Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Baroness Turner of Camden: My Lords, is the Minister aware that in areas in which there was once heavy industry long-term unemployment, in particular among males, is now a serious social problem? First, is anything specific being done for those areas in which long-term unemployment mostly among males is high?

Secondly, is the noble Lord aware that according to research undertaken on the pilot it appears that small employers have been mainly involved and

10 Jan 1996 : Column 128

concerned with Workstart schemes? Is anything being done to ensure that larger employers become more interested in these schemes?

Lord Henley: My Lords, we targeted some of the schemes at areas of the kind to which the noble Baroness referred. I can assure her that the latest two Workstart pilot schemes are targeted at the West Midlands, particularly the metropolitan area, Greater Manchester and Sheffield. Those areas fit into the category to which the noble Baroness referred. I shall look at the other point of whether the pilots are biased overmuch in favour of the smaller employer and are not reaching the larger employer. Obviously it would be right that, so far as possible, we should reach all employers.

Lord Dormand of Easington: My Lords, the Minister mentioned evaluation. Did not the IES survey carry out an evaluation of the pilot schemes in the summer of 1994? When are we to see the results of that evaluation? Are the schemes proving unsatisfactory? I am sure that the whole House would want to have that information. The scheme was primarily aimed at long-term unemployment. Is there any evidence at all at this stage that it is getting the long-term unemployed back to work?

Lord Henley: My Lords, the schemes have not reached quite as many people as we initially hoped. The evaluation certainly seems to suggest that as a result of the schemes employers have a willingness to take on the long-term unemployed. More important, there seems to be a willingness on the part of those employers to retain people at the end of the period, whatever it is. That is the important point. No good is served by merely taking people on for a certain length of time if the employers are then going to dismiss them at the end of that period. We find that there seems to be an intention by the employers to retain the employees.

Lord Dormand of Easington: My Lords, may I ask whether the evaluation has been published?

Lord Henley: My Lords, so far as I am aware it was published at the end of December 1994.

The Clerk of the Parliaments: The Lord Bruce of Donington.

Lord McCarthy: My Lords, may I just--

Noble Lords: Order!

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, the Clerk of the Parliaments has already called the next Question. Perhaps in view of the time we ought to carry on with the fourth Question.

10 Jan 1996 : Column 129

European Parliament: Control of Expenditure

3.21 p.m.

Lord Bruce of Donington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the circumstances in which (a) the European Commission and (b) the Council of Ministers is able to control and, if necessary, limit the annual expenditure of the European Parliament within its own budget.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I am tempted to say that I refer the noble Lord to the Answer I gave him on 21st November. However, in the spirit of the new year, I shall answer him again. On (a), the Commission may attach a divergent opinion to the estimates for expenditure put forward at the beginning of the budgetary process. On (b), there is an understanding between the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament under which neither amends the other's draft budget.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for that reply. I trust that when it is published in the Official Report it will not require any further correction by him. Is he aware that what he is really saying is that Article 203, paragraph 6 of the Maastricht Treaty confirms exactly what I suspected in the first instance? It is that the Council of Ministers, which includes Her Majesty's Government or the representatives of Her Majesty's Government, approved or at least did not deny the funds for the monstrous expenditure by the European Parliament on new buildings in both Brussels and Strasbourg. They have cost the British taxpayer--yes, the British taxpayer--some £40 million. Is the Minister aware that that fact will not be received with any kind of approval by all those in the United Kingdom who want to exercise the utmost economy in the expenditure of public funds? What are the Government going to do about it?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, as I think I answered on 21st November, Her Majesty's Government do not necessarily approve of all the expenditure of the European Parliament or what it does. Indeed, we believe that a more sensible decision on the siting question would save a great deal of money. However, the point remains that, so long as the European Parliament operates within the ceilings agreed, we believe that it is a matter for the European Parliament to defend the position on its expenditure.

As I understand that the noble Lord's friends in the European Parliament form the biggest single group, perhaps he might address his questions to them.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, could my noble friend help us all by giving an assurance that no taxpayers' money will be used for purposes which have not been explicitly approved by the House of Commons?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I am not entirely sure what my noble friend is driving at there. The totality of contributions to the European budget is

10 Jan 1996 : Column 130

agreed by the other place. Within that, there are cash ceilings under seven different headings in the European budget which we have agreed at the Council of Ministers. These are contained within the global ceiling which we and the other place have agreed when approving the expenditure. As my noble friend knows, since 1979 we have fought hard to ensure that the Community spends wisely and that our share of the budget is not disproportionate.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that, if he did not understand what his noble friend Lord Tebbit was getting at, most people in this House, including myself, did? However, I shall not try to explain it to him, he will have to find out after Question Time. Is the Minister aware that people are extremely concerned at the profligate expenditure by the European Parliament? Is he further aware that it now amounts to over £1 million per member? That is three times the amount spent on the House of Commons and the House of Lords. It is a matter for great concern and surely the Government ought to try to do something about it.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, as I have already explained, we have agreed the total cash ceiling for administration in all the institutions of the Community. If the Parliament takes more than its share, then other legs of the institution have to take less. The Parliament has to work within those kinds of restrictions.

However, I return to the point which I made earlier. I believe that, if it is a democratically elected parliament--as it is--then the members of that parliament ought to be, and are, answerable to the electorate for the expenditure on which they decide. I say to the noble Lord what I said to his noble friend. He might talk to his colleagues, who, as I understand it, form the biggest single group in the European Parliament.

Lord Peston: My Lords, may I ask the Minister whether he could at least--

Baroness Elles: My Lords, will my noble friend agree that the majority of the European Parliament voted strongly against having any new buildings for the European Parliament? The decision was forced through by the French Government and the Council of Ministers to have the extra buildings constructed which European parliamentarians did not want.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, we know that the French were fairly keen on keeping the two-site arrangement. However, I believe that if the European Parliament wishes to reduce the use it makes of one of those two sites, it could stay at one site much longer than it does, unless it is a toothless organisation.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, is the Minister aware that his answers this afternoon have only gone to confirm the accuracy of the observations passed by the noble Baroness, Lady Elles? The report of the budget committee dated 16th December states that there is confirmation of the gentleman's agreement between the Council and the Parliament as to the expenditure. Is the

10 Jan 1996 : Column 131

Minister further aware that the Court of Auditors has declined to give approval to the regularity and reliability of the 1994 accounts? The Government already have the report of the Court of Auditors in their possession.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, we are always concerned about expenditures which the European Court of Auditors highlights as not being expenditures of which they can approve at that stage. However, I return to my original point. I know that the noble Lord will not agree with me, but so long as the European Parliament acts within the cash ceilings agreed across the whole field of the European budget, it seems to me that, if we have a European Parliament which is directly elected, it is that Parliament's responsibility. I should not be asked whether I approve or disapprove, any more than every other elector in the country is asked to do so.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page