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Northern Ireland

Volume 894: debated on Thursday 26 June 1975

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Excluded Persons

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he has any evidence to link those people who have been excluded from Great Britain under the Prevention of Terrorism Act with continuing acts of violence in Northern Ireland.

Will not the Minister concede that the action of Brendan Magill, one of the first men to be excluded from Great Britain, who recently delivered the oration over the grave of the terrorists killed in my constituency and described them as having been killed in action, suggests some complicity with the behaviour of those terrorists? If he agrees that it suggests complicity, does he not agree that it is time to introduce a system of surveillance over all these excluded men?

The important fact concerning the 27 people excluded from Great Britain and sent to Northern Ireland is that none has as yet faced criminal charges, and it is with that aspect that the Government have to be concerned.

Will the Secretary of State say what effect the removal from the statute book of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act would have on the Secretary of State's task in Northern Ireland in trying to contain, control and reduce violence?

As my hon. Friend is aware, the Act was introduced on a temporary basis by the Home Secretary because of incidents that had taken place within Great Britain itself. My right hon. Friend's action in trying to bring about peace in Northern Ireland is proceeding and will continue to proceed.

Will the Minister agree that Mr. Brendan Magill's political activities since his exclusion have been confined to such relatively unlethal activities as panegyrics at paramilitary funerals?

As long as the gentleman concerned just talks, he is free to do that, but if he takes action which is in any way in violation of the law, we shall, of course, take action.

Leisure Centres

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what factors were taken into consideration in deciding the locations of the leisure centres to be built in Belfast.

I understand that the factors taken into consideration were the optimum geographical spread and use of the recreational facilities involved.

I thank the Minister for the interest he has taken in leisure centres in Northern Ireland. Does he not agree, however, that the Ballysillian Leisure Centre in North Belfast should have priority, because there are more interface areas here-13—than anywhere else in Northern Ireland? Will he also agree that, as the centre is completely surrounded by 32 Catholic and Protestant schools and 12,000 children, it provides a perfect opportunity for the Government to come back against terrorism and violence, and that the North Belfast Ballysillian Leisure Centre should get priority, so that a start may be made as soon as possible to try to bring together the people of the two communities in a peaceful way?

As the grant-aid authority, the Department of Education and myself would have a long-stop function in this, and I would hope to be guided primarily by the views of the Belfast City Council.

Will the Minister of State and his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland set up a committee to advise on the location of leisure centres in Northern Ireland, taking into account the needs of development areas such as North Down—it is not a matter affecting North Belfast alone—where existing needs are not being met and where present plans envisage the doubling of the population of my constituency within a relatively short time?

As a rule of thumb it seems to me that these leisure centres cost about £1 million apiece, and apart from the ones at present under discussion I can see no possibility at all of the programme being extended. The question is whether those up for consideration now will all be approved.

Roads (Expenditure)

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what is the extent of Government cuts in expenditure in the current roads programme in Northern Ireland.

Over the next four years, financial provision on the roads programme in Northern Ireland has been cut by approximately £14 million from the figure of £197·8 million shown in the January Public Expenditure White Paper (Cmnd. 5879). As a result of the reduction in public expenditure announced by the Chancellor in his Budget speech, further cutbacks in the roads programme may be necessary. The programme is under review and it is not possible to give precise figures at the present time.

Although I acknowledge the need for the stringent control of public expenditure in the present situation, will not the Minister concede that, in view of the abandonment of the Great Northern Railway line between Portadown and Londonderry, first priority should be given to the Dungannon Bypass and to the Strabane Throughpass out of whatever money is available? This would be to implement the promises of various administrations to provide an adequate road system to make up for the loss of the railway.

I am tempted to suggest to the hon. Gentleman that he has a word with his hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Carson). All the Northern Ireland programmes are at present under review, and only when my right hon. Friend has studied the full effects of the Budget cuts will it be possible to determine individual programmes or parts of them. I may say that the Dungannon Bypass is pretty high in the list of priorities of the Northern Ireland Department of the Environment.

Can the Minister tell us how the M2 motorway will be affected by this cut?

I do not want to get involved in individual projects. They are all being studied. The programme is under review, and we shall give details of the various schemes as soon as possible.

Are these cuts in the work programme directly related to Government subsidies being made available to Harland and Wolff?

In the case of the pre-Budget cuts, yes, partly. In relation to the Budget cuts, no.

European Community

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the referendum result as it affects the work of his Department.

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what are the present arrangements for representing the views and interests of the people of Northern Ireland in the institutions of the EEC.

I would refer the hon. Members to the statement made by the Prime Minister on 9th June—[Vol. 893, c. 29–31.] Northern Ireland interests are represented in the EEC institutions within the arrangements for the United Kingdom as a whole.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, despite all the turmoil and trouble which has been and still is Ireland, there has been a common denominator over the years between the Governments of Northern Ireland and of the Republic in the people? Many people think that the referendum has provided further opportunities for economic and financial agreements to be made and extended, which might ultimately lead to peace in Northern Ireland. Many people in Ireland feel that, other methods having failed, economic measures between all the people might succeed.

EEC cross-border studies have suggested that this might be so. On a limited basis, the Government are prepared to study with the Government of the Republic a limited programme which might be attempted, and my right hon. Friend has been in communication with the Government of the Republic to that end. It would be in a rather small way to begin with.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman recognise that there is a gap in the representation of Northern Ireland in the EEC on a political level in both the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament? Will he confirm that his right hon. Friend is not a frequent visitor to Ministers' meetings in the EEC, in the nature of the institutions concerned. and that ultimately direct elections to the European Parliament would offer better possibilities for Northern Ireland than the present situation?

I remind the hon. Gentle. man that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. We are told that continuously. Therefore, my right hon Friend the Foreign Secretary obviously represents Northern Ireland since he represents the United Kingdom as such. Representations in a parliamentary sense are a matter for this Parliament.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, as the people of Northern Ireland are part of the people of the United Kingdom, whatever represents the people of the United Kingdom represents the people of Northern Ireland? Is he aware also that, as long as the people of Northern Ireland are scandalously underrepresented in this House of Commons, their representation elsewhere is a very subordinate matter?

There are different views about this in Northern Ireland. If an acceptable form of devolved government emerges in Northern Ireland, there will then be representation both in Westminster and in the parliament which will be created in Northern Ireland.

Firearms (Draft Order)

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if, in view of the representations which have been made to him, he will arrange to extend the period of consultation on the Draft Firearms (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 1975, due to have terminated on 11th June, by a further month.

The draft order has been available since 16th May and comments were called for by 11th June, subsequently extended to 14th June. There have been extensive consultations with bodies representing the full range of gun-sport activity, and any further extension of the period for comment would not serve any useful purpose.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for extending the period slightly, which has enabled the views of committees like the Long Room Committee and the Joint Shooting Committee to be made known to the Government. When he has these views before him and has an opportunity to consider them, will he give his attention to the widespread objection to Article 8, which raises the minimum age, which many people feel is both an objectionable course to take and one which will be counter-productive?

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's expression of thanks. I shall bear his points in mind and I shall give full consideration to the article to which he refers, on which we have received some representations.

Cease-Fire And Incident Centres

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the operation of the Provisional IRA cease-lire and of Her Majesty's Government's incident centres.

It is 136 days since the Provisional IRA declared its cease-fire. The cease-fire has led to a very marked reduction in Provisional IRA activity. As such it has made a valuable contribution. The Government incident centres have helped to achieve this by preventing misunderstandings. The continuance of the cease-fire is to be desired.

As everyone knows, during this period violence within and between both communities has continued. Steps are being taken to stamp it out. But a real contribution would be made if those who are responsible for violence would adopt the cease-fire principle and contribute to keeping the peace between the communities.

Meanwhile it would be helpful if more people were prepared to speak out against violence, whatever its source. As I said in the House on 16th June, the hon. Gentleman has so spoken.—[Vol. 893, c. 959–60.]

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the Provisional IRA has been guilty of serious violations of the cease-fire in the killing of members of the security forces? Can he tell us whether the telephone numbers of incident centres are available only to the leaders of the Provisional Sinn Fein? Is he aware of the feeling in Northern Ireland among all sections of the community that these incident centres are not really helpful but are giving Provisional IRA members a standing in the community to which they are not entitled as they cannot be elected to office?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman's last point, that election is the way to discover the degree to which anyone represents a community. But I am sure that these incident centres have played a part in preventing misunderstandings. There are occasions when people jump to conclusions and decide which group has carried out a bombing or a murder. The centres are extremely valuable.

There has not been a genuine cease-fire, of course. I hope that it will develop. The hon. Gentleman knows that in Northern Ireland at the moment there is violence of a different nature—it is internecine, interfactional and sectarian—and that, although every sort of violence matters to me, it is most important to stop the growth of the other sort of violence which is balanced more on the Loyalist side than on the Provisional side.

Despite the fact that the cease-fire may not be absolute and is regarded in many ways as being far from it, is my right hon. Friend aware that there has been a change in climate, and will he accept from me that it will be very important that the opportunities during this period should be grasped with both hands? Many of us are concerned especially about the time scale in connection with the commission. Will my right hon. Friend see to it that the greatest amount of progress is made in these directions to take full advantage of the improved climate which exists?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the tenor of his remarks. Of course the cease-fire is not absolute, but it is a beginning which I hope will grow and flower. I must make the point again that not all the violence in Northern Ireland comes from the Provisional IRA. The security forces have to take both sides into account.

As for the Convention, which is what I think my hon. Friend was referring to, I ask him to adopt the attitude that I have adopted. Representatives in Northern Ireland are talking together. They know the views of this House. Let us not chivvy, hurry or harangue them. It is important that they should have the chance to talk together. There are no quick results in this. I believe that much is happening there which at the end of the day may be of advantage.

Does the Secretary of State agree that since the Provisional IRA cease-fire came into operation the IRA and many other organisations in Northern Ireland, especially in Belfast, have openly engaged in a vicious and brutal campaign of sectarian murder, and that in these circumstances many people are saying that internment and detention in Northern Ireland leads to the holding of hostages from the minority Republic side as a result of the actions which are now being committed by Loyalist extremist organisations? Will he give an indication whether, in view of the cease-fire and the way in which it has held, he will take steps to end detention as soon as possible?

There is a later Question which deals with that last point. The numbers I have released since the turn of the year will show the Government's intention. What I have discovered in Northern Ireland, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman with his much greater experience will know, is that it is not right to believe the claims of many people who telephone and claim that a certain organisation has carried out a crime or a murder. It seems to me that there are organisations which take names for an evening. There are people who ring up and make claims in the name of organisations which are in existence.

What matters is that the individual who carries out the crime shall be dealt with through the police. The Chief Constable in Northern Ireland announced today the setting up of a special squad of detectives to work with the 250-strong special patrol group, which in my view is a clear indication that the police are concentrating on what is necessary in Northern Ireland—policing. Not intern- ment, not detention but good policing, to the individual who commits the crime. is the way in which this Government want to proceed in Northern Ireland.

Does the Secretary of State agree that his incident centres can operate only as long as the Provisional IRA maintains its centres and that in Newry, when the Provisional IRA closed down its incident centre, the Government incident centre ceased to operate? Does not that situation give a credibility in the community to the Provisional IRA to which it is not entitled?

There are a number of incident centres. The one in Newry closed down. I do not believe that that gives a credibility to the organisation. There may be many reasons for that, given the nature of that part of the Province.

I understand the way people who are politically motivated feel about this. I believe that it is vital to have these incident centres. Everything that happened at the turn of the year reinforces that in my mind. I want the cease-fire, which is the Provisional IRA cease-fire, to continue. I am sure that is the right approach. I want to play any small part I can in this respect in keeping it going.

Violence (Detention)

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he will make a statement on detention in relation to violence.

The Government's policy on detention is related to the level and nature of violence prevailing. Since 22nd December 1974, the date of the original cease-fire by the Provisional IRA, I have released 276 detainees and a further 25 detainees have been released by the commissioners. Further releases will depend on the situation as it develops.

Is the Secretary of State aware that the House is united with him in detestation of the revolting gangsterism, which he characterised as internecine, interfactional and sectarian in reply to an earlier question, and that we all applaud the successful efforts of the RUC and all the security forces against this abomination? Is he also aware, however, that after the admitted IRA bombing at Bessbrook there were eight releases from detention and that some anxious surprise has been occasioned by that?

Yes. I am extremely grateful for that remark about gangsterism. However, the nature of detention and the law under which I operate must be understood. In the course of last year, while the IRA campaign was still on, the commissioners released 97 people, because they were carrying out the law. I am not in business to keep people in detention as hostages for something which might happen outside. They were arrested. An interim custody order was signed by me in most cases—in large numbers. I dealt with each case on the basis of what it was alleged had been carried out, on information which was put before me but which could not be put before the courts. I must deal with detention on the merits of the case. However, what is for sure is that I have to take into account the fact that people who are released might easily return to violence. Overall I have to take into account the existing situation in deciding on the speed at which to release them.

In contrast to the alleged anxious surprise, is my right hon. Friend aware that some hon. Members back him through thick and thin in the policies he is now pursuing?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks. I say to all hon. Members, whatever their views on this matter, that these are not easy decisions to take. The longer I go on, the more difficult the decisions become. I have to take into account the role of the security forces in Northern Ireland. I am not in business to put the life of one member of the security forces at risk for a political quirk. It is a fundamental belief that the best way in which to deal with the trouble in Northern Ireland is by policing and by people going through the courts. That is what I hope the cease-fire will give me a chance to do.

Convention

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement about the progress of discussions in the Convention.

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he is satisfied with the progress so far made by the newly-elected Convention; and if he will make a statement.

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland by what date he expects to receive the deliberations of the Convention about new political institutions for the Province.

13.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whe he expects to receive the final report of the Constitutional Convention.

It would be inappropriate for me to comment on the progress or the proceedings of the Convention. I do not know when it will complete its report. The Northern Ireland Act 1974 gives the Convention a basic life of six months, but this can be extended if necessary.

I am grateful for that reply. Is the Secretary of State aware that we welcome the conciliatory spirit in which the discussions have so far taken place? Is it intended that at some stage during these discussions the Government should make known their views, the devolution guidelines and the powers which go with devolution? Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether those powers will be no less than those being considered for Scotland and Wales?

I am sure that all those involved will be grateful for the remarks of the hon. Gentleman about the way in which the Convention is working. I think that it would be better if I rested at that point, because the less we are involved in comment the better. All who are there are aware of what the Convention is for. It is not a parliament. It is not an assembly. It will not govern Northern Ireland. It is a body which meets together, to talk together and to put proposals to the British Government.

I know from practical experience in one sense that Wales is different from Scotland. Over the past 15 months I have learnt that Ireland is very different from Scotland and Wales.

I understand the Secretary of State not wishing to harbour too much optimism at this stage. Ought he not to acknowledge, however, that a good start has been made and that during the recently-concluded stage 3, thanks to the conciliatory speeches which were made on all sides and the remarkable speeches of Mr. Harry West and Mr. John Hume, an atmosphere of hope has been created? We can now all look forward to the ultimate conclusion with a good deal less trepidation than formerly.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I am sure that his laudatory remarks will be well received by those Members of Parliament who are also members of the Convention.

There is much in the Convention which supports the feeling I had when a year ago, on behalf of the Government, we put forward the idea of the Convention on the basis that people from Ireland understood the nature of Northern Ireland far better than we did, and that they would talk together and put their ideas to this House. I can only say, on behalf of everyone in the House, that we wish them well.

Has the Secretary of State a timetable in mind once he receives the report from the Convention? Will he accept that report as being the authentic voice of Northern Ireland which should be taken extremely seriously before the Government introduce proposals that may be out of line with it?

At this stage it is better for us to wait and see what comes from the Convention. Of course, the report will be considered by the Government and put to the House of Commons. It is a report to Parliament. It is much better to leave it at that. The Convention is meeting, it is a Northern Ireland meeting, and the less that is said by the rest of us at the moment the better. The time will come when it will be our job to comment on the report which comes from the Convention.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, while the Convention is deliberating upon the overall political issues, we are becoming increasingly aware of the severe economic problems that are beginning to emerge in Northern Ireland? Would he be prepared to receive an interim report, which would probably have the support of all political interests in the Convention, on the social and economic problems affecting Northern Ireland?

The Convention is not a parliament which is met together to consider current economic problems. If, however, the Convention were to consider whether the best way to govern Northern Ireland is through a Department of Commerce, a Department of Manpower Services and the various organisations dealing with economic affairs which are handled by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, that is a matter for the Convention. But the Convention is not a parliament.

Will the Secretary of State give an assurance that if a locally-developed administration is devised, as I hope it will be, as a result of the Convention, it will have the right to decide locally how money will be spent without constant reference to the Treasury in London?

The hon. Gentleman is moving to a different form of government which seems to be concerned with how to have what money one likes and how to spend it as one likes without reference to the United Kingdom Parliament. That is not what I mean by devolved government. If the hon. Gentleman means that the devolved government must have regard to priorities and take decisions whether money should be spent on roads, leisure centres, housing or agriculture, there is a great deal of sense in that; but money does not grow on trees.

Bill Of Rights Proposals

12.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he has considered the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association's suggested Bill of Rights of April 1975; and whether he will make a statement on his policy towards its proposals.

The Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights has recently decided to embark on a major study of the extent to which existing legislation provides sufficient protection for human rights in Northern Ireland, including whether a Bill of Rights is needed, what form it might take and how it would relate to existing legislation. It will no doubt consider the views of all relevant interests, and my right hon. Friend proposes to await its recommendations.

Is the Minister aware that the Feather Commission is seen in Northern Ireland as a device for delaying legislation? For many years most political organisations in Northern Ireland have been talking about a Bill of Rights, and the Gardiner Report recommends consideration thereof. Is the Minister further aware that the House can legislate on this matter? It has power to do so. When will it have the will to do so?

My right hon. Friend is awaiting the report of the commission before deciding what to do. The commission is not a device for delay. A number of interesting proposals have been put forward for a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland, but they differ one from the other and it is a question of reconciling the interests as well as considering the points of view. We have accepted the Gardiner recommendation in referring this point to the commission for consideration.

Has the hon. Gentleman seen certain resolutions on the Order Paper of the Convention which show virtual agreement among all parties on the necessity for a Bill of Rights? Is he making arrangements for liaison between the Feather Commission and the Convention? There would seem to be duplication in this matter. Would it not be advisable for talks to be held on this subject between the Convention and the Feather Commission?

There will have to be liaison between the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights and the Convention if both bodies are to consider this matter. The Convention might like to consider putting its recommendations to the Feather Commission. United Kingdom legislation is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.

Does the Minister realise that his reply on the question of a Bill of Rights will be seen as totally unsatisfactory by many people who have been deeply involved in the Northern Ireland problem for many years? Did not the Chairman of the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights say that the commission would spend at least one year studying the need for a Bill of Rights? That statement has caused a great deal of anger and consternation among many organisations, political parties and hon. Members. Does not the Minister accept that it is the Government's responsibility to introduce legislation as a matter of urgency to enact such a Bill of Rights, and that the Government should not be seen to be sweeping that responsibility under the commission's carpet?

The Government's responsibility is to ensure that, when it comes to be considered by the House, the Bill of Rights is effective. There is no question of delay. My hon. Friend has Lord Feather's statement slightly wrong. Lord Feather said that he thought it would take a few months and possibly a year, not a minimum of a year. I am sure that the exchange which we have had this afternoon will be noted by the chairman of the commission and no doubt he will take it into consideration, but my right hon. Friend cannot direct the commission on what it does. He can provide it with all the resources necessary within reason to allow it to do an expeditious job.

Government Departments

14.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he is satisfied with the present structure of the Northern Ireland Departments and the degree of co-operation between such Departments.

Yes, Sir, but I and my ministerial colleagues naturally keep the situation under the closest review at all times.

Will the Secretary of State examine the possibility of reducing the number of Departments? For example, does he feel that the Manpower Services Department should revert to control by the Department of Health and Social Services? Will he give urgent attention to the delays in decision-making, particularly in areas of government connected with local authorities?

Under direct rule we have made some changes. The former Office of the Executive is now the Central Secretariat. Community Relations is part of the Department of Education, and Law Reform is part of the Department of Finance. My right hon. and hon. Friends who have responsibility for various Departments take them in pairs and we try to put together Departments with the closest affinity. I have been extremely impressed with the working of the Manpower Services Department, and when the time comes to examine the structure of government in Northern Ireland my belief is that this Department should be left on its own. It does not have a social services function; it is an excellent department of employment. The co-operation between the Departments I inherited is extremely good and I have nothing but praise for the civil servants who work extremely well for them.

Although I recognise that the members of the Convention have been given the specific task of trying to evolve a new political structure, does not my right hon. Friend agree that many of them are deeply involved in the social and economic structure as it affects their constituencies? Will he confirm that the people who are in charge of Departments in Northern Ireland will continue to receive deputations of duly elected members of the Convention to discuss social and economic problems?

I must make absolutely clear to my hon. Friend that those elected to the Convention are not Members of Parliament or Assembly men. They are elected to put a form of government to this House. Although I have directed Departments in Northern Ireland through my right hon. and hon. Friends to give all status to those who are elected and to have correspondence and so on, I am considering an approach that has been made to me. However, there is one great principle of which I have instructed everyone to take heed—namely, that the Convention is not a parliament. There are 12 hon. Members from Northern Ire- land represented in this House.

Jokes about Members of Parliament in Northern Ireland are not for me. However, with regard to the 12 I find it odd that those who say on the one hand that 12 is not enough, tell me on the other hand that they much prefer to work through local representatives.

Gardiner Report (Implementation)

15.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he can yet say when he expects to implement the findings of the Gardiner Report.

The Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) (Amendment) Bill has been laid before Parliament, received its First Reading on 18th June and is down for Second Reading tomorrow.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the recommendations of the Gardiner Report which refer to the prison conditions in Northern Ireland as being of an appalling nature? Have the Government considered any possibility of extending the resettlement of detainees as recommended by that report?

In view of the vital necessity to strengthen the position of the RUC, does the Minister recognise the need to move more quickly on the Gardiner Report's recommendation of introducing an independent element into the complaints procedure? Can he avoid the constant waiting for the very slow recommendations of his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on this matter?

We have decided that we should wait for the recommendations of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on this matter.

Can the Minister say a little more about the recommendations of the Gardiner Report concerning secure prison accommodation, and in particular paragraph 113, which deals with temporary cellular accommodation, because the report attaches great urgency to that aspect of the problem?

Ira (Fund Raising)

17.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he has any estimate of the amount of money raised from United States sources in recent years to buy arms for the IRA in Northern Ireland.

16.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if his Department has made any estimate of the funds raised from United States sources to provide arms to the IRA or Provisional IRA over the last three years.

This is primarily a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and. Commonwealth Affairs. I understand, however, that the Irish Northern Aid Committee, which claims to be the only authorised fundraising agency in the United States for the Republican movement, registered remittances to Ireland of nearly $900,000 in the three years to January 1975. It is impossible to say how much of this has been used for the purchase of arms.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many well-intentioned but rather naive people in the United States are giving large sums of money to the organisation called Northern Irish Aid in the belief that it is being used for peaceful and compassionate purposes, whereas it is going directly or indirectly to the gunmen? Will he suggest to his right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary that he makes representations to the United States Government to try to correct this misapprehension in the minds of American citizens of Irish descent who are giving this money?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his remarks. My right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary keeps the American Government fully informed about the use of this money. I should also like to draw attention to the responsible leaders, in both North and South, such as Mr. John Hume, Dr. Fitzgerald and many others, who have gone to the United States and urged Americans not to make such contributions.

It is not the case that as the opinion of the present Government and other Governments, as well as the opinion of the House, in connection with the Irish troubles has become more and more known in America, the sums given to the dubious causes have lessened?

Yes, I believe that my hon. Friend is correct when he says that there has been a falling-off of such money, and obviously we welcome that. However, everyone can play a part in exposing this type of action.

Has any estimate been made of the amount of money raised in this country, through collections in public houses in some of the major cities, and remitted to Northern Ireland? Is this still continuing?

The people who may have found it rather easy a short while ago to raise such money are now finding it increasingly difficult.

Tuc (Meeting)

Q1.

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on his most recent meeting with the TUC.

Q10.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on his most recent meeting with the TUC.

I met members of the TUC at the informal meeting of the TUC-Labour Party Liaison Committee on 23rd June. We reviewed the present economic situation and devoted some time to the TUC's continuing work on the development of the social contract.

Will my right hon. Friend consider the six-point plan that was produced by the TUC yesterday? Will he tell us, in that simple Yorkshire bluntness and directness for which he is famous, whether he agrees with it? Will he give a straight answer "Yes" or "No"?

Yes, Sir, I greatly welcome the statement that was made yesterday. Indeed, on Tuesday I said that I thought it was a big step forward that they were talking about relating wage settlements over the next year to the target for price increases and not to the events of the previous year. I greatly welcome it. We shall want to discuss it with them and we shall want to build on it. I believe that is extremely helpful. I am sure the whole House, including the Conservative Opposition—will welcome the very big move forward to which my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), in his blunt Derbyshire manner, has drawn attention.

When the Prime Minister next meets the TUC will he discuss with it the removal of Mr. Boyd, the moderate and democratically elected General Secretary of the AEUW, from his seat on the General Council? If the Prime Minister believes that trade unions are an important part of the nation's economy, surely he cannot turn a blind eye to the move of a few extremists to ensure that the will of the majority shall not prevail.

I knew Johnny Boyd before the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Lamont) was born. I share the description of Mr. Boyd given by the hon. Gentleman. I never found any Tory, when the Conservative Party was sitting on the Government side of the House, standing up for anything that Johnny Boyd said, but I am glad to see them doing so now. This is a matter for the TUC and the union, but I shall certainly regret the disappearance of Johnny Boyd from the higher councils of the TUC in which he has played such a tremendous part over the years. I have met him on a number of occasions in that and in other capacities.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the increasing rate of unemployment is one of the subjects which are causing great concern and which are discussed at the joint meetings? Can he assure the House that the Government will implement that part of the scheme which my right hon. Friend outlined to the House in his statement on 23rd May, namely, to give Government assistance for stockpiling purposes in the textile industry and so prevent the closure of the Empress Mill, Ince, and thus help to save 350 jobs?

I am glad that my hon. Friend welcomed the statement I made on 23rd May concerning the very special problems of the textile, clothing, footwear and other industries. The problem of unemployment has been discussed at almost every meeting that I, and indeed my colleagues, have had with the TUC since the Government were formed 15 months ago. This is a matter which is raised in the six points which have already been referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover. I am not clear about the position of the Conservative Party, but we reject the deliberate use of unemployment and monetarism as a means of solving this problem.

On wage inflation, would it not be in the national interest, certainly in the public sector to start with, if wage settlements could be made on the same day in the year?

That would be a difficult thing to organise unless there were a statutory determination that all wage settlements be done on the one day. I do not think that has ever been our practice under any Government. But there is a problem, to which the TUC draws attention in its document, regarding the rather protracted wage round. I think that paragraph 64 of the document put to the economic committee of the TUC states that it is very necessary that those who settle early in the annual round at a moderate rate should have some protection, some ability to be confident, that later settlements do not go a great deal higher and leave them in the lurch. This is one of the matters we have to discuss with the TUC following yesterday's discussions.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that words about the creation of "inflation" and "unemployment" come ill from a Government and Prime Minister who are now allowing the rate of unemployment to rise by 50,000 a month? Is he aware that in his consultations with the TUC it would help the country if it knew what the target of price increases was likely to be for the coming year?

On the first point, I recall that unemployment was over 2 million when we came into office and that all the prognoses both of inflation and of unemployment suggested a very big increase in unemployment because the previous Government's boom had collapsed in the middle of 1973 before the confrontation and the three-day week. I said what I did because the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) cast doubt on the unemployment figures and thought that they were very minimal indeed in real terms. I do not think that is the official view of the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) with his experience of these matters. Both he and the Leader of the Conservative Party, in her famous article in the Sunday Express, rather suggested that there was something "phoney" about the figures. Therefore, we reject the deliberate use of unemployment. But those on the Opposition Front Bench, in contradiction to some below the Gangway—though I cannot quite sort it out between one and another—who are advocating a monetary solution, which has not been repudiated by the Leader of the Opposition, are advocating the deliberate use of unemployment.

Ussr

Q2.

asked the Prime Minister if he will pay another official visit to Moscow.

In that case will the Prime Minister, with his well-known talent for renegotiation, seek to renegotiate the Anglo-Russian trade agreement? Is he aware that the massive extension of credits at cheap rates and the pledges to take imports from Russia in competition with home production are thought by many to be damaging to our interests? Will he submit the results of the last Anglo-Russian trade agreement to an impartial investigation to see whether it was in our favour or not?

I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman, though I know that he made the point in a Question to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade earlier this week. I explained at the time of the signature, when I reported to the House, that what was being done on credits was exactly what was being done by other European countries in competition with us—for example, France, Italy and Germany. We now have prospects of a very significant increase in trade and, therefore, in jobs as a result of this agreement. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will be delighted to know that since it was signed I have had a recent visit from Mr. Gvishianihe is very important in these matters in the Soviet Union—who expressed his satisfaction with the reaction of British firms, which welcomed it, and also said that the Russian trade corporations are placing bigger orders. He believed that the trade arising from that agreement will be much bigger than was contemplated in February. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will welcome the creation of the jobs involved.

Will the Prime Minister back the holding of a summit conference next month as it is now supported by West Germany and France in view of the concession made by Russia over the advance notice of military manoeuvres? Secondly, will he support the American plan for a reduction in the tactical nuclear weapons stored in Europe in exchange for a reduction in Warsaw Pact conventional forces and the Soviet plan for a 17 per cent. reduction on both sides by 1977, as both proposals seem very sensible to some of us?

In general I certainly agree with my hon. Friend. We made clear, indeed before the events described by my hon. Friend, that we were anxious to have a meeting next month. I said—it was in the communiqué in Moscow in February—that there were still a lot of difficult problems to be overcome. They have substantially, but not all, been overcome, not least by the very close arrangements in Geneva between the British and Soviet delegations where we have been speaking for some of our allies and they for theirs. Therefore, I am hopeful that the meeting will take place next month. But there are one or two problems, and one is about the advance notification of military movements.

We certainly support the American proposal, and I am glad that my hon. Friend is lending his support to it. But we are a little disappointed, though I do not think that it will affect the timing of the conference, that more progress is not being made in Vienna on mutual balanced force reductions. I think that the House would like to see more progress on that issue, but it is not one of the issues for Helsinki.

In view of what the Prime Minister said about his disappointment over Vienna, and while in no way wishing to move away from his policy of détente, may I ask him to assure the House that, with our European partners, he will take great care over the safeguarding our essential interests and the maintenance of sufficient forces so to do, including free access to the raw materials on which our whole economy is based?

Yes, I agree. The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that, as I told the House, I stressed both points, the raw materials point and the other, at the recent NATO conference.

I take issue with the right hon. Gentleman about consultation with our European partners. This is a NATO matter. It is in consultation with our American partners as well. In the NATO discussions I highlighted the problems of MBFR, where I do not believe we are making sufficiently satisfactory progress. A lot of progress has been made on most of the other matters affecting the conference on security and co-operation, but we want to see still more progress made on one or two outstanding questions so that we can attend the conference next month.

Secretary Of State For Trade

Q3.

asked the Prime Minister if he will dismiss the Secretary of State for Trade.

On the question of trade and related matters, has the Prime Minister had a chance to study the proposals of the Tribune Group? Has he noted that on the very day when these proposals were issued the pound plummeted to an all-time low? Will he assure the House that the forthcoming package of measures that the Government are likely to introduce will bear no relationship to the recommendations of the Tribune Group?

My right hon. Friend is not a member of the Tribune Group. Nor would I have regarded it as a matter for dismissal had he been so. [An HON. MEMBER: "Perhaps for promotion?"] The promotion that he deserves in all the circumstances is the result of the most successful stewardship of the export trade of this country for many years past under successive Governments. One day I should like to hear the Conservative Front Bench pay tribute to what has been achieved on exports. [Interruption.] I know about exports. They are more relevant to the balance of payments and the pound than any other single issue in this country.

I am well aware of the Tribune Group's proposals. They have been actively dis- cussed in this House. The main propositions concerning import controls and other things have been rejected by the Government. They have also been put in almost the same form to a party meeting upstairs and been rejected there.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that members of the Tribune Group will be gratified that at least some hon. Members opposite can actually read what the group says? To be serious, however, does he agree that one of the most important problems facing us at the moment is how to deal with our serious economic situation? Therefore, is it not clear that there must be selective import controls and a tightening up of control on the outflow of capital, that we must consider taking over our own overseas portfolios—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—that we must make further cuts in defence expenditure—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—and that we must not rely on holding back wages as the only answer to Britain's economic problems?

I agree with my hon. Friend that it is gratifying that the hon. Gentleman is keeping abreast of important and controversial documents. I thought that this week he distinguished himself by offering to arbitrate, as it were, between the two Front Benches of the Conservative Party. I wish him luck. If the hon. Gentleman needs help from us we shall, of course, be glad to help him, although there is no ministerial responsibility of any kind.

My hon. Friend listed a number of points. In fact they have all been urged in recent economic debates in the House and at Question Time. I have said that selective import controls, apart from those which may be necessary and which we are ready to introduce where there is clear evidence of dumping or unfair practices, would be harmful to the country as a big trading nation when, despite the world depression, it is the only major country maintaining its export volumes. I think that those volumes would be imperilled if we were to adopt what my hon. Friend suggests.

Is the Prime Minister aware that my right hon. and hon Friends are delighted to pay tribute to the excellent export record achieved almost entirely by private enterprise? Is he further aware that the longer he takes to deal with inflation, the higher unemployment will be in the end, and that the unemployment he gets next year will be directly attributable to his indecision?

I am glad to hear the right hon. Lady at last pay tribute to what has been achieved in exports, and mainly, of course, by private enterprise firms. It just happens that, as always, they are much more successful at exporting under a Labour Government. That is why we have had to hand over to Conservative Governments vast export surpluses which they have frittered away We then have to build them up all over again. We are getting used to that. should like the right hon. Lady to do what I have done when I have paid tribute to the firms concerned—and I have done so several times in public. I would like the right hon. Lady to pay tribute to the workers in those industries who have made export achievements possible. Conservative Members are always ready to condemn workers but not to praise them. Even this afternoon they are not prepared to praise them for what they have done as regards the export effort.

The right hon. Lady is aware, as we have made clear, that we are giving urgent attention to the problems to which she has referred. I hope that she will tell us how much she welcomes the move by the TUC yesterday. If we are to proceed by consent—I hope that the Conservative Party will agree with this, because the right hon. Lady is opposed to statutory policies—I hope that the right hon. Lady will agree that it was right to give time for the TUC yesterday to take this important decision, which I hope she welcomes. We wanted to see that take place and we are now in a position to discuss the matter with the TUC. We shall do so urgently. I believe that such a solution would carry widespread support from the right hon. Lady. I know from all she has said that she would welcome an agreement with both sides of industry as regards the solving of our inflation problem rather than the use of statutory methods.

Is the Prime Minister aware that in fairness to the Secretary of State for Trade, whose dismissal is being sought in the Question, the right hon. Gentleman is unlikely to be able to do anything to improve our trading position or to arrest the slide in the value of our currency until such time as the Prime Minister or the Chancellor of the Exchequer bring forward their economic proposals to the House? The Prime Minister told us on Tuesday that that would be before the Summer Recess, but that is still over four weeks away. Will not the Prime Minister bring forward his proposals a great deal sooner than that?

Yes, certainly, that is what we would like to do. We want to get the matter in a workable form, and certainly before the recess. The hon. Gentleman brought forward his proposals to the House two days ago, I think, and they were rejected by the House. His proposals involve statutory policies.

I think that the vast majority of the House, apart from a few Conservatives below the Gangway, recognises that criminal sanctions in these matters have not worked in the past. They did not work under the Industrial Relations Act. No one has answered the question of what happens when people are brought before the courts in respect of wage settlements. I think that the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition was absolutely right about that in what she said on television recently.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that this matter must be pushed on with urgency. We now have something very important on which to build, and something which has not happened before, in relation to the TUC's decision. The former Conservative Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), spent very many months talking with the TUC but he was not prepared to offer what was necessary to get the kind of offer that the TUC made yesterday. We want to build on that. I am sure that the whole House will be prepared to give long enough to the Government to ensure that what we produce is workable and acceptable to the country.