendation, and two further options for the county of Hereford and Worcester, are in favour of a unitary authority of Herefordshire. A geographically vast and, indeed, beautiful area on the Welsh border—it has a population of some 162,000, while neighbouring Worcestershire's population is more than four times larger—will have everything except an obvious financial base.
Let me make two points to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, one specific and the other general. I shall not discuss the proposals for Worcestershire, save to say that my constituency includes Tenbury Wells, which —with the surrounding area—is affected by the proposals of the Local Government Commission.
I anticipate that Tenbury Wells will want a rural connection; in the context of the recommendations for Worcestershire, it may go for a two-tier Worcestershire authority, which would mean its being part of a Malvern Hills district council. I merely encourage Tenbury Wells to speak out to the commissioners. Household after household is currently receiving the recommendations, and being invited to participate in consultation.
The county of Herefordshire is cohesive and extremely historic. As I have said, it has everything but a good financial base. It is a vast area, and will clearly incur expense in delivering county services, however resourceful and ingenious the new council may be. If we create the new county—everyone wants it, including me—we shall have to finance it, which will mean a central. Government grant formula that caters for the smaller and, in particular, the rural counties that we are creating.
I think—dare I say it—that this is a matter on which both sides of the House must agree: I have observed during my parliamentary life that a change of Government can mean an infinitesimal touch on the tiller, leading to a diminution of resources from the centre to, for instance, rural areas.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
I hesitate to interfere in matters concerning Herefordshire and Worcestershire. Some of us, however, spent 177 hours in Committee Rooms 12 and 14 considering the Local Government etc.
331 (Scotland) Bill. Many of the problems that the hon. Gentleman describes are just a year ahead, and how we are suffering.
§ Mr. Temple-Morris
This is not the first time that Scotland has been the precursor in terms of various local government events—if I may use suitably neutral phraseology. I always enjoy the hon. Gentleman's speeches, and I shall certainly try to read some of the proceedings on the Bill that he mentions.
In fact, the hon. Gentleman's intervention reinforces my view. I fear that if—for political or other reasons, some of which may be somewhat emotional—we create entities and are then not prepared to show the colour of our money by financing them, there will be nothing but trouble for the areas concerned. A rural area with a weak financial base is extremely vulnerable. I have said that locally, and I now say it nationally. There is little or no local padding when it comes to making up for any deficiency in central Government grant.
We have started the process; let us finish it. Whatever entity we create, if our creation depends on the centre it is the obligation and duty of the centre to finance it.
§ Ms Kate Hoey (Vauxhall)
I want to raise a couple of issues that relate not just to my constituency but to the country generally. They are issues that should be brought to the attention of the House before it rises for the summer recess. We are about to begin what many members of the public assume will be holiday and leisure time for Members of Parliament. We know that most of that time will be spent working in our constituencies. Those of us with London constituencies do not leave this place very often, even during the summer.
One thing that many hon. Members may wish to do during the summer and which many people do is play cricket. Surrey county cricket club, which I am privileged to have in my constituency is currently doing extremely well, and I hope that it will go on to win something this year. I have just come from the Oval, where the House of Commons and the House of Lords cricket team is playing a South African ambassador's team as a celebration of South Africa being brought back into the international cricketing world.
An important development in Surrey county cricket club is the way in which it has increasingly tried to do more for young people in the area who want to get involved in playing cricket. In inner-city areas, cricket has sometimes been seen as an elitist game, but Surrey county cricket club is trying to ensure that it is not viewed in that way, but is seen as a game that many of our young people, particularly from Afro-Caribbean backgrounds, can play. There have been good developments at Surrey on that.
The freehold of the Oval is owned by the Duchy of Cornwall. That means that the Duchy of Cornwall—indeed, the heir to the throne—has a great deal of control over what the cricket club can do. Surrey county cricket club has been trying for some time to purchase the freehold, because it would like to have control of its own destiny. It is a famous ground and it should be able to develop further, in the interests of cricket locally and nationally and for the good of the local community in my constituency.
332 Unfortunately, the Duchy of Cornwall is not keen to sell the freehold. It is not that it is not used to selling things. Since I was elected as the Member of Parliament for Vauxhall in 1989, the Duchy has sold off all its housing in Kennington. Admittedly, it has sold it to a housing association, and a large amount of that housing has stayed in social ownership. I pay tribute to the Duchy for the way in which it handled that sale. However, it refuses to enter into negotiations about selling the Oval freehold.
Early-day motion 1552 has been tabled today with cross-party support. It has nearly 50 signatures already, and we hope that, by the end of the week, it will have substantially more, because we feel that, in this day and age, as we move into the next century, it is quite wrong for an individual and the Duchy of Cornwall to have control over whether Surrey county cricket club wishes to put on a new door handle, put a screw in a particular place or build something new in the interests of local people. Every time it wants to do anything, it has to obtain Duchy approval, Duchy architects have to be paid for and the costs are increasing. It is disgraceful.
I hope that, by my bringing this to the attention of the House, all those people who love cricket will use whatever influence they have to persuade the Duchy to sell the freehold to Surrey. If that happened, Surrey county cricket club would be able to celebrate its 150th anniversary next year with a present from His Royal Highness Prince Charles.
The second issue I want to raise is also a leisure activity, but not something with which I am involved. Those who know me may find it unusual that I intend to raise the issue of pubs, publicans and the brewery industry, because I am not known to frequent the bars of the House. However, I have many pubs in my constituency, and I recognise what a focal point they are in the community for social activity. I was delighted to sponsor the Vauxhall "pub of the year" award.
Luckily, or unluckily, many Members of Parliament live in my constituency, and when they are not busily engaged in their duties here, they frequent the pubs there. As the House rises for the summer recess, thereby giving hon. Members a greater opportunity to visits pubs in their own constituencies, I draw to the House's attention the plight of many landlords and landladies who are picked on and exploited by the major breweries.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett) has been actively pursuing this issue, and many hon. Members have been lobbied by pub tenants. A large public meeting was organised recently by the very effective South London Licensed Victuallers Protection Association. Publicans from all over south London attended to find out how they could lobby more effectively.
Under the beer orders that the Government introduced a few years ago, the number of properties tied to each brewery was supposed to be limited to 2,000. The orders were intended to reduce monopoly control of the market, increase competition and diversity, and benefit the customer and the long-term interests of the industry. Those measures have clearly failed.
The brewing giants have effectively invested their money in lawyers and corporate strategists not only to get around the intention of the beer orders but to tighten and further restrict the operation of high street pub retail outlets. The situation now is even worse than before the introduction of the beer orders, which at best have been 333 woefully ineffective and at worst have colluded in aiding the interests of the brewers against those of the pub tenant and customer.
Although breweries were supposed to be limited to 2,000 tied houses each, they found a convenient way to get around the law. Grand Metropolitan swapped its brewing interest, Watney Truman, for the estate of Courage. It set up Inntrepreneur Ltd. and became a 50:50 partner in some 15,000 pubs. Whitbread and Bass also started leasing companies. Many times the supposed 2,000 limit for tied houses are still contractually tied to the same brewery—but now, under even more draconian, unfair and anti-competitive practices.
Publicans face absurd minimum purchase orders, despite the current recession in the pub trade, which is especially acute in areas such as that which I represent. If pub tenants fail to sell an often unrealistically large amount of their brewer's beer, they have to pay a heavy cash penalty—about £83 a barrel in many cases.
That loophole has led to the absurd situation of one publican I know having had four different corporate landlords in just five months even though he is still tied to the same brewery, paying the same extortionate rent and the same minimum purchase order penalty. The price that pub tenants have to pay for the beer they do manage to sell is also often far higher than that at which the same sales representative of the same brewery sells to neighbouring pubs.
Rents for tied houses are also skyrocketing—increases of 100 to 150 per cent. have been common on south London, and some are even greater. The rents are out of proportion to the declining value of properties and the market rents for similar sized shops or other businesses. Because of dubious valuations, one estimate of the worth of Grand Metropolitan's share of the pub empire is £150 million more than its real market value. That suggests to me that, in a world of high finance, there is another motive for continuing the anti-competitive monopolistic practices.
To use a pun, the only reason that tenants continue to put up with this appalling situation is that the breweries have them over a barrel. Tenants have often invested their life savings in their businesses; to walk away would be to invite bankruptcy, abandon all they have worked for, and make themselves homeless. For many people in their fifties, it could mean being unemployed for the rest a their lives. Even so, bankruptcy and financial ruin are common, as breweries drain the last drop of cash from vulnerable tenants. Typically, suicide among publicans is on the increase.
I would usually give more details of the heavy-handed, bully-boy tactics of the brewery giants, but some tenants who attended meetings in the House were shortly afterwards visited by brewery managers, who threatened them for making trouble with their Members of Parliament. Test cases are currently before the courts, disputing the legality of some of the anti-competitive practices, so I shall not go into further detail of individual cases. The European Commission has also been considering a number of complaints, and is firmly of the opinion that the responsibility for sorting out the mess lies with our national Government.
I hope that, before the summer recess, the Government will get the message that a full review of the legislative and regulatory framework of the brewing industry is urgently needed. The beer orders have been tried, and have been seen to fail. I call on the Government to investigate 334 minimum purchase orders, excessive rent increases, over-valuation of properties, and the monopoly exploitation of tied house contracts.
When hon. Members visit pubs in their constituencies in the summer, they should ask the publican what is happening to him. I believe that they will then return to the House determined to get the Government to do something about the wholly unjust beer orders.
§ Mr. Patrick Thompson (Norwich, North)
I am happy to follow the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Ms Hoey), who has conjured up summery pictures of cricket fields and of the consumption of beer. Like me, she is clearly in favour of a summer Adjournment, and of leisure—even if we do not always get as much of that during the recess as others may think. I am happy to follow her down that route.
I am a fan of Martyn Lewis, who is a proponent of good news—as some hon. Members will know, he spoke to the all-party media committee not long ago—and I welcome the opportunity to refer briefly to one or two encouraging trends over the past few months. That should counterbalance much that I—and, I am sure, others—have found negative about current political debate. I do not criticise any particular organisation or party, but I have detected a slight negativity, so in my short speech I shall refer to one or two positive factors.
First, I compliment the Government on the "Front Line First" announcement earlier this week. It contained good news for all of us who are keen on the reserve forces. Having read in the press that there might be further cuts in the reserves, we have now heard that their numbers will be held to 59,000, which is most welcome.
Originally, I had hoped to have the opportunity to debate that subject at greater length later tonight, with my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces. Unfortunately, that will not now happen—for two reasons. First, my calculations show that there will not be time. Secondly, my hon. Friend may now have other things on his mind. I wish him well in his new appointment, which we have heard about today—and a very important appointment it is, too.
The announcement about the reserve forces was good news, and I hope that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will get the message through to the Secretary of State for Defence that it was much appreciated. Will he also ensure that the promised legislation on the reserve forces, which has been written about during the last few months, will be introduced in the Queen's Speech?
If we are to encourage the reserve forces, we need to re-examine the employment implications, in terms both of employment security and of encouragement for employers to release people who are doing that worthwhile job, as members of our Territorial Army or our other voluntary reserves. I hope that my right hon. Friend will do all he can to ensure that there will be an announcement in the Queen's Speech about a Bill to update the law on the reserve forces. I trust that that point will be taken on board and passed on.
I shall now deal with something totally different. Over the past two years I, like millions of other people, have been encouraged by the success of the radio station Classic FM, which is now two years old. I see that my hon. Friend the Treasurer of Her Majesty's Household is shaking his head. He may not be in favour of Classic FM—[HON. 335 MEMBERS: "Radio 1."]—but I am, and I am willing to debate with anyone the virtues of Classic FM and the appalling nature of Radio—[Interruption.] No; my hon. Friends will be encouraged to hear that I shall be brief.
Classic FM now has about 5 million listeners; that is good news. The point that I wish to make—not at length, Mr. Deputy Speaker, although it is well worth making—is that, even in the commercial world, there is scope for success when the taste of the British public is respected rather than despised. Trendy individuals from places such as Islington, and other places that I have never visited and do not really understand, seem to have rather a low opinion of public taste, but the success of Classic FM shows what happens when public taste is respected.
People in this country have a real interest in good music, in good art, and in science, which is my particular interest. I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Waldegrave) for all the excellent work that he has done for science and the scientific community while he has had ministerial responsibility for science. When I move among the scientific community, I have no doubt that there is much support and respect for his work in that area. I hope that that remark has the support of hon. Members on both sides of the House.
§ Mr. Dalyell
In the view of many of us, it is absolutely absurd—so long as there is a Conservative Government —to move the right hon. Gentleman from that post at this stage in developments on the White Paper. Why on earth shift him at this stage?
§ Mr. Thompson
I shall not follow the hon. Gentleman down that road, but I do not retract my remarks about the work that my right hon. Friend has done for science.
In a scientific context, there is no more popular subject than astronomy. As a schoolteacher for many years, I was involved in running astronomy societies. Hon. Members may ask why I move on from science to refer to astronomy. The reason is straightforward. This week we have seen newspaper headlines about the collision caused by the comet Shoemaker Levy, travelling at about 135 mph, crashing into the planet Jupiter. That is a remarkable event, and I could talk about it at length, but hon. Members on both sides of the House will be relieved to know that I shall not do so.
My point, which links with what I said earlier about music and art, is that the study of astronomy and of other sciences is popular at all levels in society, and that that encourages a rational approach to the problems of society. That provides a counterbalance. I remember, when I was young, reading that when there was an eclipse of the sun, people in Africa banged drums to drive the evil dragon away. I regard that as equivalent to the nonsense about astrology that we can now read in the tabloids every day.
I favour the rational approach of astronomy, which is why I mention all the news about the comet and about Jupiter, which I find of great interest. However, hon. Members need not worry; I shall not speak for too long, but the subject is important—[Interruption.] I know the hon. Member for Walsall, North well enough to know that he will support what I say about a rational approach to society's problems.
§ Mr. Thompson
It is part of the process of education to encourage detached observation and analysis of phenomena. If that had not taken place over the years, civilisation would not have progressed; and that progress will not continue unless we all encourage a detached, scientific analytical approach to the problems that we face. I hope that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will recognise, even if no one else does, that I am making a serious point—and one that is also valid in the context of our parliamentary debates.
I do not want to make too much of my final comment, but it is sad that observation of the parliamentary process by the media now seems to be propelled by forces other than the detached approach that was taken in the past—in 1948 or in 1958, for example. I have done some research and made comparisons, using The Times, The Guardian and all the other newspapers. Hon. Members will be pleased to hear that I am not going to go into all that research in detail, but I have studied the approach in 1948, 1958, 1968, 1988 and 1994.
There has been a change from that detached approach. Dare I say that gossip, and ego trips for some journalists in the privileged surroundings here, seem to have taken over? My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, in a recent letter to The Times, appealed for the restoration of that newspaper as a newspaper of record. I fear that, under its present ownership, there is little prospect of that.
§ Mr. Tom Cox (Tooting)
This week sees marches and rallies in this country and in many countries throughout the world in remembrance of the brutal invasion of the island of Cyprus by the Turkish army 20 years ago. I am sure that every hon. Member is aware that Cyprus is a member of the British Commonwealth, and that we are one of the guarantor powers for that island.
I know that there are hon. Members on both sides, to their credit, who have been deeply involved in Cyprus since that invasion. They, like me, have seen the continuing talks over the years, during which hopes were built up that, at long last, there would be an honourable settlement, only to see those hopes destroyed—due, without doubt, to the attitude of Mr. Denktash, the Turkish Cypriot spokesman, and the attitude of the Turkish Government in Ankara.
During all these years, we have seen action after action by Mr. Denktash to delay and to destroy any discussion that would lead to the unification of the island. We have seen the actions he has taken and the actions that he still supports. There are thousands of Turkish troops in the occupied northern area of Cyprus and many thousands of Turkish settlers have been brought into northern Cyprus.
Some years ago, we saw the establishment of the so-called "independent state of Northern Cyprus", a state that is recognised only by Turkey of all the countries in the world. To the credit of this Government, they have never been prepared to recognise that independent state created by Mr. Denktash.
Recently, we have had the confidence-building measures under the leadership of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Sadly, they have got nowhere. Recently, the Secretary-General has clearly said whom he blames for the lack of progress in the talks for which he has been responsible. Against that background of 20 years, one 337 has the right to ask where the British Government stand and what action they will take so that meaningful progress can begin to be made.
I am a member of the Council of Europe. Two years ago, a Spanish deputy, Mr. Cuco, a member of the Council of Europe, was requested by the Council to produce a report on the illegal settlers in northern Cyprus. He clearly stated in his report that the presence of the illegal settlers in the north of the island would make a settlement far more difficult. He also clearly said that the people brought from mainland Turkey were deeply resented by true Turkish Cypriots.
Despite that report, and despite all the years during which the Turkish mainland settlers were brought to northern Cyprus, what did the British Government do? The answer, clearly and regrettably, is nothing.
§ Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)
The hon. Gentleman above all is the great champion, quite rightly, of this good cause. Does he agree that the island must be united to be properly economically viable, and that the Turkish Government should now heed international public opinion? The sooner the island is reunited, the better for all of us.
§ Mr. Cox
I totally agree with the hon. Member. He also has a superb record on Cyprus. He has given me the opportunity to make this point. Whichever party we belong to, we work for a united Cyprus. We do not work for the benefit of the Greek Cypriots. We work for a united Cyprus for the benefit of both Greek and Turkish Cypriots whose home is on the island of Cyprus. The hon. Gentleman is so right in his comments.
I recently attended a meeting in Strasbourg of the political affairs committee of the Council of Europe. The committee had invited representatives of the political parties in Cyprus—the Greek parties and the Turkish parties—to come to Strasbourg to outline what they saw as a possible settlement.
It was extremely regrettable that, within moments of the Turkish Cypriot representatives starting to speak, it became clear that they did not want a settlement. They made comments such as, "Turkish troops under no circumstances will leave the island." They also said that, if Turkey became a member of the European Union, the Turkish Cypriots would do everything in their power to obstruct and cause problems if Cyprus was allowed to become a member of the European Union.
I have to say that the Prime Minister's statement in the House on the recent Corfu summit, on 27 June, in which he replied to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser), has given great comfort to Mr. Denktash and to Turkey. The Prime Minister said that, unless there was a settlement, Cyprus would not be supported in its application for entry to the European Union.
I shall read out a few brief quotations that will clearly show the House the attitude that Turkey repeatedly takes on the issue of Cyprus. The speaker of the Turkish Grand National Assembly, addressing a meeting of the Ankara Chamber of Commerce on 25 April this year, said:Turkey's rights in Cyprus stem from International Law and the presence of Turkish troops in Cyprus is a consequence of this. Turkey cannot endanger itself with regard to the Cyprus issue without any return.338 Mr. Denktash, to whom I have already referred, said of the Greek Cypriots on a radio programme on 10 May this year:If they become EU members then as of their membership date we join Turkey and the issue ends there. The Turkish Grand National Assembly should enact a resolution and declare our union with Turkey the very moment that the Greek Cypriots become an EU members. There is no other alternative.The final quotation is from Mr. Ecevit, the leader of the Democratic party of Turkey. He said in an interview on 25 June this year:On 20 July 1974 peace came to Cyprus. As far as the Turkish Cypriots are concerned the problem was solved that day.Against that background, what action are the Government to take? I again remind the House that we are one of the guarantor powers of the island of Cyprus. For years, many of us, irrespective of party, who have questioned the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary of the day have been told that the British Government fully support the efforts of the United Nations. The Secretary-General of the United Nations recently expressed his views. Do we support those views? If we do, surely now is the time for the Government to act and to support his work.
In a decision by the European Court of Justice taken earlier this month, bans were imposed against any Turkish Cypriot citrus fruits and potatoes being allowed into countries of the European Union. I ask the Leader of the House whether the British Government support that ruling. If they do, I hope that they will say so, loud and clear.
Twenty years have passed. Cyprus is the only country in Europe that is still divided by a wall: that is the tragic indictment of the lack of meaningful progress over those long 20 years in resolving the tragedy of Cyprus. When shall we hear the Government's views and their proposals for ending the tragedy? When shall we see the reunification of the island of Cyprus?
As the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) said, and as I said in my reply to him, all of us in the House who are interested in the future of Cyprus are interested in the people of Cyprus, be they Greek or Turkish Cypriots. We look for answers from the Government to end this continuing tragedy, which has brought such appalling poverty and problems, certainly to northern Cyprus, and which has brought great heartache to the people of Cyprus. When will that tragedy end, and when will the island of Cyprus be reunited? When will the prosperity that it can achieve start to be developed?
§ Sir Anthony Grant (Cambridgeshire, South-West)
While not agreeing with everything that the hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) said, I must say that no hon. Member has fought so vigorously over many years for his Cypriot constituents as the hon. Gentleman.
Before the House rises, I wish to raise a matter under the Financial Services Act 1986. As the House will recall, the Act was, in the words of the Economic Secretary to the Treasury as recently as 3 May 1994 in a letter to me:to provide a high standard of protection for investors".Under the Act, the Securities and Investments Board was set up as the overall umbrella, and a whole series of self-regulating organisations such as FIMBRA—the Financial Intermediaries, Managers and Brokers Regulatory Organisation—were set up under that board.
Recently, a new body to embrace all those self-regulating organisations—the Personal Investment 339 Authority—was set up. After a rather shaky start, it began operating on only Monday this week. It has received 3,666 applications for membership, and I have been told that 1,139 firms have been admitted. I am glad that a firm in my constituency, Stuart and Verity, was one of the first to be admitted.
The problem arises over a firm which describes itself in an advertisement as:Britain's Leading Retirement Income Specialists".I refer to the firm of Knight Williams and Co. Ltd. The company says that it handles £500 million-worth of investments for 24,000 people. I should make it absolutely clear at the start that I am not making any accusations whatever of any dishonesty on the part of that firm. However, I wish to draw attention to the difficulties that a great number of people have experienced over the years, having used the firm's services.
In advertisements in 1989 and 1990, the firm made statements such as:We can help you earn a high regular monthly incomeandWe can show you how to provide for the capital growth you will need to keep pace with the cost of living over the coming years".A nice Larry cartoon showed a post man trying to put a fat cheque through the letter box and the key point made by the firm was that it would provide income, growth and peace of mind.
On the basis of those advertisements, my constituents Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Jordan, a retired couple, invested some £32,500 in January 1990, and also paid £5,500 in initial charges. After four and a half years, their investment is worth £27,300, so they have lost substantially on any basis. They are deeply concerned about, and have investigated, the way in which Knight Williams conducts its affairs. That has attracted the attention of the press.
In February 1994, The Sunday Telegraph carried out a considerable investigation and pointed out: "An IFA"— independent financial adviser—is meant to recommend products from across the market. But most of Knight Williams' new business ends up in its own unit trusts. These carry some of the highest charges in the unit trust industry—6.375 per cent. initial and 2.5 per cent. annual".A minute from the firm described how its salesmen should operate. One of the categories of salesmen listed was:the 'Clever Dick' who 'sells non KW', is 'disruptive' and a 'compliance nightmare'.The minute says that the way to deal with such salesmen is to make them toe the line. The article in The Sunday Telegraph included the view taken by a leading stock broker:It must be difficult for a Knight Williams salesman not to recommend in-house products. These funds may perform well in spite of high charges but are they a function of independent financial advice? I fear not".Lest it should seem that I am engaged in an attack on a rival of any sort, I declare an interest in Barclays bank which is a financial adviser. But there is no question whatever of any competition or rivalry in that respect; it is entirely a constituency matter which I am raising.
My constituents referred the matter to the SIB and FIMBRA, but the only course that could be taken under the rules was to go to arbitration. In his evidence to the Treasury Select Committee, Mr. Jordan said:The process of arbitration is a veritable minefield fraught with difficulties for lay people. It is, for better or worse, an adversarial 340 procedure which means that independent financial advisers defending a complaint from a lay member of the public are able to flex their legal and financial muscles because only they have the necessary economic resources to do so.If the unfortunate investor fails before arbitration, the SIB can only suggest that he has recourse through the courts, which is enormously expensive. The SIB can give orders to FIMBRA only if it has breached its rules, and FIMBRA can punish the company in question only if it has breached the rules. My constituent therefore ran up against a brick wall.
Since then, more than 40 Members of Parliament have received similar complaints from their constituents about Knight Williams. Most of the constituents are elderly retired people who are seeking to provide for their old age by following the advice given by that firm. So far as I could work out from letters from hon. Members, nearly all the constituents have suffered financial losses in the process. I have taken the matter up—as, indeed, have more than 40 hon. Members—with the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, who has taken a close interest in the matter. The Treasury Select Committee has also taken a close interest in the matter, and it has had evidence, certainly from my constituent, which it is carefully considering.
As a result of the concerns expressed not only by me but by many other hon. Members, an early-day motion was tabled yesterday in the name of the right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) and other distinguished hon. Members, expressing the House's concern at the number of complaints received by hon. Members from their constituents, many of whom are retired people, and the apparent inability of SIB and/or FIMBRA to bring full light to bear on the subject. I should make it clear that although the PIA is now operating, it is not taking over earlier cases; they must be cleared up by the old self-regulating organisations. Early-day motion 1545 also urged the Government to institute a thorough inquiry into the whole matter.
Without making any accusations of dishonesty, I am asking my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to urge the Economic Secretary to the Treasury to pursue his inquiries to bring light to bear on the whole matter in the interests of a large number of constituents, to examine the way in which the Financial Services Act is operating and to question whether there is any better way in which redress can be obtained for these unfortunate constituents.
§ 5.9 pm
§ Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax)
Before the House adjourns, I should like to urge upon the Government the need for a strategy for breast cancer, both at health care and research level.
I am the joint chair of a newly formed all-party group on breast cancer. During the past few months we have taken evidence from some of the most eminent clinicians and scientists. Their evidence has led me to conclude that the interests of patients would be best served if the Government took the approach of establishing a national action plan on breast cancer, similar to that established in America last year.
Breast cancer is a major killer of women in this country. One in 12 women are affected by it and nearly 30,000 new cases are diagnosed every year, which is about 480 a week. Nearly 16,000 deaths occur every year, which is equivalent to one woman dying every 30 minutes. Worldwide, the 341 figures are no better. It is the biggest cancer killer in the world, with 250,000 deaths a year from breast cancer. Those are devastating statistics.
What is even more worrying is the growth in that disease. Some weeks ago, Professor Baum of the Royal Marsden hospital told our committee:We are losing the war against breast cancer. Any modest improvements in case survival or mortality rates are being eclipsed by the real increase in the incidence of the disease. Sadly the foot soldiers in this war are the women themselves and I am convinced that if the battle is to be won in the long term then the lay public have to be reminded well in advance of them developing the disease that the responsibility for seeking its cure must be shared between the public and the profession alike.This week, Professor Gusterson of the Institute of Cancer Research and Professor Adrian Harris of the John Radcliffe hospital, Oxford, put to the all-party group the case for a national action plan on breast cancer and they were extremely convincing. They referred to what happened in America after a petition from 2.6 million Americans calling for a comprehensive plan to end the breast cancer epidemic was presented to President Clinton.
Shortly afterwards, President Clinton announced that the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Donna Shalala, would convene a conference to develop a national action plan on breast cancer. From its inception, that conference was intended to involve the whole spectrum of individuals, groups and organisations concerned with this awful disease.
§ Mr. Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh, Leith)
Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the most alarming things that the professors told us on Tuesday was not only that the money spent on research into cancer in Britain was less than that spent in America and other European countries, but that although the majority of funding in those countries is provided by their Governments, only one tenth of British funding is provided by our Government while nine tenths comes from charity? Is that not appalling? It is also borne out in Scotland, where, of 11 consultant oncologists—too small a number in itself—seven are funded by charities.
§ Mrs. Mahon
I agree with my hon. Friend. All those consultants should be funded by the national health service if they are treating national health patients.
Invitations to the conference in America were sent to 150 representatives from advocacy groups, consumers, academics, scientists, educationists, health care specialists as well as to people who had suffered from breast cancer. The participants worked together in a unique, unprecedented partnership and produced an excellent policy document entitled "A National Action Plan on Breast Cancer", containing eminently sensible suggestions which make an effort to tackle the epidemic.
Even more exciting was the fact that, following the conference, the United States Department of Defence produced a grant of $210 million for a breast cancer research programme and within a short time that plan was up and running. What a wonderful way to spend the peace dividend—as my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Chisholm) has said, the comparison with the amount of money devoted to research in Britain should make us ashamed of the pittance that is offered here.
The problem with funding research in Britain is, as my hon. Friend said, that it is mainly offered by charities and is not supplied by the Government. In any event, that source of Government revenue is badly affected in a recession. An added problem has been caused by the 342 introduction of changes in the NHS and the fragmentation of a national comprehensive service. Professor Harris told our group that another worrying factor for people who want to conduct research into this killer disease is that trusts are now reluctant to store material from biopsies in pathology laboratories because of the cost of storage. That valuable material will, however, be needed urgently for future research.
I hope to persuade the all-party cancer group that we should launch a national petition to get the Government to adopt a national plan on breast cancer. Something urgent needs to be done to combat a major killer of women in this country. I am pleased to have had the opportunity to raise this important matter before the House adjourns.
§ Sir Ivan Lawrence (Burton)
A year ago, on the last day of the summer term, I raised in an Adjournment debate the immense problems facing the British brewing industry —in which I declare a modest interest—arising from, among other problems, the ridiculous burden of excise duty on beer which our European competitors do not have to carry. That burden is seriously weakening the industry.
Since that debate, I must unhappily report that the situation has not improved. The industry—of which my Burton constituency is, of course, the centre, with great names such as Ind Coope, Marstons and Bass—employs 3,000 of my constituents directly and many thousands indirectly. It also plays a vital part in Britain's economy because, in all, it employs about 900,000 people—more than the number employed in the construction industry, three times as many as in the energy and water industries and five times the number in the motor industry.
Consumers spend £13.5 billion a year on beer, which is more than they spend on cars, clothing, electricity, gas, coal and all sorts of other durable goods. The industry provides Government with £4.3 billion a year, which is equivalent to 3p on income tax. The British pub is a national institution, which is patronised by one third of adults once a week, and 70 per cent. of tourists prefer the British pub to their own bars back home.
The British brewing industry has doubled its output in the past five years; yet we are penalising it—and ourselves —excessively and unjustly. Alarmingly, as beer sales through the on-trade have fallen by 27 per cent.—from 38 million barrels in 1979 to 28 million today—beer duty has gone up 36 per cent. and the sales taxes beer by 59 per cent. while wine and spirits have enjoyed an almost equivalent decrease in tax and beer duty paid by our European partners has remained static.
We in Britain consume 21 per cent. of all the beer drunk in the European Community; yet we pay 55 per cent. of the Community's beer duty. That is preposterous. There is no doubt that taxation is a major cause—I accept that it is not the only cause—of the decline in the market. Germans pay only 4p a pint in beer duty, the French and the Belgians pay 5p and 8p respectively, but we in Britain are required to pay 33p. That enormous differential and the fact that the limit for personal imports from France and elsewhere on the continent has risen to 110 litres—that is the amount that each of us can bring into the United Kingdom for personal consumption—has brought about the phenomenon of cross-border shopping.
Passenger car movements via Dover rose by 12 per cent. in the first quarter of this year. More people than ever are 343 buying their beer abroad. Truckloads of beer, purchased by Britons in Calais, are being brought back to the UK and British beer sales in pubs throughout the country have fallen by 1 million pints a day. It appears that 39 per cent. of licensees believe that the importation of beer has affected the use of their pubs; 26 per cent. of them have seen a decrease in their trade, 31 per cent. of them say that if the problem continues and grows they will reduce staff hours, 24 per cent. say that they will work even longer hours and 18 per cent. say that they will move out of the business.
Even more alarming is the growth of criminal bootlegging. On 18 May The Independent quoted a Customs and Excise investigator who said:When the single market opened up on 1 January 1993 the trade in cheap beer was carried out by young Jack the lads flogging the stuff at car boot sales. But now organised criminals are involved with outlets at nightclubs, off licences, working mens' clubs and illicit drinking dens.The seriousness of that aspect was confirmed last week to the Select Committee on Home Affairs by the head of the national criminal intelligence service, whose main concern is organised crime. This new situation is serious and it is becoming worse.
The Government have helped a little, but hardly enough. In the past year, since my previous short debate, my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was worried by cross-border shopping, has ensured that there has been no increase in duty on beer or spirits. He took that decision in last year's Budget, when there was only a 1.9 per cent. increase in duty on any alcoholic drink. The Government have also been trying to increase the harmonisation of excise duties at the Council of Ministers. Realistically, however, any plea to other countries to raise their excise duties to the levels which prevail in the UK is unlikely to fall on receptive ears. Nor do we want to remove from nation states the right to fix their own tax rates.
What can be done to stop the decline in our brewing industry? My right hon. Friend the Paymaster General told me in a letter that I received two days ago that Customs and Excise has calculated that a reduction in excise duty to French and German levels would lead to Revenue receipt losses of between £3 billion and £4 billion. Clearly that could not be countenanced.
The Brewers and Licensed Retailers Association—the successor to the Brewers Society—commissioned the Henley centre to establish the accuracy of the Customs and Excise assessment. The centre found that a 50 per cent. reduction in duty to 16p would lead to a price reduction which would reverse the downward trend in the beer market and substantially increase revenues other than beer tax by, for example, increasing employment in brewing, clubs and pubs as well as in the supply of goods and services by a total of about 90,000 by 1999.
At the same time, it would reduce the duty lost to the UK by payments of duty to France, Germany and elsewhere and generate an additional £300 million for the Government by 1997. It would benefit the Exchequer by £1 billion by 1999. The Brewers and Licensed Retailers Association and the brewers themselves have observed that when on two previous occasions this century Governments 344 reduced beer duty to revive sales—by 37 per cent. in 1933 and 28 per cent. in 1959—the beer sales market turned up and the industry returned to long-term growth.
Before the House rises for the summer recess, I ask my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to invite my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Customs and Excise to look again at their figures in the light of the work undertaken by the Henley centre and to consider whether it is possible to reverse the decline in the brewing industry by a 50 per cent. cut in beer duty. Apart from the gratitude of the industry and of my constituents who depend on the industry, they would have the thanks of the all-party beer group, whose members care very much about the problem.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)
As we are soon to embark on a long summer recess, it would surely have been appropriate for the Prime Minister to make a statement about the likely new President of the European Commission. I see in their places my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) and the hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan Smith), who raised the matter in points of order. It seems that they agree with me.
The Prime Minister made much of the fact that he vetoed the candidate he did not like, the Prime Minister of Belgium. He gave the impression that that candidate's views were unacceptable. It is interesting that the person who is now likely to be the new President has made it clear that he shares entirely all the views of the candidate who was vetoed by the Prime Minister, including those on a single currency, more integration and a federal Europe.
Those are the views of Mr. Santer, who is likely to be the new President. If he holds views identical to those of Mr. Dehaene, who was vetoed—he admits he does—why should he be approved by the British Government?
We can come to the conclusion only that as on so many other matters concerning the European Union the Government are prepared to give in—in this instance they did so within a few days—after a display of opposition.
§ Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford)
Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the most recent development? I gather that, within the past few minutes, the British Labour group has voted to reject Mr. Santer.
§ Mr. Winnick
It will be interesting to see the reaction of the Government. As I have said, if one candidate has been vetoed because of his views, there is no reason why someone else who holds identical views on the future of the European Union should be supported. The attitude of the British Labour Members of the European Parliament may be somewhat different from mine in some respects, but in this instance there may be some consistency. The Government show no consistency.
As we go into the long summer recess, we know that the Government's standing—certainly domestically—is extremely low. We saw that clearly in the Euro and local elections. No one would dispute the fact that the results were not good for the Government.
The Government no doubt think that the reshuffle will help them, but most British people could not care less who is the Minister for this or the Secretary of State for that. They are concerned only about policies and their own position. As most people have been penalised in the past 12 345 or 18 months by all kinds of extra expenditure, including tax increases, it is understandable that they do not look favourably on the Government, and are unlikely to do so in the future.
Those who earn the most are increasingly rewarding themselves with even more money. Signal workers would have been willing to settle for about 5 per cent., but the Government vetoed that. Had they agreed to it, the dispute could have been settled and today's disruption to train services avoided.
The Guardian index of top executive pay shows that, in the past year, top directors have received average increases of nearly 25 per cent., and even more in some cases. Seven directors receive more than £1 million a year. Last year, Mr. Peter Wood of the Royal Bank of Scotland received £18.5 million. I hope that he somehow manages to make ends meet.
The chief executive of SmithKline Beecham receives some £2 million a year while Glaxo, Barclays, Tompkins, and Kingfisher pay their top directors more than the £1 million mark. The chief executive of Cadbury Schweppes must have felt hard done by, because he received a percentage increase of just under 100 per cent. last year and now gets £852,000 a year. Top directors also receive performance bonuses, generous pensions contributions and share options, which sometimes amount to hundreds of thousands of pounds.
The comparison is so obvious. While those in the public sector have had increases of some 2 per cent.—many people in the private sector have not received much more, and some have had no increase whatever—those on the highest incomes have received substantial increases, despite the fact that the Prime Minister said that he did not approve of them. It seems all the more unfair when the Government are pursuing a wage restraint policy against signalmen and others in the public sector.
Nor should we forget that some of the top earners receive generous assistance when they leave their posts. Only last week, it came to light that the former managing director of Midlands Electricity departed with a compensation and pension package of some £655,000 and share options worth an additional £483,000—over the £1 million mark. Can such generous treatment be justified? The former chairman of the water authority in my area received, on leaving the company, £230,300, plus £500,000 more in compensation for early retirement.
That shows only too well that those with substantial incomes not only receive generous pay increases but, when they leave, they receive the sort of sums that I have mentioned. It is understandable that there is a lot of resentment. Some people may say that it is purely Labour envy but, while the Conservative Members are so strenuously against any form of minimum income and repeat time and again that it is out of the question, they appear to have no objection to maximum incomes. They never deplore the increases in pay to top earners in British industry. Indeed, they show no concern whatever.
The Low Pay Unit found that more than 44 per cent. of the work force in the west midlands were on low pay. That is 4 per cent. higher than the national average. The fact that some 855,000 employees in the west midlands earn less than the low-pay threshold helps to explain the poverty and near-poverty in which hundreds of thousands of people in our community are forced to live.
It is wrong that there should be such a gulf between those who are penalised by unemployment, when 346 employers simply say, "Take it or leave it," while at the other end of the income scale the fat cats reward themselves, often without justification, with increases such as I have described. Once again, it illustrates the Government's philosophy: indifference to the plight of those on low pay and total opposition to a minimum income policy, but no willingness to take action against those on the highest incomes. I felt that it was only right to raise such matters before we go into the summer recess.
§ Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford)
I wish to speak briefly about the problem of deregulation. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has heard me speak on this matter too often to find it amusing.
I was on the Committee that discussed the deregulation Bill upstairs for many days, and in the Chamber on Report and Third Reading. Throughout the Bill's Committee, Report and Third Reading stages, I fully supported all the Bill's objectives. It was a first-class attempt by a Conservative Government to do exactly what we should be doing—strip out some of the more absurd and idiotic regulations. I welcomed, as did many other people, the power which the Bill gave the state to take away those regulations, and I make no excuses for thoroughly supporting that great concept. Hon. Members should be ever vigilant against the over imposition of regulations.
That important Bill is now going through another place. During its passage through this place, I raised the plight of small businesses, and suggested a remedy that had not been included in the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough (Mr. Sykes) and I raised the matter both in Committee on 28 April and on Report on the Floor of the House. I draw the attention of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to the new clause that we tabled on Report, which appears in the Official Report of 23 May in columns 45–46.
The new clause sought to give business men and women redress against the unfair imposition by officials of regulations which lead to the eventual closure of their businesses. It also sought to give them redress against the imposition of such financial stringency that their businesses either become uncompetitive or eventually close down because, over a prolonged period, those excesses prevent them from trading competitively.
Sometimes that is the result of a misunderstanding or a misrepresentation of a regulation, but at other times it is because a regulation has been wilfully imposed on them without any regard for the true nature of the regulation. Either way, the reality remains the same—that regulations result in great difficulty, especially for small business men and women throughout the land.
The argument that I made then, and which I make no excuse for making again, was that those small business men and women are the ones who are least able to speak for themselves. They are the ones on which we dump so much paperwork and regulation that we smother them. The medium-to-large businesses can cope with all that; they simply get another person along to deal with it. They can survive that extra imposition; they have a bit of slack in their cash reserves.
However, the small business men and women do not have those resources. They are the ones to whom we must look to provide the future employment for so many people 347 who are unemployed throughout the land. We must be extra-specially careful, therefore, not to allow regulations to have that effect on them.
Taking full regard of that, we introduced the new clauses simply to give those small business men and women the right to appeal to a magistrates court against such an unfair imposition. We thought it a reasonable device, and we presented it as such. It would have given the Bill the second leg that was necessary. The first leg was to strip away excess regulation, and the second leg would have been to guard against unfair imposition of regulation.
We were given certain assurances by my hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Mr. Hamilton), who was at that time speaking for the Government, when summing up on Report. He said:I wish to try especially to provide an appeals mechanism that is quick, effective and cost-effective and will not create a new bureaucracy".He went on to say:If my hon. Friend withdraws his clause and the matter goes to another place, the basis of the debate there will consequently be more informed. I fully support what my hon. Friend wants to achieve".—[Official Report, 23 May 1994; Vol. 244, c. 69 and 70.]Being the very decent man that he is, my hon. Friend did just that, and we therefore complied and withdrew the new clause, on the basis that the Bill would be improved by the addition of such a clause during its passage through the other place.
I therefore draw the attention of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to the problem that appears to exist at the moment in introducing the new clause.
True to his word, my hon. Friend the Member for Tatton passed the matter to the deregulation task force, headed by Francis Maude—who was a colleague and who, I hope, will return to this place as a colleague—to consider the possibilities. The task force has considered it, and it appears it has handed the matter over to an official, to go away and put together a mechanism that could be properly implemented.
I understand that the official is now complaining that, first, there may not be enough time to put that mechanism into the Bill, and secondly, that there are some worries about the judicial approach. I also understand that the deregulation task force has essentially decided that the only way to solve the problem is to take the course that we proposed—the judicial route. It is simple and effective, and does not require extra bureaucracy.
I do not pretend to try to re-argue the case. All I am trying to do is to say to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House that, in all good faith, men and women throughout the land had looked to us to find some form of redress.
We presented the Government with an opportunity. The Government, decently, said that they would consider it. I am worried that, if officials are allowed to say that it may be too difficult, we might not eventually include that mechanism in the Bill. If we do not, it will be a great failing for us here in the House, because we shall have failed the very people that we were sent here to support—the job creators, the people who will do the great job we want in providing new employment.
I urge my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, please, please, would he speak to everyone who is concerned with that matter, and give them a sense of 348 urgency? If we do nothing else but put that into the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill, we shall represent that vast group of people out there, the ones who cannot speak for themselves, the small business men and women. They will thank us, and rightly. It will be the right thing to do. I urge my right hon. Friend to do just that.
§ Mr. John Denham (Southampton, Itchen)
I suggest that the House should not adjourn before we have had further opportunity to discuss the gathering crisis that hangs over the pensions of many people who depend on personal pensions. I should declare an interest in that subject, as a small part of my research assistant's salary is funded by the National Union of Insurance Workers.
As the Financial Times commented in an article on 15 July,It has not been a good year for personal pensions".That is an understatement. In the past year, there has been a series of damaging revelations about the personal pensions industry. It has become obvious that up to 500,000 people may have been wrongly advised to opt out of occupational pension schemes, and that more than 2 million people may have been wrongly advised to opt out of the state earnings-related pension scheme.
The pensions industry companies have had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the Personal Investments Authority, whose birth this week has, to say the least, been surrounded by almost complete scepticism. Merely a brief examination of the Order Paper of the past few days will show that there are no fewer than three early-day motions, tabled by Members on both sides of the House, highlighting failures in the regulatory system. The hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-West (Sir A. Grant) referred to one of them earlier.
A succession of firms with household names, such as Norwich Union, Legal and General, Nationwide and now Barclays, have either had to suspend their sales staff for retraining or have been fined by regulators for the blatant mismanagement of sales practices.
It is therefore not surprising that, in the first quarter of this year, there was a dramatic drop in the sale of personal pensions—a fall of nearly 160,000 compared with the same quarter in the previous year.
The rows about bad management of the industry and ineffective regulation can obscure an even more fundamental problem. There are, in my view, sound reasons for most people to plan their pensions as a combination of state and non-state provision. The reality today is that many—probably most—working people who are outside secure occupational pension schemes will not be making sufficient provision to ensure that they receive a pension that they or anyone else will regard as adequate when they retire.
State pensions, including the SERPS element, will be too low for most of those people who depend entirely on them. Half the people who opted out of SERPS for appropriate personal pensions have an income so small that they would almost certainly have been better off in SERPS, and of all those with an appropriate personal pension, 60 per cent. are only putting in their national insurance rebate and are not making any additional contribution from their income.
Not only are many people with personal pensions underprovided; they often do not persist with the policy. As long ago as 1991, the Securities and Investments Board 349 revealed that a third of personal pensions are terminated or paid up within two years. At that time, the Consumers Association calculated that losses to investors through front-loaded commission charges and early penalty surrenders were running at £250 million a year—the equivalent of an annual Maxwell scandal. That was as long ago as 1991.
I recently completed a survey of 44 of the top pensions companies, asking about their lapse rates and termination rates. Of those 44 companies, only 13 were prepared to provide any information about the early cancellation of their policies, and all those that did so emphasised that there is still no industry-wide standard for providing that information. Of the 13 who were prepared to speak about the lapses in their policies, almost all said that one in five of their policies lapsed in some manner after two years. For most, between 30 per cent. and 50 per cent. of all the personal pensions that they sold lapsed in the first five years.
That highlights several serious problems. First, the difficulty of getting hold of that information from most companies means that one of the most useful indicators of the quality of the pension policy and the quality of the advice given by the insurance company is not available to the consumer.
A second problem is highlighted. We keep hearing Government statistics that 5 million people have personal pension policies, which implies that those policies will be kept until they mature and the policyholders will be able to retire on their proceeds. But it is clear that only a minority of those who buy personal pension policies see them through to full term. Many people with personal pension policies will keep them for only a short time, will lose a great deal of money on them and, ultimately, will not have adequate pensions.
There are, sadly, few signs that the Government have even begun to grasp the scale and scope of the problem. Attempts have been made, very belatedly, to tighten up the regulatory structure, with the formation of the Personal Investment Authority, but I believe that that authority will turn out to be only a staging post on the route to a more satisfactory system of statutory regulation. My concern is that regulation of the industry, however it is conducted, is still approached purely as an attempt to control the way in which products are sold. The regulation does not cover the quality of those products.
It is clear that many people who buy personal pensions buy policies that, for one reason or another, they cannot continue to full term, so they lose much of the money that they had hoped to put aside for their pension. Our regulation needs to focus far more on the quality of the products sold, establishing minimum standards of quality to protect those people who will depend on them for their pensions.
I raise my concerns about the personal pensions industry not because I seek to rubbish the industry, but because I recognise that there will be, for the foreseeable future, a category of people who cannot obtain occupational pensions and who would be ill advised to rely purely on state pensions. An essential element of future pensions policy must be to ensure that the personal pensions industry is run correctly.
There are several spheres in which the Government have not shown sufficient energy or action. They must assume responsibility for ensuring that people are properly covered by future pension provision. The Government 350 have wasted the best part of £10 billion on encouraging people to opt out of the state earnings-related pension scheme. Many of those people will be no better off, and some will be worse off, as a result of opting out. Many of them will be entitled to opt back into SERPS, so the £10 billion will have produced little benefit to anyone.
The Government have not yet highlighted to individuals how much money they should be putting aside towards some form of non-state pension if they want to achieve a certain level of retirement income. The time has come for the Government to take responsibility for giving an indication of those figures, which would have two benefits.
First, it would raise awareness of the cost of pension planning and shatter the complacent view held by too many people that simply having a personal pension must mean that it will generate sufficient retirement income for them. Secondly, highlighting the cost of private provision would encourage a better and more reasonable debate about the balance to be struck between tax-funded state pensions and non-state provision funded from people's incomes.
In addition, the Government should regularly conduct a national representative survey of the pension provision that individuals have made for themselves and, from that, project the level of pensions that people will receive. That is not done at present, but it would give us a much clearer idea of what those people's pensions will be in 20 or 30 years time, and could provide the basis of future policy development.
The role of regulation should be broadened so that we not only regulate how policies are sold, but ensure that the quality of policies is consistently pushed upwards.
§ Mr. Jacques Arnold (Gravesham)
It will be no surprise to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to hear that I intend to raise yet again the subject of the channel tunnel rail link. First, and significantly on this day, I should like to pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. MacGregor) who had the political courage and intellectual strength to reject Union Railways' proposal for a tunnel under Pepper Hill at Northfleet in my constituency. Thanks to the public campaign run by the residents of Northfleet and the conclusions of a geological survey on noise and vibration, a strong case was developed, which I took to my right hon. Friend who was then Secretary of State for Transport, and to which he gave careful consideration.
It would have been in the personal interest of my right hon. Friend to take a strong, firm decision at that stage to announce the route of the channel tunnel rail link from London St. Pancras to the channel tunnel at Cheriton. He could have taken a firm decision and told my constituents at Northfleet to lump it, but he did not. He understood the intellectual case put to him and told Union Railways to go back to the drawing board. That has resulted in an improved route, which skirts Pepper Hill, and I believe that that new route will be one of my right hon. Friend's lasting mementos. I also pay tribute to the hard work of my right hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Freeman), who was Minister of State throughout the saga.
A number of problems remain. I want to highlight the site of special scientific interest at Ashenbank wood and Cobham park—the latter is part of our national heritage and was laid out by Repton. I recently convened a meeting at Cobham hall of local councils and environmental 351 organisations at which we considered environmental mitigation. We have now been advised that Union Railways has redesigned the route at that point to a level 4 m lower and has agreed to our request to carry out a geological survey, which we believe will prove that United Railways' plans in that terrain of loose gravel and combustible lignite would not be wise.
Gravesham borough council will, at our request, provide professional consultants to assess the situation. I should like the tunnel to be designed through the chalk beneath because that would overcome the engineering problems caused by the geology as well as the environmental desecration that would be caused by the current proposal. The cost of that environmental improvement and other lesser improvements should be assessed.
I pay tribute to our previous Member of the European Parliament, Mr. Ben Patterson, who, over 15 years, was an excellent member of the European Parliament. Until the European elections, he led an effective campaign to harness significant grants under the environmental programmes of the European Commission. I expect his Labour successor as Member of the European Parliament to see that campaign through. I have written to that gentleman, Mr. Skinner, and to date he has been conspicuous by his silence. He has not even had the courtesy to acknowledge my letter, let alone do anything about the problem.
Another problem is the fact that the safeguarding is drawn far too tightly. The boundary of the safeguarding zone at Gravesend skirts five properties—four at Longview, in Henhurst road, Cobham and the Lodge at Scalers hill. That is unfair as it leaves the houses, which are sandwiched between the A2 motorway and the proposed channel tunnel rail link route, in a position that will become progressively more unbearable. The properties should be included in the safeguarding zone now. In the interim, I thank Union Railways because, following my strong representations, it has agreed to buy out two of the properties at Longview on compassionate and health grounds. I wonder why it will not put the whole matter in order by including all five properties.
I should like there to be a noise assessment of the channel tunnel rail link crossing at the Wrotham road, A227, and its effect on the village of 'stead Rise and the houses at the tollgate. If we are to have such a major project we must ensure that we make the right decision now.
We still await an announcement adopting Ebbsfleet as the intermediate international station. That is an obvious location because it would serve well travellers resident in south-east London, Kent, Essex, Surrey and Sussex. Were the proposal for Ebbsfleet international to go ahead, it would mean thousands of new jobs for Gravesham and new roads for Northfleet. Northfleet town would effectively be bypassed and it would give my constituents better house values. Until now, the channel tunnel rail link has marked down house prices in that area of Northfleet. I believe that the announcement of an international station at Ebbsfleet would mark them up.
§ Mr. Bob Dunn (Dartford)
My hon. Friend referred to Pepper Hill. Like him, I hope for an early announcement of an international station on the Ebbsfleet site. I am sure that my hon. Friend shares my concern that the construction of 352 the rail link and the infrastructure connected with the Ebbsfleet station will cause immense problems for the local roads infrastructure, not least disruption to the A2, with the consequent movement of cars on to the lanes of Southfleet at Longfield, New Barn and Betsham. Will my hon. Friend join me in pressing the Department of Transport for a proper plan and timetable for infrastructure improvements?
§ Mr. Arnold
I fully agree with my hon. Friend. If we are successful in getting the international station for the Ebbsfleet valley between our two constituencies, there will be further challenges—for example, the work sites and how construction will be carried out with minimum disruption. There will also be the challenges of ensuring that we protect the environment at the Ebbsfleet water course, that archaeological studies of the Roman remains are carried out in advance and that the sports facilities at the proposed location for the station are fully replaced to serve the public in that area.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Mr. Temple-Morris), I want briefly to comment on local government reforms. We must not lose sight of the fact that the objective of the reforms is local delivery of services, subject to local decision taking and at the best manageable cost. Against that criterion, I believe that Kent county council is inevitably found wanting, stretching as it does from the London boundaries to Thanet and Dover and southwards into the Weald. It is far too remote.
To the credit of the council's previous Conservative administration, it recognised the problem and set up local area offices. In my area of north-west Kent it set up an administrative office at Gravesend. Nevertheless, decision taking at Maidstone remains far too remote. The present Liberal and Labour-controlled council has taken some very insensitive decisions and there has been much neglect.
There are some dreadful examples of that. The council is currently bulldozing through the Wainscott bypass in the face of opposition from the people of Higham. It is neglecting the people of Old Denton by the failure to build the east Gravesend access road, which would take lorries out of Old Denton and provide good access to Comma Oil, the Norfolk road industrial estate and Denton wharf. It is neglecting the people of Northfleet by not building the fourth phase of the Thameside industrial route, which would effectively provide a Northfleet bypass.
The council has opposed every application for grant-maintained status for schools in the face of votes in favour as high as 90 per cent. among the local parents. Therefore, I welcome the decision announced yesterday by the Secretary of State for Education to approve the application by St. Joseph's Roman Catholic school at Northfleet.
I should like there to be a unitary council for north-west Kent, based on Gravesend and covering the existing area of the education and social services and also of the health district. That would achieve real local government, a unitary council with no confusion of responsibilities, minimum transitional disruption for the principal local government services—education and social services—and, at last, local decision making on our side of the north downs.
Some self-seeking local councillors concerned with their own personal bailiwicks have suggested that a north-west Kent unitary council would drag us into London and cover our green belt with concrete. That 353 self-interested scaremongering is absolutely shameless. Those claims could not be further from the truth. Kent is an historic county. We have our traditions—our Lord Lieutenant, our High Sheriff, our cricket team and our 101 voluntary organisations. There is no proposal from anyone to extend the county of Greater London. Indeed, Kent-wide co-operation can be achieved by a revitalised Kent association of district councils.
The metropolitan green belt is safeguarded by law, by planning decisions and even by the east Thames corridor study. In Gravesham it is well and truly laid out and safeguarded south of the A2, to the east of Riverview park and Chalk and to the south of the former. We shall be robust. Gravesham borough council is robust, and a north-west Kent unitary council would be likewise.
I oppose the favoured proposal of the Local Government Commission for two unitary councils, North-West Kent and Medway Towns, with the remainder of the county based on two-tier administration. That option of the Local Government Commission is a half-measure and a soggy compromise. We should have a proud county of Kent served by six unitary councils, co-operating in a revitalised Kent association of district councils. I hope that my constituents will join me in pressing for the Local Government Commission's third option.
§ 6.5 pm
§ Mr. Cynog Dafis (Ceredigion and Pembroke, North)
It would be inappropriate for the House to adjourn before it has had the chance to consider the need to reduce road traffic, especially in view of the recent report on the increase in cases of asthma and the likely link between that and air pollution.
That issue has concentrated people's minds on road traffic. Indeed, it has been suggested that asthma levels among children have doubled over the past 10 years—the same period over which there has been a doubling in the number of private and light goods vehicles on the road. That cannot be entirely coincidental.
It is clear that the advantages in personal mobility and convenience of increased road traffic are being vastly outweighed by the negative effects. Indeed, the advantages are already cancelled out by congestion. If current predictions of a 35 per cent. increase in road traffic by the year 2000 and a doubling by the year 2020 are fulfilled, road traffic will be a monster running out of control. That monster must be tamed.
Asthma is only one of the health effects of the constant increase in road traffic. A Lancaster university report estimates that up to 15 million people in Britain could be suffering from health problems as a result of road traffic near their homes. That is a figure that we do not remember often enough. At the same time, there are almost 4,000 deaths each year on our roads and 40,000 throughout the European Union. Those are horrific figures. There is no conceivable ethical justification for allowing such carnage. The financial cost of road accidents is estimated at £8 billion annually—a huge sum.
The environmental effects of increasing road traffic are already very serious and they are set to become disastrous. We know about the loss of open countryside, the loss of habitats and therefore the biodiversity that constitutes a great part of the wealth of our planet.
Road traffic is an increasingly significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. By the year 2000, road traffic 354 will be emitting 23 per cent. of the United Kingdom's carbon dioxide, very effectively undermining the Government's commitment to stabilise at 1990 levels by the year 2000. That commitment is a hopelessly and, in my view, grotesquely inadequate response to the immense threat posed by global warming and the need recognised internationally to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 60 per cent. in the near future.
Road traffic is also a profligate consumer of resources. It takes up 80 per cent. of the energy used in transport, which in turn is responsible for 33 per cent. of all energy consumption in the United Kingdom. Together with domestic energy, the total comes to more than 50 per cent. It imposes massive costs in terms of road building and insufficiently recognised costs in terms of the quality of community life.
There are costs too in terms of social inequality. After all, 35 per cent. of all households do not have access to a car and 53 per cent. of women do not have a driving licence. Those categories of people are disadvantaged by the inadequate provision of public transport which is exacerbated in turn by the fact that other people who have access to a car over-use it.
Something needs to be done, but what? Technology can play its part in reducing some of the environmental damage, but that reduction is bound to be limited. There is no bucking the need to reduce the use of the car and other forms of road transport.
How can that be done? It is clear that we need a United Kingdom-wide strategy with targets set by the relevant Secretaries of State. Stabilisation by 2000 at 1990 levels would be both modest and achievable, although many would say that that was an inadequate target, with a 5 per cent. reduction by 2005 and a 10 per cent. reduction by 2010.
The principle of target setting is supported by the CBI and increasingly supported even by people who have in the past been associated with the road lobby. According to a recent survey in the Observer, Michael Roberts, the CBI's transport policy adviser, said:Traffic growth produces congestion which produces further roads which produces more growth and more congestion. It is a vicious circle that must be broken.Achieving such targets would involve a major cultural change. That needs to be understood. It would have far-reaching implications for economic policy in an economy which is so strongly dependent on growth in car production, and so on. But it is the kind of change that would bring Government policy and economic policy more into line with the Rio idea of sustainable development. I am glad to see that the Labour party's environment policy published today begins to address the need for a change of direction.
Such a cultural change can be brought about only through widespread public involvement and community debate. Cultural change must involve collaboration and debate between people in the communities. That process should be led by our local authorities. They are or will soon be drawing up their local Agenda 21s, part of the Rio process. They will be considering how to move towards sustainable development at a local level.
Transport policy and reduction in road traffic should be integral to the process of drawing up local Agenda 21s. It should be a statutory requirement for local authorities to show how they propose to meet the specific traffic reduction targets in their areas.
355 There is no shortage of ideas about how that can be done. Certain German cities, such as Frieburg and Bextehude, have managed significantly to reduce car use and the accompanying pollution which car ownership has increased. Greater ownership reduced use.
Local authorities and the Government would benefit from study of the excellent document of the Council for the Protection of Rural Wales, "Wales needs transport not traffic", which sets out a broad range of policy proposals from revamping existing cost-benefit analysis assumptions to provisions such as encouraging cycling and improved integrated timetabling of public transport. A great deal can be done at local level in a practical way.
Everything is to be gained from an active debate at local level on the need for change in transport policy, but the Government must give a lead. That is why I presented recently to Parliament the Road Traffic Reduction Bill, prepared and supported by the Green party, Friends of the Earth and Plaid Cymru. It is a subject to which I shall be returning during the recess and after when I return to traffic-jammed London in the autumn. I hope to find wide support for the Bill from all corners of the House. That support can currently be registered by signing early-day motion 1520.
I am confident that this is an idea whose time has come. It is a theme that needs addressing now. I am confident that there will be widespread support for it throughout society. I hope that we shall have a positive response from the Government. I hope that we shall not find the same lack of vision and obsession with short-term considerations that we saw with the Energy Conservation Bill which was destroyed by exactly the same process as was described earlier by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) in relation to the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill. We need a more progressive and illuminated approach than that.
§ Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale)
Like you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and, I suspect, all other hon. Members, I am looking forward to the recess, not least because it gives us the chance to have a holiday and the opportunity to pursue other things, whether within our constituencies or in other areas of special interest that are more difficult for those of us with constituencies a long way from London to pursue when the House is sitting.
However, another reason why I am looking forward to the recess is that I believe that during the next three months there will be yet more economic good news. We shall see low inflation maintained, continuation of the steady economic growth that we are now enjoying, and the further shrinkage of the dole queues, with unemployment falling. All that, I hasten to suggest, particularly if the good weather that we are enjoying at the moment continues, will lead to a continuing improvement in the Government's fortunes.
But that is not what I wanted to say to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. That is just a little warm-up for something that will not be quite so welcome in certain sections of the Government. I want to refer to my growing concern about the funding of education in North Yorkshire.
356 The most important of all changes in our Government that have been announced so far today is the appointment of my right hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mrs. Shephard) as Secretary of State for Education. I cannot think of anyone better qualified to do the job. She was an education officer for many years in Norfolk and then was the local education authority chairman. I am sure that she will bring into play her vast experience of funding schools in a rural area such as Norfolk, which is not that different from north Yorkshire.
The needs of education funding in our shire counties are not being given the importance that they deserve. Only last week, the Select Committee on Education published its report on the disparity in funding between primary and secondary schools. Much of what I read in that report seemed to coincide with and reflect the growing concerns expressed to me by head teachers, particularly in the primary sector, during the past three or four years.
One reason why education funding in large rural counties such as North Yorkshire is a problem is that the standard spending assessment does not reflect the needs of sparsity. In a nutshell, the problem is that we have to fund a large number of small primary schools in rural areas. It is all very well to suggest that a number of those schools should close, but some are several miles away from each other and it would cost a great deal of money to carry on with the policy that we began a few years ago of closing three or four small schools and opening one new one. That policy has been successful where it could be carried out, but while small rural schools exist—they are extremely popular with parents and local communities—they are a significant drain on the education budget, with the result that the funding of some of the larger primary and junior schools is significantly less than it is in inner-city areas.
The consequence is there for all to see. The primary school in the village in which I live, for example, has 395 pupils on roll. Interestingly, that was the number in 1988 when the school had a complement of 16 teachers. This year, the number is down to 13.6 and is likely to fall further. At the same time, the school has accumulated a £21,000 deficit through local management of schools. The LMS formula in North Yorkshire is partially to blame, and that is recognised by both the department of further education and the local education authority—there are moves afoot to redress the balance.
Four factors fall more within the Government's purview than that of the LEA, and I will target three of them. Under LMS, funding is given for average rather than actual salaries. That creates a serious problem in North Yorkshire, where many schools still have the same teachers in post as when LMS started—and they have higher than average salaries. Secondly, year after year we continue to lose out from area cost adjustment. I see no virtue in persisting with that scheme, which is supposed to reflect the higher cost of schools in London and the home counties, and a large percentage of expenditure goes on salaries—and they are fixed nationally. That only piles one agony on another.
Another problem is the growing population and increasing school rolls. Those pupils are growing older, yet no extra money is given. The extra cost must be met from the budget increase, which was only 1.8 per cent. last year for the whole county. I do not underestimate the difficulties of dealing with such problems at a time of financial stringency. They are not easily resolved. One could say much more about the funding of North Yorkshire county council, and we will be making representations to 357 Ministers at the Department of the Environment. That has a knock-on effect on education funding, given that the standard spending assessment is the starting point.
Schools will reopen before the House returns from the long summer recess, and I dare say that many hon. Members will have the opportunity to visit schools and to talk to head teachers. I hope that my remarks will help to inform Ministers when they come to consider how to resolve the problems that I mentioned. Some decisions will be taken soon after the House returns, so I hope that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will convey my concerns to Ministers in the relevant Departments so that greater fairness may be established for schools in shire counties throughout our land.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
Four issues will not wait until October. The first is the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority report. On 12 April, in a debate on the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill, I interrupted the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Dame J. Knight) to ask this question:Has the hon. Lady had any discussions with the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority? Some people believe that research would be affected. Is the hon. Lady absolutely sure that it would not?She replied:Absolutely sure. I have had discussions with the authority. It knows what my intention is, and why.I have a different version of events from members of that authority, but I will let that pass for reasons of time. The hon. Lady continued:I want to send a message out to scientists that there is no point in spending any more time on research in that area, or in messing about with aborted mouse eggs, rat eggs or anything similar. The end product from using aborted human eggs for fertilisation purposes will simply not be allowed to be used. There are occasions when the House must assert its authority and make it clear that scientists sometimes go too far."—[Official Report, 12 April 1994; Vol. 241, c. 158]I was shocked by that, but nothing like as shocked as when I heard the Secretary of State for Health assent to all that drivel.
After consulting the British Medical Association, I ask whether, in the light of the HFEA's recent conclusion that the use of foetal ovarian tissue in research is acceptable, the Government will give the reassurance that the hon. Lady's amendment to the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill regarding the use of foetal ovarian tissue in fertility treatment will not in any way restrict valuable research in the causes and avoidance of infertility, birth defects, miscarriage and related areas. I am familiar with the distinguished research conducted at Edinburgh, and that matter is urgent.
Secondly, I have repeatedly raised the issue of the Lockerbie disaster and Pan Am 103. A letter to me from the Lord Advocate dated 8 July states:The investigation remains open and we will, of course, look into anything relevant to the case; we cannot comment on particular investigative steps which may be taken.I have thought for a long time that the Crown Office does not have the evidence that it claims. Nevertheless, I take at face value its desire to have a trial.
On 26 March, the Arab League backed a Libyan proposal to send to trial in the International Court of Justice, with Scottish judges and under Scottish law, the two Libyans suspected of the Lockerbie boming. The Arab League's resolution urged the UN Security Council to take into consideration 358this serious and new proposal in the search for a peaceful solution to prevent any escalation that could increase the tension in the region".There are 5,000 British nationals in that area, which is also valuable to British industry. For reasons of right and wrong and to try to bring an end to that deeply unsatisfactory situation, I plead with the Government once again to think of holding a trial under Scottish rules in the Hague.
The third issue is Iraq. I quote from Riad El Taher of Friendship Across Frontiers, with whom I went to Baghdad and to the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates last year. He has learned from independent travellers that the health situation there is diabolical due primarily to extra shortages of medicine and the desperate situation concerning water pumps and filters. The Leader of the House will know that I saw the Prime Minister about that matter. In the sweltering heat of this summer, I told him that there is a humanitarian aspect that ought to be resolved.
Finally, there are urgent questions for the Government in respect of cross-media ownership. Can The Times at 20p seriously be expected to make money without at first killing off at least one other broadsheet newspaper? If the answer is no, is not Mr. Murdoch's policy of The Times at 20p a clear case of predatory pricing? If so, why is it allowed? My question No. 9 to the President of the Board of Trade this afternoon was not fully answered.
Are the Government aware of the alleged view of Rupert Murdoch, expressed to David English, that Britain is over-papered by national newspapers, and that Mr. Murdoch foresees a situation in which we have only The Times, the Daily Mail and The Sun as national newspapers?
Are Ministers bothered about the extent of foreign ownership of the British press—The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent and, perhaps soon, the Daily Mirror and other papers?
Mr. Murdoch is, in effect, giving The Times away. Of 20p, 17½p goes to the wholesalers and retailers who distribute and sell the paper. The 2½p that comes back to News International does not even begin to cover the cost of printing the paper—about 15p a copy. That is a £30 million a year subsidy.
Is Mr. Murdoch determined to use his virtually unlimited resources to rearrange the market to suit his own convenience? He is a cynic about human nature, believing that price will always overwhelm values, particularly the civilised values that he despises.
Parliament can do something about this matter. If we have the collective will, we can do something about cross-media ownership and follow the American example, where many states ask owners to choose between making money from television stations and their ownership of the press. That is a clear choice that can be made, and was indeed made in the case of Roy Thomson and the Scottish newspapers that he owned. He was made to give up STV.
The issue is the quality of democracy. I believe that Mr. Murdoch must be made to choose between his newspapers, the television station and BSkyB. Indeed, there is a strong argument, such is the ownership from abroad, for limiting ownership of the British press to Europeans. That is a truncated view, to which we will return tonight on the Consolidated Fund.
§ Mr. David Amess (Basildon)
Before the House adjourns for the summer recess, I wish to raise two brief points. The first is a local matter and the second is 359 international. There was a time when I felt that the whole of the United Kingdom wished to visit my constituency of Basildon—I really mean journalists and politicians. Judging from the results of the local government boundary review, it seems that, at the moment, Basildon is somewhat unloved. My district council very much supports unitary status. We wanted either to be a unitary authority on our own or part of a large unitary authority.
The result of the Local Government Commission review is that my constituents are given three options: option one is Basildon with Thurrock, while option two is Basildon with Thurrock, as is option three. That does not seem a great choice for my constituents. The chief executive of Thurrock council has said:Thurrock's population is distinct from that of the rest of Essex. They shop locally and socialise locally. The strongest social, cultural and economic ties are with London.I have nothing other than good will—as have my constituents—to direct to the residents of Thurrock, but as I have already described, Thurrock wants very much to be a London borough. As ever, the Labour party's position on the matter is quite extraordinary. The socialist leader of the Labour group on Basildon council, who was my Labour opponent in the general election, gave public evidence about the redistribution of the constituencies. On that occasion, the Boundary Commission wished to destroy my constituency and put part of it with Thurrock, and my Labour opponent said that we had nothing in common with residents of Thurrock and argued that Basildon should be kept in its entirety. When it came to the local government review, however, he argued that we had a great deal in common with the local residents of Thurrock.
I feel that my constituents have been hard done by in the commission's review. I very much hope that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, when he considers those matters with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, will look at Basildon's case for a unitary authority on its own.
My final point concerns Kuwait. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Lady Olga Maitland) for all that she has done in trying to bring to the attention of the House the Kuwati prisoners of war. All hon. Members—bar, I think, about 56—supported the war to liberate Kuwait. At the end of the war, I felt that there was an unfinished matter—the fact that Saddam Hussein was still ruling Iraq in a most evil manner. The 625 prisoners of war seem to have been completely forgotten. The Iraqis also detained foreigners from nine nations that were sympathetic to the Kuwaiti cause.
It is very hard for us to understand the scale and anguish that the Kuwaiti people feel about their missing prisoners of war. Late at night, young people of 14 were rounded up out of their beds and taken away. I very much hope that Her Majesty's Government will resist the call to lift sanctions on Saddam Hussein. We should insist also that United Nations inspectors of biological and chemical weapons establishments should be permitted, with the International Committee of the Red Cross, to visit the prisoners of war in their gaols. It is an absolute disgrace that, for whatever reason, we seem to have forgotten them. I hope that the British Government and hon. Members on both sides of the House will keep up the pressure to achieve the freedom of those people.
§ Mr. Nicholas Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne, East)
I think that the whole House will have much sympathy with what the hon. Member for Basildon (Mr. Amess) has said. As always with these brief debates, in the three hours available to us, we seem to be able to cram a quart into a parliamentary pint pot.
At the beginning of the debate, my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) congratulated the Leader of the House on surviving what he described as the slaughter—a reference to today's Cabinet reshuffle. I am sure that the whole House is pleased to see that the Leader of the House is still with us. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, Hear."] He has a place in the affections of Opposition Members. I do not know whether the reshuffle could be described as a slaughter. It certainly was not a slaughter of the innocents.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Wythenshawe, as he did in a previous Adjournment debate, made a determined case for the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill. He has the support of many Opposition Members for what he had to say. Similarly, his reference to what is now the pretty vexed issue of ministerial responsibility for veterans affairs commands much support from Opposition Members.
My hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Ms Hoey) spoke of the affairs of Surrey county cricket club and its perfectly reasonable desire to own the freehold of its premises. I suggest that she sponsor a Bill to vest the freehold. The local authority could then make a gift of it to the Surrey county cricket club. After all, if urban development corporations, set up by the Government, are allowed to vest the land of local authorities then hand it over to private sector business interests, surely in such a good cause it is open to us to consider proceeding in the same way.
My hon. Friend also had something to say about the relationship between publicans and their brewers. As I know a bit more about that, I feel that I am on safer territory there than I am when talking about cricket. There is widespread support for what she said.
My hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) spoke about the plight of Cyprus, which has been divided now for 20 years, and the attitude of the British Government. It is a feature of these Adjournment debates that my hon. Friend raises an important foreign affairs topic. He has campaigned vigorously on behalf of Cyprus, and, indeed, has a strong constituency interest in the matter. I congratulate him on his speech.
My hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) drew our attention to the important issue of breast cancer, and the need for a national action plan. As she pointed out, one woman in 12 may be affected by the disease.
My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick)—seeking, I suspect, to show support for the Prime Minister's views, which is unusual for him—made some comments which I hope that the Leader of the House will find helpful and convey to the Prime Minister, who will no doubt receive them ecstatically. If the views of the rejected President of the European Commission are shared by the accepted President, surely Members of the European Parliament should consider carefully whether our Prime Minister would approve of the appointment of such a person.
361 My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North also referred to inequalities in the treatment of those who work for a wage and the position of top managers who are able to set their own wages and conditions—including, all too often nowadays, very generous share option schemes. This is not the first occasion on which the House has considered an issue that is clearly very divisive, not just in the House but in society as a whole.
My hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham) spoke of personal pensions and in particular the inadequacy of provision, especially for those who opted out of the state earnings-related pension scheme, without, I suspect, fully appreciating the consequences. My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) drew our attention to four separate topics—the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and the importance of protecting those engaged in legitimate research; the Lockerbie tragedy, and his continued campaign for a trial to be held according to Scottish rules; Iraq; and the newspaper price war. I note that that last subject will be debated again later tonight.
Let me mention two other matters. First, as right hon. and hon. Members will know, the Leader of the House and I are engaged in discussions aimed at securing a package arising from the Jopling report. I am not yet in a position to state formally the views of the parliamentary Labour party, but I can say that discussions are proceeding well and have been very thorough. I hope that we can soon put proposals to the House that may well apply in the next Session, and I know that my view is shared by the Leader of the House.
I wish to thank the right hon. Gentleman personally for the courteous and constructive manner in which the negotiations have been conducted. There has been a genuine willingness to make progress, on the basis that the balance of advantage between Government and Opposition should not be disturbed: the arrangements that we make should be for the convenience of the House, and no attempt should be made to score party points.
Finally, let me make a plea for Swan Hunter. It has become almost traditional—in what has been a sad and difficult year for Tyneside, for my constituents and for those in the neighbouring constituencies of Wallsend and Jarrow who work in the shipbuilding yard—for me to make such a plea, and to ask the Government to give Swan Hunter an order so that it can survive. As the House will know, yesterday the vital procurement order relating to the Sir Bedivere, which could have secured a private sector solution to Swan Hunter's problems, was placed with Rosyth. That decision almost certainly means the closure of Swan Hunter and the end of shipbuilding on the Tyne.
Let me give the House an idea of the scale of the problem on Tyneside. Before the receivers came in, Swan Hunter's wages bill was just over £1 million a week. That went into a pretty concentrated economy in the communities represented by my hon. Friends the Members for Wallsend (Mr. Byers) and for Jarrow (Mr. Dixon) and myself. We stand to lose all that.
Although most of the domestic industry had ganged up against us—for reasons that may have seemed commercially sound to those involved—we had managed to secure a foreign shipyard, Constructions Mecaniques de Normandie, which was interested in taking our yard over, to compete for work not just in the British procurement programme but in the middle east. It believed that the work could be done on Tyneside. If the bid had been allowed to 362 proceed, we could have added something to the British economy, foreign investment and overseas work; we would not be taking work from others. That strikes me as particularly unfair.
Our community has been hit by heavy engineering redundancies at NEI Parsons, by pit closures in County Durham and Northumberland and by the complete closure of the shipbuilding and ship repair industry in neighbouring Sunderland. If the blow delivered yesterday is fatal, as it almost certainly will be, I do not think that we shall be able to sustain it. I am sure that the Lord President is not unsympathetic; he realises how desperate is the plight of Tyneside people. Will he arrange for a representative of the Department of Trade and Industry, or perhaps the Prime Minister himself, to announce an aid package for Tyneside—an economic development package —to ameliorate the dreadful circumstances in which we now find ourselves? I hope that that can be done before the House rises for the recess.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Tony Newton)
I thank the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Brown) for his kind remarks about me personally; I also thank hon. Members for their warm response to those remarks. I am certainly pleased to be continuing in my present role, not least because of the exposure that it brings me, in debates such as this, to what might be described as the rich tapestry of House of Commons life—ranging from the impact of fragments on Jupiter to a number of other events rather closer to home.
I congratulate the House on the way in which it has conducted its business over the past three hours. I cannot recollect as many as 16 or 17 speeches being made in this debate before. That number will make it even more difficult for me to reply to all who have spoken as fully as I should like. Let me add, however, that in cases of which I can only take note I shall ensure later that points deserving further reply from my ministerial colleagues will be drawn to their attention.
I well understand why the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East mentioned Tyneside and Swan Hunter. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Trotter) would echo many of his views, and I will ensure that the points that he raised are drawn to the attention of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade and others who may be concerned with such matters. As the hon. Gentleman knows, five or six years ago I was for a year the Minister with responsibility for shipbuilding, and I had much to do with shipbuilding on Tyneside. I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's reasons for raising the issue.
The hon. Gentleman also mentioned our discussions on the Jopling report. As I have repeatedly emphasised, the eventual package must pay due regard to the interests of all involved. The need for such a balance makes the task complex, and it must necessarily proceed on the basis that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. A good deal of detailed work remains to be done, and—as the hon. Gentleman said—neither of us can become drawn further into the matter today; but I too can say without reservation that our discussions have been friendly, positive and constructive.
363 We believe that we have made good progress in identifying a package that offers the prospect of achieving wider agreement on changes that could be made in the next Session, probably on a trial or experimental basis. I hope to work further towards that end during the recess and perhaps I might reciprocate the kindness of the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East by saying that I hope that he will be able to continue to work with me in the positive and constructive way that we have achieved so far.
I hasten to make some comments as best I can on some of the speeches that have been made. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chertsey and Walton (Sir G. Pattie) drew attention to the National Audit Office report on property owned by the Department of Transport. My right hon. and hon. Friends at the Department are seeking to ensure that the properties are let quickly, which would appear to be the best preventive measure. I am sure that they want to look carefully at the points that he made.
The right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) predictably, but I would not say unreasonably, went over ground that has become fairly well trodden. I hope that he will understand if in the brief time available I do not add to what has been said about the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill.
The right hon. Gentleman also raised the issue of provision for ex-service people. During that debate, the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay) said:The debate is intended for hon. Members to bounce ideas off one another".—[Official Report, 1 July 1994; Vol. 245, c. 1078.]That did not give quite the impression that the right hon. Gentleman sought to convey in his remarks. The Government's attitude was made clear by my right hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken), who was previously the Minister of State for Defence Procurement.
§ Mr. Alfred Morris
The resolution was approved by the House and is a decision of this place. That must be an important matter.
§ Mr. Newton
I understand the right hon. Gentleman's point, but my point about the spirit in which the hon. Member for Thurrock approached the debate and the point that he made does something to weaken the right hon. Gentleman's argument.
My hon. Friends the Members for Leominster (Mr. Temple-Morris), for Gravesham (Mr. Arnold) and for Basildon (Mr. Amess) and a range of other hon. Members on both sides of the House made a number of points about the local government review, local government expenditure and so on. I have been given a briefing note which says that I should say that the Government are in a listening mode. I can tell hon. Members on both sides of the House that both I and my right hon. and hon. Friends are listening carefully to what they say.
I have a line that is barely more helpful for the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Ms Hoey) who spoke about the freehold of the Oval. It says that it is not for the Government to intervene in a matter between Surrey county cricket club and the Duchy of Cornwall. I am cautious about going beyond that. I have been the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, but that is somewhat different. I am sure that those at whom her remarks were directed will want to consider carefully what she has said and what is in the early-day motion. I know that my right 364 hon. Friend the Prime Minister is interested in Surrey county cricket club, and some of the hon. Lady's remarks may have aroused his interest.
The hon. Member for Vauxhall and others raised the issue of pubs. I am advised that there are not seen to be grounds for the Government to take action against Inntrepreneur Estates Ltd., except possibly for abuse of the English or French language, because there is no evidence that the company has breached the beer orders or undertakings. Again, I am sure that the hon. Lady's remarks will be carefully studied, not least by those Ministers who will be relieved that presumably the purpose of her speech was to ensure that somebody did not need to be here at about 5 am to listen to the debate in which she had intended to raise that matter.
I congratulate the House generally on the ingenuity that has been shown. I calculate that about half the speeches that I have listened to in the past three hours have been a way of hon. Members avoiding the need to be here at extremely inconvenient hours during the night. I am sure that that purpose will be warmly endorsed by my right hon. and hon. Friends who might have had to be here.
I must tell my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Thompson) that those who brief me assiduously have failed to give me any up-to-date information on the situation on Jupiter. To be honest, they have not come up with anything useful on Classic FM either. One of my hon. Friend's questions was directed at me and concerned the content of the next legislative programme, which is a matter in which I have an interest. As my hon. Friend will know, part of the way in which that interest is expressed is in a traditional phrase saying that one cannot anticipate the next Queen's Speech. However, I note what my hon. Friend said.
I can tell the other hon. Members to whose contributions I shall not be able to respond that I shall genuinely look at what they have said, not least at what was said by those who raised health service issues, some of them going back to my time at the Department of Health. The hon. Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) may recall—if she does not, I intend to remind her—that I was the Minister who launched the breast cancer screening programme some eight years ago. It made us the first country in the European Community to launch such a programme. We are always concerned to find ways of building on that initiative and improving the way in which we deal with that problem.
I apologise to those hon. Members on whose speeches I have not been able to comment, not least the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), who raised some powerful points. I invite the House—I hope to obtain its assent—to pass the motion on the Order Paper.
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 170, Noes 74.366
|Division No. 301]||[6.56 pm|
|Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)||Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Banks, Matthew (Southport)|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)||Bates, Michael|
|Allason, Rupert (Torbay)||Bellingham, Henry|
|Amess, David||Blackburn, Dr John G.|
|Arbuthnot, James||Booth, Hartley|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Bowis, John|
|Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)||Brandreth, Gyles|
|Ashby, David||Brazier, Julian|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Bright, Graham|
|Atkins, Robert||Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)|
|Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)||Browning, Mrs. Angela|
|Burt, Alistair||Lord, Michael|
|Butcher, John||Luff, Peter|
|Butterfill, John||MacKay, Andrew|
|Carrington, Matthew||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Carttiss, Michael||Maitland, Lady Olga|
|Cash, William||Malone, Gerald|
|Clappison, James||Mans, Keith|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Marshall, John (Hendon S)|
|Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif)||Martin, David (Portsmouth S)|
|Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey||Mates, Michael|
|Coe, Sebastian||Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian|
|Conway, Derek||Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick|
|Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)||Merchant, Piers|
|Coombs, Simon (Swindon)||Mills, Iain|
|Cope, Rt Hon Sir John||Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)|
|Cormack, Patrick||Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW)|
|Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)||Monro, Sir Hector|
|Davies, Quentin (Stamford)||Moss, Malcolm|
|Deva, Nirj Joseph||Nelson, Anthony|
|Devlin, Tim||Neubert, Sir Michael|
|Dicks, Terry||Newton, Rt Hon Tony|
|Dover, Den||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Duncan, Alan||Norris, Steve|
|Duncan-Smith, Iain||Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley|
|Dunn, Bob||Patnick, Irvine|
|Durant, Sir Anthony||Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Dykes, Hugh||Porter, David (Waveney)|
|Elletson, Harold||Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn|
|Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)||Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)|
|Fabricant, Michael||Robinson, Mark (Somerton)|
|Fenner, Dame Peggy||Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)|
|Forman, Nigel||Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Sackville, Tom|
|Forth, Eric||Shaw, David (Dover)|
|Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)||Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)|
|French, Douglas||Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian|
|Fry, Sir Peter||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan||Soames, Nicholas|
|Garnier, Edward||Spencer, Sir Derek|
|Gillan, Cheryl||Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)|
|Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Gorman, Mrs Teresa||Spink, Dr Robert|
|Gorst, Sir John||Sproat, Iain|
|Grant, Sir A. (Cambs SW)||Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)||Steen, Anthony|
|Greenway, John (Ryedale)||Stephen, Michael|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)||Stern, Michael|
|Hague, William||Streeter, Gary|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Sweeney, Walter|
|Hannam, Sir John||Sykes, John|
|Harris, David||Taylor, John M. (Solihull)|
|Hawkins, Nick||Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)|
|Hawksley, Warren||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Hendry, Charles||Thomason, Roy|
|Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Hill, James (Southampton Test)||Thornton, Sir Malcolm|
|Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)||Thurnham, Peter|
|Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Hunter, Andrew||Walden, George|
|Jack. Michael||Walker, Bill (N Tayside)|
|Jackson, Robert (Wantage)||Wallace, James|
|Jenkin, Bernard||Ward, John|
|Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr)||Waterson, Nigel|
|Kilfedder, Sir James||Watts, John|
|Kirkhope, Timothy||Wells, Bowen|
|Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)||Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Knight, Greg (Derby N)||Whittingdale, John|
|Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Kynoch, George (Kincardine)||Wiggin, Sir Jerry|
|Lamont, Rt Hon Norman||Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)|
|Lawrence, Sir Ivan||Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)|
|Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)||Tellers for the AYES:|
|Lidington, David||Mr. Sydney Chapman and Mr. Timothy Wood.|
|Adams, Mrs Irene||Bennett, Andrew F.|
|Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)||Bermingham, Gerald|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Boyes, Roland|
|Byers, Stephen||Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)|
|Callaghan, Jim||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)||Livingstone, Ken|
|Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)||Loyden, Eddie|
|Campbell-Savours, D. N.||Lynne, Ms Liz|
|Chisholm, Malcolm||Mackinlay, Andrew|
|Clapham, Michael||McMaster, Gordon|
|Clark, Dr David (South Shields)||McWilliam, John|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Maddock, Mrs Diana|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Mahon, Alice|
|Corston, Ms Jean||Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)|
|Cox, Tom||Morgan, Rhodri|
|Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)||Morley, Elliot|
|Dafis, Cynog||Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Mullin, Chris|
|Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)||O'Hara, Edward|
|Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)||Pope, Greg|
|Denham, John||Powell, Ray (Ogmore)|
|Dixon, Don||Rendel, David|
|Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth||Salmond, Alex|
|Eastham, Ken||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Foulkes, George||Simpson, Alan|
|Fyfe, Maria||Skinner, Dennis|
|Gerrard, Neil||Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)|
|Gordon, Mildred||Steel, Rt Hon Sir David|
|Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)||Strang, Dr. Gavin|
|Hanson, David||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Hardy, Peter||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Hoey, Kate||Wilson, Brian|
|Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)||Winnick, David|
|Howarth, George (Knowsley N)||Wise, Audrey|
|Illsley, Eric||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)|
|Jamieson, David||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)||Mr. Paul Flynn and Mr. Harry Barnes.|
|Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
That this House, at its rising to-morrow, do adjourn Monday 17th October.
§ Mr. Rhodri Morgan (Cardiff, West)
On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I wish to draw to your attention something important that has happened today following the laying before the House some hours ago of the accounts of the Welsh Development Agency. They stated, without reference to the House, that all loans and grants from the WDA and the Development Board for Rural Wales to small and medium-sized firms have been suspended forthwith. I draw it to your attention, Madam Speaker, because on 7 July the Secretary of State for Wales made a statement on the legality of grants and loans from the DBRW and the WDA but did not mention the fact that they had been suspended. Without reference to the House, it has been decided that, for at least 10 months, small and medium-sized firms in Wales are to receive no grants or loans.
§ Madam Speaker
That is not a point of order for me. I can rule only on the procedure of the House, and on our Standing Orders. The hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) appears to have an argument with the Government, but it is not a matter for the Speaker of the House.
§ Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon)
On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I believe that this is a point of order, although it arises from the same matter, because it relates to the fact that we are about to adjourn for the summer recess. The accounts were put in the Journal Office only today, and will not be available to hon. Members until tomorrow, by which time it will be too late to do anything about a matter of considerable importance, not only to rural 367 Wales—because of the development of rural initiative, venture and enterprise grants—but to those concerned with the industrial valleys grants. Companies will be left in limbo for three months or longer, so that is a matter of considerable concern. Through you, Madam Speaker, may I invite a Minister to come to the House tomorrow morning to address the issue?
§ Madam Speaker
If any Minister wishes to make a statement on the matter, and to give information to the House, the House will be here tomorrow morning and I shall be in the Chair to hear any such statement.