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Home Department

Volume 895: debated on Thursday 17 July 1975

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Pensioners (Television Licences)

1.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress he has made in his examination of the possibility of relieving pensioners of part or all of the cost of television licences; and if he will make a statement.

As I stated in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend on 19th March, we hope that this study will be completed before the Summer Recess.—[Vol. 888, c. 457.]

Does my hon. Friend realise, however, that unless he can speed up this study, many pensioners—and they are the people who are hardest hit by the present inflation and economic stringency—will have to give up viewing television altogether? Cannot he come forward quickly with some scheme, even if it is only for half-price licences for black and white sets, to enable those most in need to carry on enjoying one of their very few remaining pleasures?

As I indicated in the debate that we had on my hon. Friend's Bill, we are very conscious of the burden that falls on elderly people, and we are doing our best to see whether there is a way of relieving it. We are at present studying all the alternatives.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that two or three years ago, when a Bill was introduced to help elderly people with television licences, and his party was in opposition, it expressed great support for the idea and indicated that it would do something about it when it was in office? What is the hon. Gentleman going to do about it now?

Will my hon. Friend accept that while the increase in the licence fee itself is a cause of great hardship, the very fact that the fee has been increased while a small minority of pensioners pay only the 5p because they are in sheltered accommodation has resulted in an increase in bitterness? This cannot be a healthy situation, particularly among old people. Will my hon. Friend contact his right hon. Friend in the Department of Health and Social Security to see whether something can be done about this matter when the next pension increase takes place?

Of course, it is this anomaly which has caused much of the dissatisfaction. The anomaly was created by a concession that was made by the previous Labour Government in response to just such a demand as has been echoed here today. It points the difficulty about making any further extension.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the fact that within sheltered housing communities for old-age pensioners, one television licence may cover 25 sets? If he accepts this principle, does he not agree that it would be a good idea to extend it outwith, into the community as a whole, thereby allowing old-age pensioners' societies to buy, perhaps, one television licence to cover 25 or 30 sets which are in the households of old-age pensioners?

We are considering all the possible ways in which an extension could be granted, but I suspect that that one would he more anomalous than some of those we have under consideration.

Immigration

2.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what criteria he uses in deciding whether or not to grant the right of permanent settlement in Great Britain to applicants who initially entered this country subject to conditions.

The general criteria are set out in the Immigration Rules for Control after Entry and include such categories as people who have been in approved employment for four years, people with a grandparent born here, and those who marry a person settled here. In addition, we revoke the conditions of Commonwealth and Pakistani citizens who were granted immunity from deportation by the Immigration Act 1971 if they were ordinarily resident here on 1st January 1973 and have been so resident for five years: revocation of their conditions is a recognition of the facts and does not constitute an addition to the numbers of immigrants settled here.

Is it not a fact, however, that about 20,000 people from the Commonwealth who were accepted for settlement last year initially came in under conditions, which is about 10,000 up on the figure for 1973—about double? Is it not also a fact that the figure for the first quarter is over 5,000? Will the Home Secretary therefore accept that it is every bit as important to exercise strict control over the numbers of those who are accepted for settlement having come here initially under conditions as it is to exercise control over those who come here for settlement in the first place?

I accept the general proposition, subject to the fact that where people are settled here, I think that it is not right to keep them indefinitely in a position of insecurity, and I do not think it is right to have split families. The right hon. Gentleman's figure for last year is approximately but not absolutely correct. It was 18,959, just under 19,000. Of these, 5,000-odd were accepted by reasons of marriage, 5,700 after lawful residence, and 1,400 after unlawful residence—as a result of the five-year "amnesty" provision in the 1971 Act—which, while a significant figure, was very much less than the figures which were bandied about at the time. The figure for the first quarter is 5,200, which is a little up but not significantly different from the figure for 1974.

What relaxations have there been in the system for controlling the entry of dependants into this country as a result of the Minister of State's recent visit to the Indian sub-continent?

We are looking at this matter carefully at the present time. I am sure the whole House will agree that it is difficult to defend the present position under which a wife can have a first interview and then be asked to attend a second interview, 21 or 22 months later. I am endeavouring, as far as is compatible with reasonable and effective control, to speed up and simplify the procedure. I am sure the hon. Gentleman would not wish to justify a position in which the wives of people who are settled here and who are entitled to come, have to go through the process of one interview followed by another nearly two years later.

Jersey Cattle

4.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will take action designed to protect the pure breed of Jersey cattle against any import of cattle to the Island of Jersey which might be permitted by European Community legislation.

The Jersey authorities have been kept informed about the Commission's proposals designed to facilitate trade in breeding cattle within the Community, and they have made no representations against them. My right hon. Friend will be happy to consider in consultation with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, any representations that they may wish to make.

Does my hon. Friend realise that there is great concern in Jersey because in 1978, when the transitional period of entry into the European Economic Community ends, the present arrangements within the Community will allow for imports of cattle to the island? Is she aware that the local pedigree breed has been kept absolutely pure for 200 years and that it might now have to contend with rival groups? Will the Government approach the Community to prevent such an occurrence?

We have consulted all the island Governments since December 1972 about the progress of the draft instrument designed to provide the maximum freedom of movement for breeding cattle. We have received no representations on the subject from the authorities in Jersey.

Television (Wales)

6.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what provisions he is making for implementing the decision to use the fourth television channel as a national channel in Wales.

10.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he expects to receive the report of the committee appointed following publication of the Crawford Report to consider the use of the fourth television channel in Wales.

11.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether the recent Government review of public expenditure in any way affects the Government's laws for implementing the recommendations of the Crawford Committee on broadcasting.

The working party whose terms of reference were announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales on 16th January—[Vol. 884, c. 176.]—has just reported. We shall make a further statement when there has been an opportunity of studying the working party's report.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the power of English television which fills almost every Welsh home imperils the very existence of the Welsh language? Does he recognise that it is as important to defend our language, which is part of our national culture, as it is to defend our physical existence? Will the Government look on this as a matter of the defence of a nation, of a national life and a national culture? Does the Minister realise that our language is a vehicle of our culture, and will the Government be prepared to spend as much on this kind of defence as they spend on arms?

We accept the importance of the Welsh langauge to the preservation of the culture of Wales and we have taken a decision to help in this way if we can. We are waiting for the technical report from the working party and will announce our decision as soon as possible.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the survival and growth of the Welsh language is of fundamental importance to many people in Wales and that pleas on its behalf should not be regarded as a case of special pleading? Does he realise that a Welsh language television service would be of prime importance to the survival of the language, and that time is desperately short? Will he devote himself, despite his other heavy commitments, to achieving very quickly an effective Welsh language service on the fourth channel?

Policy decisions are not for me, although I answer for them in the House. I am sure my right hon. Friends will deal with this matter as expeditiously as possible.

Will the hon. Gentleman convey to those who do take the policy decisions in this matter that there is a desire in Wales among Welsh speaking and non-Welsh speaking people to see this development in order to give fair play to both languages? Can he assure us that current cut-backs in expenditure which may be contemplated will not hit this sort of project?

I think the hon. Gentleman must await the announcement, but what has been said in the past ought to reassure him.

Forensic Science Laboratory

7.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make an official visit to the Forensic Science Laboratory, Lambeth.

In relation to my hon. Friend's reply of 19th June, is he suggesting that he was told by Dr. Margaret Pereira and her colleagues that it might not be scientifically possible to derive benefit from information about blood sample data both in catching criminals and in saving valuable detective time?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for allowing me to clear up this matter. I suspect that on his visit, when he saw Dr. Pereria, who is a senior principal scientific officer, he was given an estimate about the effectiveness of this—an estimate which was not entirely shared by the Controller of the Forensic Science Service or the Director of the Metropolitan Police Laboratory. As a result, we are getting different advice, but my advice is that it is not yet scientifically possible to set up a blood bank national service in the way he espoused and that, before we can take a decision on this matter, there must be further scientific progress.

Illegal Immigration

8.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement about the operation of the controls on illegal immigration.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he intends to take to improve the existing arrangements for preventing illegal immigration from the Commonwealth.

The Immigration Service and the police are constantly on the alert to prevent illegal entry. They already take all reasonable and practicable measures to stop evasion of the immigration control, but we shall keep these measures under review and, in the light of experience, they may be adjusted from time to time.

Can the hon. Gentleman confirm recent Press reports that during the first quarter of this year, 1,500 immigrants were smuggled into this country? Is he aware that this figure, which represents about one-quarter of the total number of immigrants and dependants admitted each year, is far higher than the public have been led to believe? Does he agree that this is a scandalous situation at a time of high unemployment, and will he make representations through the usual channels to those Continental countries which may be harbouring these immigrants and the headquarters of their smuggling organisations?

The report which has upset the hon Gentleman appeared in the Sunday Telegraph three weeks ago and was a scandalous falsehood. It is not true—there is no basis in fact for the assertion—that there is a Home Office report, or that there was any estimate of the figure of illegal immigrants. By the very nature of the operation, there could not be. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that, from all the facts in my possession, I suspect that the estimates given for illegal immigrants are wildly exaggerated.

Does the hon. Gentleman therefore believe that the figure published in the official Home Office statement on 19th June that, in the first quarter of this year, there were 56 illegal immigrants, is as accurate as he claims the other report is inaccurate? Would it not be better for everybody for a realistic estimate to be made of the real scale of illegal immigration, since uncertainty merely stokes up irrational fears?

Then it should not be assisted by the Opposition Front Bench. The figure of 56 is a factual statement of how many illegal immigrants were sent back. Those are the people we knew about and sent back. Any other estimate about the number of illegal immigrants can only be an estimate and, while we accept that there are, no doubt, many illegal immigrants, the figures are, in my view, well below any of the published estimates, although that must be an opinion.

Prisoners (Civil Rights)

9.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has any plans to change the Prison Rules.

17.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will make a statement about the civil rights of those serving sentences of imprisonment.

As I explained in reply to a Question on 19th June by my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Cartwright)—[Vol. 893, c. 1645–7]—I am reviewing certain aspects of the treatment of prisoners and restrictions on their communication with non-prisoners. I shall announce the result of these reviews when they are completed.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that we are grateful for that answer, but will he not consider making provision for prisoners to be legally represented in a court when they are charged with an in-prison offence which carries with it a loss of remission? Docs he not accept that the loss of liberty, on some occasions for several months, should be determined by a judicial authority and not by a prison authority?

I do not think I can accept that. To introduce a judicial procedure into any in-prison punishment, which is what my hon. Friend's suggestion might mean, would be very cumbersome. I shall consider any question he puts to me, but in view of the position in the courts, which in many ways are already jammed up, to remove from any non-judicial procedure the award of any punishment within prisons would be an extremely difficult thing to do.

A person suffering from a legitimate sense of grievance is more likely to become a permanent enemy of society than one who is justly treated. Is it not therefore desirable that the system of allocating prisoners to control units, which are a complete outrage of the principles of natural justice, should be abandoned and that the decision of the Court of Human Rights with regard to the communication by prisoners with their MPs and lawyers should be implemented? Does my right hon. Friend consider that the events disclosed and admitted at the Birmingham bomb trial would have come to light if the prisoners concerned had not been awaiting trial, but had been convicted prisoners denied access to lawyers?

The last point is as sub judice as anything can be at the present time, and it would be inappropriate for me to comment on that. As for allocation to control units, there is a later Question about this matter which I think will be reached, and perhaps the House would be prepared to wait until we reach it.

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend on the general proposition that it is desirable to treat prisoners justly. We shall give effect to the Golder judgment, but there are certain situations which have to be reviewed, and I hope to announce the conclusions of the review before the recess.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider including in the things which the review body will examine the basic right of people in prison to write to their Member of Parliament unfettered by the powers of censorship which exist under the Prison Rules?

As I said in a reply about a month ago, I am anxious to reduce the powers of censorship. However, the only valid reason for the power of censorship of letters to Members of Parliament is that on the whole it is important that prisoners should go through the proper procedure of making complaints internally before they write outside. Although I am sure that he has great experience of these matters, I do not think that the hon. Member would find it possible to operate a prison system otherwise.

Further to the point raised by the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Nelson), will my right hon. Friend consider whether it is right that a letter from a prisoner to his lawyers should be free of censorship only after the prisoner has decided to enter into litigation? Does he not agree that the correspondence which passes between a prisoner and his lawyer in deciding whether there should be litigation is often more sensitive than that that which passes after the decision? Ought not the prisoner to have the right of free consultation with his lawyers to decide whether or not he wants to enter into litigation?

It appeared to me, as listened to the question my hon. Friend was posing, that an important issue might be involved here, and I shall happily consider, and am considering as part of the review, the point he has raised. It would be possible for a prisoner to use communication with his lawyers to get round a number of the Prison Rules in a way which would not be desirable, but I see some force on the immediate point that my hon. Friend has put to me and I shall discuss it.

Crime Prevention

12.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will consider as a matter of urgency the introduction of measures designed to create a national criminal investigation department to tackle the incidence of serious crime and to set up such a scheme upon a regional basis but under his control; and if he will make a statement.

No, Sir. I do not believe that it would be right to separate the CID from the police as a whole.

In view of that rather slender answer, perhaps I may draw the Home Secretary a bit further. Is he aware that in 1974 there was a heavy increase in indictable crime, particularly among juveniles, a 19 per cent. increase in burglary, and a decrease in the manpower of the police force? However, bearing in mind the improvement in the efficiency of the force resulting from the co-ordination of the Flying Squad, the Robbery Squad and the Regional Crime Squad, will he now extend criminal investigation co-ordination on a national basis, in particular to this extent? Will he set up divisional crime squads on a regional basis, nation-wide, and will he introduce measures which would greatly assist recruitment throughout the country if young persons felt they could become detectives quickly in the battle against crime without having to spend a long time on the beat?

My original reply was not so much slender as direct, and it was direct because I almost wholly disagree with the hon. and learned Member on this point. A high degree of co-ordination is necessary, such as we have been constantly fostering, between the detective forces and the CID in different parts of the country. I profoundly believe, and a great deal of experience has shown—this view is shared by the most important and senior police officers—that to have a CID rigidly separated from the rest of the police force gives rise to grave disadvantages and dangers, and a great deal of the work which the present Commissioner has done has been directed to that very problem. I am not therefore prepared to move in the direction that the hon. and learned Member suggests.

Does the Home Secretary deny recent Press reports that he is considering a national force of detectives?

I have made it quite clear that I believe in the closest coordination for effective operations between the CID and the police forces in their other aspects so long as we have, as I believe we shall have for a long time, approximately 40 police forces under local control and one metropolitan police force. That system has considerable advantages. I believe there would be grave disadvantages in separating off the detective work and making detectives a completely separate corps from the rest of the police.

Police (Complaints)

13.

asked he Secretary of State for the Home Department when he expects to make an announcement about independent investigation of complaints against the police.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave to a Question from my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) on 15th July.—[Vol. 895, c. 423–8.]

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I read that answer with great care and that in certain respects it is extremely disappointing to Labour Members? Does he agree that an independent element of invesigation of complaints is not enough? What is needed is an independant system which has integrity and which is absolutely independent of the police, if confidence in this aspect of investigation is to be won from the public.

I do not agree with my hon. Friend. It has been entirely desirable to introduce an independent element, and that, I believe, has been effectively done. I believe this goes well beyond the scheme proposed by the right hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Carr), though that was a considerable advance on anything hitherto proposed. I believe that the independent element here is real and effective, but in the situation in which 17,000 or so complaints have to be dealt with each year I have to have regard to what is administratively practical and what is compatible with the functioning of an effective police service combined with reasonable investigation of the serious complaints. After consideration of this matter I think I have struck a reasonable balance. It would not be right to go on without an effective and fully independent element. Equally, it would not be right to erect a procedure by which the police force was hardly able to function as a police force and became entirely a body for investigating or assisting in the investigation of complaints.

I welcome the progress made in bringing forward the outline scheme. It would have been more helpful if the House had been able to discuss the subject a week ago instead of having a Written Answer a few days later. Will the Home Secretary spell out the position of a constable who feels that a malicious complaint has been made against him and who wishes to have redress? There has been Press comment on this matter.

We always try to bring proposals forward as soon as we reasonably can. The subject of the debate chosen by the Opposition was police recruitment. Therefore, it did not directly include this matter. I was anxious to make a statement before Questions today so that supplementary questions could he asked about it.

For the first time I have introduced in the scheme a substantial independent element with powers of investigation. It is important that a constable should have certain protection against malicious complaints. It is already possible for prosecutions to be taken under the Criminal Law Act 1967. I indicated that, in general, chief officers of police should follow the practice which already applies in about one-third of police areas. Unless there are compelling reasons to the contrary, the constable complained about should be able to see the complainant. That will enable the constable—in conjunction with the view taken by the Police Federation—to enjoy a more effective safeguard.

I commend my right hon. Friend for his pledge to bring legislation before the House and for standing up to pressure from the police authori- ties that they should become an independent element, which would have been unsuitable. Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that under the outlined proposals every complaint will come before the Commission without the complainant having to make the running himself at each stage, including those cases where the Director of Public Prosecutions recommends that there should not be a prosecution?

Why is it unsuitable for the police constables who have had complaints made against them to have recourse to the commission, just like anyone else?

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's generally helpful words of commendation. Perhaps that is too strong. However, they were clearly intended to be helpful. He is right in what he says about the police authorities. They have an important role to play. However, I do not think that they would have satisfied the House as being the independent authorities for the purposes with which we are dealing.

The position of the Commission and the Director of Public Prosecutions is that if a case is referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions for possible prosecution, and he decides to prosecute, that settles the matter. However, if he decides not to prosecute there can be no question of disciplinary proceedings for the offence. That principle could not be breached without breaching what I regard as the important principle of double jeopardy. There might be an effront to police disciplinary proceedings. That could be taken up by the deputy chief constable, but there would be the full right for the commission to come in, as in all normal circumstances.

I shall consider my hon. Friend's last point before the legislation is drawn up. However, I have not received any representations on this point from the Police Federation.

Prisoners (Breaches Of Discipline)

14.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will consider allowing prisoners representation by a solicitor when they appear before boards of visitors for breaches of prison discipline.

This matter is within the terms of reference of the departmental working party which has been reviewing adjudication procedures in Prison Department establishments and whose report we hope to publish shortly. Following publication we shall be seeking the views of boards of visitors—and shall be glad to receive those of other bodies or individuals—not only on the recommendations made in the working party's report but also on the suggestions made in the recent report of the committee chaired by Lord Jellicoe and set up by Justice, the Howard League and NACRO to consider the role of boards of visitors of penal establishments.

In cases of breaches of discipline, where there is the appearance of judicial hearings, if representations are not allowed, is it not right that the nature of the hearings should be changed to that of an executive performance by the governor? Will the Minister bear in mind the recommendation of Lord Jellicoe's committee that in determining these matters there should be a group of persons other than boards of visitors, such as professional lawyers, who might be involved in deciding the issues?

The different alternatives are being considered by the working party, which will receive the views of the bodies which it consults.

Does my hon. Friend accept that the answer given earlier by my right hon. Friend is disappointing? Does she accept that in sentencing offenders the courts take into account the remission which can be earned? When a prisoner is potentially losing such remission he should in the interests of fairness and equity—never mind the administrative convenience of prisons—be legally represented.

The Question I am answering concerns breaches of prison discipline and representation before boards of visitors. A case which came before the Court of Appeal in June this year was dismissed. However, the situation has been fully examined and we hope to make a statement as soon as we have received and considered views on it.

Television Licence Fees

15.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Depart- ment whether he will give consideration to the possibility of television rental companies collecting television licence fees on behalf of his Department through instalment payments.

This proposal has been considered, but there are practical difficulties which would outweigh any advantages to be gained.

Is the Minister aware that this is another facet of the problem, which the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Butler) mentioned earlier, of the real hardship now being suffered by many pensioners and those on low incomes, for whom this is one reasonable form of entertainment? Is the Minister aware that this question follows my correspondence with the noble Lord in another place—the answers to which, I fear, reveal a singular lack of flexibility in the Home Office in considering this problem in its broadest aspects? Will the Minister think again?

I shall convey the hon. Gentleman's comments to my noble Friend. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman can write again. Pensioners have the opportunity of using the savings card scheme if they wish to do so.

Will the Minister reconsider the idea of combining the licence fee with the rental for those subscribers receiving the cable relay system in those areas where reception is not available in any other way? In that way the fee may be reduced, so that the people concerned are not obliged to pay twice over for the same service.

That suggestion will be considered by those who have to make the decisions about the matter.

Does the Minister accept that many of us think that the suggestion contained in the Question is a good one? Does he also accept that many of my constituents find it unjust that they must pay the full licence fee when they enjoy poor reception, or can receive only English or Ulster programmes when they want Scottish programmes, or suffer from all those disabilities.

Even the English sometimes suffer from the English programmes. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the scheme suggested in the original Question would add greatly to the administrative costs.

Since this is almost a universal service, does my hon. Friend think that the time has come to abolish the concept of collecting television licence fees and sending out detector vans, and make this a charge on the general revenue?

That issue comes within the terms of reference of the Annan Committee, which can report to that effect if it wishes.

Prison Building

16.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is his latest estimate of the cost of the current prison building programme.

Capital expenditure on prison building in England and Wales in 1975–76 is estimated at £32·1 million. This includes expenditure on additions and improvement to existing etablishments and on staff quarters.

Provision for prison building in England and Wales in the forecasts contained in the White Paper on Public Expenditure of 1978–79—Cmnd. 5879—is £35·3 million in 1976–77, £36·9 million in 197778 and £35·3 million in 1978–79.

Is the Minister aware that approximately 20 per cent. of the prison population of nearly 40,000 consists of people who have not paid fines? Does the hon. Lady believe that imprisonment is the most appropriate way of dealing with defaulters? Does she agree that one way of cutting both the prison population and this massive and unjustified cost of the prison building programme is to accept the recommendation of the Advisory Committee on the Penal System and to institute a system of day fines?

That is one of the ways in which the prison population might be reduced, but there are others. My right hon. Friend recently made a speech in which he outlined the proposals we have in mind, including an increase in the use of non-custodial penalties.

How much of the proposed expenditure on building new prisons is in respect of open prisons? Does my hon. Friend accept that in suitable cases it is both more humane and more effective to keep as many prisoners as possible in open prisons rather than in the mausoleums dating from the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, in which most of them are now housed?

In reply to the last part of my hon. and learned Friend's supplementary question, great efforts are being made and plans are being brought forward to redevelop and improve the outdated Victorian prisons and the hutted camps. The number of open prison places available depends very much on the number of prisoners who are suitable at any one time to be put into an open prison.

Will the hon. Lady consider urgently the possibility of selling off the freehold sites of some town centre prisons, thereby establishing open prisons in better locations, as the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) suggested? Would not that provide a good comercial deal for the prison service for less cash spent by the taxpayer?

The definition of an open prison does not depend upon where it is located. It depends upon the degree of security it gives. Therefore, the logic of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question is not clear to me.

Parole

18.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is satisfied with the present working of the parole system.

I am satisfied that the parole system has made a useful contribution to the reduction of the prison population without appreciable risk to the public, and I am considering in consultation with the Parole Board the possibility of extending the use of parole.

Does not my hon. Friend agree that far too much secrecy surrounds the operation of the parole system, and that at the very least there should be communicated to the prisoner the reason why parole has been refused? Surely it is a matter of concern than 10 per cent. of prisoners do not even apply for parole, presumably because of the stresses, strains and bitter disappointments which they know the system can produce?

I am aware of the points which my hon. Friend puts. They are amongst matters which I am discussing with the Parole Board. My hon. Friend is not right in assuming that there are not difficulties about the communication of reasons, but I accept that there are arguments on both sides. I do not think that my hon. Friend is right in assuming that the 10 per cent. of prisoners who do not apply for parole would necessarily apply if there were a different system for the communication of reasons and matters of that sort.

Taxi Fares (London)

20.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the proposed increase in London Metropolitan taxicab fares.

As the Home Department persists in its peculiar and anomalous control over these matters, does the Minister agree that an increase in fares is long overdue and is an inevitable consequence of inflation, however unwelcome it may be to the travelling public? Would not the occasion of such an increase be an opportunity to consolidate all the supplementary charges made by London taxicabs into one basic fare meter operation, and to remove that maddening wall chart which survives from the old fare basis? Will the Minister confirm that the operation of taxicabs to and from Heathrow is now much more satisfactory?

All these matters are being very carefully considered. We hope to make an announcement next week.

Press (Legislation)

Q1.

asked the Prime Minister if the broadcast by the Secretary of State for Employment on legislation affecting the Press on 15th June represents official Government policy.

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

As the House knows, my right hon. Friend is in Brussels attending the EEC Heads of Government meeting and in his absence I have been asked to reply.

Yes, Sir.

Is the Lord President aware that in that broadcast the Secretary of State for Employment again championed legislation which would make it possible for one union to gain a powerful monopoly position over all areas of public communication? Does he realise that that monopoly will inevitably be exercised at the expense of all those who want to have access to the media but are not members of the monopoly National Union of Journalists? As the right of access to the media is such a fundamental one, should it not be protected by proper legal safeguards—not by codes and charters—and, best of all, by dropping the Bill altogether?

No, Sir, I do not agree with that. The Employment Protection Bill contains recognition provisions which will help the small unions, and I hope the hon. Gentleman will look at those provisions.

Will my right hon. Friend say what discussions have taken place with trade unions and employers concerning the important problem of access? In view of the vulnerable state of two newspapers in Fleet Street, will my right hon. Friend give instructions, through the chairman, to the Royal Commission on the Press to produce a shortened report? We are now running into a second year.

I shall pass on to the Prime Minister my hon. Friend's last suggestion. In reply to the first part of the supplementary question, my right hon. Friend has had numerous and continuing discussions on this matter over the past few weeks, but I cannot enumerate them off the cuff.

Is my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister aware that there is no valid reason why there should be one industrial relations law for the Press and another one for the rest of industry? Is he aware that many of us are fed up with the Government kowtowing to pressure from the Press and neglecting pressure from their own back benches? Will he tell the Press to take notice of its own editorials on law and order, and that if this law is passed by the House of Commons the Press will have to obey it?

There is complete unanimity between my hon. Friend and myself today. If what a large number of Opposition Members are advocating were done, there would be unfair discrimination against the newspaper industry.

As the Bill was regarded by the Government as urgent as long ago as last February and we still have not discussed the Lords amendment, would it not be better if the right hon. Gentleman accepted the view of the hon. Member for Basildon (Mr. Moonman) and allowed the matter to go before the Royal Commission on the Press so that a satisfactory arrangement could be reached which might even satisfy the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton)?

No, Sir. As I said, over the past few weeks my right hon. Friend has spent a great deal of time in discussions about the Lords amendment with many people in an effort to reach agreement. The Labour Government try to reach agreement on these matters, unlike Conservative Governments.

Tuc And Cbi (Talks)

Q2.

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

I have been asked to reply.

I refer my hon. Friend to the statement which my right hon. Friend made to the House on 11th July.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the support of the NUM Executive for the Government's anti-inflation policy is welcome news? Does he accept that a reduction in the level of unemployment, particularly in the regions, is crucial to the success of the Government's economic policies? Will the Government take a fresh look at all their regional policies?

I agree with what my hon. Friend said. I am sure that all hon. Members on both sides of the House will welcome the decision made by the miners this morning. In reply to my hon. Friend's second point, I agree with him that the whole object of our policy is to try to cure inflation without inducing mass unemployment.

Will the Leader of the House tell the House whether the talks with the TUC and the CBI have touched on matters concerning the Employment Protection Bill, relating to exemptions from employees' rights similar to the exemptions from contract obligations in the White Paper, which may be necessary if the policy is to be carried out successfully?

I am afraid that that is a question which the right hon. Gentleman must address to my right hon. Friend. I am afraid that I do not know.

Will my right hon. Friend tell the House the Government's plans regarding the temporary employment subsidy scheme? When will it be introduced, and when shall we know the full details of the scheme?

This is a matter which I imagine will be relevant—subject to your ruling, Mr. Speaker—to some of our debates which I am shortly to announce for next week. At the moment these powers are in the Employment Protection Bill.

Was the CBI consulted and did it give its agreement to the role of monitoring wage settlements jointly with the TUC, as allotted to it in the White Paper?

That role has not been allotted to the CBI. That is not putting the matter quite correctly. As I understand it, the TUC and the CBI agreed to try to work out arrangements for monitoring settlements and informing the Government of them. I understand that it was an agreement in which both sides acquiesced—namely, to set up a monitoring body.

Prime Minister (Engagements)

Q3.

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 17th July.

Q8.

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 17th July 1975.

Q9.

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 17th July.

I have been asked to reply.

As the House knows, my right hon. Friend is attending the EEC Heads of Government meeting in Brussels today.

If the Prime Minister's evasive double-talk at the Brussels Summit is as damaging to Europe as his contribution over the past 17 months to rising unemployment, inflation and the national disaster at home, would not it be better if in future all the Prime Minister's official engagements were confined to a lush pasture where he could be put out to grass?

I do not really feel called upon to answer that question. I just wonder—not only today but for some time past—exactly what the hon. Gentleman has brought to our deliberations in the House. He has certainly not brought good parliamentary manners. However, I still have hopes that he will learn them.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that an urgent step towards the full democratisation of the European Parliament would result from direct elections? Is the Prime Minister making the British Government's position clear in Brussels?

Yes, certainly. I take it that my hon. Friend is referring to Mr. Tindemans' report, which has not yet been produced. The Council may well discuss its approach to the report. We have not committed ourselves in any way to anything on which Mr. Tindemans may report. We shall study the report with great care.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that the Prime Minister should seek an early meeting with the BBC in view of the corporation's astonishing admission yesterday that it has recently transmitted raw Communist propaganda to listeners in Portugal?

I am dealing with a Question about the Prime Minister's engagements today. The supplementary question that the hon. Gentleman has raised has no relation to my right hon. Friend's engagements.

When my right hon. Friend is in Brussels, is he proposing to discuss with his fellow Ministers a problem which I understand is plaguing all Common Market countries, namely, unemployment among young people, and, in particular, school leavers? Will my right hon. Friend discuss this matter in order to see whether there is some way in which we can all employ young people in community service projects instead of leaving them unemployed and rotting away?

As I understand it, discussion of the general position in the Community takes place at these summit meetings. No doubt unemployment is the sort of issue which could arise in such a discussion.

The report to which my hon. Friend the Member for Chertsey and Walton (Mr. Pattie) referred, concerning the BBC, appeared today, and the Question is about the Prime Minister's engagements today. Will the right hon. Gentleman give consideration to the substance of what my hon. Friend asked, and see whether the Government, or members of it, will meet the BBC to discuss this important matter?

I understand, Mr. Speaker, that this is something in the nature of a point of order—[Interruption.] There is a rule that there must be ministerial responsibility for the substance of parliamentary answers. This question is an innovation. I think that this is the second or third time that it has appeared. I will not go outside the limit of the Question, which is about the Prime Minister's engagements today. I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend will be pleased to answer the question about the BBC when he returns.

Government Policies

Q4.

asked the Prime Minister whether he remains satisfied with the progress towards achieving the measures contained in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech.

Q6.

asked the Prime Minister if he remains satisfied with the progress made by Her Majesty's Government towards achieving the measures outlined in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech.

Q10.

asked the Prime Minister whether he remains satisfied with the progress towards achieving the measures contained in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech.

I have been asked to reply.

No, Sir—[Interruption.] I am sorry I read the wrong answer, Mr. Speaker. The answer is "Yes, Sir".

May I say how disappointed I am that the Lord President did not stick to his unusually frank and honest original answer? Will he re-read the commitment in the Gracious Speech to provide more homes for rent? In view of the continuing shortage of public funds, what action will the Government take to drop their doctrinaire approach to housing, so as to stimulate homeownership and provide more rented homes by allowing a form of short-term lease that does not confer long-term security?

I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman has raised this matter. It is something that I did not anticipate. The hon. Gentleman seems not to have studied the housing figures. There has been an enormous increase in the number of new houses built.

Will my right hon Friend consider the matter and return to his first reply? Is he aware that we are all concerned about our commitment—it has been given over and over again—to maintain full employment? Is he aware that in my constituency the firm of NVT is very alarmed at the non-publication of the report that, I understand, has now been presented to his right hon. Friend? We are anxious to have a debate on the report as soon as possible. Will my right hon. Friend take this matter on hoard and see whether some undertakings can be given?

On my hon. Friend's last point, I shall bear in mind what she says. I shall try to make such an arrangement as soon as possible. On my hon. Friend's first point, it is basic to this party's whole existence that we try to prevent unemployment. We bend all our policies towards that end. However, the overriding consideration at present is to cure inflation. It is clear that inflation is now the biggest enemy of employment and the biggest cause of unemployment. I hope that we can count on the support of my hon. Friend in all our measures to try to reduce the rate of inflation. That is the surest and most certain way of preventing unemployment.

As the right hon. Gentleman has just said that preventing inflation and unemployment are the Government's prime targets, as they featured so large in the Gracious Speech, and as the now defunct social contract was advertised in that speech as the cure of all these problems, will the right hon. Gentleman not now agree that the Prime Minister, as the architect of that policy, was either responsible for perpetrating a deliberate fraud on the electorate at the last election or guilty of a stupefying level of political naivety? Which was it?

The social contract is still very much alive—[Interruption.] Of course, many right hon. and hon. Members in the Conservative Party have been dead for years. The recently announced anti-inflation policy is a development and evolvement of the social contract. Over the coming months the Opposition and the country will see that the social policy is working.

In his original answer my right hon. Friend said that he was not satisfied with the situation. Since the Labour Party Manifesto contained a proposal to take the ports into public ownership, will he ensure that this is contained in the next Queen's Speech and is given the utmost legislative priority?

I hope that my hon. Friend heard me correctly when I said that I was very satisfied with the progress we had made. Originally, I read the wrong answer. The manifesto on which he and I fought the election was for a five-year Parliament. So far we have had only 18 months of it.

Has the right hon. Gentleman observed that one person who so far does not appear to have been overenthusiastic about helping the Government to pursue pay and prices policies is Mr. Scargill? Has that Mr. Scargill any connection with the Mr. Scargill who, when trying to break the pay and prices policy of the Conservative Government, received the enthusiastic and wholehearted support of the Labour Party, including the Prime Minister?

Surely my right hon. Friend read the right answer—though not for the reasons which the Opposition are putting forward. Does he agree that we have retreated somewhat from our original proposals—based on pressure from the CBI, the City of London and the Tory Party? Will he give an assurance that there will be no further retreat, that we shall ignore completely the demands from the Opposition that we should withdraw our nationalisation and public ownership proposals, and that we shall carry them out as part of our campaign to combat unemployment?

I entirely agree with the last part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question. What the Opposition are saying in this respect is utter nonsense. In reply to the first part of his question, I must tell the House that there has been no retreat. We have listened to what people have said on the progress of the Bill and have made amendments which we thought would command public support.

In view of the satisfactory original answer, may I inform the House that I do not wish to raise the matter on the Adjournment?