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Lord Blaker: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that that report gives examples of the kind of mindless and unnecessary meddling by the Commission which puts up prices and destroys jobs and which does no good to the reputation of the European Union? Is my noble friend aware that the Government will have widespread support for any action that they can take to follow up that report? Does he also agree that the report makes clear how wise the Government were to secure at Maastricht an opt-out from the social chapter?

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, as regards his last point, my noble friend is absolutely right. Opting out of the social chapter has resulted in us being far more economical in terms of labour costs than would have been the case if we had been a member of it. As regards the first part of his question, my noble friend is correct that we should not become involved with any kind of regulation which is not of importance. Perhaps I may paraphrase something that was said by somebody: "If it is not absolutely necessary to make law, it is absolutely necessary not to". That is what we hope will guide the Commission as well as ourselves.

Lord Renton: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that over many years many businesses ancillary to agriculture have suffered from regulations under the aegis of the CAP? Will the present effort to deregulate cover those businesses also?

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, any form of deregulation that is undertaken whether by the United Kingdom or Europe will apply right across the board. In so far as

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regulations relating to the common agricultural policy may prove to be unnecessary, it would be in the interests of all if those regulations were to be removed.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, dealing with the noble Earl's point that we should not have regulations unless they are of real and substantial importance, is he aware of a proposal that was issued by the Commission on 14th March (COM (95)42 Final) which consists of a mass of gobbledegook advocating the establishment of a level playing field for direct investment worldwide, for which by its own explanatory memorandum the noble Earl's department, the DTI, indicated mild support? Will the noble Earl undertake personally to read that mass of meaningless material with a view to intervening appropriately in the Council of Ministers?

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I did not think that this Question would go by without some helpful intervention by the noble Lord. He has of course drawn attention to one specific document issued by the Commission. I am not familiar with that document, but if it is all that stupid, irrelevant, and full of gobbledegook, I cannot see much point in me reading it.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, with the permission of the House, perhaps I may reply. It was in order to be of assistance to Ministers in emancipating themselves from some of the stuff that is issued by their own officials.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, some of the stuff that is issued by my own officials, as the noble Lord puts it, is very useful and is not of an insignificant nature. I do not see that it should conflict necessarily with anything that the European Union suggests.

Baroness Strange: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that some of us are very worried by the rumour about not being able to eat square strawberries?

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I am not sure under what regulation that comes, but it is a very odd one. If my noble friend has any evidence of such a regulation, I shall certainly look into it. My guess is that it is completely wrong.

Lord Haskel: My Lords, is the Minister aware that we, too, on these Benches are in favour of removing unnecessary regulations from the statute book, especially when they are duplications, as turned out to be the case with nearly half the regulations recently removed by the Government? Is the Minister aware that among the main recommendations of the Anglo-German deregulation group are strong proposals to limit tobacco advertising? As those recommendations come from a group set up and supported by the Government are they the final argument which will persuade the Government to act now on tobacco advertising?

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, the group to which the noble Lord refers is an expert group of independent members from all European Union member states whose chairman is Dr. Molitor. It will make its report to the Council of Ministers in June, and I hope that it will encourage deregulation. I do not propose to answer the

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specific point about tobacco advertising; that is something that we shall have to discover when the report is published.

Lord Elton: My Lords, is my noble friend aware of the constant manufacture of myths about Europe which frighten everyone and reach the press? When it is discovered that there is no truth in them, such as the one about straight bananas, the denial does not reach the press. So I hope that my noble friend will treat the concern of my noble friend Lady Strange with the suitable reserve that it deserves?

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that helpful question. The idea that there are straight bananas or square strawberries is absurd. I know of no such regulations. I agree that such interventions do not help our cause within Europe. I am just surprised that they did not come from the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington.

Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that here is a fine example of the UK, with Germany, leading in an area which will be so helpful to business? I wonder what my noble friend will be doing in relation to the deregulation checklist and the 12 point action plan to get the other EU countries on board.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, the report which has been made has been sent to all Cabinet Ministers, all deregulation Ministers, British embassies in Europe, and other international posts and officials who are concerned with deregulation. It is also being distributed widely to business and other interested organisations in the UK, the European Union, and internationally, so that people are well aware of it. It is our intention and our desire to ensure that efforts will be made to see that the President of the Commission and other European Union heads of state give the findings of the report serious consideration. I hope that they will do so.

Lord Peston: My Lords, I do not want to delay matters, but one of the reasons why I did not join in the questioning originally was that I have never seen this report. The Minister has given us a long list of people who have been allowed to see it. Will he explain how the rest of us are supposed to take part in debates on these matters if no effort is ever made by his right honourable friend the Prime Minister or Chancellor Kohl so that those of us who are interested might get to see these reports? It is all very well Cabinet Ministers seeing them, what about the rest of us?

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I was asked what efforts the Government were making to ensure that these matters were taken note of, and I explained who is being sent copies of the report. If the noble Lord has not received a copy, I shall see that he gets one and that copies are put in the PPO for all noble Lords to see.

Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, I wonder whether we should get on. We have two more Questions.

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Benefits: Interim Payments

3.25 p.m.

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What legal means of support are available to people refused benefit under the habitual residence rules pending the hearing of their appeals.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): My Lords, interim payments of benefit may be made where a person is awaiting the outcome of an appeal, where it appears that there is, or may be, entitlement to that benefit. Payments are not, however, automatic. Decisions have to be made on a case-by-case basis, taking into account all the circumstances of the individual claim.

Earl Russell: My Lords, I congratulate Richmond House on reading the letters page in the Independent. How many payments have been made under the provision the Minister has quoted?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I am afraid that I do not have that information. Information about refused or granted interim payments is kept at local level. It would be both complicated and expensive to collect that information centrally.

Baroness Faithfull: My Lords, what is the position with regard to the wives and children of such men?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, it is not just men, I have to say, when I look through the list of people who have been refused benefit because they are not habitually resident in the UK. If a family comes here and none of its members is an habitual resident, then it will not receive the benefit that we are discussing.

Earl Russell: My Lords, is the Minister aware that many of the people concerned are found, on appeal, to be habitually resident? Is he aware that many of them have nowhere else to go? Does the department know anything about what happens to them while they are deprived of money pending their appeal? If not, why not?


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