asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the latest unemployment level in the construction industry.
At 15 April 1982 the number of people registered as unemployed in the construction industry was 23,321. While unemployment in this industry continues high, there has been some improvement, with the level now about 1,100 below last summer's peak. This improvement is expected to be sustained in coming months as a direct result of the Government's plans for increased expenditure on house building, supported by our factory building and other programmes.
Unemployment in the building industry in Northern Ireland is nearly 47 per cent., the highest in the United Kingdom. The Under-Secretary's reply on 25 March indicated that housing conditions were probably worse in Greater Belfast that anywhere in the United Kingdom. Is this not a terrible indictment of the Government's policies?
I had hoped that the hon. Gentleman would welcome the slight improvement. Although housing is not my direct responsibility, I can advise that completions in 1980, which presumably were those started under the Labour Government, totalled about 2,507. As a result of policy decisions taken by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, the number of starts for new houses in the coming year will be 4,500. We have nearly doubled the number of starts compared with completions two years ago, and that reflects the amount of money that we are prepared to put behind solving this serious problem.
Does the Minister agree that something radical and urgent needs to be done in Strabane and Cookstown, which are two of the blackest spots for unemployment? Will he agree to visit Strabane in the near future and talk to the people who are so closely concerned with this appalling plight?
Strabane and Cookstown will benefit from the expenditure on capital works, whether on housing, factory building, or other projects, as will the rest of the Province. As regards visiting Strabane, the hon. Gentleman will know that I have met members of the council on at least two occasions. However, I hope to visit Strabane again in the near future.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the Regional Policy Committee of the European Parliament only this week passed a measure that should enable another 7,000 houses to be built in the worst housing area of Belfast? Will he inform the Opposition that this is a great step forward in giving help to those who need it most?
My hon. Friend refers to very good news. There is sympathetic understanding in the Commission and the Council of Ministers of the problems of Belfast in particular and Northern Ireland as a whole. The figure given by my hon. Friend is evidence of that understanding put into reality.
If the housing figures for the past two years in Northern Ireland were expressed as a percentage either of housing in Northern Ireland or of the population in Northern Ireland and were compared with the United Kingdom as a whole, would they not show that Ulster is doing relatively well in the improvement of its housing conditions?
The right hon. Gentleman is probably correct in that assumption. If he would like the actual statistics, I suggest that he inquire of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary.
Will the hon. Gentleman assure us that the money voted in Europe this week will be in addition to any other amounts?
I understand that the money will be additional to any other amounts provided by either the Government or the Commission in one way or another.
In talking about improvements, will the Minister bear in mind the rehabilitation programme that was taking place under the Labour Government and the fact that unemployment has doubled? Does he appreciate that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Scotland Exchange (Mr. Parry) said, this is the one area in which we could expand construction and soak up unemployment without sucking in imports?
The House may like to know that the total sum that it is possible to calculate as being available for construction work in one way or another in 1982–83 is about £580 million. A large element of that is estimated to be for maintenance work, to which the hon. Gentleman referred, and for work generated by departmental grants. So we entirely subscribe to that approach.
Northern Ireland Assembly Act
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he intends to seek to amend the schedule to the Northern Ireland Assembly Act to take account of population movements in the Province.
Yes, Sir. Paragraph 11 of schedule 2 to the Northern Ireland Bill which was introduced on 20 April amends the schedule to the Northern Ireland Assembly Act 1973 so that the number of Members to be returned to the Assembly from each parliamentary constituency will reflect the distribution of the electorate in line with the 1982 local government register of electors.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that everyone in Northern Ireland will welcome his attempt to ensure parity of representation for the various constituencies in the Province? Does he realise that he has now constructed three constituencies, one with 10 members and two with eight members? Although we in Northern Ireland pride ourselves on our ability to overcome the various electoral obstacles put in our way by this House, does he appreciate that it is very difficult for the electorate to select 10 candidates out of a potential list of perhaps 30 or 40?
The position may improve when we move to the 17 constituencies, but it is too early to say whether we shall be able to do that before any Assembly election. I suspect, however, that if the House passes the Bill the Assembly elections will have to be fought on the 12-constituency basis. I accept what the hon. Gentleman says, but I do not see how we can get round it at this stage.
Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that if the timetable permits he will have the Assembly elections held on the 17-constituency basis?
There is a difficulty. It would depend on how much time elapsed between the Boundary Commission producing its final report and the likely date of the elections. People need a good deal of notice before constituencies are changed. Certainly the electoral officers would require a certain amount of notice. Therefore, I doubt whether the change could be made in time, but I think that this is a matter on which we should make a decision at a later stage.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he will have the assistance of a majority in the House in deferring the elections in such a way that they can be held, if at all, on the 17-constituency basis? When does he expect to receive the Boundary Commission report which will contain the relevant recommendations?
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the Boundary Commission published its provisional recommendations on 2 April. It is unlikely that it will publish its final recommendations before June.On the earlier part of the right hon. Gentleman's question, I am well aware of his views. I shall not seek his assistance on that particular matter.
Republic Of Ireland (Discussions)
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what recent discussions he has had with the Government of the Republic of Ireland.
I met the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic on 31 March 1982. I outlined to Mr. Collins the Government's current thinking on constitutional proposals in Northern Ireland, and we discussed a range of other matters of mutual interest.
What are the Irish Government's views on the proposed Assembly? Does the Secretary of State agree that continued contact and co-operation between the two Governments on future developments in the Province would be very useful?
I think that it was a courtesy to inform the Republic's Minister for Foreign Affairs of our proposals. Mr. Collins made it clear to me that they did not meet the wishes of his Government, but that is a matter for him. My motive was to inform him of what we intended to propose in the White Paper.As for other matters, I believe that the greatest possible co-operation between the Republic and ourselves is a very good thing, particularly in relation to security.
Despite the usefulness of co-operation, when my right hon. Friend next meets members of the Irish Government will he convey two messages to them? First, will he tell them that this House finds mischievous, and questions the motivation of, the Irish Government in condemning proposals for Northern Ireland before they are even published? Secondly, will he make it clear that if the Irish Government think that the House of the British Government intends to do a deal behind the backs of the Unionists in order to appease the Irish Government, they have another think coming?
The Irish Government will no doubt take note of my hon. Friend's statement. As far as I am concerned, it is the intention of the Government that no deal should be carried out behind anyone's back. I am well aware of the mistrust that has developed in the Province over the past few years. I have no intention of allowing that to be repeated.
Is the Secretary of State aware that there might conceivably be a shift in the Irish Government's view in the light of recent developments? What other areas of co-operation did he explore with the Irish Government in his discussions with the Minister for Foreign Affairs?
Obviously, we discussed security, which I have already mentioned. We also talked about certain economic matters. On that occasion we mentioned Kinsale gas as one of the matters in which we have a joint interest. I think that those were the only matters discussed with the Minister for Foreign Affairs at that time, but in previous meetings with former Foreign Ministers there was wide-ranging discussion on the economic benefits that could flow from closer co-operation in matters such as tourism and cross-border activities generally. On many items, however, we are in direct competition with the Republic. Therefore, the co-operation must be on major matters and not on individual items.
I agree that co-operation and close contact with the Irish Government are not just a good thing but are essential. However, was there discussion on and what was the Irish Government's view of the setting up of the parliamentary tier?
We were talking much more in terms of the parliamentary body. That resulted from the summit talks between my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the former Taoiseach. There have been no further moves on any parliamentary body since the last Government of the Republic were in office. At the moment, the position is as stated in the last November's summit talks.
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many people are unemployed in Norther Ireland; and what steps he proposes to take to reduce the numbers who are out of work.
The total number of people registered as unemployed in Northern Ireland on 15 April 1982 was 111,925.Priority in Government expenditure continues to be given to industrial development as the best way of promoting secure employment. The Government are also helping in the short term through our special employment and training measures, from which 21,600 adults and young people are currently benefiting.
As the figures represent considerable human misery and disillusionment, particularly among young people who should be paid to stay on at school after reaching the school leaving age, will the Government now introduce additional and radical measures, beginning with a tax holiday, which Eire provides, in order to attract new firms to Northern Ireland, as well as removing value added tax from all goods manufactured in the Province, to save its economy and industry from being destroyed?
I share the hon. Gentleman's concern, but the solutions that he recommends are likely substantially to damage not just the economy of Northern Ireland but that of the United Kingdom. He must judge for himself in making comparisons between the approaches to economic management of different countries. I remind him that our package of incentives for promoting industrial development in Northern Ireland is independently judged to be the best in Europe. For that reason we continue to promote it with all our strength.
The figures for unemployment that the Minister has given us are shameful. Nevertheless, they are inflated by a substantial number of people who are drawing unemployment benefit while working. Is the Minister taking every measure to ensure that people doing that will be apprehended?
This is always a matter of concern to the Government. It is the responsibility of my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Patten). I know that he and his Department are taking special measures to try to minimise this abuse, which is tantamount to stealing.
Will the Minister care to comment on the future of Short Brothers, in view of the announcement that many of the firm's apprentices are now to be paid off? That would make it seem that there will not be much future in young people being employed there.
It is true that Short Brothers has decided that it does not want the full number of apprentices that it took on. Therefore, I am afraid that there will be some redundancies in that area. With regard to the future, I had a meeting with the chairman and the chief executive yesterday, and I am glad to say that the company is on its financial target.
Does not the Minister appreciate that whenever he gives answers such as that they will be regarded by the people of Northern Ireland as complacent while unemployment is at 20 per cent.? Surely, we need a sensible use of public money, particularly in the construction industry, to reduce that figure quickly?
Charges of complacency are easy to throw around. We have to examine the facts. They are that we have the best package of incentives in the Western world for industrial development. It was only a few weeks ago that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced additional spending, over and above what had been planned, to help industrial development and particularly housing. All of these measures were devised to increase the number of job opportunities in the Province by about 9,000.
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he will make a statement on the response to the White Paper "Northern Ireland: A Framework for Devolution".
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the response to his proposals on the constitutional future of Northern Ireland.
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what representations he has received about the White Paper, "A Framework for Devolution".
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what representations he has received about his document "A Framework for Devolution".
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what representations he has received concerning his political proposals for the Province.
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what representations he has received from political parties in Northern Ireland following the publication of his White Paper, "A Framework for Devolution".
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he will make a statement about the response in the Province to his constitutional proposals.
Since the White Paper was published I have received written representation on the Government's proposals from only one Northern Ireland party, but the other parties have left me in no doubt of their views, many of which were discussed during the debate yesterday. I recognise that criticism exists, but I shall continue to do all that I can to encourage the parties to take full advantage of the opportunities that the proposals offer.
I shall first call the seven hon. Members whose questions are being answered.
Does it not appear from the history of Ireland, both North and South, that there is a powerful case either for a strong local Parliament with legislative powers or for no devolved Parliament? However, there is very little case in history or otherwise for a weak and ineffectual Assembly.
Northern Ireland requires a strong local Government with the necessary powers. It is with that goal in mind that we are seeking to move forward. It is unrealistic to believe that it will come quickly.
In view of the reference in the White Paper to an Anglo-Irish Council will my right hon. Friend make it clear to the Government of the Irish Republic that there is no question of a parliamentary element in that council while the Republic claims sovereignty in its constitution over part of the United Kingdom?
I need go no further today than to refer to the summit conference that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister had with the former Prime Minister of the Republic. At that time it was suggested that we should set up some parliamentary body that would be open to Members of this House, the Dail, the European Parliament and any Assembly from Northern Ireland, if such Assembly came into operation. It would then be for the Parliaments to decide what further action should be taken.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm once again that each of four main political parties in Northern Ireland remains committed to the principle of devolution?
It is clear that that is the policy of the four parties. However, the difficulty is to get them to agree on the type of devolution. All wish for different things.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that when these questions were tabled most of us did not know that yesterday's debate was to take place? Was it not obvious to the right hon. Gentleman from that debate that the likelihood of any implementation of the White Paper is rather remote? If it becomes acceptable, will he examine carefully the disgraceful point in it that the president, who is liable to be an Ulster Unionist by any counting, can then appoint whoever he wants to be chairmen of committees? That is more in line with Stormont than it is with democracy.
On the latter point, the hon. Gentleman cannot have read the Bill. It makes it plain that the presiding officer will first have to consult the parties concerned. His appointments of the chairmen and deputy chairmen of the committees will be according to the balance of the parties represented in the Assembly. If the hon. Member examines the Bill he will find that this is well catered for.In proceeding in this matter I, like any Minister, am at the behest of the House of Commons. I shall try, during the course of the next few weeks, to take the views of the House of Commons into consideration. I hope that the House will recognise and help, because these proposals can be made to work. If the House of Commons shows that resolve the parties in Northern Ireland can be brought to believe that these policies can and should work in the interests of Northern Ireland.
When the new Assembly has been set up, will it not be unimaginable that the North can be forced into union with the South, against the will of that Assembly? Given the likely make-up of the Assembly, is it not most unlikely that that will be forthcoming? Therefore, is not the most important aspect of my right hon. Friend's proposals this bulwark to sustain the Union between Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom?
I believe that the Assembly is very important for Northern Ireland and its people. As my hon. Friend points out, it is clear, even apart from the constitution Act, which sets out the matter plainly, that the consent of the Northern Ireland people would be required before any change was made in the constitution. The Assembly will help to augment that, and the Members of the Assembly will have a chance to say so.
In view of the power sharing by consent between Unionists and nationalists in a number of district councils, why should devolution, of which Unionists and nationalists have incompatible concepts, be deemed feasible in the central administration of the Province and not in local authorities?
There is some element of power sharing in local authorities, but, as was pointed out yesterday, there are all too many examples, even today, of discrimination. If my hon. Friend believes that we can have more forms of voluntary co-operation at local level, I hope that the same attitude can be displayed in the Assembly.
Why are the Government so keen to provide devolution sauce for the Ulster goose, which is rejecting it, yet do not provide it for the Scottish gander, which voted in favour of it?
As I pointed out yesterday, we believe that circumstances in Northern Ireland are completely different from those in the rest of the United Kingdom. The history, geography and politics of the Province make for devolved Government there a case of a quite different order from that which might apply to any other part of the United Kingdom.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in spite of what he says, many people in the United Kingdom are worried that his proposals for Northern Ireland, whatever their merits, are bound to lead to a greater demand for devolution in Scotland, which we had hoped had gone away?
I never like disagreeing with my hon. Friend, but, as I said yesterday, I do not believe that the constitution necessarily means that there must be exact conformity in every part of the United Kingdom. We must, as I and my hon. Friend wish, maintain the unity of the United Kingdom. That is the main aim of the proposals.
Does the Secretary of State agree that the setting up of the Anglo-Irish Council may help to bring about the acceptance of the proposed new Assembly? As he has said that it is a matter for Parliament when such an organisation meets and comes into being, will he leave it to the House to decide on a free vote if and when that council is to be created?
I have always acknowledged the problem of those in the North who have an identity with and a desire for an all-Ireland arrangment. As long as they work for that peacefully, they are perfectly entitled to do so. However, we must make it clear that they are part of Northern Ireland and any parliamentary body which the House might decide to have must be seen within the context of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom. Nothing must be allowed to break that down. This is an important and sensitive issue for the Irish minority who believe in it. We should proceed with this measure on that basis. If the House of Commons, the Dail and other people put such a measure forward, the Government will have to consider it.
Does the Minister accept that, despite the difficulties of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) in understanding the role of the president, the first part of the White Paper is in agreement with his desire that Unionists should not govern Northern Ireland?
The hon. Gentleman must be joking.
I do not know what I am meant to answer to that. I shall not try to intrude upon any disagreement between the hon. Members for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) and Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth).
The Opposition said yesterday that they would give the Secretary of State's efforts a fair run. I trust that when it comes to the Committee and subsequent stages of the Bill, the Secretary of State, with his views on the minority, will take seriously what was said yesterday, not only by Labour Members, but by others. I hope that he will consider those points carefully, because the whole intention of the Opposition is to improve the Bill by suggestions and amendments, which we hope will give it a better chance when it is further dealt with by the House.
Obviously, in a matter as delicate and difficult as this, I want to carry as much of the House with me as possible in our proposals. It is greatly to the advantage of people in Northern Ireland if we can show that there is a degree of unity in the House on what we propose. I hope that we shall be able to work in that spirit during the Committee stage of the Bill. I shall try to do so.
Irish Sea (Herring Fishing)
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he expects that the conditions of herring fishing in the Irish Sea fisheries in the 1982 season will be finally determined.
It is hoped that an announcement on the recommended total allowable catches will be made before the end of May by the EEC Commission, following which the United Kingdom fisheries departments will discuss the arrangements appropriate for the fishery.
On the basis of that timetable, can the Minister give any estimate in answer to the question that I asked him, bearing in mind that for a considerable section of the fishing industry there are hopes attaching to the possibility of a much larger allowable catch this season than has been the case for many seasons past?
I recognise the anxieties of the Northern Ireland fishing industry in this matter, but I regret that at this stage I cannot go further than I have. I must underline the fact that once the announcement on the catch is made it will be for the United Kingdom fisheries departments to come together to discuss and decide on the management arrangements.
Royal Victoria Hospitals
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what consideration has been given to a possible change in the administration of the Royal Victoria group of hospitals as a separate unit.
The Eastern Health and Social Services Board is considering the future administration of the Royal group of hospitals, both in the light of guidelines issued by the Department of Health and Social Services in June 1981 and the views expressed in the Oliver review body report.I expect the board's proposals in May and I shall consider them then.
I accept the Minister's answer, but does he agree that there are good reasons for further examining the situation, particularly in view of the specialist work done at the Royal Victoria hospital and the apparent waste of resources in the district arising both from the security situation and the confusion in audit managing?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for asking that question, because it gives me the opportunity to say two things. First, I take seriously the point that he makes about the apparent waste of resources and the difficult position of the Royal Victoria hospital. When the recommendations are considered next month we shall take the hon. Gentleman's views into account.Secondly, this is the first time in 10 months that a Minister has stood at the Dispatch Box to answer a question on the health and social services of the Province, which with social security accounts for £1·5 billion a year, or about 45 per cent., of Government expenditure. I fully appreciate the problems that hon. Members from Northern Ireland have in representing their constituents, but issues such as the Royal Victoria hospital might well benefit from examination in the new Assembly.
Because of its location, patients, doctors, nurses, staff and, indeed, visitors to the Royal Victoria hospital are in great jeopardy from the Provisional IRA. Will the Government consider closing the hospital and building a new large hospital on the outskirts of Belfast, where there is a desperate need for proper medical facilities?
I can give only a short and sharp answer, "No, Sir".
United States Of America (Ira Propaganda)
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement about proposed ministerial visits to the United States of America to counter the prevalence of Irish Republican Army propaganda there.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland hopes to visit the United States of America shortly to explain the Government's constitutional proposals to members of the Administration and Congress, and other leading opinion formers. We also hope to encourage those Americans who might have been misled by the sterile propaganda of the Irish Republican Army to look beyond that and above all to refrain from providing funds to organisations which support terrorism in Northern Ireland.
I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Can he confirm that the United States is the main overseas source of funds for the IRA to enable it to buy weapons of murder? When my right hon. Friend goes to the United States, will he explain to the people of the United States that the people of Northern Ireland are just as entitled to choose under whose sovereignty they live as are the people of Puerto Rico or the Falkland Islands?
As I said, one of the main purposes of my right hon. Friend's visit will be to put that message across. I already detect rather more success and awareness than hitherto in the United States of the reality of terrorism in Northern Ireland, and, therefore, the need not to contribute funds for its purposes.
Is the Minister aware that responsible Irish-American opinion has always been bitterly opposed to all the activities of the IRA in the United States of America? Will he bear in mind that in the past week Right-wing Conservative Members have expressed their gratitude and thanks to responsible Irish-American opinion as it has been expressed in relation to the British dispute over the Falkland Islands in the speech by Senator Daniel Moynihan?
I think that there is truth in what the hon. Gentleman says. Some money has gone to the IRA because of ignorance of the reality of the situation in Northern Ireland. Our task is to develop a greater awareness of that reality.
Might it not be possible for a fresh series of visits to be made by Congressmen and others, perhaps as a result of a joint invitation from this Government and the Government of the Republic? Would that not be money very well spent?
We are always glad to receive visitors from the United States of America and give them such information and briefing as they require about the situation. We are also glad to make it possible for Ministers and other Members of Parliament to visit the United States and to put our message across.
De Lorean Car Co Ltd
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the position regarding the De Lorean Car Co. Ltd. of Dunmurry, Northern Ireland.
The receivers and managers of De Lorean Motor Cars Ltd., which is in receivership, have maintained a limited manufacturing operation at Dunmurry while various inquiries about the purchase of the business have been pursued. They are currently evaluating a proposal brought forward by Mr. De Lorean, which would enable a manufacturing operation at Dunmurry to be continued as the result of the injection of substantial new capital by new investors. No proposition has yet been put to Ministers.
Given the very generous treatment by Sir Kenneth Cork of William Stern in the Stern Group bankruptcy, will the Minister use his powers to ensure that the assets of De Lorean at Dunmurry are not sold at a low, knock-down and absurd price to a shell company that is perhaps dominated, in reality, by Mr. De Lorean? Will the hon. Gentleman use his powers to ensure that the best possible deal is obtained for taxpayers and also the long-term security and stability of jobs at that plant?
The hon. Gentleman's last remarks sum up the objectives of the receiver and managers and of the Government.
Is the Minister aware of the serious position of some of De Lorean's creditors and that some firms find themselves in a difficult situation as a result of what has happened? In what way can the hon. Gentleman help those firms and safeguard them in the present situation?
I am well aware of the serious situation of many of the trade creditors. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I have seen several of them personally. At this stage I can say only that the creditors' prospects will be better if the receiver and managers can make an arrangement either in response to the proposal before them or in response to any other proposal that might come forward.
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the security situation in Northern Ireland.
I apologise, Mr. Speaker, to the House and to you for the length of this answer, but it is customary that I should give a fairly long answer to such a question.I regret to inform the House that since I last answered questions on 25 March five members of the security forces and seven civilians have died in incidents arising from the security situation. On 28 March a police inspector was shot dead in Londonderry, after leaving church. On 1 April two soldiers were shot dead, also in Londonderry, while returning to their base, after carrying out routine duties at Rosemount station. On 30 March a RUC constable was shot in Belfast and he died of his injuries on 16 April. On 27 April a part-time officer of the Ulster Defence Regiment was shot dead in Londonderry while making deliveries to a supermarket. Despite these sacrifices the security forces continue to perform their duties with great courage and determination. As the House will be aware, on 19 April an 11-year-old boy died in hospital following injuries that he received in Londonderry on 16 April. The circumstances of this tragic death will, like those of all deaths in Northern Ireland, be fully investigated. During this period, six other civilians have been killed; four in separate shooting attacks and two on 20 April by a car bomb in Magherafelt. A number of members of the security forces and civilians have been injured, including 10 civilians—a result of so-called punishment shootings. The car bomb which claimed two lives in Magherafelt was part of a Province-wide bomb attack in which six car bombs exploded, and one was neutralised. There have been other attacks on property, notably an incendiary attack on a bus garage in Armagh in the early hours of yesterday, in which 24 buses were destroyed. Notwithstanding this sombre catalogue of crime, the House will be pleased to learn that the security forces have continued to make progress against terrorism in the Province. Since 25 March 43 weapons and 4,389 rounds of ammunition have been recovered by the security forces. Seventy-five persons have been charged with terrorist-type offences, including three with murder and three with attempted murder. In the same period, the security forces neutralised 10 bombs.
As the Secretary of State has decided that a new Assembly will have no powers over security and will not be in any position to remedy the security situation, and given the list of horrific murders that he has read out, will he recognise that no progress will be possible in Northern Ireland until terrorism has been eradicated? Will he give an assurance that he will do all that he can to make full use of the specialised units that have achieved such spectacular success elsewhere?
I assure the House that I am doing all that I can, in conjunction with the GOC and the Chief Constable, to defeat terrorism. Every effort will be made to continue to do so. I accept that the mere setting up of an Assembly will not of itself change the security situation, but we must seek political stability in the Province, as it is one of the ways in which we can help to overcome the bad security situation.
asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official duties for Thursday 29 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.
Will the Prime Minister tell the House how many British and Argentine soldiers, and how many Falklanders, she is prepared to see killed—[Interruption.] —to establish the sovereignty that she will later concede in negotiations?
To answer the hon. Gentleman indirectly, there is only one thing that is more important than peace, and that is liberty and justice. If someone had not fought to get that for us, the hon. Gentleman could not even have asked me that question.
Will my right hon. Friend find time this afternoon to reflect on the significance of the observations of the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, which indicated that in his opinion the Commonwealth not only fully supported the British diplomatic position, but accepted that there might be a need for further force?
Yes, Sir. I saw Sir Shridath Ramphal's observation, and I might have something to say about it later. It was excellent and showed that the British Commonwealth firmly believes in upholding international law and in seeing that unprovoked aggression does not win.
Since the United States of America's attempt to play the honest broker seems to be about to fail, will the Prime Minister give an undertaking that if the American Government do not then come of the fence immediately and impose economic sanctions on Argentina—which could mean the quick end of the dispute without bloodshed—she will consider withdrawing the invitation to President Reagan to address both Houses of Parliament next month?
I have every reason to believe that the fundamental friendship between the United States of America and Great Britain will continue, and will continue to flourish.
Will the Prime Minister find time today to tell those who supported the dispatch of the task force, but who now have doubts about its use, that they have a clear duty to spell out their view of the terms of an honorable settlement and the time scale that they would countenance for achieving it? Does the right hon. Lady agree that there is a world of difference between a genuine search for a negotiated peaceful withdrawal of the Argentine invaders and a disgraceful, blatant policy of appeasement of aggression?
The hon. Gentleman has made his point very effectively. The task force has no point, even in support of diplomacy, unless it is clear that one is prepared to use it if necessary. I very much agree with the hon. Gentleman about the time scale for negotiations. The longer they are, the longer our people will be under the heel of the Argentine dictator.
Will my right hon. Friend accept that many of us strongly deprecate the discussion of the tactical options facing our forces either here or in the media? Will she persuade them to shut up?
I very much share my hon. Friend's concern. If such concern is expressed in the House, some of the media may take notice of it. I hope that all concerned will have in mind only one thing, which is that everything that they say may put someone's life in jeopardy. Therefore, we all have a responsibility to those in Her Majesty's fleet.
asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 29 April.
I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.
Following the Prime Minister's experiences of the Argentine Fascist junta, will she give the House a categoric assurance that her Government will sell no more arms to Fascist and neo-Fascist Stales, wherever they may be?
Governments of both panties have been responsible for contracts for sales of arms to Argentina. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we look at each and every order as it comes. There is not a general rule.
Does the Prime Minister agree that two considerations must be kept in mind: first, the defence of sovereign British territory; and, secondly, the wishes of the Falkland Islanders, and that they must have top priority in any decision that is made?
I think that I see the special point in the hon. Gentleman's question. Of course both those things are supremely important, and they are very much in the forefront of my mind.
Will the Prime Minister confirm that even at this late stage Mr. Secretary Haig is actively pursuing a peaceful solution to the dispute? Will she confirm also that he has sent proposals both to London and Buenos Aires on the matter? Have the Government responded to those proposals?
I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman will leave that question until a little later, when I shall have something to say about it. I should prefer to stick to what I have already prepared.
If the Prime Minister has any communication with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, as has been so stridently urged by the Leader of the Opposition, should not the first question to which the Secretary-General should address himself be the speedy and effective implementation of resolution 502 of his Security Council, which has been outstanding for over three weeks?
My hon. Friend is right. If that resolution were to be implemented there would be few problems left in relation to the Falkland Islands, but it has always been one of the fundamental weaknesses of the United Nations that it does not have the means of implementing its resolutions. If it did, Afghanistan would not be occupied, we would not still have the terrible situation in Vietnam and Cambodia and we would have solved the Cyprus situation. There are many other examples. My hon. Friend has hit upon the fundamental weakness. Therefore, we have to take action.
asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 29 April.
I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.
Has the Prime Minister noticed the decline in bellicosity of the public statements by the task force commander, who now views the situation with more realism and has moved from a "walkover" to a "long and bloody struggle"? Will she take note of that? Will she realise that even at this very late stage there is still time for her to go to the United Nations and discuss a peaceful solution? Does she take note of the sheer bloodthirstiness of those in the ranks behind her, who have now lost touch with reality and no longer think in terms of peace and the United Nations, but resort to gutter allegations against those who are struggling for a peaceful solution?
The comments of the task force commander are always vivid, if various. We have been to the United Nations. We went to the United Nations before the invasion. We have the Security Council resolution. If that resolution could be implemented there would be no problems now.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that she and the Royal Navy task force have the full and unqualified backing of the British people as a whole in regaining the Falkland Islands and liberating our people from Fascism? Is she further aware that her leadership and resolve at the moment when thousands of our finest young men are embarked on a hazardous and dangerous enterprise stand in marked contrast to those who run for cover at the first whiff of grapeshot?
I think that the vast majority of our people, whatever their political views, are firmly behind the action that the Government are taking. Whatever their political views, they are delighted that Britain is firmly standing up once again for the principles in which she believes.
If a negotiated settlement is reached between Britain and Argentina on the question of the Falkland Islands, will the Falkland Islanders, whose wishes the Prime Minister says are paramount, have the right to veto such a settlement, or will their choice be between living under any new administration agreed between the two parties and leaving the Falkland Islands for this country?
I have noticed the word "veto" creeping into many commentaries on the present situation. The right of self-determination for inhabited territories is fundamental to the United Nations charter. That is what I believe the House will insist upon. That is what we are trying to ensure for the Falkland Islanders.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that it would be timely to remind our many friends in South America, in the world and in the House, of the tremendous services that this country has rendered towards the liberation of South America, that SimÓn Bolivar launched his liberation of four countries from Britain, that the Marques of Maranhāõ in the Brazilian nobility was better known here as the hon. Member for Honiton and as Admiral of the Fleet Lord Cochrane, and that the history of Great Britain in the South American continent is one of liberation, assistance towards independence and granting people the right to chose their own Government?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has made an extremely important point. There has been a traditional friendship between Britain and many South American countries. We have contributed greatly to the development of their economies. That has been a traditional friendship in the past. It is one of the tragedies of the present situation that that traditional friendship had been totally disregarded.
asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 29 April.
I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave some monents ago.
Does my right hon. Friend realise that there is great support in the country for the leadership that she is showing in this crisis? Does she agree that the greatest deterrent of all to any tinpot dictator or other agressor, or perhaps a greater power, is resolute and decisive Government?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. It is important, if we are to deter dictators, to have the capacity to do so and to demonstrate our resolve, both on the part of Government and of the people.
In view of the reported statements of Rear-Admiral Woodward, which Minister approved the arrangements for press representatives to be on the flagships?
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence. I was wholly behind the arrangements. It is absolutely right and fully in accordance with tradition that we should carry war correspondents on Her Majesty's ships when they are on such a mission.
While I appreciate that the House is mainly concerned, quite properly, about the situation in the Falkland Islands, may I raise the issue of the disaster caused to Londoners by the doubling of their fares through the mismanagement of London Transport by the GLC, which has also doubled their rates? Will the Prime Minister urge the Secretary of State for Transport to take London Transport away from the GLC and set up a separate transport authority for London, as recommended by Sir Peter Masefield?
I rather agree with my hon. Friend that both fares and rates are too high. I think that there is much merit in the solution that he has proposed. I hope that it will be considered by the Select Committee, which, I understand, is inquiring into the future of London Transport. If London had achieved the productivity levels of other major cities in this country, about £80 million a year would be available to reduce fairs.