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Commons Chamber

Volume 24: debated on Thursday 20 May 1982

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House Of Commons

Thursday 20 May 1982

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[MR. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

British Railways Bill

Read the Third time, and passed.

Hertsmere Borough Council (Rowley Lane) Bill(By Order)

Lords amendments agreed to.

Feltham Station Area Redevelopment(Longford River) Bill (By Order)

Read a Second time and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills.

Tees And Hartlepool Port Authority Bill (By Order)

Order for Second Reading read.

To be read a Second time upon Tuesday 25 May.

London Transport (Liverpool Street) Bill (By Order)

Greater London Council (Money) Bill(By Order)

Alexandra Park And Palace Bill (By Order)

Orders for Second Reading read.

To be read a Second time upon Thursday 27 May.

Oral Answers To Questions

Home Department

Data Protection


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many favourable and unfavourable views he has received on the White Paper on data protection.

The White Paper sought comments by 31 May. The views so far received include criticisms of certain features of the proposals, but there has also been widespread acceptance that the Government's approach is a reasonable and balanced one.

Does the Minister accept that many people feel that the White Paper is an example of fudge and compromise which satisfies nobody? It will not give genuine protection to the individual and it is in danger of setting up a bureaucracy that will achieve nothing.

The hon. Gentleman's tired platitudes do not help. I believe that this will prove to be the right legislation and that it will be widely accepted.

If the data protection procedures outlined in the White Paper prove to be ineffective, may we have an assurance that there will be a review within 12 months?

That is an extremely hypothetical suggestion. I say again that I believe that our measures will prove to be effective and acceptable.

The Minister will recall that the Prime Minister said from the Dispatch Box that she hoped that there would be legislation in the Session following the White Paper. May we have a promise to that effect?

The hon. Gentleman knows that I am not in a position to make firm promises about next year's legislative programme. However, we want to make progress on this matter.

Is the Minister not concerned that the White Paper contains no provision for the protection of the accumulation of data in, for example, the £20 million Special Branch computer? If there is no authorisation from the House, if the House is not accountable, and if there is no protection of the data, what sort of protection has the ordinary citizen got?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, it is clearly understood, and it has been made clear in the European convention on this subject, that matters involving State security are exempt from the legislation.

Portland Borstal


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the average cost per young offender at Portland borstal.

Figures for individual establishments are not available. The average weekly cost of keeping a person in a borstal or young prisoner centre was £180 in 1980–81.

Is not one of the weaknesses of the sentences served at Portland, as well as at other borstals, that they have an inderterminate nature? Does my hon. and learned Friend appreciate that he would have great support if he phased out borstal sentences and replaced them with determinate youth custody orders.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point. There is a wide body of support for the provision in the Criminal Justice Bill—which received its Third Reading last night—which ensures that the indeterminate sentences for young offenders will be phased out. In future, sentences will be determinate. That is a great advance.

Does the Minister recall that the reconviction rate for young people leaving borstal institutions has increased from 63 to 69 per cent. in the past five years and that the figure for juveniles is 83 per cent.? Therefore, does he accept that, given the ineffectiveness of custody and residential care in preventing the commission of further offences, there should be a massive and fundamental change of resources away from custodial sentences to other options within the community?

In those custodial establishments, I do not dispute that the success rate for going straight for more than two years is not encouraging. On the other hand, custodial sentences must be available to the courts for dangerous offenders, including young offenders.

Does not the cost of keeping people in Portland borstal, or anywhere else, include an element to cover the cost of education? Will my hon. and learned Friend give an assurance that the quality of education in borstals and other custodial institutions—for the young or for anyone else—will be kept under constant review?

The cost of keeping people in such institutions certainly includes the cost of educational staff. There are no plans to change the present educational arrangements at such institutions.

Metropolitan Police


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, subsequent to Operation Countryman, any further inquiries have been set up into alleged corruption in the Metropolitan Police.

Yes, Sir. Certain other investigations into alleged corruption by police officers have been put in hand by the complaints investigation bureau of the Metropolitan Police and will be referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Police Complaints Board as necessary.

I welcome the Home Secretary's reply. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, despite all the talk of cleaning up the Metropolitan Police through Operation Countryman, all we got was a cover up? If we wish to tackle the corruption and perjury that we repeatedly hear about, should not the Home Secretary become personally responsible for these inquiries? Should he not begin by appointing a totally independent person, who will not be subject to any form of police pressure, to conduct the inquiries?

I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's wild allegations. If he has any individual cases to put before me, I hope that he will do so.

Would it not be corrupt for the Metropolitan Police, or any other police force that was up to establishment, to select additional recruits on the basis of race?

Is not the right hon. Gentleman still concerned about the outcome of Operation Countryman, since it clearly did not produce the results intended and did not satisfy the anxieties of people such as Sir Robert Mark? Is it not time that we reconsidered the status of the Metropolitan Police force and perhaps broke it up into four separate forces?

I do not think so. Operation Countryman was very important and it made various investigations. We all dwell far too much, in a generalized way, on cases of corruption. It would be unfair to the Metropolitan Police if we did not recognise its outstanding record as a whole.

Is it not well known to anyone with any knowledge of such matters that the Metropolitan Police is the least corrupt—

of any of the police forces in the capital cities of the Western world?

The British police service as a whole—including the Metropolitan Police—has a very high record, which would bear comparison with any police service in the world.

Residential Care Premises (Fire Precautions)

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he will publish the guide to fire precautions in residential care premises.

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that there are about 450 fires per annum in residential homes for the elderly and that it is nearly two and a half years since I was told in an Adjournment debate that a code of guidance would be prepared? Is he further aware that it is nearly six months since the end of the consultation period on that code of guidance? Is it not time that my hon. and learned Friend got on with publishing the document?

I accept that that amount of time has elapsed. On the other hand, three separate rounds of consultations have taken place. The last revision is expected to take another six to eight weeks, but we hope to arrange publication by the late summer.

Merseyside Community Relations Council


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what has been the funding by his Department to the Merseyside community relations council over the past three years.

The Home Office does not fund community relations councils. I understand that in the last three financial years the Commission for Racial Equality has given Merseyside community 'relations council grants of about £25,000, £37,000 and £39,000.

Does the Minister accept that there is a case for positive discrimination in areas such as Toxteth, Brixton and Moss Side? Is he aware that fundings from the CRE to the Merseyside community relations council do not go towards specialist appointments and the salaries of persons such as the employment officer and the education officer? They are essential posts. Will the Home Office consider rectifying the situation?

The question of which posts within community relations councils are supported is a matter for the CRE and the local authority, not for the Home Office. Positive discrimination is largely a matter of terminology. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Government help to remedy racial disadvantage through a number of schemes.

Bedford (Police Strength)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what response he has made to the chief constable of Bedfordshire's request for an additional 30 policemen on approved establishment.

The Bedfordshire police authority has been informed that I am prepared to approve an increase of five police officer posts.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Is he aware that, before the figures were announced, the Bedfordshire establishment was 43 short of the proposed figure? Is he further aware that during the first three months of this year crime in Bedfordshire rose by 12 per cent. compared with last year and that the detection rate has fallen substantially? Therefore, will he give special consideration to Bedfordshire, because of its special problems, and increase the figure with a view to trying to combat the rising crime rate in the county?

I am sure that my hon. Friend realises that I have to balance the considerations of all police authorities throughout the country. Bedfordshire police strength has increased by 84 since the Conservative Party came to power. Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary considers that there is scope in Bedfordshire for greater use of civilians to fill posts at present held by police officers. That will increase the number of officers available for operational duties. I hope that it will be able to do that.

Immigration Rules


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will seek to amend the immigration rules to enable all women who are legally settled in the United Kingdom to be joined there by their husbands or fiancé.

Does the Minister recall that, during the debates on the British Nationality Bill last year, he gave a clear pledge to review the rules? Does he accept that, if he does not change the rules, young women in Asian families—of which all the members are full British citizens—will often be second-class citizens, because they alone among British citizens will not have the right to live here with their spouses? Does the right hon. Gentleman acknowledge that, when the British Nationality Act comes into operation, that rule will be both racially and sexually discriminatory?

During the passage of the British Nationality Bill I said that when the Act came into operation we would issue new rules and that, when we did that, it would be possible to use citizenship as the basis for a new scheme. The hon. Gentleman's question refers to those who are legally settled in the United Kingdom, which is a somewhat different matter.

How many new immigrants would be allowed in if the rules were amended, as suggested by the Opposition?

I think that the number would be about 3,000 per year. It is not possible to be more precise than that.

Does the Minister accept that that part of the immigration rules is blatantly discriminatory against a small section of our community? Does he agree that if the rules were changed, on the figures that he has just given there would be no great increase in immigration, although such a change would do a great deal to improve race relations in the United Kingdom?

We introduced the changes because of our concern about the extent to which marriage was being used as a means of primary male immigration. As to what we might do in future, I cannot add to what I have said.

As the Government's new rules on this issue are being tested in Europe before the Commission and the Court, will the Government obey the likely decision of the Court that these rules are invalid?

The hon. and learned Gentleman is anticipating the conclusions of the European Commission of Human Rights. We do not have those conclusions. All we know is that three cases have been deemed admissible, but the question of merit has not yet been touched upon.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that these rules apply equally to all the people of different parts of the world and therefore cannot be construed as being racially discriminatory?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if people are saying, and the Government have always said, that people in this country, irrespective of nationality, are equal before the law, he should not allow a law to exist that makes certain people unequal in relation to others? The argument that the rule was brought in, to avoid men gaining admission is not in accord with the facts, as a large number of safeguards have always been applied to prevent that happening. There are instances of women, legally married to men for some time, who cannot gain admittance because of the rule.

I can only repeat that there is solid evidence that the marriage route has been a means by which primary male immigration to this country has taken place. That was why we brought forward our proposals in 1980.

Prison Statistics


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many persons were held in prisons in England and Wales at the latest available date.

As the prisons are grossly overcrowded, against a background of a very low detection rate for crime, what plans has the Minister to deal with the total breakdown of the prison system in the event of an increase in the detection rate, particularly as the Criminal Justice Bill will, at best, make only a marginal improvement?

The question is hypothetical. We place much reliance on the trend established by the Court of Appeal and the judiciary, after judgment had been given in the Upton and Bibi cases, which led to a shortening of sentences of non-violent offenders. We believe that the Criminal Justice Bill will make substantial improvements in that direction.

How does the hon. and learned Gentleman explain the fact that during the few months of the prison officers' dispute the prison population was reduced by more than 4,000? What lessons has the hon. and learned Gentleman learnt from that that might lead to a permanent reduction in our prison population?

We do not want another prison officers' dispute. There were many reasons why the numbers went down during that period. High among them was the fact that there was a slowing down in committals and prosecutions in non-urgent cases.

Has the Minister seen the recent statement by the Lord Chief Justice, in which he said that the judiciary would not have opposed the introduction of an early supervised release scheme for short-term prisoners if it had been given discretion to exempt certain prisoners from early release? In the light of that statement, will the hon. and learned Gentleman now bring forward amendments in the other place to implement a scheme of automatic early release, with exemptions, in an attempt substantially to reduce the prison population?

No, Sir. These matters were fully discussed in Conunittee and on Report of the Criminal Justice Bill. Having consulted the judiciary, I do not believe that the original proposal put forward for consultation for an early release scheme was satisfactory. The present arrangements in the Criminal Justice Bill are an improvement.



asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress is being made in strengthening the police force, both in terms of numerical strength and material support.

The total strength of the police service in England and Wales has increased by 8,480 since May 1979, and stood at 119,973 at the end of March this year. I expect the total strength to increase to 121,000 by March 1983. I know that police authorities and chief officers of police appreciate the importance of ensuring that appropriate levels of material and other support services are maintained.

I welcome that excellent progress. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the police force, which has been greatly strengthened under this Administration, will always have his full support in enforcing the law impartially on all citizens, despite political pressure to the contrary?

Most certainly, yes. I went to the Police Federation conference yesterday and gave positive assurances on behalf of the Government and, I hope, of the House as a whole.

Will the Home Secretary comment on reports affecting the Merseyside police which would seem to indicate that, owing to a shortage of funds, it may be necessary to remove many administrative staff, whose places will have to be filled by taking police of the beat? If so, is that not contrary to the right hon. Gentleman's assurance to the House, after the Scarman report, that we would have more police on the beat, particularly in areas such as Toxteth?

There will be more police on the beat. I gave that assurance and I mean it. I hear many rumours from Merseyside, but, fortunately, I find that I am right in not believing all that I hear.

I admire the way that the Home Secretary can rally support in his party despite the collapse of law and order in the country under this Government. [Interruption.] Look at the figures. Does the Home Secretary appreciate that there is widespread concern about the deployment of the police, particularly in inner city areas, and their material support? Does he agree that such matters are the rightful concern of police committees in places such as Manchester and Liverpool? Will he advise chief constables that they have responsibilities to discuss deployment and material support with elected local representatives?

I am amazed at the hon. Gentleman. He supported a Government who did so much to undermine the strength of, and support for, the police service—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman has had his say. I could shout louder than him, if need be, but I shall not. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman is not doing badly from a seated position.

The Labour Party now wants a policy to deal with crime, based on more bobbies on the beat. The Labour Government failed to provide the bobbies, but Labour Members now recognise that we have done so. I am glad to have their support for the policy that we have pursued.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the importance of keeping up the morale of the police force? Will he also note the constant attacks made by the Opposition on the police force and on my right hon. Friend, who has always strongly backed the police force?

Yes. I went to the Police Federation conference yesterday, where I was assured by those who were there that the morale of the police service is extremely is high. I was glad to find that.

Will the Home Secretary examine the experience of the chief constable of Lancashire? He was able to put more police on the beat in places such as Skelmersdale by running down the over-inflated traffic department, without any visible effect on the number of traffic accidents. Is that not a more legitimate and sensible way of dealing with our force?

All chief constables are carefully considering the effective use of manpower. They recognise that it is extremely important.

This gives me an opportunity to reply to something said by the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape), who stopped me from replying by talking too much. I agree that chief officers of police and police authorities can and should recognise their duties under the Police Act 1964.

Television Licences


Wainwright asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what was the total number of television licences issued as at the latest available date.

Does the Minister realise that many elderly people on low incomes cannot afford to pay the present rate for a television licence? Will he bear in mind that people living in hostels, special homes and council organised homes get a cheap licence, whereas many elderly persons living nearby have to pay the full licence fee? Should not something be done to enable these people to afford a television licence, especially single people on low incomes living alone?

The matter was debated as recently as December last year, when the House came to a decision. Our view is that the right way to help retirement pensioners is essentially by maintaining in real terms the value of the retirement pension. If we introduce a range of different means of support for people, including the payment of the television licence fee, we shall add to the anomalies that already exist.

Will my right hon. Friend say whether it is a proper use of licence contributors' money for the BBC to commission special public opinion polls so that it can indulge in a propaganda battle with the elected Government?

Will the Minister consider extending to invalidity pensioners living in special homes the licence concession that is extended to retirement pensioners living in special homes?

I understand the right hon. Gentleman's point, but, as I have already said, the extension of concessions in this area will not help. The right thing is to provide proper benefits and pensions. The right hon. Gentleman of all people will know that local authorities may help disabled persons with the cost of television licences in cases of need under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970.

Immigrants (Repatriation)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will replace the Government assistance given under section 29 of the Immigration Act 1971 to the International Social Services for immigrants wishing to return home by a Government-controlled and financed body to help all immigrants wishing to return home.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer, which I find somewhat disappointing. In view of the fact that in 1980–81 the International Social Service helped only 139 cases, and in view of the opinion poll of West Indian and African immigrants, which showed that about 59 per cent. wished to go home, it is about time that the Government considered taking over—

Order. The hon. Gentleman must put it in the form of a question, not an opinion.

In view of that information and the information that I forwarded to my right hon. Friend in a letter from the International Social Service, showing that it has not helped one of my constituents, will he reconsider his answer?

We cannot attach too much importance to that opinion poll. Pressure has not been put on us that shows that many people wish to be repatriated. The case of my hon. Friend's constituent occurred in 1979. More recently, there has been a further offer of an interview with his constituent.

Will the Minister repudiate more directly the racism that comes from many of his Back Benchers by agreeing with me that to talk of sending black British people home is an evil nonsense, because they are home already?

The hon. Gentleman does not put his case as temptingly as he might, but I am prepared to say that a campaign for repatriation would do nothing to help lace relations in this country.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Hawksley) was welcome and that it is hard to imagine a scheme better calculated to damage race relations than one in which the Government appear to encourage immigrants to leave Britain?

The present arrangements are the right way to deal with the problem. I repeat that I do not believe that a massive campaign to stimulate repatriation would' do any good.



asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will institute a review of police establishment strengths in England and Wales.

Police force establishments are kept under review by chief officers, police authorities and Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary. Police authorities are responsible for fixing the authorised establishment of forces, subject to my approval. I recently completed consideration to applications for increases from 16 police authorities and I am prepared to approve additional posts for eight forces, including the Thames Valley police.

I am grateful for the layer remarks of my right hon. Friend, but does he not agree that there is a considerable disparity in the ratio of police to population in different constabularies? The national average is one policeman to 431 members of the community, whereas in the Thames Valley it is one policeman to 565. Is not the latter figure the lowest in England and Wales and is there not a case for a substantial rise in the number of police constables in the Thames Valley force?

For those reasons, which I accept, among others, I was prepaid to authorise 10 additional posts for Thames Valley. As my hon. Friend appreciate, its strength has increased by 445 in the past three years.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that there are enough policemen in the middle ranks of the force of sufficient calibre to take up the most senior appointments?

Television Licences


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what further representations he has received about the need for all pensioners to be treated equally in respect of concessionary television licence fees.

In the past six months, 53 representations have been received from hon. Members and just under 100 direct from members of the public.

Is the Minister aware that what is really needed is a Bill to wipe out all the anomalies for those pensioners who cannot have the 5p licence fee? Is he aware that Mr. Leslie Gale, a bed-ridden multiple sclerosis victim who lives about four miles from me, has had to be fined because he refused to pay his television licence fee? He has to lie in bed all day. Surely it is now necessary for the Government to have a fresh examination of those anomalies with a view to bringing in a Bill so that all pensioners receive concessionary licences, including the disabled?

I do not believe that the best way of dealing with the problem is by a spread of concessions. I have already made the point that local authorities can help the disabled where there is a need for them to do so.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that hon. Members on both sides of the House are anxious that pensioners should have a fair and equal system of television licence concessions? That is what we are fighting for, and we hope that the Front Bench will take it on board eventually.

I say again to my hon. Friend that the right way to help pensioners is through their pensions and the amount of money that they have at their disposal. They can spend it as they think best.

Will the Minister bear in mind that on the Labour Benches we are all agreed that the only satisfactory way of resolving the inequality among pensioners is to phase out television licences for all retirement pensioners?

It is a bit much for the hon. Lady to put that to us. She was in office at the Home Office for the best part of six years and nothing was done to follow that policy.

Prison Governors (Tenure)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the usual length of time in any one post of a prison governor.

As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said in reply to a question by my hon. Friend on 8 April, the overriding factor in determining moves must be the operational needs of the service, and there is no usual length of time in any one post of prison governor.

While thanking my hon. and learned Friend for that reply, may I ask whether he feels that one reason for the troubles in prisons such as Gartree in Leicestershire is the fact that, since it was established 16 years ago, there have been no fewer than eight governors? Is that not a possible inducement to unrest and lack of continuity?

I know of the problems at Gartree to which my hon. Friend referred, but we must have regard to the overall needs of the service. Sometimes a governor must be transferred, for example to take command of another prison, as the previous governor of Gartree was transferred to take command at Brixton. It is not always possible to do that at convenient times.

Chief Constables (Discussions)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has held any discussions with chief constables on the measures being taken by them to increase public confidence in the police.

I am satisfied that the vast majority of the public have full confidence in the police. The welcome increase in police strength has allowed chief constables to return many more men to the streets, where the public wish to see them. My officials are discussing with chief constables and others the terms of the guidance that I propose to issue shortly about local consultation arrangements between the police and the community.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the public are often not aware of the many functions and duties that the police carry out on their behalf? Does he agree that the system of open days at police stations has been an enormous success in fostering further confidence between the public and the police? Will he give encouragement to extend those open days where possible?

I know—because I come from near my hon. Friend's constituency—that they had a successful open day at Morecambe. Open days should be encouraged, and they are very well supported by the public when they are given.

Will the Home Secretary publish comparative figures for crimes committed and detected in 1978 and 1981? Having done so, will he publicise those figures widely? That at least would stop the Home Secretary's efforts to delude his own Back Benchers into thinking that the Government have been even remotely successful in their campaign to reduce crime?

If the hon. Gentleman would like to table a question on those matters I shall, of course, answer it.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one way of increasing confidence in the police would be to encourage chief constables to resist the temptation of making public statements when they can be avoided?

I think that chief constables are aware well of the feelings of some hon. Members and of what the House has frequently said on that subject.

Does the Home Secretary agree that one way of creating more confidence in the police would be to remove the need for eminent barristers such as the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) to have to spend days in court making allegations of misconduct against the police? Would not this be much less likely if all interrogations were tape recorded?

I should have thought it was clear to most people that some policemen make mistakes and that some are guilty of misconduct. However, for every policeman in those categories, there are many hundreds giving a great service in protecting the citizens of this country.

Immigration Policy


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will review immigration policy in the light of the continuing trend of increase in the proportion of the population from ethnic minority groups of non-United Kingdom origin, in London and other major areas.

There has been a reduction in the number of immigrants accepted for settlement and we remain committed to firm immigration control.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that of the 32 London boroughs, in one, two-thirds of the births are to mothers of foreign origin, in six, over half the births are to mothers of foreign origin, in 13 over 40 per cent., in 19 over 30 per cent. and in two-thirds over 20 per cent.? Since this has massive implications for the identity of the capital city of this country, and since there is massive public concern about this issue, will my right hon. Friend reassure the House and the country that the Government are aware of these facts and intend to introduce policies that the country wants and needs?

We carefully follow social trends. I have told my hon. Friend that we have tight immigration control and that the numbers of immigrants are falling. That is important. At the same time, I think that the figures referred to by my hon. Friend show the equal importance of a positive race relations policy.

Does the Minister agree that so long as black women have black babies, and so long as ethnic minorities are disproportionately younger than the existing population, it is clear that there will be a slight increase until the black population stabilises at about 3–3 million at the end of this decade and that, thereafter, it will remain stable unless there is new immigration?

It is obvious that the demographic factors to which the hon. Gentleman referred are important in this area.

Does the Minister agree that any increase in the black population of our inner cities is not a cause for alarm, or for further racist immigration policies? Does he further agree that it is a cause for urgent Government action to ensure that black youngsters do not suffer the disadvantages, particularly in education and employment, that young people in the inner cities are now suffering?






Recommended use of Royal Prerogative in order to—
grant free pardon remit remainder of16991177270161
custodian sentence12021
remit fine or other monetary penalty16252067557
Referred case to Court of Appeal under s. 17 of the Criminal Appeal Act 196826331

I have already told the House that it is important when looking at these matters to have a positive approach to race relations. The Government have that positive approach.

Miscarriages Of Justice


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many allegations of miscarriage of justice were made to his Department in each of the past five years; and in respect of how many he took steps to remedy such alleged miscarriages.

In any one year several thousand representations are received from, or on behalf of, convicted persons, which touch on matters relating to conviction. I regret that it is not possible, without disproportionate effort, to identify which of these should be classified as allegations of miscarriage of justice. I shall publish in the Official Report a table indicating, for each of the years 1977 to 1981, the number of cases in which, after considering representations about conviction, my right hon. Friend has taken action to remove or mitigate its effects.

I am grateful to the Minister for publishing those figures. However, did he see the three programmes entitled "Rough Justice" on television in which it was fairly clear that two individuals have probably been wrongly convicted of murder? Is there absolutely nothing that the Minister can do to reduce the time-scale by which his Department investigates these matters and make the method of investigation rather more open to scrutiny by Members of the House?

I am aware of the programmes to which the hon. Gentleman refers. Additional speed in investigating such cases can be achieved only at the expense of thoroughness. I do not believe that that would be right.

Will my hon. and learned Friend point out to the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) that it is not possible to remedy an alleged miscarriage of justice unless it has been proved?

I should not have thought it necessary always to point out the obvious, but experience has taught me that sometimes it is.

Following is the table:—

Prime Minister



asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 20 May.

This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet and had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall be having further meetings later today.

Is the Prime Minister aware that the call for a ceasefire in the Falkland Islands is gathering strength nationally and internationally? Will she therefore tell us how many more lives—[HON. MEMBERS: "Reading"]—will be sacrificed to satisfy the lust for blood by the hawks on the Government Benches behind her? Will she tell us when the nation can expect the faith, hope and harmony that she promised three years ago from the steps of 10 Downing Street?

A ceasefire without withdrawal would leave the invader in possession of the Falkland Islands and our people under his subjection. That is far from our objective.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the object of this exercise is to restore freedom and the rule of law to the Falkland Islands? Will she ensure that her view of that is not obscured by any Argentine fancy footwork?

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. Our objective is to restore freedom and the rule of law to the Falkland Islands and we will not be put off by Argentine procrastination.

Will the Prime Minister tell the House, in advance of her speech this afternoon, whether she will be able, in the course of that speech, to inform the House of the terms proposed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations? If that is not possible, can the right hon. Lady give us an idea of when she thinks those terms might be made known to the House?

Not in detail, but I shall be able to give some indication of aspects that have yet to be resolved.

As President Mitterrand has invited my right hon. Friend to state what is Britain's role within the European Community, will my right hon. Friend tell President Mitterrand that we will not be told by others what lies within our national interest, and that a heavy responsibility now rests with the Community to put right the wrong that it has done?

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. What has happened over the Luxembourg compromise is very serious and could be even more serious if majority voting is applied to other aspects of Community work. Our role in the Community is to be a full and equal partner and to be fully entitled to equitable and fair treatment.


asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 20 May.

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

Does the Prime Minister agree that the decision taken in Europe is a kick in the teeth and a sellout of British interests? Does she further agree that the simplest answer to the present crisis in the EEC would be to take Britain out of the common agricultural policy? Is she aware that that decision would be widely welcomed on Merseyside, in the regions and, indeed, throughout the land?

The decision is without precedent and has serious implications. We are full members of the EEC. We intend to remain full members of the EEC and we intend to make our views known and see whether we can reverse that decision about the Luxembourg compromise.

Will my right hon. Friend convey to the New Zealand Government this country's widespread appreciation and gratitude for their generous action in support not only of Britain but of the rule of international law, not least by offering to support us with Her Majesty's New Zealand ship "Canterbury"?

Gladly. The New Zealand Government and people have been absolutely magnificent in their support of this country, of the Falkland Islanders and of the rule of liberty and the rule of law. I shall gladly convey that to Mr. Muldoon, who, only yesterday, reminded me "Don't forget. In New Zealand, we are still a member of the same family."

I return to the question of the Luxembourg compromise. We shall be discussing the other matters later today. Will the right hon. Lady say whether her answer a few moments ago means that she advocates that we should remain members of the Common Market and of the common agricultural policy, whatever may happen to the Luxembourg compromise? Would she like to have a vote of the House of Commons, following the debate that we are glad will be taking place on this extremely important subject next Wednesday, to sustain her? Does she agree that that might be helpful? Will she guarantee to carry out what the House of Commons votes for?

We are a member of the European Community. What has happened over the Luxembourg compromise is very serious. I believe that it is in our interests to continue to be a member of the European Community. The right hon. Gentleman will understand that one needs a little time to see precisely how we should tackle this latest serious situation.

Since this remarkable document, in the Vote Office, has revealed that Her Majesty's Government, in the interests of peace, have been prepared to carry compromise almost to the point of folly, has not the time come for the House to turn its back on timidity and compromise and to make it clear to the gauleiters of Buenos Aires that when British forces have been committed in a just cause they have always triumphed and the consequences for their opponents have been devastating?

As I shall say in my speech later, I do not believe that we have, in that document, compromised any of the fundamental principles that I set out at the beginning—none of them. We were prepared to make certain practical changes that were reasonable if we were to obtain the prize of no further loss of life. But there has been no compromise on fundamental principles.

Does the Prime Minister accept that her reiteration that the Government intend to stay in the Common Market is an indicaton to her so-called partners that they will get away with anything that they like to try? Will she take a much firmer stand than was evident in the replies of the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food yesterday—for instance, by going immediately to a 200-mile limit for fisheries?

I was merely suggesting that we should have time to think through all the aspects before we propose action. That seems to me a very good principle.

Bearing in mind what happened yesterday in the European Common Market, will my right hon. Friend adopt the same robust attitude over this issue as she has so properly adopted over Argentina? If we are to remain members of the Common Market, will my right hon. Friend be just as forthright on that issue?

We are entitled to reasonable and fair treatment. I believe that what has happened over the Luxembourg compromise, and the idea that we can go ahead with changes in the CAP without changes in the structure of the budget, is a breach of faith. We must now get changes in the structure of the budget to Britain's advantage.

Will the right hon. Lady explain how the failure of our Community partners to observe the Luxembourg compromise will affect the future of the common fisheries policy? Is it not a fact that, at the end of the year, whatever any of her right hon. and hon. Friends may say, if the right hon. Lady persists in remaining in the community, the Common Market countries can fish up to our beaches, have all our fish, ruin our industry and give us no compensation?

I accept that if major decisions are in future to be taken by majority rule this would have a very serious effect on almost every major decision and would seriously affect the future of the Common Market. I ask the hon. Gentleman and the House for time to consider this latest position and to prepare a proper response.

I thank my right hon. Friend for what she has said about our relationship with the European Community.

Has my right hon. Friend in mind the terms of the draft Labour manifesto of 1980, published under the authority of the national executive of the Labour Party, of which the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) is the most prominent member, which said—

It is what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said in 1972 when he took us into the EEC.

Order. I expect that the right hon. and learned Gentleman's memory is good enough to sustain him. He has had a look now.

The draft said that we will in no circumstances hand over the Falkland Islands to a regime like the Argentine regime that has no respect for human and civil rights. Does that not reflect in a fair way what is the view of the British people as a whole?

I believe that it does reflect the view of the British people as a whole that we should not hand over the Falkland Islands to the dictatorship of Argentina. I believe that we have the people united behind us in that resolve.


asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 20 May.

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

Does the Prime Minister agree that one feature of the Falkland Island crisis is the clear demonstration of how quickly and effectively the Government can act when they have the political will to do so? Will the Prime Minister now put the same effort, the same commitment and the same resources into ending unemployment?

We are putting every commitment and every effort into ending unemployment, which afflicts the whole of the Western world. This requires not only talking, but the efforts of people themselves to create jobs and work harder.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the veto may prove essential for the future of the British fishing industry? Will she look personally into the question of the common fisheries policy?

I am very much aware of that issue. It is one of the very serious aspects of what happened in the taking of a vote by majority rule on the CAP yesterday. Another issue is the future of New Zealand lamb. We are very much aware of this, but we need time to prepare a proper response.

Is the Prime Minister aware that if majority voting in the Common Market is to be the new rule, it means, almost invariably, especially in relation to the common agricultural policy and the possibility of agreement on a common fisheries policy, that the majority vote will act against British interests? Is the Prime Minister seriously suggesting that, in these circumstances, she would continue to want Britain to be a member of the EEC?

I am suggesting that we do not dash into any hurried conclusions before we have had time to think these things out. I accept entirely that what happened over the voting on the common agricultural policy was extremely serious and without precedent. It is noteworthy that those of us who entered the Community after the 1966 agreement on the Lyuxembourg compromise refrained from voting because we felt that there had been a breach of faith of the terms on which we entered the Community.

During her testing day, will my right hon. Friend draw strength from the fact that those most directly concerned in the Falkland Islands crisis—the men of the Armed Forces and their families—fully understand the issues and the risks involved and are resolute in their will to perform the roles expected of them?

We are very fortunate in the men and women who make up the Armed Forces. They are resolute and courageous. We are very proud of them.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 20 May.


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

Is the Prime Minister aware of recent assurances by Treasury Ministers that the large sums of money that are being spent on the task force are in no way having an adverse effect on Government economic policy? When the military action in the South Atlantic is over, therefore, will those same sums of money continue to be spent but on the needs of the homeless, the poor and the unemployed?

The hon. Gentleman has failed to observe one factor. If money from the Contingency Reserve is spent once, it cannot be spent twice.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm the assurance that was given to the House by the Minister with responsibility for sport that the Government will put no pressure on the British football authorities to withdraw from the World Cup? Does she agree that it would be more worth while if, in the event of our being drawn against Argentina, we were to withdraw on the morning of the game, thus putting pressure on FIFA to expel Argentina?

My hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for sport replied to a question on that matter yesterday. It is not our present intention to intervene in the matters of the World Cup or the taking part in the World Cup of teams from Britain.

Business Of The House

3.30 pm

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

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

The business for next week will be as follows:

  • MONDAY 24 MAY—Progress on the Report stage of the Transport Bill.
  • TUESDAY 25 MAY—Completion of remaining stages of the Transport Bill.
  • WEDNESDAY 26 MAY—A debate on the European Community.
  • Remaining stages of the Harbours (Scotland) Bill [Lords].
  • Motion on the undertaking relating to Highlands and Islands shipping services.
  • THURSDAY 27 MAY—Committee stage of the Northern Ireland Bill.
  • FRIDAY 28 MAY—It will be proposed that the House should rise for the Spring Adjournment until Tuesday 8 June.

First, I thank the Leader of the House for arranging today's debate on the Falklands crisis. We may need another debate on the subject in the next few days or at the beginning of next week. I am sure that he will make that arrangement if it becomes necessary. I thank him also for providing us with the document for which we asked as part of the background to the debate that we shall have today.

Secondly, what does the right hon. Gentleman propose to do to provide a similar facility in preparation for the debate next Wednesday on the crisis in the Common Market which the right hon. Lady the Prime Minister has described as extremely serious and without precedent? Will there be a statement on the Government's reaction to that development before the debate? In view of the seriousness of the position that the right hon. Lady has described, I should have thought that that was the best way for the House to approach the matter.

Thirdly, there is an extremely important and urgent matter which, were it not for the other crises facing us, would dominate our thoughts. It is the major crisis that is developing in British Rail that has been sparked off by the board's decision on railway workshop closures which come on top of the financial restrictions that have been placed on the board by the Government. As the House will adjourn at the end of next week if the proposals of the Leader of the House are accepted, there could be movement towards industrial action before the House returns. Therefore, will the right hon. Gentleman make absolutely sure that a statement of Government policy on the matter is made at the beginning of next week? It appears that that is the only way in which a grievous industrial problem can be avoided.

I have, of course, noted what the Leader of the Opposition said about the Falklands issue. The debate on the European Community on Wednesday will arise on a Government motion. I am sure that the Government's position will be made clear then. I trust that it will be endorsed by the Opposition.

With regard to British Rail, I am sorry that I cannot add to the answer that I gave last week. I realise that the requirement to arrange debates in Government time has had an effect on Supply time, and I hope that that pressure will ease off. As I have said before, I thought that a Supply day would be a suitable occasion for such a debate.

Order. I am sure that it would be the will of the House that today we should have less time than usual on business questions. I propose not to allow them to run beyond a quarter to four.

On next Wednesday's business, and in the light of what the Prime Minister has said, will my right hon. Friend confirm that Ministers will state their considered view on the Common Market diktat—that is what it was. Does he agree that one of the options open to us, if the Common Market will not keep to the rules, is that we should not pay the subscription?

I am sure that Wednesday's debate will secure the appropriate response from my right hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench. I shall draw to their attention what my hon. Friend has said.

Will the Leader of the House ensure that before the Prime Minister leaves for New York for the second special session on disarmament we shall have an opportunity for a full day's debate on the matters to be covered there?

In view of the importance of next Wednesday's debate on the EEC, can the Leader of the House say when he expects to table the Government motion? Does he agree that it could be tabled late on Tuesday? I am sure that he would not regard that as useful.

We shall try to table the motion in such a way and at such a time as to enable the House to take full account of it.

What sort of timetable does my right hon. Friend have in mind for the Northern Ireland Bill, which goes into Committee on Thursday? Are we likely to consider it the following week? When does he expect that the Committee stage will finish?

I cannot go further than to say that it is planned that the first day in Committee should be spent on Thursday of next week.

In view of the crisis in National Health Service hospitals arising from the injustice to nurses, whose pay is now 18 per cent in real terms behind what it was in 1974, and ancillary workers. will the Leader of the House find time for a statement next week? Does he agree that there could be a crisis of tremendous proportions before we return from the recess?

I am sure that the most helpful and happy event would be the early resumption of discussions within the Whitley council. Nevertheless, I shall draw to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services what the hon. Gentleman has said.

May I have the attention of the Leader of the House? Is he aware that the Secretary of State for Education and Science yesterday refused to give certain information to a Select Committee of the House? Is he further aware that his predecessor, the present Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, gave a pledge to the House from the Dispatch Box that if there was substantial anxiety in the House that information had not been given by Ministers, he would arrange a debate on the Floor of the House to discuss it? Does that pledge still stand? If we show substantial anxiety, will the Leader of the House arrange such a debate?

I assure the hon. Gentleman that my regard for him is zealous and almost always undivided. I wish to give further measured consideration to the matter that he has raised. When I have done that, I shall be in touch with him.

In view of the fundamental nature of the crisis in the EEC whereby they vote and we pay, and as many right hon. and hon. Members may wish to speak in Wednesday's debate, will my right hon. Friend consider extending the debate to two days, or, if many hon. Members are disappointed about not being called in the one-day debate, will he consider having a subsequent one?

My hon. Friend is a shade ambitious. I suspect that a one-day debate will prove useful.

Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Secretary of State for Social Services to make a statement on the Government's position with regard to the pay of nurses and other Health Service workers? Does he agree that it is scandalous that throughout the dispute the Tory Government have not allowed their Minister to speak on the matter from the Dispatch Box, either by way of a statement or in a debate? Does he agree that the Minister has communicated with the media many times and in various ways? Does he agree that the Minister should be responsible to the House and give a categorical assurance that nurses and other Health Service workers should receive a pay increase that is at least in line with the Government's tax and prices index?

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer that I gave to the hon. Member for Brent, South (Mr. Pavitt).

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that on Wednesday there were a number of meetings and stoppages among Health Service workers, including one in my constituency at the Airedale general hospital, at which they pressed for a response from the Government to their reasonable desire to have a better award than 4 per cent.? Does the right hon. Gentleman understand that they feel outraged that the Government have given 18 per cent. to senior civil servants and judges and yet are crushing—

I was saying, Mr. Speaker, that I want a statement to be made. There should be an urgent statement or a debate.

My answer to the question of the hon. Member for Brent, South covers the question of the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer).

In view of the recent 21 per cent. increase that has been awarded to senior civil servants and judges and the miserable award that has been offered to the nurses and other public employees, we should have a debate and not merely a statement. Do the Government realise that, in the absence of a satisfactory response from them, hospital workers will involve themselves in further industrial disputes in an effort to earn a decent wage?

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will agree that the most helpful thing would be for negotiations to recommence within the Whitley council. I have nothing to add to the reply that I gave to the hon. Member for Brent, South.

Falkland Islands

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.— [Mr. Thompson.]

3.43 pm

Seven weeks ago today the Argentine Foreign Minister summoned the British ambassador in Buenos Aires and informed him that the diplomatic channel was now closed. Later on that same day President Reagan appealed to President Galtieri not to invade the Falkland Islands. That appeal was rejected.

Ever since 2 April Argentina has continued to defy the mandatory resolution of the Security Council. During the past 24 hours the crisis over the Falkland Islands has moved into a new and even more serious phase.

On Monday of this week our ambassador to the United Nations handed to the Secretary-General our proposals for a peaceful settlement of the dispute. These proposals represented the limit to which the Government believe it was right to go. We made it clear to Senor Perez de Cuellar that we expected the Argentine Government to give us a very rapid response to them.

By yesterday morning we had had a first indication of the Argentine reaction. It was not encouraging. By the evening we received their full response in writing. It was in effect a total rejection of the British proposals. Indeed, in many respects the Argentine reply went back to their position when they rejected Mr. Haig's second set of proposals on 29 April. It retracted virtually all the movement that their representative had shown during the Secretary-General's efforts to find a negotiated settlement. I shall have some more to say about his efforts later.

The implications of the Argentine response are of the utmost gravity. This is why the Government decided to publish immediately the proposals that we had put to the Secretary-General and to give the House the earliest opportunity to consider them. These proposals were placed in the Vote Office earlier today. The Government believe that they represented a truly responsible effort to find a peaceful solution which both preserved the fundamental principles of our position and offered the opportunity to stop further loss of life in the South Atlantic.

We have reached this very serious situation because the Argentines clearly decided at the outset of the negotiations that they would cling to the spoils of invasion and occupation by thwarting at every turn all the attempts that have been made to solve the conflict by peaceful means. Ever since 2 April they have responded to the efforts to find a negotiated solution with obduracy and delay, deception and bad faith.

We have now been negotiating for six weeks. The House will recall the strenuous efforts made over an extended period by Secretary of State Haig. During that period my ministerial colleagues and I considered no fewer than four sets of proposals. Although these presented substantial difficulties, we did our best to help Mr. Haig continue his mission, until Argentine rejection of his last proposals left him no alternative but to abandon his efforts.

The next stage of negotiations was based on proposals originally advanced by President Belaunde of Peru and modified in consultations between him and Mr. Haig. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs informed the House on 7 May, Britain was willing to accept these, the fifth set of proposals, for an interim settlement. They could have led to an almost immediate ceasefire. But again it was Argentina that rejected them.

I shall not take up the time of the House with a detailed description of those earlier proposals, partly because they belong to those who devised them, but, more importantly, because they are no longer on the negotiating table. Britain is not now committed to them.

Since 6 May, when it became clear that the United States-Peruvian proposals were not acceptable to Argentina, the United Nations Secretary-General, Senor Perez de Cuellar, has been conducting negotiations with Britain and Argentina.

Following several rounds of discussions, the United Kingdom representative at the United Nations was summoned to London for consultation last Sunday. On Monday Sir Anthony Parsons returned to New York and presented to the Secretary-General a draft interim agreement between Britain and Argentina which set out the British position in full. He made it clear that the text represented the furthest that Britain could go in the negotiations. He requested that the draft should be transmitted to the Argentine representative and that he should be asked to convey his Government's response within two days.

Yesterday we received the Argentine Government's reply. It amounted to a rejection of our own proposals, and we have so informed the Secretary-General. This morning we have received proposals from the Secretary-General himself.

It will help the House to understand the present position if I now describe briefly these three sets of proposals.

I deal first with our own proposals. These preserve the fundamental principles which are the basis of the Government's position. Aggression must not be allowed to succeed. International law must be upheld. Sovereignty cannot be changed by invasion.

The liberty of the Falkland Islanders must be restored. For years they have been free to express their own wishes about how they want to be governed. They have had institutions of their own choosing. They have enjoyed self-determination. Why should they lose that freedom and exchange it for dictatorship?

Our proposals are contained in two documents. First, and mainly, there is a draft interim agreement between ourselves and Argentina. Secondly, there is a letter to the Secretary-General which makes it clear that the British Government do not regard the draft interim agreement as covering the dependencies of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

I deal with the dependencies first. South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands are geographically distant from the Falkland Islands themselves. They have no settled population. British title to them does not derive from the Falkland Islands but is separate. These territories have been treated as dependencies of the Falkland Islands only for reasons of administrative convenience. That is why they are outside the draft agreement.

The House has before it the draft agreement, and I turn now to its main features. Article 2 provides for the cessation of hostilities and the withdrawal of Argentine and British forces from the islands and their surrounding waters within 14 days. At the end of the withdrawal British ships would be at least 150 nautical miles from the islands. Withdrawal much beyond this would not have been reasonable, because the proximity of the Argentine mainland would have given their forces undue advantage.

Withdrawal of the Argentine Forces would be the most immediate and explicit sign that their Government's aggression had failed and that they were being made to give up what they had gained by force. It is the essential beginning of a peaceful settlement and the imperative of resolution 502.

Article 6 sets out the interim arrangements under which the islands would be administered in the period between the cessation of hostilities and the conclusion of negotiations on the long-term future of the islands.

In this interim period there would be a United Nations administrator, appointed by the Secretary-General and acceptable to Britain and the Argentine. He would be the officer administering the Government. Under clause 3 of this article he would exercise his powers in conformity with the laws and the practices traditionally obtaining in the islands. He would consult the islands' representative institutions—that is the Legislative and Executive Councils through which the islanders were governed until 2 April. There would be an addition to each of the two Councils of one representative of the 20 or 30 Argentines normally resident in the islands. Their representatives would be nominated by the administrator.

The clause has been carefully drawn so that the interim administration cannot make changes in the law and customs of the islanders that would prejudge the outcome of the negotiations on a long-term settlement.

This provision would not only go a long way to giving back to the Falklanders the way of life that they have always enjoyed but would prevent an influx of Argentine settlers in the interim period whose residence would change the nature of society there and radically affect the future of the islands. That would not have been a true interim administration. It would have been an instrument of change.

Clause 3 of this article thus fully safeguards the future of the islands. Nothing in this interim administration would compromise the eventual status of the Falklands or the freedom which they have enjoyed for so long.

Clause 4 would require the administrator to verify the withdrawal of all forces from the islands and to prevent their reintroduction.

I am grateful to the Prime Minister for giving way. Could she help the House by clarifying one point? She said on the Jimmy Young radio programme the other day that she did not like the word "veto" as it applied to the Falkland Islands. Is the Government's position that the Falkland Islanders will be consulted and that their views are still paramount? Can the right hon. Lady help the House on that point?

I am dealing with the arrangements for the interim between the cessation of hostilities and the negotiations. The right hon. Gentleman will notice that we have imported into this agreement article 73 of the United Nations charter, which refers to the paramountcy of the interests of the islanders. During the long-term negotiations we shall closely consult the islanders on their wishes and of course we believe in self-determination. That relates to the long-term negotiations. These articles deal with the interim administration, and I have been trying to make it clear that the interim administration must not have provisions within it which, in effect, pre-empt the outcome of the long-term negotiations.

I return to clause 4 of article 6. We think it likely that the administrator will need to call upon the help of three or four countries other than ourselves and the Argentine to provide him with the necessary equipment and a small but effective force. The purpose of that is that if our troops leave the islands we must have some way of guarding against another Argentine invasion. The safest way under these arrangements would be for the United Nations' administrator to have a small United Nations force at his disposal, of the type I have described.

Articles 8 and 9 are also very important. They deal with negotiations between Britain and Argentina on the long-term future of the islands.

The key sentence is the one which reads:
"These negotiations shall be initiated without prejudice to the rights, claims and positions of the parties and without prejudgment of the outcome."
We should thus be free to take fully into account the wishes of the islanders themselves. And Argentina would not be able to claim that the negotiations had to end with a conclusion that suited her.

Surely it is implicit in those words that if the rights and claims of the Argentines are being considered, the outcome of the negotiations may be that we shall cede sovereignty to Argentina.

I have said that we do not prejudge the outcome. If the islanders wished to go to Argentina, I believe that this country would uphold the wishes of the islanders. After their experience I doubt very much whether that would be the wish of the islanders. Indeed, I believe that they would recoil from it.

I return to article 9. We have to recognise that the negotiations might be lengthy. That is why article 9 provides that until the final agreement has been reached and implemented the interim agreement will remain in force.

Although this interim agreement does not restore things fully to what they were before the Argentine invasion, it is faithful to the fundamental principles that I outlined earlier. Had the Argentines accepted our proposals, we should have achieved the great prize of preventing further loss of life. It was with that in mind that we were prepared to make practical changes that were reasonable. But we were not prepared to compromise on principle.

I turn now to the Argentine response. This revived once again all the points which had been obstacles in earlier negotiations. The Argentine draft interim agreement applied not only to the Falklands but included South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands as well. The Argentines demanded that all forces should withdraw, including our forces on South Georgia, and return to their normal bases and areas of operation. This was plainly calculated to put us at an enormous disadvantage.

They required that the interim administration should be the exclusive responsibility of the United Nations which should take over all executive, legislative, judicial and security functions in the islands. They rejected any role for the islands democratic institutions.

They envisaged that the interim administration would appoint as advisers equal numbers of British and Argentine residents of the islands, despite their huge disparity.

They required freedom of movement and equality of access with regard to residence, work and property for Argentine nationals on an equal basis with the Falkland Islanders. the Junta's clear aim was to flood the islands with its own nationals during the interim period, and thereby change the nature of Falklands society and so prejudge the future of the Islands.

With regard to negotiations for a long-term settlement, while pretending not to prejudice the outcome the junta stipulated that the object was to comply not only with the Charter of the United Nations but with various resolutions of the General Assembly, from some of which the United Kingdom dissented on the grounds that they favoured Argentine sovereignty.

And if the period provided for the completion of the negotiation expired, the junta demanded that the General Assembly should determine the lines to which final agreement should conform. It was manifestly impossible for Britain to accept such demands. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]

Argentina began the crisis. Argentina has rejected proposal after proposal. One is bound to ask whether the junta has ever intended to seek a peaceful settlement or whether it has sought merely to confuse and prolong the negotiations while remaining in illegal possession of the Islands. I believe that if we had a dozen more negotiations the tactics and results would be the same. From the course of these negotiations and Argentina's persistent refusal to acept resolution 502 we are bound to conclude that its objective is procrastination and continuing occupation, leading eventually to sovereignty.

I thank the Prime Minister for giving way and I apologise for interrupting her. Are we to understand that the proposed interim agreement, like some earlier proposals, is no longer on the table, having regard to the fact that the proposed provisions for the withdrawal of British forces and a non-British administration have consequences for British sovereignty and for the principles for which the task force was dispatched?

The proposals have been rejected. They are no longer on the table.

As I said earlier, the Secretary-General has this morning put to us and to Argentina an aide-memoire describing those issues where, in his opinion, agreement seems to exist and those on which differences remain.

The first group of issues—those where he believes there is a measure of agreement—would require further clarification, for on some points our interpretation would be different. The aide-memoire states, for example, that Argentina would accept long-term negotiations without prejudgment of the outcome. This important phrase was, however, omitted from the Argentine response to our own proposals and is belied by a succession of statements from Buenos Aires.

Those points where, in the Secretary-General's judgment, differences remain include: first, aspects of the interim administration; secondly, the timetable for completion of negotiations and the related duration of the interim administration; thirdly, aspects of the mutual withdrawal of forces; and, fourthly, the geographic area to be covered. Senor Perez de Cuellar has proposed formulations to cover some of those points.

The Secretary-General, to whose efforts I pay tribute, has a duty to continue to seek agreement. But, as our representative is telling him in New York, his paper differs in certain important respects from our position as presented to him on 17 May and which we then described as the furthest that we could go. Moreover, it differs fundamentally from the present Argentine position as communicated to us yesterday.

It is not a draft agreement, but, as the Secretary-General himself puts it, a number of formulations and suggestions. Some of his suggestions are the very ones which have already been rejected by the Argentine response to our own proposals. Even if they were acceptable to both parties as a basis for negotiation, that negotiation would take many days, if not weeks, to reach either success or failure.

We have been through this often before and each time we have been met with Argentine obduracy and procrastination. Argentina rejected our proposals. It is inconceivable that it would now genuinely accept those of the Secretary-General's ideas which closely resemble our own.

Is the Prime Minister aware that, according to the Quaker mission at the United Nations in New York, certain members of the Security Council have prepared a document which it is thought may be the basis for negotiation between ourselves and the Argentines?

No, Sir. I think that that is covered by what I have already said. This is the seventh set of proposals that we have considered. We have considered them carefully. Each time we have met with tactics the object of which is procrastination leading to continued occupation of the islands. Because of the record on this matter we thought it best to put up our own specific draft interim agreement in writing so that our position was clear for the world to see and so that it was clear that we were not compromising fundamental principles, but that we were prepared to make some reasonable, paractical suggestions if we could secure the prize of no further loss of life. Those proposals were rejected. They are no longer on the table.

No, not at the moment. The hon. Gentleman is interrupting the flow of what I am saying. What is being considered is what is called an aide-memoire, which is not a draft agreement, but a number of formulations and suggestions. The essence of those formulations and suggestions, where they are clear, is that they are those that have already been rejected by the Argentine response to our proposals.

I am grateful to the Prime Minister for giving way. Why have we withdrawn those proposals, even though they have been rejected by Argentina? Why cannot they stay on the table for acceptance by Argentina right up to the last minute?

Because they have been rejected and it is the seventh lot of proposals with which we have been involved. This cannot go on and on. Someone has to make a decision and an assessment of the objectives of the Argentine junta.

Since, at the end of the day, every rational man and woman knows that we cannot sustain indefinitely the sovereignty of those rocks 8,000 miles away, why is the Prime Minister showing such extraordinary impatience?—[Interruption.] Why will she not continue to seek to negotiate when the alternative is carnage and bloodshed, which will have no good effect at all?

Because the Argentines do not want a negotiated settlement. They want sovereignty of the islands and they are using protracted negotiations to procure that objective. I do not believe that they are genuine in their negotiations.

Does the Prime Minister accept that many people believe that the proposals by the British Government are fair? Many people now recognise that the British Government may feel it necessary to take further military measures, but they cannot necessarily understand why the Prime Minister believes it necessary to withdraw the proposals or why the proposals cannot be held on the table in the hope that the Argentine Government will eventually come to their senses.

It seems perfectly clear to me that if the proposals have been rejected it is reasonable to withdraw them. They have been rejected. They are no longer on the table. What we are now considering is an aide-memoire put up by the Secretary-General. It seems right that if one makes an offer and it is rejected, that is the end of the matter, particularly bearing in mind that we are discussing the seventh set of proposals in which I have been involved.

Even if we were prepared to negotiate on the basis of the aide-memoire, we should first wish to see subsantive Argentine comments on it, going beyond mere acceptance of it as a basis for negotiation. These are the points that we are making in our reply to the Secretary-General. At the same time, we are reminding him—as my right hon. Friends and I have repeatedly said to the House—that negotiations do not close any military options.

The gravity of the situation will be apparent to the House and the nation. Difficult days lie ahead, but Britain will face them in the conviction that our cause is just and in the knowledge that we have been doing everything reasonable to secure a negotiated settlement.

The principles that we are defending are fundamental to everything that this Parliament and this country stand for. They are the principles of democracy and the rule of law. Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands in violation of the rights of peoples to determine by whom and in what way they are governed. Its aggression was committed against a people who are used to enjoying full human rights and freedom. It was executed by a Government with a notorious record in suspending and violating those same rights.

Britain has a responsibility towards the islanders to restore their democratic way of life. She has a duty to the whole world to show that aggression will not succeed and to uphold the cause of freedom.

4.10 pm

I believe that it has been to the benefit of the House and the country not only to have this debate, but for the House to have before it in preparation for the debate the document that the Government have presented about the last period of negotiations. I underline to the Government my hope that they will provide at an early date a larger document. There are documents concerned with Peruvian proposals and the proposals made by Secretary of State Haig. The House and the country have a right to have those propositions before them. The House can see from what has happened here today how absurd it would have been if we had proceeded without having the latest proposals, which the Government have had published in preparation for the debate, albeit at fairly short notice.

I shall certainly comment upon that document and particularly upon the latest remarks that the right hon. Lady made about the Secretary-General's proposals. In my opinion, that is the most important aspect of the debate, and I shall return to it.

There are one or two preliminary matters that I should like to underline afresh. I do not claim that they are novel in any sense. I believe that it is important that we should clearly understand them. First, I refer to the debate of 3 April. I know that there are some people who say that the House reacted in a spirit of impetuosity. I believe that there were good grounds for what was done and that it was the expression by the House of its feeling of moral outrage at what had occurred. I believe that the House was right to underline its concern for the Falkland Islanders. They were the people who were most afflicted and against whom the least possible accusation could be made. They were living their lives perfectly innocently. They were interfering with nobody, and it was the interference with their lives that gave rise to that feeling in the dabate on 3 April. I do not believe that the House needs to apologise for that in any sense. We are concerned not only about the rights of the Falkland Islanders, but with their lives. We have to take that into account, and what kind of protection we can best afford them.

Let me refer also to another matter which became prominent during that debate—even though we did not know the exact outcome—and that is resolution 502, which has been the sheet anchor of the British case throughout the world during the whole period. The passage of that resolution was a matter of major importance. The allegiance of the House to that resolution has been of major importance, and it has been our guide throughout all the difficulties.

I do not believe that it would have been possible for us to proceed without some such resolution to which every Member of the House has given his support in one form or another. It is important that that should be reiterated because it was primarily on the basis of that resolution that we were able to command support for the British case throughout the world. It was important for us to insist upon it. I do not claim any precedence in the matter, but we on the Opposition Benches attach the greatest importance to upholding the United Nations charter and organisation. The crisis has proved that if we did not have the United Nations Charter we would have to invent one, if we did not have the United Nations Organisation we would have to invent one, if we did not have a Secretary-General who could assist in these matters we would have to— [Interruption.] I shall come to the Secretary-General in a moment, and I hope that there will not be derision from any part of the House. Any such derision is repudiated by the Opposition. I am sure that it is repudiated by the Foreign Secretary. I believe that in the crisis our allegiance to the United Nations charter and organisation has been of enormous importance and it should be continued. It is the bedrock of our policy.

I know that there may be some doubts on this point, but the view that I have held throughout is that I support the action under resolution 502. It was necessary for the Government to send the task force. In the debate of 14 April I gave my reasons for that view. I still hold that view about the task force, and it is of absolute importance that it should be under political control. The right hon. Lady has constantly reiterated that that is the case, and, of course, it must always remain the case, especially if there is to be an escalation of the military action over the coming days.

If our troops are sent in to further escalating military action—whatever it may be—I am sure that it is the desire of everyone in the House that the action should be as swift and successful as possible. We said that at the time of the recovery of South Georgia. I repeat it because I believe that it is important that it should be said.

The right hon. Lady sometimes refers to "our boys", as if they are her boys. They are not exactly her boys. [Interruption.] We have to deal with our Ministers and their responsibility. We are perfectly entitled to make whatever demands we wish in that respect. In sustaining the rights of the country the Government have had the fullest support from the Opposition. I do not believe that anybody could complain upon that score.

I come to some of the legitimate doubts and anxieties that people in the country have argued about from the beginning of the crisis in April. As time has elapsed it has become evident that it is incomparably better that the dispute should be settled, if possible, by peaceful means. When I use the expression "incomparably better" I mean exactly that. A long list of factors can be cited to illustrate how much greater would be the advantage if we could have a peaceful settlement.

First, there is the obvious factor, which I am sure is agreed by everybody in the House, of the danger of the loss of life of our young men, the Argentines and the Falkland Islanders themselves. All their lives might be involved. That is the first reason why it is important for us to seek a peaceful settlement of the dispute and why we have emphasised that throughout the period. There are other reasons, as the Government know and that we have mentioned in the debates. My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) particularly mentioned the possibility that if certain actions were taken, which I do not intend to describe now—all of us can understand them—we could lose some of the backing that we have in some other parts of the world. I am sure that the Government would not ignore such a development. It could happen, although I do not want it to. We must ensure that action is taken so that it does not occur. However, it is one of the factors in the situation.

Other factors are the geography of the matter, its diplomatic history, and many of the other developments that were discussed in the debate last Thursday. They cannot all be pushed aside by impatient Government Back Benchers. In considering the way in which the debate has been conducted throughout the country, special credit should go to the newspapers which have sought to withstand the hysteria and stupidity that have been spread in some quarters. All honour should go to those newspapers—The Guardian, the Daily Mirror,the Financial Times, The Observer and The Sunday Times—which have withstood the hysterical nonsense contained in many others. It has been good for the reputation of this country, and advantageous to the attempt to secure peace.

I come now to the document which the right hon. Lady and the Government have presented.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. Will he take the opportunity at this stage, at the outset of his comments, to say whether he feels that the British Government should have offered more than was contained in the proposals?

I am coming to that matter, as I said at the beginning of my remarks that I would, but it was perfectly right for me to put my remarks in the context that I have. I certainly do not intend to be dissuaded from that purpose by the hon. Gentleman. I shall, of course, answer his question.

The right hon. Lady and the Government have presented the terms of their document to us. Since I received it earlier today, I have read it, and I believe that it presents a clear and formidable case. Anyone who claims differently would not be reading it intelligently. The Government have stated clearly the principles on which they have acted—the principles of democracy and self-determination—and they have indicated some matters on which they have been prepared, I shall not say to compromise, but at any rate to make proposals which they believed would help towards a settlement.

It is important that that should be underlined, too, particularly in view of the accusation made in some quarters that the Government have been solely intransigent on the matter, as is said in Buenos Aires. The reputation of the case in this document is a matter of value for the present and for the future. If the Government could secure a settlement on the basis that they have proposed, we in the Opposition would be gratified as, I am sure, would the country and the world. In my view, they are fair proposals, and it is right that they should have been presented in theme terms.

However, I also say to the Government—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]. One cannot get peace by just roaring in the House of Commons. There would have been peace long ago if that was the way to get it. As those who have been engaged in those matters will understand, much more important issues are involved. There are other factors in the Government's statement that I believe should be considered.

There are many defects in the Argentine proposals, to some of which the Prime Minister very properly drew attention, because many of them are deeply objectionable to the country. I could cite some, but there is no need to cite them all. The one about South Georgia, for example, is an extremely difficult proposition, and one that this country would find it impossible to accept. There are other proposals of that nature. However, I do not believe the right hon. Lady when she says that the Argentine proposals, as outlined in her document, amount to a complete rejection of all proposals. Indeed, I do net believe that the Foreign Secretary would claim that. In the debate last Thursday, the right hon. Gentleman suggested that there had been some movement towards the acceptance of two essential requirements that the British Government had rightly insisted on from the very beginning: first, the requirement about withdrawal