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Commons Chamber

Volume 957: debated on Tuesday 7 November 1978

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

House Of Commons

Tuesday 7th November 1978

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

Social Services

Hospital Nurses


asked the Sectary of State for Social Services if he will make a statement about his recent meeting with representatives of the hospital nurses' organisations.


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what representations he has received from the nursing profession about the present state of recruitment of nurses.

On 30th October, I met a deputation from the council of the Royal College of Nursing. The subjects discussed included morale, pay, the numbers entering training and various aspects of the financing and organisation of the National Health Service.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Does he agree that it is impossible for nurses, and, indeed, other hospital workers, to supplement pay increases by deals based on productivity or profitability? Against that background, what steps can he take to protect the interests and living standards of people employed in the National Health Service?

My hon. Friend will know that the Nurses and Midwives Whitley Council has made representations to me that nurses should be treated as a special case for pay purposes. The case the council presented and the arguments put forward by the Royal College of Nursing when we met will receive very careful consideration. One of the arguments put to me at that time was that nurses are unable to qualify for productivity agreements—it was not suggested otherwise— and that for that reason, especially, we should look carefuly at their case. Of course, at this stage I cannot give any answer to the application.

Can the Secretary of State confirm that he has received representations from district nurses about their training? Will there be provision in his Bill to give statutory effect to that training, which is so necessary?

Yes, we have received representations from district nurses. Provision for their training will not be included in the Briggs Bill, but other initiatives will be taken. This is an issue on which we shall be ready to answer questions and to debate it when we present the Bill on Monday.

Will my right hon. Friend consider with special sympathy the nurses in mental hospitals, who are suffering grievously from various disabilities, not excluding pay? Will he give an undertaking that nurses who fall within the references to low pay in the White Paper on inflation will also receive sympathetic consideration?

Of course, we are much concerned with the situation of nurses in hospitals for the mentally ill and for the mentally handicapped. Fortunately, in the past few years there has been a substantial improvement in the ratio of nurses to patients in such hospitals. There is still a recruitment problem. As my hon. Friend will know, there is a weighting on the pay of these nurses.

Will the Secretary of State congratulate the Royal College of Nursing on its statement that strike action would not be taken? When does he expect to be able to give an answer to the representations about nurses being a special case?

I cannot say at this stage when the Government will be able to make their decision. Two points were put forward by the Royal College of Nursing. One was a plea that there should be some addition to the 10 per cent. during the present phase 3. The second point was for long-term improvements, which would therefore affect phase 4. I made it clear that it was most unlikely that it would be possible for there to be any further pay in the present round. Clearly, that would be in breach of pay policy. In our longer-term considerations, of course, we are looking at the case very carefully.

Hospital Supervisors (Dispute)


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he is satisfied that the strike of hospital supervisors could not have been settled weeks earlier on the same terms.

The dispute was eventually settled on the basis of the salaries offered on 12th September, but the outstanding issue concerned productivity allowances. The staff side was demanding minimum allowances of 15 per cent. of salary for all supervisors, whether or not they were involved in productivity schemes and regardless of whether the schemes were financially viable. A settlement was not possible while the staff side adhered to a demand which was incompatible with the principle that productivity deals must be self-financing. Had that principle been accepted earlier, there could, no doubt, have been an earlier settlement.

Can the Secretary of State explain what it was that Len Murray managed to do in 48 hours that he and his Department had failed to do in more than 48 days of strike and his Government had not done in more than four years in office? Len Murray is not God. Does not the fact that he managed to settle the strike so quickly imply either blinding shortsightedness or great obstinacy on the part of the Secretary of State?

The settlement was reached within the Whitley Council, but I certainly pay a very warm tribute to the role played by Len Murray. He called together the general secretaries of the unions concerned and went through the issues that had been considered by their negotiating officers. As a result of that helpful approach, the staff side took a different position and enabled the negotiations to be satisfactorily concluded.

As the Secretary of State chose to assert in the course of the dispute that

"Patients are dying as a result of this dispute,"
will he publish the names of the patients who have died? If he cannot, or will not, will he apologise to the unions and the trade unionists who were involved in the dispute?

I made it very clear immediately I saw the statement which was on the Press Association tapes that I had been misquoted. I did not say that I had any evidence that patients had died. I said that consultants had told me that patients were dying and that there was no doubt—it was accepted by both sides, negotiators as well as management—that patients' lives were at risk. That was the issue.

Is the Secretary of State aware that no one on this side of the House is in any doubt whatever that the consequences of the dispute were absolutely disastrous, both in terms of lives and in terms of the waiting lists?

Is it still, on reflection, the right hon. Gentleman's view not merely that the claim made by the unions was in excess of the limits allowed under the pay policy but that it was their intention, as he suggested on Thursday, to use their claim to smash the pay limit?

The Secretary of State shakes his head, but does he not recollect that when I said that it was as good a way as any of smashing the pay limit he is quoted in Hansard as saying "That is right"? Therefore, presumably, he thought that it was being used to smash the pay limit. Is not this as strong an argument as one could have to show that the existence of a rigid pay limit actually provokes disputes that would not otherwise happen?

No. I certainly did not say that it was the clear intention of the unions to do this. I said that there was very little doubt that if the unions succeeded in getting an agreement outside the pay policy—and I have to say, as I did in the House to the right hon. Gentleman, that that had nothing to do with the 5 per cent. —the central issue would be whether productivity agreements were self-financing. That was the issue on which the discussions centred during the last two or three weeks of the dispute. I certainly did not suggest that it was the intention of the unions to smash the pay limit. I said that if we, or management, had accepted the submission made by the unions, a severe dent would have been made in pay policy, which would not have been tolerable.

Sickness Benefit


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether it is his intention that the linking of periods of sickness should be used to disqualify people from receiving benefit when later periods lie in a year for which their contribution record entitles them to benefit but earlier periods lie in a year when they are not qualified for benefit.

The present linking rules for satisfying contribution conditions for short-term benefits can occasionally prolong the effect of a deficient contribution year. I am considering whether any change in the present arrangement is desirable.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer. He will be aware that his right hon. Friend told me that the purpose of the linking rule was to make sure that the qualifying days for sickness did not have to be repeated over and over again when someone returned to work for a short period. However, will he, when looking at the unfortunate effect of this rule, undertake to ensure that it is made retrospective to cases currently under consideration?

I can give no assurance about retrospection, simply because I do not think that the legislation would allow that. If we make a change, it will have to apply for the future. I am not yet convinced that there is a strong case for a change, but, of course, I undertake to look at the matter without prejudice. As my hon. Friend has acknowledged, there are considerable advantages in the present procedure for a large number of claims.

Supplementary Benefit (Review)


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make a statement on the review of the supplementary benefits system.


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will take steps to reform the supplementary benefits scheme.

We published a report by officials in July to provide a basis for public discussion of the issues raised by the review, and we asked for comments by the end of the year. Neither the Government nor the Supplementary Benefits Commission are at this stage committed to any of the options in the report. When the period for public consultation is over, we shall start to formulate proposals for the future of the scheme, and these will in due course be laid before Parliament.

I thank the Minister for his reply. May I ask when the Government expect to receive the separate report which they commissioned on the payment of supplementary benefits during trade disputes? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, with unemployment remaining so high, there can be no justification for the taxpayer subsidising those who voluntarily withdraw their labour and, in so doing, cause others to be laid off work?

I remind the hon. Gentleman that the rules are followed in any trade dispute. We live in a civilised society, and we intend to continue with the supplementary benefit scheme as it is at present. The answer to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question is that we do not at present propose to review the position.

Does the Minister accept that there is a need for some urgency in dealing with the complexity of the scheme to which the officials' report particularly paid attention? Does he agree that many in need are elderly or confused—perhaps both—and cannot easily understand the multiplicity of schemes? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in some areas, such as housing, there are three separate schemes and that people do not know which would best suit them? Will the Minister look at that point sympathetically and quickly?

I fully endorse what the hon. Lady has said. The review is basically meant to look at the complications of the present supplementary benefit scheme, not least those concerning housing need. We want to move towards simplification so that those who are entitled to benefit can claim and receive that benefit.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the first priority for change in the supplementary benefit system is that long-term unemployed people should be given the long-term rate of benefit? Is he aware that the present system is discriminatory in that some people receive less than others? Does he appreciate that many recipients are old or disabled or live in areas of high unemployment?

I am extremely sympathetic to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley). The Government would like to proceed along the lines that he has suggested. It is a matter of resources, but dealing with this problem is a high Government priority.

In the light of the review, does the Minister agree that a combination, on the one hand, of wages kept low and taxation kept high and, on the other hand, comparatively high social security benefits, has disastrously undermined the incentive to work? Does he not think it grossly unfair that next week the Government will give a 7·1 per cent. rise in benefits to those who do not work—including many who have no intention of working—and at the same time are keeping the increase in wages of those who do work down to 5 per cent?

The hon. Gentleman's attack on the unemployed is greatly to be deprecated. People who are unemployed, the vast majority through no fault of their own, are entitled to State benefit. They have contributed towards those benefits through taxation. I remind the hon. Gentleman and the House that when benefits rise next week a single person on supplementary benefit will receive £12·45 and a married man with no children will receive £25·50. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would like to try to live on that.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask him to take it from me that we would like a little more flexibility? Is he aware that some people do not draw supplementary benefit and thereby lose other substantial benefits? Will he look into that matter at the same time?

I endorse the point made by my hon. Friend. That is one of the areas on which the review is concentrating.

Has the Minister examined the sensible proposal in this year's Supplementary Benefits Commission's report on help with heating costs, and can he say what action he proposes to take further to help elderly people who may face a bleak time this winter because of the increasing expense of heating?

The Government are about to introduce increased heating allowances for this winter. They are aware of the problem. Heating costs and the overlapping effect is one of the issues that will be discussed and considered under the review.

Earnings Rule


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will bring forward legislation to abolish the earnings rule.

Whilst it remains the policy of this Government to phase out the earnings rule for retirement pensioners, this cannot be done until the necessary resources can be spared. This is the conclusion reached following our review of the earnings rule, a report of which was laid before the House on 24th October.

Is it not now clear that the Government's earlier estimates of the cost of abolition were far too high and that the House was seriously misled? Will the Government now get on with it and abolish this unfair and very cruel rule?

The figure will be lifted next week from £40 to £45, and a person will have to earn more than £66 before the pension is completely phased out. If we were to abolish the rule completely in one stroke, it would cost £124 million a year in public expenditure terms. If the rule were abolished, women between the ages of 60 and 65 and men between 65 and 70 who were in full employment on full pay would get the pension.

Will the Minister reaffirm the commitment of the Government to proceed in this matter? Does he accept that, following the representations which he sought on "A Happier Old Age", many of the people who put forward views were reflecting the inadequate level of pension, as opposed to pension increases, and that this is one way of getting round the problem?

When my right hon. Friend laid the report before the House, he reaffirmed the Government's decision that we are in favour of ending the earnings rule at the appropriate time, and I endorse that this afternoon. We want to see it ended. Now that we have indexed the earnings rule, and as it increases in line with earnings each year, that, in a way, is also phasing out.

Hospital Workers (Disputes)


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what steps he intends to take to avoid the possibility of lives being lost as a result of any future industrial dispute among hospital workers.


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what proposals he has to improve industrial relations in the health services.


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will enter into discussions with all trade unions involved in the National Health Service with the object of agreeing basic ground rules for industrial action by National Health Service workers so as to reduce the danger to patients resulting from industrial action.

My aim is to improve NHS industrial relations so as to avoid industrial action that can harm patients. I put forward proposals recently for a new local disputes machinery designed to resolve problems speedily where they arise; consultations are proceeding on the reforms to the Whitley system recommended by Lord McCarthy; and greater emphasis is being put on industrial relations training and the importance of the personnel function in the NHS. I hope shortly to explore with leaders of the professions and unions what scope there is for resolving national pay disputes without resort to action that puts patients at risk.

Is it not tragic that members of a Service which is dedicated to preserving and saving life should themselves have been responsible for endangering lives, and all for the sake of some marginal improvement in conditions of service? Surely this sort of thing must not happen again.

I hope very much that it will not happen again. Naturally, I deplore any action which puts patients' health at risk, whether the action is taken by supervisors, ancillary workers or doctors. I hope that we shall never again have action similar to the events of the past few weeks, when issues which should properly be resolved in the Whitley Council become the cause of an unnecessary and damaging dispute. That is why I believe that the leaders of organisations within the Health Service must try to find, on national as well as on local disputes, a way through to minimise industrial action.

Order. I must call first those hon. Members whose Questions are being answered.

Does the Secretary of State agree that one way to improve industrial relations in the Health Service is to build up the links between hospitals and their local communities? In this connection, does he agree that the press statement dated 23rd October, which advocated the setting up of a national complaints scheme, will seriously undermine local autonomy and the authority of local hospital managers?

The document that was presented does not deal with the question of a national complaints procedure. It says that the procedures for dealing with disputes should be agreed between management and union representatives and should be brought to the knowledge of all concerned. Disputes that are not resolved by officers of the authority should be considered quickly by the authority itself or by a group of members appointed for this purpose or, in the event of the authority being unable to resolve the dispute, be referred to an informed but independent body. This is, of course, at regional level, not national level.

The other main advantage is that, pending the outcome of the processes, management and unions would accept that the status quo applies and that normal working should continue.

Does the Secretary of State agree that until more authority is delegated on the management side it will be most difficult to settle disputes where they arise, which is in the hospital or on the job? Given that we shall continue to have disputes no matter how well the system is improved, will the Secretary of State try to negotiate with the union some form of Geneva Convention that industrial action is not open-ended but restricted so that patients do not suffer in the way that they have done in recent industrial disputes within the NHS?

There are two different questions here with regard to the delegation of authority to the management side. It is important that both the management and staff side behave with the maximum responsibility, especially because they are concerned with the Health Service. As for a "Geneva Convention", nothing would please me more than a declaration from the representatives of Health Service workers, including doctors, that they were prepared to refrain from the use of industrial action.

However, I do not believe that we could impose such a requirement upon them. Most organisations—including, I suspect, the BMA—would not accept the requirement, but we must have some acceptable ground rules. We must ensure the co-operation of all in protecting patients' interests.

I welcome my right hon. Friend's recent initiatives, but do not the events of the last two years show that it is no good just tinkering with the Whitley machinery, even under the McCarthy recommendations? Until the basic problem of low-paid workers within the Health Service is tackled on a massive scale, we shall continue to have industrial disputes.

It is not just a question of low paid workers in the National Health Service. Some of those involved in industrial disputes have been at the higher end of the pay scale, including consultants and others with extremely responsible positions. There is no reason to suggest that it is just pay policy that causes industrial disputes. We must work to achieve better disputes machinery, which is the aim of this initiative, with the support of the leaders both of the professions and the unions.

Because of the many low-paid workers in our hospitals, their importance despite their low pay, the difficulty that they have in taking industrial action, and the fact that they cannot have productivity deals, does my right hon. Friend agree that the only equitable way to deal with their wages is to link them to average industrial earnings?

I shall not be drawn into how, during the course of the next few months, we should deal with the succession of pay claims that will come in from different groups within the National Health Service. We have to deal with them carefully and sympathically. Some will undoubtedly fall within the category of low-paid workers defined by the Government in the White Paper.

The Secretary of State must now be aware of the deep anxiety not only in the House but in the country about the use of industrial action within the National Health Service where it creates dangers for patients. Will he now take a firm initiative to try to bring the parties together to get a declaration, a patients charter as it were, to protect the interests of patients—

All those who are involved with patients—in order to give meaning and effect to the sentiment that the Secretary of State included in his annual report, which is that the interests of the people who serve must come first?

Terms such as "patients charter" are easy to mouth. The arrangements are much more difficult to establish. Instead of continually criticising, the right hon. Gentleman might respect the fact that, for the first time since the Health Service was created, the Secretary of State brought together the leaders of the professions and of the trade union movement and reached an agreement putting forward proposals to deal with non-Whitley Council issues. As I have already said, it is now my intention to consult with that same group to see whether we can work out some ground rules that will ensure that disputes about pay can be dealt with without industrial action.

Supplementary Benefit Recipients


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what has been the increase in the number of people drawing supplementary benefit, including dependants, since December 1973.

About 900,000 as at November 1977. A change in the method of estimation prevents exact comparison with 1973.

We are dealing here, as the Minister and the Government know, with means-tested benefits. It remains the announced policy of Her Majesty's Government to reduce the dependence upon means-tested benefits, yet since December 1973 the number of people being means tested has increased by 1 millon. In other words, the greatest increase since the war in such benefits is being presided over by this Government. Does the Minister agree with those facts? What do this Government intend to do about the situation?

The Government's policy is, of course, to reduce unemployment. That is one of the major areas where there has been an increase in numbers. We are also committed to reducing reliance upon means-tested benefits, and a number of non-means-tested benefits have been introduced during the life of this Government. In future years, our new pensions scheme will reduce still further the number of pensioners who have to resort to supplementary benefit.

On the other hand, it must not be forgotten that it is one of the aims of this Government—and, I hope, of the whole House as well—to ensure that people who are entitled to supplementary benefit but are not at present claiming it are encouraged to do so, and that must lead to some increase in the figures.

Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the main factors in accounting for the increase in the number of families with children which are dependent on supplementary benefit is the general large increase in the number of one-parent families? Is it not time that the Government looked seriously at the case for a separate and more satisfactory system of income support for these families?

We are well aware of the problem of one-parent families which are dependent on supplementary benefit, and my hon. Friend is quite right that the numbers are increasing, just as the number of one-parent families in the population as a whole is increasing. But to introduce a simpler benefit so as to take one-parent families off supplementary benefit would be very expensive and would raise difficult questions of priorities between two-parent familes and one-parent families and other disadvantaged groups which have a claim on our resources.

Is the Minister aware that the situation where some families claim supplementary benefit and some get local authority rebates is worsening? Will he take steps to help the local offices to deal with the necessary claims of many families who would be better off with the rebate than with supplementary benefit but where the information is inadequate to get them on to the right benefit at the right time?

I agree with what the hon. Lady said. One of the reasons why the number of supplementary pensioners has decreased is the introduction of the housing finance benefits. The special exercise that we mounted in 1975 to identify claimants who would be better off getting a rent rebate or allowance or a rate rebate also helped. The exercise had a major effect, and we shall consider the possibility of repeating it. But it is, frankly, wasteful of our manpower resources, which are a top priority.

Family Practitioner Committees


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will now take action to ensure the right of attendance by representatives of all community health councils to their respective family practitioner committees in view of the hostility expressed at the yearly conference of family practitioner committees, and the fact that only 50 per cent. had heeded his request for admission.

In addressing the closing session, my right hon. Friend made very clear his view that all family practitioner committees should invite observers from community health councils to the non-confidential part of their meetings. My right hon. Friend urged most strongly those committees that had not done so to think again. I hope they will respond. If not, we shall have to consider what further action should be taken to achieve our objectives.

Although most of us have been concentrating on the mess-up in the Health Service caused by the Conservative reorganisation, has it not been even more disastrous for the family doctors? As the family doctor is becoming more and more isolated both from the profession and from his patient, is it not vital that the Minister should proceed with the second point that he made in his answer and take action to get the community health councils well and truly involved with family doctors?

I am sure that family practitioners would benefit from closer involvement with representatives of the community. My right hon. Friend and I still hope that we can make progress on a voluntary basis so that local arrangements are made, rather than resort to compulsion. But we must ensure that, in the end, the family practitioner committees have community health council observers present at their non-confidential proceedings.

Is the Minister aware that the more we can develop the community hospital—what used to be called the cottage hospital—the closer can be the links between the general practioner and the hospital service? That, surely, is what reorganisation was all about.

I am sure that that is true, but it will take some time. In the meantime, community health councils wish to be more closely involved with the work of family practitioner committees.

Will my right hon. Friend give the House a clearer idea of how long he will allow the family practitioner committees to comply with his request and the repeated requests of other Ministers? Is he aware that the family practitioner committee in Staffordshire has repeatedly refused to allow in observers from the South-East Staffordshire community health council, that much the same applies throughout the country, despite repeated advice from his Department, and that he should put a time limit on this?

I note the suggestion made by my hon. Friend, and I have in fact discussed the problem of the Staffordshire community health council and the family practitioner committee with representatives of the community health council. I am afraid that I cannot impose a time limit. Progress depends upon how rapidly family practitioner committees respond to our initiative.

Pensioners (Christmas Bonus)


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make a statement on his intentions concerning the payment of a Christmas bonus to pensioners.

As my right hon. Friend announced on 17th October, we propose that a Christmas bonus of £10 will be paid in the week beginning 4th December to more than 10 million retirement pensioners, widows and the chronically sick and disabled. A Bill for this purpose was introduced on 2nd November. I shall publish in the Official Report details of the categories who will receive the bonus.

The whole House will welcome this decision by the Government, but is the Minister aware that the bonus is now worth less than half what it was when it was first introduced by the Conservative Government in 1972? Bearing in mind that pensioners, of all people, are those hardest hit by inflation, why have not the Government done something to upgrade the bonus to compensate for the fall in the value of money?

Pensions will be increased substantially this year because they are kept in line with earnings as opposed to prices. Since this Government came to office, pensions have increased in real terms by more than 20 per cent.

With regard to the £10 bonus, of course the Government would have liked to do more. Quite frankly, we virtually emptied the contingency reserve to meet the £10 bonus this year.

Will the Minister and the Government consider extending this bonus to one-parent families, for whom Christmas can be a very trying time, both emotionally and financially?

We considered those people along with other categories, such as the long-term unemployed. Again, it was a matter of finance. The bonus itself will cost £106 million, and including other categories would have meant more public expenditure, but I certainly take note of what the hon. Gentleman said.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that for pensioners this Christmas bonus is now here to stay? Therefore, instead of having to pass a separate Act of Parliament every year, would it not be a good idea to pass one now in perpetuity? If we do not do that, we are in the position of being accused of "pensioneering" when we leave the announcement until the end of each year.

As my hon. Friend knows, the Government reintroduced the bonus last year, and we are paying it again this year. What happens in future years will be a matter for Parliament.

Following are the details:

Categories who will receive the Christmas bonus

A Christmas bonus of £10 will be paid in the week beginning 4th December to those who, in that week, are entitled to—
  • Retirement pension;
  • Supplementary pension;
  • Widow's pension under the national insurance, war pension or industrial injuries schemes;
  • Invalidity pension, including non-contributory invalidity pension;
  • Attendance allowance;
  • Invalid care allowance;
  • Unemployability supplement or allowance payable under the industrial injuries or war pension schemes.
It will also be paid to any war pensioners over pension age who are retired but not receiving one of these benefits.
The cost, which will be borne on the contingency reserve,will be about £106 million.
National insurance retirement and widow pensioners paid by order book will get their bonus automatically when they go to the post office for their pension for the week beginning 4th December. Others who qualify will be paid by Giro cheque or payable order issued by offices of the Department of Health and Social Security.

Eltham And Mottingham Hospital


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make a statement on the future of services provided at the Eltham and Mottingham hospital.

This hospital is to close and its present services are to be transferred to other hospitals in the Greenwich and Bexley area.

Does not the Minister understand that the fragmented services to which he refers at this hospital are the very services which should be kept in the middle of a community? Does he not want to avoid the mistakes that successive Secretaries of State for housing and education have made by concentrating all services in large, impersonal "people factories" instead of keeping hospital care and community work where it should be?

Yes, but the area in question has had the benefit of considerable capital investment in recent years. Two large new hospitals have been built, one at Greenwich and the other at St. Mary's, Sidcup. There are a number of other hospitals in the area as well. I therefore do not accept the validity of the hon. Member's argument.

National Health Service (Morale)


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he is satisfied with staff morale in the National Health Service.


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will make a statement on the level of morale in the National Health Service, and what action he is taking to improve it.

I am not satisfied with staff morale in the NHS.

There is concern among many staff about pay, about resources available for the NHS, industrial relations problems, the structure and organisation of the Service and many other problems. I set out the Government's policies for tackling these problems in the debate on the Address on 2nd November.

Is the Secretary of State satisfied that the Government have put forward enough urgent, practical and immediate proposals to solve the problems which afflict, in particular, district general hospitals such as the one in my constituency, St. Helier? Is he further aware that the idea of trying to solve pay disputes at regional level is to take the whole problem to a much more remote and unsatisfactory level?

There is no intention to require the settlement of all disputes at regional level. The proposed disputes procedure will ensure that when there is failure to settle a dispute at local level, machinery will be available to deal with it at regional level. The procedure is not concerned with pay policies.

As for general policies, I am certain that the priorities set by the Government, and the additional resources which have been made available this year, with further expansion next year, are helping to tackle the real problem of the development of the Service.

Is not the morale of the National Health Service now as low as it has ever been, and has not the Royal College of Nursing recently left the right hon. Gentleman in no doubt about its deep dissatisfaction?

It is easy for Opposition Members to say that morale in the Health Service is low. I have no doubt that they must accept a large measure of responsibility for the drop in morale consequent upon the reorganisation which they imposed upon the Service. They must be aware of the frustration caused by the present structure, which is too complicated, too bureaucratic and sometimes too insensitive to local needs.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that people continue to get a number of problems, such as we have had recently in the National Health Service, because of the truth of the statement by Nye Bevan that silent pain evokes no response? That truth has been learned by the lower-paid workers in the National Health Service. Is not the reality that we shall continue to endure industrial problems until the Government fashion a machine that can honestly address itself to the fundamental problem of raising the level of pay among our low-paid servants?

This is not merely a pay question. Some groups within the National Health Service naturally feel that they want a larger increase in pay and a different structure, and I can understand that. But there are some major problems concerned not only with pay but with resources for the National Health Service, priorities and organisation. I do not believe that employees in the Service are concerned only with pay, although of course it is an issue with which we must deal.

Is the Secretary of State aware that many who work in the National Health Service feel remote from authority and decision-making? I welcome his statement today about the introduction of more industrial relations officers, but does he agree that we need an improved system of line management so that there is better communication between those who manage and those who are managed?

I have no doubt that changes will have to be made to the present system of management. I often find that consensus management is a fine term but an extremely difficult concept to operate, and that it is sometimes very ineffective. I believe that we shall have to make some changes. This is one of the matters that is before the Royal Commission. It is easy for people to say "Why do you not leap to conclusions before the Royal Commission reports?", as Opposition Members seek to do. We must wait for the Royal Commission and take action when it reports. In the meantime, we must take such action as we can to improve the situation. I believe that that is what we are doing.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, quite apart from the area of pay, there are other problem areas, such as the top-heavy structure resulting from reorganisation and, partly as a result of the Government's blessing, the cuts proposed by the Opposition? In my view, those cuts ought to be fully restored. We should be arguing for a massive injection of money into the National Health Service in the next Budget, if not before. [HON. MEMBERS: "Too long."] Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that the 5 per cent. pay policy for low-paid workers, particularly nurses, would evoke a very different response from the one that we now see, and that in order to resolve this problem we must get away from the 5 per cent. pay policy?

In the last two and a half years we have greatly reduced the proportion of National Health Service revenue that goes to management costs. That has meant a cut of nearly 3,000 management jobs at a time when we have seen an increase in nurses and doctors. As for general resources, this year we plan to spend on the National Health Service £120 million more in real terms than last year. In the debate, while giving specific figures, I announced that there would be a further expansion in resources in the NHS in 1979–80.

Will the Secretary of State take a special look at the state of staff morale in ante-natal clinics in areas of urban deprivation? Will he also give special consideration to dealing with the appalling premises in which many staff are obliged to work and which are, I believe, leading to the unenviable reputation which Britain is getting for increased perinatal deaths and infant mortality?

In reply to the last part of the supplementary question, I point out that we have seen some encouraging figures in the past two or three years. The perinatal mortality rate is declining steadily year by year. I am sure that the House will welcome that fact. In the debate last Thursday I announced that among the problems that we hoped to deal with from additional funds to be made available this year were ways in which we could tackle the high perinatal mortality rate in particular parts of the country.

Nigeria (Prime Minister's Visit)


asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement about his recent visit to Nigeria.

Yes. On 19th September I received a message from President Kaunda expressing concern about the developing situation in Southern Africa, and asking for an urgent meeting. I responded immediately with the suggestion that we should meet at Kano in Northern Nigeria, which we did three days later on 22nd and 23rd September.

I found the President deeply disturbed about the absence of progress towards a settlement in Rhodesia and the severe economic and military impact this is having on his country. The closure of the railways to the coast was preventing the export of copper, with a consequential shortage of foreign exchange; there was insufficient rolling stock to bring in the necessary seed and fertiliser vital for this year's plantings, which had to be done within the ensuing few weeks. He had forebodings of military attacks on Zambia from Rhodesia which were, in the event, justified.

I immediately agreed that we should do what we could to assist a fellow member of the Commonwealth which has suffered severely from the effect of sanctions, and my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, in his statement of 2nd November, fully informed the House of the measures of assistance we were glad to render.

We had a full discussion on the general situation in Southern Africa, notably in Rhodesia and Namibia. I also had the opportunity of meeting for the first time Lieutenant-General Obasanjo in Lagos and had valuable discussions with him and his colleagues.

I should like to express my gratitude for the excellent arrangements made for the visit by the Nigerian authorities.

I am grateful to the Prime Minister for that statement. The shooting down of the civil airliner and the massacre of survivors had just occurred. Did the Prime Minister protest to President Kaunda about the ghastly barbarities which are mounted from camps in his country? Did the Prime Minister take the opportunity of protesting to President Kaunda about what Lord Goronwy-Roberts in another place has referred to as the sickening technique of abduction, which has put 100,000 Rhodesian children in terrorist camps in Zambia?

Will the Prime Minister take the opportunity now of answering a question which my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) put to the Foreign Secretary on Thursday? My right hon. Friend asked whether the assurance by President Kaunda about the arms supplies meant that they would be used only for the defence of Zambian troops and aircraft or that they would be used for the defence of terrorist camps inside Zambia. That question was met by evasive chatter from the Foreign Secretary.

It would have been improper for me to protest to President Kaunda about the attack on the Viscount aircraft. The matter was discussed between us, but I certainly made no protest because it was no responsibility of his, and in the course of the discussion he said that he needed no convincing about the consequences of such attacks, that it was a matter of moral concern to him, quite apart from any aid that we might offer, and that in no sense was it as a bargain for the aid we were offering that he would not support and did not support attacks on civilians in this way. Therefore, I hope that the Conservative Party will digest what I have said on this matter.

As regards the question about the defence of Zambia, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary gave a complete answer. The arms are intended for the defence of a fellow member of the Commonwealth which has suffered an unjustified attack from Rhodesia and the Rhodesian authorities.



I have at present no plans to visit either Flushing in Holland or the village of the same name which is such a distinguished ornament of the hon. Member's constituency.

I do not know about the people of Holland, but my constituents, especially the fishermen, will be greatly disappointed. How can the Prime Minister justify the denial of even the six-mile exclusive zone to the traditional long-line fishermen of Cornwall? How can he justify 12 to 15 Soviet bloc fishing factory boats being anchored in Falmouth Bay at present? Does he believe that this is yet another example of mankind exploiting a great natural resource for short-term gain? What is more important, will he stop it?

I know that there is an argument, and I well understand the feelings of the local fishermen in the hon. Gentleman's constituency and surrounding areas when other fishermen come and scoop up the fish. However, I understand that they happen to be British fishing boats from other constituencies that are scooping up the fish and reselling it to the factory vessels. I do not know whether to regard this as a prime example of private enterprise or as an unprecedented interference with our national resources.

If the Prime Minister will not visit Flushing, will he visit WC—I refer to the London district—where he will discover widespread support, as in the rest of London, for his Government's determination to stand by Zambia in its hour of need, in combat?

Prime Minister (Engagements)


asked the Prime Minister if he will state his official engagements for 7th November.

This morning I met the Foreign Minister of Poland. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be holding further meetings with ministerial colleagues and others.

It is a shame that the Prime Minister will not be listening to the debate on Rhodesia. Does he recognise that the Government's attempt to lose the Bingham report within that debate is unacceptable to the House? Will he now make a categorical statement that there will be a debate solely on Bingham, and that he in his capacity as Prime Minister will make a statement on what action is to be taken against the politicians involved?

I am sorry to disappoint the hon. Gentleman, but I hope to listen to a great deal of the debate on Rhodesia. I think that when the hon. Gentleman and the House hear the Foreign Secretary's speech, if he is fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, they will find a great deal of it is devoted to a review of the Bingham report. From certain documents that I see on the laps of right hon. and hon. Members, I have a feeling that we shall hear a great deal more about the Bingham report.

I do not blame anyone for this, but I am not sure that the arrangements have turned out as I had hoped. I had hoped that we would have two days on Bingham in the course of the debate on the Queen's Speech, and that was why we extended the debate by a day. It is a day longer than usual. But I understand that there is a difference of view. The Opposition wish—it is within their power and I do not complain—to spend two days on the current situation in Rhodesia, but that will not prevent Government spokesmen from devoting their time to an analysis of Bingham.

If my right hon. Friend can find some time today to telephone his colleagues in the EEC Council of Ministers, will he assure them that Britain has no intention of associating herself in any way with the European monetary system?

I shall not be conducting such telephone calls, so I fear that the consequences of my hon. Friend's question do not arise.

As one of the Prime Minister's duties today is to answer questions from the Dispatch Box, will he say whether he intends to persist in blacklisting firms which breach his pay policy? Or does he intend, perhaps, to adopt the TUC's policy of putting new price controls on industry?

I take it, then, that the Prime Minister still intends to apply blacklisting sanctions to Ford.

If the right hon. Lady had read the White Paper, she would know the answer.

I have read the White Paper, and it does not mention Ford. Does the Prime Minister intend to apply blacklisting sanctions to the proposed pay settlement at Ford's?


asked the Prime Minister whether he will list his engagements for 7th November.

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I have just given to the hon. Member for Northampton, South (Mr. Morris).

Will my right hon. Friend find time today to continue his discussions with the TUC on pay policy, and will he make a statement to the TUC, and also state publicly, that he will crack down very hard on, and blacklist if necessary, Tory councils which put up rents by more than 5 per cent. and on the proposal to put an increase of 12p per gallon on petrol, and crack down also on £30 television licences and on house prices, which have gone up by 25 per cent. this year, none of which is caused by wage increases and all of which must be kept down if the unions are to accept the policy?

There is no reason why rents should go up by an extortionate amount this year, and advice is being given to local authorities along these lines. I hope that the increases will be kept to single figures, as, indeed, I hope that the increase in earnings will be kept to single figures. I am bound to say that there cannot be an exact interaction between any single price increase and the increase in earnings, although the nationalised industries have done well. If we can achieve an increase in earnings based on 5 per cent. settlements, on our present information and understanding and on the best forecast that can be made, we can have inflation down to somewhere between 5 per cent. and 6 per cent. by the end of next year.

If the Prime Minister cannot tell us whether he intends to blacklist Ford for its settlement—although it is already clear that it will be above the Government's guidelines—perhaps he can tell us whether he intends to blacklist the TUC, which has entered into an agreement to pay its employees 60 per cent. more in three equal instalments of 20 per cent. over the next three years.

The decision on Ford will be taken in due course, but I cannot be harried at the Dispatch Box— [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"]—even by the frenzied shouts of the supporters of the right hon. Lady, into announcing a decision before it is ready. The House need have no fear; it will know when a decision is taken.

With regard to the TUC, I understand that the Secretary of State for Employment is inquiring into the matter.

Did my right hon. Friend see the television programme "Panorama" last night, which reported on illegal arms exports to South Africa? If not, will he during the course of the day obtain a transcript of the programme and take appropriate action?

No, Sir, I did not see the broadcast, but it was brought to my notice that there had been an alleged illegal export of arms to South Africa via Antigua. If that is so, I think that the BBC has done a service, although I understand that inquiries have been made before and that the American and Canadian Governments had been investigating this matter because the company concerned straddles the border. The British Government will decide what their responsibilities are in the matter and will follow it up if necessary.

Has the Prime Minister had time to acquaint himself with the contents of the report in last Saturday's issue of The Guardian on the Ford mass meeting? Is he aware that the reporter quoted the majority for staying out as just a majority, that the chief trade union negotiator reported it as four to one, that the chief shop steward reported it as six to one and that many men on the shop floor stated that there was a 60–40 majority for staying in and not coming out at all? Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that that report has nothing whatever to do with industrial democracy and is a straight description of industrial thuggery? What does he intend doing about it?

The various descriptions that have come from this meeting seem, on the whole, to lead to the conclusion that there was a majority for staying out. But I agree with the hon. Member that this is not a satisfactory way of conducting affairs, although we should not assume that it is unsatisfactory merely because the result went the way that I did not want it to go, whereas in the case of Vauxhall it went the way I did want it to go.

There was no protest then, as my hon. Friend reminds me. I say this to the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe). I think it is a very unfortunate position. We have to be very careful how we talk to the trade unions about legislation on these matters. The last Government made such a mess of their legislation that this is a most sensitive area for discussions with the trade union movement at the moment. But if the trade union movement comes forward and says that it would like to alter the system and that it would like some legislation to do this. certainly I should respond.

Northern Ireland (Water Supply)

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the unofficial action by employees of the water services in Counties Armagh and Down, and the steps which he has taken to restore normal water supplies and protect the public interest in the meantime.

Water supplies in parts of Counties Armagh and Down have been interrupted over the past few weeks as a result of the accumulative effects of industrial action which has been continuing since October. The industrial action has been taken by some manual workers who are objecting to the delay in introducing productivity schemes which would have given them the same earnings potential as the majority of manual workers in the water services in Great Britain.

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State has met the officials of the unions concerned on several occasions in an effort to resolve the issue. Unfortunately, these discussions have not so far met with any success, but they will continue and every effort will be made, within the constraints of Government policies, to bring about an early end to the dispute.

In the meantime, officials are attempting to maintain the water supply system in the area in order to minimise disruption, and standpipes have been erected to ensure adequate supplies of water for domestic purposes.

Is the right hon. Gentleman fully informed about the hardships which have been suffered during these weeks by my constituents and those of my hon. Friend the Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker), including the closing of schools and hospital wards, severe losses in agriculture and in particular hardships to older people? Will he appoint a specific officer in his Department to be responsible from hour to hour for watching the position as it affects consumers and co-ordinating any emergency action? Finally, without prejudice to any civil liability which may have arisen, will he note that my hon. Friends and I will be urging him in due course to consider whether those who have been deprived of water supply are entitled to a rebate upon the water charges which they are paying?

I am pleased to tell the right hon. Gentleman that agreement has been reached that water supplies to hospitals will be maintained. The Department of Education and area boards are now busily advising schools on how best to cope with the situation. We are kept very well informed of the situation. There are, of course, action parties, as it were, within the Department dealing with this.

The Under-Secretary of State has been very busy and flew back there on Sunday afternoon to have a meeting about this. He is, of course, holding himself available at all times to meet and discuss the situation.

Will the Minister of State bear in mind that, in addition to the very serious loss and hardship caused to the constituents of my right hon. Friend the Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), the consequences for the whole of the Province would be very serious indeed if this dispute were prolonged and allowed to spread to certain other key areas?

The problem about the dispute—I take the point made by the hon. Gentleman—is obtaining the agreement of all parties. That agreement is necessary for the introduction of the productivity scheme. Until we get all-party agreement on that, we cannot put the productivity scheme into being. We are, therefore, making a £4 a week interim payment to the workers.

Northern Ireland (Remand Procedure)

The House will know of the difficulties which have recently been affecting the Northern Ireland prison service. In particular, in pursuit of a claim for an increase in their emergency allowance from £3 per day to £5 per day, prison officers in the Province have been refusing to accept prisoners into prison following their appearances in court for first or subsequent remand hearings.

As a result, it has proved necessary to open a new temporary prison at Magilligan to be known as Her Majesty's Prison, Foyle, under a specially appointed governor, who has sought the assistance of members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The Army, in pursuance of its normal role, is responsible for the security of the prison's perimeter. It may subsequently be necessary to open further establishments of this kind, but there is a limit to the amount of resources which the police and Army can devote to this task.

A large number of prisoners are awaiting trial in Northern Ireland on the most serious charges, and it is vital that those whom the courts have directed should be held in secure custody should be so held.

We therefore decided, when Foyle prison came into use, to reinforce this measure by providing by Order in Council that remand hearings may be undertaken in a prisoner's absence, thus reducing the flow to the Foyle prison. I would emphasise, however, that we have also provided that the courts may at any time direct that a prisoner be brought before them. The Order in Council will require an affirmative resolution of both Houses within 40 sitting days to remain in force.

I regret the necessity for this action, and I hope that the prison officers in Northern Ireland will realise the effect that their protest action is having upon the rule of law in the Province. Too many members of the security forces are already being diverted from their primary task—the protection of the community against terrorism. I look to the prison officers to recognise their responsibilities, to co-operate with the inquiry which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary announced last week and to return to normal duty quickly. As soon as they return to normal duty, I shall be able to rescind the order made yesterday.

In view of the Secretary of State's great success in bringing prisoners before the courts in the normal way, certainly in the last year or so, may I tell the right hon. Gentleman that we share his regret at the necessity for this departure from remand procedures? We welcome his statement that it will be temporary, which he has made clear. Is he aware that we entirely agree when he says that prisoners must be kept in secure custody in Northern Ireland and that, since in this emergency he has no alternative, we shall give him our full support when the matter is further considered? May I ask what steps are being taken to bring to an end the situation in the prison service that has made the order necessary?

I do not want to go too far on the latter point raised by the hon. Gentleman, because talks have been in progress this morning and there will be further talks during this afternoon involving the Northern Ireland prison officers and prison officers from other parts of Great Britain.

The hon. Gentleman is right. This is a temporary order. The resident magistrates and the courts can still direct an appearance if they deem it necessary. But I could not allow the situation to develop where the prison officers were refusing the return of remand prisoners into gaols, and I could not allow prisoners to go free on the streets. We are talking of people who have committed murder and conspired to commit murder and terrorist offences.

Therefore, I had to take urgent action to establish Foyle prison and divert prisoners there. I hope that it will not be for long.

Is the Secretary of State aware that we support the Government in taking this emergency action, which was made inevitable by the industrial dispute, which we trust will be of short duration? Will he take the opportunity to correct the impression created by his press statement yesterday that the powers would be used for a period of three months even if the dispute were settled in the interval? Finally, as the order has been made under the emergency procedure, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that it is brought before the House well in advance of the expiry of the period of 40 days so that a debate can take place on the matter?

I shall certainly give consideration to bringing the order before the House as quickly as possible, for affirmation by the other place and the House of Commons. I give the hon. Gentleman the assurance that I shall be only too pleased and ready to act. If the prison officers stop their action, I shall want to bring in an order immediately to rescind the present order.

Is the Secretary of State aware of the seething anger that is now being expressed among members of the legal profession in Northern Ireland? Is he further aware that, in attempting to end one strike, he is liable to bring about a strike of members of the legal profession, who say that they will not go into court unless their client is physically available there?

Does not the Secretary of State realise that already in Northern Ireland we have courts without juries? Now we are to have courts without prisoners. That leads to the complete negation of the judicial system as we know it in the rest of the United Kingdom. May I ask my right hon. Friend not to attempt, as he has tried to do this afternoon, to convict those prisoners who are on remand? They have not as yet been found guilty. Will he give an undertaking to the House that no further erosion of the judicial system will be allowed to take place and that an emergency debate in this House will be initiated by himself, so that all hon. Members will have an opportunity to express themselves on the ramifications of the order?

I am obliged to my hon. Friend for the views he has expressed. I have just left the Province, and I do not disagree with his view that there is seething anger there. I am aware that those defence counsel who regularly defend the Provisional IRA terrorists are seething with anger.

That I understand, because they are the people whom they want to be able to represent in the courts. It is quite correct to say that there is seething anger from a section of the legal profession.

However, my hon. Friend must be aware that on the question of human rights—

—I feel that it is a distasteful measure. I have explained to the House that it is a temporary order. The resident magistrates and the courts can still direct an appearance, and the prisoners within the courts can still be legally represented.

On the other side of the coin, I want to advise my hon. Friend and the House that the rights of the public have to be safeguarded too. I could not condone the release of suspected terrorists from gaol because the prison officers will not receive them. Indeed, one of the men on remand at the moment is accused of having responsibility for the La Mon House massacre. What would be the anger of the Province if I decided to release people of that kind? I have to accept the harsh realities in Northern Ireland and face the facts. Therefore, I have prepared a temporary gaol into which these remand prisoners can go.

Although one regrets any incursions into the principle of habeas corpus, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that my hon. Friends and I would support him in that this must be balanced against the overriding need to give neither hope nor comfort to men of violence simply because there is an industrial dispute with the prison authority? Will the Secretary of State assure the House that he will keep a personal brief on all instances in which prisoners are sentenced in absentia or dealt with by the courts as such?

I am grateful and obliged to the hon. Gentleman for what he has said. I shall watch, personally and closely, the cases of those who are being remanded in absentia. I am concerned that a number of remand prisoners are to go into temporary gaols. The conditions will not be the same as in the gaols they have left. I am worried about the drain on the RUC, which will now be asked to cover the prison itself. I am worried about the drain on the Army, which will now have to be responsible for the safety of the perimeter fences.. If the situation continues, I shall have to consider another gaol in addition to Foyle. These are serious matters and I am very concerned about them. I assure the House that I shall be watching the situation day by day.

Does my right hon. Friend understand that it is not only defence lawyers of the IRA who are concerned about this matter, but all lawyers?

It goes right to the heart of the rule of law and the doctrine of habeas corpus. Will my right hon. Friend, therefore, clarify his statement by telling us whether the temporary prisons are adequate to cope with the flow of prisoners who will come to the courts for remand? Secondly, will he consider the importance of sending representatives of the judiciary to the prisons where these prisoners have been remanded in their absence? Does he understand that the essence of access to the courts is to enable the independent judiciary to see the physical condition of the prisoners who come before them?

I shall certainly give consideration to the last point made by my hon. Friend. On the first point, the setting up of this temporary prison—I hope that it will be temporary—means that prison rules have to be laid down. Those rules will be laid before the House today in typescript. I have had to establish a new governor for the prison, and constables and others have to go in to control it. In Foyle, normal and legal visits are already taking place. Arrangements are being made for a board of visitors. I hope that we shall be able to give prisoners in the temporary gaol as good a service as in the permanent gaol that they have left.

Is the Secretary of State aware that there is widespread support in the House for the policy that he has followed of bringing those charged with criminal offences before the courts? But will he reflect upon one passage in his statement where he referred to the large number of prisoners awaiting trial? Is he satisfied that the courts in Northern Ireland as at present constituted are sufficient in number to deal speedily with those charged with offences, because the speed of dealing with offences is of the very essence of his statement?

Certainly. I am concerned that so many people regularly have to come before the courts for remand purposes. Indeed, I am so concerned that we are having an internal inquiry to see how best we can speed up the process.

Is it correct that the prison officers' dispute is common to England and Wales and that prisoners charged with very serious offences are not able to appear before the courts in England and Wales? If so, why is it necessary to adopt legislative procedure for Northern Ireland different from that for England and Wales? Does it not lead to a sense of injustice in Northern Ireland?

First, the scale of the problem is different. That is why I have to take urgent action. Secondly, the dimension in Northern Ireland is different from that in Great Britain. In Northern Ireland, the prison officers' main demand is for more than the £3 per day special allowance. They want a £5 special allowance. That is the core of their complaint. In keeping with the third year pay restraint policy, I have offered, and have not been prepared to go further than, an increase of 10 per cent.

In view of the Secretary of State's main responsibility, which is to ensure the maintenance of law and order in Northern Ireland, does he accept that the majority of hon. Members will feel that his regrettable action was nevertheless totally justified? Will he make clear whether it applies only to remands. since there was a suggestion in one question that people were to be tried in their absence? Am I not right in saying that it relates purely to remands?

Secondly, will the Secretary of State point out to the Prison Officers' Association, or the members involved, the grave consequences of action of this kind to the future liberty of the people of this country?

Yes, and I have issued statements to that effect. I am obliged to the hon. and learned Gentleman for raising those points. It does not affect trials. Apart from those on remand, it affects new entrants as well. Consequently, even if all those on remand are held in the permanent gaols, we shall still have a trickle of new entrants into the temporary gaol.

Will my right hon. Friend reflect upon the two extremely inaccurate statements that he made in the House this afternoon concerning those who, he said, had committed murder or aided the commission of murder, and, secondly, his totally unwarranted attack upon the solicitors, often provided by the court itself, who represent those charged with what are known as terrorist offences? Would he not, upon reflection, agree that the wiser course in this circumstance, however regrettable, would be to suspend the hearings of prisoners due for remand until the prison officers work normally again?

I prefer to stand by the phrase that I used—"charges that have been made"—and I want my hon. Friend to understand that of the first 97 prisoners who have been transferred to Foyle prison 60 are charged with terrorist offences—

14 with murder, nine with attempted murder, five with explosives offences, 13 with firearms offences—

I have not yet used the word "convicted". I hope my hon. Friend will listen. These charges are being laid before suspected terrorists.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Throughout my presence in this House and many decades before I came to the House, it has always been taken that it is not permitted to make an attack on a judge or the judiciary in any part of the United Kingdom. The Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, Sir Robert Lowry, ordered the release of two prisoners because they did not appear personally before him or before magistrates in the courts. My right hon. Friend this afternoon said that the people who are concerned about the nonappearance of those people in court are those who regularly defend IRA prisoners. I take that—and I am certain that the Lord Chief Justice himself will take it so—as something of a slur on him and on his person. I ask you to give your opinion on the remarks made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

Order. There was no personal attack on any individual that I heard this afternoon in the exchanges.

Statutory Instruments, &C


That the Counter-Inflation (Price Code) Order 1978 (S.I., 1978, No. 1082) be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments,&c.—[Mr. James Hamilton.]

Orders Of The Day

Debate On The Address

Fifth Day

Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [1st November]:

That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as follows:
Most Gracious Sovereign.
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.—[Mr. Cledwyn Hughes.]

Question again proposed.


I have selected the amendment in the name of the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition.

Before we begin the debate, I should like to say that an exceptionally large number of right hon. and hon. Members wish to take part. Almost everybody who has indicated to me that he hopes to catch my eye has a good reason for being called; it seems that most of the House has been in Southern Africa for the recess. Obviously, I should like to call them all. The rule is suspended and there is an extended debate, but none the less there is room for restraint on the part of those who are called.

May I say, in conclusion, that this is one of those difficult occasions when I hope right hon. and hon. Members will not come to the Chair either to seek their place in the batting order or to advance their cause. In the words of my predecessor, which for me will be immortal, such efforts would be counter-productive.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In the light of the decision you have just given on the selection of the amendment—a question that I raised with you last week—you rightly reminded me and the House that the subject of debate is not a matter for you. However, in view of the exchanges that we had earlier this afternoon, it appears that my suggestion that there had been collusion between the two Front Benches was quite unfair. I therefore withdraw it. It appears that there was a lack of co-operation between the two Front Benches, and that one thought we were debating Bingham and the other Rhodesia.

Would you confirm, Mr. Speaker, that your selection means that the House will have no opportunity to give its opinion on the question whether there should be a further inquiry into matters raised by Bingham? If we are to have a two-day debate, it means that we can raise the matter verbally but the House will have no opportunity to decide the matter.

The right hon. Gentleman is quite right in saying that the only vote that can take place is on the amendment that I have selected.

I fully accept your decision not to select the amendment in my name and that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. Macmillan) about the supply of arms to Zambia, Mr. Speaker, as the subject is left out of the official Opposition's amendment to-day for some extraordinary reason. Will you confirm that, as is usual with debates on the Queen's Speech, it will be in order to raise it and any other matter in today's debate?

The amendment that I have selected is in very wide and general terms, and I have no doubt at all that the hon. Member, if he is called to speak, will be able to bring in that subject.

3.54 p.m.

I think that the whole House would like to pay tribute to John Davies, who would have been speaking in this debate. We were all extremely sad to hear of his illness, and we all wish him a full recovery. He came into the House after a distinguished career in industry, and he deservedly built up a reputation of somebody who was fair and honest and objective in his comments. He will be missed from our debates.

I shall try at the outset of this two-day debate both to deal with the current situation in Rhodesia and to set it in the context of the report by Mr. Bingham and Mr. Gray, which investigates in detail the way in which oil had reached Rhodesia since 1965. The report is a model of careful research and balanced judgment. It brings out a whole range of facts and issues and provides helpful background for the specific debate tomorrow night on the order to renew section 2 of the Southern Rhodesia Act 1965.

The report explains in the preface that no general attempt was made to relate it to the political, diplomatic and economic events of the time. This was not part of Mr. Bingham's and Mr. Gray's task, which was essentially to establish the facts concerning the supply of oil to Rhodesia and to investigate evidence relating to possible breaches of British sanctions controls by British nationals or companies subject to British law. It is for this House in the first instance and Parliament itself now to set the report in its wider political context, to consider the full implications of its findings, to establish such further inquiries as it thinks necessary and to learn the appropriate lessons for the future.

To consider the facts, objectively it is necessary to recall the climate of the time and some of the political and economic factors which influenced past Governments in their framing of policies towards Rhodesia. It is not my intention to pass judgment now upon the actions of past Governments. I know that many members of those Governments will wish to speak both in this debate and when the report is discussed in another place.

Only one month after Rhodesia had become a colony in rebellion against the Crown, oil sanctions were imposed by Britain acting under a non-mandatory resolution of the Security Council. The then Labour Government had forsworn the use of armed force—

—but realised that the measures taken immediately after Mr. Smith's illegal declaration of independence would not prove sufficient in themselves for the short, swift campaign against the regime which was then envisaged.

From the first there was always doubt whether international co-operation in an oil embargo would be forthcoming. In particular, it was obvious that Portuguese and South African co-operation would be essential if oil sanctions were to be fully applied. It was believed at the time that the closure of the principal route for the supply of oil to Rhodesia— the Umtali pipeline—could deal a major blow to the Rhodesian economy and bring about an early return to legality.

The Government decided to impose oil sanctions unilaterally on 17th December 1965. No oil entered Beira in Mozambique after that date, and none reached Rhodesia's only refinery after 31st December. The refinery has remained closed ever since then.

Early in 1966 there were reports of pirate tankers bound for Beira. These were intercepted, first with the authority of flag States concerned and then with the authority of Security Council resolution 221 of 9th April 1966. Mr. Bingham has described in some detail the action by the Government over this period.

It is now alleged that the Beira patrol, which was maintained by successive Governments from April 1966 to June 1975, when the Portuguese pulled out of Mozambique, was ineffective and a waste of taxpayers' money. It is perfectly true that it did not achieve the initial objective which the Government had hoped for, of cutting off all oil supplies to Rhodesia, but it did ensure that oil never reached Rhodesia from the quickest and cheapest route, namely Beira and the Umtali pipeline. Hon. Gentlemen can laugh about it, but it was an extremely important policy objective, which they sustained throughout the periods that they were in Government.

At any time to have lifted the patrol and thereby acquiesced in oil flowing along the pipeline would not only have reduced the economic costs of alternative supply routes; it would have been a significant political act tantamount to recognition of the illegal regime. Successive Governments openly and publicly acknowledged that the route, initially through South Africa, subsequently through Lourenço Marques and then again through South Africa, remained open. Yet no Government from 1966 onwards were prepared to use force to close these alternative routes. It was optimistically hoped that diplomatic pressure and considerations of self- interest would bring the South African and Portuguese Governments either to re-examine their sanctions policy or to use their political influence on the regime to achieve a settlement. Events have shown that that was much too optimistic an assessment.

The House must appreciate the complexity of the factors which influenced successive Governments' thinking during this period. Those who were responsible for policy towards Rhodesia had to weigh the implications of every action they took across a complex field of interrelated and often contradictory policy objectives for the prospects of successful talks with the Rhodesian regime, which were continuing throughout this period, for our relations with Commonwealth countries and the international community as a whole, for Britain's own economic well-being, often coinciding with times of acute domestic economic difficulty, for the effect on Britain's extensive commercial and investment interests built up over many years in South Africa, and for South Africa's willingness to exercise a moderating influence on the regime.

During this period some of our major allies lacked any enthusiasm for the implementation of even existing sanctions. There is no joy in laughing at that inability to mobilise international opinion. Many of them also certainly had no sympathy or support for any measures designed to strengthen those sanctions.

The House should not forget that BP and Shell were not the only oil companies. The French and American oil companies—Total, Caltex and Mobil— appear not to have been influenced let alone controlled by their Governments. Moreover, chrome, for example, was reaching the United States from Rhodesia for many years before the 1971 Byrd Amendment actually gave congressional approval for breaking mandatory United Nations sanctions.

I mention these facts just to stress that the international climate is very different now and, most important of all, that the attitudes of the French and the United States Governments are much more sympathetic now to the views of African countries and a firm United Nations-backed policy.

The most difficult decision, and the one which the Government between 1966 and 1968 agonised over most, was how to stop oil getting through Lourenço Marques to Rhodesia, once it became obvious that it was moving on from Beira. It was felt, rightly or wrongly, that there was no practicable way of monitoring or controlling the flow of oil through Lourenço Marques without a major confrontation with South Africa, to whose law the South African subsidiaries of the oil companies were subject. Much of the oil passing through Lourenço Marques was earmarked for the Transvaal province of South Africa, for Botswana and for Swaziland.

It was established from the start and maintained as a policy by successive Governments that the burden which any economic confrontation with South Africa would entail should not be borne by Britain alone among the Western nations. There was never any attempt to conceal this fundamental conviction from Parliament or the country. As any hon. Members who were in the House at that time will attest, as a matter of political judgment taken at the highest level of Government decision-making, action was ruled out if it was thought it would lead to Britain facing economic confrontation with South Africa without the full support and involvement of some other Western industrialised countries as well.

Other Western countries were as reluctant as Britain to face an economic confrontation. It was not until November of last year that it was finally agreed in the Security Council to put a mandatory arms embargo on South Africa, though Britain had, with a few exceptions in 1970–71, particularly been operating its own arms embargo since 1964. Even today, with the international climate far tougher towards South Africa and its policies, we and our Western allies still judge it to be far preferable for everyone —ourselves and those living in Southern Africa—to avoid confrontation. But to do this South Africa must use its influence over Namibia and Rhodesia in concert with the international community rather than against the international community and must also start to dismantle the institutional framework of apartheid. An economic confrontation with sanctions over South Africa may come. But let no one be under any illusion; this is not a course which should be relished by any- one who has the interests of the people of Southern Africa at heart, for those whom we do not wish to hurt will suffer most.

After the failure of the 1966 "Tiger" talks, the Government proposed the resolution which was adopted by the Security Council on 16th December 1966, imposing mandatory sanctions on Rhodesia's major exports and on certain key imports, including oil.

Throughout 1967, the Government conscientiously sought to find ways of intensifying oil sanctions. The Bingham report describes 1967 as a year
"dominated by a series of initiatives taken by HMG to make the oil embargo against Rhodesia effective"
but observed that at the same time the problems of enforcement became plainer. Chapter 6 of the report sets out in detail some of the schemes advanced by the Government and discussed with the oil companies. All were eventually rejected on one or more of the following grounds.

The first ground was that the refusal of Portugal and South Africa to apply sanctions left a gaping hole in the blockade of Rhodesia, which I have already mentioned.

Secondly, it was felt that certain courses of action could lead to the economic confrontation with South Africa which had been ruled out.

Thirdly, the reluctance of certain Western Governments at that time to put pressure on their oil companies, and the wider political arguments against attempting to exercise legal control over subsidiaries of United Kingdom companies operating abroad, meant that the oil companies could hide behind South African legislation. The legal problems were seriously explored at the time. They involve the whole question of the control of multinationals.

Fourthly, there was reluctance for the Government to act alone, without effective support from their partners. This in turn meant that the various schemes to ration supplies of oil or oil products through Lourenço Marques were all reluctantly—and, after reading all the relevant papers, I stress the word "reluctantly"—judged to be unworkable.

In July 1967, and again in March 1968, the Government actively considered the possibility of a naval blockade of Lourenço Marques as well as Beira. The South African Government would not have prevented oil supplies reaching Rhodesia from South African suppliers should supplies through Mozambique cease and we were not prepared to threaten a naval blockade of South Africa. Despite the Salazar dictatorship, Portugal had been allowed to be a member of NATO, and this was also a factor which was considered. The American and French Governments of the time were judged as unwilling to agree to any blockade. A blockade which tried to ration imports of oil or oil products by limiting them to the needs of normal non-Rhodesian customers, including those in the Transvaal, Swaziland and Botswana, was seriously considered but eventually judged to be impossible to administer.

A limitation of oil imports to a level below the normal demands of Mozambique, the Transvaal, Botswana and Swaziland would have entailed enforcement action against Mozambique and South Africa. There was no possibility that other international oil companies, which had their own interests both in Mozambique and in South Africa, would join in any rationing scheme. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the political judgments of the time, no one reading all the papers as I have done can make the charge of complicity, deceit or double-dealing. Here were honest men of successive Governments struggling with massive political problems, seeking the best solution bearing in mind all the restraints and all the limitations within which they felt they had to operate.

By the end of 1967, Britain was grappling with the economic crisis which followed devaluation of sterling, and the Rhodesian authorities seemed more intransigent than ever. There was good reason to believe that support in many countries for the maintenance of sanctions was wavering and that the introduction of new sanctions would cause difficulties with our partners. In these circumstances, as the report records, Ministers decided collectively to defer further consideration of proposals to intensify sanctions, including the possibility of stopping the supply of oil to Rhodesia through Mozambique. Yet, even so, as I have mentioned, a further study was made in 1968 of the possibility of rationing oil supplies to Lourenço Marques following the widespread outburst of indignation against the Rhodesian regime for its execution of a number of Africans despite the exercise of the Royal Prerogative of Mercy. The Government, however, reluctantly again reached the same conclusions as they had in 1967.

It is against this background and in this political climate that I suggest Parliament should view the discussions which those Ministers directly involved had with the oil companies in 1967–69. I think it is important to stress, as indeed the report does, that it was only towards the end of 1967 that the Government began to suspect that British oil companies and their subsidiaries were involved, directly or indirectly, in the supply of oil to Rhodesia. It was widely assumed at the time, though not then proved, that the French company CFP, as the company most heavily involved in refining and marketing within Mozambique, was principally to blame. The Portuguese authorities had alleged that British oil companies were involved, but they did not produce firm evidence, and the oil companies themselves had rejected these allegations.

The Government's own investigations had suggested that any refined oil products delivered to Lourenço Marques for bulk storage by British companies—themselves only a small proportion of oil imports into Mozambique—were largely destined for the Transvaal. It was thought possible, however, that some of the oil companies' customers were reselling oil to Rhodesia. It was at this point that the then Commonwealth Secretary decided to meet the directors of Shell and BP, with the outcome that is recorded in the Bingham report. The actual records of the subsequent meetings are printed in the annex to the report.

I do not want to judge or justify now, the positions which were then taken in relation to what was said to the companies, the consideration given to it in Government, or on the question whether there should have been a reference to the Director of Public Prosecutions. Parliament and the country will hear from those who were directly involved. It is, however, the public dispute about exactly what happened over this period that has, above all, made people call for a further inquiry. It is in revealing exactly what did happen at this time that I believe our parliamentary debates can now add an important dimension. Decisions throughout this period were taken in the full recognition that the denial of British oil to Rhodesia, while a necessary political instruction and legal obligation, would not and could not in itself reduce Rhodesia's capacity to obtain oil.

Whatever conclusion is reached about the legality, the morality or the justification for this swap arrangement, we must not delude ourselves into believing that Rhodesia's imports would, in practice, have been seriously restricted if British companies and their subsidiaries had simply pulled out of the South African market in an effort to avoid any direct or indirect involvement in the supply of oil to Rhodesia.

Is it at this point in the narrative that my right hon. Friend ought to indicate his view that Parliament should have been informed that we were engaging in the swap arrangement which was manifestly against the spirit, at any rate—and I suggest the letter—of the mandatory regulation that we had passed?

I am trying to give an objective account of the events of this period, which is extremely difficult to do, and I have therefore decided not to make my own judgments about the morality, the justification or, indeed, the legality of the swap arrangement, and I would include in that the question whether or not Ministers should have explained matters to the House. I believe that many hon. Members will wish to comment on that issue and that it is this area which has caused the greatest concern to right hon. and hon. Members. I am trying to put the arrangement in its context and explain what I can from the documents that are available, and then I believe the House will be able to hear from people who were themselves intimately involved in the matter and to form a judgment. I believe that it is very important not to form a judgment at this stage.

Certainly, if we had been able—

Will the House be given another opportunity to make that judgment which the right hon. Gentleman says it is very important for the House to make about the conduct of individuals and Governments in this matter?

The Government have promised to listen to this debate. We have always said that we would come first to both Houses of Parliament and listen to the debate and then reach a conclusion. Parliament itself, will be able to reach a conclusion and if the Government's decision is challenged Parliament has ways of bringing this issue to them. Indeed, the Government have ways of bringing this issue to Parliament.

The Government have been totally open about the whole of the handling of this process. We established an inquiry as soon as the allegations were made. When I said that we would publish the findings of the inquiry and had to make reference to the fact that in the actual legal provision there is a priviso that I had to get the agreement of those who had given evidence to the inquiry, many people suspected that we would not publish the report of the inquiry. We did publish the report at the earliest possible opportunity, and at all stages there has been the utmost openness and candour.

I would say that if we had not made this swap arrangement we would have been spared the international and domestic criticism which has flowed from this finding in the report. But other international oil companies were in contact with agents for Rhodesia. I do not do this to explain away the decision; I do it to put it in the context in which the decision was made.

A memorandum written by an employee of BP in South Africa some years later, and quoted in the report, not only set out in full the respective market shares of all the international oil companies involved in supply to Rhodesia; it revealed in paragraph 8.39, on page 270 of the report—which is worth looking up—that another major oil company, Esso, had in 1970 offered to supply 100 per cent. of the Rhodesian market at heavily discounted prices. The offer was turned down, probably because a continued diversification of sources of supply was considered more secure. But Rhodesia would have had no difficulty in finding compensating supplies through South Africa in the event of any shortfall from one supplier. It is hard to escape the conclusion that without a higher degree of co-operation from our major trading partners than was then forthcoming, any British Government were powerless to affect the oil supply position on the ground in Rhodesia.

From 1969 until 1975 there was little change in the position. The Conservative Government of 1970 to 1974 maintained virtually unchanged all the existing sanctions, including the Beira patrol. In 1971, according to the report, the swap arrangement, which the companies had set up to take Shell Mozambique, a British-registered company, out of the line of supply lapsed and a direct supply arrangement was apparently reinstituted. It is for the DPP to decide whether there was a breach of United Kingdom sanctions legislation, but the report found no evidence that the lapse of the swap arrangement was known to the then Government. I have no way of knowing whether or not new Government Ministers were told about the swap arrangement in 1970. The report states clearly that even the London offices of the oil companies did not know about the lapse of the arrangement until 1974, and that even then the companies did not inform the Government.

In 1974, a Labour Government returned to office determined to seek any practicable way of enforcing sanctions more effectively, and I have found no evidence to indicate that Ministers were told about the swap arrangement then which could have been assumed to be still in operation though it had in fact lapsed. Particular efforts were made by the new Government—with some success—to encourage a more determined application of sanctions by our international partners, the United Nations and members of the European Community. The number of prosecutions for breaches of the sanctions controls increased.

In 1977, it became a matter of increasing concern that there appeared to be grounds for believing that the oil sanctions legislation had been circumvented and perhaps broken. On 6th July, after the Bingham inquiry had been established, I tried to persuade Mr. Rowland to release all the documents in his possession. At our meeting, I had in front of me a letter which the Prime Minister had written to Mr. Rowland on 4th July stating quite categorically that the Director of Public Prosecutions had not yet completed his consideration of the report on Lonrho. No reference was made, in any of the further letters to the Prime Minister, to his having received from me the assurances which he now claims he was given. In my meeting, and in all subsequent correspondence, it was made clear, as we would be bound to do, that any decision was for the Director of Public Prosecutions. His decision was announced last Friday.

In establishing the Bingham inquiry, the Government believed that a searching examination of the entire history of oil supplies to Rhodesia since 1965 was inevitable and right. We were anxious that all the facts should be brought to light, however unpalatable some of them might be. The Government gave every help to the inquiry and unhindered access to all the departmental papers. Once the report had been received, the Government decided that it should be published virtually in its entirety, protecting only one annex, and that on the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions. We concluded that, before deciding what further steps to take, both Houses of Parliament should have this early and full opportunity for debate.

There has been no cover-up. There will be no cover-up. It is for the Government, this House and the country to face the implications of the report. We will listen carefully to this debate as we have promised. It will be for Parliament ultimately to decide.

Will my right hon. Friend give an undertaking to the House, in view of what he said about unhindered access to Bingham and to the relevant papers? Will he now announce that the Government agree in principle to that unhindered access through any Select Committee that this House chooses to set up?

I imagine that my hon. Friend is referring to the question whether Cabinet papers should be made available. This is one of the issues that will be discussed in the debate. However, it is not for me to decide. These are Cabinet papers for two Cabinets, of which I was not a member, in two Administrations, and I believe that there are serious issues which the whole House will wish to consider. They concern issues of precedent and issues of trust, in which Ministers participated in the decisions of Cabinet, believing that there would be a period of confidentiality, at present a 30-year period.

The Government have not taken a view about this matter, particularly in view of the suggestion from my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson), who was Prime Minister for part of this period. We shall want to consider what he has to say, the arguments which he wishes to produce, and why he thinks his suggestion would be helpful. I think that the House will need to take all these considerations into account but will wish to bear in mind that on many occasions in the past, when there has been a very good case on the issue involved for releasing Cabinet papers immediately, successive Governments have always resisted it because of the danger of precedent. This is an open issue, on which we should like to hear the views of Parliament.

It is obviously urgent to satisfy ourselves—I think that everyone in the House will agree—that, whatever was the position in the past, British oil companies and their subsidiaries are now playing no part whatsoever in the supply of oil to Rhodesia. I personally saw the oil company chairmen of BP and Shell in April last year to tell them why I was establishing the inquiry and I made it clear to them that I expected them to take firm action to close any loopholes in their or their subsidiaries' involvement in the supply of oil to Rhodesia. The report traces the efforts made since then by the British oil companies to ensure that they and their South African subsidiaries were no longer directly or indirectly involved in the supply of oil products to Rhodesia. Last autumn Shell and BP told me the terms of the assurances which they had received from their South African subsidiaries, to the effect that these companies were not directly or indirectly concerned in supplying Rhodesia.

The report brought to light, however, an arrangement between the companies' subsidiaries in South Africa and the organisations which continue to supply Rhodesia. The report records that, when in 1976 the supplies made by the South African subsidiaries of the British oil companies to agents acting for the Rhodesian purchasing organisation were taken over by the South African State oil company, the subsidiaries were compensated by increased access to their own customers in part of the South African market, according to a formula which took into account their previous level of supplies to Rhodesia. Such arrangements were still in force when the Bingham report was completed.

I took up this matter with the oil companies as a matter of the greatest urgency. I left them in no doubt that in my view such arrangements were totally incompatible with the spirit, if not the letter, of the assurances they had passed to me. They have now told me that, although their subsidiaries were until quite recently involved in such arrangements, these have now been terminated and their South African subsidiaries are not now involved in any marketing activity related to the supply of oil by others to Rhodesia.

I have decided to refer the details of the Government's exchanges with the companies on these matters to the Director of Public Prosecutions so that he may consider them in conjunction with the relevant passages of the Bingham report. I have also brought to his attention further material which has come to light relating to three "spot" sales of naphtha by BP Trading—a British-registered company—earlier this year to the South African State oil company, or brokers understood to be acting for that company. Where Castrol is concerned, in view of the reference in the preface of the report to that company, the DPP will be already considering whether to investigate the matter further.

One further point remains outstanding. We are in discussion with Associated Octel, a company which has Shell and BP among its major shareholders and which supplies to South Africa a lead additive which is used in local refineries to improve the quality of petrol. This company falls outside the scope of the assurances given for their groups by Shell and BP relating to the sale of oil and oil products to Rhodesia, and we are seeking in its case also to obtain satisfactory assurances of non-involvement in supply to Rhodesia.

I have now placed Shell and BP formally on notice of the Government's strongly held view that no company in the Shell or BP group should be involved in the supply of oil to Rhodesia, whether direct, indirect or by participation in marketing arrangements related to the supply of oil by others to Rhodesia. The Government expect that the head offices of the companies will at all times act accordingly, and in particular that the necessary steps will be taken by them to ensure that all the assurances in these matters which they have given to the Government are faithfully adhered to both in the letter and the spirit. I have sought and received undertakings that any difficulty encountered by their companies or their subsidiaries in maintaining this position will be immediately notified to the Government so that appropriate action, whether of a practical, diplomatic or legal nature, can be taken. Both companies assure me that they have put the necessary procedures into effect to ensure that this responsibility can be faithfully discharged. The Government are determined to take every step in their power to ensure that, so long as sanctions are in force, neither Shell nor BP, nor their South African subsidiaries, nor any other company in the Shell-BP groups, will ever again supply Rhodesia directly or indirectly, or enter into any arrangements related to the supply of oil by others to Rhodesia. I hope now that other Governments will feel able to take similar action in respect of their own oil companies.

One fact is, however, self-evident. It is South Africa which supplies the oil that Rhodesia needs. It is argued by many countries in the United Nations— in fact, that debate has gone on over the last week—that all oil to South Africa should be cut off. This should apply, it is argued, even if South Africa were to decide to supply Rhodesia solely from its own resources—as it could, by giving Rhodesia only the 4 per cent. or so of its total oil consumption which it currently produces from coal mined in South Africa and making up the balance from its reserves.

In a few years' time, we estimate that South Africa could produce as much as one-sixth of its total consumption from its indigenous coal supplies. A total embargo now upon oil supplies to South Africa would therefore—bearing in mind its indigenous oil production capacity, conser- vation, alternative energy sources and a careful use of its substantial reserves of oil already stored in the country—take full effect only over a period of some years. It is not, therefore, a sanction which would have an immediate effect in terms of oil, although it could have a psychological effect.

No one can say that such an embargo will never be introduced, but such sanctions could be justified only by a situation of the utmost gravity. Some understandably argue that we face such a situation now in Rhodesia. Others believe that we have reached this situation over Namibia. We have to consider all this, with our partners, in the context of the important negotiations that we are trying to carry forward. The pressures are an doubtedly mounting. It is in the self-interest of the South African people that their Government—as we have urged them to do over Namibia—should work with us for United Nations—supervised elections in Namibia and for a negotiated settlement in Rhodesia on the basis of the most recent Anglo-American proposals. There may be only a few months left in which to settle these issues. Instead of resting South African policy on the self-interest of the DTA Party in Namibia or on the Rhodesian Front Party in Rhodesia, it is time that South Africa took a broader view of its own interest

South Africa's refusal to apply the sanctions laid down by the United Nations has meant that sanctions could not by themselves have compelled the illegal regime to accept majority rule. The failure of sanctions stimulated the armed struggle. In the first few years after the illegal declaration of independence, it was hoped and believed by many hon. Members in this House that sanctions could achieve majority rule peacefully. Yet those who now spend their time castigating the Rhodesian Africans who took up the armed fight for their freedom would do well to remember that their undermining of the effectiveness of sanctions has fuelled the arms struggle.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what is the logic of not applying sanctions to South Africa yet continuing to apply them to Rhodesia? Why does he not come clean and say that we cannot afford sanctions on South Africa and, therefore, that sanctions against Rhodesia will not work?

I do not think that anyone could claim that I have tried to hide the economic background against which the sanctions policy has been developed under successive Governments. I have never believed that it is worth attempting to carry out a policy, either foreign or domestic, on the basis of trying to hide information. It is better for people to face the facts, and I have been very open about our involvement in South Africa. The logic is that I believe—as I have explained, and will continue to explain about sanctions, and hon. Members will have a chance to debate this later—that to lift sanctions would be seen as a political act at a time when I believe that it would be extremely foolish to take that act. Those hon. Members who have always held this view about sanctions ought seriously to consider the stance that they have taken over the past 13 years.

It would be totally wrong to argue now that, because sanctions failed by themselves to bring about majority rule, the maintenance of sanctions was a waste of time or, as some have alleged, a farce. Sanctions have been a clear demonstration of a national and international resolve not to accept UDI. [Interruption.] I know that Opposition Members do not like this, but they are going to hear it, because it is time the consequences of some of their actions were brought home to them. Despite the fact that a group of people have constantly refused to face this situation, this House, under successive Governments, has not been prepared to accept UDI and has not been prepared to underwrite the regime's refusal to accept majority rule. That position should be maintained.

Over the years, sanctions have had a steadily debilitating effect on the Rhodesian economy and, more recently, have been enhanced by a world recession. They have been part—only part—of the outside pressures imposed on the regime.

The wish to secure the lifting of sanctions has been an influence on, though certainty not a determinant of, the policy of the illegal regime. As the armed struggle has intensified and as world opinion has toughened, the regime has begun to shift its ground. While rejecting the inclusive settlement proposals put down by ourselves and the United States last September, it nevertheless felt obliged to work for the exclusive "internal settlement"signed in Salisbury on 3rd March. As part of that agreement we were promised elections in December. These, it appears, may not now take place and may be postponed to the spring —we are told, for technical reasons.

Yet, ever since March, private briefings to civil servants and others, not only from Mr. Smith and Mr. Van der Byl, but from other members of the regime, have demonstrated that they at least had little intention of keeping to the December date. So it comes as little surprise to those who doubted their sincerity that the election date may now be postponed.

To those in this House—and there are some—who genuinely feel that the internal settlement could still enable fair and free elections to be held in a manner which could satisfy the Africans on the basis of the fifth principle—we can never rule out this possibility—there are very strong arguments for maintaining sanctions. Otherwise, the elections may be postponed from December, possibly never to take place. Sanctions were never relaxed throughout the period of successive Governments and throughout even the period of the Pearce Commission. To lift sanctions now would be to give up the one peaceful pressure that we have, first, for a proper negotiation at an all-party conference and, secondly, to honour even the terms of the internal agreement of 3rd March.

To those in this House who genuinely believe that the internal agreement cannot provide a settlement capable of being endorsed by this House, that elections cannot be fair in the present atmosphere of violence and martial law, and that only an all-party conference followed by agreement on the basis of the Anglo-American plan can provide for a genuine transfer of power to majority rule acceptable to the people of Rhodesia as a whole, there are, similarly, very strong arguments for continuing the pressure of sanctions. Those in this House, however, who support Mr. Smith, and have done so for very many years, will continue to argue for the lifting of sanctions. They will be joined by others who appear to believe that they now know what the people of Rhodesia as a whole want. The Pearce Commission's findings are a reminder of the dangers for us in this House of trying to interpret the minds of the Rhodesian people.

At the time, many people thought that it was a simple matter for the Pearce Commission to report that proposals negotiated by Sir Alec Douglas-Home were favoured by the people of Rhodesia. The real argument of many of those in this country who want sanctions lifted is that they do not want—some never have wanted—genuine majority rule.

The right hon. Gentleman has made many references to people, such as myself, who have held these views. Will he help us, and perhaps the House, by clarifying our minds and his own about what he means by majority rule? Will he relate it to something that he sees in one of the African countries around Rhodesia?

There is a country which has shown a good example of majority rule and democracy which happens to be alongside Rhodesia—Botswana.

But what is acceptable is the fifth principle. It is the fifth principle which successive Members of this House have subscribed to, and that is a judgment on the question whether something is acceptable to the people of Rhodesia as a whole. It is this to which we have resolutely stuck throughout this period.

The hon. and learned Gentleman and his hon. Friends have, publicly or privately, supported the regime against their own party policy or against their own Government when their party was in power, and some even supported the regime before UDI. They justify the regime every twist and turn, and they lend credence and respectability to the endless attacks on the integrity of this country. Where is their patriotism? Each year when the sanctions debate arrives they seek different arguments to justify their basic position, wholly unable to come to terms with the need for a genuine transfer of power.

The hon. and learned Gentleman poses the question what is majority rule as if he were a living example of someone who has held out for years and years for the principle of majority rule. To give him credit, he has been quite open about his position. Nobody who has been in the House over the past 10 years can be under any illusion about where the hon. and learned Gentleman stands on the issue.

Since 3rd March and the internal settlement the Rhodesian situation has sharply deteriorated. The violence has increased. Nearly 4,000 people have lost their lives within Rhodesia, while an estimated 3,000 people in neighbouring countries have been killed in the war so far this year—and that estimate may well be wrong.

Of the 3,000 primary schools in Rhodesia, 900 are now closed, and martial law is declared over roughly half the country. In whole areas of the country the Rhodesian security forces do not venture. Many of the tribal trust lands are near to being abandoned. Censorship ensures that our own newspaper and television reporting is totally inadequate, and many distinguished British reporters have been thrown out since UDI. It is hard to ensure objective reporting. The news comes from Salisbury, but the real news story is the situation outside Salisbury.

We are in grave danger in this House, and in the country, of underestimating the deterioration since March. The Catholic Institute for International Relations has produced an analysis of the situation which gives a very different account from that which we read in British newspapers. It concludes that
"the signing of the internal agreement in March 1978—because of its inherent defects— simply intensified and prolonged the struggle".
The internal settlement, we were told by the signatories to the March agreement, had the support of the Rhodesian people. We were told that they were in contact with the liberation fighters and that they would influence them to return to Rhodesia. We were told that the war would wind down and that elections in December were a firm commitment. It is utter nonsense to pretend now that a failure to achieve these objectives can be laid at the door of the British and American Governments. Even if we had given wholehearted and enthusiastic support to the March agreement, as some hon. Members wish, and had taken sides and tried to buttress the agreement, it would not have made it any more attractive to the Rhodesian people, and probably would have hardened opposition to it. Within weeks our credibility would have been damaged by the Byron Hove incident, we would have been identified with the regime, and our credibility would have been undermined month by month, as has the credibility of Bishop Muzorewa and Rev. Ndabaningi Sithole. Our policy would have been identified with the minority whites and we would have had no standing in the world and no influence to bring about a negotiated settlement with all the parties.

To act now, as some hon. Gentlemen appear to want, in defiance of mandatory resolutions of the Security Council which we proposed and which successive British Governments have supported, would have the most serious repercussions on our political and economic interests throughout Africa and, I dare say, the world. It would certainly destroy once and for all our ability to contribute to a negotiated settlement.

We and the United States Government have put forward our own detailed proposals for a negotiated settlement to focus discussion at a conference but not to exclude other proposals. The proposals offer three options: A, B and C. All depend on full agreement by all the parties and a viable ceasefire. A and C options involve elections after six months, followed by independence. Option B is more controversial. It involves a referendum within three months on the basis of a fixed agreed date for elections and an outline independence constitution.

If endorsed, independence would be granted provided this House was satisfied that the fifth principle had been upheld prior to elections. If rejected, elections would automatically follow within six months, and independence would follow elections. The British and United States Governments have made it clear that they prefer options A or C. Option B was included in an attempt to satisfy those who would prefer self-government as soon as possible and the presence of a neutral resident commissioner for as short a period as it takes for a referendum to be organised.

I would be interested to hear the views of this House on option B and on this issue. Option B has already been criti- cised by some of the parties, and we have our own doubts about its merits. The proposals give the detail of a transitional constitution for a council with executive and legislative powers which could be enacted by an Order in Council under the legislative authority given under section 2 of the Southern Rhodesia Act 1965, which will be debated tomorrow night.

We believe that the council must not give dominance to either the Executive Council or the Patriotic Front if we are to develop the basically neutral transition which is essential for a ceasefire to be agreed and fair elections held. We envisage an agreed figure as commissioner being appointed to hold executive authority for all the forces of law and order with a United Nations military force and a United Nations police monitoring unit. We have made detailed proposals for integrating the forces, put by Field Marshal Lord Carver to all the parties, not as a blueprint but as a basis for further negotiations.

The whole framework depends on agreement. It cannot be imposed, and in the last analysis, if all the parties can agree to any alternative proposals, the British and United States Governments and, I believe, this House will not stand in the way. It is for the Rhodesian people and all those who intend to live in Zimbabwe to decide their destiny. [Interruption.] It is no one particular group, and there are no vetoes.

We can point the way. We can indicate what we feel is negotiable. But we are not the sole arbiters. We stand by the all-important fifth principle. It is for the people of Rhodesia as a whole fairly and freely to decide.

The Government will, therefore, in the formal debate on the order providing for the renewal of section 2 of the Southern Rhodesia Act 1965, be asking this House to approve that order.

The most important task for Britain and the United States, having forsworn force and therefore having influence rather than power—a point which the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) has often made—is to continue, despite all the obvious difficulties, to work for a negotiated settlement. We cannot change the minds of men. The regime can continue to berate the British and American Governments, but this hostility convinces fewer and fewer people even in Rhodesia.

What more can they do, the regime ask? The answer is clear: face reality; stop blaming everyone but yourselves; stop ignoring the evidence of the widespread hostility to the internal settlement. The parties to the Salisbury agreement who have persistently refused since April to come to an all-party conference must now recognise by their actions that the Patriotic Front, which has been ready to come to a conference since April—

The hon. Gentleman can call out "humbug" if he likes. However, it is a fact that the Patriotic Front has been ready to come to a conference since April. We shall now face difficulties in getting members of the Patriotic Front to a conference because they will not be bombed into submission. Launching offensive raids deep into Zambia on the very day one at long last accepts a conference is not the best way of ensuring success at the conference, let alone ensuring the attendance of the other parties.

If a negotiated settlement is wanted—I am pointing to the atmosphere which has to be developed on all sides—it is time that Mr. Smith recognised, too, that accepting an invitation to come to a conference without proconditions means that one cannot simultaneously, first, rule out proposals for a neutral figure to hold executive power over the forces of law and order during the transition; second, rule out, as the basis for a ceasefire, serious proposals for integrating the forces currently fighting each other, by saying that that will dismantle the existing forces; third, rule out the presence of a neutral United Nations force during the transition aimed at helping to maintain law and order at a particularly vulnerable time; and, fourth, when Britain and the United States have fought against any party demanding dominance and fought against the Patriotic Front in its demand for dominance, insist on a transitional authority on the basis of the existing Executive Council with two additional seats for the Patriotic Front. Equally, he cannot insist that legislative power should remain in the hands of the Rhodesian Front parliament. If they genuinely want to end the fighting, restore legality and lift sanctions, the Salisbury parties will have to develop a more flexible negotiating position than that.

Everyone will have to compromise to make a negotiated settlement possible The compromise will either come from submission of one side through force of arms or from persuasion, with both sides recognising the horrors of a continued conflict. Britain cannot impose a settlement. We shall not, in 1978, interpose ourselves between the forces currently fighting each other and assume an administrative responsibility we have never held and which we rejected in 1965. We shall contribute fully to a negotiated settlement and to fair and free elections, but we shall not commit British troops or a British presence until there is a settlement and a ceasefire, and only as part of an international force.

We shall continue to work with the United States, our European partners, our African and Commonwealth friends and the United Nations to bring to bear the influence of the international community. We shall convene an all-party conference the moment that we think there is a chance of success. We shall not wait for certain success. We shall seek to narrow the differences and widen the areas of agreement. Above all, we shall stand by the fifth principle endorsed by this House and successive Governments and embraced in the broad framework of the proposals that we have recently put, with the United States Government, to all the parties. This is the way to the fair and free elections that I believe everyone in this House wants.

4.52 p.m.

I beg to move, at the end of the Question. to add:

But humbly regret that, hearing in mind the manifest inadequacy of the Government's policies towards Rhodesia, the measures outlined in the Gracious Speech are incapable of creating the conditions in which free and fair elections can be held as the only basis of a peaceful and orderly transfer of power to a democratic majority in that country.
I should like, first, to thank the Foreign Secretary for the kind words he said about John Davies at the start of his speech. I know that the whole House will be extremely sad and sympathetic at the news of his retirement from the House. He is one of the most civilised and delightful of men and greatly respected here and far outside. I am sure that everyone wishes him a steady recovery to good health.

Having been asked to act in the place of John Davies for the time being, I approach the subject of Rhodesia with a strong sense of humility, more especially because I was not one of those who went to Rhodesia in the course of the recess. So much is at stake and so many mistakes have been made. If we do not handle the matter of Rhodesia wisely now, the consequences for us and the free world will be grave. I want to say at the outset that, as far as we on the Opposition Benches are concerned, this debate is not the fulfilment of the Government's undertaking, given in the recess, for a debate specifically on the Bingham report. Of course that report has relevance to the debate, but it is about the past, as the right hon. Gentleman's speech showed. His speech about it, which I think took about 45 minutes, sounded something of a reluctant apologia and hardly appropriate to a debate upon the Gracious Speech, which is about the future.

Today and tomorrow we are concerned with the whole Rhodesian crisis and the future of that country. That is the debate for which the Opposition asked and which the Government have facilitated. The right hon. Gentleman hardly addressed himself to it at all. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Only for the last few minutes. What he did say I found profoundly disturbing. It seemed to me that he was asking everyone except himself to compromise.

We asked for this debate because, obviously, Rhodesia is by far the most critical problem that faces us internationally. The strategic importance of Central and Southern Africa to Europe and the free world could scarcely be exaggerated. [An HON. MEMBER: "Including Zambia."] Including Zambia. In Southern Africa a condition of war exists, certainly civil war. The risks and the dangers are frightening and fill us with foreboding. Thousands have lost their lives already, many of them in a horrible way. The death toll continues, it is said, at the rate of one death every hour.

The anxiety we all feel was well described in this House in the debate in August, and since then things have got worse. It is the black Africans who have suffered the most through the atrocities committed by the guerrillas against their fellow Africans. In the first nine months of this year, nearly 4,000 people were killed in the guerrilla war inside Rhodesia, and 800 were killed in September alone. This compares with some 6,700 in the previous five years. In addition, many hundreds have been killed in the attacks of the Rhodesian security forces on guerrilla camps in Mozambique and Zambia.

The very existence of those camps poses a threat to a peaceful settlement in Rhodesia now being sought by the transitional Government, and, of course, they cannot ignore them. Hundreds of schools have been either shut or destroyed, affecting at least 200,000 black children, as a result of the violence, and, as well as human beings, large numbers of cattle have died because the veterinary services have largely broken down—again, because of the violence.

That is the grim position we have now reached. The worse the fighting gets, the more difficult it becomes to resolve the conflict. For the Foreign Secretary it must be far more than acutely worrying. I do not want to challenge his intention to bring about a multi-racial democracy and he has had better opportunities, perhaps, of bringing it about than existed previously—but the inescapable fact is that his policies have, however unfortunately, led to failure—failure to reduce the fighting, failure to start talks, failure to get a settlement.

The right hon. Gentleman has admitted today that the situation is worse. However hard he has tried, however sure he may have been that he was right to handle the civil war—the struggle for power—in the way he has, the hard fact of his achievement is that he has made matters worse. Nothing in his speech today was hopeful or constructive for the future. As far as I can find out, in the time that I have been considering these matters intently he seems scarcely to have a friend anywhere in the world, and that is a position of weakness.

I do not want to take up the time of the House by listing the Foreign Secretary's errors and misjudgments as we see them, but I shall summarise them. First, he has clung with far too rigid an adherence to the Anglo-American proposals. Some of those proposals had sense—for example, a United Kingdom presence in Rhodesia. I should have thought that there was everything to be said for a United Kingdom presence and representation there. At least on that principle we can agree. But in the Anglo-American plan the detail of even that caused controversy when, surely, it need not have done so. The fact remains that the Foreign Secretary has so far failed to establish such a presence.

Other Anglo-American proposals always seemed to us so unacceptable and unrealistic that the package as a whole was suspect from the start. It does not require a highly sensitive man to understand why the proposals for the security forces could not be appropriate and could not be acceptable. It is so self-evident that, by pursuing the idea, the Foreign Secretary, in effect, torpedoed himself from the start. His second major blunder was that, from 3rd March onwards, he has shunned the internal settlement. When one thinks of the history of it, that settlement was a big stride forward, ending the struggle of black versus white and bringing with it the prospect that at long last real progress would be made. The Foreign Secretary's reaction to the settlement has been not to grasp it, not to support it, not to build on it, but to spurn it and to give the impression that there was no good in it, and apparently almost to frustrate it, while at the same time pretending that he was not doing that.

I do not understand how that attitude could hope to make progress towards a settlement possible. The interests and passions of the various sides to the dispute are, as we know well, very different and equally strong. Somehow, they have to be reconciled. When any of the parties moves its ground significantly and produces a substantially new or changed position—in this case, the provisional settlement, which contains many of the very elements for which this House has long been asking—it seems a negation of common sense for the Government not to take hold of it thankfully and positively and to build on it.

The principle of majority rule had been conceded already.

The right hon. Gentleman claims that my right hon. Friend is isolated in his attitude to the internal settlement. Is he aware of the view taken of this settlement by the Commonwealth, the United Nations and the entire continent of Africa?

Yes, I am, and no doubt if the hon. Gentleman catches your eye, Mr. Speaker, he will be able to express his views about it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ah."] I will come to all these points —the United Nations and all—so hon. Members need not get fussed about it.

As I say, this internal settlement contained many of the elements for which we had long been asking. The principle of majority rule had already been conceded. The firm intention to hold democratic elections was declared and racial discrimination is now being ended. The other side of this coin is, of course, the persistent bias that the right hon. Gentleman has shown in favour of the Patriotic Front, one of whose partners has proclaimed his aim to be the establishment of a single-party Marxist State. A balanced position was what was needed, not a biased one.

The Foreign Secretary described Mr. Nkomo recently as "the father of his people". That seemed strange when we saw Mr. Nkomo on television apparently laughing about the shooting down of the Viscount, about which the Prime Minister said this afternoon he would make no protest. That is not exactly a paternal attitude—

That really is not fair, is it? I did not say that I would not make a protest. I made my view clear at the time. What I said was that it was not the responsibility of President Kaunda, so I did not protest to him. However. I went on to say that President Kaunda thought that this was a matter of moral concern so far as he was concerned, and he would not support in any way attacks on civilians by Mr. Nkomo's forces or by anybody else.

I have no wish whatever to misrepresent what the Prime Minister said about that. [HON. MEMBERS: "But you did."] He said this afternoon that he would not make any protest and he has now explained what he meant by that. This description—

With respect, I have not added anything to what I said at Question Time. I should be grateful, therefore, if the right hon. Gentleman would not try to give the impression that I am adding something or explaining something that I failed to do at Question Time.

We shall, of course, see Hansard in the morning.

The description that the Foreign Secretary used about Mr. Nkomo has had no effect whatever in the way of causing Mr. Nkomo to come to the conference table, to play his part—and a very important part—in achieving a democratic settlement in Rhodesia. Anyway, who is the Foreign Secretary to say, what right has he to judge who are the fathers of the people of Rhodesia? He said himself this afternoon that there was difficulty in interpreting the minds of the Rhodesians, so he should apply that standard to himself as well. At any rate, one result of the right hon. Gentleman's mishandling is the statement of Mr. Nkomo that the only talks would be on the battlefield —the very opposite of what the right hon. Gentleman says he himself wants.

This brings me to the last criticism that I wish to make today of the right hon. Gentleman. The one remaining crucial principle out of the six principles which has to be satisfied is the fifth—the test of acceptability. The actual result of the Foreign Secretary's policies has been to make it more difficult for that test to be carried out—and that is the very heart of the problem, as he himself said at the end of his speech. What is worse, he has put at risk—I put it no higher than that and no lower—the fulfilment of the fifth principle. I hope that I am wrong, but that is what it looks like to me.

Since our last debate, there have been several major developments, of which the Bingham report, of course, is one. It has an immediate relevance, even though it concerns events which began over a decade ago. The Government were abso- lutely right—we totally support them—to publish it. I do not intend to take this occasion to pass judgment on those events, but one point has to be made if one is to give an objective assessment, as the Foreign Secretary himself tried to do, namely, that the report has exposed the ineffectiveness of sanctions as a general policy.

But there must be no question of sweeping those findings under the carpet. The report has exposed something which could be described as a scandal, which calls into question nothing less than the integrity of government. The Opposition, like the Government, will certainly wish to consider all the views that are expressed in this and any subsequent debate. However, we think that a tribunal under the 1921 Act would be quite inappropriate.

How much more any further inquisition of any kind would reveal is uncertain. However, if such is thought necessary, as well it may be, our preliminary view is that it should be of a parliamentary kind, because the issue is wholly political and the buck stops in this House. It is a parliamentary matter because it is concerned essentially with the relationship between Ministers and this House. We therefore think that it should be confined to this House.

However, as I have said, we do not regard it as satisfactory that this report can be debated in depth and detail as part of a general debate on the Rhodesian crisis.

Another important and recent development has been the spread of the war to Zambia and the supply of arms by this Government. As my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) said on 2nd August, referring to the war:
"there is no guarantee that it can be confined to Rhodesia. There is no guarantee that it will be confined to Southern Africa".— [Official Report, 2nd August 1978; Vol. 955, c. 835.]
No longer is it confined to Rhodesia, and our anxiety now is about the danger of spreading the war further by the Government's own contribution of arms.

Although it was not clear at the time, it is clear now—the Prime Minister spelt this out this afternoon—that this was part of an understanding reached at Kano. We still know very little about the deal that was struck then. The House is entitled to know and certainly wants to, because it relates directly to the securing of a settlement in Rhodesia.

The announcement of the arms decision came not after the meeting, as might have been expected, but later and after the Rhodesian raid on guerrilla bases in Zambia. It has therefore caused genuine suspicions and fears which have not yet been allayed. Of course the Zambian president is entitled to obtain arms for the defence of his country—in fact one might say that it would be his duty so to do—and we would rather he had those arms from us, but, so far as the British Government's decision to supply them in this instance is concerned, we have to be satisfied that there are real safeguards against the release of those or other weapons for use by the guerrillas.

It is the existence of those guerrilla bases in Zambia which makes the Government's decision controversial. That is the point which my lion. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) is making.

Will my right hon. Friend insist on this further assurance—that those arms should not be used to provide protection for the bases in which guerrillas are trained to invade Rhodesia and kill Her Majesty's subjects?

That was very similar to one of the questions I put to the Foreign Secretary at Question Time the other day. That is part of the information and knowledge of the deal which was struck, of which we are still ignorant and with which I have asked the Government to provide us.