|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Townend: Absolutely. Because of psychological problems, he claimed and got £330,000. How many policemen on the beat would that have paid for? People who join the police, the other emergency services or our armed forces do so on the understanding that part of their job is to deal with emergencies and tragedies. They will see people killed and badly injured; if they are not prepared for that, they should not go into those services.
Mr. Winterton: It is important to balance what my hon. Friend said. Although I entirely endorse the views that he expressed about the behaviour of that policeman, an overwhelming majority in the police service deplores the action of that individual, who has deprived the police service and taxpayers of a huge sum that could have been used to much better effect.
I have no qualms about people responsible for such behaviour being disciplined, but those large sums paid in compensation must come out of the public purse. The same applies in the health service. A fund should be set up for people who suffer from inefficiency and poor care, but such cases should be taken out of the compensation business. Lawyers are making enormous sums of money. The expense to the public purse arises not just from the compensation, but from the cost of such cases being brought.
Mr. Forth: Before my hon. Friend leaves the point, does he agree that where people are genuine victims of crime, in particular, and especially where they suffer physical injury, there is a case for a properly structured compensation scheme? The cases that my hon. Friend mentioned are, in many people's view, frivolous and unnecessary. The longer we allow the situation to continue, the worse it will become.
Mr. Townend: I agree with my right hon. Friend in general. He takes me on to my next point. We are now seeing a growth in claims for compensation from convicted criminals who are in jail. Surely that is nonsense. An IRA bomber--a murderer--was involved in an escape attempt in which a warder was shot. The terrorists who were trying to escape claimed that in the scuffle they were assaulted with rather more force than was necessary. I have no objection to an inquiry being set up to look into the case, and the officers being disciplined if the claim was proved to be correct, but I do not believe that convicted murderers and terrorists who shot an officer while trying to escape have any right to compensation at all.
Compensation claims were made in the forces, too. Ladies who joined the forces signed a contract to the effect that if they became pregnant, they would leave the forces. Using the European convention on human rights, women who had left the forces five or 10 years earlier claimed. The total compensation paid out was between £80 million and £100 million. That money had to come out of the defence budget, or the taxpayers had to find more money.
I come to social security. The Government promised at the last election that they would save billions of pounds by reforming the welfare system and cutting out waste and corruption, and that that money would be spent on the priorities--education and the health service. Once the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) was given the boot, Labour gave up any thought of radical reform, however. Far from expenditure on the welfare budget being reduced, it has gone up, from £99.5 billion to £108.3 billion. Consequently, the worthy projects that were to have been financed by savings have had to be paid for by massive increases in taxation.
What are asylum seekers costing us? Their numbers are soaring. I object strongly to Labour Members who say that anyone who raises the issue is racist or xenophobic. Let us be honest: the majority of asylum seekers entering the country illegally are white. This is not a racial issue. The question is whether a country has a right to stop itself being swamped by people who have no right to come.
We know that, this year, 100,000 asylum seekers came here. Those are the ones that we caught, but there are enormous numbers coming in who do not get caught--perhaps another 50,000. If no action is taken, over 10 years that could amount to 2 million people, because those who are allowed to stay or who disappear will eventually bring their families.
What is the cost in housing and education? What are the legal costs? Every time we try to send asylum seekers back, they go to court, appeal and re-appeal. It is no wonder the rest of Europe looks upon the United Kingdom as a soft touch. The costs are enormous. Most want to stay in the south-east, and the number that will have to be accommodated means that much of the green belt will have to be built over during the next 10 years, with environmental consequences.
We could save up to £1 billion a year if we had a system whereby asylum seekers were seen within seven days and, if they wanted to appeal, had to do so within seven days, and those with no right to be here were sent back. The French are good at doing that. They send them across the channel, and when we say we want to send them back, they refuse to have them.
Last year, although the Government decided that 35,000 asylum seekers had no right to be here, they sent back only about 3,500. The courts are now in revolt because the judges say that they will be made to look stupid if they decide that people should be sent back and nothing is done.
Money could also be saved on overseas aid, on which we spend up to £3 billion a year. Between 25 and 30 per cent. of that is not spent by Britain but goes to the EU, which is not noted for its efficiency in spending money, and there are many instances of corruption. One would expect such money to be spent in sub-Saharan Africa and other places where people are starving, but the list of the main recipients includes Morocco, Tunisia, Poland, Egypt and Algeria. I find it strange that so much goes to north Africa. That shows the influence of the French on the Commission. These are francophile countries and the French get most of the trade.
Mr. Bercow: I for one am particularly sorry that my hon. Friend, who always speaks his mind and has powerful convictions, is not seeking re-election to the House. But is he aware that the European Court of Auditors recently denounced the extravagant and inefficient EU aid programme, and that its report was published to coincide with the Nice summit, but
Mr. Townend: My hon. Friend makes a good point. I think that he would agree that, if we repatriated and kept all our overseas aid budget and dealt with it ourselves, rather than sending it to Europe, we could get better value, do more good and save the taxpayers' money at the same time.
With regard to whether our money is being well spent, no one today has mentioned the fact that £1 billion provided by the public was spent by the Government on the dome, which, far from being a great advert for the millennium, became an embarrassment.
There has also been an enormous increase in Government expenditure due to the constitutional reforms which resulted in the setting up of the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh and Irish Assemblies, and due also to an increasing number of civil servants, especially political advisers. The majority of that expenditure has been borne by the English, but they have received no benefit from it. My constituents still have about 25 per cent. less per capita to spend on health, education and local government than Scotland enjoys. That is not fair and it is due to the out-of-date Barnett formula.
From the point of view of equity, all parts of the United Kingdom should be treated the same, and Scotland and Wales should be treated the same as Ireland. It is argued that Scotland is so much poorer, but most of Scotland has a higher GDP than the north of England. If the Barnett formula were phased out, £1 billion a year could be saved.
With regard to alcohol duties, I declare an interest. I was pleased that the Chancellor froze alcohol duties, for the simple reason that, because of the enormous amount of smuggling, there is not a level playing field. But had it not been an election year, it is highly unlikely that he would have done that. However, one anomaly that the Chancellor should have dealt with was the duty on sparkling wine. Sparkling wine is no stronger than ordinary wine, and the extra duty of 58p a bottle is a relic from the past when people used to think of champagne and rich people. Most sparkling wine is now drunk by ordinary people and is not champagne at all.