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Commons Chamber
02 May 1985
Volume 78

House Of Commons

Thursday 2 May 1985

The House met at half-past Two o'clock

Prayers

[MR. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

FELIXSTOWE DOCK AND RAILWAY BILL (By Order)

Order for Second Reading read.

To be read a Second time upon Monday 13 May at 7 o'clock.

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As the other three Bills on the Order Paper are the subject of blocking motions, with the leave of the House I shall deal with them together.

GREATER LONDON COUNCIL (GENERAL POWERS) BILL (By Order)

LINCOLN CITY COUNCIL BILL (By Order)

YORKSHIRE WATER AUTHORITY BILL (By Order)

Orders for Second Reading read.

To be read a Second time upon Thursday 9 May.

Oral Answers To Questions

Home Department

Immigration Clearance

1.

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has any proposals to reduce the waiting times before first interview for application for entry clearance in the Indian subcontinent, particularly in Dhaka.

11.

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent representations he has received about the length of time an applicant for an entry permit to the United Kingdom has to wait for an interview in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.

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Since the beginning of the year, I have received delegations from two organisations, and received one letter, specifically about delays in dealing with entry clearance applications in the Indian subcontinent, but the matter has been mentioned by a number of other organisations and individuals in discussions and correspondence about immigration control generally.

We have increased the number of entry clearance officers at Dhaka and our immigration section there is already the largest of any of our posts overseas. My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary is taking steps to ensure that the most effective use is made of these resources.

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Is the Minister aware that the annual number of applications processed has declined considerably? Is he aware that the productivity of entry clearance officers in the subcontinent has decreased by 36 per cent. per officer? What will the hon. and learned Gentleman do about that? Is the decrease due to the complexity of the rules that have been made by this Government? Will the hon. and learned Gentleman make a statement?

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The present rules governing the admission of wives and children are exactly the same as the rules that obtained under the Labour Government. The point that I was seeking to make was that there are now more entry clearance officers in Dhaka than there were at the time of the Labour Government. We realise that this is a serious situation, and we are doing our best to relieve it. Two years ago we increased the number of entry clearance officers. As a result, there have been two extra entry clearance officers at Dhaka for the past two winters. Steps are being taken to keep staffing levels at full effective strength, with five additional postings for six months each being made to cover staff leave and so on. In addition, first-time applicants are to be given a measure of priority over those who have previously applies and been refused permission.

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I am sure the Minister will agree that it is to no one's advantage to have such lengthy waiting times before interviews are conducted. In some cases, 22 months pass before the first interview is conducted to decide whether a man's wife and children can join him in this country. Cannot extra efforts be made, especially in Dhaka where the waiting time seems to be longest, to make a big clearance of the queue once and for all so that applicants may be dealt with more humanely?

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It is important to give priority to first-time applicants. One of the difficulties in Dhaka is that many people, having had their applications refused and appeals turned down, apply repeatedly. That is very much to the disadvantage of people who, having been here for two or three years, decide to call for their wives and children. We must put this matter into perspective. A comparison of present waiting times with waiting times under the Labour Government shows that we certainly have nothing of which to be ashamed. The waiting time in Bombay was 12½ months in 1979; it is now only six months. The waiting time in Islamabad was 19½ months in 1979; it is now 10¾ months. The waiting time in Delhi is now precisely the same as in 1979. The waiting time in Dhaka was 22 months in 1979; it is now 23 months. Those are not grounds for indicting the Government.

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I listened with interest to what my hon. and learned Friend said. Is he aware that any reduction in the waiting list abroad would only mean an increase in the number of unemployed people in Britain, in particular in Leicester and Bradford? Will he reconsider his policy, which is negative and undesirable?

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We must apply the rules. Our entry clearance officers have to ensure that there is no evasion, but equally that people receive their entitlement. I cannot go along with my hon. Friend if he is saying that we should now alter the approach which has been adopted by successive Governments over the years and deny to a man who has settled here the right to bring in his wife and children. But my hon. Friend is correct to draw to the attention of the House the difficult social problems involved. I assure the House that if those queues were to be removed tomorrow, we should face enormous problems with regard to schools, social services and hospitals, for example, in Tower Hamlets. A high percentage of the people in those queues would go to our inner city areas. However, that does not mean that we shall alter the policy which gives to the people settled here the right to bring in their wives and children.

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Is not one of the significant causes of the delay the Government's excessive zeal in finding reasons not to admit people—in particular, the primary purposes regulations which prevent from entering people who otherwise would legitimately be able to join their families?

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I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman mentioned that point. We are often told that we are now applying more oppressive control than was the case under Labour. That is a load of old nonsense. The highest refusal rate of families in Dhaka occured in 1977 under the Labour Government, when it was over 60 per cent. The refusal rate in Dhaka last year was only 50 per cent. I remind the hon. Gentleman that since the introduction of the 1983 rules, the failure rate for husbands and fiancés has decreased.

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Do not confidential papers, recently leaked, show that the Home Office is using administrative means deliberately to stop people with a clear legal right to enter this country from doing so? Will he take the opportunity of next Thursday's debate on the Commission for Racial Equality to apologise to the commission for his premature criticism of its immigration control policy, and announce that there will be a substantial increase in entry clearance officers on the Indian subcontinent so that the queues of people, predominantly families, can exercise their legal right to enter this country to join their husbands?

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I was content that there should be a debate on immigration next Thursday, but I understand that the Opposition chose otherwise.

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On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

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Order. I shall take points of order after Question Time.

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If I am wrong, I withdraw the remark. I am entitled to make the point that on three separate days I and the Home Office have been happy to have a debate on immigration, but for some reason that has not been satisfactory to the Front Benches of the two—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—I am not having it said that we are ducking a debate.

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rose——

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Order. This question has gone on for a long time. I know that it is of great interest to the House, but we should have the answer without an argument about a debate.

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My trouble, Mr. Speaker, is that I have forgotten what the question was.

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In that case, we might move on.

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Does my hon. and learned Friend accept that the figures that he has just quoted show that in no way are those entitled to come to this country being unjustly inhibited? Does he also accept that the enterprise of the Asian community in Leicester contributes to employment, not unemployment?

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I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend for what he has said. No impartial and reasonable person looking at the figures that I have mentioned today could for a moment say that the Government are failing in their duty. The very important matter raised by the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) has a bearing on my hon. and learned Friend's point. The briefing paper that appeared in The Guardian was used by the journalist to suggest that queues were being used deliberately to limit immigration. Queues exist—and they existed under the Labour Government—because the number of people applying to come here exceeds the capacity of the resources available to deal with them. That was the case under the Labour Government and it remains the case today.

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We want the debate on the Commission for Racial Equality report. It was certainly not at the request of the Opposition Front Bench that there should be a further delay in having that debate.

The Minister's answers to the question at issue, today and on previous occasions, suggest a deficiency on his part as regards both statistics and humanity. There is serious doubt about the figures that he has quoted today. Last year, 1984, was the first year when the number of applications processed for entry were fewer than the numbers received. Is that not a sign that the Minister is using bureaucratic methods to increase the delays?

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If the hon. Gentleman were right, we would not be sending an extra entry clearance officer to Dhaka and we would not have sent two extra officers for the past two winters, and my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary would not be making sure that extra staff go to Dhaka this year to see that there is no shortage of entry clearance officers as a result of leave or sickness. If the hon. Gentleman doubts my statistics, perhaps he will challenge me and say where I am wrong.

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On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

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Later. We are well behind time.

Drug Trafficking (Seizure Of Assets)

2.

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will introduce legislation to provide for the seizure and confiscation of assets acquired through drug trafficking.

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I intend to seek an opportunity for legislation of this kind during the life of this Parliament.

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I welcome that brief reply. Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that the current law is unsatisfactory and that urgent action is needed? Is he aware that those who traffick in drugs are prepared to destroy the careers and lives of their fellow human beings in order to make vast fortunes? Is there not a case for doing something radical—for giving the police immediate powers of seizure before conviction, and for shifting the burden of proof so that, in order to avoid forfeiture, drug dealers have to prove that they obtained their assets by legitimate means?

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There is a case for doing all those things. We are considering the matter urgently. It is necessary to take action in this area, and we shall do so. The existing powers are inadequate, but it is important that the courts should not feel that they should not be used so far as they go. Although they need to be supplemented, they are quite considerable.

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I welcome the right hon. and learned Gentleman's statement about the powers. Will he assure the House that any Bill will extend the powers to Northern Ireland?

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I will certainly consider that point.

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Are not the major drug traffickers perhaps the most evil and potentially dangerous of all criminals? Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that this legislation is perhaps the most important single action that his Department can take to combat them and that the sooner it is on the statute book the better?

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I would agree with that. However, other action can be and is being taken. I congratuate my hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (Mr. Raffan) on successfully piloting through the House his Bill to enact the Government's pledge to increase the maximum penalty for trafficking in serious drugs to life imprisonment. The support given to that Bill shows how seriously we treat the matter.

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The Home Secretary might be aware that the Conservative candidate who opposed me at the 1979 general election was later locked up as a drug trafficker and was well known to have a great fortune in Switzerland, which then could not be touched. Is he aware that this is important legislation, but that it is scraping at the symptoms rather than the cause of the growth of drug use by young people, which is lack of opportunity and work?

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The seriousness of the hon. Gentleman's interest in this matter is rendered suspect by his wholly unnecessary opening remarks.

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Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that drug traffickers should be subject to criminal bankruptcy? Does he also agree that the figures of those who are not subject to criminal bankruptcy are far too high at the moment? Is he aware that many people who should properly be subject to criminal bankruptcy are escaping, and that their numbers should be halved?

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The arrangements for criminal bankruptcy are not a satisfactory solution to the problem. We must act, and the suggestions in the Hodgson report must be considered. We are considering the matter urgently. I accept my hon. Friend's support for the urgency with which we are approaching legislation on this subject.

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As drug addiction, especially heroin addiction, has risen by more than 400 per cent. since the right hon. and learned Gentleman came to office, when will he stop the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department gallivanting all over the country and the world making gestures and tell him to start doing something effective? What will be the Government's response to the demand by the chief constable of Preston yesterday that he can deal with the problem only if he has more men, resources, and equipment?

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If the hon. Gentleman is so insular as to think that a study of what is going on in other countries, such as the United States, which has had the problem longer and is experiencing it more seriously. will contribute nothing to our handling of the problem, his consideration of the subject is unworthy of him. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State has engaged in a constructive visit to the United States, where he has seen the problems and the solutions to them. The problem must be tackled comprehensively. It is being tackled more comprehensively through legislation such as I mentioned earlier, by tackling the entry of drugs to Britain, by providing treatment and by publicity. Those approaches are more than anything that has been done by any previous Government, and my hon. Friend has spearheaded that comprehensive approach.

Elections (Proportional Representation)

4.

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will seek to introduce proportional representation for local government elections.

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No, Sir.

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Why, on this day of county council elections, are the Government afraid of facing local government elections by fair and democratic means? Does the Minister agree that the likely result of the elections is that yet more issues will be decided by caucus rather than by democratic debate?

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As a non sequitur, the hon. and learned Gentleman's latter assertion takes a great deal of beating. The epitome of caucus politics is a hung council—politicians having to get together to sort out what policy will be, rather than electors doing so.

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Does my hon. and personal Friend agree none the less accept that there are already more than 30 local authorities with no overall control and a possibility that that number might increase in the next 24 hours? Does he further agree that it makes slightly more sense to have local authorities which are broadly proportionate to the votes cast rather than made up according to arithmetical accident?

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The trouble with the approach that my hon. and personal Friend advances is that the Bill, which has been introduced in another place and which would do what he required, would provide electoral districts for local authorities of between four and nine members—hardly an additional ornament to local democracy—and give councils power to adjust their boundaries. That is an invitation to the sort of malpractice that might go on in other jurisdictions, but which has never been allowed to go on here.

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Does the hon. Gentleman accept that we in Northern Ireland have experience of proportional representation and that we do not commend it? Will he accept our advice that the Government should persist in their view not to introduce it into Great Britain and that they should definitely reconsider its application to Northern Ireland?

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I shall not be tempted into folly and comment on the last question, not even today. However, I obviously welcome advice from the hon. Gentleman, and I shall consider it.

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Does my hon. Friend agree that the introduction of proportional representation will in no way prevent ugly and loutish scenes such as those organised by the hard Left in Southwark town hall last night?

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I thoroughly agree.

Soccer Grounds (Policing)

7.

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what discussions he has had with the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis about policing methods inside London Football League club grounds.

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I have had no recent discussion personally with the Commissioner on this subject, but my Department keeps in close contact with the Metropolitan police about football violence, and ways of tackling it.

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Will the Home Secretary consider the proposal that I made in an Adjournment debate on 19 April about setting up football community policing teams, because clearly somewhat more specialised attention is required by the Metropolitan police to the problems of crowd violence inside London league clubs?

Secondly, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman take the opportunity to discuss with the Commissioner the possibility of transferring the cost of policing from football clubs to the public purse? Chelsea, for example, has paid about £127,000 this year in policing charges. That money could have been more usefully spent on ground improvements for the benefit of the supporters, and, I hope, reducing football hooliganism.

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It is best that football grounds are policed by local officers with reinforcements, if necessary, rather than by specialist squads.

Regarding the hon. Gentleman's second point, if a football club organises a match and requires policing inside the ground, as opposed to outside, because of the risk of trouble, it is reasonable that it should pay for the cost of that policing.

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Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that in the north of England video surveillance and recordings of visiting supporters have led to custodial sentences for those who have committed misdemeanours at football matches? Does he agree that people, such as Ken Bates of the Chelsea football club, should be supported, not discouraged by stupid planning regulations, in their desire to control hooliganism?

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We all share the desire to control football hooliganism. My hon. Friend makes a good point about video pictures. The Home Office is experimenting with a van which can take good quality still and video pictures outside and inside grounds. That van is intended to assist in crowd control and to gather evidence for use in court proceedings. The use of such a facility is an important contribution to the problem.

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Is it not a fact that since the Prime Minister's headline hunting caused her to stick her meddling fingers into this issue, there has been nothing but ill feeling and confusion? Now that she has suddenly taken an interest in football hooliganism and football, will she abandon her boycott of the Cup Final, attend it again, and take the opportunity to watch Manchester United win the cup?

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There are not many matters about which I would take lessons from the right hon. Gentleman, but the pursuit of headline hunting may be one. His remarks about my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister are singularly inapposite. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will note with interest the right hon. Gentleman's invitation to her to attend the Cup Final.

Animal Welfare

8.

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received recently from animal welfare groups in Glasgow; and if he will make a statement.

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I have received two letters from the Scottish Anti-Vivisection Society concerning the University of Glasgow's connection with brain-damage research performed at the University of Pennsylvania.

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Is my hon. Friend aware that there is considerable anxiety in the west of Scotland about the unbelievably cruel experiments on live monkeys which are carried out at the University of Pennsylvania, following which further research on their scrambled brains is undertaken at the University of Glasgow? Is he further aware that one of the professors engaged in that research has said that in eight years of research no use has been made of the experimental results for the benefits of humans? Does my hon. Friend share my anxiety about those experiments, and does he believe that it is an adequate response to say that those experiments would not be allowed in the United Kingdom?

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A distinction must be drawn between what is happening at the University of Pennsylvania and at the University of Glasgow. I saw the deeply distressing video of what has gone on at the University of Pennsylvania, and it appears that animals that may not have been anaesthetised at the time were subjected to brain damage. The conduct of those experiments by some of the researchers left a very great deal to be desired. That conduct would not be permitted in the United Kingdom, and nor would the imposition of those injuries, without an anaesthetic, be permitted in the United Kingdom. The work of the University of Glasgow is confined to research on tissues that have been removed from the dead monkeys. That work is not subject to control under the 1876 Act, because that Act deals with vivisection and experiments on live animals, and does not deal with the use of dead tissues.

Metropolitan Police

9.

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is satisfied with manpower levels within the Metropolitan police.

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On 31 March the strength of the Metropolitan police was 26,751, and the strength of the civil staff was 12,939. These are increases of over 4,500 and 1,300 respectively since May 1979. It is the Commissioner's objective, which I fully support, to ensure that the very considerable manpower at his disposal is used as effectively, efficiently and economically as possible.

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Although I greatly welcome those figures for increased manpower since 1979, does not my right hon. and learned Friend accept that the increased duties of the Metropolitan police and the continuing level of crime combine to require a substantially greater establishment? Will he devote some of his considerable energy to pressing for such an increase in due course?

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There has been an increase in the Metropolitan police establishment from 1 April 1985. We shall need to keep the position under review as the reorganisation of the force proceeds. That reorganisation, of course, is of considerable importance, as I believe that it will lead to a more effective use of manpower.

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Is the Home Secretary aware that crime levels in London's inner city areas are running at more than twice the national average and that the deployment of police in London is not directly related to them? Will he ask the Commissioner to concentrate resources permanently—not temporarily, as with the special patrol group—on areas that have very high rates of crime, which could do with good permanent police officers on the streets?

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I am sure the hon. Gentleman will accept that the Commissioner will have that priority very much at the forefront of his mind.

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Can my right hon. and learned Friend say what effect there would be on the manpower requirements of the Metropolitan police if a fifth terminal were built at Heathrow, with the ensuing appalling traffic jams in west London?

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Not without notice.

Coalfield Communities (Policing)

10.

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what discussions he has had with chief officers of police about policing problems since the ending of the coal miners' strike.

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I continue to keep in touch with chief officers about the policing of areas which were affected by disorder during the miners' strike.

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Does the Home Secretary intend to consider the lessons that can be drawn from the policing of the miners' strike and the great variety of operational practices found among the different police forces? Does he plan to give the House the benefit of his views on that subject before he publishes his paper on public order?

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That will not be possible, because I hope to publish my paper on public order very soon. The examination of the operational lessons to be learnt from the strike is being continued by the Association of Chief Police Officers, and it will not be completed within that time scale.

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When the Home Secretary discusses the miners' strike with chief constables, will he make it his business to hold in-depth talks on the mountainous cost of policing that strike? That cost is a terrific burden for ratepayers, and rate-capped authorities consequently find themselves in great financial difficulty. What does the Home Secretary intend to do about that?

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The Home Secretary is not going to do anything about it, because he has done something about it. He has announced enormous assistance to police authorities which have had to incur costs on an unprecedented scale. During the strike I announces a series of measures which have cumulatively led to enormous help being given to those authorities which have had to incur that burden.

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Why is it taking so long to investigate complaints against the police? I made a complaint in December 1984 and that investigation has still not been completed.

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The length of time depends on the complexity of the issues that have to be looked into. However, if the hon. Lady feels that there has been an undue delay, I should be happy to look into her case.

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Can the Home Secretary be more explicit about the date of publication of the White Paper? The Prime Minister said in November 1984 that it would be published before the end of the year. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has just said, I think, that it is to be published in the next few weeks. Does he mean that?

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It will be published before the end of this month.

Sunday Trading

12.

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a further statement on Sunday trading.

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The House will have the opportunity to debate the Auld report in the very near future and my right hon. and learned Friend will take that opportunity to make a statement on the Government's intentions.

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Is my hon. Friend aware that a strong case can be made for eliminating the anomalies of the present Sunday trading laws, but that a general relaxation would be disastrous for the cherished way of life of this country? A previous attempt to abolish restrictions was decisively rejected by the House on a free vote. The Government have no mandate for acting in the way that is apparently proposed. Should not Sunday be allowed to remain a day for rest, recreation and religion?

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That depends upon one's definition of rest and recreation. For some people it might involve a little quiet shopping. My hon. Friend will have the opportunity to develop his views, as will other hon. Members, during the debate that is soon to take place.

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Before the Minister makes his statement, will he consider the fact that to abolish completely the Shops Act would cause very considerable hardship to shop workers? Is he aware that they would have no defence whatever against the unscrupulous employer, because of the abolition by the Government of the wages council? Will he also take into account the tremendous offence that abolition would cause to many hundreds of thousands of religious people throughout the country?

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To hear the hon. Gentleman ask his question one would think that nothing had changed since the days of Mr. Polly. In putting forward the views of the Union of Shop Distributive and Allied Workers, the hon. Gentleman has revealed only too clearly why that union commands the support of only 15 per cent. of those who work in the retail sector.

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Does my hon. Friend agree that if Sunday trading were to be allowed, it would add to the employment prospects of very many people?

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I have every reason to believe that that would be the case.

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Will my hon. Friend accept that there is a sense of steamrollering about this issue and that opinions throughout the country vary from total apathy among chambers of commerce to downright opposition among the silent majority?

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It is two and a half years since the matter was last debated on the Floor of the House. Every speaker, whether for or against Sunday trading, said that the Shops Acts were in need of amendment. The Government then set up a committee which took almost a year to reach its conclusions. The committee's report was published over six months ago and we are now moving towards a debate on the report. It is interesting that "steamrollering" should be thought to embrace all of that.

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Does the Minister not recognise that when his Tory friends brush aside the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Torney) about the conditions for shop workers being made worse should full Sunday trading be authorised, he ought also to recognise that for many shop workers Sunday is the only family day that they have together, since six-day trading already takes place in many of our major cities? If full Sunday trading were to be authorised, conditions for hundreds of thousands of shop workers, not least their wages, would be destroyed.

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Again there is an air of unreality about the hon. Gentleman's question, but no doubt we shall have the pleasure of hearing from him at even greater length when the matter is fully debated.

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Will my hon. Friend accept that this matter must be decided on a free vote and that very strong views are held about it by many Conservative Members? They believe that all the advantages do not lie in the abolition of the Shops Acts and all their provisions, that Sunday is a day for the family and for corporate worship and that to abolish the Shops Acts would play into the hands of the large retailer, the supermarket and hypermarket, while small businesses—the butcher and the other traders who are a traditional part of this country—would suffer gravely.

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I hear what my hon. Friend says. The terms on which any proposal might be put before the House is not a matter for me but for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, who is in his place.

Violent Crime

13.

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will make a statement on offences of violence against the elderly.

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Crimes of violence are particularly abhorrent when they are perpetrated against the most vulnerable members of society. Though recent research has shown that elderly people are the least likely to be the victims of violent crime, attacks on the elderly quite rightly attract special concern and the courts have power to impose appropriately severe sentences in the most serious cases.

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May I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the fact that there have been a number of sickening attacks on the elderly in Stockport recently, often in furtherance of theft? Does he agree that such attacks cannot be tolerated and that, in order to deter others, courts should be encouraged to give long sentences of imprisonment to anybody engaging in that kind of crime, whether or not he is a first offender?

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The courts have the power to do just that and there is a strong and compelling case for doing so.

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Does my hon. Friend accept that a narrow statement on crimes of violence against the elderly is insufficient for the House and that he should be pressing for a full debate on the whole spectrum of law and order, sentencing policy and everything else that goes with it?

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My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary and I would be only too pleased to participate in such a debate. We have a good story to tell on those matters.

Juveniles (Reconviction Rates)

14.

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what are the latest reconviction rates for juveniles attending detention centres.

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About 70 per cent. of juveniles discharged from detention centres in England and Wales in 1980 were reconvicted within two years.

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Does that not show that the philosophy behind the Government's thinking in relation to juveniles who do wrong is not working? Would it not be a lot better if the Government concentrated on giving juveniles real jobs in society so that they felt that they were playing a more valid role, instead of leaving them to roam the streets and end up in detention centres?

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Those cheap and tendentious observations are somewhat undermined by the fact that in each of the years of the Labour Government the reconviction rates were higher than those I have just given.

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Given the lack of success of the detention centres, does the Minister agree that it is time that statutory funding was provided for intermediate treatment for juveniles throughout Britain, bearing in mind the evidence of success of such schemes?

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The hon. and learned Gentleman will know that we are attracted to intermediate schemes and that the Department of Health and Social Security has recently put some £15 million into developing intermediate treatment facilities throughout Britain.

Car Milometers

15.

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what information is available to the Metropolitan police as to the incidence of zeroing of car milometers; and if he will make a statement.

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It is Metropolitan police practice to refer members of the public who complain about misleading odometer readings on secondhand cars to the local trading standards officer and no central records on zeroing are therefore maintained by the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis.

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Will my hon. Friend accept that the zeroing of car milometers is massive, widespread and the biggest rip-off in London and beyond, and is in need of Government attention? Will his Department initiate immediate research with a view to establishing tamperproof milometers that cannot be abused in that way?

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My hon. Friend will understand that that is a matter not for my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary or myself but for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. He will be aware that that matter was dealt with in reply to a question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King), who was told that there were no plans at present to introduce such legislation.

Government Purchasing

16.

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what measures he proposes following the conclusions of the recent report by the Management and Personnel Office on Government purchasing.

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My Department has prepared a programme of action in response to the report with the aim of improving value for money in Home Office purchasing.

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Will my right hon. and learned Friend do all in his power to encourage small firms to play their part in achieving the hoped-for savings of £400 million per annum?

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I appreciate the need to do that. The report itself made no specific recommendation about small firms, but it mentioned the need to improve information and to simplify procedures for small firms. We shall have that in mind as we carry forward our response to the report.

Long-Term Prison System

22.

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he expects to reach a conclusion on the managing of the long-term prison system.

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My right hon. and learned Friend intends to make a statement within the next few months on our progress in implementing the report of the control review committee on the long-term prison system.

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Can my hon. Friend assure me that, when the Home Secretary makes that response, he will bear in mind the fact that the analysis which was drawn up by the working party was largely based on the American prison experience and that much of the report's conclusion is unsound because it is based on that system, which has armed warders?

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I am afraid that I cannot accept my hon. Friend's assertion that the report is based, to anything like the degree that he suggested, on American experience. I shall ensure that my right hon. and learned Friend, who has heard my hon. Friend's question, will bear in mind that point before announcing his conclusions.

Immigration Officers (Unofficial Guidance)

23.

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what measures he has taken to ensure that unofficial guidance circulars to immigration officers are withdrawn.

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Guidance circulars issued locally in respect to types of passenger likely to arrive at particular ports are being reviewed. Where such guidance is necessary in future it will be issued from immigration service headquarters.

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I thank the Minister for that reply. Will he give an assurance that when the guidelines are issued they will be made public so that everyone is aware of what guidelines exist and so that there is no doubt, ambiguity or false accusations?

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My right hon. and learned Friend said in a speech recently that the question of publication of the instructions to immigration officers is under consideration.

Prime Minister

Engagements

Q1.

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asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 2 May.

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I have been asked to reply.

My right hon. Friend this morning presided at a meeting of the Cabinet and had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. My right hon. Friend is now in Bonn for the economic summit.

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Has my right hon. Friend seen the reports of the disgraceful scenes at Southwark council last night, when Labour councillors not only disrupted the meeting but attacked television cameramen and damaged their equipment? Will he join me in inviting his Opposition counterpart to condemn that behaviour? Does he not think that it is a salutatory example today of the dangers of voting for Labour councillors?

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I assure my hon. Friend that I have seen the report in the evening newspapers of the scenes at Southwark council to which he referred. Such scenes are to be deprecated. They are as much a challenge to democratic Socialism as they are to other elements in political society. I am certain that Opposition Members will join me in condemning such behaviour.

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In view of the depressing and demoralisingly high levels of unemployment announced today, will the Leader of the House tell us when he confidently expects the rise in unemployment to be reversed, as he indicated in his letter to his constituency party chairman? Has he yet consulted the taproom wisdom in Llanyblodwel?

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I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman, who has such a good Welsh name, has such indifferent Welsh pronounciation. I assure him that I at once join him in expressing disappointment with the unemployment figures released today. I said in the letter to my constituency chairman that the rise in the number of people at work

"is still offset by the increase in the potential national work force as those leaving education substantially exceed those ageing into retirement."
I then said:
"I believe, however, that the underlying strength of the economy will, in time, reverse this situation. That will be the most decisive moment during this Parliament."
[HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] Being tolerably shrewd as well as good-natured, I decline to give a specific date. But I stand by that remark, and all the more so in the light of the encouraging evidence supplied by the recent CBI survey.

Q2.

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asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 2 May.

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I have been asked to reply.

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

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Does the Leader of the House not agree that it is the height of hypocrisy for this Government, egged on by their shadows in the alliance, to remove the political levy from the Labour party when it was revealed yesterday that the Liberal party had received £190,000 from the British School of Motoring and it is well known that the Tories receive millions of pounds from private industry? Is it not true that in both those cases the donors are elite groups and cliques—not the mass of the ordinary people in the country, but the rich stockholders and shareholders?

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The hon. Gentleman will know that contributions to party funds have been debated vigorously in the recent past. Of course, we can all make observations about the size of the contribution made by the British School of Motoring—[Interruption.] I am glad to have the assent of the leader of the Liberal party, because it would be improper for me to stand here and defend that contribution. The Tory party is sustained on voluntary contributions, and therein lies its strength.

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As my right hon. Friend is standing in for the Prime Minister, may I put a question to him on behalf of the Leader of the House? Will he continue to set his face against any curtailment of the powers of Select Committees to obtain the documents that they need to exercise thir parliamentary powers of supervision on behalf of the House?

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My right hon. Friend makes a somewhat good-natured but misleading observation on partial information. I suggest that he tries to ask his question at the appropriate time, which will come after 3.30 pm.

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After today's Cabinet meeting, can the Leader of the House inform us whether the Government have decided to betray or to honour their general election pledge to maintain the earnings-related pension scheme? If it is the former and their pledge is betrayed, will that not injure not only the 11 million people in the state earnings-related scheme, but the 10 million people who are contracted out? Would not that, as Sir Terence Beckett informed a meeting in the House only a few days ago, impose additional costs of about £3 billion a year on employers or lead to the winding-up of contracted-out pension schemes?

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The right hon. Gentleman will know that there have recently been four major reviews of aspects of the social security system. They are currently being considered by the Cabinet. When that consideration ends, the Cabinet's views will be reported to the House and they will form part of a wider political debate. If the right hon. Gentleman starts by using words such as "betrayal", when one of the central requirements, given our enormous commitment to social welfare, is to ensure that we have an updated arrangement that relates resources to those in need, he will undermine the way in which the debate should proceed.

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The House and the country will have noted the right hon. Gentleman's failure to answer the question about earnings-related pensions. Can he at least say whether, on the question of child benefit, the Government will also jettison the pledge given in a letter from the Prime Minister on 20 May 1983 to my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John), in which she categorically stated:

"there are no plans to make any changes to the basis on which the benefit is paid or calculated."

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The answer is simple. I will not betray, to use the right hon. Gentleman's language, any matters that are still before Cabinet. The proper course, when that discussion is concluded, will be for the appropriate Minister to come to this Dispatch Box and present the Government's proposals to the House.

Q3.

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asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 2 May.

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I have been asked to reply.

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave some moments ago.

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Is my hon. Friend aware that an increasing number of retail shops on petrol station forecourts are applying for off-licences, which means that they can sell alcoholic refreshments when pubs and licensed restaurants may not? Does this not make a mockery of our drink-drive laws and our licensing laws?

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I know that the position described by my hon. Friend is common in many parts of the country and that it gives rise to some anxiety. That is why it is being considered by my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary.

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Since the Prime Minister is in Bonn to observe the diplomatic skills of President Reagan at first hand, will she protest in the strongest possible way at the bully-boy tactics employed by the President of the United States towards Nicaragua in imposing a trade embargo? Will she remind him that when that was done in relation to Cuba, it gift-wrapped that island for Russia? Will she also tell him that, in the case of Nicaragua, he is subverting and sabotaging a country which is extremely poor, which is making the transition from dictatorship to democracy, and which should have the support of the land of the free, not its opposition?

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If my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, in her quest to seek to influence allies, were to use the rhetoric that has just been employed in this Chamber it would be totally counter-productive. What I do say is that it will be widely felt in the Chamber—I hope on both sides—and in many parts of the world that trade sanctions are not particularly effective.

Q4.

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asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 2 May.

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I have been asked to reply.

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

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Is my right hon. Friend aware of the BBC television poll conducted in Scotland last night on alternatives to the rating system in which 30,000 viewers participated? Is he aware that 51 per cent. of viewers opted for a poll tax, 41 per cent. for local income tax and only 8 per cent. for the present system of property tax? Is that not a clear sign that a poll tax is not only feasible and desirable, but an acceptable alternative for the majority of domestic ratepayers?

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I congratulate my hon. Friend on the additional evidence which he now possesses to sustain his own well-argued pamphlet on the subject. Whilst I take account of the figures that he quoted, as the debate proceeds it will be seen that the matters involved are a little more complex than was realised by those who took part in the poll.

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Today the highest unemployment levels in Britain this century were announced, despite attempts to sanitise the figures by the Tory Government. About 1,000 people a day have joined the dole queues in the last month. Is the Leader of the House surprised that because of that, and in view of leaks about the possible abolition of supplementary benefit for 16 and 17-year-olds, nearly 250,000 15 and 16-year olds took half a day's industrial action last Thursday against the Tory Government?

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I do not think that that episode was favourable to those who were politically identified with it.

North Yorkshire

Q5.

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asked the Prime Minister if she has any plans to make an official visit to North Yorkshire.

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I have been asked to reply.

My right hon. Friend has at present no plans to do so.

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I understand that my right hon. Friend has no plans to visit North Yorkshire, but I hope that my right hon. Friend who is standing in for her will visit the area soon to praise the county for its singular skill in keeping rates down to £60 per head less than they are in neighbouring Socialist Humberside. Does my right hon. Friend agree that this will result later today in a more substantial Conservative vote, as well as the creation of 4,000 jobs more per year?

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Although my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has no immediate plans to visit North Yorkshire I am sure that all Tories will look back with nostalgia to the days when Tory Ministers went there in the early days of August, year after year. The requirement today is to take account of the extraordinarily fine local government record of North Yorkshire, to contrast it with what has happened in Labour-held areas close by and to hope that virtue will be rewarded.

Engagements

Q6.

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asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 2 May.

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I have been asked to reply.

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

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In view of the 799 votes cast by one man in the Transport and General Workers Union elections last year, is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the current proposals are sufficient to deal with the malpractices that are so obvious to everyone?

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I am sure that there will be widespread satisfaction over the fact that the Transport and General Workers Union is holding a new ballot. The indications are that even present legislation is encouraging postal ballots in the trade unions. We shall have to see what happens before coming to any further judgments about whether additional legislation is required.

Q8.

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asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 2 May.

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I have been asked to reply.

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

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I know that the right hon. Gentleman is aware of the proposal by British Rail to single-track the railway line between Wrexham and Chester, but is he also aware that British Rail is apparently proposing, without consultation, to single-track the line from Wrexham to Shrewsbury, which runs through the right hon. Gentleman's constituency? Does he agree that there must be full consultation with local authorities and the local community before any such action is taken?

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I am glad that Question Time is settling around matters of more tangible consequence. I have been happy to be identified with the hon. Gentleman in representations on that matter in the past and I shall be equally happy to be alongside him in the future.

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On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

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Order. Does it arise out of Question Time?

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Yes, it arises out of questions to the Prime Minister, which have been answered by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. Had you noticed, Mr. Speaker, that two questions were put to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House about his views on something that he had said or thought in the past? While deputising for the Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend replies for the Prime Minister. The questions put to him by the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) both concerned decisions of the Leader of the House and not of the Prime Minister. It is important that when the Leader of the House deputises for the Prime Minister he should speak for her views and not have to answer for his own.

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I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's help. That very point was made by the Leader of the House himself.

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On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, arising out of questions to the Home Secretary today. Is it appropriate that even hon. Members from the Opposition Front Bench, let alone those on the Opposition Back Benches, should refer to business for next week, while asking questions of the Home Secretary, when the House has not been notified of the business for next week?

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I think that that is legitimate. None of us knows when there will be a debate on this important matter. I know that it is of great interest to the House and that is why I allowed a fairly long run on it during Question Time. As yet, I have no knowledge of what will happen next week.

Business Of The House

3.32 pm

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May I ask the Leader of the House to state the business for next week?

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The business of the House for next week will be as follows:

TUESDAY 7 MAY and WEDNESDAY 8 MAY—Consideration in Committee on the Finance Bill.

THURSDAY 9 MAY—There will be a debate on the multifibre arrangement, which will arise on a motion for the adjournment of the House.

FRIDAY 10 MAY—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY 13 MAY—Until Seven o'clock, private Members' motions. Remaining stages of the Surrogacy Arrangements Bill, of the Ports (Finance) Bill, and of the Prosecution of Offences Bill (Lords).

The Chairman of Ways and Means has named opposed private business for consideration at Seven o'clock.

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We welcome the debate on the important multi-fibre arrangement, particularly as discussions are still in a formative stage and the House has an opportunity to impose its views. We hope that the Government will listen to them carefully.

May I press the right hon. Gentleman for the earliest possible statement of the Government's decision on the reviews on the future of the welfare state? I press him all the more because of the undoubted anxiety throughout the country about their outcome.

When does the right hon. Gentleman intend to fulfil his promise, made many months ago, of a debate on the Green Paper on the long-term prospects for public expenditure? The relevance of that debate to the future of the welfare state is apparent, and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman must accept that such a debate has an early claim on time.

I hope that it is still in the right hon. Gentleman's mind to have a debate on the report of the Commission for Racial Equality on immigration and control procedures.

In view of today's disastrous unemployment figures—the highest ever April figures—does the right hon. Gentleman agree that he should ask the Secretary of State for Employment to make an early statement in the House?

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I shall answer the questions asked by the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) in the reverse order in which he asked them. I shall, of course, draw the attention of the Secretary of State for Employment to the right hon. Gentleman's request for a statement.

The answer to the right hon. Gentleman's question about the report of the Commission for Racial Equality is that I have indicated my interest in seeing whether we could make arrangements for such a debate, and I am happy to continue discussions through the usual channels.

The right hon. Gentleman may recall that when I was last questioned about the Green Paper on long-term public expenditure I explained that I was keen that there should be a debate but that I thought it appropriate that it should be related to the work being done on the subject by the Treasury and Civil Service Select Committee.

I take note of what the right hon. Gentleman said about the House being informed of decisions on the studies that have been undertaken of the welfare services, and I underline the importance of the point that he made.

I appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's remarks about the debate that we are planning for Thursday on the multi-fibre arrangement, because it is important that the House should have a chance to make known its views when matters are still formative, rather than fixed.

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Is my right hon. Friend aware of proposals in certain European circles for fundamental changes to EEC institutions' financial arrangements and other matters? Will he give the House an early opportunity to debate these issues before Her Majesty's Government may be invited to commit themselves on them, possibly returning to the House with some sort of fait accompli?

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I accept at once the importance of the point that my hon. Friend makes. I am sure he will agree that we have the Scrutiny Committee as a means of helping to guide our judgment in these matters, and I shall, naturally, look to that Committee, but if the matter goes perhaps wider than that I shall, if my hon. Friend contacts me, see what can be done.

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The Leader of the House will be aware that there is widespread and continuing anxiety among commercial ratepayers north of the border about the imposts that have been put on them in the course of the rating revaluation that has just taken place. Has he noted that the ten-minute Bill which I introduced yesterday was unopposed? Will he have words with the Secretary of State for Scotland to see what chance there may be, if not for taking the measure in Government time, at least for considering the matter further, with the possibility of a debate in the future?

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There is a charming innocence about that request. The Secretary of State for Scotland is mindful of the problems which the hon. Gentleman identifies and will take action in his own way and in his own time.

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Can my right hon. Friend arrange time, if possible next week, to debate the question of the proceedings of the House being televised, so that those of us who think that it would be an utter catastrophe may mobilise our forces? Will he take the opportunity to make it clear to everybody, inside and outside the House, that it is a matter which concerns the House as a whole and not the Government?

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I have no doubt that a decision on the matter will be undertaken by the House and in the spirit of a House of Commons decision. I am afraid that I must disappoint my hon. Friend, in that I cannot provide time for a debate that speedily. Probably the House would like to have some chance for a more measured assessment of the experiment in another place before coming to its own judgment.

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Will the Prime Minister make a statement next week on her recommendations to the Government arising from the report of the review body on the pay of nurses and midwives, as she has had the information on her desk for quite a time?

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That is clearly an important matter, and I am sure that the Prime Minister will wish to follow precedent.

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May I ask my right hon. Friend, in response to his kind invitation—readdressing and rephrasing my question—whether it is the intention of the Government to interfere with the time-honoured constitutional right of Select Committees to send for papers from public bodies? Does the pledge that I gave when I was Leader of the House—that every Minister, from the highest to the lowest, would co-operate with Select committees—still stand?

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I have been consulting the Chairman of the Liaison Committee on the powers of Select Committees to send for personal papers and records under Standing Order No 99. Those powers are governed by long-standing conventions with which my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St John-Stevas) will be familiar. The Government consider that certain changes to those conventions might be helpful. I understand that the Liaison Committee considered these changes at a meeting earlier this week. I shall be discussing its views with the Chairman of the Committee in the next few days. It is very much a relaxed and low-key exchange, and does not quite bear some of the drama with which it seems to be now invested.

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Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Prime Minister to make a statement on her current visit to the summit at Bonn? Will the right hon. Gentleman also ask the Prime Minister to explain why, since June 1983, she has spent more than 77 days, or part days, visiting abroad, and only 18 days, or part days, visiting different parts of the United Kingdom? Will the right hon. Gentleman ask the Prime Minister to explain the reason for that to the House and the nation?

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The hon. Gentleman will find that there is on record in the press a comprehensive analysis which shows that the journeys of my right hon. Friend have been as active within the United Kingdom as without. I shall, of course, bear in mind his anxiety that my right hon. Friend should make a statement on the Bonn visit. Whether the hon. Gentleman approves or disapproves, there is no doubt that the House will feel that it is only appropriate that my right hon. Friend should report.

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Will my right hon. Friend, when casting around for matters to debate, consider the great interest in conservation matters shown not only by colleagues in the House but by many of our constituents? Will my right hon. Friend therefore find some time for a debate on this very important subject, which is close to the hearts of many of our constituents?

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I am afraid that there is no prospect of Government time being available for such a debate in the next few weeks. However, I thoroughly underline the importance of the topic that my hon. Friend raises. I believe that it will be of growing political significance.

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Bearing in mind that VE day falls next week, can the Leader of the House find time to initiate a debate on the disgraceful level of pensions paid to those who were widowed during the second world war? I understand that they are paid £47 a week. Perhaps the House would like to contrast that with the £97 paid to those widowed during the Falklands war and as a consequence of events in Northern Ireland. When we are marching up and down next week celebrating the defeat of Fascism and Nazism, perhaps the House would like the chance to show how grateful we are to the people who gave their lives to make VE day possible.

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No Government time is set aside over the next week or thereabouts for the debate requested by the hon. Gentleman. However, I believe that it would be admirably suited to an Adjournment occasion.

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I hope that my right hon. Friend has had time recently to read early-day motion 515, in the names of my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) and more than 70 hon. Members from both sides of the House, calling for an early debate on the recent report of the Select Committee on Social Services.

[That this House, noting the widespread interest in the issue of care for the mentally ill and mentally handicapped in the community following the publication of the report of the Social Services Committee on this matter, calls for an early debate on the recommendations and implications of this report.]

Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that there will be an early debate on care in the community, particularly of the mentally ill and the mentally handicapped, because this issue is causing deep and increasing concern in all the constituencies in the land?

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The Government are considering their response to this most important report. When that response has been made known, we can see whether it would be most helpful to proceed by way of debate.

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Has the right hon. Gentleman seen early-day motion 645,

[That this House profoundly regrets the proposed visit of President Reagan to the German Military Cemetery at Bitburg, containing the remains of Nazi SS stormtroopers; regards the visit as an offence to the memories of Jews and so many others persecuted and murdered by the Nazis, and as insensitive and ill-advised; and calls on the President, in the name of good relations between our countries and between all the allies in the war against Nazism, to cancel that visit.]

which has been signed by a large number of Members, and early-day motion 658,

[That this House believes that there can never be any reconciliation with fascism; therefore condemns the British Broadcasting Corporation Newsnight programme of 30th April for its lengthy and uncritical coverage of the collection of Nazi memorabilia by wealthy people; in the United States of America and Britain; believes that such programmes can only serve to make Nazism respectable; and further believes that the memory of the Jewish people, gypsies, Communists, trade unionists and gay people who were murdered by the Nazis and the millions of Soviet, British, American and other peoples on every continent who died to defeat fascism should not be defiled by any attempted rehabilitation into respectability of fascism.]

both of which concern the memory of the people who died fighting Fascism and the disgraceful intention of President Reagan to visit Bitburg cemetery? Will the Leader of the House take this opportunity to give the Government's view of the President's intention to visit that cemetery of SS memory?

Will the right hon. Gentleman also arrange for a special debate next week to consider the rise of Fascism and racism now occurring in many European countries and the need to condemn utterly all that went on in Nazi Germany and ensure that such tyrany can never arise again, and the need to ensure that proper memory is accorded to all who died fighting Nazism, whether they were Russian, British, French or from any other country in the world?

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My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has already commented on President Reagan's proposed visit to Bitburg cemetery, and I have nothing to add on that. On the wider issue, no provisions have been made for the debate requested by the hon. Gentleman, but those who view totalitarianism with such great hostility would be more convincing if their attitude stretched across the whole spectrum.

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We seem to be getting a blow by blow account of Cabinet discussions about the earnings-related pension scheme. Can my right hon. Friend say when we are likely to revert to the tradition whereby Cabinet discussions are secret?

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Secrecy is something to which we all aspire, with more success on some occasions than on others. I should have thought, however, that things had gone rather well in the past few weeks. If my hon. Friend can contain his patience, I assure him that he will be more than rewarded.

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Will the right hon. Gentleman recognise the crucial role that he can play, both as Leader of the House and as a member of the Cabinet, in the discussions on the future of the state earnings-related pension scheme by maintaining the strong underpinning all-party support and consensus on which the scheme was originally based? Will the right hon. Gentleman use both those aspects of his responsibility to take the scheme out of the present welfare state review debate, not allow the Cabinet to make a decision on the matter and involve the Opposition, both Labour and Alliance, in discussing the future of the scheme sensibly, as was the case when it was set up? Does he agree that that is a far better way to make progress?

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The hon. Gentleman has sought with great skill to finesse an answer out of me with a bridge strategem worthy of the late Iain Macleod. He knows that I cannot answer that question, because I remain very much of the opinion that I expressed at the outset of this exchange about the review being undertaken in the Cabinet.

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Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the deep revulsion of the millions of people in this country who contributed to food aid and other aid for Ethiopia at the action of the Marxist regime in driving 60,000 people, who were receiving treatment and being brought back to life with proper food, out of their beds and into the countryside to grow food? We accept that it is necessary to grow food in Ethiopia, but will my right hon. Friend arrange for my right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development to make a statement to the House on this important matter?

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I am sure that my hon. Friend, like me, heard on the radio this morning the graphic and moving description by Father Finucane of the fate of people at the Ibnat camp. I understand that our ambassador is in close touch with the United Nations co-ordinator about ways in which we can help, but I shall certainly draw the attention of my right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development to the point made by my hon. Friend.

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Despite the allegations of the Minister of State, Home Office, at Question Time today about the circumstancces in which it was decided that the debate on immigration policy expected next week would not take place, will the Leader of the House confirm that the Government arrange the business, and will he give the heaviest of hints that that debate will take place the week after next?

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I effectively answered that point in replying to a question from the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore). I do not think that it would help matters very much if I strayed beyond that original reply.

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I support the request by the hon. Member for Paisley, North (Mr. Adams) for a debate on the financial position of those who lost their husbands during the second world war.

I warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend on arranging a debate next week on the multi-fibre arrangement, which is of interest to the textile and clothing industry, which is the fourth largest employer in this country. Will my right hon. Friend consider extending that critical debate beyond 10 o'clock to enable every hon. Member with an interest in textiles snd clothing to participate? My right hon. Friend extended the foreign affairs debate. Will he now do the same with respect to a debate on industries which affect many parts of the United Kingdom?

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As my hon. Friend will appreciate, such matters are arranged through the usual channels. I cannot answer my hon. Friend now on that point, but I have heard what he said.

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Will the Leader of the House suggest to the Ministry of Defence that a statement should be made next week on the local overseas allowance for British forces? I ask this question because of the letters that I have received from members of the armed forces. I do not know whether other hon. Members have received such letters. These letters are unprecedented, because they seem to reflect a well-organised campaign which has the sanction of many high people within the armed forces. The Ministry of Defence should make a statement on the changes in local overseas allowance.

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The right hon. Gentleman's point is highly topical. There is certainly a great deal of interest in it. I shall refer his remarks to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence.

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Has the Leader of the House seen early-day motion 663?

[That this House notes the statement by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on 29 April, listing the identification documents which will be required to enable electors to vote in the forthcoming local elections in Northern Ireland; notes that UB40 cards are not included on the list; condemns this omission as totally undemocratic in that it will effectively defranchise thousands of young people, for whom the UB40 cards are their sole means of identification; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to redress this omissionimmediately, or, if time does not permit, to postpone the elections until a fully-democratic means of enfranchising all bona fide voters has been worked out.]

That motion was tabled yesterday by me in response to a statement on Monday in the Chamber by the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office. My early-day motion deals with a list of identification documents which will be required at the local elections in Northern Ireland, which are to be held shortly. The list does not include UB40 cards. Given the unemployment levels in the north, which have been exacerbated in the past four weeks, as we have seen in the figures published today, does the Leader of the House, not think that another statement should be made to the House to explain how the Government will prevent thousands of young people from being disfranchised because the UB card is their only identification document? If that is not possible, should not the elections be postponed until an equitable method has been devised so that everyone is entitled to vote in the Northern Ireland elections?

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I think the hon. Gentleman will recognise at once that I am in no sense competent to comment on the significance of UB40 cards. I shall refer the hon. Gentleman's point to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

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The Leader of the House is surely by now aware of the great disappointment felt by both sides of the House at the fact that he has not arranged for a more appropriate debate to be held on 8 May—VE day. War widows would have been a most appropriate subject for the House to consider, notwithstanding the important matters in the Finance Bill.

As the Prime Minister is in Bonn, will the Leader of the House take the opportunity to ask the right hon. Lady to protest to the West German Government about the reunion which the Death's Head Tank Division of the Waffen SS will hold on VE day? That reunion will give rise to a good deal of deep feeling among many people in this country.

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I think that the hon. Gentleman is right. Such occasions give rise to unease and antagonism, but I hope that we sometimes reflect on the fact that many activities which we undertake in this country have such consequences among our neighbours. It might be in the spirit of 40 years on and reconciliation if we began to be a little easier in our judgment of each other.

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I hope that my right hon. Friend will note the point made by my right hon. Friend the member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) about the opportunities given to the House to keep a check on the Executive by questioning through Select Committees and by the reporting of Select Committees. I hope that my right hon. Friend will not allow this check on the Executive to be weakened in any way.

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My hon. Friend makes a point which I understand. The last thing that I would want is for this matter to become a point of conflict. I should prefer there to be a discussion to see whether we might find ways of interpreting the Standing Order to minimise friction, rather than focus upon it.

Unborn Children (Protection) Bill

3.54 pm

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On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am not sure whether it is appropriate for me to raise the point now, but it might be helpful to you if I do. It relates to the provisional selection of amendments for the Unborn Children (Protection) Bill, which is to be considered tomorrow. May I ask you, respectfully, to reconsider the selection, on the basis that none of the amendments selected deal with genetic research and the effects that that has? It is a matter which has not been dealt with adequately in Committee and upon which many points have come to light since the Committee dealt with the Bill.

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I went through the selection carefully this morning. The hon. Member will understand that I must take account of what was discussed at length in Committee. I shall reconsider the matter, but I cannot give him any hope that I shall change the selection.

Bill Presented

Oil And Pipelines

Mr. Secretary Walker, supported by Secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Secretary Younger, Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith, Mr. Alastair Goodlad and Mr. David Hunt presented a Bill to provide for the establishment and functions of a body corporate to be called the Oil and Pipelines Agency, for the vesting in that Agency of the property, rights and liabilities of the British National Oil Corporation and for the subsequent dissolution of that Corporation: And the same was read the first time; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow and to be printed [Bill 139.]

Statutory Instruments, &C

Ordered,

That the draft Scottish Special Housing Association (Limit of Advances) Order 1985 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.— [Mr. Garel-Jones.]

Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Bill Money (No 2)

Queen's Recommendation having been signified—

Resolved,

That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Bill, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of the expenses of the Secretary of State in paying fees or other amounts to the Commissioners under the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act 1936 taken from the extraparliamentary panel in respect of their duties under the said Act of 1936.— [Mr. Garel Jones.]

Orders Of The Day

Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Bill

As amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.

New Clause 6

Amendment Of Enactment Relating To Solicitors

'The Legal Aid and Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1949 and the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980 shall have effect subject to the amendments set out in Schedule [Amendment of enactments relating to solicitors] to this Act.'.— [The Solicitor-General for Scotland.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

3.57 pm

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With this it will be convenient to take Government amendments Nos. 53, 55 and 56.

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I beg to move, that the clause be read a Second time.

The new clause and the schedule propose amendments to the Legal Aid and Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1949 and the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980 which were recommended by the council of the Law Society. The proposals were fully discussed in Committee and we undertook to bring forward on Report a revised schedule incorporating those items that we accepted as suitably adjusted. The terms of the new clause and the schedule have been agreed with the Law Society of Scotland. I commend them to the House.

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I am pleased to say that this is one of a number of occasions upon which I can fairly thank the Solicitor-General, or one of his colleagues, for useful amendments. As the Solicitor-General fairly says, new clause 6 and the fairly formidable schedule are the products of a good deal of consultation and discussion. They were originally tabled by me in Committee. I was then, in a sense, acting as an agent for the Law Society which had approached me and asked that the matter should be raised.

The Minister was good enough to accept that there was good sense in most of the provisions, but he cavilled at one clause which dealt with the slightly more controversial matter of the need to tax solicitors' accounts before court action could be raised for recovery of fees due.

I took the view, and I still do, that on balance that was probably sensible, if it is seen in the context of what will be a lengthy and continuing debate about the fairly traumatic shock of the arrival of advertising and competition in the staid and respectable world of Scottish solicitors. We shall probably want to return to that subject at leisure on another occasion. That matter has gone from the schedule and I understand the reason for that.

A number of useful changes remain which deal with the right to levy a subscription and the right to have a special levy to fund a project, such as the new Scottish law publication with which the Law Society is involved. There are a number of other such matters—the recovery of expenses and the rather sad circumstances in which the Law Society has to take over a solicitor's business because of problems that have arisen.

The provisions bring some flexibility to the framework within which the Law Society operates. These matters underline the difficulties that can arise when one needs primary legislation to effect minor tunings and changes which experience has suggested would be useful. I welcome the fact that the Solicitor-General for Scotland has—as one would expect—honoured the undertaking that he gave in Committee. I welcome the new clause.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 8

Power To Pay Extraparliamentary Commissioners For Service On Inquiries Under The Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act 1936

'In section 5 of the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act 1936 (which provides amongst other things, as to the appointment of Commissioners for inquiries under the Act) there shall be added at the end the following subsection—

"(9) The Secretary of State may pay Commissioners taken from the extraparliamentary panel such fees or other amounts in respect of the performance of their duties under this Act as he may, with the approval of the Treasury, determine". '.— [The Solicitor-General for Scotland.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

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I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

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With this, it will be convenient to take Government Amendment No. 51.

4 pm

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The new clause adds a new subsection, subsection (9), to section 5 of the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act 1936, to empower the Secretary of State to pay fees to commissioners appointed from an extra-parliamentary panel to serve on the inquiries into provisional orders submitted to him under that Act.

Four commissioners are appointed, under section 5 of the 1936 Act, to serve on an inquiry. They are normally two hon. Members appointed by the Chairman of Ways and Means, and two members of the House of Lords, appointed by the Chairman of Committees.

If the Chairmen are unable to appoint four parliamentary commissioners, the Secretary of State appoints as many persons as are required from the extra-parliamentary panel. The panel consists of 20 persons qualified by their experience of affairs who are nominated by the chairmen, acting jointly with the Secretary of State.

Recourse to the panel is very infrequent. Until last November, when two members were appointed to act as commissioners for the inquiry into the Lothian Region (Edinburgh Western Relief Road) Order 1984 only three members from the extra-parliamentary panel had been called upon to serve in the last 20 years.

Section 14 of the 1936 Act provides for the payment of travelling and subsistence allowances for all commissioners, but there is at present no provision for the commissioners from the extra-parliamentary panel to be paid a fee or to be reimbursed for loss of earnings through service as a commissioner. The absence of such a provision might create a difficulty when the Secretary of State next has to appoint a commissioner from the panel. My hon. Friend the Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Hirst), who served on a recent provisional order inquiry, will well understand the need for this provision, which seeks to remove the possibility of difficulty.

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I apologise to the Solicitor-General in that, because I have only just entered the Chamber, I do not know whether he has already mentioned this point. Is it perfectly clear that such payment would not involve commissioners in a difficulty over the question of an office of profit under the Crown?

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No, the new clause would not create any difficulty, because commissioners who happen to be hon. Members will have no access to this opportunity. It is only in those infrequent cases where a commissioner is appointed from the extra-parliamentary panel that there might be a need for payment. The power to pay a fee—the level of which would be determined by the Secretary of State with the approval of the Treasury—will be additional to the provisions of section 14 for the payment of travelling and subsistence allowances. It will apply only to commissioners drawn from the extra-parliamentary panel. Hon. Members continue to receive their normal parliamentary salary when serving as commissioners, and Members of the House of Lords are entitled to allowances on the same basis as for attendance in their House.

I commend the new clause to the House and trust that it will be seen as facilitating the private legislation procedure in Scotland.

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The amount is not limited; it is to be determined by the Secretary of State. It will be subject to Treasury approval, and that might lead us to believe that it is likely to be very modest, but should Parliament give an open-ended commitment? It is acceptable that people should be paid, but perhaps Parliament should have some control over the size of the payment.

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The level of the fee is to be determined by the Secretary of State. If the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) fears that the fee might be too high, he must be failing to take account of the fact that the approval of the Treasury will be required. It would be a unique experience, if the Secretary of State for Scotland were to find that the Treasury was prepared to agree to the payment of a sum, that the House might consider that excessive.

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indicated assent.

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I see that the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart), with his experience, accepts that proposition.

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I am grateful for the opportunity to say a few words about the new clause. I do so with enthusiasm because I recently served as a parliamentary commissioner on a lengthy inquiry. Because only two of the four commissioners were Members of Parliament, it was necessary on that occasion to bring in two people from the extra-parliamentary list. The inquiry was privileged by the appointment of Mrs. Morris and Mr. Lowson. Mr. Lowson was retired, but Mrs. Morris was a very active person who found it necessary to forgo, for nearly three and a half months, practising her profession as a psychologist. It is entirely appropriate that this power should be granted, so that, in future, the private legislation procedure will be able to depend on the services of the talented and able people who are needed to serve in the onerous position of commissioner.

The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) has pointed out that the amount to be paid would be unlimited. That must be right, because the appropriate reimbursement may vary in different circumstances. Given the Treasury's record, I cannot believe that it will be prepared to pay substantial amounts without justification. I welcome the new clause with enthusiasm.

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I welcome—in a somewhat muted fashion—a minor change. There should be room for recompense for those who give such public service. No sum likely to get past the eagle eye of the Treasury would be likely to compensate for the sufferings of the commissioners on the Edinburgh relief road inquiry. The comments of the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Hirst) resembled a cri de coeur.

On another occasion, we could have a useful debate about the way in which the procedure operates, its effectivness as a method of dealing with the immensely complex issues that arise in such inquiries, and the extent to which it can be conclusive. However, while the procedure exists, and while we ask people—we may ask them with increasing frequency in future—to serve from the extra-parliamentary list, it is only right that there should be some provision to pay them for their services. The Opposition would not wish in any way to obstruct the proposal.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 1

Places For The Care Of Drunken Persons

'In Section 5 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980, at the end, there shall be added—

"(2A) Where a constable has power to arrest a person without warrant for being drunk and disorderly, drunk and incapable drunk and in charge of a child, and drunk and attempting to enter licensed premises, then the constable shall take him to any place designated in Schedule (places designated as suitable for the care of drunken persons) to this Act, unless (a) the person refuses to go to such place, (b) the constable has reason to suspect that he has committed another offence or (c) there is no such designated place reasonably accessible. Where a constable does not take a person to a designated place and charges him with any of the above offences then he must enter on the charge his reasons for failing to take the person to a designated place.
(2B) Where a constable has power to arrest a person without warrant for any other offence and the constable has reasonable grounds for suspecting that that person is drunk, the constable may if he thinks fit, take him to any place designated in Schedule (places designated as suitable for the care of drunken persons) to this Act.".'.—[Mr. Maxton.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

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I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

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With this it will be convenient to take new clause 2—Places designated as suitable for the care of drunken persons

'The following Schedule shall be added to the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980— PART I
  • 1. Within six months of the coming into force of this Act each Regional authority in Scotland shall submit to the Secretary of State for Scotland a list of places within each region which they consider suitable for the care of drunken persons.
  • 2. Such places shall be those that having been inspected by the Social Work Department and the Local Health Board, are considered to have met the criteria listed in paragraphs 3 and 4 below.
  • 3. The Social Work Department and the Local Health Board shall be satisfied that the place, whomsoever it is run by, has suitable accommodation for the care of drunken persons and meets the statutory, fire, health and safety standards.
  • 4. The Social Work Department and the Local Health Board shall be satisfied that there is one person on the staff of such places who either is qualified to deal with drunken persons or has considerable experience in dealing with drunken persons.
  • 5. Where a regional authority is of the opinion that there are inadequate numbers of places in the region for the purposes of section 5 of this Act, then they may, if they so wish, establish such places under their own authority.
  • PART II

  • 1. When the Secretary of State has received from each regional authority the list of places considered suitable for the care of drunken persons then he shall designate such places if he is satisfied that they are suitable, and accordingly inform the regional authorities.
  • 2. The Social Work Department and Local Health Board shall inspect the designated places every six months to ensure that the standards as laid down in Part I of this Schedule are maintained.
  • 3. If at any time the regional authority reports that a designated place is no longer suitable then the Secretary of State shall move that place from the list of designated plans.
  • 4. A regional authority may, if it so wishes, make grants to other bodies in order to maintain such places.
  • PART III

    Purposes of places designated as suitable for the care of drunken persons
  • 1. Designated places shall take into care those persons brought to them by a constable and shall offer such treatment as the qualified or experienced person considers appropriate in order to resolve the problems the drunken person has.
  • 2. A drunken person shall be asked to stay for such time as the qualified or experienced person considers necessary for the treatment.".'.
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    Those who served on the Committee may well recognise the words of these new clauses. New clause 2 is, or course, a new schedule to the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980. The new clauses are exactly the same as amendments that I tabled in Committee.

    Part 5 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act gives constables certain powers when they arrest drunks for certain specific drunken offences. I believe that there are only three specific offences—drunk and disorderly, drunk and incapable, and drunk in charge of a child. In the case of those offences a constable may take the person in question to a designated place where he will receive treatment, rather than taking him to the police station, charging him with the offence and bringing him before the court. My new clauses require a constable to take a person to a designated place unless quite specific conditions have been met or the person refuses to go. It is not enough to say that constables may take people to a designated place, because the evidence of the past five years shows that they do not.

    New clause 2 provides what designated places are. In 1980, I wanted to ensure that the Secretary of State did not start designating unsuitable places where no treatment was available and which were essentially doss houses. The designated places should be capable of treating offenders and of keeping them there for a specified time. Medical care should be available and health and safety regulations should be met. I thought it necessary to have control over designated places.

    My fears have been proved utterly unfounded because, with the exception of one place in Aberdeen, none have been designated. Ministers had enormously high hopes during the passage of the 1980 Act. Of course, with the exception of the Secretary of State, none of the Ministers involved with the Act are still on the Front Bench. We were told how the Act would decriminalise drunkenness in Scotland. It was a laudable effort. We all welcomed the principle and agreed that it was time that people with drink problems should stop being treated as criminals.

    Five years later, nothing has happened. Last Friday I spoke to the chief constable of Strathclyde—Sir Patrick Hamill—who, when he heard that I intended to raise the subject, asked me to push it as hard as I could because he wants to decriminalise drink. I can think of no section of the community that disagrees with that. Each year, about 15,000 to 20,000 people are charged with offences caused principally by a drink problem. On the clause 5 stand part debate, my hon. Friends said that unless the Government were prepared to provide resources, nothing would happen. With the honourable exception of Aberdeen, that is what has occurred.

    4.15 pm

    Matters are even worse in England as, far from detoxification units being opened, they are being closed for lack of resources. The Manchester unit is being closed for lack of resources, although I accept that it has problems because it is a little out of the city and not easy for the police to reach. In Glasgow we have an area that could be used as a designated place. It is doing a marvellous job treating people with serious drink problems. Like the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Hirst), I have visited it. I refer to the Department of Health and Social Security resettlement unit at Bishopbriggs. It is doing a tremendous job and treats people with the most serious drink problems—the people whom the voluntary organisations will not touch. Only when the resettlement unit has partially dried people out will the voluntary organisations take them on. In spite of its good work, the unit is being closed. That is not good enough.

    I hope that the House is grateful that I have tabled these new clauses. They give Ministers an opportunity to explain what they have done since 1980. After all, there is no point in enacting legislation, no matter how well intentioned, unless it is put into action. That is what has happened here.

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    What will happen to the man who is simply drunk on the odd occasion and is clearly not an alcoholic? Would he be covered by these new clauses?

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    To some extent such a man would be benefited by the new clauses. If a man goes out on a blinder, he might be charged with being drunk and incapable and therefore have a criminal record, although he is an honourable man. However, if my new clauses were enacted, he would not be charged and he would therefore have no criminal record. He might be taken to a detoxification unit, but he would be there only one night as the staff would quickly be aware that he had no history of drinking.

    I hope that the Minister will say what the Government have done in the past five years and what they intend to do. Do they realise that passing legislation is not enough on its own, and that they must give local authorities, health boards and voluntary organisations money to ensure that there are places to which police constables can take people who have committed a drink offence?

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    As the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) said, these new clauses are identical to amendments that he tabled to the original clause 5 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill and which were discussed in the Scottish Standing Committee on 5 June 1980. I appreciate his reasons for retabling them—principally to enable further discussion of a subject that is still worrying. Although we do not think that provision such as this would be helpful, I should like to outline developments since the 1980 Act which have overtaken parts of the new clauses.

    Following the passage of the 1980 Act, the Scottish Office undertook consultation with many bodies and organisations, including the Confederation of Scottish Local Authorities and the Association of Directors of Social Work. In April 1982 we produced two sets of guidelines for designated places, covering the caring aspect of setting up and running premises suitable for designation and advice to the police on those who might be suitable for taking to such a place.

    The guidelines represented the detail that we thought it reasonable to lay down. They included the standard of premises, care and supervision in the premises, links with other types of facilities and co-operation with social work, medical and nursing services.

    While the guidelines for the police explain the purpose and scope of section 5 procedures and the degree of discretion which the police might want to exercise, for example, when a person has committed more than one offence, they also cover—I mention this in the context of the new clauses—the action to be taken if a person refuses to go to a designated place or if staff decline to accept him and he may be taken to a police station and charged.

    A specific part of the provisions of the new clauses, regarding the standards of premises and supervision, and the action to be taken by the police, need not and possibly should not be included in primary legislation. Some provisions—for example, specifying that a designated place must take into care all those brought in by the police, or that such persons would be asked to stay as long as the person in charge of the designated place thinks fit—would encroach on the proper use of discretion by those concerned and, possibly, on the liberty of the citizen.

    New clause 2 would require local authorities, within a limited period, to submit to the Secretary of State lists of premises which are suitable for designation to receive drunken offenders with suitable staff to run them, with the implication that, following designation, they should be operated either by the local authority or by other bodies with a local authority grant.

    I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's aim of making such a provision to accelerate the provision of designated places, of which, as he said, only one operates at present. Apparently, that one operates with considerable success. There are, however, two points that I should like to make. First, several parts of the new clause are unnecessary. For example, local authorities already have the power under the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 to provide funds to voluntary bodies for the purposes of the Act, and to inspect and register residential and other establishments, taking into account the suitability of staff, premises and conduct of the establishment.

    More important, while we welcome the implicit suggestion in the new clauses that the responsibility for providing facilities and services for people with an alcohol problem is primarily for local authorities and health boards, the Secretary of State would not think it appropriate to impose a duty on local authorities, which have many other demands to meet, to devote their resources to a single programme in this way against a specific time limit. It is open to local authorities to take an active role in the provision and promotion of designated places.

    I commend in particular the example of Grampian authority, which bought the premises at Albyn house for the Albyn House Association, and which is taking a share in the running costs together with the Scottish Office. That shows that local authorities can give assistance and support as necessary. However, we do not believe that the Secretary of State should impose a duty on local authorities to provide such facilities or to take away the discretion of local authorities as the new clause would.

    As I have made clear on more than one occasion, I remain ready to examine any project which comes to me, and to fund it in exactly the same way as the Albyn house project. Anyone who doubts whether projects in his local area may be successful, should look at the success of that project in Aberdeen. I stressed that in a visit to Aberdeen only a fortnight ago. I made it clear in some interviews that other voluntary organisations and local authorities should look at the good example in Aberdeen and be prepared to come to me with projects. I would be extremely sympathetic about funding such projects.

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    I wish to emphasise my hon. Friend's point. I remind him that, as a result of the project in Aberdeen, the number of offences of drunkenness in the city last year dropped to five. The project decriminalised the offence of drunkenness. More important, it saves substantial money and police time, and allows Grampian police to devote themselves to other activities. I hope that my hon. Friend will always bear that cost-effective argument in mind.

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    It may put the figure of five drunkenness offences in an even more dramatic context, if I say that my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General for Scotland pointed out that there were 235 offences of drunkenness in 1983 in Aberdeen. Therefore, there has been a dramatic reduction in the number of cases of drunkenness in Aberdeen.

    If the new clauses have done nothing else, they have allowed us to stress to local authorities and voluntary organisations how successful Albyn house has been, and allowed me to say if projects come before me, I shall certainly look at them as sympathetically as possible with a view to funding them.

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    I welcome the fact that the Minister will be sympathetic to cash funding such projects. However, he should go further. Does he agree that if he applied the same pressure and propaganda as he did when he tried to privatise certain elements in the National Health Service, and if he brought it to the attention of authorities that money was available, some authorities may accept his offer?

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    I shall not go down the highways of the National Health Service, but use the opportunity to say that I hope that if authorities have not considered the matter—I believe that they will have considered it—they should look at the example of Albyn house in Aberdeen and be prepared, either themselves or with voluntary organisations, to devise projects to undertake the same sort of work in other parts of Scotland.

    Although I am extremely sympathetic to the aims of the hon. Member for Cathcart, I consider that the prescriptions in the new clauses would not be helpful. I ask the House to reject the new clauses. However, I stress that we stand ready to help with projects that come to us from the voluntary sector and local government.

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    I commend my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) for tabling the two new clauses and for giving the Under-Secretary of State the opportunity to tell the House and, through it, the people of Scotland, that no Scottish local authority, apart from Grampian region, has submitted a scheme and had it considered. I take it that the only scheme to be submitted was the Aberdeen one, which was approved, and that no other scheme has been submitted and turned down by the Minister. It is important that we have that on the record.

    It is equally important that we have on the record the Minister's commitment that if local authorities submit schemes, whether joint-funded schemes through the health boards and the social work departments of regional councils or otherwise, he will agree to part-fund those schemes. I am fairly certain that one of the inhibitions on the regional authorities during the past four years has been the distinct suggestion from New St. Andrew's house that, no matter what is suggested, no money will be made available for it. That position has been slightly changed today by the Minister's commitment to fund such schemes.

    I shall do my best to encourage the regional social work departments and the area health boards because they also have a part to play. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Malone) pointed out that there were savings to be made in police and court time. I am absolutely certain that there will also be savings to be made in the Health Service. They may be more long-term, but there will be savings. I shall certainly want to do all that I can to encourage Scottish local authorities and health boards to submit schemes on the understanding that the Minister gave today, that the schemes will be part-funded by the Scottish Office.

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    They should be 100 per cent funded.

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    indicated dissent.

    4.30 pm

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    My hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Mr. McKelvey) may say that, but the Minister is shaking his head in disagreement. I am disappointed that no other schemes have been submitted. The Minister said that we were talking about a local problem. I was interested in the intervention of the right hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) and in his reference to occasional drunks. That reminded me of one of the great stories about the Western Isles. A boy said that he got drunk once a year—from February until October. I suppose that that is just occasionally drunk.

    However, it is important that we should have the Minister's commitments on the record.

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    The hon. Gentleman has referred to the Western Isles, but is he aware that, judging by the new clause, the Isles authorities are not expected to assume the statutory responsibility that would be imposed on the other areas? Was that a drafting error, or does the hon. Gentleman think that drunkenness does not exist in the Isles?

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    I should prefer my hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart to answer for his own drafting. However, I do not want to delay the House, so I shall be brief. It is important to emphasise the points that the Minister has made and to put them on the record. We can then go ahead and encourage local authorities and health boards to submit joint-funded schemes. We are discussing a major and growing problem in Scotland. It is a problem all over western Europe and I do not single out Scotland for special attention. Nevertheless, today we are dealing with Scotland, and the problem is becoming more serious. We should try to do something about it.

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    Because of my duties in Edinburgh in connection with the Parliamentary Commission, I was denied the opportunity to speak very often in Committee. Accordingly, I welcome this opportunity to make a short speech today and, in particular, to respond to the comments of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart, (Mr. Maxton) about the DHSS resettlement unit at Bishopbriggs, in my constituency. That unit is under threat of closure.

    I welcome the perhaps accidental presence of the Minister responsible for health and social work, as I have made urgent and vigorous representations to him on this issue. I hope that he will be able to deal with my remarks. It must be right that special centres are made available to those who suffer from chronic alcoholism. It cannot be a sensible use of police resources to have policemen locking up drunks and taking them to court in the morning, or to have justices having to send them to gaol for 14 days or imposing a small fine.

    The decriminalisation of alcoholism must surely be one of the social advances that the 1980s will see, and detoxification centres along the lines of the successful experiment at Albyn house in Aberdeen are clearly the answer. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South, (Mr. Malone) has already mentioned that. But what distinguishes Conservative Members from Opposition Members is that we recognise that resources are limited. Given that that is so, I make a powerful plea in support of the principle of detoxification centres. But until they can be put into place, I should like to see the facility at Bishopbriggs retained. Its premature closure would undoubtedly be folly, and it would deny the west of Scotland an essential safety net for those who suffer from chronic alcoholism.

    That facility fulfils a vital role. Not all of those who use it are alcoholics, although many have alcohol-related problems. On my first visit to the resettlement unit, the staff were engaged in nursing one of the inmates through an alcoholic stupor. It is a tribute to their skills that the inmate did not need to be taken to hospital for that rather specialised medical treatment.

    Although the resettlement unit does not have as its basic purpose the role of a detoxification centre, it provides a facility in the community where the chronic alcoholic can be given a chance to try to beat the problem. At present, it is highly questionable whether alternative facilities exist within the community in west central Scotland, and it would be a retrograde step if that important facility at Bishopbriggs in my constituency—whose work was greatly praised during a recent visit by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State—closed.

    I was delighted to hear my hon. Friend the Minister say that he would do his best to try to make facilities and resources available to provide detoxification centres. Perhaps he will turn his attention next to west central Scotland where we traditionally have a serious alcohol problem. The community's resources might be best employed in providing a detoxification centre.

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    The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) has served a very useful purpose in raising this important issue again. The Minister did not dispose of his argument by saying that the Government had issued circulars since amendments were first moved in 1980. Whatever circulars may have been issued, we do not have the sort of institutions that the hon. Member for Cathcart wants, and which are supported by hon. Members on both sides of the House.

    It is quite plain that it is not enough for central Government to exhort local authorities to do something. Local authorities and social work departmens are hard pressed to meet existing commitments, and they will not feel able to embark upon expenditure on new institutions, regardless of whether they are backing the initiatives of private organisations or trusts or backing their own projects, unless the Government can go much further than the Minister went today. He said only that he would look sympathetically at applications for assistance.

    Can the Minister be more specific and precise? He shook his head negatively when the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Mr. McKelvey) suggested that the Government should meet 100 per cent. of the expenditure of such institutions. However, the Minister has not clarified what he means by looking sympathetically. Can he go further than that? If he is genuinely trying to signal to local authorities a change of direction, and if he is saying that the Government are prepared to give higher priority to expenditure on such centres, we welcome that and will do our best to persuade our local authorities about the importance of the issue. However, it is not good enough for the Minister to say that he will look at the matter sympathetically and will wait for these initiatives to be taken. We have waited too long.

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    I must say that I found the Minister's reply disappointing. In the past five years, what has happened about the decriminalisation of drunkenness? Everybody admits that the experiment in Aberdeen has been a great success and has worked marvellously. Only five people have been charged with drunkenness in the past 12 months. That is a marvellous record and shows that such facilities work. But why do we not have them in the rest of Scotland? It is not good enough for the Minister to say that he is encouraging local authorities. Does that mean that he has not been encouraging them during the past five years and that he has not made it clear to them that he is prepared to give them resources? On the other hand, if he has been encouraging local authorities, what response has he had from them?

    I know that Fred Edwards, the social work director for Strathclyde region, is as committed to this idea as the chief constable of Strathclyde, Sir Patrick Hamill. If both they and Strathclyde regional council are committed to the idea, why has nothing been done? The answer is, as the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) has said, that local authorities are already so strapped for money that they are having to cut existing facilities. Therefore, unless the Minister is prepared to finance such schemes 100 per cent., and to place a statutory obligation on local authorities to provide them, they will not be provided. Local authorities simply do not have the resources.

    We all know that this issue does not necessarily arouse great sympathy among the general public. Many people do not have much sympathy for those who have serious drinking problems or for the down-and-outs of our society. Consequently, it is not always easy for local authorities to switch resources from one area—such as children's homes, old folks' homes or sheltered housing—into another. A new commitment and 100 per cent. funding by the Government are needed.

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    Despite the fact that it is difficult to provide funds for this purpose, Grampian regional council has managed to do it, yet it has one of the lowest regional rates in Scotland. Might the fact that this council has been able to provide such funds have something to do with the fact that it is Conservative-controlled?

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    rose

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    Before giving way to my hon. Friend, I shall give a simple answer to that question: no.

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    I very much regret that the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Malone) has introduced a purely partisan political note into the debate. I pay tribute to what is being done by the Grampian regional council, but there are many other things that the council ought to be doing. The fact that it has set a low rate does not excuse it, just because on this occasion it has done something good, from doing other things.

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    Grampian regional council is to be congratulated, but I do not believe that the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South can deny that Strathclyde regional council has to deal with far greater problems, caused by multiple deprivation, than those which have to be dealt with by the Grampian regional council. Owing to limited and declining Government grants, Strathclyde regional council faces great difficulties. New resources must be provided by the Government. If they genuinely believe in the decriminalisation of cases involving people who are drunk and disorderly, there must be a much greater Government commitment to dealing with the problem.

    I accept that, as was pointed out by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland, (Mr. Wallace), the new clause is faulty. Therefore, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

    Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

    New Clause 3

    Police Complaints Panel

  • (a) There shall be established a body known as the Police Complaints Panel for Scotland which shall consist of not less than 3 members appointed by the Secretary of State.
  • (b) It shall be the duty of each Chief Constable in Scotland to report all complaints against the police by members of the public to the Panel.
  • (c) Each complaint in the first instance, shall be investigated by the Deputy Chief Constable, although the complainant shall be informed that he may exercise his right to complain directly to the Panel.
  • (d) In cases where the matter is not referred to the Procurator Fiscal or is not subject to internal disciplinary action, the case shall be reported in detail to the Panel.
  • (e) If on investigation it considers that action should have been taken it may advise and if necessary direct, the Deputy Chief Constable to take whatever actions it considers necessary.
  • (f) The Deputy Chief Constable must comply with such a direction.'.—[Mr. Maxton.]
  • Brought up, and read the First time.

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    I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

    I have to make it clear from the outset that this new clause was put down to allow the House to debate again, in Scottish terms, the need for a police complaints procedure. When I went to the Clerk of the House to put down an amendment to the police complaints procedure, I took with me a copy of the Bill which my right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Millan) introduced when he was Secretary of State for Scotland but for which he could not obtain the support of the Liberal party and the House. Therefore, it was withdrawn. The Clerk of the House said, probably quite rightly, that to put down a Bill as a new clause was not within the rules. He therefore asked me to truncate it, and that is exactly what I have done. The new clause lays down the principles which were contained in the Bill. I accept that on its own it is insufficient to become law. A commitment would be needed that the Government accept the principle, and they would then have to introduce a new clause at a later stage.

    4.45 pm

    It is important that the principle of a police complaints procedure in Scotland should be established. This matter was raised during the passage of what is now the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980. Many hon. Members said that they did not like the new clauses relating to detention or the new powers of stop and search. We still do not like those powers. However, they would be less abhorrent if there were some means by which the matter could be considered by a body other than the police. If a policeman steps out of line and a complaint is made about his actions by a member of the public, there ought to be some means by which the complaint can be looked at independently of the police.

    Complaints of this nature now go to the deputy chief constable, and when it is alleged that a criminal offence has been committed the normal practice is for the complaint to be sent to the procurator fiscal. However, those who make complaints are interviewed by the police before the matter is sent to the procurator fiscal, and in some cases the complaint is withdrawn. In other cases there is need for a disciplinary procedure because policemen have not acted within police rules. Therefore, it is essential for those cases to be investigated by a body that is independent of the police.

    This is not, as is so often alleged, meant to be an attack upon the police, but the police are unbelievably touchy about it. I believe that 99·9 per cent. of Scotland's policemen do their job well, obey the rules and often have to carry out their work in very difficult circumstances. However, there are those who do not operate within the rules, and it is in the interests not only of the public but of the police that the investigation of those cases should be handled by a body that is independent of the police.

    I have never understood why chief constables and the Police Federation are so opposed to the setting up of an independent body. The members of the inquiry would be appointed, not by the National Council of Civil Liberties or by the Scottish Council of Civil Liberties, but by the Secretary of State. They would not necessarily take the side of the complainant. As sensible people, they would take an objective view of the matter, which would be in the interests of the police. The argument that has always been advanced against having a police complaints procedure in Scotland is that Scotland has an independent prosecution system, whereas prosecution in England and Wales is a matter for the police. It is argued that because the procurator fiscal is the prosecutor there is no need for a police complaints procedure in Scotland. However, an independent prosecution procedure is to be introduced in England and Wales, but the police complaints procedure will not be abolished. On the contrary, it is to be strengthened. The Home Office believes that an independent prosecution system and a police complaints procedure should go hand in hand in England and Wales. If that is so in England and Wales, why on earth is it not so in Scotland, so that when complaints were made by the public about the police they would feel that their complaints had been properly investigated? It would also mean that the public would have greater respect for the police. Because of the few "bad eggs", that is not always the case now. I commend the new clause to the House.

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    I am pleased to be able to take part in the debate. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) on the new clause. I remember vividly our debate on what is now the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980. Indeed, it was the passing of that Act that makes this measure more necessary then ever. I am sorry to hear that an attempt to introduce it in a properly structured piece of legislation was prevented because of the Liberal party's cold feet.

    We now have an opportunity to do two things: first, we can look back on that Act, which considerably increased police powers; secondly, we can look back at the events of the past year and a half in Britain. It would be wrong to ignore the nature of the disputes on the picket line over that period and the behaviour of some police.

    It is fortunate that England and Wales have a police procedure which prevented some of the community anger. Anyone who has been to the coalfields of England will be aware of not just the picket line and miners' anger but the community anger about some of the events that took place. Nevertheless, it would be interesting to know how many complaints were proceeded with. It would be interesting to know how many complaints were made in Scotland over the past year and a half. I recognise that the aggro in Scotland was less than it was in England and Wales, but how many complaints were dealt with successfully?

    That is part of the background that has worried some of us. I never believed that I would switch on a television set and see some of the events that we saw at Orgreave. The veneer in which we have taken pride in the past is not so deep as we might have hoped.

    I agree entirely with my hon. Friend, and I speak as a former Minister in charge of law and order, and therefore the police, in Scotland. The best security for the police against unjustified complaints is a police procedure which is above question to deal with complaints.

    We have been told that Scotland does not need such a procedure because of the existence of the procurator fiscal structure. We were told in 1980 that there was insufficient money, but now we are told that the legal structure makes it unnecessary. That is not the case. The only way in which we can be sure that the community will be satisfied is by a structure, independent of the police force, in the form of a panel to which people can have recourse when necessary. Without that, even the procurator fiscal does not provide the necessary knowledge that complaints have been fully investigated.

    We all know from letters that we receive that people make complaints about police behaviour, or indeed, about matters which do not effect the police, which the procurator fiscal does not take up. The suggestion is that a secret organisation has kept things below the counter. The only way to solve that problem is to ensure that there is open discussion in which people can have some faith.

    Moving away from the events of the past year and a half and the anxieties to which they have given rise, one must look at the 1980 Act, which considerably extended police powers of search, investigation and arrest. Complaints often arise from aggro at the time of arrest, holding or search. It is often difficult to establish the truth. It is often easy to make undisciplined and sometimes unfounded accusations. Such accusations cannot satisfactorily be dealt with if the people who make them are informed that there will be an investigation through the same police force that gave rise to the complaints in the first place. There is no comfort in the fact that a deputy chief constable, or someone at whatever level, will come from another area to investigate. To the people the police are the police, and that is all there is to it.

    I want to underline strongly my hon. Friend's points. Not least of the aspects with which we are concerned is to ensure that, like Caesar's wife, the police are above suspicion if an accusation is rejected.

    There is no doubt that there has been a decline in mutual trust, particularly between young people and the police, such as has occurred so bitterly in the mining communities. I should never have believed that those to whom I have spoken in, for example, Yorkshire would have spoken about the police in the way in which they have done. Clearly, trust has broken down, yet we do not even have the comfort of a separate complaints procedure to deal with matters.

    Even if the Minister were to reject the argument that there is a major case, in the sense of a mass of accusations, and even if he were satisfied with the present procedures, although I do not see how he can be, there is a case for re-establishing the mutual trust that once existed. That can come only with an independent police complaints panel, as outlined by my hon. Friend.

    My hon. Friend has been apologetic about the nature of the new clause. It is simplified but it is not too bad a structure, and it is one upon which we can build. I hope that the Minister will accept it in principle and give us the comfort of knowing that the Government intend to treat the matter seriously and come forward with legislation. I am sure that my hon. Friends will give him every support to get such a measure through quickly.

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    It is extremely valuable that the hon. Members for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) and for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) have given us the opportunity to discuss this important subject. I speak not from any practical knowledge of events of the past year, nor, indeed, would I want to do so, because that would introduce a different issue from that of complaints generally with which we want to deal.

    I have been chairman of a joint police committee in Scotland. Therefore, I am entirely supportive of the outstanding work that the police do day by day, week by week, year by year throughout Britain. But I must accept that every now and again constituents come to one's surgery with what, in their view, are complaints against the police, whether the result of a specific action or just general harassment of their lives. One may be able to deal with their case, perhaps by asking them to think again, but at the end of the day their only redress is the present procedure. The procedure is carried out effectively and fairly by the chief of police, or whoever he may depute, but when the result of the inquiry is known the constituent concerned almost inevitably feels aggrieved that his case has been tried by the police. The nub of the argument is whether that is fair justice. Should a complainant go away with a feeling that he has had hard justice?

    I know that we have the satisfactory procurator fiscal system, and I am glad that England is falling into line with that procedure, but it is worth making the point, so fairly made by the hon. Member for Paisley, South, that it might well be in the best interests of the police if an inquiry were carried out by an independent body. Ninety times out of 100—perhaps 99 times out of 100—police officers will be cleared if they have carried out their duties within the regulations. If that is so, the inquiry will exonerate them; but, more importantly, the independence of the inquiry, clear of a police officer as "judge", will mean that those who complain are much more satisfied. I hope that when my hon. Friend replies he will say that he intends to give this matter more detailed consideration. If his consultations produce a view similar to mine, I hope that it will be thought worth introducing the necessary legislation.

    This is not in any way a criticism of the police, for whom I have the highest regard. It would be in their interest to be clear of criticism from the public. Any subsequent inquiry would be seen to be independent, so the complainant would have no reason to continue to feel aggrieved.

    5 pm

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    I welcome the opportunity provided by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) to debate this important issue. He said that when the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Millan) was Secretary of State he introduced a Bill that could not proceed because it was blocked by the Lib-Lab agreement. I was not a Member of the House at that time, so I do not know why that happened. I assure the hon. Gentleman that it has always been the policy of the Liberal party, both in Scotland and in England, that there should be an independent police complaints procedure. I can only assume that the Bill fell on questions of detail.

    As the hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) said, all hon. Members receive complaints from constituents about police handling of certain cases. Such complaints often relate to cases in which people feel the police should have intervened, but did not. Although hon. Members discuss these cases with chief constables in great detail, and are subsequently satisfied that the police have acted properly, nevertheless our constituents are unhappy that the matter has been investigated by the police—even though the investigators are independent of the police officers involved in the original incident. They believe that, to some extent, the police protect their own. Therefore, it is important for the sake of the police to have an independent body to investigate complaints.

    If there is to be an independent police complaints panel, there should also be an independent force to investigate the complaints. I do not think that the hon. Member for Cathcart is suggesting that the three members of the panel should carry out the investigation. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) put forward that view during the passage of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, and I understand that that view was supported by the Police Federation. The Government said that it was not possible because of lack of manpower.

    If we apply our minds to the problem, we will find that it is not as great as might initially have been perceived. Such an independent force could comprise ex-policemen and others who have the necessary skills and qualities for investigative work—for example, former Customs and Excise officers. If we accept the proposal in principle, I am sure that there will be no difficulty in finding people for the investigatory force. That will supplement the important independent nature of the panel.

    It is useful to have such a debate and I look forward to the Minister's reply. I hope that he will be positive. If the new clause is not an acceptable way to proceed, I hope that he will outline the positive steps that the Government will take to provide for a more independent investigation of police complaints in Scotland. We must remember that England and Wales have made significant advances during the past two years.

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    I welcome the new clause tabled by my hon. Friends the Members for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) and for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan). I am especially pleased that it has attracted a great deal of support from the hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro). It also received a cautious welcome in principle—although there was some criticism of the detail—from the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace). Indeed, there appears to be an all-party consensus that we need some form of independent investigation of the police.

    Like other hon. Members, I wish to state clearly that I have a great deal of respect for the police. Leaving aside the special tension of the past 12 months, it is nevertheless true that there are now greater tensions in society than for many a long day. The police are often at the sharp end when trying to deal with social tensions. It is in the general interest that there should be confidence between the public and the police. When I was a boy, policemen were represented not, perhaps, as PC Plods but as nice, couthy characters, very friendly, who could be approached on all sorts of matters. If one sometimes got into difficulty, the policement might administer a clip on the ear and say, "Go home."

    The relationship between the police and the public today is quite different from when I was a boy. I have experience of the police force both as a former member of Aberdeen city council and as a Member of the House. Successive chief constables have always said, "We do not want any bad eggs in the police force because that is not in our interests. We want to root them out. If that person is so bad that he should not be in the police force, we will get rid of him. If it is someone who has difficulty relating to the public, we will deal with it by training, discussion and identifying particular problems." Chief constables certainly believe that for the good of both the police and the public no member of the police force should be antisocial, in the widest definition.

    During my 15 years in the House I have not had many complaints about police misbehaviour or malpractice, although I expect I get my fair share. I am not anxious to encourage that. Some of the complaints have been justified. I shall not today, as I have done previously, go into detail because I do not want to identify policemen who have been disciplined. There is no point in raking up matters to their discredit. The worst case that I have had to take up with the chief constable—an allegation that neither he nor I could believe could possibly be true—was found to hold some truth following an investigation. Three policemen had to leave the force, and they were shown the door with great resolution. That happened more than 10 years ago, but it shows that the police will take action when serious cases are proved.

    This debate is not an exercise in police bashing—it is an attempt to restore the previous tradition of good relationships between the police and the public. All hon. Members who have spoken have said that it would benefit the police to have an independent investigation. I have had discussions and disagreements with trade union representatives of the police. I know that when a letter from me arrives on the desk of the chief constable and is fed through the system, some members of the police force are not exactly pleased. Some of the things that I understand have been said about me would not bear repeating in the House. The police should understand that we are putting forward this proposal not only because of the awkward squad—people who make frivolous or malicious allegations—but because we believe it will be of as much benefit to the police as to the public.

    When a complaint has been substantiated and disciplinary action has been taken, or if a case goes to the procurator fiscal and a policeman is prosecuted and found guilty, people are not dissatisfied with the way in which it has been handled. The problem arises when someone makes a complaint, which is investigated by the police, who say that there is no substance in it, that there was a misunderstanding, or that it was the fault of the complainant for being aggressive either verbally or physically. In such cases people say, "We are not satisfied that the matter has been given a proper hearing."

    Many of us who have been concerned for a long time with the complexities of society and the different ways in which authority, in its broadest definition, impinges on the lives of ordinary people, have been arguing for a wider complaints procedure. Largely as a result of such debates, we now have a Parliamentary Commissioner who can independently investigate complaints against the state. I know that there are limitations on his powers, but there is at least a procedure whereby someone aggrieved about a decision of public administration can have his complaint investigated thoroughly.

    The same is true of the National Health Service, although its commissioner is also limited in the sense that he cannot investigate matters of clinical judgment. Some of us may argue about that, but I realise that this is not the place to do it. Nevertheless, in general, the Health Service Commissioner system works, and people understand that it is another attempt to protect the ordinary citizen from big bureaucracy. There is also a Local Government Commissioner. Many of us know from experience how local government has grown in size and complexity. It deals with so many matters that impinge on ordinary people's lives that we decided—it was generally accepted—that we needed an independent complaints procedure so that an individual might have his grievances considered carefully. The Local Government Commissioner system also works extremely well.

    In some cases, the same person may do the job of Parliamentary Commissioner, Health Service Commissioner and Local Government Commissioner, but they are three separate offices. Their one failing is that they have no power to compel an offending authority to accept their recommendations and remedy the grievances. In the vast majority of cases, when a complaint is investigated, the commissioner recommends a course of action and the authorities carry out those recommendations. But if they decide to be obdurate and say, "We will not accept this," nothing can be done about it.

    One of the special attractions of new clause 3 is paragraph (f), which states that the decision of the panel must be complied with by the deputy chief constable. That must be right. I have always believed that if an authority is investigated and found to be at fault, not necessarily because it acted deliberately but because of maladministration or error, the recommendations of the panel should be binding. Therefore, if it is found that a complaint against the police is justified and the panel recommends some action, the police should comply with it.

    Public confidence in the police would be greatly enhanced if we had an independent complaints procedure. It is is long overdue. Others in the House may have a better memory of events than I, but I recollect that when the idea of a police complaints panel or an independent investigating system was first discussed in the House, it caused great controversy inside and among parties. The idea was welcomed by no one. Now there is agreement in almost all parties and, although I have no authority for saying this, I believe that we have gone through this argument so often and examined its merits with such care that even the chief constables would not bitterly oppose it. I am still not sure whether representatives of police officers would accept it, but gradually even they are beginning to understand that it is in their best interests. They are there to serve the public, not the state, and the public will be best served by a good police-public relationship and by enhancing public confidence in the police.

    I hope that the Minister will show his approval of the principle and accept it, or ensure that amendments are introduced in the other place. The Bill introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Govan has probably stood the test of time and would be a good way of going about it. The Minister will have the full support of the House if he does so. I commend the new clause to the House.

    5.15 pm

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    The principle that any grievance should be independently investigated is increasingly accepted in society. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) was right to refer to the Parliamentary Commissioner, the Health Service Commissioner and the Local Government Commissioner, but the principle has been extended beyond that. In Scotland, it has been accepted in relation to complaints against the legal profession, and Mrs. Joan MacIntosh's role as an independent ombudsman to whom the public can refer complaints is a recognition that the principle is constantly being extended. In the private sector, it has been extended to insurance, so that we now have the independent investigation of complaints against insurance companies. The principle is almost beyond party controversy. The only defence against extending it to the police that has been mounted by the Government is that, to some extent, Scotland already has it with the independent procurator fiscal system.

    However, in my constituency experience, the procurator fiscal system has not been wholly satisfactory in meeting the perceived need for an independent investigatory power. First, several complaints do not raise issues of criminal behaviour and are therefore not appropriate to be referred by the chief constable to the procurator fiscal. Many relatively nit-picking grievances against the police, and certainly issues of discipline, can give rise to the greatest sense of unfairness. That is not new.

    Indeed, the most celebrated case of a complaint against the police not being satisfied by the existing system occurred in my constituency. My predecessor, the late Sir David Robertson, raised in the House the famous Waters case, which led eventually to the setting up of a public inquiry. The fact that it was treated in such an inflated manner caused considerable damage to the police force. It was a serious complaint, but not so serious as to require such a massive response. I was told subsequently that it had even affected police recruiting.

    That is why I believe, with others who have spoken, that it is in the interests of the police to accept the desirability of an independent element in the investigation of complaints against them. I favour an independent element, not a wholly independent system of investigation and judgment, because I believe that if the police complaints system is to command the confidence of the public, it must be effective. To be effective, it will require the complete and wholehearted co-operation of the police in conducting the investigations. It is not wholly practical to establish a force to police the police.

    Although I concur with the view that there must be an independent element in the investigation, as well as in the panel to which the new clause refers, we must recognise that if investigations are to be carried out in depth and effectively, and if a wall of silence is not to surround the complaint, the investigating body must command the confidence and support of the police and be recognised as performing a function which the police, in their professional interests, would wish to be properly discharged.

    Like others, I believe that the police do a remarkably good job in Scotland. Few complaints are made, considering the number of times that the police are in contact with the public. The police are the last defence for the citizen against the breakdown of the rule of law and sometimes they have to use force or make a measured response to unruly behaviour. That is bound to lead to complaints on some occasions.

    The consensus on the subject has moved considerably since we last debated it in the House when we considered the Criminal Justice Bill. This week, a new police complaints body has been set up in England and Parliament is considering the introduction of an independent prosecution service for England.

    In England the Police Federation is calling for a totally independent system of investigating complaints against the police. That call has not yet been echoed in Scotland, but thoughtful policemen increasingly are of the view that there is much to be said for involving outsiders in examining complaints against the police. The new clause provides us with a valuable opportunity to raise the issues and for the Government to make a positive response.

    The hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) has direct experience as chairman of a police authority and the Government cannot ignore his contribution. All political parties are clearly of the view that the time has come for the Government to make a move. We seek, not a rush into uncharted territory, but a considered and careful response from the Government.

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    After what has been said today it will do the Minister no good if he merely digs in his heels and says that he is satisfied with the present position which has prevailed for some time. After the contribution by the hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro), the Minister must now appreciate the widespread agreement that there must be an independent element in judging complaints against the police.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) talked about respect for the police, but this issue is not about respect or disrespect for the police; it is about the public being confident that their complaints against the police will be fairly investigated and that the outcome of that investigation will be satisfactory to the complainant. The outcome might be different from that which is expected, but the complainant must be satisfied that his complaint has been properly and impartially investigated.

    It is important to emphasise that chief constables should take no part in such investigations, because at the end of an investigation the chief constable is responsible for disposing of the case and determining any punishment.

    I wish to set the record straight about what happened in 1978–79 when the Labour Government sought to introduce a Bill to deal with the problem. The Bill was never introduced. It was drafted and discussed across the parties, but that was under a minority Government and it was made clear that there was no majority in the House for enacting such legislation.

    It is important that the Minister should understand the events which led to the drafting of that legislation. In Scotland the Police Advisory Board meets regularly and the Minister probably chairs it, as I did, from time to time. I took the matter to the Police Advisory Board and with the exception of the Police Federation and the Police Superintendents' Association, both of which are represented by statute on the board, a substantial majority was in favour of introducing such legislation. The board comprises people from all walks of life, such as James Scotland, the principal of Aberdeen college of education and a playwright.

    Once the Police Federation and the Police Superintendents' Association realised that a majority of the board was in favour of such legislation and that the then Government were anxious to go ahead, they helped with the drafting. Whether they were reluctant to help is beside the point. The Police Federation represents officers up to the rank of inspector and the Police Superintendents' Association represents all ranks except assistant deputy chief constables and chief constables. It cannot be said that the police have always dug in their heels against independent investigations.

    Talk about what happens in England clouds the Scottish issue. Comparing the English and Scottish systems does not help. The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) mentioned the element of independent prosecution to be introduced in England, but in the past the police have prosecuted in their own cases.

    Complaints against the police, which currently go to the procurator fiscal in Scotland, will continue to be referred to him even if we set up an independent element for investigating complaints against the police. It is important to emphasise that. The new clause is not an attempt to take away the reference to the procurator fiscal. I should not be in favour of it if it were. Cases that presently go to the procurator fiscal properly go to him.

    We must consider the danger of double jeopardy. I would be the last person to approve a system that put police officers at risk of double jeopardy. No hon. Member who has contributed to the debate would favour such a system.

    5.30 pm

    The Labour Government's proposals, which were never put into a Bill, were that when a person was visited by a police officer after making a complaint he should not be asked whether he wanted to go ahead with the complaint but should merely choose whether he wanted the complaint investigated by the assistant chief constable—the existing arrangement—or by an independent panel. When the panel had investigated a matter, the complainant could not say that he was dissatisfied with the panel's decision and wanted the matter investigated by the assistant chief constable. We want to avoid that possibility and the new clause would avoid it.

    The existing system of investigating complaints against the police could continue in parallel with an independent system. We should not dismiss that possibility. I hope that the Minister will not simply say that the Government are satisfied with the existing position.

    I am sure that all hon. Members know of cases of constituents telling us that they want to make a complaint against the police. When we write to the deputy chief constable, he sends a chief superintendent—never anyone below that rank—who is always in uniform, to interview the person concerned, not about the complaint, but about whether he wants to pursue it. On many occasions I have had phone calls from desperate people—usually women—complaining about the police, and within two or three days they come back and tell me that they do not want to pursue the case. Subsequently, I have received a letter from the assitant chief constable or a deputy chief constable telling me that the woman has been interviewed, has changed her mind and is satisfied.

    Will the Minister give us a commitment to take this matter to the Police Advisory Board and bring forward proposals for an independent element in the investigation of complaints against the police? The independent element in investigations of complaints has spread far and wide. It already exists in the insurance industry, the legal profession, local government and the National Health Service.

    We cannot be like ostriches and stick our heads in the sand and pretend that nothing has changed. Events have moved on, and there has never been a better time for Ministers to encourage the people of Scotland by assuring them that there will be a thorough examination of the matter, with the possibility of introducing a Bill. I should prefer a Bill, rather than the new clause, so that we could set up a detailed and properly thought out system to give the Scottish people confidence that their complaints will be properly examined.

    The police could avoid much ill will if, now and again, chief constables admitted that their officers were wrong and sent letters of apology. In 14 years of representing constituencies throughout the central region, I have yet to receive a letter of apology from the police, even in cases where it was obvious to the blind that the police were in the wrong. Part of the problem is that chief constables always seem to think that their officers can do no wrong. That is not true in any walk of life.

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    My experience is different from that of my hon. Friend. When the police have found that a complaint was justified, the chief constable has written to me and often written personally to the complainant. I should not like it to be thought that the position described by my hon. Friend is universal.

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    I am grateful to my hon. Friend, because, if his experience is different, I should not like it to be thought that what I have said about chief constables applies throughout Scotland. However, my experience makes me wish that, just now and again, chief constables would admit that their officers were wrong and would apologise. I leave it at that.

    I hope that the Minister does not give us a head-in-the-sand reply, but will assure the people of Scotland that this matter will be dealt with in a way that its importance deserves.

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    I apologise for arriving at such a late stage in the debate. I shall be brief and raise only one point. I should have preferred to be able to give the Minister notice, but the matter relates to confidence in the police and to the independent investigation of complaints.

    I know that the Minister is aware of the circumstances surrounding the matter that concerns me, because he and the Secretary of State were courteous enough to arrange a meeting with me and my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) to discuss the matter.

    As a preamble, I stress that public confidence in the police is extremely important. I go out of my way not to encourage casual or easy criticism of the police or unnecessary complaints. However, I pass on genuine complaints and pursue them as vigorously as I can within the existing structure, though I feel strongly that an independent element in the investigation of complaints is necessary.

    Hon. Members will recall the controversy and delay that surrounded the publication two years ago of the Scottish Office report on sexual assaults. It appears—my hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart can confirm this—that part of the problem was that, following a heated meeting at the end of March 1983, it appears that an attempt was made by senior officers of Strathclyde police, including the deputy chief constable, to discredit the Scottish Office research unit that had produced the report.

    That serious allegation was made to my hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart and me by senior officials of the Scottish Office. The conclusions reached by the research officers in their report—about the treatment of victims and about other aspects—were challenged by the police. At the end of the day, when it became increasingly clear that the points ut forward by the deputy chief constable and senior police officers could not be substantiated, an internal inquiry was carried out by the chief constable. There was no independent inquiry and no opportunity for an investigation outwith the context of the police.

    The result of that internal inquiry was simply a letter of apology—admittedly, it was a clear admission that there was nothing to substantiate the allegations against the researchers—and internal discipline by the chief constable, which amounted to a personal reprimand of the senior police officers concerned, although we are not sure whether that included the deputy chief constable. My hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart and I were assured by the chief constable that none of the detail of that internal discipline will appear on the records of the police officers concerned.

    Is it not strange that an internal inquiry resulted in such a mild reprimand, when a serious allegation had been made, challenging the integrity of reputable Scottish Office researchers and attempting to stop the publication of a Scottish Office report?

    That must undermine confidence in the police. Accordingly, I have today tabled a question for written answer urging that a person be appointed to carry out an independent inquiry into the allegations. There clearly was a heated dispute between senior Scottish Office officials and the Strathclyde police.

    Continued co-operation between the police and the Scottish Office is important. Research projects are taking place now, and there will be future research projects, and co-operation is necessary in those undertakings. The Scottish Office and Members of Parliament must feel sure that there will not be a repetition of that type of case, with the police, on the flimsiest of evidence—because they do not like the conclusion of a report—challenging the integrity of researchers.

    I hope that the Under-Secretary will agree that the least that should be done is to appoint an independent person—someone who has the confidence of the police and the Scottish Office—to carry out an inquiry, to report to the Secretary of State and to ensure that that report is published.

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    Having represented Bo'ness for the time when it was in Central region, I appreciate the significance of the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Ewing) in relation to his constituency.

    Having listened carefully to what my hon. Friend said, I wish to put on record my thanks to the West Lothian police for their endeavours in cases raised by me. In fact, I have no need to contact the chief constable other than in exceptional circumstances. I approach the chief superintendent, David Scott, who—because there is an understanding between us—sends an appropriate policeman, depending on the case, to find out what the trouble is and to get at the truth of the matter. My experience has been that the Lothian police have looked sensitively and sensibly into any point that I have raised. I may be naive about that, but I do not think so.

    5.45 pm

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    I appreciated the remarks of the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), as will the police, because while in this debate hon. Members have not sought to diminish confidence in the police, they will appreciate that the police often feel that a number of hon. Members are sometimes less than fair to them. That is why the remarks of the hon. Member for Linlithgow will be appreciated not only in his area but more widely.

    The hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) said that he had not managed to give me notice of the point that he raised. Perhaps I should congratulate him on managing to raise this issue because, as he is aware, it was not the subject of a complaint made against the police at that stage. As he said, it related to a number of discrepancies between material seen by researchers and material available in the police office, and that was the matter under investigation. It was an internal investigation relating to three minor discrepancies only.

    The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the reasons for the discrepancies were patent on looking at the various documents. They related—certainly in one instance, if I recall correctly—to the difference between what was effectively, on the one hand, a statement that had been taken down and recorded and, on the other, a precognition. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman suggested that those discrepancies were anything other than that.

    The hon. Gentleman seemed to suggest that had the matter been dealt with in a different way, a different conclusion would have been reached. Having looked into the matter, having satisfied myself that the discrepancies were explainable, and the Scottish Office having received an apology from the chief constable, I believe that that is the end of the matter.

    It was perhaps unfortunate that the matter arose at the same time as the police, as they legitimately can, were expressing their views on the substance of the report. Their views in that respect were not a matter for investigation, nor should they have been. They were reactions which the police were entitled to give us at that time.

    In raising the matter, the hon. Gentleman has not provided any evidence or information to suggest that any further action requires to be taken. Indeed, I suspect that on reconsidering what he said, he will see that he has, in a sense, blown up a matter that has been dealt with effectively and to the satisfaction of all the parties concerned.

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    If the truth is as the Minister says—that there were only minor discrepancies in three reports, and he gave my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) and me an opportunity of reading those reports—how does he explain the fact that such a heated meeting took place at the end of March 1983—and both sides described it to us as heated—that there was then an attempt to substantiate the criticisms of Strathclyde police to the effect that the report should not be published; that there was then an internal inquiry by the chief constable, who told us that he put other things aside to carry out that inquiry; and that there followed a letter of apology and disciplinary action against senior police officers? Will the Minister explain the matter further, as the two issues do not seem to equate?

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    I do not see in what way the hon. Gentleman says that they do not equate. Obviously, when there was a difference of opinion which had led to certain views being expressed, it was important for that difference to be sorted out. Under the procedures which were adopted, the differences were investigated, the discrepancies were discovered—as I said, they were patently explicable—and a letter of apology was then sent. I believe that that was the correct way to go about it, and the apology was accepted by the Scottish Office as a conclusion to the matter.

    Hon. Members will recognise that we are going over well-trodden ground. As they have pointed out, the issues with which the new clause is concerned have been debated on a number of occasions over the years.

    I appreciate what the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) said, that he himself appreciated that his new clause, as drafted, was not capable of being sustained by the House, but that he saw this as an opportunity to debate the principles behind it. I concede the sincerity of the views that are held on both sides of the House on this matter. I do not think that I need to go into the details of the procedures in Scotland, because they have been gone over on many occasions, and were referred to by several hon. Members who spoke in the debate. However, let me say that there are two distinct strands. First, complaints from which a criminal offence may be inferred must, by law, be referred to the regional procurator fiscal for investigation. At present they amount to about 55 per cent. of all complaints dealt with, so that on average more than half and arguably the most serious complaints are already subject to independent scrutiny. I do not think that that will be disputed.

    I was a little puzzled by the comments of the hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan), because I could not gather whether he was suggesting—I trust that he was not—that the system of procurator fiscal investigation was anything other than independent.

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    The point that I was making was much more simple, but crucial. It is not enough for the law to be right. It has also to be seen to be right. I regret to say that most people would tend to regard even a reference to the procurator fiscal as no substitute for a known public panel such as is suggested in the new clause. People regard the procurator fiscal as in some way a part of the great mystery of the legal process. That is what I was dealing with, and that is the important matter to which the Minister should address his mind.

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    The hon. Gentleman is raising far wider issues about the independence of the prosecution system in Scotland. If he wishes to suggest that the system is not independent, he should establish his grounds more clearly. It is not only a matter of those particular complaints being investigated by the procurator fiscal. Where there is an inference of any criminal offence, it is required that the matter is considered by a Law Officer as well. Complaints can even go to the top of the Crown Office. I find it hard to accept from the hon. Gentleman that there is anything in this part of the system that he could regard as anything less than equitable and independent.

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    I do not see how the Minister fails to understand this. Because he is part of the system, he thinks that the entire population of Scotland are part of the system. They are not. They do not know how it works. They know that there is a mystery and that there is a man called the procurator fiscal to whom the matter is sent and then discarded. That is all that they know. We are dealing with people who get into difficulties and who do not understand the mysteries of the legal trade. I know that the Consevative party is full of advocates and so on, but that is not very much to our comfort.

    The Government must not hold that mystery to themselves. Why can they not establish an outside body or panel, with lay people of some intelligence, who are not involved in the mysterious apparatus of the procurator fiscal? That is what we are saying. Law and justice must not only be done, but be seen to be done, and be understood in the process of being done. That is not the case when the matter is referred to the procurator fiscal and, with respect to the Solicitor-General, even to a Law Officer, and then discarded. The system must be opened up, be seen, be understood and thereby be accepted.

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    If the hon. Gentleman is saying that there is not enough understanding or information on how the system works, I shall deal with that in a moment. My hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General informs me that in all those cases a full letter of explanation of how the system works is sent to each person.

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    Will the Minister give way?

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    I shall give way in a moment, but hon. Members must allow me to develop my arguments a little.

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    It is a very important matter.

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    Very well. I give way to the right hon. Lady.

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    This is a rather small but crucial point. If a Member of Parliament writes to the procurator fiscal raising some questions of doubt about particular cases, a letter comes back from a Law Officer saying that the Law Officer replies to all letters written to the procurator fiscal. There is no way that an individual can get a reply from a procurator fiscal. Even a Member of Parliament cannot get such a reply.

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    It is important that we establish the basis of the complaint. I understood the hon. Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Ewing) to say that it was his understanding of the new clause that it was in no way supposed either to duplicate or to replace the present procurator fiscal system because it was regarded as independent. If the right hon. Member for Clydesdale (Dame J. Hart) is saying that the difficulty is not whether it is independent, but that it is insufficiently understood, giving rise to a feeling that it is a part of the establishment so that people are suspicious of it, that is different from saying that as a system it is wrong because it is not acting independently.

    I hope that the hon. Member for Paisley, South takes the same view as the hon. Member for Falkirk, East and, indeed, as the shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar), to judge from the nods that he has been giving me. I understand that the new clause is not critical of that part of the complaints procedure.

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    We know that 55 per cent. of all complaints go to the procurator fiscal anyway, which is good. However, there is a difficulty. I know of a case that was raised well over 12 months ago. I shall not give the details of it, but each time I write to the chief constable to ask what is happening he says that the case is before the procurator fiscal and he is awaiting his reply. I do not know what the outcome will be, but I guarantee that if the procurator fiscal decides that it is not a case for prosecution, my constituent will feel that there has been a conspiracy, during which 12 months have elapsed. We are anxious to make it absolutely clear that the procurator fiscal is independent. How do we deal with the question that I have raised?

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    I understand that the outcome is eventually made known, and the complaint may relate to the time that that might take. My hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General reminds me that in many of these cases there is a requirement to wait, for instance, for the outcome of another trial that might be taking place. Therefore, there are circumstances in which delays are inevitable. The hon. Gentleman was trying to make my speech for me. I shall not be drawn into that, except to say that I hope there is a general acceptance that the independent scrutiny is correct.

    I referred to two strands. The second is complaints which imply that a disciplinary offence may have been committed, and which are investigated under the direction of the deputy chief constable of the force. Such investigations are undertaken by an investigating officer who is at least of the rank of inspector and wholly unconnected with the matter under investigation. Such complaints could cover matters such as discreditable conduct, neglect of duty and so on. In a sense, the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) strengthened that side of the system by suggesting that the police themselves are keen to root out what he called bad eggs. That is right. There is no incentive for them to maintain in the police force officers who, at the end of the day, will bring the police force into disrepute. Therefore, there is generally an impetus in that direction.

    The hon. Member for Paisley, South asked particularly about complaints arising out of the miners' dispute last year. In reply to a written parliamentary question on 14 December 1984 I informed the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown):
    "I understand that 23 such complaints have been received by the police."—[Official Report, 14 December 1984; Vol. 69, c. 621.]
    I do not have any more recent figures, but, given the date of that answer, it is unlikely that they are very much higher than that.

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    Can the Minister tell us the outcome of the complaints?

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    Without notice, I would not be able to do so. The hon. Gentleman asked a specific question about numbers. I hope that I have managed to answer that.

    The real issue facing the House is whether the existing procedures are inadequate. Listening to the debate, it has been my impression that there are strong feelings—there have been in all the previous debates—but that there are no substantive facts to show that the system is working inadequately. The hon. Gentleman knows the view that has been taken by the Government on several occasions, not only in debate, but in written answers. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said on 15 December 1983 that we had looked carefully at the matter, and
    "concluded that no case has been made out for introducing radical changes to the present arrangements."—[Official Report, 15 December 1983; Vol. 50, c. 530.]
    I remind the House that the Home Affairs Committee report, House of Commons No. 98-I of 1982–83, did not point to any shortcomings in the Scottish system. Although the Committee concentrated on arrangements in England and Wales, it took evidence from Scottish witnesses and had something to say about Scottish procedures. Paragraph 42 states:
    "A system of local Crown Prosecutors modelled on the Procurators Fiscal would provide the most promising framework for the investigation of complaints against the police, and we would favour this solution from among the various options we have considered."
    6 pm

    Paragraph 43 continues:
    "If we could be certain of the establishment of a Crown Prosecutor system in England and Wales within say, the next five years, we would not find it necessary to suggest major alterations in police complaints procedures in the meanwhile."
    I think that that is a fair commendation of the present system in Scotland which we cannot afford to ignore today.

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    Does the Minister accept that those comments related to matters currently referred to the procurator fiscal? The hon. Gentleman has understandably made considerable play of the fact that the new clause refers to the important but more limited area of potential disciplinary offences by policemen. The Home Affairs Committee considered the Scottish scene and drew parallels in a very different context. A lawyer might argue that the Law Society of Scotland is fairly ruthless and efficient in dealing with complaints against solicitors, but I am sure the Minister will agree that that is no argument for saying that there is no point in having a lay observer.

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    I accept that. To justify the hon. Gentleman's case, however, we need substantive facts to show that the present system is not working. I appreciate that hon. Members have strong feelings about this, as the debate has shown, but no substantive facts different from those put forward in previous debates have been brought forward today to suggest that the Government should change their attitude.

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    What does the Minister regard as a substantive fact? He has heard the opinions of Members from four different political parties, including a former Minister of his own party, who was chairman of a police committee. If opinion does not weigh with the Minister, what kind of fact does he regard as persuasive? Do we have to bring to his notice all the dissatisfactions that we have experienced and on which we drew in making our case? We did not think it appropriate to drag all those instances into the debate, because of the potential embarrassment to the individuals involved. What does the Minister mean by facts? Has he an open mind? Will he accept the view of the hon. Member for Falkirk, East that the matter should be referred to the Police Advisory Board?

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    The Government have taken the view, which I am arguing again today, that the present system works. I came to the debate to hear whether there were any specific instances in which the system had not been working, especially since 1983.

    After the Select Committee reported, we issued a consultation document seeking comments on recommendations which had implications for Scotland. Although it did not specifically canvass views on changes in the basic complaints structure, the evidence suggested overwhelmingly that the present procedures were operating satisfactorily. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made clear in his written answer, we therefore concluded that the case for radical change had not been made. My right hon. Friend went on to say, however, that specific areas had been identified in which improvements could be made and in which guidance was desirable.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) made the valid point that the system required some rectification in terms of the information provided about the way in which the system worked because there was a good deal of misunderstanding and in some cases, as I know from my constituency experience, no understanding at all of what the system actually entailed. For that reason, we issued a circular to chief constables and police authorities last summer.

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    The Minister has been most generous in giving way. Does he accept that the consultation document specifically ruled out changes of the kind proposed in the new clause? If the Government send a consultation paper to any group of people making it clear that matters A, B and C are not for consideration, the responses will reflect that preconceived attitude on the part of the Government.

    As for evidence that the system is not working, why did the vast majority of the lay people on the Police Advisory Board, who are closer than we are to general public opinion, take the view in 1978 that there should be an independent element?

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    I cannot answer questions about what happened in 1978 because I was not there and the hon. Gentleman was doing my job. As my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries said, it is important to appreciate that there is uncertainty about the system in the public mind due to lack of understanding. That is why we issued the circular to chief constables and police authorities in the summer. That circular gave guidance on the appointment of investigating officers and the circumstances in which they might be drawn from another force. It also emphasised the need to give complainants as full an account as possible of the outcome of the investigation. That is important in the light of what has been said by many hon. Members today.

    We also prepared a leaflet, in consultation with the police associations, explaining the complaints procedure for the benefit of members of the public who wished to lodge a complaint. The circular recommended that that leaflet be used by all forces so that anyone wishing to lodge a complaint would be given sufficient information about the procedure at that stage so that there would be no question of people not understanding it. In other words, since the last debate we have taken steps, albeit within the existing framework, to make certain necessary refinements.

    In my view, there is no point in making major changes of the kind suggested in the new clause purely for the sake of making them. The need for such changes must be shown, and I do not believe that such a need has been shown in this debate. I have certainly not been persuaded of the need for an independent panel. I do not believe that there is evidence of a widespread lack of public confidence in the present system or any reason to believe that public confidence would be significantly increased by the establishment of an independent panel. I believe that the public at large still repose a great deal of faith in the integrity and impartiality of the police service. That applies to the whole range of police activities.

    I have no doubt that the present procedure, with the independent procurator fiscal involvement in criminal complaints, serves the purpose well. For that reason, I cannot accept the new clause.

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    I have heard some long, dreary speeches saying no, but the contribution from the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland today must have been the longest and dreariest.

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    It was all written out for him.

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    Yes, it was all written long before the debate took place, so the Minister could not have paid much attention to what was said in the debate. Members in all parts of the House—including Conservative Back Benchers and, indeed, the chairman of the Conservative group of Scottish Members—made the case strongly and clearly, but the Minister was still not prepared to change his mind.

    Specific details were not given in the debate, but if the Minister believes that the public at large—especially the large sections of society who are disadvantaged or unemployed—have enormous confidence in the police, he must be living in cloud-cuckoo-land. He should come and see the alienation in parts of Glasgow not just from the police but from authority generally. It is not good enough to say that there is enormous confidence in the police. That is not the case.

    The reply by the Under-Secretary of State is typical of the general secrecy in which the police and the Government like to operate. My hon. Friend the Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) was right to raise those aspects of the sexual offences report. This shows the way in which the police are prepared to bring pressure to bear to ensure that no criticism of them is published.

    The Under-Secretary of State made great play of the fact that the differences were minor. If the differences had been major, there could have been a genuine difference of opinion between the two sides. Two different reports could have been examined, mistakes could have been made and the differences would have been evident. But the differences were so minor that they appear to have been used deliberately by the Strathclyde police to discredit the whole report. The fact that the discrepancies were so small worries me. Minor differences appear to have been used to discredit the research. It is all right to say that one disagrees with the report, but it is disreputable to try to discredit those who researched the report.

    I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will intervene and confirm what has happened in the following case. I have been told that researchers have investigated the way in which the provisions of the detention clauses of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980 have been carried out during the past five years. I have been told that an interim report was prepared by researchers in the Scottish Office and that it has gone to the chief constables. I have been told also that, at meetings during the past few weeks, the chief constables have said that they do not wish that report to be published. They have asked the Scottish Office not to publish it and to cease monitoring the detention clauses. That interim report was not overly critical of the police. It did not say that they were misusing their powers. Because the report contains some criticisms of the police, the chief constables have said that it should not be published. Is that the case?

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    The decisions on whether to publish these reports and the last report are not matters for the police. They are matters for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and me.

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    I did not suggest anything else. I used the word "asked", as the hon. Gentleman will see if he checks the Official Report tomorrow.

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    The hon. Gentleman said "said".

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    I said that the police are asking and saying that the report should not be published. I have been informed that, at a meeting last Thursday between officials and chief constables, an agreement was reached that the report would not be published and that monitoring would cease. Will the Under-Secretary of State say whether that is the case? Will the report be published, or will it not be published? Will the monitoring continue? If so, will hon. Members be able to table questions about the number of detainees and the numbers who have been charged, and so on? Is the hon. Gentleman prepared to answer my questions?

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    I understand that the first draft has been prepared, that it has been seen by the chief constables and that they have commented on it. As I said before, decisions on whether these reports are to be published are matters for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, on my advice. Obviously, I cannot pre-empt those decisions before I have seen the draft report.

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    We shall be interested to note whether this report ever sees the light of day and whether monitoring continues.

    The reply by the Under-Secretary of State and the reaction of the police to research and reports show that they are so super-sensitive to any criticism that they create the type of problems about which we have talked. These actions make the public suspicious and make them feel that there is no proper way of getting at the truth. The police put up a wall of secrecy between themselves and the public. If they operate in that way, there will be further problems with public relations.

    Having said that, I accept that the clause is faulty. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

    Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

    New Clause 4

    Restriction On Sale Of Alcohol In Vicinity Of Sporting Events

    'After section 74 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980 there shall be inserted the following—
    "74A. Where the Secretary of State has designated a sporting event under this Act, he may instruct the closure of premises which sell alcohol for consumption otherwise than on those premises, within a radius of 1 mile from the designated sporting event.".'.—[Mr. Maxton.]

    Brought up, and read the First time.

    6.15 pm

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    I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

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    Oh, no.

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    I hasten to assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that I have only one more motion. I promise that I shall then be quiet for the rest of the evening.

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    This could affect my constituency.

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    I do not think that is the case. I think that my right hon. Friend's constituency is not within a one-mile radius from Hampden park.

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    Ibrox park is.

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    Ibrox might be, I agree.

    Those of my constituents who live in the Hampden park area have asked: Is it logical, having said that there should be no drink within the grounds or on buses and trains going to the ground, that drink should be allowed near the ground? My constituents suffer from this problem. This is a recent phenomenon in the Hampden area, because the Mount Florida area used to be one of the dry areas of Glasgow. There were no pubs or off-licences. A change in the licensing laws has meant that there are off-licences.

    People purchase cans of beer and bottles of whisky from the off-licences and drink them in the street before going into the ground. They do not get drunk, but the empty cans and bottles finish up in the gardens and closes of the people living in the area. Those people are entitled to some protection.

    There is some evidence that crowd behaviour improves if the authorities make it difficult for people to drink outside the ground. I went to one of the two league cup finals in Hampden on a Sunday afternoon. Of course, off-licences are not permitted to be open on Sundays. There is no question but that crowd behaviour on the two occasions on which matches have been held on Sunday afternoons was much better than it had been on other occasions, despite improvements in other areas. I think that it is logical to extend the drinking limitations.

    I am not saying that, on every sporting occasion taking place on a designated sports ground——

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    Yes, my hon. Friend is.

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    If my hon. Friend listens, he will know that I am not saying that these limitations should apply to every sporting event at every sports ground. The legislation makes it clear that all drink is banned at two specific areas—near a designated sports ground and at designated sporting events. I am referring to the latter. The Secretary of State might designate a game at Hampden, Ibrox or Parkhead.

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    Murrayfield.

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    My hon. Friend said, "Murrayfield." It could have problems. There could be a crowd, and therefore it might be better to ban drink. The drink would be banned only for specified games. The Act defines the duration of a sporting event. It is two hours before the sporting event and one hour after. A limited period is affected. I hope that the Minister will consider an extension of the present powers. Everyone in Scotland agrees that the powers have had an effect on crowd behaviour at footbal matches, and possibly rugby matches at Murrayfield, over the past two years. We can only hope that the Government will introduce similar legislation south of the border rather than the piecemeal action that they are taking. The provisions of the new clause are a logical extension of the present powers.

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    I congratulate the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) on his ingenuity in raising all kinds of topics. We have relatively few opportunities to discuss matters such as football hooliganism, and we should not therefore miss this one. The hon. Gentleman was correct to raise the subject.

    In England, the Football Association, the Football League and the clubs have been criticised for failing to act, but ideas are shot down before being fully discussed.

    The hon. Gentleman's proposal is worth considering although we can see all kinds of practical difficulties—for example, whether one mile from the ground is the correct radius. If there were a one-mile radius in Dumfries no one would obtain a drink at all. The geography of a place and the layout of the streets might make it impractical to have such a limit. Thee might be a frontier. People would be able to obtain a drink on one side of the frontier but not on the other. The matter must be considered carefully.

    There has been a successful change in attitude in Scotland since the legislation, following the McElhone report, introduced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he was the responsible Minister.

    Everyone within the United Kingdom now points to Scotland and says, "You have taken steps and set an example. The situation is infinitely better." People are saying to England and Wales, "Come on. Let us take practical steps also to show that crowd behaviour can be improved by controlling the consumption of alcohol." Scotland has dealt with drink on buses and trains.

    As we did when discussing the last matter, we commend highly the work of the police in assisting the stewards and clubs to make crowd behaviour more manageable. We shall never get rid of all crowd trouble. We must not be complacent. We must think of ways of improving the legislation for Scotland. The success that has been achieved in recent years is a splendid base on which to build. Other countries are jealous of the reputation of Scottish fans at home and abroad. I hope that in their interests other countries will follow Scotland's actions with regard to drink. I am perturbed to see that England may only be bringing in a ban at selected grounds. England must go the whole hog and ban drink at all grounds if there is to be an impact on behaviour. Trouble could arise if a small ground which has had no drink ban suddenly meets Arsenal or Chelsea or any first division club. The legislation must be all or nothing.

    I want to pay a warm tribute to the Football Trust and to the Football Ground Improvement Trust. They are funded by a percentage of football pools income. We should be grateful to the football pools promoters for providing that money. The trusts have enabled improvements to be made to terraces and fences. Television cameras have been installed to keep an eye on awkward corners. They can provide valuable evidence as to who starts hooliganism in a ground.

    It is now recognised, although it took a long time, that the behaviour of players on the field has a bearing on the behaviour of the crowds on the terraces and in the stands.

    The hon. Member for Cathcart has included the word "may" in the new clause. The hon. Gentleman's intention, were the Minister to pursue the matter, would be not to have a universal ban on one mile, or any specified distance, around a ground, but to provide the flexibility to cater for any type of sporting event where there may be difficulties. We should sometimes look a little further into the future and hope—it may take rather longer than we would wish—that in five or 10 years we shall wonder what on earth we were doing in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s having all this hooliganism at football matches and other major sporting events. Discipline at home, in school and in the country may work itself through, and the standard of living and of behaviour may be much better than it sometimes is at some football grounds.

    I welcome the fact that we have had a chance to discuss the subject. It is right to air successes as well as disappointments over football hooliganism.

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    I see some deficiencies in the new clause, not in its drafting but in the practicalities of its application. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) is trying to protect those who live around Hampden park. The problem with a one-mile ban around Hampden park is that the trouble would merely be extended to those who live one mile and one yard from the ground. There would be pandemonium. Busloads of people would arrive with drink. If the drink is not allowed on the buses they might come by bicycle or other means of transport. They would bring the drink closer to the ground. Under the present legislation, such people would be stopped. They would not be allowed to take the drink into the ground.

    If there were a cycle race from John O'Groats to Wick, the Secretary of State would have to designate areas of a mile all along the route. That would not close the public houses, because my hon. Friend is prepared to allow public houses to remain open within the vicinity of Hampden park, but it would close the licensed grocers and the off-licences. I do not believe that his proposal is practical. On this occasion, my sympathies lie with the Minister, who will probably say much the same as I have.

    We have all seen a marked improvement in crowd misbehaviour since the introduction of the legislation. We welcome that, but to extend the legislation in the way suggested is not practical or welcome. There are sufficient powers now to enable the police to ensure that no one can enter a football ground under the influence of alcohol. People may not carry drink into the football park or premises, or consume it within the grounds. I implore my hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart to withdraw yet another of his new clauses.

    6.30 pm

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    I congratulate the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Mr. McKelvey) on using his gimlet-like and razor-sharp mind to identify the deficiencies in his hon. Friend's clause, not least with regard the selectivity of the restriction. One can imagine the representations that would have been made to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) if he had made the provision any more wide-ranging.

    I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) that this is a good opportunity for us to reflect upon our successes in dealing with problems at football grounds and other sporting occasions in Scotland. The matter is causing concern across the United Kingdom. The provisions of part 5 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980 have in the four years of their operation proved to be a success. Indeed, they are now proving to be a model for the rest of the United Kingdom. Scotland has set an example that we hope will, over time, be reflected further afield.

    In line with the instructions given to me by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudon, I must say that I am not convinced of the necessity for the new clause.

    The 1980 Act already creates offences of being drunk at a sporting event, or attempting to enter while drunk or in possession of alcohol or of a controlled container—for example, a bottle or can. At the ground, anyone who had been imbibing or who was carrying alcohol could be charged with the commission of an offence. That provision is better than a restriction in terms of mileage. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun identified the weakness in that idea. Carry-outs could be bought a yard outside the mile limit, but shops a yard inside the limit would not be allowed to open. I am satisfied that the range of offences within the legislative framework, and the associated powers, are entirely sufficient to reduce the dangers of disorder at sporting events in Scotland. No one can claim that hooliganism and drunkenness have been entirely eradicated, but there has undoubtedly been—as my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries said—a marked improvement in football crowd behaviour since the new provisions came into effect. I therefore see little justification for further legislative change.

    The new clause seeks to restrict the sale of alcohol from off-licences near a designated sporting event. It would add nothing to the existing law as it affects football hooligans who try to take drink or bottles into the ground. In addition, the new clause would duplicate the existing powers of the licensing board which, on the application of the police, may close certain licensed premises to the public if it is in the interests of public safety or order to do so. I refer to section 66 of the Licensing (Scotland) Act 1976. The matter was considered by the McElhone working party, and it was felt at the time that that legislation was sufficient. As far as I am aware, those powers have never had to be used in connection with a football match, but I am advised that they have been used in other circumstances.

    The new clause is an unnecessary duplication of existing law, in an area where there is sufficient legislation to provide the safeguards that we need.

    This is a rare opportunity for us to pat ourselves on the back for the success of the 1980 legislation. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw the motion.

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    If I had thought that I was merely giving the Government an opportunity to pat themselves on the back, I might never have tabled the new clause.

    It is true that there has been a vast improvement. Everyone would congratulate the Government on it, and the Minister has rightly paid tribute to the work of the late Frank McElhone and his working party.

    Hampden park is perhaps more completely surrounded than some other sports grounds by a residential area, and the people living there suffer when big games take place. This year, an extra big game has been forced upon them by the action of the Government. People feel strongly that there should be more control over what happens in the vicinity of the ground.

    I take the Minister's point about the duplication of the licensing laws. Perhaps I should have a word with my colleagues in the licensing courts in Glasgow to see what they could do.

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    The hon. Gentleman has made an allegation that—with his love of accuracy—he will not wish to remain on the record. He suggests that the decision to transfer a certain game to Scotland originated with the Government. It was not a Government decision. It was a decision taken by the football authorities on their own initiative. The Government had suggested a change of date. I believe that the decision to move the game to Scotland was a compliment to the Scottish football fans and to the law on football matches in Scotland.

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    If we were not in the House of Commons, I would give the Minister a straight answer. The Minister must ask himself whether, if the Minister responsible for sport had not asked the Football Association to make a change in relation to the game, the game would be taking place at Hampden. It would not. It would be taking place at Wembley on 25 May.

    The decision about transferring the game may have been that of the Football Association, but the decision to take the game out of Wembley on 25 May was forced upon the FA by the Government. The FA knew that it had no option but to cancel the game altogether or switch it to Hampden. It was the Government's decision.

    I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

    Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

    New Clause 5

    Recording Of Questioning At Police Stations

    'At the end of section 2 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980 there shall be added the following "Any questions put to a person and any replies given by him while in detention in a police station detained under section (1) above shall not be admissable as evidence in any subsequent trial unless they have been tape-recorded or video-taped and the said tape recording or video recording and a transcript thereof is lodged as a production in Court.".'.—[Mr. Matron.]

    Brought up, and read the First time.

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    I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

    I promise that this will be the last clause on which I shall speak this evening.

    I wish to begin with a quotation from the Committee stage of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill 1980. It is from a speech by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) who at that time was the Minister in charge of home affairs at the Scottish Office. He was later transferred to the Foreign Office, and the Minister who is to reply is one of his successors. I tabled an exactly similar amendment during that Committee stage. The Minister said:
    "The Government's view quite firmly and quite clearly is that if the tape recording experiments which are presently being conducted in Dundee and Falkirk are shown to produce no insuperable difficulties, it is our firm intention to implement these proposals"—
    the proposal to tape-record interviews at police stations—
    "at the earliest opportunity. We do not see the question of resources as significant in implementing such proposals."—[Official Report, First Scottish Standing Committee, 13 May 1980; c. 364–65.]
    I do not know what has happened during the past five years. A five-year delay does not seem to me to be the earliest opportunity. We have had no published reports on the experiments in Falkirk and Dundee. The time has come for the Minister to give us some facts about those experiments, to publish any outstanding reports on them and to explain why the commitment given by his hon. Friend has not been carried out.

    Have the experiments produced insurmountable problems? I accept that a problem has been caused by the judgment of Lord Jauncey concerning tape-recorded evidence being produced in court, but tape recordings have been used in other courts. How many people have been interviewed? How long are the interviews? I have heard that tape-recorded interviews are considerably shorter than is normal. What is the average length of a tape-recorded interview? What is tape-recorded? I believe that, in Falkirk, only the caution, the charge and the accused's response are recorded. In other words, there is not a full recording of the whole interview.

    I believe that there is some evidence of police suspicion of tape-recorded interviews and that a much larger percentage of interviews are now conducted outside police stations, either in the suspect's home or in the police car on the way to the station. What are the police saying about the experiments? During proceedings on the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill it was said that detainees might refuse to answer questions with a tape recorder running. Have people refused to be interviewed with a tape recorder running? If so, how many?

    After five years, and the promises that were made in 1980, we are entitled to know the answers to those questions. We want to know what is going on and when the Government will fulfil their commitment to enact the Thomson report, which proposed that interviews should be tape-recorded and that the tape recordings should be used as evidence in court. Such a procedure would help with police relations and, in regard to challenges made by lawyers about what has and has not been said, the police would be helped as well. The hon. Member for Pentlands was prepared to accept that. Is the present Minister?

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    rose——

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    On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have also put my name to the new clause and I am in some difficulty. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) has asked several questions, and this is the only opportunity that we shall have of getting answers to them. If I were to speak before the Minister, I should merely add to, buttress or repeat the questions that my hon. Friend has asked and I should not be able to speak again on Report unless moving a motion. Would it not therefore be better if the Minister answered my hon. Friend's questions now so that we can have a meaningful debate?

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    That is a matter for the Minister, not for me.

    6.45 pm

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    As the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) has decided to hold his fire for the moment, perhaps I can deal with some of the issues raised by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton).

    I think that the hon. Gentleman knows that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has always made it clear that he intends, for consultation purposes, to publish the results of the recent study into the tape-recording of police interviews with suspects in Scotland. The final report of that study, which deals with many of the questions that the hon. Gentleman asked, is expected to be s