House Of Commons
Thursday 31 January 1980
The House met a half-past Two o'clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
COUNTY OF MERSEYSIDE BILL [ Lords] ( By Order)
Order for consideration, as amended, read.
To be considered upon Thursday 7 February.
TYNE AND WEAR BILL [ Lords] ( By Order)
Order for Second Reading read.
To be read a Second time upon Thursday 7 February.
Oral Answers To Questions
Police Custody (Deaths)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will set up an inquiry into deaths in police custody.
As the hon. Member is aware, I have asked chief officers of police for further detailed information. I will make it available to him as soon as possible, and will consider what further action, if any, may be appropriate.
Since the original police version of the death of Jimmy Kelly was that he died of a heart attack, and since the full facts have emerged only because a local action committee happened to be set up, will the right hon. Gentleman accept that public disquiet about whether there are other Jimmy Kelly-type cases concealed beneath the bland statistics will be stilled only by a proper public inquiry into these 245 deaths, especially since, in 10 per cent. of cases, there was no inquest, and, even when there was an inquest, in 15 cases there was an open verdict, including five cases of fractured skulls?
It would be improper for me to make any comment on the Jimmy Kelly case in view of the forthcoming inquest. To that, I must stick. I do not believe that when we have considered the matter carefully—I understand that the Select Committee on Home Affairs is to consider it—it will be found necessary to have a public inquiry. At present, however, I must make no further comment pending the inquest which, I believe, is the first and proper legal proceeding.
Whatever may be the reason for the present question, does not my right hon. Friend agree that recent and well-publicised suggestions made by some Opposition Members that the police may have been responsible for deaths in custody, that the Director of Public Prosecutions has neglected his duties to prosecute and that chief constables may have exceeded theirs, are all signs of a rather nasty and damaging campaign aimed at undermining the authority of those responsible for law and order?
There must, in all these cases, be absolutely no question of a cover-up of any sort. Nor, so long as I am Home Secretary, will there be any question of that. I would also suggest that, if there should be no cover-up, there is the other point that there should be no witch-hunt. It is only fair to police officers that they should be treated like other citizens and that they should not be condemned before anything has been found against them.
In judging the seriousness of these statistics will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the startling contrast with the facts that in Northern Ireland, over the last 10 years, despite everything else, there has been only one death in police custody?
I am grateful for what the right hon. Gentleman says. I had some knowledge of that myself. I appreciate exactly the point that he makes.
Has my right hon. Friend had drawn to his attention the attack on the chief constable of Devon and Cornwall? Does he realise that this is very much resented by most people living in the area who believe that the chief constable has contributed more towards achieving co-operation between the community and the police than probably any other chief constable in the country?
It is not for me to comment upon what hon. Members say in the House. It is for them to substantiate what they say. My impression of the chief constable of Devon and Cornwall, made at first hand when I visited his force, conforms exactly with the view of my hon. Friend. I am sure that he is held in high regard in Devon and Cornwall and that he is carrying out a system of policing that many people strongly favour.
Will the Home Secretary recognise, unlike his hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Fylde (Mr. Gardner), that in my speech last Friday I said just that about the chief constable of Devon and Cornwall? In relation to the wider question, will the right hon. Gentleman recognise that what concerns people are not the details of individual deaths, but whether the system as a whole needs looking at? It is for that reason that hon. Members are calling for a public inquiry. There is genuine public concern. No one is involved in a witch-hunt. No one wants to get at any individual constable. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is concern that can be dealt with only by a public inquiry?
Yes, I noticed that the hon. Member said that in his speech. I did him the courtesy of reading his speech. But the fact remains that he cast aspersions on the way in which the chief constable of Devon and Cornwall was carrying out his duties. I do not accept those aspersions. On the hon. Member's other point, I believe that the process of going through inquests, which we follow at present, is the right approach, and I hope that it will be proved to be so in some of the cases that are coming up.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that if I had to advise my constituents about who was most likely to give them a fair hearing—Mr. Alderson and Mr. Anderton on the one hand, or the hon. Members for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) and York (Mr. Lyon) on the other—I would unhesitatingly choose the former two? Would he wish to disabuse me in respect of that advice?
It would be much safer for me neither to agree nor disagree. Perhaps I might have a personal prejudice, which is probably very well known.
Is the Secretary of State aware that we strongly support his statement about the way in which he sees his role as Home Secretary? Does he realise that we are glad that information will be given to the Select Committee, because the position certainly needs clarification before any further allegations are made? Is he aware that there is still one point of concern? I believe that the names of those involved in these cases should not be bandied about unless the families concerned have given their permission. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that there are times when families do not want this knowledge bandied about and it is only courteous to ask their permission first?
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for making that last point. I specificaly said that I would make this detailed information available to the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher), because he had specifically asked me for it. If the hon. Member for Oldham, West makes these names public, that is his responsibility. If the House told me that I should make the names public I should hope that before it did it would consider very carefully the position of the relatives. In certain cases it would be possible to cause distress quite unwittingly.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received about Government policy regarding entry to the United Kingdom of people from Latin America.
I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to a question by the hon. Member for Wolver Hampton, South-East (Mr. Edwards) on 25 January.
Quite apart from the unjustifiably harsh decision to stop Latin American refugees from coming into this country, will the Minister investigate alleged discrimination by immigration officials against people coming from Latin America to this country, even for a short holiday? In particular, will he ensure a fair hearing for the relatives of a constituent of mine, Mr. Max Flores, who were sent home by,immigration officials after spending more than £1,700 on the fare from Chile to Gatwick?
On the first point about the harshness of our decision, I must point out that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, addressing his executive committee in Geneva last October, indicated that there was no longer a continuing need for a resettlement programme for Latin American refugees and that individual cases should be dealt with as they arose. That is now our policy.The case of Mr. Flores was considered under the old criteria and it did not meet them. If the hon. Member wants any further information I shall write to him about the matter.
A great deal has been made of this question. Can my hon. Friend tell us how many such people have applied for entry to this country recently?
During the four months before the announcement was made, there were 41 applications. Since the announcement was made at the end of October there has been none.
In view of the United Nations report by the special rapporteur, is it not absolute nonsense to say that there is no longer a need for resettlement? Is the Minister aware that the report indicated that oppression continues in Chile and the situation is worse than it was before? Therefore, will he not agree it is absolutely vital that we should assist those refugees who wish to come to this country?
Of course I do not accept that what I have just said is nonsense. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees originally asked us to initiate a programme in 1973 when there was a considerable need. We met that request. He now tells us that there is no need for a continuing programme and we have accepted his advice.
Will the hon. Member assure the House that, in future, cases will be individually looked at by a Minister and not done officially? Will the Home Office publish quarterly numbers of all applications made to come to this country from Latin America, and the numbers of applications agreed to?
I shall consider the second point. On the first point, it sems reasonable that we should treat Latin American refugees on the same basis—that is on a compassionate basis—as refugees from the rest of the world.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will amend the regulations on the minimum height of policemen to bring them into line with that for policewomen at approximately 5 ft 4 ins.
No, Sir. I see no reason to change the present minimum height standards.
Does not the Minister accept that these types of regulations are a restriction on police recruitment and that height is irrelevant to the majority of police duties? Will he not agree that if a 5 ft. 4 in. woman is capable of patrolling the streets at night, it is absurd that, in our unisex police force, a man of 5 ft. 7 in. should be ineligible?
That is not the view of the police service as a whole. On the question of recruiting generally, we must take account of the fact that today, of the 43 forces in England and Wales, only six have deficiencies of more than 5 per cent. in their authorised establishment. Most have significantly reduced their deficiencies in the last 18 months. I do not think that any recruitment considerations would lead to a change.
In view of the well-publicised remarks of the chief constable of Manchester, that he is faced with the dilemma of either breaking the equal opportunities law or relentlessly filling up his police force with women police constables, will the Minister of State confirm the view that is obviously taken by other chief constables, that they are not faced with any such dilemma?
I have no doubt that the chief constable of Manchester is in a better position than I am to say whether he is faced with a dilemma of any kind. I am sure that he will observe the law.
Junior Detention Centres
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department who has been or is being consulted about the planned new regime of short, sharp shock treatment at several junior detention centres.
Staff organisations concerned have been invited to discuss the planning of the project and a meeting has been held with the Prison Officers Association. The education authorities of Surrey and Wakefield have been offered meetings about the educational aspects of the regime. The services concerned are being consulted about arrangements for after-care supervision.
Is the Minister aware that there is a great deal of concern about this scheme, including among the staff of the prison service? Is he also aware that there is a difference between regimes that are tough and those that are degrading to the individual? Will he make the results of any representations available to hon. Members?
I have no reason to suppose that there have been great pressures against the scheme from the staff, as the hon. Member suggests. I believe that many staff welcome the idea. As for the regimes, I have no intention of making them degrading and I am quite determined that this shall not happen.
Is the Home Secretary aware that many of the staff at penal establishments are bitterly opposed to the introduction of the scheme? Does he not consider it unfair that, as the experiment will be applied only to two geographical areas of the country, individual boys who have committed the same crime will, in effect, get a different sentence depending on whether they are to be sent to Send detention centre or New Hall or another detention centre? Is that not unfair? Also, is it not inappropriate that there will be no screening of those who are physically tough or mentally unable to take the tough, sharp, short shock?
There will be screening—I make that absolutely clear to the hon. Member. Naturally, the intake into these centres will be based upon geographical location—that is inevitable. If, as I confidently believe—and Labour Members seem determined that this will not happen—these regimes are a success, there will be wider opportunities for other centres throughout the country.
Is the Secretary of State aware that the regime at Send detention centre is already extremely strict? In what new way will the regime there be made more harsh and rigorous? Will the staff be specially selected and trained so that they become experts in inflicting a short, sharp shock?
No, that will not be the case. There will be considerably more drill than in the past. I do not accept that the system was particularly harsh. There will be significant changes and they will come to light when the regimes come into operation.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will introduce legislation to provide statutory provision for telephone tapping.
I shall deal with this matter when I report to the House—I hope before very long—the outcome of the study of the issues raised in the case of Malone v. Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis.
Has the Home Secretary had drawn to his attention the report in New Statesman today? If so, does he appreciate that the report of widespread phone tapping will cause a real sense of outrage in that the Government should be mounting such an operation without statutory authority and with no safeguards approved by Parliament? Can the right hon. Gentleman explain to the House why the Post Office requires equipment simultaneously to monitor 1,000 private lines when the Birkett report said that there were only 200 phone taps in any one year? Does he not appreciate that with technical development of this nature, a quarter of a century after Birkett, it is time that we had a further public inquiry into the nature of phone tapping and a report to this House?
I have, as the hon. Gentleman knows, undertaken to make a report to this House very shortly. On the other point, I must say to the House that the interception of postal and telephone communications is a vital weapon in combating serious crime, including drug smuggling and terrorism. It is carried out by the Post Office on behalf of the police, Customs and Excise and the security service, only on the authority of individual warrants signed personally by the Secretary of State.I would like to make it clear that the Government, contrary to what the hon. Gentleman seemed to suggest, are carrying out exactly the same procedures, in exactly the same way, as their predecessors.
That is just as bad.
I may add to that that I have seen suggestions that the Secretary of State of the day does not take this duty seriously and is not involved seriously.
I did not say that.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook) asked if I had had my attention drawn to the article in New Statesman. Of course I have and of course I have read it. I am quoting from some of the things contained in that article which, as Secretary of State, I think that I am entitled to rebut. I know how seriously my predecessor took this matter and I assure the hon. Gentleman that I take it seriously, too. It is a responsibility which no Member of this House would particularly like to bear. It is in the national interest that the Home Secretary should have that responsibility and he must conduct it personally and with very great care.
Does the Home Secretary accept that many people are dreadfully worried about surveillance techniques, be they bugging, telephone tapping or interference with the Royal Mail? Will he also concede that there are many Members in this House who feel that the Birkett Report is now inadequate and needs revision? Will the Home Secretary consider a possible Bill of Rights to protect individuals in this country if more information comes forward within the next three weeks in addition to what has already been revealed?
I take most careful note of what my hon. Friend says. Every Government, over a long period of time must strike a proper balance between two considerations which are sometimes in conflict. The first is the national interest and the protection of our citizens in every way. The second is the need to protect individual rights. That balance must be kept. Over a period of time Governments have given that responsibility, in the national interest, to the Home Secretary of the day. I repeat that it is a major responsibility to carry out, but I shall certainly do my best.
Is the Home Secretary aware that the Post Office Engineering Union would welcome a fullinquiry into the allegations of phone tapping, in the firm belief that such an inquiry would clear Post Office engineers of any charges of acting improperly?
In view of his position of responsibility I must take note of what the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) has said.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the majority of people regard these operations as an essential element in the broad spectrum of law enforcement; that they welcome the fact that they are, evidently, being carried out so efficiently and that they would deplore anything which led to any impairment?
Naturally, successive Governments have believed that in the modern world—in the face of terrorism and many other sophisticated crimes—this action is necessary in the national interest. That is why they have stuck to the principles. I believe that these principles are in the national interest. I can only repeat firmly what I have said. It is the job of the Home Secretary and this House has placed that responsibility on me.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I can confirm the basic point, which is that all telephone tapping is for the personal decision of the Home Secretary? Decisions are not taken nominally, as was suggested in today's report. Since the right hon. Gentleman has said that he was coming to the end of his consideration of the legal implications of the Malone judgment—and in accord with the judgment I gave to the House of Commons last year that the time had come for another Birkett type report—may I ask him to report orally to the House when he has come to a conclusion?
Yes Sir. I most certainly will do that.
Does the Home Secretary understand that the need for this kind of surveillance is not being challenged? Nor is his diligence. Is he aware that what concerns the House, I believe, is that it appears that there has been a dramatic increase in the need for this kind of surveillance in the last 20 years? If that is so I think that the House is entitled to know the scale of that activity.
In the national interest successive Governments have never given any figures on this matter. We have always stuck within the terms of the Birkett report. However, I shall certainly note what the right hon. Gentleman has said.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when last he met the chief Charity Commissioner.
My right hon. Friend has not yet had occasion to meet the chief Charity Commissioner, but I met him last September.
When will the Home Office respond to the Select Committee, which reported five years ago, in view of the alleged patent abuse of charity law by the Rossminster Group of Companies, the public schools and institutions such as the London clinic? The all-party Select Committee commented on that abuse. When will the Government say what their views are on this matter? When the Home Secretary next meets the commissioner will he tell him to stop harassing Oxfam and Christian Aid, preventing those charities from carrying out their proper duties? Will the Home Secretary—as recommended by the Select Committee—ask the Charity Commission to survey those charities that are abusing the law?
As my right hon. Friend said in reply to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Drake (Miss Fookes) on 24 January, the pro- posals made by the Expenditure Committee and the Goodman committee have to be viewed in the light of the Government's current policies. We have considered the existing system against this background and, in the light of the recommendations of these committees, we believe that it works adequately. I should add that the Goodman committee made quite clear its view that deprivation of charitable status should not be used as a way of attacking private education.
Is it not a worrying development that the Charity Commission, and ultimately the courts, have ruled in the case of one sector of the Strict Brethren that it is not a religion? Should not a decision such as that be left to the views of honest believers rather than being taken either by administrative civil servants or the courts?
It is not the job of my right hon. Friend to make decisions about the verdicts of the Charity Commissioners. They are subject to the courts. I believe that that is a much better way of dealing with it.
Police (Corruption Allegations)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is satisfied with present arrangements for investigating allegations of corruption against members of police forces; and if he will make a statement.
The Police Complaints Board is due to report to me by 1 June on its review of the working of the relevant part of the Police Act 1976. I intend to await that report before considering what changes, if any, are necessary in the arrangements for dealing with complaints against the police.
Does the Home Secretary agree that confidence in the present arrangements has hardly been helped by the extraordinary decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions to transfer the investigation of a serious allegation by Miss Vivienne Wilde, against a senior officer of Scotland Yard, away from the Operation Countryman investigation back to Scotland Yard? Does he agree that the day-to-day involvement of the Director of Public Prosecutions in investigations of this kind compromises the Director's position as an independent prosecuting authority? Do not the arrangements for the investigation of serious crime against the police—particularly given its deep and institutionalised nature—in parts of the Metropolitan force need to be reviewed urgently?
The hon. Member knows, in the first case, that the proceedings in Operation Countryman were set up by my predecessor. We must allow those investigations to continue and provide every possible support. I believe that the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis and myself are providing that support. On the particular point made by the hon. Gentleman, I do not wish to comment—I do not think it would he proper for me to do so—on the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
In view of press reports that there is interference with the progress of the Operation Countryman investigation, will the right hon. Gentleman state categorically that no interference and no impediment to that investigation will be tolerated in any quarter and that it will be pursued to the end?
I gladly add my voice to that of the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis when he spoke in Glasgow recently and said just that. I support him fully in what he said.
Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that a form of corruption in the secret agencies would exist if only one warrant, authorised by the Secretary of State, was used for a multiplicity of telephone tapping? Will he assure the House that that is not the position? However, if it is the case, will he pursue the combating of this form of corruption rigorously and ensure that there is proper and full accountability to the Secretary of State and to the House?
The hon. Gentleman has referred back to another question. I shall take refuge—having given some full and candid answers—in saying that it would not be in the national interest for me to make any further comments.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what further representations he has received over the new immigration rules.
We continue to receive representations on various aspects of our proposed changes in the immigration rules.
Are the Government now seriously reconsidering the proposed changes in the immigration rules? If so, would it not be best to resist some of the backwoodsmen on the Conservative Benches and their leading voice in the Cabinet—namely, the Prime Minister—on this issue?
No. The rules will be laid before Parliament as soon as possible.
What weight has my hon. Friend given to the high-powered legal evidence that was given recently on male fiances? Is there not a real danger that the Government will get themselves into hot water when the issue is brought before the European Convention? Are we not storing up trouble on an international scale?
No. As my right hon. Friend told the House on 4 December, we believe that we have strong arguments to justify our proposals, if they are challenged.
Does the Minister agree that there is now a complete breakdown between the liaison of the Home Office with the aliens division and local police forces? Does he accept that correspondence taking place between Home Office Ministers and Members of Parliament is now completely ignored by policemen, who now demand that they take action irrespective of the Home Office? Is he further aware that, in reply to my questions, Home Office officials have said that they are completely impotent to intervene in arrests enacted by the aliens division for the police? Is not that evidence supported by the case of a 72-year-old lady in my constituency, who had a bag put over her head, was arrested and taken to Holloway Prison, where she will remain until she leaves this country? Is that not an absolute disgrace? How either the Home Secretary—
Order. The hon. Gentleman should be fair. He has taken a long time. I allowed him extra time, but he has asked enough now.
Order. I remind the House that we have only reached question No. 8. That slow rate of progress is due to long supplementary questions.
I accept that, Mr. Speaker, but there are a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House who have asked extremely lengthy questions In this instance, the whole of our society is at risk and—
Order. I think that the hon. Gentleman has made his question quite clear.
We do not control the operations of the police. It seems that the hon. Gentleman's allegations are completely wild and unsubstantiated.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the current annual cost of keeping a person in prison.
The average annual cost of keeping a person in prison in England and Wales during 1978–79 was £5,894.
Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that the cost of incarceration is rising to a point where there is a pressing need to remove classes of petty offender from imprisonment? What steps is his Department taking to bring that about?
I entirely agree with what my hon. Friend has said. We are considering ways in which that may be done, especially for those who find themselves imprisoned primarily as a result of drunkeness. Another aspect in dealing with the problem is the length of sentence. I stress again, as many have stressed in the past, that except for those who require a lengthy period of imprisonment because of the gravity of their crime, shorter terms of imprisonment are equally effective deterrents and punishments.
Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that, despite the figure that he has produced, which seems high per person, conditions are extremely bad in some of our prisons—for example, Armley prison in my constituency, where because of the lack of resources many prisoners are being con- fined to their cells for almost 24 hours a day? That situation creates many tensions. When will resources be increased to get rid of such conditions which exist in many of our prisons?
I agree that conditions of that sort cannot, and should not, be defended. The extent to which it is possible to deal with them must depend on the present building programme, which is being considered in the light of the recommendations of the May committee, and on the success of the efforts that we are making to ensure that those who do not need to be in prison are not in prison.
Does the figure that my hon. and learned Friend has given include social security costs for the maintenance of the wives and families of prisoners? Is he giving attention to the possibilities of extending the work provision availability in prison and to paying prisoners a reasonable sum for the work that they do so that they may repay some of the cost of their incarceration?
The figure does not include social security costs. The more that we pay prisoners the greater the cost, in a way, per prisoner to the system. The improvement of the quality and extent of the work done by prisoners is something with which we are concerned and which we are considering.
Bearing in mind the complex nature of the subject, does the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that it is essential that the House has an opportunity to debate the May report and the excellent and valuable report of the Expenditure Committee dealing with the reduction of pressure on the prison system? Will his right hon. Friend make strong representations to the Leader of the House to the effect that we should have an early and urgent debate on the prison system?
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, further to the statement of the Minister of State, Official Report, 4 December 1979, columns 364–5, if he will state how many male fiances were admitted to the United Kingdom as visitors in 1979.
I regret that this information is not available.
I am not surprised. Is it not a fact that immigration officers at the ports of entry are reluctant to allow anybody to enter as a visitor if there is even a suspicion of a forthcoming marriage? In view of the statements made by the Home Secretary during the recent debate on immigration, will new directions and new advice be issued to the immigration officers at the ports of entry?
No, Sir. The onus, as always, will be on the passenger to satisfy the immigration officer that he will leave at the end of his visit. I see no need to change the instructions.
Is my hon. Friend concerned about the latest recorded figures of those trying to settle in Britain, which are the highest for years? When does he expect to bring some new, tighter rules before the House?
As I have already said, we intend to publish our final version of the immigration rules in the near future.
Would it not be possible for people entering this country on temporary visits to have their passports withheld and for registrars to be instructed not to marry anyone without a passport?
I shall consider that suggestion and write to the hon. Gentleman. I have my doubts about it.
Is my hon. Friend intending to give a considered reply to the evidence of Lord Scarman to the Select Committee in which he advised that, on the proposal concerning male fiances, we would be in breach of our international obligations?
We have given evidence to that Committee. As I have said, we believe that we have a good case that will stand up to any challenge in the European Court.
Fire Precautions Act 1971
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is satisfied with the operation of the Fire Precautions Act 1971.
The working of the Act is currently under review by the appro- priate sub-committee of the Central Fire Brigades Advisory Councils for England and Wales and for Scotland. We shall consider the need for change in the light of whatever recommendations may be made.
I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend for that reply. Can he confirm that in most areas of the country nearly all hotels and boarding houses have been inspected and that the majority have been certified? Will he also consider designating further uses of premises to come under the Fire Precautions Act in some parts of the countrry ahead of others in relation to the progress they have made under existing designation orders?
What my hon. Friend has said about hotels and boarding houses is correct. Tribute should be paid to the considerable efforts made by the fire service and the hoteliers and proprietors of boarding houses. We are still considering further designations in different parts of the country. We had an opportunity to go into that matter at greater length last Monday during my hon. Friend's Adjournment debate but we are not yet in a position to make any announcement.
Has the Under-Secretary of State recently received a letter from the chief fire officer of the Merseyside county fire brigade, criticising the design of St George's shopping precinct in Liverpool, which was recently destroyed by fire? Will he consider giving greater powers to chief fire officers to enable them to enforce fire regulations in large shopping precincts? Will he also consider making it compulsory to install fire sprinkler systems in large shopping precincts?
I shall look into the matter of the shopping precinct and write to the hon. Gentleman.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to cope with the rising number of unconvicted adults held on remand from London and the home counties; and whether he proposes to provide additional secure prison accommodation in London to assist with this problem.
The causes of pressure on remand accommodation in London and the South-East are complex; they include the shortage of suitable accommodation, the number of prisoners remanded in custody by the courts and the time taken for defendants to come to trial. We are reviewing the accommodation available in the light of the recommendations in the May report, and we are discussing the other matters with the Lord Chancellor's Department.
I thank my hon. and learned Friend for that answer. Is he aware that there are approximately 5,500 remand prisoners in the prison system of whom 1,200 are in Brixton prison? Is there not an urgent need for a new remand prison within the Greater London area?
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. The pressure in Brixton prison is indeed great and something should be done about it. I have hopes that it will be possible to make room for more remand prisoners in Pentonville. Whether and when that can be done is dependent on several factors, including refurbishing and security work.
In view of the fact that most of our prisons become schools for crime for those who enter them with little criminal experience. would it not be a better way of tackling the problem to hasten the trials of the people in custody and look to the court system as a method of quicker despatch, so that we do not need more prisons?
I entirely agree with that.
Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that one important way of speeding up important trials is to abolish the presumption of innocence from silence and introduce tape recorded interviews with police officers?
Those matters are being considered by the Royal Commission on criminal procedure, but my hon. Friend will know that the first of those recommendations will meet with substantial objections of principle.
Will the Minister explain how a known psychopath was allocated to the cell of a young offender who had been convicted of a petty offence? Is he inquiring into this, to ensure that such a disgraceful state of affairs does not occur again?
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we are inquiring into that incident.
Commissioner Of Police Of The Metropolis
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he intends to meet the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis.
I expect to meet him soon.
When my right hon. Friend meets the Commissioner will he remind him of the prompt way in which we fulfilled our election commitment on police pay? In view of the considerable problems with recruitment for the Metropolitan Police in the recent past will he ask the Commissioner what the position is?
I do not think I should need to remind the Commissioner about the first point made by my hon. Friend. On the second point, at the end of December the strength of the Metropolitan Police was 22,528, which was a gain of 567 during 1979. That is very encouraging. It is still short of the establishments, but it has been welcomed throughout the Metropolis.
When the right hon. Gentleman next meets the Commissioner, will he discuss with him the new developments in the Confait case, particularly in the light of the minimal compensation given to the three original defendants who were a quitted in this murder case? Now that new information has come forward which might completely reverse the judgment of the Fisher tribunal, will the right hon. Gentleman review the whole matter, including the compensation awarded?
I think that it would be right for me to consider first what the hon. Gentleman has put to me before putting it to the Commissioner. But, of course, I shall consider it myself.
asked the Prime Minister what action she proposes to take on the "Report on Non-Departmental Public Bodies."
As I told my hon. Friend the Member for Carlton (Mr. Holland) on 16 January, the Government endorse the proposals for the future set out in Sir Leo Pliatzky's excellent report. I have set in hand the steps necessary to implement them.
Does the right hon. Lady agree that, despite the propaganda about quangos put out by the Conservative Party before the general election, this report fully justifies the good public work done by the people serving on these nominated bodies? In view of the fact that many thousands of people give their services free, will the right hon. Lady pay tribute to their work and ensure that these bodies have the public funds they need to perform their tasks—especially the NEB and the Scottish and Welsh Development Agencies—thus minimising the untold damage inflicted by this Government's ecomonic and financial policies?
I think that what the report did was to show that a large numbers of quangos can be weeded out, and were, in fact, terminated, with a saving of about 3,700 appointments and, in the end, a good deal of money. The report also showed that a number of other quangos must continue and I gladly pay tribute to the people who work in those.
Is the Prime Minister aware that the abolition of the Clean Air Council will be considered by many as evidence that the Government do not propose to do much about air pollution in the next few years? Is the right hon. Lady aware that for £15,000 a year the Government received a great deal of expert advice and work? Will she tell her right hon Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment to take that clause out of the Local Government, Planning and Land (No. 2) Bill?
No, Sir. It is a mistake to think that we need to have an advisory council on everything to get Government to take action. Sometimes such bodies can slow it down.
Prime Minister (Engagements)
asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 31 January.
This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet. In addition to my duties in this House I shall be having further meetings with ministerial colleagues and others.
Between her meetings I wonder whether the Prime Minister would care to drive down Ebury Bridge Road and to try, if she can, to enter a building marked "P.O./T.H.Q. O.P.D/E.D.D." so that she can tell the House exactly what is going on?
The answer is "No, Sir." I have nothing to add to the excellent replies given earlier by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on this matter.
Having regard to the report that yesterday in Cheshire a lorry driver was struck in the face by a stone thrown from a picket line, will my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister take the opportunity today to confirm the excellent statement by the Secretary of State for Employment on television last night, in which he said that tougher proposals would be brought forward to control picketing? Will she confirm that that is Government policy?
I think that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment was last night referring to proposals that arose out of the judgment in the McShane case, its effect upon trade union immunities, and his intention to bring forward proposals because he felt that trade union immmunities went too wide at the moment. With respect to my right hon. Friend, I think that most of the proposals on picketing are already in the Bill as it stands.
Are not the allegations on telephone tapping that are contained in the press reports disturbing? Is there not a need for the right hon. Lady to satisfy the House that there is effective political control over the security services?
I am happy to say that there is effective political control over the security services. I have made that clear in previous debates. There is also effective ministerial control over the subject of telephone interception.
Has the Prime Minister studied recent reports to the effect that there is a shortage of staff in the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, and is she worried that that may delay the recently announced nuclear programme? Will she arrange, if necessary, secondment of staff from other Departments?
As my hon. Friend knows, the work done by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate is highly specialised. I was not aware that there was a shortage of staff. Its work is extremely important, and we would never go ahead with a particular nuclear power station or system without safety clearance from the inspectorate. I shall look into the points that my hon. Friend raises.
Will the right hon. Lady assure us that telephones of right hon. and hon. Members are not tapped?
It is exactly the same practice that was announced under the Prime Ministership of the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson). All Governments have followed that practice since. There has been no change whatsoever.
asked the Prime Minister what discussions she has had with Chancellor Schmidt on security arrangements at the Joint Centrifuge Centre, at URENCO Almelo, Holland, run by Great Britain, West Germany and Holland, in the light of the Khan incident, involving nuclear proliferation in the Arab world.
None, but we remain in close touch with the German and Netherlands Governments about the follow-up to the Khan affair.
What assurances have the Germans given that they will do everything possible to stop their sophisti- cated industries from exporting items such as inverters, which make possible a nuclear capacity for developing countries?
I am not aware of any particular assurance given through the joint committee. The hon. Gentleman knows of the concern of all who are connected with the centrifuge enrichment plant there that there should be no repetition of previous events. We are four-square behind the nuclear non-proliferation agreement. We all genuinely and sincerely endeavour to carry out those duties in practice.
Prime Minister (Engagements)
asked the Prime Minister if she will list her public engagements for Thursday 31 January.
I refer the hon. Member to the reply that I gave earlier today to the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud).
Following yesterday's farcical meetings over our EEC budget contributions, are the Prime Minister and her ministerial colleagues aware that the increasing inflation and unemployment, together with further public spending cuts—estimated at £2 billion, and said to be coming from present allocations—mean that the Government are heading for the biggest confrontation with the trade union and Labour movement since the war?
Certainly not. I do not accept the premise in the hon. Gentleman's question in any way. With regard to the question that I at first thought that he was asking, concerning yesterday's meeting with Signor Cossiga, if that was his question, my reply is that it was not disastrous in any way. The European Community is moving towards our position—
Where is the community moving?
The European Community is moving towards our position, but I made it perfectly clear that it is not moving far enough or fast enough for my liking.
I am sure that we all hope that the right hon. Lady is right when she says that the European Community is moving towards our position, but is it the case that we are moving towards the Community's position? In other words, has the right hon. Lady now departed from the statement that she made to the House, namely, that she is insisting on a broad balance between our payments and receipts?
I cannot change the answer that I have given to this question many, many times since we returned from Dublin. We seek a genuine compromise, but we have very little room for manoeuvre. I have used that phrase and will continue to use it because it is true.
Would the right hon. Lady now care to answer the question? Has she moved from her position or is she moving?
I have, indeed, answered the right hon. Gentleman. He was very, very critical of the approach that I adopted in Dublin. The approach that I adopted in Dublin was that I would not be palmed off with some £350 million.
Is the answer "Yes" or "No"?
The answer, if the right hon. Gentleman cannot hear, is that at the end of Dublin I said that the position that we adopted was one of genuine compromise but that we had little room for manoeuvre. If the right hon. Gentleman had not left me such an awful problem, we should not have to be considering it right now.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the whole country, if not the whole House, is entirely behind her in her efforts to reduce our EEC contribution? Is she further aware that she is admired for not coming back from Dublin pretending that she had some hollow victory? Does she agree that her case would be far stronger if she had the support of the Opposition?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. If I may say so, I believe that some of my European colleagues were a lot more shaken than I was.
Will the Prime Minister confirm that she intends to inter- vene in the dispute between the Department of Trade and the Department of Industry over the possible awarding of contracts for a new air traffic control systems for this country to the United States? Is she aware that, if that happens, it will not only mean redundancies for workers in this country but the possible future loss of exports? In comparing the competitive bids from Britain will she bear in mind that the Americans have enjoyed State funding in research and development?
No. I do not intend to intervene. The chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority is the person who is responsible for its operation and the security of air traffic control. I must leave it to him.
Since there is no monopoly on the collection and delivery of newspapers or the collection and delivery of parcels, has the Prime Minister had time today to consider whether there remains a justification for a monopoly on the collection and delivery of letters?
I believe that what my hon. Friend is saying is that where there is a monopoly that is a bad bargain for the public, that results in very high prices without commensurate service. I agree with my hon. Friend. [HON. MEMBERS: "Gas."] The Post Office's prices are going up today. Nationalised industries with a monopoly are a bad bargain for the consumer, and I hope that one day we shall be able to remove that monopoly.
Will the Prime Minister say why she did not adhere to her principle of non-intervention in the case of the gas industry? Since the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that pay awards would be based on the successful running of industries, what figure does she have in mind for the substantial increases due to the workers in that industry?
It is surely right, where public money is involved, to set a reasonable rate of return on public money. I wish that there were more nationalised industries from which we received a reasonable rate of return instead of having a very large number that take out of the pool of wealth that this country creates.
Will my right hon. Friend find time today to consider the growing demand from a majority of people in this country that an individual and his dependants should not be kept by the taxpayer when he is on strike? What measure will she introduce to fulfil the pledge given in our manifesto to bring that about?
At present we have no particular proposals to bring forward, but we should clearly understand that a person is primarily responsible for keeping his family. We expect him fully to discharge that duty. Equally, we expect trade unions, when they bring people out on strike, to make some contribution to their income during that period.
asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 31 January.
I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave earlier to the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud).
In view of the steadily deteriorating industrial situation, may I ask whether the Prime Minister has turned her mind recently to the iniquitous Industrial Relations Act of the last Tory Government'? Does she remember the jailing of the five dockers, when the Official Solicitor had to step in and do something about that matter? When will the right hon. Lady do something about the steel workers, in view of Lord Denning's judgment? Does she not realise that the entire trade union movement is ready to fight back if she tries to hamstring them by the laws that she is trying to introduce against them? Should not the right hon. Lady do something to bring the situation to fruition?
I am more concerned with the present Employment Bill which, I believe, has the support of the vast majority of trade unionists in the country—even though that fact does not suit the hon. Gentleman. As the hon. Gentleman knows, leave to appeal to their Lordships' House against the Denning judgment was granted this morning.
Business Of The House
Will the Leader of the House please state the business for next week?
The business for next week will be as follows:
MONDAY 4 FEBRUARY—Debate on Welsh affairs, on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.
Motion on the European Community documents R/3289/78 and 9056 /79 on construction products.
TUESDAY 5 FEBRUARY—Second Reading of the Local Government, Planning and Land (No. 2) Bill.
Motions on European Community documents 9625/79, 8587/79 and 5331/79 concerning the general energy programme, nuclear power stations finances, and the plutonium safety cycle.
WEDNESDAY 6 FEBRUARY and THURSDAY 7 FEBRUARY—Remaining stages of the Industry Bill.
FRIDAY 8 FEBRUARY—Private Members' Bills.
MONDAY 11 FEBRUARY—Remaining stages of the British Aerospace Bill.
(European Community Documents
The relevant reports are as follows:
Construction products: 20th Report of Session 1978–79 and 11th Report of Session 1979–80
H/C Paper 10-xx 1978–79 para. 3 H/C Paper 195-xi 1979–80 para. 2.
Energy: 8th Report and 9th Report 1979–80 H/C Paper 159-viii 1979–80 para. 4 H/C Paper 159-ix 1979–80 paras. 1 and 4.)
On the subject of Monday's debate on Welsh affairs, we expect the Secretary of State for Wales to open the debate, but will the Leader of the House ask his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry to attend the debate and account for his stewardship in view of the disastrous consequences that have arisen as a result of the Government's industrial policy in South Wales?
It is a debate on Welsh affairs and it would be normal for Welsh Ministers to open and close the debate. However, I shall certainly pass on the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry.
While I accept fully that, in the normal event, we would expect Welsh Ministers to take part in the debate, the situation in South Wales is not normal. There is growing tension because of the handling of the steel and coal industries. The Government must take steps to try to defuse it. I urge strongly that the Secretary of State for Industry should be here.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that there will be relief—I will not say satisfaction—in Wales to hear that there is to be a debate on Monday, because, among other things, it may give the opportunity to Opposition Members to urge caution on the Wales TUC in expressing its anxiety over a worrying situation and actions that are calculated to make that situation a great deal worse.
I am glad to have been able to announce the debate, not only because of the importance of Wales itself but because I recall that on the last occasion when we had a debate on Wales on 23 May the debate started late. Therefore, discussion was curtailed. I am sure that all expressions of opinion will be heard in the debate. I am sure that we all want a peaceful settlement to the steel dispute.
In view of the critical unemployment situation in Scotland, will the Leader of the House tell us when there will be a debate on the Scottish economy?
I am afraid that I laid myself open to that question when I announced the debate on Wales. I appreciate the point. There has not been a full debate on Scottish affairs for some time. Certainly, I shall look into the matter. It is a subject that might be suitable for a Supply day.
Is it not becoming urgent for the House to have a debate on the fishing industry?
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. We should have a debate on the fishing industry, and I hope that there will be one before the next meeting of the Fisheries Council.
Will my right hon. Friend ask an appropriate Minister to make a statement on the outcome of the discussion between the Government and the various Olympic Games organising bodies? In that way, the House will know what conclusion has been reached. Will my right hon. Friend also consider giving the House an opportunity to express itself on the matter, as has already taken place in the United States' Congress?
I shall consider those two important suggestions. Of course, the Cabinet has not yet heard the result of those conversations. We hope that it is one that will be in accordance with the national interest.
During the course of next week's business, will the Leader of the House consider apologising to the House for dishonouring a pledge that he made to the House on 13 July last year, when, in a reply to the Chairman of the Select Committee on European legislation, he said:
Is not the right hon Gentleman aware that on Tuesday the Government concluded an agreement on total allowable catches for United Kingdom fishermen? That agreement violated the principle that he laid down. Therefore, will he personally apologise to the House or, alternatively, ask his right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, who concluded that agreement before consultation and discussion, to make a personal statement to the House of Commons?"Ministers will not give agreement to any legislative proposal recommended by the Scrutiny Committee for further consideration by the House, before the House has given it that consideration".—[Official Report, 13 July 1979: Vol. 970, c. 302.]
The right hon. Gentleman has escalated the issue. [Interruption.] Of course, I am well aware of the answer that I gave in written form to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Silverman) in July. I stated clearly that Ministers would not agree to any proposals that had not been before the Scrutiny Committee. However, there was a proviso to that stating that that situation would apply unless there were special circumstances, with which the Minister was satisfied for good reasons. If the Minister had to reach an agreement in such circumstances, I said that he would come to the House and explain at the earliest opportunity. That is exactly what happened.In the discussions at the Fisheries Council a proposal was put forward—not a highly controversial one—which it was in the interests of the country to accept. My right hon. Friend accepted it. It was not the document that has been before the Scrutiny Committee. Yesterday, he made a statement explaining his agreement. In fairness to the right hon. Gentleman, I am prepared to accept that my right hon. Friend did not spell out the position as fully as I am spelling it out now, but in fact the full spirit of what I said was complied with and, as I said in answer to the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), there will be a full debate on fisheries policy. That will provide an opportunity for a further statement to be made by my right hon. Friend.
I am sorry, but I cannot allow the Leader of the House to wriggle off the hook as easily as that. In his reply he made no mention of exceptional circumstances. If a Minister circumvents the agreement that was made with the Chairman of the Select Committee on European legislation it is clearly stated that he should take the first opportunity to explain the reasons for that to the House. He has not done so, and we await that explanation.
In my answer, I said that the procedure of going to the Scrutiny Committee should be followed unless the Minister concerned was satisfied that there were good reasons for not doing so, which he would explain to the House at the earliest opportunity. The Minister was satisfied that there were good reasons, and he made a statement to the House yesterday. In concession to the right hon. Gentleman—
The right hon. Gentleman is being patronising.
I am not being patronising; I am trying to be reasonable about the matter. The Minister did not spell out the position as I am spelling it out now, but he complied with the answer that I gave.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that some of us who have watched the progress of the Industry Bill may want to put down amendments to facilitate hiving-off the MG factory and others? The amended Bill is still not in the Vote Office. Will my right hon. Friend do his best to ensure that the amended Bill is put in the Vote Office as soon as possible, as the Committee stage finished on 17 January?
Of course I shall look into the matter. I shall ensure that the amended Bill is made available at the earliest opportunity.
Will the Leader of the House ask the Secretary of State for Social Services to make an early statement? Will he ask his right hon. Friend to explain why the Government have refused to publish the annual guide to benefits and family pensions that is normally available to rights' workers, citizens' advice bureaux and hon. Members? That guide has been replaced with a shoddy leaflet that is no good at all to those who wish to claim benefits. It is one thing to take away or reduce benefits; it is another to prevent people from finding out their rights.
I shall ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to review the position.
Will my right hon. Friend make a statement early next week to the effect that Hansard will resume being a daily publication?
The ultimate responsibility for Hansard is not mine. It rests with Mr. Speaker, and he is advised by the Commission. However, we are looking into that question. As Leader of the House, I shall of course do all I can to assist. However, there are difficult problems, and I shall consult Mr. Speaker about them.
With reference to Tuesday's debate on nuclear energy, is it not ironic that we are to have an opportunity to debate EEC documents before we have had an opportunity to debate the Government's extraordinary and ambitious programme on nuclear power? Nuclear power provides the Government's largest investment programme; possibly the only large investment programme left. Will the right hon. Gentleman advise his colleagues that some of us may wish to make glancing references to that programme during the debate, but that we shall also seek a full debate before the Government make a financial commitment of their own?
Yes. There is substance in the point about having a debate on the Government's programmes for energy and nuclear power at some time. I shall try to fit that debate in when I can. However, we have a heavy programme for the next few weeks.As for the documents, they are more than routine. They have far-reaching implications for nuclear energy in the Community. It is right that the House should have an opportunity to debate them.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that since the publication of the extremely important ACORD report on technological changes in the United Kingdom, early-day motion 345 has been signed by Members from all parties asking yet again for an early debate on microelectronics?That this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government to provide time for an early debate on the progress and widening application of micro-computer technology in view of its likely impact on industry and society and the investment being made from all sources in the production of silicon chips. Since, metaphorically and appropriately, the House has come to him on bended knees, will my right hon. Friend assure us that we will not have to adopt a more belligerent posture?
I am aware of the importance of the subject and of my hon. Friend's expert knowledge. However, I am in difficulty. I have not got time for that debate in the next few weeks, but I agree that the subject must be debated at same stage.
Will the Leader of the House intervene on the question of the constitutional propriety of the decision of his right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General to prevent the Director of Public Prosecutions from appearing before the Select Committee on home affairs in order to assist its investigation into deaths in police custody—
Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman. It is quite out of order to refer to the activities of a Select Committee of the House before it has reported to the House. Such a report has not yet been made.
May I complete my question by asking the Leader of the House to take account of the fact that the DPP has already dilated at length on his views on prosecution policy in a Sunday newspaper? Will he ensure that full evidence—including the presence of the DPP—will be assured to the Committee?
You have, Mr. Speaker, deprived me of the first part of my answer. I shall have to make do with the second part. When the Select Committees were set up it was agreed by the House that the Law Officers' Department should not be subject to those Select Committees. The issue concerns the Department of the Attorney-General, and I shall refer the matter to him for further discussion.
When will the new immigration rules be laid before the House?
The new immigration rules will be laid before the House as soon as may be.
When is the debate on the renewal of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act likely to come up?
I am afraid that it will not be next week.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the House of Commons is experiencing great difficulty in finding Committee Rooms? We know, of course, that the number of Committees has increased. Indeed, we are bursting at the seams in many directions. Secretaries cannot get places, nor can some hon. Members. Has my right hon. Friend noticed the new building going on in Richmond Terrace? I think that it was started by the previous Government. Will he assure the House that if development of the Bridge Street site cannot be started soon we can have the use of the Richmond Terrace building when it is completed?
We are looking into the whole question of accommodation in the House. I am in constant consultation, through the usual channels, to discover how we can best use the available accommodation. The general issue is of concern to the Services Committee. I have noticed with great interest what has been going on in Richmond Terrace. It is being refurbished, and is not a new building. I thought it might be a suitable building for the Office of Arts and Libraries. However, I am afraid that that is impossible. The building is too far from the House to be of any use. Prompted by my hon. Friend, I shall investigate further to see what plans have been laid for that most interesting and beautiful building.
Following the admission by the Leader of the House that Scottish affairs have not been adequately debated this Session, and as the overwhelming majority of Scottish Members are implacably opposed to the Government's programme for Scotland, will the Leader of the House take urgent steps to activate realistic talks in order to achieve better and more democratic government in Scotland? The Leader of the House should bear in mind that the mandate for a Scottish Assembly was stronger than this Government's mandate to govern the United Kingdom.
On the question of talks on the future government of Scotland we have reached a limited agreement for discussion on the handling of Scottish business with the Opposition. I hope that we can proceed further along those lines. As for the lack of a Scottish debate, I am afraid that the previous Labour Government were much more culpable than the present Government. Apart from the debate on devolution, there has not been a general debate on Scottish affairs since 1976.
Bearing in mind the many requests for debates that have been made, will my right hon. Friend consider the fact that several hon. Members listened to the whole of the statement that was made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on the fisheries agreement? We felt that he had explained the position clearly. It is therefore unnecessary to have another statement, as that would only duplicate the previous one.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his support. I was glad to have an opportunity of explaining—more fully than perhaps was suitable for my right hon. Friend—the procedural position. I hope that I have allayed the wrath of the right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason).
On the matter of the reply of the Leader of the House to the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook), in which he indicated general satisfaction that immigration rules would not be laid for some time, is he aware that that answer prolongs the anomaly whereby applications under the present rules are legally accepted until the new rules are laid, although it has been made clear that they will not be considered under the new rules following the dates on which the White Paper was laid last November? Is that not a serious injustice to thousands of people who are affected by those rules? Will he ask his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to reconsider the position?
I shall pass on to my right hon. Friend the anxiety that has been expressed. However, the right hon. Gentleman must not read into my answer things that were not in it. My answer meant what it said. It stands in its own right; not on the interpretation that the right hon. Gentleman has chosen to put upon it.
The House gave leave to introduce a Bill to look annually at our expenditure to the European Community and to decide whether to continue with that expenditure. Bearing in mind that a majority of 123—twice the majority that the Government usually receive for their primary legislation—and 123 more than the Bill that was introduced yesterday, and that we are facing great problems in persuading our European friends of the gravity of our case on the EEC budget, will my right hon. Friend ensure that the House is given a swift opportunity to debate the matter?
There has been a recent general debate on foreign affairs. We have also the advantage of continual statements from my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal. The House has ample opportunity to debate and discuss Community affairs. I do not think that we can reopen the whole question of British membership of the EEC.
Will the Leader of the House tell us when he hopes to arrange a debate—perhaps fairly soon—on the important report of of Sir Monty Finniston on the British engineering profession?
It is an important report, and it may well be relevant to a number of topics that we shall be debating in the near future. I cannot promise a special debate on the subject.
Will my right hon. Friend prove his concern about the crisis in our prisons by promising an early debate on the May report?
I have told the House before that my right hon Friend the Home Secretary is discussing the implications of the report. When those discussions are completed we shall consider the matter again.
In view of his commitment to open government, will the Leader of the House next week persuade the Secretary of State for Social Services to explain to the House why, for the first time in 30 years, there will not be an annual report of his Department or an annual report from the chief medical officer?
I shall pass on that important representation to my right hon. Friend.
In view of the discussions between the usual channels on possible extra financing for Opposition parties in Parliament, will my right hon. Friend ensure that there is a statement next week, or as soon as possible—not a written answer—on the conclusions of those discussions?It appears that if the Labour Party subscription rises by 150 per cent. to £3, either it will be so rich that it will not need the money or it will find that it has so few members that it hardly justifies any subsidy.
The principal of subsidising the activities of political parties in Parliament—not outside it—has been approved by the House. It is right to review the position in the light of inflation, which has eroded the original grant. The problem may be not the amount of the subsidy but how to spread it among the various Opposition parties if they should multiply in the future
Does the Leader of the House realise that the Local Government, Planning and Land (No. 2) Bill is not one Bill, but three or four? Each of those Bills is highly contentious and fundamental in the changes that they propose, Does the right hon. Gentleman think that one day is sufficient for the Second Reading of that Bill?
It is a most important Bill. It was for some of the reasons that were put forward by the hon. Gentleman that the Bill was reduced in size and reintroduced into the House. Whether it should have one or two days is a matter for discussion through the usual channels. I see from my business statement that one day appears to be sufficient.
Following the Home Secretary's promise earlier today that we shall have a statement on telephone tapping at some time in the future, will the Leader of the House use his influence to incorporate that statement with a debate on the whole issue? The matter has caused much concern, especially in its industrial aspects and the tapping of the Grunwick telephones.Will the right hon. Gentleman arrange a full debate on the issue so that the demand for an inquiry can be fully canvassed in the House?
I advise the hon. Gentleman to proceed slowly but reasonably on the matter. He has received a promise of a statement. If I were to try to link that statement with a full debate it might delay the statement for a long time.Let us listen to the statement and to what my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has to say, because it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that the hon. Gentleman will find that all his anxieties are answered.
Was the Leader of the House not informed by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food of the agenda of the Fisheries Council in time for him to consider amending the business of the House to allow for a debate? If he was not so informed, the Minister was clearly in dereliction of his duty to keep his colleagues in the Government informed so that the position could not have arisen.
The whole matter arose at short notice. I have explained the position constitutionally in the House, and the proviso in my answer in July. I am quite satisfied that my right hon. Friend behaved entirely in accordance with the spirit of my remarks.
Will the Leader of the House ensure that there is a statement next week on the steel strike? As Leader of the House, will he press the Secretary of State for Industry to be in the House for the Welsh debate on Monday? There are massive redundancies in the steel industry in Wales that will mean consequential massive redundancies in the coal industry. The whole of the Welsh economy is affected. It would be ridiculous if the Secretary of State for Industry were not present for that debate.
There has been a recent opportunity to debate the state of the steel industry. There will be an opportunity, in the context of the Welsh debate, to debate the position of the steel industry in Wales. I have said that should it be necessary I shall ask the Secretary of State for Industry to make a statement on the steel strike.It is important to have a general debate on the Welsh economy. I am well aware of the great economic and social problems that are faced by Wales.
Further to the question put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason), is the Leader of the House aware that his right hon. Friend the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food yesterday mentioned no exceptional circumstances? Furthermore, he gave no reassurances to the British fishing industry that it would be guaranteed at least half of the catch. In order that British fishermen can be assured that the Government are not riding roughshod over Parliament, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that business is changed next week so that we can debate the issue, as he promised on 13 July?
It would not be feasible to change the business for next week. I have given an undertaking that before the next meeting of the Council we shall have a full debate.Reverting to the circumstances of my right hon. Friend's action, he was presented at the eleventh hour with a revised proposal on total reliable catches. That, admittedly, was not the same as the one examined by the Scrutiny Committee. That new document was based on international scientific recommendations in accordance with the policy not only of this Government but of its predecessor. In exercising the liberty that he has under the statement that I made in July, my right hon. Friend was able to achieve useful progress towards a satisfactory solution of the fisheries problem.