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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 14: debated on Thursday 3 December 1981

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Northern Ireland

Unemployed Young Persons

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many young persons under 21 years in Northern Ireland are unemployed; and what was the comparable figure in 1979.

Separate statistics of the numbers of registered unemployed young persons aged under 21 are not collected. However, for the under-20 age group the most recent figures as at 12 November 1981 was 23,991. The corresponding November 1979 figure was 12,956.

Does the Minister agree that young unemployed people anywhere are more than likely to get into trouble with the law simply because they are wandering around with nothing to do, and that the circumstances in Northern Ireland make them more vulnerable to the blandishments of paramilitary organisations? Therefore, tackling the problem of the large number of unemployed young people must be an urgent priority for the Government. What proposals does the hon. Gentleman have to bring before the House?

The hon. Gentleman's analysis is correct. Unemployed youngsters are likely to get into trouble. It is precisely because of that, and because of the very high number of young people out of work, that we are taking positive steps. I mention only one. The increase in the number of places under the youth opportunities programme from 7,000 in March this year to an estimated 12,000 by March 1982—an increase of 70 per cent.—is evidence of what we are doing.

In view of yesterday's announcement by Gallaher of the loss of 500 jobs in Northern Ireland, will the Minister and his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State warn their Treasury colleagues that any further increase in cigarette taxation could be disastrous for both Carreras and Gallaher in Northern Ireland?

I think that it is recognised that the increase in the tax has had its impact on cigarette smoking. Equally, it has been a major contributor towards the Chancellor's strategy, and therefore it is to be welcomed in that respect.

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that in some of the most difficult areas of Belfast the percentage of unemployed, especially Catholic unemployed, is far higher than in the Province as a whole, and that this constitutes an added problem?

My hon. Friend will know that there is no discrimination between Protestant and Roman Catholic in employment matters. In areas of high levels of unemployment—my right hon. Friend is correct about certain parts of Belfast, but this applies also to other areas of the Province—we offer higher discretionary grants for industrial development to try to improve the employment situation.

Is the Minister aware that his statement today and Government policies do not match the fact that almost an entire generation of young people in Northern Ireland have no industrial or other work experience, that their idealism has been soured and that their hopes have been dashed? Will the Government recognise that situation and take positive steps, including, perhaps, giving financial help to employers to take on more young people under the age of 21 for at least two years?

The hon. Gentleman should not exaggerate the position. The vast majority of young people are at work. However, he is right to point to the seriousness of the matter. It is because of this that the Government are offering incentives to employers to employ young people under the young workers scheme, which will come into effect in the Province at the beginning of January. It is conceivable that it is already having an impact.

Will the Minister take a long hard look at the recent report of the Northern Ireland Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders, which demonstrates clearly the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, South (Mr. Dubs) about the link between unemployment and crime? When he looks at that report, I hope that he will conclude that there is a strong case for the expansion of the economy, particularly to soak up unskilled youth unemployment.

I recognise that the connection exists. That is why we attach special importance to that group of unemployed people in our society. At the same time, we shall not ignore the needs of unemployed adults.

I shall not be able to call the complete round of hon. Members on other questions.

Housing Executive

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what number of houses he expects to be sold by the Housing Executive in the current financial year; and, in this connection, what sums will become available from building societies for spending by the Housing Executive in the current financial year.

This is a matter for the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, but I understand from the chairman that over 7,000 sales are likely to be completed during this financial year. I regret that without information from individual building societies the Housing Executive cannot assess the extent to which sums will become available to it from this particular source.

With regard to the latter part of the Minister's reply., while I in no way challenge the necessity for the annual accounting of public money, are not capital sums received in that way by the Housing Executive from building societies intended to form a net addition to resources? Will the Minister take steps to ensure that there are no pedantic and absurd results from the way in which such payments fall on one side or the other at the end of the financial year?

I expect that the Housing Executive will spend about £19 million this year on housing from its receipts. As to the financing of next year's programme, I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will join me in not wanting marked pound notes in relation to particular sources, so long as we can ensure that sufficient resources finance an adequate programme. I am discussing that matter with the chairman of the Housing Executive.

Is not the Housing Executive's real problem that the Minister's policies do not allow it to plan in advance? May we have an undertaking that in the next Appropriation Order money will be made available to the Housing Executive to enable it to plan at least five years in advance?

Apart from the question of the resources available, I am discussing with the Housing Executive a planned programme—which is exactly what the hon. Gentleman asks for—to enable it to look further than 12 months ahead. We shall then seek to make the resources available.

United States Of America

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make arrangements for a ministerial visit to the United States of America to counter the misrepresentation there by sympathisers of the Irish Republican Army of the situation in Northern Ireland.

The countering of such mispresentation has been part of the purpose of recent ministerial visits; and we intend that there should be more.

I warmly welcome my hon. Friend to his new post. Does he agree that it would be helpful if we could get across the basic realities to the people of the United States; for example, that the people of Northern Ireland in their relationship with Eire are just as entitled to choose their constitutional arrangements as are the people of Canada in relation to the United States?

Will my hon. Friend's colleagues explain to the American public that the IRA is seeking to create a base for subversion in Europe which is not dissimilar to what the Cubans are doing in relation to the United States? Will he and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State plan an early visit to the United States?

We need to use every valid argument to persuade the Americans against supporting any organisation that might help terrorism in any way. We are still planning ministerial visits for next year.

Will my hon. Friend ensure that arrangements for his colleagues' trip are adequate? Unless the consulates—I have in mind Chicago in particular—make better arrangements than they have made for visits by hon. Members on similar trips, the visit will be wasted.

I hope that my hon. Friend will let my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State know if there are any shortcomings in the arrangements for overseas visits.

Unemployment

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he has any further plans for reducing unemployment in the Province.

We shall continue to pursue our regional industrial development policies, which are set out in the document "Framework for Action". Essentially these involve support for established industries, the development of small businesses and the promotion of inward investment. Success in reducing unemployment can come about only by creating real and lasting jobs, and our national and regional policies are aimed at achieving that goal.

I do not wish to belittle the efforts of the Northern Ireland Development Corporation or any other bodies that are doing their best to attract new industries to Northern Ireland, but will the Minister direct his attention to the Mondragon experiment, in Northern Spain's Basque province, which contains answers for small businesses in Northern Ireland? Will he encourage the establishment of co-operatives, particularly in places such as Londonderry?

I have answered that question before in the House. The Government are not averse to the establishment of co-operatives in Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, provided that they have a chance of viability. We can learn from the experiment to which the hon. Gentleman referred.

Religious Discrimination

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will list the provisions enacted by the Parliament of Northern Ireland which discriminated between persons or classes of persons on the gound of religious belief.

I am not aware of any such provisions.

Does the Minister accept that the reference in section 17 of the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 cannot be taken to reflect unfairly on the integrity of those who promoted the legislation under the Government of Ireland Act 1920?

I am pleased to reassure the hon. Gentleman and the House that section 17 of that Act does not reflect on the competence and, more particularly, the integrity of the draftsmen who drew up that legislation.

Will the Minister of State examine the legislation enacted by a succession of Northern Ireland Parliaments, with particular reference to the way in which the Civil Authority (Special Powers) Act (Northern Ireland) 1922 was used exclusively against the Catholic population in Northern Ireland? When the House took over responsibility for Northern Ireland affairs, why was it necessary to pass the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act? The legislation might not have been seen to operate against the minority, but the attitude of Ministers and a succession of Prime Ministers made clear what the majority population of Northern Ireland was entitled to do against the minority.

None of the provisions of any of the Acts discriminated on religious grounds. It is clear to the hon. Gentleman and everybody else that acts of discrimination occurred, and therefore some sections of the Northern Ireland community withdrew their consent to the working of Stormont. That is why Stormont was disbanded.

Discrimination on religious grounds, North or South, is to be deplored, but will the Northern Ireland Office make required reading for those who brief people about the history of Northern Ireland what the American Mr. Hewitt has written in the British Journal of Sociology, which puts the allegations of discrimination at Stormont in a different light?

I am not aware of that issue of theBritish Journal of Sociology, but I shall draw it to the attention of officials in the Northern Ireland Office.

In the light of the Minister's reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker), will he give an assurance that a Ten-Minute Bill to remove the parts of the 1973 Act which are inconsistent with his reply will not be opposed by Her Majesty's Government?

I do not think that I can give any such assurance. I had hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would share my view that section 17, with its prohibition on discrimination on the grounds of religion or politics, is positively reassuring for the population of the Province.

Terrorists (Selective Detention)

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if, in view of the recent spate of murders and other terrorist atrocities in Northern Ireland, he will now introduce a system of selective detention for known Irish Republican Army terrorists.

No, Sir. I believe that the best way to deal with suspected terrorists is to bring them before the courts.

That is perhaps not an unexpected reply, and I thank my right hon. Friend for it. Bearing in mind the representations made to him by security advisers and the security forces in Northern Ireland, will he consider introducing some form of selective internment for suspected and known IRA terrorists, in accordance with the request by the Official Unionist Party which seeks to stand for moderation and progress in the Province? Many of us wish to see the ultimate deterrent—the death penalty—reintroduced, but we appreciate the sensitivity involved. Is it not important to take positive action to prevent the murder, arson and brutality which we have experienced recently?

No one underestimates the level of terrorist violence in Northern Ireland. I am not aware that any of my security advisers have called for the reintroduction of selective detention. I am not convinced that selective detention would produce any lasting benefit. I listen carefully to what all hon. Members say, but that is the position as I see it.

Is the Secretary of State aware that the Opposition concur with his "No, Sir" answer to the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton)? As a Minister, I had experience of internment and I tried, in my little way, to end it. I am glad to see present my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Rees), who was very much involved in taking over the internment problem. I can only say that the reintroduction of internment would create more problems than it would solve, if it would solve any at all. I remind the House and the hon. Member for Macclesfield, who made the proposal, that our experience showed that as soon as detention or internment was introduced, violence escalated. It de-escalated only when we ended internment and started tackling the problem through the courts.

I am grateful for what the right hon. Gentleman has said. It is worth noting that 1972—the year after detention was introduced—was the worst year for terrorist violence in the history of Northern Ireland. The period from 1976 to 1980 saw a steady improvement in the security situation, although no one underestimates how far we have to go.

Security

7.

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

8.

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

11.

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

13.

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

18.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he has any statement to make on the security situation in Northern Ireland.

Since I last answered questions on 29 October, I have to tell the House with deep regret that five members of the security forces and nine civilians, including the Rev. Robert Bradford, have died as a result of terrorist attacks. Several others have been injured, some seriously. There has been a particularly vicious series of attacks on part-time members or former members of the UDR and the RUC Reserve.

The House will be aware of additional security measures which have recently been taken. In particular, the Army's Spearhead unit has been sent to Northern Ireland, and more policemen have been deployed on operational duties. The GOC is deploying the UDR flexibly, with some units from peaceful areas supplementing those in the more difficult areas. All these extra measures have enabled the security forces to concentrate on the border areas. Everything possible is being done to protect those most at risk, but a good deal inevitably depends on the vigilance of such persons themselves.

The security forces are working extremely hard to prevent further terrorist attacks, from whatever quarter. They have had important preventive successes which, by their nature, are inevitably unseen. They continue to arrest suspects. Since 29 October, 102 people have been charged with terrorist offences, making a total of 865 charged with such offences this year. Prevention and conviction represent the right way forward. The interests of law and order and of reconciliation between the two communities cannot be served by people trying to take the law into their own hands. I am determined that terrorism will be defeated, but it must be done through the rule of law. We are entitled to expect all people to lend their full support to the established forces of law and order and to make available any information they may have which could help prevent or detect criminal acts.

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

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the vast majority of hon. Members wholeheartedly support and congratulate the security forces on their recent successes? Is he further aware that there was a report on the tape today that various officials of the United States of America were coming to London to discuss the problem of Northern Ireland with his Department? Will he make it plain to the House that the problems of Ulster are the problems of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and have nothing whatever to do with any other foreign power?

I am sure that the matter to which my hon. Friend refers is a speculative piece. I am certain that the Americans, as much as the rest of the House, understand the point that my hon. Friend makes. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the support that he gives to the security forces.

My right hon. Friend, despite the representations of the Police Federation of Northern Ireland and my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), has ruled out selective detention. Since we have not yet got extradition from the South or any efficacious alternative, will my right hon. Friend ask the Foreign Office to renew its efforts in Dublin to secure either extradition or that efficacious alternative? Is he aware that the people of this country will not be content for ever to listen to these melancholy communiqués in a 100 years war.

The Irish Government, I think, have not been left in any doubt about our views on extradition. It is true that so far extra-territorial legislation has not been very effective, but we now see encouraging signs that this is changing. I am hopeful that the talks between the two Attorneys-General will result in further action. Anything that can be done to bring pressure on the Irish Government in respect of criminals who take refuge in the South should be done.

Will my right hon. Friend pass on the congratulations of the House to the security forces on their recent successes and thank them for bringing a greater measure of security to the Province? Will he confirm that the situation is such that there is no place whatever for any so-called third force? Does he realise the great concern, not only in Ulster, but on this side of the water, a the prospect of such a force being allowed a free rein?

Yes, Sir. I confirm absolutely what my hon. Friend said. I think that that would be the view of the whole House. I believe that the availability of information is the most important method by which we can bring criminals to justice. The more that both communities get on with this, the sooner we shall solve our problems.

All hon. Members continue to deplore the senseless and mindless terrorism of the Provisional IRA, but is the Secretary of State aware that there is no support in the House or in the country for the bullying and intimidating manner in which those associated with a third force speak? Does he agree that this sort of action should be repudiated? Will he assure the House that the negotiations with the Dublin authorities regarding the Province will continue and that he will not withdraw from those talks?

I am seeking to pursue a policy in which the majority and the minority groupings in Northern Ireland can live in peace with each other. No one should say anything that makes that task more difficult.

Is the Secretary of State aware that we have played our part in devising mechanisms entirely within the law to provide the channel of communication for information to be fed to the security forces? Will the right hon. Gentleman refute reports to the effect that the special security measures to which he referred, which were announced on 17 November, are to be reduced by next Wednesday? Will he assure the House that this time the security forces will be encouraged to finish the job of eliminating terrorism, from whatever source? As the Royal Ulster Constabulary is now rapidly approaching its recruitment target, will the right hon. Gentleman recommend that its establishment be increased by another 1,000?

If the police authority or the Chief Constable put forward proposals for an increase in the size of the force, I shall consider them carefully.

On other matters, it is not only the open, but the covert, side of security that is important. I lay special stress on that. I have no plans at the moment to make any change in the disposition of forces in Northern Ireland, but this is still a matter of consultation between myself and the GOC and the Chief Constable.

I warmly welcome all information that is made available to us. I hope that it will be strictly within the law. I am grateful for what the hon. Gentleman has sought to do in that respect.

Is the Secretary of State aware that he will find a ready response from the Opposition to his statement on security and the way in which he is tackling the situation? We also back the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick). Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I have always believed that the security forces are as good as the information they receive? The best way to get information from that great block of people in Northern Ireland between the two extremes is for them to see a ready response to their pleas for social, economic and political activity as well.

Yes, Sir. I have always believed that there are three parts to a tripod which can lead eventually to peace and greater security in Northern Ireland. The most important part of that tripod must be security. I am grateful for the support that I have received in recent days from Churchmen of all denominations and the pressure that they are bringing to bear on the community.

My right hon. Friend has exhorted those who wish to play a part in the security of the Province to come forward and join the official security forces—the UDR and the RUC—but is he satisfied that the regulations governing the acceptance of new recruits into those forces are not unduly restrictive?

I believe that I am, but I shall reconsider the regulations. There has been a problem about those who have reached the age limit. I have had consultations with the GOC to see whether he can be more flexible about those who are nearing the age limit. If my hon. Friend has any points in mind about entry to the UDR, I shall see that they are examined.

Does the Secretary of State agree that, while it is obviously desirable, extradition is not likely to be achieved in the foreseeable future, for many complicated reasons, and therefore further and greater co-operation between the security forces north and south of the border is of the essence? Is he aware that that has been achieved in recent months?

Co-operation is much better, but it is never perfect. The talks between the Attorneys-General could do much more to help. However, the Government of the Republic are more aware now of the strong feelings in Northern Ireland and in the House about criminals in the South.

In the measure that the Secretary of State has undertaken to deter terrorism in Northern Ireland—that terrorism is not restricted to one section of the community—will he be ever mindful that there is now real fear in the minds of the minority in Northern Ireland about the creation of a third force? Will he give an undertaking to me, which I am sure would be accepted by the House, that anyone found in Northern Ireland in an illegal assembly and wearing a mask, whether in the IRA or the so-called third force, will be arrested immediately? Is he aware that it has been stated that members of the third force are, in another line of duty, members of the UDR and the RUC? Will he give a further undertaking to the House that if anyone waving a licence, or a so-called licence, permitting him to have arms is found to be a member of the third force, he will have those arms withdrawn?

I have made it clear that private armies have no place in our society. They will not be allowed to take over the work of the security forces. The Chief Constable and the General Officer Commanding are investigating allegations that members of the RUC and UDR have taken part in so-called third force demonstrations carrying their weapons. I am certain that appropriate action will be taken if that is proved to have been the case. I agree with what the hon. Gentleman said, but it is far better, having laid down the general principles from the House and the Government, to leave the interpretation of the law to the Chief Constable and the GOC, in whom I have the utmost confidence.

Order. I propose to call both hon. Members, because five questions are being answered.

The Secretary of State congratulates himself smugly on the messages of support that he has received from various bodies in Northern Ireland for his security policy. Does he realise that he will not get any congratulations from the relatives of those who have been foully murdered or cruelly maimed by the Provisional IRA in its vicious, sectarian campaign of violence against Protestants and members of the security forces——

—and will he now accept that it is time for the Government to do something, after 13 years, to protect the lives of those who live, daily and nightly, under fear of death?

The hon. Gentleman obviously did not hear me correctly. I did not say that those messages of support had been conveyed to me. I said that the Catholic Church and the Churches in Northern Ireland generally were now playing an active part in advising people to give information in a way that perhaps they had not done previously. I do not wish in any way to minimise what Northern Ireland has suffered for 12 years. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will do all that he can to help me to bring about peace and reconciliation between the minority and the majority elements in that society.

The Secretary of State talked about prevention and conviction as being a way forward, and I believe that most people would agree with that in a normal situation, but what consolation is that to people living along the border in Armagh, Tyrone and Fermanagh, who neither see prevention at work nor a conviction? When he is bearing in mind what has been said by Church leaders, does he remember the words of the Archbishop of Armagh a few weeks ago, when he said that the campaign along the border amounted to nothing more or less than a constructive attempt to drive people off land that they and their predecessors had lived on for centuries? Will he consider reopening some of the small police stations that existed along the border in the 1950s and 1960s in an attempt to instil some confidence into those communities?

As I said in my original answer, 102 people have been charged with terrorist offences since 29 October, including, as the hon. Gentleman knows well, a number for offences that may have been committed in the border area. We are making every effort to catch the criminals. The hon. Gentleman has been to see me with a number of proposals. I have taken those proposals seriously and implemented them wherever possible. He has produced another proposal this afternoon. I shall see that it is examined, but the difficulty about opening small police stations is that, quite often, they are the focus of attacks by terrorists and it is better to have people out on the ground than in police stations. However, we shall examine the matter again.

Union Of Great Britain And Northern Ireland

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if, in view of the negotiations with the Government of the Irish Republic for increased cooperation between the United Kingdom and the Republic, he will take steps to assure the majority of the people of Northern Ireland that their desire to remain within the United Kingdom has the wholehearted endorsement of Her Majesty's Government.

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he will take steps to assure the majority of the people in Northern Ireland that it is the desire of Her Majesty's Government that the Province should continue to remain within the United Kingdom.

I reaffirm that the Government's policy is to maintain the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in accordance with the wish of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland.

Since the people of Northern Ireland have endured for over 12 years the campaign of violence and hatred directed against them because they are British, does my right hon. Friend agree that they deserve to be commended both for their patience and their courage? Will he therefore make it absolutely clear that they will be supported in their determination to remain British? Will he give that support, and will he make it clear to the Republic that the people of Northern Ireland will have that support for as long as they wish to remain British?

That support has always been made clear and remains the policy of the Government. The Republic of Ireland also recognises that any change could be made only by consent. I hope that the people of Northern Ireland will come to live together in peace and will recognise the great advantages of remaining part of the United Kingdom.

; Is it not clear to the Secretary of State that the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), while constantly declaiming his adherence to the United Kingdom, acts as though the United Kingdom Government are alien to the North? Is it not clear that the actions of that hon. Member are opposed to any political steps taken by the Government to engage in conversations that they feel will bring about peace? Is it not clear that something must be done to try to prevent the position whereby the third force, as the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) has said, can go through the streets in uniform waving armaments? If any member of the Catholic community did that, he would be arrested. Can we have evenhanded democracy in Northern Ireland?

I assure the hon. Gentleman and the whole House that I intend democracy to be evenhanded throughout the Province.

Although I recognise that Northern Ireland will remain part of the United Kingdom, may I ask whether my right hon. Friend accepts that nearly all the inhabitants of the United Kingdom are intolerant of the millions of pounds that are being poured into that part of the United Kingdom, and intolerant also of the loss of lives in the Ulster Constabulary and in the Armed Forces, as well as the loss of other innocent public lives? Will my right hon. Friend pledge to show the same tenacity towards finding a political solution to Northern Ireland as we showed when solving the problems of Rhodesia, now known as Zimbabwe?

The two problems are not in any way comparable. However, I am sure that the whole House will wish to be tenacious in seeking a peaceful solution to the problems that have faced us for so long.

Is the Secretary of State aware that we wholeheartedly support the Anglo-Irish dialogue, but feel that it is probably time that the House had a chance to discuss the matter? We look forward to a debate, as early as possible in the new year, on the joint studies and the other related issues that have been put forward by hon. Members today.

That is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. However, an opportunity must be given before long for a debate on Northern Ireland. I know that my right hon. Friend has that in mind.

Homosexual Law Reform

12.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he is yet in a position to make a statement on the reform of homosexual law in Northern Ireland.

Not yet, but my right hon. Friend hopes soon to be in a position to make a statement following the recent judgment of the European Court of Human Rights.

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that we cannot allow such an anomaly to continue for much longer? Will he undertake to look at civil liberties generally in Northern Ireland to ensure that they do not fall below those existing in other West European States?

I have given an undertaking that my right hon. Friend hopes to come forward soon, after due consideration has been given to the difficult implications—in a legal and social sense—of the ruling. He hopes to make a statement to the House. I shall pass on to my right hon. Friend the point that the hon. Gentleman raised about civil liberties.

Do the Government accept the principle that legislation that is introduced and passed for the rest of the United Kingdom, as a result of Private Member's Bills and without the authority of the Government being exerted, cannot be applied by the Government, by Order in Council or otherwise, to another part of the United Kingdom?

If the permissive society has not yet reached Northern Ireland, is that not a very good thing that the North shares with the Republic?

My hon. Friend has voiced some of the feelings that are strongly expressed in the Province and to which the Government are rightly sensitive. The judgment of the European Court drew those feelings of sensitivity to the attention of everyone.

Stranraer-Larne Route

14.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if, in view of the closure of the Liverpool to Belfast ferry route, he will seek discussions with British Rail Sealink to ensure the extension of the service on the Stranraer to Larne link.

No, Sir. Both ferry operators working out of the port of Larne have assured us that there is sufficient capacity available at the present time.

Is the Minister aware that we on the Labour Benches hope that speedy action will be taken to reopen the Liverpool to Belfast ferry? What action will he take to ensure that the same fate does not befall the route from Stranraer to Larne? In particular, will he join us in asking the Monopolies and Merger Commission and his right hon. Friend to reject the proposed takeover bid by European Ferries?

The reopening of the service from Belfast to Liverpool is a matter for the commercial judgment of those who are considering operating a service. We very much hope that they will come forward and make the operation successful. As regards the safety and continuance of the Larne service, 8,000 fewer passengers have travelled on the P and O Belfast-Liverpool service during the past five years, while over 422,000 more passengers have travelled between Lame and Scotland. Therefore, it is plain that the service is viable.

Is the Minister aware that it would probably be in his interests, and in the interests of the House, if he were to be a little more forthcoming about the state of negotiations for reopening the Belfast to Liverpool ferry? I am not asking for names or for the names of firms, but merely if he will give some assurance that the matter is proceeding with all speed.

Negotiation is not a matter for the Government. We have played the role of the honest broker in advising those concerned of the commercial possibilities. We have every reason to believe that operators will come forward, but that is for them—not the Government.

De Lorean Cars Ltd

15.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the current output and product development of De Lorean Cars Ltd.

I understand that the company is currently producing approximately 80 cars per day, a rate which would enable it to meet the target of 20,000 cars that it originally set itself for 1982.

The company will continue to develop and improve the DMC 12 to meet the demands of the market and I understand that it has plans to introduce, at some later stage, a new saloon car.

Does the Minister accept that it is very much to be hoped that sales will catch up with output and lead to long-term, stable jobs in the Province? As regards public accountability, given that £80 million of taxpayers' money is involved, will the Minister explain why he has failed to tell the House that three members of the audit committee have financial interests in the company according to the Minister's paper, theSunday Telegraph? In addition, will he explain why $18 million of taxpayers' money has been spirited abroad to a Panamanian company to pay Lotus Cars, which is in Norfolk? While we want permanent jobs, we also want full and proper accountability of taxpayers' money.

The hon. Gentleman's information about sales and production is erroneous, because sales are running ahead of production. The same comment might well apply to the hon. Gentleman's other allegations. I ask him and others who attempt to detract from this exercise not to do so, because they will damage employment prospects in Northern Ireland.

Prime Minister

Engagements

Q1.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 3 December.

This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet and had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House I shall be having further meetings later today, including one with the chairman of the student academic campaign for Soviet Jewry.

Although I thank my right hon. Friend for her reply, does she agree that, in the week that the House has heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer's statement, it is somewhat ironic that it has also been lobbied by the young jobless, teachers and members of local government? Do not such diverse interests illustrate the direct conflict facing the nation? What advice will my right hon. Friend give me to place before my constituents in Gravesend if public spending continues to rise at its present rate?

My hon. Friend has put his finger on two points. First, if those in the public sector demand more and more pay for doing the same amount of work, there will be less and less money with which to provide jobs for the unemployed. I hope that they will take that into account. Secondly, it is recognised that if people continue to demand more and more public spending for their constituents, they are at the same time demanding more taxes and contributions from their constituents.

Will the right hon. Lady answer the question that the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not answer yesterday? By how much will the measures that the Chancellor introduced yesterday increase the right hon. Lady's own tax and price index?

How will increases on such a scale, together with increased rents, rates, health charges and national insurance contributions, assist the fight against inflation?

The right hon. Gentleman always tries to have it both ways. He always poses as a person who can hand out benefits to his constituents, but then refuses to allow the Supply to pay for them. The answer is exactly the same as the answer to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Mr. Brinton). If the right hon. Gentleman demands more benefits for his constituents, he is, at the same time, demanding higher contributions to pay for those benefits.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the private sector, both corporate and individual, is becoming increasingly alarmed at being forced to pay not only the monopolistic prices but to finance the public, or the Socialistic sector of the economy, and that it is looking for strong and urgent privatisation? Will my right hon. Friend assure us that that hope is not in vain?

As my hon. Friend says, the efficiency of the private sector has gone well ahead of the efficiency of the public sector. Consequently, price increases in the private sector are much below price increases in the public sector. That is one reason why we are now taking powers to refer more of the public sector to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, and why we are going ahead with more measures to privatise organisations such as the BNOC and to take away the gas monopoly.

What advice can the Prime Minister give to students, following yesterday's announcement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, given that some of their unavoidable costs, such as hall fees, have gone up by about 40 per cent. in the past three years, and that the allowance being given to them for next year is only a fraction of the Government's own estimate of inflation? What about the low-income families with sons and daughters at colleges and universities?

As my right hon. and learned Friend announced yesterday, student grants will go up by 4 per cent. If the right hon. Gentleman wishes it to go up by more, he must say what else he would cut or what other increase in taxes he would impose.

Is the Prime Minister aware that last month male unemployment in my constituency was 19·1 per cent. and that women's unemployment was 12·3 per cent.? Since then, the closure of Guy Motors has been announced, which means that another 800 jobs will be lost, and another firm—Britool—is in grave danger because of the probable withdrawal of the temporary employment subsidy. What words of solace and comfort does the right hon. Lady have for my constituents? I want no nonsense about wanting it both ways. My constituents want jobs and work, and that means investment of public money. What will she do about that?

As the hon. Lady probably saw recently, imports have risen. This country needs to get a larger share of our own market for those who produce in this country. That means moderate wage settlements and highly efficient companies. That is the way to get more jobs.

When my right hon. Friend considers Lord Scarman's remarks about positive discrimination, will she remember the 22 per cent. unemployed people in Bridlington town in my constituency, who have never rioted and who have just as much right to the Government's sympathy and aid as have the unemployed people in Brixton who, if they get on to a tube, have far more job opportunities than exist in the North-East?

I shall most certainly do that. Nothing in the difficult unemployment situation warranted rioting in any part of the United Kingdom. We are very conscious that many parts of the United Kingdom face difficult problems and that they must have the same amount of attention as those where riots occurred. It is much more difficult to get employers to go to places where riots have occurred than it is to persuade them to go to places where peace and good social conditions exist.

Engagements

Q2.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 3 December.

Has the Prime Minister seen the report inThe Times today about 97 young children having died while waiting for bone marrow transplants at Westminster hospital? Is that not the most tragic commentary of all on the operation of market forces and monetarism? Why does not the Prime Minister show some compassion for once and give a categoric assurance that sufficient money will go to the regional health authorities involved so that the doctors in those hospitals are not placed in the dilemma of having to choose one child to live out of every seven?

I saw that report and I was as concerned as the hon. Gentleman. I remind him that, since the time of his Government, spending on the National Health Service has increased. The number of doctors is up by 1,000. The number of nurses and midwives is up by 21,000. Nevertheless, as the hon. Gentleman well knows, a report by Professor Merrison on the future of the Health Service pointed out that one could spend just about the whole of the gross national product on health care, such is the great advance in technology and the expense of some of these operations.

Harder than ever? To have 21,000 more nurses and midwives and 1,000 more doctors is hard? We have much lower waiting lists for operations. How very hard Labour Members must have been.

I come back to the question that I was asked from a standing position. I am well aware of the excellent work done by Professor Hobbs at Westminster hospital. It is one of the few places where work on bone marrow transplants is done. We are looking at the future development of the service, and I am pleased to say Sir Douglas Black has agreed to chair the working party to consider the need for further bone marrow transplant units outside London so that this situation does not occur again. I hope that the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) will have the grace to be pleased—but I doubt it.

Since, tomorrow, the Army Board is due to consider the future of military bands, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the tremendous value of these bands, not only for Army morale and recruiting, but because of their role on Royal and other occasions in lifting the spirits of the nation? As these bands are the envy of the world and attract visitors here, thus helping the balance of payments, does my right hon. Friend consider it right that the entire cost should fall on the defence budget? Can that matter be looked at?

I wholly endorse what my hon. Friend says about the popularity and importance of Army military bands, and also their importance and popularity overseas. I should point out that they are also trained as medical orderlies. So they have another role. I shall draw the attention of the Ministry of Defence to what my hon. Friend says, so that in considering future expenditure on defence the matter may be borne in mind.

Has the Prime Minister's attention been drawn to the demand made by the Labour parliamentary candidate for Bermondsey that extra-parliamentary action should be taken to challenge the Government's right to rule? Does she agree that such an irresponsible demand should be condemned by all supporters of British parliamentary democracy and should not be condoned by craven silence?

I confess that I have not seen the remarks attributed to the honourable person who is standing for that seat. If those remarks are true, we in this House, who believe in parliamentary democracy, assume that anyone wanting to come here would also believe in it.

Since the matter has been raised, may I say that the individual concerned is not an endorsed member of the Labour Party, and, so far as I am concerned, never will be endorsed?[Interruption.] May I add that, as the Labour Party has played the leading part in the establishment and sustenance of parliamentary democracy, we do not need any instructions on the matter from skin-deep democrats on the Conservative Benches or defectors on this side?

Later——

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I understand that in the exchanges at the end of Prime Minister's Questions I used the term "not an endorsed member". It must be clear from the context that what I wished to say was "not an endorsed candidate". I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing me to make the correction so that Hansard may record this statement as well as the remarks that I made previously.

Q3.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 3 December.

Will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to congratulate the engineering workers and the tanker drivers on their acceptance of realistic pay settlements, by which action they have shown greater wisdom and common sense than has been shown in some of the views put forward by their trade union leaders?

Yes, Sir. I congratulate those workers. I note that the figures that were released by the CBI yesterday showed pay settlements of about 5 to 7 per cent. That is good news. It is only by moderate pay settlemments that we shall stay competitive and get more jobs in the economy.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As we have had such a good question hour without the aid of the digital clock, will you consider dismantling it, Mr. Speaker?

I deeply appreciate that conservative question. I shall give it my radical attention.