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Lord McNally: My Lords, does not the Minister recall that in the 12 months up to the 2001 election government expenditure on advertising rocketed and that a "Panorama" expose showed that much of that expenditure was not targeted at recipients but at key, core voters? Does he recall that at that time government advertising was under the ultimate control of Mr Alastair Campbell, and that when Mr Campbell departed office we were assured that we would have a government Civil Service overlord independent of political control? That was four months ago. When will this Civil Service overlord be appointed? When he or she is appointed, how will they have whistle-blower powers if there is no Civil Service Act to give them independence from their political masters?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his wide-ranging questions. The noble Lord asked in particular about the appointment of a Permanent Secretary to cover government communications. My understanding is that an advertisement has recently been placed for that and that an appointment will be made in the next few months. That person will, of course, report to Sir Andrew Turnbull.
With regard to the noble Lord's comments on the "Panorama" programme, I have looked at the Government's spend on advertising over the relevant period. Expenditure reached some £191 million in the year to which the noble Lord referred. However, that is in keeping with the trend figures in relation to the parliamentary cycle going back several decades.
Lord Higgins: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that it is very important to distinguish between propaganda and information? Although there is a strong need to publicise the pensions credit as very few people understand it at the moment, the full-page advertisements currently appearing in the national press which state that pensioners,
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I hesitate to say this but I think that if the Government were to issue an advertisement based on the noble Lord's last comment, it would probably be considered propaganda. I am sure
Lord Naseby: My Lords, is the Minister aware that part of the Question relates to "related campaigns"? Is he not further aware that if the Civil Service overlord is do his job effectively, he will need information on the cost of PR, sponsorship and a welter of related campaigns? What plans are there to pull those figures together?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, one of the purposes of the appointment of a Permanent Secretary for government communications is the carrying out of precisely the kind of work to which the noble Lord referred. I have no doubt that the Permanent Secretary will be well supported by every department, particularly the COI and the Government Information and Communications Service, which will provide, I am sure, the top-quality advice that he will need for that job.
Lord Tebbit: My Lords, is there any significance in the fact that while the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, was answering a Question about benefits for disabled children, there was one official in the Box, but that during the Minister's current question-and-answer session, there are three? Perhaps that gives us a picture of the Government's priorities.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I rather fancy that that is because the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, is very good at answering questions. The noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, will have to put up with me on this one.
I am grateful to the noble Lord for his question. It occurs to me that when he was at the Department of Trade and Industry allegations were made that advertising in that department went up by leaps and bounds.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, strictly speaking, we have passed the halfway point. To be fair to the other Questions, we should move on.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, since the Government launched the highly skilled migrant programme on 28 January 2002, there have been 5,570 successful applications up to 31 December 2003. Of those, 64 have been issued to general practitioners and dentists.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Will she explain the exact position of the people who come under that scheme? The notes for applicants have now been extended to 27 pages and are very good indeed. They were updated in October following modifications to the scheme. I notice the notes state that if you are applying from inside the UK, you have to complete a document which confirms,
A related point is that if you are coming from outside the UK, your spouse or partner must come with you. However, if your spouse or partner is already granted residence in the UK, that rules you out. I do not understand that. Paragraph 7.6.5 states:
Applicants are not entitled to public funds; that is, income support, jobseeker's allowance, housing and homelessness assistance, housing benefit and council tax benefit. They are not entitled to them because it is intended that they should be self-sufficient and
Lord Avebury: My Lords, does the noble Baroness have the information about the number of people with health skills who are waiting to be considered as asylum seekers? Why are they not eligible for the programme? In the old days, when it was administered by the DfES, they used to be so eligible.
Will the Minister also indicate whether proper consideration is being given to the denuding of health workers from countries where their skills are severely needed? Those countries include South Africa, which provides so many of the people in our hospitals today.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, the programme differs markedly from that which applies to those who seek to come to this country as asylum seekers. It is obviously open to any individual who falls within the highly skilled migrant programme to apply under that scheme. The individual employment migration route for highly skilled migrants to come to the UK is to seek work or to pursue self-employment opportunities. Those who fall within that category are usually perfectly capable of being economically self-sufficient.
On the denuding of help, it is important to acknowledge that the largest number of applicants comes from the United States of America. We have received 991 applications from the US. We are not denuding other countries, but we do believe that there are real benefits for migrants who wish to come to this country and to share their skills with us, not least because many of them hone those skills, develop them and then take them home.
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