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Commons Chamber

Volume 983: debated on Thursday 1 May 1980

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House Of Commons

Thursday 1 May 1980

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Death Of A Member

I regret to have to inform the House of the death of Thomas McClellan McMillan, esquire, Member for Glasgow, Central, and I desire, on behalf of the House, to express our sense of the loss we have sustained and our sympathy with the relatives of the hon. Member.

Private Business

London Transport (No 2) Bill (By Order)

Order for Second Reading read.

To be read a Second time upon Thursday 15 May.

Bangor Market Bill Lords (By Order)

Order for Second Reading read.

To be read a Second time upon Tuesday 6 May.

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

Read a Second time and committed.

Tyne And Wear Bill Lords (By Orders)

British Railways Bill (By Order)

South Yorkshire Bill Lords (By Orders)

Orders for Second Reading read.

To be read a Second time upon Thursday 8 May.

Oral Answers To Questions

Home Department

Mr Jimmy Kelly


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he intends to take any further steps arising from the inquest on Mr. Jimmy Kelly.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has asked me to apologise to the House on his behalf for his absence this afternoon. I am sure that the House will understand and appreciate the reason.

After the most detailed examination possible of all the evidence, the inquest jury reached a unanimous verdict of death by misadventure, finding the cause of Mr. Kelly's death to be heart failure, brought on by acute alcoholic intoxication and exertion. It made no adverse comment about the police, and I understand from the chief constable that no additional evidence was revealed in the course of the inquest which in the view of the investigating officer would require him to make a further submission to the Director. In these circumstances, as my right hon. Friend has already announced, we are satisfied that no useful purpose would be served by setting up any further public inquiry or by taking any other action in the case.

I am grateful for that answer, but is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that there is grave public disquiet and that many people do not accept that any trial by inquest can occur?

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman further accept that, despite the objections from the Government Benches, what I have said is the reality? Will he therefore ask his right hon. Friend whether there can be a public inquiry, because a large amount of the evidence was not given at the inquest? Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the relatives of the deceased man feel that much more needs to be examined? Does the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that there is also grave disquiet because large sections of the police are in conflict with the public on many issues?

I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's premises or conclusions. I do not believe that there is grave public disquiet. This is a serious matter, which has been looked into carefully and thoroughly at the inquest. I do not accept for one moment that there is material evidence of a substantial character that was not before the inquest. For those reasons it would not be right for me to suggest to my right hon. Friend that -there should be an inquiry of the kind suggested.

In view of the serious and unfounded allegations against the police, does my hon. and learned Friend intend to take an initiative to redress the balance of fairness? Will he take this opportunity to state that the allegations are completely unsubstantiated?

I am happy to make it clear to the House—as the verdict of the jury itself did—that what my hon. Friend has just said is absolutely the case.

Underlying that question is the suggestion that the best way in which justice for the individual can be achieved is within the normal existing judicial procedures. I entirely agree with that and I believe that public inquiries should be reserved for the extremely rare situations in which matters of general consequence need to be examined, rather than rights between parties.



asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress is being made in the review of the law of citizenship; and whether he will make a statement.

We hope to be ready to publish a White Paper before the Summer Recess.

Does my hon. and learned Friend recall—because he was heavily involved in helping me on this matter—the case of my constituent who came here from the Bahamas in 1938, served for five years in our Army and has now been told that he cannot have a British passport any more, but that he must have a Bahamian one? Is this not an absurd situation which should be sorted out?

I am aware of this case. I must point out that when the Bahamas became independent, Parliament provided that people like Mr. Hanna, who had been born there, should become citizens of the Bahamas and cease to be citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies. Parliament also provided entitlement to United Kingdom citizenship by registration, and I know of no insuperable obstacles to Mr. Hanna's being able to do that.

To what extent are the Government consulting Commonwealth countries about the position of citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies who would not be accepted as British citizens under any proposed scheme? Can that consultation take place before the White Paper is produced so that we can have some indication of Commonwealth thinking?

We are having a number of discussions with Commonwealth Governments on a wide variety of topics to do with nationality.

When the Home Secretary publishes his White Paper will it include provisions for withdrawal of the totally anomalous and unreciprocated right to vote given to citizens of the Irish Republic in this country? If not, why not?

As my right hon. Friend said on 26 October, we do not think it appropriate to deal with any voting entitlement in a nationality Bill.

Special Constables (Bounty)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, in view of present recruitment levels into the Special Constabulary, he will consider paying a bounty to special constables who successfully fulfil their annual duty in the public service.

This is one of the possibilities being considered by the working party set up by the Police Advisory Board.

I thank my hon. and learned Friend for that encouraging answer. Does he not agree that in the 1980s an entirely different situation arises from that which existed at the time when the Special Constabulary was first established? Therefore, is it not essential to introduce some measure along these lines?

That proposal is being considered and I welcome the opportunity of telling the House that we are concerned to reverse the decline in the strength of the Special Constabulary. It has a valuable role to play and our concern for it is reflected in the presence of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary at the Metropolitan Police Special Constabulary annual dinner later this month. He will show by his presence the high regard and importance that we attach to the work of the Special Constabulary.

Will my hon. and learned Friend accept that relations between the regular police and the Specials have improved considerably, particularly since the implementation in full of the Edmund-Davies report? As a result of some of the old tensions disappearing, will he not agree that the time is now right for an imaginative expansion of the Special Constabulary? The idea of using a Territorial Army-type bounty is worth considering urgently.

I certainly agree that the time has come to assist in the expansion of the Special Constabulary. That is why the working party is looking into these matters. I think that the climate is right, both for the reasons given by my hon. Friend and the more general fact that the support that the Special Constabulary can give to the regular police is increasingly recognised. I very much hope that we shall make progress in this direction.

Does not my hon. and learned Friend agree that it is essential for the Government to encourage any sort of voluntary service? Will the working party look into the possibility of ensuring that whatever bounty is given, a certain amount each year is free from tax?

If the working party favours the recommendation for a bounty, it will have to consider the tax implications. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing that aspect of the bounty proposal to the attention of the House.

Race Relations


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to improve race relations.

The Government are committed to securing equal opportunities and promoting racial harmony. Existing legislation and Government programmes are already designed to further these objectives though we are thinking carefully about developments in this field. Good race relations also require a positive effort from all of our citizens, whatever their colour.

Is the Minister aware that his answer sounds incredibly complacent in that he has not put forward a single positive measure to improve race relations at a time when cuts in public expenditure and increasing unemployment are making the lot of our minority community worse than ever before?

I refute those observations. We are considering this matter very carefully and are maintaining the level of expenditure in Government programmes. We are reconsidering the exact scope of section 11 and we have the whole problem very much to the forefront of our minds at present.

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that nothing would be more conducive to improving race relations than a reduction in the inflow of ethnic minorities to this country?

As my hon. and learned Friend knows, the Government have introduced new measures for immigration control which will have some impact in this area. However, we must consider the interests of all sections of our country at present.

In his review of the appeals system in immigration cases, will the Minister, in the interests of maintaining good race relations, recognise the importance of preserving the right of Members of Parliament to appeal directly to Home Office Ministers about individual cases when those Members feel that it is appropriate to do so? Will he assure us that this right will be preserved?

We have no plans to remove the right of hon. Members to raise questions with Ministers. There are occasions when it seems to me that that right is carried to almost excessive lengths. However I assure the hon. Member that we have no plans to remove that fundamental right.

May I congratulate my hon. Friend on the success of the various offices that have been set up in the regions, particularly in Southampton, to deal directly with immigrants' problems? Is my hon. Friend aware that my concern at present is about the fact that the Southampton office is about to close? Could its life be extended for another six months?

I am aware of this, but I am afraid that this has been forced upon us by lack of resources. I shall consider what my hon. Friend has said, but I cannot hold out any hope that the position will be changed.

Police Force (Ethnic Membership)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what are the latest available figures for members of the police force who originate from coloured ethnic communities; and what percentage of the total this represents.

On 29 February 1980, 268 police officers in England and Wales—0·2 per cent. of the total police strength—were members of the ethnic minorities.

I am sure that the majority of hon. Members will find these figures rather disappointing—

I said the majority of hon. Members. In view of these figures has my hon. Friend any initiatives to implement with a view to increasing the size of the coloured police population?

I accept the need to increase the number of recruits from the ethnic minorities. A special recruitment campaign, with advertisements in the appropriate languages, was conducted in the ethnic press over a three-month period in 1979, and a similar campaign will be launched later this year.

Will the hon. Gentleman agree that the National Front march through my constituency two weeks ago would have been less of an affront to both black and white citizens on the route of the march if the 5,000 policemen guarding the marchers had been less exclusively white?

What is the Minister doing to make the Metropolitan Police, in particular, more aware of its responsibilities to create racial harmony?

I cannot comment on the policing of that particular event. But, as I have said already, we hope to see an increase in the number of members of ethnic minorities in the police forces. There is no doubt at all that the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis is aware of the importance of good community relations and I believe that much good work is being done in that area.

Will my hon. Friend realise that it is not a question of ethnic minorities? We must not reduce the standards of entry into the police simply because of the colour of a person's skin.

I am not aware that my right hon. Friend or the police forces have any plans to reduce standards.

Interception Of Communications


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will now name the senior member of the judiciary who will review the interception of communications; and when he expects to publish his first report.

Will the Minister's right hon. Friend reconsider the proposal in the White Paper that only the initial report to the senior judge will be published and that, thereafter, there will be no annual statement? What is the merit in having an independent check on the system if the independent assessor cannot communicate to Parliament or to the public his concern for, or confidence in, the system that he is checking?

No, Sir. My right hon. Friend indicated in his statement to the House that the initial report would indeed be published but that subsequent reports would not be published. That does not mean that Parliament would not have any knowledge of the nature of those subsequent reports. My right hon. Friend added that Parliament would be informed of any findings of a general nature and of any changes that are made in the arrangements as a result of subsequent reports. That seems to be a reasonable balance in what must, inevitably, be an extremely sensitive area.

Why is the Minister's Department refusing to say whether the criteria set out in the White Paper cover the interception of communications for those engaged in trade disputes?

I do not believe that the question of the appointment of a member of the judiciary to review the interception of communications is an appropriate vehicle for ventilating further the general issues of policy which were put before the House and explored in some depth when my right hon. Friend made his statement.

Boundary Commissions


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has any plans to propose changes in legislation governing the activities of the Boundary Commissions.

We are considering whether any such changes are necessary or desirable.

Does the Minister remember the remark that he let slip a month ago to the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) suggesting that the Government had in mind the possibility of changing the law relating to Boundary Commissions in order to speed up the process? Since it is generally accepted that the next redistribution will benefit the Conservative Party, does the Minister accept that it would be a political scandal if the Government were to use their majority in the House to alter the law relating to the Boundary Commissions in a direction which benefited the Conservative Party?

I accept that we have a lot to learn from the Opposition about political scandals in relation to these matters. I think that it would be a politi- cal scandal to hold the next General Election on the basis of the present boundaries, which are hopelessly out of date and do not reflect the quality of representation that should be paramount in our thinking. There is a strong case for thinking that it is quite unnecessary that the Boundary Commission should have to complete its consideration of the European constituencies before reporting the outcome of its consideration of the Westminster parliamentary constituencies.

Does my hon. and learned Friend recall the gerrymandering of the Boundary Commission's report by the Leader of the Opposition when he was Home Secretary? Does not my hon. and learned Friend agree that it is quite scandalous that some constituencies could be at a grave disadvantage compared with others? Some hon. Members represent constituencies with 100,000 electors and others represent only 40,000 electors. Will my hon. and learned Friend take urgent steps to see that that situation is remedied?

I think that it is quite indefensible that one should fight an election with the present disparity in the size of constituencies. I merely referred, in passing, to past experience, and I do not think that we need to look back. We should be looking to the future and to implementing the representations of the Boundary Commission in an appropriate way in order to safeguard democracy.

The Boundary Commission procedure to ensure that there are not over-small or over-large constituencies is right. The Minister referred to the European elections and changing procedures there and my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) was trying to find out what is in the mind of the Government. Why are the Government thinking of changing the law so that the procedures for the European elections can be carried out in a way that was not envisaged when the original legislation was carried? We do not understand what the Government have in mind in this context. The question has nothing to do with gerrymandering and the Boundary Commissions. Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that many of us feel strongly about the nature of the European Parliament and the way in which it is organised?

I do not think that anything I have said, or canvassed, relates to the organisation of the European Parliament, or its powers. What I have said relates to the fact that, at the moment, the parliamentary Boundary Commission—including the English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Commissions—cannot report until it has considered any changes that it thinks appropriate in the European Parliament boundaries. I am talking of boundaries alone. It seems to us that there is no justification for holding up the implementation of the Boundary Commission proposals concerning the Westminster constituencies because it may not be able to complete consideration of the European constituencies.

Will the Minister remind the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) of the saying that people who live in glass houses should not throw stones, bearing in mind that his 40 per cent. provision gerrymandered the Scotland Act?

I am afraid that I cannot be drawn on that, because on that issue I believe that the hon. Gentleman showed more wisdom than in his lapse today.

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that the way in which the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) phrased his question suggested that the way the boundaries were left at the last General Election gives great advantage to the Labour Party? Is not the important point that the boundaries should be fair? Whether that fairness removes an advantage presently enjoyed by the Labour Party is a totally separate issue.

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. I ignore speculation as to the effect or otherwise of the implementation of any proposals that might or might not come. Such speculation is always extremely hazardous. What is sure and firm is that it is quite wrong that there should be constituencies with over 100,000 electors and others with under 30,000 electors.

Hooliganism And Vandalism (London Underground)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will set up a working party into hooliganism and vandalism on the London underground.

My right hon. Friend will be holding, with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport, a working conference on violence on public transport next Tuesday. I am sure that hooliganism on the London underground will be among the problems discussed.

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that, welcome though his announcement is, a conference is not, in the judgment of many Londoners, sufficient? Is he further aware that the acts of hooliganism and vandalism which took place at Neasden and at Finsbury Park seriously shook public confidence in the ability of people to travel safely on the London underground? Will my hon. and learned Friend address his mind specifically to the problems—first, of getting the Metropolitan Police more actively involved in policing the London underground and, secondly, of reviewing the range of penalties which are available to deal with these Tube thugs? We simply cannot go on with the present situation much longer.

I appreciate, understand and completely share the public anxiety articulated by my hon. Friend. Of course, the conference that is to be held next Tuesday is not enough. However, I think that it is more likely than a working party to reveal to Government and the other organisations involved—whether local authorities or transport bodies—pointers to constructive action for the future.

The Metropolitan Police already assists the British Transport police where necessary. Any recommendations for greater co-operation may well emerge from the conference. The House will be aware that the Government are reviewing the scope and content of the criminal law to seek ways in which it can be strengthened where appropriate.

Does the hon. and learned Gentleman accept that the railway men are extremely concerned about what is happening? Does he accept that there should be urgent co-operation between the British Transport police and the Metropolitan Police to ensure that the known danger spots are policed properly at times when vandalism and hooliganism take place? Is he aware that the fervent opinion of those who work on the system is that it is their job to work for the railways and not to fight for them and that they should be afforded protection when they are doing their jobs?

I do not think that I would disagree with a single word that the hon. Gentleman has uttered.

Will my hon. and learned Friend bear in mind that there might be long-term solutions to the problem but that short-term remedies are urgently needed? Does he agree that it is not only a question of hooliganism but that people are anxious because of the extreme violence on the underground and on public transport? Will he do his best to urge that the Metropolitan Police cooperate with the transport police to ensure that urgent measures are taken to meet the grave crisis?

I can assure my hon. and learned Friend that there is no need to urge the Metropolitan Police to co-operate. They are ready and anxious to do so. It is a question of the best way in which they can co-operate. I hope that the conference next week will produce constructive, short and long-term suggestions.

Is there not another solution? Could we not fill London Transport carriages with passengers rather than vandals if we reduced the scandalously high cost of fares?

Urban Centres (Public Order)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action he proposes to take to ensure that there will not be any " no-go " areas in British urban centres.

As my right hon. Friend made clear in his statement to the House on Monday on the recent disturbances at Bristol, however quickly or fiercely public disorder may occur, we must ensure that the police are able swiftly to restore the peace and enforce the law. Such speed of response is a central issue for the re- view of arrangements for handling spontaneous disorder which the Department is undertaking with chief officers of police.

Is my hon. Friend aware that few people will not wholeheartedly support what the Home Secretary said about his determination that there should not be any no-go areas in Britain? Is the Minister aware that it will be possible to give effect to those fine words only if either enough police officers are recruited into potentially inflammable areas, or if enough police officers are recruited to special groups to be used in particularly inflammable areas? Is my hon. Friend satisfied with the level of police recruitment and the capacity of the police force to deal with conflagrations if, by chance, they should take place in future?

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's comments on what my right hon. Friend said on Monday. There has been a great improvement in recruitment in recent months since the present Government came to power. On the more specific question of how to handle disorder, that is exactly what the conference, which the Home Office is setting up in conjunction with the Association of Chief Police Officers, intends to examine.

As the police were walking about the place peacefully shortly after the disturbances may we get away from the obsession about no-go areas and ask ourselves why there was so much hostility to the police in the first place when the outbreak took place? Is it not time that we began to consider community policing on a national scale rather than reactive policing, which was the cause of the riot?

The conference to consider police operations might examine such questions. The Bristol incidents have been analysed fully. A full summary of the chief constable's report is available in the Library. Inquiries will be made by the Select Committee of which the hon. Gentleman is a member. It is well known that local authorities are examining the situation.

Since many areas of our big cities are populated by Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, does my hon. Friend agree that it would be to the advantage of effective policing if there were more police from those communities, who speak the language and understand more fully what is going on?

We hope to have more members of the ethnic minority communities in the police force.

Community Relations Councils


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has any proposals for making the councils for community relations more accountable either to Parliament or to local authorities.

Community relations councils are already answerable to the Commission for Racial Equality through the conditions imposed in connection with the grants that the Commission makes to them. I understand that the Commission is reviewing all these arrangements and that the question of accountability forms part of this review. Where grants are made by local authorities or other bodies it is for them to attach what conditions they think appropriate.

May I draw my hon. Friend's attention to two recent examples of behaviour by the community relations councils? Is he aware of the violent and offensive attack by the Northampton community relations council on my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow)—an attack which would be proper in a political party but which was grossly improper in a non-political bureaucracy? Secondly, is my hon. Friend aware of the refusal by the Wolverhampton community relations council to accept the advice of the Commission for Racial Equality on the appointment of an official? Do not those two examples point to the proposition that the community relations councils should be directly responsible either to the Home Office or to local authorities?

I do not believe that it is generally thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) is incapable of defending himself against attack. I understand that the Commission for Racial Equality's policy is to require political representation on community relations councils to be broadly balanced. Events in Wolverhampton have aroused considerable interest. I understand that the Commission for Racial Equality is reviewing its relationships with community relations councils generally and is examining carefully the position in Wolverhampton.

Order. I remind the House that when hon. Members are called to ask a supplementary question it is unfair if they ask two or three questions. That stops questions by other hon. Members.

Does the Minister agree that it would be the worst thing possible if community relations councils lost their independence in the local areas? Does he agree that they should be accountable to their local communities?

We certainly do not want community relations councils to be puppets. They are expected to express honest opinions. To an extent, they are accountable to the people who pay for them, and that includes local authorities and the Commission for Racial Equality.

Is my hon. Friend aware that many community relations councils are beginning to regard themselves as pressure groups for ethnic minorities? Does my hon. Friend agree that, although it would be ideal if they had political balance, sadly, some of them have fallen into the hands of Left-wing extremists and are using Government and local authority money in a way which is damaging to racial harmony? Will the Minister examine the whole area of activity to see whether it can be brought under more effective control?

The CRE is looking into the local community relations councils. I agree that some councils are not as politically balanced as is desirable. However, what really matters is that the councils should fulfil a constructive purpose rather than merely indulge in politics.

Metropolitan Police


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will introduce measures to ensure that the Metropolitan Police force is democratically accountable to the people of London through their local authorities.

I see no reason to change the present constitutional position, under which my right hon. Friend is answerable in Parliament for the exercise of his responsibilities as police authority for the Metropolitan Police district.

Does the Minister accept that a number of local authorities are thinking of withholding their rate precept to the Metropolitan Police unless a more substantial element of accountability is introduced? Such an element might make the Metropolitan Police more accountable to local authorities. What possible justification can there be for allowing a police force not to be accountable to the local community that it serves?

I am aware that one local authority has made such a threat. It is deplorable to threaten to break the law by withholding the precept. I hope that wiser counsels will prevail. It is peculiarly illogical to claim to stand for law and order by breaking the law.

Does not my hon. and learned Friend agree that the task of policing London is operationally and logistically a seamless garment, that cannot be split between particular boroughs? Is it not true that certain police operations, such as the one now taking place, should not be messed about by politically-motivated local councillors?

Does not the Minister agree that the Metropolitan Police force is as accountable as any police force outside London, but that it is accountable in a different way—through Members of Parliament, not councillors? Does not he accept that it may be argued that Members of Parliament can do the job better? Will he accept that many local authorities in London are concerned that there is no formal means of consultation between the police and local authorities? Will he open his mind to the possibility of change?

I agree with the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question. However, as regards the second question, the Commissioner is anxious to encourage local police commanders to establish liaison arrangements with local authorities in their districts. The Government very much support those developments. They are entirely consistent with the general position as regards responsibility. Any suggestions towards the further extension of that co-operation will be considered sympathetically.

Cuban Refugees


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will facilitate the granting of entry and residence facilities to a token number of Cuban refugees from the Castro dictatorship.

We shall certainly consider sympathetically applications from Cubans who have left the Peruvian embassy for countries of first asylum and who wish to resettle in the United Kingdom, if they have ties with this country or other connections suggesting that the United Kingdom is the natural country of resettlement.

Bearing in mind the campaign that was organised by the political Left on behalf of Chilean exiles, has the Home Office received any representations from members of the Labour Party on behalf of exiles from a Communist dictatorship? Would not the arrival of a few exiles provide a timely reminder to British people of the alternative to a free capitalist society?

I agree with my hon. Friend's last point. As far as I can ascertain, neither we nor the Foreign Office have received any representations from right hon. or hon. Members. We have received only one representation from another source.

Local Radio


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will ask his Department's working party on local radio to give special consideration to the phasing of local radio development with cuts in the British Broadcasting Corporation's regional radio news bulletins.

The Home Office local radio working party prepares proposals for the consideration of the Secretary of State for the Home Department for the further development of local radio by stages, over the United Kingdom as a whole. The working party has no responsibility for regional radio as such but is aware of the BBC's intention to withdraw its regional services in England and to extend its local radio services as resources permit, and will, therefore, obviously be working in that context.

I thank the Minister for that reply. Will he do his best to ensure that the withdrawal of regional radio services is matched by an attempt to develop local radio not on a duplicated basis, but on one that brings local radio to as much of the country as possible? Will he facilitate the attempts made by the BBC to extend local radio into north Northumberland?

As regards north Northumberland, the BBC has recently put forward proposals to provide alternative arrangements for extending the VHF coverage of BBC Radio Newcastle northwards, to include the hon. Gentleman's constituency.

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that there is great support in Leicestershire for Radio Leicester and that it is widely listened to? Does not he accept that if cuts have to be made, many people would prefer them to be made on regional programmes, which are more widely spread and less relevant than local programmes?

I am aware of my hon. Friend's concern and of local support for that station. It is in accordance with the BBC's general policy to move from regional to local coverage.

Commission For Racial Equality


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will seek to change the constitution of the Commission for Racial Equality.

No. The Race Relations Act 1976, which set up the Commission, has been in force for just under three years and we do not consider it necessary to consider further changes at this stage.

Is my hon. Friend aware that, according to one estimate by the OPCS, the current coloured population of 2,000,000, is likely to increase to 4,000,000 by the end of this century? Is he further aware that the Government may well find it necessary to go back on some of their commitments in order to reduce a seemingly endless flood of immigration? Will he take care that the Commission for Racial Equality is not enabled to interfere with any policies that the Government may introduce?

My hon. Friend is aware that we have already taken steps to reduce the flow of immigrants. It is for the Government to decide their policies. The CRE has the right to give its views, but it is for hon. Members and the Government to decide such issues.

Order. I shall allow one minute extra for Prime Minister's Question Time, in order to call the Opposition Front Bench spokesman.

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm or deny the report that the Home Office is considering combining the Commission for Racial Equality with the Equal Opportunities Commission?

Prime Minister (Engagements)


asked the Prime Minister what are her official engagements for 1 May.

This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be having further meetings with ministerial colleagues and others.

Will the Prime Minister take time off today to answer more fully the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor), and the accusations being made to the effect that the right hon. Lady openly condoned the use of Diego Garcia by Carter's task force, as a result of his decision to intervene in Iran and secure the release of the hostages?

I cannot get myself into a position where I have to confirm or deny movements through allied bases. There is nothing that I can usefully add to that reply.

Order. If the hon. Gentleman's point of order relates to the reply that he received, it might be better to raise it at the end of Question Time, as otherwise it will take up the time of other hon. Members.

I was encouraged to read in the press that the Government—[HON. MEMBERS: " Question."] Is the Prime Minister aware that it was stated in the press that the Government are reviewing their public sector buying policy? Will she confirm that that is true? Does she agree that the Government should positively encourage Government Departments and public sector buying bodies to buy British? That would do much to help industry at a difficult time.

My hon. Friend is quite right. I referred to this matter in the debate on the confidence motion. Our policy is to encourage all Departments to buy British as far as possible, commensurate with getting good value for money.

Talking of encouragement from the press has the right hon. Lady had an opportunity during her busy day to read the magnificent May Day issue of the Daily Mirror? Has she given instructions—I trust that she has—that it should be read by all members of her Cabinet, wet or dry?

I have glanced at the Daily Mirror. I did not think that it was worth doing more than that. I noted a picture of shoes, kept for children to wear at a school in The Wirral. I made inquiries. There has been no change in practice at that school since the election.

Now that the dust has settled after Monday night, does my right hon. Friend think that EEC Governments, and the French Government in particular, will be able to accept a far-reaching reform of the budget so that a smaller proportion of Community money would be spent on the agricultural policy and on funding agricultural products that go straight into surplus? Is not that fundamental to the whole issue?

We require two things: a reform of the common agricultural policy, and ass change in the way in which the budget is financed. It would have helped if the proposed price settlement had represented a smaller proportion on agriculture. Unfortunately, it did precisely the opposite. Those two things will have to be brought about. The opportunity will be when the 1 per cent. VAT ceiling is reached, but we shall have to press for both reforms very hard.


asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 1 May.

Will the Prime Minister today find a moment to re-read the Conservative Party manifesto, particularly that section entitled " Helping the Family "? Will she compare it with the annual report of the NSPCC, published this week, which notes an increase in family tension as a result of diminished support for families from public funds? How do the conclusions of that respectable body, sponsored by Her Royal Highness the Princess Margaret, square with the Conservative commitment to support family life?

With respect, there have been problems with which the NSPCC has been dealing splendidly over the years, and I do not believe that those problems have changed since the election. I believe that it is a disgrace that there is even need for such a society, but so long as there is cruelty—and it occurs at all levels of income throughout society—we shall need such a body. As to the more detailed reply which I could give the hon. Gentleman, since the Government have been in power, with the increases in benefit which they have already made, coupled with those which have been announced, by next November lone parents will have benefited by a 50 per cent. increase in the child benefit addition, low-wage income earners with children, including single parent earners, will have been helped by the doubling of the family income supplement, and there are many more things proposed.

While the Prime Minister, quite rightly, only glanced at the Daily Mirror, will she look rather more carefully at The Sun, which reveals that 85 per cent. of the population and 75 per cent. of trade unionists are against the futile strike which is due to take place on 14 May?

I saw that article, and I think that it shows enormous common sense on the part of those who are being called upon to take part in the day of action.

While thanking the Prime Minister for the courtesy of her reply to myself and two of my hon. Friends relating to the letter we sent her about Diego Garcia, in which she reiterated what she has already said to my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours), may I ask her to confirm that if the base at Diego Garcia was used by the Americans in the rescue attempt in Iran, British permission should have been received?

I am being asked the same question in a different guise, and there is nothing that I can usefully add to what I have already said.

Will my right hon. Friend, who is giving such positive and dramatic leadership to the free Western world and to our country in a time of difficulty, take a little time out of her busy programme to study the philosophy and policies of Benjamin Disraeli, who believed in the national interest above all else and the good sense of one nation of all people, in order to sustain her in the wonderful work which she is doing?

I shall certainly try to do so, perhaps during next Monday's bank holiday. Like my hon. Friend, I am a great admirer of Disraeli, and staunchly believe, as both of us do, in true Conservative policy.

Order. The House ought to listen because we do not know what is coming next.

—who only glances at the Daily Mirror from time to time, is the Prime Minister proud of the fact that she has cheated the old-age pensioners by introducing a 54-week session, and punished schoolchildren by pushing the price of school meals through the roof? Is she proud that she is seeking revenge upon the miners by removing State liability from the pneumoconiosis scheme and the miners' voluntary retirement scheme? Is she really proud that, at the general election, she led a party which peddled a pack of lies?

I rather thought that under the Tory Government it was reported that some miners now had an income of £10,000 a year. I am very proud of the Government's record during the past year. I am proud of the fact that the married pension has gone up by £12·25p a week; that by next November the disabled will have been helped by a 45 per cent. increase in mobility allowance; that by next year no fewer than 2 million needy people will receive help with their fuel bills—which in real terms means £20 million more than in the last year of the previous Government; that we have cut the standard rate of income tax by 3p in the pound; that we shall have compulsory tenants' rights to purchase council houses, and that we have managed to get the Employment Bill through this House.


asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 1 May.

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply which I gave some time ago.

As the Prime Minister is said by the press to enjoy the nickname of " the Iron Lady", can she say just how much she enjoys the prospect of cutting unemployment benefit in real terms by 5 per cent., cutting by a similar amount the benefits paid to pregnant women and cutting the benefit which is paid to invalids in real terms?

I believe that this year it was right to cut the increase in unemployment benefit by some 5 per cent. below the level that it would otherwise have been, because I believe that it is right to have a larger difference between those in work and those out of work.

In her review of public sector orders, will my right hon. Friend try to ensure that a fair share goes to small firms, as that would help them very much?

I shall endeavour to do that. As I have gone around firms in the country, I have noticed that quite a lot of public sector ordering is done through small firms because they are excellent with regard to delivery dates and industrial relations.

Is the right hon. Lady so proud of the cuts in real benefits which have been carried through in the last two Budgets? Is she proud enough of that to publish the full list in the Official Report? Is she proud of the fact that she has pushed up the rate of inflation to 20 per cent., that the unemployment figures have gone up to more that 1½ million and that the mortgage rate has gone up to 15 per cent.? As the " day of action " is partly a protest against all those things, can she advise us to whom we should send our protest? Should it be sent to the Secretary of State for Industry, the Chancellor of the Exchequer or No. 10 Downing Street?

I am proud of the Government's records as a whole, including the fact that, in spite of everything the right hon. Gentleman has said, the standard of living rose last year by 6 per cent., that we have just had a very good month for exports and the fact—which I forgot previously—that we settled the Rhodesian problem.

In the same generous spirit as that of the right hon. Lady, may I congratulate her and the Government on the settlement of the Rhodesian problem? We were all very glad to see it, because that represented a real U-turn on their part. Will the right hon. Lady now tell us whether she is still proud of the speech which she delivered in Australia on that subject?

Yes, because in that speech in Australia I said that the sanctions issue would be resolved by November, and it was.

Will my right hon. Friend consider this afternoon warning the TUC, in connection with the calling out of its members on 14 May, that neither the law nor the Government will protect them by one penny from action for damages which might result?

It is my understanding—although it would need to be confirmed with my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General—that the " day of action " on 14 May would not be a trade dispute of the kind which would give immunity from action in a court of law.

Is the right hon. Lady preparing any measures to help combat the serious rise in unemployment in Britain?

I am every bit as concerned as the hon. Gentleman about rising unemployment figures. They have not yet passed the peak that was reached by the previous Government. I fear that they will rise during the coming months. We shall do everything we can, but we need help and support from the rest of the country. Unemployment will rise if some groups demand increases in pay which are too high and take away the jobs of others.

Has my right hon. Friend read the account in the press today of the preposterous resumption of surplus butter sales to the Soviet Union by the EEC? Has she also read that that butter is not being sold at subsidised prices to the Soviet housewife, but in a way which greatly profits the Soviet exchequer? Does not that constitute a subsidy from the European taxpayer to the Soviet exchequer at a time when it cannot possibly be justified?

I read that report, and I should like to make it clear that the United Kingdom voted against that sale. However, it is not one that requires the unanimous support of each and every member of the Community. I confirm what my hon. Friend said, that the normal export refund was higher in this case than previously. I condemn this sale totally.

Business Of The House

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Leader of the House of Commons
(Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas)

The business for next week will be as follows:

TUESDAY 6 MAY—Consideration of a timetable motion on the Social Security (No. 2) Bill.

Division No. 278]


[3.30 p.m.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett and
Mr. Reg Race.


Adley, RobertFisher, Sir NigelMarlow, Tony
Aitken, JonathanFletcher, Alexander (Edinburgh N)Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Alexander, RichardFletcher-Cooke, CharlesMarten, Neil (Banbury)
Ancram, MichaelForman, NigelMates, Michael
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)Mather, Carol
Atkinson, David (B'mouth, East)Freud, ClementMawby, Ray
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)Glyn, Dr AlanMeyer, Sir Anthony
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset)Goodhew, VictorMiller, Hal (Bromsgrove & Redditch)
Beith, A. J.Goodlad, AlastairMoore, John
Bell, Sir RonaldGow, IanMorrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester)
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay)Grieve, PercyMyles, David
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnGriffiths, Eldon (Bury St Edmunds)Nelson, Anthony
Body, RichardGriffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)Neubert, Michael
Bottomley, Peter (Woolwich West)Grimond, Rt Hon J.Newton, Tony
Bradford, Rev. R.Grist, IanPage, Rt Hon Sir R. Graham
Brittan, LeonGrylls, MichaelPenhaligon, David
Brooke, Hon PeterHannam, JohnPercival, Sir Ian
Browne, John (Winchester)Hawkins, PaulPollock, Alexander
Bruce-Gardyne, JohnHayhoe, BarneyPym, Rt Hon Francis
Bryan, Sir PaulHeath, Rt Hon EdwardRaison, Timothy
Buck, AntonyHeddle, JohnRenton, Tim
Bulmer, EsmondHeseltine, Rt Hon MichaelRhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Butcher, JohnHill, JamesRoss, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Butler, Hon AdamHolland, Philip (Carlton)Rost, Peter
Cadbury, JocelynHowell, Rt Hon David (Guildford)Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Carlisle, John (Luton West)Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon Norman
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)Scott, Nicholas
Carlisle, Rt Hon Mark (Runcorn)Hurd, Hon DouglasShaw, Michael (Scarborough)
Chalker, Mrs. LyndaJenkin, Rt Hon PatrickShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Channon, PaulJessel, TobyShersby, Michael
Chapman, SydneyJopling, Rt Hon MichaelSims, Roger
Churchill, W. S.Joseph, Rt Hon Sir KeithSpicer, Jim (West Dorset)
Clark, Sir William (Croydon South)Kellett-Bowman, Mrs ElaineSquire, Robin
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Knight, Mrs JillStanbrook, Ivor
Cope, JohnLamont, NormanStanley, John
Costain, A. P.Lang, IanSteel, Rt Hon David
Cranborne, ViscountLatham, MichaelSteen, Anthony
Dorrell, StephenLawrence, IvanStevens, Martin
Dunn, Robert (Dartford)Lee, JohnStradling Thomas, J.
Dykes, HughLennox-Boyd, Hon MarkTapsell, Peter
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (Pembroke)Lester, Jim (Beeston)Taylor, Teddy (Southend East)
Eggar, TimothyLewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Temple-Morris, Peter
Elliott, Sir WilliamLloyd, Ian (Havant & Waterloo)Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Emery, PeterLloyd, Peter (Fareham)Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)
Eyre, ReginaldLyell, Nicholasvan Straubenzee, W. R.
Fairgrieve, RussellMcCrindle, RobertWaddington, David
Faith, Mrs SheilaMacGregor, JohnWakeham, John
Farr, JohnMacKay, John (Argyll)Waldegrave, Hon William
Fenner, Mrs PeggyMcNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury)Wall, Patrick
Finsberg, GeoffreyMcNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)Wells, Bowen (Hert'rd & Stev'nage)

Remaining stages of the Port of London (Financial Assistance)—

Notice being taken that strangers were present, Mr. SPEAKER, pursuant to Standing Order No. 115 (Withdrawal of strangers from House), put forthwith the Question, That strangers do withdraw:—

The House divided: Ayes 0, Noes 157.

Whitelaw, Rt Hon WilliamWolfson, Mark
Whitney, RaymondYoung, Sir George (Acton)TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Wilkinson, JohnYounger, Rt Hon GeorgeMr. Spencer Le Ma
Winterton, NicholasMr. Anthony Berry.

Question accordingly negatived.

As I was saying, Mr. Speaker—to continue with Tuesday's business: Remaining stages of the Port of London (Financial Assistance) Bill.

Motion on the Local Loans (Increase of Limit) Order.

WEDNESDAY 7 MAY—Debate on a motion to take note of the Government's expenditure plans, 1980–81 to 1983–84, (Cmnd. 7841).

Motions on the Southern Rhodesia (Sanctions) (Amnesty) Order and on the Zimbabwe (Independence and Membership of the Commonwealth) (Consequential Provisions) Order.

THURSDAY 8 MAY—Second Reading of the Finance (No. 2) Bill.

Consideration of the Instruction to Standing Committee D on the Local Government, Planning and Land (No. 2) Bill.

FRIDAY 9 MAY—Private Members' motions.

MONDAY 12 MAY—Until 7 p.m. consideration of Private Members' motions. Afterwards, Second Reading of the Gas Bill.

It may be for the convenience of the House to know that it will be proposed that the Whitsun Adjournment should be from Friday 23 May to Monday 2 June.

Leaving aside the rest of the proposed business and coming back to the timetable motion proposed by the right hon. Member for Tuseday 6 May, does he not appreciate that that proposal by the Government for dealing with the Bill is bound to give rise to extremely bitter feelings on the Opposition Benches? Does he think that there is any possible excuse for having a timetable motion on a Bill that is only in its second week, that has had two all-night sittings, that is to be discussed again at 4.30 this afternoon, and on which there has not been obstruction?

Of course, there is bound to be lengthy debate on a Bill of such importance, which cuts benefits and interferes with the rights of people throughout the country. Can the right hon. Gentleman give us any excuse whatsoever for introducing this timetable motion on this Bill in this manner?

It hardly lies in the mouth of the right hon. Gentleman to complain about guillotines, since we recall that he set an all-time record in this matter by introducting five guillotines on one day—20 July 1976. There is a further precedent in 1966, also by the Labour Government supported by the right hon. Gentleman. The Selective Employment Payments Bill was guillotined by that Government after the Second Reading—before the Committee stage.

Unlike the right hon. Gentleman, I have had the advantage of being present at quite a number of the sittings of the Committee and I have seen the progress that has been made. After nearly 40 sitting hours the Committee is only halfway through one clause, with only nine groups of amendments tabled. There have been 15 Opposition speeches of half an hour each There have been three Opposition Front Bench speeches of over an hour each, two of which I heard, from the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker). There were five hours on a sittings motion and one and a half hours of points of order. Surely it is clear that the Opposition have no intention of making reasonable progress on the Bill.

The right hon. Gentleman has quoted the five timetable motions that I introduced on a single occasion. Can he give me the name of any one of those Bills on which the time for debate was as short as that which he is proposing?

It is likely that there will be up to 70 sitting hours on the Bill. So far we have had 40 sitting hours. We shall probably have another 30 hours. Seventy hours for a six-clause Bill is not unreasonable.

Will the report of the Select Committee on the Treasury and Civil Service be available to hon. Members before the public expenditure debate on Wednesday?

As my hon. Friend knows, we arranged this debate at such a point that it would be possible for the report of the Select Committee to be available. It should be available in the Vote Office at noon tomorrow, and the evidence should be available on Tuesday.

Order. I propose to call those hon. Members who have been rising, before we move on to the next business.

On the guillotine motion, is the Leader of the House aware that the Social Security (No. 2) Bill is the first Bill in 50 years that deliberately sets out to cut national insurance benefits? Is he further aware that on the first sitting the Minister in charge of the Bill created a precedent by initially moving a sittings motion providing for three afternoon sittings—Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday—openended from 4.30 onwards, and that on no occasion in the course of the proceedings has a closure motion been moved on a major debate?

There are precedents for sittings motions of that character. In fact, benefits will be increased. It is the rate of increase that is reduced.

Will my right hon. Friend arrange to have a debate next week or the week after—perhaps on 14 May—on bank holidays and other national days off? Is he aware that we need to discuss, first, whether May Day should remain the first Monday in May or should come back towards St. George's Day, or some other more suitable day? Secondly, the House should be able to discuss the " day of action" and to discover why trade union leaders suggest that their members are all in favour of such action when every piece of available evidence indicates that the vast majority of trade unionists are utterly opposed to it.

I agree with my hon. Friend. I think that the major mistake that was made by my predecessor, the late Mr. Crossman, was the substitution of a secular bank holiday for the traditional Christian Whitsun. One option that might be investigated is a return to the old arrangements, which were much more acceptable.

In view of the report of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and the expected increase in child abuse and child battering in the deepening recession, will there be time for a debate on these problems, especially having regard to the need of the society for funds and the need of local authorities for more resources to deal with the problems, which are getting so much worse?

I think that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister dealt with any connection between these two events. The House should debate social matters from time to time, and the hon. and learned Gentleman has referred to an important report. I shall consider what he suggests and whether it can be fitted into the context of a general social affairs debate.

As Diego Garcia comes under British sovereignty, and as its use by foreign forces, for whatever purposes, must have the agreement of Her Majesty's Government, will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for somebody more responsible than me Prime Minister to make a definitive statement?

I drink that the essence of the reply made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister when this issue was raised earlier was precisely to state the Government's responsibility. It is rather irresponsible of the hon. Gentleman to attempt to raise the matter again.

Is the Leader of the House aware that in Standing Committee B on the Social Security (No. 2) Bill the Government have been introducing amendments to cut benefits because they forgot to put those provisions in the original Bill? Does not that make a mockery of the guillotine motion that will be put before the House next Tuesday?

I have dealt with the point of substance on cuts. It is normal for any Bill that goes into Committee to be subject to amendment by both the Government and the Opposition.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that on at least two occasions m recent weeks Ministers have refused to commit themselves on policy issues on the ground that Select Committees were considering the same issues? Will the right hon. Gentleman give the House a chance to consider the implications of Ministers taking that course? If Ministers are to refuse to answer questions because Select Committees are in existence, the position of Back Benchers who are not members of Select Committees will be considerably weakened.

The hon. Gentleman has raised an interesting matter. Naturally a number of problems are arising from these new institutions, which on the whole have been working highly successfully. If the hon. Gentleman draws particular instances to my attention I shall investigate them and take them up with the Ministers concerned.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are many hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber who are unhappy about the statement made by the Secretary of State for the Home Department yesterday on prisons, which leaves at risk many of our prisoners and prison staff? When can we have a debate on this urgent matter?

Some hon. Members may not have been totally satisfied, but I think that a large number were extremely pleased at the progress that my right hon. Friend was able to announce in a difficult financial and economic period. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is right that we should have a full debate on the vital subject of our prisons. I hope to be able to provide time for a debate. That will be not next week but after we return from the Whitsun Recess.

Order. I propose to call the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Lewis) after I have called those who had risen before I said that I was drawing the line for further questions. I shall call the hon. Gentleman at the end of questions on the business statement.

May we have a debate on the Government's recently issued Green Paper on processions and the criteria under which they might be banned? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that my constituents were subjected to great inconvenience and affront by the National Front a fortnight ago? Is he further aware that it is absurd that the taxpayers should have to pay millions of pounds on such events throughout the year? We are grateful to the Government for making various suggestions about banning processions on the grounds of inconvenience, affront and cost, but may we debate the issue as soon as possible?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he said. It is an issue that raises important questions of public order and important constitutional questions on freedom. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has asked for replies and comments on his Green Paper. I think that the time for a debate will be after the replies have been received, and when he has had time to consider them.

Would it not be a more sensible course for the Leader of the House not to introduce a guillotine motion on the Social Security (No. 2) Bill, especially at a time when I believe that consultations are taking place between civil servants of the National Coal Board and some Ministers on the effect that the Bill will have on the miners' voluntary retirement scheme, which I assume was supported by all parties and accepted by the Government? It will also have a special effect on pneumoconiotics. Surely it would be more sensible for all the negotiations to take place—especially the ones that I have mentioned—before a guillotine is introduced on such an important and vicious Bill.

The most desirable outcome would have been to reach an agreement with the Opposition through the usual channels to discuss the Bill in an orderly way. If we could have done that we would have avoided the need for a guillotine.

I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker. I was not in my place when you made your announcement. What is happening to the Local Government, Planning and Land (No. 2) Bill, which is apparently to be separated into two Bills? Does my right hon. Friend expect to get both through the House?

The Local Government, Planning and Land (No. 2) Bill is still in Committee. I announced today that on Thursday consideration will be given to an Instruction to the Committee to enable one of the clauses to be considered as a priority to assist with the new towns' borrowing requirement. Following that, the Bill will proceed in the normal way. It is for the convenience of the House that it is being dealt with as I have described.

I take up the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) on consultations with the National Coal Board and the National Union of Mineworkers.. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the manner in which the Government are conducting the Social Securtiy (No. 2) Bill removes the chance for proper consultation? Indeed, the Secretary of State for Social Services has refused to see any outside body, including the TUC, until consideration of the Bill in Committee has been completed. I think that this is unique in our parliamentary history.

I obviously treat with great attention anything that the right hon. Gentleman says on this subject. However, I do not think that he is quite right in saying that consultations cannot take place, or that my right hon. Friend has excluded them. I was in Committee. I heard what he said. When hon. Gentlemen were not speaking I was able to listen to one or two other people. As I understood it, my right hon. Friend said that he could not see them all directly, but he did not exclude seeing them. He hoped to fit them in, as he could, in his busy schedule.

Iranian Embassy, London

Mr. Speaker, I will, with permission, make a further statement about the events at the Iranian embassy. I undertook yesterday to keep the House informed of developments and it may be convenient if I summarise what has happened so far.

As right hon. and hon. Members will know, yesterday morning at about 11.30 three armed men forced their way into the Iranian embassy at Princes Gate, Knightsbridge. A police constable who was on duty at the embassy was forced inside at gunpoint as a hostage. Two people who work for the BBC were in the embassy at the time and they, too, were taken hostage, together with a locally engaged member of staff and some of the Iranians who work there. In all about 20 people are being held. One woman hostage, an Iranian, was released yesterday and one British hostage was released this morning. Despite reports of injuries to the hostages, I understand that no one has been seriously injured. The terrorists said this morning that the British hostages would not be harmed.

Since the incident first occurred the building has been surrounded by the police, who have cordoned off the area. They have maintained communication with the terrorists and their aim, as in all such cases, is, if it all possible, to bring this incident to a peaceful conclusion without loss of life.

The terrorists have identified themselves as Iranians. They claim to belong to a dissident organisation calling itself " The Group of the Martyr ". They have addressed certain demands to the Government of Iran, including the freeing of 91 people currently imprisoned there. They have also asked the Iranian Government to recognise the rights of the Iranian peoples.

I am naturally keeping in continuous contact with the direction of events by the police. I had a discussion a short time ago with the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. I will continue to keep the House informed of developments.

Is the Home Secretary aware that we understand that for 24 hours he will have been in constant involvement in this incident through his overall operational control, that we understand his absence from Question Time, and that we appreciate his statement, limited as it has to be, today? Hon. Members on both sides of the House wish him and the Commissioner well in this difficult, developing situation.

In view of the discussions that are taking place within the embassy—we all realise the difficulties of that—the less said the better at this stage. However, in view of what the media reported about a direct contact from the Iranian Government, I wonder what that is. May not it be salutary for the Iranian Government to realise that we take seriously the need to protect those in diplomatic missions?

There are a number of questions on the law and other matters that I feel inclined to ask, but I shall not do so. I believe that it is best to leave the questioning until later on.

I am naturally grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for what he said. I apologise to the House for not having been here at Question Time, but I thought that my duty lay elsewhere at that time. I hope that the House appreciates it.

On the problem of saying very little at this stage, again I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. It is so easy for anyone to say something which could make the task of the police, in their negotiations, more difficult. I am sure that everyone in the House appreciates that point.

As to the messages to the Iranian Government, our ambassador in Tehran has been in touch with the Foreign Minister of the Iranian Government, who is out of Iran at the moment. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister sent a message to the President of Iran, making clear our determination to deal with this matter and to bring the trouble to an end without loss of life.

British Steel Corporation (Chairman)

Sir Charles Villiers, whose term of office ends in September, has tackled the difficult task of adapting the BSC to changing market conditions with energy and dedication. I am glad to pay tribute to his work and to express our appreciation of it. As his successor I have appointed Mr. Ian MacGregor. He will tomorrow join the BSC board as a part-time deputy chairman. Sir Charles Villiers and I are agreed that, now that a successor has been appointed, it would be best if he were to take on the job as chairman with the minimum of delay. Mr. MacGregor will therefore become chairman on a full-time basis on 1 July.

Mr. MacGregor was born in Scotland but has spent most of his working life in America, where he has had an outstandingly successful business career. He was chief executive of AMAX, the metals and natural resources company, from 1966 to 1977, and remains on that board. He has many other appointments, including deputy chairman of BL, director of the LTV Corporation, a large steel producer, and a partnership in Lazard Freres and Co., a New York-based investment bank.

In Mr. MacGregor I believe that we have found a man with the qualities needed to lead the BSC out of its present difficulties. Mr. MacGregor's personal salary will be paid by the BSC at the appropriate rate, based on the recommendations of the Review Body on Top Salaries—currently £48,500 a year.

Mr. MacGregor has commitments as a senior partner in Lazard Freres, but his partners have agreed to release him in return for certain financial conditions. These conditions comprise two elements: the first is a payment to Lazard Freres of £675,000—[Interruption.]—for the three years of the appointment, two-thirds of which will be returnable pro rata if he completes less than three years; the second involves payments, again to Lazard Freres in the range of nil to £1,150,000, linked to the performance of the BSC under Mr. MacGregor's chairmanship. [Interruption.]

Order. I suggest that the House now listens to the statement from the Minister.

These performance payments would be made in 1984 and 1985 and would be related to certain performance criteria to be agreed between the Department of Industry and Lazards. The level of the performance payments will be assessed by a performance review committee, comprising two persons nominated by me—[Interruption.]

Order. Opportunities for questioning will follow. We must hear the statement.

The level of the performance payments will be assessed by a performance review committee, comprising two persons nominated by me and two persons by Lazards, with an independent chairman acceptable to both.

During the period of his appointment, Mr. MacGregor will cease to be an active partner in Lazard Freres—[Interruption.]

Order. Hon. Members must be fair. I think that the Minister should be heard out, and then we can have some questions.

He will cease to be an active partner in Lazard Freres but will become a limited partner with a reduced interest in the firm. On taking the post of chairman of the BSC he will relinquish most of his current directorships, including that of BL, but I have agreed that he should continue his longstanding links with AMAX.

I should make it clear that the payments to Lazard Freres that I have described are not for payment in whole or in part to Mr. MacGregor, except in so far as they contribute to Lazard Freres' profits, in which he retains a small share. Their purpose is to compensate Lazard Freres for losing the business services of Mr. MacGregor. I should also emphasise that they are substantially conditional on his serving for the full three years and achieving results.

We have been prepared to secure the release of Mr. MacGregor because the willingness of a man of his calibre to be chairman of the BSC reflects our belief that the current problems can be solved and that the corporation can be restored to profitability as an efficient producer of steel and become a secure employer. For the Government to set financial targets is not enough; we must also seek to appoint people capable of achieving those targets. In appointing Mr. MacGregor, that is what I believe that I have done, and I am sure that the whole House will wish him success in his difficult task at the BSC.

Regardless of the suitability of Mr. Ian MacGregor for this post—on that, no doubt, we shall suspend judgment until the time comes—is this not the most staggering statement that this House has heard in a long time? What the Secretary of State is talking about is a transfer fee, which, when we work out the reward that goes to Mr. MacGregor himself, comes to very nearly £2 million. Does the Secretary of State envisage a signing ceremony? If so, on which pitch will it be—Shotton, Corby or half of Llanwern?

Is it not a fact that Mr. MacGregor will be serving—the Secretary of State hopes—until his seventieth birthday; which is five years after the age at which all steel workers finish their term of contract; and that he will be offered this sum of money, as will Lazard Freres, at a time when the steel workers still remember the offer of 2 per cent. because, according to the Secretary of State, the industry could not afford more?

First, can the Secretary of State tell us on what authority this payment is to be made and on what Vote it is to come? Second, can he tell us in general terms—since I gather they have to be worked out—what are the performance criteria on which so large a sum is to be given to these American bankers at the Secretary of State's behest? Is the sum to be given, for example, for improving industrial relations? If so, the statement of Mr. MacGregor, reported in a newspaper this morning, that he reckons that he can take on Mr. Bill Sirs, is not the most promising way of establishing industrial relations. Is it for the improved production of steel? If so, when we are told that steel production is going down—perhaps to 12 million or 13 million tonnes—the loss of steel may be the criterion. Is it for our export markets in steel, at a time when imports are coming in at an alarming rate?

Finally, does the Secretary of State understand that this is so important a matter, not only for the Opposition but for the whole House, that we shall expect an early debate on it, in which the Secretary of State will make the matter clear?

I should have thought that it was common ground that the chairmanship of the BSC is an extremely important and responsible job. If the new chairman succeeds, with the help of all those concerned, in converting the present situation into a successful one, any payment that is made on his account—not necessarily to him—will be very good value for the country and for all those who work in the steel industry or use its products.

Mr. MacGregor is a man of proven performance. He is subject to a partnership agreement and it was up to his partners to decide whether they would release him. They have released him on the conditions that I have explained. It is, as the right hon. Gentleman said in the only valid comment that he made, a transfer fee, and perhaps the bigger the transfer fee the better the player. The bulk of the money to be paid will be paid depending upon performance. It will not, except for the salary that I have announced, go to Mr. MacGregor himself, except for his share as a limited partner in the profits of the partnership. The cost of the transfer payment will not fall on the BSC; it will fall on my Department, or on the Exchequer.

It will fall on the British taxpayer. The Government do not have any money.

It will certainly fall on the taxpayer, but the transfer fee is paid only—[Interruption.]

I remind the House about interruptions from a sedentary position. It is a long time since I said it, but it remains valid. They are grossly unparliamentary when they are persisted in—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) really must harken to what I say.

I have no wish to quarrel with the hon. Gentleman, but he must behave himself.

I repeat to the House that the bulk of the transfer package—that is, all except the £225,000—will be paid by the taxpayer only according to performance.

I was asked finally what will be the ingredients of the performance criteria. [Interruption.] The workers in the industry stand to benefit enormously by having an effective and successful chairman.

The performance criteria still have to be defined. They will include not only the financial performance but such other matters as the strength of management, the stability of industrial relations, success in the export market, and productivity.

The Secretary of State did not answer a number of questions that I asked him. First, what is his authority for payment; secondly, are we to have a debate; and thirdly, does he really believe that industrial relations are going to be improved by a man whose first statement is that he is going to take on the trade union leader with whom he will have to work?

The authority is the agreement of my colleagues, within action that is within our power; a debate is up to the usual channels; the man about whom we are talking was appointed by the previous Government as deputy chairman of British Leyland, and I am sure that the remark that the right hon. Gentleman quoted is taken totally out of context of Mr. MacGregor's character or views.

Is it not a thousand pities that the appointment of a man of Mr. MacGregor's abilities should be clouded by the farcical nature of the arrangements surrounding it, including the setting up of a mini-committee to decide precisely what those arrangements are? Has the right hon. Gentleman stopped to think what will be the effect of arrangements of this kind on the climate of pay negotiations?

I should have thought that the House would appreciate the importance of getting the best man for this job. All that has not been agreed is the criteria by which any payment by the taxpayer for performance will be judged. The taxpayer's money is not to be used except to the limited extent that I have stated—as justified by performance.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, however excellent may be the qualities of Mr. MacGregor, the Gilbert and Sullivan complexity of the deal with Lazard is so open to misunderstanding and ridicule that many of us on the Government Benches will have the greatest possible difficulty in supporting him?

I am disappointed that my hon. Friend should take that view. He cannot doubt that, where there is an obligation by the man concerned—as there is in this case because he is subject to a partnership agreement—if he wants to leave, his partners can impose conditions. I have judged that this is the best man available for a vital national task and the transfer fee seems to me to be totally justifiable.

Is there any precedent for this extraordinary arrangement, and was it approved by the Cabinet and the Prime Minister as well as by the right hon. Gentleman?

There is no precedent to my knowledge in this country, but it is normal in America for rewards according to performance to be paid to executives. In America they have option shares. There is no need for a committee to judge performance, because performance is judged by the level of the shares on the market, according to which the executive concerned will, if it seems justified, gain an advantage.

My right hon. Friend will know—and his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will know still better—that I am no uncritical supporter of his. Does my right hon. Friend accept that if Mr. MacGregor can achieve the kind of results for British Steel that Mr. Edwardes has achieved for British Leyland he will be cheap at the price—indeed, cheaper at a much higher price, and that the price in any case by comparison with what is paid in football transfer fees is not excessive? Will my right hon. Friend also confirm that when Mr. MacGregor takes office he will be at liberty to put forward plans for a reduction in the rate of the phasing out of the capacity of British Steel, provided that those plans in the long term result in no greater cost to the taxpayer?