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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, in response to the noble Lord's first question, I can do no better than to quote from Peter Lilley's speech to the British Dyslexia Association before the Budget. He said:

That is the position which the Opposition took during the passage of the Finance Bill in another place. However, it appears extreme to this Government. It would be wildly expensive in revenue terms and it would benefit higher level taxpayers rather than those most in need.

As regards the noble Lord's question about small businesses, the contrary is the case. We have extended the applicability of the definition of "business assets" very widely in order to help in particular small businesses. The definition includes those who hold more than 25 per cent. of the shares in a company or those who are full-time employees and hold more than 5 per cent. To those, the benefits of the taper rather than indexation are very great indeed.

Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, is the tapering figure fixed or can it be varied if the Government do not succeed in holding down inflation?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Finance Bill includes two fixed figures for taper; one for business assets and one for non-business assets. Any change would presumably require legislation.

Scientific Research: Expenditure

3 p.m.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the comprehensive spending review has taken note of the substantial increase for basic scientific research in the Japanese and American budgets and the consequences such expenditure can have for growth, innovation and jobs.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Clinton-Davis): My Lords, the potential benefits in terms of sustainable growth and quality of life from investment in basic scientific research are among the relevant factors being considered in the comprehensive spending review. It is also taking note of the expenditure by other countries, including Japan and the United States of America.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer which I shall interpret optimistically. Will he agree that the fall in government expenditure on science in the period 1981 to 1996 from 0.7 per cent. to 0.4 per cent. of GDP has had an

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extremely harmful effect on the science base of this country? Will he also agree that the drastic cuts in capital expenditure funding for universities in the 1995 Budget has made it extremely difficult for our world-class scientists to carry out their research effectively? Finally, will he agree that only by something like a doubling in real terms of funding expenditure on science in the next 10 years can we hope to make any progress in catching up with our major competitors?

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, the overall spending on research is not simply a question of government funding. It is a question of looking also at the private sector. Although I do not wish to sound complacent, while it certainly could improve, the percentage spend on basic research has increased from 20 per cent. in 1986-87 to about 30 per cent. in 1996-97.

I fear that my noble friend will have to await the outcome of the comprehensive spending review--he will not have to wait very long--in order to enable me to answer the other two questions to which he specifically drew attention.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that many of us would look forward to the outcome of that review with a great deal more confidence if the channel of communications between leading scientists and Ministers were considerably improved? At the moment, that channel is distinguished in the way that it is clogged.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, I cannot agree with the noble Lord. I do not believe that the number of discussions that my honourable friend Mr. John Battle, the Minister responsible for those matters, has had would represent a clogging in the relationship between the scientific community and government Ministers.

Although I did not anticipate that the noble Lord would view the comprehensive spending review with confidence, I look forward to it. Overall, I believe that that is the right way to proceed and that it is right to wait at the moment because I am obviously inhibited from saying anything about the Government's expenditure plans in that regard.

Lord Paul: My Lords, will the Minister inform the House what the Government are doing to encourage the use of the benefits of research by making it more productive in this country?

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, we believe to regard science as one of the top priorities, alongside the others which have been identified by the Government, is the right way to proceed. It is a top priority for us. Indeed, it is dealt with separately and that is absolutely right. Therefore, I believe that the Government's approach to the paramountcy of expenditure on R&D and scientific research is of the greatest importance.

Lord Ezra: My Lords, following on from the Question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, about the increase in basic scientific research

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expenditure in America and Japan, will the noble Lord indicate how the combined basic research within the European Union compares with that of those two countries?

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, I cannot give an answer as to the totality of expenditure on research in the European Union. However, the position in Japan and the United States is a little at variance with what the noble Lord seemed to infer in his question. The past record of Japanese public investment in that regard has not been consistent. There have been rises followed by falls. That has been an extremely inconsistent performance. As regards the United States, there is an increased expenditure premise but that is founded on funding from the tobacco settlement. I am not sure whether or not that has been finally agreed, but I think not. Moreover, it is subject to congressional approval. It seems to me that the thesis of that is that you only get the money if you smoke and, having regard to a previous Question, that is not a very good idea.

Petition: Gibraltar

3.4 p.m.

Lord Bethell: My Lords, I beg to present a Petition from 16,200 of the people of Gibraltar which prays that this House will support the amendment to the European Parliamentary Elections Bill which seeks to enfranchise British and other European Union nationals resident in Gibraltar. The Petition is signed by just under 90 per cent. of those eligible to vote.

Petition presented.

Government of Wales Bill

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the amendments for the Report stage be marshalled and considered in the following order:

Clauses 1 and 2, Schedule 1, Clauses 3 to 22, Schedules 2 and 3, Clauses 23 to 28, Schedule 4, Clauses 29 to 74, Schedule 5, Clauses 75 to 104, Schedule 6, Clause 105, Schedule 7, Clauses 106 to 109, Schedule 8, Clauses 110 and 111, Schedule 9, Clause 112, Schedule 10,

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Clause 113, Schedule 11, Clauses 114 to 125, Schedule 12, Clauses 126 and 127, Schedule 13, Clause 128, Schedule 14, Clause 129, Schedule 15, Clauses 130 to 140, Schedule 16, Clauses 141 to 144, Schedule 17, Clauses 145 to 152, Schedule 18, Clauses 153 to 159.--(Lord Williams of Mostyn.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Sea Fisheries (Shellfish) (Amendment) Bill [H.L.]

Read a third time, and passed, and sent to the Commons.

European Parliamentary Elections Bill

3.6 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.--(Lord Williams of Mostyn.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 1 [Number of MEPs, electoral regions and electoral system]:

The Earl of Northesk moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 1, line 8, leave out ("Members") and insert ("Deputies").

The noble Earl said: I acknowledge that in some respects, I am the warm-up act before the two main events of this Bill. The purpose of the amendments grouped in my name is straightforward. They seek to change the name of members of the European Parliament to either deputies, delegates or representatives. I should stress at the outset that it was the Home Secretary who first alerted me to this matter. On Second Reading of the Bill in another place, the right honourable gentleman pertinently observed:

    "The role of a Member of the European Parliament is different from that of a Member of Parliament".--[Official Report, Commons, 25/11/97; cols. 805-6.]
Indeed, in the Government's own mind, it is that very difference which justifies the electoral arrangements on the face of this Bill. Much the same point was implied by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, when he introduced the Bill to your Lordships' House .

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More than that, your Lordships will be aware from my contribution on Second Reading of my concerns that the proposals on the face of the Bill will have the inevitable consequence of eroding the relationship, in so far as it exists, between an individual voter and his representative in Europe. The Home Secretary, echoed by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, commented on that point also. The electoral regions will be very large and individual candidates are unlikely to be known by more than a small, not to say tiny, fraction of the electorate. Self-evidently, the role of MEPs is entirely different from that of MPs and will become even more so as a result of the Bill. Bluntly, in so far as there does exist a job description with which the general public are in tune, MEPs are not members.

I stress also that it is by no means my intention with these amendments to undermine or devalue the status or role of those who represent us in the European Parliament. They are a significant part of our developing democratic and constitutional architecture. In that context, they perform a hugely important task. Indeed, I am tempted to suggest that it may well be that being tagged as "members" rather than "deputies", "delegates" or "representatives" is a disbenefit in itself.

We should not ignore how important perception is in the modern age. Public perception of the nomenclature of "member" implies a whole host of concepts and responsibilities which are even now outside the remit of those who represent us in Europe, let alone after the enactment of this Bill.

For instance, whatever the Minister without Portfolio has had to say on the matter, the Burkean principle of the representative Member still has resonance in the minds of electors. What of constituency surgeries and of advocating constituency interests to the government of the day? Many, if not all, of these traditional duties are outside the competence of MEPs. Calling those who represent us in Europe "Members" may well provoke expectations in the minds of the electorate that they simply cannot meet. In effect the public are being slightly misled.

Nor should we forget in this context the low esteem in which Members of Parliament are currently held by the general public. I leave it to the Committee to draw its own conclusions as to how deserved that reputation is. For myself I see no profit in, as it were, attaching guilt by association. MEPs are not MPs, nor can they be. They should not therefore be tarred with the same brush of public disdain and disillusion as our respected colleagues from another place.

I have one final bit of housekeeping. I have no particular preference for any of my three suggestions over the other two. I hope the Committee will take it on trust that all three have something to commend them for I do not wish to try the patience of the Committee by citing their dictionary definitions at length. But at the risk of indulging in some vain optimism that the Minister may just be receptive to my proposition, I think on balance I would plump for deputies. It is a nomenclature that has a slightly more Gallic flair and a more European flavour to it than the other two, although I leave it to others to adjudge whether that is

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a good thing. In conclusion, and perhaps a little mischievously, I am reminded of the admonition from Proverbs that: a good name is rather to be chosen than great riches. I beg to move.

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