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Commons Chamber

Volume 951: debated on Friday 9 June 1978

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House Of Commons

Friday 9th June 1978

The House met at Eleven o'clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]


United Kingdom Day

11.4 a.m.

With the closing of the Queen's Silver Jubilee, I have the honour to present a public petition signed by more than 10,000 loyal people, including Her Majesty's Lieutenant for the County of Essex and the Chairman of the Essex County Council, being one of Her Majesty's Deputy Lord Lieutenants for the said county.

The petition, which is brief, is as follows:

To the Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled.

The Humble Petition of the undersigned loyal subjects of Her Majesty the Queen.

Sheweth That the affection in which Her Majesty the Queen is held and the inspiration which she provides have brought about a rebirth of national unity and pride. Wherefor your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House proclaims an annual National Day of celebration to he known as United Kingdom Day on the Tuesday following the Spring Bank Holiday Monday.

And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.

To lie upon the Table.

I want to thank the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mr. Biggs-Davison), who did me the courtesy yesterday of sending me a copy of his petition. It is most unusual for that to be done. I am deeply grateful to the hon. Member.

Finance Bill (Amendments)

Yesterday I was asked by the hon. Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) to rule on whether amendments or debate on certain topics would be in order on Report or Third Reading of the Finance Bill. I undertook to consider this, and have done so, and fear that there is little assistance that I can offer to the hon. Member.

As far as amendments are concerned, my predecessors in the Chair have always been disinclined to rule hypothetically and have confined their attention to particular amendments when they have appeared on the Paper. I should be doing no service to my successors or, I firmly believe, to the House by departing from this well-understood manner of proceeding.

In regard to Third Reading, the general doctrine is set out on page 543 of "Erskine May", where it is stated:
"Debate on Third Reading … is more restricted than at the earlier stage, being limited to the contents of the bill."
It is my impression, however, that over the last 15 years or so my predecessors have been reasonably liberal in their interpretation of this rule, and I hope to follow in their steps.

May I express, on a point of order, Mr. Speaker, my appreciation of the careful consideration which you have given to this matter?

I also asked whether you could tell the House whether there were any precedents for amendments on those two specific subjects being debated on a Finance Bill. I wonder whether you have had an opportunity to look into that.

I am afraid that it is not my duty to explain to the House whether there are precedents. That duty lies elsewhere. I was afraid yesterday that the hon. Member had bowled me middle stump.

Business Of The House

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons
(Mr. Michael Foot)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a short business announcement.

The business for Wednesday and Thursday has been changed as follows:

WEDNESDAY 14th June—Supply [20th Alloted Day]: there will be a debate on the economy, which will arise on an Opposition motion.

THURSDAY 15th June—Supply [21st Allotted Day]: until about 7 o'clock, a debate on fishing, followed by a debate on The Official Secrets Act.

Orders Of The Day

Suppression Of Terrorism Bill Lords

As amended ( in the Standing Committee), considered.

There are no amendments on Consideration.

The Question is, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

As many as are of that opinion say "Aye".

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I was under the impression that the Minister of State, Home Office, wished to speak and to move formally the Third Reading of the Suppression of Terrorism Bill [Lords]. It was my intention to reply. This was a clear understanding that I had. Because of that understanding, I did not take the initiative of rising to speak. I am sure that the Minister of State will bear me out in this.

Perhaps I may say that the Minister moved as if to rise. I put the Question. I paused considerably when I put the Question. I gave the House a full opportunity. However, I do not want to deny the House the right of debate. We can be very disorderly if we are not careful. I paused when I put the Question, and the hon. and learned Gentleman was present.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. It was my clear understanding that the Minister would be making a few introductory remarks by way of introducing the Third Reading, and I was waiting upon him to rise so that he could have that opportunity.

It is quite clear that the hon. and learned Gentleman overlooked what was happening at the moment when I put the Question, although I put it quite slowly. If it is the will of the House—but only if it is the will of both sides of the House—I will go back.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons
(Mr. Michael Foot)

I think that it would be helpful to the House, Mr. Speaker, if you could waive the rules in order to ensure that no section of the House should feel that its rights have been infringed about the matter. Of course, we hope to proceed at reasonable speed, and I am sure that the House will take that into account. But I think that it would be for the convenience of everyone if you were prepared to take that action.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Many of us in this House have been caught out by not being fully awake from time to time. I had always understood that it was a rule of the House that if such an eventuality occurred, one paid the penalty of one's lack of attention. It has happened to Back Benchers. I hope that if we bend the rules on this occasion for the Conservative Front Bench, some of us who may be asleep in the future on the Back Benches will be allowed to have the rule bent for us, too.

I have never known the hon. Gentleman to be asleep. At least, his eyes have been open.

However, I think that we must exercise common sense in this matter. Quite clearly the hon. and learned Member for South Fylde (Mr. Gardner) was not aware of what was happening, and I think that it is the will of both sides of the House that we delete the earlier proceedings. But hon. Members must not take it as a precedent. Let the whole House—including the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price)—remember that.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.—[ Mr. John.]

11.14 a.m.

I am most grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, and for the support I have received from the Government Front Bench. If it was my error, I am sorry for it. I was under a mistaken view of what in fact was happening at the time.

I am very grateful to have this opportunity to say that the Opposition support this measure because we see the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism, which the Bill enables the United Kingdom to ratify as a signatory, as another necessary and welcome, if limited, step in the international fight against terrorism.

The Convention itself, as we know, was inspired by the terrible history of terrorism during the last decade in Northern Ireland, in the Republic of Ireland and in European countries. The Convention and the Bill both share the fundamental and common purpose of attempting to ensure that terrorists who commit their outrages in a European country which has ratified the Convention are not allowed to escape justice by pleading that their crimes were of a political character.

There were two anxieties which those of us, on both sides of the House, who looked at the Bill, had about the Convention. There were strong feelings—I recognise the strong interest and feelings of my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) on this point, which he expressed in Committee—that by denying the terrorist the right to avoid extradition from one country to another on the grounds of the political nature of his acts, the Convention inevitably impinged upon the tradition to which our domestic law has long given effect—namely, that we do not return to the country of origin persons accused of political offences as such. The tradition goes back to the Napoleonic wars and was given statutory effect as long ago as 1870.

I have sympathy with, and, as I have already said, I share the anxiety that was felt about this aspect of the Bill. On the other hand, the Opposition now feel that it is justified to diminish the extradition rights in this way because of Clause 2 of the Bill, which clearly protects a fugitive terrorist against extradition if his position would be prejudiced by his political opinion on the other grounds that are set out in Clause 2.

We are equally satisfied that these provisions are justified because the contracting States to the Convention are democratic States with systems of justice upon which we believe we can rely.

Does not my hon. and learned Friend think it utterly deplorable that one of those democratic States, the Republic of Ireland, has not seen fit to sign this Convention and ratify it? If that State is not harbouring terrorists, why on earth does it not sign the Convention?

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention. He has anticipated a point with which I was going to conclude my speech.

The point that is of overwhelming cogency is the fact that it is in the exceptional nature of terrorism that exceptional steps should be taken and there arises an exceptional need to ensure that those who are responsible for these outrages should on no account escape justice.

The second anxiety, that which has just been raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence), is the limited jurisdiction of the Convention. This is not only because it relates to the States which have ratified the Convention but also because one of those States, the Republic of Ireland, has so far refused to sign or ratify it. One hardly needs to be reminded of the fact that some of the worst examples of modern terrorism have emanated from, or have been committed in, the Republic of Ireland.

Few countries, the House will probably agree unanimously, are more involved in, more affected by or have stronger reason for an interest in, suppressing terrorism than the Government of the Republic of Ireland. Yet Mr. Lynch's Government have refused to ratify this Convention and one can only ask why. If there arises a suspicion of lack of good faith in Mr. Lynch and his Government, Mr. Lynch and his Government have only themselves to blame. In a speech that Mr. Lynch made on 27th April this year he gave a reason for his Government's refusal to sign or ratify this Convention. He said:
"This country"
—that is, the Republic of Ireland—
"has declined to sign that Convention, not because of any lack of determination to operate, to the full, the law against those who use violence for political ends, but quite simply because the Convention is against the spirit of our Constitution and of previous International Conventions."
One can only suppose that Mr. Lynch either forgot or overlooked or, I suppose more reasonably, rejected the views of his Foreign Minister, Mr. Michael O'Kennedy, as expressed in a speech last year to the point that the Irish Government ought to subscribe to international conventions against terrorism. According to a report the The Irish Times of 17th February last year, Mr. O'Kennedy, who was speaking in a debate at Trinity College, was arguing that, whatever reasons the Government had for not signing the European Convention,
"the constitution is not one of them."
He went on to say:
"Constitutional lawyers were amazed to hear the Govenment assert blandly that the Constitution prevented them from signing the European Convention against Terrorism recently."
He argued, rightly we believe, that, far from repudiating the obligation of the Republic of Ireland to maintain peaceful and orderly relations with other States, the constitution required that country to discharge such obligations.

Will the Minister use his best endeavours to see that the Government of the Republic are aware of the dismay and of something amounting to bewilderment at the failure to sign and ratify this Convention? Will he see whether the United Kingdom cannot reach some agreement with other contracting States to make certain that the Government of the Republic understands fully our desire that it should sign this Convention as soon as possible?

Would it not be fair to say also that if one singles out the Republic of Ireland one should also look at the legislation of other States which are contracting parties which have entered derogations against the Convention, although they have ratified and signed it?

I think that is right. Quite a number of countries have done this. They have recognised, as we in this House have recognised, the exceptional character of terrorism. Because of that and under the impact of their conviction that terrorism must be dealt with and that exceptional measures have to be taken to deal with it, they have signed and ratified the Convention. That is what we are asking the Republic of Ireland to do.

11.25 a.m.

I am glad to have the opportunity of sharing the welcome which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Fylde (Mr. Gardner) has accorded this important Bill. I welcome it not only as a Member of Parliament who is profoundly disturbed, as we all are, by the problems of international terrorism, not only as a lawyer who sees in it an instrument for dealing with, meeting, and perhaps hopefully diminishing international terrorism but also as a delegate from this House to the Council of Europe. I think it is right that, on Third Reading, the role of the Council of Europe in initiating this international Convention, should be openly and publicly recognised.

The problem of terrorism has exercised the Council of Europe for many years increasingly, as international terrorism has increased. It has concerned the Legal Committee of the Council of Europe on which I have the honour to serve. It was in that Legal Committee that the terms of this Convention and other projects in a similar vein were discussed and thrashed out, went before the Assembly, then to the Committee of Ministers and finally resulted in the Convention to which this legislation is designed to give the force of law in this country.

In welcoming this further contribution of the Council of Europe to international comity and understanding and, we hope, to the progress of civilisation in Europe, one should remember that this is the latest of over 90 international European Conventions which have been the result of the work of the Council of Europe, produced by the Council of Europe, and which have been signed and ratified by most of the countries making up the Council of Europe. Obviously, the most important and best known is the International Convention on Human Rights, but there are many others. I am sure that the Minister, if he replies, will desire in his turn to pay a tribute to the important work—it is all too often ignored, perhaps because it goes so smoothly and is done so well—of the Council of Europe which alone can speak with the voice of all the 20 countries—there are not many more—which make up the free countries of Europe.

11.28 a.m.

This debate was made possible today by the intervention of the Leader of the House and the agreement of the Front Benches. As a Back Bencher, I think that it is only right that someone from Northern Ireland, a Province afflicted with the scourge of terrorism, should make a few remarks.

Hon. Members for Northern Ireland are more interested in the later business than in this debate, but I would like to remind the House that terrorism continues in Northern Ireland. Sometimes this House seems to think that because there has been some improvement in the situation, the terrorist problem in Northern Ireland is over. But the other evening, £5 million-worth of damage was inflicted in the City of Londonderry by a terrorist strike and many other acts of savagery, cruelty and murder have been committed in the past few days. Terrorism is far from over in Northern Ireland.

The House was shocked, as the world was shocked, with the awful La Mon Hotel massacre. It is now well known in Northern Ireland that the police know the people responsible for that massacre but that those people are safe in the Republic of Ireland. I should like to associate myself with the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for South Fylde (Mr. Gardner) on the attitude of the Republican Government to this matter. As long as there is any place in the Island of Ireland where a terrorist can hide from the law, we shall be unable to put down terrorism. There must be no safe hiding place for terrorists in any part of these Islands.

I therefore welcome the Bill, and I trust that the South of Ireland will, even at this late stage, take cognisance of what has been and will be done by the various States making up the Council of Europe and realise that in this matter the South is seriously out of step. We are constantly told by the Dublin Government that they want to be friendly to the North of Ireland. The best way for them to demonstrate the sincerity of those oft-repeated affirmations would be to fall in line with the other States in the Council of Europe and endorse the Convention.

11.31 a.m.

I add my congratulations to the Government on bringing in the Bill. There are, I think, two categories of problem here. First, of the 19 States, two have not signed, and I gather that of the other 17 we shall be the third country to bring forward a change in domestic legislation. I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) that until this matter is dealt with by the Republic of Ireland and legislation is passed by the other European States, there will be harbours for terrorists in too many areas. One has but to look at the record. In spite of the signatures applied to the Convention, the fact remains that, because domestic legislation has not been passed, it is still possible for terrorists to get away.

I therefore congratulate the Government on being the third European Government, so I understand—Sweden and West Germany being the other two—to make changes in domestic legislation, and I trust that this example will be followed by the other European States.

I trust also that this matter will be raised not just in the Council of Europe but in the Nine, because I believe that this could be the best way to move the Republic of Ireland. Undoubtedly, there is a division of opinion there, and I feel that in that way we could move opinion in the Republic firmly in the direction indicated by the Irish Foreign Minister. If all the other countries of the EEC passed the appropriate legislation, it would, I believe, be much easier for the Irish Government to come into line. On this occasion at least, Brussels could be of great use to this country if it could bring about the passage of legislation as part of the legislation of the European Community as a whole.

One recognises, of course, that such legislation is not 100 per cent. effective. Great problems remain. Nevertheless, it is a step in the right direction, and I hope that by our example in this Parliament other European Parliaments—and, one day, the Irish Parliament—can be encouraged to take similar steps.

11.33 a.m.

I support those of my hon. Friends who have passed strictures upon the Republic of Ireland for its failure hitherto to sign the convention. Many friends of the Republic will have been shocked to hear its Prime Minister's reason for not doing so. Surely, it sounds like the hollowest of excuses, especially in the light of what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Fylde (Mr. Gardner) reminded us about Mr. O'Kennedy's explanation that there is no constitutional reason for the Republic of Ireland not to sign the European Convention.

The Republic should remember that most people in this country look towards it as being on our side in the war against terrorism. There does not appear to be any excuse, if it is not harbouring terrorists, for its Government not to sign the Convention.

We know, of course, that the IRA would not like the Convention to be signed since its terrorists would wish to keep the opportunity to find haven within the Republic's borders. This, therefore, raises the question just how frightened, concerned or affected by the views of the IRA the Government of the Republic are, how much they are influenced by the IRA, and how much the IRA itself is influenced by pressure from international terrorists.

These questions are asked, but they are asked in a spirit of concern and friendship by those who are anxious to remain the close friends we always have been, with the Republic. Therefore, anything that goes out from this debate to bring home to the Government of the Republic of Ireland the concern which we feel will be well merited.

I wish, finally, to remind the House of some words of Solzhenitsyn which, I believe, were last quoted in 1975 in our debate on capital punishment for terrorist killings. They are most apt to the point which we are, I believe, all making:
"Hijackings and other forms of terrorism have been spreading tenfold precisely because everyone is ready to capitulate before them. But as soon as some firmness is shown, terrorism can be smashed for ever."
The only way we can ensure that international terrorism is smashed is by all the Governments of the West agreeing together to take those steps which are necessary, and one of the most necessary steps which can be taken at this point is the signing of the Convention and the putting into effect of all its articles.

11.35 a.m.

I am grateful, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity of this short debate. I join the hon. and learned Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve) in paying tribute to the work of the Council of Europe in initiating the Convention to which we are now to give our assent on the Third Reading of the Bill.

I believe that the Bill will take us forward. Of course, no legislation will of itself transform any situation. Legislation always needs to be supplemented by political will in any society, which I take to have been the point made by the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence). I thought that the hon. Gentleman was rather gloomy in quoting Solzhenitsyn, for I believe that in both the international and the domestic scene there is a growing awareness of what must be done and a greater determination to stand up to terrorism, if I may so put it, recognising that, unless democratic countries are able to resist it, it will remain the most overt threat to democracy that can possibly exist.

The Bill will bring about major changes in our extra-territorial jurisdiction as well as in our traditional extradition procedures. I feel that the speed with which both the Standing Committee and the House have managed to transact the business is a recognition of the importance with which our Parliament views the matter.

At present, the Convention has been ratified by three member States of the Council of Europe—Austria, Sweden and the Federal Republic of Germany—and it comes into force on 4th August this year. We shall be the fourth member to ratify.

Once Royal Assent has been given, a number of orders will have to be laid, but we expect that all this will be completed within a few months, enabling us to ratify the Convention by this autumn. I believe that by so doing we shall give a clear example to other countries and a positive demonstration of the way in which the United Kingdom views the best interests of all.

It is fair to say—I am sure that the Minister would wish to say it—that we have led the countries of Europe in the extent to which we have signed and ratified the conventions to which we have been party.

I was just coming to that very point. We propose to ratify the Convention without reservation because we believe that extradition is the most effective way of dealing with fugitive terrorists. We shall not cease to urge upon the other members of the Council of Europe our belief—the Government of the Republic of Ireland are well aware of it—that extradition—and therefore this Convention—is the most effective way of countering terrorism.

As hon. Members will have seen, we have made appropriate provision in the Bill to enable it to be applied to the Republic of Ireland should it wish to ratify the Convention and indeed—

I am about to come to a point which I think will help my hon. Friend. Should the Republic of Ireland wish to act outside the Convention—perhaps on similar lines but outside it—we have made provision in the Bill for that. Discussions are going on at the moment within the Nine about the possibility of this happening.

I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend for his comment on that point, which I intended to raise with him. There was a second point that I wanted to make. I am sure that he will agree that legislation exists, both in this country and in the Republic of Ireland, for extradition if evidence is produced which will stand up in court. If the Government felt that matters of the sort to which the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) referred, existed, and they had the evidence, they would use this legislation.

Hon. Members are doing very well this morning in anticipating the next point in my speech. I was about to point out that legislation of a reciprocal nature, which is embodied in the Criminal Jurisdiction Act 1975, enables courts in the Republic to try offenders for crimes committed in Northern Ireland, and vice versa. That extends to some offences connected with explosives committed in Great Britain. But it affects only crimes or offences committed after 1st June 1976.

I take my hon. Friend's point about derogations and about reservations concerning the Convention, but I make the general point that we shall ratify the Convention without reservation and encourage all other signatory countries to the Convention to do so, because we believe that that is the most effective way of countering this very serious menace.

The hon. and learned Member for South Fylde mentioned the anxiety relating to the political offence. It is certain that there is some diminution, but I should not like that word to be used in any qualitative sense, as though there were some significant erosion of liberty implied. Certainly it is true that there has been a diminution in regard to the horrific crimes listed in the Bill. But there are at least three major sources of safeguard which still remain to the fugitive who genuinely seeks political sylum. The first is the democratic nature of the member countries of the Council of Europe. Indeed, should any one of them cease to be democratic, it would also cease to be a member of the Council, and therefore cease to be a country to which the Convention would apply.

Secondly, in terms of Article 5, which is enshrined in Clause 2 of the Bill, it would still be open to a court, if it found that a proscution wereaimed at persecuting someone on the ground of race, religion, nationality or political views, to refuse extradition upon such ground.

Thirdly, the Home Secretary still has his residual power—I hope that this will reassure those acedemics who talk on the radio about the safeguards for political offences having been removed entirely from the Convention—to refuse extradition where he believes that the motive in so doing is not punishment for one of these offences but persecution on the ground of political views. I think that there remains an adequate safeguard for those who are oppressed, without making it the fig leaf by which almost every bandit or murdered can escape his crime by claiming that there was some political motive behind it.

Inevitably, we have to draw a line in the modern world between safeguarding people from oppression and punishing offences which everyone feels to be abhorrent. I believe that the Bill has drawn that balance pretty well. I think the Convention also drew it pretty well. By ratifying it as we are, I hope that we are giving an example to those countries which have not signed. I should prefer to encourage rather than to criticise publicly. I hope that all of them will feel able to join us as quickly as possible, thereby helping to stamp out this vicious and evil development in modern society. By their so doing, life in the democratic countries which are members of the Council of Europe will be the richer.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed, with amendments.

Judicature (Northern Ireland) Bill Lords

As amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.

Clause 69

Northern Ireland Court Service

11.45 a.m.

I beg to move Amendment No. 2, in page 45, line 4, leave out

",and other persons employed for the purposes of,".
If it is not out of order on this amendment, Mr. Speaker, may I explain to the House that, although there was a substantial number of Government amendments in Committee, we have some further amendments today. They arise partly from the substantial amendment to the Bill, which was introduced in another place. Partly they are in response to suggestions from a number of quarters for improving the system in matters of detail. I hope that the House will not feel that they are unwelcome.

Naturally, I shall try to ensure that the time of the House is not taken up unnecessarily but, where there is any substantial amendment to the Bill, obviously I shall try to make it clear to the House.

The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that only the functions of officers of coroners' courts will be transferred to the Northern Ireland Court Service. It is not intended that the work of other persons, such as pathologists, should become the responsibility of the new Court Service.

I am glad that the Solicitor-General said what he did about amendments being tabled late in the day. There were certain observations passing from both sides on this in Committee. It is a pity, especially in the late stages of a Bill such as this, to have a large number of even technical amendments. I share that view, but, since I complained in Committee, I think that I should have the decency on this occasion to say that the Solicitor-General kindly arranged for us to have some notes yesterday on these amendments. That was not only very courteous but very sensible, because it enables us to be informed about them. Being that much informed about the amendment, I have nothing to say on it.

Although the right hon. and learned Member for Southport (Mr. Percival) was informed about the amendment, I was not informed about the full meaning of it. Will the Solicitor-General please list the officers of the coroners' courts, and tell us which persons employed in coroners' courts are left out or exempted by the amendment?

May I first say that I am grateful to the hon and learned Member for Southport (Mr. Percival) for what he said. There is always a difficulty when someone makes a suggestion at a relatively late stage in a Bill such as this. One has to decide between saying "I am sorry, you are too late, we cannot incorporate the suggestion", or introduce an amendment at a late stage. We have done the best we can.

It is easier to answer the question of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) by explaining the kind of people whom it is intended to exclude. Coroners are obviously assisted by a number of people—earlier I gave the example of pathologists who do the post-mortems. No one would think that the pathologist was an officer of the coroner's court, but the drafting of the Bill may have brought the pathologist within the provisions which were not intended to apply to them.

Many coroners in office at present are practising solicitors who use their own staff for clerical work. It is not intended to apply the provisions to them. The officers we intend to bring within the provisions are clerical staff—it is as simple as that.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 74

Deputies And Temporary Appointments

I beg to move Amendment No. 3 in, page 47, line 31, at end insert—

'(3) Where anything is for the time being authorised or required by this Act or any other statutory provision to be done to or by a particular statutory officer and—
  • (a) that statutory officer is not available because of absence or other reason and no person may, by virtue of subsections (1) and (2), exercise his powers; or
  • (b) his office is vacant,
  • then it may, unless the Lord Chancellor otherwise directs, be done during such unavailability or vacancy to or by any other statutory officer.'.
    The purpose of the amendment is intended to meet the situation where a particular statutory officer is temporarily unavailable. To anticipate the question of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), he will find the statutory officers listed in Schedule 3.

    If a statutory officer is temporarily ill, it is not always convenient to replace him or to appoint a deputy. Sometimes it is easier to authorise another statutory officer to perform the necessary function. That is the purpose of this amendment.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Clause 99

    Qualifications Of County Court Judges And Deputy Judges

    I beg to move Amendment No. 4, in page 61, leave out line 25.

    The House may know that in Committee I moved an amendment in precisely these terms. I made it clear that the purpose of that amendment was to provide an opportunity to discuss a number of important points in connection with the use of deputies. The debate was particularly concerned with deputy county court judges, the use of the office of deputy county court judge as a route to a permanent judicial office. We had a useful debate in Committee and there were a number of matters that the Solicitor-General wanted to look at again. He has very kindly written to me about them and now we have a chance to discuss them once more.

    In Committee I asked for information about the pattern of employment of deputy county court judges and the Solicitor-General has made it clear to me in correspondence that he would think it enough for me to summarise it in this way. Under the English system we use recorders in a pan-time capacity, and for purposes of comparison with Northern Ireland it may be said that these deputy county court judges will be used more or less in the same way as recorders are used here—not according to any regular pattern, but as and when the occasion requires. They will remain mainly practitioners but will do their stint of judicial work in the capacity of county court judges. If I am right in that understanding, we on the Opposition Benches are well content with the situation.

    There is no rigid time fixed for the number of days which a recorder is bound to sit, but it is expected that he will sit for about 20 days a year. That is not a bad thing because it tends to establish that he is meant to be, not just a substitute, but mainly a practitioner who sits for 20 days a year. The system works with great flexibility and that is desirable. Nobody would seek a maximum or minimum of 20 days, but it is handy to have that guide. Is any similar guide intended in connection with county court judges?

    On a matter of much greater importance, we are faced with the question of the extent to which deputy county court judges may be used to try what I will call "Diplock cases"—a shorthand phrase that is used by everybody who understands the position. The progression of events on this point is that when the Bill was introduced in another place the Lord Chancellor said that it was "not conceivable" that a county court judge would be used to try terrorist cases.

    I believe that there are very sound reasons for that. Such cases impose a heavy burden on regular judges and in such cases, not only is the judge trying a particularly nasty kind of offence which excites more passions than the worst ordinary criminal offence, but it is not an exaggeration to say that the judges themselves are in a position of danger.

    We on this side of the House never cease to remind ourselves of the judges who have been killed in the course of their judicial duties. Their was Mr. Staunton, Q.C., a resident magistrate who, after lingering for some time, died from his injuries. There was another resident magistrate Mr. McBirney, Q.C., and Judge Rory Conaghan. We do not face such difficulties in this country, but the judges across the water haw, this additional consideration which can never be far from their minds. On top of that, in Diplock cases the judge is the jury as well and this brings a measure of difficulty and danger through the special nature of hi task.

    Therefore, it is not difficult to understand why the Lord Chancellor went so far as to say that it was not conceivable that deputies should be used to try such cases. Deputies usually will be practising solicitors, barristers and resident magistrates. I imagine that the judges who try Diplock cases may be subject to special security precautions, and one cannot extend those indefinitely. Therefore, if one brings in part timers to try such cases, there is this additional difficulty.

    In Comittee I asked about this matter and said that I understood that it was universally agreed that deputies should not be used for trying such cases. The Solicitor-General said in reply to me:
    "There is no intention, certainly at the moment, of allocating terrorist work to regular judges while the deputy judges take the other work. They will take the same sort of work, including terrorist work where that is appropriate, as the regular judges."—[Official Report, Standing Commmittee A, 9th May, 1978; c. 39.]
    The Solicitor-General has since written to me, having reconsidered the matter as he said he would do in Committee. The position now is much more akin to that stated by the Lord Chancellor on Second Reading in another place. It should be put on the record that a deputy will never be used for this work unless the circumstances are quite exceptional and there are exceptional reasons for asking him to do it.

    If that is what the right hon. and learned Gentleman is saying. I do not think that one could quarrel with it. But one should not shut the door entirely on the possibility. So long as it is absolutely clear that a deputy will never be used in these circumstances unless there are unanswerable reasons, everyone will be content.

    12 noon.

    Assuming that to be the assurance which the Solicitor-General can give us, it leads straight to the next difficulty to which I referred in Committee and which we are now able to approach more specifically, because it depends upon whether deputies will be used in this work. In Committee we were not so sure about that as we now are. If the assurance for which I have asked can be given, all that special work will fall on the regular judges and not on the deputies. Therefore, the regular judges will be that much less available to do their ordinary work. The work which they would otherwise have done will fall on the deputies.

    If we are not careful, we may end up with the position where the regular judges are doing one kind of work and not doing the general work which they are entitled to expect to do when they accept appointment to the county court bench. It may be that the answer will lie in what happens to the number of cases to be tried, how long they take, or how much of the time of the regular judges they take up. If it transpired that the result of asking these judges to do all the Diplock cases was that on the present number of those judges they were doing mostly that work, with someone else doing the work which they were appointed to do, I think that it would be necessary to consider increasing the number in order to give them a greater spread of work and to take from them some of the burden of this very special work. That seems to me to be the only practical answer to that problem, if it arises, which I can think of at present.

    I should like to hear the views of the Solicitor-General because it is important that we do not allow judges to get into a situation where all the burden is on them. All these points are relevant to the amendment, because if resident magistrates stay within this clause they will be used as deputies and, therefore, will be interested in all the points that have been mentioned.

    I now turn more directly to the question of resident magistrates. The amendment, if carried, would leave them out. They would not be able to be deputy county court judges. But I say at once that it is not my intention to press the amendment. I do not seek to rule out their opportunity of being deputy county court judges. It is perfectly reasonable that they should have a route to the bench. If they did not have this route, it would mean that those who had been in practice as barristers or solicitors for seven years, and who by continuing for another three years would become eligible to be deputy county court judges and then county court judges, would—because they have taken an important appointment of resident magistrate—lose their route to the bench. That would be quite wrong. I say that so that there may be no misunderstanding in their minds, or anyone else's mind, why I am moving the amendment. It is to give an airing to two particular aspects of the consequences of leaving this provision in the Bill.

    I should like to take the opportunity of repeating—it is worth repeating and I want resident magistrates to be in no doubt about it—that we Conservatives, like everyone else, realise that the work done by the resident magistrates is of enormous importance. They are in the front line with a very special and difficult job to do. I have spoken of the special nature and the difficulties and dangers faced by the county court judges. I do not think that anyone would disagree with what I have said about them. The resident magistrates have to deal with different classes of cases. I do not have the slightest doubt that this creates special difficulties.

    We know of the dangers involved, and the importance of resident magistrates cannot be in doubt. In Committee I expressed this fear. Here we have a body of men doing an enormously important job and doing it well. It is a job of a special nature and they obtain special expertise in doing it. I want to be sure that we do not take them way from doing the job that they are best fitted to do by using them too often as deputies doing another and different job.

    I should like the Solicitor-General to help us a little more by saying how he sees the resident magistrates being used if this provision stays in the Bill. Does he see them being used only on an occasional basis, rather like recorders are used here? It is anticipated that this will be but a small part of their job? On the one hand, it is a part of their job which will be of some assistance to the county court judges, by making it that much easier for them to deal with the burden of cases in their courts, and on the other hand it will be a means of broadening the experience of those magistrates, perhaps of even giving them a little relief away from their own courts.

    I hope the Solicitor-General will be able to tell us that it is certainly not in the mind of his noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor that they should be used for more than that or that there should be any suggestion of their being used regularly in the county court. What can the Solicitor-General tell us about the kind of work he thinks that they will do?

    I should like to say a word about the hearing of appeals from resident magistrates by the county court judges. Without any disrespect to them—I have made it perfectly clear that I have nothing but the greatest respect for them—I think that it would put them in an invidious position if they were called upon to sit as a judge of appeal to hear an appeal from one of their colleagues.

    The Solicitor-General has considered this point and has written to me about it. In Committee, he quoted the example of a High Court judge who sits as an accasional member of a court of appeal hearing appeals from another High Court judge. With great respect to him, I do not think that that is a parallel. In that instance there are two other judges of appeal, and that of itself is a great distinction.

    In any event, the kind of apeal that I am talking about—an appeal from a resident magistrate to a county court judge —may well be an appeal on the merits, whereas in the case of a court of appeal in this country the appeal judges are merely deciding whether as a matter of law the judge who tried the case in the first instance was right or wrong. One rarely has more than one High Court judge sitting with two Lords of Appeal.

    In the system across the water, if these gentleman were required to hear appeals from resident magistrates, they would be sitting on their own and hearing appeals on the merits. It may be that they take a different view. If so, they will no doubt put it before the Lord Chancellor. However, it seems to me that it might put them in a very difficult position. There might well be unsatisfactory features or consequences of using them in that way. I should be more content if I heard that it was not considered likely that they would be used in that way.

    Will these magistrates undertake probate work and similar work normally carried out by county court judges, including bankruptcy and other matters? There is a difficult dichotomy. If they are not to undertake the hearing of terrorist cases or probate and bankruptcy work, and if they are not to hear appeals, will there be very much left for them to do? Does this not reinforce my argument that they should be left to do, at least for the greater proportion of their time, work in which they are experts?

    The last matter is the time factor affecting routes to the bench. We have got into something of a muddle in this respect. It is too late to change the position now, but there is sufficient of a muddle to make it necessary to clear our minds as to what is intended by these provisions.

    A person who has practised at the Bar for not less than 10 years may become either a deputy or a county court judge straight away. A person who has practised as a solicitor may become a deputy county court judge after 10 years, but he cannot become a regular county court judge until the passing of another three years. I do not think solicitors would regard that as reflecting on their abilities, but it allows for the fact that, whereas barristers will have spent their lives in court, many solicitors carry out little court work. Therefore, it may be sensible for them to have three years' experience on the bench as deputies before stepping up.

    I do not think anybody quarrels with that differentiation, but one reaches a paradox in examining the route to the bench—involving, for example, the passage of a resident magistrate to deputy county court judge. Whether the person concerned is a practising solicitor or a practising barrister, we know that he may become a resident magistrate after seven years and may become a regular county judge immediately. I am not saying he is likely to do so, but this is the muddle we have reached on the time factor.

    I suppose it is unlikely that the Lord Chancellor would recommend the appointment of somebody to be a resident magistrate one day and a deputy county court judge the next—although that may not be as unlikely as one imagines, because the Lord Chancellor could take that course. He may take that course after a year or a year-and-a-half, and it would still shorten the route to the bench, without any obvious reasons being advanced.

    The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor-General told me in his letter on this point that it was unlikely that that would happen, but he thought that it was a good thing to be able to take this step in exceptional cases. There would be some force in that argument if it applied to all the arguments in regard to the time factor, but we had in mind the curious situation that, however able a person may be to become a county court judge, if he had not the requisite 10 years' service, promotion could not happen. It would be strange if we were to give ourselves the opportunity to promote somebody whose services were needed exceptionally via one route, while not being able to take that step via the other route. That does not make sense. If the argument is a runner, it must apply to all routes to the bench.

    Perhaps all these difficulties can be overcome by a practical common sense approach, and I have dealt with these matters in detail to give the Solicitor-General the opportunity to put on record sufficient assurance to allay any fears that this may work out to anybody's disadvantage. Illogical situations are apt to breed discontent, and perhaps suspicion and unhappiness. Therefore, before these provisions begin to operate, I hope that the Solicitor-General will be able to assure us that these anomalies are recognised and that in practice everybody may rest assured that no difficulties will be encountered.

    12.15 p.m.

    He is a courageous man who ventures into lawyers' territory. This debate is taking place between two very eminent lawyers, and I do not propose to become entangled in their legal yoke of bondage. However, the hon. and learned Member for Southport (Mr. Percival) raised a number of points that are of concern to the people of Northern Ireland, and I wish to deal with them.

    I wish to endorse—and I know that I do so on behalf of my colleague the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Bradford)—all that was said by the hon. and learned Gentleman about the way in which judges and magistrates have carried out their duties in Northern Ireland in terrible circumstances. Every magistrate or judge in such circumstances is a target for terrorism at one time or other, depending on the type of case that comes before the courts. Some of these judges and magistrates have been shot down and brutally murdered, and others have been mutilated, for carrying out the duties of their office. I know that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor-General will agree with me when I stress that we all endorse the way in which these men carry out their duties, and we are glad that we have such people acting as judges and magistrates in Northern Ireland.

    Arising from what was said in Committee, I wish to stress that these judges and magistrates come from both sections of the religious divide in Northern Ireland. It was said by one Member of the Committee that almost all these appointments were from the Protestant section of the community. That is nonsense. They come from both sections.

    What is more, I know that the hon. Gentleman will agree that the casualties are equally spread. One of the two resident magistrates who gave his life was a Roman Catholic and the other who died was a Protestant.

    I was about to mention that magistrates from both sections of the community have suffered as a result. At times there is much talk in the House, and in Committees, that is not based on fact. As a Member from Northefn Ireland, I believe that we need to place these matters fairly and squarely on the record.

    I do not think that resident magistrates should be removed from the clause. They are equally entitled to become deputy judges. In the minds of some they have have more entitlement. They are carrying the burden and bearing the heat of the day. There are not many solicitors lining up in Northern Ireland to be made resident magistrates. Surely they are entitled to be made deputy judges.

    I understand the representations that have been made by the various legal associations that becoming a resident magistrate may become a quick road to a higher appointment. That matter was raised by the Opposition spokesman, the hon. and learned Member for Southport However, it is hardly likely that any Lord Chancellor will appoint a resident magistrate as a deputy on one day and in a few days' time appoint him to higher office. If that did happen, there would be such a fuss from the heavy lobby of the legal profession that the poor Lord Chancellor would have an extremely rough ride. In any event, that is hardly likely to happen.

    I am sorry that it has been implied by the hon. and learned Member for Southport—this is probably the most important matter—that Diplock courts will be with us for ever. It may be that the hon. and learned Gentleman did not intend to make that implication. However, we are discussing a reconstitution of the whole judicial system in Northern Ireland, and he referred to the Diplock courts. I want to get rid of the Diplock courts as quickly as possible. My attitude has been consistent. I voted against the setting up of such courts and I disagreed with the doing away of jury trials. I highly resented the attitude taken by the then Attorney-General when he said that Protestant jurymen refused to do their duty. I repudiated that comment and I continue to do so. Jury trials should not have been done away with on that condition.

    However, I agree wholeheartedly with the hon. and learned Gentlemen that deputy judges should not preside at Diplock courts. I feel that there should be a full judge presiding over those courts.

    I intended no such implication. Like everyone else, I long for the day when we can dispense with the Diplock courts. As always with lawyers, I was confining myself to the practical events of the moment.

    I am glad of that assurance. I said that I did not think the hon. and learned Gentleman made the implication intentionally. The sooner we get rid of Diplock courts in Northern Ireland, the happier will be the situation. However, we have them and we have to work with what we have. As terrorist scheduled offences are all tried before Diplock courts, it is essential that a full judge should preside.

    Is the Solicitor-General able to tell us the percentage of the time of the present judges that is taken up on Diplock court trials? How does that percentage of time compare with the other trial duties that they perform? No doubt a large part of their time is being taken up with the trial of scheduled offences. It would be helpful to know the percentage so that when we think about the duties of deputy judges we shall know how much time will be needed for the deputies. Like the hon. and learned Gentleman, I am interested to know what sort of work the deputies will be doing.

    If it is a qualification for a layman intervening in a lawyer's debate that he should be a courageous man, the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) has no reason to be deterred. It is a qualification that he possesses in full measure. The hon. Gentleman needs to make no apology for not being a lawyer.

    I echo that which was said by the hon. Member for Antrim, North and the hon. and learned Member for Southport (Mr. Percival) about seizing this opportunity to pay a tribute to the judiciary in the Province. It is true that the judiciary is drawn from both groups within the Province. It is true that in conditions of great stress and personal danger it has maintained the highest traditions of the judiciary and retained the confidence of the whole community. It is right that that should be said, and said without qualification.

    I reply to the question put by the hon. and learned Member for Southport about the pattern by which it is intended to employ deputy county court judges. I am happy to endorse the way in which the hon. and learned Gentleman put the matter. They will be used in many ways as recorders are used in this country. It is hoped that they will be used according to a somewhat more structured pattern than in the past. There is no intention—at least at present—that they should be required to undertake to give a specific number of days each year. Now that the hon. and learned Gentleman has mentoned the possibility, I shall draw the attention of my right hon. and noble Friend the Lord Chancellor to his remarks. If I can carry the matter further, I shall write to the hon. and learned Gentleman. It is a matter that up to the moment has not been in the mind of my right hon. and noble Friend.

    I seize the opportunity given to me by the hon. and learned Gentleman to correct something that I said in Committee. I apologise to the House for having misled the Committee. Those present in Committee will recollect that at the time I was offering a preliminary reply to the question posed by the hon. and learned Gentleman. I believe that I expressly invited the Committee to consider my reply E & O E. It is true that there are no restrictions in the Bill on the powers and jurisdiction of the deputy judges. My right hon and noble Friend the Lord Chancellor stated in another place that he did not foresee normally using deputy judges to try scheduled offences.

    It is true that Diplock trials represent a considerable burden on the regular judiciary. Accordingly some thought has been given to the possibility of defining a class of case that would be suitable for trial by deputies. That has not proved possible. There have been difficulties in achieving a definition sufficiently precise to convey the necessary reassurance to the public that the quality of justice at the special trials—special in the sense that the judge performs the functions not only of a judge but of a jury—will be maintained.

    Although my right hon. and noble Friend wished to offer the permanent judiciary some relief by a limited use of deputies at these trials, he has decided that normally only permanent judges should deal with these cases. The hon. and learned Gentleman invited me to give an assurance, and I think that I can state that that procedure will be adopted unless there are exceptional and unlikely circumstances. We can never be sure whether there will be exceptional circumstances. I think that we probably all agree that it is better to leave the present provision in the Bill.

    I seize the opportunity to respond to the remarks of the hon. Member for Antrim, North on whether there was an assumption that the Diplock court method of trial would continue indefinitely. None of us can foresee the future. At the time I echoed—I am not sure which of us echoed the other—what was said by the hon. Gentleman. I regarded it as an unwelcome incursion into the normal function of the judiciary.

    12.30 p.m.

    It is right to say now that, so far as I have been able to ascertain from every section of the community in the Province, there is a general tribute to the way in which the judges have approached a task which was not very welcome to them. They have maintained a standard of fairness which has made it possible to continue this method of trial perhaps in circumstances where otherwise it might have come under substantial pressure.

    I was asked what, broadly, was the percentage of time which the regular judiciary devoted to this kind of trial. I am told that the answer is about 25 per cent. It is true, as the hon. and learned Member for Southport said, that, with this kind of burden on the regular judiciary, we shall have to watch to ensure that, if that percentage were to increase substantially, we do not reach a situation where almost all the normal work is done by deputy judges. Of course, if that were to happen, I give the assurance that serious consideration would be given to the possibility of appointing further judges.

    That is not the only circumstance in which my noble Friend might consider that possibility. There may be a number of reasons from time to time why it would be necessary to consider appointing additional judges. However, it is not envisaged that we should ever embrace a situation where the bulk of judicial work is done by deputy judges.

    The hon. and learned Gentleman spoke of the possibility of a short cut to the bench for a resident magistrate. It is true that in Committee I undertook to invite my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor to consider whether an amendment should be made so that a resident magistrate would not be eligible for appointment as a deputy county court judge unless the aggregate of his service, both in the profession and as a resident magistrate, amounted to at least 10 years. I certainly would not dispute the logic of the point made by the hon. and learned Gentleman.

    On reflection, my noble Friend thinks that it is better to leave the Bill as it is. First, we are not dealing with a situation which is likely to arise frequently in practice. Of course, it is possible for a barrister or solicitor to be appointed as a resident magistrate after only seven years service, but the normal pattern would be for him to have served in the profession for a much longer period before being apppointed.

    My second argument follows from that. If someone with fewer than 10 years in practice were appointed, it would normally be because he was outstandingly fitted for this kind of appointment. It might be that he had entered the profession at a late stage after substantial experience in some other sphere.

    I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will agree that someone who has been thought fit for appointment as a resident magistrate—the hon. and learned Gentleman recognised, and I certainly echo, the qualities required for appointment as a resident magistrate—should at least be considered as worthy of being in the running for appointment as a deputy judge. We are dealing with eligibility for appointment, not actual appointment. The question is, who is permitted to enter for the race, not who wins the cup.

    As the hon. and learned Member for Southport said, when I wrote to him I used the argument that, since there might admittedly be exceptional cases, was it not wise that my noble Friend should have the opportunity of considering people who fell into that category? The hon. and learned Gentleman argued that, if that were the case, why should it not apply right across the board? Why should people in practice who are outstandingly qualified for appointment have to wait for 10 years? I cannot dispute the logic of that argument. All I can say is that we should bear this in mind at some future stage. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that broadly he agreed that resident magistrates should be available for consideration as deputy county court judges.

    The hon. and learned Gentleman then asked whether consideration had been given to the fact that resident magisrates were already doing a very important job, that they had done it in such a way as to obtain the confidence of the whole community in the Province, and was it wise to take them away from work that they were doing. I assume that he was not suggesting that we should amend the Bill to deprive them of that opportunity.

    This provision was put into the Bill broadly for two reasons. First, it was felt that they should be considered both for appointment as deputies and ultimately for permanent appointment to the county court bench without the necessity of hav- ing to resign and return to private practice. There is no doubt that some resident magistrates would aspire, among their ambitions, to possible appointment to the county court bench. One purpose of Clause 99 is to enable them to be considered for such appointment either directly or, as I am sure will be more usual, by way of the intermediate stage of serving as deputy county court judges.

    I am happy to confirm that I was not suggesting that the Bill should be amended. I am concerned about assurances on the way that it is likely to work out.

    I am grateful for that indication.

    The other reason why this provision has been included in the Bill is that, as I am sure the hon. and learned Gentleman will recall, one of the principle themes of the Beeching Report was that, where judicial assistance may be required at a given level, possibly the best way of supplying it would be to provide support from the level immediately below and to move others in as deputies further down the line, as it were, as necessary. In that way, while a resident magistrate was acting as a deputy judge, the work which he would otherwise do could be done by a person acting as a resident magistrate under Section 10 of the Magistrates' Courts Act (Northern Ireland) 1964. That would have the added advantage of enabling my noble Friend to judge the performance of possible future candidates for permanent appointment as resident magistrates. In that way, the capacity of the magistrates' courts to keep up with the work load would not be damaged if some magistrates were appointed as deputy judges. But, as the hon. and learned Gentleman said, there is no intention that this should be done as a matter of course. The provisions will be used with moderation. Normally resident magistrates will be used to do the work of resident magistrates.

    Finally, the hon. and learned Member for Southport expressed some anxiety about the possibility of a resident magistrate sitting as a deputy judge on appeal from another resident magistrate. I accept that the example which I gave in Committee of High Court judges in this country sometimes sitting in the Court of Appeal is not an exact analogy. I hope, however, that the hon. and learned Gentleman agrees that it would be wrong to appoint someone as a deputy judge and to say that he shall not have the normal powers of a deputy judge. On this matter I am grateful for the support of the hon. Member for Antrim, North. I think that my noble Friend has in mind what the hon. and learned Member for Southport said—that often it would be undesirable for the appellate functions of county courts to be regularly exercised by deputy judges. I understand that, so far as possible, that will be avoided.

    We have had a helpful and constructive debate on this matter. I hope that we are all open minded enough to be prepared to learn as we go along. I shall not give any undertaking that there will never again be complaints about the judicial system in Northern Ireland. As in England, we shall no doubt make our mistakes. However, I hope that we shall be open minded enough to listen to those who indicate where the shoe has pinched, particularly hon. Members representing constituencies in the Province who will know from what they are told by their constituents where there are problems. We shall then be able from time to time to make such adjustments as will enable the judicial system to maintain the confidence of the public.

    I, too, think that it is a good thing that we have had this little debate and that what has been said is on record. It is a good thing not only that one layman has taken part in the debate but also that one of our colleagues from across the water has taken part in it. What could be better than having those two desirable qualifications in one speech? It has achieved what I said at the outset was the object of tabling the amendment—to have in reasonable space a good idea of how it is intended that these matters should work.

    The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) said that he did not agree with taking resident magistrates out of the clause. I hope that it was clear that even when I was moving the amendment I did not agree with taking resident magistrates out of the clause. In a moment I shall take a course which, if the House agrees with it, will ensure that they are not taken out.

    The Solicitor-General said that I appeared to agree with the proposition that, broadly speaking, it should be open to resident magistrates to enter the race for selection as county court judges. I go further than that. May I return to something which came near the beginning of what I was saying and which therefore may have been overlooked in the words that followed. I want expressly to state that I think it reasonable that resident magistrates should have a route to the bench. They are all either practising solicitors or practising barristers. They cannot qualify for appointment as resident magistrates until they have practised for seven years in either of those capacities. It would be strange if, by accepting such an important office, they were no longer able to qualify as they would have done had they remained in practice in either of those fields for another three years. That would be illogical.

    The more logical view is to say that they should not be blocked by taking this important appointment but that the period should still be what it would have been before, or somewhere in between. However, I do not press that point, as I hope I made clear when I proposed the amendment. The Solicitor-General was good enough to say that the logic of what I had in mind was unanswerable, but life is not all logic. What is much more important is how powers and provisions are used. I hope that those concerned about these points—rightly concerned, because as they affect them they want to know how they work—will be reassured by the debate. I feel that the assurances that have been given put at risk the doubts that otherwise might have been felt. I therefore beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Clause 116


    I beg to move Amendment No. 5, in page 72, line 4, leave out from beginning to 'the' in line 5 and insert

    'An order under subsection (1) or (2) may provide for the manner in which any fees fixed thereby are to be taken, applied and accounted for but, subject to any provision so made,'.
    I think that we shall now be able to turn to relatively brief debates. Clause 116 (4) simply contains a saving for the existing ways in which fees are taken, applied and accounted for in the various courts in the Province. The amendment makes it clear that fees orders will be able to contain provisions about those matters if it is wished to amend them.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Schedule 5

    Minor And Consequential Amendments

    I beg to move Amendment No. 6, in page 86, line 26, after 'if', insert 'for'.

    The amendment is simply to correct a printing error.

    Amendment agreed to.

    I beg to move Amendment No. 7, in page 97, line 40, leave out 'as it applies to Northern Ireland'.

    This amendment is simply to remove words which are unnecessary, as they already appear in lines 23 and 24 of the same page.

    Amendment agreed to.

    I beg to move Amendment No. 8, in page 100, line 28, leave out from 'words' to end of line 30 and insert

    'from "any such moneys" to "Northern Ireland)" substitute the words "money in the Supreme Court of Judicature of Northern Ireland".'.
    This is a technical amendent consequential both on the new provisions for funds in Part VII of the Bill and on the repeal of Section 30 of the Administration of Justice Act in Schedule 7.

    Amendment agreed to.

    12.45 p.m.

    I beg to move Amendment No. 9, in page 106, line 26, at end insert—

    'In section 2(3) for the words from "is a barrister-at-law" to the end substitute the words "has practised for not less than five years either as a member of the Bar of Northern Ireland or as a solicitor of the Supreme Court" …'.
    I hope that the House will bear with me if I take a little longer in introducing this amendment, as it makes a substantial difference. It is an amendment to the Coroners Act (Northern Ireland) Act 1959 relating to the qualifications for appointment as a coroner. At present, Section 2(3) of the 1959 Act provides that barristers and solicitors of five years' standing who are—I emphasise the word "are"—practising in Northern Ireland shall be eligible. This means that candidates have to be drawn from the ranks of practising barristers and solicitors.

    The rule has been abandoned for all other judicial appointments, so far as I know, because it precludes from appointment those who have practised but who have taken up other posts even if those people would otherwise be suitable. The amendment, if passed, would bring the position for coroners into line with that for all other judicial appointments by requiring that eligibility shall rest on having practised for the necessary period but it shall not be necessary for candidates to be in practice immediately before appointment.

    It is only honest to say that the need for the amendment arises partly from the difficulty which has been experienced in finding suitable practitioners who are willing to undertake the duties of coroners in the Province. Although coronerships are part-time, the duties are burdensome and not very well remunerated. I seize the opportunity of paying tribute to the way in which coroners in the Province perform their duties.

    The question of remuneration is at present under review, coroners may be glad to hear. It is hoped that with the establishment of the new court service greater clerical assistance wil be available to them. It is thought that the amendment may help to solve what otherwise would be a problem.

    Amendment agreed to.

    I beg to move Amendment No. 10, in page 106, leave out lines 34 to 38 and insert—

    'In section 36(1) for the words from the beginning to the end of paragraph (a) substitute—

    "(1) The Lord Chancellor may by rules—

    (a) made after consultation with the Treasury, make provision with respect to the records, accounts and returns which the Lord Chancellor may require coroners to keep and submit to him with respect to information to be supplied by coroners;".
    For section 36(2) substitute—

    "(2) The Lord Chancellor may with the consent of the Minister for the Civil Service determine—

  • (a) the salaries or fees and superannuation to be paid to coroners and to registered medical practitioners employed under section 27(2);
  • (b) the fees and allowances payable to persons assisting at post-mortem examinations;
  • (c) the allowances payable to witnesses under this Act.".'.
  • With this we may take Government Amendment No. 19.

    Section 36(1) (a) of the Coroners Act (Northern Ireland) 1959 provides that rules shall fix the salaries or fees of coroners, the fees of other persons employed for the purpose of the coroners' courts, and the allowance to witnesses.

    In recent years, for reasons which will be familiar to the House, these matters have had to be adjusted fairly frequently, and there is no real need for subordinate legislation for this purpose. Following a similar change made in England and Wales in 1977, the amendment provides for these salaries, fees and allowances to be determined by my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor. The rule-making powers in relation to records, accounts and returns, referred to in the new Section 36(1) (a) remains unaffected. Amendment No. 19 is consequential and simply removes from Schedule 7 repeals which would then be unnecessary.

    May I ask the Solicitor-General whether this allowance payable to witnesses under the Act would be the same as that for appearing in any ordinary court hearing? Some of these cases in regard to the settlement of compensation are very important in the coroners' courts to the people concerned. I am sure that the Solicitor-General is aware of that. I should like the matter to be clarified.

    I do not pretend to understand the details of the amendment, but I think the effect of what the Solicitor-General has said is that it makes it easier to alter the remuneration of those with whom these provisions are concerned. That may make it easier to keep up to date with changes that ought to be made. If that is so, we on the Conservative Benches would welcome the amendment. I should like the assurance of the Solicitor-General on that point.

    I do not know whether the coroners have any sort of body or association, but I would like to know whether there is any statutory provision about consultation in connection with the fees or any process by which such consultation is ensured. Whilst I welcome anything which makes it easier, less ponderous and quicker to deal with coroners' fees, we are all very much concerned nowadays with what processes of consultation there are open to people whose fees are being fixed.

    The hon. and learned Gentleman's question is obviously a fair and relevant one. I hope that there will be consultation when coroners' fees are being discussed, but I am told that there is not statutory provision for consultation. I hope that that will not discourage those who deal with these matters from consulting.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Amendment made: No. 11, in page 106, line 40, leave out 3 'and insert 3(1)'.—[ The Solicitor-General.]

    I beg to move Amendment No. 12, in page 109, leave out lines 4 to 6.

    Amendment No. 12 is simply a paving amendment for Amendment No. 20. Paragraph (b) of Section 137 of the County Courts Act (Northern Ireland) 1959 deals with the salaries and expenses of the county court service. Under the Bill the county court service will cease to exist as a separate entity, so provisions such as this paragraph which relate to that service can be repealed in the interests of general tidiness.

    Section 138 provides for rules of court to specify how fees are to be paid. This can also be repealed because of the new provisions in Clause 116(4).

    Amendment agreed to.

    I beg to move Amendment No. 13, in page 112, line 34. at end insert

    'and for the words: "being eligible for appointment as resident magistrates" substitute the words "being persons who are eligible for appointment as, or have previously been, resident magistrates".'.
    This is a substantive amendment to Section 10 of the Magistrates' Courts Act (Northern Ireland) 1964 which is the provision governing the appointment of deputy resident magistrates To ensure the prompt despatch of business in magistrates' courts it is necessary to have an adequate number of persons who can be called upon to act as deputies when the need arises.

    The amendment will enable retired resident magistrates to be appointed as deputies, and it brings the position into line with the provisions of the Bill relating to the appointment of deputy county court judges and the appointment of persons to assist in the transaction of business in the High Court.

    Although I understand the pressures that are on the courts in Northern Ireland and the necessity to recall people from retirement, I am not very happy about the principle. When a person has served his stint it is not a good principle to recall him. I know that judges have been recalled. I am thinking especially of the Lord Chief Justice, who was recalled and did a great deal of work. However, I do not like the principle.

    I note what the hon. and reverend Gentleman says. I do not thing that it is intended that everyone who is enjoying a well-earned rest should regularly be summoned back to service. However, as he pointed out, it is not unusual in the Northern Ireland judiciary, nor is it unusual in this country. All we are asking for at present is that the power should exist if the occasion arises.

    I had assumed the amendment to go merely to the eligibility for appointment, not to any liability to serve in that capacity against one's wishes. There are two opposite situations. One is that the law may provide that someone who has been a resident magistrate or any other kind of judge should, if called upon, be under a duty to return and continue in his judicial capacity. The other is merely reciting the eligibility. I thought we were merely saying that, even though a person has gone beyond retiring age and therefore has retired, he is eligible if he wishes to continue to serve as a deputy resident magistrate.

    If the second proposition is correct, I think that the hon. and reverend Gentleman's fear is unfounded. Perhaps the Solicitor-General will be able to clear up that point.

    What concerns me, as I think it will concern the hon. and reverend Gentleman, is this. I agree that there should be the ability to appoint deputies. Provided that it is a voluntary act on the part of the retired person returning to do further work, I do not object to it. I think it is a very good thing, because ability is not always related to age. Experience comes with age. Therefore, all other things being equal, the fact that a person has reached retiring age will mean that he has had that much more experience. If he is fully fit and in possession of all his faculties, there is no reason why he should not continue to do a good job in that office providing that he does it voluntarily and is not obliged by law to return.

    The danger is that on the whole deputies cost less than regular appointments. There must be a great temptation to make up for the shortage of judge power by having deputies. It would be wrong if we allowed ourselves to use a provision like this to deal with a shortage of manpower by the regular use of deputies. Although that would save money, one could not justify using deputies for that purpose.

    If people are to sit regularly they should do so by virtue and in right of their office, not merely as deputies from day to day.

    I sound that note of warning. I am not saying that anybody has it in mind to act in this way, but the Solicitor-General will know, as I do, that over the years some people have been used as commissioners regularly. Looking back on it one feels that it might have been more dignified if they had been given a regular appointment if their services were to be used as regularly as they were used. Even now some people are sitting as deputies and recorders on such a scale that it might be felt that they are deputies in name only but are doing a full-time job.

    May I seize this opportunity ton confirm what the hon. and learned Gentleman has said. Of course there is no obligation upon someone who is invited to become a deputy resident magistrate actually to take advantage of the invitation. Probably what was in the mind of the hon. and reverend Gentleman —he will correct me if I am wrong—was that it could be tempting for those in authority to invite people to come out of retirement when they should be left to enjoy their retirement. It is for that reason that I seize the opportunity to say, as was echoed by the hon. and learned Member for Southport (Mr. Percival), that it is not intended for this provision to be used as a normal method of ensuring the continuity of the business of the courts.

    Amendment agreed to.

    I beg to move Amendment No. 14, in page 117, line 8, at end insert—

    'In section 178, as originally enacted, for the word "Ministry" where it twice occurs substitute the words "Lord Chancellor".
    In Schedule 2—
  • (a) in paragraph 1(2) for the word "Governor" subsitute the words "Lord Chancellor";
  • (b) in paragraphs 1(3) and 8 for the word "Ministry" wherever it occurs substitute the words "Lord Chancellor";
  • (c) at the end of paragraph 1(4) add the words "by regulations made under paragraph 8";
  • (d) in paragraph 2(2) for the words from "who" to the end sustitute the words "who has taken the said oaths after a previous appointment as a member of any such panel or who has taken the said oaths as required by section 7 of the Magistrates Courts Act (Northern Ireland) 1964";
  • (e) in paragraph 6 for the words "The Ministry may pay" substitute the words "The Lord Chancellor may, out of money provided by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, pay" and for the words from "Ministry may determine" to the end substitute the words "Lord Chancellor may, with the approval of the Minister for the Civil Service, determine";
  • (f) at the end of paragraph 8 add—
  • "(d) be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament in like manner as a statutory instrument and section 5 of the Statutory Instrument Act 1946 shall apply accordingly."'.

    Amendment No. 14 relates to the Children and Young Persons Act (Northern Ireland) 1968. Although that Act contains many provisions which will continue to be the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State or of the Area health boards, responsibility for the holding of juvenile courts contained in Schedule 2 will transfer to the Lord Chancellor. Amendment No. 14 amends the 1968 Act accordingly.

    The Northern Ireland (Modification of Enactments) (No. 1) Order 1973 has already modified Schedule 2 to the Act, so that the Lord Chancellor is responsible for the appointment of members of the Juvenile Court panel.

    Amendments Nos. 22 to 24 repeal the references to the 1968 Act in the modification order.

    1 p.m.

    This amendment gives me an opportunity to rehearse the arguments contained in my Amendment No. 1, which was not fortunate enough to be selected, because the principle of it is contained in this Government amendment.

    Since the Bill was introduced into this House, I have been seeking an explanation for the radical change which took place in it in the other place against all the arguments which had been rehearsed by my noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor and which in my view contained important political overtones.

    I regret very much that there is no representative from the Northern Ireland office present on the Treasury Bench, although I understand the difficulties.

    I am concerned about this matter because, when my right hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General replied to the Second Reading debate, he said:
    "I have been invited at certain junctures in the debate to embark upon some of the political issues which arise, unhappily, from time to time in Northen Ireland. I am a simple lawyer, and I prefer to leave these issues to those who are more closely concerned with the problems of the Province."—[Official Report, 17th April 1978.]
    I know that my right hon. and learned Friend is very modest, but I do not think that any of us would say that he is a mere "simple lawyer". He is a practising politician, like the rest of us, and I believe that he dodged the issue on that occasion. It was also dodged in Committee, and that is why I and two of my hon. Friends voted against the Government on every occasion that they proposed transferring power from the Secretary of State to the Lord Chancellor.

    In the other place on 19th January, the Lord Chancellor argued very strongly and cogently against the pressures which had been applied for the transfer of the control of this important Department of State from the Northern Ireland administration to the political control of a British Minister. He tried in a series of arguments to show that there was no need for the change. He said that the Bill as originally drafted would not affect the independence of the judiciary and that there was no need for the transfer of power.

    As regards the deployment of the judges, again he made the point that this would still be the responsibility of the Lord Chief Justice and possibly of the Lord Chancellor, that there was, therefore, no fear of ministerial manipulation and there had been no evidence of it in the past, and that the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland was satisfied with the arrangements made in the Bill.

    Thirdly, the Lord Chancellor argued that the importance of this measure was that it relieved the Northern Ireland judiciary of many administrative functions and gave them to a Minister and that that Minister should be a Northern Ireland Minister responsible in Northern Ireland. Then he argued that in any event his was, as well as a judicial function as Lord Chancellor, a ministerial administrative function, and he could not see why people aware of this should be afraid of the Secretary of State. He made a strong and cogent argument that it was important that the administration of a Department should be in the hands of a Minister readily accessible locally who would have personal knowledge of many of the problems which existed within the Six Counties.

    Finally, the Lord Chancellor argued that the administration, certainly up to county court level, was from 1973 in the hands of the Secretary of State in any event, having been transferred from the old Ministry of Home Affairs.

    So strong and powerful were my noble Friend's arguments that there were only two or three speakers to follow him and, when the Opposition and a number of Unionist peers moved that this responsibility should go from the Secretary of State to the Lord Chancellor, my noble Friend clinched his argument by quoting to the official Opposition paragraph 67 (a) of their own 1973 White Paper setting out their Northern Ireland constitutional proposals:
    "responsibility for the appointment of county court judges, magistrates, coroners and a limited number of other appointments of a quasi-judicial nature will be reserved to the Lord Chancellor; and responsibility for the administration of the courts and tribunals in question will be reserved to the Secretary of State … It is the view of the Government that all judicial appointments should be made … on the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor, and that there should be a unified administration of the courts for which the Secretary of State should be answerable to Parliament."
    On the basis of that, the Bill was given a Second Reading in another place with the Government's face firmly set against any transfer from the Secretary of State to the Lord Chancellor in the administration of this new Northern Ireland Court Service.

    However, a mere fortnight later, my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor announced to the other place the complete reversal of his position—a conversion not quite as dramatic as that of St. Paul but nevertheless quite sudden. The only substantive reason which one can find, reading my noble Friend's speech, is that he had read an editorial in The Times. I must say that if the basis for changes in Government policy is to be editorials in The Times, I am afraid that the policies of this Labour Government will be of a strange and other worldly order.

    My noble Friend the Lord Chancellor argued that in practice the issue concerned appearances more than reality. But if that is so, I suggest that it is of assistance to look at the arguments advanced for this range by the Unionist peers and the Opposition in the other place.

    It was argued that if the control was to remain in the hands of the Secretary of State it would be urged by subversives that the courts were being manipulated for political reasons. That argument was dealt with very fully by my noble Friend earlier.

    But the history of the judiciary in Northern Ireland is what whatever complaints could have been made a decade or so ago about some of the appointments that were made to the bench, once people were on the bench either of the county court or the High Court, no arguments whatsoever could be made about the way in which the gentlemen on the bench fulfilled their functions. One could argue about the legislation that they were administering, but one could not argue about the way in which they carried out their judicial function.

    Indeed, if one considers the physical threats, the violence, the intimidation, the pressures upon their families and the actual deaths of members of the judiciary, to which reference was made earlier, one realises that their role has been quite exemplary in the Northern Ireland situation.

    Nor, indeed, could it be argued that their judgments were to any extent necessarily favourable to the Ministry at the time. Indeed, some of their judgments caused profound embarrassment to police, Governments and security forces at the time. One thinks, perhaps, of some of the people who were acquitted on the evidence produced before the court and who then had to be interned at the moment at which they were acquitted under the system before we had direct rule and before we got rid of internment without trial. The judges acted with impartiality and integrity on the evidence that they had.

    Again, one thinks of the leading Hume case when we in this House passed through an Army Act in the space of three hours with all three sections of the Bill done at the same time in the other place. The judges showed that they were there to interpret the law. Therefore, the argument about the independence of the judiciary and about manipulation and the argument that they could be undercut by subversives are not shown in practice to be true or correct.

    But, in fact, accepting that argument, putting the service under the control of the Lord Chancellor is turning that argument on its head and giving credence to things that subversives might have said, because it has been shown that it can be argued, on the one hand, that it could not be left to a Secretary of State because there might have been a devolution of power away from the centre and the British Government were not too certain about what would happen in the Six Counties.

    But there is an even more powerful argument if one is to argue about subversion and the excuse. That is that if the political control and responsibility is removed from the Secretary of State's hands across to a judicial officer and Minister of the British Cabinet, separate and distinct from Northren Ireland, it strengthens the argument of the nationalists—not "nationalists"; I withdraw that—the terrorist people who are seeking to subvert the course of justice and the institutions of justice by saying "These are colonial administrators coming across, directed here by a British Lord Chancellor". So one turns the argument on its head in that way.

    I also believe that by taking the control of the service into the hands of the Lord Chancellor, what we are saying, despite all the plaudits that we have given to the system in the past, is that basically we do not trust the Secretary of State or trust the Northern Ireland service itself to be controlled locally if some time a devolved power comes, and that we believe that the position could be that under a devolved Government there could be a situation in which an Administration would seek to subvert the law. If one starts off on that basis, one can never have any sort of basis of trust for any devolution, if it comes.

    However, I believe that there is also a more powerful argument against it. I believe that this is indicative of a phase that we are seeing in Northern Ireland of creeping integration into the United Kingdom system completely. I do not know what the hon. Members who represent the Six Counties who are present today think about that. Some, I imagine, favour complete integration. Others want a devolved system and want to be looser. But what I think is happening is the appearance of creeping integration, because we are taking one of the most important institutions in the State, the administration of the judiciary, and putting it into the control of a United Kingdom Minister. That Minister is not the Secretary of State with particular responsibility for Northern Ireland or future devolution but another United Kingdom Minister.

    It was argued in the other place that this was what the judiciary and the Bar wanted. Does that necessarily make it right? But if it was what they wanted—and this was what was being argued before Second Reading—why did we have to wait the 10 or 14 days or so before this sudden conversion? Why was it not all neatly parcelled up before? What were the other pressures that were there?

    1.15 p.m.

    It is fair to say that the Bill had had a longer gestation period than even that of an elephant. It is 10 years since the first reports were produced which are the basis of this important Bill. In that period, these views for the integration were advanced, rehearsed and rejected, and now they have been accepted. Why were they rejected before when they have been accepted now?

    It is said that the minority representatives within the legal profession may have requested this particular decision. I wonder whether they did so. Or was a particularly loaded question put to them?—not specifically loaded, but with an ambiance, a background, an implication. Was it said "It would be better to go to the Lord Chancellor because the next Secretary of State that we might have, from whatever Administration, might not be a nice, kind gentleman"—such as the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) or the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym), or my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary or my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State—gentlemen all considerate, who would never interfere? Was it said, "Better be warned in case we get a nasty one. Therefore, we shall leave it under the hands of the Lord Chancellor"?

    Was that said to the minority? Or was it, perhaps, that their vanity was appealed to. Were they flattered by actually being asked whether they wanted the Lord Chancellor, and "Was it not nice to be able to think that they could have him in the Six Counties?"?

    Or is it, perhaps, nearer the truth that the minority and, indeed, I think, others at the Northern Irish Bar and amongst the judiciary never carried through their thoughts to what were the institutional and the political implications of this decision? This decision is an important part of it.

    Why did the Opposition argue so forcibly for it in the other place and welcome it so effusively in this House? That they are a Unionist party, I understand. I have never had any doubts about that, and certainly their recent actions have more than underlined that principle that they adopt.

    But why, therefore, did they ever originally have the contrary as their policy back in 1973? Or is it that at present, in their assiduous wooing of the Ulster Unionists, they took an opportunist case in order to support Unionist demands on something and to try to ingratiate themselves in their favour?

    I believe that that is true. I also believe that this is a danger. The danger is that the present Government are perhaps seeking not to be outwooed, or not to be outwith the wooing, and in their desire to get a quick passage of the Bill through the House, in an otherwise crowded and contentious programme, they were prepared to agree and go along with this proposed change rather than have the Bill which they had originally drafted and on which they had been so firm before.

    It is a sad tale because we have never had an explanation in either House of the reasons for the change. I think it is a dangerous course that the Government are following. I believe it is leading to the symptom of creeping integration and I think it is doubly dangerous because I do not even believe that it is deliberate policy. I just do not think sometimes the Government are aware of the consequences of their own actions. I oppose the amendment.

    I have listened with great interest to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara), and I think that there are some matters that should be put on the record. When Stormont was in existence, I think a change was made and the Lord Chancellor did appoint High Court judges. I do not think that when Stormont was in existence anyone was talking about what he interprets as creeping integration.

    I would like to make my position clear. I believe in a devolved form of government in Northern Ireland.

    I thought I had made clear in the quotations I used that I was aware of what the situation was before. The point I was making is that this is a newly created Northern Ireland court service amalgamated from three courts which in the past have been the responsibility of the Minister for Home Affairs and the Secretary of State, and which we have transferred, hook, line and sinker, to the Lord Chancellor.

    I think it should be underscored and underlined that the Lord Chancellor had a judicial function in Northern Ireland when Stormont was in existence and there is no change in having the Lord Chancellor involved in the operation of the courts and the appointment of judges. It is not an absolute change.

    As far as I am concerned, Northern Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom and that is what the position is at the moment. By the law of this House, if a majority of people in Northern Ireland wishes it to be otherwise it will cease to be so. That is a very strange law; what would happen with a majority of one? But that is the present law. But that does not undermine my strong adherence to the view that Northern Ireland should have a Parilament of its own and a Government of its own.

    If I thought the hon. Gentleman was right in what he said, that this Bill will weaken the chances of Northern Ireland having its own Parliament and Government at some time, then I would be very happy to take the line that he is taking, but I do not think that that has anything to do with this matter. I appreciate his position, which he has put carefully. A Lord Chancellor of a Labour Government has knocked down the proposal that he should have authority under the terms of this Bill and argued forcibly on that matter. Then, a few days later he read an article in The Times and was suddenly converted.

    We have to probe a little further because the decision to change this was a decision to which the Government came after hearing representations right across the board. Those of us who are Members for Northern Ireland had a document issued to us by the members of the Bar, which includes both sections of the community. In fact, strong and influential members of the Bar in Northern Ireland belong to the Roman Catholic community. They were very determined in their lobbying of the Members from Northern Ireland that this change was imperative and that hon. Members should push for it.

    As I have said on another occasion, the Bill did not start in this House. I regret that, because Northern Ireland Members did not have the opportunity of a full discussion in Committee. I agree with what the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central said in Committee. There was only one Northern Ireland Member present, but only one could be present because both sides of the political divide in the Province were ignored when the Committee was appointed—as was the division within Unionism. The hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Bradford) was picked as the most suitable Northern Ireland Member to represent Northern Ireland on that Committee.

    On behalf of my constituents I resent the fact that on the only Northern Ireland Bill to come before the House this Session which has gone through a proper parliamentary process—First and Second Readings, and Committee—Northern Ireland Members are treated so shabbily. That is no reflection on the Solicitor-General. He has sought to meet the Northern Ireland Members in every possible way, and those of us who raised points on Second Reading had explanations from him which we appreciated. But it is hardly fair that only one Northern Ireland Member was on a Committee dealing with a major Bill which will change the whole system of the courts in Northern Ireland.

    That is water under the bridge, but the determination of the Northern Ireland people to have a devolved form of government and a Parliament of their own is in no way undermined because we are dealing with this matter in this way.

    A devolved form of Government does not need to interfere with the courts of Northern Ireland. I should like the courts to be part of the whole judicial system of the United Kingdom. If there were a devolved form of Government and Parliament in Northern Ireland tomorrow, there would be no need to change the law, because the Lord Chancellor would still have the responsibility.

    If we had a Parliament and a Government of our own, this law and the courts would have to be changed in the face of a new and terrible problem—that the Minister for Home Affairs in Northern Ireland, who would have a very rough ride, would suddenly be in charge of this difficult matter. I am sure that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central would find occasion to point out that a politician—probably a Unionist politician —was now interfering in the courts.

    There has been a good deal of criticism of Ministers for Home Affairs. I was not long in this House before Stormont fell, but even in my day, there was serious criticism of Ministers for Home Affairs for interferring with the administration of the judiciary. I am happy that this matter will now be taken out of the political arena and put into the hands of those who deal with matters of the law.

    I take the point that, to some extent, the Lord Chancellor is a political appointee but he does deal with these matters here and I do not see why he should not deal with them in Northern Ireland. This arrangement also flows from the fact that, when this House destroyed the Parliament of Northern Ireland, the Attorney-General of England and Wales became also the Attorney-General of Northern Ireland and was appointed separately.

    1.30 p.m.

    In my view, these changes having been made, it will be better that the courts are not administered by the Secretary of State but that responsibility should rest with the Lord Chancellor. This is a matter of agreement across the board. I am not sure that one could flatter the members of the Bar Council to whom the hon. Member referred. I know some of these gentlemen, and I do not imagine that flattery would get very far with them. Nor do I suppose that they are much impressed by English politicians of any kind. I think that it would be a matter of half a dozen of one and six of the other. The truth is that these people came to their decision in their wisdom.

    It should be said also that not only are the people personally concerned in favour of the change but across the board there is a general agreement. I am sure that if the section of the community represented here by the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) were hot under the collar about the matter, that hon. Member would be here today to let the House know, in his own forceful way, that his section of the community was disgusted that the Secretary of State was to lose some power.

    But that is not happening. There is a general consensus, which is not unusual in Northern Ireland. Some people think that the people of Northern Ireland are always at one another's throats. But there has been consensus on other things, which, perhaps, the House of Commons has not taken to heart.

    As my hon. Friend says, all sections of the community seem to think that the Housing Executive should be put into limbo and a new Executive formed. However, if I were to pursue that, you would, I am sure, call me to order, Mr. Speaker, and, since we are coming so near the Sabbath day, I do not wish to be called to order. So I shall come back to the essence of the matter.

    As I say, this change is generally accepted across the board. Some of us would have been happier if the Bill had been brought to this House first. I understand from the Solicitor-General—he put me right on the last occasion when I mentioned the matter—that it is not unusual for Bills to start in the other House. However, I believe that this particular proposal is acceptable to all sections of our community.

    I understand how the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central feels. He feels that there has been a conversion. I take it that, in his view, it was a conversion not from darkness to light, as the Apostle Paul's was, but from light to darkness. But I understand the hon. Gentleman's view. Either a man is perverted or is converted, and I gather that the hon. Gentleman thinks that the Lord Chancellor is perverted in this instance. However, I must be careful not to pass any strictures on the character of the Lord Chancellor, and I do not intend to.

    I believe that this proposal is acceptable to all the people of Northern Ireland. Certainly, whatever the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central may say, the Solicitor-General will know that his party is not wooing mine. My voting record in the House proves that. This is a question of what is good for all the people, and I am sure that what is proposed is good for all the people.

    I am grateful to the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) for his support on the issue raised by the amendent. He seized the opportunity to complain that only one hon. Member representing a constituency in Northern Ireland was present on the Committee. Perhaps, in view of that, I should point out for the record that today, on Report, two hon. Members representing constituencies in Northern Ireland are present, and perhaps, as the hon. Gentleman said, this may imply a high degree of satisfaction with the Bill among constituencies in the Province.

    As my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) said, it is true that at an earlier stage in our deliberations I claimed the lawyer's privilege of confining myself to the driest of dry technicalities. I am accused of dodging the issue in Committee. I think that my hon. Friend knows why I did not consider the Committee to be the appropriate occasion for rehearsing the constitutional arguments which he has raised.

    But I cannot pretend to entire innocence of constitutional issues in Northern Ireland, so I think it right to reply to what my hon. Friend said. Indeed, I am grateful to him for giving me the opportunity to make clear what were the motivating considerations which led to conversion, perversion—change of mind—on the Government's part in this matter. It should be said at the outset that changing one's mind in response to argument is not necessarily wicked on every occasion. The Government have kept an open mind.

    What concerns my hon. Friend is that, by giving responsibility to the Lord Chancellor rather than to the Secretary of State, the Bill represents a drift from devolution towards integration. I wish to set his mind at rest. There is no deep mystery about it. There are no integrational implications. No secret deals have been done. The purpose of the amendment, both among those who proposed it and among those who accepted it, is quite different from that.

    Let me, first, remind the House—I know that this will be welcome to the hon. Member for Antrim, North—that it remains the Government's aim to restore devolved Government to Northern Ireland as soon as that can properly be done. But let us be clear what devolution means. It does not mean that every decision automatically becomes the responsibility of the local Administration. That is not devolution. That is the path to separatism and independence.

    Devolution means that an elected authority in Northern Ireland would be responsible for an extensive range of matters, but that other matters would be reserved to the central Government. That must be true of any devolutionary settlement. Perhaps my hon. Friend would wish to go further than that—that can be debated on another occasion—but I wish the House to be clear that that would not be the Government's policy.

    Perhaps we should have a brief historical resume in this context. By the Supreme Court of Judicature (Ireland) Act 1877, judges in Ireland were to be appointed by the Queen, on the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor. That has been the position throughout most of the history, certainly of the Province and, one might even say, of Ireland itself.

    Let us then look at what happened in 1973, when there was a different Government. The appointment and removal of members of the judiciary were excepted matters, that is, matters which were the sole responsibility of the Government at Westminster. Other matters affecting the administration of the courts were reserved matters, that is, matters for which the Westminster Government would have responsibility but on which the devolved Government could legislate, with the permission of the Secretary of State, and subject to approval here.

    It was the intention of the Government of that day that responsibility for the administration of the courts should remain with the United Kingdom Government. That is the intention of the present Government. There has been no change of view about that. In 1976, my right hon. Friend the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland wrote in a letter to the Chairman of the Constitutional Convention:
    "There are a number of matters which it would be inappropriate to transfer. These include all judicial appointments and the administration of the courts".
    The House will see, therefore, that it has been the established policy of successive Governments to retain responsibility for the judiciary and courts administration at Westminster. That policy has been dictated, as I understand it, by the need to ensure that there can be no fears, however ill founded, that the independence of the courts will in any way be diminished.

    It was precisely for that reason—the need to preserve both the independence of the judiciary and the plainly apparent independence of the judiciary against even the most misguided of attacks—that we were persuaded to reconsider our original proposal that the Secretary of State should be responsible for the administration of the court service in Northern Ireland. It is true, as my hon. Friend reminded the House, that my noble Friend said in another place that this did not affect the independence of the judiciary. I do not think that it does. What it may affect is what people think about the independence of the judiciary.

    It is true that my noble Friend was reluctant to remove functions from the Secretary of State in such a way that it might be taken to imply that my right hon. Friend the present Secretary of State, or some previous Secretary of State, had been less than satisfactory in his discharge of the office. No such implication was intended and no such implication would have been justified, but it might have been thought, wrongly, to be the case.

    When he was introducing the Bill in another place, my noble Friend said that it was in his capacity as a Minister of the Crown, rather than as head of the judiciary, that he held responsibility for the administration of the courts in England and Wales, therefore it made no difference whether the Lord Chancellor or the Secretary of State had the responsibility in Northern Ireland. In practice, the same officials would have the same day-to-day running of the courts. They would be doing the same job. There is no question of trusting anyone. At that level the same people would be doing the same jobs.

    In fact, administrative considerations —particularly local knowledge at the higher administrative levels, and the fear that otherwise it might be thought to imply a criticism of the Secretary of State—were the main factors governing the initial decision to vest ministerial responsibility—as an innovation I repeat—in the Secretary of State rather than in the Lord Chancellor. It is true that the Lord Chancellor said all that in another place, but following the Second Reading debate in another place it became increasingly apparent that there was a very strong feeling in the judiciary, among the legal profession, and among non-lawyers, among the clients of the legal profession—the people who in one way or another would be affected by what went on in the courts—that ministerial responsibility for administration should rest with the Lord Chancellor. It did not rest wholly on an editorial in The Times.

    It was evidently felt that to leave the administration of the courts with a Minister, who also had a political role in the Province, might be misunderstood, and that it could undermine public confidence in the independence of the courts. In the light of a very strong expression of view in Parliament and in the Province that responsibility should rest with the Lord Chancellor, my right hon. Friend and my noble Friend reconsidered the position and decided that it would be right to make the change which is now embodied in the Bill, and which has been almost universally welcomed.

    I have explained the situation at some length because I think it is important that there should not be any misunderstanding about this. I want to make it as clear as the English language can make it that the overriding concern was that there could be no possible grounds—however misguided, however fanciful—to complain that the courts in Northern Ireland were coming under political influence.

    It is an old and sometimes overworked adage that not only must justice be done, it must manifestly be seen to be done. I think that this is a case in which that adage can properly be invoked.

    As the hon. and reverend Member for Antrim, North said, if there is any suggestion, however misguided, that the courts might be subjected to political influence, the people who object will depend upon the politicians who are exercising the influence, and this may change from time to time. But the fact is that the amendment to the Bill has nothing to do with integration nor, as my hon. Friend suggested at an earlier stage in our proceedings—I think he implied it again today—with trying to appease the Opposition or to make life easy for my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor.

    I hope that the House will accept that our one concern in this matter is the independence, and the manifest independence, of the judiciary, which must be preserved against any imputations which might undermine the confidence which it has properly built up among all sections of the community in the Province.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Schedule 7


    1.45 p.m.

    I beg to move Amendment No. 16, in page 127, line 53, column 3, leave out '4' and insert '14'.

    I can be very much briefer on this occasion. The purpose of the amendment is to correct a printing error.

    Amendment agreed to.

    I beg to move Amendment No. 18, in page 135, leave out lines 33 to 35.

    I shall not detain the House long. I put down three amendments to suggest alterations in the Schedule. For some unknown reason—perhaps a mere quirk of selection by the Chairman of Committees—my amendments to delete the whole of the Act of Union and the Government of Ireland Act 1920 from the Schedule were not chosen for debate.

    I will explain to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) that the selection was mine. The hon. Gentleman's amendment would have affected the whole Bill, whereas Amendment No. 18 is dealing with a limited part of the Bill. His other amendment, therefore, was strictly out of order.

    I had not imagined for one moment that any considerations other than good order would have governed your decision, Mr. Speaker. The amendments were put down not in a lighthearted vein completely but in order to draw attention to a point that I tried to make in the dying seconds of our proceedings in Committee.

    I wanted to draw attention also to what I have always felt has been a weakness in the way in which we produce our Bills. In the space of a couple of hours in Committee we passed a Bill of about 140 pages and 120 clauses and seven schedules. We considered amending or repealing 202 pieces of legislation. Forty whole Acts of the United Kigdom Parliament were repealed, and 96 parts. Eight Acts of the old Irish Parliament were repealed completely and 10 partially repealed. Of the Stormont Parliament, 35 Acts were partially repealed. Three Orders in Council were wholly repealed and 10 were partially repealed. All this was done, Mr. Speaker, in almost the twinkling of an eye.

    It has always seemed to me in regard to matters such as this, particularly when there are schedules, that the presentation and the purpose of the Bill deserve a better explanation. This is a point that I have made in the past, when very heavy consolidation measures have been going through the House. This is a point which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Law Officers Department has taken on board since that time.

    I am sure that the whole House regrets that Chapter 2 of the Statute of Edward III, made at Westminster in the Fourth Year of his reign after the Conquest, will no longer apply to Northern Ireland. We weep for it but we should have liked to know to what that chapter applies.

    Wait a minute. There is a strange Act of the Irish Parliament called the Demise of the Crown Act (Ireland) 1634. There we have a degree of future scanning which was very prescient, perhaps, at least in 26 parts of it.

    My general point is that there should be better presentation of Bills, particularly when we have enormous schedules of repeals, which draw attention not only to what is being repealed but to the relevant parts of the measures. Had I been in order, Mr. Speaker, I should have been delighted to debate those statutes at length.

    I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for allowing me to intervene. The hon. Gentleman referred to his comments in the dying seconds of the Committee stage. I ask him to address his mind to the comment he made then, when he stated that it was a crying shame that there was not one Northern Ireland Member present. If the hon. Gentleman will try to recall that occasion, I think he will agree that there was one such Member present. I have tried to have the record rectified. I should be grateful if the hon. Gentleman will take steps to do that or—

    I would certainly say that at least there was only one Northern Ireland Member present. I am not sure whether the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Bradford) was actually there when I made my comments, but if he was of course I withdraw them.

    That proves that I am the most broadminded Speaker that this House has ever known.

    It was a matter of relief to me, Mr. Speaker, that you felt unable to select my hon. Friend's amendment proposing to delete, at a stroke, the whole of the Government of Ireland Act.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) has, with his usual perspicacity, grasped the fact that the schedule we are debating is really a consolidation schedule. It is an attempt to produce a briefer and tidier statute book. The way in which we deal with consolidation measures in the House might sometimes be a little clearer, but I assure my hon. Friend that I will make sure that what he has said is passed on to the appropriate authorities.

    I am not sure whether he really wants a reply to the amendment that he has proposed—

    My hon. Friend shakes his head, therefore, I hope that he will withdraw his amendment on the basis of the assurance I have given.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Amendments made: No. 19, in page 137, column 3, leave out lines 52 to 54.

    No. 20, in page 138, leave out line 31 and insert—

    'Section 137(b) and (c).
    Section 138.'.—[The Solicitor-General.]

    I beg to move Amendment No. 21, in page 139, leave out line 37 and insert—

    'In section 23—
  • (a) subsection (3);
  • (b) in subsection (7) the words "or (3)" and "and fees";
  • (c) subsections (8) and (9).'.
  • This amendment is designed to repeal two small parts of a statutory section which is consequent on other provisions in the Bill.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Amendments made: No. 22, in page 142, line 35, after '1964', insert

    Schedule 2 to the Children and Young Persons Act (Northern Ireland) 1968'.

    No. 23, in page 142, line 44, leave out from '1959' to end of line 46 and insert

    the Magistrates' Courts Act (Northern Ireland) 1964 and the Children and Young Persons Act (Northern Ireland) 1968'.

    No. 24, in page 143, line 12, after '49', insert ', 57( d)'.—[ The Solicitor-General.]

    Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

    1.55 p.m.

    I do not want to detain the House very long at this stage, but I wish to return to three points which have been touched upon at various stages in the course of the passage of the Bill.

    The first concerns Clause 9 and the eligibility of solicitors who have served for a period of 10 years and who, after three years as deputy county court judges, still do not qualify to be appointed to the High Court. The Solicitor-General was very kind in replying to this point of detail in correspondence. In that correspondence he stated that the situation obtained not only in Northern Ireland, but in this part of the Kingdom as well and therefore it would be a matter for consideration in the Royal Commission report.

    I appreciate the length at which the Solicitor-General replied. I ask him to confirm this afternoon that the Royal Commission will address itself to this matter. It is so easy in a large report, if there has been a very large remit, for one or two specific matters to be overlooked. I ask him to call the attention of the Commission to this point because it has aroused very strong feeling in Northern Ireland among solicitors who believe that a solicitor who has qualified as a county court judge should be eligible for appointment to the High Court.

    There are reasons why this should not be the case. Some people contend that as a solicitor's job is confined by definition to courts other than the High Court this is a reason for not making them eligible. Having said that, I must point out that there is a strong argument against creating two classes of county court judge in Northern Ireland as a result of this legislation.

    I also wish to raise the point relating to Clause 69, which deals with the creation of the Court Service. On Second Reading and in Committee we raised points which showed that there could be disruption in redeployment. We said that the Government should look at the possibility of impairment of career prospects in the new Court Service. Again, the Solicitor-General was kind enough to write to me. There is one important suggestion which might be made, even at this late stage in the Bill's proceedings. Those in the Court Service who may be affected by the question of mobility, who may be disrupted or redeployed, or whose career prospects may be impaired should have recourse to some kind of arbitration.

    The present staff of the county courts and petty sessions have no right of access to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration. If that is to remain the case, many members of the new Court Service will feel that they must have an impartial arbiter to consider their grievances. This is the case in many grades of the Civil Service. If those in the new Court Service had an arbiter to whom they could have recourse on unresolved disputes, they could be sure that the disputes would be looked at impartially This is a very important matter.

    There is also the point about the rights of the existing staff appointed under the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland. That point was not met in correspondence. We felt on Second Reading that they might forgo rights that they acquired when they were appointed under the Lord Chief Justice. If the Solicitor-General would comment on this matter. I should be very grateful.

    The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara), with his usual lucidity, argued his case very well. What he did not disclose, in spite of indulging in his usual semantics, was his political philosophy on Ireland, which is that it should be a matter not of devolution but of total separation. In all honesty, he must accept that. Therefore, I do not think that we should spend too much time discussing this Damascus road change for the Lord Chancellor about which he complains, particularly as the hon. Member's underlying philosophy is the complete separation of Northern Ireland, and indeed of the whole island of Ireland from the United Kingdom.

    2.0 p.m.

    I have listened with interest to what the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Bradford) has just said. I shall return to it in a moment. However, despite my own fears about parts of the philosophy of the changes that have taken place in the Bill, this must be recognised as being one of the most important Northern Ireland measures to have gone through this House, certainly since I have been a Member, apart from the controversies that we have had with regard to direct rule and so on.

    It is an important measure because it seeks to aim to reorganise the whole of the system of the administration of justice. That should be recognised. We should also recognise the considerable work of the distinguished Northern Ireland purists who have done the preparatory work and produced the preparatory reports which led to the introduction of the Bill. It is an enormous and important Bill and it should be recognised as such. It is something which will be tinkered with and perhaps altered from time to time. But, while the Six Counties remain the Six Counties, it will be the major piece of legislation governing the administration of the courts there. Therefore, we should salute those people outside this House who not only drafted the Bill but produced all the various reports necessary to produce it. That ought to be understood, accepted and acknowledged.

    I turn to the point made with regard to conversion. I am now even more confused and confounded. It was said that conversion was from darkness to light From what I have heard from the Solicitor-General, it is not so much darkness and light as encircling gloom. The situation now appears doubly contradictory. Not only did we in opposition support the administration being in the hands of the Secretary of State, but when the former Secretary of State wrote to the Chairman of the Constitutional Convention he said that we were reserving the administration. Subsequently my noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor, in another place, said that we were not reserving it but giving it to the Secretary of State. A fortnight later he changed his mind. This is very strange.

    The Solicitor-General has been confusing a number of things. He sought to suggest that we did not appreciate the role which the Lord Chancellor played in the appointment of people to the judiciary in Northern Ireland both before and after direct rule. Who had control of the administration of the courts? The administration of all the lower courts, certainly the county courts and below, was in the hands of the administration in the Six Counties. By this Bill we have established a very important institutionalised Government Department—the Northern Ireland Court Service—which I hope will be staffed with men and women of integrity. I hope that it will do a good job. It is a new and important Government Department within the Six Counties which will come under the possible control of an indigenous Minister from the Lord Chancellor's Department. I think that that is wrong.

    The hon. Member for Belfast, South accused me of not revealing my hand with regard to what I consider should be the future of the Six Counties and the island of Ireland. I must admit that I have some prejudices about what should be the best course for this Government, and future Governments, to take. In the past errors have been made, not least because of the powerful persuasion of some of the hon. Gentleman's predecessors who went to the extent of armed rebellion before the 1914–18 war to force the hand of a democratically elected British Government. Be that as it may, I should like to see a united Ireland. I do not think that we shall get it tomorrow, but equally I do not think that we should do anything whatever in the Six Counties which either takes them nearer to the United Kingdom or further away. We should leave the situation as it is. In terms of the domestic legislation of the Six Counties, I believe that nothing should be done in this House until such times as the people of the Six Counties are prepared to accept a devolved government on the basis of the terms laid down in the White Papers of different Governments.

    That has always been my attitude. I thought that that would have been recognised by the hon. Member for Belfast, South, without my having to comment upon it.

    Does the hon. Gentleman include any possible legislation for the reorganisation of secondary education in the Province in his principle that there should be no such domestic legislation in advance of devolution?

    The hon. Gentleman is seeking to embarrass me on the question of comprehensivisation being introduced in the Six Counties. I believe that it should be introduced. However, I believe that it should be done by agreement and consultation among the people involved. If not, it should not be gone ahead with because that is something which people should work out themselves.

    I return to the Bill. Despite my reservations, and despite what I have said about this being creeping integration, there is no doubt that the Bill is important. It will soon go on to the statute book. We must ensure that both in terms of the Administration and of the judiciary we have the same quality and calibre of men who in difficult times have seen to the administration of justice in Northern Ireland. I am sure that we shall get that.

    2.7 p.m.

    The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) underlined the importance of this measure. It needed to be underlined. It is a very important measure. I agree with some of his criticisms about the way in which this House has to deal with this legislation. I regret that today there is not a fuller turnout of Northern Ireland Members. I believe that Northern Ireland Members are a little grieved—I could perhaps use a stronger word—that Friday is always the day when Northern Ireland business is debated.

    Nothern Ireland Members perhaps live further from this House than any other hon. Members. Friday is usually a day when a Member of Parliament likes to be at home in his constituency. Incidentally, there were four hon. Members from Northern Ireland present at the beginning of the debate rather than two. I am sure the House is delighted that those four hon. Members did not take part. I am sure that the officials of the House were also delighted, because I have learned that Friday is not a popular day.

    This is an important measure because we are introducing a new system and a new court. We are also changing procedures. We are dealing with many matters that have been under consideration for a very long time. I believe that the Bill now has overwhelming support in Northern Ireland. Even the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central, who has reservations—we all have reservations—would agree that this measure will have a good effect upon the future of the judiciary in Northern Ireland and upon the administration of justice.

    I understand where the hon. Gentleman stands on these matters, but one's viewpoint of the interpretation of history tends to colour a person's outlook. The hon. Gentleman pleaded guilty to having prejudices. I never knew he would make such a confession. The armed rebellion he mentioned resulted from a shoddy political deal between nationalists in this House who wanted to leave the United Kingdom and who were not a bit concerned about the future of this part of the United Kingdom and did a deal to get this Act on the statute book. Perhaps I should not digress, Mr. Speaker.

    I know that the hon. and reverend Gentleman is fond of quoting St. Paul. I was going to put forward the view "Let brotherly love continue" and ask the House to drop that subject.

    Perhaps that quotation is not too appropriate, Mr. Speaker. I can think of other quotations such as "From such turn away". I shall now turn away from that subject.

    I believe that justice in Northern Ireland needs to be done and to be seen to be done. The system proposed in this Bill appeals to all sections of the community. Everybody feels that this is a good Bill and that the law we seek to enact is a good one which will be helpful to all the citizens of Northern Ireland.

    I trust that when the new Court Service is set up the difficulties outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Bradford) will be considered. I trust that there will be some form of appeal. I trust that those who are employed in the Court Service will have an opportunity of appealing if they find themselves in difficulty, or if they consider that they are being discriminated against in employment or in job advancement. I hope that the Solicitor-General will consider that matter and will satisfy us upon it.

    The judges, magistrates and court officials in Northern Ireland have a difficult job to do, but we hope and pray that normality will eventually reign. If the system that is now being set up weathers the severe storm, no doubt those difficulties will pass. When we reach better days, that system will be found to be tried and proved, and will be of great advantage to the citizens of Northern Ireland.

    I wish to put on record the fact that the next time the Government—whatever Government it may be—introduce a Bill on Northern Ireland and refer it to a Committee upstairs, they will ensure that it contains adequate representation from Northern Ireland. It is unfair that only one hon. Member from Northern Ireland had the advantage of being present at the deliberations on the Bill.

    I believe that the provisions of this Bill will do good and that we are on the right lines. Despite the Lord Chancellor's conversion or perversion, I thought that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central intended to say that the light was so dazzling that it blinded him. However, I believe that this Bill, when enacted, will set up a system that will be of advantage to all the citizens of Northern Ireland. That is its objective, and I believe that that goal can be achieved.

    2.15 p.m.

    Taking to heart your text, Mr. Speaker, "Let brotherly love continue", I wish to thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor-General for the care, clarity and courtesy with which he has helped the House and, on an earlier occasion, the Committee.

    As the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) and others have said, the Bill when enacted will bring about a beneficial reform of a profound character of the judicial system that took shape, when there was one Ireland, united under the Crown. I am glad that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) graciously mentioned those who prepared the legislation. The traditionally minded, like the hon. Gentleman, who regrets the repeal of medieval statutes and the legislation of Ascendency Parliaments, may sigh for the passing into history of such ancient institutions as the assize. There were those who were sad when the Crown court took its place on this side of the water. However that may be, it is a matter of satisfaction to all who cherish the Union, as we do on this side, that the courts of Northern Ireland should follow a pattern similar to that of England and Wales.

    The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central swallowed the bulk of the Bill, but jibbed at the responsibility for the new Northern Ireland Court Service being entrusted to the Lord Chancellor. I shall not rehearse the argument on the amendments both upstairs and downstairs, but we are glad that the Government, having heard the representations of those who are most knowledgeable and concerned and the opinion of the Opposition as expressed by noble Lords in another place, and opinions also expressed in this House, have agreed with us that it is more appropriate that the control should rest with the Lord Chancellor than with the Secretary of State. Both, I may say in passing, are English Ministers.

    Surely nothing should be left undone by the Legislature to assure, to buttress and to demonstrate the independence of the Northern Ireland judiciary. That confidence it receives—and this despite the regrettable necessity of the Diplock procedure.

    The Solicitor-General ackowledged that the fairness of the judges in Northern Ireland is generally recognised, and their integrity was commended by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Cen- tral. This short debate enables this House to salute the courage of the judges, magistrates and all who serve the courts in Northern Ireland. Justice is impartially administered there, despite cruel threats and savage attacks.

    I conclude by echoing the tribute paid by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Percival) to the two late president magistrates. Mr. Staunton and Mr. McBirney, and Judge Rory Conaghan. Let them be remembered with honour.

    2.18 p.m.

    The text you suggested, Mr. Speaker, commends itself to me above some others which have been ventilated in this debate, because it has the advantage of being so clear that it requires no exegesis. It has been applied in these debates, and it is a sad reflection that the way in which it has been applied here cannot always be reflected in the Province.

    I begin by expressing double appreciation to the House for the forbearance with which it has received a substantial number of Government amendments, both in Committee and today on Report. Those amendments proved necessary partly because of a substantial amendment in another place, and partly because inevitably there has been a reaction to the suggestions made. I hope that we have reacted in a way that suggests we have been prepared to polish the Bill as we go along.

    Secondly, I am grateful to the House for the welcome which has been accorded to the Bill and for the co-operation of all who have participated in the debates. I bear in mind what was said by the hon. and reverend Gentleman the Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) that those who have abstained from contributing have also made their contribution.

    The Bill will not satisfy everyone in all its detail. Indeed, it has not wholly satisfied my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara). I appreciate his reasons and I am grateful for what he said, that, despite the defects he thinks it has, he believes that it is still an important Bill which has a contribution to make to the future of the Province. I do not claim—unhappily it is all too obvious—that it will solve all the problems of the Province. Some of the issues that have arisen today will remain unresolved even after the Bill is on the statute book.

    I was asked by the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Bradford) for answers to certain questions which have been ventilated during our debates. I am not sure whether I can carry very much further what was said in Committee and what I attempted to set out when I wrote to him.

    As regards the eligibility of solicitors for appointment to the High Court, a matter which I know has concerned from time to time my hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade—

    No—Under-Secretary of State.

    If I said Secretary of State, that was a prophecy. However, I am sure that if I were in danger of forgetting the problem my hon. Friend would ensure that I did not do so.

    I cannot give any undertaking on what matters the Royal Commission will consider. It is only honest for me to point out that the appointment of the judiciary is not within its terms of reference. When I referred to the report of the Royal Commission I had in mind that there is likely to be a great deal in what it reports about the relations between the two branches of the profession which may affect the decisions that we make about these matters. Meanwhile, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will not have overlooked Clause 107, which makes a move in that direction and provides that where someone moves over from one branch of the profession to the other his service in the one branch will count in computing his qualifications for judicial office.

    Secondly, the hon. Member for Belfast, South and the hon. Member for Antrim, North mentioned that not all the rules of service as regards the new Court Service have yet been evolved. They are being discussed. I am sure that what has been said in our debates will be borne very much in mind. I cannot give an undertaking that any form of appeal to some sort of impartial arbitrator will be incorporated. I think that we all hope that the need for it will not often arise.

    There will not be a mass redeployment of people from the jobs which they are already doing. I shall ensure that what the hon. Member for Belfast, South said is passed on to those who are dealing with these matters. I think that that is the only comment that I can make on his third point. I trust that he will forgive me if I do not attempt to elaborate in a vacuous manner when I have little to say about it at this stage.

    The Bill has had a fair wind from all parts of the House. I hope that that is a good omen for the future of the administration of justice in Northern Ireland. I believe that it will encourage everyone concerned in Northern Ireland to accord under the new dispensation the high level of confidence that they have shown so far to those involved in the administration of justice. What I am about to say by way of tribute cannot be said too often. I reiterate the tributes paid to all those involved at every stage in the administration of justice in the Province. They have carried out their duties in conditions which I am sure history will recognise perhaps more clearly than some of our contemporaries.

    This is an important Bill. I echo the tribute paid by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central to all who have played their part in producing it both in the course of consultation and in the course of official and administrative duties. To many of them I am personally deeply indebted. Without their aid I should never have understood some of the things that in the course of our debates I came to understand. I believe that the Bill will enhance the administration of justice in the Province and through it the protection of individuals from unlawful activities and from injustices alike.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed, with amendments.

    European Community (State Liner Fleets)

    2.24 p.m.

    I beg to move,

    That this House takes note of EEC Document No. R/829/78 on the activities of certain state trading countries in cargo liner shipping.
    The document is to be debated at the EEC Transport Council on Monday and it will be of value to me, as the Minister representing the United Kingdom, to hear the views of hon. Members who desire to speak on what is undoubtedly an important topic. The Commission document has been submitted for parliamentary scrutiny and the Scrutiny Committee has recommended that it should be considered by the House.

    At the outset I congratulate the hon. Member for Wirral (Mr. Hunt) on his maiden appearance on the Opposition Front Bench. I wish him many happy years on that Front Bench. I am sure that he will bring it an almost unique distinction.

    As I have said, this is an extremely important issue. In the liner trades the United Kingdom flag is fifth in the world. In containerised tonnage we are second. The United Kingdom fleet is modern, well equipped and well managed. It has done well in maintaining its competitive presence in world trades in the changing circumstances of the past few years.

    Unquestionably, the activities of the Soviet merchant fleet have certainly given rise to difficult problems and represent a serious threat to Western merchant shipping interests. I know that, as is not uncommon, the USSR will complain that this is to engage in just another fashionable anti-Soviet diatribe, that we are exaggerating, and that all this is borne out of a desire to give undue protection to our shipping interests. It is none of these things, as I hope I can establish by identifying and illustrating some of the main problems and effects.

    First, today the Soviet merchant fleet is the sixth largest in the world, containing some 3 per cent. of the world's tonnage. It has quadrupled since 1960. Much of the fleet expansion took place between 1960 and 1970, motivated by a surge in Soviet seaborne foreign trade beginning in 1969, which increased the Soviet Union's dependence on foreign ships for transport. After a temporary cutback in 1971–72, the Soviet Union resumed its vigorous acquisition of merchant ships, adding about 1 million tons to its fleet each year. Since 1975, in the liner fleet the Soviet Union has put prime emphasis on the build-up of its roll-on roll-off capacity.

    In 1977, the rate of additions to the Soviet merchant fleet appeared to be keeping up to the pace set in recent years. The amount of new tonnage added in 1977 was approximately 1·2 million tons. The rate of acquisitions, which was kept high by additions of bulk and combination carriers, was all the more striking in the face of a general cutback in world ship construction. During the current five-year plan we can expect the Soviet fleet to increase considerably, and I shall refer to that later.

    Secondly, the great majority of Soviet cross-trading takes place outside scheduled liner services. Although, up to the present, Western interests have not been unduly concerned about Soviet bulk-trading or tanker activities there is, most certainly, acute anxiety about Soviet carriage in the liner cross-trades. Despite the fact that, within the total Soviet cross-trading activity, this is still small in tonnage terms, between 1965 and 1976 it has increased ten-fold and considerable trade has been captured from certain world shipping conferences, and notably from the East African conference and the North Atlantic and trans-Pacific trades. If pressed I could provide the House with further and better particulars of these basic facts.

    Thirdly, the Soviet Union unquestionably has a problem in filling its ships. The reason is that, in volume terms, Soviet exports greatly exceed imports and, therefore, if ships were used solely to carry the Soviet's own bilateral trade a large number of them would be unladen, or only partly laden, on their return voyages. Thus, there are obvious attractions for them in picking up third party cargoes, and even greater attractions if payment is made in convertible currency for a country which desperately seeks to earn foreign exchange. Indeed, it is that which leads directly to the Soviet predatory rate cutting.

    The fourth point relates to the means of competition in which the Soviet Union engages. Undercutting by Soviet liners is supported, among other things, by subsidy, direct or indirect; by policies determined by central planning authorities which only in part relate to commercial factors; by amortising capital costs of ships over 25 years instead of 15 or even less, as is usual in the West; by the State covering hull and cargo insurance and the cost of training crews; and, not least, by Soviet foreign trade organisations buying fob and selling cif.

    The fifth point is that Soviet expansion is beginning to take effect in the carriage of containerised cargo, as I indicated earlier. Our estimate is that the USSR will have a total container capacity of 30,000 units in 1981, of which at least 19,000 units will be used on international trade routes. This sector of shipping will have the largest growth rate and represents the major competitive threat to western liner operators.

    The sixth point is that the issues of penetration into the liner trades must be viewed in the light not only of direct loss of revenue to Western carriers because of rate cuting, but of countervailing rate cutting by Western carriers which has to be done to match Soviet competition.

    Since a number of liner conference carriers may operate on a small margin of profit, even a limited incursion into the market by an outsider results in lost revenues and leads to a lowering of rates to keep vital business. This can be vividly illustrated by the Europe-East African Conference, where some $35 million to $40 million was lost in countering the Soviet rates, which were some 30 per cent. lower. Now fair competition is one thing, and can be said to keep conference shipping on its toes, but low rates, buttressed by hugh subsidies, is quite another matter.

    The seventh point is that another increasingly important element in this is the Trans-Siberian land bridge. Although Western shipping companies do not appear to have suffered too adversely up to the present, there is no room for complacency, because this represents the largest potential threat of all. There is strong evidence that the Soviet Union is seeking to attract cargoes by offering rate advantages of 40 per cent. to 50 per cent. on some goods —for example electrical goods westbound for Japan. The only fortunate feature is that the efficiency of the operation leaves considerable room for improvement. But I think that will improve. Therefore, we can certainly expect this threat to grow.

    The eighth point is that one cannot dismiss from these considerations the longer-term strategic value of all these developments to the Soviet Union—the auxiliary support for the Soviet Navy on a global scale and the wider support for Soviet political ambitions.

    I recognise that the Soviet Union denies that it has any expansionist role in shipping. I have from time to time read a number of speeches by Mr. Guzhenko, the Soviet Minister concerned. I know that the Soviet Union asserts that the growth of its fleet is related only to its cargo-generating capacity, on both its domestic and foreign trades. Frankly, this is just a smokescreen. The evidence is overwhelmingly the other way.

    These are some of the salient facts which provide the back-cloth to this debate.

    We appreciate that the Soviet Union, as a major world Power, is entitled to have a substantial merchant fleet. No one can possibly object to that. We do not fear genuine competition. Our objection is to its grossly unfair shipping practices.

    Notwithstanding that, I believe that it is better to try to resolve these difficulties amicably. Thus, over the course of the last 18 months it has been made manifestly clear to the Soviet Union by the United Kingdom, at both ministerial and official level, that our objective is to seek not a confrontation with the Soviet Union but a policy of accommodation if —I underline the word "if"—the Soviet side is prepared to meet problems of genuine concern to us.

    I made that plain to Minister Guzhenko when I met him in London in June 1977. I said that I hoped that, by the time that I saw him again in Moscow in October 1977, to which city he had invited me, some real progress in achieving an equitable solution could have been made.

    It is true that, even before June, the Soviet Union had conceded that in our bilateral trades British ships should be able to acquire a fairer share of carryings. At the June meeting Minister Guzhenko went further and said that he would support a movement towards parity in this regard. Welcome though this was, it dealt only with a peripheral problem. The fundamental question affected Soviet rate cutting on the liner trades, and here, regrettably, there had been no real progress at all.

    It has always seemed to me, having been involved in this dialogue for some little time, to be profitless to debate with the Soviet Union its contentions that its shipping companies are operated profitably with no element of subsidy. We do not speak the same language in assessing "profitability". There is no starting point of understanding. Therefore, the debate on those grounds is rather meaningless. Facts are what they are, not what some might pretend they are. Soviet depredations have been and are practised in the liner field. Their rates cannot be justified on commercial grounds and they are injurious to Western shipping. That is the view not only of the Government but of the employers and the unions, too, with whom the Government have consulted closely.

    It must be said that at the June meeting the Soviet Minister asserted that he, too, wanted to arrive at a fair accommodation and to establish a reasonable modus vivendi for Soviet liners either within or outside the conferences, and it was agreed that Britain and the Soviet Union would try to work out a draft of acceptable guidelines for participation in maritime trades which would be acceptable to the Soviet side and to the West. I stated, however, that it was useless just to talk of principles and that we required proof that progress could be made at the same time in individual problem cases. I considered that the negotiations between the East African Conference and Besta Line represented the best test of Soviet intentions, since it was here, albeit on a limited scale and, indeed, because of that, that the USSR could most easily demonstrate a clear willingness to reach a rapprochement.

    In the intervening period, before my visit to Moscow in October, efforts were made to produce draft guidelines. The finest principles were enunciated, but these, I regret, were unaccompanied by any movement on the Soviet side. Therefore, when I was in Moscow, I decided, because of that lack of progress, to put the guidelines exercise into cold storage.

    At the EEC Transport Council in October 1977, I warmly welcomed the decision to call for a proposal for a programme of defensive measures on a Community basis. That decision in October 1977 on the part of EEC Ministers was unanimous. It was recognised by all that effective preparation of our defences against the Soviet Union would have to be co-ordinated internationally. In broad terms, we welcome the Commission's proposals which have been prepared in response to this remit from Ministers. We believe this to be a sensible approach.

    My understanding is that next Monday we shall be asked to endorse a framework decision which will institute a community-wide monitoring system designed to obtain and record information on all maritime practices deemed to be detrimental to the shipping interests of member States, whatever their source, for example, presumably, flags of convenience. This would be accompanied by provision for the Council to decide on a joint application by member States using their national powers of appropriate countervailing measures to deal with identified threats. This would be accompanied by a specific decision immediately bringing the monitoring system into effect vis-à-vis the liner shipping activities of the Soviet merchant fleet.

    These are pretty modest proposals. It surprises me that they may not have found general favour with all member States—something that I would deeply regret. I believe that a weakening of resolve will be damaging in the long term not only to shipping interests but to those of shippers, too. The conflict of interests that some claim to exist between shippers and the shipping industry is illusory.

    Eventually an erosion of Western shipping interests in consequence of Soviet depredations can only put shippers under the dominion of those who act in this way. This is well understood by the British Shippers Council. It fully recognises that the Soviet Union is not the Freddie Laker of international shipping. But it surprises me that this simple point is not starkly evident to all our colleagues in Europe.

    Accordingly, at the Council of Ministers we shall continue to press for the sort of measures proposed by the Commission. We must be prepared to defend our legitimate maritime interests. If this is the position of the nations of the EEC, it also provides the best assurance of achieving that accommodation which we have always sought. I believe that the Soviet Union would be concerned to arrive at an agreement if the EEC showed itself to be united and resolute.

    There is a possibility that other member States will seek to place action against the Soviet threat in a broader context, which would involve giving the Community, as I touched on a moment ago, the ability to monitor all maritime practices deemed to be detrimental to the shipping interests of member States, whatever their source. I have mentioned briefly flags of convenience as an example.

    I say at once that we shall look sympathetically at any such proposals, but is it not absurd to suggest, as some might, that the two matters are mutually exclusive? Is there not more urgency about one than the other? It would be absolutely wrong for us to be deflected from our contention that the immediate focus of Community concern should be the Soviet maritime threat, both actual and potential. Inaction now could well result in this threat being extended to the bulk trades, since we are convinced that there is an avowed Soviet intent to continue to build up its shipping behind a curtain of preference and subsidy.

    I do not conceal from the House the fact that if, despite all our efforts, member States are unable to demonstrate a concerted will to act, this will represent a serious setback to the interests of shipping, of shippers and of wider interests in Europe. For this reason I hope that the hon. Member for Wirral, who will speak for the Conservative Party in this matter, will support the line that I have outlined.

    Only a few days ago Mr. Guzhenko said in a long speech about shipping that the Soviet merchant marine interests would never agree to inequitable relations. I think that he is looking at the matter from a somewhat jaundiced point of view. I am not looking for inequitable relations with the Soviet Union. I want the situation to be rendered fair and just. There should be accommodation, but it has to be on reasonable terms. If the Soviet Union decides that it is not prepared to reach that form of accommodation, I believe unhesitatingly that it is the job of the EEC to demonstrate its determination fully to take the matter into account.

    2.45 p.m.

    I appreciate the Minister's kind and generous words at the start of his speech, as I also applaud his new-found aggression, to which I shall return in a minute. I must however point out that the Conservative Party protests at the short notice given by the Government of this vital debate on the Soviet maritime threat. Document R 829/78 was included by the Lord President in his announcement of business on 25th May, but only by reference to a debate on liner conferences. It was only yesterday, after Opposition protests, that the Government seemed to realise that they had misunderstood the subject matter and announced a separate debate.

    Even the hot line which seems to exist between the Minister's Department and Lloyd's List seems to have failed, because in yesterday's edition mention was made of this debate taking place some time before the end of July. For a subject as vital as this, we should have had a debate much earlier and on a more important day, when I know a number of my colleagues would have wished to participate.

    We in the Conservative Party have been growing increasingly impatient with the Government's lack of action to counter the economic and strategic threat posed by the Soviet maritime expansion. We therefore welcome the new-found aggression of the Minister this afternoon. However, on any assessment, his attitude and the Government's attitude until now have been feeble and weak.

    Since the early 1960s, and in particular since the early 1970s, there has been a rapid expansion of the cargo liner fleets of the State trading countries of Eastern Europe and of Russia in particular. It has been a matter of deep concern to the shipping industry for at least four years. It is now over two years since the General Council of British Shipping published "Red Ensign versus Red Flag"—a very informed leaflet which pointed out the potential consequences of Soviet expansion.

    The Minister recognised today that even since then there has been a continued dramatic increase in the Russian merchant fleet. He mentioned that the Russians have concentrated on roll-on roll-off ships in service. The indications are that they will have 40 by the end of 1980. Already, as he admitted, it is the sixth largest world fleet. All the signs are that in their next five-year plan the Russians will be seeking a further substantial increase in their fleet. We have too much to lose to delay any longer.

    The Minister has at last mentioned the substantial contribution of British shipping. The industry contributes in gross earnings £2,500 million to our balance of payments, with gross import savings of just under £500 million. The Soviet maritime expansion therefore poses a major threat to our economy.

    One aspect with which the Minister did not spend much time dealing is that the threat is not simply economic. It represents a serious strategic threat. Those who study Soviet expansion can see a clear political motive of seeking to control important shipping routes with an apparent objective of destroying the economic health of Western shipping lines.

    Most Soviet merchant ships are equipped with advanced naval equipment with interchangeable crews. The Soviets have therefore been devoting vast resources to the creation of a large modern ocean-going fleet with considerable military potential. They have in fact gone so far as to admit that their goal is to
    "utilise the World oceans in the interests of building Communism".
    I was very glad to hear from the Minister his recognition of the danger commercially and strategically of the increase in traffic using the Trans-Siberian land bridge. With an annual carrying capacity which has now reached 150,000 containers, this will increase to 300,000 by the end of 1980 and could double again by the end of 1985. The land bridge is, of course, under full Soviet physical control and is no doubt an important part of what appears to be a clear plan to gain a stranglehold on world shipping.

    The Russians have already met with considerable success. Already in the bilateral trade Soviet shipping carries 85 per cent. of imports and exports between this country and the USSR. However, the major anxiety is over the activities of the Russians in the cross trades where our shipping industry is so strong. The Russians have been concentrating on the main trade routes by undercutting freight rates charged by the liner conferences by up to 30 per cent.

    For instance, in the conference traffic in sectors of North Atlantic trades the Russians have already been extremely successful and carry up to 28 per cent. eastbound and 25 per cent. westbound. COMECON liners have captured a market share of 35 per cent. already of the cargo transported between Northern Europe and the Mediterranean. In the important United Kingdom-East African trade, the losses in which were mentioned by the Minister, the Russians have already pushed up their share to 20 per cent. from nothing a comparatively short time ago, which share is over and above the liner conference share of the Poles and the East Germans.

    I return to my initial question. What have the Government been doing while all this has been going on? My answer is—too little. It was 12 months ago that the Minister said when answering Questions:
    "We have made it plain to the Soviet Union that we prefer a policy of accommodation rather than confrontation. Nevertheless, as the Soviet Minister well knows, there is provision in Part III of the Merchant Shipping Act 1974 for us to introduce countervailing measures … the picture is not always as bleak as the hon. Gentleman suggests. There has been some improvement in the bilateral trades in that the Soviet Union has agreed that an additional ship should be available to serve those particular interests. Of course that is not enough, but it is a sign of improvement."
    A little later my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Nott) asked:
    "It is correct that there are to be two further meetings on this matter in August? Are not all the facts known about Russian activities in this matter? What are these further meetings intended to discuss? Is it perhaps time that the Government showed a little of their muscle in this matter?"—[Official Report, 27th June 1977; Vol. 934, c. 25–6.]
    The Government have shown as much muscle, unfortunately, as a jaded blancmange, until today.

    I welcome the brave words, the real response and the pugnacious attitude of the Minister.

    The hon. Gentleman is going on a bit with this nonsense. I do not expect the hon. Gentleman to read all my speeches. That would be too much to expect of anybody. However, I must point out that there is nothing at all new in the way in which I have been speaking about this issue. Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that it was precisely this point that I and my German colleague at the EEC rammed home in October of last year? Is he not aware that there has been the most constant discussion with the GCBS and the unions to get an identity of view on this and that what must be done is to get concerted action? This has been our ambition. It would be appropriate, if the hon. Gentleman would be a little more fair.

    I am, perhaps, not as critical as the Minister is about his speeches, but I think it is fair of us on this side to expect action and not words. He refers to a debate in the Council last October. We would say that the indications were already there long before October and the Government should have adopted a more aggressive attitude much earlier.

    Instead, what did the Government do? Nothing. Instead they have done a great deal to damage our shipping industry. They proceeded to enter into shipping deals with Poland and started the damaging practice of providing our competitors with ships on highly favourable terms and even giving ships away, thus making our industry even more vulnerable in this highly competitive world. We have tried to point out to the Government the error of their ways. At the end of last year, at last—I pay tribute to the Minister for this; perhaps he should have waited for these kind words—the Government seemed to wake up to the situation, prompted very much by the General Council of British Shipping, and they asked for action to be taken by the European Community, a request which, as I have said, should have been made much earlier.

    In his comments to me just now the Minister mentioned the West Germans. In an article in the Financial Times on 23rd February 1977 it was reported that
    "West Geman shipowners have called for cargoes to he allocated on a quota basis to East European merchant fleets unless they take 'a fairer line'."
    Those are very strong words, but there was no response from the Government until October.

    There is at last this EEC proposal which is to be discussed on Monday by the Transport Minister. We must make the best of a bad job and do now wish the Minister every success in the discussions. The proposal is, however, only for a monitoring system to be instituted with information to be forwarded by each member State every six months. We believe that this is just not good enough. Surely we already have sufficient information on the activities of the Soviet fleet to take the necessary decisions now. We need a promise of tough action within a specific time limit unless the Russians are prepared to stop their non-commercial practices and compete on a basis of fair competition.

    As I have said already, we recognise that this proposition is at least a step in the right direction. However, we now learn with regret from what the Minister said today, that there is some new-found reluctance on the part of some members of the Community to endorse even this proposal. This is very difficult to understand, bearing in mind the unanimous initiative of the Council of Ministers when it asked last October for practical proposals to be prepared
    "for dealing with the situation arising from the increasing non-commercial activity of certain State trading country liner fleets."
    This draft proposal has unanimous support from Community shipowners and European shippers' councils. It is also supported by the European Parliament. Apparently, in the face of this firm European line, some member States, especially France, wish to widen the debate to cover flags of convenience and other issues. The Minister confirmed this today, and I agree with him that there is no fundamental objection to wider discussions at another time and in another place.

    But such issues must not be allowed to weaken our resistance to the Soviet maritime threat. The Soviet Union seems to believe—and the Government have done nothing to dissuade it from its view—that the West will not take any serious action to protect its shipping in the present political climate, and, consequently, it sees no advantage in controlling the activities of its lines. The Russians will respect only strength, and within the Community we must show that we are prepared to def end our legitimate interests in world-wide seaborne trade against these practices of a noncommercial and aggressive kind.

    Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that the position which my hon. Friend has outlined would require possibly greater response then purely that from the EEC? One thinks, for example, of Commonwealth countries such as Australia and New Zealand which have very strong shipping interests. Would not this be better done on a wider than EEC basis? Will he also say what measures he thinks should be taken, whether or not they are provocative in his view, other than the monitoring which is now suggested?

    I am grateful for that intervention from the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing), who has considerable experience in European debates. The Opposition believe that this country must set an example by taking the initiative and leading other countries to a much more definite approach. One way to do this would be to consider the call of the West German shipowners. We could announce that, within a certain specific time limit, quotas and penalties will be imposed on the Soviet Fleet unless they agree to seek accommodation. We believe that we should take that sort of initiative within the Community and ask the Community to follow us.

    I accept that there may be a wish on the part of some Community countries first to have a monitoring system. My objection to that, which I have already tried to outline, is that I believe that we already have sufficient information. But what I am proposing now is, I believe, what the Minister is proposing once that monitoring has taken place if there is no Russian response. I am proposing that a clear, decisive attitude should be taken to show the Russians that we mean business and that we are determined to protect the interests of the free world in this important matter. The Russians respect only strength, and we have to show that strength now.

    I give every support to the Minister to go from this debate to the Council on Monday and provide that clear and strong leadership I have advocated so that the Community will demonstrate that it has the necessary political will to take concerted action in this vital area. If a little is achieved on Monday, there will, rightly, be strong pressure on the United Kingdom and other nations to take combined action outside the Community. That would be a sad and regrettable step back from the move towards a European shipping policy.

    I am afraid that the Government have done little to promote our shipping industry—in fact, rather the opposite. They have failed to bring forward the Merchant Shipping Bill, they have failed to introduce a proper rationalisation of the shipbuilding industry, taxation policies harm shipping interests, and there are many other examples of similar damage. British shipping represents the finest form of free enterprise. Our shipping industry thrives on competition, but only on fair competition.

    Let the Government and the Community wake up to the existing dangers and remove the threat to the industry which represents and provides a vital economic lifeline not just for us in this country but also for the Community as a whole. Let the Minister fight hard on Monday for the European action which is so urgently needed by the European shipping industry before it becomes too late to impose any meaningful control on Soviet maritime expansion.

    3.4 p.m.

    With the leave of the House, perhaps I may say a few words in response to the undoubtedly aggressive speech to which we have just listened from the hon. Member for Wirral (Mr. Hunt). I know the difficulties which he is undergoing from the leader of his party. He is under very firm instructions on anything to do with the Soviet Union, and he has to make the right sort of aggressive noises. But unfortunately, if he becomes too agressive, he, and his party, will tend to lose sight of a more sensible way of trying to achieve the sort of constructive goals that I sought to set out in my speech at the beginning of the debate.

    Time and again, the hon. Gentleman—I suppose that it must have taken up at least half of his speech—asserted that the Government were guilty of inaction or doing too little. "Why had we not taken action before October 1977?": that was the sort of question that came during the whole theme of his speech. Let me tell the hon. Gentleman some of the facts of life.

    It was not in October 1977 that the Government began to react to this situation. I myself and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State visited virtually every shipping Minister amongst our allies in Western Europe in order to try to obtain a concerted cohesive point of view about dealing with the threat.

    The hon. Member is essentially a very reasonable and liberal Member and, therefore, perhaps he is an uncharacteristic member of his party. He will recognise that it is no good shouting out this sort of thing from the housetops, particularly if one is not successful in getting that concerted and cohesive approach.

    Unhappily, up to shortly before the October Transport Minister's meeting, there was very little interest on the part of others in Europe. It is true that the West German ship owners had indicated their consternation. It was later that the West German Government, in perhaps a more reasonable way than the West German shipowners, echoed a similar point of view. They were not first in the field, by any manner of means. Therefore, I believe that it was right to see whether we could achieve a consensual approach, even though, as I say, in the long run, up to about October 1977, it appeared not to work.

    Then the situation changed. There seemed to be more concern on the part of the European nations about the threat. They seemed to be more alive to the isssue. It was in response to that position that at the October meeting the Commission was instructed to deal with the position along the lines that it has done. Therefore, what I say to the hon. Gentleman is that fools rush in where wise men fear to tread.

    I do not want in any way to appear to be patronising—that is not my intention—but I genuinely believe that when one is dealing with these matters on a day-to-day basis and trying to achieve a certain goal it is no good shouting out from the housetops in a way that an Opposition is free to do.

    It would be a great help to the Opposition in understanding the extent of the action that the Minister has been taking if he would indicate when he first made approaches to other Community Governments. When did he first invite them to take concerted action against the Soviet maritime threat?

    What I was doing was undertaking bilateral meetings in the first place to try to drum up support for this cohesive action. I think that it was about two years ago that I first saw my opposite numbers. I cannot specifically recall who it was, but, as I say, I visited virtually every shipping Minister—other than the shipping Minister in Italy, because at the material time it was very difficult to determine who he was. However, I think that I saw virtually every other Minister from time to time.

    I know that at that time and throughout that period French Ministers have been reluctant to engage in this exercise, but in October nobody dissented from the proposition; so we thought that we were making progress at that time. Having said that, I repudiate the charge of inactivity and inertia that the hon. Gentleman has made—albeit in a most attractive speech.

    May I pursue with my hon. Friend the point that I pursued with the hon. Member for Wirral (Mr. Hunt)? Is it not a fact that, because of Britain's maritime history and strength, the United Kingdom perhaps of all the members of the EEC is the one most properly sensitive to this situation and that it is right that my hon. Friend should have been taking the lead that he has described? But is it not a matter for the countries I mentioned — particularly India, New Zealand, Australia and possibly shipping and Government interests in Japan in respect of the land bridge? What proposals do the Government have in those connections, as well as in the rather more limited but similar ones within the EEC?

    The best is the enemy of the good. One has to aim at a step-by-step process. It looks as if it will be difficult enough getting these fairly modest proposals through, let alone the highly ambitious ones that my hon. Friend was hinting at.

    The hon. Member for Wirral said, following up the point I have just made, that he wanted more radical steps undertaken within Europe, but I repeat that it is no good just fancifully thinking about this. One has to be able to carry others with one. Unless that can be done, radical steps cannot be taken. Although we have certain powers in the Merchant Shipping Act 1974, the Commission and most other people, including the whole of our industry, are realistic and understand that it is no use taking a unilateral line. If we were to do so, Soviet ships would simply not use our ports; but they would have plenty of others to use. So I do not think that is a very positive line of approach.

    The hon. Member went on to say—I think wrongly—that this Government have given little help to the shipping industry. What he was saying was not that the shipping industry wanted more help, because he did not identify the sort of help it wanted; it was a negative that he was asserting. He was saying, in effect, that the Government should not have entered into the Polish deal.

    I see that that is the proposition that he affirms. I must tell him that there is little doubt that the Poles would have bought elsewhere on very similar terms and in those circumstances it would have been manifestly irresponsible for the Government to deprive our shipyards of this deal at this specifically critical time and our shipyard workers of the many jobs that were available as a result. The threat would have remained, so it made no difference. I believe, therefore, that the Government were right to proceed.

    I want to put a question to the hon. Member. If he is so emphatic about giving the shipping industry this unspecific aid, how does he square that with the assertion made by his right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph)—I hope I am not doing the right hon. Gentleman an injustice because I am trying to remember his words off the top of my head—that all subsidies and aid to industry are harmful? Would he then have taken the action which my right hon. Friend announced to assist certain shipping com- panies only two or three weeks ago? I suspect the answer would be in the negative; that would have been a grossly irresponsible attitude to have taken.

    We seem, with respect, to have got somewhat sidetracked. Certainly, the aid to which the Minister refers was normal financial practice on the part of good banking houses—to extend or to announce a moratorium on loans. The Minister sought to defend the Polish deal and would, no doubt, seek to defend the new Polish deal for at least five ships. Does he defend the Indian deal whereby ships were given as part of the foreign aid programme—a deal which was immensely damaging to the British shipping industry?

    I am glad that, though belatedly, the hon. Gentleman has applauded what the Government have done in relation to our own domestic shipping industry. I think that those are the first such words uttered in the House, but belated acknowledgement is better than none at all. As to the wider issues of other deals, one has to look at each case on its merits. One has to see the nature of the threat. In any case, we are not in this debate talking about India or any other countries. We are talking about the situation in relation to the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc.

    As I said a little time ago, I believe that it is still right to seek an accommodation with the Soviet Union, but speaking from a position of realism and strength. I did not hear whether the hon. Gentleman also, from the Opposition's point of view, felt that in the long term an accommodation was more desirable than confrontation, but I shall assume that that is what he wants, too.

    Therefore, welcoming that assertion on the hon. Gentleman's part and the support that he offers, I shall do everything I can on Monday to try to carry my colleagues with me. Things may not go right. I hope that others will recognise the longterm problems here, but I cannot be sure. But that does not mean that we should not go on striving, and we have to strive on the basis of concerted action. I think that that is the will of the Opposition behind the peripheral debating points. I believe that that is their will, and it is most certainly, and has been for some considerable time, the will of this Government.

    Order No. 3, "Liner Shipping". The Question is—

    On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. This confusion raises exactly the point which I made earlier, to which the Minister did not respond, namely, that the subject matter of the first debate was never appreciated —or seemed never to be appreciated—by the Government, and this has undoubtedly misled many of my hon. Friends who would have wished to speak on the subject with which we have just dealt.

    On the Order Paper, Motion No. 3 is entitled "Liner Shipping", and Motion No. 4 also is entitled "Liner Shipping".

    Question put and agreed to.


    That this House takes note of EEC Document No. R/829/78 on the activities of certain state trading countries in cargo liner shipping.

    European Community (United Nations Liner Code)

    3.18 p.m.

    I beg to move,

    That this House takes note of EEC Document No. R/3245/77 on accession to the United Nations Convention on the Code of Conduct for Liner Conferences.
    It seems that I am speaking almost incessantly, and, no doubt, I shall have made four speeches in a very short time, which will be a record for almost everyone.

    This Commission document was submitted for parliamentary scrutiny, and at the outset I express my thanks to the Scrutiny Committee for its valuable contribution to consideration of this issue in its report, which has been made available in advance of the debate. The report sets out the essential elements of the code and the conditions required for its coming into effect. I do not, therefore, think it necessary for me to rehearse these matters to the House today.

    I want, as briefly as possible, to describe to the House something of the background which has given rise to the emergence of this matter, because this is another issue which is extremely vital to the future wellbeing of our highly significant merchant fleet.

    The United Kingdom in 1974—indeed, we still adhere to this position today—was in favour of a universally acceptable code for liner conferences which would give recognition to the asperations of the developing countries to carry a reasonable part of their foreign trade, and also to provide a stable framework for the development of liner trades. But much of the current support for the United Nations code derives from the desire of certain developed countries to increase their share of liner trades by cargo reservation, since it appears that they cannot win a greater share by commercial means. I see no reason why we should encourage any move at all in this direction.

    However, we had certain serious reservations about the code when it was drawn up in 1974. Frankly, we still have reservations. We considered it to be unwieldy and bureaucratic, and that its adoption on a worldwide basis would lead to disruption of the international conference system, which worked generally to the benefit of shippers and in which the United Kingdom lines had won, through competitive means, a major stake.

    In addition to our objections to the cargo reservation provisions, we also had major doubts about the element of interference in the setting of freight rates, the extremely cumbersome procedures for the settlement of disputes, and, indeed, the general obscurity of the text of the convention. These constituted the reasons for our voting against the code in 1974.

    Should our views be fundamentally changed by events ensuing since that time? At the present moment the shares of cargo carried by individual lines within conferences reflect, in general, the competitiveness and cost effectiveness of particular carriers. In some trades, foreign Governments—notable in the developing world—have sought, though through unilateral measures of cargo reservation, to disturb commercial arrangements and to direct a greater share to their own lines.

    I think it is right to say that our lines have shown considerable commercial flare in reacting pragmatically to this situation. However, having said that, we have not complacently sat back in the hope that the issue would go away or disappear from the international agenda so that there would be no need for us to give profound consideration to the matter.

    The Government have, in fact, completed a wide-ranging review of United Kingdom interests in the light of the code. We have conducted this jointly with the General Council of British Shipping and with the maritime unions who, I am delighted to say, have, over the course of the last four years, been encouraged in every way to contribute to debates on international shipping policy. I believe that there is a remarkable degree of unanimity in our joint thinking.

    It is clear to us that the adoption of this code on a universal basis could be seriously prejudicial to the United Kingdom, to its liner trades, and to our jobs. On the other hand, we have to recognise that the code enjoys some degree of support, and that a number of Governments, particularly those in developing countries, have sought to impose arrangements along codist lines. We understand and sympathise with the desire of these countries to get a better deal in carrying their liner trade.

    We should, if it proved possible, like to obtain a solution to the code question on a Community basis. Indeed, we believe that the Community's general commitment to the maintenance of free trade could be usefully deployed in avoiding wholesale changes in the present pattern of liner shipping. Nevertheless, we share the view of the Scrutiny Committee that the current Commission proposals leave a number of important questions unanswered. These concern both the role of the EEC's competition rules, to which the Committee specifically refers, and the real intentions behind the proposed cargo-sharing regime within the OECD.

    As I have said, we should still like to develop a liner policy within the Community, but the essential aspect from our point of view is that cargo sharing and the other objectionable features of the code, to which I have already alluded, should not be applied to conferences trading between developed countries.

    As I have said, the idea that certain developed countries should seek artificially to benefit from the United Nations code, which was specifically drawn up to meet the concerns of the developing countries, is, in our view, indefensible.

    On behalf of the Government, I shall ask the Community in Luxembourg next Monday to undertake further work towards achieving a Community position, which would meet our essential concerns while taking account of the interests of other member States.

    I hope that the House will agree that it would not be appropriate for me to reveal here and now the precise contents of the Government's presentation, but I hope that we will be able to find the basis for progress towards mutually acceptable arrangements within the Community. At the same time I shall leave my Community partners in no doubt that we have major interests at stake here and we cannot subscribe to the view that we must be subordinate to purely Brussels considerations simply for the sake of achieving a consensus.

    3.27 p.m.

    Like many people outside the House, I had an opportunity to read the Minister's speech in advance in Lloyd's List. It was rather premature because it was published on 22nd May in expectation that this debate would take place on 25th May. Nevertheless, I welcome very much—as I did then—the Minister's remarks.

    This document represents a brave and ingenious attempt on the part of the Commission to bridge the unbridgeable. The fundamental objections to the UN Code of Conduct which were made by this country in 1974 are still valid, and there are further difficulties created by this compromise solution.

    There is little progress that we can make until we have had the opportunity to discuss the Commission's further proposals on a competition policy for sea transport. These are crucial to the whole subject of liner conferences. There is no draft formula as yet, although indications have been given of some kind of blanket exemption for conference activity from the Treaty of Rome. There is also some speculation whether a system of filing tariff agreements for information only will be introduced, or some mechanism for disputes machinery.

    This is merely rumour and it is impossible to reach a proper conclusion in this debate until we have firm proposals on the application of the EEC rules of competition to international liner shipping. Likewise, with the continuing discussions within the OECD.

    The objections to the UN Code of Conduct are stated in the evidence to the Select Committee on European Legislation. I join the Minister in thanking the Scrutiny Committee. The code was pushed through at the eleventh hour in April 1974 when there was no scrutiny by any proper legal committee. As a result, it is contradictory in many places, with imprecise drafting, and the important objections still remain. It is right for the House to rehearse briefly the major objections to the code.

    The first is that the code is too rigid in respect of cargo sharing. It is difficult to apply a 40-20-20 ratio in practice because this would introduce an unacceptable degree of regulation into commercial operations. What of the position of way ports? How can they fit into an overall mechanism designed to provide an efficient regular service encompassing a range of ports in different countries at one end with a range of ports in different countries at the other?

    There are of course international consortia which operate in many areas as a result of the substantial investment required in container services and how can they fit into a rigid formula. How is this 40 per cent. to be divided between national companies? There are other similar questions.

    Secondly, the code lays down exceptionally cumbersome procedures for establishing freight rates and settling disputes. These procedures are very obscure and most unsatisfactory, particularly in respect of the 15-month period between variation of freight rates.

    Thirdly, and perhaps this is most important, the code is questionable on judicial grounds. Disputes are to be settled between parties if possible. If not, there is eventually to be international mandatory conciliation. The outcome of conciliation is, however, only by acceptance and the code is silent as to what occurs if the conciliation judgment is ignored. There are no penalties and no indication whether it is mandatory or just a recommendation. We believe that this situation could lead to a most complicated and unhelpful position.

    Fourthly, there is the veto power of the national line at one end to override any agreement at all. That is objectionable. Fifthly, and lastly, there is no provision for control over outsiders, no control over flags of convenience and the code does nothing to prevent unfair competition from State trading countries, which we discussed in the last debate. It does not take account of the United States attitude on anti-trust legislation and so on. There are many other important objections.

    I agree with the Minister that it is preferable for there to be a universally acceptable code of conduct of some kind, but not as set out in the UN code, even this version as revised by the Community.

    The hon. Gentleman said he agreed with my hon. Friend on one point. Would he also agree that some developing countries have a case in respect of conference traffic, because just as conference arrangements can be of advantage, they can also be a disadvantage if applied in a particular way? Is it the opinion of the Conservative Opposition that there is a case here, even although the way in which it is tackled may not be to the hon. Gentleman's own writing?

    I am very grateful indeed to the hon. Gentleman for raising this issue. I should like to deal with it at some length because it is very important indeed. The Minister rehearsed the question "What is the purpose of the code?" He gave one reason. I would give two. First, to help developing countries' shipping in order to allow them easier entry into world shipping markets. Secondly—having read through most of the proceedings of UNCTAD I believe this to be a profound reason—to meet the great suspicion of developing countries that they are not getting a fair deal from the old established countries of the developed world.

    I was very sorry that the Minister did not seek more adequately to defend the liner conference system, because I believe that there is a great deal of misunderstanding over its importance. Liner conferences are certainly the subject of varying misconceptions. There are now about 350 conferences or rate agreements covering world trade routes. I believe that the conference system is indispensable because it provides shippers with regular, efficient services at stable rates which are set at a level which will encourage cargo to move. There have been many inquiries into the system of liner conferences and they have all concluded that the liner conference system does provide the necessary self-regulation to restrain unrestricted and destructive competition. They provide a stabilising influence with considerable expertise in establishing economic rates combined with the highest possible standards. I am sure that in the future the conference system will continue to be indispensable.

    In fact, I did refer to this, perhaps tersely, because it is widely accepted in this House and outside that the liner conference system does have the sort of values to which the hon. Gentleman has referred. I want to make it abundantly plain that I am in no way resiling from the arguments in favour of the liner conference system. But every system has room for improvement, including the liner conference system.

    I accept and welcome what the Minister says, and I now wish to deal with the second part of the hon. Member's question.

    When we examine the development of liner conferences we see immediately that they do not seek to exclude developing countries, but very much the opposite. Let us take, for example, the United Kingdom-West Africa Lines Joint Service, which is the United Kingdom liner conference to and from parts of the United Kingdom and Ireland and ports in West Africa. That conference contains three British lines, one Norwegian line and also, with an important part to play three African lines consisting of Black Star Ghana, Nigerian National Shipping Line and Compagnie Maritime Zairoise.

    Another good example of a case in which developing countries are not excluded, but very much the opposite, is the liner conference system to the Indian sub-continent where national lines in the developing countries have at least 40 per cent. of the trade. This is very much as a result of past developments going back long before the United Nations Liner Code became a practical issue. For instance, in Brazil, Argentina, and to some degree Indonesia, in the last 20 years, Governments have encouraged national lines to claim from conferences shares gradually escalating as far as 50 per cent. It is a paradox that some of those developing countries are worried about the 40-40-20 formula because it will mean a diminution in their share of the trade. There is already some opposition to the code as nations realise the extent of the value of existing shares in liner conferences.

    I shall then probably be asked by the hon. Member, "What about the other cases where national lines do not have as much as 40 per cent.?" In most of those cases, if not all, the national lines have insufficient capacity to carry 40 per cent. of the trade. There is no serious problem in that respect because established lines in conferences are gradually yielding more and more of the trade as a State's national line developes its capacity. Although I recognise that there is a need to assimilate the emerging ambitions of developing countries, I believe that we can set the record straight by appreciating that liner conferences have recognised that need for many years and have already been catering for it.

    The second part of the argument must lead us to accept what the Minister said and to recognise that there is a need for a universal code. But we do not accept this incomprehensible and bureaucratic code. We welcome what has been said by the Minister in this debate and urge him, in consultation within the EEC, to find a more effective solution.

    Question put and agreed to.


    That this House takes note of EEC Document No. R/3245/77 on accession to the United Nations Convention on the Code of Conduct for Liner Conferences.

    Church Of England (Miscellaneous Provisions)

    3.38 p.m.

    I beg to move,

    That the Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure, passed by the General Synod of the Church of England, be presented to Her Majesty for her Royal Assent in the form in which the said Measure was laid before Parliament.
    When I bring Church measures to this House, they are usually concerned with one major subject that affects the Church—worship and doctrine, endowments and glebe, parish registers and so on. But occasionally the General Synod produces a miscellaneous provisions measure which, in common with the measure before us today, picks up a number of smaller matters, none of which would merit a separate measure all to itself. The present measure consists of 13 clauses. I shall not weary the House by going in great detail through the clauses. I shall try to mention the main points contained therein.

    Clause 1 is the most important clause in the measure. Under the Worship and Doctrine Measure, which the House approved in 1974, the General Synod may approve a new service only if there is a two-thirds majority in favour of it in each of the three houses of the Synod—that is, bishops, clergy and laity. If, however, the General Synod wishes to alter the service in the Book of Common Prayer it has to come to Parliament with a measure. As the law stands, such a measure could come to Parliament even if it had a majority of only one in the General Synod. That surely is not enough for a measure that would alter the Prayer Book services of Baptism, Holy Communion and Ordination. Accordingly, the clause extends to measures which alter services the two-thirds majority principle that applies to the authorisation of services.

    I give the House an example. If ever the General Synod wished to enable women to be ordained in the Church of England, it would be necessary to bring a measure to Parliament that would, among other things, alter the Prayer Book Ordination service. Clause 1 would ensure that such a measure could come to Parliament only if there were a two-thirds majority.

    Clause 2 protects a clergyman who was appointed to his living before 1976, in a case where that living is subsequently affected by pastoral reorganisation. The 1975 measure, which laid down that clergyman must retire from their livings at 70 years, was not retrospective, and so the clergyman appointed before 1st January 1976 is exempted from the rule of retirement at 70. However, if his benefice is included in a pastoral reorganisation scheme, it is doubtful whether he retains his exemption. The clause ensures that he does.

    I do not think that Clauses 3, 4 and 5 need much explanation from me. Clause 3 allows the Church Commissioners to alter their financial year to the calendar year. Clause 4 makes some minor changes in the Commissioner's constitution. Clause 5 seeks to ensure that whoever represents a diocese on the Central Board of Finance of the Church of England should also be a member of his own diocese board of finance in his own diocese.

    Clause 6 implements an undertaking that I gave to the House when the Parochial Registers and Records Measure was before Parliament. It sets a ceiling to the search fee that may be charged when parish registers are deposited in an independent repository, namely, a records office that is not under the control of a local authority. We gave an undertaking that that would be done at the time of the passing of the measure.

    Clauses 7 and 8 deal with rather obscure matters. Clause 7 enables the Church to sell land which it does not need but which under the tightly drawn provisions of the New Parishes Measure 1943 is at present inalienable. Clause 8 enables the Church to comply with a compulsory purchase order in respect of land vested in an incumbent even if the benefice is vacant.

    Clause 9 widens the scope of the Inspection of Churches Measure 1955. It enables the bishop to direct that buildings that are licensed for public worship but have not been consecrated shall be liable to inspection by the diocesan architect every five years on exactly the same basis as consecrated buildings.

    Clause 10 concerns the honorary canons of Christchurch Cathedral, Oxford. The cathedral is outside the general provisions of the Cathedrals Measure because of its special relationship with the College and with the University of Oxford. In most other cathedrals honorary canons are required by the cathedral statutes to vacate their canonaries on retiring from full time ministry or on reaching the age of 70. In Oxford there has hitherto been an exception in the case of canons who continue to reside in the Oxford diocese when they retire. In practice, so many of the Oxford honorary canons have continued to live in the diocese after retirement that the Bishop of Oxford has found himself with fewer opportunities than other diocesan bishops to confer honorary canonaries on clergymen actively involved in the full-time ministry of the Church.

    The clause, which will not apply to existing honorary canons, will bring Oxford into line with other dioceses in this matter. It is, of course, customary for an honorary canon who retires to have the title of canon emeritus conferred upon him, and this practice will be followed in Oxford when the clause takes effect.

    Clause 11 makes a couple of technical corrections in the Endowment and Glebe Measure 1976, and Clause 12 relieves the Church Commissioners of a quite outdated requirement to have certain property transactions enrolled in the High Court.

    This is an unexciting and, I believe, quite uncontroversial measure. When it was given final approval in the General Synod, 38 bishops, 124 clergy and 124 lay people voted in favour of it. Only one vote—that of a member of the House of Laity—was recorded against it. I hope that the House will see fit to give this modest but useful measure an affirmative resolution.

    Question put and agreed to.


    That the Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure, passed by the General Synod of the Church of England, be presented to Her Majesty for her Royal Assent in the form in which the said Measure was laid before Parliament.

    Miss Sarah Dixon

    Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[ Mr. Graham.]

    3.47 p.m.

    I am grateful for what is the second opportunity in 23 years as an Essex Member of raising on the Adjournment the plight of a constituent. In so doing, I declare my interest as the father of an autistic child in the care of the National Health Service. It happens that my daughter shares the same christian name as Sarah Dixon, the multiply-handicapped girl who is the subject of my Adjournment motion. Moreover, my wife and I have experienced some of the difficulties encountered by the parents of Sarah Dixon, of Stewards Green, Epping. We, too, have had to balance the needs of a handicapped child with the needs of the rest of the family.

    Sarah Dixon is now getting on for eight. She was one of twins. The other was stillborn. Sarah was born with brain damage which was not immediately diagnosed but required an operation at Great Ormond Street before she was three. Sarah is spastic, mentally retarded and registered as blind. She has the size and strength of a normal seven-year old and is difficult to carry and exercise. Everything has to be done for her.

    The House may imagine the burden upon her mother and family. I should like to salute their patient and heroic devotion and to pay tribute to the physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, teachers and others who have striven on Sarah's behalf in conjunction with her parents.

    In a restrained and sensible letter to me dated 14th March, Mrs. Dixon writes:
    "Although one feels one should be accustomed to this after 73- years, I find we all get very much on edge, possibly because as a family we have to be on duty 24 hours out of 24, whereas in a unit obviously the staff would have periods of duty of about eight hours only, and, of course, they would not be as emotionally involved as we are."
    The parents had to consider, rightly, the heart-breaking decision that many of us have had to make and look for a residential place for their child away from home. That was in June of last year. The only place then offered was Essex Hall, in Colchester, some 40 miles away. Sarah went there for two three-week periods of short-term care. Essex Hall is now closed to children of a serious category. Although the embargo on the admission of older children has been lifted, the hall is overcrowded and short of staff.

    Since I sought to raise the case in the House, the Harlow district administrator, Mr. Webb, whose ready assistance I acknowledge, mentioned two holiday places then available, at Great West Hatch, Chigwell, and on 19th May Mr. Dixon told me that he and his wife had gratefully accepted an offer of short-stay care at Hargrave House, Stansted.

    We also appreciate the interest of the National Society for Mentally Handicapped Children which said that a place might be found for Sarah at its home in Norfolk. The society is the first to acknowledge that it is far away for visits and short holidays. For Sarah and those in her position there is no permanent residential unit within reasonable distance of their parents.

    There is no disagreement between the two sides of the House that specialised mental illness hospitals should in time give way to psychiatric units forming part of district general hospitals, to day centres and to residential accommodation different from the old hospitals, one of which I know from my own family experience.

    The aim is sound. Surely, it is right to rely as much as possible on the loving family, on home care sustained and relieved by day centres, and places of short stay to give respite to the parents and others.

    I understand that a hospital for the mentally handicapped is planned and it is intended to site it near Epping. But building will not begin until some time between 1981 and 1986. I am not quite clear how such a hospital would accord with the new aim that I have summarised. Perhaps the Minister will be good enough to say precisely what is intended. Will the right hon. Gentleman also assure me that what is planned for North-West Essex—this new unit—will receive priority no lower than will the unit being considered for the City and East London area?

    For a layman such as myself the scene is bewildering. I am uncertain whether the needs of North-West Essex have yet been clearly defined and whether, despite a plethora of joint consultative committees and so on, decisions have been reached on the future siting and financing of the long stay, the short stay, and assessment units and of holiday services for the mentally handicapped of all ages. Is there yet a precise definition of responsibility of health, education and other services and local authorities? It may be that I am not adequately informed, and that is part of the reason for raising this subject this afternoon.

    In general, in the National Health Service—I say this because I do not want to be accused of being one of those Members of Parliament who are desirous of curtailing public expenditure but who ask for more public expenditure because of their particular constituency interests—waste abounds. There is misdirection of resources. There is a loss of revenue to the National Health Service of between £30 million and £40 million from the ideological extravagance of closing pay beds and turning consultants into whole-time State employees. That administration, as distinct from treatment and care-of patients, is excessive—

    I should hate the hon. Gentleman to go down a wrong track. There has been little loss of income to the NHS as a result of the withdrawal of pay beds because most of the pay beds withdrawn up to now have been beds which have been authorised but have not been used. There is no intention of turning consultants into full-time State employees, because they are entitled to carry out any private practice that they can outside the NHS.

    I am obliged to the Minister. I merely want to raise the matter lest anyone should say that Conservative Members of Parliament are asking for more expenditure when they are not concerned with the proper economy of the resources available. I do not think that the figure I have mentioned is necessarily the wrong figure. The Minister has not said that it is wrong.

    In that case, I will pursue this matter—which is slightly extraneous—in another way, perhaps by means of a Parliamentary Question or by letter to the Minister.

    That there is waste and misdirection of resources is not just the impression of outsiders such as the hon. Member for Epping Forest. It is the complaint of workers of all grades within the services and, indeed, of union representatives. The Minister of State might like to have a look at the white elephant of Witham. I believe that the Royal Commission has already made an interim criticism of the top-heavy and over-elaborate management system. This is something for which I do not wish to blame the Minister of State or his administration, but I hope that he will be able to tell the House of clear, firm decisions that can be given to parents such as my constituents who have nowhere within reach to which they can send children who have become too heavy a charge upon their energies and emotions.

    3.55 p.m.

    There is a point upon which the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mr. Biggs-Davison) and myself can agree. I am very pleased that he has raised the case of Sarah Dixon in the House this afternoon and the difficulties her parents are experiencing, because it enables me to talk about her case and the prospects of solving it and the needs of severely handicapped children in the country generally and in Essex in particular.

    I am prepared to agree with the hon. Gentleman that in many respects there is a misdirection of resources in the Health Service. This has been going on for 30 years, since the service was founded, and possibly even before then. The acute services have always attracted the great bulk of medical, nursing and health interest and, therefore, the great bulk of Health Service financing. Therefore, throughout the country, services for the mentally ill and mentally handicapped have been neglected and over most of the country are out of date and possibly inadequate because they are out of date.

    It is our intention to redirect resources to the sectors of mental illness and mental handicap. Services for looking after the elderly, which often involve the psycho- geriatric elderly, the mentally ill and the mentally handicapped, are top priorities in the allocation of Health Service resources.

    The circumstances of Sarah Dixon have been the concern of the Essex social services department and of the health services since about 1972 when attention was first drawn to the implications of the severity of Sarah's handicaps, both mental and physical. The lack of a comprehensive mental handicap service in the Harlow district means that patients and relatives must rely on a service from Essex Hall, Colchester. This is unsatisfactory.

    The social services department has maintained close collaboration between the various voluntary and statutory services to ensure that appropriate help and guidance has been made available to Mr. and Mrs. Dixon in addition to regular social work support. Short stay periods of care at the Spastics Society Family Help Centre at Bury St. Edmunds were suggested, eventually tried and subsequently accepted by the family as being beneficial. However, the few specialised long-term centres that do exist in the country would inevitably take Sarah further away from her family. That is one of the major criticisms of Essex Hall. However, should a suitable vacancy occur in any such registered home which the family may choose, the county council would undertake to accept financial responsibility.

    Mr. and Mrs. Dixon naturally wish to ensure the most congenial therapeutic environment for Sarah, because she will be leaving a home environment which is obviously highly caring and they wish to provide the closest substitute for the family home life which Sarah has been enjoying up to now.

    I am entirely with the hon. Member in his wish to see children such as Sarah receiving the best possible care. It must be admitted, however, that our services for these children are far from satisfactory and, although the present situation is a great improvement on the position in the past, both my right hon. Friend and I—

    It being Four o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

    Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[ Mr. Graham.]

    Both my right hon. Friend and I have consistently stressed the need to improve services for these children. The speed with which these improvements can be made is limited, of course, by a number of factors, but we have stressed again the priority which local authorities should place on residential accommodation for mentally handicapped children.

    We issued planning guidelines to health authorities this March and we stressed the need to plan for improved supportive facilities to families. As well as issuing guidance, we have also made available joint financing moneys to local authorities. These are National Health Service moneys, but we are willing to see them used for local authority purposes which will assist the NHS in the discharge of its responsibilities, and this includes provision for children in the community.

    The amount of money available has risen from £8 million in 1976–77 to about £32 million in this financial year, and it is aimed to level off at about £43 million per year by 1981–82 at today's prices. A large proportion of these moneys have in fact been spent on mentally handicapped children and their provision.

    Turning to the Harlow health district, the voluntary association WISH, which stands for "We're Involved with the Severely Handicapped", manages a special care unit at the Great West Hatch Adult Mental Handicap Hospital at Chigwell with the help of some joint finance money, and this unit will shortly be moved to St. Margaret's Hospital, Epping to cater for a larger number of severely handicapped in an improved setting.

    Harlow health district is financing the cost of the conversion of that building, and the revenue costs will be shared between the voluntary association, the health authority and the social services, using some of the joint finance money. In the longer term, therefore, if Mr. and Mrs. Dixon find it possible to keep their daughter at home, day facilities will be available in the Harlow district to support them.

    But we also want to improve the hospital services for these children. Here we want to aim at giving them the specialist services that they need and an environment which furthers their development in every way.

    I wish to pay tribute to the work of the staff in children's wards of mental handicap hospitals, and I take this opportunity of doing so publicly. None of the observations which I am about to make about our mental handicap hospitals should be taken as a criticism of the invaluable work performed by the staff in these hospitals. But they are working under several different sorts of constraint. First, all our efforts and the efforts of staff at bringing about improvements are made considerably more difficult by the legacy of huge, isolated hospitals, of which Essex has quite a number, with which we have been left by our predecessors. Hospital communities of 800, 900 and more than 1,000 are unnaturally large, and it is very difficult in those circumstances to create a homelike environment for residents and, equally important, an environment which attracts staff to work in the service.

    In the long term, therefore, there is a need for locally based hospitals for the mentally handicapped where they can be in contact with their communities and their relatives. In the case of children needing hospital care, they should wherever possible be accommodated near their own homes in small domestic units separate from adult units and with close links wherever possible with the children's department of the district general hospital. Together, all these local units should form a comprehensive district service for mentally handicapped people.

    In our guidelines which we have issued to authorities, we say that buildings should be designed with the needs of individual residents in mind and for domestic small group living. Children should be looked after in small family-size groups in homelike environments, and their daily lives should be as near to those of non-handicapped, non-hospitalised people as possible. Obviously this will all take a great deal of time.

    It was largely with the residual problem of the large hospitals in mind that my right hon. Friend and I asked the National Development Group for the Mentally Handicapped to give us a report on how to improve the existing services in the mental handicap hospitals. After about 12 months of work, it is hoped that the group's report will be shortly presented to my right hon. Friend. This will make recommendations about hospital services for all mentally handicapped people, but the group will be particularly concerned about services for children. I gather that it has devoted a section of its report to them.

    Besides this, the Development Team for the Mentally Handicapped has been specially set up by my right hon. Friend to give advice to health and local authorities on a whole range of services for mentally handicapped people. It has been asked by the Secretary of State to pay particular attention to the needs of children, and its panel includes specialists in child care. Its individual reports to authorities normally contain a special section on children's services. The team has completed two years of activity. Its first report of the work that it has been doing is due to be published this month.

    Of course, all the good buildings in the world and the proper layout are of no good unless there is adequate staff to provide the services. There is a severe shortage of some of the types that Sarah might need. Physiotherapists, speech therapists and other paramedical staff are in particularly short supply, but this is a national matter and is not necessarily confined to mental handicap. But we wish particular attention to be paid to the development of the rehabilitation services in general.

    We are very concerned, too, about the poor staffing ratios that still exist. Some hospitals have still not achieved the modest ratio laid down in the 1969 minimum standards for mental handicap hospitals, but, on the other hand, the number of nursing staff in those hospitals has increased from about 15,000 in 1969 to 23,000 in 1976, whilst the number of in-patients has fallen by about 10 per cent. It is possible that some definite improvement has been taking place, although I readily concede that the patients remaining in hospital probably represent a heavier burden of nursing care than the patients used to represent in days gone by, because, obviously, the patients that have been discharged to the community are the ones who are more capable of looking after themselves and were in times past capable of making a contribution to the running of the hospital.

    We shall have a report this year from the Jay Committee of Inquiry into Mental Handicap Nursing and Care. This will give advice on the work of staff who provide residential care for the mentally handicapped, including children, and on the training that they need.

    My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has set aside £50 million for the National Health Service in 1978–79, in addition to the moneys that we already knew we would be getting this year. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has told authorities that he is very concerned to see that it is used for the improvement of staffing ratios and amenities in mental handicap hospitals and units. Here is an example of action taken by the Government to use additional resources as may become available for priority needs such as services for the mentally handicapped.

    The North-East Thames Regional Health Authority received, as a result of this, £1,390,000 extra, and has decided that 50 per cent. of that sum, about £695,000, will be devoted to the improvement of staffing ratios and amenities in mental illness, mental handicap, geriatric hospitals and other similar units, and of this sum the Essex health authority's share will be £284,000.

    One of the problems facing Essex is the need to maintain its existing very large mental handicap hospitals, which were originally built to serve very wide catchment areas, including many patients from London.

    I hope that these facts and figures will show the hon. Gentleman that, on one of his concerns, not only is Essex receiving the same priority as the City and East of London Health Authority but that in the current financial year it is receiving a much greater priority than that area from the regional health authority.

    The long-term strategy of Essex is to provide local facilities. To this end it plans the provision of a unit to serve the Harlow health district; it currently relies on the Essex Hall hospital, which has not been found entirely suitable for the Dixon family. This unit would provide not only long term care but also assessment and short-stay facilities to relieve families.

    The area health authority's proposals are therefore to seek to provide in the Harlow district the services that Sarah requires. I understand that short-term care is being considered at Hargrave House, Stansted, which is a hostel for mentally handicapped children run by the Essex social services department and that there will be short-term care, possibly, at Essex Hall. I hope that, with continuing liaison between the health and social services, it will be possible to provide the necessary support to Mr. and Mrs. Dixon until the health authority's proposed unit becomes available.

    We are actively seeking to improve the services required for severely handicapped children nationally. In particular, the Essex AHA is aware of the shortcomings of the services in the Harlow district and is taking steps to provide the facilities to which children such as Sarah are entitled.

    I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the system of administration of the National Health Service as a result of the 1973 Act leaves much to be desired. That is common ground between us and that is why we appointed the Royal Commission, which we hope will report at the beginning of next year—I hope in January. Then we shall be able to see what improvements can be made in the organisation of the Health Service to ensure a more rapid and flexible response to situations.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Adjourned accordingly at twelve minutes past Four o'clock.