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Commons Chamber

Volume 975: debated on Tuesday 11 December 1979

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House Of Commons

Tuesday 11 December 1979

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

West Midlands County Council Bill Lords (By Order)

Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question proposed [ 28 June],

That the Bill be now considered.

Debate further adjourned till Thursday.

Tyne And Wear Bill Lords (By Order)

Order for Second Reading read.

To be read a Second time upon Thursday.

Oral Answers To Questions

Untitled Debate

I appeal for brief supplementary questions to help us to make better progress.

Social Services

Hospital Closures


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he has now reconsidered his letter of 22 August to the chairman of the North-West Thames regional health authority on the subject of consultation on closures as promised by his hon. Friend the Minister for Health on 13 November; and, if so, whether he will confirm that that letter was meant to apply to very short-term closures of small sub-units.

Temporary closure should not be a way of avoiding consultation. When a substantial temporary closure has to be made without prior consultation, the authority is still expected to consult afterwards if there is any danger of the closure becoming lasting.

Is the Minister aware that while he has been making conciliatory noises on the question of consultation about closures, the Secretary of State has been adopting a hard line on the matter? Will the hon. Gentleman do his best to ensure that his view prevails?

I am not aware that there is any difference of view between my right hon. Friend and myself.

The Minister will be aware that in my constituency a hospital in perfect condition, with 230 beds, has been closed without consultation. That closure has caused great hardship and pain. Will the Minister state what consultations took place? Will he also define "temporary"?

In a few cases the authorities—I am not saying that that is one of them—may have misunderstood the position initially. For that reason we issued clarification guidance.

I do not believe that it would be helpful to try to define the word "temporary". A closure is temporary so long as no other alternative is brought forward.

The Government have been compounding confusion in this matter. First, the Secretary of State issued a letter of guidance which was supposed not to change the position. It could have fooled hon. Members. Then the Minister made statements which are more acceptable, but which the community health councils consider to be different from those of his right hon. Friend. The Minister is now issuing further guidance which may confuse matters. Why does not the Minister state firmly that the practices of previous Ministers should be followed? My right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) and his constituents will then know where they stand.

Order. My request for brief supplementary questions. applied to Front Bench as well as to Back-Bench speakers.

I do not accept the lengthy allegations of the right hon. Gentleman. Much of the chaos could have been avoided had there been clearer guidelines from the previous Government.

Residential Accommodation (Mentally Handicapped Persons)


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many mentally handicapped persons in each of the Rotherham, Doncaster and Barnsley area health authority areas would require residential accommodation if they were not being cared for by their elderly parents; and if he will make a statement on his policy regarding the provision of accommodation when these parents can no longer look after their children.

The figures requested are not held centrally. The hon. Member may wish to ask the area health authorities concerned what information they hold. We believe that it is often best for mentally handicapped people to live at home and it is therefore our aim to ensure that support is provided to families with a mentally handicapped member to enable them to cope for as long as possible. Satisfactory residential or hospital accommodation, appropriate to their needs, should be provided for those mentally handicapped people no longer able to live at home.

A report issued by the Rotherham area health authority states that there are approximately 400 mentally handicapped adults in that area. That means that there are thousands of parents in the country who are disturbed about what will happen to their sons and daughters when there is no parental care. What will the Government do about that? The cuts in expenditure on the Health Service will mean that there will be no help for these children when their parents die.

I am aware of the CHC report to which the hon. Gentleman referred. The report is now being considered by the Rotherham area health authority. In Doncaster and Rotherham there are no urgent cases awaiting long-term care. There is only one patient in Barnsley urgently awaiting admission for long-term care.

The Minister says that the area health authority should provide residential accommodation for mentally handicapped persons whose parents can no longer care for them. Has he taken into account the need to provide them with the necessary resources to do so? Will not that be more difficult in the light of the Government's policy on public expenditure?

No. Building of new hospital units for 96 adults and 24 children is due to start in Barnsley next year. The Doncaster and Rotherham AHAs already provide a comprehensive service for mentally handicapped people in their areas.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.

National Health Service (Reorganisation)


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when he will implement his proposals for the administrative streamlining of the Health Service; and if the plans will include the abolition of Derbyshire area health authority.


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make a statement about the progress of his consultations on changes to the administrative structure of the National Health Service.

We have today published our proposals to streamline the structure and management of the National Health Service in England and Wales in a consultative paper entitled "Patients First". It would not be appropriate for me at this stage to speculate about the future of specific area health authorities.

May we have an assurance that the Government will use an axe, rather than tweezers, on those health authorities that prefer to close hospitals than to cut their own waste and inefficiency? Is it not true that under proper management there wouldbe more than enough cash to provide better facilities for patients in need?

We believe that the closer that management decisions are taken to the point of patient care the more likely it is that patients' interests will predominate. Our proposals are designed to strengthen management at the local hospital level and to bring health authorities closer to the people.

I welcome my right hon. Friend's announcement, but is he aware that there is considerable feeling that the Health Service is over-weighted in administration and that those who work with those who suffer in our society are becoming increasingly separated, in terms of experience and salary, from those who take the decisions? Is my right hon. Friend aware that urgencyis necessary in order to save the morale of the NHS?

I entirely accept what my hon. Friend says. If he reads the consultative document he will see that our proposals are designed to deal with precisely those problems.

We note that the Secretary of State is to attempt to put right the disastrous reorganisation carried out by the present Secretary of State for Industry. Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether the House will be able to debate the consultative document and the Royal Commission report before the Second Reading of the Health Services Bill?

The question of debates is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. On the right hon. Gentleman's substantive question, a great deal of benefit flowed from the unification of the primary care, community and hospital services, which was one of the principal objectives of the 1974 reform. However, there is now common consent that the Service has an over-elaborate structure and planning system and that decisions are taken too far away from the point of patient care. We have published today proposals to put that right.

Will my right hon. Friend take into account, when considering streamlining the NHS, the growing number of recent reports about ancillary workers who are apparently overpaid, under worked and not pulling their weight within the NHS? If the reports are true, is not the position that they reveal grossly unfair on the majority of workers in the NHS, medical and others, who are doing a good job? Will my right hon. Friend tell us what action he proposes to take in light of those reports?

I too have read the reports, and I regard them as disturbing. However, they are no great surprise. The primary need—and this is the central point in the document published today—is to strengthen management at the local level—and by that I mean in the hospital and the community. I stress "management" because I agree with what was said to me a few months ago by a wise hospital head porter who remarked "The trouble with the Health Service is that there is too much administration and not enough management".

I agree with what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme).Will the Secretary of State admit that there is something rather cheeky about a paper entitled "Patients First" being produced by a Government who have just put up prescription charges to 70p and have squeezed the NHS of money for patients more than any previous Government?

If I wanted lessons on how to manage the NHS, I am not sure that I would go to the right hon. Gentleman. He knows that even 70p, which will apply from next April, is no bigger a proportion of the cost of a prescription than was the 20p charge when it was introduced in 1971. We are doing no more than keeping the charge level with the rising costs of prescriptions.

Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that in the local units to which he referred the trade unions that organise doctors, technicians and nurses are represented?

No. We are putting forward the proposal that we should not follow up the suggestion of, I think, Mrs. Barbara Castle that there should be automatic representation of staff interests on health authorities. It is noteworthy that in the five years since she made that proposal, during which time a Labour Government were in power, no one succeeded in even bringing forward for consultation a procedure under which that proposal could be implemented. Our view is that staff interests are more properly taken account of in proper joint consultation procedures. We lay great emphasis on that.

Social Services (Expenditure)


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he has received representations from local authority directors of social services about their budget for 1980–81.

Is the Secretary of State aware that the majority of directors of social services are appalled at his insistence that the recipients of social services—the elderly and the sick—have to pay a disproportionate share of the cost of the tax cuts that the Government have given to the wealthy? When will the right hon. Gentleman standup in the Cabinet and fight for the poorest sections of the community?

Perhaps I may commend to the hon. Gentleman and those on behalf of whom he has asked his question an article in Social Work Today at the end of October by a young residential social worker, Mr. Keith White. He says:

"it is deplorable to argue that the social services are being run as efficiently and economically as possible and that therefore nothing can be streamlined. This is naïve and untrue. There are glaring examples of inefficient administration and delivery of the social services."

Will the Secretary of State admit that his disgraceful decision to abolish the Personal Social Services Council was taken because the council was ably pointing out the detrimental effects of the cuts in social services? From whom will the Government get advice on social services—and they are badly in need of advice—now that they have decided to abolish the body set up by the present Secretary of State for Industry?

The impression that I have formed in the past six months is that the Government are not short of advice on the personal social services. We have to see whether we are getting that advice in the most efficient and effective way and without undue overlapping. The Personal Social Services Council has had a number of years of experience and I have concluded that we can probably get advice through other, professional, channels as effectively, and perhaps more effectively. If a body has not proved itself to be essential, I do not believe that the public ought to go on paying for it.

Is the Secretary of State aware that the British Association of Social Workers, of which Social Work Today is the journal, is launching a massive campaign against the Government's cuts in social services? I am a member of the association, which is horrified that many elderly people will probably die this winter who would have stayed alive if the Government had not come to power.

I commend to the hon. Gentleman a further proposition put by Mr. White in his article:

"In the wake of the social work strikes and the emotional harm they inflicted on clients, doesn't the present demand for compassion on the part of others have that hint of hypocrisy?"

I am sure that in issuing the directive to the directors of social services my right hon. Friend had in mind that the problem is that these departments are heavily over laden with administrative personnel. Will he state that the action of the Government in asking for cuts in the social services is principally directed towards administrative personnel and not at the elderly and the sick?

My hon. Friend will know that in paragraph 38 of the White Paper we said that the Government expected that savings would, as far as possible, be made by further increases in efficiency. I hope that both elected members and professional heads of departments are doing their utmost to achieve that.

Free Welfare Milk And Prescriptions


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is the estimated take-up rate of those entitled to free welfare milk and prescriptions and if he will undertake publicity campaigns to improve this take-up rate.

I estimate that for most categories of beneficiary the take-up is 95 per cent. or above. For those entitled to claim on grounds of income the take-up has always been small and now stands at about 4 per cent. The Government already publicise the benefits in a variety of ways and the question of any further publicity would have to be considered in the light of other work and the resources available.

Is the Minister aware that the take-up of free welfare milk was only about 1·8 per cent. in 1977? As these figures will no longer be worked out, according to the Secretary of State, we shall never know what the trend is. That means that about 600,000 families are being deprived of what they should receive in order to maintain family nutriments for proper subsistence. What will the Minister do about this deplorable situation?

It is 96 per cent. for supplementary benefit recipients, 98 per cent. for family income supplement recipients, and 100 per cent. for handicapped children not registered at school. The 4 per cent. applies only to those claiming on low-income grants. Nothing said by my right hon. Friend yesterday affects their position.

Is it not a fact that the situation with regard to prescriptions is disturbing? There is a great shortfall in the number of people taking up their entitlement to free prescriptions. Does not this draw attention to the recommendations of the Royal Commission that all charges in the National Health Service, including prescription charges, should be abolished forthwith?

No, Sir. Information is available on every prescription form about exemption from charges. Posters giving this information are available in doctors' surgeries, health clinics, chemists, hospitals and local DHSS and family practitioner offices, and it is also made known on leaflets that are available from post offices, DHSS offices, and family practitioner committees.

Is the Minister aware that the cuts in school meals, transport and housing, the increases in electricity charges, and now welfare foods, are aimed at large families where the husband is working? These cuts are being made by a Government who talk about incentives for people at work. What does the Minister say about that?

I repeat that nothing that my right hon. Friend announced yesterday about free welfare milk affects anyone entitled to free milk on the ground of low income.

Retirement Pension


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will give extra financial help to retirement pensioners in view of the substantial increase in the cost of a television licence.

My right hon. Friend has no proposals to make a special payment for this purpose. But the recent increase in the cost of television licences will be reflected in the general index of retail prices and, to that extent, it will be taken into account with other price increases when the rates of retirement pension are next reviewed.

Is the Minister aware that, particularly at Christmas, countless thousands of old-age pensioners will regard themselves as the victims of a cruel deception? The Minister's Department is giving them £10 with one hand, and his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is taking it back with another. What kind of Christmas gift is that for old-age pensioners?

No, Sir. I think that there was an attempt at cruel deception by the Labour Party when it promised pensioners free television licences, without saying where the money would come from.

Will my right hon. Friend consider what is a sore point, namely that some pensioners pay the full rate for a TV licence while others, living almost next door, do not pay a licence fee at all? This is an anomaly. Will my right hon. Friend look into it?

I assume that my hon. Friend is talking about old persons' homes, for which a small licence fee was introduced in 1969 not as a welfare concession but to correct an anomaly in the licensing of those homes.

I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he is the last person to talk about deception. Will he accept that if we are to wait until there is a further uprating of pensions nearly a year will pass between the recent announcement of the increase in the television licence fee and the Government's taking action to uprate pensions?

It is in the nature of pension upratings that between one uprating and the next 12 months later, the cost of living will increase. That is why the fight against inflation is our most important fight, on behalf of pensioners as well as the rest of the community.

Maternity Grant


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will give his estimate of the cost of making the maternity grant non-contributory.

With the grant at its present level the additional gross cost would be £1½ million a year. This would be offset by an estimated £300,000 paid out by the Supplementary Benefits Commission in lieu of the grant.

As the grant at present goes to everybody except those who need it most, will the Government consider making the maternity grant non-contributory at the earliest possible moment?

As I said in the House on 23 November, the Government are giving the proposal careful consideration, and an announcement will be made when that consideration is completed.

Is the hon. Lady aware that the perinatal mortality rate in then on-contributory group is five times that in class 1? Does she realise that any delay will mean that five times the number of babies born in that group will either be born either dead or with a severe handicap?

The hon. Gentleman is right to point out that there is a problem here. However, we are in danger of creating too strong a link between the level of the grant and the perinatal mortality figures. Probably the more important figures are those that relate to the biological effects of deprivation and poor nutrition in early childhood and the effects of smoking and poor housing in adult life.

Are the Secretary of State and his Ministers aware that in my constituency an officer of the Department is alleged to have said that the Government are seriously considering abolishing certain benefits, and that the maternity grant is one of them?

The House knows that many claims are made by certain people for their own reasons in various constituencies. If the hon. Gentleman will let me know what this claim is, I shall look into it.



asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will permit certification of pneumoconiosis for disability pension purposes by two general practitioners.

No, Sir. The diagnosis of pneumoconiosis requires special skill in the reading of radiographs and interpreting the results of clinical examination and lung function tests which pneumoconiosis medical panel doctors have acquired, together with specialist knowledge of the disease in all its forms, through dealing with thousands of cases every year. General practitioners do not have this special training or experience in industrial chest diseases.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that in the mining valleys of Wales there is deep distress that the pneumoconiosis medical tribunals are turning down many more applicants than before? About 70 per cent. are rejected, compared with 30 per cent. previously. Will the right hon. Gentleman take seriously what was put to him by the deputation that came to see him? Will he review the matter and take a more sympathetic attitude to those suffering from pneumoconiosis?

I listened carefully to the deputation, but my confidence in the professional ability and integrity of the doctors who serve on the panels is not shaken in any way. Fewer claims are now succeeding because safety precautions have improved in coal mining and other industries which involve a risk of dust disease. Fewer miners are therefore contracting the disease. I should have thought that that would be welcome news to us all.

If the diagnosis of pneumoconiosis requires specialist skill and knowledge, as the Minister claims, why are some panels staffed by junior doctors, some of whom need refresher courses in chest medicine? Why do no people with full-time consultant status serve on the panels? Will the Minister accept the suggestion that there should be one doctor and one full-time consultant on each panel?

No, Sir, I shall not. Ever since the industrial injuries scheme was founded in 1948 claims for benefit for industrial accidents or industrial diseases have been decided by properly appointed adjudicating panels. That system has stood the test of time. The right hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) does not come up to his usual standards when he makes attacks against professional people, who give good service to the community and who are not in a position to answer him back.

Has any advance been made in the diagnosis of asbestosis during the life of the patient? Is my right hon. Friend aware that this disease is as debilitating as pneumoconiosis and that it is difficult to diagnose until after death?

I need notice of that question. If my hon. Friend tables another question or writes to me on the matter I shall answer him.

Supplementary Benefit


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what was the increase in the number of people dependent on supplementary benefit between December 1973 and December 1978.

No direct comparison of the statistics is possible because of a change in the method of estimation, but the number of claimants and their dependants went up by about 700,000.

Does my hon. Friend agree that those figures, together with other means-tested benefit figures, lend support to the immortal words of the former hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak Mr. Litterick, when earlier this summer he said that the present Government have a long way to go before their contribution to the sum total of human misery equals the last Labour Government's contribution?

Given that deplorable increase in the number of people who are dependent on supplementary benefit, why are the Government in their White Paper on reforming supplementary benefit procedures planning to cut benefits to 1,750,000 people? Is that the Government's way of reducing the number of people receiving supplementary benefit?

The hon. Gentleman knows that the 1,750,000 people to whom he referred are mainly single people, who will lose between 25p and 40p at the time of an upgrading in order to bring national insurance benefits and supplementary benefits into line. If we are to achieve a simplification of our social security system we must at some stage, as the previous Government well know, align national insurance and supplementary benefits.

Do not the figures indicate that when the Labour Party continues to inveigh against the evils of selective benefits under the social security system they are guilty of humbug, or worse?

Nobody can provide the perfect answer to these grave problems. I notice a great difference between what was said by Labour Members when they were in government and the line that they now take.

In the light of the swingeing reductions in public expenditure and rampant monetarism, can the Minister say what the increase in the number of people drawing supplementary benefit will be between December 1979 and December 1980?

I cannot speculate on unknown figures. Inevitably, some people will have no entitlement to unemployment benefit and may therefore have to claim supplementary benefit. I am not able to speculate, and it would be wrong to mislead the House by so doing.

Hospital Waiting Lists


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what was the estimated increase in the number of people awaiting admission to hospitals between 1974 and 1979.

On 31 December 1974, a total of 517,424 people were awaiting admission to National Health Service hospitals in England, compared with 752,422 on 31 March 1979, the latest date for which figures are available. That is an increase of 234, 998.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the figures are an appalling indictment of the National Health Service when presided over by the Labour Party? Do not the figures compare unfavourably with those of our European partners? Can my hon. Friend offer hope that the waiting lists will be diminished, as they were when we were last in government?

Yes. I believe that we shall reduce waiting lists. Britain is the only country in Western Europe where almost half of the hospitals were closed for almost two months to all but emergency admissions. Last winter added 125,000 to the waiting lists.

Is not the really shocking indictment the closure of hospitals, either temporarily or permanently, that is occurring under this Government? How much will that increase the waiting lists for admission in the coming year? Will the Minister come to Derbyshire and talk to the authorities there, because they are having to close seven hospitals this year alone?

Under the previous Administration about 280 hospitals were closed or approved for closure. On 31 March this year proposals for the closure of a further 31 hospitals were made and proposals for the closure of 2,363 beds were in the pipeline.

In order to put the matter into perspective, will my hon. Friend say how many beds are involved and how many urgent cases there are on the waiting lists?

It is difficult to give exact figures of the numbers of beds involved. Across the country over 3,500 beds, in brand-new hospitals, have been opened so far this year. Over 1,000 more beds are scheduled for the next three months.

How can the Minister succeed in tackling the waiting list problem when his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State states clearly to the world at large that he would rather spend more money on defence than on the Health Service?

We are not sitting idly by allowing waiting lists to become worse, as the previous Government did. Only this morning we produced a consultation paper on reorganising management in the National Health Service which we believe will contribute to that end. Last week we issued a clear guide to health authorities and staff so that they know exactly how they stand during an industrial dispute. We have achieved more in a few months than the previous Government did in four years.

Disabled Children


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he is satisfied with the level of assistance for disabled children to enable their parents to meet the extra cost of clothing and footwear.

Assistance can be provided in appropriate cases under the supplementary benefits scheme. Mobility allowance and attendance allowance are also available to handicapped children who satisfy the criteria for those benefits. Moreover, the family fund may be able to help families of very severely disabled children and voluntary organisations may assist in particular cases. I have every sympathy with the parents of disabled children, but, as I have already made clear, we cannot consider any further assistance to them in the present economic climate.

What possible justification is there for refusing assistance to my constituents whose daughter has to wear shoes of different sizes? Is the Minister aware that the parents have to spend about £20 every six weeks for two pair of shoes in order to provide one pair of shoes that will fit the child's feet? Why should these parents be penalised financially because their daughter is disabled?

I wrote to the hon. Gentleman about the case of his constituents. They are not on supplementary benefit. Therefore, they have to buy their children's shoes, just as any other parents do. As for the problem of children with a disability which means that they have different sized feet, I was able to send the hon. Gentleman a list prepared by the Disabled Living Foundation of suppliers and retailers who provide odd-sized shoes either for adults or children. I hope that that was helpful.

Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that equal help will be given to those who go to what used to be known as grammar schools, as opposed to any other form of educational establishment?

Is the Minister aware of the tragic case of 9-year-old Stuart Charles Whitehouse, whose family lost an award of £100,000 for damages in the Appeal Court last week? Is he aware of the statement by Mr. Justice Lawton, that cases of medical mishap should be looked after by the community and not subjected to the hazards of litigation? How do the Minister and the Government respond to that urgent appeal, having regard to the report of the Pearson Commission and to the precedent of the vaccine damage payments scheme?

That question contained a number of supplementaries, none of which arose from the original question. However, the tragic case that was recently decided in the High Court underlines the fact that society has not found a satisfactory way of dealing with such cases. They ought not to depend, ultimately, on fine points of law as they have done over past generations.

Hospital Closures


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many hospital beds have been closed in each hospital region over the past month; and how many more closures are contemplated.

A total of 381 beds were permanently closed during November. At 30 September 1979 proposals for closures involving 2,153 beds were under formal consultation. I am circulating in the Official Report figures by region for both categories.

Will the hon. Gentleman tell us by how much these figures will accelerate over the next 12 months? Can he go even further and say whether there is any prospect of this trend being reversed during the course of the disastrous period of existence of the present Government, with their disregard for the enormous benefits that the country has had from the National Health Service since its inception?

If I have followed the hon. Gentleman's question accurately, I refer him to the answer I gave a moment ago. Only this morning we introduced the consultation paper on the reorganisation of the Health Service, which will substantially help in the administration, management and costs of that Service.

Does my hon. Friend recognise that the main reason for the closure of beds was the total failure of the previous Administration to prevent disruptive action in the National Health Service? Does he also recognise that there will be overwhelming support in the country for the proposal produced by my right hon. Friend to ensure that this does not happen again?

Yes, I agree entirely. I should also point out that the appalling and contemptible picketing of Charing Cross hospital increased the urgent waiting list from 213 to 564 patients. That is dreadful.

How many National Health Service units have been closed by the St. Helens and Knowsley area health authority, what is the cause of the closures and what will the hon. Gentleman do about it?

I understand that consultation is taking place on this. It is something that I should be glad to look into and let the hon. Gentleman know the result.

Following is the information:


Beds permanently closed 1–30 November1979

Proposals to close under formal consultation at 30 September 1979 Number of beds

East Anglian10
North-West Thames44152
North-East Thames299
South-East Thames20
South-West Thames156
West Midlands6092

Child Benefit


asked the Secretary of State for Socal Services whether he has any plans to reorganise the operation of the child benefit scheme.


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he is satisfied that his Department's computer centre in Washington, Co. Durham is now working satisfactorily; and if he will make a statement.

Most of the arrears of work at the child benefit centre caused by industrial action have now been cleared. We are, nevertheless, continuing to examine ways of improving the system.

Can my hon. Friend tell us how many people who should be receiving child benefit are not receiving it, for administrative reasons?

At this moment I cannot give my hon. Friend an exact figure. However, anyone who is entitled to child benefit and whose payment is held up by the continuance of the ban on overtime at the child benefit centre should go to his local office, where there are special arrangements for paying those who are in urgent need of that money.

Will the hon. Lady tell the House whether, in pursuit of improving the operation of the child benefit scheme, it is the Government's intention to undertake an uprating of child benefit in April? Is she aware that if an affirmative answer is not given now it will be too late to operate the improvement?

The right hon. Gentleman knows, from previous exchanges in the House, that I amnot at present in a position to give him an answer to that question. He knows full well that the increase of £1 last April, followed in November by our special increase in the level of support for children in one-parent families, where the parent is unable to work or has no earnings, and for working lone parents is the most that the country could afford at present. As we are required to do, we shall undertake a further review in the coming months.

Prime Minister (Engagements)


asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 11 December.

In addition to my duties in this House I shall be having meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. This evening I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty The Queen. Later I shall attend part of the Save the Children Fund Diamond Jubilee Concert at the Royal Albert Hall.

Will the Prime Minister take some time today to reconsider the Government's decision to deploy American nuclear missiles in this country, particularly as such an important decision will commit future generations and Parliaments to vast amounts of public expenditure, which we cannot afford, for weapons that we shall never be able to use on our own initiative? Could not the Prime Minister at least have the courtesy to pay lip-service to open government and enable the House to debate this important issue before such a decision is taken?

I believe that it would be a calamity for the whole Alliance if the decision to modernise theatre nuclear forces was not taken at once. I have heard my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence say, for up to six weeks, that he was perfectly prepared to have a debate in this House. There is obviously now no time for that, but I notice that Labour right hon. and hon. Members have not chosen that subject for debate either.

We have pressed the Government for a debate on this subject, as the right hon. Lady knows. The subjects that we have chosen for Supply have been, in our view, equally important. We believe that this is a matter of Government policy. As the Government have failed to provide time for a debate on this subject, will the Prime Minister ensure that the Secretary of State for Defence makes a statement immediately on his return? We shall then press for a debate following that statement. There will be different views expressed about it. [Interruption.] I may well not find myself wholly in agreement with all my hon. Friends, but this is an important topic that should be debated in the House of Commons.

My right hon. Friend will hope and expect, with permission, to make a statement on Thursday. As to the matter of a debate, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will pursue that with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Will my right hon. Friend find time today to make it crystal clear to everyone who works for the British Steel Corporation that the taxpayer will not pay for wage or salary increases other than those earned by productivity? Will my right hon. Friend make that clear to everyone in the country?

I think that it would be wrong to have the cash limits increased for the purpose of increased wages. If increased wages are covered by increased productivity, that is exactly what the whole House wants. Public funds will, of course, be available to the British Steel Corporation next year, to the tune of about £450 million, but that will not, of course, be for increased wages.

Will the right hon. Lady find a moment to refresh her memory on the advice that I offered to her in an open letter within the last fortnight, that Prime Minister Lynch would not be able, whatever his inclinations, to fulfil this part of any bargain that she might have made? Will the right hon. Lady draw the appropriate conclusions from the fact that within a fortnight that advice was validated by events?

I must confess to the right hon. Gentleman that from the open letter, which I saw, I had not drawn the conclusion that Mr. Lynch would be resigning in a short time. My recollection is that I was warned while we were in Dublin not to make any arrangements with Mr. Lynch as part of the agreement with the EEC. I did not discuss the matter of Northern Ireland with Mr. Lynch while I was in Dublin.

Following the incident at Dover yesterday when a suspected assassin was sent back to France, and considering the fact that increasing amounts of heroin are being smuggled in by Iranians, is my right hon. Friend satisfied that this country is sufficiently secure against repercussions from the upheavals in Iran? Is she also satisfied that Iranians entering this country are subject to strict vetting?

We are using the ordinary methods of vetting for Iranian visitors. On the question of numbers, up to the end of September, the last month for which figures were available, fewer Iranian visitors came to this country in each month this year compared with last year. We are not applying any particular vetting to Iranian visitors.


asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 11 December.

Does the Prime Minister recall her concern last week about the apparent leak from the Cabinet of the decision on pressurised water reactor stations and the fact that one will be located soon? Does she understand that most people in this country are less concerned about leaks in the Cabinet than about radiation leaks? Will she consider siting the power station not in Suffolk but perhaps in Finchley instead?

The record of safety of nuclear installations in this country is excellent. Before any pressurised water reactor could be built it would have to clear the very high standards of the Nuclear Safety Inspectorate. That would come out in any inquiry.

Will the Prime Minister find time to consult the Secretaries of State for Employment and for the Environment to see whether she can secure an effective scheme to enable council house tenants to have greater mobility in the employment market?

I agree that that is an important question. Mobility of labour is limited by the existence of council house tenancies. If someone has a council house in the area where he works he is loth to move because he is afraid that he might not get one in the new area. However, it is easier to pose that question than to find an answer, but we will continue the search.

Will the Prime Minister take a few minutes to telephone the chairman of Hampshire social services committee to find out why that committee has imposed a minimum charge of £1 a week for home helps, including those for the thousands of elderly and disabled people in Hampshire who are on supplementary benefit?

Local authority expenditure must be left to local authorities. As the hon. Gentleman knows, I am the first person to criticise savings that are made in services to the public in preference to those made in administration and bureaucracy.

In support of the Government of the United States, will my right hon. Friend consider the question of freezing Iranian Government assets in this country?

There are cases which may come before the courts, and this is a matter which will have to be settled by the decision of the courts. At the moment my advice is that we could not freeze those assets under existing law.



Is the Prime Minister aware that if she visited Longbridge she would hear expressions of deep concern about her Government's proposal to invoke more nuclear missiles into this country? Does she not realise that this country and the world were placed in danger by the nuclear alert on 9 November? Will she accept that the more nuclear missiles there are in this country, the greater the danger? Is she aware there is absolutely no freedom anywhere if we all finish up in a radioactive cinder heap?

The greatest danger to any country is weakness in defence. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to have the numbers of nuclear missiles and certain nuclear forces reduced, the first thing that he should do is persuade the Soviet Union to withdraw the 120 SS20s that are already in service.

Will my right hon. Friend take note of the recent opinion poll published in a news magazine, which indicated that 91 per cent. of the population approved of an increase in defence spending? Of those members of the Labour Party who were interviewed, 87 per cent. came to the same conclusion.

I believe that the vast majority of people in this country wish to see our freedoms properly defended. They wish us to have enough troops, equipment and nuclear forces to deter any potential aggressor at each and every level.

Prime Minister (Engagements)


asked the Prime Minister what are her official engagements for 11 December.

Will the Prime Minister find time today to tell us whether she had any thing to do with the fact that the Home Secretary chickened out of the opening of the British Youth Council's exhibition on racial harmony? Is not the Prime Minister ashamed of her statement that this country is being swamped by immigrants, or is she still proud to be the head of a Government who practise racial and sexual discrimination?

The Home Secretary never chickens out of anything, as the hon. Gentleman knows full well. That was a very cheap observation. This Government fought an election on our immigration policy and we shall implement it.

Can my right hon. Friend find time today to explain why it was possible to freeze Rhodesian assets for 14 years, but today apparently it is not possible to freeze Iranian assets in this country?

My hon. Friend should put that question to the Attorney-General. In general, I can tell him that we can put a blockage on assets when there is likely to be a haemorrhage of those assets out of this country, and therefore sterling itself is in danger.

When the Prime Minister consults her colleagues, will she take the opportunity to clarify the Government's attitude to the Bill of Rights which was introduced by Liberals in another place and which has passed all its stages in that place? Has she noticed that Lord Denning has added his voice to those who want to see that Bill enacted?

There are many hon. Members who would wish to have a Bill of Rights. The question is whether one could ever entrench such a Bill in our constitution. It is doubtful whether, having the doctrine of parliamentary supremacy, we could ever entrench a Bill of Rights in this country. In theory it is possible to entrench it by a referendum, but I do not believe that under our con- stitution we could be certain that it would stay there.

May I ask the Prime Minister about the departure today of Lord Soames, which I think goes beyond even the responsibility of the Lord Privy Seal as the departmental Minister? Is it the case that no assurance has yet been received from the parties concerned that they will place themselves under the control of Lord Soames? If that is so—and I understand that that is the case—what instruction has been given to Lord Soames by the Prime Minister or the Secretary of State, as the country which he will be responsible for governing is at civil war, in the event of an outbreak of hostilities between the two contending factions?

Lord Soames is leaving a little later this afternoon for Rhodesia. The Salisbury Administration have agreed to accept the executive and legislative authority of the Governor. The Patriotic Front has been informed that Lord Soames is going but it has not yet accepted his authority. It is hoped that it will do so within a few days. A document on the details of implementing the ceasefire was laid before those concerned at Lancaster House at 2 o'clock this afternoon. Beyond that, no specific instructions have been given to Lord Soames, other than to restore the country to legality, prepare to implement the ceasefire agreement and to prepare for the election.

Is the Prime Minister aware that we have serious reservations about the decision to send Lord Soames today? We can see the advantage of having the Governor in place as soon as there is a ceasefire so that he can begin to implement the agreement, but surely the Prime Minister is placing him in a position of exceptional difficulty, when only one of the two parties has accepted the ceasefire, if there is an outbreak of hostilities. I understand that he needs discretion, but he must have some general instructions about the way to conduct himself if, for example, General Walls orders another excursion into the surrounding territories. This question could involve this country being held responsible by the world for what takes place. We therefore have the gravest reservations. I ask the right hon. Lady for one guarantee. Will she guarantee that no British troops will be sent until a ceasefire has been accepted by all the parties?

With regard to the last question, "Yes". With regard to the earlier question, the right hon. Gentleman referred to what would happen if General Walls ordered an excursion beyond the country's boundaries. I tried to say to the right hon. Gentleman earlier that the Salisbury Administration accept the Governor's authority, so that would not arise.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the urgency of the matter I wonder whether you have been asked by the Prime Minister whether she can make a statement on Question Q5, in relation to Urenco?

I am afraid that I have had no such request. Statement, the Lord Privy Seal.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is this the moment when I could raise a Standing Order No. 9 application?

Applications under Standing Order No. 9 always follow statements. Statement, the Lord Privy Seal.


With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I shall make a statement on Rhodesia.

We are approaching the conclusion of the Lancaster House conference. Last week, agreement was reached on our proposals for a ceasefire. The final details are still being discussed. Earlier this afternoon my right hon. and noble Friend made in the conference a new presentation of our detailed proposals for the implementation of the ceasefire. We have given assurances about the security of the Patriotic Front forces and that the monitoring force will be adequate to monitor the Rhodesian forces, through their command structure down to company level.

We have explained that the Patriotic Front forces will be sited in their operational areas in locations that will meet their concern that they should not be in close proximity to Rhodesian bases. We have therefore been able to provide the Patriotic Front with the assurances that they have been seeking about their security and the disposition of the Rhodesian forces.

It is important to see the present stage in the perspective of what has already been accomplished. The issue of majority rule, which has been the fundamental cause of the conflict in Rhodesia for 14 years, has been resolved by the independence constitution.

It has been agreed that there should be fresh elections to resolve the question of who should exercise political power. The parties have accepted that a British Governor should exercise legislative and executive authority to supervise the elections and bring Rhodesia back to legality. There is agreement on our proposals for a ceasefire. In the light of what has been agreed, it would be indefensible to continue the war.

Ideally, we would have preferred the final details to be agreed before beginning to put the settlement into effect on the ground, but it is essential to maintain the momentum if we are to achieve a settlement involving all the parties, and if what we have achieved so far is not to be eroded by events outside the conference.

We believe that the proposals that we have put forward this afternoon should lead to early and complete agreement. My right hon. and noble Friend, Lord Soames, will therefore leave later this afternoon for Rhodesia. Delay could risk prejudicing what has been achieved at the conference. The Governor's arrival will help to stabilise the situation and normalise relations with neighbouring countries.

A British authority in Salisbury is necessary to make the final arrangements for bringing the ceasefire into effect. Legality will be restored and sanctions will be lifted with Lord Soames's arrival and the acceptance of his authority.

The Governor will set in train the arrangements for elections. The Government are determined to carry out their responsibility to bring Rhodesia to legal independence at the earliest possible moment.

This is a highly unsatisfactory statement, for reasons that we have already intimated. There are risks and difficulties enough, in any event, with the arrangements made for the Governor to assume the heavy responsibilities that await him in Salisbury. To throw him in there before a ceasefire has been agreed is, in our view, a foolish policy and a foolish act.

I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman straight away this question: if a new presentation of the ceasefire details has, according to his own statement, simply been presented this afternoon, why could he not at least have waited for a response to those proposals and delayed Lord Soames' departure for the necessary and, we hope, very short period that would have elapsed? What possible advantage exists for sending him, ahead of his own support and ahead of a ceasefire, to Salisbury, as now proposed?

I should like to follow the point put to the Prime Minister by my right hon. Friend a few moments ago. What instructions does the Governor take with him to the armed forces over whom he is about to assume control? Is he taking with him precise instructions to cease forthwith attacks on bases in neighbouring territories of Rhodesia, such as occurred only a few days ago? Is he seeking to secure at once an immediate scaling down of the whole military operation there?

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Commonwealth monitoring force has been alerted and whether it is also about to depart? If not, what arrangements are being made for its arrival in Salisbury? Will he not confirm that the whole reason for the extraordinary acceleration of the timetable is concerned with the fact that the Rhodesian authorities are in the process of voting themselves out of existence during the course of today and tomorrow, and there is to be a lacuna in the government of Rhodesia?

That was, if I may say so, a very extraordinary reaction. We have now put forward ceasefire proposals that are utterly fair and meet all the Patriotic Front's concerns. We have already made those available to the House. I appreciate that Opposition Members have not yet seen them. When they see them, I trust that they will give their full support. We shall be achieving tomorrow what everyone else has failed to achieve in 15 years—a return to legality in Salisbury. If we lose that chance, we may lose it for ever.

One would hope that the right hon. Gentleman and the Labour Party would have learnt a little from history. After all, when we were taking the enabling Bill through the House the Opposition said a lot of things that do not stand up well today. I hope that they will bear that in mind.

I should now like to turn to the right hon. Gentleman's more pertinent questions, following his opening remarks. When to send the Governor must be a matter of judgment. It is a fine judgment. It depends to a great extent on the dynamics of the conference and what is happening in Rhodesia. We have to be the judges of that. If we allow the situation to slip, hostilities may escalate. We have seen the dangers of that over the weekend.

The question of monitoring is one of the reasons why we need to get the Governor there now to supervise the arrangements for preparing the rendezvous and assembly points to receive Patriotic Front forces. He has to be able to make preparations for the assembly of the monitoring forces. They are standing by, but, naturally, arrangements have to be made on the spot.

I understand the Lord Privy Seal's irritability. Frankly, he does not feel entirely confident about the decision that has been made. Perhaps I may press him on the most pertinent of the questions that I put. What instructions does the Governor take with him in relation to the use of the Rhodesian armed forces from the moment that he arrives and assumes command?

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has already answered that. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] The Rhodesian armed forces, like the rest of the administration of the State, will be under the authority of the Governor, and the Salisbury Administration have agreed to accept that authority.

This really is not—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh"]. No, it really is not good enough. It is treating the House with contempt to refuse to answer a question of major importance. The Governor is sent out under the instructions of the Secretary of State and under the general instructions and the authority of the Cabinet. Will the Lord Privy Seal say what instructions he will be taking out in relation to the use of the Rhodesian armed forces, both outside the frontiers of Rhodesia and inside them?

He will, of course, be in command of the armed forces. They will come under his authority. Of course, one of the main purposes of the Governor in going to Rhodesia is to bring an end to cross-border activities by both sides.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that while a decision for Britain to resume responsibility for Rhodesian affairs at this point in time obviously involves dangers that are uncertain, any decision not to do so would involve dangers at least as great, which would be absolutely certain?

I am most grateful to my hon. Friend. I entirely agree with what he says. Of course, we have always conceded that there are dangers in what we are doing, but we have always been told to assume responsibility for Rhodesia. This is what we have done. As I have made clear to the House—I think that most hon. Members agree—we are doing the right thing. To let this conflict drag on would be entirely contrary to the interests of Rhodesia, Southern Africa and this country.

Does not the present situation in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia show the need for an effective United Nations peacekeeping force? Will the right hon. Gentleman ask his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence to raise the matter at the present meeting of the NATO Powers?

I regret that the right hon. Gentleman really cannot have been following the negotiations at Lancaster House very carefully. We are well past that stage. We have agreement on the constitution, on the interim arrangements and on our ceasefire proposals. Only the details remain to be worked out. To introduce a United Nations force at this stage would not be at all helpful.

Does my right hon. Friend recognise that the current purpose of the Patriotic Front at Lancaster House has been delay, in order to push polling day into the season of the rains, when the bush provides cover for terrorist intimidation? May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on bringing that disgraceful process to an end?

I certainly would not wish to speculate on the motives of the Patriotic Front. As I told the House earlier, I am confident that we shall reach an agreement with the Patriotic Front later this week. I do not want to go any further than that.

Am I to understand, therefore, that Lord Soames will assume control of the government of Rhodesia as from tomorrow, on his arrival? Is that the actual position? Secondly, the Lord Privy Seal said a moment ago that he hoped that the Lancaster House talks would be concluded this week—and we hope so, too. Is that the sort of timetable for which he is hoping?

That is true. Lord Soames will be arriving tomorrow and he will assume immediate authority. I should perhaps say, in clarification of an answer given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, that he will have with him his own personal protection.

Will the Lord Privy Seal tell us whether, following Lord Soames' arrival in Rhodesia, troops of the British Crown Colony of Rhodesia, as it will then be, will be involved in future in cross-border raids into the neighbouring territories?

I thought that I had already answered that. We are confident that there will be final agreement on our proposals. Obviously, in those circumstances, the Government do not and could not contemplate action that would damage relations with neighbouring countries. In this situation we also hope that they, too, will exercise all available influence to ensure that there is no cross-border activity from their side.

That does not answer the question. Supposing the attack comes from the Patriotic Front, which has not, as yet, accepted the authority of Lord Soames, what is to be the response of Lord Soames? What instructions has he been given?

I have answered the question three times. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I am not sure whether the right hon. Gentleman is at this stage talking about internal or external matters.

Order. The hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) will withdraw that remark at once.

The remark that the hon. Member has just made, of which he and the whole House are aware.

Because I want the matter to get on, if it is the word "bloody" I will withdraw it.

As I have already made clear, the Salisbury forces will be under the authority of the Governor as soon as he arrives. We hope—I am personally confident of it—that in a short space of time the Patriotic Front forces, after an agreement at Lancaster House later this week, will also be under the authority of the Governor.

Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that as from the Gover- nor's arrival in Rhodesia later tonight sanctions will be automatically lifted and the new State of Zimbabwe will resume normal relationships with the rest of the world?

On a point of detail. Lord Soames arrives tomorrow afternoon. Obviously, when he arrives Rhodesia will return to legality, but her relations with other countries depend as much on other countries as they do on Rhodesia.

I should like to revert to an earlier question about a United Nations peacekeeping force. Does the Minister not see the implications of this question? If he were to have a United Nations peacekeeping force it would be a basis for future action and it might lead to something that could be used by NATO. Will he not consider the matter in this wider context?

I am all for looking at matters in a wider context, but I think that at the moment Rhodesia is sufficiently important in itself to be looked at purely as a problem in isolation. We have made our proposals for a monitoring force. We know the exact numbers that will be coming, and I think that it would be entirely misguided if we tried to alter those plans at this very late stage.

Several Hon. Members rose

Order. This whole question is to be debated by the House all day tomorrow. I propose to call three more questions from each side of the House.

What undertakings has my right hon. Friend received from the Governments of Zambia, Mozambique and South Africa that from the moment of the British Governor's assuming authority in Rhodesia no troops, no ammunition, no money and no support will go from their territories into what will then be a British territory?

Rhodesia's neighbours are well aware of the position. As I told the House last week and, I think, also the week before that, from the arrival of the British Governor there will be no foreign intervention in Rhodesia.

Will the Lord Privy Seal explain the paradox arising from the fact that he said that the new ceasefire terms are satisfactory to the Patriotic Front and yet Lord Soames is going there without a ceasefire agreement in his pocket? What are the arrangements for the assembly of the Rhodesian armed forces in bases? Is the right hon. Gentleman absolutely confident that those are analogous to the arrangements for the Patriotic Front? Otherwise there is a great danger of pre-emptive strike by one side or the other in exactly the circumstances for which Lord Soames appears to have no precise instructions.

I think that the hon. Gentleman will wish to read our proposals in full. I have placed them in the life Library. The hon. Gentleman will want to read them in detail, and I believe that he will be satisfied with them. Putting it broadly and summarily, if all the Patriotic Front forces assemble with their arms, and all cross-border movement of armed Patriotic Front forces ceases, there will be no need for the Rhodesian forces to deploy from their company bases.

Does the Lord Privy Seal recall that while he and many others were euphoric about the breakthrough in the ceasefire, the Rhodesian security forces attacked camps in Zambia and Mozambique, where people were assembling to return—as they are entitled to do—to take part in the arrangements for Rhodesia? Has he made investigations into that? Was it done by the direct order of General Walls, or with his authority and knowledge? If not, how can we guarantee that the Rhodesian security forces will not similarly act, in the next couple of days, as soon as Lord Soames arrives? What are his precise instructions to the Rhodesian security forces?

It is not denied that there has been considerable infiltration into Rhodesia by Patriotic Front forces. They have been going across the border very quickly. As I said earlier, that is one of the reasons for sending the Governor out to Rhodesia. From now on, the Rhodesian forces will act only with the Governor's authority.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Patriotic Front attack since the announcement of the ceasefire, and the Salisbury forces' attack, are in danger of escalation, and that sending Lord Soames out early is not an acceleration but the avoidance of delay if the ceasefire details are agreed in the next day or two?

My hon. Friend is right. As most of the House will agree, it has been evident, and a feature of the conference, that to keep up momentum is very important. Last weekend's events showed the dangers of not doing so. Everybody at the conference is aware of the dangers of delay and, therefore, there was a strong case for sending out Lord Soames.

I make it clear that although we do not think that the Lord Privy Seal has answered the questions satisfactorily, it is certainly our hope that at the end of the 14 long years that Rhodesia has gone through he will, as he says, be able to provide the Patriotic Front with the assurances that it has been seeking about its security and the disposition of the Rhodesian forces. I hope that if this is true the Patriotic Front will have no hesitation in accepting it, so that we may go ahead with a return to legality and to free elections.

Having said that, I must say to the right hon. Gentleman that we still do not understand why it would not have been possible to wait until he had received a formal reply and so have avoided the risks that he is now running from the Patriotic Front, before sending Lord Soames to Rhodesia.

As I said earlier, there are risks attached to either course. I appreciate that, and it was our judgment that there were lesser risks in what we have done.

I am most grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his initial remarks. If there can be all-party agreement upon our proposals it will make it all the more likely that they will be accepted by the Patriotic Front.

Will the Lord Privy Seal say a little more about the British and Commonwealth force of 1,200 soldiers that is due to go to Rhodesia? Some of us are concerned about the delicacy of the task being offered to it. When is it to go? What is it supposed to do when it arrives? Will the right hon. Gentleman say something about the recent history of observers? Some of us are concerned that we shall be pulled into something that the House does not wish for the British forces.

Except for the personal security guards that the Governor is taking with him, no British or other troops will arrive in Rhodesia until the final details of the ceasefire have been agreed. Thereafter, they will arrive quickly. They will have the detailed and vital tasks of monitoring both sides to ensure that the ceasefire is observed and to notify any breaches.

Will my right hon. Friend be somewhat more specific? Has Her Majesty's Government received positive undertakings from the front-line Presidents that, as of the return to legality tomorrow, all infiltration of armed terrorists from their territories will be effectively controlled and prevented? Failing such undertakings, what steps do the Government propose to take to ensure that that is done?

I have nothing to add to what I said on this in answer to an earlier question.

Mr George Wilkinson (Death)

I have a brief statement to make. Yesterday, the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Hughes) asked me about the sub judice rule on his ability to pursue the case of a constituent of his who has died in Walton prison and whose death is now the subject of a coroner's inquest.

I have looked into the matter and have decided that, although the cause of death is now sub judice, this would be a suitable case for the exercise of the discretion specifically given to me by the House. I have particularly in mind the fact that under the Criminal Law Act 1977 a coroner is not empowered to name and charge a person with murder or manslaughter. I would, therefore, be prepared to allow questions asking for a statement upon, or an inquiry into, the circumstances surrounding this case in advance of the conclusion of the coroner's investigation.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, very sincerely for that ruling. I ask for time to consider the implications.

Nuclear Missiles (Nato Meeting)

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

"The NATO meeting on 12 December to discuss deploying Cruise and Pershing II missiles in Western Europe."
I intend not to discuss the merits of the case, much as I should like to do so, but purely the reasons for it to be debated. First, it is specific. The Secretary of State for Defence has told us that he intends to support the NATO proposal to instal American nuclear missiles on our soil. They will be solely under American control and will not be subject to a two-button key. There must be no annihilation without representation.

It is of vital importance, because the decision will shut the door to negotiations to reduce nuclear missiles as proposed by Mr. Brezhnev two months ago. The world would then, in my view, have passed the point of no return. There would be a fearsome heightening of tension. If, by design or accident, a nuclear bomb landed on Moscow or Leningrad, there would be immediate retaliation against all its possible sources. That would turn our crowded island into a sitting duck.

We, our children and grandchildren would die quickly, or, if 50 miles or so away from the explosions, in agony a few days later. What could be more important than that? Although all the other countries among the 14 involved have discussed the issue seriously—four countries have revolted—we in Britain have not discussed it in the House. We have not even had a statement from the Minister.

The new factor yesterday was that the Secretary of State for Defence made a speech that did not merely assent to the installing of nuclear missiles in Britain but positively urged talks and hectored the other nations to take the same approach.

Television, radio and the press have all debated the issue, but we in the House have not. Surely a matter of such importance and relevance should take precedence over the relatively trivial matters on the Order Paper this week.

The hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun) gave me notice before 12 o'clock noon today that he would seek leave to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he thinks should have urgent consideration, namely,

"The NATO meeting on 12 December to discuss deploying Cruise and Pershing II missiles in Western Europe."
I listened carefully to what the hon. Gentleman said and to the exchanges earlier this afternoon between the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister on this very issue. The hon. Gentleman has obviously raised an important matter. The House knows that I do not decide whether it shall be debated. My choice is limited to deciding whether it shall be debated tonight or tomorrow, if it is to be debated at all.

The house has instructed me to take into account the several factors set out in the Order but to give no reasons for my decision. I have to rule that the hon. Gentleman's submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order and therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House.

The Hon Member For Birmingham, Perry Barr

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. There have been press references to a telephone conversation that I had with the chairman of the Secretaries' Council, in which reference was made to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker). On reflection, I think that it was unwise of me to have made that reference, although my intention was without malice. I assure the House and the hon. Member for Perry Barr that I had no intention of casting any doubt on the honour or integrity of the hon. Gentleman. If, as a result of my action, a wrong interpretation has been placed, I can only apologise most sincerely.

Security Service

4.2 pm

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to give legal authority for the creation of a security service, and to provide for the appointment of its Director-General and for his accountability to Parliament; and for connected purposes.
I am conscious that the House and the country have been subjected to a welter of information and comment on the Anthony Blunt affair. It reached a new height of absurdity last week when the Evening News splashed on its front page an exclusive story that Mr. Blunt is now working on a book on architecture. I hasten to assure the House that I do not propose to weary it with yet another speech about the Blunt affair. However, it would be remiss of the House to allow the Security Service to sink from sight for another decade until the next spy scandal gives us another opportunity to probe what it does in our name. Instead, we should provide a proper legal framework for the Security Service and a proper system of accountability.

It is a remarkable fact that there is no Act on the statute book that provides the Government with the legal authority to raise and maintain a Security Service. I can go further than that. I have had the Library check through the statute book and it has come up with only one statute that even acknowledges the existence of the Security Service—namely, the Civil List and Secret Service Money Act 1782. Section 24 of that far-seeing piece of legislation provides:
"for preventing as much as may be all abuses…it shall not be lawful to issue for the purpose of secret service within this kingdom, any sums of money which in the whole shall exceed ten thousand pounds in any one year."
That prompts the unhappy thought that not only is there no legal authority for the existence of the Security Service but that for the best part of the past 200 years the funds released to it from the Treasury have been wholly illegal. The statute to which I have referred was not repealed until 1977,when the funds released for the Security Service exceeded not only £10,000 but £10 million. The effect of repeal was to expunge from the statute book the one solitary recognition that the Security Service exists. That is plainly unsatisfactory.

We should set the Security Service on a proper legal footing. We should leave the Government in no doubt that they have the power to raise and maintain such a service. It follows that any measure that provides for the maintaining of a Security Service must also set out the functions of that service.

Fortunately, we have to hand the directive that was issued by Sir David Maxwell Fyfe when he was Home Secretary in 1952. That directive gives us a reasonable basis on which to erect a framework, another directive, or a remit for our Security Service. However, there is one important respect in which the directive has proved too elastic with the passage of time. In his directive to the Security Service Sir David charged it with, among other tasks, the duty of defence of the realm against
"persons and organizations…which may be judged subversive."
We have no way of knowing what persons or organisations the Security Service may regard as subversive. We know that the search for persons whom the Security Service suspects of being subversives has been the main reason for its expansion during the past two or three decades. One of the problems about the debate involving Mr. Anthony Blunt is that it has left the public with the impression—it has reinforced the view—that the Security Service is about catching foreign spies. Regrettably that is so far from the truth that it is now approaching pure myth. The greater part of the activity of the Security Service is the domestic surveillance of the British population in its search of those that it suspects are secret subversives.

Moreover, that surveillance is accompanied by methods such as phone tapping and mail opening, which are lacking in explicit statutory authority and are devoid of any vestige of accountability to the House. These matters are crying out for legislation.

The terms "subversion" and "subversive" are subjective. They are highly elastic. It may be that there are hon. Members who regard such an august and respectable body as the national executive committee of the Labour Party as a subversive organisation. We do not know whether it comes within the definition of "subversive" that is used by the Security Service. That is because we have furnished it with no such definition.

There is the definition that was supplied to me by the Minister of State, Home Office. It is a free definition, which provides plenty of room for subjective judgment to roam at will. It pro-ides as a definition of "subversive"
"activities which are intended to undermine parliamentary democracy by political, industrial or violent means."
That provides carte blanche for the Security Service to stick its nose into any political organisation or any form of industrial action. We should give it a clear remit that restricts its surveillance to citizens who may be judged to be undermining parliamentary democracy by violent means or by any other unlawful means. Parliament has not created a wider crime of subversion and Government have no power to maintain a secret police force to police the political organisations whose views may be held by that police force to be subversive.

The debate on Mr. Blunt concentrated on the question whether the Security Service is properly accountable to Ministers. That missed the point. It does not seem to matter very much whether the Security Services are answerable to a Minister when that Minister is not answerable to the House. At present the Minister cannot be made answerable to this House. He is not even obliged to answer questions on matters that are known to every journalist in Fleet Street, such as the name of the Director-General of the Security Service.

I am greeted with incredulity when I explain to outsiders that I am allowed to ask only one question a year about the Security Service. That one question is invariably replied to with a refusal to answer any further question for the next 12 months. Other democracies manage affairs differently. Both America and Germany arguably have a greater awareness of security than Britain. Both those countries find it compatible to have a committee of Congress or a committee of the Bundestag with broad responsibility for the security services. There is no reason not to have a Select Committee, made up of senior Members, that could meet in private to discuss the principles, policy and resources of the Security Service.

I emphasise that during the past two decades we have seen a major expansion of the Security Service. The number of its agents is believed to have doubled. The latest computer technology has been made available to the security services, making it possible for them to store and retrieve information on a number of individuals. That technology exceeds the wildest dreams of the pre-war secret service.

Perhaps the security services carry out a necessary task effectively, but the House has no means of assuring itself, or the public that it represents, that that is the case. It is not prudent to let the situation continue, and I ask leave of the House to introduce a Bill to remedy that state of affairs.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Robin F. Cook, Mr. Jonathan Aitken, Mr. A. J. Beith, Mr. Clement Freud, Mr. Michael Meacher, Mr. Christopher Price, Mr. Phillip Whitehead and Mr. James Wellbeloved.

Security Service

Mr. Robin F. Cook accordingly presented a Bill to give legal authority for the creation of a security service, and to provide for the appointment of its Director-General and for his accountability to Parliament; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 8 February and to be printed. [Bill 103.]

Northern Ireland(Emergency Provisions)

4.12 pm

I beg to move,

That this House approves the draft Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978 (Continuance) (No. 2) Order 1979, which was laid before this House on 28th November.
Today we have two main Northern Ireland debates, although others will follow. Later this evening we shall be debating financial matters and there will be an opportunity to take note of the heartening signs of economic life in Northern Ireland, despite all the difficulties. That is part of the background to this earlier debate. The other background to this debate is the terrorism that continues to bedevil Northern Ireland; and that is the reason for proposing once again that the emergency provisions Act should continue in force for a further six months. The House will expect me to give, as is customary, an analysis of the current security situation in Northern Ireland. However, before I embark on the details of the current situation I would like to make a few general observations.

It is very difficult, as all who know Northern Ireland will agree, to be objective about the security situation without running the risk of appearing cold and calculating. It is difficult to resist the temptation to say that the security situation is getting worse when there has been a run of terrorist acts. It is difficult also to resist the temptation to claim that the terrorist is on the run, just because there have been some notable successes by the security forces. What I would like to do this afternoon is to give, not only to the House but also to the people of Great Britain and of Northern Ireland, an analysis that seeks to avoid those two traps.

Contrary to what many people genuinely believe to be the case, violence in 1979 has not got a great deal worse than it was in 1978. There is no doubt that some types of violence have increased in 1979, and there is equally no doubt that in some geographical areas of Northern Ireland, particularly Armagh and County Tyrone, there has been a marked increase in violence. But taking Northern Ireland as a whole, and taking all the indicators of violence together, 1979 has seen only a slight upturn in violence since 1978. I need hardly remind the House, however, that there have been some terrible incidents in 1979, including the killing of 18 soldiers at Warrenpoint on August bank holiday Monday, that have deeply shocked us all. One hundred and four people have lost their lives so far this year, 56 of them members of the security forces and nine of them members of the prison service. Every killing is one too many.

The figures I have quoted show to what extent the Provisional IRA has concentrated its venom this year upon the security forces, and recently—more strikingly still—upon the prison service. I want to say a special word about the recent murderous attacks on members of the prison service. Here we have a body of men who are carrying out their difficult task courageously, effectively, and without complaint. The role of the prison officer is to treat those committed by the courts in accordance with the requirements of prison rules—which, broadly speaking, are the same in Northern Ireland as in Great Britain—and to do so with understanding and humanity.

Prison officers are not concerned with the circumstances of the offences for which the men and women in their charge were sent to prison. If the Provisional IRA believes that, by its attack on prison officers, it will further its campaign for special concessions for convicted criminals who belong to their organisation, I have to tell it that it is wasting its time. The Government will grant no such concessions. If the Provisional IRA hopes to break the morale of the prison service, I am glad to say that I have not the slightest reason to suppose that it is having any success.

I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the courage and devotion to duty which the prison staff have shown.

I am very much aware of the depth of feeling among law-abiding citizens in the Province about continuing terrorist activities. That manifested itself in the resolutions passed recently by a number of local councils. I appreciate the very real concern that lay behind those resolutions but I hope that they in turn appreciate the Government's determination to tackle terrorism effectively.

I am sorry to say that in recent months there has been an increase in what appear to be sectarian killings. There is something peculiarly obnoxious about killing a man because he holds such and such a creed or family name. Those assassinations can profit no one. They will simply add to the spiral of violence. I have to make it clear that the full weight of the law will be brought to bear on the perpetrators of violence, regardless of its origin or its purported motive.

I shall not pretend today that terrorism will not continue to pose a serious problem, particularly in parts of Belfast and some of the border areas. Besides the continuing attacks on the security forces and prison officers, the co-ordinated bomb and incendiary attacks on 26 November show that the Provisional IRA retains the ability to cause disruption and destruction. On that day, of the 35 devices that were planted across the Province, no fewer than 12 were neutralised. That demonstrates how much the general public and the business community can do to frustrate such violence. Their alertness and readiness to report suspicious objects or events can be of immense help to the security forces.

I know that we can rely on members of the Armed Forces and the Royal Ulster Constabulary to continue to serve the community with the dedication that they have shown over the years. Their tasks may often seem thankless, but I can assure them that the protection that they offer to the community—often at risk to their own safety—deserve unstinted praise which I know everyone in this House unhesitatingly gives them.

The House will wish to know what the Government themselves are doing in the face of the continuing terrorist threat. We remain fixed in our resolve to eliminate terrorism and to restore normal policing throughout Northern Ieland. The essence of the policy is that the RUC, with the Army in support where necessary, should bring terrorists to justice before the courts. But there are many ways in which the security forces frustrate the evil designs of the terrorist.

Since I last moved the renewal of this Act on 2 July, 124 firearms and over 20,000 rounds of ammunition have been recovered, and 62 explosive devices have been neutralised—a measure of the terrorist crimes that are prevented. But taking terrorists out of circulation through the processes of the law remains our chief means of combating terrorism. The House will wish to know that so far this year 625 people have been charged with terrorist offences, 44 of them with murder and 34 with attempted murder, and up to the end of last month, 805 people have been convicted of terrorist offences, including 52 of murder and 16 of attempted murder.

Can the right hon. Gentleman add anything to what he said six months ago about the origin not only of the 20,000 rounds of ammunition but of other arms that fall into terrorist hands?

I cannot say where they originated from. We can sometimes discover their country of origin, but it does not necessarily follow that they came straight from there. One of the things that we are seeking to follow up all the time, not just through the activities of the RUC but through other police forces and, indeed, Interpol, is the method by which the terrorists in the North obtain their supplies. Unfortunately, I cannot be absolutely precise, save only that they are brought into the country from their countries of manufacture, not the United Kingdom. The indications are that very few are brought in by sea.

The search for effective measures to thwart the terrorists is constantly pursued.

Does the total arms find that the Secretary of State has just announced include the vast quantity of arms found last week in County Down, which were obviously in the hands of the UDA and not the IRA?

Yes. The figures that I have given are up to date. I have not differentiated, and I do not differentiate, between terrorists. Anyone who commits a scheduled offence is a terrorist and is to be pursued with the utmost force of the law.

The search for effective measures to thwart the terrorists is constantly pursued. I am now assisted in this by Sir Maurice Oldfield, who was appointed a while ago to a new post as my security co-ordinator. For reasons which I know the House will appreciate, I do not intend to detail all the measures that we are taking. I would, however, like to mention a few important developments.

First, as the House already knows, the target strength of the regular force of the RUC has been raised from 6,500 to 7,500. By the end of November, the strength stood at 6,580 compared with 6,110 at the end of 1978. This is an encouraging recruiting trend, and it is matched by many other improvements in the capability of the RUC. The vehicle fleet is being steadily increased; a new and very advanced teleprinter system has been commissioned; a modern command computer system is due to be operational next year; and a substantial building programme is in hand to provide increased accommodation and facilities for the force.

The Chief Constable undoubtedly has at his command a thriving and modern police force well equipped to fight terrorism, but still mindful of its other responsibilities to the community including, for example, regular community relations work.

I want to take this opportunity of paying tribute to the outgoing Chief Constable, Sir Kenneth Newman. Under his guidance over many years, the Force has steadily grown in strength and ability. The fact that the morale of the force has remained high, notwithstanding the extraordinary demands and stresses imposed upon it by the terrorist campaign, is a measure of his outstanding leadership and of the respect in which he is held by those under his command. I am sure that the whole House would wish me to express to Sir Kenneth its gratitude for a job well done and to extend good wishes to his successor, Mr. Jack Hermon.

I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question concerning the weaponry available to the RUC. He mentioned many things that helped to win the battle against terrorism. Can he now give any information about the arms supply from the United States so that the RUC might have proper weaponry to deal with terrorism?

I have no more information to give the House since I last answered questions. A proportion of the arms that we need has been received from the United States. The United States Administration are carrying out a review of their policy. As at today, we are not embarrassed by not having received any more arms. We do not need them yet. That time will come, and I hope very much that the United States Government will have carried out their review before we need any more and that they will be forthcoming.

I spoke about the Chief Constable, and paid him a tribute for all the work that he has done for the RUC. I want also to say that the cool, determined efficiency and professional response of the Army, particularly in the aftermath of the tragedy at Warren point in August, is clear evidence, if that were needed, of the impact and firmness which General Sir Timothy Creasey, who will also be leaving the Province shortly after Christmas, has brought to the Army's work in Northern Ireland.

I am sure that the whole House will wish to join with me in expressing our gratitude to the GOC for the burdens that he has shouldered during the years of his appointment, and, through him and the Chief Constable, to express our gratitude to the ordinary men and women of the Services which they command and which have shown once again their own steadfastness and determination to protect our community on our behalf.

I am sure that the House will also have been heartened by the recent major successes of the security forces of the Republic of Ireland against our acknowledged common enemy. The large arms find in Dublin docks, arms finds in the border areas and the conviction so far of one of those involved in the murder of Lord Mountbatten, are illustrations of the fight being waged against terrorism throughout Ireland.

I have referred already to the development of cross-border co-operation against terrorism with the Republic of Ireland, following the meetings between the Prime Minister and the former Taoiseach and myself and Mr. O'Kennedy. That co-operation, at the working level between the security forces in the field on both sides, has been developing to good effect. The Government are confident that the new Government of the Republic, whom we wish well in their task, share the view of the previous Administration that terrorism in the island of Ireland is our common enemy and that we will continue to work together to defeat it.

I have instanced some of the ways in which we are maintaining the drive against terrorism. We shall take any further measures that we may consider necessary to overcome the threat. The keynote to our policy is flexibility—flexibility in the use of manpower, in the disposition of forces, in the choice of operational tools and in the individual response to particular terrorist activities. But, there are two things we must not do. We must not take actions which have only a cosmetic effect; and we must not adopt draconian policies which, dramatic as they may sound, would involve, in practice, a far less efficient use of security force manpower, or would undermine the success we are having in isolating the terrorists from both local and international support.

The same principles underlie my approach to the business that we have to transact today. The draft order before the House will continue in force all the temporary powers of the emergency provisions Act for a further six months. In recommending this course, I have had to pay regard to the present security situation and to the views of my security advisers. But this is no automatic recommendation. Before making up my mind, I have looked carefully at the range of temporary provisions and the purposes they fulfil. It is only because I am convinced that they all still serve a genuine and essential purpose that I ask for their continuance for another six months.

I am well aware that there is a contrary view that the temporary powers are an irritant rather than an emollient, tending to increase the opposition to the forces of law and order and to encourage disrespect for the law. I recognise that this is no frivolous argument; and, in any event, I have the strongest natural inclination to revert to using ordinary legal provisions as soon as possible when the security situation allows.

Among those who have recommended vigorously to me that a start should be made on this process now are the members of the Northern Ireland Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights. They have recommended, as, indeed, they did last May, that two provisions of the Act should now be allowed to lapse. I have given much thought to their arguments, because they come from Northern Ireland's appointed guardians of human rights. The first of these provisions concerns detention—section 12 of the Act. As the House knows, this has not been used in Northern Ireland since 1975. I very much hope that we shall not have to introduce it again. That hope is not universally shared in Northern Ireland or elsewhere in this country. There are those who consider that it would be the answer to our problems. That is not the Government's view. But I cannot dismiss, as a practical matter, the possibility that the Government might find it necessary in the future, however reluctantly, to reintroduce detention. While that possibility remains, however dimly—and at a time when there is no marked improvement in the security situation—it would be foolish to allow the provision to lapse. However, the reality is that the weapon of detention is not being used today.

The second issue raised by the advisory commission, with regard to bail, is a much narrower one, though in legal terms it is rather more complex. The commission wants section 2(2) of the Act to be allowed to lapse. That section provides that, before granting bail in a terrorist case, a judge must be satisfied on certain points. They are that the accused will comply with his bail conditions, and that he will not interfere with witnesses or commit any offence while on bail. The commission is concerned that the provision breaches the principle that a man should be treated as innocent until he is proved guilty. But I do not believe that the way in which the courts apply the terms of this subsection in practice supports that assertion. The Northern Ireland courts are deeply conscious of the rights of the individual and, where they consider the grant of bail justified, they grant it. In current conditions, I believe that I would be remiss if I gave them any encouragement not to look most closely before granting bail at such questions as the likelihood of interference with witnesses or of further terrorist offences being committed.

I want to mention briefly one other point which the commission has made to me. It is a suggestion for an amendment of the Act, not for the dropping of any provision. Amendment, of course, is not possible under the procedure for renewing the temporary provisions of the Act but would require a separate amending Bill. The commission has suggested that section 8, which deals with the admissibility of statements made to the police, should be amended. The section provides that a statement should be excluded in any case where there is prima facie evidence that an accused was subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment in order to induce him to make that statement. The commission wants the Act to make it clear that the unlawful use or threat of physical violence of any sort will also result in the exclusion of a statement. I assure the House that I would not, for a moment, take issue with the commission on this point.

My attitude toward the suggested amendment is an essentially practical one. It is evident from their rulings that the courts already use their discretion to ensure that the Act is broadly intepreted to cover the point the commission makes. There is, therefore, no practical need to amend the provision and, since the Government have no plans to introduce any other amendment to the Act, I do not feel that I would be justified in putting forward an amending Bill solely to deal with this matter.

The advisory commission is continuing its study of emergency legislation and I look forward to receiving its further comments. I am conscious of having disappointed its hopes, but I assure both the commission and the House that I do not ask lightly for the renewal of emergency powers.

Is the Secretary of State aware that his dismal remarks this afternoon will adversely affect the morale of Ulster people? For 10 long years they have suffered terrible, cruel provacation, violence and agony. When will the Government show that they will defeat the Provisional IRA? With all the statistics quoted this afternoon and those in newspapers and elsewhere, it is clear that the order does not secure, and does not help to secure, the defeat of the Provisional IRA. We need stronger, sterner measures.

Of course, the hon. Gentleman will make his own speech. I ask the House to renew the emergency powers, and I have given the House an account of how the Government seek to operate them. I know that the hon. Gentleman has his own views on the matter and we shall be interested to hear them.

The hard fact is that the powers which I ask the House to renew need to be available. I accept immediately that emergency powers are repugnant in a democracy. Neither the Government nor this House would want to have them unless we were sure that they were necessary. The burden of proof must be on us to show that they are needed. There is no question but that we now have many more terrorists behind bars. Thanks to the efforts of the security forces, violence has been contained at a level dramatically lower than that which prevailed only a few years ago.

But we cannot and must not be complacent. Recent events indicate that the terrorists still have the capacity to kill and wound innocent people—respected members of the community serving that community in many capacities—in the Armed Forces, the police service and the prison service. The terrorists have the capacity to destroy commercial premises by pointless acts of sabotage. Even one such attack would be intolerable and in recent days we have seen far too many.

Her Majesty's Government and the security forces remain totally committed to unceasing efforts against criminal terrorism. We need the powers in the emergency provisions Act for that purpose. That is why I ask the House today to renew those powers for a further six months.

4.39 pm

We are debating not only the grave security position in Northern Ireland but the renewal of an order and of an Act on which that order is based. There are three questions that the House should ask itself before agreeing to that renewal.

First, do the circumstances in Northern Ireland, including the number of terrorist incidents, warrant the extension of emergency provisions? Secondly, do the provisions in the Act enable terrorist offences to be dealt with as ordinary crimes as far as possible? I am sure that the Secretary of State places great stress on the fact that "terrorist crimes" are crimes against the State, and they are just as much crimes as any others. If possible, our law should be designed to deal with such crimes in the same way as with other crimes. Thirdly, and most importantly, are all the provisions of the Act necessary to fulfil that purpose?

It is distressing that the number of killings, woundings and bombings is still far too great. The incidents vary from the mass killing of soldiers to picking out for attack members of the various branches of the forces who uphold law and order. We have seen a re-emergence of tit-for-tat killings, which are alike in their brutality and inhumanity and are indefensible for whatever reasons they are committed. Whoever commits an act of terrorism, for whatever reason cannot be seen to be making a serious political point. Ready and unhesitating resort to violence does not advance or ennoble any political cause.

There are differing views in the House about the working of the Act and the order and as to the way in which terrorism would best be tackled. However, I do not believe that any hon. Member would dissent from condemning violence. As the Secretary of State said, to date this year there have been 104 deaths from terrorist incidents in Northern Ireland. Although that is a quarter of the rate at the height of the troubles, it nevertheless equals the murder rate for England and Wales, which together have a population 30 times as large as Northern Ireland. That figure gives us some idea of the scale of the problem and emphasises the fact that there appears to be no immediate end in sight.

I believe that there is no purely military solution, but neither is there a purely political one, which is a trap that people fall into from time to time. Vigorous, fair and impartial upholding of the law under the primacy of the police must be combined with steady work towards acceptable political initiatives, and the widespread political changes throughout Ireland will cause uncertain reactions from the men of violence. What is the Prime Minister's or the Secretary of State's intention about seeking an early meeting with the new Taoiseach in order to continue the dialogue on cross-border security begun with the previous Taoiseach? [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) interrupts from a sedentary position. As always, I am fascinated by what he has to say and I hope that he will repeat his remarks from an upright position.

I believe that the emergency provisions should be renewed, although I am reluctant about that, as every hon. Member should be. It is a necessity but one that we should not gloat over.

My second question was whether we need all the measures provided in the Act to deal with the emergency. In the main, I believe that we do, and I therefore support the Government in asking for renewal of these powers.

The main difference in the law in Northern Ireland from the criminal law in the remainder of the United Kingdom is the provision for trial without jury for certain scheduled offences. Juries are rightly looked on as the cornerstone of our legal system, yet the possible strain on jurors is obvious through intimidation or the threat of intimidation by those organised in the way that they are in Northern Ireland. It would also be a grave additional burden on the police to guard such jurors. There are differences in the law between the Republic of Ireland and ourselves, but when faced with the same basic problem we reach the same fundamental conclusion—that trial by jury for certain classes of offence is impossible.

In fairness to the judiciary in Northern Ireland, I acknowledge that, although unusual, this form of trial is just and enables a fair hearing to take place. We should pay tribute not only to the forces of law and order, which I unstintingly do, but also to the members of the judiciary who carry out a difficult job in Northern Ireland with the highest integrity and complete impartiality.

I emphasise the need to treat these crimes as ordinary crimes, and I believe that we should move towards normalising the law in that regard. An article in The Sunday Times last Sunday highlighted the fact that of all the things that are hurtful and insulting to a terrorist, his conviction as a criminal is the greatest, and that is why terrorists renew and maintain their calls for political status. We must maintain our view that their political beliefs do not excuse crimes of terrorism, and the Secretary of State was right to say that we should make no concession on that. They are criminals and should be dealt with under the ordinary criminal law.

These are emergency powers and, of their nature, such measures are intended to be short term. However, there is a danger that they are becoming a permanent feature of our life and law. We are in an unusual situation, which we concede by renewing the orders, but we must work as hard as possible to normalise the criminal law so that people who commit crimes can be dealt with on the same fundamental basis.

The Secretary of State has the advantage of advice from the Northern Ireland Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights, which has for some time been examining the matter. In May 1979 it issued a press statement on part of the Act and will eventually make a comprehensive statement. The purpose of the commission is to advise the Secretary of State, but will he ask the commission to publish its report so that Parliament and the public may see its judgment on the working of the Act a