Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Macleod of Borve: My Lords, is the Minister aware that Queen Mary's is an internationally renowned hospital especially for the limbless? As a number of people are coming here from the Middle East hoping to get new limbs, I hope that they will be treated at Queen Mary's.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for drawing attention to the very specialist service which the hospital fulfils. As I am sure she will be aware, one of the proposals in the

12 Jan 1998 : Column 840

hospital review which is now out for consultation is that the limb-fitting and specialist rehabilitation service should be retained at that hospital. As I said to several other Members of your Lordships' House, this is now subject to formal consultation.

Trusts and Political Funding

2.58 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Alloway asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many trusts which contributed to the political funding of the Labour Party are in existence and what has been the extent of the contribution.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, this Question appears to seek information regarding past donations to the Labour Party. I am surprised that it has been directed at Her Majesty's Government. As a courtesy to the House, however, I am happy to repeat the information which I have already given to the noble Lord in reply to a Written Question from him on 11th December 1997 on a related, but not identical, topic.

As the House is aware, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has asked the Committee on Standards in Public Life, chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Neill of Bladen, to undertake a wide-ranging review of party funding. The Prime Minister has proposed to the leaders of other political parties that all parties agree to making available in confidence to the Neill Committee the details of all donations to party funds since 1992. On this basis, I am informed that the Labour Party would be prepared to ask the trustees to include donations to blind trusts in this evidence. The leader of the Liberal Democrats has indicated his willingness to consider this approach. It is for the leaders of other political parties to respond. I understand that the leaders of the main political parties have agreed to provide to the noble Lord, Lord Neill, information which he has requested to enable him to begin his investigations. That does not include the name of donors.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his reply. Is he aware that because there was no effective reply to my Written Question I tabled this Question? Is he also aware that this and the previous questions were in no way concerned with any other political party than the Labour Party, which is now in government? Is the Minister further aware that, in view of the assurances that he gave your Lordships at Question Time on 13th November as to full disclosure, it would have been preferable for me to have been able to thank him for answering the Question?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Lord thinks that there has been no effective reply. I have set out the basis on which the Labour Party--and, as far as I know, only the Labour Party--is prepared to give the answers to the noble Lord, Lord Neill, which would give a response to the noble Lord's Question. If the noble Lord wants me to

12 Jan 1998 : Column 841

go further and to give a precise but more limited Answer and I consider that courtesy to this House requires me to answer the Question in the round, my Answer is that Mrs. Margaret Beckett still has a blind fund; that that blind trust is used only for the purpose of remunerating a member of staff; that the money from that blind trust goes to the Fees Office and not to Mrs. Beckett personally, so she derives no personal benefit from it; and that she has indicated clearly and in public that if the committee of the noble Lord, Lord Neill, decides that such a trust should be wound up, she is prepared to do so.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, does the Minister agree with me that it is grossly impertinent for a member of the Conservative Party to ask such a Question when over the years it has assiduously concealed the donations that it has received? Does the noble Lord also agree that it is a pity that the names of donors from foreign countries are not to be revealed in the inquiry so that the names of all those living abroad who have contributed millions of pounds to the Tory Party could be made known to the public?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I have refrained from making that kind of point although I have been gravely tempted to do so. The terms of reference which the Prime Minister has given to the noble Lord, Lord Neill, are very wide-ranging. They include the question of foreign contributions. I note that, as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, rightly says, the Conservative Party has refused to give any information about either foreign or domestic donations. I note that the information which the noble Lord, Lord Neill, now requires in order to start his investigation, which the Conservative Party has, of course, agreed to give, gives the numbers of donors in bands as opposed to giving the actual amounts, names or the origin of the donation.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, with respect, may I remind the noble Lord that the Question--may I also ask him to answer it--asks "how many trusts" and the "extent of the contribution"? If the noble Lord declines to answer it, that is his privilege; but it is my privilege to ask.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I have already answered that there is one trust and one trust only in existence. I have already told the noble Lord and the House that the Labour Party and only the Labour Party is prepared to give information on the extent of contributions--in the first instance, in confidence to the noble Lord, Lord Neill. I suggest that in future the noble Lord addresses his questions to his own Front Bench.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that I listened to the first part of his Answer with some concern? He gave the impression that he was doing the House a favour by answering this Question. It is not a favour. As a member of the Government, the noble Lord is obliged to answer. If a Question has been admitted to the Order Paper, it is our right, as a House, to be able to listen to a Minister's answers. I should be grateful if the noble Lord could put that straight.

12 Jan 1998 : Column 842

Perhaps the Minister will also reconfirm what I understood him to say: that no blind trusts are currently in existence since they have all been closed down since the general election, apart from one, but that a senior Cabinet Minister is still receiving funds from a blind trust in order to employ somebody in her office? Can the noble Lord advise the House what that person does and his or her obligations to the donors of the blind trust?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I have already given as full an answer as it is physically possible for me to give. Although the noble Lord is, of course, right that a Question on the Order Paper has to be answered, there are rules protecting the impartiality of the Civil Service, and because of those rules it has not been possible for me to obtain briefing from civil servants on large aspects of the Answer to this Question; I have had to go to the Labour Party and to special advisers for my briefing material. Therefore, when I said in an answer that it was a courtesy to the House, I do not think that that is an inaccurate description of the situation in which I find myself and in which the House now finds itself. I should be interested to learn on how many occasions members of the Conservative Government answered questions about the funding of the Conservative Party as openly as I have answered this Question. That issue has always been plunged in the deepest darkness. The noble Lord asked me about what that member of Mrs. Beckett's staff does. I do not know, but I shall certainly find out and write to the noble Lord.

Petroleum Bill [H.L.]

3.5 p.m.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. This is a Consolidation Bill which brings together a number of enactments on petroleum. It deals with rights and licences to search for and get petroleum; the application of criminal and civil law to offshore activities; authorisations for submarine pipelines; and the decommissioning of these pipelines and offshore installations. The Bill has been the subject of consultation by my right honourable friend the President of the Board of Trade.

The main Acts which are consolidated are the Petroleum (Production) Act 1934; the Petroleum and Submarine Pipelines Act 1975; the Oil and Gas (Enterprise) Act 1982; and the Petroleum Act 1987, Parts I and II.

In the past, some model clauses for petroleum licences have been included in primary legislation. Although they were originally contained in regulations, it was considered that amendments to model clauses which were to apply to existing licences should be made by primary legislation. As a result, well over 100 pages of schedules to the 1975 Act and other Acts consist of amended model clauses. The Bill will enable all model clauses to be placed again in secondary legislation, where they originally belonged. Since this Bill is a consolidation Bill, it does not change the substantive

12 Jan 1998 : Column 843

law. The Bill will, however, enable any future legislation on petroleum to be easier to follow than the existing law.

I am sure that the House would wish to join me in thanking the draftsman and the Law Commission for their important work in simplifying and shortening the statute book. If your Lordships are content to give the Bill a Second Reading, it will be referred to the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills in the usual way. I commend the Bill to the House.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.--(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Bill read a second time, and referred to the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page