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Commons Chamber

Volume 888: debated on Thursday 13 March 1975

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House Of Commons

Thursday 13th March 1975

The House met at half- p ast Two o'clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Message From The Queen

Double Taxation

THE VICE-CHAMB ERLAIN of the HOUSEHOLD reported Her Majesty's Answer to the Address, as follows:

I have received your Addresses praying that the Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on Income) (Malta) Order 1975 and the Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on Income) (Cyprus) Order 1975 be made in the form of drafts laid before your House.

I shall comply with your request.

Oral Answers Toquestions

Northern Ireland

Incident Centres


asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he is satisfied with the working of the incident centres; and if he will make a statement.

I would refer the hon. Member to the statement I made to the House yesterday.—[Vol. 888, c. 527–534.]

To what extent have the incident centres been used? Is it the intention to increase the number of such centres? Will the Secretary of State comment on the provisional Sinn Fein centres, and has he been able to allay the fears of the Dublin Government on this matter?

With regard to the last point, any views of the Dublin Govern- ment are of interest, but it is not my job to allay their fears on this matter. With regard to the number of matters which have passed through the incident centres, they total about 300 in recent weeks. Those which are significant are a very small number, but the small number of matters with which we have dealt have been important, and that is the main reason for my being able to say that the centres have been of practical value.

Is the Secretary of State aware that the existence of the incident centres is widely understood—or misunderstood—as implying that Her Majesty's Government have made conditions for the cease-fire? What steps can he take to dispel this misapprehension?

I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will agree that, given the events of the last five years in Northern Ireland, with the large number of shootings and killings, it is difficult to prevent misunderstandings. Her Majesty's Government have made the situation absolutely clear. The centres exist for practical reasons and we do not wish the cease-fire to break down because of misunderstandings about something that may happen in Northern Ireland. That is the only purpose of the centres, and they have proved their value.

Is the Secretary of State aware that if Her Majesty's Government give official recognition to gunmen of the IRA, or any other gunmen, by the provision of incident centres or any other means, it will do serious damage to the rule of law throughout the whole of the United Kingdom?

In a period of five years a figure of £104 million has been paid out in compensation, another £70 million is in the pipeline, 1,100 people have died and 12,000 people have been injured. In unwinding that situation—and it is an extremely difficult one—I am not suggesting that we have found the answer. The situation means that I have to take risks, and this is one of them.

Gardiner Report


asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he has any further statement to make on his proposals for the implementation of the Gardiner Report.


asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps he is taking to implement the recommendations in the Gardiner Report: and whether he will make a statement.

I would refer to the reply given to Questions by the hon. Members for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) and Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) on Thursday 13th February.—[Vol. 886, c. 585–8.] My right hon. Friend hopes to make a further statement soon.

Now that the right hon. Gentleman has implemented one or two of the recommendations of the Gardiner Committee, and as events to some extent have moved on since the report was published, would it not be wise for us to have a comprehensive statement analying, in present circumstances, the recommendations to be made, together with an indication, even if provisional, of the Government's intentions?

The report is obviously wide-ranging and the situation complex, but I am certain that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has taken on board that point and is considering it.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the Gardiner Committee's proposal for a bill of rights could be commended to the Convention? Does he propose to provide the Convention with any information on this subject?

We are considering the question of a bill of rights. There are substantial provisions in regard to protection of civil liberties under the 1973 Constitution Act. The last point put forward by the hon. Gentleman is a question for the Convention.

Has the Minister held any consultations with the Government of the Republic on the Gardiner Report in connection with measures to deal with terrorism, that being one of the subjects of the Gardiner Report? Does he consider that the Criminal Jurisdiction Bill now going through Parliament will be a satisfactory alternative to extradition?

The answer to the hon. Gentleman's first point is "No". The answer to his second point is "Yes".

I apologise to the hon. Member for Petersfield (Mr. Mates). I should have called him earlier as he had a Question on the Order Paper. I call him now.

Is the Minister aware that we would wish to congratulate him in general on the way in which he has handled a difficult situation over the past few months? He is walking a tightrope between a fragile peace and a return to extremism. I am sure that we all wish him well. Is the Minister aware that one of the festering sores about which the Gardiner Report has made specific recommendations is the question of special category prisoners? Is he now able to tell us not just that it is a difficult problem, which we already know, and not just that he is considering it, which again we already know, but whether he is some way towards finding a solution? That is one of the key factors in removing a source of severe discontent throughout the Province within both communities.

I am afraid that at this juncture I am not able to add anything to the statement made by my right hon. Friend. The solution depends on prison accommodation and work facilities in the Province.

Does the Minister not also agree that there are two other fundamental issues in the Gardiner Report on which the Government's views should be known? First, there is the question of the resettlement of detainees and the prerelease centre. When can we hear the Government's views about the Gardiner Report's recommendations on that matter? Secondly, there is the need for a new temporary prison to keep detainees separate from convicted prisoners. When can the House hear about that?

We have on several occasions given the House details of the new prison. We are still considering resettlement.

Will the Minister assure the House that when his right hon. Friend makes his considered statement he will give us some idea of what the Government will do about the Gardiner proposals? Will the House have the opportunity to debate them before the final decision is taken?

I shall convey the hon. Gentleman's views to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House.

Arms And Explosives


asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he is satisfied with the arrangements for co-operation with the Government of the Republic regarding the movement of arms and explosives across the United Kingdom/Eire border.

There is continuing and close liaison in this matter. We are constantly seeking, in consultation with the authorities in the Republic, to improve the arrangements for detecting and preventing such movement.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that answer. Is he aware that in the two years of 1973 and 1974 some two tons of commercial explosives were captured by the security forces in Northern Ireland that had been manufactured in Eire? Is he aware that during the same period the security forces also captured some 50,000 lb. of ammonium nitrate, which would be the product of approximately 30 tons of fertiliser? Bearing in mind the difficulties that the IRA must experience in extracting such a tremendous amount of ammonium nitrate from fertiliser, can the Minister still be satisfied with the co-operation he is receiving?

Yes. I have spoken to many police officers with responsibility on the border. They all speak highly of co-operation across the border. The hon. Gentleman will agree that the supplies about which is he is talking are on a downward plane.

Is the Minister aware of the widespread reports that an Irishman wanted in connection with the murder of Police Constable Stephen Tibble fled to the Irish Republic, where he is now in prison on another charge? Did he escape via Northern Ireland? What representations have been made to the Eire Government to discover whether the wanted man will be tried in the Irish Republic or extradited to the United Kingdom? What reply has been received?

As regards the hon. Gentleman's last point, that is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department. I would not wish to comment on the hon. Gentleman's first point.



asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will take steps to restore normal policing by the Royal Ulster Constabulary in the whole of Northern Ireland and to ensure that the rule of law prevails.


asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he will make a statement about the future policing of those areas in Northern Ireland in which the Royal Ulster Constabulary does not at present carry out the full range of police functions.


asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he will make a statement on security since the latest cease-fire.


asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what is his policy in respect of the recent proposal that certain areas of Northern Ireland should be policed by locally elected forces rather than by the Royal Ulster Constabulary.


asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement about the future ô and composition of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

I would refer the hon. Members to the statement I made to the House yesterday.

I realise that the statement made by the Secretary of State yesterday pre-empted this Question. Will the right hon. Gentleman list the areas in Northern Ireland where there is not normal policing? Will he assure the House that the RUC will have the necessary manpower to do normal policing when it can go into these areas?

I think that the areas of Northern Ireland where there are particular difficulties are known—for example, parts of West Belfast and Londonderry. There are one or two other problem areas in the sense of policing. I shall willingly reply to the hon. Gentleman and obtain specific information. However, I think that we know the areas to which we are referring. I stand by what I said in the House yesterday, namely, that there is only one police force—the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The problem areas for policing are not new. It would be foolish and idle of me to pretend that the matter can be solved overnight. I think that we must take our time. On this matter I listen very much to the views of the police themselves, because they know the areas concerned. I think that the House would be wrong to believe that there is an immediate solution to this problem. Like so many other problems in Northern Ireland, I think that we should take it slowly.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the statement that he made yesterday. I recognise the difficulties that he spelt out and the need to establish, perhaps after the Convention, a proper police authority. What does the right hon. Gentleman think should be the ô of the Army in the meantime? Should it assume increasingly the style of a police force, possibly carrying lighter weapons than are carried now and executing more of the functions of a police force than hitherto it has been called upon to undertake?

The Army performs certain functions of a police force under the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act. As I reported yesterday, over recent weeks the Army has taken on a different posture in those areas where violence has decreased rapidly. There is a great deal in what the hon. Gentleman said about a differing ô for the Army. That is a matter which we are considering daily with the Army. The Army is not unaware of the problem. I shall bring to the notice of the Army in its current considerations one or two of the points made by the hon. Gentleman.

First, the number of patrols that it makes are fewer. There are fewer men making the patrols. There is no daily searching of houses and looking for information about recent explosions. There are other ways, as well, in which one can add it up. All I say to my hon. Friend is that he would only need to visit those areas now to find a completely different atmosphere from recent weeks.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, as indicated by his hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Watkinson) and also by Dr. Garret Fitzgerald when addressing the Anglo-Irish Parliamentary Group, on the record, that there is some misgiving in Dublin that Her Majesty's Government sometimes lack firmness? However that may be, will he answer that point? On our side—especially in view of what has just happened to Mr. Littlejohn—are we not entitled to insist on reciprocity in extradition? Is he aware of the concern lest the Criminal Jurisdiction Bill which has been introduced in the Dail as well as in this Parliament may not reach the statute book at an early date?

As regards the hon. Gentleman's first point about the views of the Government of the South, I am always pleased to listen to them on any matter. None the less, the final decision is for Her Majesty's Government. Her Majesty's Government have to face the problems in Northern Ireland, and nobody else. That must be clearly understood.

As regards the hon. Gentleman's second point about reciprocity, the report which gave rise to the current legislation illustrated the position, but I am sure that we must press ahead. It may be that in the course of time we shall get better arrangements. The reason for not being able to get better arrangements shows the legacy of history in Ireland about the events of the past.

Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that if the police force is to be able to take over from the Army it must have sufficient strength on the ground and it must be acceptable to the community as a whole, as it depends upon the consent of the people with whom it is doing its duty? What thought has the right hon. Gentleman given to Mr. Basil Glass's suggestion that there should be a conference of elected representatives to consider the whole structure of the police?

I am most interested in that idea, but if I called a conference I would want to be sure that the other elected representatives came along. The indications are that that might not happen. It might be a good idea, after we have had the Convention elections, when people are meeting at Stormont. It may well be that elected representatives from all parts of the Province would be prepared to talk to each other at such a conference.

Reverting to the question put by the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mr. Biggs-Davison), may I ask what information the right hon. Gentleman has about the progress of the corresponding Irish Republican legislation to the Criminal Jurisdiction Bill?

I have no information as of now. I understand that it is going through the processes in the Dail. As I think it is important to have this legislation, what we can best do by precept is to move quickly in this House and in another place and thus show that we want it operating.

Westminster Parliament


asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will commence discussions to create a more equitable representation of the people of Northern Ireland in Parliament.

Any proposal to change the number of parliamentary constituencies in Northern Ireland can only be considered after the Constitutional Convention has sat and when the future arrangements for the government of Northern Ireland are known.

The Secretary of State has just said that Northern Ireland is a matter for Her Majesty's Government, and Her Majesty's Government only. But is it not for this Parliament to decide these matters? Why should Northern Ireland be treated differently from other parts of the United Kingdom over representation? Should we not put in a boundary commission to look at and at least to report on this matter? Indeed, it may produce more Labour seats.

The final decision on this matter will be taken by this House. This is one of the proposals that the Constitutional Convention will want to look at. This Parliament can then look at those proposals in total before making a final decision.

My right hon. Friend seems to be putting great reliance on the Constitutional Convention. When will the elections be held, and when does he expect that the Convention will hold its first meeting?

My right hon. Friend will shortly be making an announcement on this matter.

If a member of the Opposition may join in the parliamentary practice of referring to the election manifesto of his party, may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is aware that it is the firm opinion of the Conservative and Unionist Party that Northern Ireland is under-represented in this House?

We are aware that that is in the manifesto. We are also aware that those who sat on the Government Front Bench in the previous Parliament did not necessarily hold that view.

Provisional Sinn Fein (Talks)


asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what further talks have taken place, since the announcement of the cease-fire in Northern Ireland, between his officials and Provisional Sinn Fein; and what was the agenda for this meeting or meetings.

Contacts have continued between my officials and Provisional Sin Fein to discuss the maintenance of the cease-fire.

Is the Secretary of State aware that those people with whom his officials have contact—the Provisional Sinn Fein—have recently distributed a document stating that searches and policing problems have been resolved in a way that favours them and the Republican areas? Does he agree that it is important to establish, once and for all, that the only police force that is acceptable to this House and to the people of Northern Ireland is the Royal Ulster Constabulary?

I gladly make that statement. There is only one police force in Northern Ireland—the Royal Ulster Constabulary. That is true not only in Republican areas but in so. called Loyalist areas, because I must implement it all over Northern Ireland.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that when we were recently in Belfast it was forcibly drawn to our attention by representatives of the Provisional Sinn Fein that they find it difficult to do any sort of policing whilst they are under the guns of the Green Howards, who are going about Andersonstown in numbers and are doing their job efficiently and well?

My hon. Friend is right. The Army, albeit in a different ô and at relative strengths in different areas—depending on the number of sectarian murders taking place the night before where there is internecine warfare between various bands of the IRA—is present and doing its job. The Government wish to reduce the rôle of the Army, but where it is required, particularly in certain areas, there it will be.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of my constituents in Belfast, North, especially in the New Lodge Road and Ardoyne areas, are eternally grateful to him for reintroducing the police to those areas? Does he agree that the RUC came under vicious attack by some IRA elements, especially in the Ardoyne area, on 21st February? Will he assure the House that, while doing a terrific job by introducing the police to those areas, he will give the RUC the protection that it needs and deserves?

I should like to bring one point to the notice of the hon. Gentleman, who knows the North Belfast interface with West Belfast better than anybody in this House. There have been real problems over the years. However, I think that he will agree that some of the little local incidents that have occurred recently have not been of the depth and degree that they were two, three or four years ago. There is a problem here. The hon. Gentleman, above all, will appreciate that I ought to move with circumspection regarding policing.

I am sorry to nag about the question of the different rôle of the Army. Will the Secretary of State assure us—I am asking a genuine question—that the soldiers on the streets know that they are performing a different rôle?

The soldiers on the ground know that they are performing a different rôle. When talking to some of them last week I received a great deal of wisdom because of their knowledge of the people in the area. I praise the soldiers on the ground in Northern Ireland. As I said before, while not wishing to perform an old-type colonial rôle, they understand the areas. All of us could learn a great deal from them.

Harland And Wolff


asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what progress has been made towards a more balanced work force at Harland and Wolff; what is the current distribution as between the two communities expressed as a percentage; and how this compares with five years ago.

Although the bulk of the shipyard's work force has traditionally come from the Protestant East Belfast area, the company wishes to recruit more widely. In consultation with community interests in West Belfast it is considering setting up a training facility to draw on labour resources outside its customary recruitment area. Meanwhile, arrangements have been made for the company to sponsor apprentices in a Government training centre in West Belfast, as well as in other GTCs.

Percentage figures cannot be provided, since the company does not record the religious affiliation of its employees.

Could not the Minister have indicated what progress has been made? Does he accept that I appreciate the valiant attempts that he has made in this matter? Does he agree that there is depressingly poor progress towards the dilution of this symbol and economic expression of the old ascendancy system? Does he also agree that the British taxpayer will go on financing what a growing number of people view as a bottomless pit only while they see growing evidence of power sharing at Stormont and work sharing at Harland and Wolff?

Like the policing issue to which my right hon. Friend referred previously, this is a difficult matter. Over recent months I have discussed it with the shop stewards and the trade unions at the yard and got their acceptance to a large increase in apprentices representing both communities. I think that will go a long way to meet the basic problem that we face in that shipyard at present. For historical reasons, skilled workers are not available in the numbers required from the minority community. Regarding religious discrimination, we hope that the Fair Employment Bill, based on the recommendations of the van Straubenzee Report, will shortly be introduced.

Will the Minister assure us that the jobs available at Harland and Wolff will be allocated without reference to religion?

I am the first to concede that when we can stop talking about this issue we shall have resolved it.

Does my right hon. Friend not agree that whatever justification there may have been for the discrimination which occurred when the shipyard was privately owned it is no longer tolerable when it is publicly owned? Does he not accept that although there may not be skilled men available there must be many unskilled men who could take up jobs there if given the opportunity, because a fair proportion of men working in ship building and ship repairing are necessarily unskilled?

We did not create this situation; we inherited it. We are starting from the position as it is now. As I could have said to the right hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Craig), the co-operation that the Government are getting from the shop stewards and trade unions in the yard shows me that we can move forward on this issue, and that is what I desire.

Does it not offend against the Race Relations Act that employers should take note of the religion of their employees?

I do not know whether the hon. Lady heard me correctly. I said that the firm did not take note. If she will wait for the terms of the Fair Employment Bill, I think that she will see that that point is covered.


asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he is satisfied with the system of accountability for the expenditure of public money invested in Harland and Wolff.

Following the announcement in the House on 22nd July 1974, a project team was appointed to examine the affairs of the company, including the arrangements for monitoring performance. Until the examination is finished it is not possible to say what changes, if any, may be needed.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Mr. Hoppe, whose contract as managing director of Harland and Wolff was recently terminated, was being paid at the rate of £70,000 to £80,000 a year, and that the money was being paid into a Swiss bank account? Does he think that that sort of tax-dodge arrangement is appropriate for a company whose prosperity is heavily dependent upon Government funding? Does he not think that there must at all costs be an avoidance of any repetition of this sort of behaviour by any future Government?

The terms and conditions of the previous managing director's appointment were negotiated by the company in 1971. Mr. Hoppe's appointment was approved by the Shipbuilding Industry Board and the Government of Northern Ireland. I was the Minister resonsible for terminating Mr. Hoppe's engagement, not for appointing him. Following the July statement that I made in the House about the future of Harland and Wolff, the Government will have firm control over any future appointments.

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House what financial arrangements were made when he terminated this man's engagement?

As there are likely to be proceedings in the courts, the matter is sub judice.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm or deny that, apart from the rather strange financial arrangements to which the Conservative Government agreed, Mr. Hoppe was able to milk the company in other ways—for example, by having a house built for him at the company's expense? Will my right hon. Friend also confirm that this man, on this fantastic salary, was responsible for screwing down the wages of many of the employees in the shipyard, preaching restraint to them while he was living in the lap of luxury?

As the contract was with a limited liability company, its terms were not made public. These criticisms will be taken into account in the appointment of the new managing director.

What sum of money has been lost to the Exchequer as a result of Mr. Hoppe's salary being paid, tax-free, into a Swiss bank? Do the Government intend to pay severance pay for the cancellation of his contract of service? If so, how much will that cost the taxpayer?

The hon. Gentleman's last point is a matter of legal consideration and is therefore sub judice.

United Kingdom Membership


asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether, before the Convention elections are held in Northern Ireland, he will make clear the acceptable conditions for continuing membership of the United Kingdom for the guidance of voters.

No, Sir. I would draw the hon. Member's attention to the statement in the White Paper of last July that

"any pattern of government must be acceptable to the people of the United Kingdom as a whole and to Parliament at Westminster. Citizenship confers not only rights and privileges, but also obligations".

I am sure that the Secretary of State will appreciate that his statement yesterday, on which I congratulated him, answered many of my anxieties. However, does he not agree, first, that there can be no question of the new Consultative Assembly opting to return to some form of Stormont-type Government, and that to be acceptable to Westminster any constitution proposed must involve community-sharing of responsibility at all levels? Since this is the view of Westminster, is it not right that this parameter should be spelled out clearly to the electorate before they go to the polls?

In the White Paper last year the Government spelled out the parameters. We used a phrase in the legislation which added up to "generally acceptable". I am very happy to lay down the parameters again and again and again. In the changing mood in Northern Ireland, after five or six years of war, with all the history that lies behind that, there is a chance that those people who met at Stormont will work to find as good a means of performing their duty of governing Northern Ireland, as with all our imperfections, we do here. I think now that people have learned a great deal on both sides, and we should give them a chance to work together.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that any additional statement on the lines suggested by the hon. Member for Dorset, North (Mr. James), implying, as it would, the break-up of the unity of the United Kingdom, would create the worst possible conditions for the elections and prejudice the chances of a successful outcome to the Convention? Does he further agree that the only conditions for continuing membership of the United Kingdom would be the acceptance of the institutions of the United Kingdom, and no other?

I agree with the last part of that question, but on the first part, since the hon. Gentleman has raised it, I must say that I do not believe that any part of the United Kingdom can lay down the terms on which it will stay in the United Kingdom. There is something which cannot be spelled out which is implicit in belonging to the United Kingdom, and I believe that people understand it.

Springtown, Londonderry(Manpower Training Centre)


asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he is satisfied with the operation of the Department of Manpower training establishment at Springtown, Londonderry.

Yes. The opening of the training centre at Springtown in January 1973 provided a substantial addition to the 300 training place available to the Londonderry area in the centre at Maydown. 179 apprentices have received their first year off-the-job training in the new centre and a further 303 people have been trained in a variety of skills. Some 177 apprentices and 101 other people are currently in training at Springtown.

Is the right hon. Gentle-aware that two young boys—their names have been submitted to the Department of Manpower—from Strabane, which is only half an hour's bus journey from Londonderry, were intimidated, abused and finally hounded out of the Springtown centre and now have to attend another centre in Ballymena, which entails their taking lodgings and also incurring an expense of about £2·80 to go home each weekend? Will he ensure that such episodes do not occur again in that area, and that such conditions will be done away with in that centre?

The Government deplore the actions involving these two young people. As the hon. Gentleman knows, I wrote to him on 18th February, and we have had a full investigation into this intimidation. Despite this investigation, the Department was unable to identify those responsible. I know that the boys are attending another centre at the moment and that the hon. Gentleman has raised the question of travelling allowances. This is a difficult problem, but we are considering it.

In view of my right hon. Friend's concern—which we recognize—about employment prospects in Northern Ireland, and against the background of his previous remarks, will he say what immediate steps can be taken to alleviate a situation in which, in some areas, 25 per cent. of the male population are unemployed? Does he consider that a Bill of Rights containing an anti-discrimination provision relating to employment would help him to overcome this problem?

Last Monday I visited Strabane, where there is over 26 per cent. unemployment. We obviously deplore this, and I want to do somthing about it. As for Government training, there are 10 times as many places, in ratio, in Northern Ireland as in any other part of the United Kingdom, so a great deal of industrial training is taking place. As for a Bill of Rights, the Fair Employment Bill will cover this point in regard to employment and I am sure that the House will give it its full support.

For the benefit of his back benchers, does the Minister agree that the only reason that these two boys were hounded from that training centre is that they are Protestants? If one is to ask loaded questions about religious balance and the effects of it in Northern Ireland, does my right hon. Friend not agree that we must take account of the whole situation? I am not prepared to list a number of establishments, because I fear the effect that that would have in them, but does not my right hon. Friend also agree that we in this House should set an example to the people of Northern Ireland and not involve ourselves in this type of discussion?

I think that the hon. Gentleman knows from my actions in Northern Ireland, as the Minister responsible, that I deplore discrimination, whether from the Protestant side or from the Roman Catholic side. I do not defend this incident in any way; I publicly deplore it. It is to eradicate such incidents that we want to move forward, and I think that the Fair Employment Bill could be the basis for that process.


asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he it: satisfied with the present level of recruitment into the Royal Ulster Constabulary; and if he will make a statement.

Since 2nd September 1974, when my right hon. Friend announced a plan for the extension of policing in Northern Ireland, the overall strength of the regular force has increased by 145 and that of the reserve by 1,807. Applications are still being received in encouraging numbers.

Is the hon. Gentleman satisfied with this improvement? What steps is he taking to accelerate it?

I am very pleased with the rate of recruitment. We are carrying on an advertising campaign directed towards attracting people to the force, and we are keeping the terms and conditions of service under constant review.

Can my hon. Friend assure the House that in recruitment to the RUC efforts are being made to see that both communities are contributing, and that recruits are not coming purely from one community, whether or not by omission?

We do not keep statistics on which communities members of the force come from. We should like many more of the minority community to join both the reserve and the regular force, but we appreciate many of the difficulties which they face.

What discussions has the hon. Gentleman had with leaders of moderate Catholic opinion since the beginning of February to try to increase the proportion of Catholics joining the force?

Prisoners (Parole)


asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the future of special category prisoners on parole and parole arrangements for all categories of prisoners, particularly in cases of compassionate circumstances.

I would refer the hon. Member to the statement I made to the House yesterday. As to existing arrangements, leave may already be granted in appropriate cases to any convicted prisoner, including those in special category.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his statement yesterday. Nevertheless, is he aware that many questions remain unanswered and that there are some anomalies that need to be attended to? Is he aware of the anomaly that will exist, if there is a lasting peace and he can release detainees, in respect of special category prisoners who are guilty of the same sort of offences as are detainees? Has he any special procedure for special category prisoners?

The problem of special category prisoners will be better debated and discussed when we deal with the Gardiner Report. There is no doubt that there is an imbalance between the communities, because the police operate in one area. But there is the basic point that special category prisoners are prisoners convicted by the courts, and I must take that into account.

Self-Employed Persons


asked the Prime Minister whether he has held a meeting with representatives of the self-employed.

No, Sir, but the various organi- sations which represent the self-employed are in regular touch with departmental Ministers.

Is the Prime Minister aware of the grave concern felt by the 2 million or so self-employed who feel themselves to be at the mercy of the big battalions and who appear to have been left out of account when the social contract was drawn up? Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that they are useful people, deserving a fair deal? Will he explain to them what benefit they will obtain from the social contract?

I accept that, and that is why, although we have had the report of the Bolton Committee on Small Firms, which is what many of the self-employed are, in effect, we are looking further at the question of what help can be given to small firms in their work. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that these matters have been fully debated during the passage of legislation, including social security legislation and the Finance Bill. The House took its decisions. I understand that these matters will be raised further by the Opposition later today, when my right hon. Friends will he answering the points made.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that when the Leader of the Opposition addressed the National Chamber of Trade on 17th February she expressed sympathy for the self-employed, but said nothing about the burden of value added tax and social security payments placed on them by the administration of which she was a member? Will my right hon. Friend comment on the suggestion made then, that we must keep a stern eye on public expenditure, in view of the right hon. Lady's bribery at the election?

There is no ministerial responsibility for what the right hon. Lady said. The only question of responsibility is how far she is continually divorcing herself from the actions which she supported in government.

Glasgow (Prime Minister'svisit)


asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on his 1st March visit to Glasgow.


asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on his visit to Glasgow on 1st March.

I refer my hon. Friends to the reply which my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council gave on my behalf to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) on 11th March.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of the older industrial areas in England—notably the North-East, which I represent, together with my hon. Friends—are much poorer than most parts of Scotland? Did my right hon. Friend believe, after his visit to Glasgow, that the Scottish people as a whole shared the selfish views of some Opposition Members that the oil revenues should be used for Scotland alone?

My hon. Friend may remember that in my Edinburgh speech of a couple of years ago, made in Leith, I said that I thought that a great part of the benefit of the oil revenues—from whatever part of the United Kingdom the oil might come, including the Celtic Sea—should go particularly to help those areas which were in the first Industrial Revolution and which have suffered from industrial decline. The STUC has made clear its view that the revenues from the North Sea, which will be secured by the tax and participation arrangements announced by the Government, should be used for the benefit of the areas which bear the scars of the Industrial Revolution, not only in Scotland but in the North-East and other areas of the United Kingdom.

Did the Prime Minister note the difference between the somewhat tepid reception he received in Glasgow and the tumultuous enthusiasm with which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition was received on her visit to Scotland?

No, Sir, but experienced Press men with some statistical abilities found that there were many, many more outside when I opened the exhibition in Glasgow—most of them cheering, except for a few militant students whom the right hon. Lady never encouraged, anyway, so she would not have expected them. But for the hundreds that she had, I had thousands, and I did not invoke any party card-carrying members to turn out.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that any feeling that may exist in Scotland or Wales for a greater devolution of powers from Westminster is not all that different in kind from the feeling that exists in many English regions that there should be greater devolution? Does he further agree that there is a very strong constitutional case for treating all parts of the United Kingdom in a similar way in any pattern of devolution that may be devised?

My right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council, in the debate on devolution, made clear the fact that there would be discussions with the English regions, following up what has been said so far in respect of Scotland and Wales. However, whereas it is true that Scotland will have a Scottish development agency and Wales has the Welsh Development Agency, my hon. Friend will be aware of the powers and activities—entirely benevolent activities—of the National Enterprise Board, south of the border as well as north of it.

Is the Prime Minister aware that despite his visit the people of Glasgow feel shamefully neglected because during his visit neither he nor his Ministers came to see for themselves the extreme hardship being suffered by the people—hardship which has resulted from an unprecedented wave of strikes resulting in the accumulation of masses of rubbish? Will he now send a team of Ministers to look at the two latest emergencies in Glasgow, namely, the picketing of the rubbish incinerators and the breakdown of maintenance in the multi-storey flats in the city?

I did see it for myself in Glasgow.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) was talking rubbish when he said—I am sure it was inadvertently—that my colleagues who visited Scotland—and there was never a visit like that from the Conservative Party when it was in Government—

I started in 1947, when the hon. Lady was still at school. Perhaps I may be allowed to refer to the hon. Member's supplementary question. He was talking nonsense when he referred to my right hon. Friends—my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, who was there and who has considered this question on a number of occasions; my hon. Friend the Minister of State, who spent a lot of time on this question; and my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council, who made a tour of these areas. I also saw them for myself.

With regard to the serious problem which the hon. Gentleman has quite fairly raised, after what he said in error, he will know that there is to be a meeting tomorrow, at which everyone, particularly in Glasgow, will hope that the trouble will come to an end. But my right hon. Friend is in close touch with the matter and will make a statement to the House at the earliest possible moment, as that becomes necessary.

What weight does my right hon. Friend attach to the Scottish TUC's paper on devolution, in which it argues very strongly that the Scottish Assembly should have economic powers?

The Scottish TUC presented five papers which we were able to study. We thought that the devolution paper, in the main, followed very closely on the lines taken in our pronouncements, in our White Paper and in the statement of my right hon. Friend in the House. What struck me particularly about devolution in relation to the STUC was that the STUC was absolutely clear that while it wanted the maximum possible degree of effective devolution, it was totally opposed—I think it was talking for the majority of the people of Scotland—to separatism.

As the right hon. Gentleman has mentioned devolution and as the Government have rejected, I think, one unanimous recommendation of Kilbrandon, namely that the elections to the Assembly should be by proportional representation, what would be the right hon. Gentleman's reaction to having a referendum on this matter to see whether or not it would enjoy the full-hearted support of the people of Scotland and Wales?

The right hon. Gentleman, I know, supports this principle, and I know what was in Kilbrandon. But this matter has been dealt with in the debate on devolution. There will be many more debates on devolution, as well as legislation. The right hon. Gentleman will have his opportunity of testing the feeling of the House upon it.

Will the Prime Minister confirm that the Government are still pressing ahead with all possible speed for the establishment of a Scots Assembly, that that process will not be slowed down in any way by consideration of devolution for the English provinces, and that an Assembly Bill will be introduced before the end of the year?

The answer to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question is "Yes, Sir". The answer to the second part is "Yes, Sir". The answer to the third part was given by my right hon. Friend in the debate on devolution. We are proceeding with all possible speed but I cannot at this stage announce a timetable, any more than my right hon. Friend could do a month ago.

As my right hon. Friend explained in the debate—I answered this question of my hon. Friend only last week—we are considering this matter.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for the fact that he is considering the matter of a White Paper. I hope that he will realise, as I am convinced most right hon. and hon. Members do, that when we are considering devolution, we are engaged in a major constitutional change in the whole position of the United Kingdom. If we are to do that, it is very important that the House should be consulted and should have the fullest information before it comes to any decision—and that means not only Members from Scotland and Wales but Members from the whole of the United Kingdom. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will bear that matter in mind.

Yes, Sir. In saying that, the right hon. Gentleman was echoing what he said in the speech, part of which I heard, when he began by making that point. Whatever view he has of machinery or procedures, every hon. Member agrees that this is a fundamental change concerning the future of the United Kingdom. Many hon. Members— and I support this, as did my right hon. Friend—recognise that it has grave implications for England as well as for Scotland and Wales.

Anstey, Leicestershire


asked the Prime Minister whether he will pay an official visit to Anstey, Leicestershire.

Will the Prime Minister help the shoe and knitwear workers of Anstey and Leicester, who are at present being made redundant or put on short time, by bringing about a really rapid solution to the problem of low-priced imports from State trading and Far Eastern countries, which are currently causing very great trouble in these industries?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman, and he is right to express concern about this matter. It affects not only his area but a number of areas in the Midlands and the North, and north of the border as well. The problem is not confined entirely to the industries he mentioned—footwear and knitwear; it extends through a wide range of clothing and textiles. Many hon. Members on both sides of the House have been meeting together on this question. My right hon. Friends are considering the memoranda they have submitted. I agree that this is a matter of extreme urgency and that employment in some of these areas is prejudiced by what, in many cases, we can only regard as unfair trading.

Will my right hon. Friend clear up the mystery which surrounds the reply to 70 Labour Members who are anxiously seeking informa- tion about the future of the Industry Bill and the National Enterprise Board —which is of concern to the trade union movement—should we remain in the Common Market? If the position is clear and uncertain, what is delaying this reply?

I have not had any representations from the village of Anstey on this question, and therefore that question does not in any way, directly or indirectly, arise out of the original Question. While I am always anxious to help the House in these topographical visits, I feel that it might be unfair and an abuse of the House if any question on any subject could be related to a visit to the village of Anstey, in Leicestershire. My hon. Friend will get an answer to his question, if he puts it appropriately, in due course.

Will the right hon. Gentleman use the time which he might have spent in going to Anstey to interfere in the strike which at present is seriously hampering the ability of Members of Parliament to work properly on behalf of their constituents? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that no mail is allowed in or out of the House, and that we cannot serve our constituents properly while this continues?

After all these years when this type of Question has been used, I congratulate the hon. Lady on finding a new way of exploiting it. All credit is due to her. I shall have to think what to do about it. As for the important question which she has raised, I understand that some of her remarks about the mail are not true. The Leader of the House will be making a statement on the matter later.

Will my right hon. Friend accept that when he visits Cardiff on Saturday he can be assured of a warm welcome? Does he appreciate that when he comes for the Ireland v. Wales Rugby match the Welsh people will not be so easily seduced by the blarney of the Irish as he seems to have been in Dublin this week?

I am grateful for the warmth of my hon. Friend's welcome and for his concern. I would expect such a welcome in Cardiff, or even Newport which he represents. We will have to wait until Saturday to see whether the Welsh succumb to the blarney of the Irish, as they succumbed to the blarney of the Scots a fortnight ago.

Business Of The House

May I ask the Leader of the House to tell us the business for next week, please?

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons
(Mr. Edward Short)

Yes, Sir. The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY, 17TH MARCH—Proceedings on the Consolidated Fund (No. 3) Bill.

TUESDAY, 18Th MARCH—Second Reading of the Housing Finance (Special Provisions) Bill.

Motion on the Prices Act 1974 (Continuation of Section 2) Order.

Proceedings on the following consolidated Bills, the Industrial Injuries and Diseases (Old Cases) and Social Security, and the Northern Ireland Bills, and Social Security (Consequential Provisions).

WEDNESDAY, 19TH MARCH—Remaining stages of the Oil Taxation Bill.

THURSDAY, 20TH MARCH—Second Reading of the Social Security Pensions Bill.

Motion on the Census Order.

Remaining stages of the Reservoirs Bill [ Lords].

Motion relating to Firearms Certificates and Permits (Northern Ireland) Order.

FRIDAY, 21ST MARCH—Private Members' motions.

MONDAY, 24TH MARCH—Debate On the motion on financial assistance to opposition parties, until seven o'clock.

Afterwards, a debate on the textile industry, on a motion for the Adjournment of the House, when it is hoped to suspend the Ten o'clock Rule for two hours.

May I put two points to the right hon. Gentleman? He has already given an undertaking that there will be a debate on the Common Market and the Government's attitude to membership. Can he give some idea when that will be? Will it be before the Second Reading of the referendum Bill? Second, it is getting rather near to Budget time. Are we to have a one-day economic debate on public expenditure?

There will certainly be a debate on the EEC. I do not think it will be before the Second Reading of the referendum Bill. I can give no promise about the debate on public expenditure. I will try to arrange a debate, but not before Easter.

Will my right hon. Friend give time for a debate—in pursuit of open government—about the request for information from 70 Labour Members, including myself, concerning the relationship of the EEC to the Industry Bill currently passing through the House? I make this request for a debate since the request for information was made in anticipation of the Second Reading of the Bill, which is now in Committee, and it looks as if the information will be too late anyhow. Second, will my right hon. Friend give urgent consideration to allowing time to debate the question of import restrictions, especially as they affect areas such as my own, the West Riding, where the import of cheap materials has badly affected the textile industry?

The second issue can be raised in the debate on the textile industry which I have announced. My hon. Friend's first point will be an appropriate subject for the debate on the Government's recommendation about the EEC.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give serious consideration during next week to the delivery of Members' mail? Is he aware that—

Order. The Leader of the House is to make a statement on these matters. May I ask that questions relating to facilities of the House are kept until after that statement?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he has announced a good deal of Government business for next week? In view of that, will he give the Government Whips a shake-up so that they make sure they have sufficient Government supporters present to be certain that the business is obtained? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this did not happen last night? Is it not an abuse of the Government's position when they cannot be bothered to muster enough of their supporters to carry their own business?

I know the hon. Member's interest in agricultural matters. I understand that there were very few Conservative Members present last night. Certainly that business will have to be tabled again. There will be another hour-and-a-half's debate.

If the Government decide to extend the scope of Section 128 of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act, may I ask my right hon. Friend to make sure that the House has an opportunity fully to debate that Act because we on the Labour benches are concerned about the way the powers given to the Home Secretary under this legislation are being used?

I am announcing the business for next week. This subject will certainly not appear in that business.

Has the right hon. Gentleman noticed Early-Day Motion No. 321:

[That this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government to assist by way of financial assistance under section 8 of the Industry Act 1972 in respect of the Heysham-Belfast Ferry Service.]

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this requests financial assistance for the Belfast-Heysham ferry service? In view of the overall implications for Northern Ireland and the employment implications for the United Kingdom, will the right hon. Gentleman give the House the opportunity to debate this important closure?

No, Sir. I cannot provide time for that. I have answered Questions on it and I went to Heysham to meet the local people. I understand that the Prime Minister said in reply to a question by the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mrs. Kellett-Bowman) that he would look at the matter.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Early-day Motion No. 321, referred to by the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Bradford), is in my name? Does he appreciate that the proposed withdrawal of the Heysham-Belfast ferry service has been dealt with in a quite unsatisfactory manner? Will he provide time for the House to debate these proposals in full or else institute an independent inquiry?

No, Sir. I cannot do that. I know of my hon. Friend's great interest in this matter, which would be an appropriate subject for the Easter Adjournment debate or for the Consolidated Fund Bill on Monday.

Does not the fact that there were fewer than 20 Labour Members present last night to support the calf subsidy scheme demonstrate that even on the Labour side of the House there is a total lack of support for the Government's agricultural policy? Does this not emphasise the need for an agricultural debate in Government time before Easter?

It may demonstrate a number of things. One thing it does not demonstrate is that there is a need for such a debate. I pointed out last week that the Government have already given three days in this Session to agricultural matters. The Opposition have given one of their days. The time is divided between the Opposition and the Government.

When does my right hon. Friend intend to honour his undertaking to have a debate on foreign affairs before Easter?

If the Leader of the House cannot provide time for a debate on agriculture before the Easter Recess, will he provide time for a limited debate on the horticultural situation? If he can do that for the textile industry, surely we can have three or five hours on horticulture?

No I cannot, but I understand that there are one or two agricultural subjects to be debated under the Consolidated Fund Bill. That will be an appropriate occasion.

Will my right hon. Friend accept the thanks of all the Labour Members from the North-West for having a debate on textiles? Will he pass on to the Prime Minister an expression of our pleasure at learning during Questions this afternoon that he is now taking a direct interest in this matter, and will the Leader of the House ensure through his good offices that when we have a debate on textiles we shall have action as well as words?

I am glad that my hon. Friend is pleased about the debate. This is an extremely important subject, and I know of the serious position of the industry. I am going to Lancashire this weekend and I hope to discuss the matter with some people in the industry.

Will the Leader of the House reconsider the answer he gave to my right hon. Friend about the EEC debate? Does he not agree that the outcome of that debate will have an important bearing on the future debates of the referendum Bill.

All I said was that I did not think that a debate on the terms would take place before the debate on the Second Reading of the referendum Bill, which is what the hon. Lady asked.

Has my right hon. Friend seen Early-Day Motion No. 343:

[That this House believes that it would be in the national interest, having regard to statements that have been made by former employees of the National Coal Board, that a public inquiry should he made into the purchasing practices of the National Coal Board since the date of inception, and that any person should be free to give evidence in that inquiry, without let or hindrance.]

It appears in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. Kelley), myself and many others and it deals with purchasing by the National Coal Board between the late 'fifties and the early 'sixties. There is a very disquieting air about the whole affair since five inquiries of various kinds have been held—some in secret and some by the Coal Board— and yet still the matter has not been cleared up. Is my right hon. Friend aware that the terms of reference of the last Select Committee were too narrow and that the matter needs to be cleared up once and for all? Will my right hon. Friend lend his powerful voice to the setting up of a public inquiry so that the matter can be dealt with and the whole question of alleged overspending of £74 million dealt with once and for all?

I know my hon. Friend's concern and I will call what he said to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy.

Are the Government planning to publish early next week the Bill dealing with the nationalisation of land?

Yes. We hope to publish it in the middle of next week, subject to the printing difficulties we are currently experiencing in the House.

On Monday's Consolidated Fund Bill, will my right hon. Friend ensure that the Minister who replies to debates on horticultural matters gives the total amount that would be necessary to finance all the different subsidies for which the Opposition are now asking for horticulture, agriculture, fisheries and one hundred and one other activities? Many of my hon. Friends would like to have that total figure.

That would be an extremely interesting exercise. We could set that figure against the call by the Opposition for massive cuts in public expenditure.

Although we read in the Press that the Sex Discrimination Bill was presented to the House yesterday, it is not available in the Vote Office. When will it be available? In view of the right hon. Gentleman's responsibilities to the House as a whole, as opposed to his responsibilities as a Government business manager, will he take note that if the Bill is not available today or tomorrow it will be quite impossible to have a Second Reading debate before Easter.

I shall certainly look into what the right hon. Gentleman said, but I checked on this with my right hon. Friend this morning and we were told that copies were available this morning. We are experiencing difficulties, of course, and I shall have something to say about this when I make my statement later.

Has the Leader of the House seen Early-Day Motion No. 312:

[That this House takes note of the fact that although the permissible number of Questions for Oral Answer has been reduced from two to one for each Member, Wales appeared at the head of the order for oral answers only once in the last parliamentary term, and only twice in the current term totalling one hour ten minutes in all; regrets that on both occasions during this term, insufficient time was allocated for all the Questions on Wales to be answered and consequently calls for Welsh Questions to be allocated the full hour between 2.30 p.m. and 3.30 p.m. on each occasion; proposes that Welsh Questions should appear at the top of the Order Paper at least once every month ; notes that on those Mondays in the present term when Welsh Questions are not at the head of the Order Paper, they do not on one single occasion appear second on the Order Paper; and proposes that all subjects have an equitable rota system for their positioning on the Order of Questions.]

It deals with the time allocation and the frequency of Welsh Questions. Will he say when we are to have our annual Welsh debate, because 12 months have passed since the last one?

I will look into the question of a Welsh debate. As for the other matter, I can assure the hon. Member that very few Quesions on Wales are put down.

Does my right hon. Friend recall that my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Lewis) was cut off in mid-sentence in the debate on the seat belts Bill in January. Will my right hon. Friend undertake to allow him to finish his speech before Easter?

I know that my hon. Friend was cut off in mid-flight, but I am afraid that he will have to remain suspended until after Easter.

Will the Leader of the House say when it is intended to introduce legislation to give effect to the système international form of metrication, which is being introduced into industry, commerce and schools, without, as far as I can see, Parliamentary consent?

This is obviously a question for the Secretary of State for Education, but not next week.

Houses Of Parliament(Facilities)

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons
(Mr. Edward Short)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I will make a further statement about the effect on the House of the unofficial strike by some Government industrial civil servants.

I very much regret the continuing inconvenience to hon. Members as a result of this dispute. All the papers which we need for today's business both on the Floor of the House and in Standing Committees have been supplied, although later and in more limited numbers than usual. Notices of motions and Questions should be available this afternoon. I particularly regret that some of the papers for this morning's Standing Committees were not available until shortly after the Committees had started their work.

Some improvements have been made in the catering services today.

Discussions are continuing with the official leaders of the unions. I would repeat that negotiations have not broken down, and I would once again urge the unofficial strikers to follow the advice of their leaders and return to work.

I feel sure that it would be the wish of the whole House that, despite all the difficulties and inconvenience to hon. Members, which I recognise are very substantial, the business of this House must continue. I do ask for the continued understanding and co-operation of the House in this very difficult situation.

I will, of course, continue to keep the House fully informed.

While I would agree with the Leader of the House to this extent, that it would be very wrong for Parliament to be seen to capitulate before this kind of pressure, there are still one or two points of detail which must be answered. More than one hundred Government amendments have now been tabled to the Oil Taxation Bill due for consideration by the House on Wednesday. I think that only my right hon. Friend the Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Jenkin) has had sight of these so far. The jamming of the post has stopped communications reaching Members of Parliament on this important matter. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will look into this as a matter of urgency since the position is quite intolerable.

May I put to the right hon. Gentleman as a matter of general issue that it is very dangerous indeed if we are to sustain confidence in democratic institutions that Parliament should be revealed as powerless to sustain its own work? This sort of occurrence calls in question the deplorable practice that has grown up over recent years whereby we are almost inhibited from commenting upon anything once an industrial dispute is in existence.

I checked up on the Oil Taxation Bill, this morning. My right hon. Friend and I are meeting all the House authorities—the Clerks, the Serjeant-at-Anns, the engineers and the Post Office—twice a day, and we are assured that these amendments can be made available. However, I will keep this matter under review, and if the amendments are not available the Oil Taxation Bill will not be taken on that day. However, I shall see that the amendments are available.

The right hon. Member referred to the post. It is coming in and going out—

The letter boxes were closed this morning but they are open again and post is coming in and going out.

On the last point, I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman does not wish to do anything to exacerbate the situation, but I fully agree with him, and I hope that all hon. Members will help me in my determination to see that Parliament keeps working as near to normal as possible.

Can my right hon. Friend assure us that all post which has been posted in the building in the last two days has left the building and is on its way?

Does the Leader of the House realise that hon. Members hold him, as Leader of the House, personally responsible for ensuring that we have the proper facilities to continue with the business of the House? If the pickets—as is suggested in the Press—carry out their threat to picket mail for 24 hours, will the right hon. Gentleman make arrangements with the Post Office for hon. Members to have their mail redirected to other addresses before it has to cross the picket line, so that hon. Members may get mail from their constituents?

Perhaps I should amend the reply I gave a moment ago. When I mentioned mail I was referring to letters. There has been a problem with parcels both coming in and going out. I understand that it is all right at present, but there has been some delay with parcels. The collection and delivery of letters has been functioning normally.

In reply to the question asked by the hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Emery), we should wait to see what happens and meet the situation as it arises. I accept the responsibility which he said was mine, and I shall do my utmost—everything humanly possible—to see that inconveniences are reduced to the minimum. I must ask hon. Members on both sides of the House to support me in my determination to keep Parliament working.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the information he gave during business question time about the availability of the Sex Discrimination Bill is not correct? It is not available in the Vote Office. What steps will he take to see that it is available quickly?

I said that I would inquire into the matter. All I did was to repeat the information I received. I imagine that some copies came in and were taken out very quickly. I will certainly look into this immediately. Some copies were available, because I saw one, but I will look into this.

I do not think the Leader of the House mentioned post to Government Departments. He will realise that if post to Government Departments were subjected to a ban that would be almost as crippling as a ban on the post in the House. Have any arrangements been made to ease the difficulty of Government Departments?

Post is coming into Government Departments normally, so far as I am aware. I do not know of any difficulty there. There have been problems with post between the House and Government Departments, but I understand that these are being overcome.

Will my right hon. Friend say whether the heating of the House is in jeopardy? Does he not agree that all hon. and right hon. Members should be thinking in terms of trying to get the dispute ended and the men back to work as soon as possible? Does not my right hon. Friend agree that the men have a deep-seated sense of grievance? They are lowly-paid workers who are convinced that something has been promised to them, but things seem to have gone wrong somewhere. Will my right hon. Friend ask the Secretary of State for the Environment to pay strict attention to the dispute, as it has been difficult to see him on the matter?

There is no danger about the heating, short of a breakdown. We have ample supplies of fuel for quite a long time to come. I emphasise that this is an unofficial dispute, and the best help that all hon. Members on both sides of the House can give is to support the official leadership of the union.

On the assumption that the Leader of the House has in front of him an Order Paper such as is available to hon. Members who travel a considerable distance to get one at the place of origin, he will see on it Motion No. 364 relating to the interruption of parliamentary mail. The Leader of the House said that he was referring to inconveniences to hon. Members. I do not —and I hope that he does not—regard the interruption of mail to and from constituents as an inconvenience. It is a total interruption in our obligations to those whom we represent in the House. Will the Leader of the House give a categorical assurance—not just "so far as I am aware"—that from now on mail will reach this House and leave it in a normal way as directed by Members of Parliament? If not, what other arrangements has he for the post?

[That this House demands that Her Majesty's Government take immediate steps, using whatever means may be necessary, to ensure that the interruption of the Royal Mail to and from the Houses of Parliament ceases forthwith in order to enable honourable Members to fulfil their obligations to their constituents and to the nation.]

Clearly, I cannot give a categorical assurance that it will continue. All I am saying is that it is functioning normally at the moment. There has been a great improvement in the situation today.

Does the Leader of the House realise that that assurance—or lack of assurance—is not acceptable? Does he not understand that we are all prepared to be inconvenienced by the lack of cups of tea and by having to climb upstairs, but a breach of our contacts with our constituents and vice versa is not acceptable?

The comments of some hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition benches have not been exactly helpful. Indeed, a broadcast made by the hon. Member for Surrey, North-West (Mr. Grylls) recently did great damage, and nearly escalated the dispute into an official strike. He made comments on the radio which were totally untrue. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) that if there were a complete stop of all mail I would regard the situation as extremely serious. All I am saying is that there is not.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It has been alleged that hon. Members are not getting their mail. Will you, Mr. Speaker, ascertain how it is that I have received such a large amount? Is someone committing a breach of privilege?

I have no intention of investigating the hon. Member's sources of supply.

I must point out to the House that this is an Opposition Supply half-day. There is to be a debate on small businesses which has been asked for many times. We must now move on. Mr. Cormack, on an application under Standing Order No. 9.

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration; namely,

"the situation arising from the industrial action of certain public employees whereby Members of Parliament are being denied proper contact with their constituents and also full and proper access to printed parliamentary papers which are essential to the effective discharge of their duties."
—[Interruption]. In spite of the interruptions from the Government benches, I submit that the matter is an important one, and it is specific because it affects the effective discharge of our responsibilities. I suggest that because of that it demands urgent consideration.

The hon. Member for Staffordshire, South-West (Mr. Cormack) gave me notice that he would seek leave to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter which he thinks should have urgent consideration.

It is for me to judge whether the application should be granted. It may be that the matter should be discussed at some time, but my decision on whether it should be discussed today or on Monday is "No".

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Leader of the House referred to a broadcast which I made yesterday. As his remarks came at the end of his answers to questions on his statement I could not make a reply, and I hope that you, Mr. Speaker, will enable me to do so. In my broadcast I merely said what was the truth of the situation, namely, that hon. Members were not receiving their mail—

Order. I cannot allow this matter to go further today. Should there be a debate on the subject at some time this might be an appropriate matter for debate, but it is not a matter of order for the Chair.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In a matter of this constitutional importance, if the Leader of the House refers to my hon. Friend in the terms that we heard the right hon. Gentleman use, surely my hon. Friend has the right to reply.

Certainly the hon. Member has the right to reply, but not by way of a point of order. I am trying to persuade the House not to raise what are false points of order. Of course, there must be an opportunity for the hon. Member to reply, if he can find one. There are ways of doing it. Should this matter be debated on some other occasion, the hon. Member for Surrey, North-West (Mr. Grylls) can ask the Lord President about it. At the moment, I am trying to defend the interests of the Opposition in their half-Supply Day on small businesses. If we have continuous points of order on this matter, I can only remind Opposition Members that it is their time that they are taking up.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As you are the guardian of the rights of private Members, may I ask you how my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey, North-West (Mr. Grylls) could put the matter right? It is most unusual for the Leader of the House to make a remark of that kind in that way. Most of us believe that my hon. Friend should have an opportunity to put his point. How can he take that opportunity?

If it would help the hon. Member for Surrey, North-West —[HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw"]—

Order. If the Opposition will not allow the Lord President to make his reply, they lose more of their time.

I am trying to help right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House. If it will help, I will put a copy of the script of the broadcast in the Library.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It seems to some Opposition Members that the remarks which you made with regard to the opportunity perhaps of there being a debate suggest that possibly Mr. Speaker will find time. Can you enlarge on this, because it seems to be setting a new precedent?

No. I do not think that I should answer that question. There are applications from time to time under Standing Order No. 9. Of some, I get considerable advance notice. I shall not say anything further than that.

Order. As I heard the Lord President, he said that a contribution on the radio by an hon. Member had escalated the dispute. I have heard many worse things said in the House.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Would not the matter be resolved to the satisfaction of both sides if the Leader of the House withdraws his remarks and then both could slog it out on another occasion?

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Might I suggest to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles) that, however justified he may feel himself to be, he is being extremely optimistic in the circumstances? Perhaps we would be well advised to accept your guidance, Mr. Speaker, and begin our debate on small businesses.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of what you have just said, I shall be brief. The Lord President said just now that we were receiving our mail, and I was glad to hear that. However, my experience is that this is not the case. As matters stand at the moment, I shall find it very difficult to try to represent the interests of my constituents in our debates next week unless my mail begins to come through. If it proves to be the case that the mail is not operating as the Lord President said, may we have the protection of the Chair and have next week's business rearranged so that we have time to read our mail from constituents before the debates?