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Commons Chamber

Volume 28: debated on Thursday 29 July 1982

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House Of Commons

Thursday 29 July 1982

The House met at half-past Two o'clock

Prayers

[MR. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

British Railways Bill

Order read for consideration of Lords amendments.

To be considered upon Tuesday 19 October.

West Yorkshire (Parking And Transport) Bill

Lords amendments agreed to.

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

Read the Third time, and passed.

British Railways (Liverpool Street Station) Bill (By Order)

Order for Third Reading read.

To be read the Third time upon Tuesday 19 October.

Oral Answers To Questions

Northern Ireland

Spain (Foreign Minister)

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will give details of the particular matters he discussed at his recent meeting with the Foreign Minister of Spain.

As I told my hon. Friend on 14 July 1982, I had a friendly general discussion about matters of common interest to the United Kingdom and Spain.

Did my right hon. Friend discuss the status of Gibraltar with either the Foreign Secretary or the King of Spain? If he did, is he aware of the anxiety felt by the people of Gibraltar about constitutional matters, in view of his treatment of the people of Northern Ireland on constitutional matters?

Gibraltar was, of course, mentioned, but not discussed in any substance. It would have been wrong if I had done so. I completely disagree with the second part of what my hon. Friend said.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his written answer on the subject. Did the Spanish Foreign Minister tell him whether the Lisbon agreement was likely to be implemented soon?

No, Sir. That was not discussed in any detail and it would have been quite wrong for me to do so. It is a matter for the Foreign Secretary.

Northern Ireland Bill

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what is his programme for the implementation of the Northern Ireland Bill.

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what period of campaigning is being proposed for elections to the new Assembly in October; and on what date it is proposed that the new Assembly should meet.

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he has ascertained whether any of the political parties of Northern Ireland have decided against taking part in the elections for the proposed Northern Ireland Assembly.

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he expects elections for the Northern Ireland Assembly to be held.

The election to the Northern Ireland Assembly will take place on Wednesday 20 October. I shall soon be making the Northern Ireland Assembly Elections Order 1982, which is subject to negative resolution, and which will include the election timetable and the rules for the conduct of the election. None of the Northern Ireland parties has said that it will not contest the election. No date has yet been fixed for the first meeting of the Assembly.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend and the Cabinet upon their courage in perservering with the Northern Ireland legislation during its passage through the House? Will my right hon. Friend take the opportunity fairly soon to point out to the SDLP the considerable advantages being offered to all political parties in Northern Ireland in the legislation, coupled with a warning that that party may well face political oblivion if it does not participate?

As to the latter part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question, I hope that all political parties will take part in the elections. It is in their interest that they should do so. I thank him for his kind words. Congratulations on this or any other subject are hard to come by in the House.

Order. I intend to call first the three hon. Members whose questions are being answered.

Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that when the Assembly operates many of the general debates and debates on orders dealing with Northern Ireland that take place will be transferred to the Assembly so that we may lighten the load in the House?

While I hope that the Assembly will debate all the draft orders and many others as well, they will still have to come to the House until there is devolution, after which the responsibility will no longer be ours. I hope that the result of the Northern Ireland people and their elected Assembly having an opportunity to discuss those matters might mean some limitation of the time that they take here.

Even though none of the political parties has said that it will not take part in the election, is there not grave doubt whether the SDLP will take part? Is the Minister aware of any reason why the SDLP has grave doubts about taking part in the election?

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will use his influence to persuade the SDLP to take part. It has doubts about whether the proposals go far enough to meet its point of view, and the same doubt has been expressed in the opposite direction by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) and the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux).

May I congratulate my hon. right hon. Friend on surviving the harassment from behind him at the height of the commitment of young men to the Falklands crisis, which was a period of shame for many members of the Tory Party?

Does my right hon. Friend understand that it was necessary to fill the vacuum caused by the present political gap in Northern Ireland and that many of his hon. Friends wish him well in his endeavours?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I share his view that there has been and remains in Northern Ireland a political vacuum that must be filled. It is right that it should be filled by the people of Northern Ireland playing a major part in their own affairs, and I hope that they will do so. I hope that now that the debate is over in this House for the time being even my hon. Friends who have opposed the move most strongly will rally round to make the Assembly work.

What is the point of making an order that is subject to the negative procedure if the House will have no opportunity, should it so wish, to negative it before it comes into force?

Does the Secretary of State agree that a number of his predecessors have accepted that, although direct rule may be a second best option, it is not the answer to Northern Ireland's problems and that the only way to make political progress is to bring about a situation in which the majority and minority community representatives can arrive at an accommodation in the interests of the whole community? Will he take it from me, as a founder member and former leader of the SDLP, that not all its members are opposed to fighting elections, that a small contingent is taking orders from the Taoiseach, whose advice is not to take part in the elections, and that the SDLP as a party will, unless the moon or sun falls from the sky, be fighting the elections?

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's comments, particularly in the earlier part of his supplementary question, and for the general support that he has given the Government and myself in piloting the Bill through the House. I recognise that there are differences of opinion in all the main political parties of Northern Ireland, but I understood that they were all committed to devolution. Listening to the right hon. Member for Down, South I begin to wonder whether that is the Official Unionist view.

In view of the many advantages that the Secretary of State often tells us will flow from the existence of the Northern Ireland Assembly, does he accept that there would be advantage to others apart from the indigenous political parties in taking part in the election, and that the British Labour and Conservative Parties should put forward candidates? As the Secretary of State has often also told us that he has adopted Northern Ireland, would he consider assessing his own standing in the community?

I might ask the hon. Gentleman in turn why he does not stand as a Labour or Conservative candidate.

Is the Secretary of State aware that I, too, am pleased that he survived the harassment from behind him and the "Get Prior" brigade during the Bill's passage through the House? But much more disturbing is the relationship with the Government of Southern Ireland.

If the hon. Gentleman will stop yapping like a little dog in a corner I shall get on.

The hon. Gentleman is right. The right hon. Gentleman must ask a question; he can wrap his views up within the question.

That is right, Mr. Speaker, but comments from a sedentary position put one off, especially when it is the end of term.

I am perturbed by the worsening relationship—[Interruption.] I know that we have to spin out Question Time, as there are not many questions.

Is the Secretary of State aware that some of us are perturbed by the worsening relationship with the South, which is not only a political problem but may spill over and affect good government, security and other matters? Should not the fences be mended as quickly as possible, as there is a link between political and security matters?

I share a great deal of the right hon. Gentleman's anxiety about the worsening relationship between the United Kingdom and the Republic. I hope that we can cool the situation and restore equilibrium after the summer holidays. To continue in the present vein is not doing ourselves or the Republic any good.

Security

3.

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

4.

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

12.

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

Since I last answered questions on 1 July, the security forces in Northern Ireland have not suffered any deaths or serious injuries, although they have been subjected to a number of shooting attacks.

On 16 July a civilian, the victim of a so-called punishment shooting, was left to bleed to death in Londonderry. The Provisional IRA has acknowledged its responsibility for that murder. On the following day the body of a man was left on waste ground in Belfast. He had been battered to death, and his murder seems to have been connected with the activities of terrorist organisations.

On 6 July a civilian was injured when gunmen fired at him as he was standing outside his home in Belfast. Three days later another man, abducted from a club in Belfast, was later admitted to hospital with serious gunshot wounds to his legs and arms.

There have been 13 bomb attacks on property. Three people were apprehended at the scene of one of these attacks, and they have since been charged with a number of serious terrorist offences. There is grave anxiety that the pregnant wife of one of them may have been kidnapped by terrorists. As a follow-up to the same investigation, eight other people have been charged with serious offences and a large quantity of bomb-making equipment, arms and ammunition has been discovered.

Since 1 July a total of 22 weapons and 909 rounds of ammunition have been recovered by the security forces. Thirty-nine people have been charged with terrorist-type offences, including one with murder and 10 with attempted murder. In the same period the security forces neutralised nine bombs.

In view of the hostility of the Irish Republic, which has greatly increased since the Falkland Islands battles, will the Secretary of State take a fresh look at security on the frontier of the United Kingdom, and will he and his Cabinet colleagues set about eradicating terrorist gangs in every part of the United Kingdom?

That is precisely what we have been seeking to do for 10 years. We continue to have close co-operation with the Gardai and the security forces over the border, and there has been a great deal of success in recent weeks by the Gardai.

We have a great deal more to do. We continue to make as much progress as we can, but we shall not be aided in improving the situation by a worsening relationship with the Republic. We need the co-operation that we seek, and I believe that we can maintain it.

Did my right hon. Friend discuss in the United States the commendable efforts that are being made to stop cash and arms going from there to the IRA and the INLA? What progress is being made with smashing the Republican and non-Republican extortion rackets, which finance terrorism in the Province?

With regard to the first part of my hon. Friend's question, a great deal of publicity was given in the United States to the terrorist attacks in London. Utter condemnation of them was shown by all sections of the community. I was able to take part in a number of television and radio programmes, when I explained to the public of the United States where their money went. I said that if they allowed themselves to believe that they were supporting honourable causes, they were much mistaken, as they could see from the results of the bombing in London.

With regard to the second part of my hon. Friend's question, of course we are extremely worried about the growth of crime, whether it be protection rackets, gaming machines, or the robbery of banks and post offices, which has become part of the terrorist campaign in Northern Ireland to obtain funds to buy arms. I am making sure that much more attention is paid to that now than before.

In view of the horrific atrocities committed by the IRA and the INLA in Northern Ireland and in this part of the United Kingdom over the past thirteen years, will the Secretary of State have talks with the Roman Catholic Church in Northern Ireland about the excommunication of those evil men? Such a decision would have a greater impact on the community and would bring violence to an end sooner than will all the words of condemnation that are said after each murder.

I am in contact with the leaders of the Catholic community in Northern Ireland. I am grateful for the much greater assistance that they have given in recent months in condemning outright the murders and terrorist activity and in seeking to get the Catholic community to come forward with more information about terrorist activity. It is not for me to advise them on other matters, but I shall continue to talk to them.

Is the Secretary of State aware that the many thousands of Irish men and women who work in our hospitals, factories, coal mines, steelworks and shipyards and who make and repair our sewers and railways, as well as those who serve in our Armed Forces, some of whom were in the Falkland Islands task force and served with distinction, abhor more than the rest of the population, if that is possible, the foul deeds that have been done by the mindless creatures who bomb, maim and kill in the name of Ireland? Should not the Secretary of State take this opportunity to stop the ugly rumours that the Government are contemplating bringing in next Session spiteful and vindictive legislation against the many thousands of honest, hard working Irish men and women who have served and are serving the country well?

Those are matters that are more for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary than for me. I pay tribute to the many Irishmen who not only condemn these murders, but do much to support the United Kingdom in the cause of justice.

Will my right hon. Friend, in view of the list of arrests and the successes in recovering bomb material that he has just given, convey to the Chief Constable and officers of the Royal Ulster Constabulary the warm and sincere congratulations and admiration of the House? Further, will he give consideration to the full implementation of the Lord Justice Edmund-Davies award to police officers, because I think that a police officer in Belfast is entitled to the same rate of pay as police officers in Birmingham?

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's comments about the RUC. I am certain that his view is shared by every hon. Member. With regard to the latter part of his question, I am in further contact with the police authority and will report back to the House after the recess.

With regard to the request that was made and agreed at the time of the Edmund-Davies commission that observers from the Police Federation of Northern Ireland should be allowed to attend meetings of the police authority, notwithstanding any reason that may now be given by the police authority, will the Secretary of State convey to those concerned the anxieties expressed by me and my parliamentary colleagues over the fact that the agreement has not been implemented? There is no reason why it should not be. To continue in the same vein is wholly unacceptable to any fair-minded person.

I think that those views are already known to the police authority, but I shall have an early opportunity of reinforcing them.

Equal Pay Act

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he will seek to amend the Equal Pay Act in the light of recommendations from the Equal Opportunities Commission for Northern Ireland.

The Government are fully committed to the principle of equal pay and it is against this background that we shall be giving careful consideration to the recommendations of the Equal Opportunities Commission for Northern Ireland. Interested persons and organisations, including commission members, will of course be consulted to enable a considered view to be formed as to the desirability and implications of the specific amendments that the Equal Opportunities Commission proposes.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that reply. Is he aware of the urgency of ensuring that Northern Ireland conforms with the equal pay directive, bearing in mind the constant promptings from the Equal Opportunities Commission for Northern Ireland and taking account of the fact that in Northern Ireland, as in many other parts of the country, women are becoming increasingly the sole breadwinner and their families are being pushed into more and more poverty because of the inequality in wages?

The hon. Lady will know, because she has a close interest in the subject, that the Government are studying the terms of the European Court's judgment. We shall consider what action is required. The law in Northern Ireland at present is similar to that in Great Britain. We would expect to implement any changes that are made in Great Britain to enable the United Kingdom as a whole to meet the Treaty obligations.

Since my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that we had almost reached the stage of equal opportunities, is it not time that the last vestiges of this rotten quango were wrapped up, if only to give the hon. Lady something important to talk about instead of drivelling on about this wretched issue?

The Equal Opportunities Commission has a statutory job to do. It has made 14 recommendations which it considers serious. They will be looked at seriously. As I have said, we shall make decisions in the light of what is decided in Great Britain and the application of such decisions to Northern Ireland.

I welcome the Minister's response, too. However, further to the important question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor), does the Minister recognise that many families in Northern Ireland are falling into the poverty trap because the high rate of male unemployment results in women being part-time earners and thus not always being able to benefit from supplementary benefit and other State benefits?

That supplementary question strayed a little from the original question. Industry in Northern Ireland is proportionately more dependent on female labour than is industry in the rest of the United Kingdom. Also, among the women registered for work there is, mercifully, a lower level of unemployment than for men.

Does my hon. Friend intend to institute any inquiries into the allegations that are frequently made that equal pay legislation acts to the disadvantage of women and creates unemployment among them?

In so far as it falls outside the law, that point is serious and should be equally considered.

Assembly Elections (Disqualification)

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will take immediate steps to seek to amend the Northern Ireland Assembly Disqualification Act 1975 to ensure that members of the Irish Parliament are eligible to stand for election to the new Northern Ireland Assembly.

Any change in the current law would involve primary legislation and would have to be considered in the general context of disqualification criteria. A review of the criteria for disqualification from this House is currently in progress. A report will go to my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council later this year. There is a close link between the criteria for disqualification from the Northern Ireland Assembly and those for this House. The outcome of the review will have implications for Assembly disqualification criteria.

I well understand the political sensitivities of the current law on this point but I believe that the right course is to await that report and to consider at that point whether any provisions of the Northern Ireland Assembly Disqualification Act 1975 require amendment.

Does the Secretary of State agree that the worst possible outcome would be if the SDLP felt unable to contest the elections in October because its deputy leader, Mr. Seamus Mallon, was disqualified by a fairly obscure Act of Parliament? Does he agree that it would be a source of strength rather than one of weakness if some Members of the Assembly were Members either of this House or of the Irish Parliament as well?

I hope that any member of the SDLP who wishes to take part in the elections for the Assembly will do so and, if elected, take his seat in it. Mr. Mallon, who is a member of the Senate, will have to exercise his judgment. I hope that he will decide, if he is elected, to take his place in the Assembly. Nevertheless, there is no way in which the law can be changed without primary legislation.

Is there any reason to suppose that Mr. Mallon was unaware of the provisions of the 1975 Act when he decided to accept nomination for membership of the Senate of the Irish Republic?

It is for Mr. Mallon, not for me, to answer that. The Act is quite obscure. There is a reasonable chance that he was unaware of it. There has been an erroneous view that in some way the Secretary of State has the discretion, or the Assembly has the discretion on the advice of the Secretary of State, to make a change. There is no such discretion.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that some people believe that no Members of the new Assembly should be other than British subjects who are resident in the United Kingdom and that they should be Members of no national Parliament outside the United Kingdom?

Does the Secretary of State agree that it is highly unlikely that the SDLP will refuse to participate in the elections because of the present circumstances of Mr. Seamus Mallon? Does he further agree that, while Mr. Mallon may have been unaware of the provisions of the 1975 Act—indeed it is highly likely that he was unaware of them—the person who was not unaware of them is the present Taoiseach? Does he agree that Mr. Mallon's appointment was intended to embarrass the British Government at that time?

I note what the hon. Gentleman has said. All I can say is that it is better for Mr. Mallon to state whether he was aware of the legislation rather than for others to come to conclusions.

Is the Secretary of State aware that any attempt by the Government to bend the laws of the United Kingdom to rescue one individual from the consequences of his own judgment would be greatly misunderstood and greatly resented by the vast majority of the people of Northern Ireland?

Many things are misunderstood and misrepresented by people in Northern Ireland. My job is to try to make them understand all the things that go on.

Does the Secretary of State agree that, as well as opening the door for Mr. Mallon, such a ludicrous decision would also allow in IRA supporters such as Neil Blaney? Does he believe that that would be helpful or harmful to the prospect of agreement in the Assembly?

Many of these things are not particularly helpful. I am simply trying to get started an Assembly that could help the people of Northern Ireland. It is remarkable how good people are at putting up difficulties. If they would only co-operate and do something useful, it would be helpful for all of us.

Will the Secretary of State assure the House that the report will at least be considered by the Government before the arrangements for the Northern Ireland Assembly elections are made? Does he recognise the significance of the decision for the SDLP's decision to take part in those elections? Can he assure the House that he does not intend that the new Northern Ireland Assembly will in any way repeat the experience of the Stormont devolution?

I can give the hon. Lady an assurance about her last point. I do not yet know when the report will be available. Bearing in mind that the election is to be held on 20 October, I doubt whether the report will be available beforehand. We are dealing with a sensitive and difficult matter. I am taking it extremely seriously. As is clear from this House, there are difficult and divided views on the subject. I shall have to advise the House nearer or at the time as to what I believe is the best course of action. I urge the SDLP to take part in the election and, if elected, to take its seats in the Assembly and to play a full part in. Northern Irish affairs. That is what is necessary.

De Lorean Car Company

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a further statement about developments at the De Lorean plant in West Belfast.

I have little to add to my reply to my hon. Friend on 1 July.

Discussions are continuing with a United Kingdom consortium and with Mr. De Lorean, concerning the acquisition of the business and the eventual resumption of production at the Dunmurry factory. I am, however, glad to say that former employees of De Lorean Motor Cars Ltd. have now called off their occupation and picketing of the factory premises.

Is time for the discussions between the receiver, the consortium or with Mr. De Lorean unlimited? If it is not, when does the cut-off period come?

Time is not unlimited, because at the end of May the receiver-managers said that they would have to set preparations in hand for realising the company's assets. On the other hand, the Government intend—the receiver-managers are aware of this—that as much time as is reasonable should be allowed to bring the present negotiations to fruition.

Does the Minister agree that the workers' occupation was a sign of deep desperation in the search for and defence of jobs in Northern Ireland? Could not the Government support them? Is he aware that many of the workers helped De Lorean with production difficulties? Does he agree that by getting the rights to the car, for which the taxpayer has paid heavily and surely deserve, the workers could be helped, if they so wish, to set up a workers' co-operative and to get the car on to European and other markets?

I do not know whether the occupation was a sign of desperation. It prejudiced the negotiations that the receiver-managers were having. About 200 employees have now been taken on once more to carry out maintenance work and to ensure that cars can be shipped from the factory.

The Minister has referred only to a United Kingdom consortium. Have there been inquiries from further afield, for example from Nissan, which, I understand, is no longer interested in building in Great Britain but might be interested in purchasing a brand new, highly automated car assembly plant in Northern Ireland, even if it did not build a De Lorean car but one of its own models?

During the many months since the receivership started there have been many inquiries of various kinds. The only serious interest at the moment is from the United Kingdom consortium and from Mr. De Lorean in America.

In view of the acute anxiety in Northern Ireland about the 21 per cent. unemployment, the acute anxiety of employees at De Lorean and the Minister's statement the other night about Harland and Wolff, is it not time for the Government to make a statement about their intentions with regard to public investment, so that the people of Northern Ireland can have some security for the future and some idea of where the economy is going?

The question relates to De Lorean. The Government could not have done more to help with regard to De Lorean and to encourage the receiver-managers in every possible way to try to find a way forward. That is the positive help that we are giving in this case.

Housing (Improvement)

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many (a) rural cottages and (b) older post-war Housing Executive dwellings have been improved in the most recent convenient period for which figures are available.

In 1981–82 improvements were made to some 186 rural cottages owned by the Housing Executive. This year the executive has already begun work on improvements to 864 cottages and expects to start improvements to the remainder next year.

The Housing Executive's records do not detail the ages of houses on which improvements are made.

Is the Minister aware that we are extremely pleased with the progress that has finally been made with the improvement of rural cottages? Is he further aware that there has been great disappointment in the past about setting out programmes for houses that were not fulfilled in the proposed time scale? Will he therefore ensure that the targets for the post-war dwellings improvement scheme can be met? Does he agree that it would be better for people to have a happy surprise if houses are completed early, rather than their not being done at all? What will be the financial arrangements for the improvement of postwar dwellings? Will it be the same source as for the improvement of rural cottages?

I well understand the hon. Gentleman's point. Expectations were aroused that it would be possible to complete the rural cottage improvements much earlier than has been achieved. It took longer to start the scheme than had been expected, but I assure him that in the next 12 months very substantial progress will be made.

What progress has been made in the sale of publicly owned property in Northern Ireland that has been modernised in that way?

Some 10,000 public sector houses in Northern Ireland have been sold to the occupiers since the beginning of last year. The hon. Gentleman may be interested to know that that total appears to be above the general level in the United Kingdom as a whole. It is certainly the largest for any public housing authority in the United Kingdom.

As the Minister knows from his experience at the Department of the Environment that there is a very long waiting list for homes in Northern Ireland, will he persuade the Housing Executive to hand over empty houses that are in a habitable condition to people who are desperate for homes?

If the hon. Gentleman will give me details of any such houses, I shall be glad to have the matter looked into.

Order. The hon. Member for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney) indicated to me that he would like to ask a supplementary question on this. I think that there will be time for both his questions.

What proportion of the cost of improvements will have been paid for by taxes raised in Northern Ireland?

There is no separate accounting in the form in which the hon. Gentleman's question invites me to answer.

Prison System

13.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he has any plans to eliminate special category status from Northern Ireland prisons on the opening of the new prison complex at Maghaberry; and what effect the opening of the new prison will have on the Northern Ireland prison system.

I have no plans at present to eliminate special category status or to move the remaining special category prisoners from their existing accommodation at Her Majesty's prison Maze compound.

The larger of the two new prisons at Maghaberry will provide accommodation for 450 male prisoners. It is expected to be ready for occupation early in 1983 and will be used to deal with overcrowding, which still exists elsewhere in the prison system. How far that can be achieved and maintained depends upon the future prison population.

The smaller prison for women at Maghaberry is expected to be ready later next year. When it opens, the existing women's prison at Armagh, the greater part of which is over 200 years old, will be closed.

Would the opening of the new prison at Maghaberry be an appropriate occasion for the House to convey through my right hon. Friend to everyone in the Northern Ireland prison service our appreciation and gratitude for the courageous, dedicated and professional job that they do on our behalf?

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's remarks. Tributes have been paid in the House today to both the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Northern Ireland prison service. I am sure that they will be very pleased to hear of those well merited tributes.

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that there are no commitments or understandings which stand in the way of the complete abolition of special category status in the prisons of Northern Ireland and that it is desirable that this unacceptable anomaly be eliminated as soon as possible?

There are no commitments or understandings of any kind. On the latter part of the right hon. Gentleman's question, again this is a matter that must be kept under review to see how we get on.

Has the, Secretary of State's attention been drawn to the unanimous condemnation, voiced in the editorial comments of the Irish newspapers, of the terrible carnage in London last week? In particular, is he aware of the humane and compassionate editorial in the Irish Press immediately following the terrible brutality in London? Is he aware, however, that some of the writers of those editorials who condemn the violent activities of the IRA also support political status, particularly the editor of the Irish Press? Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that when the perpetrators of the terrible crimes in London are apprehended there will never be any question of their being given special category status?

There can be absolutely no question of political status for anyone convicted of these terrible crimes. I am, however, grateful for the editorial comments of the Irish Press in the past 10 days. I am also grateful for the statements by Ministers of the Irish Republic, including the Irish Prime Minister, and for the action taken in the Tuite case, which was a great improvement on the previous situation.

Prime Minister

Engagements

Q1.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 29 July.

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

Will my right hon. Friend take time today to consider the remarks reported to have been made by the secretary of the Confederation of Health Service Employees to the effect that he would recommend that his members should break the code of conduct and put patients' lives at risk in pursuit of a 12 per cent. pay claim? Does my right hon. Friend agree that it would be tragic news for the Health Service, and especially for patients, if a union enjoying monopoly power were prepared to put self-service before public service?

I join my hon. Friend in wholly condemning any action that would break the code of conduct, which would result only in bringing maximum misery and harm to the sick, the old and the injured and would be utterly disgraceful. I hope that the Health Service unions will listen to what I understand is the advice of the TUC, namely, that any such action would be quite unacceptable.

In view of the widespread comment in the Irish media on the dressing down administered on Tuesday by a Foreign Office Minister to the Irish ambassador, will the Prime Minister consider whether it would be right for a formal statement to be issued on behalf of Her Majesty's Government making clear the nature of the intimation and the background to it? Is the right hon. Lady aware that many people in the House and out of doors hope that the forthcoming recess will be an occasion for her to secure some modicum of peace and relaxation?

On the right hon. Gentleman's first question, my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, made it perfectly clear to the Irish ambassador that no commitment exists for Her Majesty's Government to consult the Irish Government on matters affecting Northern Ireland. That has always been our position. We reiterate and emphasise it, so that everyone is clear about it.

I said, "on matters affecting Northern Ireland". [Interruption.] Does the right hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon) wish to ask a question in the middle of my reply to a supplementary?

I thank the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) very much for his kind remarks and fully reciprocate them.

On that last point, will my right hon. Friend have a really good holiday, knowing that it is extremely well earned and that the vast majority of people in this country want the benefit for many years to come of her strength of purpose and clarity of vision?

Depending upon events, I hope to be in a position to take a good holiday after this momentous year. As I have said to my hon. Friend and others before, I do not think that I could take more than another 10 years such as this has been.

May I join the apparent sense of jollification by saying to the right hon. Lady how relieved and grateful we are for the U-turn that she has taken regarding the "Atlantic Conveyor"? That will help a number of workers in the shipyards to have decent holidays as well as some work. Does the right hon. Lady agree that it is appalling that there should have to be a war to get work into British shipyards? Does she further agree with the head of British Shipbuilders that this is a vote of confidence in British Shipbuilders? Will the right hon. Lady guarantee that it will have that vote of confidence for years ahead?

The right hon. Gentleman struggles too hard with his question. The "Atlantic Conveyor" was lost in unique circumstances—circumstances in which we had the support of the whole House and of the people. I felt very strongly, as did almost everyone, that the ship should be built in this country. As I said on Tuesday, it was necessary to obtain the co-operation of three parties to the rebuilding. One, certainly, was the Government. Another was British Shipbuilders and the suppliers to British Shipbuilders. The third was the work force and Cunard. We secured that co-operation, with the result that the order has been placed in the North-East, and I am very pleased indeed that it has. All the calculations are based on the ship being delivered on time.

If the right hon. Lady will not accept congratulations from me, perhaps she will accept them from Lord Matthews, who certainly believes that there has been a U-turn? Does the right hon. Lady agree that if we cannot build ships in British yards it will not be much use making speeches or having sermons preached about Britannia ruling the waves?

The Government played their part, British Shipbuilders reduced its price and Cunard took some increased cost upon itself. That was all very good. However, everything depends upon the delivery date being before the end of August 1984. When the representatives of the TUC came to see me they, and those who are concerned with the shipbuilding industry, pledged faithfully that they would secure delivery by that time. It is a matter of honour that they do so.

Will my right hon. Friend reflect on the fact that the aerospace and defence industries will be gathering at Farnborough in a few weeks' time? Will she care to add her voice to those who have made an assessment of the performance of British defence equipment in the Falklands and, indeed, the performance of all those who worked in the industry to sustain our fighting forces?

I hope that the excellent performance of the defence equipment in the Falkland Islands campaign and the splendid people who operated that equipment will accrue to our advantage at the Farnborough air show. If I may select one piece of equipment, the performance of the Sea Harriers was outstanding. Not one Sea Harrier was lost in aerial combat.

Q2.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 29 July.

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

Will the right hon. Lady have time today to discuss with her ministerial colleagues the Government's proposals to set aside the fair wages clauses in the 1946 fair wages resolution relating to Government contracts? The proposals have been shamefully tucked away in a written answer just before the recess. Does the right hon. Lady recognise that this is a potential return to slave labour for Government contracts and a return to the eighteenth century, from which we thought we had emerged a long time ago?

My reply to the hon. and learned Gentleman is "absolute nonsense". Nearly all the claims made under the fair wages resolution are made by unions on behalf of relatively well-paid members. The resolution has little, if any, relevance to the issues of low pay. The Government have scrupulously observed their international treaty obligations and will continue to do so. Some of our major competitor countries—some of whom have well-paid employees—never ratified that convention, including the United States, West Germany, Canada and the entire Eastern bloc.

Will my right hon. Friend take time before she goes on her well-earned holiday to remind the Health Service workers that they have security of employment, unlike many other people? Does she recall the words of the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) that one man's wage rise could be another man's job loss?

It is quite true that, working within cash limits, as we must, the more that is taken out in wages, the more jobs will be lost. The extra wages have to come from the total budget and there is loss of equipment, which means the loss of jobs for others. I agree with my hon. Friend that the National Health Service workers and many, not all, public sector workers, enjoy security of tenure. The offer to the National Health Service workers is a final offer and I hope that they will accept it.

In view of the American resistance to the invitation of British Steel and the Prime Minister's appeal on Tuesday to Cunard to display patriotism, will the right hon. Lady today discuss with the Home Secretary why his Department is ordering a £1 million antenna from an American company when the work can be done here, to specification and at the right price? Is she aware that this would immediately save 40 jobs at Marconi in Gateshead and probably secure this high technology industry for Britian?

I shall, of course, draw those facts to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. I am not familiar with any rival arguments that there may be. I shall discuss the matter with my right hon. Friend. The position of British Steel in relation to the United States is extremely serious for the industry. The United States had not agreed to negotiate with us on a bilateral basis and we are, therefore, pursuing the matter vigorously through our membership of the European Community.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a common fisheries policy has not yet been agreed, despite strenuous efforts? If there is no agreement by 31 December this year, can my right hon. Friend assure the House that there will be no sell-out of the British fishing industry and that the Government have a contingency plan to save the industry?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. If there is no agreement by the end of this year the position will be serious. We have, of course, made vigorous representations that the present arrangements should continue until we reach an agreement. I hope that we shall make much more progress in September, if not reach agreement, which would be better. The only country that is holding out against the agreement is Denmark.

Q3.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 29 July.

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

Will the Prime Minister give further consideration to the measures announced early this week concerning the long-term unemployed? Does the right hon. Lady appreciate that the number of long-term unemployed is the most important indicator of the state of the economy? Does she realise that measures such as job-sharing, hire purchase arrangements and an increase in the number of enterprise zones are not only incompetent but dishonest in dealing with this problem? Why does not the right hon. Lady have the guts to admit that her policies have proved wrong and say that she will now embark on a controlled, selective reflation of the economy?

The hon. Gentleman voices a fundamental fallacy. He thinks that a Government can control the demand for the volume of goods and services bought from British industry. No Government can possibly do that. A Government can only control—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman is mouthing rubbish from a sedentary position. May I reciprocate the remark?

The only thing that the Government can do is to control the volume of money in the economy. How much of that money goes to increased prices, how much to increased imports and how much to purchasing more goods at home depends upon the population of Britain. In the decade from the 1970s to the 1980s, of every £100 of extra money in the economy, £95 went either to increased prices or to increased imports and only £5 went to increased output.

Business Of The House

3.30 pm

Will the Leader of the House state the business for the first week after the recess?

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

The business for the first week after the Adjournment will be as follows:

MONDAY 18 OcToBER—Remaining stages of the Mental Health (Amendment) Bill[Lords].

Second Reading of the Insurance Companies Bill [Lords], which is a consolidation measure.

TUESDAY 19 OCTOBER—Remaining stages of the Administration of Justice Bill [Lords].

Motion on the code of guidance on sites of special scientific interest.

WEDNESDAY 20 OCTOBER—Debate on a subject to be chosen by the Opposition.

Motion on the Driving Licences (Community Driving Licence) Regulations.

THURSDAY 21 OCTOBER—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill.

Remaining stages of the Insurance Companies Bill [Lords].

Motion on the Motor Vehicles (Tests) (Extension) Order.

FRIDAY 22 OCTOBER—A debate on the report of the Scott Committee of Inquiry into the value of pensions, Cmnd No. 8147, on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

The House may also be asked to consider other business as necessary and it is expected that the new Session will be opened on Wednesday 3 November.

On previous occasions I have asked for a statement from the Secretary of State for Energy about the sale of BNOC assests. A statement was made on Monday. May we have an extension of that statement to ensure that no action will be taken by the Government without a statement and a debate?

Replies by the Prime Minister show how necessary it is to have still further debates on unemployment. In recent weeks the Government have refused to provide the time for such a debate. We supplied the time this week. I hope that the Government will supply time for a debate before long because before we return two further unemployment figures will have been issued showing further increases in unemployment.

I note what the Leader of the Opposition says about a debate on unemployment after we return from the recess. He will appreciate that our return is but a span which is under the shadow of the Queen's Speech. Such matters will be central to our debate on the Queen's Speech.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy explained to the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) the technical problems which prevented the laying of directions covering the ultimate disposal of British Gas Corporation assets before the recess. No irrevocable steps on the disposal of the British Gas Corporation's offshore oil assests will be taken before right hon. and hon. Members have had an opportunity to debate them.

The Leader of the House undertook last week to see whether it was possible to have a debate and vote on the student grants prayer. That topic will come up on the debate on the Consolidated Fund, but there will be no opportunity for a vote. Will the Leader of the House honour his undertaking?

Yes. I have examined the problem and I am anxious to accommodate the right hon. Gentleman. Perhaps we can arrange through the usual channels for the issue to be debated upstairs.

Will it be convenient in the week that we return for the Government to make a statement not only on Lord Belstead's recent visit to Gibraltar but on any other visits made to Gibraltar by Ministers, particularly in relation to the commercialisation of the dockyard?

No arrangement has been made for such a debate in the first week after the recess, but there are plenty of opportunities for raising the matter through the facilities available to Back Benchers.

As we know from experience that the Government will make unpleasant statements as soon as the House rises for the recess, and since we cannot debate such matters in the first week after the recess, will the Leader of the House arrange for Ministers to make all their unpleasant statements tomorrow?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his decision at last to debate the Scott report on Friday 22 October is welcome? Will he ensure that the relevant Minister makes clear to the House the Government's broad response to the Megaw report since the two matters should be considered together?

Yes. My hon. Friend makes a valid point. He will acknowledge that the Government have an obligation to undertake widespread consultations on the Megaw report outside the House. I am sure that it will be possible to meet my hon. Friend's request.

Will the Leader of the House look at page 3777, item 20, of the Order Paper which asks that the Scottish Grand Committee should meet in Edinburgh during the recess to discuss the Hunter report? We understand that urgent action is required, possibly tomorrow, if that is to be facilitated. Because of the widespread interest and the need for Scottish Members to comment on that issue of privilege, will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to take action in the House tomorrow?

I shall certainly examine item 20, as requested. The hon. Gentleman will concede that his request involves an important innovation and that therefore I cannot guarantee that I shall answer in a way which is helpful. None the less, I shall consider the matter.

I assume that the Leader of the House is not willing to give way to that important innovation. Is it not strange that the Hunter report is not scheduled for debate in the first week after the recess?

Many items of business jostle for inclusion on the agenda. I am sorry that my hon. and learned Friend is disappointed at the absence of a debate on the Hunter report. He must not assume that its absence downgrades the importance attached by the Government to the issue.

Before 18 October the Government will have time to examine the decision in the Helen Smith case. An appeal is to be made against the decision to refuse to hold a coroner's inquest. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that has caused widespread repercussions and a feeling that there has been a cover-up by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office? A statement would help to clarify the position. May we have a statement in the week commencing 18 October?

I shall draw that request to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.

I think that the business will extend beyond the week that I have mentioned.

Does the Leader of the House realise that there has been a great deal of strong feeling on both sides of the House in support of the view put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Douglas)? Does he accept that the motion does not ask for a revolutionary change and that it would allow Scottish Members the opportunity of an early debate on the vital Hunter report, which is a subject of great controversy in Scotland? Will he give urgent consideration to this matter which is worrying members on both sides of the House?

Reverting to the proposed debate on the Scott report on Friday 22 October, dare we hope that, after all the time that has elapsed since the publication of the report, the basis debate will not be a "take note" motion but rather a definitive statement of the Government's policy?

Will the Leader of the House look again at motion No. 20 concerning the Scottish Grand Committee. Was he not being unnecessarily negative? He says that it is controversial, but if he examines yesterday's Hansard he will realise that there was strong support for the motion on both sides of the House. It is crucial that we should be allowed to debate the matter under the proper rules and privileges of the House. It is not controversial and it would be an innovation, but greater innovations have occurred when the House has been recalled—and it was recalled in April this year. Is there any reason why one Committee of the House should not be recalled? Is it not true that Select Committees can meet in the recess? The innovation is not as great as he suggests, but the demand for it is very great indeed.

The hon. Gentleman has made his case and I take note of it. I have told the hon. Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Douglas) that I will examine the matter, and, of course, I shall do so.

In view of the evidently successful devolution of the Scottish Grand Committee to Edinburgh, may we have an early debate on the desirability of devolving Scottish Question Time to Edinburgh and the substitution therefor of a Question Time for London, bearing in mind that Scotland has 71 Members and London has 92 Members?

My hon. Friend's point demonstrates the momentous implications once one gets into the area of a Committee meeting in Edinburgh.

We are grateful for the fact that the Leader of the House has said that he will consider motion No. 20. Will he accept that innovation is not necessarily a sin, even in Leaders of the House? Does he not accept that a discussion of the Hunter report in the House would be peculiarly appropriate because of the nature of the report and the subjects with which it deals? It is quite unsatisfactory that there should be no prospect of doing so until October or November, given that the report is to be published next week. Does he accept that there is a strong feeling that the matter has been handled with little competence and some insensitivity, and that by acting quickly tomorrow to facilitate a meeting of the Scottish Grand Committee he can do something to put that right?

I note what the hon. Gentleman has said, but I cannot sensibly add to the very original answer that I gave to the hon. Member for Dunfermline.

While welcoming the fact that we are to have a debate on the Scott report which has been before the House for a long time, and in view of the great public interest in index-linked pensions, will my right hon. Friend tell the House why the debate is to be on the Adjournment of the House and why it is to be on a Friday?

Many important debates take place on a Friday and, indeed, many important debates are taken on the Adjournment of the House. This will enable there to be a wide-ranging debate and it will enable the Government sensibly to assess the temperature of the House on this issue.

Unless there is a marked relief of the anxiety that is now facing the British steel industry, will the Leader of the House give an assurance that there will be a debate immediately after the House resumes? Has he taken note of early-day motion 639?

[That this House views with revulsion the manufacture in this country of weapons which administer electric shocks and which are very likely to be used for purposes of torture; deplores the sale of this equipment to regions which demonstrate a marked indifference to human rights; and, further, calls upon Her Majesty's Government to ensure that such equipment, which is described in both English and Spanish as "ideal for use in penal institutions" in the brochure provided by the manufacturer, is not promoted or displayed at exhibitions or presentations arranged or sponsored by public authorities.]

In the interests of international decency and Government consistency, may we have an expression of disapproval of the manufacture of instruments of torture in this country?

I note the early-day motion to which the hon. Gentleman refers. I shall draw the attention of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to his point. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman speaks with support throughout the Chamber.

With regard to the question of a debate on the steel industry, the week we return will be devoted substantially to finalising important legislation. But I am certain that following the Queen's Speech there will be an opportunity to debate the issues that the hon. Gentleman has in mind.

Will my right hon. Friend consider again the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Sir W. Clark) about index-linked pensions? Is he aware that the Government's plan to debate the subject on a Friday on a motion for the Adjournment of the House carries the implication that the Government regard this as an extremely hot potato and that it is a subject that they would not wish to have debated on a positive motion or when there are many hon. Members present?

No. It is perfectly reasonable that such a topic should be debated on a Friday. If by some happy circumstance one could have five Wednesdays in a week, that would be much easier for the managers of Government business. Friday is an available day and I am certain that all those who are committed to the subject will find it opportune to be here to lend their voices to the debate.

When will the House have an opportunity to debate the plight of the 15,000 United Kingdom passport holders who are entitled to settle in this country and the 5,000 available vouchers which are never taken up and which the Government refuse to reallocate? As the system lacks sense and compassion and causes unnecessary hardship, not least to the Asian community in Leicester, will the right hon. Gentleman ask the Home Secretary whether he will make a statement on this matter and try to act decently towards these suffering people?

I do not accept the hon. and learned Gentleman's description of the position. I will consult my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, as he requests.

Will my right hon. Friend accept that the quality of the Gracious Speech will not necessarily depend on the number of legislative threats and promises that it contains?

Have the Government, through the Prime Minister, sent a message of congratulation to the Archibishop of Canterbury on his memorable and meaningful sermon at St. Paul's on the need for peace and reconciliation? Will the right hon. Gentleman deny the report that the husband of the Prime Minister said that she was "spitting blood" after the service?

Will my right hon. Friend confirm or deny that a new Representation of the People Bill is being prepared in line with and to correspond to the new British Nationality Act?

My hon. Friend will not have to wait long for the Queen's Speech. He should not tempt me or anybody else.

Following the British Nationality Act 1981, when are the new draft immigration rules likely to be published?

I am sorry, but I cannot answer that question. I shall make inquiries and ensure that the hon. and learned Gentleman is informed.

Now that the long-awaited Select Committee on Transport's report on London Transport has been published, for whose publication the Government delayed any action that they intended to take to put matters right, will my right hon. Friend assure the House that, as soon as the House returns after the recess, the Secretary of State for Transport will make a statement about the Government's intentions? Even better, will the Government find time to debate this crucial issue because, in the meantime, Londoners are paying through the nose for an ever-declining service under the jurisdiction of the GLC which is almost universally mistrusted?

My hon. Friend will appreciate from my announcement that no provision has been made for a debate during the first week back, but I shall draw the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport to his point about the desirability of a statement.

Has my right hon. Friend read this morning that, after about a year of costly and disruptive legal procedures and court actions, the EEC has finally agreed to the Berisford-British Sugar takeover, which is the same decision that he and the Office of Fair Trading took about a year ago? Would it be possible in the spill-over period after the recess to have even half a day of Government time to discuss the real dangers to British jobs, British investment and major British firms from having a second court of appeal established on essential takeovers, mergers and bids?

I have not read the newspaper report to which my hon. Friend refers. Clearly there is no provision for a debate upon the topic that he has raised in the first week following our return after the Summer Recess. However, I have such respect for my hon. Friend that I know perfectly well that the issue will obtrude on to the Floor of the House by one means or another.

Has the right hon. Gentleman noticed that, in replying to the short, simple, identical and doubtless unsolicited question for written reply which the hon. Member for Melton (Mr. Latham) addressed to the Secretaries of State for Trade, Energy and Wales, each right hon. Gentleman has given in Hansard four or five columns of tedious self-justification? If they must do this, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that in future they do it by oral statements so that we may cross-examine them?

If the answers were tedious, it is possible that they were not all that self-justifying. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Melton (Mr. Latham) has done no more than has been done on many occasions in the past. Clearly many Departments of State have very good stories to tell and are anxious to have them placed upon the record. It is about as innocent as that.

Is the right hon. Gentleman really suggesting that we should adopt the revolting European habit of writing speeches into the record? Surely Ministers should be cross-examined in the House.

No, but I am well aware that the opportunity for Departments to place items upon the record in the written answers columns that they believe to be advantageous to policy is long established.

If the hon. Gentleman is wise, he will leave the matter to his right hon. Friend.

Business Of The House (Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill)

Ordered,

That, notwithstanding the practice of the House relating to the interval between the various stages of Bills of aids and supplies, more than one stage of the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill may be proceeded with at this day's sitting.—Mr. David Hunt.]

Statutory Instruments, &C

By leave of the House, I shall put together the Questions on Motions 2 to 4 on the Order Paper.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 73A (Standing Committees on Statutory Instruments, &c.).
That the Industrial Training (Clothing and Allied Products Board) Order 1969 (Amendment) Order 1982 (S.I., 1982, No. 920) be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.
That the Industrial Training (Offshore Petroleum Board) Order 1982 (S.I., 1982, No. 921) be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, & c.
That the Industrial Training (Plastics Processing Board) Order 1982 (S.I., 1982, No. 923) be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, & c.—[Mr. David Hunt.]

Question agreed to.

Sir Peter Thorne

3.52 pm

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

I beg to move,

That this House acknowledges the exemplary manner in which Sir Peter Francis Thorne, KCVO, CBE, has discharged the duties of the Office of Serjeant at Arms, expresses its gratitude for his devoted service to the House and extends to him its best wishes for his retirement.
Sir Peter Thorne has been in the service of the House since 1948. He was Deputy Serjeant at Arms for 19 years and he has been Serjeant at Arms since 1976. Throughout that time he has upheld with the greatest distinction the best traditions of his office. The many private tributes which have already been paid to him on his impending retirement have shown the universal regard and affection in which he is held by all the Departments of the House and throughout the Palace of Westminster.

Today's motion enables hon. Members to give formal and public expression to the deep gratitude that is felt on both sides of the House for the work that he has done. During his years of office, Sir Peter, aided by a remarkable memory, has built up an unrivalled knowledge of every aspect of the work of his Department. He has used his literary skill and authority to put at least some of this experience and historical research on record for the guidance of his successors. This knowledge has always been applied in the most practical way to the day-to-day problems of the House.

Accommodation in the House is not always all that many hon. Members would wish. That it is as good as it is owes a great deal to the personal energies and ingenuity of the Serjeant at Arms. More sombrely, hazards to security have greatly added to the responsibilities of the Serjeant at Arms in recent years.

Whenever threats have arisen, Sir Peter has always been found at the point of danger, every ready to apply his experience and versatility and to take the lead in finding practical solutions. He has carried out his many responsibilities here with dignity, self-effacing courtesy and unfailing kindness.

On behalf of the House, I express our profound gratitude and affectionate best wishes for the future to Sir Peter and Lady Anne, and extend a very warm welcome to his successor, Major Victor Le Fanu.

3.54 pm

I believe that it has sometimes been the custom for motions of this character thanking the Serjeant at Arms for his services to be signed by the Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition. On this occasion a number of other names appear on the Order Paper. I have been asked by the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) and the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) to add their congratulations to those which have been offered by the Leader of the House and which I wish to offer on behalf of the official Opposition, and I am glad to do so.

We are glad to agree with the motion that the Leader of the House has placed on the Order Paper. The services of Sir Peter Thorne have been of an exceptional character. All of us in many different parts of the House can pay our own individual tribute to the courtesy, kindness, consideration and unfailing persistence with which he has performed his duties in the House.

The Leader of the House has referred to the exceptional circumstances in some respects that have prevailed over recent years. Sir Peter has contributed to the convenience of hon. Members and to their safety. It is of very great importance that the safety of hon. Members should not interfere with the proper conduct of our business in every way. That takes considerable provision and forethought and has involved the anxiety of the officials and servants of the House. We all discover very soon after our arrival in this place that without the servants of the House it would be impossible for hon. Members to discharge their duties properly. All who have known him will say that the House has never had a more faithful servant than Sir Peter Thorne. The Opposition are glad to support the motion.

3.56 pm

On behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends in both the Social Democratic Party and the Liberal Party, I wish to add our words of appreciation for what Sir Peter Thorne has done. I do so with particular pleasure because it so happens that Colonel Thorne, as he then was, arrived as Assistant Serjeant at Arms in 1948 within a very few months of my first arrival in the House. Over the years he has occupied a more permanent seat than myself, especially in the past few months, and he has occupied it consistently in a way that has benefited enormously the service of the House. He has done this and discharged his other duties with a unique combination of courtesy, efficiency, friendliness, and distinction. We thank him warmly, and we wish him well for the future.

3.58 pm

I think that I am the only ranker present who was in this place before Colonel Thorne arrived as Assistant Serjeant at Arms. I have been pleased to know him personally. It is unusual for rankers to get the opportunities that are enjoyed by military officers. Being a military man before he came here—once a military man always a military man—I think that Colonel Thorne will welcome a word of appreciation from the rankers, the Back Benchers. We do not often have the privileges that are extended to Privy Councillors, who walk in to make their speeches, walk out and never make a reappearance. There are one or two honourable exceptions, and I note that my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) is in his place.

I have known previous Serjeants at Arms and I am able to make comparisons. Colonel Thorne, as I always refer to him, was always kind, courteous and helpful, especially to Back Benchers. With great respect to you, Mr. Speaker, I am not much concerned about Privy Councillors—they are well looked after—but Colonel Thorne treated each Member of the House alike. If one went to him and he could not do something immediately, he would go out of his way to do it. Often he failed because of the non-co-operation of the Establishment, and especially of hon. Members. He innovated the excellent precept of reserving car park spaces for disabled persons, but many hon. Members ignored that. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Yes, and then they came to the House and made speeches about helping the stricken and the disabled and said that we should all go out of our way to help them. Then we find their cars parked in spaces reserved for the disabled. Colonel Thorne tried to put right such matters.

I have never known Colonel Thorne to lose his temper—

I accept that I am not a "Yes" man. I will have a go at anyone, as I probably have at Colonel Thorne, but there are no hard feelings on my part and I know that there are none on his. As an hon. Member who will also retire one day—[HON. MEMBERS: "No"]—may I say to Colonel Thorne, who I hope is listening in his reserved box upstairs, that I hope that he has a long retirement and that we can both discuss, being of the same retirement age, the comments that I have made on behalf of all Back Benchers. I speak now as the most senior other ranker present.

Before I put the Question, I beg leave of the House to make a statement on behalf of the Deputy Speakers and myself.

I have never heard warmer and more sincere tributes paid to a servant of this House than those to which we have just listened. It has been a great privilege for those of us in the Chair to work with Colonel Sir Peter Thorne, who has been a friend to us, who has shown loyalty and who has never complained at any duty that he has been invited to undertake. The House is the richer for his having served among us, and we wish him well.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House acknowledges the exemplary manner in which Sir Peter Francis Thorne, KCVO, CBE, has discharged the duties of the Office of Serjeant at Arms, expresses its gratitude for his devoted service to the House and extends to him its best wishes for his retirement.

May I say to the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Lewis) that it would be a great favour to me if someone would make him a Privy Councillor!

Adjournment (Summer)

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That, at its rising on Friday 30th July, this House do adjourn till Monday 18th October and shall not adjourn until Mr. Speaker shall have reported the Royal Assent to the Appropriation Act and to any other Acts which have been agreed upon by both Houses.—[Mr. Biffen.]

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Have you selected the amendment in my name?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, and sorry to disappoint him. The answer is in the negative. I did not select the amendment, but no doubt the hon. Gentleman will be fortunate enough to catch the eye of whoever occupies the Chair and can advance his views.

4.4 pm

I wish to raise with the Leader of the House a matter of which I hope I have given him adequate notice. The matter affects affairs during the prospective adjournment of the House that should be taken into account before the House rises. It concerns the administration of justice in Northern Ireland, especially the administration of the county courts. That administration is the responsibility of the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General, and in Northern Ireland we have been conscious of the personal interest of both those Law Officers in their duties in Northern Ireland.

To mention courts of law in Northern Ireland brings to mind criminal justice, but promptitude and efficiency in the administration of civil justice is no less a requirement than in the administration of criminal justice. In Northern Ireland, any delay in the administration of the law and any impediment to the citizen in obtaining redress is a proper cause for anxiety.

By an order that came into force on 1 June, the jurisdiction of the county courts—the limit of the value of cases brought before county courts in that province—was increased in line with similar increases affecting the county courts in England and Wales. However, although the order for England and Wales was debatable and was debated in another place, under the present constitutional arrangements for Northern Ireland we have not been able to debate the implications of that extension of jurisdiction of the county courts.

Such is the pressure upon the county courts and such are the physical difficulties faced by those who work in them, that, whereas an order of the High Court can be obtained by the litigant's solicitors from the appropriate office within a few days, in the county courts—some of the poorest people and those in the greatest difficulty have recourse to the county courts—especially in Belfast, which covers the main areas of population in the Province, it usually takes five weeks from the date that the court gives its judgment for the order to be corrected. That statistic, which refers to the period before the increased jurisdiction, cannot be acceptable or satisfactory. The pressure will be increased abnormally by the increase in the jurisdiction.

In England and Wales it was estimated by those commending the extension of the jurisdiction that it should be about 3 per cent. this year. The minimum such estimate that has been made for Northern Ireland is 9 per cent. Arguments that have been advanced in a most detailed and logical manner by the Law Society and the Belfast Solicitors' Association, show that it is much more likely to be about 20 per cent. or 25 per cent. That is based upon an analysis of the value of the cases that have come before the High Court in recent years and which, under the extension of jurisdiction, are likely to be moved to the county courts.

It is one thing to preach lightly so minuscule an increase in burden as that anticipated in England and Wales, but when one is to place, at any rate a 10 per cent., and those best qualified believe a 25 per cent., increase in burden upon the already overburdened county courts of the Province, then those who represent Northern Ireland are entitled to remonstrate and to ask that certain undertakings be given by the Government before the House rises.

The undertaking that I have in mind is that the deficiencies, both of staff and equipment, which even before the extension of the jurisdiction were imposing unacceptable delays and inefficiencies in the administration of justice, will be swiftly removed in the next few months. Had we had the opportunity to make these representations on the Floor of the House before the enactment took place, we would have sought an assurance that the order would be implemented only pari passu with the increase in the facilities. I believe that that is technically impossible now that the order has come into effect on 1 June.

Shortly before that debate, in a written answer on 27 May from the Solicitor-General I was told that:
"I am assured that there are sufficient premises and staff to cope with this increase when it"—
I think "it" means the order—
"comes into effect on 1 June."—[Official Report, 27 May 1982; Vol. 24, c. 371.]
With the greatest respect to the Solicitor-General, he is misinformed. Indeed, the figures that I have already given to the House show both the fact and the extent of the misinformation which must underlie such an assurance as was given to him. The assurance that I therefore seek through the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House I shall put in a different form.

It is that without delay, and in no circumstances as late as the resumption of the House, the Law Officers of the Crown will urgently assess the deficiencies in the county courts of Northern Ireland, both in terms of staff, that is the judiciary and the assistants of the judiciary, and the physical equipment of the courts, and will make a public statement as to the speed with which they expect to remove them.

I venture to say that neither the legal profession nor the laity in Northern Ireland ought to rest satisfied with the previous level of delay in the administration of justice. They should expect some indication from the Law Officers responsible for that administration that within the next three months those deficiencies will be removed so that those who, as a result of this extension of the jurisdiction, will take their cases—and there are advantages in doing so—to the county court instead of the High Court, can look for no less prompt satisfaction of their claims than they would have obtained under the High Court procedure.

Unless that can be assured, it is a mockery to seek to assist litigants by increasing the jurisdiction of the county courts. Therefore, I trust that the Leader of the House, on behalf of the Law Officers of the Crown, will be able to recognise the unacceptable circumstances to which I have drawn his attention. I trust that he will undertake that they will be of immediate concern and the subject of an inquiry of the Law Officers, and that within the next three months we in Northern Ireland shall have reason, in terms of a statement by Law Officers, to anticipate a dramatic improvement in the efficiency of the administration of the civil law in the civil courts.

As I said at the outset, one is dealing here with the civil jurisdiction, but it would be rather absurd for an hon. Member representing a Northern Ireland constituency, in raising a question affecting civil jurisdiction, not to draw attention to the fact that still, despite proposals for the extension and improvement of the existing courts, the physical circumstances under which the criminal law is administered in Northern Ireland are in many places completely unacceptable and would be found shocking by hon. Members if they were to visit those courts.

I add that lest anyone here or elsewhere should assume that by raising a matter that affects civil jurisdiction I was in any way implying satisfaction on the part of my hon. Friends or myself with the circumstances in which physically the criminal law is administered in Northern Ireland. I trust that that point too, although one familiar to the Law Officers of the Crown, will reach their ears, once again and loudly, through the mouth of the Leader of the House.

4.17 pm

Before the House rises for the Summer Recess some consideration should be given to what to do with those who commit terrorist offences. The crimes that were committed in London just last week are too vile to bear mention, and I cannot help but wonder at the mentality of those wo can plant bombs in the way that those people did. They put bombs under a bandstand at lunchtime when a concert was about to take place and when innocent children could have been there. They planted a bomb filled with nails and watched the Blues and Royals ride through Hyde Park and draw near to it before exploding it. Those people must have the minds of sadists to do such terrible things.

I am thankful that I was not in that area, as some hon. Members were, to witness those terrible scenes. We did not pay sufficient tribute to the enormous amount of work that was done to help, particularly by the police. I feel sad that certain Liberal Members chose that same day to attack the police. If those hon. Members have evidence of corruption in the Metropolitan Police, their remedy is to send evidence to the Attorney-General or the Director of Pulblic Prosecutions. The necessary investigations could then take place. To make the bland charges that they made and to blacken the reputations of a large number of innocent members of the Metropolitan Police Force is not fair play.

The terrorist incidents last week caused tremendous shock in this country, and there was a universal call that the people responsible for these events must be caught and brought to justice. I quote part of a letter in the Daily Mail on 26 July from a lady who lives in St. Leonards on Sea. She says:
"Before the expressions of rage and horror die down, and complacency becomes the order of the day again, can someone please answer a few questions for ordinary folk like me?
Why are so few IRA terrorists brought to public justice? Why are they apparently allowed to parade through the streets, and fire tributes to their dead members at funerals.
And why are we so eager to fight injustices and tyranny in the Falklands (and quite rightly so) and yet are so ineffective against the enermy within?
I realise that the Northern Ireland question is a very complex matter and difficult for we lay people to understand. What we do notice, however, is the pride wth which the IRA claim responsibility for their atrocities andthe number of innocent bystanders and the families of policemen and soldiers who suffer at their hands."
Such points have been repeated over and over again by millions of our people.

It is because of this that we have to think seriously of what to do to those who are found guilty of terrorist offences. I realise that on several occasions the House has overwhelmingly rejected the idea of reintroducingthe death penalty. However, before we leave for the Summer Recess we should have some chance to discuss that vexed question again. There are a number of reasons why I believe that the death penalty should be brought back as a deterrent.

First, life imprisonment does not seem to have deterred the terrorists. The risk of being put in prison for the rest of their lives does not stop them planting bombs. No doubt they hope that one day there will be a political solution in Ireland, and that they would then get an amnesty because they would be regarded as political prisoners. Secondly, capital punishment would be a deterrent, and, as a consequence, innocent lives would be saved. Thirdly, I believe that the overwhelming majority in this country are in favour of capital punishment for those found guilty of murder by terrorist activity. People generally are becoming increasingly cynical because they think that hon. Members are completely out of touch with their views and that we ignore their wishes.

I am sure that even the strongest abolitionist in the House would not deny that a referendum would show overwhelming support for the restoration of capital punishment. I do not see why hon. Members should feel that we know better than the people whom we represent how to cope with the terrorist threat. The IRA itself realises that capital punishment is a deterrent. As Sir James Fitzjames Stephen, the eminent Victorian lawyer and writer on legal history stated,
"No other punishment deters men so effectually from committing crimes as the punishment of death".
As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) said in a previous debate, the IRA believes in capital punishment. It uses capital punishment for those who renege on it. It would follow, therefore, that if capital punishment were restored for terrorist offences, it would deter some IRA supporters. The IRA thrives on the fact that it can put fear and terror into the hearts of many people. As a consequence, many of its members are shielded. Is it not likely that the security forces would get more information about the whereabouts of IRA activists if people realised that they had just as much to fear from the State as from the IRA?

The outrages in London on 20 July shocked the world. I hope that the Irish Americans who give money to Noraid now see clearly how that money was spent. I only hope that the shock of knowing that six inch nails were exploded into the bodies of helpless men, women and animals will mean the drying up of financial aid for the IRA from the United States. The monsters responsible for those crimes boast about it, and do it in the name of a united Ireland.

I am Irish. My grandparents were all Irish. On one side they were Northern Irish Protestant Orange, and on the other they were Southern Irish Catholics. It is a terrible mixture, and perhaps that explains a great deal. As a child, I saw the tremendous bitterness that religion caused between different members of my family. It taught me one thing: never to argue anybody's religion.

As one of Irish descent, I cannot help wondering why the citizens of Eire who come to this country are given preferential treatment. They can come and go as they please, free of immigration controls. They have the same rights as citizens of the United Kingdom to our social services and the National Health Service and—surprise, surprise—they can also vote in our parliamentary elections. If there were reciprocal agreements, and if citizens of the United Kingdom who live in Eire could vote in parliamentary elections there, and take the benefits of their social services, I could see some justice in the arrangement, but that is not so. It is entirely a one-way traffic. That should be examined seriously because the latest terrorist attacks have sparked a mood of resentment in this country.

Has the hon. Member checked his facts? Both Eire and Britain are members of the EEC, and I understand that the EEC had stipulated that any resident of an EEC country must receive the same social services as he obtains in his own country. The hon. Gentleman shakes his head. Certainly, the French, the Germans and the Italians who come here are entitled to our social services under the EEC rule. I should have thought that Eire should reciprocate under the EEC regulations, even if it does not do it by an arrangement with Great Britain.

I think that that is done by individual agreement, but certainly the citizens of France, Western Germany and other members of the EEC cannot vote in our parliamentary elections. That is what I am saying.

The latest terrorist attacks have sparked a great mood of resentment in this country. People feel that those privileges should be stopped and that the citizens of Eire should be treated exactly the same as our other European neighbours. Certainly, we did not get much support from the Prime Minister of Eire during the recent conflict in the South Atlantic. In truth, not only did Mr. Haughey not give us much support, but he could not put the boot in quickly enough. I remind my right hon. Friend that one of the problems facing our security forces in Northern Ireland is that IRA terrorists come and go across the border with impunity.

My hon. Friend will also realise that British courts cannot touch the terrorists, because the Dublin Government regard them as political offenders. As a consequence, they are safe from extradition. I am sure that my right hon. Friend agrees that the time has now come to deal with these privileges which have existed for many years for what have been termed by respective Ministers in successive Administrations historical reasons. I very much hope that I can have an answer to the matters that I have raised before we rise for the Summer Recess.

4.26 pm

I want to raise certain matters, primarily about immigration—of which I have given notice to the Leader of the House—as matters that should be looked at before the House rises.

The Summer Recess, generally speaking, gives rise to certain difficulties for a number of people who, often for legitimate reasons, wish to visit this country, seek admission here, and are confronted by peremptory refusal by immigration officers. Such people, particularly during this long recess, often find it virtually impossible to make representations through Members of Parliament, even when the visit is likely to be of short duration and the application is refused at the point of entry. Members of Parliament, particularly during this recess, may be difficult to contact. People who come here may not be aware that they can make such representations and that help is available in that way. There must be a better system for dealing with such matters, because adverse decisions can often have devastating effects on the people concerned, who, perhaps, are prevented from meeting relatives whom they have not seen for a long time, even when there are compassionate circumstances, because the immigration officer does not believe the person seeking admission.

The situation is made far worse because there is a lack of a coherent policy in the Home Office for dealing with people from countries such as Iran. Alone among all the EEC countries, we appear to be adopting a far more inflexible policy to people from Iran who seek to remain in this country and who, by any reasonably objective standards, would qualify as political refugees. We are talking here of a Government who afford no recognition of the elementary standards of justice that we in this country take for granted. Iran is a country where there are summary executions and where torture is the order of the day. Nevertheless, our Government, at least in their immigration policy, seem to consider that the Iranian Government have a somewhat benign face. Evidently, for that purpose at least, although in some respects they proclaim otherwise, they are unaware or uncaring about the excesses and uncivilised behaviour that mark that Government. People who oppose the fundamentalist views of the Iranian Government face a risk of dire penalty if they are forced to return, although, of course, some cases are not so extreme.

During the recent debate on immigration, I drew attention to a constituency case of a young Iranian woman who had studied architecture in Britain. She had become used to the modern standards that apply in Britain and which are completely foreign to those currently applying in Iran. For her to be forced to return to Iran was unacceptable and even abhorrent. Yet, it was the Minister's decision that she should return. It so happens that she was saved from that fate because she married a British citizen, but the issue of principle was not faced by the Minister.

It is unacceptable that all too often the burden of proof of establishing that a person resident here and seeking to remain here would, in such circumstances, be exposed to the treatment to which I have alluded—harassment and punishment—should fall upon them. Such persons must establish that those penalties would necessarily befall them. That burden of proof is exceptionally difficult to discharge in individual cases. It may be too late when they are forced to return and those penalties befall them and the trap is sprung.

I regret that the Minister's views about this subject are so painfully inadequate. It is incumbent upon the Home Office to review its policies in this respect as a matter of great urgency. During the debate on immigration on 28 June 1982, in reply to my question about Poland, the Minister said:
"In the prevailing circumstances, we are not returning people to Poland."—[Official Report, 28 June 1982; Vol. 26, c. 690.]
Hon. Members would generally agree that the activities of the Polish Government are, in many respects, wholly unacceptable. There are serious breaches of human rights, but they are not in the same league of horror and abomination as exists in Iran today.

Why should such a distinction be drawn? Why not extend the same policy to Iranians? The Government should not place such people in such appalling jeopardy. The benefit of the doubt should be given to them and we should do exactly the same as we have done in regard to Poland.

I turn from that to an issue affecting South Africans—primarily white South Africans—some of whom feel that because of the racist nature of our immigration laws there must be some white victims to establish the Government's credentials in purporting not to apply racist standards in the operation of our immigration laws. Many South Africans seek permanent residence in Britain because they abhor the concept of apartheid and find the idea of returning to South Africa as utterly unacceptable as did the Iranian lady who faced being made to return to Iran. Here again, the Home Office appears to have no coherent policy.

We should not apply a strict, inflexible view to matters, almost, of political asylum. We should broaden the considerations and criteria that apply. That is particularly true of young South Africans who find abhorrent the idea of having to serve in the South African Services, perhaps being made to serve in Namibia, or Angola, making incursions of hundreds of miles, perhaps playing some part in suppressing human rights in South Africa. Those views should be taken proper account of.

However, in a case which I dealt with professionally rather than as a constituency matter, the Minister wrote to me through a Member of Parliament on 13 January, saying, in relation to young South Africans,
"We are currently reviewing cases involving South African nationals who wish to remain in the United Kingdom in order to evade military service in their own country."
On 12 July he wrote to say that
"This review has been completed, but I regret to inform you that the particular young South African has to return."
Is that fair? Is it equitable? Does it accord with the standards of justice that we think should be applied in Britain? Should not we apply a far broader concept in relation to our immigration policies in that regard?

Finally, I turn to an unrelated but important matter that was partially raised during Prime Minister's questions today. It relates to the need to ensure that the British shipbuilding industry can flourish if orders do not go abroad. What steps are the Government taking as a matter of urgency to confer with the shipowners, through the General Council of British Shipping, about flagging out? In other words, what steps are being taken about the avoidance of responsibilities that should be applied internationally to ensure that there are decent standards of employment and that ship-owners do not escape their obligations?

Recently several of our merchant vessels went to the Falkland Islands. The National Union of Seamen gave unstintingly in its efforts then. All sorts of tributes were paid at that time. How lasting will those tributes be? If some of the British shipowners had had their way, if the National Union of Seamen and the Merchant Navy and Air Line Officers Association and other shipping unions, had not fought against flagging out on the part of some of the owners of vessels that went to the Falkland Islands, they would not have been able to sail.

If the Minister were to say that we can always repatriate the vessels in time of emergency—there may be such an agreement but I do not think that it would always apply because seafarers cannot be repatriated—it must be remembered that one of the corollaries of flagging out is that decent standards are abandoned in the seafaring community and there will not be a seafaring community worth its name in a few years' time. That has been found to be the case in the United States of America. THerefore, faced with such a crisis again, we might not be able to crew the necessary vessels.

That is an extremely dangerous situation. I see no evidence that the Government have thought positively about that dangerous state of affairs. If there is to be a credible defence policy, one cannot apply the standards of the market economy to a vital branch of that defence strategy. Yet it is that market economy to which the Government seem to be totally wedded, however irrelevant it may be.

I urge the Government to think seriously and positively about our Merchant Service. It must be recognised that those concepts cannot be applied because they would inevitably weaken the contribution that the Merchant Service can make. I hope that the Leader of the House will assure hon. Members that the Government are giving those matters urgent attention. If they do not, grave damage will be done to the whole fabric of Britain's defence strategy.

4.39 pm

We should not adjourn for the long Summer Recess until we have debated the state of the police forces in this country. However, before coming to that subject I wish to mention briefly another topic that I spoke about this time last year. I refer to the condition of the Church of England and other Churches in Britain. I know that this subject worries many hon. Members. The controversy that unfortunately broke out about the content and style of the service on Monday for the Falkland Islands typifies the problem that the House increasingly has to face vis-a-vis the Church.

We are supposed to deal with matters temporal, and the Church with matters spiritual. However, unfortunately many of the bishops and clergy, instead of being concerned with the state of individual souls and fundamental matters such as sin and redemption, seem much more interested in secular subjects such as nuclear disarmament, pacifism and what I would call general welfare matters—that subjects that are so loved by the Liberal intelligentsia. Can one wonder the the churches are emptying as a yawning gap develops between what the clergy think and talk about and what ordinary people believe, and expect the clergy to teach them?

This issue must deeply concern the Synod, but if it fails to deal with the problem it will be our duty to step in, once again.

I shall not give way, because many hon. Members wish to speak and interventions will lessen the time available for their speeches. After all, the hon. Gentleman is a frequent contributor to our debates.

As a loyal churchman, this subject is extremely painful to me and so I shall say no more about it now. However, unless there is a change among the bishops and clergy, and unless they return to fundamental truths instead of the more modish, fashionable but temporary phases of thought, the House will have to return to it.

In recent months many people have been concerned about the state of our police force. Therefore, we should certainly debate that subject before the Summer Recess. I do not mean, of course, that we should attack the police. That would be wholly wrong and utterly irresponsible. Nor do I want the police forces in the provinces to come under political control. That would have the most dangerous consequences. However, I wish to propose one fundamental reform: that the police force should introduce a new officer class. I ask hon. Members to consider the difficulties under which the police have laboured in recent years.

Under the Labour Government, as we all know, the police were underpaid and seriously under strength. Many experienced men in the middle ranks left the force. They had to contend with a continual rise in crime and, above all, in crimes of violence. The Old Christian morality and standards were breaking down and in many urban areas, particularly in new towns and on new estates, people seemed rootless and seemed not to know where they belonged in society. Parents were no longer so strict or confident in training their children and the wretched permissive society of the 1960s and 1970s did not help matters. Therefore, the police had to face not only new difficulties, but new problems with immigrants as well as the terrible rioting that was formerly unknown in this country's long history. The police were not helped by the activities of the pro-immigrant lobby, or by some of the statements made by Lord Scarman, who suggested that the police should go easy on the blacks.

The other day I read a complaint from a senior policeman in one of the former riot areas. He said that nowadays a riot could easily be caused by stopping a black to ask him not to ride his bicycle on the pavement or by asking a motorist for his licence. The police can be helped only if the law is applied equally to everyone and if newcomers adopt our standards of conduct and behaviour.

The police record in relation to the continuing menace of terrorism is good. They have also had their successes in dealing with the drug problem. However, incidents such as burglaries and street crime have unfortunately defeated them. The public has a large part to play in assisting the police and those who criticise the police should particularly remember that. Despite its faults, our police force is still the best in the world. The local bobby, who is now increasingly returning to the beat is, in most places, a popular and respected person. Our police are certainly gentler than many foreign police forces. They need all the help that we can give them.

Nevertheless, recent events have been disturbing. The bungling and delays in capturing the Yorkshire Ripper were deplorable. Recent events in Buckingham Palace are almost unbelievable. On hearing about the slackness of Buckingham Palace's resident police I immediately asked myself where the orderly officer was, but of course, there was no such officer.

Corruption in the Metropolitan Police is the most serious problem of all, although I deplore those who exaggerate the possible number of police involved. My next remarks apply both to the Metropolitan Police, with its own special problems, and the provincial forces. The whole force lacks and needs leadership at every level. That can be properly provided only by introducing a new officer class, properly recruited and trained, starting in a college such as Sandhurst, and on the lines of Her Majesty's Forces. That reform would take several years to have its full effect but it would, at once, change the climate and morale in the whole force. I am well aware that the function of the police service is quite different from that of the Armed Services, but leadership is still required and that leadership has been lacking. The police need the leadership that officers in Her Majesty's Forces give.

Since the end of Lord Trenchard's experiment along those lines before the war, the police force has been, in Sir Robert Mark's phrase, "an artisan force". That is to say, everyone has to enter the force as a police constable and has to work his way slowly and solidly up the ranks. There will always be some who will rise in that way, and that is wholly admirable, because they have the highest personal qualities. That should be the exception, not the rule.

No one in the Armed Services believes that all senior officers would have risen from the ranks. I hope that those new men who might enter the police force to become officers would be the product of our public and independent grammar schools, where the accent has always been on leadership. Leadership of the highest standard from men of a higher social and intellectual background is urgently required in the police force. Their entry would quickly alter the social composition of the force and give a sharper and clearer definition to the fight against crime and today's horribly clever criminals. I believe that corruption would be rooted out in a remarkably short time.

Too many comparisons must not be made between the police and the Armed Forces, but it is sad that when our forces did so well in the Falkland Islands the police should be having their present difficulties. I hope that the Home Secretary will consider my words carefully. He knows that I am pro-police, and that I want to help. I do not believe that the present position should be allowed to continue. I see no other long-term solution except the creation of an officer class. No obstacles should be allowed to stand in the way—no inquiries, no further delay and no pressure from the Police Federation of England and Wales. The nation expects quick and determined action to raise the status of the police forces to that enjoyed by the Armed Services and to put right what has unfortunately gone wrong.

4.51 pm

This is rather a shock. I want to draw the attention of the House to a matter that has not been discussed during the Session and which I think will be discussed at great length when we return on 18 October and throughout the Session. I may be wrong.

The nurses are still fighting for their wage increase. In case any of my hon. Friends are interested, there is a group of them in Victoria Gardens near the Emily Pankhurst statue. They will be pleased to see any Opposition Members—I do not know about Tory Members—to explain that they will be fighting for their wage claim after the House has gone into recess. I have no doubt that other hon. Members will refer to that matter.

I have been watching the signs over the past few months of the impending international banking collapse in the way that I did in 1972, 1973 and 1974. It was apparent to me, but not to many people then in Government or in Opposition, that there was a possibility of a banking collapse.

Many people thought that because the then Leader of the Liberal Party was one of the directors it was wrong to refer to London and Counties Securities Group Ltd. which was slipping down the drain fast in the summer of 1973. It was part of the collapse that took place during the summer of 1973–74, which resulted in the Financial Times index dropping to about 146 points in the Following January after the Labour Government were returned. The collapse was sparked off because of all the money that had gone into property speculation. It was somebody else's money and it was there to be burnt. Many other secondary banks used other people's money without penalty, making profits—

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

It was not real money.

I agree with the Leader of the House that it was not real money. The secondary banks only played at monetarism when it suited them and when it made profits. The moment that the money started to go down the drain, they did not want to play that game. They wanted somebody else to bail them out. The people that did that were the taxpayers—those maligned workers who are talked about whent they threaten to take industrial action or take a couple of days off work, those whom the Tory Government and others, unfortunately, think are ruining the economy. Keyser Ullmann, is headed by the right hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) who is trying to make headway in the House, so I am told.

I read a report this week that the Bank of England is still setting aside money—nine years later—to cover the 1973 secondary banking collapse. Since then interest rates have shot up higher. There is a temporary lull because of the mid-term elections in the United States of America and other factors in the British economy. The United States banks are making efforts to reduce interest rates because of the problems in the banking system. Unless something drastic happens in the future interest rates will continue to increase.

Whenever there is a crisis or collapse of that kind it is always the workers, the unemployed, the taxpayers and the ratepayers in this and other countries who have to pay the bill. The picture now is not of an imminent collapse in the secondary banking system, but a crisis of more gigantic proportions—the collapse of the primary banks. We are on the verge of an international breakdown.

The right hon. Lady the Prime Minister returned recently from summit talks and talked about rescheduling the Eastern block debt, as if there were only a problem with Poland, Hungary, Rumania and Yugoslavia. That is not the case. The big debtors to the Western banks, and principally the United States banks, are Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Taiwan, the Philippines and South Korea. Those are the countries where the Americans, like a travelling pawnshop, with their ever-rising interest rates, have gone with their petrodollars saying "Here is your money. It does not matter whether you have any money to pay back. Invest in this, and buy some arms." As a result those countries are up to their necks in debt, not because of strikes—we are always told that the eager beavers work away in those countries to produce goods and beat British shipbuilders and textile workers.

South Korea has to pay about £2,500 million in interest this year out of the £3,500 million that it owes. That country is held out as an example to us. It is one of the areas in which we shall see trouble in the future. It is all part of the casino economy. There are two types of economy in the world—the industrial economy involved in the manufacture of goods and services, and the casino economy where money is made from speculation. With high interest rates the casino economy has made a fortune. It will not last for ever even with increasing interest rates. It is easier to invest money and receive 15 per cent. interest than to invest in manufacturing industries where the rate of return is only about 4 or 5 per cent. There is more ability to make money in the casino economy.

No. Others of my hon. Friends wish to speak.

The top four clearing banks made £3,000 million in the first two years of this Government. Many people may have thought that the massive profits of the casino economy would continue for ever, but we are now seeing the first signs of even that bubble beginning to burst. That is happening not only because the Tory Government took away the extra profits from the banks in the Budget. The real reason is more fundamental. The practice of money being borrowed and lent at interest rates of up to 20 per cent. has to stop somewhere. The 93 less developed countries on the receiving end cannot pay it back at those rates. They are up to their necks in debt.

No. Even though the hon. Gentleman may wish to be constructive, I wish to get on.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman will not give way to anyone. He is giving a seminar on banks.

The hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Lewis) knows that that is not a point of order.

Tell us about the Brandt report. That is what the hon. Gentleman is talking about.