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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 984: debated on Thursday 8 May 1980

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

Northern Ireland

Constitutional Future

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement about the future of the constitutional conference.

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what progress he has made in preparing the White Paper on the future Government of Northern Ireland, arising out of his constitutional conference, now adjourned.

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he expects to publish his consultation document about future possible political institutions for the Province.

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what is the Government's policy as to the constitutional future of Northern Ireland.

14.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he expects to announce his proposals for constitutional advance in Northern Ireland.

The conference on the government of Northern Ireland adjourned at the end of March. In the light of the conference discussions of the Government's working paper and of the proposals put forward by the Northern Ireland political parties themselves, the Government are giving careful consideration to the preparation of their own proposals for transferring to elected representatives of the people of Northern Ireland greater responsibility for the conduct of their own affairs. These proposals will, of course, follow the principles set out by the Government in our working paper—Cmnd. 7763. The Government's proposals will, I hope, be published in the next few weeks, but I cannot yet give the date of publication. When they are published we look forward to the widest possible discussion, including discussion in this House, if the necessary arrangements can be agreed. As to the conference in Northern Ireland, it will be for the parties concerned to decide how best they can discuss the Government's proposals with us, and whether or not that should be done by re-convening the conference.

Order. I propose to call first the five hon. Members whose questions are being answered.

Failing that agreement between the major political element on a devolved system of government, which my right hon. Friend has been seeking so diligently, will he turn to the improvement of the existing system of administrative devolution, and to the development of local government?

My hon. Friend will remember that one of the options in the working paper was very much what he has in mind. I am bound to tell him that it did not command a great deal of support at the conference table. I stress again that our proposals will be within the principles of the working paper. We shall continue to seek a way forward, which is what all the political parties in Northern Ireland say they want.

Can the Secretary of State be a little more precise as to the timing of the release of his document? Can he say what status that document will have? Will it be a Green Paper or a White Paper? Does not he have a responsibility to recall the conference, as he has already told the House that it has only been adjourned? Can he assure the House that he will make every effort to work in a deliberate and positive manner towards publishing that paper within a matter of days, so that the people of Northern Ireland can be assured that the remarks of some Northern Ireland politicians, to the effect that devolution is dead and will not be resurrected, are not true?

I cannot give the hon. Gentleman a precise date. As I said in my original answer, we are giving careful consideration, which this complex problem undoubtedly deserves, to the way forward. We shall produce the document as soon as may be. As to the conference itself, it stands adjourned. However, it may well be that we and the parties believe that a reconvening of the conference is the best way forward. If that is so we shall reconvene it.

As there were no fewer than five different options in the consultation document, can my right hon. Friend say whether it is the Government's intention to distil one proposal or whether it is proposed to reduce the five to one or two options and to hold a further discussion about the best of those possibilities?

Apart from the fact that there were six options rather than five, I must ask my hon. Friend and the House to await the publication of our proposals, which I assure the House will be done as soon as we can. However, I cannot give a date at present.

While not, of course, asking my right hon. Friend to disclose his proposals in advance of publication, does it not remain clear that those proposals will contain effective safeguards in respect of the minority, on the basis that without such safeguards there is no future way forward politically in Northern Ireland?

Yes. That was clearly set out in our working paper. If my hon. Friend will re-read paragraph 5, he will find that that is one of the principles. I am quite clear in my mind that we must adhere to all the principles which are set out there. Indeed, in our discussions so far, I have found it to be generally accepted in Northern Ireland that we should do so.

When the right hon. Gentleman prepares this White Paper—I assume that it will be a White Paper—the contents of which he cannot reveal today—will he take on board the possibility, which many of us would urge upon him, of giving a role to the concept of an all-Ireland council under which there could be the closest possible development of co-operation between the Province and the Republic?

Close co-operation between the Province and the Republic with regard to security and economics already exists. I am not convinced that the introduction of a formalised all-Ireland relationship between the north and south on political matters would do anything to advance the cause which we are following, namely, to seek to re-establish democratic control of affairs in Northern Ireland by Northern Ireland people.

Will the document embrace the accepted fact that without the emergence of a united Ireland there can be no long-term solution to the problems of Northern Ireland?

Let us be quite clear about what it is that the Government are seeking to do. We are seeking to find ways of restoring to the people of Northern Ireland more control over then-own affairs. We are not seeking to solve the future of Northern Ireland. That is not for us. As I have said, we are seeking to re-establish some democratic way of controlling affairs in Northern Ireland. That is what we are about.

It was no doubt a slip of the tongue, but the Secretary of State implied that the matter would be discussed only in this House if mutually acceptable arrangements could be arrived at. Does he accept that the House must consider the White Paper at the earliest possible opportunity. Is he aware that I would welcome his views as to the order in which it should be discussed? When considering the reconvening of the conference, or whatever further discussions he will undertake in Northern Ireland about the White Paper, will he bear in mind the non-participation of a number of parties and bodies in the previous conference and the difficulty which that caused? Does he also accept that in many cases the hasty way in which that conference was called, and the lack of preparation, led to it being less representative of opinion throughout the whole of Northern Ireland than it should have been?

As to the hon. Gentleman's first point, the words I used were designed to avoid treading on the toes of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, whose business this is. Of course, I accept that in general hon. Members feel that an early debate would be a good thing. Like the hon. Gentleman, I regret that the conference was not attended by all the parties which were invited to it, but I am firmly of the opinion that arrangements for the future government of Northern Ireland affect everyone who lives there. Naturally, it is right and proper to talk to the political leaders in Northern Ireland and I intend to continue doing so. But I want to talk wider than that, and when I used the phrase " the widest possible discussion ", I meant exactly that.

Is the Secretary of State aware of the rumours which are now circulating in Northern Ireland to the effect that the Government will decide on the restoration of Unionist ascendancy, or something called " majority rule ", in Northern Ireland? Taking into account the dangers involved in pursuing that policy, and the fears which would be created among the minority population—particularly in view of the antics of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) in Armagh yesterday afternoon—can he envisage the restoration of any type of government in which the hon. Member for Antrim, North would give fair play to the Northern Ireland minority?

I think that I shall refrain from commenting on a lot of what the hon. Gentleman says, save only to say that I note what his view is. As to rumours, I have discovered during the year in which I have had the honour to hold this office that Northern Ireland is no less prone to rumours than anywhere else—in fact it is rather more so.

Security

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the present state of security in the Province.

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement concerning the security situation in Northern Ireland.

12.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the security situation in Northern Ireland.

Since I last answered questions on 3 April, 41 people have been charged with serious crimes, including four with murder. One of those charged with murder is alleged to have been involved in the attack on the Ballymena to Belfast train on 17 January in which three people died.

The police are still questioning a number of people arrested on Friday last following an incident in which, I very much regret to have to tell the House, an Army officer was shot dead. In a follow-up operation, four men were arrested and a number of firearms, including an M60 machine gun and a considerable quantity of explosive material, were seized. Hon. Members will be aware that an M60 machine gun has been used in Belfast on a number of occasions in attacks on security forces. The seizure of this weapon is, therefore, particularly significant.

Altogether 38 weapons, 3,788 rounds of ammunition and considerable quantities of bomb-making material have been seized or discovered. The find on 29 April by a UDR patrol near Pomeroy of 900 lbs. of explosive packed into milk churns is a case in point. Those involved in the dangerous work of detecting and disarming this and other bombs are to be congratulated on their bravery and skill.

I regret to say that one member of the RUC, two members of the RUC Reserve, one ex-member of the UDR and one civilian have died at the terrorists' hands as well as the soldier I have already mentioned. Our sympathies go to the families of those killed.

During the course of last month, bomb attacks have damaged four hotels and a number of commercial properties in various towns around the Province, but a considerable number of attacks have been thwarted through vigilance and quick action by both the public at large and the security forces.

During my discussions with Irish Ministers on 15 April, we reviewed the existing arrangements for security cooperation. I am satisfied with the way in which they are operating. Hon. Members will have noticed, for example, the continuing successes of the Irish security forces in discovering arms and explosives caches.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that very detailed and full reply, and I join him in paying full tribute to our security forces in Northern Ireland. Would not he accept that there is continuing carnage, destruction and loss of life in Northern Ireland, which is an integral part of the United Kingdom?

If the Government of this country, in the persons of the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary, are not prepared to tolerate terrorism on the mainland of the United Kingdom, will they take whatever action is necessary to rout out and destroy the known terrorist cells in Northern Ireland, even if this means using further units of the highly successful SAS, which showed us that terrorism can be defeated?

My hon. Friend will know that the Government remain fully determined to eradicate terrorism from Northern Ireland. He will know also that we are pursuing the policy of doing this within the law. I refer him to the earlier part of my answer, when I told the House that during the last month 41 people have been brought before the courts and charged with serious crimes, including four with murder. This is the way in which we are seeking to suppress terrorism. I am glad to say that the security forces are becoming more and more professional and skilled as the weeks and months go by. I hope, with confidence, that that level of arrests and charges will continue, if not improve.

Will the Secretary of State make a statement about the murder of a member of the SAS? [Interruption.] He was murdered in my constituency, close to where the hon. Member for Belfast West (Mr. Fitt) lives. The members of the IRA, who were surrounded, gave themselves up. What weapons were seized and what charges have resulted from the incident? [Interruption.] I want to know because they came out with a white flag, as usual on the New Lodge Road, close to where the hon. Member lives.

The operation, to which I briefly referred in my original answer, was a very successful one. It is much to be regretted that, when a plain clothes Army patrol investigated a suspicious incident, it was fired upon and one officer was killed. But, thereafter, the security forces acted with extreme efficiency, and I am very happy to tell the House that the incident lasted for only a short time before the terrorists involved, as the hon. Gentleman said, hung out a white flag and surrendered. They are all in custody and are being questioned, because the police are anxious to determine precisely what charges they should prefer. This was an important capture of both weapons and people, and the security forces are to be congratulated on the way they handled it.

Will my right hon. Friend comment on the statement made by the Provisional IRA yesterday, to the effect that it intends to prevent the repair and future use of the Belfast-Dublin rail link?

The Provisional IRA has claimed responsibility for disrupting the rail link between Belfast and Dublin, and has now threatened—not for the first time—those working and travelling on it. This line is an important public service, of benefit to people of the north and of the south. The action and threats of the Provisional IRA demonstrate once again, if further demonstration were needed, that it cares nothing for ordinary people, north or south of the border, and is merely interested in destruction. Our determination to overcome this threat is quite unshaken.

Bearing in mind the confrontation in my constituency yesterday between certain hon. Members of this House and members of the security forces, can the Secretary of State tell us whether the RUC will arrest anyone on request, or is this a special facility extended only to members of the Democratic Unionist Party?

The Royal Ulster Constabulary decides when to make arrests. But I expect—and I believe that the House expects—that hon. Members should do everything they can to support the forces of law and order, rather than engaging in activities which actively hinder them.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how many innocent people have been murdered in Northern Ireland in the past 12 months since the Secretary of State took office? Does that appalling, unabated slaughter not shame him, either into resignation or taking decisive action to defeat the terrorists, on the basis of what the Prime Minister has already declared, that the Government will not permit terrorism to exist in this country—or are the Ulster people second-class citizens?

Without notice I cannot give the hon. Gentleman the precise figure of people killed in the last 12 months, but I can tell him that it is too many.

The hon. Gentleman knows that the Government, supported by the whole House, are determined to overcome terrorism. We are embarked upon a particular course and I am convinced that it will be successful.

Will the Secretary of State consult his colleague the Secretary of State for Defence before consenting to certain UDR camp closures in Northern Ireland? Is he aware that many of us in this House believe that the advantages which may result from that action will be seriously outweighed by the disadvantages arising from such closures?

As the hon. Gentleman rightly says, this is primarily a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, but I know of the anxiety, some of which he has expressed to me, as have other hon. Members. I assure him that I am bringing it to the attention of my right hon. Friend. It is the desire of the whole Government that the UDR, which is such a fine body of men and women, should be used to the maximum advantage. That is the whole purpose of any rearrangement we may seek to make. But I take note of what the hon. Gentleman says.

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House when he will realise that terrorism in Northern Ireland will never be defeated until there is proper extradition between the Irish Republic and the North of Ireland? Does he realise that, when, these murderers can hide and have safe refuge in the Republic, his forces cannot successfully deal with their attacks across the border? Will the right hon. Gentleman note that the people of Northern Ireland expect him not to enter into friendly relations with the Head of a hostile State which gives sanctuary to these murderers?

I am not as pessimistic as the hon. Gentleman. I believe that we can overcome terrorism, even though the Republic of Ireland does not practise the same law of extradition as we have in this country

As for not entering into friendly relations with another State, I must tell the hon. Gentleman and the House, that the co-operation between the security forces north and south of the border is, I am credibly informed by people who have longer experience of the Province than I, better than it has ever been. This must be an advantage.

Will the Secretary of State accept from the Opposition that it is the policy of the Government, as it has been of successive Governments, that it is for the police forces, supported by the Army, to bear the main brunt of overcoming the terrorist threat, and that those police forces do not need to be diverted from their main purpose by the irresponsible actions of people in authority?

Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that if people want to persuade the Government of the Republic that a proper system of extradition should obtain, they are hardly likely to do so by acting in a thoroughly irresponsible and discourteous manner to the Irish Prime Minister?

Yes, Sir. I remain convinced that the combined efforts of security forces in Northern Ireland and the Republic can overcome this problem. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman confirms his party's acceptance of the policy which the Government are pursuing; a policy started by the previous Labour Government. I am sure that, in the long run, this is the right way. Each of us has his own way of persuading other people to do things. The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) has his way and I have mine. I believe that mine is the better way.

Political Future

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether, following his recent discussions with members of the Government of the Irish Republic, he will now indicate that he does not intend to resume these discussions so far as they relate to political arrangements and circumstances in Northern Ireland.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he will give an assurance that it is the firm policy of Her Majesty's Government that ultimate decisions regarding the constitutional future of Northern Ireland will remain the sole prerogative of the United Kingdom Parliament.

13.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he will place in the Library the political analysis which he presented to the Government of the Irish Republic on 15 April.

15.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will explain the Press communiqué issued after his talks with the Foreign Minister of the Irish Republic; and if he will make a statement.

My discussions with Ministers of the Irish Government on 15 April covered matters of mutual interest such as security and the economy. I also explained the Government's policy on transferring responsibilities to locally elected representatives in the Province. The analysis I gave was that contained in the conference working paper—Cmnd. 7763—my speech in this House in the debate on 29 November and in my answers to questions in this House. I am happy to repeat the assurances that I have given before, that decisions on Northern Ireland's future are for the people of Northern Ireland, Her Majesty's Government and Parliament.

I propose to call first the four right hon. and hon. Members whose questions are being answered.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is no reason why the Government of the Irish Republic should not procure and study Green Papers and the Official Report of this House? Will he, in all his contacts with the Irish Government, bear in mind that he is dealing with a State which claims as part of its territory a portion of the United Kingdom? Will he, therefore, be especially careful to avoid, in communiqués or otherwise, language which could give rise to misundertanding?

Should it not be clearly understood in Dublin that the current diplomatic initiative and pressure of the Irish Government will, of course, be listened to politely as befits an EEC partner, but that decisions on this matter are for the people of Northern Ireland as a whole and the elected Parliament of the United Kingdom alone?

I agree with my hon. Friend. We obviously listen to the views of Governments with whom we are in close relationship and who, as my hon. Friend says, are members with us of the EEC—

My hon. Friend is quite right in his last statement. I am prepared to repeat that as often as is necessary.

Is the Secretary of State aware that we derive much comfort and satisfaction from the personal assurance given by his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that the affairs of our part of the United Kingdom are the responsibility of this Parliament and of her Majesty's Government? Will the Secretary of State take effective steps to ensure that there is no impression left in anybody's mind that there has been, or will be, any breach of the undertaking given by the Prime Minister?

I hope to do that. There has not been, and there will not be, any breach of that undertaking. I hope that the fact that I am answering questions on this subject in the House will help. I made it my business when I was in Dublin to repeat the words that I have used this afternoon.

As the joint statement from both parties after the Dublin talks stated that each party outlined the policy in relation to the political situation in Northern Ireland pursued by their respective Governments, will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what outline of policy he stated at those talks? Following his remarks this afternoon may I ask him whether he has entered into an agreement with the Taoiseach that he can come to Northern Ireland as often as he likes and tie up hundreds of members of the security forces in looking after his security?

The hon. Gentleman makes much of the Taoiseach's visit to Northern Ireland yesterday. May I re-Mind him that that was not a unique occasion? The Taoiseach attended the enthronement of Dr. Armstrong as the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland. He attended, as I did, at the invitation of Dr. Armstrong. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will recall that such a thing has happened before. It happened when the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh was enthroned. The then Taoiseach, Mr. Lynch, attended, as did my predecessor. That seems to me perfectly acceptable and proper.

Does the Secretary of State agree that, not only are such talks useful, but that they should be uprated to include regular consultations between the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister of Ireland so that we can discuss, among other things, the possibility of Irish unity and get away from this silly idea that any group of people in the United Kingdom—be those people in Northern Ireland, Cornwall or Caithness—can veto a decision made by this House?

Meetings between my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach are, of course, a matter for her. Naturally, they meet from time to time about their European business. I have regular meetings—not with the Taoiseach—with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Justice in Ireland on matters which are of common interest. Those meetings are of great benefit to both sides.

In view of the recent capture of an M60 machine gun—to which my right hon. Friend referred earlier—did my right hon. Friend in his conversations with the Irish Government urge them to initiate diplomatic pressure in the United States to prevent the proceeds from Republican fund-raising activities from being diverted to the procurement of lethal weapons of death such as M60 machine guns?

The details of the discussions which I had—as in the case of all discussions between Governments—are not made public beyond the official communiqué. I think that there is no doubt in the minds of the Governments of the Republic and the United States of our views on this matter.

De Lorean Cars Limited

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the application for financial aid by De Lorean Cars Ltd.

I have at present nothing to add to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member on 3 April 1980.

Does the Minister accept that we wish to see viable jobs in West Belfast? Will he also accept that a massive chunk of money has been poured into De Lorean Cars but that the taxpayer, having financed the development of the wonder car, does not own it? The rights are in the De Lorean partnership. Will the Minister make it a condition of any further financial assistance—if the car is so marvellous—that we should own it? Will the Minister confirm that no money is being siphoned off, directly or indirectly, into the associated concern CP Trim Limited? I wonder why the Minister refuses to answer questions about that firm?

As the House knows from answers to previous questions on this subject, the De Lorean company is funded in a complicated way, significantly if not exclusively, by the taxpayer through the agency of, as well as directly through, Government grant. I answer the hon. Gentleman by saying that I shall ensure that there will be the fullest possible examination of the application. The CP Trim company has come to West Belfast because of the De Lorean project and will provide additional jobs in an area where we desperately need them.

Will my hon. Friend say whether the DMC 12 is on target in its timetable? Can he say when he expects the first cars to come off the production line?

I am informed that the car is indeed on its production timetable and we expect limited production to start shortly after the summer. The intention is that the car will be launched in the autumn at the United States Motor Show.

Does the Minister accept that the ravages of inflation are hitting De Lorean severely and that it would appear that its request for additional funds is reasonable in the circumstances and in line with the criteria of the original agreement?

We urge the Government to make an early decision on payment. Will the Minister consider inviting the hon. Member for Knutsford (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne) and my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) to visit De Lorean and see the success that it is making of this project?

The hon. Gentleman is correct. The ravages of inflation have affected the forecasts which were made— somewhat speedily—by the previous Administration. It is my duty to see That the ravages of inflation, which afflict every company in Northern Ireland, do not lead to an unduly early decision on additional funding. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the greatest possible scrutiny will be applied to this application and that the agreement, while allowing an application, does not commit the Government to meeting it.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the fact that the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) referred to my position on this matter, I should like to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter again in the House at the earliest possible opportunity.

Convicted Persons (Rights Of Appeal)

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether, in his consideration of desirable amendments to the Northern Ireland Emergency Provisions Act, Official Report, 3 April, c. 624, he will consider the workings of the special access to the Court of Appeal, which is possible under Diplock courts procedure.

The Northern Ireland emergency provisions legislation provides a virtually unrestricted right of appeal to the Court of Appeal against conviction or sentence for a scheduled offence before a Diplock court. I am satisfied with the operation of this appellate system and have no proposals for its modification.

If the Minister is satisfied with the appellate system, how is it that those of us who go from this House on visits to Northern Ireland cannot but sense the deep-seated resentment against the working of Diplock?

I think that this is a resentment expressed frequently on behalf of terrorists who have been convicted and do not like the fact that they have been detected and convicted.

Will the Minister undertake to have a look at the report of the European Commission on Human Rights, which has been examining the working of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act, and to make available in a suitable form the Commission's conclusions on the workings of that Act prior to the debate on renewal?

Yes, I shall certainly consider most sympathetically the hon. Gentleman's request, and I shall seek to meet it.

Terrorism

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many people have been killed through terrorism in Counties Armagh, Tyrone and Fermanagh in the 12-month period 1 May 1979 to 1 May 1980.

Does the Minister accept that every one of those deaths represents a body blow to law-abiding communities living in those border areas? Will he confirm that in almost every incident the murderer involved sought sanctuary in the Irish Republic? His right hon. Friend the Secretary of State says that the situation is better than ever, but anything that is an improvement on nil must be better than ever. While we welcome the finds of arms and arms dumps in the Irish Republic, would we not accept the Irish Republic's sincerity even more readily if the people associated with those arms dumps were arrested?

I entirely endorse the point that the hon. Gentleman has made about the total unacceptability of even one death from terrorism. I concede also that a number of the terrorists responsible for these appalling murders come across the border and return across the border. That, in itself, is profoundly troubling, and it is something with which we must try to deal.

I should point out that, looking back over a period of five years, for example, out of a total of 129 murders in this part of the Province, we have succeeded in arresting and charging 42 people for murder. Those charges do not necessarily all relate to murders within that five-year period, and I suspect that there are more arrests and convictions to come. But the fact that these people may go backwards and forwards across the borders gives them no immunity from arrests, charging or imprisonment following conviction.

Following my hon. Friend's answer to the last question, will he, nevertheless, say whether the term " acceptable level of violence " is officially used in his Department? If it is, will he consider the damaging effect that such a phrase used officially has on the morale on the civilian population and on the armed forces serving in Northern Ireland?

If any such unacceptable phrase is ever used I confirm that it is totally unacceptable and that we shall do everything possible to expunge and exercise it from any public statement, written or oral, in this context.

Constitutional Future

16.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he has now come to any conclusions about a form of devolution for Northern Ireland.

I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave earlier today to my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Mr. Biggs-Davison).

In any devolution proposals will the Government give due consideration to the growing awareness of the need for cross-border co-operation with the Republic of Ireland on matters such as tourism, transport, industry, communications and sport?

Yes, Sir. There are a number of areas, of which the hon. Gentleman has mentioned several, where the interests of people north and south of the border are the same. That is why I believe that it is right to keep in close touch, as I do, with Ministers in the Government of the Republic, so that we can develop matters of common interest together, rather than in competition with each other.

Has the Secretary of State been informed of a recent one-sided broadcast on BBC 2 television, in which a Government politician, a supporter of the present Fianna Fail Government, claimed that a united Ireland was imminent? Will he take action over the question of devolution in Northern Ireland to put an end to the belief held by politicians in the Irish Republic that Ulster will fall into their hands like a ripe plum, because, in fact, the Ulster people will stand on their own if they are pushed out of the United Kingdom?

Happily, I am not responsible for the BBC. I did not see the programme to which the hon. Gentleman refers, in which obviously opinions with which he does not agree with were expressed. I often find that I watch television programmes and hear views with which I do not agree. I do not think that anyone in the United Kingdom or in the Republic of Ireland believes that the unity of Ireland is imminent. The most recent formal expression of opinion which we have had—as little as seven years ago—was the border poll. Every indication that exists today is that the majority of people in Northern Ireland wish to remain part of the United Kingdom. As long as they do, they will.

Prime Minister (Engagements)

Q1.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 8 May.

I have been asked to reply.

My right hon. Friend is attending the funeral of President Tito in Belgrade.

I am very grateful to the Home Secretary for answering on behalf of the Prime Minister, who, properly, is attending the funeral. However, has the Home Secretary noticed that President Carter has not deigned to attend the funeral? As it is the duty of an ally to give counsel as well as slavish help, will the right hon. Gentleman make representations, through the Prime Minister, to President Carter to the effect that it is time that he came out of purdah and, through his new Secretary of State, attempted to enter into discussions with the Soviet Union and other countries to solve the difficult foreign affairs problems that are emerging?

Having regard to a High Court judgment yesterday, will my right hon. Friend seek an official engagement today with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to ask whether the Leader of the Opposition will now withdraw his and his party's support for the so-called day of inaction on 14 May?

I have not actually noticed that the Leader of the Opposition's support has been very marked up to now. He has been very silent on this matter. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, however, has been quite clear. What I should have thought was evident to everyone was that next Wednesday those who wish to go to their jobs have the absolute right to do so. In their interests, for them and their colleagues, for their jobs and this country in the future, I hope that they will decide to do so.

Will the right hon. Gentleman take account of the fact that there were two important court decisions yesterday? On the first one, about the day of action, what the judge himself said, whatever views may be held about the particular decision, was that each trade unionist must appreciate that choice to work—[Interruption.]

I was coming to the question, Mr. Speaker. I was asking whether the right hon. Gentleman was aware of the fact that the judgment that was given by the judge fully supports the choice of any trade unionist or citizen of this country to decide for himself what he shall do on 14 May. Whatever criticisms may be made by Conservative Members on this matter, that is the fact that stands.

Will the right hon. Gentleman also take account of the fact that in the other court judgment yesterday there was, as many of us believe, a verdict given which could involve a very serious infringement of the freedom of the press? Since I should have thought that this is a matter that would fall within the right hon. Gentleman's province, will he take account of that judgment, and if in fact Lord Denning's judgment—[Interruption.]

If Lord Denning's judgment is upheld—which would be quite a rarity on these occasions—[HON. MEMBERS: " Oh."]. If his judgment is upheld, will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to review the law and bring forward proposals which would forbid any such infringement of the rights or the freedoms of the press?

As Home Secretary I have learnt that it is unwise, when I am answering for the Prime Minister, in any way to comment on matters that are still subject to the due process of law. Therefore, I do not intend to do so. I listened to the right hon. Gentleman on the radio. I am sorry that he found it necessary to wriggle about the law as much in the House as he did on the radio. Nothing that he has said invalidates the perfectly proper point that I made about the right of everyone who wishes to go to his or her job on Wednesday to do so.

As the right hon. Gentleman is saying, on the second court case, that he does not want to make any comment, why is he so eager to comment on the first case?

I did not make a comment. I said that nothing in the judgment invalidated the right of those who wish to go to work to do so. That is the case, and that is what I said.

In the course of the day will my right hon. Friend consider the position of the surviving Iranian terrorist once the due processes of law have taken place? Accepting that there is no extradition treaty between Britain and Iran, does he nevertheless agree that it might be more appropriate to hand the gentleman over to the Iranian authorities—

Order. The case is sub judice. It is not for us to seek to influence the judgment of the courts.

What is the right hon. Gentleman advising the unemployed to do next Wednesday?

If those who have jobs to go to on Wednesday decide not to go to work, they are likely to put more of their colleagues in the difficult position of the unemployed in future.

Does the right hon. Gentleman envisage that large employers, including the nationalised industries, might take action for breach of contract, or inducement to breach of contract, following yesterday's judgment?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, since the successful events of last weekend, there has been a great resurgence of patriotism throughout the nation? Is he further aware that although much of that is due to the magnificent actions of the police and the Army, a great deal is also due to the leadership of the Prime Minister?

Olympic Games

Q2.

asked the Prime Minister, whether, pursuant to the statement, Official Report, 20 April, c. 190, by the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, during the Adjournment debate on the Olympic Games, she will outline Her Majesty's Government's policy of giving modest help from public money to those who have followed Her Majesty's Government's advice about where the British interest lies.

I have been asked to reply.

Our policy is to give help in staging alternative events to the governing bodies of the sports concerned, if that is what their members wish. We have received no specific requests so far, but we expect that any sums involved would be modest.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that it is not only the athletes, but in many instances their relatives, who have sacrificed a great deal and are bitterly disappointed about losing their deposits and not going to Moscow? Has he any thought of giving them some modest recompense for doing what is in the national interest?

We have made our position clear. We are considering making sums available to the governing bodies of the sports concerned, but we are not considering going any further.

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that these petty recriminations against the Soviet Union serve no useful purpose and can only have the effect of undermining world peace, besides the effect on our athletes, who have trained so assiduously over recent weeks and months to participate in the Olympic Games? Is it not time for the Government to take a more state-manlike approach?

To condone the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan would be far more dangerous to world peace than anything else.

Does my right hon. Friend think it rather odd that some athletes and athlete administrators are seeking public money at the same time as they are demanding that politics be kept out of sport?

Prime Minister (Engagements)

Q3.

asked the Prime Minister what are her official engagements for 8 May.

I have been asked to reply.

I refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave earlier today to the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson).

In yesterday's debate, did not two former Conservative Ministers express serious concern at the Chancellor's policies? What further changes in policy will the right hon. Gentleman recommend to the Prime Minister to avoid rising unemployment and the rising number of young people on the dole?

My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made his policy perfectly clear. He is sticking to that policy and so are the Government. We believe that we are on course as far as the monetary targets are concerned.

What action will the Government take to protect Libyan nationals living in London and to assuage the fears on both sides of the House that so-called Libyan diplomats have been engaged in intimidation, arson, kidnapping and even murder?

When it comes to law-breaking, we have made our position clear. As the House will be aware, three Libyans stand charged with murder. We shall ensure that our law is respected by all those who remain here.

Will the right hon. Gentleman talk to the Prime Minister when she returns from Belgrade and encourage her to reflect on the problems currently confronting the Lancashire textile industry? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, with the closure of one subsidiary of the Carrington-Vyella group in my constituency the other day, only 65,000 jobs remain of the 326,000 jobs that existed in the Lancashire textile industry a few years ago? What is the size of the Lancashire textile industry which the Government are prepared to accept as irreducible?

As a Member with a constituency close to the area to which the right hon. Gentleman refers, I understand fully the problems and anxieties that he expresses. I shall refer them to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade.

May I ask my right hon. Friend once again to reflect upon the conduct of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, especially—

Order. That does not come within the Prime Minister's area of responsibility.

Later

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I realise that normally the conduct of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is not the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the Government. However, in this case I wish to call his attention to the fact that some of the—

Order. The hon. Gentleman is about to ask the question that he was going to ask earlier. It is out of order for an hon. Member to ask the Prime Minister to take responsibility for others for whom the Prime Minister is not normally responsible. I have previously ruled that it is wrong to ask the Prime Minister or the acting Prime Minister, to take responsibility for what the Opposition or their spokesmen do. It is out of order to pursue the point.

If the hon. Gentleman had to be named for that, there are some people who would never be here.

Tuc

Q4.

asked the Prime Minister when she expects to meet the Trades Union Congress.

I have been asked to reply.

I repeat the answer that I gave to the question in the name of the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson).

The question is when the right hon. Lady is going to meet the TUC and not about her engagements generally.

I apologise. My right hon. Friend meets representatives of the TUC at NEDC and on other occasions. Further meetings will be arranged as necessary.

When the right hon. Lady meets the TUC, will it not be true—in view of the savage legal attacks by the Government on trade union rights and the savage attack on the low-paid and the sick by legislation and the Budget—that the TUC will explain that the only way in which trade unionists can protect their rights is by expressing opposition to the savage attack on their standard of living and by supporting the day of action on 14 May? Does he accept that no judgment at the behest of the Pravda of the Tory Party, the Daily Express, will diminish the rights of trade unionists to support the action on 14 May?

To talk about Pravdas of the Tory party is absurd, as I believe that the hon. Gentleman on reflection will agree. The hon. Gentleman talks of savage attacks. I do not accept, and nor do a large number of trade unionists, that these are in any way savage attacks. From what I read recently that is also true of the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Varley), who has been leading for the Opposition on this matter.

Before my right hon. Friend considers meeting the TUC, will he study reports of the execution this morning of the former Education Minister of Iran, who was the first woman member of Parliament and first Minister in Iran to be executed by firing squad? In view of the outstanding courage of our security forces in defence of the lives of Iranian nationals here, does my right hon. Friend accept that the execution of that woman Minister can only prejudice friendly nations against Iran?

I am bound to express anxiety over what has happened, but it would be wrong for me to comment specifically on the action.