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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 897: debated on Saturday 16 August 1975

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

Home Department

Bill Of Rights


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will introduce a Bill of Rights in the next Session of Parliament.

The Government do not have such a measure in preparation, but we are continuing to study the questions raised by this proposal.

I am sure that the Minister is aware of the widespread feeling that many of our basic rights have been eroded. It has occurred to me that the amount of legislation passing through the House at present means that sometimes, more by accident than by design some of our basic rights are being eroded. A Bill of Rights could give some sort of appeal through the courts—

Order. The hon. Member may not make a statement. He must ask a question.

Will the Minister indicate whether she is against the introduction of such a Bill in the short term because she believes that basic British good sense will protect us against any erosion, or because she believes that all the legislation before Parliament is, individually, more necessary?

Earlier this year, during the debate on a Bill of Rights, there was a wide variation of opinion about the best way of safeguarding individual rights, about what form such a Bill should take, and what rights it should seek to protect. Therefore, we shall continue to study all the questions raised by the proposal.

Is my hon. Friend aware that, whether or not we have a Bill of Rights, many civil liberty measures need to be undertaken, about which the Home Office is not doing very much? Does the Home Office have in mind any measures to give the ordinary citizen under police interrogation any greater protection than he or she has at present?

My hon. Friend has raised one aspect of civil rights which could be included in a Bill of Rights, but it does not relate to the question whether there should be a full Bill of Rights, which would involve far more than the one point he raised.

During further study of the feasibility of such legislation, will the hon. Lady bear in mind the desirability of such a Bill of Rights applying to the whole of the United Kingdom?

If such a Bill of Rights were introduced, that would be one of the points to be considered.

Electoral Reform


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will make a statement on the Government's intentions as regards electoral reform.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement of Government policy on electoral reform.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will shortly consult the leaders of the parties about reconvening the Speaker's Conference. This consultation will provide an opportunity for the approach to this subject to be discussed.

Is it the Government's view that the Speaker's Conference should include among its work the discussion of this matter?

The Government's view is that this is a matter to be discussed between the parties, of which the Government are, of course, one. Although I should not expect those who were not entirely convinced by the speech of the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) to be completely satisfied by a reference to the Speaker's Conference, and although they will no doubt wish to pursue and discuss this matter in other fora, I hope they will also be willing to discuss it in any arena that seems suitable. The Speaker's Conference is one such arena.

I turn to another aspect of electoral reform. Connected with this are the lessons to be drawn from the recently-published accounts of the two sides in the referendum campaign. Does my right hon. Friend agree that another urgent matter to be considered by any Speaker's Conference should be the proper rules and regulations to control campaign expenditure by both political parties and support fringe organisations at any future General Election? Does he further agree that unless there is proper control over the amount spent by either side it will be extremely difficult to achieve a just electoral system?

One of the matters which the last Speaker's Conference was unable to consider, because it was interrupted by the General Election of 1974—it has not been reconvened since—was that of election expenditure generally. Therefore, this would be an appropriate matter for a reconvened Speaker's Conference to consider.

Is not one of the arguments against the introduction of proportional representation that it would be particularly unkind to the Liberal Party, because as that party appears to stand for nothing else it would have nothing left to campaign for?

As both the Government and the main Opposition party—which I think make two of the parties to which the right hon. Gentleman referred—have declared themselves to be against any change in the electoral system and then in the next breath have gone on to offer the setting up of a Speaker's Conference, is this not somewhat hypocritical? Would it not be better to save the time of the Speaker's Conference and await the result of the inquiry of the Hansard Society, which is already at work on this subject?

If the hon. Gentleman does not wish the matter to be considered by the Speaker's Conference he can say so through his right hon. Friend when the consultations take place. As I said in answer to the supplementary question from the hon. Member for Mid-Oxon (Mr. Hurd), I did not expect those who were in favour of some form of electoral reform to regard this as a totally satisfactory solution to the problem, and I have no doubt that the campaign and the discussions will continue. However, I think it would be a little odd if, as is suggested—and as I believe to be the case—there is more interest in electoral reform now than at any time in the past, that a Speaker's Conference should not consider the matter.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that a unique feature of parliamentary democracy in Great Britain is the single-Member constituency and that any change which destroyed the uniqueness of the relationship between a constituent and his or her Member of Parliament would be detrimental to effective representation?

I think that it is a most important feature of British electoral arrangements, but I do not think that it is entirely unique to British democracy. It exists in the congressional system in America, and it has existed much of the time in France. It is certainly a factor to be borne in mind. Undoubtedly, any system which split the relationship between a Member and his constituency would be a substantially different system from the present one.

Further to the answer that the Home Secretary gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Oxon (Mr. Hurd), is it not a fact that the Prime Minister, in approaching the leaders of the other parties to set up a Speaker's Conference, normally suggests the draft agenda for that conference? Is it the Government's intention to put this matter on the draft agenda?

I have already indicated that I think that, in the consultations, the Prime Minister would suggest that this matter should be on the agenda. Whether or not the Speaker's Conference is regarded as a completely satisfactory forum in which to discuss the matter, I regard it as very surprising that anybody should wish to exclude the subject from the agenda of the conference, because I should have thought that those who are in favour of electoral reform would want the matter to be discussed as widely and in as many different places as possible.

Prison Population


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is proposing to take any further steps to reduce the size of the prison population.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he is taking to reduce the prison population, including modifications, if any, to the parole system.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made concerning his new policy about the size of the prison population; and whether he will make a statement.

I continue to watch with concern the high level of prison population and to keep under close review any measures that may contribute to its reduction. I hope that the more liberal approach to the granting of parole which I announced on 4th August in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the member for Battersea, South (Mr. Perry)—[Vol. 897, c. 25–7.]—will have a beneficial effect. Other relevant measures include my proposals for the reform of bail procedures, and the expansion, as resources permit, of non-custodial penal provision.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the prison population in Britain, in percentage terms, is one of the highest in Europe? Given that fact, is it not now time to consider whether certain offences, particularly perhaps offences in relation to drunkenness, should be removed from the criminal code? Are the Government actively pursuing policies whereby community service orders can be initiated on a wider basis?

Yes, indeed. I accept broadly the premise of my hon. Friend's supplementary question. The relative prison population in Britain is not the highest, but it is one of the highest, in the developed world. This in itself is a reason why we should question whether our procedures are right.

Provision was made for the decriminalisation of drunkenness in the Criminal Justice Act 1967, which I had the privilege of piloting through the House but not of implementing. I am sorry that for a variety of reasons that measure has not been more completely implemented. One would like to see it implemented to a greater extent. However, I assure the House that the full implementation of this measure, although desirable in itself, would not, in numerical terms, have any very significant effect upon the prison population.

We are anxious, within the constraints which are necessarily placed upon resources, to extend community service orders as rapidly as we reasonably can to the whole country. I believe that in the substantial number of areas in which they can be applied now they are proving to be extremely useful and effective.

Any Member with a prison in his constituency will be aware of the problems of the overcrowding of prisons. Does the Home Secretary agree that it would be rather Gilbertian if, instead of making the punishment fit the crime, he were to give even the appearance of making the sentences fit the prisons?

I congratulate the hon. and gallant Gentleman upon the neatness of his supplementary question, but I am not sure that neatness of expression solves the very real problems which are involved. There is a great problem of strain upon resources. Even if we had limitless resources, which we certainly do not—the expenditure of which hon. Members opposite certainly, and hon. Members on this side, should not advocate in present circumstances—we should not in the short or even in the medium run obtain a very great expansion in prison capacity. Therefore, we must consider how well we are using our present resources.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his recent action on bail is very welcome? Will he consider another very modest but important step, namely, the absolute prohibition on placing children in adult prisons?

I should very much like to be able to achieve the latter objective as soon as I can. I hope that, certainly as regards girls, we shall be able to move in the near future. The position in this respect causes me considerable concern. It is not easy to deal in absolutes when one is dealing with people who need secure accommodation, and when there is a lack of secure accommodation. I assure my hon. Friend that my desires, and my intention to translate my desires into fact so far as practicable, march very closely alongside his, at any rate on this issue.

I welcome the recent utterances on bail, but will the right hon. Gentleman announce what percentage of the prison population is now awaiting bail, and what possible purpose there is in keeping in prison people who dug up the Headingley pitch when we are way into the football season?

I am not sure that these pastoral considerations are of the essence of this matter. Nor is it appropriate for me to make comments on individual cases. However, the hon. Gentleman will be well aware of the general trend of my thought in this matter, which I expressed—I hope courteously, but certainly forcibly—to the Magistrates' Association last week.

Substantial progress can be made. The numbers of those occupying places in prison who are awaiting trial, who are unconvicted or unsentenced, is substantial. Although I in no way underestimate the difficulties which confront magistrates and other courts in deciding whether to allow people out, it can often be a difficult decision. It is undoubtedly disturbing that many people who are remanded in custody do not receive a custodial sentence at the end of the day. One is bound to have considerable regard to this. Although a great deal can be done, and I am trying to do it by administrative action, I greatly hope that all parts of the House will assist me in getting the bail Bill through as quickly as possible.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) on children in prison is very welcome? Does he agree, however, that it is a barbaric practice, which is a condemnation of a so-called civilised society, that over 4,000 children between the ages of 14 and 16 are sent to penal establishments every year? Will he indicate the progress of the discussions that he is having with the local authorities on the phasing out of the "unruly certificate"? Will he indicate what other more imaginative measures he proposes to take in terms of non-custodial treatment for juveniles?

Not in answer to a supplementary question. It would be a very important and wide-ranging statement. I agree that there are many blots on a civilised society—blots which exist in the penal system but also blots which, unfortunately, exist in conduct which lead to the stress in the penal system.

Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that a further effective way of reducing the prison population would be to extend to other categories of law-breaker the immunity from criminal prosecution which, on his instructions to the Thames Valley Police, was conferred upon the hippies on the Watchfield pop site?

I do not happen to know the constituency which the hon. Gentleman represents, but his question is without foundation. I do not give instructions upon operational matters to any police force in this country, not even to the Metropolitan Police Force, of which I am the police authority, and still less to other police forces for which I am not the police authority. I gave no instructions to the Thames Valley Police. In so far as that was suggested by certain people and believed by the hon. Gentleman, it was done, to some extent, in order to create trouble out of a difficult situation.

Detained Persons (Police Powers)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has any plans to give the police new powers to hold persons in custody without arrest or charge.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the existing law, resting as it does on ageing cases and unenforceable or, at least, unenforced judges' rules, means that there is uncertainty and confusion in a sensitive area of civil liberties where there should be sensitivity and clarity? Does my right hon. Friend agree that this can only engender feelings of suspicion and grievance against the police which must harm them in the long term? Rather than allow this area of friction and suspicion to develop, would it not be better to provide a clear legislative restatement of police powers in this area so that the police and the individual citizen know exactly where they stand?

I attach importance to the application and implementation of the judges' rules. If they are not applied, that counts very much against the police when the prosecution process is developed. However, they are applied in the overwhelming majority of cases. I am not sure whether this would be a matter suitable for a clear legislative statement. In any event, as my hon. Friend will be aware, there is pressure upon me to legislate within the sphere of the Home Office. Therefore, the pressures for me to try to obtain legislative time are very substantial. I shall bear in mind what my hon. Friend has said but I cannot hold out an early prospect of legislation, even if I were convinced that a legislative statement would be right.

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House what developments there have been from his reference—I believe this is correct—to the Chief Constables' Association over a year ago regarding consideration of the rules whereby persons who are sometimes kept in custody by the police are denied access to their solicitors?

I am anxious that the rules in that respect should be applied. I remind the House that the judges' rules do not require access to a solicitor to be granted in all cases. If a person is in custody the rules make access possible subject to the proviso that

"no unreasonable delay or hindrance is caused to the processes of investigation or the administration of justice."
I attach importance to that being so. I shall note the hon. Gentleman's point, as I am sure will chief officers of police who are concerned in the administration of this difficult matter.



asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will introduce legislation to amend the law on shoplifting.

No, Sir. The issues of law are indistinguishable from those in any other form of theft; the issues of fact are best resolved by a court.

If my hon. Friend is not prepared to introduce legislation on shoplifting, is he prepared to increase the number of guilty people who are prosecuted for such offences and to diminish the number of innocent people who are prosecuted?

As in almost every other aspect of the criminal law, there is the matter of detection, assembling the evidence, and proper proof before the criminal courts. I am aware of some of the difficulties that have arisen in relation to shoplifting, but almost all of them arise from questions of fact which have to be decided by the courts in due course.

Does the Minister not accept that the introduction of supermarket shopping has been largely responsible for the rapid increase in shoplifting? Further, does he not accept that only by insisting that supermarkets take preventive measures will shoplifting be reduced?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the working party's report indicated ways in which the shopkeeper should take steps to try to prevent shoplifting. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that the Government should legislate against self-service shops, which have proved to be of considerable convenience to most members of the public.



asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent representations he has received regarding the law relating to rape; and if he will make a statement.

I have received a number of letters from interested organisations and individuals making representations about the decision of the House of Lords in DPP v. Morgan & Others. As my hon. Friend is aware, this issue is being examined by Mrs. Justice Heilbron's advisory group, whose report I hope to have before the end of this Session.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many people appreciate his swift response to the request for an investigation into the law on rape? Will he now assure the House that after the Heilbron Committee has reported, and if he thinks legislation is necessary, he will take action early in the next Session, either by bringing forward a Bill of his own or by supporting an apppropriate Private Member's Bill?

When I appointed Mrs. Justice Heilbron and the four other members of the advisory group—an action which I think received fairly general support—I asked that they should let me have a report by about mid-autumn. I am now confident of receiving the report by the end of this Session or before the beginning of the next Session. Clearly, I must consider what the report says, but if I had intended to take any delaying action on this matter I would have encouraged the group to share with me some of the delay rather than put the whole of the responsiblity upon myself.

Will the right hon. Gentleman also consider another area of the law in which there may be lessons to be learnt from the case of the Cambridge rapist—namely, the public display of pornographic material and the boom in blue films? Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the Government have not ruled out far stricter control in that area during the next Session, along the lines of the previous Conservative Government's Bill?

As I have told the House previously, although I did not by any means entirely dissent from the purpose of the Conservative Government's Bill, I did not think that it stood up in Committee. I think it came apart very badly at the seams.

That is clearly a matter of opinion which I would not expect the hon. and learned Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) to share. It is my opinion put forward with firmness but with due humility. It is certainly the case that the position in relation to films, although not necessarily arising from exactly the point of view of the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane), will emerge in the Law Commission's report on conspiracy, about which there are other Questions on the Order Paper today. I shall bear in mind closely the contents of that report and other considerations.

Hotels (Fire Precautions)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement about the effect on small hotels and boarding houses of the implementation of the Fire Precautions Act.

We appreciate the problems facing small hotels and boarding houses, and we are always prepared to consider difficulties arising in individual cases, in consultation with the fire authority concerned.

I declare an interest in the industry. Does the Minister accept that hardship and delay in implementation is being occasioned to keepers of small hotels and boarding houses because of the continuing lack of uniformity in the rules relating to the introduction of adequate fire precautions throughout the United Kingdom? Is she aware that in the company with which I am connected 10 out of the 11 hotels have had identical fire instruction notices accepted, but this has been rejected, by one authority, namely the Greater London Council, yet that two out of the three hotels within the GLC area have found this notice acceptable? Will she take it from me that there is a great deal too much "paper pushing" surrounding the implementation of the Fire Precautions Act and too little action, and that quicker implementation undoubtedly would follow the introduction of uniform guidelines laid down by the Home Office?

We seek to obtain general uniformity, but it is up to the local fire authority to assess the needs and possibilities in each case. Each occupier is required to take only such fire precautions as are reasonable in the circumstances of his case.

Will the Minister accept that however well-intentioned are the provisions of the Act—and the legislation received all-party support in this House—its implementation has raised practical and financial problems for hoteliers small and large? Is it not right that the Department should look again at the implementation of the Act, since the contribution made by the tourist industry to this country is a positive one and we should not endanger it?

I agree that difficulties are imposed on the hotel industry, which is already suffering from inflation and rising costs. We have introduced tax reliefs and a loan scheme but, regrettably, the present economic situation does not make it possible to extend the scheme.

Shrewsbury Picket


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether the special review committee dealing with the remaining jailed Shrewsbury picket has completed its investigations; and if he will make a statement.

The special review has been completed. The Parole Board has felt unable to recommend parole, and in these circumstances I have no power to grant it.

Is it not about time that the Home Secretary recognised that Des Warren is a political prisoner, nothing more and nothing less, despite the fact that my right hon. Friend and his colleagues constantly protest about happenings in South Africa, Uganda, Spain and the rest of the world? That is why Amnesty International has taken up Des Warren's case. Why does not the Home Secretary do something positive about the situation and act in accordance with the way he has preached about other political prisoners throughout the world? Will he not do something at home—namely, release Des Warren?

No, Sir. I recognise hardly anything of what my hon. Friend said. I should have thought that I had made it clear sufficiently often by now that my hon. Friend would understand that I mean what I say. I believe that in this matter the Parole Board should make its decision. In the other case it made a favourable decision, but the circumstances in which Mr. Warren appeared on report on 26 occasions in five different prisons hardly made the case very favourable for parole.

I wish my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Lewis) would keep quiet for a moment. In these circumstances I have made it clear that my view is that the Parole Board should consider the matter, and it has considered it. I do not accept the fact that Mr. Warren is a political prisoner, nor, I understand, does Amnesty International, which has informed us that it is reconsidering its provisional decision in this matter.

Does not the Home Secretary find it alarming that those who have been convicted in our courts of serious offences involving allegations of intimidation and physical violence against other work people should become the new folk heroes of the Left of his party?

I have stated my opinion on many occasions, and I hope that I have maintained it in practice in the administration of the law. I have nothing to add.



asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he now has any plans to introduce legislation about squatting.

The report of the Law Commission on the law in England and Wales relating to conspiracy, which will deal with offences of entering and remaining on property, is expected in January. When it is received and considered the Government intend to introduce without delay comprehensive legislation to reform this branch of the law.

Does the Home Secretary agree that the recent Elgin Avenue incident underlines the extreme bitterness which will arise if those who have broken the law as it now stands are given preference over those who have not, resulting in the latter having to wait longer in the housing queue? Is there not some interim measure which the right hon. Gentleman could take to encourage local authorities, on a temporary basis—I emphasise "on a temporary basis"—to assist squatters, so as not to give the impression in 1975 that it is always the law-breaker who wins?

I do not believe that any such impression should be given, but I am sure that on consideration the hon. Gentleman and the House will agree that an adequate response to difficult situations is not ill-considered law. This is related to the law of conspiracy, which takes in a number of issues, including industrial matters, squatting, and film censorship, on which a wide-ranging, considered report is expected early in the new-year. It would not be a sensible procedure to rush in with interim legislation—assuming that I could get it through; I am still waiting for the bail Bill—before a well-considered report becomes available within three or four months.

Surely the Home Secretary recognises that the impression has been given that it is the policy of the chairman of the Greater London Council to encourage squatting. Surely such behaviour is wrong, and must be condemned.

I do not think that it is any part of my duty, in answering a Question about legislation on squatting, to make remarks about people who have to take difficult decisions. I am in favour of upholding the law, as I think I have made clear by precept and practice. I do not think it necessary to supplement this by off-the-cuff sermons on subjects on which I am inadequately informed.

Urban Deprivation


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will make a further statement on his programme for tackling urban deprivation.

In addition to the existing programmes directed to this end, the Home Office have now had extensive discussions with four metropolitan district councils in England—Bradford, Gateshead, Wands-worth and the Wirral—with whose collaboration we are seeking to develop new machinery of comprehensive community programmes for identifying and meeting the needs of the disadvantaged.

Must not the Government's welcome commitment to a more positive race relations policy be matched by a stronger attack on urban deprivation in order to benefit disadvantaged people, white or coloured? If the Government were to divert money to that purpose which they are wasting in other directions would it not transform the conditions of many inner city areas?

The hon. Gentleman's words strike a responsive chord in my breast since he, too, was a Minister with responsibilities for race relations and we know the problems of inner cities. We are treating the matter urgently, and I hope that we shall be able to do something in the near future.

Why has the Minister decided not to extend the community development projects, especially as they introduce a radical approach in tackling urban deprivation by getting people to identify and solve their own problems?

There has been no decision to curtail community development projects. So far as I am aware, the matter will continue as at present.

Amnesty International


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will give full access to British prisons to representatives of Amnesty International.

We have had no request for any such facilities from Amnesty International.

Will the Minister accept that Amnesty International is an organisation of the highest probity and has recently been extended by taking into membership the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph)? Will the Government assist Amnesty International's inquiries into the Des Warren case by holding a public inquiry into the whole judicial attack on the Shrewsbury pickets? Will my hon. Friend give some assurance that the conspiracy laws, which have been used so savagely against trade unionists in the ordinary course of picketing, will be brought to a speedy end and will allow those acting in contemplation of or furtherance of a trade union dispute properly to organise?

I do not know whether my hon. Friend realises that we have been told by Amnesty International that it will not be adopting Mr. Des Warren as one of its prisoners of conscience. As far as we are aware, the organisation has not asked to visit him in prison.

Does the Minister agree that the special review committee which looked at the case of Mr. Des Warren did so at the instigation of my right hon. Friend and that otherwise there would have been no special review? Will the Minister take note that many Government supporters and other Members of Parliament will continue to resist any attempt to interfere with the due process of law?

I am aware of that, but the fact remains that we are informed that Amnesty International has not accepted the case of Mr. Des Warren as one which it will further.

Prisoners (Correspondence)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what study he has made of the case of a Cannock constituent whose letters to his wife were stopped as these complained about his prison medical treatment; and if he will take steps to change the prison standing orders so that prisoners can at all times be allowed to communicate with their Members of Parliament.

I have studied the papers. On the first point, the rule is that a man wishing to complain about some aspect of his prison treatment, or of the actions of prison staff, must do so first to the prison authorities, giving them the opportunity to remedy his grievance. On the second point, I expect to make an early statement about future arrangements for prisoners to communicate with their Members of Parliament.

I am grateful for what my right hon. Friend has said. However, I am sure he will agree with me that there is something Gestapo-like about a situation in which a prisoner faces having parts of his letters censored or not having his letters sent at all. Does the Minister agree that it is an inherent democratic right that any individual, whether in prison, in the Armed Forces or else-where, should at all times be able to communicate with his Member of Parliament?

I do not agree that there is anything Gestapo-like in this case. That is an exaggerated use of language. While it is desirable, as far as practicable, that we should have free communication—I include those in prison—it is also necessary to run any organisation so that grievances should first be ventilated through the proper channels, and that people should have an opportunity to hear the grievances and complaints and deal with them. It would not be possible to run a prison system in a substantially different way. I assure my hon. Friend that I have made certain moves already in respect of open prisons. I am anxious that communication between prisoners and their Members of Parliament should be as free as possible.

Police (Recruitment)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps his Department is taking both to encourage the recruitment of women and girls to the police force, and to give them opportunities for promotion.

The national recruiting campaign is aimed at attracting both men and women into the police service. We are continuing to encourage forces to recruit more women police officers and to provide better opportunities for their promotion and appointment to specialist duties.

The Sex Discrimination Bill will, as the hon. Member is aware, apply to the police.

Will the Minister give more details of the encouragement that is being given to promotions, as opposed to recruitment?

The Sex Discrimination Bill involves promotion. I think that it will make it easier for women in the police service to rise to more senior appointments, and the opportunities for specialist duties and promotion will be increased.

Prison Rules


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress has been made on the reform of prison rules.

I am currently examining a number of areas of prison administration. In particular I hope shortly to lay amending rules resulting from the Golder case.

Is the Minister aware that there was confidence and expectation that there would be considerable investigation of the rules on the censorship of prisoners' letters resulting from the decision in the Golder case, and that there is profound regret at the restrictive interpretation which the Minister has placed on that judgment? Does the Minister agree that a more liberal approach to the censorship of prisoners' letters is desirable in the terms of the spirit of the Golder judgment, which has much to commend it and against which there is little argument of substance?

We have met the criticisms contained in the Golder judgment, as far as they go, in full. We are considering what lies on the frontier of that judgment. I am anxious to make progress in this area and to do so in a liberal way. It is important in these matters to take account of the views—but not necessarily to be wholly governed by them—of those who operate the prison service. I must do that and pay due regard to that while endeavouring to maintain a firm liberal sense of direction.

Cbi, Tuc And Nedc


asked the Prime Minister when he next proposes to take the chair at a meeting of the NEDC.


asked the Prime Minister when he next proposes to take the chair at the NEDC.


asked the Prime Minister when he next proposes to meet the CBI and the TUC.



asked the Prime Minister when he will next meet the TUC and the CBI.


asked the Prime Minister when he next proposes to take the chair at the NEDC.


asked the Prime Minister when he next proposes to meet representatives from the TUC and the CBI.


asked the Prime Minister when he next intends to chair a meeting of the NEDC.

I refer my hon. Friends and hon. Members to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) on 14th October.

I do not recall what that answer was. However, when the Prime Minister next takes the chair at a meeting of the NEDC will he explain to the assembled dignitaries there, and perhaps also—with the permission of the TUC, of course—to the House, why it is that, according to the latest figures published by the Brussels Commission, unemployment in this country is now higher than in any other member country of the European Community?

I gave that answer on Tuesday. The hon. Gentleman seems to have forgotten it. At the next meeting of the NEDC we shall consider an important paper on the approach to the new industrial strategy for this country, on which a great deal of work has been done by NEDC and the Government.

On unemployment, the decline in production began in the spring of 1973 under the Conservative Government. It has continued since then. The world depression has affected every country. There are a number of countries with much higher unemployment rates than ours.

If at the next meeting of the NEDC my right hon. Friend discusses the economic subjects on the agenda of the Heads of State meeting on 15th November, will he bear in mind that it would be a serious mistake to confine discussions about increasing exports to the other five countries represented, and that consideration should be given to all interested countries?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He will know that I invited the TUC and the CBI to come to me for separate meetings to give their advice about the matters which they think should be raised. There is no question of the six countries on that occasion looking only at their own internal interests or those of the group of six as a whole. Any decision which may follow our consideration of world economic problems will be taken by the regional and world-wide international organisations. Anything which affects other countries will be decided by other countries as well as our selves.

Does the Prime Minister recall that the Chancellor recently said that we must convince the world that the Government have a policy to control inflation? Bearing in mind that Government spending over the past six months is 40 per cent. higher than in the corresponding six months of last year, and that the Prime Minister appeared to tell the House in an answer on Tuesday that the Government would not be contemplating further expenditure cuts until the year after next, how does he expect to convince the world that the Government have such a policy?

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman has correctly reported what I said in the House. If he consults the Official Report he will see what I said on Tuesday about this matter. I understand that when my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer speaks at the Mansion House tonight, he may deal with Government expenditure and the public sector borrowing requirement. I am sure that he will exactly follow the practice adopted by his Conservative predecessors, but will be much more informative than they were. The hon. Gentleman and others will no doubt wish to pursue any statement that he makes.

With regard to convincing the world on the matter of our inflation policy, it is my understanding that not only the TUC, the miners and the Labour Party conference but the whole country supports the anti-inflation policy which I announced on 11th July, on which Her Majesty's loyal Opposition failed to vote but sat on their hands without having anything to say to the nation.

At the next NEDC meeting, or perhaps here, today, will the Prime Minister lift the veil on the topical row in the Common Market over the seat at the top table? Is he aware that many people in the Labour Party believe that the current dispute about the seat for Britain is no more than a smoke screen to cover up a transfer of power and control over North Sea oil from Britain to some of the other Common Market countries? Will the Prime Minister guarantee that no real transfer will take place?

My hon. Friend has misunderstood the situation somewhat. The conference about which this argument arises is not a Common Market conference but a conference, convened by the French Government, of producers and consumers, including, in contradistinction to earlier this year, commodity producers and consumers as well as oil producers. The French Government have made clear their intentions and told the Heads of Government Conference what they are doing. It is not a matter for argument among the Nine. We have suggested that it will be remarkable if it is not possible to get an agreed policy, at least by the eight countries if France pursues the chairmanship in this way. We are disappointed—as I am sure the whole House will be, and my hon. Friend—that, so far, there is no real agreement among the eight as to the policy that should be put forward. We believe that there should be. We believe that Britain has a very special position because of North Sea oil. There is no question of the Government's transferring national control and responsibility for that oil to any other body.

If the Prime Minister is correct and my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Blaker) misunderstood what the Prime Minister said on Tuesday, will the right hon. Gentleman be kind enough to say whether or not he will announce expenditure cuts in the current year? I want just a simple answer, without any flannel, please.

It is perfectly simple, and the question has been answered many times. I repeat what I said on Tuesday. In the autumn every Government look forward five years. The expenditure for this year has been approved by Parliament in the Estimates for this year. We are not proposing changes in this year's expenditure. That has been made clear in the House a hundred times. As to next year, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in his Budget Statement some cuts compared with the previous financial programme. We are now at work on the programmes for the third, fourth and fifth years, which is what all Governments do. Those with experience in government, like a few on the Opposition Front Bench—very few—know that cuts for the current year are usually highly counter-productive and uneconomical.

Is the Prime Minister aware that he has not answered the supplementary questions put by my hon. Friends the Members for Blackpool, South (Mr. Blaker) and Chingford (Mr. Tebbit)? Does he agree with the Opposition that further Government expenditure cuts are essential, and when will he announce such cuts?

Yes, I did answer the question. I was asked whether there would be cuts for this year. I said that the Estimates had been approved by Parliament and that they remain. That is a clear answer that we are not cutting for this year. With regard to cuts for the future and the expenditure review which we are undertaking, normally at the turn of the year a Public Expenditure White Paper is published. We started that practice, and it has been followed for several years. That White Paper will set out the Government's expenditure programme for five years ahead and will embody the results of the review which is now taking place.

Before my right hon. Friend chairs the next meeting of the NEDC will he listen carefully to the voices of those who represent the textile industry in Lancashire? Will he take the opportunity to meet the textile workers and their representatives in Lancashire, perhaps tomorrow, but, if not, at some future date?

I am aware of the concern about the textile industry, and a statement has been made in the House. I shall be in Lancashire tomorrow, when I have a full programme of engagements meeting representatives of the textile unions. I have this afternoon given a Written Answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Noble)—[Interruption.] Hon. Members may laugh at my pronunciation—

The workers of Rossendale will note the frivolity with which hon. Members approach the problems of the textile industry. I have said that the right thing will be for a meeting to be held between myself, my right hon. Friends principally concerned and members of the United Textile Factory Workers' Association, on a local and national level, in London, and that has been arranged.

Following the Prime Minister's answer to the Shadow Leader of the Opposition—the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner)—will the right hon. Gentleman take into account, when he wishes to be separately represented at the conference, that North Sea oil is Scotland's oil and that he should be making arrangements for Scotland to be represented?

I have heard that view put forward before by the hon. Gentleman. I understand that Shetland does not regard it as Scotland's oil but as Shetland's oil, or at least the greater part of it. As it is the policy of the Scottish National Party to allow a free decision as to the devolution of Shetland and Orkney on a Faröese basis, the hon. Gentleman had better be careful should he ever be in a position to give them that choice. It will never be Scotland's oil. They want Britain to handle it.

With respect, the Prime Minister's remarks about public spending have added to the confusion rather than clearing it up. Are we to have any further spending cuts, or trimming of programmes, that have not yet been announced, to take effect next year?

I have already made it plain. The hon. Gentleman is one of the most highly literate but not one of the most highly numerate hon. Members. He may understand if I repeat my remarks. The Estimates for this year have been approved by the House and the expenditure proposals for next year were announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget Statement this year. I have been concerned with the Government—like every other Government in past years—with expenditure in the third, fourth and fifth years of the five-year rolling programme.

The Prime Minister is answering supplementary questions on expenditure in relation to Estimates and not actual expenditure. Is he aware that actual expenditure this year is running at 47 per cent more than over the comparable period last year? If he does not intend to cut expenditure—and I understand that he does not—he can finance that extra expenditure only by taking more tax away from the pay packet or by more inflation. Which will he do?

As far as I know, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has no supplementary Budget in mind for this year. Our record on the printing of money is a great deal better than that of our predecessors. The money supply figure since we returned to office reflects a Government with responsibility—not like the Government of which the right hon. Lady was such a loyal member.

My right hon. Friend is dealing with the borrowing requirement and will answer Questions on it in the House. The right hon. Lady should know that at the end of every year there are sometimes Supplementary Estimates and sometimes shortfalls in expenditure. It is a pity that she never served on the Public Accounts Committee, or she would have known these things. Knowing the right hon. Lady's well-known commitments to massive cuts in public expenditure, I shall simply tell her that if she will send me any proposals we shall consider them on their merits.

The Prime Minister knows that the Government have already spent more in a half year than the increase budgeted for in the whole year. Where is he going to get that expenditure from? Will he give one straight answer?

I have made clear that we do not intend to increase public expenditure. As far as I am aware, there is no intention to introduce a supplementary Budget this year. This is being met on the borrowing requirement, and my right hon. Friend will make a statement.

Questions To Ministers

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In Prime Minister's Questions today, we have not even taken Question No. Q2. May I appeal to you, as a matter of order, to urge the Prime Minister, in answering Questions, not to take eight Questions together and as a consequence prevent even Question No.Q2 from being answered?

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sorry-that, because of the repetitive questions put to me by hon. Members opposite, I could not reach Question No.Q2. The House, as you will recall, has often considered these matters. Some Prime Ministers have aggregated right up to 24 or 25 Questions and sometimes done three or four.

After complaints, which were considered, I made a statement in which I made the suggestion that the aggregation should be automatic up to 10 but not beyond. On this occasion, partly through the withdrawal of Questions at the last minute, a large number of the remainder proved to be really the same Question, and I had to follow the rule which the House has agreed by answering them together. I regret that I was not able to tell the hon. Member that I have no immediate plans to visit Rochdale.