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Commons Chamber

Volume 35: debated on Tuesday 18 January 1983

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House Of Commons

Tuesday 18 January 1983

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[MR. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business





Orders for Second Reading read.

To be read a Second time upon Thursday.

Oral Answers To Questions

Social Services

The Grove Maternity Hospital, Barton-On-Sea


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make a statement on the future of the Grove maternity hospital Barton-on-Sea.

In March 1981, after considering the case put forward for the closure of the Grove maternity hospital, my predecessor decided that the hospital should remain open and be given the opportunity to develop. The Southampton and South-West Hampshire health authority is now carrying out a review of the situation on the Grove's future, but no conclusion has yet been reached.

I thank my hon. and learned Friend for his reply and apologise for continuing to press the case for the Grove hospital. However, is he satisfied that the health authority has done what it was told to do by his predecessor with regard to investment and use of facilities? With regard to the future of the Grove, can he confirm that there is no question that he will become involved until those obligations have been clearly carried out?

I am aware of my hon. Friend's interest in this subject, and he has brought a deputation to see me about the matter. At the moment the health authority is reviewing the future and considering the case, but has reached no conclusions. I will not be involved unless for some reason the authority again decides to propose closure. Before anything was put to me, I should need to be satisfied that the spirit of my predecessor's original decision had been complied with in every way.

What would be the effect on the maternity unit at the Southampton general hospital of keeping the Grove open?

Those are matters that should be left to the health authority. I rely on its judgment in looking at maternity services in the area as a whole, which is what it is doing now. I hope that it will be able to draw up a clear future programme for maternity services that will meet all the queries of my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley) and the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Mitchell).

Kidney Complaints (West Midlands)


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what representations he has received about the lack of treatment for sufferers of kidney complaints in the west midlands; and if he will make a statement.

I have received a total of 19 representations, of which 11 have been from hon. Members.

Is it not deplorable that purely because of the lack of resources many people in the west midlands and elsewhere will die from kidney disease this year, although there are tried and tested methods of treatment? Will the Minister consider the suggestion that I have made on a number of occasions, that a computer bank system for kidney donors would greatly increase the efficiency of the system?

I accept that one reason for the deficiencies is the unfortunate shortage of donor kidneys. A television programme two years ago did a great deal of damage by reducing the public and medical response to the demand for kidneys. We examine all possible ways to increase supplies of donors. We recently put a new kidney donor card into all provisional driving licences, and we are looking at other ways.

I replied yesterday on the hon. Member's particular point. We look at every suggestion with interest, but there are practical problems with computer donor banks that have to be resolved to make sure that they provide the best value for money in tackling the problem.

Has the Minister considered the possibility of contracting-in for donors of live organs, by computer?

This is a highly controversial and difficult problem, with people holding a wide variety of views about the position of relatives of donors, if a tragic death occurs. We are looking at several propositions and we are actively encouraging as many people as possible to carry donor cards, as this greatly facilitates the taking of kidneys after a tragedy. It has also been suggested that we introduce kidney donor co-ordinators to assist doctors in providing the necessary organs. All the ideas are looked at, but the hon. Member's proposal is controversial.

One-Parent Benefit


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what percentage of those entitled to receive one-parent benefit are receiving it.

Our latest estimate is that one-parent benefit is being paid to about 70 per cent. of those who stand to gain by claiming the benefit.

Does my hon. Friend agree that, while the figure represents an improvement over the position last year, it is still rather disappointing? Does he propose to take any further steps to try to raise the figure?

I would not wholly agree that the figure is as disappointing as my hon. Friend implies. It represents an increase from only about 60 per cent. when the Government took office. That is a substantial achievement. We are considering further steps to try to increase take-up still further.

I welcome the improvement. Has the Department received any information from the 1981 census that helps to establish that there are more single parents and therefore a genuine need for a continuing review of the uptake?

It is interesting that preliminary findings for 1981 from the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys show that the number of one-parent families may be slightly lower than that on which we based our take-up estimate. In that case the take-up estimate would rise, but I cannot be absolutely certain at the moment.

Given the relatively low level of benefit available to single parents, will the hon. Gentleman make representations to his right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer for tax concessions to be made available to single parents who have to hire child minders?

This matter has been discussed in the House on a number of occasions. I have no doubt that my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor will register the fact that the point has been raised again.

The Minister says that he is not disappointed because take-up has increased by 10 per cent. Does he realise that £25 million remains unclaimed by people among whom there are a higher proportion of those on the poverty line? Is he not convinced that further efforts to increase the take-up are desirable?

I have explained that we are considering a further effort. I should like to see the £25 million taken up. However, I do not wish the House to under-estimate the achievement in getting the figure up from 60 per cent. to 70 per cent. This is recognised, I am happy to say, by the National Council for One Parent Families.

Greenfield Report (Prescribing)


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will now publish the Greenfield report on effective prescribing.

Is the Secretary of State aware that what is required now is action? Is he not aware that even the pharmaceutical industry concedes that at least £50 million would be saved by implementing this report, which was produced for him last February? Is he aware that it would also help to stop the soap powder style promotion of drugs, which all hon. Members saw documented so well on the "Panorama" programme last night? Will the right hon. Gentleman, having published the report, act upon it to make these savings rather than seek to increase the prescription charge by lop, which would not be necessary if he made this change?

Not all hon. Members have the leisure of the hon. Gentleman to watch television. His supplementary question would have been more appropriate if the Government were not publishing the report. That is what he asks and that is what I am doing. I would therefore have expected him to welcome it.

Does the Secretary of State realise that every Minister since 1950 has urged the use of the British National Formulary or the British Pharmacopoeia in general prescribing? Will he not bring forward legislation to allow clinical freedom for doctors to refuse substitutes but to ignore the brand name percentage that applies at present?

The first stage is to publish the report. The committee specifically did not examine the contribution that the pharmaceutical industry makes either to the discovery and development of new medicines or to the economy generally. I shall want to hold consultations before considering further action.

Is it not clear that the majority of the thousands of drugs used every year in this country are me-too drugs, that they are not the result of original research and development? Will the right hon. Gentleman, when he publishes the report, consult not only the pharmaceutical companies but the medical profession, which knows of the contribution that could be made to the National Health Service?

We shall consult the medical profession as well as the pharmaceutical industry. I hope that the hon. Lady will agree with me that it is important to consult the pharmaceutical industry, which is responsible for net exports worth about £570 million. The industry also employs 70,000 people. That is important. I accept what the hon. Lady says about the medical profession being consulted.

Will the Secretary of State ask, at the same time, why there is such a disparity between the prices of the same drugs in this country and on the Continent?

As the hon. Lady must know, we have a pharmaceutical price regulation scheme which was accepted by the previous Government, as was the promotional cost scheme. We are prepared to look at these matters.

Community Nurses (Cars)


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he intends to provide cars for community nurses who need them to visit their patients, as recommended in the Acheson report on primary care.

The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security
(Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg)

This is one of a number of recommendations in the Acheson report about the living and working conditions of community nurses. There is already provision in a national agreement of the general Whitley council for the allocation of Crown cars to staff who need them for their work. Only the health authority locally is in a position to assess the need for cars to be allocated and how effective this would be in aiding the recruitment and retention of nursing staff. The alternative is the payment of mileage allowances to staff using their own cars.

Is the Minister aware that it is precisely the difficulties of that system that are highlighted in the Acheson report? Is he aware that the report shows that London community nurses are at a disadvantage over transport compared with nurses in what are characteristically described in the report as country areas? Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there should be a national levelling-up of provision, primarily in the interests of patients?

The hon. Gentleman must realise that this is part of the series of recommendations in the Acheson report. We are still considering the action that is necessary. We announced some time ago an additional sum of money for particular purposes. The hon. Gentleman must also realise that there is virtually no pressure from staff for the provision of Crown cars. Most staff prefer to use their own cars because of the contribution towards standing costs within the mileage allowances.

As the Minister has referred to the feelings of staff, does he appreciate that there is a widespread sense of injustice over the need for community nurses or health visitors to provide their own cars to do their job? If he is not willing to provide money for community nurses and health visitors to have cars provided by their employers, will he talk to his right hon. and hon. Friends in the Treasury about the injustice of taxing the mileage allowances?

I shall convey the hon. Gentleman's remarks to my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Ealing-Hammersmith Hounslow Family Practitioner Committee


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services, pursuant to the answer of the Minister of State, Official Report, 30 November, c. 135, whether an official of his Department telephoned the administrator of Ealing-Hammersmith Houslow family practitioner committee during the past six months and inquired about the political affiliations of some members of the family practitioner committee.

I now find that such inquiries were in fact made in connection with letters which my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. Finsberg) wished to send to members of this and other committees. The inquiries concerned only those committee members who are also members of local authorities. I have investigated the matter and I can assure the hon. Member that there was no motive for the inquiry other than to assist my hon. Friend in adopting a personal approach in his letters to the members concerned.

That seems to be a denial of what was stated previously. It seems that there may be some chance of the Minister coming clean to the House this afternoon. Will he explain what possible justification exists for making inquiries about the political affiliations of members of these committees? Is it not a disgrace?

My previous reply said that I was not aware of these approaches and that I had not authorised any. That remains the case. It is also true of my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead. My hon. Friend wished to write to members of five FPCs about a problem with which he is dealing over offices at Wembley. An official decided that it would be helpful in writing personal letters if he knew the political affiliations of the elected local councillors of the FPCs.

Rather than look up the political affiliations of these councillors, which is publicly available in a book, the official decided to ring up the office and inquire about the political affiliations. Once Ministers discovered that, the inquiries were, of course, ended.

Can we all know what their political affiliations were? As the Minister has the information, will he publish it in the Official Report?

The Greater London council already fulfils that service for us. One can buy a document which gives London election results together with the political affiliations of every councillor, including those who serve on FPCs. Our official decided to engage in the cost of a telephone call rather than pay £7 to the Greater London council. Either method is open to the hon. Gentleman and anyone else.

What was the difference in the text of the letters that made it necessary for the official to know which letter to send to which councillor?

At that stage my hon. friend had not sent any of the letters. The intention was that he could vary his manner of address according to their party, if he so wished. Each Minister and each Member of Parliament follows his own practice. In correspondence I refer to more of my hon. Friends as "Yours ever" than I do to my opponents. It is entirely up to my hon. Friend what form of address he adopts.

Death Grant


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will now make a statement of the future of the death grant.

We have not yet completed our consideration of the future of the death grant following public response to the consultative document. I shall make a statement as soon as this is complete.

Is it not already clear that all the proposals in the Government's consultative document are unacceptable to pensioners' organisations? Will the Government press ahead and provide a decent increase in the death grant so that old people need no longer live in fear of being unable to afford a decent burial?

It is also perfectly clear that the resources do not exist to pay a substantially increased death grant to rich and poor alike. If I had that kind of money available, I should use it for other priorities.

Will my hon. Friend look at the problem of funeral expenses facing widows whose husbands are on long-term sickness benefit for a considerable time and then die? It causes great difficulty and hardship, and the policy in this regard seems to be confused.

It had been our intention, as a result of the consultative document, to redirect resources to the area of greatest need. Unfortunately, we did not receive sufficient public support for that approach. Therefore, we have to reconsider the matter.

Does the Minister recall saying on 31 March that he looked forward to

"a quick and favourable response to … the consultative document".—[Official Report, 30 March 1982; Vol. 21, c. 175.]
Was not the response predominantly unfavourable? Does not the fact that we have not yet had any proposals suggest that the Government have decided to drop the means-testing of the death grant this side of the general election?

Fifty five per cent. of those who replied were not in favour of any of the proposals in the consultative document. All the same, a number of people replied in favour of one or other of the options. It is regrettable that we do not have public support to put resources where they are really needed and, because we do not have that support, we are having to consider the matter de novo.

Is not my hon. Friend confusing public support with the expression of opinion from a sizeable number of people who could have been expected in the first place to take the line that they did? Has not the time come for the Government to grasp the nettle and pay a sizeably increased death grant to those who need it? Is it not clear that this is a case where selective use of the public social services is highly desirable?

It can equally be said that because only 630 responses were received to the consultative document there is not a great deal of public interest in the matter anyway. That is perfectly arguable, when one considers the millions of people who are affected by this matter. Of course the Government have to come to a conclusion, and I hope that it will be possible to make an announcement in the not-too-distant future.

How many of the 630 responses were from representative bodies that represent many more than one individual response?

Some were from representative bodies on both sides. For example, the ex-service organisations very much supported the proposals. I do not want to give the hon. Gentleman an accurate figure, but I shall certainly give it to him in writing, if that is what he wishes.

Tobacco Advertising


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he is satisfied that the code of practice for tobacco advertising makes adequate provision for advertisements contained in magazines given away free.

Is the Minister aware that High Life magazine, the in-flight magazine of British Airways, carries cigarette advertising with no Government health warning? Even if the company can dodge the Government code of practice, because of certain terms in the code, does it not have a moral responsibility, as one of our big national organisations, to ensure that that advertising carries health warnings? Will the Minister make sure that health warnings are included in future?

The answer to the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's question is "No". The present arrangements for the Advertising Standards Authority and the new voluntary agreement specifically are not meant for magazines such as the one that the hon. Gentleman mentioned. Such publications are designed basically for passengers who are not in this country. The advertisements are aimed basically at duty-free sales. Exactly like our predecessors, we do not intend to move on this matter.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the limit of bullying the tobacco industry had just about been reached, and that if Government pressure continues to be applied to the tobacco industry there is a real risk of the industry reaching virtual extinction, with the loss of many thousands of jobs at home and abroad?

In replying to my hon. Friend, I must make clear the appalling dangers that people run if they smoke. I think that that is accepted on all sides. The voluntary agreement that we were able to negotiate on this occasion is a substantial improvement on those that went before, and, in my opinion, the co-operation that we receive from the industry shows that it understands its responsibilities very well.

Has the Minister seen the grim figures published by ASH last week, which show that because of smoking 8,213 Scots will die and that a further 15,774 Scots will be admitted to hospital during the current year? In view of those grim figures, does the Minister accept that the time has come to do something more effective to discourage this expensive form of suicide?

The hon. Gentleman should not assume that a ban on advertising will reduce the amount of smoking. Finland, which banned smoking advertising in 1977, now finds that cigarette consumption is rising, whereas here it is declining.

Will my hon. Friend explain one thing? I accept that many things that human beings do to themselves are not very good for them, but why is it necessary to take these steps for cigarettes, when apparently it is not necessary for drinking alcohol or sniffing glue?

The difference is that there is a danger in smoking cigarettes, however few one smokes. There is no danger in sensible drinking.

National Health Service (Pay)


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what recent discussions he has had concerning the creation of a pay review body for the National Health Service; and if he will make a statement.


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what recent discussions he has had with the Health Service unions concerning the pay dispute; and if he will make a statement.


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he proposes any early meeting with the health services committee of the Trades Union Congress to discuss health workers' pay.

Following the ballot of the Royal College of Nursing and the decision by the TUC health services committee to resume negotiations on the basis of the two-year settlement offered by the Government, agreements covering the period to 31 March 1984 have now been concluded in most of the NHS Whitley councils.

Settlements for the remaining staff groups are expected to be agreed in the very near future. Normal working has now been resumed throughout the Health Service. Consultations will begin shortly on the establishment of the new review body for nurses, midwives and professions allied to medicine. I hope that discussions with representatives of other Health Service staff will begin shortly to consider new arrangements for determining their pay in the longer term.

When will the Secretary of State announce the setting up of a body to cover staff other than the nurses of whom he spoke and those associated with them? Will that body contain a structure that will enable the management and trade unions to establish acceptable pay and conditions for those very deserving staff?

I do not envisage a body such as the review body to be set up for the other staff groups. However, I envisage the start of discussions with the Health Service unions as soon as possible in an effort to get new and better arrangements for the longer term.

Is the Secretary of State aware that 3 million working days were lost, compared with the 600,000 that were lost during the winter of discontent, as a direct result of his inability to settle the dispute sooner? What responsibility does he accept for the increased waiting lists?

I entirely reject what the hon. Gentleman says. We have achieved a fair settlement and not the surrender over which the previous Government presided. My regret is that industrial action continued for so long when a settlement was available much earlier. If the hon. Gentleman is trying to ascribe responsibility, I suggest that he considers the responsibility of the Labour Opposition, who at no stage condemned industrial action in the Health Service.

Will my right hon. Friend be careful to ensure that the new body does not turn into another Clegg commission? In comparing salaries, will he ensure that it is remembered that in the public service there is very great security compared with that in the private sector, where there are risks and strains and often redundancies?

Yes, but I think that my hon. Friend will agree that the nurses' review body recognises the special position of nurses and other professional groups which do not take industrial action. It is right to recognise their position and that is what the review body is intended to do.

The review body may not be independent enough, because it will take account, presumably, of the views of Conservative Ministers in fixing wage rates. Are we to learn that there will be a split between SENs and SRNs? Is the right hon. Gentleman seriously suggesting that he should even offer other parts of the profession terms inferior to those offered by a review body?

It has been made clear to the review body that we are consulting on how many and on what groups will be contained within its considerations. It has been clear from the beginning that there will be no question of the review body covering, for example, ancillary workers, administrative workers and clerical workers. We have made our position clear.

The giving of evidence to the review body will be like giving evidence to the doctors and dentists review body. The Government will give evidence to the review body and the review body will consider it.

Has my right hon. Friend any information about the other strike—in social security offices, which recently terminated in Birmingham and in the Oxford area?

I am not sure whether my hon. Friend's supplementary question stems from the main question. However, she will be aware that the strike to which she has referred has come to an end, which I welcome.

Why has the right hon. Gentleman arbitrarily excluded entire sections of the NHS? That is not sensible and it can lead only to even more aggravation.

The hon. Lady is being ridiculous. She has never advocated a review body for the whole of the Health Service. I have made it clear from the beginning that the review body recognises the special position of nurses, who do not take industrial action and who have never—certainly not under the previous Government—had any satisfactory system of determining pay. There is a background in the general labour market against which comparisons can be made with ancillary and administration staff and others. I think that the hon. Lady has a dud point.

Supplementary Benefit (Application Form)


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what recent representations he has received regarding the size and complexity of the new form for application for social security benefit.

About a dozen representations from local authorities, bodies providing advice services or representing workers, and individuals, were made in the six weeks prior to the form's introduction on 6 December 1982. The hon. Gentleman has, of course, followed up the representations that he made at that time.

Does the Minister not realise that far more representations are coming to individual Members of Parliament than the number to which he has referred? Is this not the result of the form-filling that is required? I think that the form contains 104 questions. This is a deterrent, because many of those who are called upon to answer the questions set out in the form are already depressed by the position in which they find themselves. Does the Minister accept that this position, and the new form, are the result of the Government's economic policies, which are driving hundreds of thousands into over-crowded DHSS offices? Due to the overcrowding, the staff have to give claimants a form to complete so that they will leave the offices instead of remaining in them. Is this not the fact?

No. Our purpose in introducing the form was to try to improve rather than damage the administration of the social security system, not least to ensure that the unemployed who claim supplementary benefit do have to go to two offices instead of one. The form helps also in rural areas, where there were particular difficulties. The number of questions is related to the information that is required—whether on a form or by interview—to assess a claim for supplementary benefit.

Will the Minister say whether, at this early date, any special problems have arisen from one of the very last questions on the form, which asks the recipient whether he or she is a registered blind person? Is that the sort of question that should be left until the end of such a form, or the sort of question that should be on the form in the first place?

The form makes it clear that anyone who experiences difficulties, including blind persons and those who have language problems, will find help available from the staff at the offices. I am not aware that any problems have shown up in the monitoring exercise. If they do, we shall change the form.

I really want to ask a supplementary question to the next question, Mr. Speaker.

Retirement Age


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will take steps to introduce retirement for men at the age of 60 years; and if he will make a statement.

In its report on the age of retirement the Social Services Committee has put forward proposals for phased transition over 10 years towards a scheme of flexible retirement between age 60 and 65 for both men and women. I am currently examining these proposals and the Government response will be published shortly.

Is the Minister aware that if the Government have any serious intention of reducing the massive unemployment totals they will do so not only by reflating the economy, which is important, but by progressing towards a shorter working week and a shorter working life? If the Government can find £2 billion to spend on the Falklands for 1,500 people—some say £3 billion—and if they can spend £10 billion on Trident, why cannot they spend a few billion pounds to achieve retirement at 60 for men, so that many of the youngsters who want a job will be given one?

A change in the state pension age must be regarded as a long-term change for which a great deal of preparation must be made. It is not one that can be fixed only in accordance with short-term economic considerations. The Government have extended the job release scheme because they consider it to be a more cost-effective way of reducing unemployment. We have also ensured that the long-term rate of supplementary benefit is now available to men of over 60 who were on low incomes and who have been unemployed for a year or more.

Will my hon. Friend accept that I thoroughly agree with his long-term aim of flexible retirement for both men and women? Will he agree also that it is crucial that we keep in step with our colleagues in the other European countries so that we are not caught at a competitive disadvantage?

Clearly that is a factor that will have to be taken into account. However, my hon. Friend will realise that I cannot anticipate the formal response that the Government will make to the Committee in due course.

General Practitioner Statistics (London)


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what proportion of people living in London are not registered with a general practitioner.

This information is not routinely available. A recent survey by the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys suggests that 5 per cent. of people living in inner London are not registered with a general medical practitioner under the National Health Service.

Is it not the case that in London a larger proportion of people are not registered with a doctor than in other parts of the country? Is this not due to the reasons that are given in the Acheson report, which suggest that in London doctors are older, that premises are less satisfactory and that there are more single practices? Does the Minister think that some action should be taken to implement this section of the Acheson report?

I remind the hon. Gentleman that Professor Acheson's study group took the view that a non-registration rate of 5 per cent. or less could be regarded as insignificant. The survey that I have quoted shows that no special remedial action is needed.

In view of the disproportionate number of elderly doctors in the inner city areas and the number of doctors who want semi-retirement by having shorter lists, will the Minister restore the encouragements previously in existence for setting up new health centres?

I am prepared to consider that matter, but the hon. Gentleman ought to know that of the 35 medical practice areas in inner London, 34 are classified as being well or adequately doctored, so the problem is, at worst, patchy.

Treatment Methods And Centres Of Excellence


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what consideration is given to the central funding of new methods of treatment and of regional centres of excellence.

New methods of treatment are normally funded by individual health authorities from the funds made available each year to them. Where a service involves substantial expenditure and is of national interest, arrangements may exceptionally be made for central funding.

I thank my hon. and learned Friend for his reply. May I ask about the new method of kidney treatment that is being developed in Birmingham, which has fallen on the charge of the finances of the district health authority, which is unable to sustain it, and, similarly, about the centre for neurosurgery at Smethwick, which has suffered with regard to grants for the same reason, compared with Sheffield, for example?

The need for renal treatment is widespread and must be handled on a regional basis. The West Midlands regional health authority is giving high priority to its renal services. It has been financing a new transplant unit at Stoke and new dialysis services at Coventry, for example. It has had to put a cash limit on a service in Birmingham, but overall the region is spending more money than before on renal services and is treating more patients. It intends to continue to do so. The future of the new unit at Sandwell will be looked at by the region in the first place, which is now consulting on its regional services. If it comes to us with a proposition, we shall look at it with interest.

Is it not disgraceful that patients are denied the benefits of the new treatment developed at the centres of excellence simply because central funding is not available and those centres cannot afford the cost themselves? Can the Minister help?

As I have just explained, central and regional funding for those services has been expanded rapidly. Some £2 million a year more is being spent in the west midlands on renal services than was the case three or four years ago. There has been restraint on one centre providing one form of treatment in Birmingham, which was outstripping its budget by far, but the general picture in the region is that more money is being spent on services and more patients are being treated. I am assured by the region that it is setting itself higher targets.

While the Minister is considering the funding of those centres of excellence, may I draw to his attention the fact that in Manchester we have numerous hospitals of excellence, such as Christie's, and those dealing with plastic and neurosurgery? Is he aware that a burden is being placed on the social workers of the city and that while 93 per cent. of patients attending Christie's cancer hospital are from outside Manchester, Manchester ratepayers have paid £1½ million to support the social workers?

When it comes to funding the hospital service, which is the responsibility of the Government, we compensate health authorities for the cost of treating patients who come from outside their district and immediate locality. With regard to funds for the service as a whole, the latest public spending round produced an extra £80 million on top of previously published plans for the Health Service, which will allow for real growth in services next year.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will shortly make an announcement about the distribution of that extra money to each and every health authority.

Overseas Visitors (Hospital Treatment)


asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what has been the cost of administering charges for hospital treatment of overseas visitors since 1 October.

Is the Minister aware that first impressions suggest that the Opposition's predictions are proving correct and the new system is wasting the efforts of hospital staff and administrators, adding to the administrative costs, confusing and inconveniencing patients and adding hardly anything in terms of increased revenue? How soon will the Minister conduct a review to see whether that is correct? If that is correct, will he give a pledge here and now that he will withdraw the new system?

The scheme has been operating for only three months. It would be silly to come to firm conclusions now. There is absolutely no evidence of extra staff being taken on. I have no reason to doubt the original findings of the working party, which concluded, before the setting up of the scheme, that the administrative costs would be minimal.

Is it not both common sense and good business practice to ensure that the cost of administering charges is less than the revenue collected? What is the Minister afraid of?

The Minister is not afraid of anything. If the hon. Gentleman wants to swap common sense, the general principle that we are applying is this. When we go to the United States or Japan, we have to pay charges and we have to insure. The Government say that there is no reason why visitors who come from the United States to this country should not also have to pay charges.

Prime Minister



asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 18 January.

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House I shall be having further meetings later today. This evening I shall be attending a diamond jubilee reception for the National Association of Pension Funds.

Is the Prime Minister aware that there is evidence that the atomic tests that took place in Maralinga in the south Pacific in the 1950s led to the deaths of some of our service men from cancer? Does she not agree that simply making available service men's records is insufficient and that what is required is a public inquiry and an assurance that compensation will be given to the victims and their relatives?

The Ministry of Defence has announced that it will conduct a health study of all personnel who were serving in connection with those tests in Australia and the south Pacific. That is a survey of about 15,000 personnel to see what the effects have been. That is the best way to go about this problem.

On wider nuclear questions, will the Prime Minister recognise that many people in this country do not believe that unilateralism would provide either for the proper defence of this country or be conducive to the peace of the world, but none the less they want serious disarmament talks? Will she recognise that her rigid adherence to the zero option is not sufficient? It may be the best option, but it is not the only option. If the opening bid is to be the closing bid, there can be no negotiations. Will the Prime Minister therefore move from the rigid position that she has adopted?

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that unilateralism constitutes one-sided weakness. That would be Britain's weakness. That would be totally unacceptable to most of us in the House. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the zero option would be absolutely the best. In the absence of the zero option, we must have balanced numbers. The place to get balanced numbers is at the negotiating table at Geneva.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there has been too much talk in the past week or two about gloom and doom for our economy by the Opposition parties and people outside who ought to know better? Will she take it from me that after the night is the dawn and that provided the Treasury continues with its flexible and pragmatic policies 1983 will be a good year for the Government and the country?

I thank my hon. Friend and knight for his gracious and sage advice and I congratulate him.

Returning to the right hon. Lady's replies to more serious questions a little earlier, may I ask when the Government will be able to give a considered reply to the proposals made by Mr. Andropov before Christmas, to which the right hon. Lady gave her answer before reading what they were? Taking into account the later proposals from the meeting in Prague, when will the British Government make a response, especially as it seems that some months ago in Geneva there was the possibility of an agreement? Have the Government any view about that, as we believe that it would have been far better to back the proposals made by Mr. Rostow at that time?

The nature of the dual track agreement in December 1979, honoured by all NATO countries, was that cruise missiles would be deployed unless the SS20s were taken down. After that came the zero option proposal, which is undoubtedly the best. If the SS20s are not taken right down, cruise will start to be deployed. The numbers to be deployed will depend upon achieving a balanced agreement with the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact countries. If the SS20s are not taken down, we must start to deploy cruise missiles. Mr. Helmut Schmidt in Germany was extremely firm about that. Indeed, I believe that it was partly his firmness that brought the Russians to the negotiating table.

The right hon. Lady has not attempted to answer the question. What is her view about the Rostow proposals, which did not involve continued insistence on the zero option, however desirable? Furthermore, does she recall that in our debates before Christmas there was considerable discussion of the dual control of the new missiles which, in certain circumstances, the Government propose to establish in this country? It is now claimed that the British Government have refused to insist on dual control. Do they intend to continue with that view or shall we insist that British control be established over these weapons?

The principle is a balance in order to deter. The best balance between the Soviet Union and NATO is zero. In the absence of that, one must have a balance between the SS20s and the cruise and Pershing missiles, which are in the same range of intermediate nuclear weapons. That is the proposition before us. One hopes to achieve the zero option, but in the absence of that we must achieve balanced numbers. In calculating the balance, one must not go in for bogus counting. Some of the propositions that have been put up, and repeated, involved bogus counting. We must not allow the wool to be pulled over our eyes in that respect.

The right hon. Gentleman also referred to the dual key. The use of United States bases in the United Kingdom in an emergency would be a matter for joint decision by Her Majesty's Government and the United States' Government in the light of circumstances prevailing at the time. That is the same rule as existed under the Labour Government and as has existed for the past 30 years. I am aware that concern has been expressed about the effectiveness of the arrangements and I have satisfied myself that they are effective.

Has my right hon. Friend had time during her busy day to note reports of demonstrations by certain women within the parliamentary buildings yesterday? Does she agree that such extra-parliamentary activity, as it has been called, is made more likely by the conduct of the Leader of the Opposition, not so much by his giving succor and encouragement to the women demonstrating at Greenham Common, as by his support and endorsement of that advocate of extra-parliamentary opposition, Mr. Peter Tatchell? Does my right hon. Friend agree that extra-parliamentary opposition too often means anti-parliamentary opposition and should accordingly be condemned?

One is obviously against anti-parliamentary opposition of any kind, from wheresoever it may come, as all of us here believe in fundamentally democratic systems. Part of those democratic systems is, of course, the ability to demonstrate and to express one's views outside the House. I look forward to the time when demonstrations about nuclear weapons can take place as easily in Moscow as here.


asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 18 January.

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

As it was the right hon. Lady's own private Member's Bill, which she moved in her maiden speech in 1960, that safeguarded the rights of the press to be admitted to meetings of public bodies, how can she support the Secretary of State for the Environment, who, later today, will ask us to repeal that legislation in so far as it applies to the water authorities that he is setting up, allowing those bodies, appointed entirely by the Secretary of State and his colleagues, to meet in the absence of any public scrutiny over their spending of our money?

It is because the nature of the authority is being changed entirely, from its previous form to an executive body.

Has my right hon. Friend noticed the two excellent statements from BL this week, showing a 99½5 per cent. strike-free record for the Rover company and a similar record for Jaguar, with sales to America increased by 120 per cent.? Does she agree that co-operation between management and workers at BL has contributed most to that record and will help British industry more than anything else that we can imagine?

I agree wholeheartedly with what my hon Friend has said. BL has done very well recently in its export record, and the record of Jaguar within the group is outstanding, but it has a long way to go before it breaks even, let alone generates sufficient capital to produce the next generation of cars. In the meantime, BL is doing much better. I join my hon Friend in praising the work that has been done and attribute it to the same cause as he does.

When the Prime Minister visits my constituency on Friday of this week will she explain to the people there why there are now nearly 7,000 unemployed in Halifax, with more redundancies being announced nearly every day, why hospital wards are due to close, why there have been massive cuts in all the social services and why anyone should vote for her at the next general election?

On the first part of the question, despite what is now an excellent record in retail sales, a sufficiently large proportion of those sales is not coming from home production because British manufacturing industry is insufficiently competitive either in price or in design and must improve. The demand is there, but British industry is not taking a sufficient part of the home market.

On the second part of the question, as the hon. Lady knows, old-age pensions have more than kept pace with inflation and the pensioners received their Christmas bonus. [interruption.]The hon. Lady asked about the social services and I am telling her. In the Health Service, there are more doctors and nurses than there were under the Labour Government. An extra 5 per cent. in real terms is being spent on it, and so on.


asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 18 January.

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

Does the right Lady recall that during her trip last week she declared that she would defend to the full all Falklanders' rights, but that immediately she returned to this country she said that she would not support the British right to work? Is the price that she is now paying for the stability of the pound the total abandonment of the Britisn unemployed?

With regard to my right hon. Friend's reply to the Leader of the Opposition about the command and control of United States cruise missiles that are to be based in Britain, will she re-emphasise that not only have conditions not changed in the past 30 years but that it remains the case that the affirmative agreement of the British Prime Minister is required before any United States nuclear weapons that are based on these islands can be launched?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question. I have satisfied myself about the effectiveness of the arrangements for joint decision.

Will the Prime Minister find time today to advise the Secretary of State for unemployment, who will visit my constituency on Thursday, that welcome though the improvement in production by Jaguar cars is, it is still barely 50 per cent. of what it produced under a previous chief executive? Does she agree that the real problem in Coventry and the rest of the west midlands is that there is 20 per cent. male unemployment and that one-third of our manufacturing capacity has been lost? Will not the Prime Minister realise that some Government intervention is necessary to coordinate and increase Government purchasing, via British Leyland, with component and capital goods suppliers in the west midlands before the devastation goes any further?

If we recover a greater share of the car market, we shall be doing extremely well by the west midlands, but that must be done by the industry itself. When reviewing regional policy, the Government have an eye on what has happened in regions such as the west midlands.

Falkland Islands (Franks Report)

3.31 pm

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Just after midnight last night, I raised a point of order about Mr. Bernard Ingham and his proposed 11 am and 2.45 pm guidance to journalists. From the Opposition Front Bench last night, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Cocks), the Opposition Chief Whip, said that he thought that the issues were substantial and invited the Leader of the House to comment. Very fairly and properly, and acting in his capacity as Leader of the whole House, the right hon. Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen) said from the Dispatch Box that he agreed that the matter should be considered by you, Mr. Speaker, this morning. Indeed, Mr. Deputy Speaker announced then that he would report the matter to you, Mr. Speaker.

If the Franks committee had been set up by the House, there would have been a succession of breach of privilege cases, besides which the cases of the late Sir Gerald Nabarro on car tax, of the leak of the Civil List and of myself in relation to Porton Down would have paled into insignificance—[HON. MEMBERS: "He is reading."] Indeed, in 1967, for talking prematurely about the report of the Select Committee on Science and Technology to Laurence Marks of The Observer, I was arraigned before the whole House.

Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will submit a point of order to me on which I can rule.

What I said was trivial and obscure compared with the reports in The Observer on Sunday by Mr. Adam Raphael and the long report in The Scotsman which I sent to you, Sir, by the responsible diplomatic correspondent Alexander MacLeod, who reported in detail and authoritatively much of what Lord Franks said and his conclusions.

The point of order is this. Is there to be one law for Downing Street and another for Back Benchers? If Downing Street did not make the leak, who did? Lord Franks? A member of his committee? Was it Lord Carrington? Was it the Foreign Office? The House of Commons is entitled to a statement on prima facie breaches of the Official Secrets Act.

When the committee was set up, so great was the store that was set by the need for secrecy that it had to be Privy Councillors who were appointed to it. Rightly, Sir Patrick Nairn was appointed to the Privy Council precisely for that purpose.

In the absence of what some of us consider the civilised and sensible habit of an embargo for the Lobby so that they can study things in a relaxed and proper manner, what we have had is selective briefing and selected leaking by interested parties. Moreover—

Order. The hon. Gentleman must now submit a point of order to me. [HON. MEMBERS: "He has done it."] If he has done it, I am quite willing to give my ruling. He must now come to the point. The House is waiting to hear a statement.

Is it right for the House of Commons to face a situation where a Prime Minister can put her own gloss on something? If Downing Street was not responsible, let us have an inquiry to discover who made the leak. The first thing in the public mind is—

Order. I can help the hon. Gentleman and the House in this matter. This is not a matter over which I have any authority to rule. It is not a report that has been commissioned by the House. It is a Government report. It is not for me to tell the Government how they may conduct their own affairs. Statement, the Prime Minister.

On a point of order on another matter, Mr. Speaker, which is your responsibility. Some hon. Members are privileged enough to have had a copy of the report for a long time. Others are scurrying out of the Chamber to get one now. Would it not be better for the statement to be made when all hon. Members, especially Back Benchers, for whom I know you have a special concern, Mr. Speaker, are on an equal footing when the statement is made? Would it not be sensible for this sitting to be suspended—

—to allow hon. Members to read the report or for the Prime Minister's statement to be postponed until hon. Members have read it?

3.37 pm

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I will make a statement about the report of the Falkland Islands review committee.

The House will remember that I announced the setting up of the review committee in July 1982, after consultation with the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and with leading Privy Councillors in other parties. At that time I expressed the hope that the committee would be be able to complete its work within six months.

The committee has justified that hope. I received its report on 31 December 1982, and I am presenting it to Parliament as a Command Paper this afternoon. Copies are now available in the Vote Office. [HON. MEMBERS: "Too late."]

I should like to express the Government's gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Franks, and to his colleagues for the amount of time and effort which they have devoted to producing such a thorough and comprehensive report in so short a time.

The report makes it clear that the committee was provided with all the papers relevant to its terms of reference, including a comprehensive collection of reports from the intelligence agencies. The committee's report contains a number of references to intelligence matters which would not in other circumstances be divulged. These references are essential for a full understanding of the matters into which the committee was asked to enquire, and the Government have agreed that the public interest requires that on this occasion the normal rule against public reference to the intelligence organisation or to material derived from intelligence reports should be waived.

The Government have, however, agreed with Lord Franks amendments to certain of the references to intelligence reports with a view to minimising potential damage to British intelligence interests. Lord Franks has authorised me to tell the House that he agrees that, first, all the references to intelligence reports included in the committee's report as submitted have been retained in the report as presented to Parliament, most of them without amendment; secondly, none of the amendments that have been made alters the sense, substance or emphasis of the reference to the intelligence report concerned, or removes anything of significance to the committee's account of the matters referred to it or to its findings and conclusions; thirdly, apart from those agreed amendments, no other deletions or amendments have been made to the committee's report as submitted.

The report is unanimous and is signed by all the members of the committee without qualification. It falls into four chapters. The first gives an account of the dispute from 1965—when the issue was first brought formally to international attention by a resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations—to May 1979.

The second chapter covers the period from May 1979 to 19 March 1982. The third deals with the fortnight from 19 March to 2 April 1982, which included the South Georgia incident and which led up to the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands. The fourth and final chapter deals with the way in which the Government discharged their responsibilities in the period leading up to the invasion. There are six annexes, the first of which deals with 10 specific assertions that have been made by some who have commented on the matters in question.

In the fourth chapter of the report—that is, the one that deals with the way Government discharged their responsibilities—the committee notes a number of points where, in its judgment, different decisions might have been taken, fuller consideration of alternative courses of action might have been advantageous, and the machinery of government could have been better used. That chapter defines and addresses itself to two crucial questions: first, could the Government have foreseen the invasion of 2 April 1982; seondly, could the Government have prevented the invasion?

The committee emphasises that its report should be read as a whole. At this stage, therefore, I shall do no more than quote the committee's conclusions on those two crucial questions. On the first question, whether the Government could have foreseen the invasion of 2 April, the committee's conclusion is:
"In the light of this evidence, we are satisfied that the Government did not have warning of the decision to invade. The evidence of the timing of the decision taken by the Junta shows that the Government not only did not, but could not, have had earlier warning. The invasion of the Falkland Islands on 2 April could not have been foreseen."
I have quoted the whole of paragraph 266.

On the second question, whether the Government could have prevented the invasion, the committee's conclusion, contained in the final paragraph of the report, is:
"Against this background we have pointed out in this Chapter where different decisions might have been taken, where fuller consideration of alternative courses of action might, in our opinion, have been advantageous, and where the machinery of Government could have been better used. But, if the British Government had acted differently in the ways we have indicated, it is impossible to judge what the impact on the Argentine Government or the implications for the course of events might have been. There is no reasonable basis for any suggestion—which would be purely hypothetical—that the invasion would have been prevented if the Government had acted in the ways indicated in our report. Taking account of these considerations, and of all the evidence we have received, we conclude that we would not be justified in attaching any criticism or blame to the present Government"—


May I finish the conclusion of the Franks Committee? It was its conclusion and has nothing to do with the Government. It said:

"we conclude that we would not be justified in attaching any criticism or blame to the present Government for the Argentine Junta's decision to commit its act of unprovoked aggression in the invasion of the Falkland Islands on 2 April 1982."
I have quoted in full the final paragraph of the Franks report.

Time will, of course, be found for an early debate, and that will be discussed through the usual channels. The Government will welcome an early opportunity of discussing the matters contained in the report more thoroughly than is possible this afternoon.

My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) raised a question about leakages. Anyone who read some of the reports in the newspapers could have reached a prime facie opinion that there was some leakage. It is a serious question. Will the right hon. Lady investigate the matter and report to the House? That is the most satisfactory way to deal with the matter, and such a course has been taken on previous occasions.

I am sure that the right hon. Lady's proposal for a debate will be accepted. The Opposition naturally concur with her suggestion. I hope that the Government will agree that the debate—I trust it will take place next week—will be a two-day debate. We had lengthy debates on the subject last year and it would be unsatisfactory to have a debate that was principally occupied by Privy Councillors. Many of them have every right to speak, but there should be a full two-day debate. Will the right hon. Lady agree to that now?

Most of the right hon. Lady's statement concerned procedural questions, and I shall put one procedural question to her before moving on. When the committee was established in July, she properly gave an undertaking that if any Minister or civil servant felt that they had suffered unfair criticism in the report, they would have the chance to reappear before the committee to state their views and to have them taken further into account. Have any civil servants or Ministers availed themselves of that opportunity?

The right hon. Lady referred to the clear statement in paragraph 336 of the report about the Committee's conclusions. It is essential that the report is read as a whole. I am one of the few hon. Members who have had an opportunity to read it, and I am happy to confirm its judgment. There are references to the machinery of government and the failures that may have occurred. Indeed, the right hon. Lady referred to that. I wish to quote a paragraph from the report which illustrates why it is necessary to examine the whole report before passing judgment on its conclusions. It is necessary to draw the right conclusions to ensure that the same tragic errors are not committed in future. In the words of the Foreign Secretary who resigned, those errors led to a national humiliation. [Interruption.] It was pretty tragic for the people who were killed. We need to know whether measures will be taken to ensure that such a tragic development does not occur again, perhaps in Belize, which is not such a different example.

For those reasons, I wish to put to the House another paragraph that illustrates the case most clearly. Paragraph 115 states:
"When they were informed of the decision"—
that is, the decision to withdraw HMS "Endurance"—
"the Falkland Islands Councils held a joint meeting on 26 June 1981, following which they sent a message to Lord Carrington in the following terms:
'The people of the Falkland Islands deplore in the strongest terms the decision to withdraw HMS Endurance from service. They express extreme concern that Britain appears to be abandoning its defence of British interests in the South Atlantic and Antarctic at a time when other powers are strengthening their position in these areas. They feel that such a withdrawal will further weaken British sovereignty in this area in the eyes not only of Islanders but of the world. They urge that all possible endeavours be made to secure a reversal of this decision'."
On the following page the report describes fully for the first time what happened to those "all possible endeavours". One would have thought that in the face of such an appeal "all possible endeavours" should have included a reference of this matter to the Cabinet or to the Overseas and Defence Committee of the Cabinet. There was a difference of opinion between the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Defence—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I am talking now about what happened to the Falkland Islands. [HON. MEMBERS: "Question."] I am coming to my question to the right hon. Lady. There was a difference of opinion between the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Defence about the withdrawal of HMS "Endurance". The Foreign Secretary, who resigned, persisted in his attempt to raise the matter.

Does the right hon. Lady agree that the proper place for the question to have been decided—the difference of opinion between the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Defence—was either in the Overseas and Defence Committee over which she presides or the Cabinet over which she is supposed to preside? Does she agree, having read the entire report, that it illustrates a collapse of effective Cabinet government in this country—[Interruption.] We had Cabinet government in this country that could not even discuss this appeal from the Falkland Islands. Will the right hon. Lady tell us now what changes she is making in the effective control of the Government to ensure that such a tragic event does not arise again?

On the first question raised by the right hon. Gentleman, which was raised before I made my statement, about the alleged briefing of the press, the remarks that were made rightly cause deep offence to a very distinguished civil servant who has served both Governments. [HON. MEMBERS: "Leaking."] The leaking was not from No. 10. As a civil servant has been named, and it is my duty and pleasure to defend him, may I say that there was never an arrangement for my press secretary to brief the press on the contents of the Franks report before its publication. To help the press to digest the report in the short time available to them after publication, my press secretary was prepared to give them a list of numbers of key paragraphs—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ah!"]—knowing full well that those paragraphs could have been tested against the report when published and that it could have been seen whether he had been fair or not—[Interruption.] Is the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) suggesting that he would have been unfair?

What I am suggesting to the right hon. Lady is that she talks about guidance for certain paragraphs, but she just said in response to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition that the report should be read in its entirety, not just selected paragraphs.

So the hon. Gentleman is not accusing my press secretary. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for enabling me to make that point.

However, in view of what occurred in the House last night, about which I heard, I specifically instructed him not to brief the press either on the paragraphs or in any way. Therefore, he did not brief them on the paragraphs and had no intention at any time of briefing them on the contents, nor did he brief them on the contents. The only people outside the Government who have had the report in advance of publication are the Leader of the Opposition—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ah!"]—former Prime Ministers—[HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] I shall come to the moment when. The report was also made available to the Ministers who resigned when the invasion took place. They were given the report at midday yesterday. The leaders of the other opposition parties, who were consulted on the establishment of the committee, and you, Mr. Speaker, received it this afternoon.

I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that the report should be read as a whole—

—which is why I quoted only the conclusions, which one is entitled to quote because the Franks committee was set up to pronounce on precisely those matters. It would have been absurd to do otherwise.

The right hon. Gentleman pointed out the paragraphs about HMS "Endurance" and about the decision to withdraw it. If the report is to be read as a whole, he should also refer to paragraph 44, which states:
"One consequence of the 1974 Defence Review, which resulted in a phased rundown of overseas commitments outside NATO was a decision to take HMS "Endurance" out of service."

I will indeed read on. I shall read the next sentence and the one after that if need be. There was a decision to take HMS "Endurance" out of service. It was not implemented, nor was our decision to take HMS Endurance out of service implemented. [Interruption.] The fact is that the invasion ocurred while HMS Endurance was on station.

The Leader of the Opposition should also direct attention to signals and developments in British policy that are discussed in paragraphs 278 to 281, which refer also to other signals given by governments of both parties—[Interruption.]

Order. I will take the hon. Gentleman's point of order if he cannot wait until the end of the answer.

But may I say to the House that it is very wrong on an issue of such magnitude that anyone must fight to be heard. It is very wrong indeed.

Is it in order and is it helpful and proper for the Prime Minister to pick and choose paragraphs of a document that none of us has had a chance to read?

I did not select this particular point. I am replying to it. I do not intend to quote from other paragraphs. A great deal that is pertinent to the point selected by the Leader of the Opposition can be found in paragraphs 278 to 281.

With regard to what the right hon. Gentleman said about the meetings of the Overseas and Defence Committee—this is not found in the report—in 1981 there were 18 meetings of OD. Between January and March 1982 there were a further five meetings of OD. What is arranged is a matter partly for the Ministers concerned. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will say how frequently OD meetings were held under his Government. The policy had been discussed and was not changed. There were plenty of meetings of OD.

Would the right hon. Lady tell me about the meetings of the Overseas and Defence Committee? Did it discuss the Falklands, in particular the representations that were made on behalf of the Falklands Council by the Foreign Secretary and the representations that were made by the Foreign Secretary for the non-withdrawal of HMS "Endurance" to the Minister of Defence? That was a major division of opinion between the Foreign Secretary and the Defence Secretary. It should have been discussed at the Overseas and Defence Committee. The responsibility for ensuring what subjects are discussed at the Committee rests not with the Foreign Secretary or with the Defence Secretary but with the Prime Minister who is the chairman of that Committee.

The report deals fully with what was discussed, when and how those matters were dealt with between members of OD. The report should be read in full. The report points out that the meetings were not again discussed at OD. That was not unreasonable at the time in view of the close contact kept between Ministers on that occasion. It was discussed on many occasions, not necessarily at OD. The right hon. Gentleman thinks that somehow one becomes totally different when sitting as a member of that Committee. I find it utterly amazing that that is the only comment that the Opposition have to offer on this report and its conclusions.

The right hon. Lady must not say that. This is not the only question for discussion. We want the House of Commons to discuss this report on the basis stated by the Franks committee itself. It is essential to discuss the whole report.

Can the right hon. Lady answer the other question that I put? Did any Minister or civil servants exercise their right to return to the committee to put their case?

That was part of the arrangement made and published with the Franks report. Everything that was put in that letter was, I understand, honoured completely.

Although "Endurance" is not the major point, is not the difference between the right hon. Lady's reading of the facts and the case she quoted from paragraph 44, that the then Defence Secretary in the Labour Government proposed to abandon "Endurance" but was overruled? In the case of her own Government, it was the Foreign Secretary who was overruled when the decision to abandon "Endurance" was announced. That is all the difference in the world.

On the major question, all parties for many years, including the right hon. Lady's Government, have been prepared to give up sovereignty of the Falklands provided we could get a substantial period of leaseback. The right hon. Lady was committed to that until March of this year.

Is it further not the fact that all Governments were determined not to desert the Falklanders because they thought it would be unacceptable? Was it not also the case that all Governments believed that the worst of all possible policies—one that might be unsustainable in the long run and certainly undesirable in the short run—was a Fortress Falklands policy? Is not the result of the Government's handling of these matters during the last 12 months that we are presented under the direction of the right hon. Lady with a short-term military victory and a long-term political retreat and dead end?

I am very wary of saying anything that is not a quotation from the report. The right hon. Gentleman has seen something of the themes of which he spoke. Factors common to the approach of both Governments are contained in the early pages of the report. The significant themes of the period are summed up in paragraph 70. The dilemma for both Governments was that Argentina wanted sovereignty and the Falkland Islanders, whose wishes we regarded as paramount, wanted to stay British. That was the fundamental dilemma which applied to both Governments. In the end Argentina invaded. With due respect to the right hon. Gentleman, we now have no option except Fortress Falklands—[Interruption.] May I just continue?—if we are to continue, as I believe we should, to honour the wishes of the Falkland Islanders.

Does my right hon. Friend not agree that there is something pitiful in the scavenge hunt now being conducted by the Opposition for a few crumbs of comfort? Does she not further agree that there ought to be some sympathy for the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), who obviously had hoped for a stick with which he might be able to beat the Government and has instead been presented with a mirror to look at his own disappointing visage?

The conclusions of the report are clear. I believe the Franks report really should be read as a whole by all right hon. and hon. Members. Adequate time in which to debate the report is being arranged through the usual channels. How long questions continue is a matter for you, Mr. Speaker.

May I join in the thanks to my noble Friend Lord Franks and his colleagues for his swift and thorough report that they have given to the House?

Does the Prime Minister recall that the decision to withdraw "Endurance" was controversial in the House at the time? Will she accept that Lord Franks reveals not only the message from the Falkland Islands Council but—further to what the Leader of the Opposition said—also the fact that a letter was sent from our embassy in Buenos Aires in the summer of 1981 saying that all Argentine newspaper articles
"highlighted the theme that Britain was 'abandoning the protection of the Falkland Islands'."?
That was further supported by an intelligence report in 1981
"that the withdrawal of HMS 'Endurance' had been construed by the Argentines as a deliberate political gesture … since the implications for the Islands and for Britain's position in the South Atlantic were fundamental."
In view of what I have said, surely the Prime Minister must tell the House why she did not give support to Lord Carrington when he was trying to retain the ship on station.

I believe the right hon. Gentleman is looking at the matter with some hindsight. "Endurance" was retained and, in fact, was on station between the Falklands and South Georgia at the time of the invasion of the Falklands. She had been on station at the Falklands, but was sent to South Georgia when the incident occurred there. She was on her way back when we had the intelligence about the Falklands. Whatever the criticism, the fact is that "Endurance" was on station. The report says that it was a signal to the Argentines, but it also gave many other signals alongside that, some of which are attributable to Opposition Members and some to us. Those signals are contained in the paragraphs to which I have referred.

Order. I remind the House that this matter will be debated in the near future. Therefore, we are not debating it today. I hope that questions will be succinct, and I shall allow them to continue for a while longer.

Will my right hon. Friend set aside the Opposition's small-minded questioning and remind the House that the prime act of duplicity was committed by the Argentine junta? Will she confirm that, throughout, Ministers and Government officials made it clear to the Argentine that the wishes of the Falkland Islanders would remain paramount?

I agree with my right hon. Friend. Some of the noises we have heard are perhaps due to the fact that some Opposition Members do not like the conclusions of this independent committee. It is inherent in the Franks report that it was Argentina which decided to invade. The report states that the British Government could not have foreseen that invasion, or prevented it. I hope that at this time in particular there will be no question of departing from the wish—which has sustained both sides of this honourable House throughout our many debates on the subject—that the wishes of the Falkland Islanders are paramount, in which case we must defend them in accordance with those wishes.

Does not the Prime Minister recall that in the debate on 8 July, when the Franks committee was set up, some of us predicted that, as she had the power to choose the members of the committee—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]—and its terms of reference, and as she had the power to manipulate its publication—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—this would be an establishment cover-up and a whitewash? As the right hon. Lady is one of the few people who has had the privilege of reading the whole report, will she say whether our fears have been confirmed and her hopes realised?

The hon. Gentleman will recall that I had consultations with the leaders of political parties in this House. We jointly agreed on Lord Franks as the chairman, and there could be no better servant of this country than Lord Franks. I deeply resent what the hon. Gentleman has said, which I believe to be a criticism and slur on both Lord Franks and the whole committee. We also agreed on Sir Patrick Nairne as the other independent member of the committee. In addition, we agreed that the Opposition and Government parties should propose two names. They were also discussed. Therefore, the arrangements for the membership of the committee were agreed in full and proper consultation across all parties of this House.

Withdraw!99 The Prime Minister; The terms of reference were debated in this House and I believe, fully approved. I therefore hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw his remarks.

Would it not be right to emphasis the fact that in a summary annex to this unanimous report, the committee dealt with each and every assertion by opponents of the Government and independent commentators about prior warning or information that the Government had received before the invasion, and found all of them to be without foundation?

That is correct. Annex A contains a summary of the various assertions that have been made by various commentators, as well as the findings of the committee upon those assertions.

Was there, in fact, any collective discussion of the Falklands issue between Ministers in the early months up to the end of March last year either in OD, Cabinet or any other collective forum? Am I correct in saying that at the end of her reply to the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) the right hon. Lady indicated that she had no policy for the indefinite future other than that of Fortress Falklands?

The matter was not discussed in OD from January to March. If it had been, I do not think that there would have been any difference at all. Lord Carrington kept in touch with all members of OD through a series of minutes over a long period in addition to other contacts. The right hon. Gentleman will find that referred to in the report.

The right hon. Gentleman asked whether Fortress Falklands was the only policy. The policy is that the wishes of the islanders will be paramount. That used to be the policy of the Government of whom the right hon. Gentleman was a member. It is the policy that this House has insisted should be upheld. The defence requirements after an invasion now follow from that policy.

Does the Prime Minister recollect that on Tuesday, 26 October, in answer to Prime Minister's Question No. 1, she confirmed that the Falkland crisis had come out of the blue to her on Wednesday 31 March? As we now know that nuclear submarines and Royal Fleet Auxiliaries were despatched from Gibraltar on Monday 29 March, and also that the crew of the "Fort Austin", which was possibly carrying nuclear weapons, were told that they were not going home but to the South Atlantic on Sunday 28 March by the barmaids of Gibraltar, how is it that the barmaids of Gibraltar have better information about the destination of the fleet, carrying nuclear weapons, than the British Prime Minister?

The hon. Gentleman's question was somewhat convoluted. The submarine was dispatched on that Monday because we were worried about the incident on South Georgia. We dispatched the submarine and a Royal Fleet Auxiliary to help keep "Endurance", about which there has been so much discussion, actively on station.

Order. I propose to call three more hon. Members from either side before going on to the next business.

Does my right hon. Friend recall that in July's debate on the Falkland Islands review, the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) stated that, when the Labour Government were negotiating with Argentina in 1977, he made certain that there was a naval presence off the Falkland Islands to strengthen the hand of the negotiating Minister and to deter the Argentines? Does the report cover that situation in its opening chapter, and does it state whether the Argentines were aware of that naval presence?

That matter is dealt with in extenso earlier in the report, but also in the specific assertions that are summarised in the annex. The fifth assertion was:

"Argentina was informed by the British Government of their decision to send a task force in 1977."
I had better quote precisely. The committee's comment is:
"The facts relating to the deployment of ships to the area in November 1977 are set out in our Report (see paragraphs 65ߝ66). We have had no evidence that the Argentine Government became aware of this deployment."

Is the Prime Minister aware that most people reading this report will not be interested in the preservation of reputations on either side, but rather in the simple question, "Could the lives lost in the Falklands war have been saved if other action had been taken?" May I ask the Prime Minister to turn her mind not to whether the arming of the Falkland Islands earlier might have made an invasion more difficult but to a much more specific political question?

Lord Carrington on 20 September 1979—this is referred to in paragraph 73 of the report—in a paper to the Cabinet said that it was in the British interest and that of the islanders to have substantive negotiations on sovereignty. He came back to the same theme on 12 October when he said that the Fortress Falklands option would carry a serious threat of invasion. That was the Foreign Secretary's view as early as 1979. Why did the Prime Minister veto that very wise political advice and create circumstances in which Lord Carrington's warning came into effect? The real lesson of that page of the report is that it was a political failure by the Government and not a failure to keep "Endurance" or to send further troops. It is that political failure that the military success has not yet obliterated or dealt with in any way.

The Franks report has come to two conclusions: first, that we did not foresee and could not have foreseen the invasion, and, secondly, that we could not have prevented it. It has come to those two clear conclusions. For the rest of the report I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman reads it in toto rather than take specific parts of it. He will find that what he has said has been part of the fundamental dilemma to which the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) referred. If we were to avoid going into what was called confrontation, which has many meanings attached to it and many different levels, we had to negotiate with the Argentines. That was done over many years and the report sets out the history from 1965.

It was thought that if those negotiations ever ceased then there might have been some escalation, and there were indeed from time to time escalations of the situation—times when ambassadors were withdrawn and the Argentines got involved in a number of actions. There came a time when it was difficult to sustain negotiations, but the negotiations in February in New York went rather well and the report offers my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham (Mr. Luce), the former Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, a rather nice compliment on the way he handled those negotiations in New York.

The Argentines wanted transfer of sovereignty and no British Government were able or willing to accept transfer of sovereignty or to consider it unless it was acceptable to the islanders themselves. That was the dilemma. It affected both Governments. Parliament and Governments of both parties have insisted that the wishes of the islanders are paramount. That put us in a difficult position. Now we have to honour those wishes.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is a bitter irony, the significance of which will not be lost on the British people, in the fact that the Leader of the Opposition referred to paragraph 115 of the report and the need to defend British interests, given that, persistently, the same right hon. Gentleman has been against adequate defence spending and that only a few minutes earlier he reminded the House that he seeks unilaterally to disarm this country?

The Franks committee has seen more people, heard more evidence and seen more papers, more reports and more minutes than any of us. It has come to its conclusions. We have no alternative but to accept its conclusions and to read the wider report before we debate it in much more detail. I did go to tremendous trouble to consult about it, for obvious reasons. During that war we kept, with very rare exceptions, all together. I hope we can finish the Falklands story in that way.

If all is well, why on earth did Lord Carrington resign and why did the Prime Minister plead with him not to?

I pleaded with him not to because I knew we had an outstanding Foreign Secretary. Lord Carrington resigned because there were adverse comments, because of the effect of the invasion and because of the very considerable criticism of him at that time. He thought therefore that if there was to be total unity from then onwards, which was absolutely vital, it would be best for him to resign. It was the act of an honourable and very great Foreign Secretary.

When the dust settles on all this, will it not be realised that successive British Governments have been negotiating, at least since the military coup in March 1976, with an unstable, brutal, fascist regime and that the main mistake British Governments have made was believing that either Parliament or people would ever have agreed to any transfer of sovereignty over a small British community to such a regime? Looking to the future, would the Prime Minister not agree that the situation could be transformed and that we could start to forget Fortress Falklands if Argentina returned to stable, democratic parliamentary government that recognised fundamental human rights?

I agree in part with what my hon. Friend says, but I think it will be a long time before many of us can forget the invasion that occurred or the effort required to liberate those islands. It would require a very different attitude on the part of Argentina, under whatever kind of Government, before we could be certain that she had renounced all claims and would not return to the kind of unpredictable action which one sees under dictators.

Can we have an assurance from the Prime Minister that, as this matter is debated next week and in the weeks ahead, she will not adopt her traditional stance of blaming everyone else and abdicating her full responsibility for what the former Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington had described as a national humiliation?

The subject of the debate would be the Franks report. We shall be debating what Franks said and, of course, I am happy to debate that.

London Members (Greater London Council)

4.28 pm

I have a brief statement to make. I have to inform the House that my attention has been drawn by two hon. Members, the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Brown) and the hon. Member for Paddington (Mr. Wheeler), to certain words spoken by Mr. Kenneth Livingstone, the leader of the Greater London council and Mr. John McDonnell, the chairman of the finance and general purposes committee of that body, indicating an intention to restrict the provision of new services in the constituencies of any London Member of the House who failed to support the provisions of a forthcoming GLC money Bill.

I am satisfied that this is a matter to which I ought to allow precedence and the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch, whose application I received first, is accordingly at liberty to table a motion for the commencement of public business tomorrow, which the House will decide.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. With reference to the announcement that you have just made, some of us who are London Members have received no communication from the people that you have named. May I ask whether you can make available to hon. Members, particularly from London, the data and the text of any such statement to which you have just referred?

It is not for me to produce the evidence; it is for the hon. Gentleman who will seek the leave of the House to make his case tomorrow.

Young Persons' Rights

4.29 pm

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to entitle all sixteen to nineteen-year-old persons to work, education and training.
The Bill would give every person between the ages of 16 and 19 a comprehensive entitlement to work, education or training with an appropriate wage or allowance. It would place a duty on the Ministers with responsibility for education and employment in United Kingdom to provide such opportunities and to arrange the scheme in such a way as to ensure that as young people move in and out of employment their education and training would continue according to a planned provision.

Two items of some importance appeared in a Glasgow newspaper. While drawing attention to those I should say that my Bill, if accepted by the House, will apply to the United Kingdom. A Strathclyde teacher, Mr. Jack McLean, writing in the Glasgow Herald by way of an end of term report shortly after the start of the summer holidays, described a conversation with one of his pupils who was leaving school:
"'Got a job to go to, Billy?' I ask as I sign their School Leavers form. 'Naw' they say"—
which, of course, in Scotland means 'No'—
"I put the form back into their hands. It might as well be, it even could be in the future, a petrol bomb I'm putting there. 'Good luck anyway,' you say, 'hope you find something.' Dear God, you think, as you see these children go down the corridor and into the outside world, can we not do better than this?"
Mr. Maclean's fears were, alas, realised and expressed a few weeks later in a letter to the Glasgow Herald written by a young girl aged 17 from Ayrshire, Frances Trainer. She said:
"I left school in May 1982 with six O-grades and four Highers, expecting to have a better chance than most in the job stakes. Two months later I was at the end of my tether, desperate to work and to prove my worth to an employer. I wrote letters by the dozen, haunted the Job Centre and still nothing. Finally, I gave in and went to the Youth Opportunities—surely one of the worst schemes ever devised. I have worked a 40-hour week for £25 alongside people who earn three and four times that. Nine times out of 10 another person is needed but the employer is content to have free labour for six months, dump you and employ another gullible school leaver who thinks £25 is a great wage."
Those are the views of two people very much involved in the problems which I hope the House will consider seriously this afternoon. They are problems with which I hope the Bill will deal effectively.

Unemployment, overwhelming though we know it to be—in the region of 4 million—hits particularly hard at the 16 to 19-year-olds whom the Bill would cover. The recent report on social trends showed that youth unemployment in Britain had reached a staggering 25 per cent. The figures for Britain in October 1982—the latest available to me—showed that youth unemployment in Britain stood at 262,976. What was just as interesting and saddening was that those involved in activities that were relevant to the youth opportunities programme numbered 280,000. Therefore, in reality, over 500,000 young people in Britain are not in real jobs.

Those figures were reflected in my constituency and, I have no doubt, in other constituencies as well. In Coatbridge and Airdrie 972 young people were registered as unemployed but 977—almost exactly the same figure—were involved in the youth opportunities programme. The young people in the various youth training schemes, however adequate or inadequate they may be, are cloaking the real figures and the underlying frustrations and resentment among young people, which we as a society ignore at our peril.

For £25 a week many young people are in temporary jobs that are boring, repetitive, lacking in challenge, and offering no promotion prospects whatever. Travel costs of £4 a week cannot be reclaimed so they take home £21 a week. It is surely worth reflecting on the thought that if they were receiving supplementary benefit they would be getting £18·90 a week—a mere £2·10 less for not working at all. But, of course, they do want to work. My proposals to the House reflect the growing view of Britain's young people that we have not properly planned for changing employment patterns, for micro development, for the changing role of employment and its relationship to leisure.

There has been no obviously acceptable strategy for the social and educational fabric of our country. We have allowed cuts in local authority expenditure on education, industrial training boards have been axed, university places have disappeared. We have seen the collapse of apprenticeships, massive cuts in the Manpower Services Commission, a chaotic system of benefits, awards and bursaries for training and education, and, above all, as many of Britain's young people believe, an attack on the wage levels of our young workers.

The Bill would recognise that Britain now has both a training and a youth unemployment problem, for which responsibility should be placed on the appropriate Ministers. It will provide opportunities for positive and rewarding employment, education or training for every young person in Britain between the ages of 16 and 19. It will recognise that essential liberties can be maintained only if our young people are given such basic rights. The Bill also recognises that first-class proposals for education, jobs and training will show that the House does not regard the vast majority of Britain's young people as second-class citizens. Our young people represent not Britain's forgotten generation but our most precious asset for the future. We owe it to them to offer hope for the future in place of the despair of the past.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Tom Clarke, Mr. James Hamilton, Mr. Jim Craigen, Mr. David Marshall, Mr. Gareth Wardell, Mr. John Maxton, Mr. Michael Martin, Mr. David Lambie, Mr. Ron Lewis, Mr. William Hamilton, Mr. George Foulkes, and Mr. John Home Robertson.

Young Person's Rights

Mr. Tom Clarke accordingly presented a Bill to entitle all sixteen to nineteen-year-old persons to work, education and training: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time upon 22 April 1983. [Bill 56.]

Water Money (No 2)

Queen's Recommendation having been signified


That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to provide for the dissolution of the National Water Council, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of the Consolidated Fund of any expenditure attrib