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Commons Chamber

Volume 84: debated on Monday 21 October 1985

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House Of Commons

Monday 21 October 1985

The House met at half-past Two o'clock

Prayers

[MR. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Death Of A Member

I regret to have to inform the House of the death of Harry Lowes Cowans, esquire, Member for Tyne Bridge, and I desire, on behalf of the House, to express our sense of the loss that we have sustained and our sympathy with the relatives of the hon. Member.

Oral Answers To Questions

Wales

Labour Statistics

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement on the unemployment figures for the Cynon Valley.

The number of unemployed in the hon. Lady's constituency was 4,483 in September 1985. Reductions in unemployment in the Cynon Valley, as elsewhere in Wales, must be tackled by policies for promoting sustained growth without inflation and attracting new industry and enterprise. As the hon. Lady may be aware, my office has written to the chief executive of the Cynon Valley borough council giving details of the substantial activities by my Department and Government agencies in support of these aims.

Does the Secretary of State agree that the recent evidence of massive incompetence at the highest levels in the Welsh Office and the Welsh Development Agency in relation to the Parrot Corporation will have massive implications for the attraction of jobs to Wales and the Cynon Valley, and will he please make a statement?

I have no evidence of massive incompetence of the kind described, but I know that very considerable effort was made by the agency and by the chairman of the company to put together a refinancing package, which I approved. I have every confidence that this will give the company the prospects of a very good future, which I hope will provide jobs and lead to a successful operation.

In view of the television programme one evening last week concerning the Parrot Corporation, does not the right hon. Gentleman think that it is incumbent on him to make a statement to the House so that the misunderstandings, perhaps, which arose from that programme can be cleared up?

There is a parliamentary question on the Order Paper for answer later today, and I am very happy to answer questions.

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will make a statement about the Parrot Corporation, as we wish to hear him. With regard to the valley communities, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that all the valleys of south-east Wales are now very much at risk both socially and economically? May I tell him that on a recent visit to the Cynon Valley I was shown by an able and determined council some of the mountainous problems faced there, especially in housing? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that by investing in more housing repair activities in the Cynon Valley he could most quickly create many new jobs? Will he give the money to the council for that type of campaign?

I am glad to say that the local authority is just undertaking its first enveloping scheme, which we have been encouraging it to undertake in the valley. That is part of a very large package of measures which I listed in my letter to the Cynon Valley borough council. The chief executive acknowledges in his reply that he is aware of many of the encouraging points that I made in my letter and, indeed, associates his authority with the efforts that are being made.

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what are the latest figures for unemployment in (a) Newport, (b) Gwent and (c) Wales; what were the equivalent figures in May 1979; and what is the percentage increase in each case.

On 12 September 1985 the numbers of unemployed claimants were 13,587, 30,637 and 187,563 respectively. The estimated equivalent figure for Wales in May 1979 is 77,200. On that basis, the increase to date for Wales is 143 per cent. Comparable figures for May 1979 for the Newport travel-to-work area and Gwent are not available because of the move to claimant-based figures and changes to travel-to-work-area boundaries.

Bearing in mind those deplorable figures, does the Secretary of State appreciate the fresh consternation that has been caused in Wales over the Parrot Corporation affair, which is hardly likely to encourage new investment? When will the right hon. Gentleman face up to his departmental responsibilities and make a full public statement?

It is a matter for encouragement that, faced by difficulties as a result of police investigations, it has been possible for the public and private sectors to put together a substantial package of refinancing. Through that package, they will go forward together to secure the future of a company that has been attracted to south Wales if every effort is not made by the hon. Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes) and his hon. Friends to denigrate and cast doubt on it.

Assuming that the figures given by the Secretary of State are correct — I am not disputing them — another 20,000 people will be made redundant in south Wales during the next 12 months. What advice has the right hon. Gentleman given the Prime Minister to the effect that she must change her policies if unemployment is to be reduced in the next five years?

Without understating the seriousness of the problem, when the hon. Gentleman talks about redundancies he should talk also about the substantial series of announcements made during the recess about new investment in the steel industry, and in companies that were previously threatened, such as Borg-Warner, in some of the new technology companies, in the massive redevelopment of south Cardiff, in the new package for Courtaulds in Deeside, and in many more projects. New jobs are being created and New industries and activities are being brought into existence.

The Secretary of State explained to my hon. Friends the Members for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) and for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes), both of whom asked about the Parrot Corporation, that he has been picking up the pieces in an endeavour to help my constituency, but why did he not answer the question that they both asked him? Why does he not make a statement, as the matter is not sub judice and the right hon. Gentleman replies to me by saying that there are police inquiries? Why does he permit the Welsh Development Agency to make as many statements as it wishes to the press and television, while he remains silent? Why does he not acknowledge the doctrine of ministerial responsibility, come to the House and tell us what his guilt is?

Here I am, on the first day back, answering freely questions put to me in the House of Commons, which is appropriate. I have answered, first, questions about refinancing. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman inferred that one of my priorities, perhaps the first, was to secure the future of the company and the jobs at stake. My other priority was to ensure that the police undertook the appropriate action in this case and that their investigation was not hampered. I have decided that there should also be an internal investigation to be carried out by an independent person into the handling of the original investment by the WDA, and its subsequent monitoring of that investment. I shall report further to the House on the details of this inquiry as soon as possible. I cannot report to the House on matters that are still the subject of a police inquiry, nor on matters which, because of that inquiry, I have not been able to investigate fully.

Does my right hon. Friend believe that the Labour party's proposal for a national investment bank will do anything to ease long-term unemployment in Wales?

No, I do not, but my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer was right to talk about investment, whether undertaken by public or private bodies, and to say that no system of supervision can be proof against deliberate fraud. Therefore, we must ensure that where there is fraud it is uncovered in a timely fashion and that evidence is acted on expeditiously.

If the possibility existed, I am sure that we were right to ensure that the police carried out investigations and that we did not interfere with those investigations. I am equally sure that it was absolutely right for the agency, the Welsh Office and the substantial private sector investors involved in this case to put together a package, as that proved possible, to secure the future of the company.

By how much will the unemployment figures increase if the new cuts at the Welsh plant breeding station take place and if the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food cuts at Cardiff and Bangor take place?

I am not prepared to give estimates of future unemployment, but I am certain that the Welsh plant breeding station will continue to play a very important role in agricultural research programmes. It has a vital role to play in the research programmes on the western grasslands and uplands generally, not just those in Wales

Will my right hon. Friend remind the Opposition that last year Wales obtained nearly one-quarter of the jobs created by inward investment into the United Kingdom — four times as many jobs as the Opposition achieved during their last year in office?

I am very glad to be able to tell my hon. Friend that the Winvest record is 150 new and expansion projects, which will create 1,100 new jobs and safeguard about 5,600 existing jobs. The Government have a very good record in this respect.

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us more about the inquiry that he is initiating and who might head it? At the appropriate time, does he think that the issue should go before the Public Accounts Committee?

I am quite certain that the issue will go before the Public Accounts Committee and that the Committee will wish to look at it. That has never been in question. As soon as details of the inquiry have been decided, including the name of the person who is to conduct it, I shall inform the House. We are still discussing with the Treasury the precise details of the inquiry. I am therefore not in a position to give the hon. Gentleman that information this afternoon.

Nhs Staff (Pay)

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what discussions he has had during the summer Adjournment with the chairmen of Welsh health authorities regarding the funding of pay increases for National Health Service staff in Wales.

My right hon. Friend met chairmen to discuss this and other matters on 26 July, the day on which the House adjourned.

May I take this opportunity to congratulate my hon. Friend on his very well-merited appointment?

Is he aware that if local health authorities are obliged to fund nationally-agreed pay increases out of budgets which were not prepared in expectation of those increases. their ability to maintain their level of services may be impaired, including the provision of matching finance for projects for which large sums of money have been raised by local effort?

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales discussed this when he met the chairmen of health authorities on 26 July. It was agreed that health authorities could manage for the year 1985–86 within the resources available to them. Of course we recognise the difficulties when health authorities have to accept pay rises that are higher than those for which they budgeted. My right hon. Friend will continue to keep the matter under review, especially during the current public expenditure round. It would be wrong of me to look forward to 1986–87 while those discussions are taking place.

I too, welcome the Under-Secretary of State to his new and onerous responsibilities. I hope that he will have an enjoyable, though brief, spell in the Welsh Office.

Will the hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the meetings that had to be cancelled because of the change in ministerial responsibility, which had been arranged by his hon. Friend the Member for Conwy (Mr. Roberts), will be reconvened as rapidly as possible, in particular the meeting with the Gwynedd health authority to discuss the financial position in Gwynedd arising from the impact of wage increases not being fully funded? Will he ensure that no decisions are taken in Gwynedd until that meeting has taken place and an opportunity has arisen for him to appreciate the full impact of the situation in Gwynedd?

I thank the hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend for their kind remarks in prefacing their questions. In response to the point raised by the hon. Gentleman, I am conscious that my hon. Friend the Member for Conwy (Mr. Roberts) was due to have a series of meetings with the health authorities. We plan to go ahead with those meetings. As for any changes that may be made to the services in Gwynedd, this is a matter for that health authority to decide. I am prepared at that meeting to discuss with it any issues that may arise.

May I also congratulate my hon. Friend and wish him success in his new job? He will receive much personal support from his right hon. and hon. Friends.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the National Health Service staff pay problem has put particular strain on the new hospital at Ysbyty, Gwynedd? Although that hospital provides facilities in excess of those provided previously. does he accept that when facilities are provided the public do not understand why they cannot be used to their full potential?

We are aware of the difficulties caused by the pay settlement. However, the issue must be seen against the background of increases in resources for the health authorities. The real growth in resources for Gwynedd between 1978–79 and 1984–85 was about 30 percent.

May I also congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his appointment?

Does the hon. Gentleman acknowledge that pay increases for nurses in south Wales can be achieved only if major cuts are made in the Health Service and in facilities for patients? Is it not hypocritical of the Government to suggest that they are making extra money available when they are not even funding the full pay review award originally granted to nurses?

Following the meeting with the chairmen of the health authorities it was made clear that the increases could be absorbed in the current year without making the changes to which the hon. Gentleman refers

Council House Sales

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many council houses have been sold to sitting tenants in Wales since May 1979.

About 43,568 council dwellings were sold to sitting tenants in Wales between May 1979 and 30 June 1985. In addition, 2,538 dwellings were sold by the Cwmbran development corporation and Mid-Wales Development.

How many complaints about delays in dealing with applications to buy have been made by tenants in the past 12 months?

Only eight complaints about delay have been received in the past 12 months. Instances of delay are far fewer now than in the initial period following the introduction of the right-to-buy scheme. We look into each individual case that is brought to our attention. We believe that the system is working satisfactorily and we are pleased with the way in which local authorities are operating it.

Is the Minister aware of the report by the chief housing officer for Wales in which he says that we need to spend £3,000 million in the next 15 years if existing council stock is not to slip into slumdom? Would that not be a better priority for the Government than their obsession with the sale of council houses?

I have seen the chief housing officer's report and newspaper reports on the subject. Between 1979 and 1984 the Government spent £34 million annually on repairs to public sector housing compared with £17 million during the period in which the last Labour Government were in power. In the private sector we spent £46 million compared with £12 million spent when the Labour party was in office.

Does my hon. Friend accept that receipts from council house sales should be used to fund further building and urgent repairs?

As my hon. Friend knows, the receipts can be applied to many purposes. The Government are restricting the amount that can be used in the current year to 15 per cent. Local authorities are, however, able to make use of other receipts in terms of their borrowing requirement. That is also important.

I add my congratulations to the hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Robinson), but remind him that after the next general election he is likely to be looking for greener pastures.

May I take this opportunity to remind the hon. Gentleman of the terrible housing crisis that is developing in Wales? This is happening at a time when thousands of our building and construction workers are standing in the dole queues and when building materials are stacked in builders yards. Selling council houses is no substitute for building houses.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind remarks about my appointment. I remind him that there is another marginal seat in Newport, and we are looking forward to an exciting battle there.

On his point about housing stock, I must tell him that the sale of council houses in no way diminishes housing stock.

Secondary Schoolchildren

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will give the numbers of 15-year-olds attending state secondary schools in Wales in 1981 to 1985. and the estimate for 1989, respectively.

With permission, I shall publish the figures for each year from 1981 to 1985 in the Official Report.

In January 1981 there were 44,659 pupils aged 15 in maintained secondary schools in Wales, and at January 1985, 42,836. The estimate for 1989 is about 36,000.

Does my hon. Friend agree that as those figures are no secret and have been known for a long time, quite a number of local authorities—including my local authority of South Glamorgan—have seriously failed to consider the merging of schools to enable the provision of a more varied range of subjects and more funding to be spent on teaching and less on mortar and bricks?

My hon. Friend is quite right. It is, of course, the responsibility of each local education authority to secure the best educational provision for children in the most cost-effective way. In 1981 we advised local education authorities to take account in their planning of the declining trend in pupil numbers, when we recommended that two out of every five surplus school places should be taken out of use by 1986.

Is the Minister aware of the very poor level of funding available for the education of 15-year-olds in Wales, especially in a sparse county like Powys, where in many of the high schools the heads of spending departments such as physics, chemistry and French have no more than £1 per pupil per year to spend on materials? Does the hon. Gentleman agree that that is disgraceful?

I cannot agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman. In Wales in general, spending per head has increased from £767 in 1978–79 to;£877 in 1983–84—and that is at 1983–84 prices. There has been a similar increase in Powys from £879 to £953 per pupil. The hon. and learned Gentleman is incorrect in what he claims.

Has the Minister studied the report, published a few days ago, of the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations, which concludes that the overall picture is of an alarming deterioration in our schools and that no amount of statistical juggling can disguise that? Certainly our teachers and local education authorities concur with that. When will the hon. Gentleman's Department ensure that our educational services in Wales are properly funded?

Indeed, I have a copy of the very slim document to which the hon. Gentleman referred. My description of it, quite frankly, is that it flies in the face of facts. Furthermore, it acknowledges that in its conclusions. I have no further comment on a document that states that.

I agree with my hon. Friend and disagree with the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile), but do not local education authorities have a problem of resource management? Talk of cuts is political nonsense. The figures speak for themselves. They are figures put out, not by the Welsh Office, but by the LEAs. Will my hon. Friend give the assurance for which I very much hope, that he will continue to discuss with the LEAs the very' difficult problem of resource management against the background of falling rolls, which is at the heart of the problem faced by LEAs in Wales?

My hon. Friend, whom I am glad to hear, particularly as he is so conversant with this subject, had started on these very discussions with local authorities and had met the Gwent and Clwyd local authorities. I fully intend to carry on the good work that he began and to meet the remaining local education authorities.

Following are the figures

The number of pupils at maintained secondary schools in Wales in January of each year who were aged 15 at 31 August in the previous year was as follows:

Number

198144,659
198243,649
198342,977
198442,500
198542,836
From mid-year home population projections it is estimated that the corresponding figure for 1989 will be about 36,000.

Labour Statistics

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will state the number of school leavers registered as job seekers in Rhymney Valley, Mid-Glamorgan and Wales at the latest date for which figures are available.

On 12 September 1985 the number of school leavers under 18 years of age in Rhymney Valley, Mid-Glamorgan and Wales who had not entered employment since completing full-time education were 624, 2,712 and 11,327 respectively. Many will find employment or return to full-time education. For the remainder, there is a guarantee of the offer by Christmas of a place on the youth training scheme.

Does the Minister accept that, according to the October figures, 1,500 young people are registered as job seekers in Rhymney Valley and that in Mid-Glamorgan as a whole there are about 7,000? Is he aware that for those 1,500 in Rhymney Valley there is one vacancy at the careers office and that for the 7,000 in Mid-Glamorgan only 17 vacancies are registered with the careers service? In the light of those figures, will the Minister dissociate himself entirely from the view of the vice-chairman of the Conservative party, Mr. Jeffrey Archer, that the problem with young people is that they will not do a day's work and that they should get off their backsides and find a job?

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we are very concerned about the high number of unemployed school leavers that appear at this time of year on the register and account for a considerable part of the increase. Indeed, they are responsible for about 5,530 of those registered in Wales. However, I am glad to say that that number is 701 fewer than last September's figure. There are consolations for these young people, because I am glad to say that vacancies are up, being 1,500 higher this September than in September 1984. While we still regard the figures as being too high, there is hope for every youngster who has left school and is now without a job.

Will the Minister now answer the question posed by my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) and say whether he dissociates himself entirely from the insulting remarks of the vice-chairman of the Tory party, Mr. Jeffrey Archer, which caused a great deal of anger and bitterness among the young people in our community?

I did not hear the vice-chairman's remarks. I have only seen them reported and, as often as not, I am sure, reported totally out of context. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I have my own views, which I have declared, about young people who are unemployed in any part of Wales. While we are deeply concerned about their predicament, their prospects are somewhat better now than they were a year ago.

Wages Councils

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales whether he has received any representations on the effect upon Welsh workers of the Government's proposed abolition of wages councils; and if he will make a statement.

My Department has received eight letters direct and a further 19 have been passed on by hon. Members. I have also received a petition with 96 signatures. In the light of the views expressed during the consultation exercise about wages councils, the Government announced on 17 July that they were to be retained but reformed. Legislation will shortly be brought before the House.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for being good enough to write to me on this matter. Does he think that the people of Wales will swallow his explanation and accept that new jobs will be created if we remove the minimal protection that is enjoyed by low-paid workers? Does this mean that the Welsh unemployed can look forward to jobs that are low paid without regulated protection?

No. There is clear evidence from this and many other countries that high initial rates of pay as employees enter industry without skills result in more unemployed youngsters. Labour Members have expressed concern in previous supplementary questions about unemployed youngsters. They should take serious note of the fact that these youngsters are more likely to get jobs if they start at lower rates. They will then have better prospects for the future. To discount the overwhelming evidence of that fact is not to do any service for those of whom Labour Members speak.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in Germany young workers start at rates between 20 per cent. and 25 per cent. of an adult wage and ultimately secure far higher paid jobs than British workers?

That is true. There is no doubt that high basic rates for youngsters in relation to rates for adults are a key factor in deciding whether firms take on young people. There is no doubt also that the rates that have been paid to youngsters have been a factor in discouraging their employment. We should do everything that we can to bring them into work where they can be trained and where they can earn much higher rates in future.

Does the Secretary of State realise that the wages councils protect about 500,000 employees and that one out of five of those who are protected are young people? Does he understand that they have suffered enough under this Government and that they do not want to return to sweatshops? I ask the right hon. Gentleman and the Government to reconsider their decision to recommend the abolition of the wages councils.

If the hon. Gentleman had listened he would have heard me say that we shall not abolish the wages councils. If he wishes to talk about the protection of young people, I must put it to him that those who do not have jobs are not being protected by the wages councils. Indeed, their prospects of employment are being threatened by many of the actions of the councils. That is what we are seeking to change.

Nhs Expenditure

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will list the expenditure on the National Health Service in Wales for each fiscal year since 1978 in 1985 prices.

As the answer contains a number of figures I shall, with permission, circulate it in the Official Report. But, taking account of general inflation, as measured by the GDP market price deflator, expenditure on the National Health Service in Wales at 1984–85 prices rose from £710·8 million in 1978–79 to £862·0 million in 1984–85.

How does the Minister equate the propaganda from his Department and the Department of Health and Social Security about maintaining the level of expenditure in the NHS with the real experience of those of us who during the recess have visited hospitals, spoken to Health Service workers and had the privilege of attending massive public meetings in our constituencies and elsewhere at which objections have been raised to proposals for hospital closures and changes in the ambulance service? Why are health authorities in Wales going through these consultation exercises on closure proposals if there is not a real financial crisis in the NHS?

The consultations to which the hon. Gentleman refers are part of the management process of health authorities in organising their priorities. He should know that five major hospital schemes have been completed since 1979, which is evidence of the Government's commitment and that of my right hon. Friend to the NHS in Wales.

Will my hon. Friend accept that there is a warm welcome for the expansion of the NHS, especially the significant increase in bone marrow transplant operations at the University hospital of Wales in my constituency?

The answer to my hon. Friend's question is yes. My right hon. Friend made an announcement on 17 October confirming the plan to set up a bone marrow transplant unit at the University hospital of Wales. This is an enormously important activity and we shall be monitoring the initiative closely.

I congratulate the Under-Secretary of State on his appointment, and I thank his predecessor for his courtesy. Will the Under-Secretary of State heed the SOS from Mid-Glamorgan, Gwynedd and South Glamorgan? Are not patient services at risk? Should not more cash be made available to the health authorities in Wales?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind words. He has referred to the shortage of resources for health authorities in Wales. I said earlier that Gwynedd's resources had increased by 30 per cent. Mid-Glamorgan's resources have increased by 19 per cent. The first phase of the Deloitte report has been completed and the Mid-Glamorgan health authority will have to consider it. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I will monitor the position closely.

Following are the figures

The expenditure on the NHS in Wales at 1984–85 prices is as follows:

Year

Expenditure (£m)

1978–79710·8
1979–80712·0
1980–81770·8
1981–82798·0
1982–83819·9
1983–84833·0
1984–85862·0
Actual expenditure has been adjusted to take account of general inflation as measured by the GDP market price deflator.

Courtaulds Plant, Greenfield

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement on the progress of discussions between his Department and Delyn borough council on Government measures to alleviate the effects of the closure of the Courtaulds plant at Greenfield.

Full agreement has been reached between the Delyn borough council, the Welsh Development Agency and the Welsh Office about the detailed implementation of the package of assistance which I announced in June this year. With the very welcome recent announcement by Courtaulds of its contribution to the total effort in the area I look forward to rapid progress on the agreed programme.

I am pleased to announce that a further £200,000 urban programme capital allocation is to be made available to Delwyn borough council for the further development of the Greenfield site for a major European company, subject to that company locating at the site. For reasons of confidentiality, I cannot say more at this stage.

I thank my right hon. Friend, and through him the Prime Minister, for the pressure that they brought to bear on Courtaulds to produce its comprehensive regeneration package for Greenfield. I thank my right hon. Friend also for today's announcement, which will be welcomed in my constituency, and for the Government's contribution to the regeneration of the Greenfield site. This will create a healthy private and public sector partnership. Can my right hon. Friend give a commitment with respect to the necessary continued urban aid and capital allocation support in the longer term so that we can speedily build on the foundations that have been so successfully laid?

I thank my hon. Friend for his comments on the intervention by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and myself. I am grateful to the chairman of Courtaulds for having listened to what we said and for responding in a way that has earned the congratulations and thanks of the local authorities involved. I think that my hon. Friend can be assured by what we have done so far and our announcement this afternoon that in reaching our decisions we shall continue to take full account of the changing situation in the area.

Church Commissioners

Parsonages And Bishops' Palaces

22.

asked the hon. Member for Wokingham, as representing the Church Commissioners, how much was spent on the dilapidations of (a) parsonages and (b) bishops' palaces during the past year; and if he will make a statement.

The Second Church Estates Commissioner, representing Church Commissioners
(Sir William van Straubenzee)

The 1984 figures for parsonages are £7·7 million and for diocesan bishops' houses £338,000.

Will my hon. Friend assure me that the considerable sums spent on parsonages and bishops' palaces, which in 1984 included £70,000 on the palace of the Bishop of Durham, will ensure that there are adequate study facilities for all parsons and bishops, to enable more of them to comment on moral rather than political issues, including the narrow decision last week by the Law Lords to abolish the age of consent?

All parsonages and bishops' houses have provision for studies. I do not think that it would be in accordance with the general attitude of the clergy if the Church of England tried to ordain or lay down the thinking that should take place in their studies. Total expenditure on Auckland castle is much greater than my hon. Friend has indicated, because of the historic nature of that ancient place.

Stipendiary Ministry (Pay, Pensions And Housing)

23.

asked the hon. Member for Wokingham, as representing the Church Commissioners, if there are any plans to increase the amount of the commissioners' income applied towards the support of the pay, pensions and housing of the stipendiary ministry of the Church of England.

Yes. We were able to increase the income we applied towards the pay, pensions and housing of stipendiary ministers of the Church of England by 8·5 per cent. in 1984 and a further increase of 8·6 per cent. will have occurred in 1985. Similar increases are planned in future years. In all, over 80 per cent. of our income is used for these purposes.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. First, I welcome the fact that the Church Commissioners are paying more than the rate of inflation to support the ministry and the pay of incumbents. Does he agree that some anxiety should be shown, because about 1,000 members of the clergy have given notice that they will leave the Church of England if women are ordained and admitted to the priesthood? Will he confirm that special consideration will be given to keeping those members and the rest of the clergy happy, because we do not wish to lose more members of the clergy?

The Church Commissioners' duty is to make moneys available for the remuneration of the full-time clergy. As my hon. Friend is aware, more than half the overall burden, including pensions, is now also carried by the laity. I do not believe that considerations of what will happen in the future enter into that calculation. My hon. Friend is now uniquely well placed to make his views known because of the welcome news that since we last met he has been elected to the General Synod.

When my hon. Friend and his colleagues next discuss these matters, will they give further thought to the compulsory retirement age of 70, bearing in mind the fact that many men who are just over 70 are well able to look after a small rural parish, and that mother Church is often better served by a resident father than by a peripatetic priest of whatever sex?

I am obliged to my hon. Friend. I listened carefully to what he said. The difficulty is, as he will know from close experiece, that there are few instances where one man looks after one fairly small rural parish. That is not the experience that most of us share. The work is demanding physically and mentally.

St Alban's Church, Teddington

24.

asked the hon. Member for Wokingham, as representing the Church Commissioners, what is the current position in relation to the redundant church of St. Alban's, Teddington.

At the invitation of the commissioners, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has decided to hold a non-statutory public local inquiry into the proposed demolition of this building. The inquiry will be held on 22–23 January next year.

Can my hon. Friend give the latest official estimate of the cost of putting St. Alban's into a safe, sound and decent condition and of obtaining a fund to keep it that way? Is he aware that there are signs that the Greater London council might put up £300,000 towards it? Would that be anything like enough?

My hon. Friend will understand that I must be careful to say nothing that will prejudice the inquiry. I have seen published figures which show that the cost, as at January 1985 prices. including VAT and fees, of putting the building into repair is between £800,000 and £1 million. My hon. Friend can well judge from that what any projected contributions would achieve.

Wales

Labour Statistics

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many people in Wales are jobless; how many were jobless in May 1979; and by how much the jobless have increased since 1979 expressed as a percentage and as a total.

16.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what are the latest unemployment figures for Wales; and how this compares with the same period in 1979.

On 12 September 1985 there were 187,563 unemployed claimants in Wales. The estimated equivalent figures for May 1979 and September 1979 are 77,220 and 79,600. The percentage increases are 143 per cent. and 135·6 per cent. respectively.

On the subject of the Parrot Corporation, will the right hon. Gentleman guarantee that, through the usual channels, he will discuss the judicial figure whom we expect to head the inquiry which the right hon. Gentleman announced earlier today during Question Time? Regarding the disgraceful and frightening unemployment figures, can he tell the House why he has been prepared to join the infamous star chamber committee? Is he not the Prime Minister's chief hatchet man?

On the first point, we are dealing with an internal inquiry. I do not believe that the form of consultation suggested by the hon. Gentleman would be appropriate. Matters that could involve the judiciary are already subject to normal police investigation. On the subject of public expenditure, I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would recognise that we are interested in the choice and allocation of priorities and that he would welcome the fact that the Minister who has a wide area of responsibility should be taking part in those decisions.

Does the Secretary of State realise that these figures are the worst ever for the Principality, and that it is wearing the patience of Welsh people thin in that the Government appear to be doing nothing at all to try to ease the burden of unemployment levels? When will the Secretary of State pursue policies that will genuinely bring down the level of unemployment? Why is he pursuing policies that will increase unemployment, through closures at MAFF at Cardiff and Bangor and the Welsh plant breeding station at Aberystwyth?

For four years now we have seen growth of over 3 per cent. per annum. Within Wales, and particularly in areas such as those represented by the hon. Gentleman, we have seen substantial public sector effort. Public sector investment in the Clwyd area since this Government came into office amounts to some £350 million. The hon. Gentleman ought to know that Wrexham is now proving to be one of the most attractive areas for investment in Britain.

The hon. Gentleman should welcome, for example, the decision of Hilton Mining to take over the former Firestone factory, which promises up to 350 jobs, the further investment to be undertaken by Sharp and others in the area, and the fact that considerable proportion of those recently made redundant by Courtaulds have already found jobs. The hon. Member should welcome those indications that our policy is working.

The Arts

Regional Arts Associations

25.

asked the Minister for the Arts what recent representations he has had on the allocation of resources to regional arts associations.

Unfortunately, my hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts was taken ill today and I am standing in for him at short notice. He sends his apologies to the House.

My hon. Friend met the chairmen and directors of all the regional arts associations on 18 October. He has also received a deputation from Merseyside arts bodies, and has corresponded with representatives of other regions. The allocation of resources is a matter for the Arts Council.

I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will convey to his hon. Friend our regret that he is unwell. We particularly wish to assist him in his new task. Is the Minister aware that in West Yorkshire, as in other metropolitan areas, there is worry about what will happen when the metropolitan county councils are abolished? When will the Minister respond to the Arts Council's bid for £35 million to replace the metropolitan county money, and what further guidance is to be given via the rate support grant formula to assist district councils in developing their arts funding?

I am grateful to the hon. Member for his kind words about my hon. Friend. I spoke to my hon. Friend a few minutes ago and I found him very much like Florestan at the beginning of the second act of Fidelio. I am sure that he will recover. On the second point, my hon. Friend hopes to make an announcement about the allocations for next year, in December. On the matter of post-abolition funding, as the hon. Member knows, we have already committed £34 million of additional central funding for the arts after abolition. The Arts Council subsequently made a bid for more resources, which we will have to consider in the context of the public expenditure discussions. As I think the hon. Member will know, that will have to await the broader considerations that are being discussed at the moment.

Since my hon. Friend is in such close and frequent contact with the newly appointed Minister for the Arts, may I ask him to transmit the message that many of us hope that he will be rather more a champion at the Chancellor's door than a supplicant and defendant in the star chamber?

Of course I shall pass on those sentiments. No one wishes my hon. Friend a speedy recovery more than I do.

We are all pleased to learn that at least the Minister for the Arts is in a better condition than I fear most of the arts are. We pass on our good wishes, and no doubt we shall meet him in a few weeks' time. Will the Under-Secretary of State remind him that the arts crisis, the cataclysmic collapse in arts funding. is the worst ever? Will he also remind him that this is due to the abolition of the metropolitan counties and the GLC? Thirdly, will he remind his hon. Friend of the promise given to me on 2 August last year by the previous Minister that the present level of public support for the arts would be maintained? When are we to get that assurance from the present Minister?

I reject the assumption behind the hon. Gentleman's question. In our manifesto in 1983 we said that we would keep up the level of support for the arts, and our record shows that we have done better than that. From 1978–79 to date the central Government arts budget has more than doubled in cash terms, that is, a real terms increase of nearly 18 per cent. This year's budget is almost 6 per cent. up in cash terms on last year's budget. In the context of the very difficult decisions that the Government have had to take on public expenditure, the arts have done quite well.

Private Sponsorship

26.

asked the Minister for the Arts what response he has received to the publications issued by the Office of Arts and Libraries to stimulate private sponsorship of the arts.

I am delighted to say that the business sponsorship incentive scheme continues to be highly successful. It has brought £5·5 million of new money into the arts since it began a year ago, £4 million from businesses, to which £1·5 million has been added under the scheme. The House will be glad to know that, in view of the success of the scheme, my hon. Friend is transferring an extra £250,000 to it to meet the demand. He is today announcing 57 more awards in respect of over £800,000 new sponsorship; the new list includes 54 brand new sponsors from all parts of the country.

Will my hon. Friend convey to the new Minister the good wishes of Conservative Members and our regret that he is indisposed? Will my hon. Friend also convey our congratulations on the stimulation of the arts, which has been an admirable feature of the Government's record since they came to power and is further evidenced by this afternoon's announcement? Will my hon. Friend guarantee that such matters will be given the correct amount of publicity, because that will help to stimulate the arts further?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his kind words. The scheme has done more than anything previously to raise public awareness of business sponsorship schemes. The arts organisations are enthusiastically selling the scheme to sponsors, but I shall raise with my hon. Friend the Minister the subject of publicity, to see whether more might be done.

I should like to be associated with the good wishes being sent to the new Minister, and I recommend that in future he should not eat in restaurants recommended by Lord Gowrie.

How much business sponsorship does the Under-Secretary think will be necessary to keep open the South Bank, particularly the Royal Festival Hall. if the money that the Arts Council is asking for is not forthcoming from the Government?

I am confident that under the new regime that we have announced the South Bank will be run responsibly and efficiently and that some of the scares raised by the GLC will be shown to be unrealistic.

National Heritage Fund

27.

asked the Minister for the Arts if he will estimate the number of hours spent by officials of the Office of Arts and Libraries on matters relating to the National Heritage Fund in the last 12 months.

The National Heritage Memorial Fund is an autonomous body administered by its own staff. Government responsibility for it is shared between the Department of the Environment and Office of Arts and Libraries. The responsibilities of the Office of Arts and Libraries in relation to the fund take up a small amount of the time of my hon. Friend's staff, which cannot readily be quantified.

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Bearing in mind that he has various hats, can he confirm that funds are and will be available for appropriate railway structures, including the Ribble head viaduct and, under another hat, will be ensure that the future of the Settle-Carlisle line is kept in mind by the bodies with which he has contact?

There is nothing to prevent the NHMF from funding railway-related projects, and I was pleased to see that in 1983–84 a grant from the fund saved the Haymarket train shed in Edinburgh, which is now in Bo'ness.

As my hon. Friend knows, British Rail proposed the closure of the Settle-Carlisle line and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport has a quasi-statutory role, which makes it difficult for Ministers to say anything at the moment. However, I assure my hon. Friend that the heritage and tourist aspects of the line will be taken into account when my hon. Friend makes his decision.

Private Sponsorship

28.

asked the Minister for the Arts if he will report on take-up of the pound-for-pound matching scheme for arts sponsorship; and if he will make a statement.

Since 1 April 1985, £1·5 million has come in new sponsorship. Of this, £700,000 has come from 112 first-time sponsors taking part in the pound-for-pound matching scheme.

Does the Minister agree that the statistics that he has just given, together with those that he gave earlier to the hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Murphy), show what a tremendous value-for-money exercise it is to match private sponsors with public money? Does he accept that it is counter-productive not to invest more money in the scheme, because the amount of work that it takes to hook a potential sponsor and the damage done by losing him if there is insufficient money will do little to futher the scheme?

I agree with that, which is why I have just announced a further £250,000 for the scheme. One of the beneficiaries of the scheme has been Jill Freud and company, which won an award of £4,000 for a production of "Under Milk Wood", touring south and east England and Wales at the moment.

On the current list of winners is the Ettrick Shepherds Festival, sponsored by Mrs. David Steel, so it would appear that the Liberal party has done quite well from this Government initiative.

Is my hon. Friend aware of the considerable achievements of regional opera in this country, not least the resounding success of Kent Opera in no less a place than my constituency's Canterbury Festival this year, and will he continue to see that regional opera is given generous support?

The regional allocations of funds is primarily a matter for the Arts Council, but I shall make sure that the council is aware of the enthusiastic support that my hon. Friend has mentioned for the arts in Kent, and particularly in Canterbury.

Palestine Liberation Organisation

3.31 pm

(by private notice) asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement about the cancellation of the meeting between himself and representatives of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

Following my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's announcement in Aqaba on 20 September, it was agreed that my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary would receive a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation led by the Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister and including two Palestinian delegates whose names had been put forward on the understanding that they personally supported a peaceful settlement of the Arab-Israel dispute on the basis of the relevant United Nations resolutions and were opposed to terrorism and violence. Our ambassador at Amman negotiated with the Jordanian Prime Minister the text of the statement which it was agreed would be issued by the delegation after their talks in London.

Unfortunately, after their arrival in London, one of the Palestinian members of the delegation said that he could not accept a specific reference in the agreed statement to Israel's right to exist. We concluded that in these circumstances the meetings with the joint delegation could not take place.

We are deeply disappointed by this setback but remain convinced that the international community must be ready to encourage those who are working for a peaceful settlement in the middle east.

Since many people doubted whether it was realistic to expect the PLO representatives formally to denounce violence and to accept Israel's rights at such an early stage in the peace process, should not the Government have insisted on publicising any agreement that they made at the time that they made it rather than relying on unpublicised and later deals made through the Jordanians? Do such statements not, in any case, look meaningless while a substantial section of the PLO is clearly trying to overturn the peace process with such acts of violence as the Cyprus murders and the murder of Mr. Klinghoffer? Do the Government believe that those Palestinian leaders who genuinely want peace had much freedom to renounce violence after the Israeli bombing of Tunis? Will the Government now devote their efforts to persuading the Soviet and American leaderships to devote their attention to the middle east crisis which clearly represents a threat to both of them as well as to the rest of the world?

We have received an unequivocal assurance from Amman that all the members of the delegation were prepared to sign the text of the statement. We concluded that it was better to continue our negotiations through one channel only to Amman rather than through a multitude of channels. I take the hon. Member's point about the terrorist incidents and about the extremist elements in the PLO, but we took the view that moderates, be they Palestinian, Israeli or Jordanian, should be encouraged, in the hope of moving forward the peace process. That remains our position.

Obviously, we must now take stock as to how this process can be carried further forward. The main influence lies not with us but with the United States, Jordan and Israel. Nevertheless, anything that we can do in due course to help the process forward we shall do.

Is my hon. Friend aware that I was severely critical of the Government when they put forward the Venice declaration, which, in my view, was flawed because it gave unconditional recognition to the PLO as a necessary negotiating partner? May I congratulate them on this occasion, in that they made the degree of recognition that a meeting with the Foreign Secretary would have involved strictly conditional on the renunciation of violence and the acceptance of the appropriate United Nations declarations? Am I not right in thinking that in no way were the PLO representatives prepared to subscribe to those declarations? Indeed, have we not been put absolutely in the clear by King Hussein? Am I not right in thinking that it is the PLO which has lost credibility as well as the military power and political unity that it once had, and that in this matter Her Majesty's Government have behaved themselves absolutely correctly?

I thank my right hon. Friend for his remarks. I should like to correct him on one point. Bishop Khoury and Mr. Milhem came here not as representatives of the PLO but as members of a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation. That is an important distinction to continue to make. The only people who can take comfort from the failure of the talks last Monday are extremists on both sides. It is against that background that I support my right hon. Friend's remarks. I hope that moderates will think further as to how the process can be carried forward.

Whatever possessed the Foreign Secretary to believe that members of the PLO would ever renounce violence and grant Israel the right to live freely within firm frontiers? If he ever believed that, he must believe that pigs will fly?

I think that. on reflection, the hon. Gentleman might regret some of those remarks. The fact is that we were supporting an initiative that King Hussein had started in February, which was an attempt to break the log jam in the current middle east process. We believed strongly that that was a risk for peace that was worth taking. I assure the hon. Gentleman again that the specific words that I have used — we were assured by the Jordanians — had been accepted by the Palestinian delegates before they came here. Against that background, I have no regrets that we entered into that process, accepting always that there is a risk in trying to obtain peace, not least in the middle east.

I welcome my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary's decision to refuse to meet the PLO representatives, who have clearly shown that they could not deliver a deal even if they wanted to. Will my hon. Friend ensure that when the Prime Minister meets Mr. Peres in New York this week she will advocate that there should be immediate direct negotiations between King Hussein and the Israelis?

I note what my hon. Friend says. I respect and understand his close interest in this matter. We of course look forward to the visit of Mr. Peres. the Israeli Prime Minister, here in January. However, with regard to direct talks between the Israelis and Jordan, we cannot be oblivious of the position of King Hussein. We have to think of the practicalities for that king, who is in many ways the leader of the moderates in the Arab world, of entering into such direct talks.

If the renunciation of violence is to be the overriding criterion determining whether those meetings take place, what advice will the Minister give to his own Back Benchers, Conservative Members of Parliament who regularly visit the middle east. and who meet PLO people, as I did with them four years ago? If it is good enough for them to meet representatives of the PLO in all-party delegations, why is it not good enough for the Government?

I thought that I had explained to the hon. Member who asked the question the precise reasons why we could not meet the joint Jordanian-Palestian delegation —a decision that has been welcomed by hon. Members. On the further point raised by the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) I should make it clear that renunciation of violence and terrorism was not the only point in the statement that had been agreed. In it also was the balance of recognition between Israel's right to exist within secure and recognised borders and the Palestinians' right to self-determination. Those were the twin pillars of the statement and both were very important.

I support the Government in their action, but I ask whether the Minister is aware that the people of Northern Ireland find it extremely strange that the Government take that action when the Government are currently compelling elected representatives of the people of Northern Ireland to sit down with the terrorists in the councils of Northern Ireland?

I see absolutely no analogy whatever between the position of the IRA, for example, and that of the PLO. I understand that Sinn Fein, which is the political arm of the IRA, holds some 10 per cent. of votes in Northern Ireland elections. I should point out that the Palestinians in the occupied territories have no right to vote in Israel at present and have no seats in the Knesset.

Will the Minister forgive us for being a little puzzled about his statement? Are we to understand that an agreement was made some months ago in Amman to the effect that there would be a specific communiqué after the London talks regardless of what had happened at those talks? Is it normal Foreign Office practice to agree a statement to be made after talks some months before the talks take place, and will the Minister clarify exactly who agreed to what? With whom was the agreement reached that there should be that particular form of words?

I should dearly like some day to make a statement with which the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) could find himself in full accord and harmony. I hope that that will one day be my pleasure. I will give him the answer. I made it quite clear in my statement, and a study of the facts will certainly make it clear, that what the Prime Minister agreed in her announcement in Aqaba on 20 September was the willingness of the Foreign Secretary to meet the joint delegation and the broad principles of what that delegation would say. Subsequently there was much discussion between ourselves and the Jordanian Government, including the Jordanian Prime Minister, as to precisely what the agreed text should be. I think that the date on which the agreed text was agreed——

The agreed text was agreed between ourselves and the Jordanian Government on the understanding, as I have already told the House, that all members of the delegation were willing to go along with it.

Notwithstanding the negative carping of some Opposition Members and notwithstanding the initial setback, having taken stock of the present position will my hon. Friend assure the House that the Government will do everything in their power to move towards another peace initiative in the middle east which will be acceptable both to the Israeli people and to moderate Arab and Palestinian opinion?

Yes. I thank my hon. Friend for those words. When I met King Hussein in London last Wednesday it was precisely to discuss the next steps forward. That was one of the main purposes of our meeting. It is clearly right that we should all take stock at the present time, but we would certainly be willing to give further help that we usefully can to the middle east peace process.

What began as a courageous initiative by the Prime Minister—a risk for peace—has ended in total diplomatic shambles. Is the Minister seriously claiming that no blame whatever attaches to the Government in this? Is it not true that Mr. Mohammed Milhem was never directly or personally asked about the document and, if so, was there not an unrealistic assumption on the part of the Government that the Jordanians could speak on his behalf — in effect, very poor preparation on the part of the Government—with the effect that the Government have managed to annoy both pro and anti-Arafat elements in the PLO and damage the Mubarak-Hussein peace process possibly beyond repair? How much of that was due to intense American pressure to cancel the meetings?

I disagree with much of what the hon. Gentleman said. I do not accept that the Foreign Office has any blame in this regard. I remind the hon. Gentleman that both the Jordanian delegation and the Jordanian king made it plain that not only was our version of the facts correct, but that, in the words of the Jordanian king, we had acted very honourably.

I know that Mr. Milhem, to pick out one of the hon. Gentleman's points, has subsequently said that he never saw the text of the statement. We cannot know whether he did, because we were relying on one source of negotiation — the Jordanian Government. The Prime Minister agreed to this meeting on their initiative. Any one who knows the complexities of the middle east will know that for us to accept negotiations through many diverse channels would have confounded the matter, or at least made it very confused indeed.

On the hon. Gentleman's last point, I can assure him and the House that no pressure whatsoever was put on us by the Americans. Far from it. Mr. Shultz, the Secretary of State, welcomed the Prime Minister's decision to receive the Jordanian-Palestinian mission.

Order. Private notice questions are an extension of Question Time. We have had 15 minutes on this one, and, in view of the other business before us, we must move on.

Oral Questions

3.46 pm

:Yes, Mr. Speaker it does. I have raised a similar point of order with you before, and I raise it again so that I may have your guidance on it. It concerns the time allocated for Welsh questions. We reached only question No. 11 today. Question No. 12 was mine, and it was on a very important matter affecting the Ogmore constituency — unemployment — which is rife throughout south but particularly in Ogmore. A further question had been partially dealt with by the Secretary of State.

Order. We cannot go beyond that because that would be an extension of Question Time. I realise that we did not get far in Welsh questions. That was because I made a judgment, in which I hope that I was correct, that the Parrot Corporation issue was of considerable importance to a number of hon. Members. Therefore, I allowed a rather long run of questions on it. In fairness, I called the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) on question number 8, and I thought that he made rather a good contribution.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I hope that, as the Leader of the House is here, he will undertake to consider whether we may have an extension of time for Welsh Questions beyond the current 35 minutes.

Order. That is patently not a matter for me, although I have sympathy with the hon. Gentleman.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to ask about the propriety of the Secretary of State's behaviour. In answering the many questions about the Parrot Corporation, he left a firm impression that an independent inquiry was to be appointed. By that it was understood by everybody, I am certain, that the inquiry would be independent of the Secretary of State, the Welsh Office and the WDA. However, as you will recall, Mr. Speaker, when my hon. Friend the Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) pressed the point, he was told that the inquiry was to be internal. By its very nature, that will be a whitewash.

I appreciate that that is not a matter for you, but I ask about the propriety of a right hon. Member either deliberately or inadvertently misleading the House into believing that an inquiry will be independent when, by the end of questions, it was abundantly clear that nothing of the kind was to take place. My second point is that I hope that you will not discourage the Secretary of State from making the statement that he has refused to make up to now which would clarify this issue and, I hope, the whole of the miserable Parrot issue.

Order. I do not think that very much of that point of order has anything to do with me. It is entirely a matter for the Government as to whether statements are made.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. In Question Time, the Secretary of State for Wales described the inquiry as "independent". How can an internal inquiry be independent? Why cannot the Secretary of State ensure that a judicial figure heads the inquiry? We fear a whitewash. We wish to hear the Secretary of State putting things right.

Order. It is not good practice to continue Question Time by means of points of order. None of that is a matter for me.

Business Of The House

3.51 pm

With permission, Mr. Speaker. I should like to make a short business statement. The Business for Wednesday 23 and Thursday 24 October will now be as follows:

WEDNESDAY 23 OCTOBER — Opposition day (20th Allotted day); until about seven o'clock there will be a debate on the crisis in southern Africa followed by a debate on the need for an independent judicial inquiry into the recent urban disturbances. Both debates will arise on Opposition motions.

Motion on the Nursing Homes and Nursing Agencies (Northern Ireland) Order.

Motion on the Parliamentary Constituencies (England) (Miscellaneous Changes) Order.

THURSDAY 24 OCTOBER—There will be a debate on a motion to take note of the outstanding reports of the Committee of Public Accounts to which the Government have replied.

Commons consideration of Lords amendments to the Water (Fluoridation) Bill.

Remaining stages of the Housing Bill (Lords), the Housing Associations' Bill (Lords), the Housing (Consequential Provisions) Bill (Lords), the Landlord and Tenant Bill (Lords) and the Weights and Measures Bill (Lords), which are all consolidation measures.

I thank the Leader of the House for making that business statement. In view of the Prime Minister's extraordinary and damaging antics at the Commonwealth conference, her apparent change of stance on the question of economic sanctions against South Africa, her agreement, with Commonwealth colleagues, to impose sanctions last night and her scornful dismissal of the same agreement this morning, can we have an early statement to clarify what the Government's policy really is, certainly before Wednesday's debate on South Africa?

Secondly, while we are to have a statement later today on the inner cities, given the scale and gravity of the disorders in which four people have died, hundreds have been injured and tens of millions of pounds' worth of property destroyed, is it not disgraceful that the Government have not rearranged this week's business so that we could have a full day's debate in Government time instead of having to rely upon half a day in Opposition time?

Thirdly, now that the Secretary of State for Employment is no longer a Member of this House, will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for an early statement to be made or, better still, provide time for us to debate this unprecedented, unsatisfactory and, to this House, insulting arrangement? Can he at least ensure that the new Secretary of State does not continue to offload his responsibilities for answering questions on unemployment in the other place, as he did last Tuesday, when the Minister of State for Defence deputised for him? It is reported that he intends to do so again tomorrow.

Finally, given the strong views that are held on fluoridation, can the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that no guillotine will be applied to curtail the debate next Thursday?

The right hon. Gentleman earns, properly, the affection of all parts of the House, but he is one of the most reactionary people ever to have sat on the Opposition Benches. It is extraordinary if, within our constitutional arrangements, it is not possible for the Secretary of State for Employment to sit in the other place when that Department and its responsibilities are also represented in this place at Cabinet level. May I say to him—since I am, as ever, conciliatory in such matters — that of course his request can be considered through the usual channels.

We have all come back desperate to fashion our ploughshares into swords, but to describe the Prime Minister's stout championing of the national interest at the Commonwealth conference in that way shows a little unnatural bellicosity. I shall inquire about the possibility of an early statement by the Prime Minister about the conference.

As to a debate on the inner cities, I recognise the House's good fortune in that the Opposition day on Wednesday is to be partly devoted to that topic. Like the right hon. Gentleman, I recognise its importance. On Thursday, we have to consider eight Lords amendments to the Water (Fluoridation) Bill. They do not involve any new matters of substance and I hope that the House will be able to address itself to them fully but responsibly.

This is a business statement, not business questions, and therefore supplementary questions must be related to what the Leader of the House has just said.

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the Public Accounts Committee debate on Thursday will draw particular attention to six of the matters contained in its report so that the House might be aware of the topics that are of particular interest to the Committee and therefore to the House? Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the Order Paper will contain reference to vehicle excise duty and its evasion, the sale of Government shareholdings in nationalised industries, the effectiveness or otherwise of regional industrial incentives, housing benefits, the control of nationalised industries and the serious shortcomings in the dental service?

Yes, I can confirm that that is the proposal. I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the part that he has played in making this come about.

Is it not intolerable that so serious a matter as southern Africa, which seems to have occupied much of the discussion at the Commonwealth Heads of Government conference, should be considered only until 7 o'clock? If the Opposition think it important, had we not better give it a whole day?

No. We are at that time in a Parliament when the time available is at a great premium. The House is indebted to the Opposition in this respect. I am certain that the matter will come before the House when the Prime Minister returns and, more particularly, when we debate the Queen's Speech.

Would it not have been more appropriate for the Government to make time available for a debate on southern Africa when the Prime Minister was here to answer for the fact that she has now accepted the Reagan economic sanction package on South Africa? Since the Prime Minister spends most of her time trying to line up the Government behind every initiative taken by President Reagan, would it not be helpful for the House to understand why she took so many months to do that on this occasion?

With an effortless air of superiority the right hon. Gentleman is able to make his point about the Prime Minister and the policies for which she stands. I believe that all these matters can most appropriately be debated in the context of the report that the Prime Minister will make to the House and in the debate on the Queen's Speech that will follow shortly.

Is it not the case that the matter will have to come before the House in Government time because many of the specific sanctions imposed on top of those that which are part of the European Community package will have to be approved by the House? I think in particular of action under the Sale of Goods Act to prevent certain trading transactions. Is my right hon. Friend aware that those of us who have serious misgivings about the wisdom or effectiveness of imposing sanctions on any country will welcome the opportunity to express their views?

I am not in possession of sufficient facts to enable me to say authoritatively that my hon. Friend is right about the need for legislation, but his general point must be correct.

Is the Leader of the House aware that many Opposition Members found deeply offensive his response to the remarks by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) about the Secretary of State for Employment being in another place? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that 800 redundancies in consumer electronics have been declared in my constituency in the last week? Is it not a disgrace that the Secretary of State for Employment cannot come to the House to answer questions on this subject?

There is a Cabinet Minister sitting in this House who is fully able to deal with these points, and the hon. Gentleman knows that perfectly well.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Labour Members find it an outrage that at a time when 4 million people are unemployed, the Secretary of State for Employment does not sit in this House to answer for the Government? Will he give a categorical undertaking that if there are any statements on employment matters on Wednesday or Thursday of this week—or, indeed, at any other time—they will not be made in the other place before being given in this House?

As I said to the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore), these sort of matters can reasonably be discussed through the ususal channels. I want to say again that, once upon a time, those on the democratic end of the spectrum in public life believed in the doctrine of the man for the job. If there is someone who—[Interruption.] Oh yes—[Interruption.] If we believe—[Interruption.]

I believe that it is perfectly possible for these matters to be properly concluded when a Cabinet Minister representing the interests of that Department sits in this House.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his statement on what the Prime Minister has been discussing at the Heads of Government Commonwealth conference. However, does he believe that the withering condescension with which the Prime Minister described the package of proposals for sanctions on the radio this morning will have done anything but comfort those in the Botha regime in South Africa?

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the effectiveness of the package, which many of us doubt, will be discussed again in the months ahead so that we can be sure that everything possible is being done to give support to those fighting for the right of the the majority in South Africa to have a say in the running of their country?

I can say without any equivocation that the decisions reached at the conference will be debated in the House.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that his hon. Friends believe that the appointment of two Cabinet Ministers responsible for unemployment emphasises in a positive and dramatic way the emphasis that the Government place on that problem?

Will the changes in business allow time for the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to come to the House to make a statement on the progress of negotiations on steel production quotas in the Steel Council of the European Community? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that at the beginning of the recess the Government announced major proposals, including the closure of the Gartcosh works, with its consequences for Ravenscraig and flat products generaly in this country? Are not those decisions being taken without the necessary information being given to the House? Will he ensure that an early statement on that matter is made?

I realise the importance of the subject generally, and specifically in relation to the hon. Gentleman's constituency. I shall certainly draw his remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend.

Inner City Disorders

4.3 pm

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement on the recent disorders. During the past six weeks there have been three serious nots — in the Lozells road area of Birmingham, in Brixton, and Tottenham. Four people have died, one a police constable who was savagely killed. There have also been disorders in Liverpool, Leicester and Peckham in south London. Many police officers and others were injured. There were appalling attacks on the police with petrol bombs and other missiles, and especially in Birmingham and Brixton there was extensive looting of and attacks on shops and cars.

All responsible members of our society will condemn the disgraceful criminal behaviour which has occurred and all responsible members of our society will applaud the courage and dedication of the police in doing their job of maintaining and restoring order on the streets and the housing estates of our major cities. Public order is essential for the maintenance of a civilised way of life and for the safety of individual citizens—on that there can be no compromise. So far 700 people have been charged with offences arising from the disorders.

The riot in Brixton was triggered by the tragic shooting of Mrs. Groce, and the riot in Tottenham followed the death of Mrs. Jarrett after a search had been made at her home. These police operations are being investigated by senior officers from other police forces under the supervision of the independent Police Complaints Authority. These arrangements will ensure that they are fully investigated and that any necessary action is taken. In the case of the Lozells road riot, the chief constable of the west midlands is preparing a report which will be published. Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary is being associated closely with the preparation of that report.

So far as police operations are concerned, although the other disorders were serious enough, the riot at Tottenham stands out for the problems which it presented to the police. In that riot, a police officer was killed, firearms were used and the police had to face a ferocious barrage of petrol bombs and other missiles. The design of housing estates like that at Tottenham poses particular difficulties in such circumstances. The Metropolitan police commissioner is urgently reviewing the tactics of the force on such occasions. There must be no no-go areas in any of our cities.

The riot at Tottenham was the first occasion in Great Britain when the chief officer of police gave authority for plastic baton rounds to be used if necessary, though in fact they were not used. Plastic baton rounds and CS gas were made available to the police in Great Britain for public order use following the riots in 1981. They may be used only in the last resort, where conventional methods of policing have been tried and failed, or must from the nature of the circumstances be unlikely to succeed if tried, and where the chief officer judges such action necessary because of the risk of loss of life, serious injury or widespread destruction of property. That threshold was reached at Tottenham. The commissioner had my full support in making it clear that such weapons would be deployed if similar circumstances arose in the future.

Other matters need to be looked at. The defensive equipment introduced in recent years—helmets, shields and protective overalls — proved its worth. Without it there would have been more serious casualties. The Metropolitan police are acquiring more shields and other defensive equipment. We have to consider whether any further equipment is required, and that is being done. There may be lessons to be learnt in relation to police training and deployment. The commissioner is pursuing these matters and I am in close touch with him. I shall ensure that any lessons learnt are disseminated nationally.

This Government have done more to meet the needs of the police than any in recent history. Since 1979 the Metropolitan police have increased in strength by nearly 4,500 officers; and other forces in England and Wales are stronger by a similar number. Including civilians, strength has increased by some 12,000. Even after a welcome intake of recruits, the Metropolitan police still have scope to increase strength by about 300 within its present establishment of 27,165. I support the commissioner in his efforts to make good this shortfall as quickly as possible. The force's reorganisation should, in addition, release 200 officers for operational duties; and I have authorised an increase of nearly 50 in the civil staff ceiling next year for further civilianisation.

Following my predecessor's announcement in July on drugs, I have told the commissioner that I am prepared in principle to agree to an increase of 50 officers in the establishment next year specifically to strengthen his efforts against drug trafficking. Taken together, these steps mean that there will be a substantial strengthening of the Metropolitan police in the months ahead. Beyond that I have set urgent work in hand to assess where there are specific needs for further increases in the Metropolitan police establishment, and I shall consider applications from provincial police authorities on the same basis—namely, that the police should have what they need in the fight against crime.

In recent years, much effort has been put into establishing good liaison and consultation between the police and the community in inner city areas, particularly, for example, in Brixton and Handsworth. These disorders must be—I know that they are—deeply depressing for those community leaders and police officers who have put so much effort into establishing a better understanding. But it would be wrong to assume that these efforts were misplaced. On the contrary, they must be continued and redoubled if the police are to protect and serve the community efficently.

More broadly, the Government will continue their strong commitment to urban regeneration. The urban programme has more than tripled, from £93 million in 1978–79 to £338 million in 1985–86, and there has been substantial expenditure in all the riot areas. The Department of Employment and the Manpower Services Commission are spending more than £100 million in the partnership areas, and my Department plans to spend some £90 million in 1985–86 through section 11 grants.

We must ensure that the very substantial sums that now go, and will continue to go, to inner city areas are spent to the best advantage and directed to the real needs of the people who live there. The city action teams have been set up to improve the co-ordination and targeting of Government programmes in the partnership areas. We shall do everything to ensure that our objectives in the inner city areas are achieved.

These disorders are shocking events. It is of paramount interest of us all, young and old, people of all ethnic backgrounds, that public order should be maintained. I acknowledge—we all acknowledge—the social problems which exist in these areas, but it is no solution to loot and burn shops which serve the area or to attack the police. Mob violence must be dealt with firmly and effectively and criminal acts punished according to the criminal law. The police should have the support of all of us in striving to maintain order and uphold the law. It is their first priority. It is the Government's also.

I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his appointment to his high office and I regret, as I am sure he does, that his first duty in that new office is to come to the House on such a wretched occasion.

Five people have died in sad and savage circumstances, and the first duty of the House today is to send sympathy to those who are mourning Mr. Kammalia Moliedina, Mr. Amir Moliedina, Mrs. Cynthia Jarrett, Police Constable Keith Blakelock and Mr. David Hodge. We send our concern and best wishes for a speedy and full recovery to Mrs. Cherry Groce, a tragic victim of these dreadful events, and to all others—police, firemen, ambulancemen and ordinary innocent citizens—who have suffered injury in disturbances which have included arson, looting and the dreadful crime of rape.

Many have undergone serious financial loss, and I must first ask the Home Secretary what action can be taken to speed up the payment of compensation under the Riot (Damages) Act 1886 and to expand that Act's scope to take account of loss of income after the riots.

The House will be debating these matters on Wednesday, and I must repeat the anger that is felt on this side at the failure of the Government to provide time, which has meant that the House will have only half a day on each occasion to debate this profound issue and the crisis in southern Africa.

Grave questions arise from these disorders and it is essential that the country receives answers on matters which have caused profound national concern. These relate to the nature of policing during riots, and such questions come from the populations of the affected areas and from the police themselves. What the Home Secretary said today will not allay any of these anxieties. They relate to the relationship between the police and the community, in the inner cities and elsewhere. They include disquiet over the spreading use of firearms by the police, the background to the riots, mass unemployment, especially among teenagers, bad housing, environmental decay and dereliction and racial discrimination.

The Home Secretary boasted today about funds provided under the urban programme, but such sums are only a fraction of the money that has been taken away from these areas in abolished housing subsidy, reduced rate support grant and rate support grant penalties. It is an absurdity that the Home Secretary boasted at Handsworth of the money going to Handsworth when in this financial year alone more money is being taken away from the city of Birmingham in rate support grant penalty than all those sums given over a period of years.

Only two days after the Brixton disorders, in April 1981, Lord Whitelaw, as Home Secretary, announced to the House an inquiry under Lord Scarman to start right away. After the latest riots, however, the Government stubbornly refuse an inquiry. The Police Complaints Authority inquiries do not begin to be a substitute because, as Lord Scarman in his report insisted,
"It is necessary before attempting an answer to the policing problem to understand the social problem."
It is all very well for the Home Secretary to boast of the increase in police resources under the Conservatives, but he said nothing about the terrifying crime wave from which the county is suffering and which the clear-up rate shows the police are increasingly unable to combat.

The social problem referred to by Lord Scarman has broadened and deepened. in the four years since his report, and the need for action is that much greater. Lord Scarman warned in his report that
"to ignore the complex political, social and economic factors … is …to put the nation in peril."
Our fear is that, unless the Governments response is much more far-seeing than has so far been demonstrated, Lord Scarman will have been right in his grim warning that
"disorder will become a disease endemic in our society."
Those are the dimensions of the challenge which we face and which the nation expects us to meet.

I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) for his opening remarks. I share his desire, on the question of compensation, that the 1886 Act should be implemented in such a way as to bring as effective and prompt relief as possible. I am in touch with the receiver of the Metropolitan police, who is responsible in London, and my hon. Friend and I had a meeting with the West Midlands county council, which is responsible in Birmingham.

The right hon. Gentleman referred to the use of police arms and I agree that if there are lessons to be learnt from the two incidents that are now being investigated we should not be afraid to learn them. The latest available figures show a reduction in the issue and use of arms by the police. In 1983, firearms were issued to police officers in England and Wales in 3,180 operations, while in 1984 the figure fell to 2,667.

The right hon. Gentleman said that I should have gone beyond quoting the figures in the urban programme, by which I stand, and he referred in particular to the question of penalty under the block grant. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment is in his place.

I remind the right hon. Gentleman that the basic arrangements for block grant distribution redistribute resources substantially in favour of areas, such as the inner cities where needs are high. The inner city authorities—not all of them, but too many of them—are opting to throw some of this potential benefit away by spending at levels which they know will reduce their grant entitlement and impose extra burdens —[Interruption.]—on their local police and businesses.

Regarding an inquiry, about which the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends have tabled a motion for Wednesday, it is clear that when things go wrong, we must inquire into what went wrong and what can be done to put matters right. That is happening through the criminal investigations by the police, through the investigation, under independent supervision, of complaints against the police, through the review of tactics in London, through the review of manpower, about which I have spoken, and through the review of spending, which I also mentioned, to make sure that it is effective. These are all inquiries or reviews which are going on among those responsible so that they can get on with doing their job effectively.

I do not accept the case for a long judicial inquiry overshadowing the efforts that are now being made to learn the lessons which must be learnt. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, such an inquiry would prejudice the possibility of criminal proceedings in some instances. Apart from that, it would impede the effective follow-up action at which we are aiming.

Order. I remind the House that there is to be a debate on this issue. I ask hon. Members to address their questions to it directly rather than make the speeches that they may make on Wednesday.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I believe he has, as the new Home Secretary, the wholehearted support of all of my right hon. and hon. Friends in his wholesale and unreserved condemnation of the appalling acts of violence, arson and criminal damage that have taken place, which cannot be justified even on the grounds mentioned by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman)? Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that the Government will, by the provision of men and equipment, ensure that the police have, and continue to have, all the equipment that they need to deal with any similar incidents in future?

As my right hon. and learned Friend has observed, it is a matter of men and equipment. The only test is that of need and that is the only test that we shall apply.

In view of the Home Secretary's statement that all responsible members of our society will condemn the disgraceful behaviour that has occurred, will he agree that it was especially sad that not everyone in elected positions in local and national politics did so at the time? We must start by uniting in condemning such behaviour. Will he agree also that our prime responsibility as politicians at local or national level is to cure the bitterness and deprivation on which, unfortunately, criminality feeds in our inner cities? In that connection, I shall ask the right hon. Gentleman a couple of questions that arose from my visit to Handsworth last week.

Does he accept that there is much criticism that in the past the action that has been taken through self-help schemes and the urban aid programme has been directed to outside contractors, who use outside employees and take away the profits that could be earned by local people? Does he agree that we should be looking for schemes that are designed to continue employment and business in the inner city areas? Will he undertake to talk to his colleagues in the Departments that are concerned to ensure that that is done in future?

Secondly, is it the right hon. Gentleman's interpretation of the 1886 Act that the insurance cover there provided does not include consequential loss of business and loss of vehicles? People are waiting for answers to these questions.

The extent of the insurance cover provided under the 1886 Act needs looking into. I had a preliminary discussion with the West Midlands county council and the council touched on that issue and a number of others. I should like to consider the matter. Having done so, I shall write to the right hon. Gentleman.

The right hon. Gentleman's point about local labour is important. It was made to me as well while I was in Handsworth. As we examine the effectiveness of the spending of the moneys that we are putting into inner city areas, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment is especially anxious that the spending should be directed towards people and not only physical conditions. The point about local labour falls very much into that category.

Unfortunately, it is true that not all the relevant locally elected representatives have condemned violence. I did not go into that in my statement and we may have to inquire rather more carefully into the issue during the Supply day debate.

When considering these serious matters, will my right hon. Friend not forget the areas in which there are large ethnic minority communities where the citizens are well behaved and extremely responsible? Will he consult his colleagues to ensure that the necessary financial aid that these areas receive is not cut merely because those who live in them do not cause trouble?

I quite agree. My hon. Friend is on to an important point. The last thing that would be needed would be some sort of blanket assumption that all those who are members of the ethnic minority communities have a part in these troubles.

The Home Secretary has been firm from the beginning that there is no need for an inquiry, suggesting that he and his advisers have sufficient information. If that is so, what is the reason for the vast increase in crime since 1979 and the regular rioting in the streets, which was not a feature of life in Britain in the 1960s and 1970s?

I rejected the idea of an over-arching judicial inquiry partly on the ground that there have been a host of inquiries by those who have responsibilities in these matters to ensure that they can carry out their responsibilities more effectively. That process is continuing, and rightly so, as part of the general pattern of our response to the problem that the right hon. Gentleman has mentioned, which is that of an increasing rate of reported crime. Many different authorities are in this business. We must build a coalition of partners against crime. I do not see that that will be helped by the Opposition's proposal for an over-arching judicial inquiry.

I agree with my right hon. Friend about the efficacy of the shields and other defensive equipment that is provided to the police, but may I suggest that it might be dangerous to promote a defensive mentality on the part of police commanders, and that the sight of policemen cowering behind their shields under a rain of missiles from hooligans in the street was an offensive and humiliating spectacle? Will he bear in mind that the proper function of the police is to enforce the law and arrest wrongdoers at the time, and that that should be more vigorously pursued?

It is difficult to generalise in advance about the operational decisions that a police commander will have to make. We must leave operational decisions to those who are in charge of operations. However, I agree with my hon. Friend that the spectacle that we witnessed at Tottenham on the Sunday night was intolerable. I believe that the commissioner said so in his statement.

Does the Home Secretary appreciate that my constituents, employed or unemployed, black. Asian or white, have everything to gain from the maintenance of law and order and everything to lose by the rioting that took place recently? That was also the position in 1981. What is in his statement to assure my constituents that the Government are seized of the need to ascertain what has happened so that we can take the necessary steps across all areas of policy to ensure that it does not happen again?

Is the Home Secretary aware that in June there were still about a dozen claims outstanding under the Riot (Damages) Act 1886 in respect of the events that took place at Toxteth in 1981? Can my constituents expect a more speedy response in the implementation of that Act than the Toxteth people have experienced?

Can the Home Secretary identify any misuse of spending by the Birmingham city council, which it seems is implied in his statement? What is the council spending money on improperly and what has it taken away from the inner city? If the right hon. Gentleman does not understand what I am saying, will he obtain the relevant figures from the Department of the Environment before Wednesday to ascertain the level of net expenditure in the inner cities, taking into account the cuts in rate support grant over the past two or three years?

I am not making any accusation against Birmingham city council. I am merely saying that all responsible authorities, including Government Departments and local authorities, need to look again at the way in which substantial sums have been spent, to ensure that the moneys help those who are affected. I found in Birmingham that there was a ready acceptance of the need to look again at the way in which money is spent.

The hon. Gentleman is quite right in saying that there has been delay in dealing with compensation claims under the 1886 Act following the Toxteth riots in 1981. I am anxious that on this occasion the proceedings should be more promptly carried through. Of course, the relevant authority — in the hon. Gentleman's case the West Midlands county council—has to check claims to ensure that there is not abuse. The projections that the West Midlands county council gave me last week show that a substantial sum will be paid out in this financial year.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is no doubt in my mind or in the minds of my right hon. and hon. Friends that we have seen our police force behave with considerable restraint and courage? I doubt whether any police force anywhere else in the world would have been able to behave in such a manner. Does he agree that the cause of inner city calm is not helped by certain Left-wing councillors? Neither is it helped by the one or two rotten apples, or inadequately trained policemen, who sometimes harass blacks in parts of Britain in the inner cities. May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to a television programme entitled "Do They Mean Us?", which showed a West Indian being harassed by police unnecessarily? I ask that my right hon. Friend looks at that particular film clip and considers having it shown at the police college to show others what should not happen.

I agree with my hon. Friend. The selection and training of police officers is enormously important. Since the Scarman report both aspects have been transformed. The change in the complaints procedure which Parliament made last year is enormously important. We have brought forward to the first stage the independent supervision of investigation. I hope that as that major reform sinks into people's consciousness they will have more confidence in the procedure for investigating complaints. Those are two ways in which we are meeting my hon. Friend's point. I should like to look at the film to which my hon. Friend referred.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, whereas the people in Toxteth complain about insensitive policemen and a heavy police presence, my constituents in Bootle complain that they do not see sufficient policemen. Surely the Merseyside chief constable has got it wrong if one area complains of too many police and another is under-policed. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that heavy drug pushers have moved from parts of Liverpool to Bootle knowing that, because of the heavy police presence in Toxteth, there are insufficient police to do the job and that they can get away with their activities? Will the right hon. Gentleman review the policing policy with the chief constables in the metropolitan counties and the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis? Will he for once accept that insensitive policing in areas where there have been riots, disturbances, violence and looting—we all condemn this —has something to do with the problem? Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that the Government are to some extent responsible for this because of their policies for urban Britain? If the Government can do nothing about the problem, why do Conservative candidates always fight elections on the issue of law and order?

My experience is that, after events of this type, some people say that too few police were involved and others say of the same incident that too many were present. I do not think that one could generalise or step into the shoes of the chief constables or the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis who have to decide how to deploy the forces that are available to them. We authorise the forces. Merseyside, like London, has had a substantial increase in numbers. I do not think that a Home Secretary or the House can tell chief officers how to deploy their resources town by town.

If alienation between young blacks, young Asians and the police is part of the trouble, cannot a good deal of the blame be attributed to those local authorities which will not allow police into schools to explain to young people their rights and responsibilities in society? Will my right hon. Friend do all that he can to convince those local authorities of the error of their ways?

The vendetta that some Labour London boroughs—aided in the past few weeks by some local branches of the NUT— pursue against the police has been carried to the lengths of preventing schoolchildren under their charge from knowing what a policeman looks like, what he does and why he is on the same side as they are. So long as the main Opposition party tolerates such activities it cannot be taken seriously in these matters.

I am sure that the Home Secretary will recognise that, for Socialists in a democratic society, rioting, burning, looting and murder play no part in our political life, not least because they intensify, as has happened in Brixton, the vortex of unemployment and despair. Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that in the inner city riots are becoming the standard response to deprivation and to the consequences of the Government's economic and social policies? We want an open inquiry following on Scarman because there is an inevitable and inescapable link between areas of rioting, catastrophic unemployment, cuts in housing investment, especially on problem housing estates, and the Government's conduct on law and order. Those links—even if they do not justify what has happened— are inescapable. Because we do not want the Government to hide behind secret reports, such as the repressed report on housing expenditure, we ask for a reforming of a Scarman-type inquiry to try to understand the volcanic forces that are increasing the fragility of our social harmony. Will the Home Secretary have the courage of his predecessor, Lord Whitelaw, and set up a public judicial inquiry?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman and to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) for their stance in public on these matters. Undoubtedly that stance has been helpful on the ground. However, I do not accept the generalisations of the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser). I do not accept that the standard response in Lambeth to deprivation is a riot. That does not square with any accurate description of what happened the other day in the hon. Gentleman's constituency. The looting, attacks on people and the terrible crimes committed cannot in any way be justified or explained by talking about deprivation. I do not, therefore, accept the hon. Gentleman's generalised explanation. There are many areas of deprivation where there have not been riots. There are many areas with large concentrations of ethnic minorities where there have not been riots. That type of generalised explanation simply will not do.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his welcome statement. Is he satisfied that the massive support which we have already given in the past five years to the police force is being used most effectively? Is more money really the answer?

When we assess the need for additional resources for the police we must at the same time assess whether they are making efficient and effective use of the resources that they already have. During the past year or so a great deal of progress has been made in that direction by all police forces in England and Wales. I am anxious that that progress should be maintained.

While no Socialist or Marxist would condone the rioting or deaths in recent weeks, is it not a fact that massive youth unemployment, deteriorating housing conditions, falling living standards and the racist attitudes of many police officers are the political petrol that the Government have poured on Brixton, Toxteth, Tottenham and many other areas in recent years? That is the real reason why the youth of Britain are exploding in anger.

I reject that analysis. It is interesting that, when I was in Birmingham the day after the riots, that type of verbose analysis was rejected by almost everyone in Birmingham. People said, "You will hear a lot of that blather, but don't take any notice of it."

Will my right hon. Friend condemn absolutely any person who suggests that the standard reaction to anything is a riot? That suggestion is not only wrong, but condones and encourages that action. This must be stopped. Will my right hon. Friend make it clear that any attack on the police, whether physical or verbal, must be condemned? The police need all the support that we can give them. Will my right hon. Friend recognise that the vast majority of the people expect the precepts of Anglo-Saxon behaviour and of law and order to be maintained? These standards must be maintained. despite what other ethnic minorities want. [Interruption.] That needs to be said, and it is not racist to say so.

I agree with the first two points. On the third point, I think that the position is clear. People who have legally settled here and made their homes here are entitled to the full protection of the law, including the law against any form of discrimination on grounds of colour. In return, it is right and reasonable to expect not only that they and those whom they influence obey the law but that they co-operate with the institutions that are designed to protect them, including the police.

In the face of these grave criminal challenges to effective policing in our desolate urban areas, will the Home Secretary take steps to extend and improve the quality of initial and in-service police training? Does the right hon. Gentleman recollect that, following the 1981 riots, it was recommended that the initial training period should be doubled? The Government have not acted on that proposal. Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise the importance of this aspect, especially if there is to be any question in the future of using plastic bullets or CS gas? What steps can the right hon. Gentleman take in consultation with the chief constables and the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis to improve the ethnic balance of the police?

The period of initial training has been substantially increased, and it is not too much to say that its content has been transformed since the Scarman report. partly because of Lord Scarman's recommendations. If the hon. Gentleman goes, as perhaps he already has done, to Hendon or any of the other main training centres, he will see that training in action, and he will see members of the ethnic minorities talking to young police officers. A major effort is being made in the direction that he mentioned. There has been some progress in increasing the numbers of black and Asian police officers, but it is tiny compared to the need. Police forces understand the need and will do that they can to recruit without lowering the standards on which they rightly insist.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many Conservative Members consider the remarks made by Opposition Members about riots being the stock reply now to inner city deprivation as insulting to many inner city areas that face what could be described as deprivation and that contain many ethnic minority groups but whose law and order record is excellent? Does he also acknowledge that the antidote to fire is water? Will he, therefore, confirm that one of the items of equipment that his Department will be considering introducing to police forces is water cannon, which can have the effect — no matter how difficult deployment may be on some occasions — of not just damping down tempers but damping down fires?

I agree with my hon. Friend's first point. As to his second point, yes. we are considering water cannon. There is a debate within the police forces about them. On the whole, I believe that the debate is rather turning against water cannon, partly because they are difficult to manoeuvre and partly because I do not believe that many people supposed that water cannon would have been much use in the conditions prevailing at Tottenham on that Sunday night. We must conclude the debate and reach a decision.

Will the Minister not rely on water cannon, plastic bullets, tear gas, flat-nosed bullets and flails to solve the problems to which he has referred. and instead remove the obstacles that he has placed in the way of the local police in Hackney, Tottenham and such places meeting the borough council police committees to achieve the kind of co-operation that he wants? The fact that he has objected to police having any meetings with publicly elected representatives helps cause the problems that he says he is worried about.

That is obfuscation. The London borough police committees do not have, and have not been given by Parliament, a role in this matter. I object strongly to the implication that they are entitled to obstruct police efforts to reach a friendly understanding and a better level of agreement with the people who live in those areas. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman, with whom I have discussed these matters in earlier years, should continue to take such a hostile line.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is strong evidence that the best way to direct the public funds that he mentioned to help inner city deprivation is through a Government-sponsored development agency, not least because such an organisation can attract a great deal of private sector funds? I am not raising a theoretical matter. There is ample evidence to show that Glasgow is miles better, thanks to Government policies, than cities such as Liverpool and Birmingham which, despite the funds that they have had, have not made the same good use of them.

I am interested in my hon. Friend's point, born of his experience, but it would be rash of me to be tempted down that road this afternoon.

Is the Home Secretary aware of the growing anger and anxiety felt among our Asian communities about another type of inner city disturbance, which was not mentioned in his statement but which should have been—the growing amount of racial