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Commons Chamber

Volume 22: debated on Thursday 22 April 1982

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

House Of Commons

Thursday 22 April 1982

The House met at half-past Two o'clock

Prayers

[MR. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

British Railways Bill

As amended, considered; to be read the Third time.

Severn-Trent Water Authority Bill (By Order)

Read a Second time and committed.

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

ALEXANDRA PARK AND PALACE BILL (By Order)

LONDON TRANSPORT (LIVERPOOL STREET) BILL
(By Order)

TEES AND HARTLEPOOL PORT AUTHORITY BILL
(By Order)

FELTHAM STATION AREA REDEVELOPMENT
(LONGFORD RIVER) BILL (By Order)

Orders for Second Reading read.

To be read a Second time upon Thursday 29 April.

Oral Answers To Questions

Home Department

Serious Crime

1.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department to what factors he attributes the increase in serious crime.

15.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what are the main reasons for the substantial increase in crime since May 1979.

Recorded crime has been rising for a quarter of a century. The causes of this are complex, and it is unprofitable to seek explanations for short-term variations from year to year.

Does the Home Secretary agree with the comment in the recent edition of the Police Federation's magazine that there is a link between unemployment and juvenile crime and, indeed, with the comments in the United Nations recent report "Economic Crises and Crime" which suggest that there is a strong relationship between increasing unemployment and increasing crime in Britain? Unemployment is by no means the most important, or a single, factor in increasing crime, but does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the most important single measure for reducing crime would be a reduction in unemployment?

Is not the most important significant immediate cause of increasing crime the fact that potential offenders no longer fear the consequences of their offending? Does that not necessitate an increase in the police force to ensure that detection is more likely, an improvement in the procedure of criminal trials to ensure that conviction is more likely and more prisons to ensure that punishment is more certain?

Yes, Sir. Many of those measures—in fact, all of them—have been taken by the Government in the past three years.

Since, as I understand it, the Home Secretary has just said that he did not accept the analysis of my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk), why did he accept it in 1973, as recorded in at least three copies of Hansard?

I thought the right hon. Gentleman said 1973. I do not believe I pronounced that in 1973.

In 1978, not 1973. I certainly admitted then, as I said before, that unemployment was a factor, but there are many others. I have said that and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said it. Equally, there are many other factors as well.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that both long-term and short-term remedies can be taken in this matter: to build up the family as a unit, to take action in schools to bring back discipline and respect, to take action in the courts so that penalties are just, and to get more police on the streets?

I agree with my hon. Friend. Many of these matters are for me as Home Secretary. Many of the others are matters for my right hon. Friends. We are discussing these matters together, because a concerted effort by the Government as a whole, backed by the House, is very much needed in all these areas.

Prison Officers (Pay)

2.

asked the Secretary of State For the Home Department if he will review the differential pay structure among the senior grades of prison officer.

I hesitate to thank my hon. and learned Friend for that brief reply. Does he not think that it is slightly unfair that chief prison officers in many of our prisons, and in Brixton in particular, can earn as much as £4,000 to £5,000 less than principal officers below them? Does that not strike my hon. and learned Friend as a disincentive in the promotion ladder and for career prospects?

I understand what lies behind my hon. Friend's question. Many prison officers in overtime grades receive higher earnings than grades above them. The May committee, which reported in 1979, was aware of this. It commented that

"net earnings cannot be the dominant source of comparison between grades if, for example, one grade achieves a certain result only by long overtime working, or by virtue of compensation for a particular condition of service".
As regards basic pay, there is a differential between chief officers and the most senior prison grades and the grades below them.

Does the hon. and learned Gentleman recognise that there is an implicit link between training and pay? Will he, therefore, review the training of prison officers with a view to introducing a much longer training period, and from that developing a central pay structure?

I take note of what the hon. Gentleman has said. The May committee recommended improved scales for prison officers and extended scales for chief officers—the most senior prison officer grades. A further special review of the pay relativities of these grades could not be justified.

Special Constabulary

3.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is satisfied with the recruitment to the special constabulary; and whether he will make a statement.

Chief officers are fully aware of the vital role of the special constabulary. I am encouraging them to make every effort to recruit as many specials as they can usefully train and deploy.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Will he encourage all police forces to allow specials to take on more of the routine work that the police carry out so that the permanent force can be made available for more important matters? Would it not be helpful if we had more specials doing the routine jobs, thereby making community policing more apparent to the public? Will my right hon. Friend examine the scheme that is beginning in Northumbria, where I understand the chief constable is recruiting about 750 volunteers for the specials to act as street policemen in their home areas?

I agree with what my hon. Friend said. I believe, as do the chief constables, that there is considerable scope for using special constables on routine duties and releasing policemen generally for other duties. That is very important. I understand that the Northumbria scheme has been a great success. I congratulate the chief constable of Northumbria on introducing the scheme. I know that similar initiatives are being taken elsewhere.

What success has there been in recruiting members of the ethnic minority communities into the special constabulary?

Rather more than there has been in recruiting them into the regular police.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in the report of the chief constable of Northumbria, which was produced this week, a particular tribute is paid to special constables in the context of community relations? There is also a reference to the recruiting programme. The police community relations committee will shortly celebrate its tenth anniversary, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend will wish it well.

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend, who I know takes a particular interest in these matters in the North-East. I am grateful to him for what he has said. There has been a significant development in Northumbria, but I do not wish it to be thought that that is the only police force that is carrying out such an endeavour. Many others are doing so, and I welcome them all.

Data Protection

4.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will set out in the Official Report those categories of information that will be excluded from consideration in his forthcoming White Paper on data protection.

The White Paper was published on 7 April. It sets out the Government's proposals for legislation to protect personal data processed automatically. Manual records and non-personal data will be excluded and there will be exemptions for certain categories of information in accordance with the provisions of the Council of Europe convention on data protection.

Which categories of police information will be within the White Paper provisions and which will be excluded? Does the Home Office agree with the present situation in which the security services' computers can tap into all personal information on other Government computers? Does the White Paper make no proposals to protect the privacy of the individual in this area?

Our aim is that, as far as possible, police records will be brought within the scheme. As the hon. Gentleman knows, there are exemptions to cover State security and the suppression of criminal offences. I think that the hon. Gentleman also knows that it is not the practice to comment on security.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that many of us wish to see the most modern methods used in advancing benefits and combating crime? However, at the same time there must be some recognition of our responsibility to those whose lives are affected by computer security. In that respect, the White Paper has been somewhat disappointing in comparison with the Lindop proposals.

I do not altogether understand the drift of my hon. Friend's question. It is our view that, where we have differed from the Lindop proposals, we have been entirely right to do so. We are seeking an effective but not over-bureaucratic system. We believe that what we have put forward will meet that criterion and enable our industry to take full advantage of modern conditions.

I realise that the Minister will not answer questions about what is properly called the secret service computer. Therefore, I shall ask him a question about the other side of the equation. Will he give an assurance that computerised information held in domestic Government Departments will not be made available outside in any circumstances?

Normally, information held in Government Departments, unless covered by the exemptions, will be registered with the registrar, and the conditions under which it will be used will be made absolutely clear.

Serious Offences (Statistics)

5.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list those serious offences recorded that have increased over the past five years and those that have decreased in numbers over the same period.

In those offence groups for which figures of recorded offences in 1977 and 1981 are directly comparable, increases were recorded for violence against the person, burglary and robbery, and a decrease was recorded for sexual offences.

My hon. and learned Friend's answer underlines the fact that there has been a decrease in certain categories of crime over the past few years, but does he agree that the best crime deterrent is more policemen on the beat? Is he aware that Londoners welcome the increase of 3,000 policemen in the Metropolitan police force in the past three years? May we have an assurance that that will result in more policemen on the beat in the capital and that that trend will be reflected in other areas?

I know it to be the Commissioner's policy to get more policemen back on the beat. That is the policy of chief constables generally throughout England and Wales. It has the great advantage of being exactly what our constituents want to see.

Do the figures to which the hon. and learned Gentleman referred suggest that an increase in pornography brings about a decrease in sexual crime?

If the figures suggest that to the hon. Gentleman, he is in a very suggestible mood this afternoon.

Outer London (Crime)

6.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has had any recent discussions with the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis on the level of crime in outer London; and if he will make a statement.

I am in regular contact with the Commissioner on a wide range of topics, including the level of crime in particular parts of London.

Does my right hon. Friend acknowledge that there is a significant difference in the pattern of crime between inner and outer London? Does he agree that the burglary of one's home can be an even more traumatic and sickening experience than being mugged in the street? In view of the recent horrific increase in the number of burglaries and robberies in Bromley and elsewhere, will he encourage the Commissioner to organise more frequent panda car patrols in the most vulnerable areas and to mount more "beat the burglar" campaigns, which have already had some limited success?

I accept that there are differences in crime in different parts of the metropolis. I should not like to make any comparison between the effect on someone who is involved in a street crime and the effect on someone who is burgled. Both offences are equally odious.

My hon. Friend asked me to encourage the Commissioner to organise more frequent panda car patrols. The feeling is that it is important to have more officers back on their feet. We cannot have it all ways all the time.

My hon. Friend's crime prevention proposals are most important. I hope that a great deal of attention will be paid to them. The more difficult it is for burglars to commit crime, the more they are likely to be deterred.

According to the newspapers this morning, the Commissioner has announced that he will record racial incidents wherever they are alleged. Will he also record allegations of racism by individuals against policemen in stop-and-search operations?

I discuss these matters and what the Commissioner says about them with the Commissioner.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that if the police are to have the success that is necessary for proper public protection, the damaging attacks that they are having to suffer will so affect their morale that it will be difficult for them to maintain the necessary level of defence of the public?

Will he note that these attacks come from Left-wing elements and that the committee at County Hall, set up without any remit from the GLC, will not help public protection?

I have made clear on a number of occasions my distaste for some of the remarks made by Mr. Livingstone and Mr. Boatang. They undermine the need, which everyone in the House accepts, for the police to be successful against crime and to prevent trouble in our streets. That is their job. They need the full support of everyone, not only in the House, but in the GLC.

Does the Home Secretary agree with the criticism of the Metropolitan Police expressed by his hon. Friend the Member for Kensington (Sir B. Rhys Williams)—the notorious Left-winger—following the problems in Notting Hill on Tuesday evening?

As a matter of fact, I do not. I believe that the operation conducted by the police in Notting Hill was an example of what is needed. If the House wants not to be properly controlled, it is necessary for firm and clear police action to be taken at the first opportunity. That was done in Notting Hill, and it was most successful.

Telephone Tapping

7.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will publish future Diplock reviews of telephone tapping.

20.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he intends to publish future reviews of the Diplock report on telephone tapping.

Why did the White Paper of March 1981—"The Interception of Communications in Great Britain"—make no reference to the extensive bugging and tapping undertaken under secret police guidelines that were revealed in The Guardian 12 months later? Successive Governments have had an obsessive craze for secrecy. Are not questions blocked in Parliament and virtually anything but the most limited whitewash on telephone tapping and bugging ruthlessly crushed and not published by the present Government?

Successive Governments have always taken the view that matters of national security and the fight against serious crime should not be discussed in the House. I believe that that is right.

Will the Home Secretary arrange for his Department to inform hon. Members when it intends to link questions? Until I came into the Chamber no such information had been passed to me.

I repeat the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer). Why did not the Home Secretary reveal in the 1981 White Paper the extent of tapping and bugging that had been undertaken without warrant? Why should we have to find out this information in an article in The Guardian about 12 months later? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that a more important and sinister aspect is that secret guidelines were issued covering tapping and bugging?

On the hon. Gentleman's first point, if there has been a mistake, I take full responsibility and apologise. However, I have been complimented by many hon. Members on both sides of the House for the punctilious way in which the Home Office always lets them know about such matters. I am sorry if a mistake occurred on this occasion.

On the second point, the hon. Gentleman is confusing surveillance with interception. They are two very different matters.

Will the Home Secretary give an assurance that he will publish any consultative document that comes from the review that he is currently undertaking into the guidelines on surveillance techniques?

I said that I would publish the guidelines when they were finally concluded, and I will.

On a technical point, does the proliferation of bugging devices in a single exchange affect the efficiency of the service? Will my right hon. Friend investigate what goes on in this building, where almost every call one makes is either a crossed line or an unconnected call?

As Home Secretary I seem to be responsible for many matters, but not, thank goodness, for the efficiency of the telephone service.

Is the Home Secretary aware that the Government have a funny set of priorities on intelligence collecting? The intelligence collecting service seems to spend much money on telephone tapping and collecting information about people in the trade union movement, but it could not find out about an Argentine invasion 11 days earlier.

I have said to the House before, and I say again, that telephone interceptions are in the main connected with serious crimes. Surely that is what this country wants done.

Chief Constables (Appointment)

8.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is satisfied with the present system of appointment of chief constables.

Is the Home Secretary aware that many people are more than fed up with the constant, provocative political remarks of the chief constable of Greater Manchester? Could that gentleman be reminded that he is a public servant and that, if he wants to enter politics and engage in political controversy, he should resign his position and do so in the normal manner?

I understand that the chief constable of Manchester wishes to remain in that position. I hope that he will, because I have every confidence in his work.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the vast majority of Londoners are fed up to the back teeth with the provocative and political remarks of Mr. Ken Livingstone on the Commissioner-designate of the Metropolitan Police? Will he confirm that the remarks made by Mr. Livingstone and his colleagues make it imperative that responsibility for the Metropolitan Police should remain with him and the House.

I agree with my hon. Friend. I am not a Londoner, but I am equally fed up with Mr. Livingstone's remarks.

Youth Unemployment

9.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will undertake an examination of whether there is a link between youth unemployment and crime or other forms of anti-social activity.

The published evidence on the relationship between unemployment and crime is kept under review by the Department.

If, in the written reply that is due to me, the Home Secretary identifies an increase in indictable offences in the county of Cumbria, will the hon. and learned Gentleman then accept that there is a link in that county between unemployment and anti-social activity? Does he accept that the best way to reduce the rising crime rate is to provide work for the unemployed and to give direct Government support to the family?

My right hon. Friend's answer to the hon. Gentleman's written question is hypothetical. I do not know what will flow from that. However, my right hon. Friend has dealt with the relationship between unemployment and crime. Published research is like a bran tub—there is something in it for everybody. The true situation, looking back over the post-war growth in recorded crime, is that the increase started in the 1950s, when it was not related to an increase in unemployment; it continued into the 1960s, which was a period of relatively full employment; and in the 1970s the year-on-year increases in crime and unemployment were largely independent of each other.

Recognising what was said earlier about the factor of unemployment in the crime rate, does my hon. and learned Friend agree that countries that enjoy full employment—Switzerland is an outstanding example—also have an increasingly serious problem of crime committed by young persons?

I understand that that is so. It simply shows that the search for a single or simple cause of crime is fruitless. I am certain that, at all levels and in all sections of the community, we must find a way to restore respect for the values that obtained in this country when crime was at a much lower rate.

Why does the Minister not consult people who work in the youth service? They will tell him that there is a close association between rising crime and rising unemployment. Is he completely unaware of the disillusionment, bitterness and anger among young people about unemployment? Is the Minister further aware that the youth opportunities programme, in which the Government take a certain pride, is inadequate and that, unless the new youth training scheme produces jobs, that too, will be inadequate?

I am not responsible for the youth opportunities programme, although I have a great admiration for it. I am well aware of the anxieties, frustration and bitterness among young people who are confronted with unemployment, but I disagree that one can draw from that a causative link between unemployment and crime. Research does not support it. There are many better reasons for wanting to get a reduction in unemployment on a lasting basis than the contribution that that could make to law and order.

How does the Minister explain the massive increase in crime on Merseyside, bearing in mind that the figures issued yesterday show a 17 per cent. increase in crime over the first quarter of this year? There has been a 37 per cent. increase in the number of business premises burgled over the past month alone. Does the Minister agree that there are good grounds for reinstating the £500,000 that has been cut from the Merseyside police budget this year?

No link can be shown—and it is not for want of trying in many quarters—between local unemployment and local levels of crime. We must seek to re-establish those attitudes towards other people's rights—it is those rights that are damaged by crime—that used to obtain. That is widely understood as something in which the whole community is involved.

Does my hon. and learned Friend accept that the relationship between unemployment and crime is hardly a direct one or susceptible of proof, and that if one looks at the crime figures when unemployment reached a peak between the wars, one sees that they do not bear any comparison with the crime figures today? Therefore, it would seem that it is not to unemployment but to a general decline in discipline in society that we must look for the cause of crime.

I agree with my hon. and learned Friend that it is not possible to find a causative link between one and the other. As my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary have frequently said, it has a bearing, but it is only one of many factors. I agree with the thrust of my hon. and learned Friend's question.

Does the hon. and learned Gentleman recall that in February 1978 his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary drew a clear causative link between unemployment under a Labour Government and crime and vandalism among young people? However, it does not seem to suit the Conservative Party now to draw that same link.

That question has been asked of my right hon. Friend, let alone of me, on many occasions and it has been faithfully dealt with. I do not propose to deal with it now.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the totally unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I shall seek leave to raise the matter on the Adjournment.

National Police Computer

10.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what further consideration he has given to the appointment of an independent inspection system on behalf of the public of personal and other information in police computerised and other filing systems, following his reply to the hon. Member for Nuneaton on 18 March, Official Report, c. 474.

The White Paper on data protection, published on 7 April, sets out our proposals for legislation in this matter.

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the reply given by his right hon. Friend on 18 March, and the replies given this afternoon about the White Paper, still mean that in reality a large portion of police files will be left completely independent and exclusive of any inspection system, even on behalf of the public? Will he therefore have a look at the suggestion that has been made by myself and other hon. Members, that if public access cannot be permitted to these police files—indeed, there are good reasons for that—some kind of independent inspection on behalf of the public should be undertaken?

In our view it will be inappropriate to give the registrar and his staff access to security information, which anyway is covered by internal safeguards. In any event, the registrar could not take public action on such matters if he did have to investigate them.

As both my right hon. Friend and I have recently been active on the Floor of the House in the matter of data protection, does he accept that it is perhaps more than a little coincidental that both he and I have been victims of clumsy burglaries of our homes? Is it at all possible that MI5 is taking a keen interest in both of us?

I should have thought that the one place where data cannot possibly be protected is on the Floor of the House. On the other hand, I am inclined to the view that what happens to us at home should be a matter of privacy.

In view of the many leaks that have occurred from local police computers and the fact that such information may sometimes be damaging and inaccurate, will the Minister reconsider whether he should empower a special, duly authorised, security-cleared officer to inspect such files?

I do not think that I can add to what I have just said. If someone were to be given this task, he would not command public confidence unless he could make his findings public, and clearly that would be impossible.

Is not the Minister disturbed at the fact that apparently a massive sum of money has been granted by the House, without any direct, specific labelling, to enable MI5 to build a computer with at least a 20 million storage capacity, which will have links with every other Government Department, without any protection whatever? Is he aware that his refusal to provide that protection is not good enough?

Chief Constable (Greater Manchester)

11.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether the chief constable of Greater Manchester has, under section 12 of the Police Act 1964, referred to him the requirement of the police authority that he should answer questions about the action taken by the police in the Laurence Scott dispute.

When a police authority asks its chief constable for a report under section 12, does the Home Secretary agree that the chief constable has no power to refuse unless he appeals to the Home Secretary to back his refusal?

I understand that the chief constable of Greater Manchester has provided that police authority with a report on police operations during the industrial dispute.

Violent Crime (Statistics)

12.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what has been the rate of increase in violent crime since the ending of capital punishment; and what was the rate of increase over a comparable period before abolition.

In the 16 years since 1965 when capital punishment was abolished, the average annual rate of increase of recorded offences of violence against the person was 9 per cent. In the 16 years from 1950 to 1965, it was 10 per cent.

Does my hon. and learned Friend not agree that the best deterrent is probably one that is never invoked? However, in the light of those figures, is it his impression that there is a link between capital punishment as a deterrent and violent crime?

I happen to think that the best deterrent is the likelihood, and strong probability, that if someone commits a violent crime he will be caught and severely punished, but no one has been able to establish either for or against capital punishment on the basis of statistics. We shall soon have an opportunity to debate this matter.

In view of the fall in the occurrence of murder and a high clear-up rate of 97 per cent., and in view of the reduction in rape and other sexual offences, also with a high clear-up rate, is it not obvious that the real problem with which we are confronted is detecting those who commit run-of-the-mill offences?

I agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman that the higher the rate of detection, the higher the likelihood of deterrence.

Is my hon. and learned Friend not concerned about those who are in constant danger, such as police officers, prison wardens and those who must deal with acts a terrorism? Is there not a justifiable claim to bring back capital punishment for murder in those categories? Will the House again have a chance to vote on this issue?

I do not control these matters, but, like myself, my hon. Friend will have read that we are likely to have an opportunity to deal with these issues, and I do not want to anticipate the arguments that will be appropriate to that occasion.

Will the Minister answer the question asked by his hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley)? Do the figures that he has just given justify the view that capital punishment was a deterrent?

These matters are open to a wide variety of interpretations, and I do not wish to add anything today that would spoil what I am sure will be an excellent debate.

United Kingdom (Entry Visas)

13.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many people have been refused permission to visit the United Kingdom since May 1979.

Between 1 May 1979 and 31 December 1981 some 15,000 Commonwealth citizens and 32,000 foreign nationals were refused leave to enter the United Kingdom. Separate figures are not readily available to show how many of these were seeking entry as visitors.

If this is supposed to be a free country, why are visas being persistently refused to certain North Koreans who want to visit this country? Whatever our views may be on the North Korean regime, is not that exclusion carrying non-recognition too far, especially in view of the oft-repeated assertion that the recognition of a Government does not necessarily mean approval of their policies and the fact that the North Korean Government have been a de facto Administration in that part of the world for over a third of a century?

The question of the recognition of a country is not for me. The Government of North Korea are not recognised by Her Majesty's Government. Persons holding national passports issued by such Governments are not given permission to come to the United Kingdom unless their admission is in the public interest or unless there are compassionate features.

Over the same period, how many people who have been admitted to this country as visitors have subsequently stayed on, in contravention of the conditions of their admission?

As I am sure my hon. Friend will appreciate, it is not possible to give the precise figures of overstayers.

Is the Minister aware that there is increasing distress and resentment among families, particularly among Asian families, who believe that their relatives are being refused permission to visit this country to attend weddings and funerals? Is he further aware that those families now realise that the Conservative manifesto that they may have read in May 1979, which said that there would be special support for the family, was a cruel hoax?

Metropolitan Police (Foot Patrols)

14.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many Metropolitan policemen are now engaged on regular foot patrols compared with the number a year previously.

The Commissioner fully shares my wish to see more officers on the beat. In the last year there has been an increase of over 1,600 in the strength of uniformed constables and most of them have been deployed on foot patrols. A more precise figure could be given only at disproportionate cost.

May I tell the Home Secretary how much I welcome in my borough the increase in the number of policemen on the beat? Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the trend to place policemen on the beat will continue and that, if that means an increase in the strength of the Metropolitan Police because of manpower demands, he will not stand in the way of that increase?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his remarks. I compliment him on the consistent support that he gives to the police in his borough. I wish that everyone else in that borough would give similar support. I am prepared to consider the question of the future strength of the Metropolitan Police.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the risk to policemen on the beat from hardened criminals carrying guns, which has vastly increased recently, would be reduced if capital punishment were reintroduced?

That matter will be debated. If I were to give an answer to my hon. Friend, I should be expressing personal views that are not acceptable to many people. I shall not do that until we have the debate.

Children And Young Persons Act 1969

16.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is satisfied with the operation of the Children and Young Persons Act 1969 in respect of those matters for which he has responsibility.

We have included in the Criminal Justice Bill the measures that we consider necessary to improve the operation of the 1969 Act.

As, since 1975, on average over 40 per cent. of all burglaries committed in the West Midlands have been committed by under 17-year-olds, does my hon. and learned Friend agree that the 1969 Act is largely a paper tiger? Will he confirm that the Criminal Justice Bill will restore definite powers to the magistrates to ensure that parents are truly accountable in the courts for the actions of their children?

The Bill strengthens the jurisdiction of the criminal courts under the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 to make parents of juvenile offenders liable to pay their fines, compensation orders and costs orders. It also increases to £500 the maximum sum in which they can be bound over to exercise proper care and control. Those will be useful additions to the weapons available to the courts.

Given that we imprison twice as many juvenile offenders today as we did a decade ago and that 75 per cent. of them re-offend on release from penal establishments, will the hon. and learned Gentleman accept that there should now be a major shift of emphasis and resources away from custodial techniques to treatment and care in the community and, particularly, that more resources should be provided for measures such as intermediate treatment?

It is desirable that, wherever possible, and consistent with the safety of the public, young offenders should be kept out of custodial establishments. That is why, for example, in the Criminal Justice Bill we are introducing a residential care order, which will enable a young offender to be kept out of custody. I recall that that measure did not win the support of the hon. Gentleman.

Before the final stages of the Criminal Justice Bill, will my hon. and learned Friend consider whether there are sufficient powers for the courts to require parents to pay to the court a small sum each week, part or all of which they could get back after a year or two if their child did not re-offend?

I note my hon. Friend's suggestion. At a later stage he may care to secure that it can be debated in the House.

Prime Minister

Engagements

Q 1.

asked the Prime Minister whether she will list her official engagements for 22 April.

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 have further meetings later today. This evening I hope to attend a dinner given by the Civic Trust.

Despite the strong action taken by my right hon. Friend, and despite also the Government's proper desire for a diplomatic solution, both of which have the full support of the nation, has my right hon. Friend noticed reports that General Galtieri is on his way to the Falkland Islands? Does she agree that that provocative move will not help to achieve a peaceful settlement?

I confirm that we strive for a diplomatic and peaceful solution. Nothing that General Galtieri can do by visiting the islands today alters the fact that the islands are under British sovereignty. Neither invasion nor a visit can alter that. The best thing that can be done is to implement United Nations resolution 502 by the withdrawal of Argentine troops. That resolution was passed nearly three weeks ago.

Did the Cabinet decide this morning to defer publication of the defence White Paper? If so, will it be rewritten to reverse the rundown in naval manpower?

Preparations for the White Paper are complete, but the White Paper is not complete. I do not know when it will be ready to be published, but not next week.

While we must all hope that the Argentine Government will now comply with resolution 502 and the wishes of the House, if they fail to do so, will my right hon. Friend consider going back to the Security Council and asking for economic sanctions, so that we can see who is prepared to stand up and be counted in the battle against aggressors, and we can be seen to have exhausted all other possible means of persuasion short of military force?

My right hon. Friend knows that at the moment we are concentrating on negotiations through the good offices of Mr. Haig. If those fail, of course we shall consider what other actions should be taken. I can only remind my right hon. Friend that the history of economic sanctions and their effectiveness is not good.

Will the Prime Minister confirm that South Georgia is a direct dependency and is only administered by the Falkland Islands governor and that no Government have ever been prepared to countenance any change in that position in discussions with the Argentine? Will she confirm, further, that there are major British interests in relation to the Antarctic and South Georgia?

I confirm what the right hon. Gentleman has said. South Georgia was administered as a matter of convenience through the governorship of the Falkland Islands. Our title to it is different from that to the Falkland Islands. It is a separate dependency. It is extremely important—for the reasons that the right hon. Gentleman gave, among others.

Q2.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 22 April.

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

I refer to the Prime Minister's earlier answer. Is she prepared to give an undertaking that no force will be used, either against the East or West Falkland Islands, until all avenues of diplomacy, including the United Nations, have been fully explored and exhausted?

I confirm what my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said yesterday, that while we are making every effort to secure a peaceful settlement, the use of force cannot be ruled out.

Will the Prime Minister take time today to study the reports of the Israeli aggression in Lebanon yesterday? Does she agree that this break in the ceasefire by the Israelis is unprovoked aggression and is yet another step towards an invasion of Southern Lebanon? Will she take time today to condemn that action?

I think that the whole House will have noted what happened yesterday, will have noted it with concern, and will hope that it will give rise to no more hostilities in that region and that the withdrawal from Sinai will continue on time.

Will my right hon. Friend find time today to examine the record of the Argentine junta in failing to honour certain important international agreements? In particular, will she note the fact that in recent months the junta has dishonoured its international agreement to uphold the authority of the Pope as mediator in the dispute with Chile? Against that background, what possible confidence can Her Majesty's Government have that any agreement that is signed by the Argentine junta is worth the paper that it is written on?

I am well aware of what happened in the dispute to which my hon. Friend refers. I think that another meeting has been called by the Pope on the dispute between Argentine and Chile and that it will take place in the coming two days. It is for the reasons that my hon. Friend adduces that we should watch very carefully the task force and its presence until the withdrawal of those troops is complete.

While we are all, of course, still deeply concerned about the Falklands crisis, may I return to the question that was put by my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) about the other crisis on the borders of Lebanon and Israel? Have the Government made representations on the matter, and are we giving support to the Secretary-General's demands that there should be a re-establishment of the ceasefire? Does this not further illustrate how much we are all dependent, large nations and small, on absolute allegiance to the United Nations charter and the determination to carry it out all over the world?

We hope that that ceasefire will not be broken again. I can, of course, assure the right hon. Gentleman that we are doing everything that we can through diplomatic channels to urge restraint, so that the situation does not get worse.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that those of us, from both sides of the House, who have just returned from the spring meeting of the IPU in Lagos found that delegates from all parts of the Commonwealth recognised the justice of our cause and expressed firm and unequivocal support for what Her Majesty's Government are now doing to deal with the crisis with the Argentine?

I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend. I think that nations almost everywhere recognise that unprovoked aggression must not be seen to succeed, for if it does not only will it be impossible for the people of the Falkland Islands but for many other peoples across the globe.

As the Argentine Government are still defying United Nations resolution 502, does that not put a greater obligation on the Security Council and all those members of the United Nations who have condemned Argentine aggression? Can the right hon. Lady now assure the House that the policy and action of Her Majesty's Government will be to retain the support of all those countries which have condemned Argentine aggression, but which may have other views about wider aspects of the matter?

It is certainly true that some countries may have their own views about the actual sovereignty of the Falkland Islands, but most of them have condemned the unprovoked aggression and would support us in securing the withdrawal of the Argentine forces. They would also recognise that we, too, have rights of self-defence under article 51 of the United Nations charter.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 22 April.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Argentine people have no cause to thank their Government for a rate of inflation of around 140 per cent.? Does she further agree that our rate of inflation is continuing its downward spiral and is on target to fall below 10 per cent. this year? Furthermore, will my right hon. Friend take heart today at the announcement that, together with Japan and France, Great Britain is likely to emerge from the world recession well ahead of our industrial competitors?

I confirm what my hon. Friend has said. The rate of inflation is falling, is continuing to fall, and we expect that it will be below 10 per cent. well before the end of the year. I also confirm that there are forecasts now which point out that the recovery will quicken in this country in the coming year and will be at least as good as that of our major international competitors, and in some cases better.

In relation to the Argentine, does the Prime Minister realise that if the Government engage in hostilities before the processes of negotiation have been fully and adequately carried out, a lot of the support that she has received in the House, and at home and abroad, will disappear like snow off the dike on a hot spring day? Will she, therefore, in pursuit of negotiations for a peaceful settlement, consider the transfer of sovereignty to the United Nations—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—so that the people living in the Falkland Islands will be able to have their security guaranteed by an international body?

I cannot rule out the use of force. The process of negotiations could go on endlessly. There is a maritime exclusion zone. We must also expect that we have a right of self-defence under article 51 of the charter for islands that have been invaded. Of course we would all prefer, and will do everything possible to seek, a peaceful settlement, but, as the hon. Gentleman will understand, that it is not easy, particularly when seeking a settlement with a country, some of whose people say that they will withdraw only if they succeed in obtaining sovereignty as the price of that withdrawal.

Will the Prime Minister dissociate herself from those who suggest that the British flag is just another piece of cloth, and those who consider that it might be a convenient ploy to have it fluttering side by side with the Argentine flag, even before the people of the Falklands have had an opportunity to make their decision clear? Will she stress again the vital importance of the symbolism of the British flag?

Yes, of course. To all of us here, and in particular to the Falklands, the flag is a great symbol of pride and allegiance to the Crown. No one would quarrel for a moment with that statement.

Q4.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 22 April.

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Will the Prime Minister now offer her resignation, in view of the revelation that her Government have recently been supplying arms to the Argentine that may be used against the Falklanders and British forces`? Is that not tantamount to treasonable conduct?

If the hon. Gentleman looks at the history of the supply of arms to the Argentine he will find that a number of contracts were negotiated during the lifetime of his own Government.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the truly remarkable achievement of the Royal Navy and the other Services in mounting this task force with such efficiency and speed has been insufficiently recognised to date? Does she further agree that any continuing plea for a restriction of the use of force, or some other kind of compromise, can serve only to bring comfort and strength to the junta and thus increase the risk of further miscalculation on its part, and loss of life?

I agree with my hon. Friend that the speed with which the Royal Navy assembled the task force, and its efficiency throughout, have been matters of pride for us all. I entirely agree with him that sending the task force efficiently and well-equipped is a factor that is more likely to lead the junta to a peaceful settlement than would have been the case without it.

Q5.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 22 April.

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Is the Prime Minister aware that her attitude towards the Fascist junta in the Argentine contrasts with the lack of action by her Government towards another Fascist junta, that in Turkey, which is still occupying part of a Commonwealth country, Cyprus? What is her attitude to that occupation? What action is she taking to have those troops removed? What will she do if the general in Ankara refuses to remove Turkish troops from Cyprus?

I understand that the military Government in Turkey have said that they intend to return to democratic Government as soon as possible. They have indicated to the European Community a timetable under which they hope to achieve that.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that if a democracy is unwilling to defend its own territory or people against conventional armed attack after, and only after, all peace negotiations have been exhausted, it might find that its credibility is seriously damaged when it comes together with other democracies in an organisation such as NATO?

I fully agree with my hon. Friend. One must be prepared to defend those things in which one believes and be prepared to use force if it is the only way to secure a future of liberty and self-determination.

Business Of The House

Will the Leader of the House announce the business for next week?

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons
(Mr. John Biffen)

Yes, Sir. The business for next week will be as follows:—

MONDAY 26 APRIL AND TUESDAY 27 APRIL—Further progress in Committee on the Finance Bill.

WEDNESDAY 28 APRIL—Debate on a motion to take note of the White Paper on Northern Ireland, "A Framework for Devolution", Cmnd. 8451.

Motion on the Value Added Tax (Finance) Order. THURSDAY 29 APRIL—Consideration in Committee of the Finance Bill.

FRIDAY 30 APRIL—Private Members' Bills.

I have three matters to put to the right hon. Gentleman. First, I thank and congratulate him for arranging that the debate on the White Paper on Northern Ireland should take place on a take-note motion. That is the best way for the whole House to examine the matter in a preliminary way.

Secondly, I assume that the right hon. Gentleman will give an assurance that there will be an early report to the House when the Foreign Secretary returns from his discussions in the United States.

Thirdly, can the right hon. Gentleman clear up the mystery of the disappearing White Paper on defence about which the Prime Minister did not give us any information? Are we likley to have a defence White Paper this year? Can he give us the foggiest idea of what is likely to be in it?

I am sure that the whole House will welcome the enthusiasm that the Leader of the Opposition now shows for defence White Papers. The preparation of the annual statement on the Defence Estimates is substantially complete. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence is considering whether, in the light of present circumstances, we should produce an addendum. I am sure that the House will think that that is a measured and prudent reaction.

On the right hon. Gentleman's first point, I thank him for his comments. On his second point, throughout the past week and, indeed, before, we have sought to keep the House fully informed of the moving dramas of the Falkland crisis. I have no doubt that it will be the wish of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to present his comments to the House on his return from the United States.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give the House an absolute assurance here and now that the addendum will be even longer than the White Paper—or is it all to be subsumed under the title "Errata"?

The Leader of the Opposition is more perceptive in his humour than in his final military judgment. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence will earn the respect and endorsement of the House by taking account of recent events before preparing his defence White Paper.

Can we be assured that the addendum will be carefully prepared and might include a subtraction—the Trident missile programme?

The right hon. Gentleman's views on the significance of Trident to our national defence are well known. I assure him that all documents prepared by the Government are careful.

I cannot refrain from asking my right hon. Friend about his new duties. Now that he has taken those responsibilities, is he aware that the Scott report was published nearly 18 months ago? When will the House have an opportunity to discuss it?

I recognise the anxiety of hon. Members about the fact that consideration of that issue is taking some time. The House will understand that it is extremely complex. As the House has already been informed, there will be an opportunity to debate the matter, but I cannot yet announce the time for the debate.

I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that a take-note motion is the appropriate way to proceed with the debate on the White Paper on Northern Ireland. However, as that debate has now been switched from Tuesday to Wednesday, is it now proposed to proceed with the sitting of the Northern Ireland Committee on that day, since the guidelines for the Industrial Development Board that were promised for that day will not now be available for several weeks?

I entirely appreciate the hon. Gentleman's point. I am sure that the matter can be re-examined through the usual channels.

Will the Leader of the House arrange for an early debate on data protection, as it is clear that many people are disappointed with the recently published White Paper?

An interesting debate this week allowed hon. Members to touch on that subject. In those circumstances, I cannot say that there will be another opportunity next week.

Will my right hon. Friend arrange time for a statement next week if there is any question of calling up reservists if there is some conflict with the Argentine?

In the coming week, as in this, we shall be anxious to consult the House about every point in the Falklands issue whenever that is appropriate.

On the assumption that the Government want maximum publicity for their efforts in the Falklands crisis, will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement or a debate next week on the blacking being carried out by the union ACTT? Is he aware that it arises from the unjust dismissal of 26 film makers from the Central Office of Information and that they are seeking to renegotiate? Is he further aware that I have a letter from the Director-General of the Central Office of Information stating that the two issues are not connected? Is he also aware that I have a copy of a telegram from the Ministry of Defence that strongly requests the union to relieve the Government of the handicap of having Government films blacked, and that filming of the task force operation should be allowed to continue? Is that not a matter of considerable urgency?

I do not in any way wish to disparage the importance of the topic that the hon. Gentleman raises. However, I cannot find time for a debate on it next week.

Can my right hon. Friend give some idea when the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will provide a money resolution for the Southern Water Authority Bill, which is a Private Bill? Is he aware that the delay in providing that money resolution is holding up the Committee proceedings and that that adversely affects the River Medway and many other matters that have nothing to do with the money resolution, which relates to land drainage?

I appreciate the difficulties that my hon. Friend has outlined. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has that in mind and believes that progress will be made shortly.

Does the Secretary of State for Transport intend to make a statement on increased lorry weights in the next few days?

That is not planned, but I shall draw the hon. Gentleman's remarks to my right hon. Friend's attention.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the defence White Paper has been withdrawn because of the many imponderables that have been created by, and will exist until there is an outcome to, our forces' expedition to the Argentine? Does he also accept that when the White Paper is produced the House will require more than one day in which to debate it? Does he agree that at least two full days should be allocated to the matter?

I note my hon. Friend's remarks about time for a debate. Happily, that does not fall immediately in the coming week. On his first point, it is not true that my right hon. Friend has withdrawn the defence White Paper, but he is certainly considering issuing an addendum which will take into account many of the developments of recent weeks which are clearly in the mind of the House.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the first annual report of the chief inspector of the prison service, which was published recently, described the appallingly overcrowded conditions in some of our prisons as degrading and dehumanising? When may we debate this extremely important subject?

I thoroughly agree with the hon. Gentleman about the importance of the subject, but I am afraid that I must offer the disappointing rejoinder that, whenever the debate takes place, it certainly cannot take place next week.

Will my right hon. Friend provide an early opportunity to debate the reporting by the media of the Falkland Islands crisis? Is he aware that twice in one week the BB2 "Newsnight" programme deliberately misrepresented the facts about the air situation in relation to the task force?

If the opportunity were provided, I am sure that many hon. Members would wish to pay full tribute to the way in which the media have covered the whole Falklands incident, but such a debate, which would allow my hon. Friend and others to put their points of view, cannot take place next week.

May we have a debate next week on the extent to which, in a period of free exchange control, the City of London is cooperating with sanctions against Arentina and the extent to which well-known firms in the City are attempting to avoid the sanctions overseas? Does he agree that it is unreasonable to expect our allies in Europe and the United States to help us with economic sanctions against Argentina unless it is absolutely clear that everyone in Britain is co-operating?

The hon. Gentleman makes a number of contentious comments—I make no reference to whether I believe them to be well advised—but apart from such ingenuity as he may use in relation to the Committee stage of the Finance Bill, I see no opportunity for such a debate next week.

As the House has been promised a debate on the Middle East and as it has recently enthusiastically embraced two principles—the right to self-determination, which of course includes the Palestinians, and the principle that no militarily strong and powerful nation should unleash military operations aganist its less powerful neighbours, namely Israel and Lebanon—will my right hon. Friend arrange for that debate as soon as possible?

I think that the House generally is anxious that there should be a debate on foreign affairs and particularly the Middle East, but again, although I hope that it will be in the not too distant future, I am afraid that it cannot be quite so soon as my hon. Friend would wish.

Order. If hon. Members will co-operate by asking brief questions, I shall try to call all those who have been rising.

As the Leader of the House has said that it will be impossible to have a debate on the COI redundancies, may we have a statement on the matter? Is he aware that the ACTT has generously offered to lift the blacking to allow the Government material to be presented even though, just a few weeks ago, the Government arbitrarily sacked 26 skilled, prize-winning film-makers who would be most willing to participate in the exercise if there were only some negotiation about their jobs? May we have a statement next week as a matter of urgency?

I shall certainly pass the hon. Gentleman's remarks to my ministerial colleague who has responsibility in this matter. Then we shall see what happens.

Will my right hon. Friend arrange for the Home Secretary to make a statement to the House next week on the unfortunate development of vigilante groups in many cities throughout the United Kingdom? Is he aware that the problem was highlighted in Doctor, a weekly magazine for family practitioners? Is he further aware that it is apparently supported by certain Left-wing members of the Socialist Party and was mentioned in London Labour Briefing, which is an official journal of the Labour Party?

I shall bring my hon. Friend's remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, but I certainly cannot promise that a statement is likely next week.

Will the right hon. Gentleman be a little more forthcoming on the reply that he gave to his hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow)? Does he accept that the situation in the Middle East is far more dangerous than that in the Falkland Islands? Does he agree that the House should have the opportunity to express its view on this, not after the event, as in the case of the Falkland Islands, but before any further outbreak of violence in the area?

I appreciate the deep anxiety of many hon. Members about the present difficulties and dangers in the Middle East, and I hope that it will secure a reasonably early debate on foreign affairs, but there is no prospect of such a debate next week.

In view of the impending changes in naval and nuclear policies, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is essential that the House should have the opportunity to debate the accountability of both the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence, so that we may pass judgment on their performance in those offices and require their resignation?

The absence of debate has never inhibited the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) from passing judgment. I think that we are sufficiently close to the season for defence debates for it to be reasonable to wait until then.

What progress has been made on the promised inquiry into the events leading to the invasion of the Falkland Islands? May we have an early statement about that inquiry?

The hon. Gentleman raises a very important point. I shall bear in mind the timing of such a statement.

Will the Leader of the House confirm that he has read the Public Accounts Committee report on the Chevaline missile? Will he prevail on the Secretary of State for Defence and on the Treasury to accelerate their response to the report so that the House will be aware of its nature before publication of the defence White Paper?

The Public Accounts Committee report was received yesterday and is now being studied. The Government will reply to the Committee in due course.

Is the Leader of the House aware that the promised inquiry into the events leading up to the invasion of the Falkland Islands is crucial, in view of the current situation? Can he promise that the inquiry is likely to take place in the very near future?

I do not think that I can go beyond my answer to the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans). My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made the position quite clear. I think that for the moment the matter must rest there.

Order. I shall call the hon. Member who has only just begun to rise after I have called the two hon. Members who have been doing so continually.

Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been drawn to early-day motions Nos. 342 and 344 on the importation of seal products, following the motion overwhelmingly carried by the European Assembly?

[That this House expresses its concern at the slaughter of 200,000 baby seals in Northern Canada and, bearing in mind that the United Kingdom is one of the largest importers of seal pelts, welcomes the resolutions passed overwhelmingly by the European Parliament (160 votes to 10) on 11th March calling for a ban on the importation into the European Economic Community of all skins and products derived from young harp and hooded seals and on products coming from seals whose stocks are depleted, threatened or endangered; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government not only to accept this proposal at the Council of Ministers but also, following the example of the United States of America, France, Holland, Italy and Sweden, to take action itself to introduce such an import ban as soon as possible.]

[That this House, noting the decision of the European Parliament of 11th March 1982, requests Her majesty's Government to impose a ban on the import of products derived from baby harp and hooded seals.]

If the right hon. Gentleman cannot arrange a debate on the matter, will he ask the appropriate Minister to make an early statement on it?

As a former Minister at the Department of Trade, I am more than aware of the issue to which the right hon. Gentleman refers. I shall certainly pass his comments to my successor, who I know will be anxious to help in any way that he can.

Is it not time that the Leader of the House ensured that a statement was made or a debate arranged on the vexed question of nurses' pay? Is it not a scandal that the Government, who were elected in 1979 on the promise of free collective bargaining, are now trying to ensure that the nurses receive a pay increase of only 6·4 per cent. when the rate of inflation is nearly—

The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that negotiations are still proceeding in the Whitley Council. I think that we had better wait and see what comes out of those negotiations.

Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Secretary of State for Employment to make a statement next week on the dispute between dock workers and the National Dock Labour Board over the consultative document? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if the document is not withdrawn there will be an official national dock strike?

I understand that the dockers' union is threatening a national strike unless the National Dock Labour Board withdraws its consultative document containing cost-cutting proposals. This is a matter for the National Dock Labour Board, which is responsible for meeting its own administrative costs, and which is composed of an equal number of employer and trade union representatives. In those circumstances, it would not be wise for the Government to make any further move at this time.

I should like, Mr. Speaker, to preface my question with an explanation to you that I have been present throughout the exchanges but that I had expected this question to be raised by another hon. Member. In his absence, I would seek to put it to my right hon. Friend. Has my right hon. Friend heard of the report that the receiver has today called a meeting of shop stewards in the De Lorean motor plant in Belfast to announce the mothballing of that plant? If that report is correct, will my right hon. Friend at least arrange for a statement at the earliest opportunity, even if he cannot find time for a debate, and so provide hon. Members with the chance to question the Minister responsible?

I have not heard of the last-minute report to which my hon. Friend refers. I shall certainly draw the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to my hon. Friend's remarks, because I am certain that it is a matter of real concern to the Province.

Members (Personal Attacks)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Last night on the Adjournment, the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Montgomery) used about half the time available to him to launch a personal attack upon me. He gave me no notice of his intention. I wish to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether it is still the tradition of the House that when hon. Members intend to make personal attacks of that kind, they should give notice to the hon. Members concerned.

I am already dealing separately with another complaint of a personal attack being made upon an hon. Member. I have not read the details of the Adjournment debate last night. I shall, of course, immediately do so. I would merely say to the House that nothing is ever gained for any of us by personal attacks when reasoned argument is the basis on which we work.

Foreign Secretary (Statement)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs apparently returned to the Chamber after his statement to make a further explanation. I am not quarrelling with that. It was his right. You, Mr. Speaker, and the House agreed to it. My question is this. In view of the importance of the content of the Secretary of State's subsequent explanation, made, I believe, some 20 minutes later, would it not have been useful for hon. Members to have had some information that the Foreign Secretary had decided to make it? Most hon. Members were unaware of what was happening.