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Lord Whitty: My Lords, certainly, without prejudice to the delivery of our bilateral programmes, it is our view that the expertise present in this country and in the DfID in particular could be used to greater effect by the Commission and in the European Union's programmes, and we are certainly looking at that.
Lord Redesdale: My Lords, will the Minister say whether the Government will use the presidency of the EU to put forward a European Union-wide ban on the practice of tied aid? That will go a great deal further than many other measures for making good use of aid.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, your Lordships will be aware of the White Paper commitment on changing the direction of aid within this country. Of course, bilateral aid is a matter for each individual member state. It would be presumptuous of us to move into their areas. Nevertheless, I believe that there is something in what the noble Lord says and we shall be attempting a common approach on those matters across all the members of the European Union.
Lord Tebbit: My Lords, will the Minister persuade his colleagues in the European Community that one of the better ways in which to help developing countries in the third world would be if Europe were to desist from its protectionist agricultural policies which cause so much damage to the economies of third world countries as well as increasing the price of food to poor people in Europe itself?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, it is a fairly common position within this House that the CAP is as damaging to that dimension of our policy as it is to others. The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs have put the reform of the CAP
Lord Lucas: My Lords, are the Government prepared to make a statement about the particular aims which they hope to achieve during their presidency with regard to EU international aid? If not, are not their fine words just empty, as so many of their recent statements have proved to be?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I think the noble Lord is not only broadening the debate but is also totally misrepresenting the record of this Government who have been far better at delivering their promises in the short time that they have been in office than were their predecessors.
As regards the part of the noble Lord's question which is relevant to this Question, we are moving up to the renegotiation of the Lome agreement. Many of the principles which we set out in our White Paper will be applied within that context. We await the Commission's proposals in that area. We hope that within our presidency we shall establish a more effective negotiating position for the Lome agreement. That and some of the other objectives which have been referred to will form a major part of the development council's work in the British presidency.
Lord Judd: My Lords, my noble friend has referred to the importance of the Lome agreement in this context. Will he inform the House about what will be the Government's position, together with their European partners, towards the multilateral agreement on investment in so far as it relates to the needs of the poorest countries of the world?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, that is a complex relationship which is primarily a matter for the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department for International Development. However, there are aspects of that agreement which need to be taken into account and there are aspects which the WTO needs to take into account if they are not to prejudice some of the development aid of ourselves and our European partners.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, does the Minister recognise that he answers in this House for the whole Government, not just for one particular department, and that he should, therefore, give a rather more full answer to his noble friend Lord Judd?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I believe that it is the tradition of the House that, as far as possible, supplementary questions are limited to the scope of the original Question. Certainly, I have no problem whatever in defending the total record of this Government. However, when a Question is tabled, the House deserves to have an Answer which relates primarily to it. I am not condemning my noble friend, or anyone else, for trying to broaden the discussion, but that is the tradition and I shall stick to it.
The Government welcome this Fabian Society paper as an interesting contribution to debate on simpler, better government. The forthcoming Better Government White Paper of my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will set out the Government's vision for public services. It will address many of the areas on which the Fabian booklet made recommendations: electronic service delivery; information for users; closer working between departments (including the Inland Revenue, Customs and Excise and the Contributions Agency); partnership between central and local government; and co-ordination between inspectors.
Viscount Chelmsford: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I, too, welcome the report. Can the Minister say whether the Government will give priority to achieving the savings identified in the report through the re-engineering of tasks performed by the two groups of central and local government departments referred to therein? That will ensure that the work is done once only and not duplicated by each department. It will also enable the citizen to obtain a single point of entry for advice and information and mean that he will not need to visit up to 11 different departments as the report alleges.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, in his supplementary question, the noble Viscount correctly identified the thrust of the work that the Government are already doing. In particular, he referred to central and local partnership. As part of the Deputy Prime Minister's central-local partnership initiative, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has set up a ministerial group to develop a framework to encourage innovative pilot initiatives to improve services at the local level, through different parts of government working together.
As regards the noble Viscount's question about electronic delivery, he may have noticed yesterday's announcement by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster regarding the first paperless form, which is to be applied to those wishing to register as self-employed.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, if the Government are so keen on delivering information electronically, will they consider the case of the Prison Service, which does not have a web page of its own? This created the greatest difficulties when it was asked to provide information for the penal lexicon (a web page which did provide information about the Prison Service). It declines to give
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I can confirm what the noble Lord said about the Government's determination to make information available electronically. The Prime Minister has made a tough commitment that, within five years, 25 per cent. of communication between government and citizens will be available electronically. I should point out that the Prison Service is included in that project, although I am not aware of the prison lexicon to which the noble Lord referred.
Lord Renton: My Lords, bearing in mind the fact that the Fabian Society originally stood for introducing socialism and state control steadily and not hastily, can the Minister tell the House what is the present Government's attitude towards Fabian principles? Indeed, can the noble Lord say whether the Prime Minister is a Fabian?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I believe that the Prime Minister is a Fabian. I should remind the noble Lord that the motto of the Fabian Society, in the words of Quintus Fabius Maximus Cunctator, has always been:
Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, is the Minister aware of a recent statutory instrument laid on behalf of the Department for Education and Employment for which information on what is going on in schools, especially in terms of school numbers, and so on, is demanded both in three written copies and on a computer disk? Does that not show that the Government do not strictly have the courage of their own convictions?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am not aware of the case to which the noble Lord refers. I shall inform myself in that respect and then inform the noble Lord of the conclusions that I draw.
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