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Commons Chamber

Volume 984: debated on Wednesday 14 May 1980

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House Of Commons

Wednesday 14 May 1980

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

Oral Answers To Questions

Order. Once again, I appeal to hon. Members for questions to be questions, not statements.

Foreign And Commonwealth Affairs

Human Rights (Individual Petition)

asked the Lord Privy Seal by what date he must record his decision with the European Commission of Human Rights if he intends to continue with the right of individual petition from the United Kingdom.

The existing declaration recognising the competence of the European Commission of Human Rights to receive petitions from any person, non-governmental organisation or group of individuals expires on the 14 January 1981. A declaration of renewal ought therefore to be deposited with the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe before that date.

Is it not disgraceful that such an important matter has never been debated in this House? Will my right hon. Friend do his best to persuade the Leader of the House to make such arrangements, before a final decision is taken?

I do not know whether I can agree that it is disgraceful. I know how much interest my hon. Friend takes in these matters. I shall pass on his remarks to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that it is unprecedented for a nation that has contracted to the convention subsequently to discontinue the right of individual petition? Will he accept that none of the 21 nations of the Council of Europe has ever done so?

I think that my hon. Friend is right. However, he will realise that several nations, including Cyprus, France, Greece, Liechtenstein, Malta, Turkey and Spain, did not accept that right in the first place.

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister recently stated in a written answer, we are considering the matter.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that one of my constituents, a British Rail train driver, petitioned the court about the closed shop? Does not he agree that the court has played a valuable role in that case?

I am sure that that is true. As my hon. Friend will realise, there are strong arguments on both sides.

Falkland Islands

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement about the discussions which have taken place with the Argentine authorities about matters relating to the Falkland Islands.

I met an Argentine delegation for wide-ranging and exploratory talks in New York on 28 and 29 April. We had cordial and positive exchanges and were able to reach a better understanding of each other's position.

Was the subject of extending the Antarctic treaty to cover the dependencies of the Falkland Islands discussed? Are the Government considering such an extension? If so, will it affect Britain's sovereignty over those dependencies?

The talks were confidential. However, the subject was not discussed. Issues concerning Antarctica will be discussed soon at the Canberra conference on living resources. However, those issues were not discussed in New York.

Is the Minister aware that I welcomed, with some surprise, the two words " cordial " and " positive ", which appeared in his statement? Does the Foreign Office propose to make a statement soon about 200-mile fishing limits and about the islands in the South Atlantic? Better still, does the Foreign Office propose to make a statement about a joint venture with Argentina as regards commercial fishing in those waters?

Once again, I am in the same difficulty. The talks were confidential. However, I shall answer as I did before. The matters were discussed in a " cordial and positive " manner.

Although it is of great interest to know that the discussions were conducted in a cordial atmosphere, why has my hon. Friend been so coy? Why has he not told the House the precise nature of the subjects discussed? This issue has always been close to the heart of the House of Commons.

We agreed with the Argentinian Government that these talks should be confidential. They were exploratory talks designed so that each party could discover the position of the other. Having given an undertaking to the Argentinian Government, I would not like to break it.

Will the Minister at least give the House the assurance —given by the last Government—that there will be no change in the status of the Falkland Islands without the full accord of the islanders?

I utterly endorse that. Indeed, I have said it so often that I find myself saying it in my sleep.

When the Minister goes to Canberra no doubt he will discuss the future of the Falkland Island dependencies—a territory which is rich in mineral resources and in fish. Will he assure us that he will not sign anything there that would diminish United Kingdom sovereignty? Would not he be well occupied in consulting his right hon. and hon. Friends about questions of development and defence, because whatever international arrangements he makes will have very little effect unless we are pre- pared to defend and develop these territories on our own?

On the first point, the conference in Canberra is about the Antarctic region, of which we are a claimant State. It is not about dependencies. They are not included in the subject matter for the conference. Of course, the question of dependencies was mentioned at the talks to which I have just referred and that was the proper place for that. We do not have a claim to the dependencies, we have sovereignty over them.

On the second point, this is a matter for the Secretary of State for Defence but clearly, what my hon. Friend has said is very much in our minds.

Perhaps it is useful to know that the Minister talks in his sleep. However, his reply was bland and un-informative on an issue that is of public concern and of particular concern to the House of Commons. Will he at least tell us whether he has had useful conversations about economic co-operation and fishing matters because these could be of great benefit to the Falkland Islanders? Further, was the issue of sovereignty raised or discussed in these conversations?

On the second point, it is right to say that the Argentinian Government raised the matter and it was discussed. On the first point, one positive conclusion of the conference was that arrangements would be set in hand for the Falkland Islanders to have direct contact with people in Argentina, both in government and in the private sector, with whom they are co-operating on economic and supply matters. The arrangements have been set in hand to institutionalise those contacts to the satisfaction of the islanders and the Argentinians.



asked the Lord Privy Seal what reassessment of British foreign policy he has made following recent events in Iran; and if he will make a statement.

Recent events in Iran have underlined the need for Western cohesion and the fullest consultation. We remain determined to engage with our partners and allies in diplomatic, political and economic measures to help secure the release of the American hostages and thus make possible a revival of our traditional friendship with Iran.

Will my hon. Friend agree that, whatever our attitude to it, the Islamic revolution, of which the events in Iran are a symptom, is a signficant occurrence in world affairs and it makes more urgent the need for a settlement in the Middle East, particularly of the Palestinian issue? Is my hon. Friend considering any further positive steps with our European allies to implement United Nations resolution No. 242?

I agree with my hon. Friend's first comment, and it is precisely because of that that the Foreign Ministers of the nine EEC countries have been asked to prepare a report on this subject which the European Council will consider at its next summit meeting in Venice on 12 and 13 June.

Following the supplementary question of my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley), will not my hon. Friend agree that, while he may be saddened, he is not surprised that there will be no agreement between Israel and Egypt by 26 May? Will he further agree that the Israeli interpretation of the words " full automony " is rightly seen by the majority of people in the Middle East as conferring upon the Palestinian people no more than the rights of a self-governing colony?

We do not want to do anything that will cut across the conversations which are continuing between Israel, Egypt and the United States. We have made it clear from time to time, and so have our partners in Europe, that some aspects of Israeli policy, particularly on settlement, are an obstacle to the success of that venture.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it a new convention of the House that we debate or discuss matters that are not at all concerned with the original question that has been asked?

Order. We shall all be satisfied if the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) says " connection ".

Will the Minister accept that instead of kow-towing to the more ridiculous demands of an American President in election year, and helping to damage our future trading prospects, not only in Iran but throughout the Middle East, because of the ridiculous legislation that we have just passed, it would be more fitting to his office if he tried to mount a much more effective counter operation by the European countries through the launching of an initiative to settle the real problem in the Middle East which is at the core of all the other problems, including Iran, namely the Palestinian problem?

Therefore, I would not accept his comments in the stimulating debates that occurred. On his second point, I have already tried to indicate that we are active in this way. We do not want to cut across what is already being done, but if we can help to promote a settlement by some clear European initiative, we shall do our best.

Is my hon. Friend satisfied with the arrangements for consultation with the United States and the EEC in order to get a more coherent policy within the Western Alliance for dealing with this problem than we have had in the recent past?

There is a great deal of consultation—sometimes one feels that there is almost too much coherence. However, my hon. Friend is quite right, it is absolutely essential that all these matters clustered under this question should be considered as one, and proper priorities agreed among them.

The Minister well knows that the meeting of the nine Foreign Ministers is taking place in Naples this weekend. He will also know, because he was here throughout the two-day debate on the Iran (Temporary Powers) Bill, that there are considerable reservations about the sanctions, and even stronger reservations about the timing of the proposed implementation. Will he advise the House what line the British representative will take at Naples, particularly after hearing the new United States Secretary of State, Mr. Muskie, speak in Brussels, calling for immediate and full implementation?

If the discussion in another place proceeds satisfactorily, my noble Friend will go to Naples equipped with the powers that he said he would seek on this front. Then he and the other EEC Ministers will review the whole situation and consider what has happened since 22 April when they last met and to what extent they can find new diplomatic ways to make progress. They will also consider to what extent it would be helpful to use the powers which, by then, we expect all the countries to have to impose economic sanctions.

The Foreign Secretary will go to Naples with these powers, but may I urge him strongly that the time is right for a full appraisal and a pause before any further action is decided upon? I hope that that will be put very strongly to the other countries in the EEC.

I note what the right hon. Gentleman says. However, the hostages have been held for six months, and no one can be accused of being headstrong.


asked the Lord Privy Seal what further progress has been made in his discussion with the Spanish Government on the lifting of restrictions between the territory of Gibraltar and the Spanish mainland; and if he will make a statement.

Following preparation through diplomatic channels, technical discussions about the implementation of the agreement reached between my right hon. and noble Friend and the Spanish Foreign Minister opened in Madrid on 5 May. Gibraltarian representatives took part.

I am sure that the House will welcome continuation of the discussions, but if agreement is reached that the border gates are opened on 1 June, will the Algeciras-Gibraltar ferry operate effectively from that date?

As my hon. Friend knows, the target date for re-opening the border is 1 June. However, I emphasise that it is only the target date.

Why is there a delay? What is the problem? Spain is democratic. Why should she not open her gates? If the people of Gibraltar wish to remain associated with Britain, can the right hon. Gentleman assure us that the Government will support them?

I do not accept that there has been a delay. The Lisbon agreement is quite recent. As the hon. Gentleman will be well aware, there are a number of technical matters to discuss. The Gibraltar Government would be the first to agree that that is so. The hon. Gentleman will also be aware that our commitments are absolutely clear.

Will my right hon. Friend make it clear to the Spanish Government that, as between friendly nations, we expect reasonable co-operation if they expect reasonable co-operation from us when they seek to join the EEC?

Of course that is true. However, as we have just reached an agreement with the Spanish Government, which I believe is satisfactory to both parties, I do not believe that minatory tones would be appropriate on our part just now.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman saying that a technical matter is being discussed, when we desire to make clear to the Spanish Government that the free movement of workers in the Community means that the borders must be opened quickly? Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that the borders were closed at great speed, and we should like to see them opened again?

I do not understand the hon. Lady's difficulty. The agreement was made recently, and the target date for implementation is 1 June. If we do not meet that target date, the border will be opened shortly thereafter. There is no undue delay.

South-West Africa

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he intends to meet the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Zimbabwe in the near future to discuss South-West Africa.

Will my right hon. Friend accept that I am somewhat disappointed with that reply? Does my right hon. Friend agree that what happens in Zimbabwe, as we now call it, in the immediate future and the attitude of Mr Robert Mugabe and the Zimbabwe Government, will have a great bearing on evolutionary changes in the remainder of Southern Africa? Does he further agree that it would be wrong at this time to put undue pressure on South Africa and the Administrator-General in South-West Africa which may be counter-productive in bringing forth a more democratic Government, which is the objective of the Administrator-General, who is doing so much good at present?

I entirely agree that the attitude and the behaviour of the Zimbabwe Government are of the utmost importance in Southern Africa. However, that is a matter for the Zimbabwe and South African Governments. I entirely agree with the second part of my hon. Friend's question. I do not believe that this is an occasion for undue pressure. As my hon. Friend knows, we are working for a general agreement.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, now that we have a democratically elected Government in Zimbabwe, we should seek their co-operation to end the illegal occupation by South Africa of this territory known as Namibia? Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the United Nations for many years has called for it to be given independence and a democratic Government?

The procedures begun under the previous Government whereby the Five and the secretary-general negotiate and act with South Africa, are being continued. As I said, no doubt developments in Zimbabwe will have had a beneficial effect.

Is the Lord Privy Seal aware that the successful momentum achieved by the ultimately peaceful settlement in Zimbabwe should be carried forward to solving a similar problem in Namibia by the same combination of internationally supervised elections, as proposed by the United Nations? Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that there is a danger that the momentum will be lost? What is the state of play on the negotiations between the contact Five and the South African Government with regard to Namibia?

We do not want the matter to come to a standstill, but equally we do not want it to be rushed. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the South African reply was received in London only yesterday. It requires a great deal of consideration, and I am reluctant to comment on it now.



asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on the Government's policy towards Iran.

The Government wish to maintain friendly relations with the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The main matter at issue is Iran's illegal detention for more than six months of the United States diplomats. Her Majesty's Government have throughout this time made repeated efforts to secure their release, and with this in mind have decided, with our European partners, to take powers to impose a range of sanctions on Iran.

I appreciate that my hon. Friend has had enough of Iran to last him for at least a day or two, but will he accept that we shall continue to have the worst of all worlds with regard to Iran unless we work towards, and rapidly achieve, a continuous and definite policy towards that country, not least a strategy towards the area as a whole?

I entirely agree. I believe that we have such a policy. We take all available opportunities to impress on our partners and allies that a policy towards Iran needs to be considered within the framework of our policy towards the Middle East.

Without going into the problem of sanctions, does the hon. Gentleman accept that the easiest way to cope with the matter is to shut these numerous phoney English language schools that Iranian students flock to for various false reasons? Does the hon. Gentleman agree that that has been going on for years, yet no one takes action? Why not put an end to that and keep those students out?

Schools are not a matter for me, and nor is kicking people out of the country. In the past few days we have given notice that we propose at the end of the week to institute a visa regime that will control the future entry of Iranians to this country.



asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he has any plans to pay an official visit to Zimbabwe.

Will my right hon. Friend accept that I appreciate the prompt and generous financial provision made for the new State of Zimbabwe? Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, official visit or not, he will be keeping in touch with the situation to monitor the effect of the aid, so that if, on a continuing basis, further assistance is necessary, that can at least be considered?

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's earlier remarks. As he knows, an ODA mission went out in January and another will be going in June to consider these matters. We shall naturally keep everything under review.

Will the Lord Privy Seal discuss with the Governments of Zambia and other Comonwealth countries in Central and East Africa the deteriorating situation in Uganda? Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us anything about the state of affairs there? Will he undertake to express the concern that many of us feel about the deterioration?

The situation in Uganda is serious, but the hon. Gentleman will agree that the matter does not arise from this question.



asked the Lord Privy Seal what steps are being taken by the United Kingdom in the Security Council to make fully effective the work of the United Nations interim force in the Lebanon.

We voted for United Nations Security Council resolution 467 on the 24 April, and we shall continue to support the efforts of the United Nations and the troop contributors to enable UNIFIL to operate more effectively in South Lebanon.

Is the Minister aware that the behaviour of the so-called militia, armed and backed by Israel, is causing considerable bitterness among those countries that have contributed troops in the name of the international community to maintain peace in that area? Do not the Five permanent members of the Security Council have a clear duty to give the necessary diplomatic and other backing to make that force fully effective?

We agree that there is no justification for the continued Israeli presence and their support of the Haddad militia. Of course, Israel argues, with some justification, that it is concerned about infiltration into the UNIFIL area by Palestinian units, but it would be much easier for UNIFIL to look after that part of its job if it were not being harassed by Major Haddad's militia.

Presumably the Government recognise the provocation and agony caused by the murder of Christians in southern Lebanon by terrorists who infiltrate on occasions into northern Israel. Is it not, therefore, unreasonable that the Irish Republic, one of the peacekeeping countries, should have gone overboard in favour of the PLO which, incidentally, has connections with the Irish Republic Army?

I am not responsible for the policy of the Irish Government, but having visited UNIFIL, I know that the Irish battalion does a good job.

In view of the hon. Gentleman's great experience of economic sanctions, can he tell us when the Government intend, through the United Nations, to impose economic sanctions on Israel as a result of its persistent military attacks, both direct and indirect, on the State of Lebanon and on the United Nations forces there?

We have no such plan, but we have no hesitation in making our views known at every opportunity.

Is it not a fact that the purpose of establishing UNIFIL was to allow the Lebanese Government to restore their sovereignty over their territory? Should not the British Government, as one of the five permanent representatives, be taking a more positive role in order to see that objective fulfilled?

I agree with my hon. Friend, and we are doing everything that we can. The Foreign Minister of Lebanon was here on a private visit a few days ago and some of us had the chance to discuss the matter with him. I gave him that assurance. I have a great deal of admiration for the Foreign Minister, the Prime Minister and others in Lebanon who are trying, against considerable odds, to rebuild their country.

Will the Minister make it clear that, although we support the work of the United Nations force in Lebanon, there should not be infiltration through this area, because it will not be understood by the Israelis and will cause enormous uproar within the area if there are continuing terrorist incidents?

Brandt Commission


asked the Lord Privy Seal what consultations he has had with United Nations agencies about the recommendations of the Brandt commission.

My right hon. Friend had a short exchange of views with the Secretary-General of the United Nations on 16 April. This is likely to be taken further when the Secretary-General visits London next week.

In view of the grave threat to world development and, potentially, to stability that is posed by the enormous increase that is taking place in the world's population, will my hon. Friend promote the objectives of the United Nations fund for population activities, not least by working to restore the British contribution to the fund, since it is no longer underspent on its budget as it was when the decision to halve our contribution was taken?

I know of my hon. Friend's interest in this matter. We contributed £2 million to the fund last year and are contributing a further £2 million this year. I do not think that that is too bad in the light of our circumstances.

As the Brandt Commission's report deals at length with the great increase in expenditure on arms throughout the world, would it not be difficult for the Government to accept some of the recommendations for reducing the total amount of spending on arms, since that would fly in the face of the decisions that were announced recently when we debated the Defence Estimates?

Certainly some of the recommendations are difficult for us to accept. We have had one debate in the House, there has been a debate in another place and I understand that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has promised a fuller debate in Government time before the end of June. I think that these matters will be best thrashed out then.

In considering a response to the Brandt commission report, will my hon. Friend bear in mind that some of the more important recommendations are potentially of considerable inflationary impact and that if fuel is added to the world inflation it will result in great harm being caused to developing countries?

The Brandt report is a powerful piece of analysis, but of course my hon. Friend is right in pointing out that some of the proposals cause practical difficulties for us. We are not in the business of saying that we shall do things if we cannot do them. That is why we must look at the report carefully and together.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the Brandt report addresses themes of immense importance, not only to the international economy, but to the question of political stability in so many regions? Does he agree that it will require careful handling and a carefully thought-out programme if we are to make a worthwhile response? Does the hon. Gentleman also agree that not only should United Nations agencies, which may have useful comments to make, be consulted, but that the subjects should be seriously considered in the OECD, which is the major forum of the developed countries?

Yes, indeed, and that is now happening. We have to prepare for the special session of the United Nations General Assembly which will certainly concentrate on many of those matters.

Esperanto Broadcasts


asked the Lord Privy Seal if, in the light of the growing number of Esperantists, he will direct the Overseas Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation to broadcast in Esperanto.

No, Sir. The BBC external service broadcasts either in English, which it is the Government's policy to promote as an international language, or in the native languages of selected countries or regions.

While our desire to broadcast in our own language is understandable and laudable, will my hon. Friend recognise that many people will be disappointed by his answer? Is he aware that a growing number of countries, including China, as well as Radio Vatican, broadcast in Esperanto for the benefit of bringing people closer together.

Esperanto is the second language of all those who speak it and we think it better to broadcast in their first languages. The BBC broadcasts in 39 such languages.

As the BBC is renowned throughout the world as the most dependable and responsible broadcasting organisation—and it uses the services of the best people available—would it not help international understanding if, instead of chasing this obscure and unknown little fake language, the Government were to make available more money for BBC broadcasts in English throughout the world?

Such money as the Government make available to the BBC external services is better spent in broadcasting either in English or in the language of those living in the countries to which the BBC broadcasts.

In view of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's determination to flood the Soviet Union with propaganda, will my hon. Friend consider restarting the BBC's Ukrainian language broadcasts and bearing the cost of them on the defence budget rather than within propaganda expenditure?

We have increased broadcasts, to a small extent, to both Russia and Afghanistan and we are studying whether there is scope for further increases. As to whether the money would be better placed on the Vote of the Ministry of Defence, that is a matter which would not help the general total of money spent, whichever Vote it was put on.



asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on the current situation in Afghanistan.

There is no sign of Soviet troops being withdrawn from Afghanistan. Further demonstrations in Kabul at the end of April showed the continuing opposition of the Afghan people to the Russian presence and to the Government whom the Russians have installed. We deplore the loss of life of the many young people, including school girls, who have been killed during the suppression of the demonstrations.

May I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the fact that on Saturday a meeting of the Young Conservatives' national advisory committee, a body which represents the largest political youth movement in this country, overwhelmingly passed a motion urging Sir Denis Follows to pay less regard to the International Olympic Committee and more to the wishes of the people of this country, as expressed through their democratically elected representatives in this House and in the European Parliament, that there should be a boycott of the Olympic Games?

Will he also—

Order. If the Minister is to answer in time, the hon. Gentleman had better stop there.

I am greatly reassured and strengthened by what my hon. Friend has told me. Nothing that has happened in Afghanistan or elsewhere in the world since January weakens, in any way, our view about the need for a boycott of the Olympic Games.

European Community

Community Legislation


asked the Lord Privy Seal what action he has taken or proposes to take, consequent on the First Special Report of the Select Committee on EEC legislation (HC 543) relating to EEC instruments not deposited in the House.

My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and I have discussed this report. We accept that the Committee should be informed as promptly as possible of legislative proposals. Further representations are being made in Brussels to try and improve the service. We shall also ensure, wherever possible, that when no depositable document is produced before a legislative proposal is considered by the Council, the Scrutiny Committee is kept fully informed by use of unnumbered explanatory memoranda.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman accept that there has been a breach of the undertaking, in that a statutory instrument has been made by this House when no document on which it is based has gone to the Scrutiny Committee? Will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that Her Majesty's Government will not in future assent to any directive or regulation in the Council of Ministers until they have a document from the Council which can be put before the Scrutiny Committee of this House, in accordance with their undertakings?

With all respect to the hon. Gentleman who, I know, takes a close interest in these matters, I think that my first answer went fairly far towards meeting his point. We accept that there is a difficulty. We are trying to deal with it. The hon. Gentleman knows that there are occasional difficulties when we have to proceed. We shall do our best to see that there is an adequate document whenever we discuss matters.

Will the Lord Privy Seal look at the Danish system, whereby Ministers are required to come back to the Danish Parliament with detailed propositions before they are decided upon in the Council of Ministers? We would like the right hon. Gentleman, if he is to deposit documents, to make sure that they are deposited in good time.

We would, of course, like documents to be deposited in good time but each Parliament has its various customs. In this matter, I do not intend to suggest to the House that we should follow the Danish example.

The right hon. Gentleman did not answer the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) or his supplementary question. The right hon. Gentleman was asked whether he would state to those in the so-called European Parliament and to these so-called Europeans that we would refuse to carry out any directives unless the papers and documents, are put to the Committee. Will he not simply do his best? Will he tell them that?

Treaty Of Rome


asked the Lord Privy Seal if, following the recent meetings of EEC Ministers, he will take steps to secure the amendment of the Treaty of Rome.

Will the right hon. Gentleman try to persuade the Cabinet to read the speeches that some of its members made when the Treaty of Rome was being debated in the House? Is it not now abundantly clear that the milk and honey promised in at least some of those speeches is totally divorced from present reality and that the main cause is the nature of the treaty? If the Government do not intend to withdraw from the EEC, will they at least try to make fundamental changes in the treaty?

I do not think that it is very good for politicians to spend time reading their own speeches. Some were rather proud of doing that. They probably gain greater intellectual refreshment from reading other people's speeches or other matters. We have no intention of proposing amendments to the Treaty of Rome. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we are proposing changes in our budget contribution, but that is a very different matter.

Is not the Lord Privy Seal aware that the continuing deterioration in our trade with the EEC, particularly in non-oil products, points to amendment of the treaty? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware, notwithstanding his injunction not to read his own speeches, that when he told the House a month ago that there had been an improvement in our trade with the EEC between 1978 and 1979, he was wrong? Does he realise that figures published by the Government prove that there has been no change? If the greatly increasing exports of oil to the EEC are removed, is he aware that our trade with the EEC has deteriorated from 83 per cent. to 78 per cent. and the deficit in non-oil trade has doubled to £4 billion?

With respect, the hon. Gentleman is not right. Our trading performance with the EEC is better than it is with the rest of the world. The United Kingdom's performance in manufacturing trade with the world as a whole has been disappointing but. last year, the deterioration in our trade with the Community was less bad than that with the world as a whole and less than that with the United States or Japan.

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that no amendment of the Treaty is required for the appropriate restructuring of the common agricultural policy since the articles in the Treaty relating to the common agricultural policy are cast in generalised terms? Will he, therefore, press ahead to secure the necessary agreement in the Council of Ministers, which is all that is required for this laudable and imperative objective?

My right hon. and learned Friend is extremely learned in this matter, as in other matters. The House will accept his word. We wish to restructure the budget, but, as my right hon. and learned Friend will know, that is a medium and long-term matter rather than something that can be dealt with during the next few weeks.

By his own high standards, the Lord Privy Seal is being exceptionally complacent in his replies to this question. Is he really telling the House that a Treaty, written 25 years ago, not one word of which was contributed to by a British hand, is not a subject that he ought to be thinking about in terms of major amendment and change after all the experience of failure in matching and meeting its own objectives, let alone our national interest? If he is not thinking about it, he should start doing so now.

The difference between the right hon. Gentleman and myself is that I wish to secure an agreement with the EEC and the right hon. Gentleman does not. The right hon. Gentleman therefore, wishes to maximise our difference with the EEC whereas the Government do not wish to do so.



asked the Lord Privy Seal what discussions he has had with his EEC colleagues on the Council of Ministers about Yugoslavia.

Discussions on Yugoslavia have occurred regularly during recent meetings with my European Community colleagues, culminating in the signing of the European Community-Yugoslavia co-operation agreement in Belgrade on 2 April and the interim agreements on trade and financial co-operation in Brussels on 6 May.

Will my right hon. Friend agree that it is important that the EEC as a whole should be well prepared to deal with any changes that may come about in Yugoslavia, or that may concern Yugoslavia, following the death of President Tito?

I accept entirely the force of my hon. Friend's question. He will be aware that the speeding up of the negotiations between the EEC and Yugoslavia was directly caused by the serious and sad illness of President Tito.

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that, with the passing of President Tito, Britain has lost an honoured friend and wartime ally? Bearing in mind the Kremlin's long-held desire to see Yugoslavia incorporated within the Soviet empire, as part of the Warsaw Pact, will he make clear Her Majesty's Government's determination to do all in their power to secure the continued independence of Yugoslavia including, if neccessary, the sale of defensive weapons?

I entirely agree with what my hon. Friend said about President Tito. It has been a long standing policy of the British Government, including previous Governments, to support the independence of Yugoslavia. We shall do all that we can to see that that is assured.

Foreign Policy Co-Ordination


asked the Lord Privy Seal when he intends to raise the question of the inclusion of new areas and subjects in the region of political co-operation and modifications to the role played by the Committee of Permanent Representatives on foreign policy co-ordination.

The Government attach great importance to political cooperation with our European partners. We wish to strengthen and intensify it. We are always prepared to propose new subjects for political co-operation if they are in areas where Europe can make a useful contribution. We are similarly willing to put forward or support practical proposals which will improve the machinery of political co-operation. The important thing is to build on the valuable direct contact between Ministers and officials of the Nine which political cooperation involves.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that very positive and comprehensive answer. Will he also acknowledge that political co-operation is sufficiently informal and empirical for a number of additional subjects to be included within it? One of those could be, for instance, the establishment of a Community institution in London. Will my right hon. Friend press for this in coming years, to reinforce our involvement in the Community? Will he, for example, consider the European export bank if it is established, or the European trade mark office, which is due to be formed in three years' time?

I agree with my hon. Friend, and I shall seriously consider both matters that he has raised.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it would be inappropriate at this time of disagreement about the budget to agree to any extension of political co-operation other than that which is an obligation under the Treaty?

I cannot agree at all. The Western world is seriously threatened, and the maximum amount of political co-operation that we can achieve among the Nine is clearly in the interests not only of this country but of the free world as a whole.

As terrorists who are wanted in one EEC country are still finding havens in others, does not my right hon. Friend think that one of the jobs that the committee might do is to improve co-operation in counter-terror operations? In particular, will my right hon. Friend invite it to devise a common code of practice for the pooling of criminal intelligence and advance warning and the whole matter of the protection of embassies?

My hon. Friend raises some wide and very important matters. I think that they go rather wider than the question, but we shall certainly consider them.

If there is to be better foreign policy co-ordination, it should surely be in a much wider context than the Nine. Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that co-ordination in the wider world is effective, and is not the Treaty of Rome an obstacle to that?

Of course it is not. There is no doubt that co-operation between the Nine is not an obstacle to cooperation in other forums as well or with other people, such as the United States. The maximum amount of co-operation within the Nine is clearly to the advantage of us all.

Budget (United Kingdom Contribution)


asked the Lord Privy Seal what further meetings have been arranged involving Ministers of his Department concerning the re-negotiation of the United Kingdom's contribution to the EEC budget.

I expect the United Kingdom's contribution to the European Community's budget to be discussed at the informal meeting of Foreign Ministers scheduled on 17 and 18 May and again at the Foreign Affairs Council in Luxembourg on 2 and 3 June.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the farm price deal that has been agreed so far by the other Eight is wholly unacceptable in any circumstances, involving as it does a £1 billion increase in the cost of the CAP, and that it is wholly contrary to the Government's stated intention of reducing the CAP? Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that, in the Government's anxiety to get a deal on Britain's overall budget contribution, there will be no surrender on the farm price deal?

We are not in the surrendering business. On the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question, he should pursue his quarrel with his own leader. The Leader of the Opposition said on 29 April:

" I repeat very strongly that we shall support her "—
that is, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister—
" in not giving way on the agricultural price freeze until the budgetary issue is settled."— [Official Report, 29 April 1980; Vol. 983, c. 1154.]

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that the demand by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for a substantial cut in our EEC budget contribution is fully justified, bearing in mind the lethargic and slow method of operation in the EEC, which means that much of our industrial base is being undermined? I refer particularly to the very slow way in which the EEC processes applications for anti-dumping measures and so on.

I am not sure how closely connected the two parts of my hon. Friend's question are, but I agree with him 100 per cent. on the first part.

Can the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the nub of the negotiations about the budget is the relative GNP per head of the member States in relation to contributions rather than any argument about juste retour, or broad balance?

We have never sought juste retour, and that has nothing to do with our case. The main point is that we are the seventh richest member of the Community and by far the largest contributor. But the matter goes beyond that. On the present basis, if nothing happened, we should be supplying about 60 per cent. of the Community budget. Germany would be supplying the rest, and virtually everybody else would be in surplus. That is plainly wrong.

It is manifestly wrong, as the Prime Minister has made it plain on a number of occasions. But will the right hon. Gentleman make clear to the country that there is no question of trading off a temporary concession on the British net contribution to the budget against a major new imposition on the British housewife and consumer and additional cost through the already over-costly CAP? Will he also make plain that he is trying to get at the heart of the matter, which is the whole crazy system of own-resources and the pattern of budget expenditure?

The right hon. Gentleman should pursue that matter fundamentally with his own leader.

I will. It is worth bearing in mind that the previous Government, which the right hon. Gentleman adorned, as did his hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. Rowlands), agreed to average price increases of 7·5 per cent. a year. Therefore, even if we agreed to a 5 per cent. increase, it would be much lower than the average increases conceded by the previous Government.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the 5 per cent. farm price increase would add a mere 0·2 per cent. to the retail price index, whereas excessive wage claims in this country are pushing inflation up to 20 per cent?

That is largely true. Nevertheless, everything that adds to inflation is in itself to be regretted. The 5 per cent. increase is large, but is not large compared with that which was normally agreed to by the previous Government.

Disciplinary Procedures


asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he will publish the memorandum by Sir Roy Denman on disciplinary procedures within the European Economic Commission.

No, Sir. The document in question is, I understand, an internal Commission memorandum prepared as part of the Commission's work on the report by the Spierenburg committee. It is not a matter for Her Majesty's Government.

But as the Prime Minister is so keen on reducing the number of civil servants, and as Sir Roy Denman says that they cannot be dismissed in Brussels even if they are dead drunk all day, what will the right hon. Gentleman do about it?

That extract from the report is clearly grist to the right hon. Gentleman's mill, but as he will be aware, what Sir Roy Denman was saying was that there was security of tenure in Brussels, virtually whatever happened. There may well be too many bureaucrats in Brussels, but compared with, say, the Scottish Office, their number is not great.

While it may not be appropriate for the Government to publish the Denman report, does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that there is considerable, and probably justified, public anxiety about the appointment, terms of reference, general disciplinary procedures and terms of employment of those employed by the Commission? Is he satisfied that they are up to at least the standards in the British Civil Service? If not, what will he do about it?

I did not know that there was anxiety. I should have thought that the general standard of public servants in Brussels was very high.

Would the right hon. Gentleman care to commend staff regulation No. 4 of the European Communities to his own Department and to the home Departments of State? He will recollect, I am sure, that that regulation says that the Commission can take away the pensions of people who take jobs contrary to the wish of the Commission after leaving the service of the Commission. Perhaps he could commend that regulation to the Department of the Industry, for example.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether it was on this report that The Daily Telegraph based its article on Monday, pointing out that poor European MPs could not get their £40,000 a year—mostly in expenses—tax-free? Is he aware that many of them, according to the article, are having to apply to their banks for overdrafts? Is it not terrible that these poor people cannot manage on that money?

I was abroad on Monday and did not see the report in The Daily Telegraph. From what the hon. Gentleman said, the newspaper report appears to relate to Members of Parliament. As the Denman report does not relate to Members of Parliament, I think that the connection is unlikely.

Foreign And Commonwealth Questions

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will see from the Order Paper today that 32 questions were down for answer by the Lord Privy Seal on general matters relating to the world situation and six questions relating to EEC matters. Thirty-five minutes were allocated to world affairs—I repeat there were 32 questions on world affairs —and 20 minutes were allocated to six questions on EEC issues. This is not the first time that we have completed all the EEC questions.

Will you indicate, Mr. Speaker, what discussions are taking place to help Back Benchers have their questions on world affairs answered in questions to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and to the Lord Privy Seal in particular as opposed to so much time being spent on EEC matters? I believe that this is an important issue and I shall be obliged if you will advise the House.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. In considering that issue, I hope that you will bear in mind that, whatever may be the number of questions put by hon. Members, it is surely more important for us to consider the affairs of a legislating body such as the EEC than the vague views of hon. Members on foreign affairs.

The House is aware that this arrangement is usually settled through the usual channels. The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) should be well pleased that both the Leader and the Shadow Leader of the House have heard what he had to say.

Adjournment (Spring)

Motion made and Question proposed,

That this House, at its rising on Friday 23 May, do adjourn till Monday 2 June.—[ Mr. Cope.]

3.32 pm

Before the House agrees to the motion on the Spring Adjournment there are one or two matters that I wish to raise in an attempt to get some answers from the Leader of the House.

Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen may sneer at the TUC day of action, but the reasons for the day of action will not go away until the Government change their attitude and their policies in dealing with those things that have caused the anger and annoyance felt by working people in this country.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) asked the Home Secretary last Thursday—when the right hon. Gentleman was answering questions on behalf of the Prime Minister—what he would be advising the unemployed to do today. The unemployed hang like a millstone round the neck of the Government. Every constituency in the land can demonstrate increases in the unemployment figures, in varying degrees.

In my constituency we have every cause for complaining and protesting today about the rising unemployment figures. In April 1979 the unemployment figure in the Neath and Resolven travel-to-work area was 7·7 per cent. The latest tables, published in April this year, show that that figure has risen to 9·3 per cent. If Conservative Members want to know why those in my constituency and elsewhere have responded to the call of the TUC today, the reason is the serious rise in unemployment.

Last July the Secretary of State for Industry decided that Neath was to lose its special development area status in August 1980. Unemployment in the area continues to rise, and still the Secretary of State for Industry will not reverse his decision. He justifies that decision by saying that the level of unemployment in Neath does not warrant special development area status. I remind the House that at this time last year unemployment in the Neath area stood at 7·7 per cent. and that the figure is now 9·3 per cent. We cannot afford to tolerate that situation any longer. The Secretary of State for Industry says that he is not prepared to reverse his decision until he has had the opportunity of knowing what decisions have been taken about redundancies in the steelworks at Port Talbot.

We in Neath cannot afford to wait that long. Our unemployment figure gallops upward and redundancies at Port Talbot will turn our serious situation into a disastrous one.

Is it not a fact that the closure of every pit in Wales today, coupled with the massive response to the call by the TUC, is due not merely to the present high unemployment caused by the Government's policies but to the fear that if those policies continue in the years ahead there will be massive unemployment throughout Wales? That is why working people are out today. They are telling the Government to halt their present policies.

My hon. Friend is right. Not only are we facing massive unemployment in the steel industry; we face the same threat in the South Wales coalfield. Even more redundancies are now forecast and if that happens it seems inevitable that coal mining will cease in South Wales.

In Neath we cannot afford the luxury of waiting for the Secretary of State for Trade to make up his mind about the restoration of our status. I hope that the Leader of the House, if I may have his attention, will tell his right hon. Friend of our impatience and advise and instruct him that an urgent and early decision is vital to the people of my constituency and West Glamorgan generally.

The Government have some odd priorities in the spending of money. The Secretary of State for Industry told us that the Government are prepared to pay a transfer fee of £2 million to an American company to facilitate the transfer of a new chairman of the British Steel Corporation. Such a sum of money would have been better spent in trying to prevent the recent tragic steel strike.

Let us move on to the disaster area of the Government's housing policy. We find that council house building has come to a stop because there is no money available for house building programmes. The hopes of home buyers obtaining local authority mortgages have long dried up. No money is available.

We read in last Friday's Daily Mirror that the Government are to spend money on advertising in the hope of resolving their great flop—the sale of council houses. The article states:
" A million pounds is to be spent on advertising the Government's campaign to sell council houses. The cash is being poured out because the buy-your-home campaign has flopped. Fewer council houses were sold in the first six months of this Government than in the previous six months under Labour."
In view of the need for decent housing it would be better if the Government decided to spend £1 million not on advertising a flop but on providing houses. I hope that the Leader of the House will suggest that to his colleagues with responsibility for housing.

The issues that I have mentioned are good reasons for people to show their disapproval of the Government. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that unless things change the disapproval and protest will grow and become louder. The Leader of the House must tell his colleagues that that is the mood of the people, because time is not on their side.

3.40 pm

Before rising for the Whitsun Recess, the attention of the House should be drawn to the importance of the family and the need for personal responsibility, particularly in these economically difficult times. The nation needs to gain that ideal which has been sought by Conservatives for so long but has still to be achieved—the responsible society.

If we are to realise that aim, we must look to the cornerstone of our way of life—the family unit. Under Socialism and so-called progressive thought, the family is debased and undermined. The attempt to substitute the State can guarantee only that a country propels itself even faster towards destruction and degradation.

In recent years it has become more and more evident that parents are not necessarily willing to accept full responsibility for their children. In times of trouble increasingly parents direct blame at the teacher, the policeman, the doctor, the social worker, the probation officer and anyone else except themselves. Self-reproach has become a virtue of the past.

As Conservatives, my hon. Friends will, I am sure, deplore that attitude and support fully the Government in their effort to redress the balance in our society. We must get the Socialist encumbrance off the backs of the people and thereby allow the family unit to flourish once again.

Surely it is up to us all to engender the notion of standing firmly on one's own two feet whenever possible rather than leaning automatically against the ever-advancing wall of the State for support. We must all play a part in ensuring that standards and discipline improve and that morals and behaviour are learnt in the home.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in speeches throughout the country has rightly paid attention to the role of the family. The nation would do well to heed the wisdom of her words. At the same time, she emphasises the need for greater personal responsibility, which is the prerequisite for a successful and caring society. With a strengthened family unit playing its part in the community, a responsible society can be achieved. The opportunities for the exercise of individual freedom will, at the same time, be enhanced.

A respected literary figure, George Bernard Shaw, said:
" Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it."
The House should take the lead in encouraging and advocating liberty and responsibility so that men and women welcome it, to the benefit of their families and the nation.

3.43 pm

It is difficult to understand how the Government can go into recess bearing in mind the Scottish unemployment figures. In Scotland, 191,000 people are unemployed. According to David Bell, president of the Fraser of Allander Institute and well-known economist in Scotland, that figure will be about 200,000 by October this year. It is an appalling figure when one takes into account the devastating state of the Scottish economy.

Many school leavers will take at least two years to find their first jobs. That should worry the whole House. If we are to deal with the vandalism problem, we must cope with the young unemployed. The House has a duty and a responsibility to give serious consideration to the facts before it. In Strathclyde last year, 21,148 people were declared redundant. Eighty per cent. of Scottish redundancies were in the Strathclyde region. What do the Government intend to do to remedy that serious defect? Before the election they made many promises to the people of the United Kingdom, and in particular to the Scottish people, about what they would do to remedy that disastrous defect.

I worked in the construction industry before I became a Member of the House. Under all Governments that industry is always the first casualty of public expenditure cuts. It is experiencing many changes. Many liquidations have occurred simply because the Government are not measuring up to their responsibilities.

My hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. Coleman) mentioned house building in Wales. In Scotland house building has reached a low level. The Government encourage owner-occupation, but building societies fail to provide the money to enable young people to purchase their own houses. If that situation prevails, the construction industry will experience even more serious difficulties. I ask the Government to reconsider the position of the construction industry before the recess. Unless they are prepared to reconsider public expenditure cuts, they are doomed to failure.

I am pleased to say that the Scottish people were not conned by the Prime Minister's promises. The right hon. Lady conned the people of the rest of the United Kingdom, but not the people of Scotland. Many of the Government's policies were not mentioned in their election manifesto. They have a duty to tell the people why they are introducing measures for which they have no mandate.

The steel workers in my constituency, and throughout the country, are in a serious position. I find it nauseating that the Government have made a deal with an American company to pay £2 million to acquire the services of Mr. Ian MacGregor as the future chairman of the British Steel Corporation without taking into account Mr. MacGregor's age and the length of service that he can give to the BSC. I hope that the Government will give serious thought to that matter.

The steel workers realise that the £2 million that is to be paid for Mr. MacGregor could have solved the dispute in the first week of the steel workers' strike. If the Government expect the steel workers to give Mr. MacGregor their full co-operation and assistance—which is essential to that industry—they are, quite frankly, living in cloud-cuckoo-land.

I hope that the Leader of the House and the Government will seriously consider the matter, retrace their steps, change their policy and, above all, alter their determination to cut public expenditure, which is seriously affecting the economy of the United Kingdom, especially that of Scotland. On that basis, I ask the Leader of the House and, indeed, the whole House, to give serious consideration to the contribution that I made this afternoon.

3.52 pm

Compared with the weighty matters of national and international economic policy that have been given as reasons why we should think carefully before going into recess, I wish to raise two matters that may appear to be unimportant. However, I believe that they should be brought to the attention of the House in the interests of Britain. The only link between the two subjects is that they both relate to the use of motor vehicles.

First, I wish to refer to the alleged effect upon the atmosphere of the emission of fumes from the internal combustion engine. For a long time there has been controversy about the effect of lead poisoning on health. It is a product of the internal combustion engine.

I have heard it said that we are concerning ourselves needlessly over the matter. I have also heard it said that the effect on the health of people, especially young children, is such that the issue should be among the highest priorities to which the Government should turn their attention. I cannot pretend to know which approach is correct. A high level committee recently examined the matter, but came to no definite conclusion. There was an ambiguity about the report which, far from leading people to feel that they need no longer concern themselves with the problem, redoubled their anxieties. In the months that lie ahead, the Government will come under increasing pressure to reach a conclusion, one way or another, and to decide upon the best course of action.

When I visited the United States and Canada, I noticed that every petrol station gave the motorist an option to purchase lead-free petrol. No such option exists in Britain. On inquiry, I discovered that the oil companies in Britain concluded that it would be too expensive to produce lead-free petrol. I am no student of the economics of the oil companies, and I have to accept their point of view. However, I should be less than honest if I did not express some doubt about whether the economics of introducing lead-free petrol in the United States would be so very different from the economics of introducing similar petrol in Britain. There is little doubt that we are unlikely to be able to obtain lead-free petrol in the immediate future.

It is tempting to allow the matter to go by the board, and to overlook the genuine anxieties felt by many about the pollution of the atmosphere by lead poisoning. May I suggest to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, who is to reply to the debate, that a compromise may exist? If we cannot look forward to the production of lead-free petrol, and if we cannot come forward with a report that reassures people that they are concerning themselves needlessly, should we not decide on a reasonable middle course? We should consider introducing legislation to ensure that by a certain date every motor vehicle in Britain has a filter fitted to its exhaust system.

I have been reliably informed by people in the scientific world that, although that would not wholly eliminate the effect upon the atmosphere from lead fumes, it would make a substantial contribution. I believe that that proposal merits consideration by the Government.

When we decided that it would be useful, even desirable, to fit seat belts to motor vehicles, a date was fixed after which all new vehicles had to be fitted with seat belts. Subsequently, a date was fixed after which all vehicles had to be fitted with seat belts. Would it be possible for the Government to consider fixing a date after which a filter should be fitted to the exhaust system of all vehicles? That could be carried out progressively. Many fear that lead has an effect upon health, especially in regard to children. That effect could be largely reduced through the fitting of a simple device, which would cost little and which motorists would be given a reasonable time to carry out.

The second matter to which I wish to draw the attention of the House also relates to motor vehicles. I wish to underline the problems arising from drinking and driving. I doubt whether I have any need to re-emphasise the enormous dangers that present themselves as a result of people drinking and driving. The statistics are there for all to see. Yet it is an inescapable fact that all the propaganda to which we have turned our hand does not appear to have been effective. Have we sufficiently explored the possibility of providing an incentive to those who might otherwise be encouraged to drink and drive not to do so? I suggest to the Government, and especially to the Ministry of Transport, that they should discuss with the insurance companies the possibility of excluding cover for damage to a motor vehicle if the incident is one in which it could be proved that the driver had been driving under the influence of alcohol above the legal limit.

I wish to make it clear that I am not suggesting that motor insurance should become party to allowing motorists to drive without cover. The minimum cover that is required by the Road Traffic Act 1937 must be maintained, irrespecsive of the state of the driver. However, conditions are already laid down by insurance companies about the applicability of policy cover. For example, it is possible that the first £50, or a higher figure, should be paid by the insured person under certain circumstances. Is it taking the matter very much further to suggest that cover in respect of damage to a vehicle should not apply if the insured person—or another authorised driver under the policy—is driving while having alcohol in his bloodstream above the legal limit?

As is often the case, reference is made to drinking and driving, but no mention is made of the fact that at different times almost everyone visits a doctor who prescribes drugs but rarely tells the person " Don't drive while you are taking that, because it can slow up your reflexes." As a result, people take their tablets, get in the car and drive off. Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that the medical profession should warn people, because driving under the influence of drugs is just as bad, and many people do it but are not aware of the dangers?

I do not challenge what the hon. Gentleman said. That is a parallel, and perhaps equal, difficulty. However, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I concentrate my attention on an area which undoubtedly causes greater distress to the public than even the area to which he drew my attention. Although I would be prepared to move on to the consideration that he put forward, I believe there is great urgency for positive action to be taken by the Government in discussions with the insurance business.

I have reason to believe that the insurance business would not be unreceptive to such a suggestion. Because of the carnage which undoubtedly results from drunken driving, I strongly urge that before we rise for the Spring Recess the Ministry of Transport should make representations to insurance interests, particularly to the British Insurance Association, to see whether some sort of additional incentive can be given. Clearly propaganda has failed. It might just be that financial incentive would succeed.

4.3 pm

I should explain at the outset that it is not my intention to detain the House for any great length of time, nor is it my intention to deny hon. Members access to the Whitsun Recess. However, it would be a tragedy if the House were to adjourn without giving some consideration to an issue that is causing anxiety and concern in Manchester. I refer to the serious overcrowding at Strangeways prison.

I do not raise this matter on a party political basis, because I accept that the overcrowding conditions at Strangeways have built up over a number of years, but at the present time, I believe, overcrowding there is now at a critical level, it is serious and it is giving cause for concern.

As the House will recall, Strangeways prison was built in 1868 to provide accommodation for 1,059 prisoners. The current occupancy figure is 1,755. Of those prisoners, 432 are allocated two to a cell and 687 are living and sleeping three to a cell. Because of the overcrowding, it is not unknown for prisoners at Strangeways to be locked in their cells for 23 of the 24 hours of the day. In my view, human beings are entitled to be treated better than that.

Is it any wonder that the distinguished governor of the prison, Mr. Norman Brown—a man not given to dramatics or exaggerations—has been quoted in a newspaper report as saying:
" If we don't tackle this situation we are going to have riots and serious problems "?
He went on to say:
" It is an ever-present fear that one day we will have a crisis on our hands—it could happen in the exercise yard, on the landings, in the workshops."
Given the prospects of a long hot summer, the governor, a dedicated prison staff and the community in the city are understandably anxious about the developing situation. At the present time, the prison is taking 20 to 30 overflow prisoners from the Armley gaol, in Leeds, and because of the collapse of buildings at the Risley remand centre, near Warrington, in Lancashire. Strangeways is obliged to take an additional 200 to 300 of what are termed " remand and trial prisoners ".

I am amazed at what has happened to the physical fabric of the Risley remand centre. It is suggested that it was caused by a fault in the cement, but the structure of the centre is virtually disintegrating. Sections have been closed, as a result of which Strangeways must take an additional 200 to 300 remand and trial prisoners.

Along with other hon. Members, I listened the other day to the Home Secretary's serious statement dealing with overcrowding in Britain's prisons. He suggested that shorter sentences might bring relief to the problem of overcrowding. That was a logical argument, but I had the feeling that I had heard it before. I heard it on a previous occasion when we were seeking to justify the introduction of suspended sentences. At that time it was argued that such sentences would lead to a solution of the overcrowding problem in Britain's prisons. However, overcrowding is still with us at a critical level, certainly in Strangeways.

The community in Manchester is seeking a Government assurance on two points —I would welcome a statement by the Leader of the House on them—that repairs to the fabric of the Risley remand centre will be pursued with a new urgency and that an early decision will be made on the construction of the proposed new prison at Appleton Thorn, in Lancashire.

It may well be that by watching that delightful and homourous television series " Porridge ", the public have developed a light-hearted view of life in Britain's prisons, but I can assure the House that serving a prison sentence at Strangeways is no joke.

I hope that the Leader of the House will be able to comment on this urgent issue. I believe that we owe action now to a dedicated prison staff at Strangeways and to the prisoners themselves. The need for urgency on this issue has never been greater.

4.10 pm

This is the first time that I have participated in a debate on an Adjournment motion in the 10 years that I have been a Member of the House. Nevertheless, I do not intend to detain the House for very long. I wish to raise three important issues, but before doing so I wish to support the right hon. Member for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. Morris). I once had occasion to visit a constituent who was serving a term of imprisonment in Strangeways gaol. I found the conditions in that prison horrifying beyond words. I hope that something can be done to meet the legitimate arguments that the right hon. Gentleman has presented.

First, the House should not adjourn for the Spring Recess until we have had an indication from the Government of the action that they intend to take on income increases in the next 12 months. This morning the provisional March index of average earnings was published. It showed an increase of 20 per cent. in earnings over the past 12 months. That compares with an increase of slightly under 15 per cent. in March 1979, and so represents an acceleration in the increase in earnings of one-third over the past year. Clearly free collective bargaining is not working very well.

It is important that there should be an early indication of the Government's intentions on pay, because today's figures, albeit provisional, represent the position near the end of the current wage and salary bargaining round. In the near future the various bodies concerned with pay negotiations will start to prepare their cases for the next round. They will do so against a background of a 20 per cent. annual rate of inflation. They will do so with the near certainty that even if import prices—that includes oil prices— remain stable over the next 12 months the increase in earnings over the past 12 months will mean that we shall have an annual inflation rate of about 12 per cent. for the next year. In such circumstances it seems important and urgent that the Government should give a lead about the size of settlements in the next round.

I appreciate that the Government are opposed to an incomes policy, although they are not in all circumstances opposed to a freeze. However, a freeze is not a viable proposition if inflation is in double figures. If, as it is now, it is running at about 20 per cent., a freeze is just not on. The Government should enter into negotiations at an early stage with the CBI and the TUC to try to reach an agreement about the maximum percentage increase in the next wage and salary round.

Does my hon. Friend agree that every time we have had a norm for a maximum increase it has become the minimum increase, and everybody has got more than that? Does he agree that we do not want to go down that path again?

There is some truth in what my hon. Friend says, but it is not the whole truth. I am arguing for a maximum percentage increase to be set. I am not certain exactly what that should be, but I think that it should be about 12 per cent. If the Government take early action—I emphasise that there is not much time to spare—they will make a real contribution to reducing the rate of inflation.

The reduction of inflation is of especial importance to my constituents. Already the joint industrial council for the Leek and district textile and clothing industries has settled on a wage increase of 12½ per cent. for 1981, to start on the first Monday of 1981. In the circumstances, I believe that that is a sensible and responsible settlement, which reflects great credit on the unions and employers in my constituency. If all industries behave with the same responsibility I think that we shall have taken a real step towards reducing the rate of inflation.

I am worried, however, that in the absence of an early lead from the Government that will not happen. I am rather worried that others may go for much larger settlements than my constituents, and that my constituents' responsibility may well be rewarded by their having to pay excessive price increases in 12 months' time consequent upon irresponsible wage and salary settlements elsewhere.

My second reason for saying that the House should not adjourn for the Spring recess is that the Government must first take action to deal with the serious unemployment in the town of Biddulph, in my constituency. In October 1964 there were 94 people out of work in Biddulph. By June 1970 unemployment had increased to 163. It fell back to 130 in February 1974. However, it increased to 294 in May 1979. On 10 April 1980, which is the most recent date for which I have figures, there were 494 persons out of work in the town.

My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will notice from these figures that unemployment in Biddulph fell during the administration of the previous Conservative Government and increased during the administrations of the previous two Labour Governments. Be that as it may, it is unemployment today that matters. In Biddulph it is now more than five times higher than in 1964, a mere 16 years ago. In the past year one large firm—Cowlishaw and Walker—has closed down, with over 300 redundancies. The same thing has happened to smaller firms in the area. It is obvious that the situation in Biddulph is serious. There is a dark cloud hanging over the town and the people are naturally worried about their future.

North Staffordshire people are hardworking. Labour relations in the area are good. All that is needed is a little Government assistance in Biddulph. If that were forthcoming, Biddulph, through the efforts of its people, could soon regain its previous economic prosperity.

Thirdly, I do not believe that the House should adjourn until the Government announce their intentions to reform or, better still, abolish, the domestic rating system. If my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Hicks) catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I understand that he wishes to say rather more about the rating system. The present system is grossly inequitable. It is disliked throughout the country. In recent years my constituents have suffered substantial rate increases. In a low wage and salary earning area that has resulted in considerable reductions in living standards. A measure of the disapproval that they feel for the system was indicated in the general election in May 1979, when a ratepayer candidate— he was probably the only one in the country—polled 1,451 votes in the Leek parliamentary constituency.

It will take some time to reform the domestic rating system and even longer to get rid of it. Time is not on the Government's side. We need an early statement about their intentions, and that means before the Spring Recess.

4.18 pm

I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to employment on Mersey-side, especially in Liverpool. The impact that it is having in the area that I represent is catastrophic. We now learn that the second round of redundancies is starting to emerge. The larger-volume redundancies in individual firms have ceased and redundancies are now being announced in secondary industries. We are hearing of pockets of redundancy. They are being announced a few hundred at a time. Jobs are in jeopardy and the future is uncertain for many.

Some redundancies are inevitable. The Leader of the House will be aware that on Merseyside, and especially in Liverpool, there is an inner city partnership. One of the policies of the Government within that partnership is to make a real attempt to provide alternative employment. That has to be done against the background that the port is not providing the employment that it once did. On the river 10 or 15 years ago there were 9,000 or 10,000 work people directly employed. There are 18,000 employed on the docks. The shipbuilding and ship repairing industries employed between 20,000 and 25,000. That employment did not include ancillary services, suppliers and transport that served the port, industry, shipbuilding and ship repairing.

I learnt with distress that one of the last remaining groups of ship repairers is now in great difficulty. The group of CBS and Gordon Allison is well known. It is a small ship repairing undertaking on Merseyside. It provides a specialist service. It has offered this service and performed it efficiently and well. Jobs have been put in jeopardy because some orders have been lost. I understand that there is little hope that other orders can be attracted in sufficient time to stop redundancies altogether. Nevertheless, this may be a time when the inner city partnership can be given an impetus by taking this as a marker to look at prospects for the port, for ship repairing and for shipbuilding, and to see whether, in the remaining months of this year, it is possible to rekindle that specialist activity on the River Mersey.

I bring to the attention of the House the problem still facing sugar refining. There is a degree of uncertainty on Merseyside about this matter. The financial columns, which indicate that the British Sugar Corporation may be subjected to other financial arrangements, cause anxiety, to say the least, among those who are still employed in sugar refining.

There is another aspect of that problem. Confectionary is suffering a recession. Taverner Rutledge and Barker and Dobson are suffering from a diminution of orders. People probably do not have the money in their pockets to buy additional sweets and chocolate. That is having an impact on the industry.

The problem goes further. It extends to cakes and other forms of food. Scotts bakery is in the final process of making all its confectionery workers redundant, much to the alarm of the people who have run the industry for so long. In- deed, the family that owns that business is gravely concerned at what can happen if the redundancies have to be made.

There is an overspill effect. This problem touches not only confectionery— fortunately, the bakery is still in full production. There is a roll-on effect in the sugar refining industry, sugar confectionery and bakeries.

At least another 20 small industries in Liverpool and on Merseyside are in jeopardy. Not all these industries are situated in my constituency, but some of the people who work in them live there.

I bring this matter to the attention of the House because I believe that the time has come, before we go away for the Whitsun Recess, for the Leader of the House to arrange with his colleagues to see a deputation of Merseyside Members of Parliament, either collectively, on an all-party basis, or individually, according to the wishes of individual hon. Members, to review what prospects there are for the Government to salvage at least something from what is almost a wreck and to use the inner city partnership as the vehicle to do it.

I know that the Leader of the House will not take offence when I say that all the plans and platitudes in the world and all the prospectuses that may be put on paper and put to a committee, will have no effect unless, consequential to all those things, something tangible starts to emerge. As yet, nothing tangible has emerged. The time has come for that to begin.

4.23 pm

I support the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn and Hatfield (Mr. Murphy) about family responsibility. Independently of what he said, I wish to speak on another aspect of that most important problem.

I do not believe that we should adjourn for the Whitsun Recess until we have debated the whole question of what is now called sex education, the rights of parents in this matter and the activities of certain pressure groups in this area. The subject was barely touched on in debates on the recent Health Services Bill, although an attempt was made to raise it in the other place. For something like 1,500 years this has been a Christian country where traditional morality has prevailed and where the Christian ethic of chastity before marriage and fidelity afterwards has been held up as an ideal. Now all that has been challenged, and the State itself has not been blameless.

I took part in the debates on the National Health Service Reorganisation Bill in 1973 when Mr. Speaker himself made a distinguished contribution. I protested at that time at contraceptives being made freely available by the State to single as well as to married people and to children as well as to adults.

The State has also seen fit to intervene in the controversy whether doctors should prescribe contraceptive devices to children under the age of 16 without informing their parents, although the DHSS has recently modified its attitude in this respect. It seems to me a pity that the State should intervene at all in this intimate and private matter between doctors, children and their parents.

Lady Brook, of the Brook Advisory Centres, thinks quite differently. In a letter to The Times on 16 February, which has become quite notorious, she said:
" From birth till death it is now the privilege of the parental State to take major decisions— objective, unemotional, the State weighs up what is best for the child."
That seems a terrifying doctrine, the end of which one dare not see.

Since our debates on this subject, there has been an enormous increase in what I can only call the sex education industry which, not only by teaching in the classroom, conferences, propaganda and so on, but by a considerable number of pamphlets, has forced its minority view on the public at large. My prime objection to its view is that it cheapens the sexual act. It treats it as a purely physical thing without any mention of the mental and emotional issues involved. By all its propaganda for what it calls " sexual freedom ", it is in fact undermining the institution of the family, which is the basis of our civilisation.

There are two bodies which are primarily concerned in this sinister campaign—the Family Planning Association and what are called the Brook Advisory Centres. The name "Family Planning Association " suggests stability and respectability, which is far from the case, whereas the Brook Advisory Centres are so revolutionary in their approach to sexual and family morality that there is not even a pretence of respectability.

The pamphlets of both concerns are written in such a vulgar and tasteless way that I shall not burden the House with more than a small number of quotations. The whole of their theme is not the need for self-control in sexual relationships but the necessity at once, and at the earliest possible age, for girls to take precautions against having a baby.

This is a positive encouragement to indulge in sexual intercourse from an early age, coupled with the sinister suggestion that everyone is having sexual intercourse with everyone else all the time and that is the most normal and natural thing in the world. I call that damnable advice. It is based on an entirely false premise, is addressed to young people at a most impressionable age and is tantamount to an encouragement to the widest promiscuity, with the result that fornication and even adultery would appear to be a normal condition of affairs.

The latest pamphlet was sent to all Members of Parliament by the Brook Advisory Centres only a few days ago. Those colleagues of mine whom I have asked about this have said that they put it in the waste paper basket without reading it—and quite rightly. Its tone can be taken from its title: " Safe Sex for Teenagers ". It might just as well be " Safe Bathing for Teenagers ", for sex is treated as of no more moral concern than bathing or any other harmless physical activity. Also, I object to the term " sex " as shorthand for sexual intercourse, which is what is really meant. The introduction has the cheek, in its first sentence, to say
" The last 20 years has seen a revolution in teenage sexual behaviour "—
a revolution for which bodies such as the Brook Advisory Centres bear a great responsibility.

I shall not burden the House with the many other pamphlets which are produced, some of them very well known, such as " The Little Red School Book " by the Family Planning Association, and "Make It Happy—What Sex Is All About", published by Virago Press— which I hope one day will be suppressed.

The commercial pressures behind this propaganda are particularly sinister. These bodies are purveying their irresponsible views to increase their sales. That is something to which the whole House will object very strongly.

We live in an age of propaganda and public relations, and the views expressed by the new sexual morality lobby are fully backed up by much of the media— whose representatives are no doubt taking down every word that I am saying this afternoon. I mean, of course, television, wireless, newspapers and magazines—all suggesting or actually inviting young people to engage in promiscuous sexual activity. There is no concern about and hardly a mention of ordered responsible personal relationships and that restraint which is essential to any civilised society. The harm done to these young people's minds by this sort of propaganda is incalculable and makes the job of parents, teachers, clergy, youth leaders and so on much more difficult.

Therefore, I hope that the Government will withdraw the grants which they make to these bodies. Above all, I hope that the Department of Education and Science and the Department of Health and Social Security will insist that no teaching about sexual behaviour can be given in the classroom without the fullest consultation with parents. Now that, unfortunately, the influence of the Church is far weaker in our country than it used to be in matters of morality, I believe that it is up to the State and to Members of Parliament to take up the challenge. I believe that most parents still want to be bring up their children with traditional standards of morality. Therefore, it is up to this House to help them to ward off challenges from these disagreeable bodies, which, if left unchecked, would in a short time build another dark age in this land.

4.34 pm

I shall not follow the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) too deeply into his dissertation on sex education. His allegation that the traditional moralities prevailed in the past interested me, for the more that we learn of the Victorian and Edwardian upper and middle classes, the more I am convinced that the only place in which it prevailed was among the working classes and that the period about which he was talking was a period of great hypocrisy.

The hon. Member was right to refer to the commercialisation of sex—but one cannot blame organisations such as the Brook Advisory Centres or the teachers who teach such matters for that. As one who taught boys and girls between the ages of 11 and 16 for 20 years, I can tell the hon. Member that there is still, not not only among children but among parents, a great ignorance about sex and a great need for sex education. Sometimes schools have to fill the gap which would otherwise exist.

I was interested, too, in the remarks of the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Knox) when he demanded of the Government the abolition of the rating system. He could have reminded the House that the present Prime Minister, in an election speech, promised a 9½ per cent. maximum mortgage interest rate, the abolition of domestic rating, and the switching of teachers' pay to the national Exchequer. I do not think that the hon. Member will see any of those developments in the lifetime of the present Government. If the Conservatives are to abolish domestic rating, the money must come from some form of taxation—probably from income tax, and the present Government would not like that.

I do not think that the House should rise for the Whitsun Recess without considering the effect of the Government's policies on young families. On 29 April, I put a question to the Prime Minister asking her to
" take time today to consider more carefully than she has in the past the effect of her various Departments' policies on young families ".
I said:
" Will she ask herself whether such families are being asked to bear too great a part of the sacrifices which she is demanding? "
The right hon. Lady had said in a previous speech that our standard of living had risen by 6 per cent. in the past year. I asked:
" Has the standard of living of young families gone up by 6 per cent.? "
The reply was interesting, although the right hon. Lady did not answer either of my questions. She said:
" With regard to the Government's policy on families, I believe that it is most important to leave families with a greater proportion of their own income—their own earnings—to spend in their own way. The standard of living of a family must come not from the Government but from the action of the breadwinner.
With regard to specific measures, I believe that it will be of great help to families when more of them can purchase council houses because that will fulfil an ambition for many people. I also believe that it will be of great help to families that the family income supplement is going up by one-third."—[Official Report, April 1980; Vol. 983, c. 1149–50.]
The fact that the right hon. Lady gave those four points to me showed either her ignorance or her lack of care about what is actually happening, not only in families on supplementary benefit or family income supplement but in a great many more as well.

The right hon. Lady talked about leaving them a greater proportion of their own income. But in the last 12 months they have not been able to retain a greater proportion of their income. Some of them may have had a tiny reduction in income tax, but what they have had to pay through other taxes has more than compensated for that. Therefore, it is not true that for the vast majority of young families she has done that.

According to the right hon. Lady, the action of the breadwinner is more important than the actions of the Government in regard to the standard of living. What advice will the right hon. Lady give to the breadwinner who has just lost his job, such as one of the constitutents of the hon. Member for Leek, among the extra 200 there unemployed in the last 12 months, where there are no jobs and where Government policy is seeing to it that there are no more jobs?

On the sale of council houses, whether people can buy their own council house or any other house is irrelevant to a great many people with young families in the face of present problems. Indeed, people who have families and who are making mortgage repayments are among those facing the greatest problems as a result of what has happened in the past 12 months. All hon Members will know of people who are experiencing great difficulty in paying their mortgages. I am not referring to those who propose to buy or have bought council houses. I am talking about those who are faced by an enormous rise in their mortgage payments.

Only last week, I heard about a couple with four children in my constituency. From the Prime Minister's point of view, they have done all the right things. Two years ago, the parents struggled to buy a terraced house. With the prospect of a Conservative Government in view, they moved to a bigger house and took on a bigger mortgage. The mortgage rate then increased. As a result of an operation, the wife will be away from work for almost a year, and they cannot cope with their mortgage. I suggested that the building society might be able to help by letting them off their repayments on the capital sum. However, the building society pointed out that the amount being paid hardly paid for the interest, let alone the capital.

The couple decided to sell the house. All hon. Members will know that it is difficult to sell houses now. The family is caught in a cleft stick. It cannot get the money to pay the mortgage and it cannot move into a smaller house. It faces eviction, and the council will have to deal with those people as if they were homeless.

The Prime Minister referred to people qualifying for family income supplement. A couple with two children, earning £60 a week gross, receive 30p a week in family income supplement. Those just above that level have suffered a fall in income in the past 12 months. Of those considered poor enough to receive family income supplement, three-quarters pay back some of it in income tax. That is one of the nonsenses that the Budget has made worse. So much for the Prime Minister's ideas on how to help young families who have been hard hit as a result of the Government's policies.

What have the other Ministers been doing? Many have introduced Bills. All of those Bills have been designed to worsen services by forcing cuts in education, housing, social services and social security benefits. A young family with children at or below school leaving age needs those services the most. Parents will have to pay more for their children's school meals. If they live in an area with a Tory council, they will find that that council will make even bigger cuts in education than the Government have done. It is typical of the Government's attitude that they have decided to pay millions of pounds on an assisted places scheme. Last week they announced that they would close the Centre for Advice and Information on Disadvantage in Education in order to save a few thousand pounds.

The Department of Health and Social Security has also played its part. There is insufficient time to go through the many decisions that it has made that will make life worse for the average family. My right hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) went through those decisions during the debate on the guillotine motion on 6 May. One example of such a decision is the freezing of increases in child benefit. Those Conservative Members whom the Prime Minister calls " wets " are just as worried about that as we are. Many parents are demonstrating today against the Government's actions during the past year. They should realise that there is worse to come.

The Green Paper entitled " Income During Initial Illness: A New Strategy " is a pretty strong document. According to that paper, employers would have to find a flat rate payment of £30 a week. Families with children will discover that that is below the present sickness benefit. In addition, it is taxable, although present sickness benefit is not. Part-time workers—including many mothers—will receive less than £30.

The proposed abolition of earnings-related supplement in 1982 will affect those families who suddenly find themselves in difficulties. This year, invalidity benefit will be cut in real terms. Many parents of young children are on invalidity benefit. The children's addition will be increased by only 5 per cent. when there is an inflation rate of 20 per cent.

The indirect effect of the actions and threats of the Secretary of State for the Environment will have a great impact on young families. Such families use the social services more than others. Conditions in schools will worsen. Facilities for child welfare, nursery education, libraries and recreation will become worse. All those facilities affect families. Some Ministers may say that local councils must decide how to spend their money. The Secretary of State for the Environment does not say that. He is threatening them. In my area, the housing investment programme has been cut by 36 per cent. during the past year. That area had planned a reasonable programme of new building and housing improvements, and those cuts will prove a disaster.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has played his part in the attack on families. More and more families will face the poverty trap as a result of the Budget. A family which only just receives family income supplement and receives a wage rise of £1 a week will lose 50p of the income supplement, and will pay 30p more tax and £1·75 a week more per child for school dinners. In addition, families will also lose help in paying their fuel bills. When the breadwinner takes action and gets a rise, the family will be worse off.

If the father had been paying tax at 83 per cent.—not many of my constituents pay that amount, although there may well be some in the Hitchin area that do —he will now pay tax at only 60 per cent. Such families will be better off. The major problem facing families, and the reason why some are demonstrating today, is an inflation rate of 20 per cent. The Prime Minister said that our standard of living had increased by 6 per cent. during the past year. However, on the following day it was announced that the inflation rate was 19·5 per cent. with a probable addition of 1½ per cent. resulting from the Budget.

The hon. Member for Leek spoke about textile workers accepting a wage settlement of 12½ per cent. That is a result of free collective bargaining, free enterprise and non-interference by the Government. We know why they have accepted 12½ per cent. and why the miners have not. The demand for textile workers is not as great. The hon. Member for Leek will find that, as a result of the Government's policies, unemployment in his constituency will increase at a faster rate. Those who remain employed will face decreases in their real wages.

During the election, the Prime Minister's shopping bag was conspicuous in front of television cameras. She should take that bag, disguise herself a bit— that would be wise—and listen to conversations at various supermarket checkouts and shops where people on average or below average incomes work. She would hear much to her disadvantage. Many fathers and mothers have gone to work today, despite the TUC's call. The Government should not think that that indicates support for the Prime Minister's policies. People cannot afford to take an unpaid day off. On 1 May they showed what they thought of the Tory policies of the past 12 months. Unless the Government listen and learn, they will not only suffer election defeats. The frustrations of those who do not have the opportunity, as we do, to talk directly to the Government will boil over. Young mothers as well as organised workers will take days of action.

4.50 pm

In spite of the pessimism of the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Marks) about the success of representations from my hon. Friends and myself over reform of the domestic rating system, we still feel that, before the House rises for the Whit-sun Recess, the Government should make a statement confirming their intention to introduce the necessary legislation in the next Session of Parliament to bring about fundamental reform of the domestic rating system.

I appreciate that circumstances change, and that Governments must respond to new situations as they arise. In view of the very real increase in the level of domestic rates, it is appropriate to remind the House of the Conservative Party's intentions on this matter in the October 1974 election manifesto. I point out that in my constituency the recent increase to householders was 21·4 per cent., and, in addition, the water and sewerage charges have risen by similar amounts. These charges are both based on the outdated concept of rateable values.

In the election manifesto to which I have referred, we stated that within the lifetime of a Parliament we would abolish the domestic rating system and replace it with a more broadly-based tax, related to people's ability to pay. Some of my hon. Friends may say that that manifesto pledge was given a long time ago. We did not win that election, but had we done so the electorate would have expected us to honour our commitment. Many people still remember the Tory Party for that October 1974 election commitment and, on that basis, they have continued to vote Tory. The British electorate does not consist of as many mugs as some people like to believe.

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

The doctrine of the mandate is a recondite one, and volumes have been written about it. If a political party puts proposals before the electorate at an election and the electorate rejects that party and what it put forward, those proposals are not binding on the rejected party.

But I shall seek to relate to the House further statements made by Conservative Front Bench Members which did not end when we lost the October 1974 general election.

That pledge to abolish domestic rates was given against the background of substantial rate increases which took place in April 1974, particularly in rural areas, as a direct consequence of the Labour Government's decision to alter the balance of the rate support grant in favour of the urban areas. In Caradon, in my constituency, this change imposed an increase of £30 a year on every household. I was unhappy about the situation at the time and later that year I raised the matter in an Adjournment debate. Subsequently, in response to pressure from all parts of the House, the then Labour Government established the Lay-field committee to investigate local government finance. When that committee reported, the then Secretary of State for the Environment, the right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore) made a statement to the House on 19 May 1977, acknowledging that the rating system needed substantial reform, although he said that he agreed with the conclusion of Layfield that it would be wrong to abolish domestic rates.

My right hon. Friend, the present Secretary of State for the Environment, who was then the Opposition spokesman on environmental matters, made the Conservative Party's position very clear. I refer the House to his statement on that same day. He said:
" Will the Secretary of State understand that the rating proposals that he has put forward are quite unacceptable to the Opposition, who believe that his announcement about rates, particularly in an economic climate of high inflation and high income taxes, will simply make the present bad system worse? "—[Official Report, 19 May 1977; Vol. 932, c. 715.]
I would have thought that there was a continuing process of commitment, and that my party was committed to some action on the rating system.

Indeed, in the 1979 manifesto we again made a commitment, although it was relegated in status. We said:
" Labour's extravagance and incompetence have once again imposed a heavy burden on ratepayers this year. But cutting income tax must take priority for the time being over the abolition of the domestic rating system."
However, in my view this is a subject that cannot be dismissed, nor will it remain dormant. Because of recent rate increases public concern about the inequities of the existing basis of rating have again manifested themselves. I have had a considerable post on this matter in recent weeks and I know that I am not alone. There is an early-day motion on the Order Paper signed by 50 of my hon. Friends.

On 24 April 1980 I wrote to the Secretary of State, and in his reply on 7 May he said:
" It does, however, remain our longer-term objective to abolish domestic rating and we are currently looking at all the possible future alternatives... Please be assured that we do take the whole rating matter very seriously, and are actively seeking ways to improve the position."
The estimated income from domestic rates in 1979 was £2,700 million. This represents, on current figures, about 5½p in the pound on income tax at present levels. But there are 26 million taxpayers in this country and the number of ratepayers is significantly fewer. Those ratepayers carry a disproportionate burden, especially when one remembers that we all share the services provided out of the rates. This is an unfairness which is certainly highlighted in my constituency where average earnings are 14 per cent. below the national average and where 18 per cent. of the electorate comprises persons who are living on retirement pensions or other fixed incomes.

I hold that a growing number of my hon. Friends believe that it is imperative for the Government at an early date to confirm their intention to introduce legislation, not only on fundamental reform of the rating system, but to bring in a suitable alternative method of funding local government expenditure. Like me, my right hon. Friend is run second in his local constituency by a minority party. In the West Country we do not forget that there is an economic price that the person on a low income or a retired person on a fixed income can afford to pay. I remind my right hon. Friend of that. There is also a political price that they will be prepared to pay. The Government can take positive action to alleviate the problem. An early commitment is necessary.

5 pm

There are two issues which I feel should be debated before the House adjourns. I shall deal briefly with the first. The second is rather more substantial.

We must have a debate on the Government's Green Paper which reviews the Public Order Act. A few weeks ago in Lewisham, we had a second National Front march. I have criticised the police in the past. However, on this day, when Stephen Hickling, a young constable in Lewisham, had his hand blown off and his arm amputated at the elbow, the whole House wish to send good wishes to this young 19-year-old and the other policemen who were taken to hospital. We hope that his eyesight can be saved. I talked this morning to his father and to the local commander, and there is every hope that it can be.

In 1978 a National Front march took place through Lewisham. The three local Members of Parliament, the local council, the bishops, the clergy and many other people assured the Commissioner of Police that there would be severe disorder if it took place. They even went to court over it. The Commissioner of Police knew better. The disorder was appalling. It could have been prevented by legislation passed by this House in 1936. Retrospectively, I believe that everyone agrees that the march should have been banned.

A few weeks ago, just before a sensitive GLC by-election, another march took place. Happily, there were comparatively few arrests and hardly any injuries. The House should, however, debate the financial cost. The Commissioner's estimate is £300,000, but press reports suggest that that is a low estimate, bearing in mind the enormous disruption.

The Government have issued a Green Paper on the review of the 1936 Public Order Act, the initial work having been done by the previous Administration. It suggests that cost, disruption and offence to the local community might be grounds on which marches were banned, in addition to the single ground presently in the Public Order Act—the possibility of a breakdown in public order. The Green Paper is tentative, and I ask the Government for a statement.

It is absurd that in London alone in 1978, £2·5 million was spent on policing such demonstrations. National Front marches are deeply offensive, particularly when, as in 1978, they are deliberately routed through immigrant areas. They cause terrible disruption. A few weeks ago the South Circular road was closed for about five hours and lost holiday-makers were wandering the highways and byways of my constituency. The march caused severe loss to tradesmen and others who wanted to carry on their businesses.

I hope that the Government will accept that the decision of the London borough of Lewisham to withhold its police precept results partly from frustration at not being able to get such issues properly discussed. It hardly lies in the mouths of Ministers to condemn Lewisham for threatening to withhold its legally due precept when the Prime Minister sets a splendid example by threatening to withhold our legally due precept to Europe because she wants a little more control over what goes on there.

The substantial issue that I wish to raise concerns the National Association for Mental Health and the Government's policy towards mental health. Are they still giving priority to mental illness and handicap, as they said? A scurrilous campaign against MIND is being pursued inside and outside the House by the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee). I object particularly to the allegations against the director. The campaign is uncharacteristic and unworthy of the hon. Gentleman. We have sat on Select Committees together, and we have not done all the things that the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) talked of earlier.

There is concern about our special hospitals. No one can remain unconcerned, having seen the television programme about Rampton. Members of the all-party mental health group have visited Rampton and other special hospitals. The all-party mental health group, which has been serviced by MIND for many years, cannot be accused of being irresponsible. The hon. Members for Plymouth, Drake (Miss Fookes) and for Cheltenham (Mr. Irving) cannot be accused of being dangerous Marxists. The group comprises a cross-section of individuals concerned about mental health and handicap.

MIND has been funded by the Government for many years. It provides, week by week, essential services to some of the most distressed and unhappy people in our society. Its existence is in jeopardy because a tiny number of Conservatives are trying to get its grant withdrawn. It has been substantially funded by the DHSS, and could not exist without it. I know intimately many of its operations and am acquainted with many of its workers, who work for a pittance compared with the money that they could earn elsewhere. They have a continuous barrage of telephone calls for help from distressed people.

MIND still does not know whether it is to get any money this year from the DHSS, because there have been nasty little motions on the Order Paper, such as that last Friday entitled "Treatment of Mental Health " in the name of the hon. Member for Wokingham. That motion read:
" To call attention to the problems of the treatment of mental health … and in that connection, before further public funds are made available to it, would welcome a public inquiry into the administration of the National Association for Mental Health ".
No doubt a public inquiry would cost a great deal, and I am sure that the Secretary of State for Social Services has not the slightest intention of holding one. However, I hope that the Leader of the House will say something to reassure not only this worthwhile charity, but the many mentally-ill and mentally-handicapped people in this country who go to it for help, and that he will be able to tell us that it will have a long-term future and will not be chopped off because of a political campaign that has been started by Conservative Back Benchers for reasons that I fail to understand.

The operations of MIND are taking place against a background of cuts. I know that the Secretary of State has said that he wants mental illness and mental handicap to retain their present priority, and I appreciate the fact that the right hon. Gentleman is here for the debate, but I must remind him of the saga of the Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham area health authority and the commissioners. Mentally-ill patients were moved from St. Olave's hospital where they had access to a park, a garden and reasonable conditions to the fourth-floor of a tower block at Guy's hospital. Many of those patients were driven to mental illness partly by living in the tower blocks which we ought never to have built in the 1960s. No one could see that as a satisfactory way of dealing with mentally-ill people.

The problems remain, and there is a desperate need for an organisation at arm's length from the Government—not within the DHSS—that can campaign on these issues to try to get more money and, more than anything else, more awareness of the increasing problems of the mentally ill and mentally handicapped.

I understand that the hon. Member for Wokingham represents members of the Prison Officers Association who act as nurses at Broadmoor. They are his constituents, and he is right to represent their interests. But we must make it clear that hospitals exist for the patients and not simply for the staff, and that allegations against staff should be properly investigated.

I do not want to go into detail on the recent allegations that have been made about events at Broadmoor. The all-party mental health group intends to visit Broadmoor. We have discussed the issue with Dr. McGrath at a meeting at the House. There are matters of great concern, particularly the use of electroconvulsive therapy without sedatives. That is something about which the whole psychiatric community is worried, but Dr. McGrath did not give an assurance that it would cease at Broadmoor.

In a sense, MIND can look after itself; it has much sympathy within the DHSS. However, the hon. Member for Wokingham, in backing up his campaign, has made allegations that the director of MIND is a sympathiser of the IRA. That is an appalling and scurrilous accusation.

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for giving way and for his typical courtesy in giving me notice that he would be making personal references to me, but will he at least do me the credit of relating his remarks, to which I can take no exception, to the words that I used in the House on 20 December? I am sure that he has them with him.

The hon. Gentleman can make his own speech and quote the words that he used on 20 December. However, those are not the only words that he has used on this issue. He has pursued his campaign for some time.

The hon. Gentleman has connected Tony Smythe, the director of MIND, with the IRA. That was a scurrilous thing to do. There is an honourable tradition in the House that, if one makes such a serious allegation, one either substantiates it or withdraws it completely. I understand that the hon. Gentleman intends to speak in the debate, and I believe that, in the interests of MIND and of honour and decency in the House, he should either fully substantiate that allegation or withdraw it. The whole issue has grown too big to be left alone. It must be sorted out.

I know that a number of hon. Members take a great interest in mental health. I have done so partly because it has been brought close to me. I have had experience of the problem in my family, and I know what appalling difficulties mental illness and mental handicap can produce within families.

Uniquely in the Western world, we have a charitable organisation that has done untold good for mentally ill and mentally handicapped people. I beg the hon. Member for Wokingham to leave his campaign alone and to withdraw his allegations.

5.17 pm

I start by repeating my appreciation of the courteous reference by the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) to me and the notice that he was good enough to give me.

I confess that I am somewhat divided about whether I am happy that the issue has been raised today. In one sense, I am only too glad, because, with an increasing sense of frustration, I have been searching for a parliamentary opportunity to raise the matter. The House will know the narrow confines of many of our debates and, therefore, the difficulty of finding an appropriate time to raise the matter. To that extent I welcome this opportunity, and I am glad that the matter has been raised. As the hon. Member for Lewisham, West knows, I had been seriously contemplating raising it myself.

On the other hand, although we are grateful to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services for his courtesy in being present for the debate, a reply from my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House—able and comprehensive though it will undoubtedly be—is not the same as an answer by a Minister of the DHSS, with all its technical knowledge.

The hon. Member for Lewisham, West was good enough to say that my campaign was uncharacteristic of me. Perhaps that is true, and I therefore wish to set out the background so that the House can understand how these matters arose. I shall then deal not with what the hon. Gentleman said I said but with the words that I used on the only occasion when they have been used, certainly in the House and, as far as I know, outside it.

I start with the sequence of events. Last September, there was a meeting in Liverpool at which a nurse on the staff of Broadmoor hospital, who was at that time unidentified, made a number of allegations about the ill treatment of patients at the hospital. He was subsequently identified as a Mr. Byrne who, with the other young nurse later associated with him, has only a short period of service on the staff. He was immediately interviewed, rightly so, by senior officers of the Department. He was interviewed for the good reason that the allegations that he made, if true, amounted to criminal offences. Senior officers of the Department thereafter referred immediately to the Thames Valley constabulary at senior level the allegations made by Mr. Byrne.

The police investigation was completed. The Director of Public Prosecutions was consulted and advised that no further police action should be taken. Throughout the period, the Department of Health and Social Services acted totally and absolutely correctly, given the nature of the allegations made. Although action was fairly swift, the Department was unable to make any comment because the matter was, if I may, use the phrase, sub judice.

While that process was in train, the organisation, MIND, chose, both in its newsletter or magazine " Mind Out " in November and at a press conference, to give full publicity and every kind of publicity backing to the accusations of brutality and other misconduct made by these two young members of the staff. It did not wait. It went ahead while the Department was unable to say anything and while members of the staff, rightly, were unable to do or say anything. This is not the first time that such a technique of accusation has been used. I have lived through it before in my constituency.

Back in 1977, almost identically sensational allegations were made about another hospital in my constituency, Church Hill House, at Bracknell, that cares for the mentally handicapped. For two years, those allegations were subjected to exhaustive inquiry by a quasi judicial inquiry headed by Queen's Counsel. The cost to the Berkshire area health authority was £60,000 from public funds. I see the then Minister of Health, the right hon. Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moyle), in his place. I recall how helpful was the right hon. Gentleman, as was his Conservative successor, in the whole matter.

The report is available for any hon. Member who wishes to see it. Every charge was found to be totally baseless. I do think that I have ever seen a report in which accusations against the staff were shown to be so wholly and totally without foundation. Yet for two years—this is the point—the administrative, medical and nursing staff of that hospital lived under a cloud.

If I became a little emotional about the matter, and still do, I apologise to no one. I was rather close to the staff of the hospital at that time. Over the 20 years that I have had the honour to represent the Wokingham constituency I have also sought, as would other hon. Members in similar circumstances, to keep close to the staff of Broadmoor hospital. I think I know at first hand something of the pressures under which staff live when public accusations are made against them.

I have sought to say in the motion to which the hon. Member for Lewisham, West has drawn attention that there is an increasing tendency today for organisations of one sort or another to make public accusations, to say that because the accusations, have been made there must now be an inquiry and that those accused must prove their innocence. I shall come to the point that the hon. Gentleman raised in my own time. If I have reacted against this, I have done so because I think that those members of medical and nursing staff working in this sphere are peculiarly vulnerable because of the nature of their work. Restraint of some kind or another is often a necessary part of the treatment that they mete out. It is a proper part of the job. For that reason, they are peculiarly vulnerable.

I take the hon. Gentleman's point about Church Hill House. I hope that he will take my point. I do not think that there has been any inquiry about these particular Broadmoor allegations. One cannot express a view with certainty. Would he not agree that, of all the inquiries, which are not wholly satisfactory, from Ely onwards, into this sort of allegation in a mental illness or mental handicap hospital since the late 1960s, when great concern began to be expressed, the majority have shown that there are many wrong things that ought to be put right? For that reason, any organisation like MIND ought properly to be very concerned about these matters.

I agree with the words " ought properly to be very concerned ". That, however, is not what happened.

No, it did not. The chairman of the all-party mental health group, my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Irving), has been saying " Hear, hear." I shall make some remarks about his activities in a moment. The hon. Member for Lewisham, West is not correct. What happened is that, while the matter was sub judice, the organisation went public. This happened while the Secretary of State's hands were tied behind his back and while members of the staff were unable to say anything. That is my complaint.

It is, of course, perfectly appropriate, if there are reasons and grounds for anxiety, for a responsible body to act responsibly. I am on record in speeches in this House on the issue, as is the right hon. Member for Lewisham, East when he and I took part in debates on the matter. I should have deep concern if, in this or any other hospital, I had reason to be anxious about whether something was going seriously wrong. I am not taking the position that the staff should be supported on every issue and on every occasion.

What were the lessons that emerged from the inquiry at the hospital to which I have referred? They were that the allegations were instigated—this is on the record for anyone to see—by extreme Left-wing militant members of the staff. I am talking about Church Hill House hospital. The record shows the part played by the newspaper " Militant ". It had the luck to be assisted by a local newspaper editor anxious to sensationalise, but the thread exists for everyone to see.

That was the situation, having just received a report on one hospital, that confronted me as the constituency Member of Parliament when MIND went public. I reacted extremely roughly. I am a great believer in the Queensberry Rules, but not if others fail to use the same rules. I repeat what I said. MIND is a magnificent organisation. Its concept is splendid. It has enrolled to its voluntary service men and women of distinction. Its present chairman, known to me personally, is a person greatly respected in her particular field.

But the organisation has now got into the hands of what I have previously described, and describe again, as professional agitators. It is the permanent officials; I am not now talking about the voluntary workers. My plea to the voluntary workers is to wake up and see what is happening and take steps to control those who are in this work not because they have a concern for mental health but because they are in the business professionally.

I take the career of Mr. Tony Smythe, only because the hon. Gentleman specifically raised it. Mr. Smythe was secretary of the International Organisation of Pacificists and secretary of the National Council for Civil Liberties before becoming chief executive of MIND. In other words, he is professionally concerned with such organisations. He is not a person who has grown up in the world of mental health, who has worked in hospitals of this kind. He is not professionally concerned in this field.

That is why I drew on personal experience of Mr. Smythe's work when he was working for the NCCL. I was at that time on the receiving end of constant allegations of brutality, and worse than brutality, by the police forces and the Armed Forces. I had at least one personal interview with representatives of that organisation, and that led me to say that in his capacity
" all his interests lay on the side of the Irish Republican Army."—[Official Report, 20 December 1979; Vol. 976, c. 1056.]
I believe that they did. I stand by that assertion. I experienced it, I went through it, and I am responsible to the House for the accuracy of my statement. I believe that Mr. Smythe and his officials of that time gave every impression that that was where their sympathies lay and that they had no sympathy for the forces of law and order, just as now he gives the impression that all his interests are on the side of those making the allegations.

In fairness, I should like to add that I think that it is true to say of the NCCL that a considerably better balance was kept once Miss Hewitt became its general secretary. I say that in fairness, because I think she feels that my previous words in some way impinged on her, which they were never intended to do. Because I have been critical, I want to make that quite clear.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way a second time. Does not he agree that there is a distinction between saying that the activities of the NCCL were calculated to help the IRA—with which I would not agree, though I would defend to the death the hon. Gentleman's right to say it—and implying that in some way Mr. Tony Smythe sympathises with the activities and methods of gunmen and murderers? It is that implication that many people in both political parties feel it is unworthy for someone such as the hon. Gentleman to have made. I did not have the impression that he was continuing to make it in the carefully weighed words that he has just uttered. I think that he would do himself and the whole House a service if he would make it clear that he is not making that allegation.

I have used exactly the same words as I used on 20 December. That is why I was so careful. That is precisely why I intervened in the hon. Gentleman's speech and asked him, if he is to attack me, which is perfectly reasonable, at least to do so in his usual fair way on the basis of words that I used. It is true that he has drawn further inferences from that. The context in which I have used these words makes it clear that I was talking of Mr. Smythe's professional work in his NCCL capacity.

By comparison with everything else, this is a detail, but, if it assists, I of course make clear that I was not seeking for one moment to suggest that Mr. Smythe indulged in or personally supported the kind of activity for which unfortunately the IRA is most well known. If he feels affronted by that, I make that perfectly clear. But I stick, without any doubt whatever, to my first assertion. I am seeking to make the point that the organisation has fallen into the hands of " professionals " who, I believe, are doing it no good whatever.

It pains me to add—it really does, because two of my hon. Friends are officers of the all-party mental health group—that I do not think that the group's conduct in this matter has been helpful. First, that conduct is totally contrary to what I understand to be the courtesies of the House, as well exemplified by the conduct of the hon. Member for Lewisham, West. Some of the officers put the weight of their authority behind the allegations without any prior notice to the Member of Parliament in whose constituency this major hospital is. They gave no prior notice—I read it first in the all-party " Whip "—of the date of their visit. I regard that as discourteous. I have said so to my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham, and I gave him notice that I would say it today.

Although you have just said that you did not read of the visit until you saw the all-party " Whip ", you were at the meeting of the all-party mental health group, of which you are a member. You attend the meetings, and you were at the meeting when the visit to Broadmoor was arranged. It might be as well for the House to realise that you are a member of our group. You have had more than ample opportunity to raise all the matters that you have chosen to raise in the House in a most unpleasant and scurrilous way.

I have never been a member of the group.

I think that you will have been saved something, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

I, of course, knew in principle about the visit, because I heard the physician-superintendent issue the invitation. But if I ran an all-party group, it would never occur to me to arrange a visit to a Member's constituency without making certain that that Member first knew of it from me and not from the all-party " Whip ". I have just had an approach by an hon. Friend on a precisely similar all-party group, not connected with this matter, courteously giving me full information.

I do not think that the all-party group has done itself credit by giving equal weight to the enormously distinguished physician-superintendent and two young, cub nurses.

I remind my hon. Friend that the distinguished physician-superintendent, Dr. McGrath, was present before we saw the nurses, and we heard both sides of the problem. I believe that he was heard to say that he felt that I, as chairman, had dealt with both meetings very fairly. It is extraordinary how my hon. Friend changes his views when he is in a position of privilege rather than at a public meeting.

It is a matter of judgment. I think that it is very questionable for a so-called all-party group to give a platform to two people making allegations which have been substantially investigated by the Director of Public Prosecutions and found to be without substance. That is a matter of judgment, but I know that, as a result, Mr. Larry Gostin, the so-called legal director of MIND, has been loudly trumpeting that the all-party group has given support to the allegations. It can perhaps be understood just how strongly my constituents feel.

I believe that my right hon. Friend should carefully consider—I express a view contrary to that of the hon. Member for Lewisham, West—why £250,000 a year of taxpayers' money should continue to be given to MIND in its present form. We know that distinguished people connected with the organisation are concerned about the way it conducted this campaign.

I see the right hon. Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Ennals) in his place. He knows that I propose to refer to a letter that he courteously sent to me which he wrote to the Secretary of State and in which he specifically dissociated himself from these allegations. The right hon. Gentleman said that he had his own differences with MIND about the way in which the allegations were being pursued.

I believe that it is reasonable for the taxpayers to feel not that no allegations should ever be made or that organisations such as this one should be merely the creatures of Government but that they are entitled, as taxpayers, to think that a body of this nature will act professionally in making allegations.

In fairness. I must say that MIND published half an apology in its latest edition of " Mind Out ". A copy was courteously sent to me by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary but not by MIND. I think that MIND now regrets having made these public allegations before police investigations were completed.

I should like the House to know that I have done my best to understand the nature of the problem. The chairman of MIND and two other people were to have come to see me a fortnight ago. Everything was arranged. They have now pulled out of that appointment. If the hon. Member for Lewisham, West has influence with them, I hope that he will encourage them to come and talk about (he problems of MIND. I am ready, anxious and willing to talk to them. I think that they should be encouraged to talk to me.

I am sorry to have kept the House on a matter of comparative detail. Fairly and courteously, however, a personal reference has been made to me and I think that I am entitled to defend myself. I say quite clearly that I have no regrets whatever. If people play roughly with my constituents—they have not played roughly with me—they are in for trouble. That seems to me to be what Members of Parliament are for, and I intend so to act in future.

5.42 pm

I had not intended to take part in this debate until I had a courteous note from the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) saying that this particular issue was to arise. As correspondence has passed between us about the charges he made, I thought it appropriate that I should be here to comment on the issues.

We should be clear about the exact words that were used by the hon. Gentleman on 20 December. He said:
" MIND is an admirable example of an organisation with a full-time agitator in charge. It is an admirable example of the new generation of—I use the words in inverted commas— ' civil servant ' who moves from organisation to organisation, dependent on noise for his success and his salary.
" When I had dealings with Mr. Tony Smythe, when I was proud to serve at the Northern Ireland Office and he was in the National Council for Civil Liberties, I had no doubts whatever that all his interests lay on the side of the Irish Republican Army. He is now applying precisely the same agitation in the MIND organisation."—[Official Report, 20 December 1979; Vol. 976, c. 1055–56.]
Those were the words of the hon. Gentleman on that occasion. As soon as the matter was drawn to my attention I called on the hon. Gentleman to withdraw what I thought was a scurrilous attack both on MIND and on its director. I asked him to withdraw or, if he would not withdraw, to repeat his words outside this House where he would not be protected by the privilege of the House, or to give the evidence on which his monstrous charges were based.

The hon. Gentleman has referred to half an apology—I have not seen it— and I suppose that he has made half an apology today by withdrawing the suggestion that Tony Smythe held the views alleged by the hon. Gentleman and that he was totally on the side of the IRA. I believe that the hon. Gentleman should have withdrawn the whole charge.

I must declare an interest in MIND. I was the director of MIND from 1970 to 1974, and I have had close contacts with the organisation since then. I am glad that the Secretary of State is here to listen to this debate.

I believe that MIND is a magnificent organisation which, over many years, has given marvellous service to this country. At one stage, the hon. Member for Wokingham did say that that was so. However, he went on to say that he hoped that the Government would withdraw their grant from MIND. We should consider the tremendous work done right across the country by local associations of MIND in running group homes, hostels, advice centres, social clubs and day centres. We should consider also the educational work undertaken by MIND involving professionals and volunteers. An advice service is provided by MIND to people in desperate difficulties who feel the need, sometimes, to turn away from their social worker or their general practitioner and who do not know where else to turn than to MIND. We should also remember the work done by MIND on patients' rights, policy formation and certainly on pressure.

When I said in my letter to the Secretary of State, to which the hon. Gentleman referred, that I had my own differences with MIND, that is part of the set-up. When I was Secretary of State, MIND brought pressures to bear upon me with which I did not agree. That was the organisation's right. It is an organisation that speaks up not only on behalf of the mentally ill and the mentally handicapped. It speaks of the broad concern that the community should express in the interests of those who are mentally ill and mentally handicapped.

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Ennals), but this is not a debate on MIND or on the National Health Service. It is a debate on the Spring Adjournment. The right hon. Gentleman should come to that point.

I shall come to that matter, Mr. Speaker, because my plea is that there should be a debate on this subject before the House adjourns. I am sure that that is so.

The only other point that I wish to deal with is the actual allegations made against Mr. Tony Smythe. I have known him for many years, and I know many witnesses who know that what was said by the hon. Gentleman on 20 December last year was absolutely untrue.

Order. With every respect to the right hon. Member, we must not go into an in-depth debate on MIND. We should make this the customary debate on the Spring Adjournment.

I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Member for Wokingham made certain allegations, and I did not hear you, or your Deputy, bring the hon. Gentleman to order.

Order. The right hon. Member would have had a job to hear me. I was not in the Chair. When I am in the Chair, however, I am required to expect everyone in the House to follow the same rules of debate. If I do not, it is not fair to other hon. Members who are waiting to speak.

I shall bring my remarks to a close, but Mr. Deputy Speaker did not call the hon. Member for Wokingham to order.

I hope that there will be an opportunity for a debate on the work of this magnificent organisation and on what I hope will be a continuing Government grant which will enable it to do its work undisturbed by the type of campaign which the hon. Member for Wokingham has conducted in the House and outside.

5.52 pm

Before the House goes into recess, we should have the opportunity to discuss the tragic plight of the fishing industry. I know that the hon. Members for Kingston-upon-Hull, West (Mr. Johnson) and for Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) will agree with me. I do not wish to go into great depth about the manifold problems caused by soaring costs, loss of grounds, the common fisheries policy and all the well-known problems afflicting the industry, which almost closed Fleetwood and Hull, and which have caused the Aberdeen fleet to be reduced from 150 vessels to between 30 and 40 in a decade.

The aspect that should be debated is how our Common Market partners are behaving now, before the common fisheries policy is reformed or renegotiated. The reform of the policy is the most important single action that can help to put the industry back on its feet. What worries us is that, even while the negotiations are being conducted so patiently by my right hon. and hon. Friends, there is concrete and visible evidence that some of our Common Market partners are cheating. There is no other word to describe what they are doing.

The hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Hull, West and I saw a special Granada film, in which an unemployed trawler skipper was taken to Holland and France. He was taken to a quayside and asked "What are the fish in the boxes?", to which he replied " There is no doubt that they are herring." The fish had come off a boat that had just returned from British waters, where it is illegal to take more than a 5 per cent. by-catch of herring. However, tonnes of herring were on the quayside. When the French fishermen were asked what they had to say, since catching herring was illegal, they said " Many things in life are illegal." When they were asked about the inspectors who should have prevented them from landing the fish, they said " What inspectors?"

It was clear that the fishermen were breaking the EEC regulations. The inspectors were not fulfilling their duties under the regulations, and auctions were being conducted by auctioneers employed by the French Government. It is essential that, before we renegotiate the common fishery policy, we sort out the cheating, because it is having an extremely depressing effect on our industry.

To prove that I do not speak from a constituency bias, let us consider Hull, which has been crippled by what has been going on. The film showed a sad sight. The quaysides of Hull were as quiet as the grave until the arrival of a ferry from Holland. There were no British vessels. Off the ferry from Holland rolled Dutch lorries filled with fish that had been caught illegally in British waters by Dutch vessels. The fish had been taken to Holland and brought back to be sold in Britain because that was the only way that the British fishing industry could be kept going. The film showed illegal behaviour by the French and the Dutch.

We now have visible evidence of the cheating. I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to make the strongest representations to the French and Dutch Governments and to tell them that we cannot tolerate the cheating, particularly when we are trying to renegotiate the common fisheries policy and when our industry is being crucified.

British fishermen are frightened of the future because they do not know whether they will have a job this year or next year. They also feel a strong sense of injustice because they know that their great fishing industry, with Hull and Aberdeen as the premier European fishing ports, is dead or dying. There is a grave sense of injustice that the death of the industry has been brought about through no fault of the industry, whose workers are hard working.

The industry is in its present state as a result of Government action and the failure of successive Governments to grapple with the problem which our entry into Europe caused. I speak as somebody who supported the Common Market when we went in, and who still supports it. I do not believe that this is a reason to get out, but we have a right to say to our partners "We are obeying the rules; you, too, must obey them."

Perhaps our fishermen might like to evade the regulations in the way that the French and Dutch are doing. However, they could not do so because our inspectorate is so efficient and methodical and sticks so strictly to the regulations that we are being crucified by our own virtues.

Even if the other countries obeyed the regulations as we do, times would still be hard because of the low quotas, the lost grounds and soaring costs. To see the industry crucified because we are virtuous and stick to the regulations when our partners do not is intolerable.

I hope that the Government will treat the matter as urgent. Unless they do something quickly, there could be the eruption of a volcano. The fishing industry is patient, but its patience has been tried. I hope that my right hon. Friends will be able to say that they will extract justice from the French and the Dutch.

5.58 pm

There are some good reasons why the House should not go into recess. The House will not be surprised that I intend to raise the question of the terrorist war in Northern Ireland. It is appropriate that we should have this opporunity less than 24 hours after a gun battle on the frontier of the United Kingdom. When most people were wondering whether and how they would get to work and others were trying to stop them from going to work, a well-organised gang of terrorists, operating from high ground in the Republic of Ireland, waged a battle not for five or 10 minutes but for two hours with the police at Middletown. They exchanged several hundred rounds of ammunition.

About 24 hours earlier, a 57-year-old single man of limited means and limited intelligence was abducted on the border by the IRA and, in the IRA's words, executed for informing the Army and security forces about IRA activities.

I am glad that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is in the Chamber. It was no surprise to anybody in County Armagh that the man was killed. We were told five weeks ago from the Republican plot on consecrated ground in the churchyard of the Roman Catholic church at Crossmaglen that the IRA intended to execute that man. The crowd was addressed by a uniformed and masked thug, who should have been shot as he delivered his message. He also threatened the lives of members of the police and the Army in the Crossmaglen area. Five weeks later to the day, IRA men abducted a pathetic old man and killed him, just as they would shoot a dog. That happened only a few hours after the Secretary of State told the House that co-operation between the security forces and the Irish Republic had never been better.

The Monaghan Army base is only five minutes away from Middletown. Why did the Government of the Irish Republic allow their territory to be used for a two-hour gun battle without one member of the Irish Army appearing on the scene during that time? Why are the Government of the Irish Republic prepared to allow their territory to be used by murderers and executors from the IRA who deal out death in this way to an elderly, perhaps mentally deficient, man? Yet, we are told that co-operation between the security forces has never been better.

That death was in addition to the six people already killed in County Armagh this year. Twenty-nine were killed last year. I am sorry if I bore hon. Members by referring to the matter, but 200 of my constituents have been killed since I was elected to the House. Hon. Members may wonder why I am angry, and why I continue to tell the House about such matters. It is because I wonder how many hon. Members would tolerate 200 constituents being killed in a six-year period from 1974. Nothing has been done about that.

We were told last week that the Government would not permit terrorism in any part of the United Kingdom. But the people of Northern Ireland know that the " United Kingdom " means Great Britain. The Government will not tolerate terrorism in London, Birmingham, Southampton or anywhere else, but they appear to be prepared to tolerate it in Northern Ireland, especially in County Armagh. Yet they say that co-operation between the security forces and the Irish Republic have never been better.

The terrorist campaign has changed. Once again, it is a border campaign. It is a campaign that we cannot win while sanctuary is provided in the Irish Republic. It does not matter what measures the Secretary of State or the Government decide to introduce, while men can lie in the safety of the 26 counties in the Irish Republic, cross the border, and then slip back to safety, their terrorist activities will continue for ever. There could be another 200 deaths in the next six years.

The Prime Minister of the Irish Republic appears to be taking some action. By finding arms and bomb factories, the authorities have confirmed that what we have said for years is correct. The Prime Minister instructed his security forces to take action, and hundreds of rifles, rounds of ammunition and bombs were found. But not a single person was arrested. Does any hon. Member think that the security forces of the Irish Republic simply tripped into those bunkers last week or the week before? They have known about them for years, and have watched the terrorists operate from them.

I suppose that, in the present southern Ireland political situation, Mr. Haughey's policy is understandable. It is a policy of "Let us draw their teeth and try to disarm them. We are only 18 months away from another election, and I do not want to face the political consequences that go with arms trials." He should be putting terrorists in the dock on arms offences.

It is not good enough for the Government to send their representatives to Dublin to talk about security co-operation, and then to come to the House— as they did last week— and say that the position has improved dramatically. Both the Secretary of State and I know what is really happening in Northern Ireland. The SAS was hailed in the House last week for its tremendous work in eradicating terrorism in London. I wish to see that organisation return to Northern Ireland. It appears to be acceptable to kill Arab terrorists—an Arab terrorist can be shot because he deserves to be shot for what he is doing. But if it is an Irish terrorist, the matter is different. It does not matter that an Irish terrorist shot a 57-year old man. It does not matter that he shot a policeman a fortnight ago, and then asked that policeman's colleagues to rescue him because he was afraid to surrender himself to the Army after he had killed one of its members in Belfast a few weeks ago.

I wish to see the SAS return to Armagh. It is the only organisation that has had any success against the bloodthirsty killers—that is what they are, and we cannot say anything different. Mr. Shields, who was killed last week, joined two other elderly Catholics killed last year and others the year before that, and two young Catholic boys who were killed in Keady.

I am not complaining about IRA men killing Protestants in that area. I am complaining because they are killing the people whom they claim to protect. We would free the Roman Catholic community from its oppressors if we killed some IRA terrorists. I wish to see the SAS back in Armagh doing the job that it should be doing.

I ask the Secretary of State to intervene with the Ministry of Defence, and to tell it to stop damaging our local security forces through its policy of closing UDR camps. If the Army commitment in Northern Ireland must be withdrawn—and to a degree I would welcome that, although not the withdrawal of specialist units—we must use local security forces. The UDR provides one source. We shall not increase the size of the UDR if, at the same time, we close the camps and centres from which it can operate.

I ask the Secretary of State to take on board the two measures that I have suggested. I have given better reasons for the House not going into recess than many of the other reasons—important though they are—that I have heard this afternoon.

I am afraid that the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mr. Biggs-Davison) is too late.

6.8 pm