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Prime Minister

Volume 80: debated on Thursday 13 June 1985

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asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 13 June.

This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet and had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House I shall be having further meetings later today. This evening I shall be attending a banquet given by President de la Madrid of Mexico.

Will my right hon. Friend take time today to consider the growing menance of drug abuse, especially the threatened cocaine flood from the United States? In view of the vast profits that are made from these dealings, will she take the strongest possible steps to deal with drug pushers? When will my right hon. Friend introduce legislation to ensure that any profits or drugs that the pushers acquire can be confiscated?

We hope to introduce legislation on this matter during the next parliamentary Session. As my hon. Friend is already aware, we have added 160 new posts to Customs and Excise especially for tracking down drugs. Last Tuesday, it was announced that we would add a further 50 investigators to Customs and Excise to track down drugs. All police forces now have specialist drug units. The police are devoting more manpower to drug investigations. I hope, therefore, that we have equipped ourselves well should there be any diversion of cocaine from the other side of the Atlantic to this side.

Will the Prime Minister now tell us, honestly and plainly, whether there are figures for gainers and losers from her social security proposals— yes or no? Has the right hon. Lady or any of her Ministers seen such figures—yes or no?

As I made clear in my letter to the right hon. Gentleman, the purpose of issuing a Green Paper was to set out—[HON. MEMBERS: "Let us have the answer."] — the main themes and principles in proposing a new social security structure. The proper time to produce figures is when decisions have been taken on the structure. We shall provide a range of illustrative figures when the White Paper is published in the autumn. By that time we shall have taken decisions on the structure. Then we shall provide a range of illustrative figures for the right hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members.

The Prime Minister's refusal to give a straight answer to a straight question will be noted by the whole country. It is entirely consistent with the approaches that she has taken on the whole matter. If the right hon. Lady will not answer that question on gainers and losers. will she publish the report of the pensions review committee, which included Mr. Stewart Lyon, so that the whole country can make a judgment on the advice that was tendered to the Government?

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman did not quite expect the answer that I gave. As to the latter part of his question, Mr. Lyon was an expert adviser, but the Government do not always have to take expert advice —[Interruption.] Indeed, we could be criticised if we did. I notice that it is reported that Mr. Lyon said:

"the final proposal to phase out Serps was ingenious".

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Metropolitan police have had a 5 per cent. increase this year, that there is a need for an examination into manpower and overtime, and that the police, who have been so well treated by this Government, cannot expect to be exempt from examination of their expenditure?

I agree with my hon. Friend that the police have been extremely well treated by this Government. Expenditure on the police generally has increased from £1·1 billion in 1978–79 to £2·8 billion in 1985–86, and spending on the Metropolitan police has increased from £291 million in 1978–79 to £763 in 1985–86. Against that background, we are justifiably proud of our record in respect of the Metropolitan police and the police throughout the country as a whole.

Is the Prime Minister aware that the word "ingenious" is always used of every successful burglar?

It is precisely because this Government do not wish to burgle future generations that we are looking at the present scheme to ensure that it is soundly financed by contributions from this generation, rather than staying with the old scheme which would put the burden on our children and grandchildren.

Order. There is no injury time during questions, and therefore I shall take the hon. Gentleman's point of order afterwards.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that at present contributions from 2·8 workers pay one pension, and that if SERPS is not altered 1·6 workers will in future pay one pension? That is surely an unsustainable charge on such workers.

I do not believe that the present SERPS system is deliverable. The burden on our children and grandchildren would be absolutely intolerable, and they would not be able to meet it. As my hon. Friend knows, the expert advice indicated that if SERPS were to be carried on the benefit would have to be substantially reduced, even though the contribution would have to remain the same.


asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 13 June.

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

Is the Prime Minister aware that the "World in Action" programme the other evening said, in effect, that she was lying about the sinking of the General Belgrano—

Order. The hon. Gentleman knows that "lying" is not a word that we use in the House, especially about one another.

Is the Prime Minister aware that "World in Action" said, in effect, that she was not telling the whole truth about the sinking of the General Belgrano? Is she aware that many people regard this as Britain's Watergate, as the Falklands war was used cynically to win a general election and many people on both sides lost their lives needlessly.

The whole matter of the Belgrano was thoroughly debated in the House when the Government motion that the sinking of the Belgrano was justified and that the first duty of the Government is to protect the lives of our people was passed without one dissenting vote from any part of the House.

Has my right hon. Friend had the opportunity to note that The Times newspaper today carries so many job advertisements that a separate eight-page supplement has been printed to contain them, the Daily Telegraph carries 10 pages of job advertisements and even The Guardian has five? Does she agree that that is a sure sign of a buoyant and expanding economy and is bad news for the Labour party and those whose profession it is to talk this country down?

I believe that it is a sign that more jobs are being created. I hope that those who are without jobs will go anxiously after those vacancies and that many more will be employed as a result.

As larceny now seems to be the right description of the Government's proposals for the state earnings-related pensions scheme, will the Prime Minister admit that Mr. Stewart Lyon proposed that the scheme should be retained but modified and its ultimate cost reduced, but that that option was not discussed by the Secretary of State's advisory team? Does she agree that that option should now be put to the House with Government figures so that we can decide whether it is viable?

I thought from their early declarations on the reviews that members of the SDP were supporting abolition of SERPS very vigorously, but with the alliance one never quite knows. The Green Paper made it clear that one of the options considered by the Government was to restrict SERPS rather than to phase it out. The reasons why the Government concluded that that was not the right option are set out in detail in paragraph 7.9 on page 23 of the Green Paper.

Will the right hon. Lady take time today to discuss with her right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the plight of the small dairy fanners in Northern Ireland, who are the only dairy farmers in the whole of the United Kingdom with herds of 40 cows or fewer who will have to carry the cruel EC cross of the milk quota?

I am very much aware of the problem in Northern Ireland. I believe that too few people took up the outgoers offer. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is considering the matter now.


asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 13 June.

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

Instead of attending yet another banquet this evening, will the Prime Minister take time to read the report in today's Daily Mirror about a woman who is to have an abortion after breathing in fumes from a weedkiller containing the chemical 2,4,5-T? Having cut the health and safety inspectorate by 20 per cent. in the past four years, will she now support the campaign by the Transport and General Workers Union and others for a ban on that chemical, which was used by the United States as a killer in the Vietnam war?

The matter is now under consideration by the Health and Safety Executive.


asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 13 June.

Has my right hon. Friend had time to study the speech of our right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Maurice Macmillan memorial lecture on Tuesday evening, in which he described the emphasis that he puts on wider share ownership and wider property ownership as one of the bases of the Government's policies? Does my right hon. Friend remain committed to the principle that further share and home ownership are the bases for further responsibility in society and for further economic and social progress?

Yes. I saw that speech and, as my hon. Friend knows, owner-occupation is at an all-time record because of the Government's policies. Moreover, the number of individuals who own shares has risen rapidly. It fell during the lifetime of the Labour Government. It fell from 2·5 million in 1958 to 1·75 million in 1979. It is now rising substantially. The British Telecom share issue alone has 1·7 million shareholders —a figure equal to the total number of shareholders in 1979.

I shall now take the point of order of the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop).

It is sometimes difficult in the Chaiŕ to hear what is being said in the House, but it is sometimes difficult to hear in the House what is being said in the House. It must have been obvious to everyone in the House that the Opposition deliberately drowned my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's answer — [Interruption.]—just as they are trying to drown this point of order. They succeeded in drowning my right hon. Friend's reply to the somewhat mischievous question of an ex-Prime Minister. [HON. MEMBERS: "Mischievous?"] I raise this point of order—[Interruption.] I am happy to wait.

I shall put it when I can be sure that you can hear it, Mr. Speaker. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I rose on a point of order earlier to ask you to enable the Prime Minister to repeat her answer so that the House and the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan), who asked the question, could be allowed to hear her answer.

The hon. Gentleman has raised an important point. Over the centuries our predecessors have fought for freedom of speech in this place and it is a very bad example to others if we fail to preserve that freedom. It is perfectly true that Prime Minister's questions have been very noisy, but I had detected a rather better tone of Prime Minister's questions in the past several weeks and I hope that that will continue.

Business Of The House

3.35 pm

May I, within your hearing, Mr. Speaker, ask the Leader of the House to state the business for next week?

Yes, Sir. The business of the House for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY 17 JUNE—A debate on a Government motion to approve the White Paper on Airports Policy, Cmnd. 9542.

TUESDAY 18 JUNE—A debate on a Government motion on the Green Paper on the Reform of Social Security, Cmnd. 9517–9.

WEDNESDAY 19 JUNE—Opposition Day (15th Allotted Day). There will be a debate on an Opposition Motion entitled "Government Imposed Price Increases".

Motion on European Community Document 9402/84 on quick frozen foodstuffs.

THURSDAY 20 JUNE—There will be a debate on a Government motion on the White Paper on Developments in the European Community July-December 1984, Cmnd. 9485, on the report of the Dooge Committee on Institutional Affairs, and on Community Documents 11911/1/81 (on a conciliation procedure between the European Assembly Council and the Commission), on 10350/82 (on stronger action in the cultural sector), and on 8667/82 and 4469/85 on controls and formalities at Community borders.

FRIDAY 21 JUNE—A debate on small firms which will arise on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

MONDAY 24 JUNE—Opposition Day (16th Allotted Day)—subject to be announced.

[European Community Documents to be debated Wednesday 19 June
(a) 9402/84Quick frozen foodstuffs
Thursday 20 June
(b) UnnumberedReport of Dooge Committee on
EC Institutional Affairs
(c) 11911/1/81Conciliation procedure between
Community Institutions
(d) 10350/82Communication concerning
stronger action in the cultural sector
(e) 8667/82Frontier checks on Community
(f) 4469/85Frontier checks on Community
Relevant Reports of European Legislation Committee
  • (a) HC 5-iv (1984-85), paragraph 4.
  • (b)HC 5-xxi (1984-85).
  • (c) HC 21-xix (1981-82)
  • (d) HC 34-xv (1982-83)
  • (e) HC 34-i (1982-83) and HC 78-xxviii (1983-84)
  • (f) HC 5-xvi (1984-85).]
  • I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. First, may I ask him to ensure that the statement on the social security benefits uprating is made next Monday so that in the debate on the Government's Green Paper on the reform of social security the House can have all the relevant information on the most recent uprating to hand?

    Secondly, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman for a debate in Government time on the immigration rules, taking into account both the European court judgment and the new restriction on Tamils?

    Thirdly, will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for a debate in Government time on the crisis facing the arts, caused by the unexpected shortfall of £30 million that has resulted from the Government's failure properly to estimate the effects of the abolition of the Greater London and metropolitan county councils? [Interruption.] While considering that matter, will the right hon. Gentleman disregard the philistines who heckle from Conservative Benches?

    Finally, it is now 13 weeks since the violence at the Luton-Millwall match and the statement by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, who is responsible for sport, and two weeks since the horrific incidents at the Heysel stadium in Brussels and the Government's promise to take effective measures. As it is now only 10 weeks to the start of the new football season and five or six weeks until the summer recess, when will we have the necessary discussions about the Government's legislation and their other proposals for dealing with football hooliganism?

    Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that we in the Opposition want strong, urgent and effective action to be taken in that matter? Those objectives can be best achieved by joint effort and maximum agreement. In pursuit of that, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that there is joint discussion, maximum information and, very important, adequate time for legislation?

    I recognise the importance of the uprating statement in the context of the debate on the social security proposals. Perhaps we can look at that matter through the usual channels.

    On the second point, while no announcement has been made about a debate on immigration reflecting the problems of the Tamils and recent judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, I accept that the topic is important.

    Thirdly, in the context of the arts, perhaps I will be allowed to say this—and I believe that this sentiment will be widely echoed throughout the House. I should like to express our great pleasure at the donation that has come today to the National Gallery through the Getty Foundation. I note what the right hon. Gentleman said about a debate concerning public sector provision for the arts. Again, perhaps we can look at that matter through the usual channels.

    Finally, I am most anxious to join the right hon. Gentleman in underlining the importance of consultation and maximum agreement on legislation on alcohol in respect of football matches. I shall do what I can to move matters in the direction that he seeks.

    On next Tuesday's debate on the social security Green Paper, is my right hon. Friend aware that more than 129 right hon. and hon. Conservative Members have signed early-day motion 653, which urges the House to endorse the principle of an integregated tax-benefit system?

    [That this House endorses the principle of an integrated tax-benefit system; and urges Her Majesty's Government to use the present review of social security and the forthcoming Green Paper on personal taxation as an opportunity to take the first steps towards that objective.] Will he ensure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services is made fully aware of that broad-ranging support?

    Surely the House will not be denied the opportunity to debate and have a separate vote on the humanitarian issue of the immigration rule changes that will effect the Tamil community. Does the Leader of the House, whose responses to the matter have been sympathetic, recognise that to embrace the matter within a wider debate would be to confuse that debate and to deny the House an opportunity that it should have?

    On next Monday's business, will my right hon. Friend make room for the debate to continue for about a further hour so that more hon. Members may be able to contribute and Mr. Speaker may be assisted in his selection of hon. Members who should speak?

    Since the past year has seen unprecedented threats to public order and an unprecedented increase in violent crime, is it not time that we had a proper debate on the relationship between the resources available to the police and the demands placed upon them, which are, frankly, becoming too great?

    I acknowledge the authority with which my hon. Friend speaks about the police, but I hope that he will understand when I say that I cannot offer the immediate prospect of a debate in Government time on that topic. I shall, of course, keep the matter in mind.

    As to my hon. Friend's request with regard to the airports debate, I am sure that we can consider through the usual channels the virtues of extending the debate, perhaps until midnight.

    Is the Leader of the House aware that the Scrutiny Committee will be glad that there is to be a debate next Thursday on the Dooge report, which leaves plenty of time before the Milan summit? Is he further aware that the Committee's 21st report, published today, includes a summary of its views on this matter? There have been press reports of additional proposals from the Foreign Secretary. Will they be available to hon. Members before next Thursday's debate?

    I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's kind remarks about the arrangements that have been made to debate the Dooge report before the European Council meeting. I shall look into his second point.

    Would my right hon. Friend be good enough to think again about the role, in its broadest aspects, of the European Court of Human Rights, which is so different from our system, which is thoroughly un-English and which may lead us into an awful mess?

    No time has been made available next week to enable the House to debate the shortcomings of the European Court of Human Rights, and I cannot offer any prospects of an early debate in Government time. It is a subject well suited to my hon. Friend's private enterprise.

    Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Foreign Secretary to make a statement as soon as possible disassociating the British Government from the decision of the United States Congress to give financial aid to the Contras? In view of the increasing possibility of American intervention in Nicaragua, and because of the extreme danger of such an event, will the right hon. Gentleman arrange an early debate on the matter?

    I would mislead the hon. Gentleman if I suggested that there were any prospects of an early debate in Government time, but I shall draw the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary to the points that he has raised.

    Does my right hon. Friend accept that, although many people would abhor a police state, they believe that the availability of identity cards could be a critical part of the fight against terrorism and crime in general? Does he further accept that many forms of security card already exist? Therefore, may we have a debate on this subject so that the Government might be encouraged to make available to the public on request a standard identity card, just as passports have been available for decades—

    The reception to my hon. Friend's suggestion shows that his first step should be to try his luck in an Adjournment debate and to see what reaction he gets there.

    May I ask the Leader of the House a question of which I gave him notice? In the light of my Consolidated Fund debate on 19 December 1984, the two books by Graham Smith and Judith Cook and the astonishing articles in the Daily Star yesterday and today on the death of the rose grower Hilda Murrell and the possible involvement of British intelligence, does he think that the time has come for a statement on the subject by the Home Secretary?

    I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for having given me notice that he would ask his question. It is not immediately clear that the articles in the Daily Star add anything to what has hitherto appeared in the press, but I shall refer the point that has been made to my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary.

    My right hon. Friend will be aware that, in the overwhelming majority of cases, the introduction of the National Health Service approved list has been not just acceptable but welcome. He will also be aware that in a tiny minority of cases genuine difficulties have been created. Will he seek from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services an early statement to the House not just on plans for an appeal procedure but for the resolution of those few genuine difficulties?

    I understand that my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Health wrote to the general medical services committee of the British Medical Association on 16 April setting out the Government's proposals for an appeal mechanism. I understand that the committee will be responding shortly. I hope that we can take it from there.

    Will the Leader of the House give further consideration to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) so that we may have an opportunity to discuss the deplorable resolution passed by the United States House of Representatives yesterday? Is he aware that the Opposition feel that the Government should make it clear that they do not believe that Washington should destabilise or try to overthrow any Government, as in Nicaragua, which they do not support or consider should exist?

    I do not think that I can helpfully add to the answer that I have already given. I shall, of course, make it my business to ensure that my right hon. and learned Friend is also informed of the hon. Gentleman's opinion.

    Did my right hon. Friend see the excellent letter in The Times yesterday from a former British and world boxing champion, Mr. Alan Minter, on values in sport and the need to improve crowd behaviour at sporting events? Does my right hon. Friend feel that the whole subject, linked with general social discipline, should be debated by the House in addition to discussions on the football measures to be introduced by the Government before the summer recess?

    The initial step must be to introduce the measures that the Government have in mind and to which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition referred. If we can get along with those, that will be the best contribution that the House can make.

    Does the Leader of the House recall that last week, when I asked for a statement on Lear Fan, he pointed to Question Time this week as being the time to raise that issue? Has he looked at the Order Paper today and noticed that there was no opportunity on it for any questions to be asked on Lear Fan? As £56 million of public money is involved, do we not deserve a statement at the Dispatch Box? Why do the Government persist in refusing to come to the Dispatch Box to answer about the Lear Fan loss of money?

    I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman has not had the opportunity that I thought, when we had the exchange last week, might be available to him. I shall refer his observations to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

    Is my right hon. Friend aware that in some quarters there is growing anxiety about the manner in which consultants within the NHS carry out private operations, about the waiting lists which are maintained, in some cases, it is felt, artificially long, and also about the remission of NHS fees from private patients? Will he arrange for a statement to be made on that matter by my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Health or for a debate on it?

    I shall refer that point to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services. In the meanwhile, my hon. Friend may like to take the opportunity, if it is possible, to ask about it at Question Time on Tuesday.

    Does the Leader of the House accept that the House needs an early opportunity to consider the case for urgent improvements to regional policy and changes in the pace and scale of public expenditure to assist coalfield areas where unemployment is already dreadful and is now being so swollen as to present a genuine threat of corrosion and the crippling of our communities? Is he aware that that is making a mockery of any residual attachment of the Government to the concept of one nation?

    The hon. Gentleman raises an important aspect of economic policy that is contained within regional policies. There is no immediate opportunity for debating that in Government time, but he may wish to use the other opportunities that are available to him.

    Is my right hon. Friend aware of the widespread disappointment at last week's decision to defer legislation to decontrol new private tenancies? In view of the fact that that will obstruct mobility of labour and, therefore, slow down the process of reducing unemployment, will it be possible to arrange a debate on the subject so that many Back-Bench Members who feel strongly about the matter may have a chance to express their views?

    I do not foresee an early likelihood of a debate in Government time, but my hon. Friend may wish to pursue the other opportunities available to him.

    Given that the Government have termed the social security reviews as the most fundamental since Beveridge, does the Leader of the House seriously consider that one day's debate is sufficient to discuss them? In view of the revelations in today's press that Ministers completely ignored the advice of Mr. Stewart Lyon, the independent adviser on pensions, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the consultative exercise within Parliament is likely to be as flawed and fraudulent as the consultative exercise for the reviews clearly was?

    I do not accept much of that rhetoric as being appropriate to next week's business. The social security review is a big topic to be contained within one day, but, provided hon. Members argue succinctly, much good argument can be put forward and resolved.

    May I reinforce the point made both by my hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) and in an excellent article by Ronald Butt in The Times today? Surely it is completely undemocratic for the laws of England to be made, not by the Commons of England, but by a bench of foreign judges, however distinguished they may be? We must have time for a proper debate to reassess our relationship with the European Court of Human Rights.

    There is no time made available specifically and explicitly by the Government next week. However, if my hon. Friend could not slip the matter into Thursday's agenda, I would feel that he was not living up to his reputation.—[Interruption.] I am aware of his reputation and I am trying to be complimentary to him. I am trying to say, if I may use a somewhat overworked word, that my hon. Friend has the ingenuity, which is meant to be a complimentary term, to make his point even within that guise.

    Will the Leader of the House arrange for an early debate on yesterday's unsuccessful attempt by Mr. Coleby, a senior member of the Bank of England, to falsify the record of his evidence to the Treasury and Civil Service Select Committee on 22 May—

    Could the Leader of the House arrange for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to answer—

    Order. We cannot have a debate on the matter, because it has not yet been reported to the House.

    With respect, Mr. Speaker, I wonder whether I could finish my question. I am asking the Leader—

    Order. Perhaps I too could use an overworked word and ask the hon. Gentleman to be more ingenious.

    Disingenuously, Mr. Speaker, could the Chancellor of the Exchequer answer a debate on the ground that his denunciation of Mr. Coleby's evidence in the House on 23 May put pressure on Mr. Coleby to falsify the record of his evidence?

    So many hard things have been uttered on topics of which I am wholly unaware that I can best assume that the hon. Gentleman has been thinking aloud.

    Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in the name of the Government, hospitals for the mentally ill and disabled are being closed? Will he, therefore, take note of early-day motion 515, which has been tabled by me and signed by 118 right hon. and hon. Members?

    [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.]

    It asks for an urgent debate on the subject before all the damage is done and facilities for the mentally disabled and mentally ill are closed without adequate facilities being provided in the community by way of accommodation and skilled personnel.

    I shall draw the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services to that serious point.

    Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Secretary of State for the Environment to come to the Dispatch Box this evening to make a statement about the actions of district auditors in Lambeth and Liverpool, the results of which are due to take effect this week? Is he aware that Lambeth Labour councillors have had no alternative but to defend the services in the area against the swingeing cuts that have been made by the Government? Is he further aware that Liverpool has made great advances in jobs and housing in the last two years? Does he appreciate that in the view of many Labour Members, trade unionists and members of the public who depend on the services in Liverpool and Lambeth, the needs of the working class in those areas have a higher priority than Tory legality?

    I had hoped that the hon. Gentleman would join with me in welcoming the fact that one Labour council after another was now concluding a legal rate. I shall convey to my right hon. Friend his request that he come to the House this evening, but I cannot say that I travel that road hopefully.

    In view of recent abuses by certain diplomats, including a Syrian who claimed diplomatic immunity when, highly illegally, occupying someone's property, will my right hon. Friend provide time for the House to debate the question of privileges and immunities given to diplomats, particularly in view of the number of people now being given diplomatic status?

    May I assure my right hon. Friend on behalf of many hon. Members that we were sorry not to hear him defending his stand on the business motion on the Unborn Children (Protection) Bill? Shall we have a further chance to hear his views on the subject, as the House would like an opportunity to debate the Bill again?

    On the latter point, I can only repeat what has been said many times—that the Government would not themselves be providing time for that legislation.

    In the first part of his question my hon. Friend raised an extremely important point, especially for those living in central London. However, no time has been made available by the Government for a debate on the topic. My hon. Friend may like to take his chances with the Adjournment.

    The Leader of the House will be aware of the appeal that has been made by Mr. Ted Croker, secretary of the FA, in respect of the worldwide ban against all English football teams. He will also be aware of early-day motion 765 tabled by me.

    [That this House unequivocally condemning all forms of social violence, deplores the decision of FIFA in banning all English teams from playing friendly and competitive football worldwide, including games against teams from Scotland, Wales and Ireland; believes that this hasty move leaves England in total isolation from the rest of the football world; calls upon Her Majesty's Government to support the Football Association, Football League and the Sports Council in any appeal against this decision; and supports any measures which will help to end football violence.]

    Will he ask the Minister responsible for sport to support this appeal against the total isolation of all English football teams from world soccer?

    Is my right hon. Friend aware that I have just received, as I think he and other right hon. Members have, a solicitous letter from the authorities of the House advising me that a nurse and doctor are available should I require their attention? Will he bear in mind, as we get into the hot summer, that we need an early recess, and will he advise us when the summer recess will start? The weather is so bad at present —we cannot blame the Government for that—that the sooner we start the recess, even if it means returning early in the autumn, the better.

    I find that a worrying intervention, because my hon. Friend refers to a letter about medical advice which I have not received. Somebody must, therefore, be making an act of extreme discrimination in judging those of us who will and those of us who will not get to the middle of August.

    Does the Leader of the House recall that, on the many occasions when I have referred to the Johnson Matthey collapse, representations have been made from other quarters, notably from the Conservative Benches, to the effect that there has not been sufficient cover by the Bank of England to oversee the credit worthiness of banks generally? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we should have a statement to clarify the position? It has been reported, for example, that only one Bank of England official oversees the credit worthiness of every bank in Britain. Is it any wonder that Johnson Matthey collapsed without anybody from the Bank of England having been made aware of what was happening? Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that that is in strong contrast to the way in which district auditors have an army of people crawling all over Lambeth and elsewhere trying to stop councils from carrying out the mandates on which their councillors were elected?

    I take at once the importance of the present investigations into Johnson Matthey and the items that are related to it. I shall look at the matter and see how soon a report can be made on it.

    Was the Leader of the House at the Cabinet meeting when the Secretary of State for Social Services presented a slide show on his proposals for the dismantling of the welfare state? As the Government are denying the House and the public any detailed information about those proposals, if the right hon. Gentleman thought that the slide show had any merit, will he arrange for hon. Members to see it before we debate the proposals?

    Unlike, as far as I can judge, every member of every Labour Cabinet, I never comment on what happens in this Cabinet.

    Is the Leader of the House aware that since visa restrictions were imposed on Tamil people trying to leave Sri Lanka to come to this country there have been serious problems for those going to the British high commission in Colombo to apply for a visa? Is he further aware that, at 3 o'clock in the morning on Tuesday, a young man who had attended the high commission to try to get a visa was pulled out of the queue by the police and beaten up at the local police station? Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the decision by the home Secretary and the Foreign Secretary about Sri Lanka merits urgent and important debate in the House because of the implications for the future of refugee status for any asylum seekers from any part of the world?

    The hon. Gentleman will recollect that I have already told the Leader of the Opposition that there is in prospect a debate on immigration, which will cover many of the points that the hon. Gentleman has in mind. I cannot offer a debate in advance of that.

    As there has already been a call for a debate on the condition of the police force, would it not be appropriate to have an urgent debate to consider the plight of victimised miners, especially as in Scotland the coal board has consistently refused to reappoint Jack Kane, a recognised conciliator? This is disgraceful and it should be the subject of a debate in the House.

    I recognise the hon. Gentleman's interest in this matter, but I can see no early prospect of the debate that he seeks being held in Government time.


    On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. When the Leader of the House was trying to answer the question that I put to him, the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) interjected a remark to prevent me from hearing the answer.

    Is it in order for an hon. Member, who is about to go on a trip paid for by the puppet Government of South-West Africa, to try to prevent other hon. Members from hearing Ministers' answers?

    We have had enough about hearing answers in the House today. It is incumbent upon us to set a good example of free speech. We cannot possibly expect the rest of the country to respect this place if we do not set a good example.

    Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. What are your powers regarding entries in the Register of Members' Interests? Concern has been expressed outside, and should be expressed inside, the Chamber that free trips for hon. Members are not being entered in the register. I think that you should give a ruling, Mr. Speaker. If an hon. Member is going on a free trip, no doubt he will put in an entry to that effect. That is essential because otherwise, to a large extent, the register becomes meaningless. Will you give a firm ruling that if an hon. Member goes on a trip organised by a foreign Government he is under an obligation to ensure that an entry is put in the register?

    The rules governing the Register of Members' Interests are well known to the House. They have been laid down by the Select Committee and every hon. Member should declare his interest. As I understand it, all overseas visits are recorded.

    Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. For the benefit of those rather unpleasant Members who are very happy to take free trips behind the iron curtain—I am making no individual accusation when I say that—I put it on record that on Saturday I am going to South-West Africa as a guest of the multi-party conference of the internal parties, black, white and brown, of that country, to attend the inauguration of the transitional internal Government, comprising the internal parties. I am happy to declare that and it will be registered, as I have always done in the past, in the Register of Members' Interests.

    Order. I think that we have had enough of this. I have a long list of right hon. and hon. Members wishing to take part in the defence debate, and we should really move on to the next statement.

    Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. This arises out of something that you said in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn). May I have an assurance that, when you said that every trip should be registered, you were saying, from the authority of the Chair, that that is what you would expect in the next compilation of the register? It would be handy if that were the case.

    The hon. Gentleman is most helpful in drawing my attention to the rules of the House. He and the House know that it is not for me to interpret the rules on Members' interests made by the Select Committee on Procedure. They are laid down and known to very hon. Member. I hope that every hon. Member will obey them.

    Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wonder whether the party of the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) could prevail on him to make a permanent series of foreign visits.

    Order. Let us leave this matter of foreign visits. I hope that the House will agree that it is not wrong for hon. Members to make visits to overseas countries. They enhance our debates and hon. Members are able to come back and express to the House their observations and personal experiences. It would be detrimental to our proceedings if that did not happen.

    Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will you accept that it is wrong for the hon. Member for Macclesfield to make incorrect innuendos concerning Labour Members about trips paid for by foreign Governments that they have not made?

    Order. I think that the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) was honourable in what he said. The hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) made the accusation in the first place and the hon. Member for Macclesfield said that his visit would be recorded in the Register of Members' Interests.

    Sri Lankan Refugees

    4.2 pm

    On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will be aware, as the House and the Leader of the House are already aware, of the interest that my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) and I have taken in the plight of refugees from Sri Lanka, particularly those who are Tamils. May I ask you a question?

    The hon. Gentleman may ask me a question, but it must be related to my responsibilities. There have been exchanges about this matter with the Leader of the House.

    Can you explain how it is that the Government can introduce changes in—[Interruption.]

    Although I have many responsibilities, I am afraid that explaining Government statements and answering questions that hon. Gentlemen may seek to ask about them are not matters for me. I cannot possibly answer the hon. Gentleman.

    Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. As I understand it, during the recess, changes were made in the immigration rules. A negative prayer against those changes has been tabled by the Liberal party. Therefore, can you explain how the Government can act on those changes before they have been discussed and passed by the House?

    That is not a matter for me, and the hon. Gentleman well knows the rules about prayers.

    Council Of Agriculture Ministers

    4.4 pm

    I represented the United Kingdom, with my hon. Friend the Minister of State, at the meeting of the Council of Agriculture Ministers on 11–12 June in Luxembourg.

    The Council resumed negotiations on prices for the 1985–86 season for cereals and rapeseed on the basis of a compromise which was before the Council on 13 to 16 May. The Commission submitted 10 draft regulations to give effect to the compromise, including the proposed reduction of 1.8 per cent. in common prices for these commodities. When the Presidency announced its intention to put these regulations to a vote, the German Minister said his Government were not prepared to accept the decrease in cereal prices. He formally invoked paragraph 2 of the Luxembourg compromise by saying that a very important national interest was involved for Germany and that negotiations must be continued until unanimous agreement was reached.

    I said in the Council that I had noted that the German Government supported the United Kingdom Government's view that, where a member state declared a very important national interest, discussions in the Council should continue without a vote. Given the German Minister's statement, I said that, in accordance with our position on the Luxembourg compromise, I had to object to a vote being taken and that I was not prepared to vote or abstain. The Ministers from Denmark, France, Greece and Ireland made similar statements. None the less, the Presidency proceeded with a vote. These four member states, together with the United Kingdom, refused to record a vote. Germany also refused to participate in a vote. The regulations were therefore not adopted.

    I regret the fact that the Council has thus failed to take decisions on sensible price arrangements for cereals and rapeseed for the next season. This represents a serious setback to the progress which has been made in putting the common agricultural policy on to a more realistic basis. Careful thought will need to be given by the Agriculture Council and the Commission to the situation that now confronts us.

    The rapeseed and durum wheat marketing years begin on 1 July and the marketing year for other cereals on 1 August. In the absence of agreement in the Council, the Commission will need to take decisions on how the markets should be managed.

    The Council failed to reach agreement on a draft directive covering intra-Community trade in heat-treated milk. Nor was it able to resolve long-standing differences among member states on the authorisation of hormone growth promoters. However, agreement was reached on the text of a directive on control procedures for hormones. Its adoption was delayed pending further consideration of the substances to be authorised.

    Several other veterinary directives were adopted, including an important two-year extension of the special import arrangements which the United Kingdom, Denmark and Ireland are entitled to apply as a protection

    First, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to say a little more about the veterinary points, in particular the state of the discussions upon hormone growth promoters? There are few hon.

    Members, and certainly not me, who would quarrel with the right hon. Gentleman's constitutional point, that any country should have the right of veto on a matter of national interest. But there is nobody who will not marvel at the sheer obtuseness of the German Government in refusing to face the necessity of cuts in cereal prices, in view of the mounting surpluses and the escalating cost to all member states.

    Does this not, however, bear out my warning when the right hon. Gentleman last made a statement: that by reaching agreement on all other commodity prices the Council had thrown away whatever leverage it had and that its tactics were the factor which enabled Germany to reduce the whole of this year's negotiations to a shambles? I hope that this year's lessons will be learned for the future.

    Where does this leave the cause of reform of the common agricultural policy, and in particular the right hon. Gentleman's often repeated belief that surplus production can be eliminated by means of price reductions alone? If agreement cannot be reached on a paltry reduction of 1·8 per cent., what hope is there of the Council being resolute enough to impose real cuts? Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether this year's cereals price will be maintained next year, or has the Commission, as was suggested this morning by the Financial Times, the power to reduce prices in its capacity as manager of the fund? When will some of the agriculture Ministers realise that there is a national taxpayers' interest in all countries to reduce the subsidy, currently running at £1·.3 billion, for unwanted cereals? There will soon be an outcry as subsidies and surpluses mount up. The Council of Ministers will be compelled to do in haste what they are obviously too spineless to do in an orderly way, namely, to cut agricultural production, and agriculture will be the loser.

    On the hon. Gentleman's veterinary point about hormones, the difficulty is that there is a difference of opinion between individual member states, some of whom believe that a ban should be imposed on the use of growth promoting hormones, even if there is scientific evidence showing that they are harmless. There are others, like the United Kingdom delegation, who say that we should rely upon the scientific evidence, that where there is clearance for certain substances they should be allowed to be used and that where we are awaiting a report on others we ought to wait for the scientists' report before reaching a decision.

    I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has no quarrel about the way in which we responded to the German veto on cereals. I agree with him that that was the correct and proper constitutional procedure for us to follow. I share the hon. Gentleman's exasperation over the attitude of the German delegation, but that made the rest of us appear, to use his word, spineless in view of the way in which the German delegation was prepared to use its veto to block a sensible decision being reached. It would have been much better if we could have given a signal to grain farmers throughout the Community that there would be a proper reduction in prices this year.

    The hon. Gentleman will remember, however, that last year there was a reduction of about 3 per cent. in cereal prices. I am still not without hope that we can continue to press for a 1·8 per cent. reduction which would amount to a reduction just short of 5 per cent. in two years. During this period production costs in very many countries have increased by perhaps 10 per cent. There has, therefore, been a squeeze on cereal prices in the last two years, when surpluses have been mounting.

    Were cereal quotas discussed during the negotiations? Can the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that they will not be sprung on the industry, as they were in the case of milk, which led to confusion and dislocation?

    Cereal quotas were not discussed during this Council meeting, but in the past I have brought the discussion around to this point. The majority of Ministers in the Council of Ministers are, I believe, very strongly opposed to cereal quotas. We have to try to get the Community to understand that the best way to control the growing surplus of grain is to cut cereal prices.

    Although I support the stand taken by my right hon. Friend the Minister in Brussels, particularly over ensuring that there is a cut in cereal prices, how, in view of this failure, can markets be managed in future? Cereal farmers must be given guidance about the future. What can be done to assist them between now and when a decision is made, bearing in mind that already there are huge surpluses and that there will soon be another grain crop?

    I think that the Commissioner understands the need to take urgent action to deal with these matters. In particular, he said yesterday that the Commission would shoulder the responsibility of ensuring that there is not undue speculation in grain because of the legal vacuum. I believe that the Commissioner is well aware of the problems to which my hon. Friend referred, and I hope that we shall be getting some announcements from the Commission very soon.

    Will my right hon. Friend enlighten us as to why the sensible British proposals for the reform of the CAP are either voted down or vetoed by what we are pleased to call our Community partners? Does not the German veto exercised yesterday mean that any serious prospect of reform in the CAP may now be declared kaput, and that as the only real control on agricultural spending is the ceiling of resources available to the Community, the only way to get any reform whatever is not to propose or support any increase in the own resources of the Community?

    I can say only that if it had not been for the financial discipline that is now imposed upon the common agricultural policy my guess is that we should have been discussing, at this Council in Brussels, considerably more expensive policies than those that we are facing.

    The financial disciplines are biting very hard on the common agricultural policy, and rightly so. The main reason why we were unable to get realistic decisions was the German attitude and the German Minister's statement that he was not prepared to accept anything that might depress farm incomes in Germany. I was able to tell him that if we put off taking tough decisions now the dangers were that there would be much bigger drops in farm income throughout the Community in a year or two.

    As Her Majesty's Government support the principle of a veto on matters regarded as being of outstanding national interest, will the Minister agree that, in view of the changing and varying social and agricultural conditions to be found in the now 12 EC countries, the moral of the event points to greater flexibility, and perhaps the permission to use national aids and national expenditure when a country wishes to have a supplement over and above common agricultural policy objectives?

    I hope that we shall not move towards a more national base under the common agricultural policy. I hope that very soon the member states of the Community will understand that, unless the common agricultural policy returns quickly to realism, we shall have to think fundamentally about the future of that policy.

    In view of what my right hon. Friend said about oilseed rape, and the fact that the harvesting year starts on 1 July, what advice will he give to farmers who are waiting to market that valuable crop? Are they to wait until he makes a decision, or are they to wait upon the Commission telling us what price they are to receive?

    As I have said, the Commissioner told us yesterday that the Commission will shoulder its responsibilities in the legal vacuum which has so unfortunately arisen. I hope that very soon the Commission will give some proper guidance to farmers as to the way in which it intends to manage the market.

    Why does the Minister so conspicuously avoid giving any advice to the Commission this afternoon on how it should apply the guaranteed threshold and how it should manage the market, which is now completely disrupted by his failure to reach agreement?

    That was a particularly silly remark, if I may say so. The Commissioner has been sitting in the Council day after day and night after night, listening particularly to me explaining to the Council of Ministers what I believe should happen and how we should return to realism, especially in terms of grain prices.

    Regrettable though it is that we have no price for cereals, will my right hon. Friend agree that it was infinitely more important to maintain the principle of veto, otherwise we shall not only lose control over agricultural prices but lose control completely over all Community expenditure?

    I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I am sure that we could have achieved a settlement if we had been able to move to the German position of insisting on a price reduction of no more than 0·9 per cent., but I was not prepared to do that; nor was my French colleague, and nor, thank goodness, was the Commission.

    Does my right hon. Friend accept that this is a very serious setback to the grain market and could cause great confusion? Did he point out to the Germans and the other members of the Community that the most serious threat to cereal prices at the moment is the United States' declared aim of offering about $2,000 billion worth of export credit guarantee to its own cereal growers? Do not the Americans realise that that in itself will undermine the market and push our prices down?

    Earlier this week several of us met the United States Secretary for Agriculture. We were able to discuss with him this extremely dangerous trend in world trade. The United States Government made an offer of about 1 million tonnes of wheat to Algeria, which immediately caused a very considerable drop in the price of grain on the Chicago exchange. That has not exactly endeared American farmers to the United States Government's policy. We tried to explain to the United States Government that, while we recognise that they have lost large parts of their food export market, that is largely due to the strength of the dollar rather than anything else.

    What will be the impact of the failure to agree cereal prices in the Community on 1985 budgeted expenditure in the EC? If the German veto—which I support, as the Minister does — means that there will have to be compensating savings elsewhere to ensure that total Community expenditure in 1985 comes somewhere near the financial guidelines, can the Minister assure us that the cuts will not occur in the non-agricultural part of the total Community budget?

    I am grateful for what the right hon. Gentleman said about the use of the veto and our response to it.

    With regard to the future of grain prices, we must wait until the Commission reacts. Until we get to that point — I hope that it will be very soon—it is difficult to know what will be the impact on the market in the immediate future.

    Will the right hon. Gentleman take it from me that the farmers in Northern Ireland will wholeheartedly support him in supporting the veto? To forgo the veto would be a very serious matter and could in the future have very serious implications for agriculture in the whole of the United Kingdom.

    Will the right hon. Gentleman keep in mind that the intensive sector of the farming industry in Northern Ireland has been devastated because of low grain prices? Will he do something to make intervention grain available in Northern Ireland?

    I will certainly look into that matter, but the hon. Gentleman will recall that I have consistently said that I believe that there is a serious imbalance between the grain and the livestock sectors, and I have been working hard to try to redress that balance.

    Will my right hon. Friend accept that we all greatly appreciate his hard work on our behalf in Brussels?

    Will he try to clarify for the British farmer where we now stand? Other than the decisions on rapeseed and grain, are all the other decisions this year to stand, such as those on the sheepmeat regime, the beef premium and the other livestock subsidy? We need to have an answer so that we may know where we stand in regard to that sector.

    My hon. Friend will recall that the last time I came to the House I announced the agreement on all the other parts of the package. Those stand, and we are just left now with the grain and the rapeseed parts of the package which are not agreed. Those are the parts that the Commission will have to manage between now and the time when the Council can again properly pick up its responsibilities.

    Bearing in mind what the Commission has said and its attitude to a movement towards realism, I do not believe that it will take steps which amount to moving backwards from reality.

    Order. I will allow questions to continue for another six minutes, making a full half-hour. There is a very important debate to follow the statement, and I believe that some of the hon. Members who have been rising wish to take part in it. Will they please put their questions briefly?

    During this highly unproductive and farcical meeting yesterday, did my right hon. Friend ask those countries which rightly voted to support the veto what they were doing three years ago when we had a price review stuffed down our throats against our veto?

    I did that. I expressed the hope that if, at some time in the future, we wished to use the veto, those countries would remember what they did.

    Does the Luxembourg veto apply to Spain and Portugal, which are still in transition? Spain can flood our markets with cars, yet charge exorbitant duties on British cars going into Spain. Why did we agree to the entry of Spain and Portugal before we adopted quotas on wine and olive oil—which could utterly ruin the EC agricultural budget if quotas are not agreed in advance?

    These matters were not discussed in the Council of Ministers yesterday. Of course, Spain and Portugal will not have the right to use the veto until they become full members.

    The negotiations on all agricultural matters were hard fought until the very last minute. I believe that I am right in saying that the last issue settled was the milk quota for Spain.

    Is my right hon. Friend aware that this inability to find agreement on sensible but modest reductions in grain prices will ensure a continuation of the imbalance between the livestock and cereal sectors? It is damaging economically as well as politically for the milk producer, who last year was obliged to accept milk quotas, yet will have to bear the cost of high grain prices.

    My hon. Friend should recall that the settlement we reached two or three weeks ago meant milk prices rising by 2·5 per cent., a freeze on beef prices and a freeze this year on lamb prices, whereas we had been talking about how much we should reduce the grain price. That does bear out the decision to which the Council has been moving, which shifts the balance away from grain and in favour of livestock.

    Surely my right hon. Friend would prefer today to condemn the Germans wholeheartedly for an utterly selfish action — the imposition of a veto on a subject that did not really warrant the use of such a grave national reservation. Does that not show, not only for agriculture but generally, that we need to get away from the atmosphere of support of the veto? The more that we get away from that and use the veto as a rare instrument for real national protection, a truly solemn and profound issue, the more we shall achieve sensible agreement on all things including CAP price reductions.

    I plead with my hon. Friend to remember that it is getting into very dangerous country when we start picking and choosing between the use of the veto by various countries. That was the difficulty in which we found ourselves in 1982, into which I hope we shall not get again, because other nations were picking and choosing over our decisions to use the veto. It was right to say that where an important national interest, as defined by a particular Government, is at stake, discussions should be continued without a vote.

    Will my right hon. Friend consider whether it is really credible to continue to rely on the hope that the problem of cereals will be cured through price cuts, given the disastrous decisions taken during the last day or two in Brussels? Are we not being driven, almost against our will, to a position of quotas? Should we not be preparing for that so that we can avoid a sudden introduction of quotas overnight, as happened with motor car accessories?

    We must do everything that we can to avoid cereal quotas. I believe that they are almost unmanageable and almost impossible to control, especially in some other countries in the Community, and almost certainly in this country.

    I share my hon. Friend's pessimism as a result of the decision, but one optimistic note is that the German delegation made it clear that it wanted a transitional year of having no reduction in cereal prices. I just hope that that means one transitional year and that, before long, we can return to a position where the Community can move towards a more realistic policy and avoid the build up of huge, unsaleable, uneatable surpluses.

    Is it not clear that, once again, the budget of the EC will be seriously overspent? If my right hon. Friend is not prepared to use the mechanism of refusing to increase own resources, will he please tell the House what mechanism he will use to force reform of the CAP?

    I think that perhaps I should have mentioned overspending when it was referred to earlier. I have been alone in asking the Commissioner, at almost every point of the negotiations, whether he remains satisfied that the cost of the package is within the financial discipline that has been agreed for the agricultural budget. He has assured me at every stage that he was satisfied. I have no reason to believe that that is not correct.

    As I said in the early part of my statement, I believe that the financial discipline is already actually very effectively constraining extravagances of the CAP.

    Is my right hon. Friend prepared to recommend to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that if there is no indication of a realistic restriction on agricultural expenditure as this year goes on she should not come to this House and ask for any increase in the Community's resources until a real restriction in agricultural expenditure is achieved?

    With respect, that is already being achieved by the way in which the Commission has refused to go as far as some member states have been pressing it to go because there is not the money under the financial discipline to pay for some of those policies.

    It is all very well my right hon. Friend talking about financial discipline, but is not the fact of the matter that the Community will spend a damned sight more on agricultural policy this year than last and the only way of stopping that from happening is for the House to say loud and clear that there should be no more own resources until we have sorted out this rake's progress on agricultural policy?

    No doubt there will come a moment when my hon. Friend will be able to make that speech in this House at considerable length. All that I can say is that the policy that has been pursued, where spending on the CAP budget must rise at a slower rate than the growth in overall spending, is one to which we should stick, and which the Commission is also in the business of sticking to.

    Is my right hon. Friend aware that in just two months' time farmers will be sowing next year's winter crops, and it is likely that they will have to remain in store in 1987, and perhaps beyond with the way that things are going? The Minister must recognise that that position is unsustainable and absurd. What advice is he giving to the industry for which he is supposed to be responsible about the future? How can the Commission manage the market for unlimited quantities of unmarketable grain within its existing budget?

    The Commission has moved in before in the event of a legal vacuum to manage the market, so it is not a new position.

    The advice that I shall give to farmers is that the Commission has taken sensible approaches to these matters in the past. Clearly, it must have a short time in which to take up its responsibilities to manage the market. I hope that then the proper guidance can be given.

    Ncb Workshops (Closures)

    4.39 pm

    I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 10, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,

    "the proposed closure of the National Coal Board workshops at Birdwell and the partial closure of the National Coal Board workshops at Elescar."
    Both workshops are in my constituency. They are in the Barnsley and south Yorkshire areas of the NCB.

    I picked up this point last night on reading the newspapers, after the House had finished. I should like the NCB to return to the idea of informing Members of Parliament of matters that are of great concern to their constituencies. The closure of the Birdwell workshops will mean the loss of 204 jobs and the partial closure of the Elescar workshops will mean the loss of 211 jobs—415 jobs in total. This is in addition to the loss of jobs recently announced—3,000 jobs in the Barnsley area and 7,000 in the Yorkshire area.

    What will be the effect of the closures, not only on hundreds of families, but on the area? The area is seething with discontent and reeling at this savage attack on the coal mining industry, its work force and their families. The Coalfields Community's campaign document and Barnsley district council's appraisal of the effects of coal mining closures on the local authority area clearly show that, for every job lost in the mining industry, another is lost outside the industry.

    In the Barnsley area 15,140 people are unemployed, there are 1,011 school leavers and the male unemployment rate is 20 per cent. There are only 217 unfilled vacancies. To the 3,000-plus jobs which have recently been lost we must add the numbers of jobs that will be lost through the workshop closures and through their knock-on effects.

    By and large, the NCB workshops are manned by a skilled work force that is second to none— men who have served their apprenticeships in the time-honoured way by learning the skills of the trade. They include mechanical and electrical engineers, fabrication engineers, turners, platers and welders. Many have been retrained in the workshops' rationalisation schemes. There is a young work force providing services to the mining industry from places of excellence. Shops have been modified and re-equipped to carry out that service.

    Order. The hon. Member must not go into detail. He should make a case showing that this matter is urgent, specific and important.

    I shall develop the reason why this matter is important. I shall not take long. The services provided by the workshops are well recognised.

    Fifteen years ago, a decision was made to close the Birdwell workshops. After instructions from the area director, I had the honour to make sure that the workshops were kept open. As I understand it, the Birdwell workshops are the only workshops within the whole of the area covered by the NCB which have workers with fabrication engineering skills. That is why this matter is specific and important. Where will the work go if those workshops are closed? Is this the beginning of privatisation in the NCB? Those questions must be asked and debated.

    Why close the Elescar workshops, which provide hydraulic expertise to the area and which rejuvenate roof supports? Where will that work go? Where will the men go? Closures have occurred on such a large scale within Yorkshire that there is nowhere for the men to go. If the men have to go to other workshops, they will face transportation difficulties. The MacGregor blight is moving across the whole of the Yorkshire coalfield as this butcher carries out the Government's policies.

    What about the replacement of the jobs and the £10 million for the NCB enterprise scheme? I should like the House to debate—if you are so kind as to allow me this debate, Mr. Speaker — a paper from the Coalfields Community campaign. This paper shows that, to breathe some semblance of life into the coalfields, the industry needs not £10 million £2 billion. That is why this matter is specific and important and should be debated.

    The hon. Member for Barnsley, West and Penistone (Mr. McKay) asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he thinks should have urgent consideration, namely,

    "the proposed closures of the National Coal Board workshops at Birdwell and the partial closure of the National Coal Board workshops at Elescar."
    I have listened carefully to the hon. Member's speech. He knows that the decision which I have to take is whether to give this matter precedence over the orders set down for today and for Monday. I regret to say that I do not consider that the matter he has raised is appropriate for discussion under Standing Order No. 10. I cannot, therefore, submit his application to the House. No doubt he will find other ways of raising the matter.

    Ballot For Notices Of Motion For Monday 1 July

    Members successful in the ballot were:

    Mr. David Winnick.

    Mr. Barry Henderson.

    Mr. Norman Atkinson.

    Scottish Estimates


    That the Estimates set out hereunder be referred to the Scottish Grand Committee:—

    • Class XV, Vote 3, Regional and general industrial support, Scotland.
    • Class XV, Vote 4, Manpower Services Commission, Scotland.
    • Class XV, Vote 5, Regional assistance, Scotland.
    • Class XV, Vote 8, Housing, Scotland.
    • Class XV, Vote 9, New Towns, Scotland.
    • Class XV, Vote 11, Administration of justice, Scotland.
    • Class XV, Vote 12, Police grant, legal aid and criminal inquiries compensation, Scotland.
    • Class XV, Vote 13, Legal Proceedings, Scotland.
    • Class XV, Vote 15, Education, arts, libraries and social work, Scotland.
    • Class XV, Vote 16, Student awards, Scotland.—[Mr. Archie Hamilton.]