HC Deb 09 December 1996 vol 287 cc8-10
9. Mr. William O'Brien

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will make a statement on his Department's co-ordination of policies as between Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and the English regions. [6503]

Mr. Freeman

The Government's policies are designed to benefit all parts of the United Kingdom.

Mr. O'Brien

Is the Minister aware that in Yorkshire, due to pit closures and the loss of jobs and job opportunities, there is a serious lack of inward investment into my constituency and the Wakefield region? Is he further aware that as a result of the Government's policies the Yorkshire mining museum is under serious threat of closure, which would be a terrible disappointment to many of the mining communities, which would lose their culture? The imbalance between some regions is a serious problem. Will the Minister investigate the position in the Wakefield region, where inward investment is needed, and consider preserving the cultures and folklore of our communities?

Mr. Freeman

There has been a tremendous increase in the flow of inward investment into the whole of the United Kingdom. There have, of course, been some very notable investments, particularly in the north-east and I was pleased to visit the rail freight terminal in the hon. Gentleman's constituency—or very close to his constituency—a year or two ago. On the specific question about the Yorkshire mining museum, I was unaware of that project. I will certainly look into the matter and, with the help of my right hon. Friends, write to the hon. Gentleman about it.

Mr. Dunn

As the question refers to the "English regions", does it not provide an opportunity for the Minister to condemn completely the policy of regional government—which may well involve my constituency being governed from Guildford or Reading or, worse still, being taken into a revitalised Greater London council—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—which would be a nightmare for the people of north-east Kent?

Mr. Freeman

I am grateful to my hon. Friend as he has pointed out quite clearly the difference between the two parties. Not only have the Opposition promised a dozen or more referendums during any Parliament in which they happen to form the Government, but Labour is a party of regulation and not deregulation—which would mean new layers of government, not only in other parts of the United Kingdom, but in the English regions.

10. Mr. Winnick

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what ministerial visits he has made to discuss the co-ordination and presentation of recent Government policy.[6504]

Mr. Willetts


Mr. Winnick

As the Tory parliamentary party is now in a state of open civil war, is it not perfectly understandable that such visits are not taking place? Is it not unfortunate that the poor old Chancellor is being targeted and witch hunted, day in and day out, by so many of his party colleagues? Bearing in mind what was said last Friday by the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Sir J. Gorst), is not the solution to give the British people a break and to have an early general election?

Mr. Willetts

My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is presiding over an economic recovery, which means that, for the fifth successive year, our economy is growing more rapidly than the French or the German economies. As for visits, all I can say is that, yesterday, the BBC visited Huntingdon, and it was a very successful visit indeed.

Mr. Steen

Should not the Minister have visited Brussels? Had he done so, he could have said something about the waste management strategy and the fire regulations, which would put an additional £2 billion on to the price of running British industry. Should he not say something about that to the Commission in Brussels?

Mr. Willetts

My hon. Friend has a formidable record of campaigning on deregulation. On the fire regulations, I can assure him that, after the lengthy process of consultation that has been undertaken, they will not impose any significant extra burden on British business. No final decisions have yet been taken on waste packaging.

Mr. Derek Foster

In his capacity as co-ordinator of Government policy, the Minister will be aware that clause 3 of the civil service code—introduced on 1 January 1996 by the Government, with all-party support—states that Ministers have the duty not to use public resources for party political purposes". Is he also aware that I have tabled 18 questions to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his Cabinet colleagues on the cost to taxpayers of the Chief Secretary's scare over Labour's expenditure plans? Why has none of those questions been answered? What have the Government to hide? Is it that the Minister for open government, once again, is protecting the Chief Secretary—fellow of All Souls and master of sophistry?

Mr. Willetts

The costings exercise was conducted entirely in accordance with the rules on propriety in the use of civil servants. If a Minister asks a factual question of a civil servant, a civil servant should answer it. The Opposition are so sensitive about this matter because the Chief Secretary identified 89 Labour spending pledges—costing £30 billion.