House Of Commons
Wednesday 13 February 1980
The House met at half-past Two o'clock
[MR. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Message From The Queen
SOLOMON ISLANDS, TUVALU AND KIRIBATI (INDEPENDENCE GIFTS)
The Vice-Chamberlain of the Household reported Her Majesty's Answer to the Address, as follows:
I have received your Address praying that I will give directions that there be presented on behalf of your House a gift of a clock to the national Parliament of Solomon Islands and gifts of gavel sets to the Houses of Assembly of Tuvalu and Kiribati, and assuring me that your House will make good the expenses attending the same.
It gave me great pleasure to learn that your House desires to make such presentations and I will gladly give directions for carrying your proposals into effect.
Oral Answers To Questions
Foreign And Commonwealth Affairs
asked the Lord Privy Seal if he is satisfied that all possible steps are being taken by Her Majesty's Government to prevent the spread of nuclear armaments to countries which do not currently possess them.
The Government believe that the non-proliferation treaty is the best defence against nuclear weapons proliferation. As a depository Power, the United Kingdom tries to persuade others to adhere to the treaty, which now has 113 parties. We have fully observed our obligations under the treaty and the Nuclear Suppliers Group arrangements on nuclear exports.
Is the Minister aware that there will be widespread support for the proposal that the Government's main effort in this vital subject should be through the non-proliferation treaty review conference due this summer? Does he agree that there is a unique opportunity at present, in view of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and the reappraisal of defence needs in that area, when some countries calling for help have not yet subscribed to the non-proliferation treaty? Does he agree that Pakistan and other nations that seek help at this time, from us and our Allies, should be encouraged to participate in the non-proliferation treaty?
:Yes, Sir. President Zia has said that Pakistan has no intention of acquiring a nuclear weapon or transferring nuclear technology to other countries. The best course, as my hon. Friend says, would be for Pakistan to sign the treaty. It has said that this would have to be accompanied by a signature from India. If there is anything that the Government can do to help forward that process, we shall do so.
Are the Government involved in the American $400 million package of aid to Pakistan? What active steps have been taken to help the Nuclear Suppliers Group stop Pakistan from getting nuclear weapons?
The hon. Gentleman, who follows this matter closely, knows the measures that we have taken. They have been discussed in this House. As regards defence help for Pakistan, we are not involved in that proposal but we are discussing, as has been stated, with our partners and Allies, possible forms of help to that country.
This development on nonproliferation is to be welcomed, but would it not be realistic to accept that many countries, whether we like it or not, will develop nuclear weapons for the same reasons that we and other nations have done so? Is it not time to look again at the overall policy and, perhaps, consider examining regional agreements that might be more effective in stabilising the balance of power elsewhere in the world?
There is something in that. As the hon. Gentleman knows, some Latin American countries have come together in discussions on those lines. There will be the conference reviewing the progress of the non-proliferation treaty probably towards the end of the summer or early autumn. We intend to take a full part.
Will the Minister say what export licensing orders and arrangements are still in force restricting the supply of components that could be used in the manufacture of nuclear equipment in Pakistan and other countries? Will he say something about the progress being made with the INFCE report, which will have implications for the better policing of nuclear materials throughout the world?
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, from his last office, these export controls are in being. They are looked at from time to time. We have recently tightened them to take account of the latest developments. The INFCE discussion to which he refers is still in being. I understand that there is a final meeting shortly. It has cleared the ground a good deal and removed some of the misconceptions. We believe that the final documents, when they emerge, will contain useful guidance for the future.
Secretary Of State Vance
asked the Lord Privy Seal when next the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs plans to meet Mr. Vance.
My right hon. and noble Friend has no definite plans for a meeting with the American Secretary of State.
When the Secretary of State meets Mr. Vance will he convey to him the congratulations of the Government and of most hon. Members on the stand that he took and the speech that he made at the IOC meeting at Lake Placid? Following the IOC's mostill-judged decision, what do the Government now propose?
I shall certainly see that my right hon. and noble Friend conveys my hon. Friend's congratulations to Mr. Vance. Of course, we are disappointed, as are many people, that the IOC decided as it did. We remain of the view that it would be preferable to remove the summer Games from Moscow, because any other course would appear to condone Soviet aggression in Afghanistan and allow the Soviet Union a propaganda victory—
Therefore, the Government will continue to consult the growing number of countries that, happily, share our view on this issue. We shall consider with them the options that are open to us as a result of the IOC decision. An important part of the consultation will naturally be the European Community ministerial meeting to be held in Rome on 19 February. After these consultations, and in the light of a study of all the possibilities, the Government will convey their views to the British Olympic Association, which is due to meet on 4 March
Will the Lord Privy Seal point out to Mr. Vance the danger to world peace of America sending 1,800 Marines to the Gulf next month, of preparing a 100,000-strong rapid deployment force, and of setting up military bases in Masira, Somalia, Kenya, Diego Garcia and other points further east?
It would be silly for my right hon. and noble Friend to complain in any way about the transport of 1,800 American troops when there are about 70,000 Soviet troops in Afghanistan. That is the danger to world peace, and that is the problem to which the hon. Gentleman should be addressing himself.
Will my right hon. Friend congratulate the United States Government on granting $10·4 billion to Third world countries for trade and military affairs, and will he arrange to coordinate funds in Western Europe in order to grant moneys to Third world countries and those under pressure, for example for the training of freedom fighters in Afghanistan, Yemen and Ethiopa?
I agree very much with the drift of the first part of my hon. Friend's question, but I do not at all agree with the second part. The Soviet Union is the only country that has interfered internally in Afghanistan, and we want it to remain that way—[Interruption.] I should make clear that we deplore the Soviet action, but we have no intention whatever of following suit.
Does not the Lord Privy Seal agree that the danger of peace is in the lack of a co-ordinate Western response at a time of crisis, and that some of the events of the last few weeks have echoed the lack of unity that was apparent at the time of the Yom Kippur war? Does he agree that political co-operation seems to work only at times of calm, and that the West seems to fall apart every time there is a real crisis? Should not the right hon. Gentleman be talking to Mr. Vance about that?
The hon. Gentleman is taking an unduly pessimistic view. It is not suprising that there should have been initial differences of perception about the dangers of what happened in Afghanistan, and a difference of reaction. There have been definite signs of convergence over the last few weeks, and I am confident that that process will continue.
asked the Lord Privy Seal when he proposes to meet the President of Cuba.
asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on the relations of Her Majesty's Government with the Government of Cuba.
My right hon. Friend has no plans to meet the President of the Cuban Council of State. Her Majesty's Government's relations with the Republic of Cuba, which we would like to be more substantial, are constrained because Cuban foreign policy appears to be conducted in concert with the Soviet Union. The Government's current views of some aspects of Soviet foreign policy were clearly stated by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 28 January.
I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Does he not think that recent events in Afghanistan have perhaps turned President Castro into a Cinderella among the non-aligned nations? Does he not think that, perhaps, my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal or my right hon. and noble Friend the Foreign Secretary could act in this case as a fairy godmother and take the President of Cuba to another ball on the other side of the curtain?
It is true that Cuba voted against the United Nations General Assembly resolution condemning interference in Afghanistan. The Cuban media have simply reproduced the Soviet statements and comments on events in Afghanistan without attempting any individual interpretation of them.
Will my hon. Friend comment on the increasingly widely held belief that the Government of Cuba are cracking up under the weight of their own oppressiveness?
I was interested to read in today's press that, in a secret speech on 27 December, for which the "Hansard"has only just become available through the auspices of the free press, the President said that 4,000 men had been set aside to weed out offenders and keep them out of the way for as long as necessary. That seems to me to be a sinister sign.
Is the Minister aware that his concern over Cuba would be more credible if he were not such a close associate and fellow traveller of the Fascist regime in Chile, even to the disgraceful extent of questioning whether Dr. Sheila Cassidy had been tortured by the junta?
That does not arise on this question, but the hon. Gentleman is well out of date and he should read the papers.
In the past, when Cuba has had economic crises at home, has that not been an excuse for a diversion in foreign policy, for it to become aggressive and expansionist? Does my hon. Friend feel that that has implications for the Caribbean, and in particular for the remaining dependent territories in that region?
It must be difficult for the Cubans to sustain the 35,000 or so troops that they have in Africa when economic conditions are deteriorating at home. I would have thought that that would hardly be the time to engage in adventures anywhere in the world.
Has the Minister lately taken up the case of Cuban forces in Ethiopia? If so has there been any satisfactory explanation for their presence?
Representations have been made to the Cuban Ambassador on this matter, but to no effect.
asked the Lord Privy Seal if he is planning any discussions with the Governments of Greece, Turkey and Cyprus in relation to the division of Cyprus; and if he will make a statement.
The Government maintain close and regular contact over the Cyprus problem with the Governments and parties concerned, and hope to see the intercommunal talks resumed as soon as possible.
As there is already a degree of co-operation between the two communities on such things as the maintenance of electricity and water supplies, will my right hon. Friend press on the United Nations that in order to extend this co-operation, such things as Nicosia airport and other parts of the island could be put under temporary international con- trol to give the two communities further opportunities to work together?
I am well aware that my hon. Friend has recently been to Cyprus and therefore is speaking with considerable experience of the problem. I shall draw what he has said to the attention of those concerned.
If the Lord Privy Seal is so concerned about foreign troops in Afghanistan why does he not take a stronger line about the Turkish troops in Cyprus? They have been there for some years now. Does he not think that if the Government are to be consistent and are not to be accused of employing double sandards, Britain should take a much stronger line on this issue than it has done so far?
We are most anxious to secure a solution to the Cyprus problem. Turkish troops entered Cyprus while the hon. Gentleman's Government were in power. I fail to see the relationship between the presence of Turkish troops in Cyprus and the Russian invasion of Afghanistan.
Does the Lord Privy Seal agree that the fact that Turkey is seeking to enter the European Economic Community presents this country with an opportunity to exert a constructive influence upon Turkey? Can he also say whether there is anything further to report on those British citizens who lost property during the Turkish invasion?
As the hon. Gentleman knows, linkage of the kind suggested is not always the best way of tackling these problems. He also knows that this Government, and the previous Government, tried to exert influence to achieve a settlement of the communal problem. I have some news of those British subjects mentioned in the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question. The Turkish-Cypriots have now approved 140 exgratia awards to British subjects as recommended by their claims commission and payment of these awards has begun.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that, as one of the former guarantor Powers, we have some residual responsibility for the affairs of Cyprus? Can he give some assurance that in any discussions that take place we shall give due regard to the rights of the Turkish minority that were so seriously violated during the period from 1963 until the Turkish invasion?
I can assure my hon. Friend that we shall give due regard to the rights both of the Turkish minority and the Greek majority. The one objective of ourselves and Dr. Waldheim of the United Nations is to secure a settlement congenial to both parties.
If that is the case will the Lord Privy Seal consider having a word with Dr. Waldheim pointing out to him that because the situation is so delicate it would be very helpful if the United Nations appointed someone in Cyprus with experience of the area and its politics?
I do not entirely agree with the hon. Lady's inference that the United Nations' representatives have been inexperienced and have not been helpful. They have been extremely helpful and we shall continue to support them.
asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement regarding the present use of Diego Garcia.
The present use of Diego Garcia as a United States communications and support facility is in accordance with the published exchanges of notes of 1966 and 1976. There is a British liaison team of 25 Royal Navy personnel.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that reply. Can he tell the House to what extent United States forces in the island are being built up and what is the extent of existing support facilities there? Can the hon. Gentleman further inform the House whether the Government intend to allow the former inhabitants to return? Is the present offer of further compensation contingent upon acceptance of the fact that they have been evicted from their island?
The size of the United States forces in Diego Garcia is around 1,900. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the two agreements of 1966 and 1976—signed by the then Labour Government—provide for comunications and support facilities for the United States. In recent weeks the United States has asked for an extension of those facilities in order to improve the staging and handling capacity there. These arrangements are within the understandings reached between our two Governments and are perfectly in order. We have agreed to meet the request. As far as the Ilois community is concerned, the issue goes back to 1965 and 1966 when the then Labour Government decided that the inhabitants should be asked to move to Mauritius. In the 1970s the British Government gave compensation of £655,000. With accrued interest, that figure totals almost £1 million. That is compensation, in particular for resettlement of the Ilois community in Mauritius.
Does the Minister agree that, in the context of recent events in the Indian Ocean, the Gulf and elsewhere, there are strong arguments for increasing the facilities available to the United States in Diego Garcia? Is not such an arrangement all the more relevant in the light of what seem to be unfortunate developments created by Russia's links with the Seychelles to the north?
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend about the threat posed by the Soviet Union. The growing instability of the area fully justifies the request of the United States for these facilities.
Is the Minister aware that what we do, or do not do, in Diego Garcia is a sensitive issue? Does not his statement supersede the clear statement made by the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), on 28 November, that no further developments were planned for the island? Is the Minister saying that he now overrides that statement? Can the hon. Gentleman say whether the offer of £1·25 million made to the islanders has been accepted?
I will take the latter point first. I apologise to the hon. Gentleman in that I did not complete my earlier answer. There is an outstanding offer of £1·25 million, which is not for resettlement since that is a separate issue. It is an ex-gratia payment for the removal of those people from the Chagos archipeligo to Mauritius. That offer is outstanding and has not been finalised.As far as the provision of additional facilities is concerned, the hon. Gentleman knows that there have been additional serious developments since then. Talks have taken place at official level between the United States and Great Britain and the Americans have asked for additional staging capacity in that area.
asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will pay an official visit to Cairo.
My right hon. Friend hopes to do so before too long.
While we await the visit of the Foreign Secretary to Egypt, and no doubt to Israel, will the Minister take this opportunity to reaffirm our firm and continued support for the peace process between Egypt and Israel and for its continuation? Will the Minister publicly welcome, in particular, the remarkable normalisation of relations between those old foes signalled this month by the exchange of ambassadors?
We certainly support the Camp David treaty and the negotiations that have flowed from it. We also welcome the normalisation. We now look forward to something equally important, namely substantial progress in the autonomy talks. We believe that such progress is necessary if the peace process is to be established and continued.
If the Foreign Secretary visits Cairo will he raise with President Sad at the lack of progress on linkage following the Camp David negotiations? Will the Foreign Secretary put forward the possibility of a European initiative, which would suggest a period of international trusteeship for the West Bank and Gaza?
We have no wish to cut across the current peace efforts, which we support. We are considering with our European partners ways in which we might help the peace process forward.
asked the Lord Privy Seal when next he expects to meet the Foreign Minister of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
My right hon. Friend has at present no plans to do so.
I wonder, in view of that reply, whether my hon. Friend would consider writing to the Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union drawing to his attention the extraordinarily large numbers of Russian surveillance ships near United Kingdom territorial waters? Will my right hon. Friend ask the Soviet Foreign Minister what those Soviet ships are doing near our waters?
This is a matter that has caused concern to successive British Governments. I take note of my hon. Friend's suggestion.
When the hon. Gentleman meets the Soviet Foreign Minister will he give him an assurance that this country is still committed to detente in Europe, in spite of what has happened in Afghanistan?
The problem with detente is that the Soviet Union has interpreted it in a way which its natural meaning does not bear. The Soviet Union has claimed the right to commit aggression in parts of the world outside Europe and has claimed the right to continue the ideological struggle against countries of the free world by any means. That is not an interpretation of detente that is acceptable to us.
When the Minister eventually meets Mr. Gromyko will he be in a position to inform him that Kuwait has such confidence in the West that it no longer feels it necessary to purchase Russian ground-toground missiles?
I take note of what my hon. Friend says.
When the Minister next meets the Soviet Union's Foreign Minister will he ask that gentleman whether he will publish a report about the movements of other foreign Governments in Afghanistan so that we can determine why the Russian Government decided to invade Afghanistan?
According to information available to me the Soviet Union is the only country which has been interfering in the internal affairs of Afghanistan.
Council Of Foreign Ministers
asked the Lord Privy Seal when next he will meet other EEC Ministers.
asked the Lord Privy Seal when next he expects to meet his EEC counterparts.
asked the Lord Privy Seal when his noble Friend expects to meet his European Economic Community counterparts.
asked the Lord Privy Seal when he next expects to meet his EEC counterparts.
My right hon. and noble Friend and I will meet our Community colleagues at the next meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels on 17 and 18 March.
Will the Lord Privy Seal confirm that he received no satisfaction on his recent tour of the European capitals and chancelleries in his effort to gain support for the United Kingdom's attempt to reduce its grotesquely excessive contribution to the European budget? Does he agree that in the last couple of days the French have been characteristically unhelpful? Does he accept that, if the Prime Minister is not to be grossly humiliated at the forthcoming summit, Britain will have to take action on its own? Will the Minister comment on the article by the European editor of The Guardian today which suggests that we could legally withhold VAT contributions?
The hon. Member's language is, to use his word, "excessive". I agree that our net contribution to the European budget is, indeed, excessive. I cannot confirm that I received no satisfaction on my recent tour. It was helpful. There was a general desire to see our problem solved. I hope that it will be. It is not for me to comment on articles by the European editor of The Guardian.
I must press the Lord Privy Seal on the report in The Guardian.
Order. I hope that the Member will ask his question, because time is short.
I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I was put off my stroke by hon. Members. Is the Minister aware that many of us are deeply concerned by the report in The Guardianand by the Lord Privy Seal's reply? Can he confirm or deny that the Government are considering cutting off VAT payments if we receive no satisfaction in the negotiations?
I cannot comment on the article by the European editor of The Guardian. That is normal practice and it is particularly true on this occasion since I have not read the article.
I appreciate that some progress has been made towards achieving a common position among the Nine on the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, but does my right hon. Friend expect that further progress will be made at the meeting to reach a unified EEC approach to the problem?
I am sure that that will happen. Further progress was made in Brussels last week at the meeting attended by my hon. Friend. This is not a matter that can be settled overnight. There is an undoubted process of convergence in train.
What response will the Government make to the application by Turkey for membership of the Common Market? Is not that worthy of a statement before we go any further?
No, because Turkey has not yet made a formal application. Turkey has made it clear that that will be the ultimate result of the 1963 association agreement. It is far too early to make a statement.
Has my right hon. Friend any comments to make on the statements by Mr. Jenkins about the approaching bankruptcy of the EEC?
The President of the European Commission pointed out the general economic difficulties facing Europe. I do not think that he said anything new.
Does the Lord Privy Seal agree that the approaching bankruptcy of the EEC will not occur in time to rescue the Government from their public expenditure problems in 1980–81 since the £1,000 million which was to be agreed to be refunded to Britain at Dublin played such a significant part in the Government's plan?May I take for granted that the Government will not be in any way deterred from their pursuit of a broad balance by a French Finance Minister reading his brief at the last Council of Finance Ministers? We know that it was negative, but the French frequently are. The Minister must make it plain that the Government are still absolutely determined to achieve the broad balance which they set out to achieve and that they will not—
Order. I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Geneltman but he must ask questions. This is not a time for debating.
I can confirm that, so far as is known, there is no question of the 1 per cent. limit being penetrated this year and that it does not have any immediate application to our budget problem. The House is aware of our approach to these matters. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said after the Dublin conference that progress had been made—[Interruption.] Well, it had. The inhibitions have been taken off the 1975 mechanism which was negotiated by the Labour Government and which was singularly ineffective. The Commission was invited to make proposals for increasing expenditure in the United Kingdom. It has now done so. After Dublin the Prime Minister said that our objective was a genuine compromise but she pointed out that we had little room for manoeuvre. That is still the position.
asked the Lord Privy Seal when he last met his EEC col- leagues; and what was the outcome of the meeting.
I last attended a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council on 15 January. My right hon. and noble Friend went to the most recent meeting of the Council on 5 February. I reported the outcome to the House on 7 February in reply to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Lee). I also attended an informal meeting of Community Foreign Ministers on 8 February.
Will the Lord Privy Seal make it clear to his EEC colleagues that the House will not allow the Prime Minister and the Foreign Office to shuffle out of their commitment to reduce the British contribution to the EEC budget by £1 billion?
I have no reason to remind my colleagues of that because they are well aware that neither the Prime Minister nor the Foreign Office are in the habit of shuffling out of anything.
At all the recent meetings have not the French and the Germans in particular proved much more intransigent than was originally expected about reducing Britain's contribution? Is it not wiser to start reducing expectations in Britain about the possibility of repayments being made?
I do not think that my hon. Friend is right to say that the German and French Governments have been more intransigent than was expected. It will not have escaped his notice that the French economic Minister made some remarks on Monday about the effect of oil on the United Kingdom economy. He has been rather seriously misled on the matter, and we shall seek to correct him.
When the Lord Privy Seal discussed with his EEC colleagues the concept of broad balance, did he indicate that it should apply to all countries of the Community, including Germany?
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we began by using the term "broad balance". That was widely misunderstood to mean juste retour on the Continent. As I have indicated already to the House, the position is that we are seeking a genuine compromise.
If the Lord Privy Seal will not cancel VAT payments, will he at least accept my suggestion that, until the French remove the levy on British lamb imports, we should impose an import levy on French cars?
I do not think that the implication of the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion is one that he really wishes to pursue. He is trying to say that illegality should be met with illegality. I do not believe that that is right.
When those responsible for either research and development or science and technology meet their colleagues in the EEC to discuss such subjects as the Davignon report on information and technology, who represents the United Kingdom?
That is a very good question. I think that it is the Secretary of State for Trade, but I shall confirm that to my hon. Friend.
Spain And Portugal
asked the Lord Privy Seal when he expects Spain and Portugal to become full members of the EEC.
The negotiations with Portugal and Spain are proceeding as planned. It is too early to forecast precisely when they might enter the Community, but it is the hope of the Government that this will not be delayed.
Does the Lord Privy Seal agree that, before Spain becomes a full member of the EEC, there ought to be a settlement of the dispute between Spain and Gibraltar, and a reopening of the boundary between those two countries?
I have made my view and that of the Government plain to the House. There should be an end to the restrictions as soon as possible, straight away. They should have been ended already. I have also made clear that it is not feasible that, if Spain becomes a member of the Community, there should be two frontiers between two members of the Commity both of which are clsed.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that in the negotiations careful consideration will be given to the possible effect of the Spanish and Portuguese textile and footwear industries on Britain's home domestic industries which are already suffering from a flood of cheap foreign imports?
I can confirm that. As my hon. Friend knows, there is a provision dealing with this in the Greek accession treaty. The same will occur in the other treaties.
What is the Lord Privy Seal's calculation of the effect that the accession of Spain and Portugal will have on our own resources system? Will it not be that these agricultural-based countries will speed the decline in the funds of the Common Market? What effect will that have on Britain?
I do not see how they can reduce Common Market funds. They are bound to increase the funds of the Common Market. However, if nothing is done about our budget contribution—the hon. Lady is quite right—it would make our problem even more acute than it is now.
Council Of Foreign Ministers
asked the Lord Privy Seal when next he expects to meet other EEC Ministers.
asked the Lord Privy Seal when next he intends to meet his EEC counterparts.
asked the Lord Privy Seal when he next expects to meet his European counterparts.
I refer the hon. Gentlemen and my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave earlier to the hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton).
If the Lord Privy Seal fails to obtain a broad balance of the payments, and if we are still contributing a net £1 billion plus to the EEC, what action does he propose to take? If the EEC refuses to curtail cheap imports of textiles from America and Romania, what action do the Government propose to take, or do they not care about the loss of textile jobs in Lancashire and Yorkshire?
The hon. Gentleman will know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade told my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Trippier) on 7 February that the United Kingdom had submitted an application to the Commission for safeguard action. The Commission is due to respond in five working days, which is by 15 February. On 5 February the Council of Ministers accepted that the United Kingdom was facing special difficulties. In spite of the hon. Gentleman's jibe, I do not have to tell the House that the Government are fully aware of the difficulties involved.
When the Lord Privy Seal next meets his counterparts, will he inform them of the rising tide of dissatisfaction and antagonism towards the EEC on the part of people in this country who believe that they are being bled white by the Community and are being pushed to the sidelines by the Franco-German axis?
I do not think that that is the right way to approach the problem. We have made it clear that the present position on the budget is totally inequitable. My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer said the other day that our case is open and shut. We shall continue to argue that case to the Community. I am confident that it will accept our argument.
Does my right hon. Friend recognise that there are continuing important issues other than the question of the budget? Will he impress on his colleagues in the EEC the importance of concluding the new co-operation agreement with Yugoslavia, taking into account the ailing health of its President?
I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. He will be aware that the last two Foreign Affairs Councils gave considerable impetus to the matter. It was made clear that it was a matter of the utmost urgency and priority. I hope that negotiations will be concluded soon.
When the Lord Privy Seal meets the other Foreign Ministers, will he discuss with them the dangerous position that is developing in Southern Lebanon? Will he discuss what initiative should be taken, within the United Nations, to strengthen the United Nations peace-keeping effort in that part of the world, since otherwise we may face an explosive situation?
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Nine made a statement on the matter last September. It is a dangerous position, but I cannot guarantee that it will be discussed at the next meeting. I shall certainly bear the hon. Gentleman's remarks in mind.
When my right hon. Friend is negotiating reductions in the United Kingdom contribution to the EEC budget, will he make it clear that he will not be fobbed off by back-to-back grants for Government projects that would, in fact, entail increased public spending in this country to match them?
I am not quite certain what my hon. Friend means by back-to-back grants. He will be aware that the problem has, essentially, two components. The first is the excessive contribution as such, and that will be dealt with largely by what was virtually agreed at Dublin. The second component, and it is by far the greater part of the problem—at least 60 per cent. of it—is that our receipts from the European Community are well below average. They are less than half of the Community average. That is by far the greater part of our problem.
Will the Lord Privy Seal reconsider the reply that he has given to my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) about the European response to the position in the Lebanon? He referred to a meeting last September. As another bloody civil war is about to begin in the Lebanon, surely speedier action than he is proposing is required.
I did not think that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley, was proposing speedy action. I said that I could not guarantee that the matter would be discussed at the European Council.
asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on the outcome of his visits to other EEC member Stales in connection with the United Kingdom contribution to the Community budget.
My tour of European Community capitals was useful. As I informed the House on 31 January I discovered a general desire to get this problem solved. Following talks between my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and Mr. Cossiga, the Italian Presidency is also taking an active part in finding a solution. We shall be having further talks with our partners in advance of the next European Council.
Dos the Lord Privy Seal now take the view that, in retrospect, the Prime Minister was singularly indiscreet in refusing the £350 million that was on offer at Dublin? Will he now say whether it is the considered view of his Department that it is legal or illegal to withhold VAT payments?
I cannot agree in any way that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was indiscreet, as the hon. Gentleman describes it, in refusing the £350 million. The hon. Gentleman does not seem to be aware that that sum was on offer only in full settlement of our problem. I am sure that the whole House would agree that £350 million is totally inadequate.On the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question, as I said in reply to an earlier question, we are intent on finding a solution. We have not considered properly any measures that might be taken if we did not reach a solution.
Has any preparatory work been undertaken in any Government Department in connection with the possible unilateral withholding of our budgetary contribution?
I cannot answer that question, because I do not know what goes on in other Departments.
What is the Government's attitude to the Commission's proposal for spending in the United Kingdom? If the Government accept that proposal with few qualifications what additional mechanism does the right hon. Gentleman imagine would help us to get the matter settled?
As the right hon. Gentleman appreciates, we naturally think that the Commission's proposal is a useful step on the road to a solution. It contains a number of ideas for increasing the level of Community spending in this country. We continue to believe that—not in substitution for the Commission's proposal, but in addition to it—a receipts mechanism to control the amount of Community spending in this country in future years is the right approach.
Order. I propose to call one more question from each side and I shall add on the extra time at the end of Question Time.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is essential, as soon as possible, to eliminate the United Kingdom's excessive contribution to the budget? Has he pointed out to other member States that, adjusted to present-day prices, our contribution represents one-tenth of what the previous Labour Government spent on useless, wasteful nationalisation leading to the destruction of key industries such as the steel industry?
I agree that this problem should be solved as soon as possible. It is in the interests of all. It is a Community problem, and it is in the Community's interests that it be solved as soon as possible. That is all the more true in view of what is going on in the rest of the world. I have no doubt that my hon. Friend is right in saying that the previous Labour Government committed a lot of wasteful acts of expenditure. The fact is that our projected contribution to the Community budget is grossly excessive.
The House knows that the Lord Privy Seal has been spending a substantial amount of time on political philosophy as well as on his departmental duties in recent weeks. I should like to press him further on the reply that he gave earlier, when he said that he did not know whether any serious thought was being given to possible counter-measures that the British Government might take if we failed to reach a satisfactory solution on the broad balance of the budget. Is he, in effect, saying that no studies are being made inside the Foreign Office? If so, will he start them forthwith?
I said that I could not give an undertaking on what my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate) put to me, because I did not know what was going on in other Departments. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the Foreign Office always takes all possible contingencies into account, and that is what we are doing.
asked the Lord Privy Seal if he has completed his review of aid policy; and if he will make a statement.
The Government are just completing their review of aid policy and a statement will be made as soon as possible.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply. In completing the further stages of the review, will be bear in mind the vital importance of aid funds in securing contracts overseas for British industry? Can he confirm that funds will be available for that purpose next year, notwithstanding the heavy forward commitments on both multilateral and bilateral aid that he inherited from the previous Labour Govermnment?
Yes; funds will be available. The matter is being taken very seriously in this review.
Has the Minister taken account of the Brandt report, to which so much publicity was creditably given in The Times this morning, on the imminent dangers of disaster for the entire world as a consequence of the maldistribution of wealth'? Will he discuss with his Government colleagues the question of seking to convene a summit meeting as recommended in the Brandt report? Will he also recommend to the Leader of the House that we should have a debate on the issue and that it should not be left to disappear in silence as was the Cabinet paper, "Future World Trends", which was published some years ago?
The Brandt report is being given detailed study. I should not came to comment on it yet. I have not read it. It is a massive document. I should have thought that, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) had a big hand in it, an attempt should be made by the Community to speak with one voice, if it has one.
Does my hon. Friend agree that trade is often a better long term investment in developing the new world than aid, and that often the best form of aid can be to send out skilled United Kingdom manpower to teach the local people to work and to help themselves?
Yes. Both of those matters are very important in the whole aid programme.
In terms of the review of the aid programme, can the hon. Gentleman give a complete assurance that the conclusions of the Brandt report will be taken into full account and that, if the review is already under way, it will begin again in terms of the Brandt report?Is the Minister aware that the general thesis of the Brandt report—the interdependence and mutuality of interest between the Third world and industrialised countries to resolve our own as well as their problems—has consistently been advanced for five years by the Labour Party? Whether or not the European Community is able to reach a joint conclusion—a doubt which I share with the Minister—does he accept that we in Britain must have a view?
I certainly accept that we in Britain will have a view, but it will take a considerable time. I do not want to use delaying tactics, but the Brandt report is a big document and it will require profound study before we come to a measured judgment on it.
What about the thesis?
The thesis may be simple, but the contents of the document are not simple.
asked the Lord Privy Seal what further aid is planned for Zimbabwe.
If the elected Government seek assistance, we shall play our part and shall encourage the international community to do likewise.
Is the Minister aware that there will be considerable disappointment in the House that he is unable to make a statement now on the level of assistance that will be required for Zimbabwe? The election is getting very close and the time has come when that country will need a lot of assistance. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the House would be grateful if he could say now what that level of assistance is and not leave it to the future?
I cannot say what that level of assistance is until the new, independent Government are duly elected. Research has been carried out both by the United Nations and by ourselves. However, until we have had talks with the newly-elected Government, it is impossible to say what precisely they will want and what we would agree to give.
Will my hon. Friend give an undertaking that, in any discussions within the Council of Ministers, aid to Zimbabwe will be in the forefront of his thinking? Will he impress that fact on the Commissioners who may be influenced in other directions, depending on the Government who come into office in Zimbabwe?
Yes; that will certainly come up in discussions within the Community. I cannot say whether it will be in the forefront, but I take the other point at which my hon. Friend hinted.
W ill the Minister comment on the fact that we currently subsidise the six richest countries of Western Europe by a sum twice as large—[Hon. Members: "Three times."]—as we give to 127 of the poorest countries in the world?
I am not sure that I agree with the hon. Gentleman's arithmetic, but my comment is that, if it is true, it is an absurd situation.
Will the Minister authorise the Commonwealth Development Corporation immediately to continue or to resume its activities in Zimbabwe, and will he increase its financial provision to ensure that sufficient capital is available to invest in Zimbabwe?
The question of the financial position and the capital of the corporation has not been finally decided, but every reasonable opportunity that there is for it to invest in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia will be examined.
If the hon. Gentleman cannot make a statement about general aid to Zimbabwe, will he accept that it is this country's responsibility to see that adequate funds are available to allow refugees to return as soon as possible, bearing in mind that they will not all be back, even after the elections have taken place?
We are doing a great deal on behalf of the refugees who are returning to Zimbabwe-Rhodesia. Earlier this week I saw Mr. Hay of ICRC and discussed that matter with him.
Order. As I promised, I shall add an extra two minutes to Question Time because of earlier slippage.
asked the Lord Privy Seal what further aid he is considering for Zambia.
An agreement covering the £10 million project loan referred to in my answer to the hon. Gentleman's question of 16 January was signed by the United Kingdom and Zambian Governments on 24 January. Zambia's need for further aid will be kept under review.
The Minister and the Leader of the House will be aware that I have already raised the question of the United Nations Security Council's resolution 544, regarding the Government's responsibility to Zambia. He will know, that ever since the bombing of the 10 bridges, the economy of Zambia has been critical. Despite the offer of £10 million in aid to that country, does he not accept that that is insufficient to meet the present needs?
Many would say that £10 million is insufficient, taking into account the overall view of Zambia. However, that was the agreement which was signed by the Zambians. The Government will look at Zambia's need for further aid, particularly in the context of the bridges, as they will for other developing countries in the light of the relevant economic, political and commercial factors and our financial constraints.
Will my hon. Friend explain why Zambia cannot borrow the money on world markets? Is there not a grave risk that the grant of the aid to Zambia will enhance the temporary power of politicians and others with the power to distribute the aid?
I cannot agree with my hon. Friend. The reason why Zambia cannot borrow on the world markets—as I am sure she would like to do if she could—is that her economy is not strong enough. The aid for development will help to strengthen that economy.
Is the Minister aware that the Government of Zambia are in default to hundreds of citizens of the United Kingdom in respect of debts either for insurance damages awarded through the courts or failure to meet bonuses on contracts and so on? Would it not be better to settle the debts from British Government funds before handing out the money to the Government of Zambia?
No, I do not agree with that. Zambia has agreed many of the debts and hopes to pay off the remaining balance when her economy recovers.
asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on the progress of the election campaign in Rhodesia.
The problem of intimidation of voters in the rural areas, the scope of which has now been confirmed to the Governor by the British election supervisors, continues to cause great concern. The Governor has enacted an ordinance enabling him to suspend elections in any area where systematic intimidation makes it impossible for a fair election to be held. He has also listed a number of areas where intimidation is particularly severe. This should warn those of whatever party who seek to deprive others of the right to campaign freely and peacefully of the possible consequences of their actions.The Government will also be taking positive measures to strengthen supervision of the elections by sending a large number of additional personnel from the United Kingdom to be present in polling stations in rural areas, to ensure that the arrangements for voting are scrupulously fair. As the House will be aware, there has been a further deplorable attack upon Mr. Mugabe. Investigations are being pursued. The Governor will continue to take firm measures to deal with intimidation, violence and breaches of the ceasefire from whatever quarter. Despite the serious problems that exist, the Government are determined to carry the election through to a successful conclusion and to ensure that it is conducted as fairly and as freely as possible.
First, I thank the Lord Privy Seal for that statement. In particular, I welcome the fact that additional British personnel will be in Rhodesia to help supervise the electoral polling day arrangements, as I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say. I also strongly associate myself with his remarks about the second attempt to assassinate Mr. Mugabe. We are all conscious that intimidation, breaches of the ceasefire and assassination attempts are a great danger in the remaining two or three weeks of the Rhodesian elections.We accept that the Governor and his small British staff are doing their best in difficult circumstances, but is the Lord Privy Seal aware that in all that they do they have not only to be fair but to be seen to be fair? That is not so easy. Is he also aware of the growing concern that the advice and information that the Governor and his British staff receive from the Rhodesian military and civil authorities is strongly biased? That is a major problem. How can the Government accept the treatment of the former Prime Minister, Mr. Garfield Todd? Surely, control of prosecutions is one of the powers vested in the Governor? Therefore, why does he not arrange for a noble prosequi, instead of allowing the case against Mr. Todd to proceed? On the question of the powers for disenfranchising electors in the various districts, the question arises, who will give the Governor advice about the areas where intimidation is said to be most intense? What use is being made of the Commonwealth observer team? It is a pretty high-powered group of experienced people who have been sent to assist in precisely this and other tasks. On the question of publicly accepting the Lancaster House agreement and the outcome of the elections—to which we all attach enormous importance—will the Lord Privy Seal extend an invitation to Mr. Ian Smith to join the other party leaders in publicly reaffirming his commitment to the outcome of procedures at Lancaster House, thereby withdrawing his remarks of yesterday about not accepting the election results if they go the way that he dislikes? Will the Lord Privy Seal make a major new effort to activate the part of the Lancaster House agreement which, in the absence of any third force for securing peace and the ceasefire arrangements, places the major responsibility for dealing with breaches of the ceasefire on the three Army commanders who are directly concerned?
The penultimate question of the right hon. Gentleman is a matter for my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State. I shall draw his attention to the remarks and we shall try to find out whether or not Mr. Smith has been properly reported.I am grateful to the right hon Gentleman for his earlier remarks. There is no doubt that the Governor and his staff have done a remarkable job—they are still doing so. They have been unfairly traduced in many quarters. I do not accept the right hon. Gentleman's implications that they are acting on biased advice. He will appreciate from my statement that the advice upon which the Governor was acting when he promulgated his ordinance came from the British election supervisors, who are clear about what they have seen going on in the areas that they visited. Let me tell the right hon. Gentleman and the House that Mr. Garfield Todd called on the Rhodesian Attorney-General yesterday and made a statement that brought to light circumstances that he had not previously disclosed to the police. In the light of that statement, the Rhodesian Attorney-General is considering whether or not the prosecution should proceed.
Order. I remind hon. Members that the main business of the day is covered by a timetable motion. The present matter will take time away from that. There is also a Ten-Minute Bill and there has been an extention of Question Time. Therefore, I propose to limit the number of speakers on this matter to three from either side.
Since the Mugabe faction has threatened to carry on the war if it loses the election, and since it is presumably in breach of the Lancaster House agreement as a result of violations of the ceasefire, will my right hon. Friend assure the Governor of full support should he find it necessary to ban those who prefer intimidation to democracy?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. There is a serious problem of intimidation. As I have already said, that is why the British election supervisors have given such advice to the Governor. Intimidation is rife throughout the eastern part of the country. It remains impossible for political leaders, including Mr. Nkomo and Bishop Muzorewa, to hold public meetings in those areas.
How can there be a free election in Rhodesia if a substantial percentage of voters are refused the possibility of going to the polls? How can such action be seen as free and fair by the rest of the world? Will Mr. Mugabe have to be killed before something is done about the auxiliaries?
I can only say that the hon. Gentleman is maintaining his usual form. Unless he knows better, we have no reason to believe that the auxiliaries are guilty of such deplorable attacks on Mr. Mugabe. Of course, we do not want to ban anyone from voting in the election. However, even the hon. Gentleman should be concerned at the intimidation that might make such action necessary.
Will my right hon. Friend announce the composition and terms of reference of the delegation from the House that is to be sent to observe the election? Can he further explain why no attempt appears to have been made to notify members of the Boyd Commission? Does my right hon. Friend not agree that it is useful to have someone there who has already seen the process of election?
I am not sure whether the composition of the parliamentary delegation has been announced. However, its composition can be communicated to my right hon. Friend. It does not have any terms of reference. It is going to observe the election. One member of the Boyd Commission is already in Rhodesia. I do not know whether the other members wish to go. If they do, we can no doubt draw the Governor's attention to that fact.
Will not the open partisanship of the Governor—noted by the foreign and British press—the possible banning of Mugabe candidates and the declaring invalid of election results in that part of Southern Rhodesia be seen as an attempt by Britain to right the election on behalf of Mr. Smith.
That is a fairly disgraceful question. It is quite outrageous to suggest that the Government is partisan. The hon. Gentleman said that this had been noted by the foreign press. The foreign press take up much that is said in this House. People such as the hon. Gentleman are largely responsible for what is written abroad.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that we have a responsibility not to undermine the confidence and authority of the Governor when he is carrying out important responsibilities? Does he also agree that there is no alternative to the Government's present information system. To try to move away from that system at short notice would inflame the situation rather than improve the present degree of violation.
I agree with my hon. Friend that no one should wish to undermine the confidence of the country or the impartiality of the Governor. I am sure that that view is shared by every responsible hon. Member.
In view of the widespread and worrying nature of the intimidation, is the Lord Privy Seal sure that the Commonwealth monitoring force is of an adequate size? Is there not a genuine argument for increasing it? As the greatest barrier to intimidation is absolute confidence in the secrecy of the ballot, can the right hon. Gentleman assure us that that confidence exists and that the secrecy of the ballot will be protected?
The hon. Gentleman will be able to determine the issue on the spot. However, I think that he betrayed a slight misunderstanding of the duties of the monitoring force. However many monitors there are, they will not be able to prevent intimidation. Those who do not speak the language cannot detect guerrillas in a tribal village. Therefore, the problem would not be helped by an increase in the monitoring force. Such an increase would be impractical at this stage.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I do not wish to delay the House unduly, but there are at least four or five questions on the Order Paper, starting with Question 12, that directly concern the Lord Privy Seal's statement. Surely those questions should have been given some prefernce in the calling of—
Order. It is grossly unfair to suggest that I should call only those who have a question on the Order Paper when there is a private notice question. There is much wider interest in the House.
Sub Judice Rule (Rhodesian Court Actions)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It would be immensely helpful if you would make a statement as soon as possible about the applicability of the sub judice rule to actions pending before the courts in Rhodesia. The House should know the rules of sub judice as they affect potential litigation within the realm of the United Kingdom. There are special circumstances, because a Cabinet Minister is Governor of Rhodesia. Questions may arise that are subject to the sub judice rule. It would be helpful to know whether we may properly put questions to Ministers. We do not want to put questions that may be out of order.Perhaps, Mr. Speaker, you will be good enough to give this matter your consideration. Perhaps you will tell the House whether the rules of sub judice that apply to the United Kingdom apply also to questions concerning prosecutions and judicial issues that involve the decision of the Governor of Southern Rhodesia.
I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman. Neither he nor the House will be surprised to hear that I shall give my answer tomorrow. I shall take time to consider the question.
Foreign And Commonwealth Affairs Questions
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Perhaps you can help us on the issue of questions to the Foreign Secretary. There were 34 questions on the Order Paper today. We succeeded in getting through eight of those questions in 25 minutes. There were only 12 EEC questions, for which 20 minutes was allocated. This happens repeatedly. At a time of rapidly growing international activity it would be desirable to readjust the situation so that we all have a chance of getting further than question 8 or 10 when putting questions to the Foreign Secretary.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will be aware that the Leader of the House announced changes last week in the order of the Foreign Office questions.
I remind the House that some of the supplementary questions and some of the answers were inordinately long.
I beg to move,
The war in Northern Ireland has been going on for over 10 years. That is twice as long as it took to subdue Hitler's Germany. There are almost as many troops and police in the Province as the Russians used in their initial invasion of the whole of Afghanistan. The Six Counties are still suffering from a campaign of murder and violence, dominated by a hard core of 300 to 400 known thugs and hit men—men whose allegiance to their own self-interest, and to what Labour Members would call Fascism, is far greater than their commitment to Irish republicanism. Last month, as many hon. Members before me have done, I visited the Province, and the visit left a very strong impression. For all our problems on this side of the mainland, the difference in Northern Ireland is very striking. Any person, as those hon. Members who have been there before me will know, following the road from the hills into Belfast feels that he could be approaching many similar industrial British cities. The difference is soon apparent when one perceives the desolate nature of the first terrace of stone houses with no curtains or glass in the windows but blind spaces, blocked up with breeze-block, their occupants having long since fled to safer areas. The buildings are bricked up to prevent vandalism and terrorist occupation. As the road descends into the city, the similarities remind one that it could be Manchester or Cardiff. The differences are, therefore, vivid and chilling. Where there were shops, there are now crude car parks. Where there were pubs and warehouses, only fire-blackened and shuttered-off shells remain. The road is fairly wide, not unlike the main road in any of our major cities, with terraced houses on either side—houses but no streets. Where the streets end, there are now 15 ft walls of corrugated iron, built by the local authority to prevent the two communities tearing each other apart. It is as if the two halves of an urban precinct were opposing fortresses, glaring across at each other. Further on, approaching the city centre, one comes to a fortified island in a sea of relative desolation, with 16 constantly manned "frontier" posts, where ordinary people, women and children, are frisked before entry. In certain areas of the public imagination—and I would say areas of limited imagination—the IRA may stand for the ideal of a united Ireland. The reality is quite different. Years of violence have spawned anarchy. Legal authority has been replaced by a mafia of bullies. The way of power and influence in the Catholic ghettoes has been to join the IRA. That way people take notice. That way a young man can command the fastest cars, the girls and good living. Intimidation and protection rackets flourish. Local people are terrorised by the gun and blackmailed by the folklore of a united Ireland. Each enclave has its godfather whose tactics and legitimacy have more in common with the Gestapo than with the founding fathers of the Irish Republic. The popular mass movement in the Catholic community in favour of republicanism has subsided. Less than half the Catholic population now want a united Ireland. They, too, are tired of the violence, poverty and serfdom imposed on them by a group of self-appointed gangsters. The IRA has already detached itself from its natural support, maintaining its domination only by the threat of violence and by the moral compulsion exerted by old loyalties. These are our people and this is our country. For 10 years they have suffered. For 10 years inadequate Governments have not afforded them the protection and law enforcement to which they are entitled. In that time, 2,000 people, mostly innocent, have lost their lives. The intensity of killing is equivalent to 60,000 people being slaughtered on the mainland or 3,000 in a city the size of Birmingham. In such circumstances, it is impossible to imagine that we should not adopt more realistic measures in suppressing the terror. Surely we should be as resolute in Ulster as we should certainly be on the mainland. Surely the separation of the two parts of the kingdom by water in no way absolves those in power from grasping the nettle that public opinion would force them to grasp were it growing on their own doorstep. I am glad that my right hon. Friend has grasped the political initiative. I am glad that, according to reports, it is meeting with success. I anticipate that, in association with the Irish Republic, we shall grasp the military nettle even more firmly. This is a vile war, and we should not be squeamish. We should use all the weapons at our disposal. I should like to concentrate on one such weapon, which in the hands of the enemy has been of major effect—publicity and propaganda. Terrorism thrives on publicity. Why do terrorists claim responsibility for their gory crimes of which no one could possibly be proud, unless they think that it is to their benefit to do so? Terrorists surely want to be known about. They want credibility. They want credibility to justify their actions so that they can work on the weak-minded, such as the "Troops Out" movement. Why do they have a political branch? Why do they have Sinn Fein unless they want a political campaign to educate the public? Why help them to do it? It gives them a kick and boosts their morale when their actions are blazed across the newspapers of the world. Will it not be disheartening, if, after an energetic campaign, they are confronted with blank screens? Do they not want to enlarge their presence by banner headlines throughout the nation about future bombing campaigns? It does not matter whether they take place; they have had the publicity and gained the benefit. Why set up mock ambushes for gullible enthusiasts from the BBC if no benefit will accrue? Why parade to the cameras and claim with pride the murder of such noble people as Airey Neave unless they felt there was a useful purpose in doing so? Why do we play their games? Why, as is often the case in newspaper coverage, are IRA apologists given space equal to that of the legal authorities? To take an example, I have here an IRA statement that describes the reactions of politicians as sickening and hypocritical. It says that it is their collective activity, in collaboration with the British Forces, which prolongs the war and the misery that it creates. It offers to all bereaved families deepest and heartfelt sympathy. That appeared in a major newspaper. Why do we give money to such publications as this through the Arts Council of Great Britain?That leave be given to bring in a Bill to introduce measures for combating terrorism within the United Kingdom.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I hesitate to interrupt a speech on a Ten-Minute Bill but it is usual for the House to be provided with details of the legislation sequired. The 10 minutes are virtually up, and the hon. Gentleman does not have much time to do that.
Order. There are two minutes left. Some hon. Members take longer than others before telling the House why they should be allowed to have their Ten-Minute Bill, and I was hoping that the hon. Gentleman would get round to it.
To make propaganda for the IRA.
My suggestion is that it should be an offence for any person knowingly to publish or distribute written material or to broadcast material that is likely to assist any organisation or person engaged in or contemplating acts of terrorism. That would be put forward as a reserve power. It would be brought into use only on an affirmative vote of both Houses of Parliament. In that way, it would be on the shelf and unlikely to be used.I have no intention or desire to suppress facts. Facts should always be presented but in such a way at least not to help terrorists. I fully appreciate the problems of definition in such a Bill, but they are not insuperable and no doubt could be dealt with in Committee. The cry of "Censorship" will go up. At present we have libel laws. I am asking for self-censorship and for a law that would be on the shelf. It would be a law that could be used, but I doubt whether it would ever need to be. It would be a law that would reflect the will of the people, outraged as they are by some of things that they have seen on their television screens. It would be a law passed through the Parliament of this land to change attitudes and counterbalance the other imperatives found in the media—the imperative to get a scoop where possible—
Order. I invite the hon. Gentleman to come to his conclusion in one sentence.
I have been deprived of a little time by a point of order.
That is why I allowed one more sentence.
This is a small but effective measure. If it is passed, it will have its effect without ever being called into use.
I shall put my opposition to the Bill very briefly. It has a great many charms, but it has one defect. It contravenes one of the basic canons of British criminal law. It is a general principle of English law that a person should not be convicted of a criminal offence unless that person intended the prohibited act. In other words, there must be a criminal intention and that element is built into English law in order to protect innocent people from unfair conviction.There are a number of exceptions to that general proposition. There are the exceptions of absolute liability, and strict liability and there are also classes of offence where the court will assume that people intend the consequences of their actions. But these are exceptions to a general proposition that people should not be found guilty of a criminal offence unless they intend the prohibited act. This House should be very careful not to extend that basic proposition unless there is a clear and compelling reason to do so. I am bound to say that I do
Division No. 178]
|Aitken, Jonathan||Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)||Proctor, K. Harvey|
|Alexander, Richard||Hawksiey, Warren||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Irvine, Charles (Cheltenham)||Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)|
|Bell, Sir Ronald||Lawrence, Ivan||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Loveridge, John||Speller, Tony|
|Blackburn, John||McCusker, H.||Stainton, Keith|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Marland, Paul||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Brotherton, Michael||Marlow, Tony||Stokes, John|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'thorpe)||Mills, Iain (Meriden)||Thompson, Donald|
|Budgen, Nick||Moate, Roger||Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)|
|Cockeram, Eric||Molyneaux, James||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Colvin, Michael||Montgomery, Fergus||Walker, Bill (Perth & E Perthshire)|
|Dickens, Geoffrey||Myles, David||Wheeler, John|
|Dover, Denshore||Needham, Richard||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Dunn, Robert (Dartford)||Osborn, John||Wolfson, Mark|
|Farr, John||Page, Rt Hon Sir R. Graham|
|Fell, Anthony||Pawsey, James||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Porter, George||Mr. D. A. Trippier and|
|Gorst, John||Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch (S Down)||Mr. Gerry Neale.|
not think that at this time there is any such clear and compelling reason. Judged against these criteria, what we know of my hon. Friend's Bill fails—and we know remarkably little because he did not trouble us with it at any great length. Clause 1 fails because it makes certain acts an offence if they are likely to have certain consequences. There is no requirement that the accused person should contemplate these consequences or that he should have foreseen them. Far less is there a requirement that the accused person should have intended these consequences.
I have been searching for parallels and precedents and I have found a precedent that will probably amuse my hon. Friends. It is contained in the Race Relations Act 1976. The nearest language that I have been able to find—that certain acts are likely to have certain consequences—is in the offence created by the Race Relations Act of incitement to racial discord. I suggest that that is not a statutory proposition which will attract the wholehearted support of many of my hon. Friends.
The point is that in this case the Bill is likely to imperil rather than preserve freedom. On that basis, I am against it.
Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 13 ( Motions for leave to bring in Bills and Nomination of Select Committees at Commencement of Public Business:—
The House divided: Ayes 53, Noes 158.
|Adams, Allen||Flannery, Martin||Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Adley, Robert||Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Newens, Stanley|
|Allaun, Frank||Forrester, john||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Anderson, Donald||Foster, Derek||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Ashton, Joe||Fraser, John (Lambeth, Norwood)||O'Neill, Martin|
|Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham)||Fraser, Peter (South Angus)||Parry, Robert|
|Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset)||Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Garrett, John (Norwich S)||Penhaligon, David|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||George, Bruce||Pollock, Alexander|
|Beith, A. J.||Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John||Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Graham, Ted||Price, Christopher (Lewisham West)|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Grant, George (Morpeth)||Race, Reg|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur (M'brough)||Grimond, Rt Hon J.||Radice, Giles|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)||Rathbone, Tim|
|Brinton, Tim||Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds South)|
|Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)||Hattersiey, Rt Hon Roy||Richardson, Jo|
|Brown, Ron (Edinburgh, Leith)||Haynes, Frank||Roberts, Ernest (Hackney North)|
|Buchan, Norman||Hicks, Robert||Robertson, George|
|Burden, F. A.||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Grantham)||Rooker, J. W.|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Home Robertson, John||Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)|
|Canavan, Dennis||Homewood, William||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Cant, R. B.||Hooson, Tom||Rowlands, Ted|
|Carmichael, Neil||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen North)||Sandelson, Neville|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge-Br'hills)|
|Cartwright, John||Johnson, James (Hull West)||Short, Mrs Renée|
|Clark, Hon Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rhondda)||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Clark, Dr David (South Shields)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Soley, Clive|
|Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Cohen, Stanley||Kinnock, Neil||Stewart, Rt Hon Donald (W Isles)|
|Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.||Lamborn, Harry||Strang, Gavin|
|Cowans, Harry||Lamond, James||Straw, Jack|
|Crowther, J. S.||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|Cryer, Bob||Litherland, Robert||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton West)|
|Cunningham, George (Islington S)||Lyon, Alexander (York)||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Dalyeil, Tam||Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)|
|Davies, lfor (Gower)||McElhone, Frank||Thomas, Dr Roger (Carmarthen)|
|Davis, Terry (B'rm'ham, Stechford)||McKay, Allen (Penistone)||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Deakins, Eric||McKelvey, William||Wells, Bowen (Hert'rd & Stev'nage)|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||McMahon, Andrew||Welsh, Michael|
|Dixon, Donald||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, Central)||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Dormand, Jack||McNally, Thomas||Whitlock, William|
|Dubs, Alfred||Magee, Bryan||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Marks, Kenneth||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Dunn, James A. (Liverpool, Kirkdale)||Marshall, David (Gl'sgow, Shettles'n)||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee East)|
|Eadie, Alex||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)|
|Eastham, Ken||Marshall, Jim (Leicester South)||Winnick, David|
|Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)||Mason, Rt Hon Roy||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Ellis, Raymond (NE Derbyshire)||Mawhinney, Dr Brian||Wright, Sheila|
|Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)||Maxton, John||Young, David (Bolton East)|
|English, Michael||Meacher, Michael||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Evans, loan (Aberdare)||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Ewing, Harry||Mikardo, Ian||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Field, Frank||Miller, Dr M. S. (East Kilbride)||Mr. Kevin McNamara and Mr. Russell Kerr.|
|Fitt Gerard||Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
Question accordingly negatived.
Orders Of The Day
Education (No 2) Bill
[2nd ALLOTED DAY]
As amended ( in the Standing Cornmittee), further considered.
AWARDS FOR FURTHER AND HIGHER EDUCATION
I beg to move amendment No. 80, in page 19, line 21 after 'certain', insert 'other'.
With this we may take the following amendments: No. 81, in page 19, line 21, leave out from 'courses' to end of line 17.
No. 82, in Schedule 5, page 41, line 38, at end insert—
'(e) other such courses as the Secretary of State shall prescribe by regulations'.
Amendments Nos. 80 and 81 simply pave the way to the amendment of the schedule by amendment No. 82.The House should be aware that the system of discretionary grants to students in higher education is chaotic. A farcical situation exists, where students apply to various colleges and are selected on a competitive basis. When some students are awarded a place, they attempt to obtain a grant. Many students fail to get a grant, but often some students who fail to obtain a place manage subsequently to obtain a grant. It often happens that the least attractive students, as far as the colleges are concerned obtain a grant and a place in a college, and sometimes a student who appears to the college to be more worth while fails to get a grant. The problem that I should like to highlight is one that has been brought to my attention by the British Association of Social Workers and the directors of social service departments, because it concerns the certificate of qualification in social work, where the problem is particularly acute. There are several ways in which people can gain a qualification in social work, some involving a mandatory award and some involving a discretionary award. I ask the Minister to make a modest provision in the Bill so that if and when money is available he can change a discretionary award to a mandatory award. I should prefer the Minister to make that change immediately, but I suspect that if I were to press him his answer would be "Absolutely, No". However, in simply asking him to make the regulations, I hope that he can do something about it as soon as resources are available. I am asking for a very modest measure, which I hope the Minister can accept. In Committee the Minister went some way to indicate that he was sympathetic to the problem. I stress that although I emphasised the certificate of qualification in social work I am aware that the problem exists in many other qualifications, particularly for people who have a degree and who then want to obtain a professional qualification. I hope that the Minister can give an assurance that either here or in another place he will accept the amendment.
May I add my support to the amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett)? This is not a party matter, but it is a very serious matter for many students who, in the old days, would have automatically qualified for discretionary awards when a reasonable amount of money was available. Now that money available to local authorities is so limited, it is incumbent upon the Minister to take more seriously the national needs when fixing mandatory awards.The Minister will be aware that the Select Committee is currently studying the matter. One conclusion that I have reached is that the pattern of mandatory awards fixes what happens in our higher education institutions more than anything else. I hope that the Minister—whatever the final outcome of these amendments—will be as helpful as possible. I assure him that it is a real problem for qualified manpower, which the nation needs. It is absurd to waste qualified manpower in this way, simply because the Department has not assembled the machinery to add the social work qualifications, and perhaps others, to those awards which qualify as mandatory.
I take the point made by the hon. Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett) about the difficulty of mandatory and discretionary awards. There is a need for a clarifying and strengthening measure.Similarly, I take the point made by the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) that where mandatory grants are automatically paid it obviously conditions the courses that are retained and expanded. The whole matter will have to be examined at some stage. I welcome the fact that the Select Committee on education, science and arts is examining the matter. The problem has grown up over the years, and, particularly at a time when local authorities are under pressure due to lack of resources, there is a risk that courses that should exist could be cut back. The amendment would empower the Secretary of State to designate any course for a mandatory award at whatever level and whether part-lime or full-time, the only condition being that it would be provided as mentioned in subsection (2) (a), at a university, a college or an institution. Clearly, to designate all such courses would be prohibitively expensive at the present time, but presumably the intention is for my right hon. and learned Friend to be selective in regard to the courses that he chooses to designate. I appreciate that. Nevertheless, the amendment would raise the expectations of many groups. Reference has been made, for example, to social workers, particularly in view of the fact that some courses are mandatory and others are discretionary in regard to the awarding of grants. The training procedure for lawyers is expensive, and there have been a good many letters on that question. We have to consider the Open University students. We have to remember all these matters when we are thinking about mandatory and discretionary awards. The problems of part-time students will also have to be examined. There is also the question of what is called lifetime or continuing education. This is a non-party matter. The whole question of part-time students and how they are to be financed must be examined. I hope that the Select Committee is looking at this question. In view of the present need to restrain rather than expand public expenditure, there is not at the moment any possibility of meeting such claims. Our estimate is that it would cost about £8 million to accept the amendment. Some people might suggest that it is a negligible amount. Perhaps so, but such sums, taken together add up in the end to a considerable amount. We are aware of and concerned about this matter. It is being made more acute because of the problems associated with the resources of local authorities. I am aware that some people accept that at present the resources are not available to enable additional courses to be designated for mandatory awards but who nevertheless—I am sure that the two hon. Members who have spoken come within this category—wish to see a reserve power in the Bill, to be used only when resources can be made available. I cannot say any more at the moment than I said in Committee. I am aware, as we all are, of the strength of the case on this issue. I listened carefully to the arguments put forward in Committee. I acknowledge, as do other hon. Members, that genuine cases have been put to us. The Government will take due note of the views expressed in Committee and this afternoon. Note will also be taken of the discussion when the Bill is dealt with in another place.
In view of that assurance from the Minister—it was a fairly small one, but it was something—I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
SCHOOL MEALS: ENGLAND AND WALES
I beg to move amendment No. 34, in page 20, line 30, after 'supplement', insert
'or whose income level is less than a qualifying level to be prescribed by order by the Secretary of State'.
With this we may take the following amendments:
No. 35, in page 20, line 30, after 'supplement'. insert
'or receive rent or rate rebate'.
No. 36, in page 20, line 30, after 'supplement', insert
'or whose income would quality them for assistance under any regulations made by the Secretary of State under clauses 17 and 18 of this Act.'.
No. 38, in page 20, leave out lines 36 and 37 and insert
'in relation to any pupil whose parents are in receipt of supplementary benefits or family income supplement.'.
No. 39, in page 20, line 41, at end insert
'or if they are satisfied that the effect of the charges under this section and section 23(3) would be to cause that pupil's family to be poorer than they would be if their income were reduced to Family Income Supplement or Supplementary Benefit level.'.
No. 40, in page 20, line 41, at end insert—
'(3A) The Secretary of State may make regulations specifying a maximum charge for an adequate meal.'.
No. 53, in Clause 24, page 23, line 16, after 'supplement', insert
'or receive rent or rate rebate'.
No. 84, in page 23, line 16, after 'supplement', insert
'or whose income level is less than a qualifying level to be prescribed by order by the Secretary of State'.
No. 54, in page 23, line 26, at end insert
'or if they are satisfied that the effect of the charges under this section and section 25(3) would be to cause that pupil's family to be poorer than they would be if their income were reduced to Family Income Supplement or Supplementary Benefit level.'.
We come now to another very important stage in the Bill—that which deals with the provision of school milk and school meals.The amendment seeks to ensure that all local authorities shall have to provide free school meals for pupils from poorer families where the family is not on family income supplement or supplementary benefit, those categories being covered by the Bill as it stands. We feel that the Secretary of State should lay down income levels and that local authorities should abide by them in regard to the provision of free school meals. Grouped with the amendment are several other amendments which also deal with the question of entitlement to free school meals. The clause that we are seeking to amend does several very important things. Overall, the effect of clause 22 will be to dismantle the school meals system as we know it in this country. The Government will be doing this under the guise of giving new freedom to local authorities, but it will happen nevertheless. The clause is a very serious one because it removes all nutritional standards from school meals provision. The idea is that in future, in regard to the school meals, the policy is to be one of "anything goes". A local authority will be free to provide whatever level of school meals it sees fit to provide. That is in contrast with the present system, under which certain nutritional standards are established by the Secretary of State and local authorities are obliged to abide by them. The clause goes even further, in that it also removes the provision and the guarantee that all children from low-income families can get free school meals. The clause will lead to a reduction in school meals provision, to higher charges for school meals throughout the country, and to many redundancies among the staff who at present are employed in the school meals service. We believe that the clause and the Bill will have a very serious and detrimental effect not only on the school meals service but also on the educational opportunities of the children. When the clause was discussed in Committee, the Minister did not say at any time that he thought that school meals were a bad thing or that they should not be provided. Indeed, the Government are not seeking to cut this form of provision because they think it is wrong to make it. They are cutting it because they want to make savings in the education budget, and have decided that this is a vulnerable area in which local authorities should be free to cut as they wish. Local authorities will take advantage of this clause in the Bill as a means of reducing their expenditure. They will also take advantage of it in increasing the price of school meals. The House should be clear about the kinds of prices that we are talking about. The price of school meals has already been increased once this month in anticipation of the passing of the Bill. The Under-Secretary of State will recall the debate that we had on that occasion. He will also recall the statement made by his right hon. and learned Friend, when the price increase was announced, that the increase had been made pending further increases in the price of school meals which will follow very shortly. It is important also to remind the House that we now know the kind of level of prices that local authorities are proposing to charge in the very near future. Some authorities, such as Devon and Warwick, have already announced that they intend to go for a 45p charge immediately the Bill goes through. We know that the Government hope that the Bill will be passed in April. Northampton shire has already said that it intends to charge 55p in April. Other authorities have announced similar levels of charges. Some authorities have gone further and said that they intend to introduce a 60p charge from September of this year or from January 1981. The increases in prices that we are talking about are not insubstantial; they are significant and very important. The Minister cannot simply shrug the issue to one side and say that the increases do not matter, or say, as he has said in the past, that when we talked about 50p or 60p school meals we were being alarmist and spreading fear and despondency. Our predications have been proved right, for proposals of the sort that we mentioned are now being adopted by many councils in this country. By this time next year the price of school meals in most areas will have more than doubled as a result of the Bill, at a time when the Government are giving no extra help to families in need and are refusing to increase child benefit or give extra family support.
It is against that background that we have tabled our amendment. Our aim is to minimise the effect on those worst hit by the provision. We also wish to emphasise that there should be a national policy introduced and maintained by the Secretary of State, both in terms of the pricing and the nutritional value of school meals.
Children who receive free school meals in future will not be guaranteed a meal of any particular nutritional value. It is important that we do not shrug off the fact and say that nutritional values do not matter because everyone is well fed these days and children do not need a meal at lunchtime.
In Committee the Under-Secretary almost fell into the trap of saying that it did not matter what sort of meals were provided. He said that there were good reasons for including nutritional standards in the 1944 Act, but he implied that perhaps it did not matter if nutritional standards were now abolished.
However, the Under-Secretary also acknowledged that the changes and the abolition of nutritional standards would cause hardship and problems. Indeed, he even acknowledged that the Bill might bring about a little malnutrition among some children, but he shrugged that off and said that it did not really matter because only a few children would be affected. It is important that the hon. Gentleman was at least honest enough to admit that the Bill and the clause will cause problems.
In Committee many of my hon. Friends pointed out to the Under-Secretary much of the recent evidence about the importance of school meals in children's diets. Has the Minister looked up the articles and surveys, in The Lancet and elsewhere, which prove that school meals are necessary for the children who need a sheet anchor for their nutrition? If the Under-Secretary has not done so, I suggest that he should. He cannot remove all the conditions on the standard of meals to be provided by local authorities and expect that not to have detrimental results.
If the hon. Gentleman is willing to admit that it may have serious results it is incumbent upon him to look at the matter again. If he will not assure us today that he will reintroduce national nutritional standards, I hope that he will reconsider the matter before the Bill goes to another place and will change his mind.
If the Bill goes through, it will hit many children and families severely and one of its major impacts will be the increased charges provided for in this clause.
The clause will hit families who pay for school meals in the ordinary way, and it is important to remember that the majority of families allow and encourage their children to take school meals. More than 75 per cent. of junior children and more than 50 per cent. of secondary pupils take school meals. If the new charges are introduced many family budgets will be badly hit.
We have only to look at a typical family with two children to see what will happen. When the Bill was introduced in October the price of a school meal was 30p. Within a short time it will have doubled to 60p—an increase of £1·50 per child per week. If we take this clause with the other new charges that the Government hope to introduce, we see that the average family will have to spend on meals and transport more than £5 a week for each child, simply to send him to school and to provide him with a meal.
The hon. Lady is taking the maximum situation under all the circumstances. There will be alternative provision. Only one-third of the cost of school meals is represented by food; the rest is catering, administration and all the other bits and pieces. If they wish, families will be able to provide a nutritional meal for their children to take to school at less than the existing cost of a school meal.
The hon. Member would do well to read the Committee Hansards, because he would see that much evidence was brought before the Committee about the proposed charges that many local authorities have decided to introduce. If the authority charges 60p for a school meal, that will involve a cost of £3 per week per child. I know that the hon. Gentleman has reservations about the new transport charges proposed by the Government—he has tabled an amendment on that matter and perhaps the Government will take notice of it—but if the new charges are introduced the average family will have to pay £5 a week for each child. That is not an exaggeration. Indeed, depending on what happens to transport charges, it may be an underestimate.The new charge of £5 a week simply to send a child to school will obviously cause hardship to many families, but some families will suffer even more than those who are paying the current rate for school meals. I refer to the families who are entitled to free school meals because they are low-income families. Many such families will face an increase not from the current price of a school meal, but from nothing to 50p or 60p a day for each child. They will suddenly have to find £2·50 or £3 a week for each child. Those families where a parent is working, but not claiming family income supplement or supplementary benefits, will be severely hit by the Government's proposals. They will be forced deeper into the poverty trap. The balance will be tipped in favour of those families being better off not working. Over the years we have heard a great deal from Conservative hon. Members about the problems of the poverty trap and how it is wrong that people should be better off on social security than in work. Yet this one measure will ensure that many more families are forced into the poverty trap and made worse off because they are working than they would be if they were on social security. There has been some dispute about just how many families and children come into that category. When we first discussed the matter last year, the Secretary of State said that 500,000 children at present entitled to free school meals would lose that right as a result of the clause. In Committee, the Under-Secretary revised that figure. He said that only 300,000 children—I emphasise "only"—would lose their right to free school meals. What he failed to point out then, but has since acknowledged in a letter to my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock), was that the real figure is 450,000, because 150,000 children entitled to free school meals on income grounds do not take them up. Many of us know why. It is because there is a stigma attached to that entitlement. But all of the 450,000, on the Minister's now confirmed figures, will lose that entitlement if the clause goes through as it is.
The hon. Lady said that the additional 150,000 was accounted for in part by the stigma that often attaches to children being "free school meals children". Will she remind the Minister that under the Bill there will be a double stigma? The Government are to make it really hard for children to have free school meals, even if they are entitled to them. They will have to prove not merely that they are financially entitled to them, but also that they are in need of special provision, because the obligation to provide free school meals applies only where the local authority thinks that such provision is appropriate or necessary for the children.
The hon. Gentleman has made a valid observation. It was confirmed by the Minister in Committee in an interesting discussion about what made up a good breakfast and what judgments the local authority should use in determining who should have a free meal.It is clear that many children will be at a disadvantage because of the Bill. Many families will be hit by the increased charges. Many thousands of children will be hit because their right to a free school meal will be removed. As the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) pointed out, those entitled to free school meals in the future will be put at an even greater disadvantage, because there will be a completely new category. Only children on family income supplement or supplementary benefit will be entitled to free school meals. That means singling out those children even more and increasing the stigma that often discourages children who need free school meals from taking advantage of their entitlement. What do the Government want to happen as a result of the clause? Does the Minister want to see the break-up of the school meals system, the dismantling of all the present provisions? Does he want to discourage families from allowing their children to have school meals, or does he want to encourage them to pay the economic cost of the meals? If he wants them to pay the economic cost, he must be prepared to provide the income for them to be able to do that. If the Government refuse to give more family support through child benefit and similar measures, the Minister should expect all those wage earners who have responsibility for children to make increased wage claims simply to cover the kind of increased charges that the Government are imposing on them. How- ever, I strongly suspect that he and his right hon. and learned Friend will continue to say, as do their right hon. and hon. Friends, that those who make large wage claims to compensate for increased charges are acting irresponsibly. All that the Government are concerned about is cutting public expenditure, not maintaining family support and the education service, which should be their first responsibility.
The clause gives the pretence of local authority freedom. We have heard a great deal about that freedom, both from the Secretary of State and from his hon. Friends. But it is a pretence. It is not real freedom. It is a freedom without cash, a freedom simply to cut the existing services.
The Government are trying to pass the buck to local authorities. The Secretary of State is the person with responsibility for education services. It is he who should be protecting the services. He and his right hon. and hon. Friends are damaging the education service and education opportunities by dismantling the school meals service.
Our amendments are intended to try to minimise the damage that will be caused by the clause. I hope that the Under-Secretary will be able to accept some of them, because he has said that he is concerned about the effect of the clause on poor families. If he is concerned about the future of school meals or about the future welfare of the children who will be hit by the clause, he needs to think again about what he and his Government are doing, and to accept some of our amendments to give better safeguards for those children who need help most.
I rise to support the amendment and to speak to a number of the amendments grouped with it—amendments Nos. 36, 38, 39, 40 and 54, all of which are in my name and the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells) or my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston).The school meals service has a record to be proud of. It is a service of very high standards, a service that can point to a proven record of improved nutrition. It is one of the few parts of the education service that can be demonstrated to have had a precise improving effect. Therefore, we should be cautious about making drastic changes in it. I do not deny that it is desirable to experiment both with the way in which meals are provided and served and with how we cater for those whose income does not allow them to use the system. Therefore, there are two kinds of experiment that I am anxious to encourage. One is in the establishment of better, more flexible income scales for help with school meals than exist under the present, rigid free school meals system. The other is in the provision of more choice of food, perhaps related to the purchase of individual items. A great deal has been done on those lines, and a great deal can be done, within the framework of the present law. Some easing of the statutory provision may be necessary, particularly to develop cafeteria systems and to ensure that local authorities generally can operate a proper incomes scale, instead of the present free school meals system. However, the provisions of the Bill do neither of those things. They very much worsen poverty trap problems presented by the way in which help is given to those who cannot afford schools meals. They go far beyond what is necessary to enable local authorities to run an efficient and inviting cafeteria system of meals for children within their areas. The Bill does a number of damaging things that these amendments are designed to prevent.
Even if these experiments in the provision of cafeteria services are pursued, has the hon. Gentleman been able to find out whether the Government will make extra allocations to enable local education authorities to meet the enormous capital cost of moving their school meals service from the current provision to a new space-age provision? Is he aware that the required equipment is costing West Glam organ county council £16,000 without putting even a slice of bread before any pupil?
The Government have no intention of putting more money into the school meals service. They are trying to take out as much as possible. Any experiments conducted under the present Government's arrangements must be of a limited nature. Any local authority that pours money into expensive new systems is likely to be making a great mistake. There is scope for limited experiments within capital investment already made. Most local authorities have made substantial capital investment in the school meals service in the post-war years. One has only to tour schools in one's constituency to see well-equipped kitchens, maintained to the highest standards of hygiene, that would be envied by any commercial concern and by any public health inspector who know the standards that exist in some commercial restaurants and cafes. We should be loth to waste or disregard what has been achieved.Unless the Bill is amended in the ways that have been suggested, much damage will be caused. We shall leave the way open for local authorities to provide no school meals at all, except for a limited number of children. We shall place no limit on the cost of meals. We shall create a terrible poverty trap problem.
The hon. Gentleman mentions a matter with which I had not intended to deal, but it is a fact, particularly in a constituency such as mine, that a great number of people, who are not very well paid, do a very good job within the school meals system and contribute a great deal to the welfare of the school. In Committee, the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson) testified that the school meals staff often played as big a part in educational welfare and pastoral work in schools as any of the teaching staff. These people will be put on the scrap-heap as a result of some of the Bill's proposals.The Bill would leave the way open for a situation in which there would be no school meals at all for the vast majority of children. Meals would be available only to those of families receiving supplementary benefit and family income supplement. The effect will be severe in certain circumstances. Families with both parents working who have hitherto relied on the school meals system to ensure that their children get a decent mid-day meal will he especially hit. These are often the families that depend on two wages. They are families on low wages