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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 933: debated on Thursday 16 June 1977

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

Home Department

Detention Centres


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is satisfied with the present régime in detention centres.

Within the current constraints on manpower and expenditure, régimes in detention centres continue to operate satisfactorily, but they are kept under review.

Does the Minister of State recall that the original idea of the detention centre was that it should offer a short, sharp shock to the offender? Does he agree that there are certain types of offender for whom that is a particularly appropriate means of treatment and will he consider restoring to the régime in detention centres something that will provide a brief treatment in a disciplined environment for offenders such as hooligans and vandals.

I would not have thought that the régime in the centres was a free and easy one. The nature of the régime is to give positive treatment, with strong emphasis on social training, so that people committed to these detention centres do not re-offend.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the régime, indeed, the whole philosophy of the detention centres is not conducive to the rehabilitation of the individual offender? Can he say what progress is being made in implementing the legislative commitment to phase out the junior detention centres, and when he expects to be able to implement it?

The Advisory Council on the Penal System, which produced the Bishop of Exeter's report, laid strong emphasis on the rehabilitation of the offender in order to prepare him for life in the community after leaving a centre. I am bound to say that at the moment there is little possibility of the phasing out of junior detention centres, in view of the constraints on resources.

For the benefit of the House will the Minister of State clarify what is the essential feature of a detention centre that differentiates it from a prison?

It is precisely preparation for full-time education in junior detention centres and full-time work in senior detention centres, and preparation for life thereafter.

Broadcasting (Annan Report)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is his policy regarding the recommendations of the Annan Committee.

As I said during the debate on the Annan Report on 23rd May, I shall consider in the light of the comments that are made on the Committee's recommendations what proposals to put to Parliament for the future structure of broadcasting.

In what form does my right hon. Friend propose to make these recommendations to the House? Is he proposing to make them in the form of a statement or a White Paper, or will he bring forward a Bill? Will he say what his proposal is, so that we may have some idea of what to look forward to?

I have not yet decided, but at this stage my mind is directed towards a White Paper before legislation.

Does the Secretary of State remember that he committed himself to giving sufficient time to debate whatever form of recommendation is brought before the House? Will he give us a reassurance now that when the White Paper is brought forward there will be sufficient time to study it before the debate?

I cannot give a commitment in a precise form, although it sounds a sensible idea that when we have the White Paper we should hear what the House has to say on what is essentially a matter for the House as a whole.

What representations have been made by the BBC about a further increase in the licence fee? Will my right hon. Friend seriously consider whether this is an appropriate way of funding the BBC in future? Will he look at the alternative ways, of advertising or using the Independent Television levy?

That matter is being discussed as part of the future. With regard to the present, there is no doubt that the BBC suffers from inflation, and the effects of inflation, the same as anyone else does.

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether the Government now propose to take action on the Annan recommendation for the allocation of the fourth network in Wales before the rest of the United Kingdom? In the meantime, will he say whether he proposes to implement any medium-term plans for the extension of Welsh language broadcasting and English language programming from Cardiff.

In the debate on 23rd May I reaffirmed the commitment to the project for a fourth channel in Wales. On 8th June officials from my Department and the Welsh Office began discussions with the broadcasting authorities on how progress might be made on the project when the funds are available so that an immediate start can be made.

May I draw the Secretary of State's attention to another aspect of Lord Annan's activities, namely, his letter in The Times today regarding the question of a fourth man involved with the Burgess case back in 1956? Does the Secretary of State agree that he should look into this matter and make a statement to the House—

Order. I do not think that that comes under the heading of the activities of the Annan Committee.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The name of Lord Annan is mentioned in the Question—

Order. It is quite clear that we are dealing here with the recommendations of the Annan Committee.

Police (Prosecutions)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will introduce legislation to extend those areas in which prosecutions may only be brought by the police.

No, Sir. Most prosecutions are instituted by the police, but I know of no areas where they have an exclusive right to prosecute.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the area of both direct and indirect private prosecutions for criminal offences is very great, is growing greater, and ought to be diminished if it is not to cause considerable dangers to our rule of law?

If there is evidence of abuse, that must be looked at in due time. However, the right of private prosecution is long standing and has hitherto been regarded as an important safeguard against possible failure on the part of the prosecuting authorities.

Since the hon. Gentleman has asked for evidence of abuse, does he not consider it highly alarming that a criminal convicted of serious offences of a type which were first exposed by the "Johnny Go Home" television documentary, can come out of prison and then institute proceedings for criminal libel against the very journalists who first made the programme? Should not some restrictions be placed on the law of criminal libel, which is giving such anxiety at present?

The question of criminal libel has been causing concern and is a special case. I shall consider what the hon. Gentleman said.

Rhodesian And South African Citizens


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many applications for asylum in the United Kingdom are currently under consideration from persons who refuse to serve in the forces of the illegal régimes in Rhodesia, or in South African forces currently involved in the illegal occupation of Namibia.

On 10th June there were 10 Rhodesian and three South African cases under consideration in which unwillingness to serve in the forces of the country concerned was given as one of the reasons for wishing to come to or remain in the United Kingdom.

Does my hon. Friend agree that it would be grotesque to refuse asylum to a person whose reason for seeking it was that he did not wish to be conscripted into the forces of an illegal régime committing treason against the Crown?

Under the immigration rules there are required to be well-founded fears of being prosecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular group, or political opinion. Under the rules, therefore, armed service does not in itself meet the criteria. However, my right hon. Friend considers each case on its merits and examines each application individually.

Can the hon. Lady say how the figures she has given compare with applications received from other parts of the world, particularly the Eastern bloc?

That is a totally separate matter. I suggest that the hon. Member tables a Question about it.

Chilean Refugees


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is satisfied with the application of the regulations concerning the admission of Chilean refugees to the United Kingdom.

Yes, Sir. This country has granted sanctuary to a large number of refugees from Chile.

Will my hon. Friend consult the Lord President of the Court of Session about dismissing the Scottish adjudicator, Mr. Aitcheson, who is quite clearly incapable of dealing impartially with Chilean refugees, some of whom have escaped from the concentration camp in Santiago, which is the Chilean equivalent of Auschwitz, which disgraced even further yesterday the presence of Scotland's football team?

The adjudicators are independent of my right hon. Friend and are not answerable to him. Nor does he have any authority over their decisions. However, the remarks of hon. Members in the House have been shown to the adjudicators and they are aware of the feeling that exists.

Parole System


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what discussions he has had with the Parole Board regarding further new guidelines to be issued on the criteria and operation of the parole system by the Board and its local review committees.

Since fewer than half those prisoners who are eligible for parole are released, and since, also, the imposition of the recent new guidelines has not resulted in a material increase in the number who have been recalled for committing another offence, does the right hon. Gentleman not feel that a further liberalisation of the guidelines, if not an extension of the parole scheme, might be justified?

Certainly I take the hon. Gentleman's point. The parole scheme is in general an excellent idea, and in future I believe there may well be developments along the line of ideas that have been put forward in a wide variety of documents, and so forth. But since the new guidelines introduced by my predecessor in 1976, 50 per cent. of those considered for parole were granted it, compared with 43 per cent. in 1975 and 35 per cent. in 1974. I believe that we need to consider the question of shorter sentences, but this raises particular problems arising out of the nature of parole. For the moment I believe that we should carry on as we are.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that probably the most urgent need for reform in the parole system lies in the fact that prisoners who are refused parole are not given the reasons for that refusal? We all accept that there would be difficulties in implementing a system which gave reasons, but is not the bitterness created by refusal to give reasons a far more serious problem?

We are seized of this problem. A limited experiment is taking place in the Parole Board on the basis of giving reasons. It is early days yet, and there are divided opinions on this matter. It raises other issues, but we have set about an experiment. At the moment parole is an administrative device, and I think that that is the way it should continue. Some believe that it should move into the judicial area. I am not so sure about that. There are great merits in its remaining as it is.

There are many people who would be very worried if the arrangements were changed and the Parole Board had to give reasons for its decisions. Many difficulties could follow from such a change. There are two aspects to the parole system. First, there are the recommendations of the Board concerning the conduct of the prisoner in prison. Secondly, there is the position of the Home Secretary in deciding whether to give his consent to recommendations of the Board. On the latter, does the Home Secretary agree that it is most important that he should ensure that he does not undermine the parole system by granting parole in cases where public confidence might be undermined because of the violent or terrorist actions involved?

I think that the right hon. Gentleman may not have got it quite right at the end, or possibly I have misunderstood him. Certainly all recommendations come from the Board in the first instance. One of the Home Secretary's main jobs is to move in advance of public opinion, but with it, and that is sometimes not the case with those who do not consider the public interest. This is always a value judgment, but I take into account what the right hon. Gentleman says.

Community Relations Councils


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many local community relations councils there are; and, of these, how many receive a grant from the local authority.

There are currently 91 local community relations councils, of which 83 are in receipt of a grant from the local authority.

Bearing in mind that the Slough Conservative council has withdrawn its grant to the Slough community relations council, thus hoping to render it inactive, will my hon. Friend consider compelling local authorities to support their community relations councils? Originally the idea was that the councils should represent a cross-section of political opinion, so that they would not become political footballs.

I am aware of the Slough case. I have recently written to the Slough council expressing my concern my belief in the value of the community relations councils, and the importance of their being supported. This has been confirmed in a circular issued by my right hon. Friend and other Secretaries of State of various Departments urging the necessity of working closely with the councils. Beyond that it would be difficult to go. Section 71 of the new Race Relations Act has placed a duty on local authorities, and one of the ways in which they can discharge that duty is through support for their local community relations council.

Is the Minister aware that community relations councils can sometimes do more harm than good to community relations? Will he leave entirely in the discretion of local authorities, as it is now, to question whether they support the councils?

I have probably seen more community relations councils in the past year than the hon. and learned Gentleman has seen in his lifetime. I pay great tribute to the constructive work that they undertake. The purpose of my answer was not to insist upon removing the discretion of local authorities but to try to advise them how best they might exercise their discretion.

Obscenity Laws (Committee Of Inquiry)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will now announce the names of the chairman and the other members of the committee of inquiry into the obscenity laws.

I am glad to be able to tell the House that Professor Bernard Williams has accepted my invitation to be the Chairman of the Committee on Obscenity and Film Censorship. I shall announce the names of the other members shortly. I will, with permission, circulate the Committee's terms of reference in the Official Report.

I welcome the considerable advance that has been made in the past six weeks from nobody to at least the chairman of the Committee, but what are its terms of reference to be? When does the right hon. Gentleman think that it may have its first session?

The hon. Gentleman talks as if setting up a committee of this nature is a matter of conscription and no discussion. That is not the case. We have announced the name of the chairman and the terms of reference on a subject that needs to be examined in depth. There are two schools of thought. There are the "fors" and the "againsts". It seems that they have clear answers, but these are matters that need to be investigated. The terms of reference are

"to review the laws concerning obscenity, indecency and violence in publications, displays and entertainments in England and Wales,"—
except broadcasting—
"and to review the arrangements for film censorship in England and Wales; and to make recommendations."
It will not be next week that the Committee will report.

In addition to film censorship, will the Committee consider the forms of obscenity that are now coming forward in the shape of gramophone records and cassettes? Is that a matter that will be covered by the committee?

Certainly, yes. I feel absolutely sure that that will be covered. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for bringing the matter to my notice.

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House why broadcasting is excluded from the terms of reference?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have been talking about the Annan Report, and there are statutory arrangements in that sector. That is why we kept it separate.

In completing the membership of the Committee, will my right hon. Friend give consideration to the fact that some years ago, as he will recall, there was a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament that considered censorship of the theatre? When my right hon. Friend is considering who to put on the Committee, perhaps he will consider the membership of the Committee to which I have referred, which may give him some inspiration.

I shall read the report first to see whether that is the case.

The following are the Committee's terms of reference:
"to review the laws concerning obscenity, indecency and violence in publications, displays and entertainments in England and Wales, except in the field of broadcasting; and to review the arrangements for film censorship in England and Wales; and to make recommendations."

Urban Deprivation Unit


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement as to the estimated budget of running the Urban Deprivation Unit.

It is estimated that the staff cost of the Urban Deprivation Unit, most of whose functions have been transferred to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, would have been about £115,000 in the current financial year.

Will the Minister explain what he regards as the major achievements of the unit? Why is it still partly based in the Home Office, when the responsibility for these problems has been wholly transferred to the Department of the Environment? Is it that the impact of the unit is so insignificant that it is being overlooked?

First, I would say that it has contributed towards our understanding of these difficult questions. Secondly, it has brought to the disbursement of moneys in this sector a knowledge of and a co-ordination with local authorities that has borne fruit. As for the remaining functions, Section 11 grants responsibility is to remain with the Home Office because the responsibility for race relations remains with the Home Office. As the hon. Gentleman will know, community development projects have been completed and their activities are being wound up. It is appropriate that the Home Office should receive the remaining reports.

Has not the money that has been expended over the past four years upon this department been proved to have been almost entirely useless because the comprehensive community programme idea that it originated has never been implemented except in one trial run, and even that is now being wound up? Is my hon. Friend aware that it was an imaginative idea that was never pursued because there was not enough gumption in the Department to pursue it?

My hon. Friend is better able than I am to comment on the majority of the time that is covered by his supplementary question. If he asks me whether the money spent on urban aid is wasted, I should say emphatically that it is not. Many facilities in many of our most deprived areas are directly due to the disbursements of moneys centrally under the urban aid scheme.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is satisfied with the cost-effectiveness of the Urban Deprivation Unit.

How can the Minister reconcile his earlier answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Hunt), when he mentioned a cost of £115,000, with the reply given on 29th July 1976, to the effect that the unit cost over £7 million? In view of the fact that it has been made clear from both sides of the House that the recommendations of the unit are not being followed, surely much more practical use could be made of these resources in dealing with the problems of urban areas.

I shall look at the answer given in 1976. The Urban Deprivation Unit was a small unit attached to the Home Office. If it were being paid £7 million a year, that would cause me considerable surprise. It has been concerned with the urban programme and Section 11 grants, both of which were running at over £21 million in the last current year. Therefore, it has had charge over considerable sums. It is not the case that its recommendations are not being followed. I believe that both the Department of the Environment and my own Department have largely adopted in whatever guise, the comprehensive community approach in dealing with these questions in the White Paper that was issued by my right hon. Friend yesterday.

Does the Home Secretary agree that the very worst form of deprivation in cities, particularly among the young, is the impossibility of getting jobs? Do any of the programmes contribute to helping people to find work?

Yes. If the hon. Member studies the scheme he will see that in the self-help and training schemes, contributions to the possession of skills— one of the problems facing the young in inner cities—are dealt with.

Electoral Law


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress has been made towards the establishment of a Speaker's Conference on electoral law.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has consulted other party leaders about the possibility of a Speaker's Conference to consider a wide range of matters, including those left over from the 1973–74 conference, but agreement has not proved possible. My right hon. Friend proposed in his speech of 23rd March that the question of the representation of Northern Ireland at Westminster should be referred to a Speaker's Conference, and is now consulting the other party leaders on this matter.

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that it would be quite wrong and illogical for the second Speaker's Conference to consider only representation from Northern Ireland? Will the Home Secretary consider the over-representation arising from devolution to Scotland and Wales, which would be unfair to English voters and greatly resented by them? Will he ensure that that issue is included in the second Speaker's Conference?

Bearing in mind the speed or otherwise with which devolution to Wales and Scotland is carried out, I think that that would be the appropriate moment to give consideration to the numbers for Scotland and Wales. It is not the intention of the Government at the moment to interfere with those numbers.

Will the right hon. Gentleman indicate when the Government propose to take action on the recommendation of the earlier Speaker's Conference in 1973 that democratic rights should be extended to patients in mental illness hospitals?

I cannot give any assurance on that issue. However, I shall consider it. It was given consideration during the course of the 1971 legislation and during the passage of the Representation of the People Act. There would be a need for legislation.

Will my right hon. Friend take an early opportunity to clear up a niggling matter that is of concern to some people, namely, the non-availability of postal votes for parish council elections, which are invariably held on the same day as district council elections, for which postal votes are available? This is a hangover of the reorganisation of local government and is something that should be cleared up as soon as possible.

My hon. Friend is right; it is an anomaly. It is basically a matter of money and expense, but it is an important issue.

Community Development


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what was the total cost to public funds of the community development project both as regards the field projects and the central co-ordinating research and information elements.

Expenditure up to 31st March 1977 on both the local community development projects in England and Wales and the central information and intelligence unit is estimated at about £2·13 million.

After spending that £2·1 million, if I heard the Minister aright, what steps are he and his Department taking to implement the recommendations of these teams? Is it not rather strange that the Government's recent announcement about inner cities largely chose to disregard the recommendations of the professionals set up by the hon. Gentleman's Department? Does he disagree with them?

There are reports and reports. I do not believe that the setting up of bodies to consider these matters, or even to administer local experiments, takes away the Government's duty to make up their own mind. The final reports on each of the projects will be considered and disseminated among Government Departments, so that the lesson of the CDP projects will be learnt and applied in future.

Violent Crime


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has received any representations from representatives of banking employees on sentencing policy for crimes of violence.

I have received seven such representations from individuals and groups identifying themselves as bank employees or their representatives.

Is it not clear that bank staffs are becoming increasingly angered by what they see as the inadequate sentences passed on those who are found guilty of bank robbery? I recognise that the Home Secretary cannot intervene in sentencing policy, but has he any comfort to give to people whose jobs force them to run a risk of violence with comparatively little protection?

The hon. Member is fair in what he says. What we do in the Home Office and in Parliament is to put down the sentences that may be applied. It is a matter for the judiciary to take account of public opinion and also to take account of individual cases, which we cannot do in this House. Certainly violence means that bank employees are at risk but sentencing is not a matter for me.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a great deal of dissatisfaction arising from the case in which an ex-Etonian, ex-guardsman got probation, while a constituent of mine who was supposedly driving a car got seven years for armed robbery? Is he aware that many people believe that if a person went to Eton or Harrow he will get away with a crime, whereas if he went to a council school in Liverpool he will get seven years? That is not good enough.

If the second case is as bad as my hon. Friend says, perhaps it should be taken to appeal. I should not draw conclusions in the overall way that my hon. Friend has done. This is a matter in which individual cases should be taken into account, and this is what the judiciary does.

Relating to the case mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), will the Home Secretary have discussions with the Lord Chancellor? That particular case has raised a great deal of bitterness, because the Common Serjeant who conducted the case did not even compliment the Post Office engineer who tried to restrict the thief. This is the second time that that old Etonian has raided a bank, smashed up bank employees and stolen money, and he has not done a single term in gaol. There is a widespread feeling that if he had been a lad from a council school he would have got five or six years' imprisonment.

There have been a number of comments about this case. All I can say is that the Lord Chancellor will have taken them into account.

Perhaps the judiciary were taking account of the fact that anyone who has been to Eton has already served the equivalent of five years in prison. [Laughter.]

Police Federation


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what meetings he has had during the Whitsun Adjournment with the Police Federation.

My most recent meeting with Federation representatives was on 25th May at Scarborough. My Department remains in frequent and regular contact with them, and I shall be glad to see them again myself whenever it seems that a meeting would serve a useful purpose.

Did the Home Secretary notice the publication, during the Whitsun Recess, of statistics given by the Chief Constable of the Thames Valley area? These statistics show that in this area during the first half of this year reported crime was up by 20 per cent., but the effective strength of the force, as a result of early retirement and resignations, was down by 148. This deteriorating situation is causing the greatest concern to all people who are worried about law and order.

The problem of the rising crime rate should concern us all, and when we talk about sentencing we are talking about a part of the problem. In the two years up to the end of this year, despite the pay situation, police recruitment has gone up; therefore the correlation between pay and recruitment is not as clear as it appears to be on the surface. Last year, because of the pension arrangements and indexation, and the fact that it is 30 years since the end of a war when large numbers of people joined the police on leaving the Armed Services, there were a larger number than usual retiring. In phase 2 of the pay policy I was not able to do for the police what my predecessor did as a special case under phase 1.

Has the Home Secretary received any apology from those responsible for inviting him to the Scarborough conference of the Police Federation? The conduct of its members inside the conference hall was shockingly rude, and outside the building the demonstrators and pickets were disgracefully violent.

Certainly—forgetting my own position in the matter—the people outside the building behaved badly. It did no good to the cause of the police, and large numbers of policemen accept that. As for the behaviour inside, the fact is that I was invited to the conference—I did not push myself there. If the Federation's members choose to act in this way in future, Home Secretaries may have to ask themselves whether there is any purpose in going to the conference.

Will the Home Secretary say whether he intends to produce the order giving effect to the pay settlement that he has imposed on the Police Federation? When will he bring it before the House? Whatever the merits of the situation now, the sooner the settlement is implemented the better.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman and I have taken note of his point. It depends on the nature of the order. We shall consult my right hon. Friend, the Leader of the House, and I hope that we shall find a means of discussing it.

Mr Michael Moses


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if, before executing a deportation order on Mr. Michael Moses, who is the holder of a British passport, he will interview him in the company of the hon. Member for Hendon North, in order to satisfy himself that he is a genuine temporary visitor, and in order to satisfy himself of the validity of his complaints against the manner in which he has been treated by immigration authorities at Heathrow Airport.

I understand that Mr. Moses returned voluntarily to Israel on 29th May.

Is the Minister aware that her attitude and that of her right hon. Friend in this case is shocking and positively scandalous? This individual, who came to this country bearing a British passport, was within 11 days of becoming an Israeli citizen. As a result of the blemish put on his passport by the Home Office, not only did he cross the world to Hong Kong, where he was refused entry, but when he went back to Israel voluntarily—he only wished to visit this country temporarily—he was told that he would be allowed to stay in Israel for only one month, and he lost his job as a result. Is she also aware that this man—

Hon. Members: Too long.

The hon. Member is coming to a conclusion. We must have briefer questions.

In conclusion, is the Minister aware that this man is now an international stateless wandering Jew, as a result of the bureaucratic behaviour of her Department?

Mr. Moses is and was subject to immigration control, and he admitted to immigration officers that he had left Israel to avoid being classed as a permanent resident, a status that would render him liable to heavier taxation and military service. He did not satisfy the officers, my right hon. Friend or me that he was genuinely seeking entry for a visit. I am satisfied that it was right that he should have been refused admission.

Contrary to the sentiments expressed by the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst), will my right hon. Friend convey to her private office and to the immigration authorities and others concerned the gratitude of hon. Members in all quarters who ring the Minister on Monday mornings, after their surgeries, with problems involving those who have been detained and who know that those matters will be dealt with expeditiously and with courtesy in the Department? Will she convey those sentiments to her officials, to whom we do not have a chance to express our thanks personally?

I am almost speechless, but I appreciate the compliment and I should like my hon. Friend to put it in writing.

Television Licence Fees


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent representations he has received from the BBC concerning the level of the licence fee.

There have been discussions with the BBC about its finances generally.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is an open secret that the BBC will soon have to ask for a massive 50 per cent. or more increase in licence fees, although one understands that for tactical reasons this will be delayed? Does he further agree that the BBC should be properly and adequately financed whatever increase is necessary, but that the corollary will be that not all the services now maintained can be financed for ever in this way?

Certainly the longer-term financing of the BBC is a matter of discussion arising out of Annan. As for the current situation, I take account of my hon. Friend's remark about an open secret and simply say that we should wait and see.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that if there is any increase in licence fees it will impose a great hardship on many elderly people and on others who are dis-advantaged? Will he bear that factor in mind when an increase is being considered?



asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will ensure that in future detonators are marked to indicate whether they are intended for use in Great Britain, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, or elsewhere.

No, Sir. I am satisfied with the existing system, which provides that all detonators made in Great Britain for use in Ireland bear one of two markings which indicate whether they are destined for use in Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland.

Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that we must do more to control the distribution of detonators, because, in my opinion, we are not doing enough? A detonator is the key to an explosion. Will he consider a system of marking that will show where a detonator is destined, from the point of manufacture to final use, to help trace the detonator used in a terrorist explosion?

I put my mind to this matter when I was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland as well as in my present office as Home Secretary. I am satisfied that the existing system is the right one for the situation. We also have other means of knowing the movement of detonators and other material.

Television Licences (Elderly Persons)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the estimated cost of issuing half-price television licences to all retired people living alone.

Does the Minister accept that television is often the only company and entertainment for many retired people who live alone? In view of the anomalous situation concerning concessionary television licences for the retired, does the Minister agree that this is a small price to pay for the introduction of a fair system? Will he consider introducing this proposal at an early stage?

I note what my hon. Friend says. The Government will be reconsidering the whole subject of licence concessions in the light of the recommendation of the Annan Committee, but that Committee recommended that no further concessions should be introduced. That is a matter that we shall have to decide in the debate.

Is not the easiest way to get rid of this anomaly involving television licences for pensioners to do away with the licences completely and pay for public service broadcasting through a Government grant? Would we not then avoid all the administrative costs of running this silly licensing scheme?

That is one of the points that we shall consider, but raising revenue through licensing provides freedom.

River Thames (Fire Service)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if, in view of the increased usage of the River Thames for moving hazardous cargoes, he will indicate what steps he proposes to take to strengthen the river fire service.

It is the statutory duty of every fire authority to provide a fire brigade and equipment to meet efficiently all normal requirements, including, where appropriate, the provision of a firefighting capability on a river within their area. I have no reason to believe that the fire authorities concerned are not discharging their statutory responsibilities for the provision of fire cover on the River Thames.

Is the hon. Lady aware that regulations are being introduced to cover the transport of hazardous chemicals by road, but not transport by water? Do I understand from her answer that in meeting these growing hazards on the Thames there are no proposals to reduce the river fire service?

I shall refer the hon. Gentleman's remarks to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, who will be concerned with any legislation on that subject.

Government Policies

Q 1.

asked the Prime Minister if he is satisfied with the progress of the Government in the implementation of the policies contained in the Queen's Speech.

With regard to the progress of industrial strategy on the Finance Bill, is my right hon. Friend aware that the cost of Drax B power station will turn out to be as nothing as compared with the cost of the hon. Members for Coventry, South-West (Mrs. Wise) and Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker)? Is he further aware that the restructuring of the turbo-generating industry at any price is neither essential to the industry nor acceptable to this side of the House?

I am not sure whether it is acceptable to the industry, but I know that there is a strong expert view that restructuring of the industry is necessary. On the question whether it is acceptable to this side of the House, I am sure that my hon. Friend can speak for those hon. Members, even if I cannot.

The Prime Minister will be aware that in connection with a direct elections Bill there have been reports that the doctrine of collective Cabinet responsibility will be suspended. May I ask whether he stands by his reply given from the Dispatch Box in this House on 29th April last year, on the subject of collective responsibility? May I remind him that that reply was to the effect that collective responsibility includes all Ministers, who must be prepared to defend Government policy at all times? Does he still stand by that?

Yes, Sir, I certainly think that the doctrine should apply, except in cases where I announce that it does not.

Is the Prime Minister aware that he is making a farce of Cabinet Government, and that if he has lost control of his Cabinet he has likewise lost all authority to govern?

The right hon. Lady is expected to say that. I know that she believes that the doctrine of all Members of Parliament is to obey, as she announced at Ebbw Vale, but in quoting from Kipling I do not know why she should pay so much attention to the law of the jungle, which, as we all know, has always been the policy of the Conservative Party.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in view of the number of policies in the Queen's Speech which have not surfaced, and policies such as devolution which have had to be put down, we ought now to test public opinion in Scotland by ennobling one of his hon. Friends from a Scottish constituency so that the message could get through to the Government and the Conservative Front Bench?

I shall bear that proposal seriously in mind. If the right hon. Gentleman has any nominations to make, perhaps he will let me know.

How can my right hon. Friend convince some of our less enlightened brethren that we are committed, not only by our party manifesto and the Queen's Speech but also by the outcome of the referendum and by international treaty, to the introduction of direct elections to Europe, where we could play a part—and this is what some of our colleagues seem to have forgotten —in the furtherence of the introduction of international Socialism?

Prime Minister (Speech)


asked the Prime Minister whether he will place in the Library a copy of his speech to the Transport Salaried Staffs Association annual conference in Great Yarmouth on 18th May regarding pay policy.

Would it not be worse than useless for phase 3 to be—and be seen to be—so farcically wide that its only effect would be to prop up this decayed Administration for another couple of months?

I said at the Transport Salaried Staffs Association conference that I did not want to see a fig leaf in disguise for a pay policy, and that is still my view. I said that we should not have productivity agreements that would be just cosmetic and that would merely disguise the true increase. I am sure that that is right, and I am certain that another understanding with the trade union movement about the increase in salaries and wages next year will be of great value, not only to the Government in dealing with public services, but in getting inflation down further—as it will be going down during the second half of this year.

Does the Prime Minister recall that at that conference his speech was received most enthusiastically, with a standing ovation, because the delegates realised that the trade union movement and the Government are working together in the national interest to bring down the level of inflation by a sensible strategy?

My hon. Friend was in the Chair at that conference, so he was in a good position to see what happened. The serious point that he made is true. There is a great deal of evidence that the trade union movement recognises the seriousness of the situation in relation to the movement of wages and salaries, and that is why I have considerable confidence that an understanding will be reached about next year. I am sure that my hon. Friend would agree that I spoke frankly and openly to the delegates and that they accepted my argument. We must rely upon the good sense of the trade union movement, and I believe that it will come through.

Does the Prime Minister recall the lines of the D. H. Lawrence poem that say:

"Isn't it a pity, oh don't you agree,
That fig trees aren't found in the land of the free
And there is never a fig leaf near at hand when you want it? "

In order to give phase 3 a possibility of working, will the Prime Minister join his colleagues of the Government Benches in congratulating the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection on his speech yesterday or the day before, when he seemed to be calling for price restraint in the public sector— and particularly restraint in the cost of energy such as gas and electricity, and in the cost of transport—and for restraint in other prices that have contributed to the increase that has taken place in the cost of living during the last 12 months? Will he also congratulate his right hon. Friend on his statement that the pound sterling is now grotesquely undervalued? Will he now give some encouragement by saying that it is the intention of the Cabinet to look at the whole possibility of price restraint and the introduction of some price control?

We have now overtaken the irresponsibilty of the late Government in their subsidising the prices of nationalised industries so heavily that there was no adequate return on capital. That is a point upon which the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) had stinging comments to make about his own Front Bench. I now see no reason why the increase in the prices of the nationalised industries should exceed what is necessary to give a proper return on capital and enable new investment to take place.

I have nothing to say now about sterling.

When the Prime Minister speaks at such conferences and seeks to make agreements, what guarantee can he give that he can make his side of the bargain stick when he cannot even persuade his Cabinet colleagues or the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party to back policies that were enunciated in the Queen's Speech, and to which the whole of the Cabinet gave approval when it voted for the Queen's Speech?

I often find that the best way of convincing trade union conferences is to read out the questions that I am asked in the House by the hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit).



I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave him on 17th February.

When my right hon. Friend meets the CBI will he remind it that employers have a responsibility to ensure that phase 2 is maintained and that companies should not aid and abet those who wish to break it? Will the Prime Minister also ask the CBI to do its best to co-operate with the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection in bringing in a firm policy for prices that will help to obtain the wage restraint that we want in the forthcoming year?

It is necessary that phase 2 should be observed. I know that there have been allegations that some seek to evade it, but I must remind the House and all those concerned with wage negotiations—whether employers or others—that phase 2 will not finally run out until the middle of next year, 1978, and that it is therefore important that everybody should co-operate in securing that.

As for price levels, I am glad to see that the level of wholesale input prices has shown a substantial reduction in the last month, and that will work through. In due course it should enable manufacturers and others to resist increases in prices beyond that limit.

As the CBI still maintains that any increase over 6 per cent. in phase 3 would be inflationary, while the TUC says that it is its objective to restore living standards, how real is the likelihood of obtaining an agreement on phase 3?

The discussions are going on but I am not yet able to say what will emerge from them. I do not know that the TUC has finally defined its attitude on this matter, but the Government see no reason why living standards should fall this year. What is in question is what, if any, can be the level of improvement. Living standards fell last year, but this year they ought to remain fairly stable and next year, if we obtain another phase of incomes agreement, they can begin to go up in real terms.

When the Prime Minister next meets the CBI will he remind that body that its policy of support for the Common Market has been a complete failure to the agriculture industry? That is evidenced by the situation in the pig industry. Will my right hon. Friend therefore advise his Cabinet to restore the direct subsidy to the pig industry— because the Common Market action has proved completely inadequate and will ensure that our pig industry will disappear?

I do not normally discuss the pig industry with the CBI, but I shall certainly ask my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture to look into this matter and let my hon. Friend have a reply on it.

Can the Prime Minister give comfort to the CBI by telling that body about the reality of the hour— that the majority Bullock Report is now dead?

Discussions on this matter are continuing. I should like, if possible, to obtain an agreed decision on what should be done in order to forward the cause of industrial democracy. There would be a great improvement in labour relations if workers in industry had much more say in the decisions upon which their whole future rests. For that reason we have been pressing ahead with discussions. I should like to obtain agreement if it is possible.

When the Prime Minister meets the Chairman of the CBI, will he point out that his constant calls upon the trade union movement to show restraint would go over better if he added that he, too, was prepared to play his part and to get the CBI to back the other half of the agreement, that is, proper price control? The two go together, and the CBI has a heavy responsibility. Its chairman has a right to encourage the trade union movement to show restraint, but does not my right hon. Friend agree that the chairman should give an example and offer co-operation in the form of price control?

I think that Lord Watkinson would accept that there is a great responsibility on the members of the CBI to show restraint in price increases. Like everybody else, they have been affected by the level of inflation, with its consequent increases in costs. That is why it remains the Government's central purpose to reduce the rate of inflation. I am glad to say that I see no reason to depart from my expressed view that the rate of inflation will start to come down in the second half of this year. That will benefit industry, prices, wage earners, housewives and everybody in this country.