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Commons Chamber

Volume 83: debated on Monday 22 July 1985

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House Of Commons

Monday 22 July 1985

Prayers

[MR. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

British Railways (Trowse Bridge) Bill Lords

Read the Third time, and passed, without amendment.

Poole Borough Council Bill Lords

Read a Second time and committed.

Oral Answers To Questions

Transport

Rail Services

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has to assume direct responsibility for section 20 rail services in the event of one or more constituent district councils declining to participate in joint board arrangements in accordance with the provisions of the Local Government Bill.

It will be for joint authority PTAs to decide what local rail services they want to support. District councils may apply to me to secede but, before giving my agreement, I would want to be satisfied that acceptable arrangements could be made for local rail services.

Is the Secretary of State aware that, in the February 1985 edition of Modern Railways, in an interview between the editor and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, the latter was reported as saying that the district councils would not be allowed to secede with regard to section 20 arrangements? Will the right hon. Gentleman have a chat with his hon. Friend to resolve that difficulty? Does he agree that his hon. Friend's original view is much more sensible, because to try to operate such services is likely to be difficult, to say the least, if one constituent authority secedes?

I am always chatting with my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will have a chat with the editor, too, to make sure that it is even on both sides. We would not wish a district council to be able to get out of its obligations under section 20 by secession, but there could be cases in which there are no obligations lying on that particular district council. We must judge each case on its merits.

Is the Secretary of State aware of how much concern is being expressed by British Rail on this subject? It is not sure about its future, particularly in rail operations such as the Tyne and Wear metro. Will the right hon. Gentleman give us an idea of the time scale, and at least guarantee that payments will be made until such time as the metropolitan authorities have disappeared and the district councils have taken over and are sure of their position?

There is no suggestion of changing section 20 grants, either now or after abolition comes into effect. It will be for the secessor authorties, in the form of joint boards, to consider whether they wish to continue with them. As long as they continue with them, the grants will remain backed up by the section 20 payments from the Government. Therefore, there is no immediate threat. I can give the hon. Gentleman the assurance that secession itself will not take place until some time after abolition. Therefore, his fears need not be taken too seriously.

Will the provision of local rail services go up or down as a result of the changes?

I am not in the business of making forecasts as to what local authorities will do. If I had been able to forecast what local authorities would do over the past six years, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I would have got it terribly wrong, not believing that some of them could be so stupid.

London Docklands

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he will report progress on construction of the light railway in the London docklands.

The project is well up to schedule. We expect the railway to be in full operation by mid-1987—on time and within budget.

Does my hon. Friend agree that this form of new infrastructure, taken together with the Government's proposals for the regeneration of the London docklands, is the best form of capital investment? Will she give an undertaking that, if and when application is made for more grants to complete stage 2 of this exciting new enterprise, the Government will consider such a proposal most sympathetically?

I agree with my hon. Friend. The London Docklands Development Corporation, together with its partners, is doing an excellent job. I assure my hon. Friend that, although we have not yet received any proposal for a further stage of the docklands light railway, if such a proposal is received it will be given the best possible consideration.

In view of the importance of providing good public transport links to the proposed STOLport in the Royal group of docks, will the Minister assure us that any proposal to extend the light railway to serve the STOLport will be favourably considered?

That was the essence of my answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Chapman). I have received no such proposal, and therefore cannot know whether it will include an extension in the direction of the proposed STOLport. Any proposal for an extension will be carefully considered in the light of the important regeneration of docklands.

Will my hon. Friend take steps to ensure that what my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Chapman) described as an exciting new venture will not lead to further delays on the Fenchurch street line?

As an old habitué of the Fenchurch street line, I know exactly what my hon. Friend means. I shall certainly see what more can be done, in conjunction with my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, about the Fenchurch street line, on which so many people suffer.

In the past the Minister has accepted that south-east London is under-served. As the light railway is only for north of the river, will the Minister give an assurance about the possible extension of the Bakerloo line, whether above or below ground, from Elephant and Castle, through Bricklayers Arms and South Bermondsey, to Surrey docks and, perhaps, the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich (Mr. Cartwright) and Thamesmead, which will have the largest growing population in London in the next 10 years?

The hon. Gentleman paints a grandiose picture. I assure him that any sensible cost-effective proposal will be fully considered.

Vehicle Excise Duty

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what has been the effect of the campaign run by his Department to reduce motor vehicle licence evasion; and what is the latest estimate of the percentage of cars on the roads on which the appropriate licence duty has not been paid.

Last year more than 290,000 vehicle excise duty evaders were prosecuted or settled out of court—10 per cent. more than in 1983. The number of offenders dealt with should be even higher this year as a result of further measures now being taken. The most recent survey of evasion estimated that about 3·5 per cent. of cars and light goods vehicles in use on the road are unlicensed.

Despite my hon. Friend's energetic efforts, the amount of evasion still imposes a horrendous loss on the Treasury. Has he closed his mind to the possibility of raising the revenue through additional tax on petrol? Is he satisfied that local authorities have adequate powers to remove untaxed cars from the roads?

We are certainly not complacent about the level of evasion, which, as my hon. Friend, who has taken a great deal of interest in the matter, said, results in about a £90 million loss of revenue. My hon. Friend made two suggestions. Changing to a different form of taxation is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In changing the form of taxation many issues are at stake, one of which is clearly evasion. The Government have no plans to abolish VED now, and will do so only if the benefits from it are greater than the disadvantages. In regard to the suggestion to strengthen local authorities' powers to tow away unlicensed vehicles, such as they have in the case of abandoned vehicles, I point out that there are many practical difficulties. For example, in some cases the licence disc has merely fallen from the windscreen. However, we have not ruled out all possibilities of some form of controlled impounding.

Is the Minister aware that many of us recall the former Labour Member, Mr. Arthur Lewis challenging the Secretary of State's predecessors to go out with him on to the streets of London where he would demonstrate that more than one third of the licences were out of date? Without casting any aspersions on Londoners as against other United Kingdom citizens, does that not show evasion of that taxation on a massive scale? What does the Minister intend to do to correct that?

The problem is not exclusive to London. We are glad that the Bill, which is strengthing the Government's powers in Scotland and allows for evasion to be prosecuted with only one witness, is now before the other place. It is a national problem and we are dealing with it nationally.

Since evasion is a matter for my hon. Friend, should he not urge the Treasury to replace VED by extra tax on petrol?

There are conflicting views about whether VED should be replaced by a different form of taxation. There are arguments for and against it, as my Department recognises.

National Bus Company

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Transport when he last met the chairman of the National Bus Company; and what subjects were discussed.

My right hon. Friend and I frequently meet the chairman of the NBC, when we discuss a number of subjects of mutual interest.

When Ministers met the chairman, did they consider the NBC's withdrawal from the National Council for the Omnibus Industry, which has stood the test of time since 1947? Does he recognise that that withdrawal has caused considerable industrial unrest in the industry and tends to prove what many Opposition Members have been saying: that, to make the Transport Bill work, the Government will deregulate the working conditions of employees in that industry?

That is entirely a matter for the management of the industry. It is not for the Government to interfere, and we were not responsible for asking the NBC to take this step.

In his discussions with the chairman, has my hon. Friend mentioned the future of British Transport Advertising? He will be aware that many people in the poster industry are keen that that organisation should be run more competitively, and would be only too willing to assist in so doing?

I have discussed this matter with the chairman of the NBC and with representatives of British Rail. Discussions are continuing on the possibility of a management buy-out, and I do not wish to say anything further now.

The Minister will be aware of the great anxiety felt by NBC employees about their pension rights. He will also be aware that his long and detailed answers to amendments which were tabled by me and by my hon. Friends in Committee have in no way assuaged their anxiety. It is time that the Minister reconsidered the matter. Does he accept that there is still time to recognise the genuine concerns of those employees, whose pension rights are being put at risk by his Bill? As a consequence of that, is he now prepared to amend the Bill in the other place to meet their legitimate demands?

The National Bus Company asked for a Government guarantee in respect of the pension funds, but the company does not provide such a guarantee, only a renounceable covenant. A renounceable covenant cannot be equated with a Government guarantee, or even an NBC guarantee. However, with the chairman of the NBC, we have been considering ways of ensuring the continuation of those pension rights even more than we do now. One option is for an insurance company to take over the fund. Those discussions are continuing, and I do not wish to prejudice them by going further.

Driving Test

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he will take steps to revise the motoring skills tested in the driving test.

This morning my right hon. Friend informed the Chairman of the Select Committee on Transport of our response to his report on road safety, I hope that he has received it. As I have been asked this direct question, I should tell the House that my right lion. Friend has said that he is unable to accept the Committee's proposals for an extended driving test.

On behalf of all hon. Members, may I say that that reply is unsatisfactory, bearing in mind the fact that some people who drive cars risk their lives and those of others after only half an hour of instruction and a driving test? Does she agree that night-time driving and driving at speed—possibly on dual carriageways or even on some motorways—should be added to the driving test? Does she accept that it is no good instructing examiners in new rules about how to examine people's driving and then to forget the essential fact that those people must be properly trained to drive?

I must ask my hon. Friend to consider the practicalities of the matter and to study it in some detail. In summer, it is not feasible to train people or test them in night driving. In winter, it would require massive examiner overtime and would involve a higher fee for the person taking the driving test. As for dual carriageway driving, I should tell my hon. Friend that fewer than half the network of test centres are within reach of dual carriageways, and even fewer are within reach of motorways. We should consider the response more fully before we go any further.

I thank the hon. Lady for her attempts to get the report to me on time. I have not had time to look at it. There will be some disappointment in the Committee that she has not been able to accept its recommendations. Is she aware that the safety aspect of driving examiners' tests was one of the main considerations to which the Committee gave its thoughts? In that connection, is she satisfied with the quality of driving school instructors, who at present are not seen to be subject to the scrutiny to which they ought to be subject?

I have been seeking contact with the hon. Gentleman all morning, and I am sorry that he has only just received the response from my right hon. Friend. I fully agree with him about the importance of safety and agree with many of the things that his Committee said in the report. I also agree that we need to improve the quality of driving instruction. That is why my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Spen (Mrs. Peacock) brought in a Bill, which is now an Act, which is helping us to improve driving instruction. The requirements placed on driving instructors will improve instruction, and that will improve further the standard of driving on the roads.

I assure the Minister that any improvement in driving instruction will be welcomed. What is the Minister doing about shortening the waiting time for a driving test? There is an interminable delay before tests can take place, and the queue is growing longer. What is the Minister doing to speed things up?

We have been undertaking substantial recruitment to increase the number of driving examiners. Since 1984, 172 driving examiners have been recruited, and that gives us a net gain, taking into account retirements and those leaving, of 65. On all the best forecasts, we should have 1·85 million tests per annum. The actual turnout in 1984–85 was 1·94 million and we lost more than three weeks of full testing last winter because of the weather. We are recruiting as fast as we can in order to cut the waiting time.

Bus Services

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what changes to the Transport Bill 1985 he intends to propose following the Government response to the Transport Committee "Report on Buses".

We have put forward a number of amendments to the Bill since the publication of the Transport Committee's report, including two points identified by the Committee: powers to enable local authorities to require operators to participate in concessionary fares schemes, and provisions to ensure that control over bus stations is not used to secure an unfair advantage in the provision of local bus services.

Does that answer not show that the Minister is still suffering from the twin viruses of arrogance and contempt? The proposals which he has put forward do not begin to match up to the 15 specific recommendations of the Select Committee. Was it not nonsense for the Minister and his Department to proceed with the Bill before the Select Committee reported and then to ignore its recommendations except in two respects?

Far from ignoring the recommendations of the Select Committee, I have disagreed with them. The hon. Gentleman will know that we published a White Paper in response to the Select Committee. In it we argued against the system of competitive franchising which the Committee, rather half-heartedly, proposed, and we put forward cogent reasons why that was not the right thing to do.

London Regional Transport

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the progress being made by London Regional Transport towards reducing costs and improving services.

I am pleased to say that substantial progress is being made. As I reported in answer to my hon. Friend's question on 18 July, LRT expects to reduce unit costs by more than 2·5 per cent. in real terms in its first year. This is on top of substantial cost savings made during 1984–85 and puts LRT on course towards achieving its objective of halving revenue support between 1984–85 and 1987–88. LRT's initial trial of competitive tendering for bus services yielded cost savings of nearly 20 per cent., while mileage operated on the routes concerned will go up.

Will my right hon. Friend congratulate LRT on its excellent first year of management and join me in deploring the GLC's putting up of further ratepayers' and taxpayers' money to its sidekick organisation Capital so that it might attack LRT? Will he also assure the House that fares will be kept at or below the level of inflation, a situation which will contrast strongly with the GLC's efforts in 1981, when it doubled fares?

It is strange that my hon. Friend should refer to Capital. I have before me the leaflet which it published when the Bill was going through the House. It says that the Bill

"will mean fares having to go up by at least 25 per cent. and the probable end of the line for at least 33 stations and 34 bus routes."
Can we expect an apology from the GLC and from Capital admitting that that was scandalous scaremongering and that it has not happened?

Will the Secretary of State say when he expects the policies of London Regional Transport to be as successful as those of London Transport under the GLC's "Fares Fair" policy? When does the right hon. Gentleman expect present policies to result in a 12 per cent. increased usage of buses and an 8 per cent. increased usage of the tube, and a reduction in the number of commuter cars coming into London?

It has been a great success story. The GLC expected to increase revenue support to £245 million by 1987–88, whereas we are on target to achieving revenue support of only £95 million by that year. That shows the immense savings which have been made for the benefit of the taxpayer and not to the detriment of the passenger.

I realise that the Secretary of State is not a frequent user of London's buses. Is he able to explain his definition of "efficiency", given that during the past 12 months one third of all London's bus routes have been cut or withdrawn? Will he also say whether, if London Regional Transport is able to make an operating surplus because of these cuts during the financial year, that will be used to reduce the precept or the fares?

The hon. Gentleman accuses me of not being a frequent user of the buses, but I accuse him of not bothering to turn up when most London Members go to get a proper briefing on these facts from London Regional Transport itself. If the hon. Gentleman had taken the trouble to discover the facts from London Regional Transport this morning, he would have discovered that the increase in efficiency is even better than I predicted in Committee, and, further, that there has not been this one third reduction in bus routes but that there has been a plan only to reduce route mileage by 2 per cent., which is rather different from 33 per cent. That is the normal margin of error in the figures of the GLC, of which the hon. Gentleman has the dubious distinction of being chairman.

Road Traffic (London)

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the incidence of congestion attributable to coach traffic on roads in London for which he has responsibility.

The main problems of coach congestion in London are not on trunk roads but in the sensitive central area, where there is a shortage of proper parking space. I have impressed on the GLC the importance of tackling this effectively, and I am seeking to ensure that urgent action is taken for summer 1986.

Is the Minister aware that this building particularly is surrounded by roads filled with lawbreaking tourist coaches? Does she recognise especially that Westminster bridge, particularly on the west side where glaringly obvious yellow -No Parking" lines are painted, is cluttered from one side to the other with coaches, ice cream vans and the rest, to the enormous cost and inconvenience of the travelling public? What does her Department intend to do about it?

I am aware of and share much of the concern about coach parking in London. It is a major problem, caused really when tourists arrive in London and their drivers have to park their coaches. Although we welcome the £10 billion that tourism brings, we have to take action. It is for the GLC to identify proper stopping and parking places on and off street. It is also important for the GLC to get on with doing that as quickly as possible. The Department has sought to help the GLC in a number of ways, and we shall be having further discussions this week. With other Government Departments, for the forthcoming season we are examining available land on which to park coaches when they have dropped their passengers.

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is quite wrong that the law should not be enforced? Will she therefore have urgent discussions with my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary to ensure either that the parking restrictions are removed or that the police take action against those who break the law?

As my right hon. Friend knows, law enforcement is not a matter for me. I shall draw his remarks to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary. However, rather than deterring those who bring important resources to this country, I believe that the Government, with the GLC, must find places for these coaches.

It will remain responsible for the next eight months for parking in London. We must find a solution to the problem, which is growing even worse because of the influx of foreign tourists.

Are the Government helping British Rail with its imaginative scheme for parkways at places such as Iver? Could not British Rail also be provided with help in re-routeing trains from Scotland and the north through Willesden junction to the south coast?

Although I understand the hon. Gentleman's question, that is not a matter for me. We encourage park and ride schemes where they can reasonably be accommodated. Additional park and ride schemes are being investigated, but they will not cope with the many tourist coaches that come to London bringing people to stay in London or to visit the many places of interest in the capital.

Is my hon. Friend aware of the prehistoric arrangements at Victoria bus station? Does she agree that for such conditions to exist in a tourist centre like London is completely unacceptable? Will she get the National Bus Company to sort it out immediately?

Given the amount of traffic that wishes to come to this area, somebody ought to think up an imaginative scheme for bus garaging, and I sincerely hope that that will happen. The National Bus Company has a problem not only with its own coaches but with other coaches in the area. We are well aware of the grave concern in Westminster. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport and I will be meeting the leader of Westminster city council this week about the matter.

Heavy Commercial Road Traffic

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he will bring forward further proposals to restrict heavy commercial traffic to particular routes in rural areas.

County councils already have a variety of powers to handle heavy commercial traffic in ways appropriate for each locality, including rural areas.

From the Dispatch Box, will my hon. Friend enourage county councils to use their powers to introduce road humps or to direct commercial traffic by one route rather than another? Far too many commercial vehicles are still going down rural roads which were not built to take them.

I sympathise with my hon. Friend's question and refer him to paragraph 36 of the transport policy and programme circular of January 1985, where he will see that authorities are again urged to undertake work to alleviate the nuisance caused by lorries in residential areas. The circular shows just how that work can be done and also explains what has already been done in certain rural areas.

Does the Minister accept that the statement by the Central Electricity Generating Board that it is moving a large amount of its coal traffic from rail to road will be unacceptable to highway authorities, and that environmentally such a move is very undesirable?

I do not think that I have read the statement to which the hon. Gentleman referred, but every local authority has the power to introduce sensible lorry controls. We are making further progress on lorry management by means of a joint project with the Civic Trust and three county councils to ensure the more economic functioning of lorries by means of low-cost measures. At the same time, we must establish a better understanding of how to keep lorries away from residential and rural areas where they do not need to go.

Further to the question put by my hon. Friend and parliamentary neighbour the Member for Dorset, North (Mr. Baker), will my hon. Friend please take on board the fact that some county councils are not using powers with which the House has provided them, be they for road humps or weight restrictions? For example, will my hon. Friend look at the road that passes through my constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North from Ashby Heath to Shaftesbury? It is a classic example of a road that is used by a great deal of heavy traffic. The county council says that it is unsuitable for any of these restrictions, but it is patently just the sort of road that should be subject to those restrictions.

I should need prior knowledge of a road if I were to comment in the detail suggested by my hon. Friend. There have been initiatives on local lorry controls which can be implemented. I am sure that he will be encouraging his county council to restrict or, where necessare, ban lorries from roads with amenity problems. I think that that is the angle that my hon. Friend is getting at.

Will the hon. Lady commend to rural authorities the sorts of solutions adopted by the GLC in restricting heavy goods vehicles? Will she bear in mind that the Secretary of State, having been denounced once again for acting "improperly, unlawfully and irrationally-, now has more form than the Kray brothers?

The answer to the first question is no. The second matter is sub judice.

London Regional Trasnport

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Transport when he next plans to meet the chairman of London Regional Transport to discuss his proposals for improving the quality of bus services in London.

I meet the chairman of London Regional Transport at frequent intervals and our discussions cover a wide range of topics. LRT is taking positive steps to improve the quality of the bus services it provides, in accordance with the objectives it has been sent.

Does the Secretary of State accept the LRT view that the main threat to the quality of bus services in London comes from a combination of almost perpetual road works and the blocking of main roads by parked vehicles? If so, what encouragement can he give LRT that there will be any improvement of those problems in the foreseeable future?

I know that in the hon. Gentleman's constituency there has been a deterioration of the service along the Rochester way relief road. I understand from LRT that the road works, which are being carried out by the GLC, are causing the problem. If the hon. Gentleman likes to raise the matter with the GLC, he may get an explanation of why that service in not functioning well.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this year I have had fewer complaints about buses than ever before?

I hope that my hon. Friend will find that he has fewer complaints still next year.

M1 Repairs

13.

asked the Secretary of State for Transport whether he is satisfied with the progress of the major repairs to the M1 south of Bedfordshire, which started on 2 July; and if he will make a statement.

Yes, the critical phase of the work was completed on 11 July, five days ahead of schedule, and there was little disruption to traffic either on the motorway itself or in the surrounding area during the works.

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is great appreciation in my constituency of the speed with which the employees of Balfour Beatty completed the work and the co-operation between her Department and the contractors? When further motorway repairs are necessary, will my hon. Friend ensure that there is another effective publicity campaign by her Department warning drivers of the need to take alternative routes, because that helped this time?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for what he said and for the excellent co-operation between all concerned in completing the work early.

We had to take special publicity measures in this case because of the very heavy loading of 120,000 vehicles per day on this stretch of the M1. Should repairs be needed on any other stretch of motorway that has such a heavy loading—only one is more heavily loaded—we shall consider such publicity measures. In general, if the public heed the lessons learnt from this example, I am sure that we shall be completing other schemes not only early, but without accident, which is important.

Will the Minister say whether it is normal practice for her Department to pay what can only be described as very large sums of public money to contractors who finish a job before time or on time?

I think that the hon. Gentleman knows that we have started a system of lane rental, with the objective of saving costs to industry. That means that if contractors finish repair works early they get a bonus, but if they finish late they pay the Department a levy for each day over the target time. The company earned a substantial bonus, but industry is the net beneficiary by about £500,000 because that job was finished five days early. It was certainly worth the bonus which the company received.

London Regional Transport

15.

asked the Secretary of State for Transport when he last met the chairman of London Regional Transport to discuss the progress towards the objectives set by the Government for the management of London Regional Transport in 1984.

I refer my hon Friend to the answer which I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) earlier today.

What initiatives have resulted from the increase in co-operation between LRT and BR?

We have made considerable progress with the new capitalcard, with plans for improving interchanges between BR and LRT stations and with bringing together the standards for station maintenance and investment appraisal which the two organisations have performed differently. My hon. Friend will find that the benefits from the meetings will flow quickly.

Attorney-General

Hyde Park (Speakers' Corner)

42.

asked the Attorney-General if the Director of Public Prosecutions is currently considering prosecutions against any persons alleged to have been responsible for persistent obstruction or abuse of speakers at Hyde park, London.

Earlier this year the Metropolitan police sought the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions as to the institution of proceedings under the Public Meeting Act 1908 against persons responsible for disruption of proceedings at Speakers' Corner. The director took the view that these traditional gatherings which are not called together to transact business fell outside the scope of the 1908 Act. I agreed with that view and have invited the Home Secretary to consider the problems raised by this case. The police have since been provided with legal advice about their powers under the Royal and other Parks and Gardens Regulations 1977 and my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment are monitoring the situation to see whether the provisions are sufficient to deal with the mischief.

The Speakers' Corner is visited by many people from outside London. I note the Attorney-General's remarks, but is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that further action is needed to deal with those who persistently try to obstruct free speech by abuse and obscenities? Is he further aware that according to a report in The London Standard three weeks ago, one of the main offenders is the political secretary of the Kensington young conservatives? Is this not yet another illustration of the extremist element in the Tory party being determined to stop free speech?

Another of the bad hecklers is a Marxist, so the problem is fairly wide-ranging. Last Sunday the tougher approach by the police under the regulations was put into effect and two well-known hecklers, who have been behaving very badly indeed—not just obstructing, but seeking to bring meetings to an end—were told that they had to leave. They left quietly. The phrase that the chief inspector used was that it "worked like a charm."

I commend what my right hon. and learned Friend has said, but is he aware that when I spoke on a young conservative platform at Speakers' Corner I was constantly subjected to abuse and obscenities but that I never complained to anyone?

The distinction is between ordinary heckling, which is part of the "fun", and heckling by a group of people scattered round the audience whose intention is to disrupt and bring the meeting to an end. That cannot be tolerated.

Duty Solicitor Scheme

43.

asked the Attorney-General whether those who attend police stations voluntarily and the friends and relatives of those held by the police under the provisions of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 will have access to the 24-hour duty solicitor scheme.

The 1984 Act provides for those attending police stations voluntarily to be covered by the 24-hour duty solicitor scheme. The Lord Chancellor plans to make an announcement about the scheme very shortly.

The Minister's answer is welcome in relation to those attending voluntarily, but may I press him further about the friends and relatives of those who have been either arrested or who are attending voluntarily? Would it not be helpful to the police and the accused if the scheme were extended to include those people?

I undertake to ensure that my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor takes note of the hon. Gentleman's remarks. I cannot say more than that today.

Does the Solicitor-General agree that for this scheme to work properly it is necessary for a duty solicitor, when in attendance at a police station, to inspect the detained person's book. thus allowing him to verify who is or is not detained at the police station at that time?

There are many detailed matters to be considered in the implementation of the scheme and they are the subject of current consultation and consideration.

Will the Solicitor-General tell the House about the remuneration of solicitors under the scheme? In particular, in order to attract the very highest calibre of solicitors, do the Government intend to give solicitors a pay rise in line with that proposed for the Lord Chancellor?

The hon. Gentleman is in danger of forgetting that the Act under which the scheme will be introduced has for the first time brought police powers to detain without charge under a statutory absolute limitation and under judicial control. Those are great advances, and no Labour Home Secretary introduced a Bill to bring them about.

We certainly wish to ensure that the scheme provides maximum protection. We have difficult decisions to make, and we are in the middle of doing that.

Solicitors (Complaints)

44.

asked the Attorney-General if he will make a statement on the Government's policy towards the recommendations of the Coopers and Lybrand report concerning complaints against solicitors.

The Law Society has now published the exposure draft of the report, together with a report of its steering committee and a statement by the council, as the basis for consultation. My noble Friend the Lord Chancellor will await the outcome of that consultation.

Do the Government accept the central recommendation that it would be desirable to have a single entry point for those with complaints against solicitors, and that the complaints should be made to a board independent of the Law Society?

We are awaiting the results of the consultation paper. We are concerned to maintain the independence of the profession, but we are equally clear that the public must be confident that complaints against solicitors are dealt with effectively. The Government have a completely open mind on the principle of an independent body.

As there is even greater concern in Northern Ireland about misappropriation by members of the Law Society in the Province, will the Attorney-General ensure that his study extends to the solicitors' profession throughout the whole of the United Kingdom?

I am afraid that I cannot give that assurance, but I shall ensure that my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor is made aware of the right hon. Gentleman's anxieties.

Latent Damage

45.

asked the Attorney-General what recent representations he has received concerning the introduction of legislation concerning latent damage.

My right hon. and learned Friend has not received any recent representations on this subject, but representations were made on 16 July 1985 on behalf of the construction industry to my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Construction.

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that there is great concern in all parts of the construction industry about the recommendations in the report of the Law Reform Committee? If the Government are minded to recommend putting on the statute book the recommendations in the report, will he give an assurance that he will consult the construction industry? This affects not only architects and builders who are concerned about the law relating to length of liability and latent defects, but local authorities and owners of buildings. Every section needs a satisfactory conclusion to these problems.

My hon. Friend assiduously represents an industry and its problems which he knows well. He knows that on 18 June my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor stated that the Government had accepted the recommendations of the Law Reform Committee. When my hon. Friend last asked me this question on 13 May, I said that my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor would be very willing to see anybody from the industry who wished to consult him further, but that substantial consultation had already taken place. However, I certainly reaffirm the undertaking that I gave on behalf of my noble Friend.

Prevention Of Corruption Act (Newspapers)

46.

asked the Attorney-General on how many occasions the Prevention of Corruption Act has been used against a newspaper: and if he will make a statement.

The relevant records do not distinguish between defendants by reference to their occupation or business. One prosecution of a newspaper company for corruption is at present pending, but I know of no previous cases of that kind.

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that when a newspaper exposes gross extravagance and waste in a Government Department such as the Ministry of Defence, it would be preferable and cheaper to eliminate the waste rather than take that newspaper to court?

The essence of the offence of corruption is the use of financial or other inducement to a person to subvert his loyalty to his principal, whether in the public or private sector. In regard to the hon. Gentleman's question, the means, not the end, is objectionable.

Overseas Development

Philippines

47.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the current level of overseas aid to the Philippines.

In 1984 we provided £225,000 under our technical co-operation programme and £32,000 in loan disbursements under the aid and trade provision. Commonwealth Development Corporation loan disbursements totalled £3·55 million.

Given that in 1983, 80 per cent. of the money available to the Philippines was spent on the Guthrie project, Mindanao, which turned out to be somewhat notorious in terms of abuses of human rights, land grabbing and so on, is the Minister watching carefully how the money is spent? May we be assured that no further such abuses have occurred?

We are watching carefully the progress of the project, about which, I appreciate, there have been difficulties. On the other hand, the latest reports show that it has brought considerable benefits, including a large increase in employment, an improvement in medical services, water and power supplies and, in other ways, has added to the prosperity of the area.

When were the last democratic elections held in the Philippines, and when are the next expected to be held?

Sudan

48.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will give the latest details of assistance with food transportation given by European Community countries to Sudan.

We have provided over £3 million for the purchase of 100 trucks and the hire of 50 others, as well as the costs of a Save the Children Fund logistics team in western Sudan. Together with Belgium, Denmark, West Germany and the Community, we are participating in the airlift to western Sudan. In addition, we understand that both West Germany and Italy are providing trucks, and the Community, as well as helping to finance the airlift, is paying for truck hire and supporting the food aid block train scheme.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of reports coming out of the Sudan to the effect that the Sudanese authorities are blocking even offers of assistance to improve and, where necessary. restore the railway line link to the west? Will the maximum possible diplomatic pressure be put on the Sudanese Government by the British Government to make sure that the Sudanese accept such offers as are appropriate? What is to be the future of the ODA-sponsored Hercules aircraft?

I am extremely concerned about the railway link to the west. It is absolutely essential for the Sudanese to play their part in allowing the food trains to operate effectively, and we have made our views clear. The Hercules which we are sponsoring is due to carry on until the end of the month, and we shall continue it after that as the need continues.

I am pleased to learn from my right hon. Friend about the scale of the support in transport and trucks. What is the time scale between the declaring of support and the arrival of that support in the area, and the ability of such support to operate in the rainy season, especially in Darfur?

Lorries can operate, although the rains make progress difficult. I regret the problems that have occurred with the railway, which make it all the more important that the lorries should operate effectively.

I thank the Minister for what he has said about the money that has been made available for the Save the Children Fund. I ask him to give the House a commitment that the Hercules will remain in service for as long as they are needed?

There is one Hercules in Sudan as opposed to Ethiopia. I expect that Hercules to continue in operation after the end of the month while the need is there.

Will the Crown Agents be able to give some assistance in alleviating the rail problems in Sudan in the way in which they have been able to give such assistance over the past 100 years?

I think that it is possible that they might. The British Railways Board might also be able to assist. We have provided an expert consultant, who has been of great value in this respect. I have authorised the expenditure of £50,000 to provide radio communications and I have made it clear throughout that I attach enormous importance to the railway link. I shall take every constructive action that I can to help maintain it.

International Fund For Agricultural Development

49.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the United Kingdom contribution to the International Fund for Agricultural Development; and what proportion of United Kingdom bilateral aid is given for similar purposes.

The United Kingdom contributed £18 million to the initial funding and £12·9 million to the first replenishment of the International Fund for Agricultural Development. In 1984, approximately 19 per cent. of United Kingdom bilateral aid was spent on renewable natural resources and related activities.

In view of the importance of combating hunger, especially in Africa, over the next 20 or 30 years, will the Minister assure the House that an increasing proportion of our bilateral aid will go to long-term agricultural development in that unhappy continent?

I am anxious that a good proportion of our bilateral aid should go to agricultural development. Of all the aid of that sort that we give, that which takes the form of technical co-operation, training and expert advice is possibly the most important. It is not the most expensive aid and it is badly needed. I shall do all that I can to provide it.

Will my right hon. Friend consider making representations to Mr. Geldof and the organisers of Live Aid to give some of the money that they have collected to the IFAD and other important international organisations which my right hon. Friend has been unable to fund as he would like through the ODA?

I shall consider my hon. Friend's suggestion. By and large, Mr. Geldof likes to go his own way rather than working through the Government. I suggest that my hon. Friend makes some representations. I am sure that his suggestion is well worth considering.

Does the Minister agree that the huge commitment to repaying the interest on debt has a debilitating effect on recipient African states and aid to Africa generally? What does the right hon. Gentleman say about the comments of the Secretary of State for Energy about the possibility of waiving interest payments?

The hon. Gentleman should realise that we have remitted the aid debts of all the poorest countries. The latest countries with which I agreed to take this course were Ethiopia and Ghana. It is our general policy not to charge aid debts to the poorest countries. We give rather than lend.

Will my right hon. Friend make it clear that where he is satisfied that the most efficient instrument for aid can be a registered charity, such as Oxfam, that will be used as a channel for public funds so as to provide effective help, rather than operating on a Government-to-Government basis, where much more may be lost in administrative expense.

Much of our relief aid is channelled through the voluntary agencies. Over the past two years I have doubled the money that is made available to the voluntary agencies through the joint funding scheme.

Indian Subcontinent

50.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what initiatives the Overseas Development Administration, in co-operation with the British Council, has taken since June 1983 to extend the administration of education aid in the Indian subcontinent.

In co-operation with the British Council we have extended our technical co-operation education programmes in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh over the period in question. We have not however altered the administrative system.

Does the Government's policy begin to offset the loss of opportunity for those from the subcontinent in higher and further education in Britain following the sharp increases in overseas student fees?

We have financed an increasing quantity of man-hours of training in Britain, which is of great value to those from overseas, and we have extended our scholarship schemes. I announced the addition of a new scholarship scheme only a few weeks ago.

Has the Mir-Ester had the opportunity to discuss this matter, and aid to India generally, with the Indian Foreign Secretary, Romesh Bhandari, who is presently in the United Kingdom? Is the Minister satisfied that the aid programme is contributing substantially to the improvement of relations between Britain and India, which has recently been most welcome and marked?

I have not discussed relations with Mr. Bhandari in the way that the hon. and learned Gentleman has asked, but we have close contact with Indian officials and I have no doubt that our aid programme is a vital part in our good relationship with India.

Agricultural Reform

51.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what measures his Department is taking to promote and sustain agricultural reform programmes in developing countries.

We promote and sustain the improvement of agriculture in developing countries through a wide range of measures. While reform through changes in policy, for example on producer prices and marketing, must ultimately be a matter for the domestic Government, in our discussions with Governments we stress the importance of policies likely to encourage food production.

The Minister will be aware that getting aid to the poorest people in the poorest countries is particlarly relevant in agricultural development, which is an important part of the general debate on drought, aid and famine. The right hon. Gentleman has been foremost in the EEC in pressing for many things, but will he be foremost in pressing for the implementation of the Lom é proposals on agricultural development?

I shall be foremost in pressing on the EEC the importance to be attached to agricultural work in general, and I include in that small-scale agricultural work, which is of great importance.

What study has my right hon. Friend made of the extent to which famine, and consquently drought, in developing countries is a consequence of deforestation? Has he any programmes to assist afforestation in those countries?

My hon. Friend is right. Deforestation is a major problem. One of the objectives of the Lomé convention is to tackle that problem, and my Department supports a number of valuable forestry schemes.

Emergency Procedures

3.31 pm

Is it not possible to raise a point of order on the procedure relating to private notice questions?

Order. The hon. Member has been here a good many years and he must know that no point of order can arise out of that matter. He will have to find other ways to raise the issue that he has in mind.

Ethiopia (Famine Relief)

3.32 pm

With permission, Mr. Speaker. I should like to make a statement on the relief of the Ethiopian famine. I visited Ethiopia from 16 to 19 July to assess the current famine and the need for further relief there. I revisited the feeding centres at Korem, which I saw last November, spent half a day at Assab port, went on an airdrop operation in an RAF Hercules. and had discussions with Ethiopian Ministers, the United Nations Coordinator, Mr. Kurt Jansson, the Ethiopian Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner, and representatives of international and voluntary agencies.

The international relief effort, in which both the British Government and the British people have played an important part, has alleviated much of the worst suffering which we saw on our television screens in the latter part of 1984. Rain is now falling in many parts of Ethiopia, some crops have been planted, and livestock is beginning to recover. However, there are still large areas, notably Wollo and parts of Tigré and Eritrea, where the rains have been only intermittent or have yet to come at all. It will be several weeks before any reliable assessment of the probable 1985 harvest can be made. It will be several months before that harvest can be gathered. All to whom I spoke in Ethiopia agreed that even with the most favourable rains this year's harvest will be well below that of a normal year. It is essential, therefore. that the relief efforts are maintained into 1986.

What are the immediate priorities? The United Nations Co-ordinator estimates that with current stocks in Ethiopia and firm pledges of further deliveries, the overall food supply should be adequate for the rest of this year. At Assab, I saw the considerable flow of European Community food aid into Ethiopia—three ships were unloading food grain from the Community. Effective use is being made of the dumper trucks, grain conveyors and tarpaulins that we have provided and we shall be sending, in the next few days, a further supply of tarpaulins for use at Massawa and on relief trucks.

The overriding priority now is to improve food distribution. There are still not enough trucks available. The situation should soon improve significantly with the arrival of trucks pledged earlier. The United Nations Coordinator's assessment is that perhaps another 400 long-haul and short-haul trucks will still be required. It is of course essential that the Ethiopian Government make available all the trucks that they can.

As the House is aware, our major contribution to food distribution in Ethiopia has been the provision since 3 November last year of two RAF Hercules aircraft and their accompanying detachment, including a team from the Royal Corps of Transport. This operation has now airlifted well over 12,600 tonnes of grain and dropped a further 7,000 tonnes to places inaccessible by any other means of transport. It is an operation which, as I have seen for myself, calls for the highest professional skills and cool courage. It is admired by everyone in Ethiopia.

As I told the House last Monday, one of the purposes of my visit to Ethiopia was to judge whether we should maintain the decision that I announced on 10 June to withdraw our aircraft by 30 September. We had expected then that, by 30 September, the ending of the rains and the build-up of trucks would enable food to be distributed more widely and efficiently by road. My visit has confirmed that road remains the most cost-effective way of moving large quantities of grain, but the build up of road transport has gone more slowly than expected. Areas inaccessible by road will continue to depend on food brought from outside until their own harvest is in, as we all hope it will be, at the end of the year. The Hercules also provide a much valued flexibility.

We have now been able to weigh up carefully the future of the Hercules operation, and to discuss it fully with the Ethiopian Government—who asked us to extend it—with the United Nations Co-ordinator and with other relief agencies. We have concluded that the aircraft will continue to be needed until the end of the year. We are therefore conveying to the Ethiopian Government our offer to keep the two aircraft and accompanying detachment on relief operations until the latter part of December.

This new commitment, together with the further 10,000 tonnes of food aid which we shall send when the ports are ready to handle it, demonstates the Government's continuing concern for the victims of the Ethiopian drought. Our contribution has been prompt—we helped the Save the Children Fund with its feeding centre in Korem early in 1983. It has been generous—£70 million of emergency aid since 1982—and it has been sustained. We shall continue to do all that we can.

The British and international public have responded magnificently to the Live Aid appeal and shown by their compassion and concern that they care about drought and famine. The Minister has just been in and out of Ethiopia. We know why he went, why he came back and why he made a statement today. It is substantially to follow the impact of the Live Aid appeal and to disguise the fact that the Government have failed to take key measures, having been warned about the drought in Ethiopia and Sudan time and again.

We warned in the spring of last year that there would be a tragedy of biblical proportions in that area unless the Government took pre-emptive action. They failed to take such action. The Minister told us that he went to Assab and Massawa, but the ports are the source of the problem. Food aid distribution is the key issue, as we have warned time and again. The trucks which the right hon. Gentleman has scheduled have not yet arrived, although we have warned time and again that trucks of that capacity are needed. We also warned that unless they were there earlier, many farming families would leave the land, go to drought and refugee centres and aggravate the problems.

We warned that there was not enough fuel in the Sudan. The Minister talks now as though the transport problem has only just occurred. We challenged the Government to match the real fuel needs in the Sudan and to send a tanker of fuel to Port Sudan so that the Sudanese could cope, not least with the problem caused by refugees from Eritrea and Tigré. We pressed the Government to put pressure on the Dergue Administration in Addis Ababa to call for safe passage for food aid. The Minister had nothing to say about the representations which he may or may not have made about that.

We are glad to hear the Minister's announcement that the Hercules programme will continue after September. So it should. A Government who say that they are anxious about cost-effectiveness, as the Minister did in his statement, will realise that the cost-effectiveness of providing food aid by Hercules is substantially greater than providing it by road transport, and massively more than providing it by rail transport. In, for example, the Sudan—

Has there been a change in our procedure? Do we have a ministerial statement followed by an Opposition statement, or do we have a ministerial statement followed by questions from Members of the House?

The whole House knows that the Front Bench has a certain discretion. However, Front Bench Members are given the opportunity to rise in order to ask questions.

Will the Minister confirm that the Hercules will only supplement the food aid which, by road and rail transport, should have reached the drought areas already, and that the contributions that can be made—sadly, and despite the magnificent role played by the RAF—is likely to be marginal? The fact is—[HON. MEMBERS: "Questions."] Will the Minister confirm that he should have led the Live Aid response rather than followed it, and that he should have matched Live Aid and Band Aid pound for pound with net resources rather than shuffle the aid budget? Tragically, the contribution that is now being made by the Hercules alone is like crumbs from the table which will be out of the reach of many of those who are now suffering because of the culpable delays of the Government in recent months.

Frankly, I think that the hon. Gentleman's harangue is largely synthetic in its content. The Leader of the Opposition, who is now in Ethiopia, has apparently shown much more appreciation of what we are doing than has his henchman.

There is absolutely no doubt that we have made a major contribution towards the handling of traffic through the ports. Before the current crisis, we played a big part in improving the facilities in Port Sudan. In the port of Assab, as I have seen for myself, our conveyors, dumper trucks, tarpaulins and so on are doing a great deal to make that port capable of doing what it is doing—handling large quantities of grain.

I have discussed safe passage again with Mr. Jansson. It is an extremely difficult situation. He has made representations to the Ethiopian Government, but we must realise that there is a bitter civil war going on, and that neither side is likely to relinquish that war at present.

With regard to the Hercules only supplementing truck food aid, I have made clear what the role of the Hercules is, and what the role of the truck is. I have not concealed the fact that the trucks are the major part of the operation. I have told the House that the number of trucks is now building up well, but at the same time I believe that the Hercules has a role, which it carries out superbly, in supplementing the efforts of those trucks.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in contrast to the carping attitude of Opposition Members, Conservative Members are delighted with the content of his statement? Can he enlighten us as to whether the extra cost of the Hercules project being extended will fall on the aid budget, or is it additional to his present budget? What representations did my hon. Friend make to the Ethiopian Government about the reported charges that they are making the entry of grain into ports, which charges are an affront to most people in this country?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks. I am also grateful to the Ministry of Defence for agreeing to continue to meet a half share of the costs of the Hercules. The half share amounts to about £750,000 per month. Throughout the operation, the Ministry of Defence has given every possible help.

I discussed port charges at length with the Ethiopian Government and the voluntary agencies. What is needed now is for the voluntary agencies to get together, make a clear statement of their position, talk to the United Nations Co-ordinator and then present their case in a co-ordinated and effective way to the Ethiopian Government. We shall certainly support that.

Does the Minister accept that, of course, there will be a warm welcome for the fact that the Hercules operation is to continue at least until the end of the year? However, is he aware that there is deep concern throughout the country, first, that not one extra penny has been added to the aid programme to meet the crisis; secondly, that that means that somewhere in the aid programme other people's desperate needs are not being assisted; and, thirdly, that in terms of the supply of trucks and transport there is a general view that, given the long advance notice of the needs, the Government have been dilatory and economical, and that they failed to do what they should have done at the time to meet those needs? Those trucks should have been ordered five months ago and already delivered, not waiting to be delivered.

I entirely reject the right hon. Lady's charges. It is not true that no additional money has been provided. As I said only a minute ago, the Ministry of Defence has been providing additional resources. With regard to the overseas aid budget, the bulk of what we have done has been funded from our contingency allowance, which exists exactly for this purpose. Secondly, we have used the food aid programme properly; that is, we have concentrated it on areas of famine and greatest need. As a result, we have been able to maintain an extremely effective quantity of emergency relief during the past few months without cutting our bilateral country programme.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that we are all pleased that hard-headed has not meant hard-hearted—most of us thought that it would not—and therefore we all welcome the continued use of the Hercules aircraft? Will he tell the House how he has been able to get on with helping the Ethiopian Government to come to realise that those in rebel areas must be fed, and not just those who support their awful regime?

The civil war makes for an extremely difficult problem in that respect. It is significant that the province of Eritrea has received the highest percentage of the food needs of any province. Moreover, we have made money available to international and voluntary agencies as another means of reaching people in the rebel areas.

I welcome the statement, so far as it goes. Does the Minister accept that the problems that are being encouraged by the Ethiopian regime make the point that diplomatic initiatives are crucial for the next phase of aid to that country? What talks have he and his right hon. and hon. Friends had with those whom the Government believe can bring pressure to bear on the Ethiopian regime?

I had careful talks with the Ethiopian regime while I was there, especially about the relief operation and the long term. I did not generally talk about the wider diplomatic position, but we follow events in Ethiopia closely. The work that we are doing now is in many ways enabling us to build a closer everyday relationship, but substantial long-term problems must still be settled. If we are to provide long-term relief aid, there must be a greater meeting of the minds than there has been in the past.

I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend's statement and reject completely the weasel words of the Opposition in reaction to it, but will he tell the House whether during his visit to Ethiopia he had the opportunity to bring home to the Ethiopian Government the strong feeling, not least in this House, about the plight of political prisoners. especially members of the former royal family, including women who have been held in prison for nearly 11 years without trial? Did he make that point forcefully?

Yes, I made exactly that point to a senior representative of the Ethiopian Government.

I join those who have welcomed the report as far as it goes, and it does not go far, but is the Minister not a little ashamed of his inadequate rejoinder to the recent report of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, which demonstrated in detail and conclusively that by far the greatest part of the aid figures, which the right hon. Gentleman is fond of bandying about, consists not of new money but merely of recycled money?

I have already told the House that the money that we are spending on relief in Ethiopia and elsewhere is largely derived from the contingency reserve, which exists precisely to deal with contingencies and emergencies. It is backed up by a judicious and well-directed use of our food aid programme. Together with our share of the European Community contributions and the use of some of the shortfall that may occur at the end of an accounting year, we have been able to mount an effective response. In the last financial year we provided £95 million of relief aid. That is nothing to be ashamed of.

When my right hon. Friend visited Ethiopia last week, did he get the impression that the Ethiopian Government were much more prepared to co-operate with donor nations and organisations in accepting and distributing the relief, and that that Government were doing all that could reasonably be expected of them, with their resources, to relieve the effects of the famine? If that was the case, as I fervently hope it was, is this not in marked contrast to the position last November, when my right hon. Friend previously visited Ethiopia?

I think that there has been such an improvement in the position. For example, the everyday working relationship between the RAF team and its Ethiopian counterparts is very good. I would not deny the fact that substantial problems remain to be tackled. However, thanks in good measure to the wisdom of the United Nations Co-ordinator, Mr. Jansson, who is doing an outstanding job, our excellent ambassador and others, there is an effective day-to-day relationship on which I hope we can build.

What lies behind the elliptical sentence in the Minister's statement:

"It is of course essential that the Ethiopian Government make available all the trucks that they can."
Is this about the civil war? What is the position about spare parts for trucks?

There are other calls on Ethiopian trucks—after all, some normal life must continue—but the civil war is a factor. The lack of spare parts is at least as great a problem as the provision of new and additional trucks. The country is extremely short of spares, and Britain has done a great deal to provide them, especially for Land-Rovers, where we are most able to do so.

Reports reached us a short time ago that the Ethiopian Government were trying to get their railway system working again. As it is largely comprised of steam locomotives, what plans does my right hon. Friend have to encourage the thousands of steam buffs and engineers in Britain to go to Ethiopia and help to put the system in working order?

That is an attractive proposition, and I understand why people may he thinking along those lines. However, the immediate job must be done primarily by road transport, with the valuable complementary contribution of the RAF and other aircraft there.

Is the Minister not ashamed that he must be propped up to make excuses for his Government's slashing of overseas aid by 18 per cent. since 1979? Is not the generosity of the British public in stark contrast to the meanness of the Government?

The hon. Gentleman does not understand that the British public provide the voluntary contribution and the Government's contribution through taxation. The British public have shown clearly their concern by subscribing large sums of money. I believe that the Government have every reason to be proud, not ashamed, of the high quality and effectiveness of our aid in Ethiopia, the Sudan and throughout our aid programme.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Government can rightly be proud of the aid and assistance that they have given to Ethiopia? Have not the Government given the lead to the international community in their response to the Ethiopian crisis, and is it not also true that if the Ethiopian Government had used their resources as effectively as they might have done at the beginning the problem would not be as great as it is now?

Obviously, history has much to do with the present crisis, but I am grateful for my hon. Friend's remarks. There is no doubt that the Government have given the lead in sending aircraft to Ethiopia—ours were the first to get there—and in concentrating effectively on the bottlenecks which are causing most difficulty.

Although I appreciate the Minister's report of his visit to Ethiopia, does he admit that the overseas aid budget has been cut in real terms since last year, and has been cut substantially since 1979? Is that not a scandal at a time when the human race faces its biggest disaster for many decades'? Does he agree that that fact is widely appreciated by the British people'?

There have been reductions in real terms in the aid programme as a result of our public expenditure policy. However, during the past three years we have fully maintained the programme in real terms.

Despite what Opposition Members have said, is my right hon. Friend aware that the good news that he has given to the House will be warmly welcomed? What practical help can be given to Ethiopian farmers now that the rains have started?

We have already provided help to farmers through the EEC, which is concentrating on the provision of seeds, and bilaterally in the provision of pesticides to deal with the army worm, which is causing great trouble. I have decided to send tools to help provide for the rehabilitation of agriculture.

What precise part do the Government propose to play in meeting the shortage of trucks? The Minister put the shortfall at 400 long and short-haul trucks, in the words of the UN Co-ordinator. Will we provide the parts for these, or will we provide a proportion of the trucks?

There is a real problem here. The principal trucks being used in Ethiopia are Mercedes, Fiat and Volvo. The authorities there do not wish to add new varieties of truck, because of the great difficulty of servicing them and obtaining spare parts. For those reasons, small additional numbers of other makes are not what they want. We have decided to concentrate our efforts in areas where we can do most. As the House knows, our help includes providing aircraft and Land Rovers. Where we have provided additional Land Rovers, we have also provided a substantial quantity of spares. We have also sent out somebody from British Leyland, who is organising the RRC servicing and repair of Land Rovers. This has to be a co-ordinated effort in which each country does what is most effective, and that is the v^ ay in which we are proceeding.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there will be more rejoicing in heaven over money given voluntarily by people to help citizens in need on the other side of the world than there will be over money which is taken in taxation and spent by Governments? When one talks about Government money, one is really talking about taxpayers' money, and it is much more meaningful when this is spent voluntarily, because in that case the heart goes out as well as the money.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The voluntary contributions of the British people to this crisis have been wholly admirable.

Will the Minister accept that every test of public opinion, including taxpayers' opinion, suggests that the Government should be contributing more? Will the Minister tell the House why the Ministry of Defence is contributing only 50 per cent. of the costs of the Hercules, instead of a full 100 per cent.?

There is a deepening understanding of these problems on the part of the public, and I welcome that. The reason why the Ministry of Defence is contributing only 50 per cent. is that this is clearly not a defence operation. The Ministry has been extremely generous. Over the first three months it contributed the entire extra cost, and since then it has contributed half the extra cost, and will continue to do so. I am grateful to the Ministry of Defence for its generosity.

Is my right hon. Friend prepared to tell us what level of aid the Soviet Union is giving to the starving people in Ethiopia?

Essentially, the Soviet Union's contribution has to be measured in arms, but it also has its Antonov aircraft, whose natural habitat seems to be the airstrip rather than the air.

Does the Minister agree that there is a direct relationship between lives saved and money sent to Ethiopia? As a consequence, does he agree that every penny that the Government take from concerts such as those organised by Live Aid and records like those made by Band Aid condemns some Ethiopians to death? Will the Minister join me in putting pressure on his colleagues and getting that message through to them? Every penny raised by voluntary and charitable organisations ought to be sent where it is meant to go, which is to Ethiopia, and not into the pockets of those who do not deserve it.

It is my understanding that the Customs and Excise Department displayed a sympathetic approach to the recent Live Aid concerts.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is sad that the £50 million raised worldwide by the excellent Live Aid concert is contrasted with the £200 million spent by the Ethiopian regime on its 10th anniversary celebrations? Has he seen any sign of a change in attitude by the Ethiopian regime towards its own expenditure?

I did not discuss celebrations and so on with the Ethiopian Government, but I had many discussions about longer-term matters. Among some members of the Ethiopian regime there is an attempt to concentrate on essentials, but the mystery, or the problem, about Ethiopia is what lies in the minds of those who ultimately hold power there.

When the Minister met many of the so-called top people in Africa—civil servants, heads of the armed forces and judges—did he say that he would have brought more money with him if Her Majesty's Government had not come across a clever little ruse of deducting VAT and otherwise taxing various other charitable efforts, resulting in their pocketing more money out of all the efforts of those trying to raise money for Ethiopia, and that, instead of taking it with him, he had left behind about £10 million to put into the pockets of judges, top civil servants and all the rest of the nobs in this country? How contemptible can anyone get?

What was the response of the Ethiopian authorities to the Minister's complaint about the scandalous increases in port charges for food aid from the United Kingdom? As the right hon. Gentleman underlined in his statement that the advantages of the rain had not extended to Eritrea and Tigré, what additional proposals have our Government to assist those two provinces?

On that latter point, we provide food aid to voluntary agencies and international agencies, which are able to work in all parts of the country.

The port tax is a somewhat more complicated matter than has been portrayed. Food and relief supplies which go direct to the RRC appear to pay a lower rate of agency charge than other food or relief supplies. What is important is that the voluntary agencies get together and establish exactly what they are having to pay. If we can help them to make effective representations, I am willing to do so.

Top Salaries Award

4.2 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—it is a matter of urgent public interest—namely,

"the implementation without the approval of the House of Commons of Report No. 22 of the Review of Top Salaries",
the implementation of which is of obvious and continuing detriment to good industrial relations in the public sector.

It is clear that the desire to debate the matter is not confined to one side of the House. On Friday, six Government supporters expressed their deep concern at the Government's decision and, since then, other Conservative Members have added their voices to the chorus of apprehension and disapproval. I have no doubt, Mr. Speaker. that were you to grant this application, it would be welcomed on both sides of the House.

Despite the position made very clear on Friday and repeated in quotations in newspapers over the weekend, it is obvious that the Government still do not realise the depth of feeling which has been engendered by last week's decisions—the decision on one day to scrap wages council protection for young workers and, on the next, for example, to increase the salary of the Secretary to the Cabinet by £23,750 a year.

To debate the Government's attitude on these matters would allow the House of Commons to reflect the outrage which is undoubtedly felt in the country and perhaps enable right hon. and hon. Members to fulfil their traditional function of changing the Government's mind on behalf of public opinion. Were we able to do that, it would be possible to remedy some of the damage which is already being done among workers in the public sector.

I give one example to justify the argument that House of Commons intervention is important now. As matters stand, the decision on the top salaries award will have a direct and detrimental effect on the prospects of further disruption in our schools next autumn. There is no doubt from the published statements that the teachers' unions. contemplating a settlement, have been moved away from conciliation and compromise by what was decided last Wednesday and Thursday.

Were we able to change the Government's mind by debate, we would have a chance to save the country from the Government's folly, to attempt to change the Prime Minister's mind and, and as a result, to avoid the disruption which is bound to follow if the Government continue this confrontational policy.

One other factor makes last Thursday's announcement unique. Other large pay awards have been made to top civil servants and the like, but on previous occasions those awards have been phased over two years or more. This year, the whole amount—46 per cent. or 35 per cent.—-is to be paid within a period of nine months. That compression of the payment—the virtual instant: payment of the whole award—has added enormously to the offence felt by lower paid workers, especially those in the public sector, some of whom earn only a fraction of the salary increases which the Government accepted last week for judges, senior civil servants and senior officers in the armed forces.

If we do not debate the whole subject—not the decision to increase the salary of one member of the Government, which we shall be able to debate tomorrow—the House will rise on Friday, the increases will be paid, and the bitterness will remain in the public service for years to come. Today, I ask for the opportunity for the House to change the Government's mind and avoid that bitterness. It is in that spirit that I beg to ask leave to move my motion.

The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the implementation without the approval of the House of Commons of Report No. 22 of the Review of Top Salaries."
I have listened with the greatest care to what the right hon. Gentleman has said. As he knows, my sole duty in considering an application under Standing Order No. 10 is to decide whether it should be given priority over the business already set down for this evening or tomorrow.

I regret that I cannot find the matter that the right hon Gentleman has raised meets the criteria laid down in the Standing Order and, therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House.

I am very grateful, Mr. Speaker, for the careful consideration that I know that you have given to this matter during the day.

I understand fully the constraints under which you operate. Therefore, it is the duty of the Opposition to find other ways in which it can be raised. Thank you very much.

Police Training Manual

4.7 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 contents of the Public Order Tactical Operations Manual drawn up by the Association of Chief Police Officers and approved by the Home Office."
The manual provides for the training of the police in paramilitary operations, including instruction in methods of incapacitating demonstrators by the infliction of actual bodily harm or the use of police horses to canter into crowds and the tactical use of noise to instil fear, all of which are in clear breach of the law.

The existence of these tactics and parts of the manual from which they came were disclosed in the cross-examination by the defence in a recent trial in Sheffield. The trial came to an end when the prosecution withdrew all the charges against the accused before it had even completed the presentation of its own case, and the document was made publicly available only over the weekend.

The matter is specific in that it relates to one document containing instructions for the police that have never been published before and now only partially available and clearly and specifically provides for a major breach of the law by the police.

It is important because it is a manual that has clearly been in use throughout the miners' strike and elsewhere, and it throws a completely different light upon certain events which occurred during the strike.

It is urgent because, unless the House discusses it before the summer recess, the police in Britain may continue to be subject to orders that lead them to act illegally and violently against persons engaged in protests or demonstrations who have never been arrested or charged with any offence.

The document was apparently drawn up by the Association of Chief Police Officers—not an authorised or official body—after the disturbances that occurred in Brixton, Bristol and Toxteth in 1981, and the pages which were released during a recent trial made it clear that officers had been given instructions which laid them open to charges of assault. It is clear from the details that the manoeuvres, with short shields, long shields, horses and truncheons, that it recommends should be deployed are in clear contravention of the rules that have hitherto governed the actions of police forces.

The House will be familiar with the background of the case that I have in mind. It is now over. For the first time, therefore, it can be referred to in the House. Certain persons were charged with riot. Mr. Clements. the deputy chief constable of Yorkshire, said at the beginning of the trial that it was the most serious case of public disorder that he was aware of this century. In the middle of the trial the prosecution offered to drop all the charges if the accused would agree to be bound over to keep the peace. They refused to do so, because they were innocent. Police videos were shown to the jury. They showed that it was a peaceful demonstration until the cavalry charges. The BBC itself had transposed the film to show the missiles were thrown before the charges, whereas the police videos showed that the charges took place before the missiles were thrown.

This manual is a major development in police action. With the long summer ahead of us and with the responsibility of the Home Secretary absolutely manifest, his Department having approved the manual, I urge you, Mr. Speaker, to allow the Adjournment motion in order that the House can discuss the matter before the recess.

The right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 10, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he thinks should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the contents of the Public Order Tactical Options Manual drawn up by the Association of Chief Police Officers."
I have listened with great care, and in no way do I underestimate what the right hon. Gentleman said, but I regret that I have to give him the same answer as I gave to his right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley). I do not consider the matter that he has raised is appropriate for discussion under Standing Order No. 10, and I cannot therefore submit his application to the House. However, I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will find other ways of bringing the matter before the House before we rise for the summer recess.

I am not questioning your ruling, Mr. Speaker, but I am asking for your consent to do something which requires your consent. Hon. Members are unable to place documents in the Library of the House without the consent of the Speaker. though Ministers can.

I have checked this, Mr. Speaker. I would ask that you should give your consent that the documents released at the trial relating to the police manual should be placed in the Library of the House so that they can be properly and formally published.

If that is within my responsibility, it seems to me to be a very reasonable request.

Top Salaries Award

4.12 pm

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I ask for your advice? As Speaker of the House, you will not have been aware of the fact that lively interest has been expressed this weekend by our constituents in a debate that is to take place tomorrow night for an hour and a half on the subject of the Lord Chancellor's salary'. The cases that will be made by the two Front Benches will take at least 20 minutes each. This means that only about 45 minutes will be available to Back Benchers to make their points. Is there any way in which this debate can be changed from one that lasts for an hour and a half to a debate that lasts until any hour of the night so that hon. Members can express the opinions and feelings of their constituents?

Order. I am not unaware of this matter, because I am also a constituency Member of Parliament. However, the hon. Gentleman's suggestion is patently a matter for his right hon. Friend the Chief Whip and the usual channels.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. As we shall be breaking up later this week and there will be no opportunity for nearly three months to discuss a matter which, as you have implied, is causing a great deal of concern in our constituencies, is there not a responsibility upon the Leader of the House, who is present on the Government Front Bench, at least to tell the House that the Cabinet will consider allowing a debate that lasts for more than one and a half hours? The hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark) is absolutely correct. If the Front Benches take up, and rightly so, the normal amount of time allotted to them, how many Back Benchers are likely to be called tomorrow—one, two, or three at the most? Is it not scandalous that, on top of what has happened, Back Benchers are to be deprived of the right to debate this matter for at least three months? The Leader of the House has a responsibility to ensure that we have sufficient time in which to debate this matter.

I appreciate that announcing the business on Friday meant that my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark) did not have the chance to raise the matter with me, albeit indirectly, until now. However, the day and time were chosen in the belief that they would be for the general convenience of the House. However, I am happy to have these matters looked at again, as Mr. Speaker has indicated, through the usual channels, but I do not want to hold out too many hopes to my hon. Friend.

Emergency Procedure

4.15 pm

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It relates to matters of emergency and urgency. I do not want to ask a question that impugns the reason why a private notice question request may have been turned down. The fact that I made one this morning on a matter of considerable importance relating to a tribunal decision on the Welsh language is only one example of what may happen. When a matter of importance like this requires a decision to be taken by you, in conjunction with the Department that will have to answer the question, or otherwise, and you decide, in your wisdom, not to allow a private notice question to be asked—