House Of Commons
Thursday 5th May 1977
The House met at half-past Two o'clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Shrewsbury And Atcham Borough Council (Frankwell Footbridge) Bill (By Order)
Order for Third Reading read.
To be read the Third time upon Thursday next.
City Of London (Various Powers) Bill Lords (By Order)
Emu Wine Holdings Limited And Subsidiary Companies Bill Lords (By Order)
Orders for Second Reading read.
To be read a Second time upon Thursday next.
Greater London Council (Money) Bill (By Order)
Read a Second time and committed.
Heritable Securities And Mortgage Investment Association Limited Bill Lords (By Order)
Order for Second Reading read.
To be read a Second time upon Thursday next.
Oral Answers To Questions
Before we begin Questions, I remind the House that I dislike having to complain that answers and questions are too long. I hope that right hon. and hon. Members will bear that in mind this afternoon.
European Parliament (Direct Elections)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether the Government have yet decided what system of voting to recommend to the House for direct elections to the European Parliament; and if it is his intention to consult the House before presenting a Bill.
The Government will put their conclusions on these matters before the House shortly.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that only a very small number of hon. Members had the chance to express their views in the debate? Would it not be very much better, before we have the Second Reading of this Bill, for the House to be afforded an opportunity to debate and vote upon what system of direct elections we should have, if we are to have direct elections at all?
I am certainly taking that into account. In view of Mr. Speaker's instructions on the length of replies, I will simply say that there are those who argue, contrary to the view of the hon. Gentlemand and that such a Bill must be considered as a whole rather than that these issues should be taken separately.
But is that answer not simply a cover-up for some private agreement between the Prime Minister and the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel)? Why should the obvious requirements of constitutional protocol be subordinated to a stay of execution for the Liberal Party?
I do not follow that convoluted thought, but a major constitutional question is involved in the issue of direct elections, and I think that due consideration should be given to it.
We have been going along saying that it is a major constitutional issue, that there is this way and that way, this view and that view, and that it is all very difficult. But is it not the Government's job to get over difficulties? When is the right hon. Gentleman actually going to produce some idea as to how he intends to resolve the difficulties about which he constantly tells us and which, of course, we also appreciate?
All the points that the right hon. Gentleman has encapsulated are still the case. We shall produce our ideas soon.
Children And Young Persons Act
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received concerning the working of the Children and Young Persons Act since the publication of the White Paper, Command Paper No. 6494.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress he has made in carrying out the proposals detailed in the White Paper on the Children and Young Persons Act published in May 1976.
My right hon. Friend has since May 1976 received representations from a number of hon. Members, juvenile court panels and clerks to the justices and from organisations about the working of the Children and Young Persons Act 1969.For progress made in carrying out the proposals in the White Paper on the Children and Young Persons Act 1969—Cmnd. 6494—I would refer the hon. Members to the answer given to a Question from my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk) on 4th May.
Is not the key question whether the Government are to amend the 1969 Act in order to give juvenile courts the powers that they need to deal with hardened offenders?
The Government set out their response to this question in the White Paper that was issued in response to the Select Committee's Report. We believe that juvenile courts should not make secure care orders and that the responsiblity for the placement of juveniles should be with the local authorities. But subject to that, and within that principle, we are discussing with magistrates, local authorities and all other interested parties how to get around the question of the hard core of determined offenders—which I believe is a very small minority.
Is the Minister aware of the widespread concern among magistrates throughout the country that at the moment they have no power to ensure that a juvenile offender who should be placed in a secure environment for his own safety and for that of the community, may not, in fact, be sent home? Will he follow the recommendations of the Expenditure Committee and take steps to introduce a secure care order?
We made it clear that we were not accepting the recommendation in that respect. Of course I understand the concern of the magistrates in that direction, but the question of a secure care order would blur the responsibility for the treatment of young offenders between the local authorities and the courts. I do not believe that to be desirable.
But is it not a fact that for the hardened and persistent young offender the time has passed for treatment and the time for punishment has arrived?
I do not believe so. I do not believe that the hon. and learned Gentleman really believes so. If he has discussed it—and I know that he has—he will have found that the amazing thing is that there is no agreement between the authorities as to how large this problem is. No one has any idea what the hard core consists of.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will now extend the attendance centre system as recommended by the Expenditure Committee in its Eleventh Report on the Children and Young Persons Act.
Consultations are in hand with a view to a modest extension of the junior attendance centre system.
Is the Minister aware that some years have passed since the Eleventh Report was published, and that hooliganism and youth crime have gone on continually? Should not the Government give a more effective answer than to say that the matter is still under consideration? When will they do something about this problem?
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was listening when I answered his Question, or whether that supplementary question was prepared in advance. What I said was that we are having consultations with a view to a modest extension of the present system.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will introduce further penal measures to combat football hooliganism.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what discussions he has had with interested persons and organisations concerning measures to deal with those involved in football hooliganism.
I have already had one meeting with representatives of the police and the football organisations and I plan to hold a further meeting soon at which my ministerial colleagues and I will review the position with them.With regard to penalties, the Criminal Law Bill proposes an increase in the maximum summary fine for some of these offences to£1,000. I have also begun consultations with a view to extending the junior attendance centre system.
Is the Home Secretary aware that many people would agree with him that these increased fines, while welcome and helpful, are by no means the answer to the problem, partly because of the practice of having a whip-round to raise a kitty to meet the fine? Is he aware that many people concerned with these matters feel that a better answer would be to deprive these thugs of their liberty for a period—especially on Saturday afternoons—but that the facilities for doing so at present are inadequate? Will he pursue this aspect?
It is a matter for the magistrates to make their judgment on a whip-round. But if the hon. Gentleman would consider, first, junior attendance centres and community service orders, I think that he would find that there are means now available for getting people away on a Saturday afternoon. What I have been considering is the possibility of these people having to report to police stations. I have talked to the police about this and they are not very keen on it. They would much prefer the attendance centre and community service. Reporting to a police station would apparently require many extra policemen.
Will the Home Secretary tell us whether amongst those he has consulted has been his hon. Friend the Minister responsible for sport, who in the last debate on sport spoke particularly in support of the attendance centre system? Will he explain to the Minister responsible for sport why he is willing to increase the number of attendance centres for juniors—there are 60 at the moment—but is apparently quite unwilling to increase the number of senior attendance centres for the 17-to-21 age group, of which there are only two, and this is the group in which football hooliganism is particularly rife?
I know the interest of the hon. Gentleman in that subject. I think he will know that the Advisory Council on the Penal System has advised us that in its view an attendance sentence for the 17-to-21 age group should be discontinued in favour of the use of other custodial measures, such as community service orders. In penal policy I take into account the views of those people who spend their lifetime involved in this area.
Does the Home Secretary agree that as a matter of penal policy we should be encouraging the use of community service orders for this kind of offence? Is not the truth that the facilities are not readily available in many centres?
I do not think that is true, but this is not the time to run through the list. Community service is still developing quite rapidly throughout the country even at this time of financial stringency. I have discovered since becoming Home Secretary and going around the country that the community service order system is giving excellent results.I pay tribute to the previous Administration for introducing the scheme.
Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance to the House that the measures being attempted with regard to the banning of genuine spectators going to other grounds is a temporary expedient? Does he accept that those people who live near football grounds who are being disturbed and genuine supporters of football clubs welcome strong measures being taken against the minority of hooligans?
I think that my hon. Friend's last point is absolutely right. As I have told the House before, I live within a quarter of a mile of the Leeds United ground, and my neighbours and I—they far more often than I—are affected by this problem. My hon. Friend's question about my right hon. Friend the Minister responsible for sport and any arrangements that he has made in conjunction with the Football League, and so on, is not a matter for me. But those arrangements, which the sporting clubs have made themselves, do not have the force of law.
Fines and detention are all right, but does the right hon. Gentleman agree that restitution for damage done to property is far too seldom ordered by magistrates?
I am on dangerous ground. Such power is available to magistrates. It is right that they should know our views, but in no sense will I interfere with their freedom to impose the sentences that they judge to be right.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that while we abhor the disturbances and problems created inside sports stadiums we also take a positive dislike to those who commit serious vandalism and cause injuries to the public outside football stadiums, and that whatever steps are taken by his Department as necessary to stamp out such activities will have the full support of the country?
I know that there is public concern about this whole problem. I have given it serious consideration. When one considers the detail, tribute should be paid to Rugby League football. My hon. Friend represents a very good Rugby League town. It is worth investigating why there is remarkably little trouble in Rugby League, even at Wembley. There may be something in that. [HON. MEMBERS "What about Rugby Union?"] I should be the last person to praise Rugby Union—that goes without saying.
It is much too soon for the Home Secretary to decide to do away with senior attendance centres, of which there are only two. Is not the way ahead to continue with the experiment, which is cheap and effective, and keeps this class of hooligan offender out of circulation for a considerable time?
The two centres are an experiment. All I was giving was the advice given to us by the Advisory Council on the Penal System. The advice that it gives is that community service is better for this age group. It is worth considering the view of such a body, and I have to take it into account. But these are value judgments, not absolute judgments. In penal policy, absolute judgments are usually wrong.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the vast majority of people in this country would consider it a thoroughly commonsense solution to make sure that, by one means or another, these football hooligans should be unable to attend the football matches at which they cause trouble? If that is so, should he not use the combination of attendance centres and community service orders, to which I am glad he paid tribute, because I believe that they are a great success? I support my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Royal Tunbridge Wells (Mr. Mayhew) in suggesting that the right hon. Gentleman should not be too hasty in doing away with the senior attendance centres. Is it not reasonable to ask that magistrates should at least have their notice called to the possibility of using these measures to stop hooligans from attending football matches on Saturday afternoons?
Certainly it is possible—and, obviously, it is done, although not necessarily in a formal way—for such notice to be drawn. I shall not repeat the view that I gave just now. It is the combination of those steps that is important. The other day, I read the report of the Norwich v. Manchester United match, and there was one thing that struck me. Very young boys act in an incredible way. When their team loses, they cry. Tears which one would expect from a young child seem also to come from these kids. It is an extraordinary situation. So the sort of view we take may be wrong because we just do not understand the problem.
Obscene Publications Acts
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has plans to revise the Obscene Publications Acts.
The departmental committee which the Government are to appoint should first be allowed to carry out its comprehensive review of the law on obscenity, indecency and censorship.
I welcome the setting up of that departmental committee. May I ask, with all suitable humility, whether it will consider the reccommendations for the amendment of the Obscene Publications Act, which I suggested in a Bill last year that had all-party support? May I also ask whether anyone who is interested will be able to give evidence to the departmental committee and, in view of the widespread concern on the subject, whether some of the evidence will be heard in public?
The answer to the hon. Gentleman's first supplementary question, is that the review will cover the Obscene Publications Act and the common law on obscenity and indecency. Evidence will be given to the committee, but it depends on the chairman, when the committee is set up, whether there will be any public sittings.
May I, as one who is very broadminded and not a bit prudish, ask whether the Minister is aware that magazines that are available on public bookstalls and are sent to me by constituents who have bought them are circulating among schoolchildren, and that not only the pictures but the articles in them are extremely corrupting to those of tender years? Is there anything that can be done to limit that sort of thing happening in the meantime, before the committee reports?
:The committee will be looking into restrictions on indecent displays and also into Customs and postal controls on indecent and obscene material. That, I think, covers everything that the hon. Gentleman has in mind.
Comprehensive Community Programmes
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the cost of each comprehensive community programme in England, Scotland and Wales.
Comprehensive community programmes are being developed in Gateshead and Motherwell at an estimated cost of£35,000 and£50,000 respectively, over the period 1976–78.
Does the Minister recall that his Department aimed at dealing with these urban problems within five years? After three years of neglect and, by a remarkable coincidence, just before the local elections, does he really think that he can resolve the problem in two years?
Of course not. I do not believe that the period 1976–78 will provide the solution. I am saying that the establishment of comprehensive community programmes in the two areas will teach us a great deal more about deprivation in those areas than we know at the moment. The hon. Gentleman, above all, should realise that these problems are much more complex than anyone in the House understood to be the case 10 years ago.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what aspects of urban deprivation the comprehensive community programmes will principally seek to alleviate.
The complex problems of urban deprivation are combined in different ways in different parts of the country. Comprehensive community programmes are intended to provide a flexible but comprehensive approach to tackling the problems that characterise urban deprivation in a particular local authority area.
I am slightly mystified by that specific answer from the Minister. May I ask how he can tie that in with the Home Office Press notice of three years ago, which said that these problems would be dealt with within five years by such a programme?
I do not know the Press notice to which the hon. Gentleman refers, but if he finds nonsensical the statement that there are different combinations of deprivation in different areas I can only say that he does not understand the problem and that he ought to study it before asking questions on it.
Will the Minister be kind enough to spell out whether the programme in Gateshead and the other place will specify the problems, or actually deal with them? Does there not seem to be confusion in the Home Office which was not there when the Press notice went out on 18th July 1974?
There are three stages in dealing with this matter—first, to establish an index of the particular types and combinations of deprivation which exist in the particular area; secondly, to devise methods for dealing with them; thirdly, to draw up a programme which includes not only the local authorities but the local government departments for that area, with a view to tackling the problem.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the answers to the last two Questions, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is satisfied that the trading methods employed by food supermarkets do not encourage shoplifting; and to what he attributes the simultaneous increase in the number of food supermarkets and the number of shoplifting charges being brought.
The number of persons proceeded against or cautioned by the police for shoplifting in England and Wales rose from about 70,000 in 1971 to about 107,000 in 1975. Figures for offences in different types of shop are not available, and I cannot therefore say how far, if at all, the increase in the number of food supermarkets contributed to this increase. Trading methods are a matter for the retailer, but I am glad to be able to tell the House that my noble Friend the Baroness Phillips has recently accepted our invitation to join the Home Office Standing Committee on Crime Prevention as a representative of the Association for the Prevention of Theft in Shops.
Will the Minister accept from me, after discussions with magistrates and solicitors, that the problem involved in the weekly food shopping at supermarkets is wholly different from the activities which attract headlines in the West End of London? Will she also accept that the trading methods employed by the supermarkets are directly responsible, because of the reduction in the numbers of staff, for the increase in food supermarket shoplifting? If she accepts this, will she further accept that it is unsatisfactory for the Home Office to continue to say that it is up to the stores, and that if it is known that a given system increases crime the Home Office has a responsibility to look very carefully at the system which prevails?
I appreciate that the hon. Member has a very keen interest in and knowledge of shoplifting, but I remind him that the working party set up by the Home Office on internal security made recommendations that were concerned mainly with prevention rather than with detection and that it did not recommend any Government legislation or Government action. The recommendations were addressed to the retailers, and the Government are doing everything possible to encourage the retailers to adopt them.
Is not the danger of a mistaken charge of shoplifting much greater in a department store than in a supermarket, because in a supermarket people are reminded to pay by having to go through turnstiles?
As I said in my first answer, we do not have any figures for offences in different types of shops, but I am sure that all these points are taken into consideration by those who run the shops.
Is not the most disturbing aspect of shoplifting the fact that the big increase is among children? Is the Minister aware that the police believe that this occurs largely because of the great increase in truancy from schools? Will she consider this very seriously with the Department of Education?
I shall certainly consider with my right hon. and hon. Friends the aspect that the hon. Gentleman has raised.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what complaints he has received about officials dealing with the entry into the United Kingdom of Chilean refugees.
There is no record of any complaints about individual officials of the Immigration and Nationality Department or staff of the Immigration Service at the ports.
But as the Scottish adjudicator, a Mr. Aitcheson, has refused entry to several Chilean refugees on the grounds that he considers them to have too Left-wing Socialist views, that they would simply raise the level of unemployment in Scotland and that they should go elsewhere—to Cuba, for instance—will my hon. Friend take steps now to sack this Right-wing, prejudiced lawyer, who quite clearly is not fulfilling his duties and who would be better deported to Chile where he could see at first hand what a Fascist régime is like?
For the information of my hon. Friend, the adjudicators are not officials. That is why I did not deal with them in my first reply. But neither are they answerable to my right hon. Friend for the way in which they carry out their duties. However, I am sure that they are well aware of the very strong and vocal criticism that has been made of them by my hon. Friends.
Although there may not be many justifiable complaints about the officials who handle such cases, will my hon. Friend accept that there is considerable concern that the Home Office itself is somewhat reluctant to process unhappy cases such as these of Chilean refugees with anything like the speed and magnanimity that it should show?
I cannot agree with my hon. Friend.
I have had cases.
I know that my right hon. Friend has personally looked at this matter very carefully. Every possible effort is made to process the refugees as quickly as possible. I remind my hon. Friend that the system of entry to this country is quite different from that of most other countries in that we authorise entry at the port of entry rather than after the person has entered the country.
But will my hon. Friend accept that, much as I should like to accept that answer, I find it very difficult in view of the cases I have personally raised with the Home Office, particularly the case of a woman whose surname is, I think, Garcia-Rojas, who has now come to Britain and who made an application two years ago? There were long delays in that case and there are in others.
I shall certainly look again into the case that my hon. Friend has mentioned. I can assure him that in approximately the last six months there has been a great speeding-in in the entry of these refugees.
Possibly, in the last six months.
Metropolitan Police Officers (Criminal Charges)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many members of the Metropolitan Police Force have been charged with criminal offences in the last three years.
The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis informs me that the number of officers charged with criminal—excluding traffic—offences was 33 in 1974, 32 in 1975, and 45 in 1976.
As the Secretary of State will know that all policemen are automatically suspended from duty the moment they are charged, may I ask whether he is aware that some policemen have to wait for more than a year and a half before their cases are heard in court? As that sort of delay can ruin the career of men who are later proved innocent, can he co-operate with his noble Friend the Lord Chancellor to try to find a way of giving priority to the hearing of cases involving serving policemen?
The hon. Gentleman is referring to a particular case. He has been in touch with my noble Friend about it. I have the letter here. It states:
I cannot interfere in that matter."This is a very complex case and the delay in its hearing is in no way attributable to the court. Both prosecution and defence need time to prepare for the trial and both agree that the most suitable time would be September this year."
My right hon. Friend will know that the Metropolitan Police in particular has come in for a lot of criticism from certain ill-informed quarters. Does he not agree that the numbers he has just declared are an infinitesimal fraction of this very good band of men and women who do a first-class, brilliant job for London?
The figures are very small for criminal charges. I agree with the way my right hon. Friend has spoken. What happens among the police, or Members of Parliament or anybody else in the public eye, is that the unusual cases are taken to prove the generality, which is wrong.
Does the Home Secretary recall that one of the reasons why the former Police Commissioner, Sir Robert Mark, retired early was his complaint that the future Police Compaints Board might reduce to what he called the imperfect level of criminal justice the procedure by which internal disciplines have been so effectively maintained in the past? Is there not a real danger that, thanks to the cumbersome new machinery being introduced, there will be a rise in the number of these criminal prosecutions, because there is no other effective method for internal discipline to be substituted?
The question of why the previous Commissioner decided to retire is more complex than the hon. Gentleman would know. I pay tribute to him. He has been a friend of mine for a long time.The internal procedures which are coming into force in June have been passed by this House, and I think it would be a good idea to see how they work. Having praised the police, it is important to state that the complaints against police procedures should be understood and supported by the community at large. I think we shall find that they will work.
Will my right hon. Friend inform the House about the situation of police officers who come under an inquiry order from the chief constable—whether they are suspended from duty during the inquiry or whether they are suspended once they are charged? Which is it?
I do not know the answer to that question. Suspension is a problem. It is something that hangs over the head of a policeman for a long time. But I shall check at what point of time the suspension is made.
Does the Home Secretary agree that he has given an imprecise impression in suggesting that there is only one case of the kind raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart)? As he knows, there are hundreds of police officers falsely accused who are suspended from duty, who are later found to be innocent but whose careers have suffered in the meantime and their wives and families have been pilloried. I hope that the Home Secretary will put the matter into better perspective than he has done so far.
It is not a matter of proper perspective. I was answering the point on which the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) is writing to me, which the hon. Gentleman does not know about. I gave the precise answer to that. I was talking not about complaints procedure but about one case about which his hon. Friend is concerned. In terms of criminal charges, the hon. Gentleman is wrong. He is referring to the complaints procedure, which is a separate issue about which we were not talking. As to how to answer it, I agree that there is a problem in that respect, but it is not the point that the hon. Member for Beckenham was talking about.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that when charges are apparently well founded there should be suspension? Can he give an undertaking that before suspension is entered into steps are taken to ensure that the charges are not purely malicious and unfounded?
There is a great difficulty here in the suspension and the procedure under the complaints arrangement, as opposed to the criminal case. There are problems, as I know when I go around the country, but we shall look at that point carefully. I know that chief constables—who, after all, have rights in this matter, as they should have—will take into account what the hon. Gentleman has said.
Obscenity Laws (Committee Of Inquiry)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will now give the names of those who are to serve on the committee which is to inquire into the obscenity laws.
We have as yet nothing to add to the reply given to the hon. Member's question on 25th February.
When will the Minister announce the setting-up of this committee? When will she say who will be its chairman? Can she at least tell us what its terms of reference are?
The answer to the first question is that we have announced the setting-up of the committee, but we have not, I agree, announced the name of the chairman or the names of the members. We shall do so as soon as possible, and we are making every possible speed.
Will the hon. Lady give further consideration to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) earlier this afternoon? Is she aware that in a number of shops material is freely available which is grossly offensive, often in sweet shops where children congregate? Is she aware that it is essential that something should be done about the matter without waiting for her committee to be set up and to report?
The question of how to deal with this matter has always been the subject of great controversy and discussion. Therefore, I think it would be extremely useful to have the recommendations of the committee, which will look into the points that concern hon. Members.
I am most grateful, but the Minister did not answer my last question concerning the terms of reference of the committee.
As soon as we can announce the names of the chairman and the members of the committee, certainly the terms of reference, which I hope will be very wide, will be announced.
Police Officers (Family Income Supplement)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what information he has received about the number of policemen's families who have applied for family income supplement; and how many families have applied for financial help from the various police benevolent funds over the last complete12 months.
Police forces are not necessarily informed of applications for or payment of family income supplement, but I have been told of 31 applications, 13 of which were successful.A policeman in his first year of service would qualify for family income supplement only if he had at least four children and received no overtime pay, assuming that he was living in a provided house. Force benevolent funds have been in existence for many years and, amongst other things, make grants and loans to meet short-term problems in particular cases. I understand that in the 12 months to 31st March 1977 about 470 grants and loans were made.
Does the Minister agree that there is increasing evidence of the need for policemen to apply for aid from one source or another? At a time when in many counties overtime opportunities are being restricted and when, under the terms and conditions of service, policemen are not allowed to take second jobs or take lodgers in their own homes, is it not rather disgraceful that their present rate of pay makes it essential for them, to look elsewhere for help?
I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman that the figures that I have read out are evidence of a very great number of married police officers who are applying for family income supplement. The number is in fact relatively small, considering the total number of people in the police force.
Although the number of officers receiving family income supplement that was cited is small, is it not nevertheless disturbing to the country that police officers have to resort to this? In this month's issue of the magazine Police details are set out of the police case on their claim for pay, and various cases are cited. Will the Home Office present the departmental answer to the allegations made in this statement, so that hon. Members will have the opportunity to judge for themselves whether or not the case is well-founded?
I repeat that for a policeman to qualify he has to have at least four children and receive no overtime pay. As for the general pay policy, as the House must know, phase 2 is on the table for the police.
My hon. Friend will be aware that earlier we were given figures about the honesty of policemen, by and large. May I put it to her or to her right hon. Friend that it is very important that as these people are expected to be absolutely perfect in the job they do it is about time that the salaries associated with the job encouraged them to be perfect?
I remind the House that in phase 1 of the pay policy the police received a 30 per cent. increase, but I still agree that the maintenance of good police pay is essential for the running of the service.
Will the hon. Lady take into account that many police officers—I think the House will understand this—may feel that as a matter of pride they should not apply for family income supplement? Secondly, will she convey to her right hon. Friend the fact that all these questions add up to the urgent need to reach a settlement of this very unhappy dispute at the earliest possible moment?
I certainly agree with the last words of the right hon. Gentleman. Obviously it is up to the police, to some extent, as well as the Government. But I do not think that anybody should be ashamed of claiming family income supplement. It is not a matter either of pride or of shame.
Immigration Rules (Dependants)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will define the term "dependant" in relation to the immigration rules.
I refer the hon. Member to House of Common Papers 79 to 82 of 1973—Statements of Immigration Rules for Control on and after Entry—as amended.
Will the right hon. Gentleman refresh my memory now, please?
Of course I shall. I shall do the same for myself. Under the legislation, the basic dependants are wives and children under 16, as I think the hon. Lady knows. Above that there is a discretion. That answers the question simply. The details are before me—but I should show myself up if I read them instead of showing that I know them.
The Minister said "wives", in the plural. [Interruption.] It is not a laughing matter. Last week, in answer to a question from me, he admitted that certain people can bring in four wives and 12 children and be entitled to housing for those four wives and 12 children. Does he not know that this is causing a lot of trouble in areas where there is stress—and not only to the poor man with four wives?
I answered the question of my hon. Friend. The answer is that—in the words of Eliza Doolittle—it "hardly ever happens".
Are fiancées sometimes treated as dependants? If so, why?
No, they are not treated as dependants, because that would not fit the book of rules that the hon. Lady and I know so well.
Prime Minister (Engagements)
asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 5th May.
asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 5th May 1977.
asked the Prime Minister if he will list his engagements for 5th May.
This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be holding further meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. This evening I shall be welcoming President Carter on his arrival in this country.
Will my right hon. Friend send an urgent message today to the Queen, warning her that her speech yesterday appears to have upset the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mrs. Ewing) and other loyalists in the SNP, who now appear to be intent on replacing the Monarch by another "Old Pretender" who has ambitions of becoming Winnie, Queen of Scots?
I am afraid that I cannot begin to compete with my hon. Friend, whose remarks seem to be as much in tune with the sentiment of this House as was the speech of Her Majesty yesterday.
Among the Prime Minister's engagements today is his appearance at the Dispatch Box this afternoon. Does the letter from his secretary to the Clerk of the Select Committee on Procedure, on the matter of Prime Minister's Questions, mean that in future the right hon. Gentleman will be prepared to deal with Questions relating to important issues on foreign and defence matters but not with Questions relating to important issues in the domestic sphere? Do the Government accept the recommendation of the Select Committee? If so, do they have the intention of implementing it?
I thought it appropriate to wait for a few days before making a statement to the House on this matter, I suggest that I may do so next Thursday, when I have received a response to the recommendations of the Select Committee. The hon. Gentleman will know, from the fact that I not only instigated the inquiry but made the proposals, that I shall not be unfriendly to the recommendations.
Is the Prime Minister aware, following the question from his hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan), that, speaking as a member of the House of Stuart who owes loyalty to Her Majesty, it is my opinion that there might be better claimants to the Throne than the one mentioned by the hon. Gentleman? Is it correct that it is a constitutional convention that Her Majesty's pronouncements in Parliament represent Government policy? If that convention still exists, does the Prime Minister accept responsibility for Her Majesty's address to the Houses of Parliament yesterday?
That is a question that I thought I might be asked, and I should like to give a considered reply to it.Unlike the speech from the Throne, the Queen's reply to the Loyal Addresses was not a statement of Government policy. It was a personal response by the Queen, but it should certainly be regarded as having been made on the advice of Ministers, as are all Her Majesty's speeches. I saw it myself before it was delivered and I saw no reason to propose any alteration. If the right hon. Gentleman cares to read it again, he will see that the speech specifically recognised the strength of feeling for the devolution of government to Scotland and Wales, and emphasised the benefits to all of maintaining the integrity of the United Kingdom. That is, and remains, the policy of Her Majesty's Government.
As my right hon. Friend's duties today include a warm welcome to the President of the United States, will he be in a position to discuss with President Carter a most interesting, democratic idea put forward recently by the President, namely, that a member of the Press should be present at Cabinet meetings in the United States? Is not that an idea that might usefully be employed in the United Kingdom as well?
Sometimes I wonder whether they are not. The answer to my hon. Friend is that although all of us are always in favour of as much open government as we can provide, there are, nevertheless, occasions when people want to discuss things quietly among themselves, without the all-intrusive eye of the Press being present. I can tell my hon. Friend what would happen if one did admit a member of the Press to Cabinet meetings. There would then be small conclaves in smoke-filled rooms where the Press was not present. It is far better that this should be done on a regular basis.
Is it part of the Prime Minister's open government that the report of the Review Body on Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration should have been leaked to the medical Press this morning? Is he aware that he has had that report on his desk for more than a month? Is it not rather a shabby way to treat the profession to allow the matter to come out in this underhand way? What is in the report that the Prime Minister is so frightened of it?
I fear that the answer to all parts of that question is "I do not know".
May I revert to the Prime Minister's considered reply of a moment ago? Is he aware that it was very much preferable to many of his unconsidered replies? The sentiments that he expressed represent not just the policy of Her Majesty's Government; they are totally in accord with the views of the majority of the people of Scotland regardless of their political persuasion.
My answer to the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's question is that if there were not so many unconsidered supplementary questions there would not need to be so many unconsidered replies.I agree with the second part of the right hon. Gentleman's question. The House gave a Second Reading to the devolution Bill by a substantial majority, and I think that it would be useful if the House could agree to make progress on the Bill, even if certain changes need to be made to it, to meet the real demand of the Scottish and Welsh people. Then they can decide the matter by a referendum.
asked the Prime Minister when he next plans to meet the President of the CBI
I met some of the leaders of the CBI, including the President, on 15th February. Further meetings will be arranged as necessary.
When these further meetings are arranged, will the Prime Minister be discussing phase 3? Following thedecision of the engineering workers' union yesterday, is phase 3 now dead? If so, should not the Prime Minister phase himself out and put the matter democratically to the test at a General Election?
I note the glee with which the Opposition meet every possible obstacle that is placed in the way of securing an incomes policy. I trust that the country will note, it too. I read this morning that the AEUW's rejection of a phase 3 yesterday was met by the rejection of a decision to go for a big and high wage claim.If the Opposition really wish to help, I think that they can best do so by not attempting to drive wedges in a situation in which the whole economic future of the country is at stake. It would also help if we knew whether, if ever there should be a Conservative Government, at a moment like this they would be trying to secure an incomes policy, or whether it would be a free-for-all, with the sky as the limit.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that if the Conservative Party had its way the economy would be in utter chaos? Will he, none the less, accept that phase 3 and the social contract are now severely in question, and that many members of the trade union movement and leaders of the trade union movement are finding themselves under tremendous pressure? The only way to meet this pressure is to move from the present policy towards partial reflation of the economy and to take into account the fact that bigger wage increases must be given, otherwise the project will burst wide open.
I agree with the first part of my hon. Friend's question—that the Opposition have no policy for dealing with the economic situation that confronts this country. It is that which gives me additional strength to pursue the difficult policy that we are following.On the second part of my hon. Friend's question, I think, with respect, that he is repeating some of the things that I have said about the next phase of incomes policy. We all know the pressures that have built up on differentials and other matters, and I have indicated, as has the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that over the next two to three months we must try to work for a policy that will restrain these pressures, whilst recognising the real problems that ordinary people have in their daily lives. The Government will be ready to reflate the moment our economic situation seems to put us in a position to do so. Things are going the right way. Our reserves are the highest ever. They were at a record level yesterday. Interest rates are steadily coming down. [Interruption.]The shouts from the Opposition cannot drown the fact that building society rates will also be coming down again soon. These matters are moving in the right direction, even though the Opposition do not care to admit it.
When the Prime Minister next sees the CBI, will he be kind enough to tell its members whether he thinks that it is the employers or the trade unionists in Britain who are not sufficiently responsible to be trusted with a return to free collective bargaining?
I should not dream of talking to either group about this in terms of responsibility or lack of responsibility, because that is not the best way to get an agreement. What is clear is that, because of the pressure of circumstances, employers are frequently tempted to offer high rates, and that is then followed by other employers in order to get labour. This is a difficult situation. We have all been trying to handle it. The Opposition have failed time after time. We have also failed in the past. Now the future of our country is involved, and we are going to make another effort at solving the problem.
If the Prime Minister is so pleased with his economic performance, will he explain to the House why the only European country to have a worse record on inflation than ours over the period of the Labour Government is Iceland?
With respect, the right hon Lady is selective in her choice of statistics. [Interruption.] The right hon. Member for Knutsford (Mr. Davies) should keep quiet after the untruth that he told about me yesterday. It would not come amiss if he were to apologise, and I hope that he will do so. [Interruption.] I hope that he will raise a point of order on this.My reply to the right hon. Lady's question is that the truth is that if one takes the three years separately one sees that the rate of inflation has improved in the third year by comparison with the first and second years. The reason for the situation in the whole period which the right hon. Lady took is the increase in money supply, which worked its way through in the first 18 months of Labour Government. [Interruption.] It is no use the Opposition trying to dodge their responsibility for this. If the right hon. Lady were not so selective she would not take the period from March 1974, because she knows what happened then. She knows what happened to the money supply then. The truth—and I think that I know the figures from which the right hon. Lady is quoting—is in Hansard, in replies that I have given. [Interruption.] I know that the hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) is the right hon. Lady's lap-dog and that he puts down Questions from which she draws the answers. I know that. I am bound to say to the right hon. Lady that, as she knows, if she looks at the third column of those figures she will see that the rate of inflation is improving and that she has selected the wrong instance.
Why, then, were the Prime Minister and his colleagues claiming in the last election that they had inflation licked and that it was 8·4 per cent.? On that basis, it is now 19·9 per cent.
The figure of 8·4 per cent. was quoted over a period of three months. What I should like to hear from some responsible member of the Opposition—if, indeed, there are any —is whether the Opposition deny the forecasts that are now being made that inflation will continue to come down in the second half of this year and the first quarter of 1978.
Official Report Correction
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the Prime Minister's remarks, may I raise this point of order with you? Can the House be protected from this situation? In the hearing of my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself, during Prime Minister's Question Time on Tuesday the Prime Minister answered a Question on the subject of the attitude of mind of the Maputo conference by saying that it had always been the Government's purpose to give humanitarian and other aid to liberation movements, and he did not specify which liberation movements.When Hansard appeared the following day we saw that it had corrected that statement, but The Times of the same day repeated exactly what we had heard the Prime Minister say. Hansard corrected that statement and eliminated the word "always". The report read:
I expressed to the Foreign Secretary my relief that that change had been made. [Interruption.] I call the right hon. Gentleman to witness that I expressed my relief. I shall read what I said."We have given humanitarian and other aid to liberation movements".—[Official Report, 3rd May 1977; Vol. 931, c. 226.]
From the beginning.
I shall willingly repeat precisely what I said, which was:
and so on. I said that that was a relief to those on the Opposition Benches. The Prime Minister now declares that I have misrepresented him in what he said. Mr. Speaker, may I now point out that I have received a letter from the Editor of the Official Report saying that he was in error in having corrected the phrase which we all heard—[Interruption.]—and which the Prime Minister actually uttered. [Interruption.]"Does the Foreign Secretary accept that there are two matters for relief? The first is the correction made to Hansard, by his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, to the words that the right hon. Gentleman actually used in replying to me yesterday on this self-same subject, in which he said—and I quote The Times—that…".—[Official Report, 4th May 1977; Vol. 931, c. 433.]
Worse than Wilson.
Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. The complaint that I have is that the right hon. Gentleman alleged that I had altered Hansard. [Interruption.] If am allowed to, I shall repeat his words. He said:
As I have always understood it, it is the most serious offence for an hon. Member to go to Hansard to correct his own words. Mr. Speaker, if the right hon. Gentleman had been in touch with me—[An HON. MEMBER: Or to send anybody.] Or to send anybody. [Interruption.] Sometimes I wonder about the standards of hon. Gentlemen opposite. I did not go to Hansard myself. I have made inquiries at No. 10, and nobody went on my behalf. Nobody having any responsibility to me has altered the words in Hansard. What I complain of about the right hon. Gentleman is that a simple inquiry at No. 10 yesterday morning would have shown him that I had done nothing of the kind, nor had anybody on my behalf. That inquiry would have saved the headlines in a newspaper this morning stating "Callaghan Alters Hansard." It is totally false and untrue, and I expect the hon. Gentleman, having made a direct allegation, and having told an untruth about it, to apologise.
"The first is the correction made to Hansard, by his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, to the words that the right hon. Gentleman actually used in replying to me yesterday…".—[Official Report, 4th May 1977; Vol. 931, c. 433.]
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I point out that not only the Opposition Benches heard but the report in The Times clearly recorded and reported the Prime Minister's words, but Hansard appeared in a different form. There is every evidence that a correction has been made. I repeat that the letter that I have received from Hansard is a disgraceful action because it invalidates the very questions that we had occasion to put to the Foreign Secretary yesterday.
Order. I do not think it is to the advantage of the House to pursue the matter. There has clearly been a misunderstanding between two right hon. Members of this House.The Prime Minister has made it clear that neither he nor his servants altered Hansard at all, and I think the House will have heard that answer and will accept it.
Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am quite ready to leave the matter there, because the House, I hope, will know what I have said and what is the truth. It is, of course, only a matter of good taste whether the right hon. Gentleman withdraws his charge. [Interruption.]
Order. There are a lot of hon. Members jumping up to pursue this matter on a point of order. I believe I heard the right hon. Gentleman say that the Editor of Hansard had taken responsibility for a mistake in altering Hansard.
Order. The House has heard the exchange.
Typical of Thatcher's party: the modern Tories—shoddy little men.
Order. The hon. Gentleman really must not give way to these outbursts. I am considering the goodness of the House in this matter and I believe that to pursue it when we have had clear statements is of advantage to no one.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I understand that the Prime Minister has accepted your suggestion, but this is a matter that concerns every Member of this House, because it may happen to others and not only to the Prime Minister.The right hon. Gentleman has said to the House—and he was listened to carefully—that the Editor of Hansard has said that an error has been committed. But the burden of complaint against the right hon. Gentleman is that, without taking any steps to make sure whether the Prime Minister had corrected Hansard or not, he publicly committed himself to that statement and thereby committed the serious offence of alleging that the Prime Minister had done something unparliamentary and wholly out of keeping with his record of over more than 30 years. The right hon. Gentleman ought now calmly to get up and apologise for having done that.
On the same point of order, Mr. Speaker. I willingly accept the letter that was sent to me by the Editor of Hansard in which he takes the blame for this correction, and therefore I totally accept that. But I cannot, I am afraid, withdraw my concern at the fact that a statement that was clearly made by the Prime Minister, heard by us all reported in the Press, was then otherwise reported in Hansard and corrected since
That has nothing to do with the Prime Minister.
The House knows me well enough to know that I would never make a statement in disrespect to the Prime Minister without due cause.I withdraw wholly anything which in any sense is thought to damage the Prime Minister's honour or position in this matter. That was not my intention. I do, however, maintain the objection that I made originally to you, Mr. Speaker, that this House was led by the reporting in question to put questions to the Foreign Secretary which were not in respect of the real responses of the Prime Minister.
Why do you not just apologise?
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I have always found the right hon. Gentleman a fair controversialist. He has now said that he withdraws the charge that I altered Hansard. I am very content to leave it at that, and I thank the right hon. Gentleman for withdrawing.
Private Notice Question—Mr. Winston Churchill.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Order. I must tell the right hon. and learned Gentleman that there is no advantage, when the Prime Minister has accepted the statement, in pursuing the matter.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The position as it has been left is that Hansard is not at present a true record of what was said, and, as I understand it, what was admitted to have been said. My right hon. Friend has accepted what the Prime Minister said by way of explanation. Are we not entitled to ask of the Prime Minister that he should do what he is now entitled to do; namely, to have the record put straight?
The House knows that ultimately I am responsible for Hansard, and I shall see that the necessary correction is made.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I, of course, want the record to be accurate, and I am willing to accept any verdict that Hansard cares to pass. But if I am asked, as I was a moment ago, what I actually said, I am bound to tell the House that I do not quite remember whether I used the word "always" or not.
Order. I shall make inquiries of the Editor of Hansard. Mr. Churchill.
Mr Colin Smith
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement about the position of the journalist, Mr. Colin Smith, lately arrested by the authorities in Zaire, in view of the threat to his life.
Mr. Smith was detained by the Zairian authorities on 27th April, after crossing the border apparently from Zambia in company with a Spanish television crew. He was visited in Kolwezi Prison yesterday by our honorary consular representative in Lubumbashi, who reports him to be well fed and in good spirits.Our ambassador in Kinshasa has taken up Mr. Smith's case with the Zairian authorities. His reports indicate that there is now no threat to Mr. Smith's life. It also now seems unlikely that the Press conference, at which he and others also arrested were to appear, will be held in Kinshasa as previously announced. The ambassador is keeping in close touch with us.
I express my gratitude to the Foreign Secretary for his statement. The family of Mr. Colin Smith and his colleagues, as well as many other people in this country, will be relieved to learn that there is no longer any threat to his life.Is the Foreign Secretary aware that we in this House appreciate the difficulties of the situation facing the Government of the Republic of Zaire, following the invasion of their country by forces backed from Angola and by the Soviet Union, and that in the confused situation, particularly in Shaba Province, it is not easy for foreign journalists to operate? Is the Foreign Secretary further aware that Mr. Colin Smith is a most distinguished correspondent of the Observer newspaper, and that he was in 1974 selected as the international journalist of the year and has a high reputation in this country? It is clear that he was acting in his capacity of bona fide journalist and correspondent and not in any way from an ulterior political motivation. Will the Foreign Secretary do all in his power to bring the facts to the attention of the Zairian authorities and seek the early release of Mr. Smith and his fellow journalists?
I will certainly do what I have been requested to do. I will keep in close personal touch with the situation. I hope that this message has brought some reassurance to Mr. Smith's family and colleagues. There is a complex and confused situation in Shaba Province. I recognise that there was no evidence of any motive by Mr. Smith other than that of reporting events. I am sure that the Zairian authorities, with whom we have good and close relations, will understand that and will deal with the matter as fairly and expeditiously as they can.
Business Of The House
May I ask the Leader of the House whether he will state the business for next week?
Yes, Sir. The business for next week will be as follows:MONDAY 9TH MAY and TUESDAY 10TH MAY—Progress in Committee on the Finance Bill. WEDNESDAY 11TH MAY—Supply [17th Allotted Day]: a debate on agriculture. Afterwards, a debate on EEC 1976 Document R/1668 and 2578 on animal health, R/2109, 2021 and 2614 on beef and veal, and on R/863/77 on CAP prices. THURSDAY 12TH MAY—Further progress in Committee on the Finance Bill. Motion on the Social Security (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Northern Ireland) Order. FRIDAY 13TH MAY—Private Members' Bills. MONDAY 16TH MAY—Until 7 o'clock, consideration of Private Members' motions. Afterwards, Second Reading of the Post Office Bill.
May I raise two points with the right hon. Gentleman? He will observe that we have used our Supply Day for one of the urgent matters raised last week, namely, agriculture. Is it the Lord President's intention to provide a foreign affairs debate in Government time before the Belgrade Conference, and has he any news about whether we are likely to have a debate on the Bill relating to direct elections before the recess?
On the second matter, I cannot yet tell the right hon. Lady the date of the introduction of the Bill relating to direct elections. On the first question, I know that she has previously made representations about a debate on foreign affairs prior to the Belgrade Conference and I suggested that it might possibly be a Supply Day subject, but I shall consider the representations she has made for it to take place in Government time, without making any commitment here and now.
As the three EEC subjects proposed for Wednesday are all substantial and are largely distinct from one another, is it proposed that there should be more than the usual hour and a half allotted to the importan debates on these matters?
The proposition at the moment is that we should have only the hour and a half, although I realise that they cover different topics. On the other hand, some of the matters will have been touched upon—perhaps not exhaustively—in the debate which take place that afternoon on the Supply Day. Some of the subjects would certainly be in order then, and might be discussed. I fear that I cannot promise any further time to discuss these subjects.
Can the Lord President provide time in the near future to discuss the situation of highly specialised hospitals which find their budgets constricted by entirely local considerations? Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that it is more than a fortnight since he told me that I should be hearing from DHSS Ministers about the situation at St. Mark's Hospital? I have not so heard.If my right hon. Friend cannot provide time for discussion of this on the Floor of the House, could he use his influence to obtain a clear, concise account of the case for and against the closing of a ward of St. Mark's Hospital? I am confident that when that is done, the case against closing it will be seen to be overwhelming.
Of course I am fully aware of my hon. Friend's concern about this matter. He raised it in the Easter Adjournment debate and I promised him then that I should make some inquiries which I did. When the House resumed I informed him about some of the discussions. I will certainly make fresh representations to see whether we can deliver to my hon. Friend as speedy an answer as possible.
As the Lord President is unable to give an undertaking that there will be a debate before Whitsun on the direct elections Bill, is it the Government's intention at least to produce the Bill before Whitsun? If not, can it seriously be suggested that the Government are using their best endeavours to get the Bill through in a reasonable time?
I certainly understand the interest in the House about the Bill. Furthermore, I understand the point that the hon. Gentleman has raised. I cannot, however, add anything to that which I told the right hon. Lady earlier.
Reverting to the EEC documents for next Wednesday—I believe there are seven—can my hon. Friend be a little more explicit about the timing? We could surely have a debate lasting an hour and a half on each document allocated in the Orders of the Day if we chose. Will the Lord President confirm that the document on CAP prices is the substantive regulation which puts into force the prices recently agreed by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in Brussels?
I should like to look at the actual resolution on the CAP prices before I answer my hon. Friend, who is certainly an expert on these subjects. If the full time were to be taken on all the EEC propositions and measures that come here, the time of this House would be inordinately consumed. I have always accepted in discussions with my hon. Friend and others who are especially concerned about the matter that we have not solved the problem of providing proper time for these matters to be debated. However, I must say that next Wednesday we are not proposing to extend the time beyond that by which it would normally be extended—namely, an hour and a half after the vote, if there is a vote, on the Supply Day motion.
Will the Leader of the House keep in mind that it is a long time since we had a debate on immigration and that there is a strong feeling, both inside and outside this House, that we ought to have one fairly soon, preferably before the Whitsun Recess?
I know there is a request for debates on immigration and on some of the immigration regulations that have come forward. I am afraid that I cannot add anything to what I have indicated generally. I recognise that there is a desire in various parts of the House for these debates.
In view of the widespread concern about the unemployment of young people, which was again highlighted on a very important and useful television programme last Sunday morning to which the Secretary of State for Employment made a significant contribution, will my right hon. Friend now give priority for a debate in this House in which the Secretary of State could again discuss some of these points and give Members an opportunity to make their contributions?
Of course, we recognise the importance of the subject. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment has made clear, discussions have been taking place between the Manpower Services Commission and his Department and the Department of Education and Science to produce proposals, especially on the question of unemployment amongst young people. I cannot yet indicate the exact timetable on which those measures will be brought forward. Obviously, these are matters which will have to be debated in this House when they come forward, and it may be that some of the debates on the Finance Bill can also touch on these questions.
Does the Lord President recall that on a number of occasions recently the Minister of State, Department of Industry has refused to answer questions on Post Office matters on the basis that he has no ministerial responsibility? On the radio this morning, however, he was happily making a statement as the Minister responsible for the Post Office and telling us all what a marvellous thing it was that our telephone bills were to be reduced. Would it not be a good idea if the Lord President invited his hon. Friend to come to this House and make a statement, so that those of us who feel that those who can afford telephones are unfairly having a rebate, while those who cannot afford to send a letter are not able to get a reduction of postal charges, will have an opportunity to question him?
That is a very churlish reception of the announcement that has been made. I do not believe that many people up and down the country would think that that was a very good contribution to the discussion. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that there are certain divisions of responsibility as to what may be said in the House and the responsibilities of Ministers for these matters as compared with those of the people who are operating the industries concerned. I do not believe that my hon. Friend has broken or merged that responsibility in any sense.
Order. I propose to call only the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who are on their feet. There is an important statement to follow.
Perhaps I can be helpful to my right hon. Friend. There are a number of experts in this House—not too many—who want to discuss the EEC documents and all that pertains to them. I think that we all appreciate that it is a great heartache to the Members of the House generally when important matters of this kind almost go by default because they are not taken until after 10 o'clock at night. We all understand that. But what has just been illustrated—seven orders, I think, have been mentioned—in reality represents 10½hours' debate, which anyone with any common sense will know that is quite impossible to contemplate from 10 o'clock at night onwards.Morning sittings have been sneered at and jeered at in the past, but it seems to me that, through the usual channels and discussions with those interested in these matters, morning sittings could be used. There could then be debates for those who are concerned and any votes on the matter could take place at the appropriate time in the later part of the day. Is not that helpful, or is that a waste of time as well?
I am sure that my right hon. Friend is seeking to be helpful, although he knows that the experiment of morning sittings which was tried some years ago was not a 100 per cent. success. Therefore, I am not sure that we should repeat it now. However, I am not saying that we exclude the possibility.Two Committees are considering these matters now. One is the Committee on European Legislation &c., and it is reporting to the House. It will suggest any improvements that it may have for dealing with this kind of EEC legislation. The Procedure Committee, too, can take the matter into account.
Since, last month, the Price Commission recommendations in regard to the publicly owned British Gas Corporation were rejected by the Government, and since, this month, the recommendations about the prices charged by the publicly owned Post Office Corporation have been accepted, will the Lord President agree that there is a need for a debate about the rôle of the Price Com mission pending its abolition?
As I am sure the hon. Gentleman is aware—if he is not, his question is remarkably inapposite—a Bill on the Price Commission and price controls is going through the House at the moment. I do not know where he got such an extraordinary idea as the abolition of the whole Price Commission.
May we have a debate, either on the Floor of the House or in Committee, on my Early-Day Motion No. 302, praying against the Statutory Instrument which would give the Secretary of State for Scotland power to discontinue courses at Scottish colleges of education? Would it not be reducing parliamentary democracy to an absolute farce if the Secretary of State were to take these powers without parliamentary approval, when the proposed college closures and mergers have been opposed, not only by Parliament but by the whole Labour and trade union movement in Scotland?
[ That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Teachers ( Colleges of Education) ( Scotland) Amendment Regulations 1977 ( S.1., 1977, No. 634), dated 29th March 1977, a copy of which was laid before this House on 7th April, be annulled.]
I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will take into account all the representations from my hon. Friends on the subject and the views which were expressed in the House about it. But those consultations are not yet complete. It was a question of consultations when the House debated the matter.
Is the Lord President aware that there is growing concern in this country about the inadequate sentences available to the courts in dealing with crimes of violence, rape and wilful damage against property and the person? While I appreciate that we have had debates on law and order in the not-too-distant past, will the right hon. Gentleman allow time for a debate on this very important subject, which is of growing concern to the majority of people in this country who are law-abiding and who see that the law does not provide them with the protection which is required?
I make no comment on the merits or demerits of that matter. I cannot promise an early debate on the question, although measures are going through the House on which some of the hon. Gentleman's points can be raised.
So that hon. Members may draw their own conclusions about when we might see the direct elections Bill, will the Lord President at least arrange next week for a statement by the Government on what conclusion the Government drew, and the Cabinet agreed, as to what the House wanted, following the two days of debate, by way of an electoral system in that Bill?
I gather that the hon. Gentleman is asking for a Government statement on that question. I cannot add anything to what I said to the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition on that subject. We said that we should consider the debate. We were asked to provide a period for a debate, which we did, and the Government are still considering that debate.
Is the Leader of the House aware that I was told last week in a Written Answer that the report of the Review Body on Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration had been sent to the Prime Minister as long ago as 4th April, though the right hon. Gentleman seems to have been unaware of that fact? Is it not time that we had a statement on that report? Is the Leader of the House aware that it is widely rumoured that there is some uncomfortable criticism in that report of the Secretary of State for Social Services on his handling of the junior doctors' pay settlement last year? Does he not think that it would be as well to get that matter cleared up as quickly as possible?
I have not read the report. Therefore, I cannot accept any secondhand or third-rate criticisms of my right hon. Friend which might be contained in the report and relayed to the House by the right hon. Gentleman. The Prime Minister replied to him a few minutes ago, saying that he would look at the matter if he put down a Question, and that is what we shall do.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, in his statement on Monday, undertook to keep the House informed about events in Northern Ireland. He has thought it right to stay there for the time being and has asked me to give this report on his behalf. I am appreciative of the few hours' leave today.We are now half-way through the third day since the stoppage announced by the United Unionist Action Council was due to come into effect. The first day was a day of uncertainty. A number of people did not turn up for work: these were mainly in the engineering sector of industry. The police reported numerous complaints of intimidation, but most of these were telephone threats which the police were unable to check. On the second day the turn-out was better, but some of the intimidation became more blatant. Today, the indications are that the turn-out for work has been the highest yet, with most firms reporting a very good attendance. Traffic is flowing freely, although the police have had to clear some road blocks—usually of telegraph poles or trees—and there have been some suspect or hoax car bombs. Although the harbour at Larne has been closed, most public services have continued to operate in a near-normal fashion. Bread and milk were being delivered normally this morning. The story of the last two and a half days is of the people of Northern Ireland behaving with courage and determination, often in the face of threats or intimidation, by firmly demonstrating their desire to work normally. In this resolve they have been encouraged and supported by the good sense and moderation of responsible leaders of opinion in Northern Ireland, including those in this House, to whom I am pleased to pay tribute. Trade union leaders, shop stewards and other workers' representatives have also given courageous leadership to their fellow workers. This also applies to the CBI and the various chairmen of the chambers of trade and commerce. It is these workers who are showing the bravery to protect their jobs and thereby to protect the whole economic future of Northern Ireland. I would like also to pay tribute to the RUC, which has given further demonstration—if that were needed—of its ability to act as an impartial and effective force. The Chief Constable has assured my right hon. Friend that his force, supported as necessary by the Army, will continue to do its utmost to ensure that all those who wish to do so can continue to go to work. Finally, to those who are understandably concerned about the continuing terrorist violence in Northern Ireland I repeat the message given by my right hon. Friend on Monday. We are not complacent about the present security situation. We appreciate the feelings of frustration in Northern Ireland from a community that has had to suffer so much for so long. But we are convinced that the method chosen by the UUAC and its supporters is not the way to improve matters. It distracts the security forces from their efforts against the Provisional IRA, and a continuation of present tactics by the supporters of the strike will only aid the terrorists.
I welcome the right hon. Gentleman's statement about the turnout for work today. We join warmly in his tribute to the courage and good sense of Northern Ireland working people as a whole, and we assure the Government of our full and continuing support for necessary steps to protect their right to go to work in peace.
I thank the Conservative Opposition for the support that they are giving us. I readily assure the hon. Gentleman that the Secretary of State and my other colleagues in Northern Ireland are fully appreciative of that support.
Does the Minister of State recognise that the course of events of the last few days is proving the commitment of the overwhelming majority of people in Northern Ireland to constitutional action and to the maintenance of the rule of law? Is he aware that it is the determination of my hon. Friends and myself to see that they are not disappointed in putting their confidence there?
May I once again thank the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends for the assistance and good help that they have given us in this situation? I find it frustrating, as the Minister in charge of commerce and manpower in Northern Ireland, that the police and security forces, including all the detective forces that we have there, are now deployed in looking into active intimidation instead of being able to get on with the job of detecting the terrorists and putting them behind bars.
Is my hon. Friend aware that all of us on this side of the House, too, warmly welcome the fact that the strike has not had the evil effects which some predicted and that a lot of common sense has been shown? There have, however, been some peculiar reports, which he may be able to clarify. For example, some reports have said that the power workers—this is a key matter—were coming out on strike and others have said that they were not. Can my hon. Friend say anything more specific?
The power workers have been pushed to the front in this issue, which is not their wish. I should just like to say that the power stations are working normally and were fully manned this morning.
This is clearly not the time to ask searching questions about contingency plans. I should like the Minister to accept that my right hon. and hon. Friends and I totally support the actions of the Secretary of State. We salute the courage of the people and the officers of Northern Ireland, and in particular we pay tribute to the Royal Ulster Constabulary, for which this must be a desperately difficult and delicate assignment.
I thank the spokesman for the Liberal Party very much indeed. I can only add my compliments to the House. It has been fully behind the Secretary of State in the actions he has taken, and we are very appreciative of that fact. It has shown everybody in Northern Ireland that the House of Commons, bar one Member, is on a certain side.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the lessons of the last few days in Northern Ireland seem to indicate that the two communities are democratically reaching out towards one another in order to achieve a lasting peace, and that those who are exacerbating the situation are now clearly seen to be who they are and what they are? Should not one of them, in the interests of democracy in Northern Ireland, carry out his threat to resign from this House?
:I do not think that I should go as far as my hon. Friend on that. I do not know what reports have reached the House, but in the Northern Ireland Press and on television last night a Member of this House has now firmly committed himself to being on strike and has stopped drawing his parliamentary salary.
Order. I propose to call the three hon. Members who have risen.
I echo the support that my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) has given for the actions so far taken, but can the Minister give the House an assurance that there will be no discussion with the leaders of the strike on any constitutional issue at all as long as the strike continues?
One of the leaders of the strike is a Member of Parliament in his own right. It would be unconstitutional if a Member of Parliament who came to meet a Minister was turned away. But if the hon. Gentleman is referring to the bully boys and paramilitaries, I can give him that assurance.
The Minister's opening remarks reported, rather refreshingly, that during the first two days and on this third day things were getting better for people going to work. He also said that unfortunately, on the other side of the coin, during the first two days intimidation and threats grew. Are they continuing to grow, or is there a welcome sign that this counter-trend is not going on and that those concerned are beginning to realise that intimidation will not work?
My reports confirm, and it seemed so to me as I travelled through Belfast on my way here this morning, that a lot more people are going to work. Also, my information is that the intimidation and picketing have been stepped up rather aggressively. I believe that one of our colleagues suffered an unfortunate occurrence in one of the disturbances this morning.
I join my right hon. and hon. Friends in welcoming the Minister's statement. Is he aware that I was in Londonderry last weekend and that, when meeting members of all sections of the community in Northern Ireland, I found hardly one person who supported the present strike as a way of achieving their legitimate demands of the British Government? In saying that, may I ask the Minister yet again to state very clearly that it is the British Government's intention to step up their campaign against the terrorists? Only by doing this and removing them from the community will it be possible—I join the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) in saying this—to return Ulster to peace and prosperity so that that very fine and loyal Province can play its part in the economy of the United Kingdom as a whole.
Certain things have been happening on the security front, and they were reported by my right hon. Friend on Monday. I do not think it would serve any useful purpose for me to go over the figures, except to say that we are certainly not complacent about the security situation in Northern Ireland and that all that can be done will be done to rectify it.
LOCAL AUTHORITIES (RESTORATION OF WORKS POWERS)
Mr. Secretary Shore, supported by Mr. Secretary Rees, Mr. Secretary John Morris, Mr. Joel Barnett, and Mr. Reginald Freeson, presented a Bill to amend provisions of certain orders made by virtue of section 254 of the Local Government Act 1972 so as to restore the powers conferred by those provisions on certain district councils: and the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow and to be printed [Bill 1161
Statutory Instruments &C
Motion made, and Question put,
That the draft Family Law Reform (Northern Ireland) Order 1977 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.—[Mr. Thomas Cox.]
The House proceeded to a Division—
Mr. HARPER and Mr. THOMAS COX were appointed Tellers for the Ayes, but no Member being willing to act as Teller for the Noes, Mr. SPEAKER declared that the Ayes had it.
Question accordingly agreed to.
Motion made, and Question put,
That the draft Stock Exchange (Completion of Bargains) (Northern Ireland) Order 1977 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.—[Mr. Thomas Cox.]
The House proceeded to a Division—Mr. HARPER and Mr. THOMAS Cox were appointed Tellers for the Ayes, but no Member being willing to act as Teller for the Noes, Mr. SPEAKER declared that the Ayes had it.
Question accordingly agreed to.
Business Of The House
Motion made, and Question put,
That, at this day's sitting, the Motion in the name of the Prime Minister for the Adjournment of the House may he proceeded with, though opposed, for a period after Ten o'clock equal to that spent on the Proceedings on the Motion relating to House of Commons (Services).—[Mr. Thomas Cox.]
The House proceeded to a Division—
Mr. WALTER HARRISON and Mr. DORMAND were appointed Tellers for the Ayes, but no Member being willing to act as Teller for the Noes, Mr. SPEAKER declared that the Ayes had it.
Question accordingly agreed to.
Official Report (Printing)
I beg to move,
That this House doth agree with the Select Committee on House of Commons (Services) in their Fourth Report relating to the size of Hansard
I should announce that I have selected the amendment in the names of the hon. Member for Newham South (Mr. Spearing) and other hon. Members.
Perhaps I should begin by making it clear to the House that the issue at present is whether the size of Hansard should be changed from the large royal octavo—the present size—to the A4 size, which is slightly larger, as recommended by the Services Committee.The House will recall that when we last discussed this matter on 15th March, my hon. Friends the Members for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) and Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) supported an amendment which, in effect, asked the House not to agree the Services Committee Report until more comprehensive information had been provided, including evidence from the Officers of the House. That amendment was carried and the Services Committee complied speedily with the wishes expressed by the House. The members of the Committee conducted their investigation into the proposals of Her Majesty's Stationery Office afresh, taking evidence from House and Stationery Office officials, and in their Fourth Report, published on 31st March, reaffirmed their recommendation that Hansard be changed to A4 size. Now that this further information is available, I hope the House will feel able to come to a conclusion fairly swiftly this afternoon. I should like first to dwell briefly on the points raised during the last debate, especially by those who supported the amendment. Both my hon. Friends felt that if one of the arguments for change was that standardisation led to economies, Hansard should be looked at not in isolation but together with all parliamentary papers. The more papers included in standardisation, the more the savings would be. I do not deny the logic in this suggestion. The Report makes it clear, however, that the present Parliamentary Press will be re-equipped in two new presses, the first to be set up in 1978–79 and the second a couple of years later. Re-equipment has to be phased over this kind of time span to ensure the necessary continuity; time is needed, for example, for the installation of equipment and training of staff. The first press will be devoted principally to Hansard and the second will print all the other parliamentary papers. The page size of Hansard must therefore be dealt with as a matter of urgency whilst there is no immediate need to consider the page size of the other papers as that equipment will not be ordered for a while—not until after the Hansard press has been in operation for several months. The Services Committee points out that this will provide an ideal opportunity for HMSO to inform the House of the savings achieved before approval is given to further changes. This seems to me a sensible way of proceeding which the House will welcome. I am sure that HMSO would of course prefer a standard size for all publications—it would further reduce running costs and permit greater flexibility of machine use—but this decision, I repeat, will be left till later. My hon. Friend the Member for Newham. South conceded that there probably was a case for standardisation, but asked why it should be A4, and not A5 which is half the size. Because A4 would mean that fewer pages would need to be printed and consequently fewer pages to be collated and stitched, it would give not only a quicker service but also the maximum savings in running costs. Standardisation of all parliamentary papers to either A4 or A5 would make a large capital saving, but A4 would make a substantially greater saving in annual manpower costs—£256,000 as against£87,000. In the previous debate, other hon. Members were not convinced that the proposals would be welcomed by the House authorities, and so we carried out the further instruction of the House on that matter. Evidence was heard from the Clerk of the House, the Principal Clerk of the Table Office, the Librarian, the Editor of the Official Report and the Deliverer of the Vote. The Clerk, as Accounting Officer, fully supported HMSO's proposals because of the savings to public funds, and the other Officers said that A4 would neither significantly increase their costs nor reduce their efficiency. In addition HMSO consulted 26 libraries and all would accommodate A4 size; most users have adjustable shelving. There might even be a small reduction in shelf space. I should like to underline the main advantages of the proposals, but before I do, I should like to emphasise how urgent it is that we should have a decision. Further delay will place the equipment programme at risk. Already the uncertainty is having, as the evidence indicates, a detrimental effect on the feelings of the staff of the Parliamentary Press. HMSO must replace its present plant; it is not only obsolescent but also inadequate because of the great growth in parliamentary printing, which is now equivalent to printing three national newspapers a day. I have always thought myself that we have seen a remarkable achievement by HMSO and that the House has, to some degree, taken it for granted. As these figures indicate, there has been an enormous increase in the amount of work that has been done and is likely to have to be done by the printing presses. Quite simply, as the evidence indicates, without a change the present high standard of service given to this House by HMSO is in danger of collapse. Indeed, some of the Officers from the Stationery Office who gave us evidence deplored, as Members of the House have deplored on a number of occasions, the times when there has been a deterioration in the supply of