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Commons Chamber

Volume 951: debated on Tuesday 13 June 1978

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House Of Commons

Tuesday 13th June 1978

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business


Mile End Gardens (Portsmouth) Bill Lords

Read the Third time and passed, with amendments.

Greater London Council (General Powers) (No 2) Bill


Read the Third time and passed.

British Railways (Selby) Bill (By Order)

As amended, considered; to be read the Third time.

Sheffield General Cemetery Bill (By Order)

Order for consideration, as amended, read.

To be considered upon Tuesday next.

Oral Answers To Questions

Social Services

Dental Services


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what progress he has made towards ensuring that dentists provide treatment under the National Health Service for all patients.

A settlement reached with representatives of the British Dental Association on 17th May ended the dispute over expenses. The way is now open to a return to normal working with dentists offering the full range of treatment under the National Health Service.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that much of that agreement is still unacceptable for a large area within the profession? Does he recognise that there are now whole areas of the country where dentists no longer accept National Health Service patients and intend to keep it that way? Is he also aware that many of his hon. Friends, including myself, accuse him and the Chancellor of the Exchequer of deliberately starving the National Health Service dental service of funds so that private patients will continue to contribute a far larger share of the cost of upkeep of the National Health Service? Therefore, will he now institute immediate steps to make good this deficit?

On the first part of the question, the British Dental Association has reached agreement with me as Secretary of State. I very much hope that all dentists will co-operate. I am very hopeful that, as a result of this decision and the new agreement which provides additional resources for the dentists, the troubles will be ended. However, even during this period there has been a steady increase, month by month, in the number of treatments which have been provided under the National Health Service by dentists. As for the suggestion that the service has been starved, that is not so. There is a steady increase in the number of dentists as well as in resources made available for the service generally.

Would it not be easier to provide dental treatment for all patients who need it if water were fluoridated, since this would drastically reduce the incidence of dental decay?

I am in favour of fluoridation and I and my ministerial colleagues are doing our best to find ways to encourage it all over the country. Bit by bit, this is happening, and the majority of area health authorities have taken a decision in favour of fluoridation.

Does the agreement which my right hon. Friend has made get rid of the gross injustice to patients that it is not obligatory on the dentist to let them know whether he is treating them privately or on the NHS? Since he has concluded this agreement, will he now implement the working party report which I submitted to his Department two years ago, which would save much of the £223 million that we are now spending on dental services?

Some of the proposals made by my hon. Friend have been implemented and I am ready to look at some of the others. On the first part of the question, it has been very wrong and irritating for patients when dentists have not explained the situation exactly. We have drawn this to the attention of dentists. They are asked, as are other practitioners, to make the situation clear to patients so that they may know whether they are having treatment under the NHS or are expected to enter into a private agreement.

Will the Secretary of State now explain why, for the first time in this country, so many dentists who work in the NHS are going bankrupt?

I have no statistics of dentists going bankrupt. The hon. Gentleman will know that one of the difficulties which led to the rift between myself and the British Dental Association was the refusal of the Association to cooperate in the work of the dental rates study group and in the production of an up-to-date scale of NHS fees. This was partly because there was an objection to the system whereby they were expected to repay expenses which had been paid to them over and above what was required. That dispute has now ended. Dentists will be receiving an increase of 12 per cent. on authorised fees. That is partly an advance for expenses, and it is being made available during the course of this year. This will greatly improve the position of dentists.

Birth Rates


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what estimate he has made of the proportion which births to mothers born in the New Commonwealth and Pakistan bore to total births during the last 10 years in Birmingham, Bradford, Huddersfield, Leicester, Wolverhampton and the boroughs comprised in the Inner London education area.

Information on births by birthplace of mother, which first became available in 1969, is published annually by the Registrar-General. As the answer involves a number of figures, I will, with permission, circulate a table in the Official Report.

Do not these proportions, already covering nearly 10 years, give a very good indication, at any rate as a minimum, of the eventual proportion of the total population in these areas which will be of New Commonwealth ethnic origin?

What they show is something very different from what I think the right hon. Gentleman has been suggesting. He picked his own years and his own areas. The figures show an average figure for New Commonwealth and Pakistan births of 22 per cent., which is far less than the figure of 33 per cent. to which the right hon. Gentleman has frequently referred. He should not assume that fertility rates in these ethnic communities will continue at a high level, nor that there will not be a movement of minority groups from one city to another, as is already happening. I point out to him that in many of the areas which he specified the proportion of births to New Commonwealth and Pakistan mothers went down during the period concerned. That includes the constituency that the right hon. Gentleman originally represented.

Will my right hon. Friend accept from me that the obsession which the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) has about the births of coloured people is not shared by human beings in general throughout the entire universe, and that women will go on having babies as long as there are men with them? Is it not about time that we thought about improving the lot of all human beings instead of being obsessed with this particular aspect, as the right hon. Gentleman is?


Area of usual residence of mother









Inner London Education Authority: Total2222222222222324
Kensinston and Chelsea1413121012121212
Tower Hamlets1717182125272731
City of Westminster and City of London1616151515161518
Total of above areas2121202121222323

* As constituted at 1st April 1974.

† April 1969 to March 1970.

Hospital Waiting Lists


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is the average waiting period for a National Health Service patient requiring orthopaedic treatment.


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is the average waiting period for a National Health Service patient requiring general surgery.

I regret that the information is not available. Obtaining such statistics would involve considerable extra manpower. With each specialty, patients with very different conditions and of differing degrees of urgency would be averaged together. The results would not be sufficiently meaningful to justify the cost.

been an obsession of the right hon. Gentleman now for 10 or 12 years. I think that this obsession has done great damage to race relations in this country and to community relations. I believe that my hon. Friend is right and that the majority of people do not look at the colour of other people; they take them as citizens.

Following is the table:

I am much concerned with this problem, and my Department and the health authorities are energetically seeking to bring about an improvement.

Does the Secretary of State agree that the problem is not so much a shortage of surgeons as a shortage of facilities—beds, nurses, theatre time and physiotherapy—and that it is this which is causing these long waiting lists? Will he consider the possibility of using the facilities which are available in the private sector, for a fee, in order to overcome this present difficulty?

That is no answer. The reasons for the problem vary in different parts of the country. Sometimes there are staffing problems. There is also the fact that there is a constant increase in the demand by patients for treatment. There are more accidents. There is also a wider range of surgical techniques. There are more elderly people requiring additional support. There are more cases of cancer, and so on.

If I had produced the statistic that the hon. Gentleman wanted, it would have shown a tremendous variation. There are consultants in some parts of the country with quite short lists. Others, elsewhere, have very long lists. It is essential that the necessary information should be readily available to general practitioners, and that consultants should co-operate together. We should try to improve the management of waiting lists. It is not just a question of money and resources, important though that is.

Had the Secretary of State produced the statistics, there is no doubt that they would have shown a very unsatisfactory and deteriorating situation in many specialties. Bearing in mind that figures often conceal individuals in pain and misery for a very long period of time, what possible ground has the Secretary of State for telling the Royal College of Nursing that pessimism about the future could not be justified?

What I said to the Royal College of Nursing was that we have to get the problems of the National Health Service into perspective. I spelt out, as I have done several times to the House, some of the major pressures which bear upon the National Health Service. I made it perfectly clear that neither this Government, nor any other, would be able to provide adequate facilities to meet all the needs, because the demands are never ending. I said that we need to get into proportion the problems faced by those who work in the National Health Service, and at the same time note its great successes.

We have roughly the same sort of percentage of patients-10 per cent.—on waiting lists, and the number of inpatients treated in the National Health Service is steadily increasing year by year.

Will my right hon. Friend accept that the delay in obtaining orthopaedic appointments is one of the biggest single causes of unnecessary suffering, among young people particularly? Why has my right hon. Friend's Department placed a bar on the appointment of further registrars in orthopaedics?

Where there is a shortage of consultants in particular specialties, we have to do some sort of rationing to ensure that they are available in all parts of the country, and therefore to approve a post, if it would automatically then mean that another area would be deprived, would be unfair to that area.

Is the Secretary of State aware that nearly 1,000 people are awaiting orthopaedic surgery at the Newcastle hospitals, and that they include many who could be back in productive work if they could get hip operations?

Will the Secretary of State indicate whether he thinks that the opening of the Freeman Road hospital will make a difference, or can he think of further measures which could be taken?

I am sure that it will make a difference. That is why, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that additional funds were to be made available, we gave a high priority to ensuring that new hospitals would be fully commissioned as soon as possible, and we put additional money into the acute services for equipment and urgent maintenance, in addition to the special £2 million which was entirely linked with easing some of the problems of waiting lists.

Is it not true, contrary to what the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) said, that National Health Service facilities are sometimes used for the treatment of private patients because of the higher standards, for example, of asepsis in the National Health Service theatres?

Returning to the right hon. Gentleman's speech at Harrogate, since he has now been forced to concede that he ought never to have made that speech at all—and has gone so far as to say that in future he ought not to make any speeches at all to the nurses—will he confirm that he is not proposing altogether to cut out meetings of that sort? Such meetings give him the opportunity of a glance at reality, and at what it is like to work at the coalface in the National Health Service today, in contrast to his own blatant complacency, which aroused such fury on the occasion of that speech.

The right hon. Gentleman has totally misrepresented what I said. I said that the arrangement which had been reached, long weeks in advance of the conference, whereby those concerned wished me to send a script of what I was to say, does not lead to the best sort of exchange and the best sort of debate. I have made it clear that I am very anxious to see them and to have a talk around the table about some of their problems, but that I would much rather have a conference without any prepared speeches, at which we could deal directly with the issues which most worry the nurses.

The right hon. Gentleman knows that I spend a great deal of my time in travelling round the country, visiting hospitals, meeting doctors and nurses, and facing their problems.

Wyatt V Hillingdon London Borough Council


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what action he intends to take in the light of the ruling of the Court of Appeal on 9th May in the case Wyatt v. Hillingdon London Borough Council; and if he will make a statement.

Mrs. Wyatt has now been invited by my Department to specify her complaints against the London Borough of Hillingdon. When these have been received, and we have comments from the local authority, I will consider what further action it may be necessary to take.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the court of appeal decision will cause great anxiety to hon. Members on both sides of the House and to the disabled, including disabled children and their parents? Is he further aware that the geographical gamble with regard to the care of the disabled will widen? Will he please spell out the default powers of the Government for bringing action against defaulting local authorities.

I appreciate my hon. Friend's concern. He will know that I am anxious to do all that I possibly can to improve services for disabled people. Briefly, our default powers provide that a local authority may be declared in default by my right hon. Friend who may then direct the authority to remedy the default. If the authority fails to comply with that direction, my right hon. Friend may transfer the relevant functions of the authority to himself and recover expenses from the authority. I know that he will not hesitate to use his default powers should that be necessary.

Does not the Minister accept that he, previous Secretaries of State and the parliamentary Ombudsman have all indicated, and made statements to the effect, that the 1970 Act was legally enforceable? Does not this court ruling now mean that he will have to bring forward new legislation to enable the courts to deal with, and enforce, the law?

The ruling of the court of appeal, as I understand it, does not mean that the Act is not legally enforceable. The question is "enforceable by whom?" Most disabled people want an effective remedy for their problems. How that is obtained is a secondary matter. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I shall do everything I possibly can to resolve present difficulties at the earliest possible date.

Mobility Allowance


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what estimate he has made of the cost of extending entitlement to mobility allowance to those whose immobility is as a result of medical factors other than physical disability.

If we were to extend the scope of mobility allowance to cover people who can walk but who have other mobility problems, we could not limit the extension to particular disabilities or diagnostic groups. While I cannot give any precise estimate, the cost of such an extension would be very considerable indeed.

Does the Minister accept that many thousands of people suffer from a severe lack of mobility caused by mental illness or mental handicap rather than physical inability to walk? Does he not accept that under the regulations there is an unfair and arbitrary distinction and that it would be much more appropriate if a mobility allowance were available to anyone who could show that his lack of mobility was due to medical factors?

I am aware of this problem. I shall consider the claims of the people referred to by the hon. Gentleman together with all other claims. I must emphasise that we should not be placed in a position of being unable to put right anything which has gone wrong. I would ask Opposition parties not constantly to be campaigning for a reduction in public expenditure while simultaneously asking us to increase all the parts of that expenditure.

Does not my hon. Friend agree that mobility allowance should be payable in all cases where mental condition has resulted in a physical inability to walk? When will he introduce his new regulations, which he promised at the time I raised my constituency case of Mr. Trent Brown, in order to establish this principle quite clearly?

We shall shortly be making regulations to put it beyond doubt that a person unable, or virtually unable, to walk for at least 12 months because of physical disablement is eligible for mobility allowance regardless of the nature of his incapacity. I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend for the important part which she has played in this matter.

Does not the term "mobility allowance" continue to be a misnomer when, in fact, there are so many people with physical disadvantages who are not entitled to benefit because of the very tightly drawn terms on which the allowance is presently available'?

It is not a misnomer. The allowance is intended to help people who cannot walk or who virtually cannot walk. It is in the process of helping 100,000 new beneficiaries. We are in the process of increasing five-fold our expenditure on outdoor mobility for the disabled. There are many more claims, and we shall do whatever we can to make further progress.

Will my hon. Friend state how many now benefit from the mobility allowance? What is the total cost of this scheme? Does he realise that the scheme which has been introduced by this Government is deeply appreciated by those disabled people who benefit from it?

At the latest date for which figures are available—5th June 1978–71,142 people were in receipt of mobility allowance. I expect that by the end of 1979 our total expenditure on this new benefit will be £65 million a year. I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for the comment that he made about the importance of this new benefit.

Mental Health Act (White Paper)


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when he expects the White Paper on the Mental Health Act to be published.


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when he expects the White Paper on the Mental Health Act to be published.


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when he expects the White Paper on the Mental Health Act to be published.


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when he expects the White Paper on the Mental Health Act to be published.

Preparation of the White Paper is at an advanced stage. While I cannot today give a precise date for publication, I hope that it will be published before the Summer recess.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that answer. Does this mean that it is still the Government's policy to raise mental health patients from their status of Cinderella to a higher priority? Will he soon introduce a policy on medium security units?

The status of mental health cases has already been determined without any amendments to the Mental Health Act. Within our present priorities we have been channelling an increasing proportion of available resources towards helping the mentally ill and the mentally handicapped. This is part of Government policy. In the answer to a number of other questions we can see the result of this at local authority level. This is being done without any need to amend the Act.

Will the Secretary of State explain why the White Paper has taken so long to produce? Surely he is aware of the deep concern which has been felt for some years about the lack of adequate provision for the mentally ill, particularly mentally handicapped children? Will the White Paper, when it is produced, indicate when we shall have positive proposals for dealing with the disgraceful situation under which magistrates are recommending for treatment mentally ill young people brought before them, yet there are no facilities for such treatment to be given?

The main problems that are dealt with in the White Paper are concerned with the law. The White Paper is not so much concerned with the actual provision of services, which continues anyway, although I am not saying the White Paper will not also deal with that. The main reason why this has taken a long time is that this is very complicated legislation. The consultative document was sent out in August 1976. There have been 300 representations, most of them from organisations, although some from individuals. They deal with very complicated matters. That is why it has taken a good deal of time to bring the White Paper to fruition.

Will my right hon. Friend indicate whether the White Paper, which has been a long time coming, will give some regard—despite its complexity—to problems such as the personalised clothing systems in psychiatric hospitals and whether it will take into account the fact that on the latest data about one family in three in this country will require some help for their mental problems in the course of their lives?

The White Paper deals with the rights of patients. That includes questions of property, correspondence and so on. The White Paper does not deal with the resources to be made available for mental health, be it mental handicap or mental illness, because it deals with the 1959 Act. Resources raise a quite different issue.

It is nine months since the Secretary of State outlined his thinking on this subject to the Mental Health Foundation at Oxford. While I entirely accept that these are very complex matters, will he also accept that there needs to be a very full, public and open discussion in the newspapers and elsewhere of what are extremely difficult matters? Will he now bring forward this White Paper so that this discussion can take place publicly at the earliest opportunity?

I absolutely agree. There is no doubt that we need to have a very wide debate in this House and among the organisations concerned. That is why, if we are to have a responsible debate, we must have a responsible White Paper which deals very carefully with the difficult issues involved. That was why I decided that we should proceed first on the basis of a consultative document, which has led to very wide consultation, and then with a set of proposals from the Government, again with adequate time, so that they can be explored.

Is my right hon. Friend concerned about the arbitrary procedures of the Mental Health Act 1959 under which people can be committed? Will his White Paper make any recommendations for amending these procedures?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the White Paper will deal with the position in which people who are perhaps marginally of unsound mind, and who might a few years ago have been kept in detention but who have now been released, as a result of a more enlightened attitude, to live in communities, which may be small or large, to live as far as possible a normal life, can sometimes, as the Minister knows, cause great havoc to those who live in what otherwise is a peaceable community?

It certainly does not deal with those who are no longer the subject of legislation, namely, people who may have had a mental illness and who have now settled back in the community. I am sure it would be quite wrong for legislation to deal with that. However, it deals with the definition of mental disorder, which undoubtedly needs to be brought up to date following the 1959 Act.

Doctors' Ancillary Staff (National Insurance)


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many representations he has received about the advancement from 31st to 6th March 1978 of the deadline for application to the new scheme for direct reimbursement of employers' national insurance contributions for doctors ancillary staff; how many such staff have been in consequence refused access to the scheme; and if he will make a statement.

The arrangements for general practitioners to be directly reimbursed the employer's national insurance contributions that they pay for their ancillary staff came into effect as intended on 1st April last. It was the date for occupational pensions schemes that was brought forward. I have received only a few letters about the change from individual doctors, though representations on behalf of the general practitioners as a whole have been made by the profession's representatives. Following consultations with the profession, detailed guidance on the acceptability of claims should shortly reach family practitioner committees.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I have doctors in my constituency who were told about this pension scheme on the very day that they were also told that the closure date had been brought forward? Cannot he see that that looks like sharp practice to ancillary staff in the National Health Service? Can he tell the House whether the Department calculated the additional amount that would be needed to include everyone who applied by the original closing date of 31st March?

I reject allegations of sharp practice, since all that was done was done by joint agreement between the Department and the profession after discussions on the principle. No calculations have been made about any increased costs which would arise if all the claims were met.

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make a further statement about the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital.


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will make a further statement on the closure of the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital.

Having considered all the available evidence I announced on 16th May that the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital, on Euston Road, should close and I asked staff urgently to consider proposals to move to alternative accommodation at the Whittington Hospital. The staff at the EGA have now confirmed that they are prepared to consider any offer of alternative accommodation, but without commitment. I have therefore invited the health authorities, representatives of the staff of the EGA and other interested parties to come together under the chairmanship of a senior official of my Department to consider detailed proposals for alternative accommodation In these circumstances I have agreed to postpone the closure of the Euston Road hospital.

Will the right hon. Gentleman explain why he keeps dithering over the future of this hospital? Does he not realise the immense amount of damage it does when he cannot make up his mind what should happen? Will he now give a clear promise that the hospital will be kept open?

There is no question of dithering. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) entered into a commitment rather more than two years ago in which she said that the hospital on the Euston Road site would close and that it was her view that we should seek an alternative where that facility could be provided within a district general hospital. There has been a great deal of consultation about this. It was my conclusion, after discussion with the staff of the EGA, that since they were now prepared to consider an alternative I should not be tough and insist that the closure had to be on a specific day. Certainly if I had stuck to that when negotiations about an alternative were being considered, I would have been accused in this House of being obdurate.

May I say, first, how much my right hon. Friend's decision in favour of postponement has been welcomed by the staff and patients of the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital? However, can my right hon. Friend say what sort of time scale he has in mind? How long will all these consultations take? Pending the consultations, cannot he agree to do the urgent repairs which are necessary—for instance, to get the lifts working again, because these broken lifts are putting half the hospital out of commission?

I have made it clear that I hope that the discussions about an alternative will not take long. I have also made it clear that the hospital on the Euston Road site will close. In view of that, it would be quite unjustified to authorise substantial expenditure, or for the area health authority to do so, for the replacement or substitution of the lifts. But certainly essential repair work to enable the hospital to continue during such period as remains to it is the responsibility of the area health authority.

Retirement Age


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what representations he has received from the Equal Opportunities Commission and the National Association of Pension Funds on the subject of the retiring age for men and women; and if he will make a statement.

My right hon. Friend and I have received copies of the National Association of Pension Funds' publication "Towards Equality in Retirement Ages" and of the Equal Opportunities Commission's consultative document "Equalising the Pension Age".

We shall shortly be publishing a discussion document on the elderly which takes account of the views expressed in these publications. We look forward with interest to the response to our document.

Are not all shades of opinion, including that of the TUC, now reflecting the need to move towards flexible retirement, with the ultimate objective of a common retirement date for both men and women? In these circumstances, is the Minister satisfied that the document to which he refers is all that is needed? Should he not now be under- taking a detailed financial assessment of the true cost of moving towards a common retirement date? Most of the statistics produced by the Government so far appear to some of us to have been somewhat bogus.

The figures that we have produced are not bogus. A great deal of information has been given of the cost of moving towards equalisation. Flexibility will be a central issue in the document. We deal with this in great detail, as well as equalisation. But we feel that there is a need for a national debate on this issue.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is very difficult to reconcile the principle behind the current legislation on equal opportunities and sex equality with the startling difference in the retirement ages for men and women? Does he agree, further, that this applies also to widows and widowers who when in employment often have equal wages and equal responsibilities, bearing in mind that the widower does not receive a pension? Will my right hon. Friend take these factors into consideration?

Yes, and they will be discussed in the document. I accept that the present differential is illogical, but, as I have explained already, equalisation creates many problems and difficulties, and these will have to be discussed fully.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that what really matters is not a blanket reduction in age but flexibility, so that each individual can retire at the age which suits him or her best and which suits his or her job? Does he recognise that we shall make little progress with flexibility until he persuades his Treasury colleagues to reduce the penal rates of tax on personal savings?

I accept fully the first part of what the hon. Gentleman says, but I cannot accept the second part.

Emergency Services (Bromsgrove And Redditch)


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services in the light of the continuing refusal of general practitioners in Redditch to Operate a 24-hour casualty service and in view of the lack of facilities at Bromsgrove General Hospital, if he will make a statement on the future of accident and emergency services in that area.

The area health authority will be reviewing these casualty services in the light of the survey it is making of existing facilities and the use made of them. A major accident and emergency unit will be included in the plans for the new district general hospital at Red-ditch.

This survey has now been going on for more than a year. Cannot the Minister give some indication when a casualty service will be resumed in this very important manufacturing area? How does he view other areas where general practitioners are responsible for the provision of these services?

On that last point, if the hon. Member will table a Question about it and give me notice, I shall answer it. As for the first part of his supplementary question, the survey will be laid before the area health authority on 16th June.

Kidney Machines


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will make a further statement about the withdrawal of the attendance allowance from patients using kidney machines.


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will make a further statement about the withdrawal of the attendance allowance from patients using kidney machines.

An application for leave to appeal has now been made to the National Insurance Commissioner and I am awaiting the outcome.

Does the Minister agree that the loss of attendance allowance leads to a generally less effective use of dialysis units? Would it not be better to cut across the nonsensical situation whereby everything is stored pending the results of the appeal to the National Insurance Commissioner, and go for both shorter dialysis periods and the attendance allowance?

I cannot add to my original reply, except to say that whatever the National Insurance Commissioner's decision may be, we shall need to consider the implications most carefully. I readily undertake to do this. It would be quite wrong for me to reach any conclusion now, in anticipation of the Commissioner's decision. It is not an easy matter, since dialysis patients are only one of the groups to whom the conditions for attendance allowance must be applied.

Does the Minister admit that it is unacceptable if dialysis patients lose the attendance allowance without any improvement in their condition? What is he doing to try to speed up the decision of the National Insurance Commissioner?

I am sure that the National Insurance Commissioner is well aware of the interest in the case which has now been referred to him, and that there will be no undue delay in reaching a decision. However, as I have said, I cannot at this time anticipate the decision, and it would be quite wrong of me to start speculating about what should be done in future on any decision or on whether further action might be necessary.

I understand that the oral hearing before the Commissioner, involving my constituent, is to take place in a few weeks' time. Will the Minister give an undertaking that the representations made by the Department at that hearing will be of benevolent neutrality?

I am aware of my hon. Friend's considerable interest in this matter, as it is his constituent who has appealed. However, I cannot speak today on the matter of evidence. As to speeding up proceedings, I must emphasise the independence of the adjudicating authorities, including the National Insurance Commissioner.

Since we understand that this decision is unlikely to be announced until the autumn, could the Minister not persuade the Government to accept the Bill brought forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young), which would deal with this expeditiously and make the payment of the attendance allowance to these people?

It would be wrong to attempt to change the law before we are told by the National Insurance Commissioner what the law, in his view, means. I have no knowledge that there is likely to be a delay until November. My right hon. Friend has said that he expects the case to be heard in a few weeks' time.

Emergency Services (North-West London)


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he is satisfied with the scope and provision of emergency medical services and casualty departments in North West London.

The number of general practitioners in North-West London is generally adequate. Many of them rely for out-of-hours emergency cover on deputising services, which are now subject to the code of practice issued by my Department in April. Responsibility for the provision of accident and emergency departments rests with the health authorities concerned, subject to broad guidelines issued by my Department, and I have no reason to believe that the service for this in North-West London is inadequate. If the hon. Member has a particular case in mind I will investigate it if he will write to me.

I thank the Minister for his reply. I shall send him details of some cases. In view of the continuing staff shortage on the casualty side in the whole area, is the Minister satisfied that there will be no further partial or complete closures of casualty departments for the rest of this year?

Partial or complete closures of casualty services take place from time to time throughout the Health Service. When a hospital's beds become full, casualties are directed to another hospital. This is part of the normal process, subject to arrangements made between hospitals for the transfer of cases. Therefore, I cannot give the undertaking that the hon. Member seeks.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are severe problems throughout London in this respect? Did he see the recent television programme about King's College Hospital and the problems there? If so, what does he intend to do about the problems in his and my area?

There are, of course, occasional shortages of theatre staff, particularly theatre nurses. I did see the television programme and I am due to visit King's College Hospital in the not-too-distant future, so I shall look at the problem.

Will my right hon. Friend look again at the North-West London area's casualty departments—especially those in Willesden? Is he aware that there has been a rationalisation, which has gone much too far? Will he check what has been done in that area?

I take note of my hon. Friend's remarks on that matter. I know that he has a very deep concern for hospital services in his area, and I shall certainly check what has been done.

Pensions (Over-80S)


asked the Secretady of State for Social Services by how much the 25p addition to the retirement pension payable to pensioners aged 80 years and over would have to be increased to restore it to its real value when introduced.

To restore the value which the national insurance age addition had when it was introduced in 1971, on the basis of the movement of the general index of retail prices, it would be necestary to increase it from 25p to 60p.

Was this not a very valuable and widely welcomed supplement when it was introduced? Why have the Government effectively devalued it in this way?

This is one of many benefits that must be considered in the light of public expenditure costs. This Government have done a great deal for pensioners in this country. We do not need to apologise about it.

Prime Minister (Engagements)


asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 13th June.

Earlier today I greeted President Ceausescu of Romania on his arrival for a State visit to this country. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be holding meetings with Ministerial colleagues and others. This evening I shall be the guest of Her Majesty The Queen at the State dinner in honour of President Ceausescu.

No doubt the Prime Minister has had time today to consider the effects of his policies of higher spending, more borrowing and higher interest rates. When this is coupled with stagnant production and a questionable wages policy, how can it be a fact, as pronounced recently by one of his Ministers—this is a vitally important point—that single-figure wage inflation will continue for the indefinite future? Surely this is no more and no less than election window dressing.

I realise the anxiety with which the hon. Member's thoughts are concentrated on possible forthcoming events. I beg him to contain his impatience. In terms of inflation, it is important that he should not, by slipshod words, convey an impression that is incorrect. I do not suppose that he intended to do so. Nobody has said that inflation will continue indefinitely into the future at single-figure rates. What my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection said was that it would continue at single-figure rates for the remainder of this year. What happens next year will depend to a large extent on the level of wage settlements, which begin again in the autumn. What is much more important than examining the statistical entrails every day is that the Government should have the will—as they have—to carry through their policy to keep down inflation.

With due deference to the debate that will take place tomorrow, will my right hon. Friend take time today to remind the general public of the substantial benefits which the Government's existing economic and financial policies have brought to the workers and the under-privileged sections of our society?

I do not wish to anticipate tomorow's debate. It is true that the family budget was distorted by the Opposition and that the measures that we propose to take will remedy the situation. Nothing can alter the fact that pensions will increase, that child benefit will improve, and that there will be a tax rebate in July. All these are valuable benefits, but we must not be complacent, because there is a great deal to do. I constantly remind the country of this. I did so again at the Nottingham miners' gala last Saturday.

As one of the Prime Minister's duties today is to answer Questions in the House, will he tell us why, in his package of economic measures, he deliberately chose to put a tax on exports and on all home production, thereby making us more vulnerable to imports?

There were many means by which we could have put right the recklessness of the Opposition in adding £500 million to the Budget by reducing taxation. We considered them, and no doubt the House will debate them tomorrow. Having looked at them carefully, it seemed to me that because the whole House agrees that inflation is the vital issue, it would not have been appropriate to take action through value-added tax, which might have been sensible in other directions but would have had the effect of pushing up inflation. Therefore, we chose the national insurance surcharge. I dare say that if we had chosen VAT there would have been complaints from the Opposition that we had not chosen something else.

If the Prime Minister has no confidence in the decisions of the House of Commons about cutting income tax, he knows exactly what he can do about it, because it lies in his power to make arrangements to elect a new one. In the meantime, does he not recall that his Chancellor of the Exchequer, during his Budget speech, dismissed the claim of the Liberals when they wanted to increase the national insurance contribution by saying that it would be wrong to threaten jobs at a time of unemployment, wrong to put up industrial costs when we had a problem of competitiveness, and wrong to introduce a tax which would be passed on in prices at a time of higher inflation? Why has he changed his mind?

With respect to the right hon. Lady, I must inform her that it is not I who changed my mind. It is the Opposition who have added £500 million to the Budget. As I have said on earlier occasions at this Dispatch Box, I would much have preferred it if those reductions in tax had not taken place. We would then not have had to bring forward a proposal for national insurance surcharge. Both matters should have been left on one side. I very much regret that the House of Commons took this decision, but, as it did so, we intend, as we said at the time, to put the matter right. We intend to follow a sound financial policy on all these matters.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that what happens about inflation next year will depend largely on whether we have a Government who are prepared to co-operate with the unions or a Government who are determined to have confrontation with them?

I think the last four years have adequately shown that the policy of the previous Government on confrontation and conflict was not successful. We have been much more successful in the policy of conciliation that we have followed. As for next year's incomes increases, I propose to wait, listen and hear what the trade union conferences which are now taking place have to say. They will come to an end in July. After that the Government will have to put forward their own proposals.


asked the Prime Minister if he will list his public engagements for 13th June.

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave earlier today to the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Temple-Morris).

I welcome my right hon. Friend's earlier reply to my supplementary question, but will he emphasise to the trade union movement the benefits which the Labour Government have conferred on their members, and stress that they should not be kidded by the Opposition, who appear to be trying to woo the trade unions with false promises?

I shall certainly point that out to the trade unions, but I believe it would be better if there were an all-party view about the importance and significance of the trade union:: and of the great role that they play. It would serve the Opposition far better if they were to emphasise that aspect, instead of constantly attacking the trade unions.

As the Prime Minister referred to this evening's banquet, will he reflect how he can best commemorate the extinction of freedom and democratic Socialism that took place in Czechoslovakia 10 years ago?

President Ceausescu on that occasion spoke out clearly against what took place in Czechoslovakia, and I am very glad indeed that he did so.


asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 13th June.

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave earlier today to the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Temple-Morris).

In the course of a busy day, will my right hon. Friend find time to reflect further on the subject of inflation, particularly the rate of increase in food prices, which is now the lowest since 1970? Will he make it clear to the country that if the Opposition have their way in devaluing the green pound, the healthy situation that now obtains on food prices would be totally destroyed?

I am glad to say that there is no doubt that food prices have risen far less rapidly in the past 12 months. The figure I have is 6·7 per cent., which is very good indeed. The devaluation of the green pound has the effect of putting up prices, but I repeat that it is the Government's policy and intention, so far as we can carry the country with us on issues in which the country is involved, to try to keep inflation down. We are succeeding at the moment, and we hope to continue to do so, because I think that the people of this country understand the issue.

Is it not the case that by increasing the national insurance contribution the Government will put up food prices, whereas if they increased value added tax that would not happen?

An increase in value added tax would have put up immediately the retail price index substantially. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about food?"] Hon. Gentlemen are baying as though they are in the zoo, waiting to be fed. The food index, as the hon. Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) knows, even if his Conservative colleagues do not, is part of the overall index and not separate from it, and forms only one element of it. The simple truth is that the Opposition cannot escape from the responsibility that they have forced the Government to introduce a measure that is unwelcome to the Government—namely, the national insurance surcharge. The only alternative would have been to increase value added tax, and that would have increased the retail price index even more. The Opposition can take their choice of which part of the responsibility they wish to assume.

I know that my right hon. Friend has tried to alter this silly system, but will he, in future, when met with a Question such as the one before him, or Question No. 1, answer it in the style of an American President? Leaving out matters of security, will he give the details of his engagements during one day? That might persuade hon. Members that they should not ask Questions to which they do not want answers.

As always, I shall take my hon. Friend's views into careful consideration.

If it is necessary to recoup the £500 million to the Treasury because of the amendments moved on the Finance Bill, will the Prime Minister explain to the country why it is essential to put a tax on employment of £1,500 million?

The tax is to recover the amount that has been lost this year—namely, £500 million. That is what it will do. As I am sure the hon. Gentleman knows, the tax itself does not come into effect until November. There will be another Budget next April, when the matter may be reconsidered.



asked the Prime Minister when he next intends to visit Ankara.

If my right hon. Friend sees Mr Ecevit in the near future, will he tell him that although we welcome the new co-operation agreement between Europe and Turkey and sympathise with Turkey's economic difficulties, the present Government take human rights very seriously, particularly the machinery of the European Convention on Human Rights?

What action will British Ministers take in Strasbourg when this matter is next considered? Is my right hon. Friend aware that if the complaints against Turkey about violations of human rights in Cyprus were got out of the way it would help Britain's reputation for a belief in human rights, in terms not just of complaints against Russia but of human rights throughout the world, and would assist a final settlement in Cyprus?

I know that my hon. Friend takes a deep interest in these matters. The question of human rights, which my hon. Friend raised in the debate on foreign affairs last week, is a matter for the Council of Europe to reach a conclusion upon. I gather it has failed to do so on the last two occasions on which it has considered the subject. I hope that it will reach a just conclusion on the next occasion when it considers the matter. British Ministers will endeavour to ensure that that is done. If so, that conclusion should be published. I agree with my hon. Friend that this matter should not be left hanging around.

If the Prime Minister has an opportunity to discuss these matters with the Turkish Government, will he explain to them that if they have either civil or military aircraft with Rolls-Royce engines requiring repair, the possibility of having those engines repaired will depend not on whether they pay the bill but on the view taken by the T and GWU—not the Foreign Office—of human rights?

No, Sir. I do not think that it will be necessary to explain that to the Turkish Government.

In view of world concern about human rights, and particularly in respect of the discussions taking place between the two great Powers—the United States and Russia—on the dangerous situation that still exists in Africa and the serious situation affecting the policy of detente, what is my right hon. Friend's view about the holding of a summit conference in the not-too-distant future?

As my hon. Friend knows, a conference of seven of the major industrial Powers is to take place, but I do not believe that we shall be discussing the question of Africa or detente. That conference will be concerned with the economic prospects of the Western world.

Does the right hon. Gentleman think that the richer NATO countries should extend more economic aid to Turkey and to Greece, particularly having regard to their key position in NATO and the fact that the Soviet Union is extending more and more economic aid to Turkey?

That matter could be looked into. When the Turkish Prime Minister, Mr. Ecevit, saw me, he asked whether we could assist in supplying arms because of the difficulties that Turkey is having with the United States Congress. I undertook to look into the matter, but so far no propositions have come forward that would be satisfactory.

Rolls-Royce Engines (Chile)

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the deliberate and provocative refusal of Her Majesty's Government to return to the Government of Chile four Rolls-Royce Avon engines, the property of that Government, sent here for servicing in 1973 and subsequently held by Her Majesty's Government at the instigation of shop stewards at the East Kilbride factory of Rolls-Royce, where the engines are currently held in defiance of a court order that the Chileans' property should be released and returned to them."
This is a specific matter because it refers to a known consignment of Rolls-Royce Avon engines. It is a specific matter because it is known to the Department of Industry, which in an answer to a Written Question last night informed the House that the Chilean Government
"have applied for an export licence for the Avon engines and this application is currently being considered by the Departments concerned."
I stress the plural "Departments", which I believe is relevant, as I shall later show. It should be borne in mind that the answer fails to point out that this issue dates back to 1973, when the engines were sent here, or certainly to 1974.

The matter is urgent because the news of the court action has only just become public, it appearing to have been concealed by Her Majesty's Government. There seems little doubt that other foreign Governments, or foreign customers, considering sending goods to Britain for servicing, will be confused by these events and will want to know just where they stand in the event of there being a change of Government while their goods are here, or in the event of shop stewards taking the law into their own hands. The issue creates doubt among trading partners and puts our exports at risk. The matter is, therefore, urgent.

I feel that there is little doubt about the importance of the matter. It is not merely a commercial matter. The implications of the Government's action—bowing to the threat of force of the shop stewards and defying a court order—indicate that my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) was right when in 1974 he asked the people "Who governs Britain?".

I stress that, however important this issue is, we are not discussing the rights or wrongs of the situation in Chile. We are not discussing the sale of arms, because the engines belong to the Chilean Government. They have been paid for years ago. We are discussing nothing less than international banditry by Her Majesty's Government.

I have sought, Mr. Speaker, to find an analogy which I think is relevant. If you, Mr. Speaker, were to take your bicycle to a cycle repair shop, and that shop subsequently were to be taken over by, shall we say, the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery), who decided that he did not like you and that he would keep your bicycle, and you subsequently went to a court of this land and obtained a court order to the effect that you could have your bicycle back and the owner of that shop decided that you were not to have your bicycle back, you would think, Mr. Speaker, that that was a poor show. When that is done by a Government entitled Her Majesty's Government, it is a serious matter.

I refer finally—

Order. First, the hon. Member for Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley) picked on the wrong George when talking about a bicycle. However, he is coming to a conclusion.

I finally refer back to the answer that was given last night containing the use of the plural "Departments". The Department of Industry did not indicate which other Government Departments were involved. Was it the Ministry of Defence, to which I originally tabled the Question? Was it the Foreign and Commonwealth Office? Both Departments have maintained a gutless silence in the face of this long delay.

The use of the phrase "the rule of law" tends to be over-used, but in this instance I submit that the Government are stealing somebody else's property. That cannot be condoned by the House, nor even by the Government. On that basis, Mr. Speaker, I seek your agreement that we should debate the matter at an early date.

The hon. Gentleman gave me notice before 12 o'clock this morning that he proposed to ask leave to move to Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the Government's attitude towards the court order to return aero engines the property of the Chilean Government to that Government".
I listened carefully to what the hon. Gentleman said. The House knows that it is not for me to decide the importance of a matter but whether it requires an emergency debate in the House. I have to rule that the hon. Gentleman's submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order. Therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Member for Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley) implied that I have your bicycle. I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that unless a military coup takes place in my shop I shall ensure that you get your bike back.

Welsh Affairs


That the matter of Youth Unemployment in Wales, being a matter relating exclusively to Wales, be referred to the Welsh Grand Committee for their consideration.—[Mr. Coleman.]

Statutory Instruments, &C

By leave of the House, I shall put together the Questions on the three motions relating to Statutory Instruments.


That the draft Social Security Benefits Up-Rating Order 1978 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.
That the draft Supplementary Benefits (Determination of Requirements) Regulations 1978 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.
That the draft Child Benefit and Social Security (Fixing and Adjustment of Rates) Amendment Regulations 1978 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.—[Mr. Coleman.]

Water Services Charges (Rebates)

3.38 p.m.

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide for rebates on water services charges in respect of pensioners and low income families.
A large number of my constituents have written to me about water services charges. Probably most hon. Members know them better as water rates. However, they were renamed in the 1973 legislation. More recently, in addition to the letters that constituents have written, I have taken the trouble to consult many of my constituents on what is clearly to them a major problem. Many of them have taken much trouble clearly to express their views to me.

It is clear that all my constituents who have spoken to me are dissatisfied with the North-West Water Authority and the way in which its charges have increased and increased since it was set up in 1973. It is clear that the Authority is extremely unpopular. Indeed, almost every other water authority in England and Wales is equally unpopular. That which concerns my constituents especially is that the North-West Water Authority is in no way publicly accountable. It is run by a board of appointed people who have no responsibility to the public in any way. My constituents find this a deplorable situation.

My constituents are particularly concerned at the way in which the North-West Water Authority appears to have carried out many public acts which appear deliberately to push up charges. They are particularly appalled—it may be a small matter—about the incident regarding the chairman's number plate. They are concerned about the glossy annual reports which the North-West Water Authority sends out. They are concerned about the way in which industrial metering has been changed and the problems that has produced for sprinkler companies and others. They are concerned about the way that bills are being sent out. At one time bills were sent out from the local town hall. But the North-West Water Authority set up its own empire to send out the bills. There are many areas in which the North-West Water Authority appears unnecessarily to have put up charges.

It is clear that those of my constituents whom I have consulted would like me to bring forward a Bill to abolish the North-West Water Authority. I suspect that in the country as a whole a Bill to abolish the water authorities would be extremely popular. But, as far as I can see, that is not practical in a Ten-Minute Rule Bill. I think that my constituents would like the water authorities to be abolished, the Government nationally to take responsibility for collection of water and disposal of sewage and the local authorities again to have the task of supplying water to individual premises and to remove sewage. But that is not practical in a Ten-Minute Bill. However, I hope that the Government will do something about the matter quickly.

I am seeking leave to introduce a Bill which will relieve the worst of the hardship. The use of rateable values to make charges is not fair when dealing with general rates, but at least one can justify using rateable values for the general rates, because that system permits local democracy to have some say in the levels of expenditure on services. We managed to reduce some of the unfairness of the general rate as a result of legislation in the early 1960s which introduced the means test and produced the rates rebate. Therefore, we can say that rates allow for local democracy and some modification as a result of the means test and rate rebates.

However, rateable values, when used for water services charges, even if a standing charge is involved, are in no way controlled by locally elected people and take no account of how much water or sewage is involved in a particular household. Nor do they take account of the individual's ability to pay.

Rebates for general rates were first introduced in the 1960s. If we had included the water rate at that point, the charge would have been very small—in most instances under £5. To have included that in the rebate system would have involved a lot of unnecessary administration for very little benefit. But that is no longer true. The water rate and sewerage charges are becoming considerable burdens.

I should like to quote one example of one of my constituents, Mr. Williams, who came to my advice bureau on Saturday morning. I think that his problem is typical of that facing many pensioners. He had with him two bills. One was for his general rates. It set out clearly that the charge for his premises would be £121. He then had his rebate taken into account. As a result of the means test and his ability to pay, he had to pay £16·58. His bill amounted to £121, but it was reduced as a result of the rebate to £16·58.

The second bill was his water service charge which worked out at £35·66. There was no rebate on that at all. Therefore, the actual amount that he had to pay was £35·66. In other words, he was being asked to pay over twice as much for water and sewerage as for all the other local government services. In his case and in many other cases the water and sewerage charges are now causing a great deal of hardship. We are, in effect, asking for 50p or £1 a week for water and sewerage services.

I know that some of the boards have made great claims about having made it easier for people to pay by instalments or a stamp scheme. But most of these easy payment schemes are not easy payment schemes at all, because they involve people making payments much earlier than if they paid the lump sum.

I suggest that the problem is particularly acute for pensioners who have a grievance about the amount of water that they use. It is also true for many low-income families who have great difficulty in finding a lump sum of about £50 to pay these charges.

I have had many letters from pensioners pointing out how little water they use. Often they feel resentful that they cannot use more water. Many of them find it extremely difficult to get in and out of a bath, so they do not use as much water as they would like. Others, who cannot afford automatic washing machines and take their clothes to a launderette, find that they have to pay for the water that they might have been able to use at home in addition to the charge at the launderette to have their clothes washed.

Many pensioners live next door to families which have two or three children. Such families have frequent baths and often have an automatic washing machine. Water is also used for the garden or for cleaning the car. In such households the tanks and the pipes never seem to stop gurgling as the water goes through. Yet for pensioners living next door, who use very little water, the charges are identical.

Some of my constituents believe that metering water supplies would solve the problem, but the vast majority are opposed to metering on public health grounds and the cost of installing and reading water meters. They feel that the immediate need is to give a means-tested rebate on the water services charge and then to get on and reorganise the water authorities. They feel bitter about the reorganisation not only of the water authorities but of the Health Service and local government generally by the Conservative Government in 1973. However, they are increasingly beginning to say "That lot may have made a mess of it in 1973. But why on earth have not this Government got on with putting things right since?"

I ask the House to allow this Bill to be introduced. My constituents know that at this point in this Session it does not have much chance of becoming law. However, they ask the Government to see the need to do something now and to note the justice of rebates on water services charges. They hope that it will not be necessary for an hon. Member to raise this matter again next Session, but that the Government will take a lead from the national executive committee of the Labour Party and ensure that it becomes Government policy that we have rebates on water charges and that they either bring forward legislation or support my Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Andrew F. Bennett, Mr. George Rodgers, Mr. Max Madden, Mr. Brian Sedgemore, Mr. Robert Kilroy-Silk, Mr. Frank Allaun, Mr. Mike Noble, Mr. Terry Walker and Mr. James Lamond.

Water Services Charges (Rebates)

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett accordingly presented a Bill to provide for rebates on water services charges in respect of pensioners and low income families; And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 14th July and to be printed. [Bill 145.]

Orders Of The Day

State Immunity Bill Lords

As amended ( in the Standing Committee), considered.

Clause 3

Commercial Transactions And Con Tracts To Be Performed In The United Kingdom

3.50 p.m.

I beg to move Amendment No. 1, in page 3, line 1, leave out from 'loan' to 'other' in line 2 and insert

'or other transaction for the provision of finance and any guarantee or indemnity in respect of any such transaction or of any'.
The purpose of this amendment is to widen the scope for non-immunity with regard to all financing transactions. It is intended to meet a criticism of the existing provisions and of the amendment moved by my right hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General in Committee.

The criticisms were voiced by the right hon. and learned Member for Wimbledon (Sir M. Havers). I hope that he will concede that these provisions clearly cover transactions for the provision of finance by means of forward purchase of foreign exchange over the next few years. The right hon. and learned Gentleman specifically mentioned that example in Committee.

I thank the right hon. and learned Member for Wimbledon for the constructive contributions that he has made towards making this a more comprehensive Bill. I also wish to put on record, as the Solicitor-General did in Committee, the great assistance which has been given by the City of London Solicitors' Company. Its advice has also been invaluable. I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will find that this amendment meets his criticisms.

The passage of this Bill has been a tribute to the valuable co-operation which has existed between the Lord. Chancellor's Office, Ministers and the City of London Solicitors' Company. Between them they have done much to improve the Bill.

This amendment is another example, following the objections that I raised in Committee, of Government reaction to make improvements, with the assistance of the City of London Solicitors' Company. It covers one example which I raised in Committee because the amendment that was moved then still left open a gap.

I wish that it were possible to remove the doubt about the definition of the exercise of sovereign authority. A solicitor should not be left in a position where he is unable to advise a client whether in certain cases the exercise of sovereign authority may operate and is therefore unable to give a firm a certificate that it will not apply. This could still have a damaging effect. The object of the Bill is to remove that doubt. That doubt still exists for the reasons that I explained in Committee.

It might be worth considering whether it is possible to look at the nature rather than the purpose of the transaction or activity in question so that one could get round the difficulty. As a matter of law, there is support for an amendment on those lines. In Lord Denning's judgment on the famous Trentex case, he held that by entering into a commercial transaction a State waives its immunity as regards proceedings relating to that transaction and that in deciding whether a transaction was a commercial one the intrinsic nature of the transaction rather than its object was the material consideration. In Article 7 of the convention on State immunity there is support for what I say.

In the spirit of co-operation that exists in both Houses I suggest that the Parliamentary Secretary should consider again the amendment which, unfortunately, was a starred amendment and could not be discussed. The Government have a chance to think again and to make the necessary amendments in the Lords.

I thank the right hon. and learned Member for Wimbledon (Sir M. Havers) for what he said. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that the advice of lawyers to their clients is given with as much clarity and certainty as is reasonably possible. The right hon. and learned Gentleman's suggestions have helped.

I understand what the right hon. and learned Gentleman is getting at. He will appreciate that the determination whether there has been an exercise of sovereign authority will have to be made in the light of the circumstances of each case. It is not easy to foresee how the definition that he suggests would work in the context of the many varied circumstances that would arise.

Establishing what is the nature of a transaction or activity is likely to involve an examination of all aspects of that transaction or activity. It is difficult to see how the amendment suggested by the right hon. and learned Gentleman would assist the court since it would merely impose a limitation on the consideration of the question whether there has been an exercise of sovereign authority. Instructing a court to consider the nature of a transaction would not lead it to consider anything that it would not consider in any event.

Without making any firm assurances that an amendment will be tabled in the Lords, I assure the right hon. and learned Gentleman that I shall look at the matter again on behalf of the Government.

Amendment agreed to.

I congratulate both the right hon. and learned Member for Wimbledon (Sir M. Havers) and the Parliamentary Secretary on not discussing the other amendment.

Clause 13

Other Procedural Privileges

I beg to move Amendment No. 2, in page 7, line 31, leave out from first 'property' to 'which' in line 32.

Amendment No. 2 is a drafting amendment. Amendment No. 4 is a paving amendment. Amendment No. 5 is of substance. It has three main objects. First, its purpose is to clarify the drafting of Clause 14(3) which my right hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General undertook to examine in Committee in answer to criticisms and doubts raised by the right hon. and learned Member for Wimbledon (Sir M. Havers). Secondly, it brings together all the provisions relating to central banks in one place. I am sure that the House agrees that that is sensible. Thirdly, it ensures that a central bank or other monetary authority shall have the same immunity with regard to execution or in respect of relief by way of an injunction or order for specific performance or for the recovery of land or other property as a State shall have, irrespective of whether the central bank is a separate entity or is acting in the exercise of sovereign authority.

Under the Bill as drafted the immunity of a State's central bank which is a separate entity and is not acting in the exercise of sovereign authority is slightly less than that of a central bank in other circumstances. That is the point that the right hon. and learned Gentleman made in Committee. I hope that he agrees that this amendment covers the point satisfactorily.

I hope that what the Minister said rang with great clarity in your mind, Mr. Speaker. But it is a highly technical matter. The amendment follows an issue that I raised in Committee basically because the independence of the central banks is jealously guarded by them. It is essential that they should be put into an entirely independent position throughout the Bill. I am grateful to the Government for responding to what I said in Committee.

Amendment agreed to.

I beg to move Amendment No. 3, in page 7, line 42 leave out from '(5)' to 'to' in line 44 and insert:

'The head of a State's diplomatic mission in the United Kingdom, or the person for the time being performing his functions, shall be deemed to have authority to give on behalf of the State any such consent as is mentioned in subsection (3) above and, for the purposes of subsection (4) above, his certificate'.
I hope that I shall explain this amendment with the same clarity. It is equally technical but I am sure that you. Mr. Speaker, will understand every word of it.

The purpose of the amendment is to meet the criticism that whereas Clause 2(7) specifies who may submit to proceedings on behalf of the State there is no provision in Clause 13 about who should be deemed to be entitled to give the consent of the State to execution or to the issue of relief against it by way of an injunction. The amendment provides that it is the head of the State's diplomatic mission who shall be deemed to be competent to give such consent.

There is no need to make any special provision with respect to consent given in a prior written agreement because if the court is satisfied that the agreement was made on behalf of the State, the consent clause in the agreement is sufficient. Provision is needed only to cover the cases where there is no prior consent to execution.

4.0 p.m.

Particularly since I have expounded it with such complete clarity, I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will consider that that meets his point.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 14

States Entitled To Immunities And Privileges

Amendments made: No. 4, in page 8, line 40, after "entity", insert

"(not being a State's central bank or other monetary authority)".

No. 5, in page 8, line 44, leave out from "entity" to end of line 5 on page 9 and insert—

"(4) Property of a State's central bank or other monetary authority shall not be regarded for the purposes of subsection (4) of section 13 above as in use or intended for use for commercial purposes; and where any such bank or authority is a separate entity subsections (1) to (3) of that section shall apply to it as if references to a State were references to the bank or authority.".—[Mr. Arthur Davidson.]

Motion made, and Question, That the Bill be now read the Third time, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 56 (Third Reading), and agreed to.

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

Community Service By Offenders (Scotland) Bill

As amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.

New Clause No 2

Nature Of Community Service

"In determining the nature of community service the courts may request the local authorities to relate the work to the nature of the offence.".—[ Mr. Teddy Taylor.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

4.3 p.m.

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

As the House will be aware, this Bill introduces community service orders in Scotland. As the Minister explained in Committee and on Second Reading, we have had a number of experiments in Scotland so far, and the Bill provides formally the powers to introduce the scheme throughout Scotland.

In Committee the Opposition moved a new Clause which suggested that in determining the nature of community service the courts and local authorities should have regard to the desirability of relating the work to the nature of the offence. The Minister certainly accepted our reason for putting the proposal forward. We thought that a useful use of community service might be, particularly in cases of vandalism and malicious mischief, that the penalty should seek to ensure that the person who had committed the crime should carry out some public service or work associated with it.

One obvious example would be that if a vandal had been caught putting graffiti on a wall, it might be a useful discipline for him to be invited to clean up the mess. That was the kind of thing that we had in mind and why we proposed the new clause in Committee. However, the Minister put forward a convincing argument and a number of reasons for not accepting it. As reported in column 87 of the Committee proceedings he said that it was not possible or practicable for the court to have the detailed knowledge of the kind of work that an offender should be doing against the background of his offence, and he said that it was not possible or practicable for the courts to have detailed knowledge of the availability of work that would be required.

He pointed out that under the Bill it was for the courts to determine the number of hours that a community service order would run for an offender, and that it was for the social work departments, which would supervise the order, to decide the content of the work which the offender would perform.

In spite of the Minister's explanation, the Opposition pressed the matter to a Division. After one of the intermittent visits, such as we are again having today, of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar), we stood by our belief in the value of the clause.

The Minister rejected our case, but he indicated that in considering giving an offender a community service order the court would have the ability to recommend that an offender should carry out certain work. That is what we are trying to propose today as a compromise. We think that this is something which could be done, as the Minister has indicated, and it might be useful and helpful to write that into the law. That is why we are putting forward the new clause which it appears has the unanimous support of the Liberal Party. Under the clause the courts, in determining the nature of the community service, may request the local authorities to relate the work to the nature of the offence.

There is no doubt that the whole country is concerned not only about the increase in crime, but about the extent to which our prisons are becoming full. The Minister supported his Bill by saying that it might be an alternative to imprisonment or a fine. There was a telling example of the increased recognition that now exists of the problems of vandalism only last night when the Minister of State, Department of Health and Social Security, winding up a debate on preventive medicine, asked what might be done about children buying cigarettes from automatic vending machines. He pointed out that the problem was disappearing because the machines were being destroyed by vandals.

We have put forward a reasonable compromise which is consistent with the Under-Secretary's words in reply to our new clause in Committee. We are not saying, as we said in Committee, that the courts should have the absolute power to determine the nature of the work of community service. We say only that in determining the nature of community service the courts may request the local authorities to relate the work to the nature of the offence.

In Committee the Under-Secretary pointed out that it might be preferable for an offender to do some work which was related to his special skills or abilities. What we have in mind is a form of service related not to particular skills or abilities but to something which does not need a great deal of skill. It would be most useful if someone who destroyed a garden had to do some gardening. Equally, it would be useful if someone who defaced a wall had to clean it up. It would be quite wrong if the courts were to have no indication in the Act that they could influence the nature of the work done.

I hope that the Minister will accept our clause as being fair and reasonable and consistent with his speech in Committee. I hope that he will accept that if we do not put in the clause there will be nothing in the Bill to give the courts the right to determine or influence the nature of the work to be done.

I intervene briefly to support the clause, as I supported the earlier clause in Committee. I took the point that the Minister made then, and I congratulate the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) on having phrased the new clause in a way that meets the points raised by the Minister. I hope that the Minister will accept it.

The hon. Member for Cathcart referred to special skills. It might be possible to make someone who has wrecked a garden do some gardening. But that person might be completely hopeless at gardening and might replant the flowers or potatoes in such a way that they simply would not grow. The clause will mean that the local authorities, which will have the responsibility of devising the schemes, will be able where it is appropriate to make the punishment fit the crime and, where that would not be appropriate, because of the offender's lack of skill, they could choose some other form of work. I therefore commend the clause to the House.

Like the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. Thompson), I rise only briefly. This matter was aired in Committee, and although the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) has ingeniously altered the wording of the clause, his arguments remain basically the same. I think that he now has the worst of the argument.

To suggest that in determining community service the courts may request the local authorities to relate the work to the offence is to invite friction. There is nothing to prevent the sheriff from expressing his informal opinion, and I hope that an opinion expressed by a sheriff would also be persuasive on a social work department.

However, the clause would not give the courts the right to determine, instruct or lay down the sort of work to be done. It merely gives a spurious kind of statutory authority to a sheriff's suggestion. I believe that either a sheriff should have the power—a proposal that was rejected in Committee—or the matter should be left on a completely informal basis. The clause is something of a halfway house which may be ingenious but is certainly not desirable.

I remain of the view—and I hope that my Front Bench will also remain of the view—that however attractive it is to argue that the punishment should be made to fit the crime, given the difficulties over the availability of jobs under a community service order and the difficulties of supervision—whether by statutory staff or by people in the voluntary sector who may have an offender seconded to them—that the placing of the person who has been put under a community service order should and must remain the responsibility of the social work department.

In a way, if we were to follow the reasoning and the logic of the hon. Member for Cathcart what we would be doing would be confusing the role of the social worker and the sheriff. I believe that that would be a mistake.

It is clearly a matter for the sheriff to look at the offender, to look at the circumstances of the offence, and to look, perhaps, at the public interest, and to decide in terms of the Bill, when it is an Act, whether the person could appropriately be made the subject of a com- munity service order. It seems to me that we must leave to the social worker the judgment how that should be carried out and which particular tasks, given the range that is available, are appropriate in the individual case.

I am not necessarily quarrelling with the theory that if someone destroys a garden—as has been suggested—work in public parks, therefore, or in tidying up the gardens of old-age pensioners, and so on, might well be appropriate. But I do not think that the nature of the offence is or ever can be the only criterion that should govern where someone is placed in terms of a community service order.

It may be that the person has special skills of another kind that the sheriff, when making the order or when making the kind of recommendation for which the Conservatives wish in the new clause, will not have the full information about the skills and aptitudes or, indeed, the full availability of the work that is available to the social worker when he decides on the final placement.

I would not wish to fetter the discretion of the sheriff in making suggestions, but it seems to me that it is inappropriate that the power to suggest should be enshrined in the Bill, as the hon. Member for Cathcart is suggesting. I should prefer to leave it as a social work judgment. After all, if we were to have this power, it seems that we would have to have a situation in which the social worker, when providing the original report, would give an exhaustive list of all the places that are available at that stage and the whole range of community service tasks. The sheriff would then have to give attention to what was available as well as what seemed peculiarly appropriate in terms of the offence that he was considering.

It seems to me that the new clause is inappropriate. It is inviting the sheriff to do something which he is not qualified to do and which, in the majority of cases, it would not be appropriate for him to do. I should prefer to leave the Bill as it is and leave it to the social worker, once the decision on suitability for a community service order has been made by the court, with his particular and specific expertise to decide on the best method of supervision and the best way in which a community service order should be implemented.

I listened with care to what was said by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar). There is some validity in it at first hand. However, I rise to support the new clause, and for this reason. Given a social worker upon whom there is the necessity to find something for someone upon whom a community service order has been imposed, perhaps he will just look at the matter and say "What shall we do with you, George? I know. You can go and repaint the footbridge at such and such a place." I think that there will be a grave likelihood, in view of the pressures on such people, that they will merely find a job for them to do in order to exercise the order.

I am impressed by the new clause because it is important that there should be a relationship between the punishment and the offence. I say that because I remember that shortly after the war there was a competition amongst schoolchildren as to what they would have done to Hitler if they had been able to punish him alive. The child who won said this: "Turn his heart kind and then introduce him to his victims."

I think that it is easy, perhaps, for a child to wreck a fence or to throw a bottle through a window, but to have to meet the family through whose window the bottle was thrown or to have to dig the garden of a poor old women after one has wrecked it could be a most beneficial and reasonable way of introducing the awfulness of a crime. Crime is so easy to commit at a long distance and so difficult to commit face to face.

If the new clause is accepted, the relationship in which we may achieve some resolution of the criminal abandon in the realisation of a human effect might well be realised. That is why I support the new clause.

4.15 p.m.

As the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) pointed out, we are returning to a discussion that we had at length in Committee on another new clause moved by the Opposition. I indicated then that, for various reasons, I did not feel able to accept it. I do not feel able to accept this new clause either.

Perhaps I could begin with the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Fairbairn). With great respect, there seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of the community service system as it has been set up and as it has operated in the four experimental areas in Scotland that we have had over the past few months. There seems also to be a belief that the courts have no say or influence in the kind of work that is made available to offenders. That is a total misconception of the position, because in the four experimental areas, and in all areas in which in future the social work department advise my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that a community service order scheme is available and my right hon. Friend would in turn inform the courts, local advisory committees have been set up.

A local advisory committee consists of representatives of the police, the social work department, the trade union movement—which has a role to play in this matter in identifying the kind of jobs that could be made available to the offenders for community service work—and representatives of the sheriffs. Therefore, the courts themselves have some say and influence in the kind of work that is made available to offenders who are made the subject of community service orders.

The new clause would merely confuse the position of the social work department vis-à-vis the courts.

The hon. Member for Cathcart has framed the new clause to state:
"In determining the nature of community service the courts may request".
That presupposes that it is the courts that determine the nature of the community service. That is not so. It is the social work departments that determine the nature of the community service when they are putting these schemes together. Therefore, the new clause would have the effect of confusing the position of the court vis-à-vis the social work department which would administer the community service order once it has been attached to an offender.

Even apart from that, the new clause is unnecessary because at present courts have powers to make recommendations when an offender comes before them. We should bear in mind that we are still talking about a position in which the offender has in the first place to accept a community service order. We are not talking about a position in which a community service order could be applied against the wishes of the offender.

It may well be—it is only speculation—that the giving of this kind of power to the court would have the effect of stopping many offenders who would be disposed of by the CSO disposal method from accepting a CSO, albeit that the alternative to that would possibly be imprisonment. One should think of the effect on the offender of courts having this kind of power.

Does the Minister agree that the present position is that a sheriff would be making such an order almost blind, not having any knowledge of the kind of work which would be done? Would it not be helpful to put in the Bill some indication of the court having some influence on the matter, otherwise many sheriffs will be in the difficulty of agreeing to make a CSO which in the course of events might in their view prove to be totally unsuitable.

The hon. Member for Cathcart misses the point that I made at the beginning that in deciding the kind of jobs that would become available in a social work area the sheriff has a say through the local advisory committee, which is made up of the sheriff, the police, the social work department and the local trade union movement. What the hon. Member is saying in proposing the new clause is that the sheriff should have an extension of this power to identify a job that had not been identified by the local advisory committee as being part of the community service by offenders scheme that had been put together by the regional council's social work department. That would be dangerous. It is not the kind of power that the courts would welcome.

We have had many representations on the Bill about all sorts of matters, major and minor. But this is one of the issues on which we have had no representation. The courts and the social work departments are happy with the way in which the experiment has worked. No concern has been expressed to us on the matter.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) has said, we would be in danger of loading the statute book with unnecessary requirements when at present the court has the ability to say to a social work department that the sheriff thinks that the offender should be put to work on such-and-such a job. The sheriff will know what jobs are available, because he is part and parcel of the local advisory committee set-up.

I was not on the Committee, though I have read some of the proceedings of the Committee. Does the advisory committee and the trade union members on it say what work they will tolerate offenders doing, and thereafter does the sheriff merely commit them to it and say that the work will be gardening rather than painting lamp posts, if local authority employers will allow such work to be done by offenders? Do I understand that the sheriff has no power to say "You will not just dig gardens, but you will dig Mrs. Smith's garden"?

The hon. and learned Member, of all people, appreciates that we live in a democracy, and that—I hope it always remains the same—we can do basically only what we can get agreement to do.

Not necessarily by the unions. Sometimes more often by the legal profession. Often many of the things that we would like to do have been frustrated not by the trade union movement but by professional organisations such as the legal profession. I do not complain about that. We are a consensus nation and can do only what we are allowed to do.

We have had these experimental schemes running for some months and have experienced no difficulty with them. We are therefore anxious to extend these schemes—we are on the point of doing so—and to get one more region in Scotland. We are anxious, as the Bill provides, to give this scheme legal back-up. The powers contained in the new clause are totally unnecessary because the courts already have the power to suggest to a social work department what work an offender should do. Such a recommendation will be made with the knowledge of what jobs are available.

The basis of the new clause is that we should make the punishment fit the crime.

I am not opposed to that. However, we must bear in mind also that there are some offenders who for various reasons would not be suitable to do some jobs that people are suggesting might be made available to those treated by the CSO system.

I have been no more convinced in this debate than I was in Committee. No new points in support of the proposition put to us in Committee have been made today in support of the amended proposition. I accept that it is an amended proposition. It is not good legislative government to clutter up the statute book with this kind of unnecessary requirement. I hope that the House will not allow the new clause to be read a Second time.

We were encouraged to see among the names added to the new clause three distinguished Members of the Liberal Party. We were disappointed that in this short debate none of them has seen fit to come into the Chamber to support the new clause.

We have tried to give the Minister the opportunity for second thoughts on the matter. We discussed this at some length in Committee and we felt then that the Minister was too rash in rejecting our proposal. The Minister today still takes a narrow view of the point that we are anxious to make. In the Bill the local authorities will have the sole responsibility of deciding the sort of work that offenders should do. Yet the courts, where the case will be heard, will have exercised their option under Clause 1 of the Bill of making a CSO instead of imprisonment, a fine or taking some other action.

This is important as the court will have heard all of the evidence and judged the character of the offender before deciding that a CSO is appropriate. It is difficult to follow the argument put forward in Committee by the Minister.

Does the hon. Member not accept that the courts have an influence, through membership of the local advisory committee, on the kind of jobs that are made available for community service by offenders? If he accepts that, the new clause is not necessary.

There is no reference in the Bill to courts having an influence through advisory committees, which are presumably set up in an administrative exercise and could just as easily be abandoned. Secondly, as was said by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Fairbairn), the advisory committees are essentially of a general nature.

We are suggesting that the court, having listened to the evidence and judged the character of the offender and his suitability for a CSO, could make a specific recommendation as to the nature of the work. I put it to the Minister that there is a difference between the court making a specific recommendation of which work should be done in an individual case and a general recommendation made through some generalised committee structure which can be abandoned at any time because it is not part of the Bill.

The House is in danger of getting itself into some difficulty. Will the hon. Member explain what would happen under the new clause if a sheriff in a sheriff's court recommended that an offender be given some specific kind of work and the social work department said that such work was not available for the offender to do or that it was available but not suitable for the offender to do? Would that not lead to conflict rather than co-operation between the social work departments and the courts? That is the very thing that we have sought to avoid right through the experimental scheme, and we have avoided it.

4.30 p.m.

The way that the Bill is constructed is more likely to lead to conflict than are the contents of the new clause. The Minister is floating a typical red herring because it is not unusual for courts, if in doubt about the suitability of a sentence or any other consideration regarding the offender, to take time for consultation before reaching a decision. The Minister must know that, and his intervention is not relevant.

Does the hon. Gentleman not accept that it is clear in the new clause that even if a sheriff makes a specific request for a particular offender and the social work department decides to ignore it, that might leave a frustrated and annoyed sheriff, but there would be nothing he could do about it? Equally, if after 100 hours of a 200-hour order had been completed, that type of work ran out, the social work department would have no option but to depart from the sheriff's suggestion.

That is the position without the new clause. We are trying to give the sheriff some standing in this matter. I take the point that if the social work department ignored the sheriff's recommendation, there would be nothing under the new clause that he could do about it. However, I am sure that we all hope that relationships between the courts and the social work departments would be better than that. It is in order to try to ensure that these relationships get off to a good start that we are trying to give some right to the court in deciding the nature of the work to be done rather than having that right as the sole domain of the social work department.

Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that there are great disadvantages in inserting suggestion clauses in statutes? While statutes can be enforced, the new clause proposes inserting a right to suggest but not the right to enforce. That is extremely clumsy and unsatisfactory.

Surely it would be better to follow the logic of what the hon. Gentleman has said. We hope that there will be good relationships between social work departments and sheriffs and that suggestions from the bench, as they normally are, will be given serious consideration by the social work department. We would do better to leave it on what might be called a scout's honour basis because that would make for happier relationships and a much tidier Bill.

The defence of the Minister against the new clause is that advisory committees exist. However, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) will agree that there is no reference to these committees in the Bill.

No. It is relevant to the debate. Secondly, we admit to having softened the wording of the new clause and that it is not perfect. We softened the wording because when it was in a harder form in Committee and provided that the courts "shall have regard to", we found that it was not acceptable to the Committee. Indeed, the hon. Member for Garscadden was one of those who voted against it.

Does my hon. Friend agree that judges in the High Court may recommend a minimum period that a man convicted of murder should serve and, as far as I know, it has not been suggested by the Government that this causes friction between St. Andrew's House and the Senate of the College of Justice on the basis that a Minister might recommend that a man should be released, contrary to a judge's recommendation.

It is one thing to say that a court should be able to recommend that a man should pick raspberries in Forfar for the whole summer, without any right to enforce that recommendation under an Act, and it is another to have a statutory right to request, which is more likely to improve the respect that the Bench and social work department have for one another than to cause aggravation.

I agree entirely with what my hon. and learned Friend has said. His intervention is fundamental to the debate and the Minister should pay some attention to and make some reference to those points.

The hon. Member for Garscadden is taking too strict a legal view of the matter. He seems to be following very much the line of the Minister. I am surprised, because the hon. Gentleman has had some time in which to disentangle himself from these doctrines. I am also surprised that he should come back to the House without having broadened his mind on some of these matters.

Having considered the case in detail, heard the evidence for and against the offender and considered the damage done by the offender, as well as the plight of the victims, the courts have a unique role and should have the right to relate the community service order to the nature of the offence. The court is in a different position from the social work department or any local authority official. The court considers the case on its merits and listens to all the evidence, including the character of the offender. That is why we feel that the court should be in a position to make a recommendation.

The hon. Member showed great loyalty to the views of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Fairbairn) who seemed to believe that the sheriff should suggest that an offender should put right the damage in the garden that he had vandalised or the house into which he had broken. In those circumstances, would it not be important to have a new clause to provide that the unfortunate person who is to be the recipient of these services should be consulted before the sheriff goes ahead with his suggestion?

The new clause says:

"In determining the nature of community service the courts may request the local authorities to relate the work to the nature of the offence."
That is the point we are making. There is no substitute for the courts in the discharge of this function. Without the new clause, there would be nothing in the Bill to give any rights to the courts.

I am sorry to intervene again, but it is important to point out that the social worker will hear none of the evidence, will not have been present in court, will probably know nothing about the offence and will probably know only of the conviction. How can such a person be responsible for deciding the sentence?

My hon. and learned Friend underlines the points that we are making. So far, they have not been answered by the Minister.

In Committee, the Minister said:
"It may well be that on the positive side of this argument an offender has a particular talent not related to the offence he has committed. It would be better if we utilised that talent for the benefit of the community".—[Official Report, First Scottish Standing Committee; 25th May 1978, c. 88.]
Having heard all the evidence and considered the offender's character, the court might think that the purposes of the Bill would not be served if he were to indulge in his favourite pastime—which is what the Minister suggested.

But that is likely to be the same as indulging in his favourite pastime. If there is any possibility of that suggestion being adopted by local authorities, the new clause is doubly relevant. There should be some reference to the nature of the offence and the court should be able to make a contribution here.

I said in Committee that it was in the interests of the social work departments that the courts should have the right to relate CSOs to the nature of the offence. If the full responsibility for prescribing the work lies with social workers they will bear the brunt of any criticism. The responsibility should be shared by the courts and the local authorities.

We want the Bill to have the broadest possible acceptance by the public, the police, the courts and the local authorities. This is not a party matter. I hope that the Minister will respond favourably so that the Bill may be more satisfactory to all concerned.

Question put and negatived.

Clause 1

Community Service Orders

I beg to move Amendment No. 1, in page 1, line 8, leave out from 'of' to 'make' in line 9 and insert

'dealing with him in any other way,'.

I understand that it will be convenient to discuss at the same time the following amendments: No. 2, in page 1, line 9, after 'imprisonment', insert 'or'.

No. 3, in page 1, line 9, leave out 'or a fine'.

Government Amendment No. 4.

Amendments Nos. 1 and 4 meet a commitment that I gave in Committee in response to representations from social work departments and others about the meaning of the Bill. We were anxious to make it clear that CSOs should not be seen as an alternative to a fine but should be used where imprisonment would be imposed.

Does Amendment No. 1 do a great deal It simply takes out the reference to specific alternative penalties and inserts the words:

"dealing with him in any other way".
The options which are removed are imprisonment, detention and a fine. Is this just an amendment in wording without real effect? After all, I can think of no option but those three.

Perhaps I have no right to ask this question, but it seems that Amendment No. 4 is putting right something which was left out. It provides that nothing shall be construed as preventing a court which makes a CSO from imposing, for instance, a disqualification. In other words, no other penalty is ruled out. Presumably, in a driving offence, a CSO and disqualification could be imposed. I know that this will puzzle the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) but many things do these days.

To ensure that the Bill is perfect, I wonder whether the Government would consider Clause 4, which refers to a £50 fine, to ensure that the court would not be prevented from imposing that fine and an additional fine. Might there be a case for a similar amendment to Clause 4?

4.45 p.m.

These intriguing amendments deal with a matter which raised considerable discussion in Committee on Opposition attempts to remove the phrase "punishable by imprisonment" from Clause 1. I thought that that was an argument about psychology and the influence of wording in statutes on the actions of courts. That phrase is hardly a limitation of the imposition of community service orders, since any common law offence—vandalism, assault or dishonesty, for instance—is punishable by imprisonment, so CSOs would be permitted on almost anything.

However, it was suggested that CSOs should not be the alternative to imprisonment but should be something much wider—for example, a sanction for the non-payment of a fine—or that they should be confined to first offenders whom the courts were often unlikely to sentence to imprisonment.

Some of us thought that, although we should not exclude the possibility of a CSO being an alternative to monetary penalty, the emphasis should be on it as the alternative to prison. Of course there should be a choice—the courts should not be fettered—but we should encourage this emphasis. The CSO should not be a way of beefing up a probation order or an alternative to a fine. By their amendment, the Government have gone some way—I hope that this is the intention—to achieve this.

I do not want to alarm the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) with that introduction. I agree that the amendment has no substantial practical effect, but some social work departments and some hon. Members were alarmed that the reference to a fine was an invitation to sheriffs with a different view of the Bill from that which I and the Government have.

I should prefer Amendments Nos. 2 and 3, but I accept that they might lead to difficulties. I am prepared to stop at the halfway house suggested by the Government.

Can the hon. Gentleman disabuse us of the suspicion that he might be using a drafting amendment to make a Second Reading speech? What difference does the amendment make? What other options are there but imprisonment, detention or a fine? The Government appear to have replaced a reference to three options with a general phrase. What difference does that make?

I suggest that the hon. Gentleman is hardly in a position to tell me when I am in order or out of order. No doubt another person will be keeping an eye on that. I agree with the hon. Gentleman in this respect. I do not think that this is a matter of the psychology of the Bill. I do not think that it makes a great deal of practical difference in terms of the substantive law. I welcome it because I think that it is a shift in the right direction.

In emphasising the removal of the specific reference to a fine, it may be removing the encouragement to sheriffs who see a community service order not as a replacement of imprisonment but as a way of strengthening probation orders, and as an alternative to a monetary penalty. I have talked to sheriffs who have told me that they see the community service order in that light. I hope that the Minister will confirm that this is his intention in removing the phrase and putting in the omnibus words which do not refer to the specific series of alternatives. It may do something to bolster those of us who see it as an alternative to imprisonment.

I share the puzzlement of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) about the reason why the amendment has been put forward. I have no argument with the Minister to the extent that, as I said in Committee, these community service orders should be used as alternatives to imprisonment. I have therefore no argument whatsoever with the objective of the Bill or with the professed objective of the amendment.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar), in reply to the intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart, seemed to be saying that if we remove the word "fine", psychologically we take away the emphasis of the word "fine", and the sheriff will not consider a fine. But equally, if we are trying to put more emphasis on imprisonment, surely we are also taking away the emphasis on imprisonment by taking out the word "imprisonment". I find it very difficult, in drafting terms or in legal terms, to know what, if anything, is achieved by the amendment.

If we are trying to achieve what the Minister is trying to achieve, we ought to be adopting not Amendment No. 1 but Amendments Nos. 2 and 3, in the name of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook), because to my mind his amendments go much more specifically towards the point here. If the use of the words is purely cosmetic, the Minister ought to leave in the words in the first part that he is seeking to take out, that is to say, the reference to imposing a sentence of imprisonment, and then go on to talk about dealing with the offender in any other way. If we want to place emphasis on imprisonment, that is the way in which to achieve it, if it is purely cosmetic. But if the Minister genuinely wants to try to make this an alternative to imprisonment, we ought to be considering the amendments of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central.

Frankly, in legal terms and in terms of the way in which the Bill will work, I cannot see that anything whatsoever is achieved by the change proposed in Amendment No. 1. Before I would be prepared to accept the amendment I should like the Minister to spell out in drafting terms precisely what it achieves over and above what is in the Bill as it stands. If the Minister does not intend to achieve any more and is merely introducing it as a cosmetic, I respectfully suggest that it would be better to leave the Bill as it is and not to play around with words. If he genuinely wants to change the Bill in order to give an alternative of imprisonment, I do not know whether it is the aim to try to maintain a certain amount of flexibility, but the amendment would appear to be trying to introduce an element of flexibility without producing any improvement whatsoever.

Before accepting the amendment, therefore, I should be grateful if the Minister would spell out precisely what difference it makes in relation to the kind of sentence which the courts will pass. I cannot see what improvement it is on the Bill as it stands at the moment. My understanding of the English language may be different from that of the Minister's, but I cannot see what the amendment achieves.

I think that I can answer the question which was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) and, indeed, the matter that was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith). The Minister should consider my point, which is that the amendment does the reverse of what he suggested it is intended to do.

It is very nice to know that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) thinks that sheriffs will think that the Bill means what he thinks it means, but as a lawyer he will know that it does not matter a monkey's tuppence what Parliament intended the Bill to mean. Once the Bill is given the Royal Assent, it means what it says and what it is capable of being read as saying.

I hope that the Minister will consider the fact that there are other disposals available to a sheriff. There is, for instance, admonition. There is also absolute discharge. The amendment would mean that a sheriff could impose a community service order rather than admonition and rather than an absolute discharge.

As I understand it, that is the reverse of what is intended by the amendment. With the amendment, that is what the Bill will mean, whether the Minister likes it or not and whether that is what he intends or not. Those courses would be available to the sheriff. If the Minister does not want that to happen, he should look again at his amendment.

I am prompted to rise because of the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Fairbairn). Half his time in the House seems to be spent in telling us about the great value of the courts, and in emphasising that the judgment of the courts must be listened to, and so on. For the rest of the time he seems to attribute to the courts an astonishing stupidity. I am not saying in which way I would strike the balance. On this occasion I shall come into his camp on the first half of his proposition, and give the courts more credit than I have usually given them for making an intelligent approach to the problems before them.

It seems to me that if it is in the mind of the Bench to admonish or to give an absolute discharge, the Bench will do that. The amendment is a modest proposal to try to meet some of the anxieties which were brought up in Committee. Incidentally, the only modest proposal with which the Tory Benches ever appear to agree is that of Dean Swift. I believe that the modest proposal put forward by the Minister goes some way towards meeting the anxieties expressed in Committee.

I agree that there is no real shift in specific meaning. What it might do, however, is to give a balance of advantage. As the Bill stands, the sheriff has to consider a number of questions in deciding what he should do. First, should he punish? If he punishes, should the punishment be in the form of a fine, imprisonment, or detention? The wording suggested opens up the possibility of the use of the community service order. In other words, it provides one alternative to retributive punishment, instead of having three or four other available courses of action.

I can envisage many situations in which a sheriff would tell himself that imprisonment was not suitable, and in which a fine would be ridiculous because it could not be paid and would merely be a punishment of other members of the family. The sheriff could say to himself "Without this Act I would have to admonish, but instead of that I shall make this person do 50 hours of work". I think that that is what is more likely to happen if the amendment is passed.

But it is not a bad thing, surely, that the sheriff should have this alternative open to him. The hon. and learned Gentleman is suggesting that the sheriff might say "I think I should punish but I cannot see a means by which I can punish, therefore I shall admonish". That does not seem to me to be a particularly satisfactory decision for a Bench to make. If the Bench considers that an alternative of the community service order will serve a social purpose, and be helpful for the person before the Bench, it should be open to the sheriff to adopt that alternative. For all these reasons, I support the amendment.

Perhaps I can take up the point about the case in which a sheriff was considering admonishing or giving an absolute discharge and, as an alternative, imposing a community service order. We are again wandering into the area where the belief seems to prevail that a sheriff can make an offender do community work. He cannot. The offender has to accept a community service order. What the hon. and learned Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Fairbairn) is suggesting is that in a case where a sheriff would consider admonishing he says to the offender or the accused "I want to dispose of you by a community service order", the offender or the accused person says "No" and then suddenly finds himself in prison. I just do not believe that people with the legal knowledge of the hon. and learned Gentleman believe that that situation will prevail.

5.0 p.m.

The sheriff will not say "Now look here Harry, my boy, I shall either admonish you or I shall give you a community service order. Which would you rather I do?" What he actually says is "I am thinking of disposing of your case by means of a community service order. Do you accept that?" The accused person does not know whether the sheriff will send him to prison, fine him, or whatever.

I was depending on the hon. and learned Gentleman's well known ability for reading the mind of a sheriff. That is what the hon. and learned Gentleman told the House he was able to do when he made his contribution to the debate. What has been said in that regard just confuses a very simple issue.

I thought that I sensed the feeling of the House to get on. I accept that I moved the amendment rather quickly. But during the debate on this aspect of the Bill in Committee, representations were made through my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook). My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow Garscadden (Mr. Dewar), the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) and several others made a different point during that debate. The hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns said that CSOs should be available only where imprisonment would have been imposed as an alternative. Representations were made about the concern expressed by social work departments about the emphasis in Clause 1 on fines. I said at that time that I would consider this and produce a form of words which would remove the emphasis from the word "fine" and make the Bill presentation-ally better in this respect.

I want to make it perfectly clear that these amendments do not, in any shape or form, alter the legal situation of the Bill. Through these amendments we have really met the wishes of the social work departments which made representations to us.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) properly referred to Government Amendment No. 4. This is consequential on Government Amendment No. 1. The effect of Amendment No. 4 is to make it clear to the court that it still has the ability to suspend someone from driving or to confiscate the tools that have been used in the commission of an offence. It has the ability to do these things at the moment. We felt that that might not be clear and that it was necessary, as a consequence of moving Amendment No. 1, to move Amendment No. 4 in order to clear up that point.

The hon. Gentleman also referred to the question of a fine on a community service order offender. The position is that if a community service order offender breaches a community service order the court can impose a fine of up to £50 if the community service order is to continue. But if the CSO is not to continue, the offender will be disposed of by the court in a way in which the court feels fit. If a breach was committed, and the service order was to continue, the court would impose a fine of up to £50. I hope that I have made that clear.

For the benefit of the House I should say something about the two amendments of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central. They are not acceptable to the Government because they have the rather drastic effect of giving the courts the ability to impose both a fine and a community service order, in other words, to impose up to 240 hours of community work and a fine as well. In our view, that is not acceptable. I am not saying that that is what my hon. Friend sought to achieve. What I am saying is that if the House were to accept his amendments that would be their effect. I am sure that the House does not want that.

The Minister has rightly pointed out that the main reason for Amendment No. 4 was to make it clear that if a CSO were imposed it would not prevent the courts, for example, from also disqualifying someone from driving. As for a fine of up to £50 for breaching a CSO, it would seem to me from a reading of Clause 4 that the intention is that this £50 fine is the penalty for breaching the order and that the court can then go on to deal with the original penalty as it would have been dealt with but for the CSO.

Perhaps between now and consideration in another place the Minister will see whether the same problem has arisen in Clause 4 and in Clause 1, that by imposing a £50 fine the court may be precluded from going on to deal with the original penalty with an additional fine. Will he look at Clause 4 in exactly the same way as he has looked at Clause 1, in order to make sure that by imposing a CSO the court is not prevented from doing other things? Perhaps he will even drop me a note about this, or sort it out before the matter is considered in another place.

I can give an undertaking that I shall certainly look at this. If there is a need to sort the matter out in another place, we shall certainly be very happy to do so.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made: No. 4, in page 2, line 34 at end insert:

'(7) Nothing in subsection (1) above shall be construed as preventing a court which makes a community service order in respect of any offence from—
  • (a) imposing any disqualification on the offender;
  • (b) making an order for forfeiture in respect of the offence;
  • (c) ordering the offender to find caution for good behaviour.'.—[Mr. Harry Ewing.]
  • Motion made, and Question, That the Bill be now read the Thrd time, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 56 (Third Reading), and agreed to.

    Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.

    Tuvalu Bill Lords

    Order for Second Reading read.

    I have it Command from the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Tuvalu Bill, has consented to place Her prerogative and interest, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.

    5.7 p.m.

    I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

    It is only two or three weeks since the House debated the independence Bill for the Solomon Islands. That is a very much larger territory than that with which we are concerned today. The Solomon Islands is a country with a population of about 200,000. On that Bill we encountered considerable complexities in the nationality provisions which aroused a good deal of discussion and debate.

    Today we are debating the independence of a very small territory indeed, whose total land area is little more than 10 square miles. It has a very small population, of only about 9,000 people. I am glad to say that on this occasion we shall not encounter the difficulties and complexities with regard to nationality provisions which gave rise to so much debate on the previous occasion.

    Before describing the contents of the Bill, I should like to say something about the history of Tuvalu and the developments which led to the introduction of the Bill. Most hon. Members may find the name "Tuvalu" somewhat novel and confusing—they know this territory much better by its old title of the Ellice Islands. Most of us are very familiar with the name "Gilbert and Ellice Islands".

    Tuvalu itself comprises only nine coral atolls lying between Fiji and the Gilbert Islands in the South-West Pacific. The total land area is only about 10 square miles in a chain stretching along about 360 miles of sea. The people are mostly Polynesians. Most of the territory is covered by coconut palms, and it enjoys a tropical climate.

    The first European settlers in Tuvalu were missionaries who came from the London Missionary Society and arrived in about 1865. They installed Samoan pastors on the islands and the islanders were quick to embrace the new faith. Since then, the Protestant Church has had a strong and continuing influence on life there.

    In 1877, we established the West Pacific High Commission to protect the islanders from the practice, which at that time was very common in the area, of what was known as "blackbirding"—it was labour recruitment—and we were able to control and to a large extent to put a stop to that activity.

    In 1892, the Ellice Islands became a British protectorate, and in 1916 they were joined with the Gilbert Islands to form the Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony.

    During the Japanese occupation of the Gilbert Islands in the Second World War, many Tuvaluans worked to help the Allied forces and I am glad to say, showed admirable courage and loyalty in that cause.

    The Gilbert Islanders are Micronesian and differ culturally, socially and linguistically from the Polynesian inhabitants of the Ellice Islands. The Ellice Islands are also geographically distinct from the Gilbert Islands. It was as a result of these differences that, during the early 1970s, the Ellice Islanders expressed the desire to separate from the Gilberts and to make their own way to independence. This was not a matter of controversy with the Gilbert Islanders. They did not object to separation and, in 1974, a referendum was held in the Ellice Islands which was observed by the United Nations. An overwhelming majority voted in favour of separation.

    In 1975, the Ellice Islands were formally established as a separate colony, with the traditional name of Tuvalu. Independence day is planned for 1st October of this year, which is the third anniversary of separation.

    In February of this year, a constitutional conference took place in London under the chairmanship of my right hon. and noble Friend the Minister of State, Lord Goronwy Roberts. It was agreed that, subject to the approval of Parlia- ment, Tuvalu should become independent as a constitutional monarchy under Her Majesty in October 1978. The report of the conference was published as a White Paper and presented to Parliament on 31st March of this year.

    This Bill makes provision for Tuvalu to attain independence and for various connected matters. Clause 1 provides for the independence of Tuvalu within Her Majesty's dominions as from 1st October 1978. Schedule 1 deals with the consequential enlargement of the powers of the Tuvalu legislature.

    Clauses 2 and 3 deal with nationality. There are similar to the nationality provisions usually found in independence Acts and, as I mentioned earlier, they contain none of the unusual features included in the Solomon Islands Bill, which caused a certain amount of controversy in this House when we discussed it. Given the concern which was expressed about that Bill, I should make it clear that no resident of Tuvalu will be left stateless as a result of this Bill, and immigration rights will be unchanged.

    Clause 4 and Schedule 2 deal with consequential modifications of other enactments. Clauses 5 and 6 deal with interpretation and citation.

    I turn to matters which are not covered by the Bill but about which the House may wish to be informed. The independence constitution will provide in detail for the protection of the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual, about which we in this House have always been so concerned. The constitution will also provide for a legislature of 12 Members elected by universal suffrage, for a Cabinet responsible to the legislature, and for an independent judiciary and public service. We are satisfied that the traditional concern for human rights, which I am glad to say has been shown on these islands, will be maintained there in the future when the country moves to independence.

    This is following the usual practice, as we know, but can my hon. Friend say when the Order in Council encapsulating the constitution is likely to be available for perusal? One assumes that the contents of this will deal with entrenched clauses dealing with the matters to which my hon. Friend has referred.

    I recognise that the House has an interest in such matters. That is why I am saying something about the terms of the constitution. But it is traditional that the Order in Council is not published until after the debate on the independence Bill itself. I can say that it will be published fairly shortly, as was the case with the Solomon Islands Bill.

    Right hon. and hon. Members will be concerned about the future economic viability of this very small territory, with its very small population. Inevitably, the economy and development of Tuvalu will depend for some time on outside donors of aid. I am glad to say that we are by far the biggest contributors to development and will remain so for some time. We shall be giving about £6 million over the next few years for the development of these islands, with their population of 8,000 or 9,000. In addition, Australia and New Zealand will contribute to development, as will the European Development Fund, as donors of capital aid. The United Nations Development Programme will provide assistance, through which the United Nations Specialised Agencies will help. The Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation, the South Pacific Commission and the United States of America will also provide technical co-operation funds.

    Mr. Christopher Price
    (Lewisham, West)