House Of Commons
Tuesday 25 May 1982
The House met at half-past Two o'clock
[MR. SPEAKER in the Chair]
PORT OF LONDON BILL
Lords amendments agreed to.
TEES AND HARTLEPOOL PORT AUTHORITY BILL (By Order)
Read a Second time, and committed.
Oral Answers To Questions
asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the current situation with respect to the task force in the South Atlantic.
asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he has had any discussions with his North Atlantic Treaty Organisation counterparts on the strategic value of the Falkland Islands.
asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he will make a statement on the current military position in the Falkland Islands.
asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he will make a statement about the Falkland Islands operations.
I met my NATO colleagues at the beginning of May. Only last Saturday all members of the North Atlantic Council expressed solidarity with the action that we are taking in the Falkland Islands.In my statement in the House yesterday I outlined recent action that had taken place in the South Atlantic leading up to the successful landing on East Falkland on 20 May by Her Majesty's forces and the establishment there of a secure base. Since then our Harriers have carried out a further successful attack on Port Stanley airfield. Separately, yesterday our task force came under attack from Argentine aircraft. Argentine losses as a result of that action are assessed at eight combat aircraft. Two of our support ships were damaged but they are being made good. I deeply regret the loss of HMS "Antelope", which sank yesterday. Finally, I should like to deny the latest wild report from Argentina that the "Canberra" has come under attack.
Order. I shall call first those hon. Members whose questions are being answered.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Is he satisfied that there is now an appropriate and balanced flow of information coming in from the task force with, hopefully, some of it getting through to Argentina?Will my right hon. Friend say something further about the possible establishment of a fund for the benefit of the members of the task force and their dependants, which he mentioned yesterday?
We are getting information from the task force, sometimes not as rapidly as we would wish, but we must understand the serious problems that face our forces.We feel strongly that there should be one fund, not many, for people who wish to give for dependants. The terms of the fund should be widely drawn so that too much money is not directed at only a few people. The trustees of the fund should have the flexibility to direct donations across the whole spectrum of those in need. The best way to ensure that is to use existing charities. However, we cannot allocate money between charities at this stage as we do not know the relative need. We propose to set up a South Atlantic fund, which will not in itself be a charity but will hold money on behalf of existing charities until we have a clearer idea of how best it can be used. We should appreciate it if members of the general public, who understandably want to make donations, will direct them to this central fund. That will save a lot of confusion and difficulty.
Is not one of the main lessons to be learnt from the past eight weeks the sheer neglect of the vital strategic importance of the Falkland Islands within a global context, apart from the oil, gas and seabed resources that might exist in that area?Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that Britain has nothing to concede by way of sovereignty in any future negotiations on the territory? Will he now discuss with our Western allies what part they will play in the future defence of those islands?
As I said yesterday, and as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has repeatedly pointed out, British sovereignty is a fact and it cannot be removed by aggression. Of course we accept the very great importance of Antarctica and the Falkland Islands and the great promise that that part of the world holds out.
Does my right hon. Friend understand the not jingoistic but quiet pride felt by the vast majority of British people in the remarkable achievements of the Armed Forces so far? Does he accept that he will have widespread support for any tactical decisions made for strictly military, not political, reasons, whether those reasons are nationally or internationally motivated?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his assertion of the pride that we all feel in our Armed Forces. The whole House and country share that feeling of pride with him. I assure my hon. Friend that tactical decisions will be a matter wholly for the task force commander. Of course, he will work within the broad political directions and the strategic aims laid down for him by Her Majesty's Government.
Now that there is even more demand for a ceasefire, with British casualties amounting to 73 dead and about 100 wounded, and a total of 500 people already having lost their lives in the conflict, why does the chairman of the Tory Party say that diplomacy must now take a back seat? Has the Tory Party become so bloodthirsty that it is now hell-bent on using the crisis for the same reason as Galtieri created it—to distract attention from the problems of mass unemployment and the social and economic crisis here?
If Argentina had taken notice and acted upon Security Countil resolution 502, a ceasefire would have taken place.
As one who represents a major naval centre, may I point out that we can be as proud of the families of the men of the task force as of the men themselves? On their behalf, may I ask whether it is necessary, for defence reasons, for news to come so slowly from the task force and to be so vague? The families of the men in the task force are left listening to Argentine broadcasts without knowing whether the information has any basis of truth.
There is a great problem about the dissemination of information from the task force. I recognise my hon. Friend's concern. We have to respond quickly to factual information as it is received from the task force to counteract the propaganda that so frequently comes out of Buenos Aires, which is both inaccurate and damaging. Therefore, even if the information that we have is sparse, as soon as we receive it we put it out in order to deal with propaganda from the other side. However, we have always informed the next of kin before making a full announcement to the public. There is a difficult balance to be struck between avoiding propaganda from the other side and informing the next of kin before anyone else.
The Opposition welcome the setting up of a South Atlantic fund. Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that yesterday he was asked about the pension rights of Service men who might be killed or injured? Is he now in a position to make a statement to the House?
The dependants of Service men will receive a full pension and a lump sum from the Ministry of Defence. In addition, there is, of course, a war widows' pension from the DHSS. The hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) asked me about the Merchant Marine. Under an agreement with the National Marine Board, provision has been made for compensation for death and injury to be paid to merchant seamen engaged in war-like operations. The levels were enhanced in early April and apply to those merchant seamen sailing with the task force.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Sea King helicopters being used in the extremely difficult conditions of the South Atlantic are performing as well as everyone expected? Will he also confirm that the manufacturers have been extremely forthcoming and helpful in supplying spares and technical advice during such a difficult time?
I confirm what my hon. Friend said about spares from the manufacturers. We have lost some Sea King helicopters by accident. It has been a tragic loss. However, the losses of helicopters in relation to the amount of flying time undertaken have not been great. Indeed, there have been fewer losses than we might have expected, given that the helicopters have been extremely busy.
Does the Secretary of State accept that the South Atlantic fund should also embrace merchant seamen? Will he make that perfectly clear to all concerned? What will be the future loading on the naval dockyards? Given the strain on them now, some of those on shore are extremely concerned about future employment possibilities.
Through the fund, we shall look to the charities for the Merchant Marine as well as to the Service Charities. As a result of the action—and when it is over—there will be additional work in the dockyards. In due course we shall consider that but it would be wrong to make a premature decision about the amount of extra work required.
asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he will take steps to accelerate the introduction of Sea Wolf or other means of point defence of Royal Navy vessels against sea skimming missiles and substantially increase the number of vessels to which such systems will be fitted.
As I have already indicated, we plan to fit Sea Wolf to all type 22 frigates on construction and to five Leanders at refit. The fitting of point defence systems to other classes of ship is a matter for further consideration.
Can my hon. Friend give an assurance that the Soviet Union—our principal potential enemy in the North Atlantic—does not possess a sea skimming missile and that adequate defences against such missiles will be available before the Soviet Union can develop them? Is it not necessary to consider the whole question of air defence? Many of the casualties have resulted from attacks by high performance aircraft dropping very old-fashioned dumb bombs. Does my hon. Friend agree that we should consider the whole question of air defence for the Navy?
There will be a need to consider all aspects of the operations after they have been satisfactorily concluded. I agree that when the Falkland episode is over the Soviet Union will still remain the main threat. I confirm that the Soviet Union lacks that type of sea skimming missile.
Have the Government yet placed orders with British industry for replacing the ships and aircraft that have been lost?
asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will now make a further statement on the implementation of the Trident programme.
asked the Secretary of State for Defence what recent representations he has received on the Trident system.
Work is continuing satisfactorily on the design of the new class of submarines and on the remainder of the programme necessary to bring the Trident system into operation with the Royal Navy.Since the announcement made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on 11 March on the Government's decision to adopt the Trident II D5 system, we have received about 50 letters from members of the public on the subject.
Does the Minister accept that the so-called nuclear deterrent has not kept the peace? Does he also accept that, as a result of the losses in the South Atlantic, hundreds of millions of pounds will have to be spent on replacing frigates, destroyers, helicopters and aeroplanes? Given the lunatic cost of the Trident project and the fact that it represents a significant and serious escalation of nuclear weaponry, will the Government now make a belated effort to support peace instead of war and announce the cancellation of the Trident project?
The hon. Gentleman is wrong about not keeping the peace. The nuclear deterrent has kept the peace in Europe since 1945. There is no cash ceiling on the cost of the operation in the South Atlantic. When the costs are more accurately known and the prospects for defence expenditure as a whole in 1982–83 are clearer, we shall decide to what extent supplementary provision is needed. The main objective of our defence policy must be to meet the main threat, which comes from the Soviet Union. That is why we need a nuclear deterrent.
I thank my hon. Friend for reaffirming the Government's commitment to the Trident D5 missile system. Will he assure the House that recent events in the South Atlantic do not alter the fact that it is essential for us to have a nuclear deterrent? Will my hon. Friend also confirm that the success of a flexible response depends on the coexistence of strategic nuclear, theatre nuclear and conventional forces?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The main threat continues to be the Soviet Union, which has a wide range of nuclear weapons of different kinds, as well as vast and growing conventional forces. I think it is therefore right to pursue the policies of deterrence and of flexible response which have been pursued by successive Governments, including that of which the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) was at one time a member.
Does the Minister agree that peace in Europe has been maintained since 1945 by a combination of nuclear and conventional arms acting as a deterrent? Does he further agree that the tragedy is that the Government failed to provide an adequate deterrent in the South Atlantic and that that led to the present disaster?
That is an entirely different question. I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman's analysis of the causes of the Argentine aggression. Those causes may have had much to do with internal affairs in Argentina.
Is it not a fact that, during the peak years of the programme, the Trident cost will be 20 per cent. of new equipment? How can that be reconciled with a really credible conventional defence policy?
I do not recognise the figure quoted by the right hon. Gentleman. It is not one that I have seen. The right hon. Gentleman will have read the open Government document, which was published at the time of my right hon. Friend's announcement, which showed that, at its peak, the cost of bringing in Trident will be about 11 per cent. of the defence equipment budget for a couple of years.
Of the equipment, but not of new equipment. Will the hon. Gentleman direct his mind to my question?
I think that the right way to approach the problem is to look at the percentage of the total defence budget that is involved. That, as has often been said, is 3 per cent. of the total defence budget over the period of 15 years during which Trident is being brought in.
Does my hon. Friend agree that we could not possibly have sent the task force to the South Atlantic unless we already had an independent nuclear deterrent of our own? Does he further agree that without it we would have been open to nuclear blackmail from the Soviet Union and our entire strategy and diplomacy would have been dependent on our allies? Is not the first lesson to be drawn from the Falkland Islands crisis that we must have a nuclear deterrent of our own now and in the future, and that Trident is the best instrument for that?
I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend. It is reassuring to know that, while large parts of our Navy, Army and Air Force are now in the South Atlantic, peace is kept in Europe by our nuclear deterrent.
asked the Secretary of State for Defence what representations he has had on the British Aerospace P110 project.
asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether Her Majesty's Government will consider giving a commitment in principle to developing P110 aircraft, in conjunction with other European countries.
My right hon. Friend has received a number of representations from hon. Members stressing the importance of this project for the aerospace industry and urging Government commitment to it.As I told my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) in the Adjournment debate on 1 March, our studies of our future combat aircraft requirements and options are continuing.
I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Is he aware of the vital strategic importance of this new aeroplane for the Royal Air Force, particularly if it means that we do not have to buy from abroad? Is my hon. Friend also aware of the vital importance of this project to British Aerospace, Preston division, in terms of jobs in the design team and keeping the technical operation available? What steps is my hon. Friend taking to find some measure of support, financial or otherwise, from some of our partners in Europe and the rest of the world?
The Government are continuing to give all the support that they can to British industry—British Aerospace, in particular—for the development of this project. My hon. Friend will be interested to know that, in pursuance of this aim, I shall later this afternoon be visiting the Federal Republic of Germany for discussions with German industry, and subsequently the Federal Government in Bonn.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the long-term capability of the British aerospace industry to design and produce military combat aircraft depends to a large extent on this project?
I agree with my hon. Friend, but he will no doubt accept that this project, in order to get started, will have to rely on a new way of procuring aircraft—that is, a new way of getting development money—and it is to that end that the discussions and consultations are continuing.
Is the Minister aware of the impressive lobby that took place on this issue by British Aerospace workers in the House a few weeks ago and of the concern shown at all levels about the need to develop this project? Are the Government prepared to put in extra finance to help British Aerospace to get the project off the ground?
There is no basic change in the Government's position as set out in the White Paper, Cmnd. 8288. As I said in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton), we have to see whether we can find different ways of obtaining the money required to fund the development part of the programme.
Is my hon. Friend aware of the deep anxiety that is felt about the future of this project by my constituents, and others, who work at Warton and Samlesbury in South Fylde? Does he agree that the development of this quite brilliant warplane is of the utmost importance, nationally as well as locally, and that it deserves, and must get, the fullest and firmest support from the Government?
I agree with my hon. and learned Friend about the importance of the project to British industry and to the excellent work force that he has the honour to represent. I have nothing to add to what I have already said on the precise nature of the Government's commitment.
Is the Minister aware that the project is vital to Rolls-Royce? I note that discussions are taking place with prospective partners. Will the Minister assure the House that an interim funding arrangement could be made by the Government to ensure that the vital design and development work can proceed and that the prototype development work on the engine and the aeroplane can go on and not be held back?
The Government are fully aware of the relevant time scale on the project. As the hon. Gentleman knows, this is a Tornado-related development. The engine is the 67R, and that is already included in future programmes. Among the companies that I shall be seeing later this week will be Motor Turbinen Union.
Armed Services (Strength)
asked the Secretary of State for Defence what is the current strength of the Armed Services; and how this figure compares with that for three years before.
The strength of the Armed Services on 31 March 1982 was 327,647, excluding locally entered personnel and reserves. This is 12,656 more than at 31 March 1979.
I have noted that increase. Will my hon. Friend confirm that, in the continuing review of defence plans, not only is defence procurement and equipment being reassessed, but the numbers required in each of the Armed Services?
Government policy remains as outlined in Cmnd. 8288, "The United Kingdom Defence Programme: The Way Forward". We shall, of course, seek to learn from the lessons of the current operation as we review it in the future.
At a time of increasing numbers in the Armed Services, what is the logic of cutting manpower in the Royal ordnance factories, including Birtley in my constituency?
That is not an area within my direct responsibility, but I understand that the reductions in manpower are entirely related to the business done by the factories.
Will my hon. Friend confirm not only that the numbers are up, but that the wastage rate of experienced personnel is down and that we are using this opportunity to increase further the standard of recruits coming into the Forces?
I can confirm what my hon. Friend said. Recruiting has improved since the Government took a proper approach to Service pay.
In view of the operations in the South Atlantic, what further review will the Government undertake of the strength of the Navy in future years as against the proposed cuts?
I do not think that I have anything to add to what I have just said. We shall, of course, take a sensible view of all the lessons that we shall learn as a result of this operation. The numbers of men, equipment and so on will be looked at in the same light.
French Government (Missile Supplies)
asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on his latest discussions with the French Government about the availability of their missiles to the Argentine junta.
Following the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands, the French Government immediately took action to suspend all arms sales to Argentina. We share with France and much of the rest of the world a common resolve to stand firm against military aggression. The Government are grateful for the help and staunch support from the French Government for the position we have taken.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that there will be widespread support in the House and the country for what he has just said? Will he take an early opportunity to ensure that the French Government know how widely they are appreciated and how their position is welcomed in this country? In view of the persistent reports of countries such as South Africa and Israel, perhaps, assisting Argentina with the supply of missiles, and in pursuance of the question asked by the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) yesterday, will my right hon. Friend carry out as detailed an investigation as possible, so that in future we can know who our friends are?
The main question relates to France, and I should like to emphasise the tremendous support that we have from President Mitterrand and the French Government as well as the particular support that I have had from my opposite number, M. Hernu, since the outset of the Falkland Islands problem. As to other countries, as I said yesterday, we continually monitor the movement of arms and look in particular at the dangers for us of the movement of, for example, Exocet missiles to Argentina. That review will continue.
As most of Argentina's military equipment was sold to it by NATO countries, is it not time that NATO Defence and Foreign Ministers examined the whole question of arms sales to countries that may well use the weapons against individual members of NATO?
I think that this is a matter for individual countries. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we review all our arms sales. We look at each country individually and make a judgment on each case. That has always been the manner in which these policies have been conducted by successive Governments.
asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will adopt more restrictive criteria in reaching decisions upon individual applications for the sale of arms, following the Falkland Islands dispute.
asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether there are to be any changes in the sale of arms policy arising out of the Falkland crisis.
asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether, in his review of arms sales to individual countries, especially with regard to the nature of the regime concerned, he will bear particularly in mind circumstances in which such a régime is involved in a territorial dispute with another country.
We shall continue to subject all proposals for the sale of military equipment overseas to close individual scrutiny, taking into account all the factors relevant to each particular case.
Will the Minister confirm that the £120 million worth of arms from Britain and the expertise acquired by Argentine troops trained in Britain are now being used to kill British Service men such as those who were on the Gazelle helicopters that were reported to have been shot down by British-made Blowpipe missiles? Will he now listen to those of us who have consistently argued—even when the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) invited the Argentine air force chief to Britain with a view to arms sales—that it is time that we called an end to this situation, cancelled the British arms exhibition scheduled for June and worked for international agreement to end this trade in the weapons of death?
All defence sales are considered individually on their merits, and have been ever since the Labour Government established the defence sales organisation in 1966.
Not with my support.
The hon. Gentleman may or may not have supported that development. None the less, it is true. It is also true that Labour Governments have supplied large amounts of military equipment to Argentina.
Mr. Dennis Skinner.
Order. I remind the House that I am calling first those hon. Members whose questions are being answered.
When the battle in the Falkland Islands is over, when the dead on both sides have been finally counted and the generals and their opposite numbers have wined and dined, would it not make sense for this Government, unlike all previous Governments, whether Tory, Labour or Lib-Lab, to make an unequivocal declaration that there will be no more arms sales to Fascist-style regimes? Would that not make sense?
The question whether we sell military equipment to anyone turns on fundamental questions about whether we wish to supply our own Armed Forces with cur own equipment, and the industrial consequences of that. In addition, we must have regard to the 200,000 plus jobs in this country that depend on the manufacture of military equipment.
Is it not a fact that without the junta's threats and the invasion of the Falkland Islands, arms sales to Argentina would have been continued as previously, without murmur of protest from Conservative Members? Do arms continue to be sold to the Right-wing dictatorship in Chile and other such regimes where murder and torture are the order of the day?
I repeat that all arms transfers are decided on the particular circumstances prevailing at the time. Obviously, no Government will make arms transfers to someone whom they have reason to believe will use them against them. That was no doubt exactly the case when the Labour Government decided to sell two type 42 destroyers to Argentina in 1970.
Will my hon. Friend expand on his last answer and indicate the amount, in cash terms, of arms sold to Argentina by Labour Administrations and perhaps also indicate the type of arms that Labour Administrations have been prepared to sell to Argentina in recent years?
I have already mentioned the type 42 destroyers. I think the House will be aware that the first consignment of Sea Dart missiles, Lynx helicopters and Blowpipe surface-to-air missiles were all supplied under Labour Governments.
Much as the House will support the Government in refusing to sell arms to Warsaw Pact countries. Surely the overriding lesson that we should now learn is that Right-wing dictatorships are just as evil as Left-wing dictatorships.
The same answer must apply—that all the situations prevailing at any particular time must be taken into account, irrespective of whether we are talking about different political situations in various parts of the world. All of that must be considered.
Does my hon. Friend not agree that hindsight wisdom seems to be flying about on the Labour Benches and that the reality and importance of arms sales is demonstrated by the Harrier and its great success on the AV8B?
I agree with my hon. Friend, but what he has said relates to an earlier answer that I gave. That was the fundamental question whether we believe that we should be properly defended. We need equipment to carry out that requirement, and must decide from which country we shall get it. If we want to get it from Britain, it helps if we can have decent, long production runs, so that we can enjoy all the industrial benefits arising therefrom.
Does the Minister recall that in August 1980 my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) urged the chairman of the Conservative Party, who is a member of the War Cabinet, not to sell weapons of war to military juntas such as Argentina? Will the Minister comment on who was right—the chairman of the Conservative Party, or my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow?
As my right hon. Friend had no influence whatever over Argentina's decision, either to acquire Exocet missiles from France or type 42 destroyers from the Labour Government in 1970, I do not think that that question arises.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.
Type 42 Destroyer
asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he is satisfied that the type 42 destroyer is properly constructed to resist the effect of all known air-to-ship and ship-to-ship missiles.
asked the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the implications of the destruction of HMS "Sheffield" by an air-launched surface-skimming missile.
No ship can be constructed to resist the effect of all known anti-ship missiles. The circumstances and implications of the attack on HMS "Sheffield" are, however, being studied. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence has made clear, we shall take full account of the lessons to be learnt from current operations in determining whether any changes are needed within the general framework of the policy announced last year.
I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. In view of the sinking of HMS "Sheffield" and, in particular, the damage to the ship caused by fire, is my hon. Friend satisfied that the amount of aluminium used in the superstructure does not give it an unreasonable proneness to damage by fire? By the same token, does he believe that conventional wiring should now be used in warships?
Those are precisely the kinds of detailed points that will be examined once we are in a position to know the full operational details, after the operation is satisfactorily concluded.
Is not the brutal lesson of "Sheffield" either that one goes in and destroys the bases from which these weapons are launched or that one withdraws the task force? Whereas some of us might want to withdraw the task force, is it a fact that the SAS or other operational troops did their best to go on to the South American mainland and destroy the bases?
The hon. Gentleman is following press speculation, as he is entitled to do. On his question about the so-called brutal lesson of "Sheffield", I would say that nothing is quite as black or as white as he suggests.
Is not one of the assessments that should be drawn from this instance the fact that it does not matter how sophisticated are one's weapons if one's adversary has weapons that are more sophisticated? Does this not show the illogicality of the argument of those who say that we have atomic missiles that can destroy the world 10 times over, since it means nothing if one is not capable of getting one of those missiles to the target?
There is a good deal of military force in what the hon. Gentleman says. There is no point in having any weapon unless the delivery system also exists.
Sir Patrick Wall.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.
I cannot now call the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Sir P. Wall).
asked the Secretary of State for Defence if it is his intention to retain the existing labour force in the Gibraltar dockyard during the period of the Falklands crisis.
The closure of the Royal naval dockyard is not expected to begin until 1983. The number of jobs in the yard is therefore unlikely to be significantly affected this year. The possibility of the commercial operation of the dockyard from 1983 onwards is being examined by the Gibraltar Government with assistance from ourselves.
My hon. Friend will be aware of the considerable importance that was attached to Gibraltar during the time of the conversion of various vessels for the Falkland Islands crisis? Will he accept the fact that Gibraltar is the nearest port to the Falklands for the repair of any damaged naval vessels? In those circumstances, will he accept that it is essential that the labour force in Gibraltar is retained for so long as the crisis in the Falklands exists?
I join my hon. Friend in extending congratulations to the work force in the Gibraltar naval base and dockyard for what they did in preparing the task force for the South Atlantic. The naval base is to remain open. So far as the dockyard is concerned, we have said that when the appropriate time comes we shall consider whether any adjustments are needed to our policy within our general strategy.
Is it not time that the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues told the House and the people of Gibraltar that the Gibraltar dockyard played a prominent part in the setting forth of the task force? Should that not be taken into account? Without it, the task force would not have been able properly to assemble.
I am not sure that the conclusion of the right hon. Gentleman follows. But certainly, when the spray settles, if I may so express it, we shall look at the situation to see whether any adjustments are needed within our broad strategy.
Cyprus (Sovereign Base Area)
asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he has any plans to improve the arrangements for the defence of the sovereign bases areas of Cyprus from outside aggression and interference.
We believe that the existing arrangements for the defence of the sovereign base areas are satisfactory. Plans are, of course, always kept under review.
If the Turkish army were to invade the sovereign territory of the Republic of Cyprus and threaten the sovereign territory of Britain in the bases, would the Government use force to prevent it doing so? Do the Government consider that the north part of Cyprus still remains the sovereign territory of the republic, as the Falklands, in spite of invasion, remain the sovereign territory of Britain?
The first part of the hon. Gentleman's question is entirely hypothetical. I recall that when there was an invasion some years ago at the time of a Labour Government, the Government did not do very much about it. Sovereignty is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.
asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 25 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, including one with the Australian Foreign Minister.
During the course of a busy and exacting day, will my right hon. Friend take time to pay tribute, with the support of the whole House, to the bravery and sacrifice of our Armed Forces and merchant seamen in defence of British interests in the Falkland Islands? In the light of this, will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that there will be no negotiations on sovereignty with the Argentine or anyone else, because this would be unforgivable and unforgettable?
I respond gladly to my hon. Friend's invitation to pay tribute to the courage and skill of our Armed Forces and of the merchant marine in the splendid work that they are doing. Our object is to retake the Falkland Islands. They are British sovereign territory. We wish to restore British administration. There will be a good deal of reconstruction to be done and then the future will have to be discussed with the Falkland Islanders. I shall be amazed if the Falkland Islanders are not now more hostile to the Argentinians than they were before.
I certainly join the right hon. Lady in paying tribute to the courage and skill of the British troops. May I turn to the second part of the matter to which she has referred? Can she clarify the attitude of the Government on the state of the possibilities of negotiation now? Does she agree that it is essential, in the interests of saving lives—British lives along with other lives—that the possibilities of negotiation should be kept open, along with the military action?
Security Council resolution 502 has yet to be implemented. If it were implemented and the Argentine troops withdrew from the islands, peace would follow.
That is not the question that I put to the right hon. Lady. The reason why I put it—we have every right to put it and the country has the right to put it to her—is that the Secretary of State for Defence appears to us to speak in these matters in somewhat different terms from those used by the Foreign Secretary at the end of the debate on Thursday. I wish therefore to give the right hon. Lady a full opportunity to reply to this question. Does she agree fully with what was stated by the Foreign Secretary at the end of the debate on Thursday, when he said that we remained ready to negotiate and expanded upon what he meant. Does the right hon. Lady confirm that the Government absolutely adhere to what was stated by the Foreign Secretary on that occasion?
Yes, but I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman has quite got the import of what I said. The end of the conflict would occur if there were a withdrawal of Argentine forces in accordance with resolution 502. Unless that occurs, I do not think that any negotiation would get very far.
The right hon. Lady cannot leave these matters here. There are the questions that may be raised by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, as he is entitled to do. I ask the right hon. Lady clearly: does she or does she not agree with what was said by the Foreign Secretary at the end of the debate on Thursday, when the decision to send in British troops had already been made?
I do not think that the Foreign Secretary would disagree for one moment with what I have said, or with what I am saying now. I make it perfectly, fully and abundantly clear that there can be no progress without Argentine withdrawal.
Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance to the House that, however difficult it may be, she will encourage those Falkland Islanders who can to leave Port Stanley before a major military confrontation takes place?
A number of Falkland Islanders have already left Port Stanley. I do not think that I can do more to encourage them to leave. Many of them have already gone to the camps, and I am sure that they will be the best judges of their interests.
When the righ hon. Lady is repeatedly asked if she adheres to what her Foreign Secretary says in a debate in this House, why does she not simply answer "Yes"?
Because, like me, my right hon. Friend has made about five different speeches. I wish to know precisely—[Interruption.]—He has made five different speeches, as the circumstances have changed. It would be amazing if circumstances had not changed. I agree with the Foreign Secretary's speeches, and the Foreign Secretary agrees with mine, which is totally unlike the Labour Party.
When the Prime Minister is received by the Queen, will she consult Her Majesty about the early return of her representative to liberated British territory?
I understand that my hon. Friend is saying that with the restoration of British administration there should be an early return of the governor. That is under consideration.
asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 25 May.
Does the right hon. Lady agree with another view of her Foreign Secretary, that once British rule is back in force on the islands and a period of resettlement follows—between six and 12 months was the period quoted—Britain will then seek, the Foreign Secretary has hinted, the aid of other Governments within the area, a means of guaranteeing the long-term security of the islands? Can the right hon. Lady assure the House that these Governments will not be of a Fascist or military character, and especially that the despicable policy of South Africa will not be involved in any participation arrangements?
I hardly think that Fascist or military Governments would be the appropriate guarantors for any democracy.
Although the good economic news that has come out recently has naturally been eclipsed by events in the Falklands, would my right hon. Friend care to comment on the tremendous improvement both in the retail price index and factory output prices? Is this not good news for competitiveness and, thus, for jobs?
The excellent news of a continually falling retail price index, a falling wholesale price index and input index is good news for British industry, for British sales overseas and good news for jobs.
I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question on the distressing but necessary subject of compensation for the dependants of those who have been killed—[Interruption.]
Order. The right hon. Gentleman is entitled to ask his question.
Can the right hon. Lady, with her authority as Prime Minister, advise those members of the public who naturally wish to contribute something—[Interruption.]—whether——
Order. This behaviour is not fair on the right hon. Gentleman. He must be allowed to complete his question.
Will the Government publish a list of existing organisations that already cater very well for those problems?
Give them some of your radio and television earnings.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence announced earlier the setting up of a South Atlantic fund, which will have full charitable status, under the Ministry of Defence.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the reported proposal of the Irish Government to table a resolution calling for a ceasefire at this stage is most unhelpful? Will she reassure the House that we shall not agree to a ceasefire until the Argentines agree to withdraw their troops or when the occupation of the islands is complete? Will my right hon. Friend use the veto if necessary?
Yes. There can be no ceasefire without full withdrawal of Argentine troops. That is in resolution 502 and if necessary, if there were an attempt to have a ceasefire without that, we would have to use the veto.
asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 25 May.
In view of the confident assertion yesterday—some people might think over-confident—that the days of the Argentine garrison are numbered——
may we now have a cessation of hostilities? [Interruption.] I know that the bloodthirsty hooligans on the Tory Benches do not want that, but could we not discuss future sovereignty of the Falklands under the aegis of the United Nations, especially in view of the fact that the Tory British Nationality Act has deprived at least a third of the islanders of British nationality? What shall we do with those islands once we have them? Are we to have a permanent fleet on a vast scale there indefinitely, and are we to have an army down there indefinitely to protect them?
That is about seven questions. I wonder which to start on. The hon. Gentleman referred to the phrase in my right hon. Friend's speech that the days of the Argentine garrison are numbered. Does the hon. Gentleman not want those days to be numbered? We wish them to be numbered. He then called for a ceasefire while the invader was kept in occupation. We totally reject that. It would leave the whole paraphernalia of tyranny in place. Perhaps two answers will be enough for the hon. Gentleman.
Is my right hon. Friend satisfied with the flow of mail to and from the Falkland force, because I have received one or two complaints from my constituents about delays, and mail is important for morale?
I am sure that everything possible under the circumstances is being done to get mail both to the Armed Forces and from them. I recognise the importance of mail, and I am confident that everything is being done.
asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 25 May.
While in no way condoning or wishing to condone the Fascist junta's military aggression against the Falkland Islands, may I ask whether the Government are studying the situation being conveyed to us about the state of the junta in Argentina and the possibility of being able to make overtures to saner voices there? In that context, would it be better if the right hon. Lady dropped the idea of not allowing some Argentine families eventually to settle on the islands?
The islanders have enjoyed democratic Government for quite a long time. What the hon. Gentleman has spoken of is a matter for the executive and legislative councils under British administration. The present law must continue until it is changed through the proper authority of those councils.
Will my right hon. Friend ensure that no order is given restricting military action of the task force in any way that could possibly jeopardise one life of our forces, whatever the cost to the enemy?
We are concerned for the safety of our task force. We are also concerned not to have one more life than is necessary lost. We rightly rely totally on the professional views of those who are in charge. We have every confidence in their judgment and in their care for human life.
As Argentina is likely to become a nuclear weapon State in the near future, is it not essential to recognise that that would raise the stakes considerably in the South Atlantic? Does not that point to the need for a rational negotiated settlement on a permanent basis for the Falkland Islands?
I should not have thought that the second question followed from the first. Argentina has nuclear power stations. I understand that those who have supplied the requisite uranium have done so under the authority of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which supervises its use extremely carefully. Naturally, one hopes that countries such as Argentina that have nuclear power stations will join the nuclear nonproliferation agreement.
I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific matter of public and parliamentary importance that should have urgent consideration, namely,
The McCarthy report has vindicated the National Union of Railwaymen national executive committee's policy. Flexible rostering proposed by the British Railways Board has been accepted by 90 per cent. of NUR members. The British Railways Board plans to close a number of British Rail workshops with the loss of 5,000 jobs. The British Rail engineering works at Shildon will be closed and there will be rundowns at Horwich, Swindon and Derby locomotive works, while thousands of passenger coaches stand in sidings awaiting repairs and many of the main line express trains are running under strength from North to South and from South to North because, as one member of the board explained to me, "We cannot get them repaired." That is happening when the British Railways Board proposes to close the most essential part of British Rail Engineering Ltd's workshops. I wish to draw the attention of the House to the fact that with the present problems facing the railwaymen, the situation could escalate into a national strike. It would affect the coal mining industry and the electricity generating industry and there would be consequent damage to the British economy. For those reasons I submit that this is an urgent, important and appropriate matter for debate, which should not be left until it is too late for parliamentary action."the railway crisis, which may lead to a national railway strike and which may cause industrial strife throughout the country".
The hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs) gave me notice before 12 noon today that he would seek leave to move the Adjournment of the House to discuss a specific and important matter that he thinks should have urgent consideration, namely,
Such an application was made yesterday by the right hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth). I fear that there are no different considerations today from yesterday, when I gave my ruling. Therefore, I am unable to submit the hon. Gentleman's application to the House."the railway crisis, which may lead to a national railway strike and which may cause industrial strife throughout the country".
South American Mainland (Sas Operations)
I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,
I gave you notice before 12 noon today, Mr. Speaker, of the subject that I have mentioned, which I hoped to be able to withdraw because I thought that it would be cleared up in defence questions or Prime Minister's questions. In applying for an Adjournment debate under Standing Order No. 9, I believe that it would not be right to argue the case one way or the other for those operations. Many of us understand that in view of Exocet and other subjects discussed at Question Time. Whatever one's view, surely the matter must be cleared up one way or the other as a matter of importance and urgency. It is an important matter for this country because the impression is put abroad in the face of lack of contradiction—witness the front page of today's Daily Mail—that those operations have taken place. Some of us would argue, whatever our views on the general issue hitherto, that any operation on the mainland of the South American continent raises the matter to an entirely different order of importance and urgency. I do not want to abuse the Standing Order No. 9 procedure, but through you, Mr. Speaker, I must state that this is an important subject. Perhaps the Leader of the House will volunteer a short statement. The matter was not cleared up by the Minister of State when he answered question No. 17."the operations by the SAS on the South American mainland".
The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) gave me notice before 12 noon today that he would seek leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he thinks should have urgent consideration, namely,
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for confining himself to the question of urgency and importance rather than seeking to make the speech that he would have made had his application been granted. I listened with anxiety to the hon. Gentleman, but I must rule that his submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order and, therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House."the operations by the SAS on the South American mainland".
Orders Of The Day
As amended (in the Standing Committee), further considered.
Private-Sector Vehicle Testing
I beg to move amendment No. 17, in page 6, line 19, at end insert—
This amendment makes it impossible for vehicle operators to be appointed as approved testing authorities. It fulfils an undertaking given in Committee, where concern was expressed about the possibility of undue commercial pressure if vehicle operators were able to pass their vehicles and fail those of other operators. It became clear during the discussions in Committee that many hon. Members shared the view that no vehicle operators should be able to carry out tests on their own and their competitors' vehicles, with the evident risk of commercial influence that that entails. It has always been the Government's view that vehicle operators should not be appointed as testing authorities. We have given assurances to that effect. We agreed, however, to consider whether it would be desirable to make that intention plain in the Bill. That is what the amendment does. The amendment makes it impossible for the Secretary of State to authorise as an improved testing authority any person—that includes a company—who holds an operator's licence either for PSVs or HGVs. The provision will reassure hon. Members and those in the industry who have been concerned that we should never enable a vehicle operator to pass his own vehicle and fail those of his competitors. That possibility is clearly ruled out.'(1A) The Secretary of State may not under subsection (1) above authorise any person who is for the time being either—
(a) the holder of a goods vehicle operator's licence granted under Part V of the Transport Act 1968; or (b) the holder of a PSV operator's licence granted under Part II of the 1981 Act;to carry on a vehicle testing business; and any authorisation granted to any person under that subsection shall cease if that person subsequently becomes the holder of any such licence.'
I am grateful to the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary for tabling the amendment. In Committee we were concerned that the hiving off of vehicle testing centres from the Department of Transport to private enterprise would lead to undue commercial pressures that could damage road safety and public confidence in the testing system. We are glad that the amendment has been tabled as we want all doubt removed. The Opposition welcome amendment No. 17
Amendment agreed to.
The Testing And Surveillance Functions
I beg to move amendment No. 18, in page 8, line 37, after 'The', insert 'cancellation'.The amendment follows one that was made in Committee to provide for the cancellation of certificates of conformity and Minister's approval certificates. The relevant provisions can be found in schedule 5(8)(b). The earlier amendment gave power to cancel a certificate of conformity or Minister's approval certificate. It is a minor change to procedure which will improve the handling of paperwork, which follows when a goods vehicle subject to type approval is altered in some way which affects its type-approved characteristics. The vehicle has a certificate that shows its conformity to the approved type. If the vehicle undergoes major alterations, that certificate may no longer apply. Regulations under the Road Traffic Act 1972 require that certain alterations to type-approved vehicles must be notified to the Secretary of State, who may require an examination. Once a vehicle has been inspected and the alterations have been found satisfactory, the paperwork needs to be brought into line with the new position. At the moment we can suspend or amend the certificate of conformity or MAC. We cannot cancel it altogether and issue a new one. In many cases that would be a great deal simpler and give a much clearer result. Schedule 5(8)(b) provides that small extra power. Clause 9 provides that authorised inspectors may be given a number of related powers in the same area. They should also be authorised to carry out examinations of type-approved vehicles which have been altered and to exercise existing powers to amend or suspend the certificate. If they are to operate in that area they should also have the new power to cancel the certificate, and that is what this small amendment does.
Amendment agreed to.
I beg to move amendment No. 19, in page 9, line 8, at end insert
`under regulations made under subsection (IA) of that section'.
With this, it will be convenient to take also Government amendments Nos. 20 to 23.
The first amendment of substance is No. 20, which strengthens the provisions under which the Secretary of State can determine which examinations of public service vehicles are carried out by the private sector. The new subsection which the amendment adds to clause 10 introduces a power to make regulations about examinations under section 6 of the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981. That concerns the requirement of certificates of initial fitness for PSVs. The other substantive amendment is No. 23, which similarly introduces a new regulation-making power relating to one of the activities that authorised inspectors may be authorised to undertake in the private sector. It adds to the existing amendment in clause 10 which concerns section 20 of the 1981 Act regarding inspections of public service vehicles following notifiable alterations or damage to a vehicle. The other amendments are consequential and add nothing of substance.The introduction of the provisions means that less weight needs to be placed on the conditions that can be attached to the authorisations under clause 8 which, I believe, some hon. Members felt were in danger of being overworked. I do not accept that as a general proposition, but I agree that certain key provisions about the way examinations are to be carried out in the private sector might usefully be embodied in regulations where they have the force of law. These amendments make that possible. They also repair an omission. Clause 9 allows authorised inspectors to be empowered to carry out or supervise examinations under section 6 or section 20 of the 1981 Act. At present those sections contain no reference to the supervision or direction of examinations. Section 6 and section 20 of the 1981 Act need to contain some reference to supervision or direction if authorised examiners are to be empowered under clause 8 and clause 9 to carry them out. The supervision to which we are referring is the in-house supervision or direction of examinations as part of an approved testing authority's own systems for quality and standards control. There is a subsequent Government amendment on the Amendment Paper on outside supervision. The amendments make no changes of substance to the range of functions to be transferred to the private sector, or the powers and duties of authorised inspectors. They make explicit a number of matters which have been managed by administrative arrangement while the work has been done in the Civil Service. The amendments strengthen the structure of the Bill and make it more effective. I hope that the House will accept the amendments as a helpful improvement.
I am not sure that I wholly accept the phrase used by the Minister that amendment No. 20 strengthens the workings of the new testing centres. It may be that reference back to the 1981 Act and different sections of that Act complicates the matter even further. Amendment No. 20 transfers to private enterprise the provision of the certificate of initial fitness and type approval under the 1981 Act. It was not my impression that that was the intention of the Bill. I have noticed the amendment relating to out-house inspection, which we will welcome when we come to it.There seems to be some contradiction between what is embodied in amendment No. 20, the subsequent amendments, and that later amendment. Either the initial certificate of fitness has to be provided for individual vehicles or, if the vehicle is of a type that has a type certificate under section 10 of the Act, the certifying officer can, if he thinks fit, give the vehicle its licence or operator's certificate without actually examining the vehicle. We believe that that is what happens and that to pass initial testing and type approval to private enterprise stretches the frontiers of the examination system too far. The hon. Gentleman knows that we object to the transfer of the testing stations. He referred earlier to the need to build into the Bill clear safeguards against commercial pressures. If type approval is to be done by the private sector instead of the Department of Transport, clear commercial pressures could be brought into play. I believe that, instead of strengthening the Bill, the amendments actually weaken it. When the Under-Secretary replies, I ask him to tell us how many certifying officers will be replaced by section 20 of the 1981 Act concerning type approval and initial certificate fitness work. We understood that the Secretary of State is embarking on this hiving-off operation to divest himself of a number of civil servants. However, his enthusiasm for so doing should be tempered by the necessity to ensure that when vehicles first take to the roads they are in proper order. Surely that is consistent with the supervisory functions that he is now writing into the Bill and consistent also with retaining the certifying officers' functions within the Department of Transport. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will think again about pressing the amendment if what I have said is right.
The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) revealed a misunderstanding when he asked his first question. Power for the private sector to carry out examinations of public service vehicles for certificates of initial fitness is already in clause 9, and has been from the start. I hope that on consideration of this issue the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that the amendment will improve the means by which the standards of such examination can be kept high on an in-house basis.The other powers about which the hon. Gentleman is worried will be handed over only if testing goes to one authoritative body, such as Lloyd's Register. Clause 9 lists the powers that may be handed over, not which must be handed over. I know that the hon. Gentleman will appreciate the importance of that wording. Type approval of PSVs cannot be handed over. There is not provision for that. Only individual initial fitness examinations can go to the private sector. I hope that that will satisfy the hon. Gentleman. I am sorry that it is not possible immediatedly to answer his inquiry about the number of certifying officers. However, I shall obtain that information and let the hon. Gentleman have it as soon as possible.
The Minister says that the functions that can be transferred are those that are listed in clause 9. Lines 29–33 on page 9 in clause 9 state:
I am not raising this issue on Report merely as a nitpicking point. I raised it as a matter of substance in Committee. Short of seeing what the Minister proposes, it is almost impossible to tell whether the functions might be described as being connected with the other functions listed in clause 9. Therefore, it is not possible to state with authority, unless the Minister has received legal advice on the meaning of this part of the clause which I have not been able to obtain, that the function to which my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) referred could not be transferred. If the only functions that can be transferred are those that are listed, the Government must have had a clear idea of the functions that would be transferred when they decided how many civil servants' jobs were to be chopped. If they had not had that knowledge, they would have been unable to make an estimate. If the Government have changed their mind about the savings within the Civil Service that they will achieve with the Bill, if fewer civil servants' jobs are to be lost than previously indicated by not transferring all the functions listed in clause 9, and if they are not to transfer any of the functions set out in lines 29–33 of the clause, that should be stated now. Is that what the Minister is saying, or is he merely giving an assurance that further functions will not cover the area that we are discussing? Will he tell us what areas are not covered and the areas that cannot be covered and, against that background, explain the purpose of having these provisions in the Bill?"Such further functions (whether conferred by or under any existing enactment or not) as may be prescribed, being functions which appear to the Secretary of State to be connected with any of the functions described above."
I am not able entirely to follow the legal interpretation of the right hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth) of clause 9. If he considers the matter more fully, he will find that I have made the position clear. The functions that are referred to have to be connected with others and cannot include type approval. That was the anxiety expressed by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) and I have been able, I hope, to reassure the right hon. Gentleman. However, the right hon. Gentleman went much further in his thoughts, for which there is little foundation.I emphasise that the amendments will make no changes of substance to the range of functions that are to go to the private sector or the powers and duties of authorised inspectors. The intention is to make explicit a number of matters that have hitherto been managed by administrative arrangements. The amendments strengthen the Bill's structure and make it more effective for inside or in-house examinations.
Surely the hon. Gentleman must accept that the words to which I have referred do not give any absolute limitations to what may be covered by clause 9. The words are:
and so on. If the Secretary of State thinks that there is some connection between type approval and any of the examinations that are listed as functions in clause 9, he is entitled to take that view. It would be difficult to argue with him. One could argue that anything involved in testing public service vehicles must be connected with something that is specified as a function in clause 9. That could not be challenged effectively in the courts. If the Secretary of State of the day said "This is my view and I say with my hand on my heart that there is some connection between that type of testing and that function", how could that be denied? The courts would say "Parliament passed the Bill and saw fit to allow the Secretary of State to add further functions to those that were specified." The Under-Secretary of State has said that the current Secretary of State thinks that there is no connection. However, we cannot have an assurance, while the Bill is in this form, that further functions connected with examinations, the issuing of certificates, the refusal to issue certificates, plating, periodical tests and all the functions in clause 9 will not ultimately be added to the functions that are to be transferred from the Civil Service to the private sector. I am asking a simple and straightforward question: was the Government's estimate of the saving in civil servants made on the presumption that only the functions listed in clause 9 and not covered by the further functions paragraph would be transferred? That is a simple and straightforward question. If that is the basis of the estimate, the answer is "Yes". If that is not the case and further functions are to be transferred, and if the last part of clause 9 has to be used to make that Civil Service saving, the Minister can say so. If he is not prepared to reveal what those further functions are, that will be a matter of argument between us. Surely, it is not impossible for him to give a straight answer to that question."Such further functions … as may be prescribed, being functions which appear to the Secretary of State to be connected"
The right hon. Gentleman has sought to bring forward his own interpretation of the meaning of part of clause 9. His interpretation is wrong. No absolute limitation is appropriate. The Secretary of State must exercise his powers in context. A type approval function would not be in context. The right hon. Gentleman is mistaken in his interpretation. There are settled rules for determining the limits of powers.The basis for the savings in civil servants quoted to the right hon. Gentleman in Committee was correct. For the purpose of this amendment we are discussing the in-house position of examination. The right hon. Gentleman has used the occasion to examine clause 9 and to bring forward his own interpretation of it. I have sought to explain to the right hon. Gentleman that his interpretation is not correct.
The right hon. Gentleman was so absorbed in setting out his understanding of this part of the Bill that he missed my explanation. I am able to confirm that the estimate of Civil Service savings was made on the presumption that only the functions listed would go.
Order. I remind the House that we are on Report and not in Committee. Only the mover of the amendment and the Minister in charge of the Bill have a right of reply. There was genuine anxiety, which needed clarification, so I allowed a dialogue to take place.
Amendment agreed to.
Provisions Supplementary To Section 8
Amendments made: No. 20, in page 11, line 27, at end insert—
(7A) In section 6 of the 1981 Act (certificates of initial fitness required for use as public service vehicles), the following subsection shall be inserted after subsection (1)— "(1A) Without prejudice to the powers of the Secretary of State under section 7 of this Act in relation to the exercise by certifying officers of their function,, regulations may make provision with respect to the examination of vehicles for the purposes of subsection (1) (a) above by or under the direction of authorised inspector s and the issue or refusal of certificates of initial fitness by such inspectors on any such examinations.".'.
No. 21, in page 11, line 28, leave out 'the 1981' and insert `that'.
No. 22, in page 11, line 45, leave out 'and'.
No. 23, in page 12, line 6, at end insert
(c) for the examinations to be carried out under the regulations and, in particular, for authorising any such examination to be carried out by or under the direction of a public service vehicle examiner or an authorised inspector ".'.—[Mr. Eyre.]
I beg to move amendment No. 24, in page 12, line 14, leave out subsection (10) and insert—
'(10) Subject to the qualification mentioned below, regulations made under
(a) section 43, section 45 or section 50 of the 1972 Act; or (b) section 6(1A) or 20(2A) of the 1981 Act; may include provision for the purpose of securing that private-sector examinations are properly carried out in accordance with the regulations, including (but without prejudice to the generality of the preceding, provision) provision for the supervision or review of private-sector examinations by persons authorised for the purpose by or under the regulations.
No person other than an officer of the Secretary of State may be authorised by or under regulations so made to supervise or review an examination carried out in the course of a vehicle testing business carried on by a person other than his own employer.
The amendment replaces the present clause 10(10) with a new subsection. Like the present one, the new subsection is about arrangements for ensuring that private sector testing is properly carried out. It differs from the present provision in two main ways. First, it is more comprehensive. It refers not only to sections 43 and 45 of the Road Traffic 1972 Act but to several other sections. Therefore, it effectively covers all the main areas of work where authorised inspectors may be authorised to carry out examinations. Secondly, and most important, the new subsection contains completely different provisions about the supervision and review of examinations. We have revised it to make it clear that the supervision of the work of approved testing authorities will and must be carried out by officers of the Secretary of State. We shall not be using independent private sector contractors on this work, which, at one time, was being considered. There remains some provision for supervision of examinations by people who are not civil servants. That relates to in-house supervision to which I have already referred, which an approved testing authority will carry out, using its own staff, to ensure that proper standards are maintained within its own organisation. In-house supervision by the authority's own management will be important. The amendment does nothing to frustrate it. In ruling out private sector supervision, we refer to outside supervision by people who are not employed by the approved testing authority but who act on behalf of the Secretary of State. According to the amendment, these people must be civil servants. The question of who should carry out the supervision caused some concern in Committee. We undertook to reconsider our previous view that private sector staff might be used. I am glad that we have been able to meet the wishes of the Opposition on this point. I hope that the amendment will be generally welcomed.In this subsection "private-sector examination" means, in relation to an examination under regulations so made, an examination carried out by or under the direction of an authorised inspector.'.
I rise briefly to welcome the amendment. Two points exercised us in Committee. The first was that the general supervision of the approved inspectors of the business should be retained in the Department of Transport under the direction of the Secretary of State in the interests of public safety. Secondly, we were concerned that, if the chain were to be broken up into two or three chains, one part of the chain could not supervise the functions of the others. I take it that that could not happen.
I see that the Minister is agreeing. I welcome the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
I beg to move amendment No. 25, in page 12, line 35, at end insert—
The purpose of the amendment is to provide the Secretary of State with the power to make orders for the provision of pensions for those who are transferred from the Civil Service into private employment as a result of the Government selling or leasing heavy goods vehicle testing stations. Part II of the Bill contains no provision for pensions. There are inconsistencies in the construction of the Bill. The Government have introduced a series of privatisation measures. Not only the Department of Transport but a number of other Government Departments have introduced, during the past two legislative years, a number of Bills which turn over functions either from nationalised industries or from the Civil Service to the private sector. In all those Bills provisions have been made to take care—if I may put it that way—of any possible difficulty which might arise in the transfer of pensions. To demonstrate an inconsistency, I turn first to the measures introduced by the Department of Transport. In the Transport Act 1980, in the Transport (Finance) Act 1981 and in part I of the Bill, provision is made for the Secretary of State to make an order, if he judges that to be the right thing to do, for the transfer of pensions from a nationalised industry to the private sector. The Bill provides for the transfer of pensions from the National Bus Company to the private sector. We debated the matter last night and expressed our reservations about such provisions, but there is no argument that the Government judged it right to have such a provision. However, in this part of the Bill there is no such provision and I oppose the inconsistency. I cannot see that there is any consistent line of policy which until now in the Department's legislation for privatisation has given the Secretary of State power to make orders for the transfer of pensions, yet there is no such provision in the case of heavy goods vehicle testing stations. Another inconsistency is that, when people have been transferred from Government service, as opposed to a nationalised industry—from local government or even the Civil Service—the legislation of other Departments has provided for the transfer of pensions. One example, under the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, is people moving from the Audit Commission to another form of service. In the case of the Department of the Environment, the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 created the Countryside Commission and those who had to leave Government employment ceased to be members of Government pension schemes. In the one case I am talking about a local government pension scheme and in the other of the Civil Service pension scheme. The consistent thread has been a recognition by the Government that when they move people out of public service into private employment it may be necessary or desirable for a Minister to have a direct power or obligation, or at least the right, if he judges it necessary, to make an order to cover the transfer of pensions. The Secretary of State's predecessor judged it correct to use, as a pattern for the transfer, a method that was developed for transferring pensions not from the public to the private sector but between public sector industries. In earlier Transport Acts, when people were required to move between British Rail, British Road Services and the National Freight Corporation, there was a method of transferring pensions. One sees it in schedule 1 to the Bill, which deals with the sale of British Rail subsidaries, and it is repeated in clause 5 of the Bill. The terms are almost exactly the same. It has been accepted in part II of this Bill that a similar power is necessary. That is not surprising. Preservation of pension rights on transfer is a problem that has exercised management and unions in the public sector for many years and, because of the attention that has been given to the problem, we have reached the position in legislation whereby staff can in most cases move freely between schemes in the public sector without jeopardising their pension rights. It is possible to move from British Rail to the National Bus Company or to the National Freight Corporation. I hope that the Minister will accept that that protection has been possible mainly because the benefits and schemes that have existed in the public sector have been broadly comparable. One cannot say that all the schemes in the private sector have been comparable with those in the public sector. There have been many significant differences, which I hope I need not detail for the purpose of this argument. 4.15 pm The preservation of pension rights on change of employment has been given much publicity in recent years. The Occupational Pensions Board was requested to examine the problem in depth and to make recommendations, but the Government have decided to proceed with their privatisation legislation before they have the benefit of that examination in depth and the recommendation of the Occupational Pensions Board. Therefore, it is understandable that the Government should have consistently used a mechanism in legislation for the transfer of pensions from the public to the private sector similar to that used for transfers in the public sector. In transfers from the public to the private sector, many problems can arise. In my researches, I have found only one precedent when the Department of Transport attempted to transfer employees from the public to the private sector without a provision being made for pensions to be transferred. That is the case of those who were transferred from the road construction units to employment as private consultants. Many problems arose. The Government were unwilling to permit the extension of indexing public service pensions into the private sector. The consultants were unwilling to enter into agreements that would have involved what they regarded as the acceptance of an open-ended liability for index-linking. The Association of County Councils was unwilling to advise its constituent members to negotiate such agreements because, as it claimed, in the event of a consultant's default the superannuation administering bodies would have to pay the bill for the cost of index-linking. That is the only example that I can find. If the Minister knows of other examples of people being forced by Government legislation to transfer from the public to the private sector without any legislative cover or without the Minister retaining any rights, I shall be interested to hear what they are and whether it was possible to accomplish the change without any difficulty. All the evidence shows that it has been a matter of considerable difficulty. Therefore, we have supported the Government in such provision as they have made until now and all our criticisms have been addressed in the other direction of having more safeguards in the legislation. Here we must protest that there are no safeguards. Those who will be affected by part II of the Bill—I assume that we shall have the misfortune of seeing it carried through this Session—will be covered by the principal Civil Service pension scheme. They are in a scheme that provides benefits indexed to increase in line with Civil Service earnings. Those who have joined the Government test service have been encouraged not only to join the pension scheme but to transfer any pensions that they have in the private sector to the Civil Service scheme. If the Minister wishes, I shall quote chapter and verse from the leaflet that was issued within the Civil Service. In effect, it says that a person going into Civil Service employment and the Civil Service pension scheme has the responsibility of deciding whether to transfer his benefits into the principal Civil Service pension scheme, even if his benefits under his present scheme are better, as it might be worth while to transfer to the Civil Service one which gives lower benefits, as it is unlikely that his present scheme will have as good an indexation arrangement as the Civil Service one. I have paraphrased the leaflet but I believe that I have fairly represented the basis upon which many people have joined the Government testing service and have transferred their pensions to the Civil Service scheme. As a result of the present legislation, they will find themselves being treated exactly the same, in legal terms, as if they had voluntarily left the Civil Service. They will not be one whit better off than the person who decided of his own free will to leave. I challenge the Minister to show me any shred of legal protection or benefit that would have accrued to a person who had voluntarily left the Civil Service. We are now dealing with people who will be forced out by the present legislation. That is the way in which the Government propose to treat them. Not only is the Secretary of State being inconsistent in his treatment of his civil servants as compared with civil servants of other Departments; he is also legislating between those who will be forced to leave his employ in the HGV testing stations and those who will be forced to leave the employ of the National Bus Company under the same Bill. Such inconsistencies are, to say the least, highly unjust. I should like to put some direct questions to the Minister. I have addressed them to him before without receiving an answer, but that makes them no less relevant. I hope that the Minister will accept their relevance now. What will happen to civil servants who are currently employed in HGV testing stations which the Government will sell or lease to private employers who may not have a contracted-out scheme? Nothing in the Bill will limit those to whom the Secretary of State might decide to sell HGV testing stations. There is nothing to limit the right hon. Gentleman's selling stations to those who have contracted-out schemes. What will happen to the people employed there? Will the Treasury be prepared to make a payment into a scheme of an employer which is not contracted out to secure benefits for the civil servants whom the Bill transfers? If the Treasury will not be prepared to make such a payment, how are the pension rights of the affected civil servants, on ceasing to be civil servants, to be protected? What will happen to those who have transferred into the Civil Service scheme on joining the HGV testing stations service when they have not acquired five years' service? Presumably, they do not even have a right to a frozen pension arrangement. The right to a frozen pension at the current acquired benefit level is dependent upon five years' service. I admit that I have had to re-study the legislation to prepare myself for the debate. As I understand the present provisions for transfer guarantee, civil servants with more than five years' service in the Civil Service scheme who go to a contracted-out scheme, provided that it is approved by the Inland Revenue and provided that the trustees of the scheme are prepared to accept the transfer, can have their accrued payments into the Civil Service scheme transferred. They may turn out to be the fortunate few. There is no guarantee that the only people who will be transferred will have five years' or more service in the Civil Service pension scheme, or that the employers to whom they are transferred have contracted-out schemes approved by the Inland Revenue and the trustees of which will accept a transfer from the Civil Service pension scheme. Unless all those conditions are met—there is nothing in the Bill to suggest that they will be—civil servants are entirely justified in expressing the fear that has been represented to us through their union that the Bill is utterly inadequate with regard to pensions. It does nothing to protect them. It leaves them substantially worse off than others who have been affected by Government privatisation proposals. The Secretary of State may take the same view of that as he took when the Opposition proposed that there should be some statutory liability to make orders of transfer. We were then arguing about a different proposition. It is not pertinent here. When we discussed National Bus Company pensions, we accepted that the Secretary of State had taken an order-making power but that he would retain discretion about when to use it for the transfer of pensions. That is not the argument here. We are discussing why the Secretary of State has not taken an order-making power. Without the amendment, no such power will exist. The Opposition cannot and will not accept at this juncture simply the Secretary of State's hope or wish that anyone to whom he transfers civil servants, as a result of the sale or lease of testing stations, will be so honourable, decent, civilised and progressive with regard to pensions that he will run a pension scheme that is capable of taking transferred Civil Service pensions. We may hope for that but we cannot leave the matter to the hopes of the Secretary of State. He cannot say that, because he hopes that that will happen, there is no need to have a provision for transfer when he said previously that order-making powers were necessary, as he did in this Bill and his predecessor did in the two previous ones. At the very least, the Government can accept the amendment so that there is a safeguard. The Minister cannot deny, on the basis of the record, that such are the problems of transferring pensions from the public to the private sector that it has been found desirable to have a power to make an order for transfer. That has been done in all the other cases. The amendment deals with one exception that covers a serious range of problems confronting those who have lost their public servant status. For that, if for no other reason, the amendment should be accepted. If it turns out not to be necessary and it is possible to transfer and safeguard pension provisions, no one will be happier than my right hon. and hon. Friends and I. We cannot be happy with the creation of a precedent whereby people who, by legislation, are thrown out of the Civil Service are in exactly the same legal position as those who voluntarily leave or break a contract into which they have voluntarily entered.'(12) The Secretary of State may make orders with respect to the provisions of pensions by any person authorised to conduct a business which consists of or includes any of the functions specified in section 9 of this Act; for or in respect of persons who are transferred from the Civil Service to private employment under the provisions of section 8 of this Act'.
We are dealing here with issues of great importance for the employees concerned in the changes proposed by the Government, which we debated yesterday. There is no difference or division whatever between the extremely strong, well-informed and concerned feelings of the right hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth) and those of the Government about the importance of pension provision for those working in the testing stations who will in future be working in the new organisation.We must start from the recognition of a great deal of what the right hon. Gentleman says about the need to ensure a fair deal for the staff under the new arrangement and to ensure either that a pension scheme is available in the type of organisation to which the testing stations will be transferred to which, if the employees so wish, pensions can be transferred or that existing and accrued pension rights are properly preserved. All these matters are very much the concern and intention of the Government and are very much in our mind in preparing plans for the negotiation of the transfer of the HGV testing stations to a new organisation of the kind outlined in the debate yesterday. I should not like there to be any difference of view on that. The difference arises when the right hon. Gentleman asks why there is not a more explicit power in the Bill relating to the bringing about of this change of affairs and of a situation in which pensions would be guaranteed under the new arrangements. The answer given in Committee, which I shall be concerned not just to repeat but to justify very closely again today, is that the amendment is not necessary. The order-making power that it proposes is not necessary to achieve the aims and objectives that both I and the right hon. Gentleman have outlined for the preservation or transfer of accumulated pension rights when an individual ceases to be a civil servant. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that the proposition that I have put, and which I shall elaborate—that there is no need for an order-making power of the kind that he seeks because the matter is covered by existing powers and special powers are unnecessary—is in some way unique, that it had never been done this way before and that it must therefore be inconsistent and arouse fears. I know the right hon. Gentleman's feelings in these matters and I know that he would be the last to wish to raise fears and worries for which there is no basis. The charge of inconsistency is perfectly fair and I must seek to meet it.
Just to make sure that the record is completely straight, I did not say that there was no precedent. Indeed, I cited the case of those who were transferred from the road construction units to the private consultants and I instanced the difficulties that it raised.
I certainly do not wish to mislead or misquote the right hon. Gentleman. As he has said, he cited one instance in which special powers were not involved. There are others. I am advised, for example, that no such provision appeared in legislation relating to the sale of British Rail hotels or Seaspeed. I shall examine whether special powers of the kind that the right hon. Gentleman seeks were found necessary in other areas.In this situation, however, the need for such powers does not exist. As we have said before, there seems to be no real difference between us on the question of the pension need. We want to see fair and reasonable pensions for the testing staff after they leave the Civil Service. The only difference between us is about the necessity for legislation to achieve that. I mentioned the charge of inconsistency, as I do not wish it to be suggested—I understand from the right hon. Gentleman's intervention that he is not suggesting this—that the arrangement is unique and special and therefore to be feared, because it is not. I place on record again what I said in Committee. Ample powers already exist to make suitable pension arrangements for former civil servants. The principal Civil Service scheme, which was often cited in Committee, contains full and detailed provisions for the preservation or transfer of accumulated pension rights when a person leaves the Civil Service. Provision for future pensions with a new employer will be covered by the rules of whatever scheme the staff joins, so even if it is necessary to set up a new scheme no special provision is required to cover that. The normal and right way to make provision for pensions of staff who leave the Civil Service, as is proposed in this case, is by negotiation and agreement. As the right hon. Gentleman fairly pointed out, this follows from Government action. It follows from the policy that was described, debated and approved by the House yesterday. As I have said, there is no need for special legislative provision to deal with this. The right hon. Gentleman says that the Government's word on this is not enough. In other words, in a matter of this kind he is not prepared to accept the assurance that the Government want a fair deal for those involved. He wants it to be written into the Bill. I must tell him that there is no need for legislation because the powers exist already. It is therefore the assurance of the Government in good faith that the powers are available and will be used to ensure adequate pension provision. That is the assurance that the right hon. Gentleman can throw back in the face of the Government, but it is also the assurance upon which I believe that those concerned should rest without fear and with comfort, in the full realisation that a fair deal will be sought and secured for them in the negotiation with the successor organisation. The nature of that organisation was clearly set out in the amendments yesterday. I believe that that undertaking is not only adequate but fully sufficient to secure the aspirations and concerns and the immediate, long-term and lasting needs of those involved in the change of ownership. Of course, no pension transfer is possible if there is not a contracted-out scheme in the new organisation. Accrued pension rights would then be preserved within the principal Civil Service pension scheme and index-linked, and future earnings-related pensions would come from the State scheme. But in the case of transfer to Lloyd's Register Vehicle Testing Association, which is precisely what we are proposing, this should not arise. I indicated in an earlier debate that that was what we were proposing and that plans were well advanced. I spoke of this matter in a way that satisfied the House. If the House will accept that that is the course that we are set en, I do not see why the right hon. Gentleman should feel it vital that we should write in an order-making power on the lines proposed in the amendment. There is no necessity for it. Either a new contracted-out scheme will be established or we shall arrange for staff to join an established scheme. That is what we have said again and again. I have been able to give to the House a much clearer indication of the nature of the body that will take over the stations than I was in Committee. In negotiating with the new body, we have said that we are determined that the staff shall have a fair deal, which means that they will be able to enter a pension scheme when they leave the Civil Service pension scheme, and that the question of transfer, as with preservation, will be governed by the principal Civil Service pension scheme. I give those assurances most strongly to the House because I wish to counteract firmly any impression that there might be grounds for fear that the staff would not get a fair deal. The Government are determined that they will get a fair deal. I have indicated to the House the sort of organisation to which we propose to transfer the heavy goods vehicle stations. The staff would become employees of the new organisation. Against that background it is right for the Government to put forward through me their intentions. It is not necessary to press for the additional order-making power proposed by the right hon. Gentleman to achieve the objectives that we all want and that will clearly be achieved in the context of the plans outlined in an earlier amendment for heavy goods vehicle testing stations. For those reasons, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.
With the leave of the House, may I first clear up the misunderstanding by the Secretary of State? As I understood the right hon. Gentleman, he said that he was advised that there was not a statutory provision covering British Rail hotels or Sealink services. That is not the case. Section 4 of the Transport Act 1981 says:
The first paragraph of schedule 1 gives the Secretary of State powers to make"Schedule 1 to this Act has effect for the purpose of making certain provisions supplementing sections 1 to 3 of this Act. '
I submit that that provision is applicable to both British Rail hotels and to Sealink. Therefore, those who negotiated on the transfer of pensions of the staff at the three British Rail hotels, which included Gleneagles and the Edinburgh hotel, knew that if they could not secure a satisfactory agreement they could ask the Secretary of State to use his power under schedule 1 to the 1981 Act to make a transfer order. 4.45 pm That is on all fours with what my hon. Friends and I are seeking in the amendment. This is not a question of cur not trusting the Secretary of State. We are asking him to accept an amendment under which we are placing trust in him. That is the interesting point. We are saying that we are happy that he should have the power and the discretion. If he accepts the amendment, it will not place an obligation upon him. It does not say that he must make an order if the transfer can be negotiated. If the amendment were accepted, the Secretary of State could make an order if he deemed it to be necessary or justified. If the Secretary of State had the order-making power, it could in certain circumstances influence the nature of the negotiations. It is one thing to negotiate with somebody when it is recognised by both sides that if the negotiated outcome is not satisfactory the Minister can be called upon to make a statutory provision: it is another thing to conduct negotiations if the person with whom the employees are negotiating knows that they have to rely entirely on their own strength and cannot call upon a Minister. That is particularly the case for these civil servants who are without any of the rights that would accrue if there were order-making powers. They are in the same legal position as those who have retired. If the right hon. Gentleman thinks this matter through, I do not think that he can say that it is consistent to argue that there is no necessity in this case but that it was right to make such a provision in another case. I am happy to stay with the examples that the right hon. Gentleman cited of British Rail hotels and Sealink. One could cite many other examples. For example, under clause 5 the Secretary of State might have said that it was the Government's intention that the pensions should be negotiated and transferred on a satisfactory basis and that he did not want to have the back-up power. But he did not say that. Very wisely, he defended having exactly the degree of back-up power that we are asking him to take in this case, not one whit more or one whit less. Although we pressed him to take greater powers and greater obligations, he resisted, but he did not resist having this degree of power. I put it to the Secretary of State that the precedent has been established for good reasons. I do not want to go over the ground again. The Government have acknowledged the problems of the transfer of pensions from the public to the private sector. In their wisdom, or otherwise, they decided to proceed with the privatisation in advance of getting the benefits of the commission. Having done that, they have said that in all these cases they will call upon the House of Commons to give the Secretary of State this back-up power, which will enable him, if he is not satisfied that negotiations will produce a satisfactory transfer of pension, to make an order. That is what we are asking. It is a modest request. We are reflecting fears which have been expressed to us. Whether we share them is not important for the purpose of this debate. We did not bring forward the amendment without having talked to those who have negotiated pensions, to pension experts in transport unions, to pension experts in the TUC and to Civil Service officers who are concerned about pension levels. The Secretary of State cannot wipe away their fears. He cannot say that their fears are ill-founded, in view of all the evidence, and that of course the Government set up a commission to consider the problems of the transfer of pensions. If the Archangel Gabriel came to the Dispatch Box, he could not wave away those fears. I am not saying that I do not believe in little miracles, because I believe that big miracles can happen. I am pleading for a very small miracle, and that is for the Secretary of State to accept here what is regarded as consistent and proper in part I of the Bill and in legislation introduced by his predecessor in the Acts of 1980 and 1981. We should rejoice with him if he did not have to use the powers and if the transfer were accomplished smoothly, but we would still say then, as we say now, that the fact that the power to make the order was in the background was valuable and could contribute to achieving a satisfactory arrangement."orders under section 74 of the Transport Act 1962 … in relation to related companies as he could make if those companies were subsidiaries of the Railways Board."
Will my right hon. Friend ask the Minister for an assurance that the fears of the unions which have been negotiating on this matter are unfounded? That would be a great help to them.
I shall be delighted if the Secretary of State can tell us that he has reached a clear understanding since we last talked with the unions that the transfer will not take place unless every civil servant who is transferred under part II will take with him his accrued rights and the equivalent benefits of his pension scheme. I could then accept that our amendment was unnecessary. I can only reiterate my hon. Friend's appeal. However, that would be surprising, and, with great respect to the Secretary of State, it would be easier for him to accept our amendment than to give that assurance.
With permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall try to answer some of the right hon. Gentleman's points.First, I cannot accept that the special powers that the right hon. Gentleman now presses on the Government would be either consistent or necessary. On the contrary, the pattern proposed and the words that I have used to describe the procedures and the line that the Government will adopt in pursuing their plans for this transfer give the best assurance that there will be a fair deal for the staff. Moreover, the Bill provides that that will take place with the powers "in the background"—if I may use the right hon. Gentleman's phrase—which lie in the principal Civil Service pension scheme. That underlying security provides the background against which the new pension provision, or the transfer or the preservation of accrued rights, will be secured for all employees. The right hon. Gentleman returned to the matter of the British Rail hotels. He mentioned Sealink, but in fact Seaspeed was the example that I used. I am still advised that what I said about the right hon. Gentleman's interpretation of the legislation involved in those transfers and negotiations was correct. The right hon. Gentleman quoted textual evidence in an attempt to refute that, but I am advised that the words that I used were correct. If there is a misunderstanding and we are arguing about different things, as often happens, or if there are two separate views, or if it will help the right hon. Gentleman, I shall endeavour to support what I said on the matter in correspondence with him. However, that is the clear advice that I have received in support of the words that I used. All the same, I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will be the first to agree that it will not help our common objective to get a fair deal for the staff if we get involved in a wrangle about precedents. After all, our aim is to get a fair deal for the staff. I wish to take up a further point, because I am anxious that the right hon. Gentleman should feel satisfied about all the matters that he raised. He asked about civil servants in the heavy goods vehicle testing network who had less than five years' service. I understand that, under the principal Civil Service pension scheme, transfer payments may be made even where the individual has less than five years' service and that people with less than five years' service may not opt for a preserved pension. If they do not take a transfer value, they receive a short-service payment instead. If they opt for a transfer, they should be in the same position as civil servants with longer service. I believe that I am giving an accurate representation of the position. I shall, of course, check further on the details of the matter. If any amplification is needed, I shall write to the right hon. Gentleman. I listened closely to the right hon. Gentleman, whose views I respect in this connection. Having carefully examined whether special powers of the kind that he seeks are justified, I am clear that there is no need for special legislative provision to make that possible. There is no ground for fearing that the Government intend anything other than a fair deal for the staff who are involved. That is the Government's determination and intention. I have described the kind of body to which heavy goods vehicle testing stations are to be transferred under the privatisation proposal. On that basis, I believe that employees can be assured that their pension needs and problems will be well looked after and that there is no need in the Bill for a further legislative order-making power of the kind that the right hon. Gentleman wants. On that basis, I hope that he will withdraw the amendment.
With the leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is clear that the Secretary of State is not prepared to make similar legislative provision for these civil servants as has been made for a number of other people forced out of public service. I am not prepared to withdraw the amendment, because it involves the important issue of employment protection rights. My right hon. and hon. Friends and I can only vote on it.
Question put, That the amendment be made:—
The House divided: Ayes 221, Noes 281.
Division No. 170]
|Abse, Leo||Campbell, Ian|
|Adams, Allen||Campbell-Savours, Dale|
|Allaun, Frank||Canavan, Dennis|
|Alton, David||Cant, R. B.|
|Anderson, Donald||Carmichael, Neil|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Carter-Jones, Lewis|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Cartwright, John|
|Ashton, Joe||Clark, Dr David (S Shields)|
|Atkinson, N.(H'gey,)||Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S)|
|Bagier, Gordon A.T.||Cohen, Stanley|
|Barnett, Guy(Greenwich)||Coleman, Donald|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd)||Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.|
|Beith, A.J.||Conlan, Bernard|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Cook, Robin F.|
|Bennett, Andrew (St'kp'tN)||Cowans, Harry|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Craigen, J. M. (G'gow, M'hill)|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Crowther, Stan|
|Bradley, Tom||Cryer, Bob|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Cunliffe, Lawrence|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Cunningham, G.(IslingtonS)|
|Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)||Cunningham, Dr J. (W'h'n)|
|Buchan, Norman||Dalyell, Tam|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J.||Davies, Ifor (Gower)|
|Callaghan, Jim (Midd't'n&P)||Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham, Stechf'd)||McWilliam, John|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Marks, Kenneth|
|Dewar, Donald||Marshall, D(G'gowS'ton)|
|Dixon, Donald||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)|
|Dobson, Frank||Martin, M(G'gowS'burn)|
|Dormand, Jack||Mason, Rt Hon Roy|
|Douglas, Dick||Maxton, John|
|Dubs, Alfred||Meacher, Michael|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert|
|Dunnett, Jack||Mikardo, Ian|
|Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.||Millan, RtHonBruce|
|Eadie, Alex||Miller, Dr M.S. (E Kilbride)|
|Eastham, Ken||Mitchell, Austin(Grimsby)|
|Edwards, R. (W'hampt'n S E)||Mitchell, R. C. (Soton Itchen)|
|Ellis, R. (NE D'bysh're)||Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)|
|English, Michael||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Ennals, Rt Hon David||Moyle, Rt Hon Roland|
|Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||Newens, Stanley|
|Evans, John (Newton)||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Field, Frank||Ogden, Eric|
|Fitch, Alan||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Flannery, Martin||O'Neill, Martin|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Owen, Rt Hon Dr David|
|Ford, Ben||Palmer, Arthur|
|Forrester, John||Park, George|
|Foster, Derek||Parker, John|
|Fraser, J.(Lamb'th, N'w'd)||Parry, Robert|
|Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald||Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)|
|Garrett, John (Norwich S)||Prescott, John|
|Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)||Price, C. (Lewisham W)|
|George, Bruce||Race, Reg|
|Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John||Radice, Giles|
|Graham, Ted||Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S)|
|Grimond, Rt Hon J.||Richardson, Jo|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Hamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife)||Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)|
|Hardy, Peter||Hoberts, Gmilym (Cannock)|
|Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)|
|Haynes, Frank||Rodgers, Rt Hon William|
|Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Rooker, J. W.|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)|
|Hogg, N. (E Dunb't'nshire)||Sandelson, Neville|
|Holland, S. (L'b'th, Vauxh'll)||Sever, John|
|HomeRobertson, John||Sheerman, Barry|
|Horam, John||Sheldon, Rt Hon R.|
|Howells, Geraint||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Hoyle, Douglas||Short, Mrs Renée|
|Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Silkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford)|
|Hughes, Robert (AberdeenN)||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Silverman, Julius|
|Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Skinner, Dennis|
|Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillhead)||Smith, Rt Hon J. (N Lanark)|
|John, Brynmor||Snape, Peter|
|Johnson, Walter (Derby S)||Soley, Clive|
|Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Spearing, Nigel|
|Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rh'dda)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Jones, Barry (East Flint)||Stallard, A. W.|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Stoddart, David|
|Kinnock, Neil||Stott, Roger|
|Lambie, David||Strang, Gavin|
|Lamborn, Harry||Straw, Jack|
|Lamond, James||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)|
|Leighton, Ronald||Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)|
|Lestor, MissJoan||Tilley, John|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Tinn, James|
|Litherland, Robert||Torney, Tom|
|Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Urwin, Rt Hon Tom|
|Lyon, Alexander(York)||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|McCartney, Hugh||Wainwright, E.(DearneV)|
|McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Wainwright, R. (ColneV)|
|McElhone, Frank||Walker, Rt Hon H. (D'caster)|
|McKay, Allen (Penistone)||Watkins, David|
|McKelvey, William||Weetch, Ken|
|McMahon, Andrew||Wellbeloved, James|
|McNally, Thomas||Welsh, Michael|
|McNamara, Kevin||White, Frank R.|
|McTaggart, Robert||White, J. (G'gow Pollok)|
|Whitehead, Phillip||Woodall, Alec|
|Whitlock, William||Woolmer, Kenneth|
|Wigley, Dafydd||Wright, Sheila|
|Willey, Rt Hon Frederick||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Williams, Rt Hon A. (S'sea W)|
|Williams, Rt Hon Mrs (Crosby)||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)||Dr, Edmund Marshall and Mr. George Morton|
|Wilson, Rt Hon SirH.(H'ton)|
|Adley, Robert||Eden, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Alexander, Richard||Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Eggar, Tim|
|Ancram, Michael||Emery, Sir Peter|
|Arnold, Tom||Eyre, Reginald|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Fairbairn, Nicholas|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (S'thorne)||Fairgrieve, SirRussell|
|Atkins, Robert (PrestonN)||Faith, MrsSheila|
|Atkinson, David (B'm'th, E)||Farr, John|
|Baker, Kenneth (St.M'bone)||Fenner, Mrs Peggy|
|Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)||Finsberg, Geoffrey|
|Banks, Robert||Fletcher-Cooke, SirCharles|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Fookes, Miss Janet|
|Bendall, Vivian||Forman, Nigel|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (T'bay)||Fowler, Rt Hon Norman|
|Benyon, Thomas (A'don)||Fox, Marcus|
|Benyon.W. (Buckingham)||Fraser, Rt Hon Sir Hugh|
|Best, Keith||Fraser, Peter (South Angus)|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Fry, Peter|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Gardiner, George(Reigate)|
|Biggs-Davison, SirJohn||Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)|
|Blackburn, John||Garel-Jones, Tristan|
|Blaker, Peter||Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
|Body, Richard||Glyn, Dr Alan|
|Bonsor, SirNicholas||Goodhew, SirVictor|
|Bottomley, Peter (W'wichW)||Goodlad, Alastair|
|Bowden, Andrew||Gorst, John|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes||Gow, Ian|
|Braine, SirBernard||Gower, Sir Raymond|
|Bright, Graham||Gray, Hamish|
|Brinton, Tim||Greenway, Harry|
|Brittan, Rt. Hon. Leon||Griffiths, E. (B'ySt.Edm'ds)|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Griffiths, Peter (Portsm 'thN)|
|Brotherton, Michael||Grist, Ian|
|Brown, Michael(Brigg&Sc'n)||Grylls, Michael|
|Bruce-Gardyne, John||Gummer, JohnSelwyn|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt. Hon. A.||Hamilton, Hon A.|
|Buck, Antony||Hamilton, Michael(Salisbury)|
|Budgen, Nick||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Hannam, John|
|Burden, SirFrederick||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Butcher, John||Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael|
|Cadbury, Jocelyn||Hawkins, Paul|
|Carlisle, John (Luton West)||Hawksley, Warren|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Hayhoe, Barney|
|Chapman, Sydney||Heddle, John|
|Churchill, W.S.||Henderson, Barry|
|Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n)||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Hicks, Robert|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.|
|Clegg, SirWalter||Hill, James|
|Cockeram, Eric||Hogg, Hon Douglas(Gr'th'm)|
|Colvin, Michael||Holland, Philip(Carlton)|
|Cope, John||Hooson, Tom|
|Cormack, Patrick||Hordern, Peter|
|Corrie, John||Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldf'd)|
|Costain, SirAlbert||Howell, Ralph (NNorfolk)|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Hunt, David (Wirral)|
|Critchley, Julian||Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)|
|Crouch, David||Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick|
|Dean, Paul (NorthSomerset)||JohnsonSmith, Geoffrey|
|Dickens, Geoffrey||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith|
|Douglas-Hamilton, LordJ.||Kershaw, SirAnthony|
|Dover, Denshore||Kilfedder, James A.|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Kimball, SirMarcus|
|Dunn, Robert (Dartford)||Kitson, SirTimothy|
|Durant, Tony||Knight, Mrs Jill|
|Dykes, Hugh||Knox, David|
|Lamont, Norman||Ridsdale, SirJulian|
|Lang, Ian||Rifkind, Malcolm|
|Latham, Michael||Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey|
|Lawrence, Ivan||Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW)|
|Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Lee, John||Rossi, Hugh|
|Lennox-Boyd, HonMark||Rost, Peter|
|Lester, Jim (Beeston)||Royle, Sir Anthony|
|Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|Lloyd, Ian (Havant & W'loo)||St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.|
|Loveridge, John||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Luce, Richard||Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)|
|McCrindle, Robert||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Macfarlane, Neil||Shepherd, Richard|
|MacGregor, John||Silvester, Fred|
|MacKay, John (Argyll)||Sims, Roger|
|Macmillan, Rt Hon M.||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)||Smith, Dudley|
|McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)||Speed, Keith|
|McQuarrie, Albert||Speller, Tony|
|Madel, David||Spence, John|
|Major, John||Spicer, Jim (WestDorset)|
|Marland, Paul||Spicer, Michael (SWorcs)|
|Marlow, Antony||Sproat, Iain|
|Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Squire, Robin|
|Marten, Rt Hon Neil||Stainton, Keith|
|Mather, Carol||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus||Stanley, John|
|Mawby, Ray||Steen, Anthony|
|Mawhinney, Dr Brian||Stevens, Martin|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Stewart, A (E Renfrewshire)|
|Mellor, David||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|Meyer, SirAnthony||Stokes, John|
|Miller, Hal (B'grove)||StradlingThomas, J.|
|Mills, Iain (Meriden)||Tapsell, Peter|
|Mills, Peter (West Devon)||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.|
|Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Moate, Roger||Thompson, Donald|
|Monro, SirHector||Thorne, Nei1 (IlfordSouth)|
|Montgomery, Fergus||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Moore, John||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Morris, M. (N'hampton S)||Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)|
|Morrison, HonC. (Devizes)||Trippier, David|
|Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)||Trotter, Neville|
|Mudd, David||van Straubenzee, Sir W.|
|Murphy, Christopher||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Myles, David||Viggers, Peter|
|Neale, Gerrard||Waddington, David|
|Needham, Richard||Wakeham, John|
|Nelson, Anthony||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Neubert, Michael||Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)|
|Newton, Tony||Wall, SirPatrick|
|Normanton, Tom||Waller, Gary|
|Nott, Rt Hon John||Walters, Dennis|
|Onslow, Cranley||Ward, John|
|Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.||Warren, Kenneth|
|Page, John (Harrow, West)||Watson, John|
|Page, Richard (SW Herts)||Wheeler, John|
|Parris, Matthew||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Pawsey, James||Whitney, Raymond|
|Percival, Sir Ian||Wickenden, Keith|
|Peyton, Rt Hon John||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Pink, R.Bonner||Wilkinson, John|
|Pollock, Alexander||Williams, D. (Montgomery)|
|Porter, Barry||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Prentice, Rt Hon Reg||Wolfson, Mark|
|Proctor, K. Harvey||Young, SirGeorge (Acton)|
|Pym, Rt Hon Francis||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)|
|Rees-Davies, W. R.||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Rhodes James, Robert||Mr. Robert Boscawen and Mr. Anthony Berry.|
|Rhys Williams, SirBrandon|
Question accordingly negatived.
Consultation With Representative Bodies
I beg to move amendment No. 26, in page 15, line 38, leave out '10 or 11' and insert '10(11) or 11(2)'.The sole purpose of this small and simple amendment is to make the Bill a little clearer. Clause 14 lists the subjects on which the Secretary of State must consult representative bodies, and one of those subjects is the designation of premises as testing stations. To make clear what is meant by designation, clause 14(4) refers to the clauses in which the powers to designate premises are to be found. In Committee, it was suggested that it would be helpful if the reader were referred not only to the appropriate clause, but to the right subsection. The Government are happy to oblige. I hope that this small amendment will be generally welcomed.
I shall not detain the House. The Solicitor-General for Scotland has acknowledged the concern expressed in Committee. I am grateful to him for introducing an amendment that clarifies the position.
Amendment agreed to.
Prohibitions Under Section 57 Of The 1972 Act
I beg to move amendment No. 27, in page 19, leave out lines 34 and 35 and insert 'any person".'.
With this it will be convenient to take Government amendments Nos. 76 and 78.
The amendments improve the drafting of the provisions in the existing legislation on the imposition of prohibitions on dangerously defective vehicles. Clause 18(1), as drafted, amends section 57 of the Road Traffic Act 1972, which is about prohibitions on goods vehicles found to be unfit for service. Clause 18(1) alters the specification of the circumstances in which a goods vehicle shall be prohibited with immediate effect, so as to make that section consistent with the corresponding provision for public service vehicles, which is to be found in section 9 of the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981. The formula that clause 18(1) introduces—copied from the 1981 Act—provides that a prohibition shall take effect immediately if using the vehicle
In Committee, Opposition Members pointed out that the formula was unnecessarily long and complex. A reference to "danger to any person" would do just as well. Accordingly, we propose these amendments, which will amend both clause 18(1) and the model on which it was based—section 9 of the 1981 Act. The amendments have the rare virtue of shortening two pieces of legislation. I hope that that in itself will be enough to commend them to the House."would involve danger to the driver, to other persons carried on the vehicle or to other members of the public."
Amendment agreed to.
I beg to move amendment No. 28, in page 20, line 6, at beginning insert
`subject to subsection (9A) below'.
With this it will be convenient to take Government amendment No. 29.
The amendments extend the provisions in clause 18 to introduce what is known as a due diligence defence for a goods vehicle operator who is charged with causing or permitting a vehicle to be used in contravention of a prohibition. The amendments will provide him with a defence if he can prove that he took all reasonable precautions and exercised all due diligence to prevent an offence from being committed.Clause 18 already contains provisions that give some protection to a driver who is charged with driving a goods vehicle in contravention of a prohibition, but who had no knowledge that the vehicle was prohibited. The amendment extends a corresponding protection to the vehicle operator. In both cases, we are bringing the law on goods vehicles into line with existing provisions for public service vehicles. The provisions in clause 18 are modelled on those in the 1981 Act about public service vehicles. It is right and reasonable that such protection should be given to vehicle operators. If an operator can prove that he took all reasonable precautions, he should have a defence against conviction. I emphasise that that will in no way weaken the sanctions that are available against the careless or irresponsible operator. The burden of proof remains on the defendant. He will have to convince the court that he exercised all due diligence. The amendment involves protecting people who are in practice innocent of wrongdoing. It is a modest improvement to the law. I hope that it, too, will be welcomed by the House.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment made: No. 29, in page 20, line 7, at end insert—
`and the following subsection shall be inserted after that subsection—
"(9A) It shall be a defence for a person charged with an offence under subsection (9)(aa) above to prove that he took all reasonable precautions and exercised all due diligence to avoid the commission of any offence under that provision.".'.—[The Solicitor-General for Scotland.]
Forgery And Misuse Of Documents Etc
I beg to move amendment No. 30, in page 23, line 23, leave out from `section' to '(at' in line 24 and insert
This is a technical amendment which does not affect the substance of clause 22. It amends subsection (2)(a), which defines what is meant by the "statutory maximum" fine with respect to England and Wales. The clause, as drafted, refers to the provisions of the Criminal Law Act 1977. However, that Act has been repealed, and the relevant provisions now appear in the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980. The amendment accordingly deletes the outdated reference and substitutes the new one.`32 of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980'.
Amendment agreed to.
Fixed Penalty Offences And Fixed Penalty Notices
Amendments made: No. 31, in page 26, line 1, leave out from `a' to end of line 5 and insert
'fixed penalty notice in respect of the offence'.
No. 32, in page 26, line 10, after 'notice', insert
'in respect of the offence'.
No. 33, in page 26, line 29, leave out subsection (5).— [The Solicitor-General for Scotland.]
I beg to move amendment No. 34, in page 26, line 35, after '(6)', insert
'subject to section 27(1) and '.
With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments: No 38, in clause 27, page 27, line 27 at end insert
No. 50, in clause 39, page 43, line 20, leave out from 'Act' to the end of line 23 and insert`but no such order may provide for any offence involving obligatory endorsement to be a fixed penalty offence'
No. 67, in page 60, leave out schedule 1. No. 71, in page 65, leave out schedule 2.'but not any offence involving obligatory endorsement'.
In Committee, we raised serious doubts about whether we should embark on framing legislation that would bring offences that are currently and properly defined as endorsable into the fixed penalty net. Our concern has been expressed and shared by many hon. Members, particularly by the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry), who indicated some dissent in our debates yesterday.Over the years, the laws applying to motorists have become more and more complicated. The situation has not been helped by the lack of uniform application. The Bill represents an ideal opportunity for simplifying the process of dealing with motoring offences by enlarging the number of offences to be dealt with under the fixed penalty procedure. I believe that the vast majority of hon. Members welcome such a move, because regulations that are well founded and simple to apply will be readily accepted by the driving public. Regrettably, if the Bill's provisions are enacted in their present form, they will have the reverse effect. Drivers will find them complex, confusing and in some ways objectionable. The Bill will probably not achieve its primary objective of simplification, ease of understanding and the removal of the thousands of minor cases from our courts. There are degrees of culpability in all motoring offences and that fact is generally recognised by the current procedure. A specific motoring offence may be ignored, or it may result in a verbal on-the-spot warning, a written warning or a prosecution. We believe that the offer of a fixed penalty should be a further option, but that it should not attract an endorsement, penalty points or in any way be given the status of a conviction. That must continue to be a matter for the courts to determine. The provisions of the clause and its associated schedules describe the offences which may be dealt with by the offer of a fixed penalty. Many endorsable offences are included. The Bill thereby perpetuates the complication of the penalty points system by failing to accept the basic and essential need to simplify these procedures. I contend that fixed penalties should be no more than a further option available to the police for dealing with motoring offences. As I said earlier, any offence dealt with by fixed penalty should not involve the expensive administrative procedure of endorsements, the levying of penalty points and the associated record-keeping that is envisaged in the Bill. Once the fixed penalty has been paid, that should be the end of the matter. However, if the offender comes before a court for non-payment of a fixed penalty, the penalty points procedure should apply as if the matter had been dealt with summarily in the first place. We made these points on many occasions in Committee. We have tried to probe the Government on the reasons why they have seen fit to include in the fixed penalty net offences that rightly attract penalty points and other offences that attract endorsements. We have not yet had a satisfactory reply. The Opposition contend that some of the offences listed in schedules 1 and 2 for fixed penalty treatment should not rank as such. We welcome the Government's intention to remove from the schedule of fixed penalties the pedestrian crossing offence and the offence of disregarding a school crossing patrol, but most of us believe that other offences should be removed because they demonstrate anti-social driving behaviour and should always result in the culprit appearing before a court. The offences to which I refer are offences committed on motorways; contravention of one-way requirements on a trunk road; failure to comply with traffic directions and signs; dangerous parking; failure to stop when required to do so by a constable; and using a vehicle in a dangerous condition. None of those offences should be available for treatment by a fixed penalty notice. I cannot understand why the Government have sought to muddy the waters in that respect. I venture to suggest to the Solicitor-General for Scotland that most of us are in favour of extending fixed penalties into the areas I have mentioned. However, we are not in favour of doing so into areas where there are serious anxieties that the Bill, in seeking to deal with the problem, will actually allow motorists to get away with a more serious offence. We are worried that the Government have sought to include offences that are rightly and properly endorsable. We believe that they should continue to be dealt with properly in court. We do not believe that they should be included in the fixed penalty net, although we give a general welcome to the Government's view that fixed penalties should be extended to take minor offences out of the courts. However, I must tell the Solicitor-General for Scotland that I was not convinced by the arguments in Committee. I am still not convinced that we are legislating in the right way. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will take my remarks on board.
Not for the first time, I find myself in agreement with the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Stott) who speaks for the Opposition on transport matters.It is a pity that the House is hardly fuller than it was earlier this afternoon to deal with this important aspect of the Bill, which goes to the root of the observance of, and respect for, the law on the part of the average motorist. Those who have served on a jury dealing with motoring offences will know that there is a marked reluctance by jurors to find someone guilty of a serious offence when a heavy penalty is involved, merely because it is a motoring offence. The reason is that there are a host of minor offences which most of us, alas, probably commit at one time or another, such as exceeding the speed limit. The average motorist, although knowing that he has done wrong, does not accept that he has broken the law in the same way as he would if committing burglary, fraud or inflicting grievous bodily harm. In most people's minds there is a distinction between, say, driving at 12 miles an hour above the speed limit and driving dangerously. It is not too hard to distinguish between the two. Because there are so many minor offences—some are technical—that are still subject to endorsement, there is a blurring in people's minds. There is not the clear distinction that one would have thought was necessary between a serious offence and a minor one. It is an important aspect, because it relates to the attitude of the motorist to the law. I should have thought that the Government would use the opportunity presented by the fixed penalty system to encourage a clear distinction between committing a serious offence and committing a technical, or minor, offence. Unfortunately, the Government do not appear to have made the saving or reduced the complication. It is noticeable that both of the major motoring organisations, the Royal Automobile Club and the Automobile Association, are against the Government's proposals in this respect. To illustrate the attitude of the motoring organisations and my own point of view, there is no more typical offence than that of speeding. If a person drives along the motorway at 120 miles an hour, he is clearly a major danger to other road users and to himself. On the other hand, it is also commonly known that one can drive at 79 miles an hour along the motorway and probably escape prosecution simply because there is a margin offered to the offender who just exceeds the limit. But there is no doubt that the driver doing 79 miles an hour is speeding. However, the odds are that he is not causing any danger either to himself or other road users. Therefore, speeding is fairly obvious whether the offence is serious or a minor infraction of the law.
I have been listening to my hon. Friend with a great deal of interest and I agree with him to a large extent. Clearly serious offences should be punished with severity. Although all of us from time to time unwittingly or through negligence have committed motoring offences, does my hon. Friend agree that there are many people who persistently break the law by committing what he calls small and technical offences and, as a result, are bad drivers and a menace to other people?
I take that point. However, a number of offences that are considered to be endorsable do not, to my mind, fall into that category. I accept what my hon. Friend says about the person who habitually speeds. None the less, in other countries—the United States is an example—it is normal to get a ticket for exceeding the speed limit up to a certain level above the norm.5.30 pm Having said that, I go on to say that a person who perpetually breaks the law in a dangerous way is hardly likely to exceed the speed limit by just a few miles an hour. He will probably be the sort of driver who will exceed it by 20 or 30 miles an hour. In such cases he should be prosecuted, and I believe that the offence should be endorsable. I want the Government to get the advantage of introducing a fixed penalty system, but I believe that they have unnecessarily complicated the issue. Secondly, I want to encourage motorists to keep and respect the law. I therefore believe that we must look at speeding as a two-tier conviction. Thirdly, the motoring organisations that speak for many millions of British motorists have given useful advice, and it is a great pity that the Government have not accepted their point of view. As the hon. Member for Westhoughton said, a policeman now has an alternative. He can either caution, as he does on certain occasions, or he can issue a fixed penalty. In addition, if there is any doubt, he can insist on a prosecution against the offending motorist. The fact that those three alternatives exist take care of the case where there is some doubt about whether the motorist has committed a less serious or more serious offence. If the policeman is in any doubt he can issue a notice of intended prosecution, in which case the courts can decide. I am in agreement with the Opposition amendments. The Government should explain why they have not accepted this common sense advice. If we have fixed penalties that insist on endorsement, there is the problem of levying the penalty points. There is the record-keeping associated with that and all the administration that is involved. Surely the practice in other countries should have given us some guidance. We should not forget one thing. British motorists are about the most law-abiding in the world. The accident rate on our roads is excellent compared with that in nearly every other major industrialised country. The British motorist is not a habitual law-breaker, yet the one area where there is friction between the police and the public is that covering traffic offences. The Government appear to have missed an opportunity to reduce at one fell swoop the time taken by the courts to deal with minor offences, by convincing the motorist that he will be heavily penalised if he commits a serious offence. On the other hand, using the fixed penalty system without an endorsement will ensure that police-public relations are not worsened. Frankly, many of the offences that are now listed as endorsable are not accepted as serious offences by the vast majority of motorists. I therefore ask my hon. Friend to be realistic about the real world and to think again about this part of the Bill.
I shall be brief in my support of the amendments. In doing so I agree not only with what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Stott) but with what was said by the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry).I believe that the Government have missed an opportunity. Transport legislation should aim to achieve quick and fair justice. If that is the case, many parts of the Bill do much to expedite matters and to establish a quick relationship between the punishment and the crime. Most people involved with safety and driving behaviour believe that that is of the essence. If the paying of the fine or penalty takes place as soon as possible after the committing of the misdemeanour, all the research that has been carried out in many countries shows that that is the best possible solution, because people than respond. Only yesterday, in our debate on wheel clamps, we heard how some sections of the law on driving and parking have fallen into disuse because there is no clear relationship between the misdemeanour or crime and the penalty that is paid. If that attitude creeps into the behaviour that has been described by my hon. Friend, we shall be in danger of the law falling further into disrepute. I therefore believe that we must have a system that is fast and fair. We shall create a dangerous precedent if at the same time as introducing a fixed penalty system on a much broader scale we introduce a system which the motoring public regard as unfair. The provisions of the Bill are not bad when viewed in the long term. However, I should have liked a phasing in of the legislation so that in the first year or two, when motorists are learning about the fixed penalty system, the penalties do not result in a loss of licence. This is a major change. Many of us have underestimated the size of the change and the qualitative step that we are taking by introducing a much broader fixed penalty system. If we allow the motoring public two years to learn about the fixed penalty system, we can then assess in a fair and pragmatic way how the system has worked. We shall then be able to see more clearly whether there is a need to introduce fixed penalties into the system, from which penalty points and loss of licence flow. I cannot understand why the Government cannot adopt a much more tentative approach at this stage. After all, we must be realistic. It is unlikely that a transport Bill will be introduced each and every year.
Not until we have a change of Government.
My right hon. Friend is right. Even though many of us would like to see improvements in the law each year, we realise that a transport Bill will not be introduced each Session.Surely the drafting of this Bill can be amended so that the penalty points system can be phased in over, say, a two-year period. That would be similar to some of the provisions of the 1981 Act. I do not know why that is impossible. I hope that the Government will examine this again, bearing in mind what has been said about police-public relations, and will more seriously consider the views of the major motoring organisations. As someone who has served on two Standing Committees on transport Bills, I pay tribute to the motoring organisations. In a sense, Oppositions are more grateful to motoring organisations than Governments, because they do not have large armies of bureaucrats helping them with drafting and so on. The reputation of the two major motoring organisations in Britain is second to none. Although we may disagree with some of their actions, by and large they reflect the wishes and desires of the motorist. In the short time between the Bill going to another place and returning to this House, I hope that the Government will talk to the motoring organisations and have second thoughts on this aspect of the Bill.