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Commons Chamber

Volume 86: debated on Thursday 14 November 1985

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House Of Commons

Thursday 14 November 1985

The House met at half-past Two o'clock

Prayers

[MR. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

Northern Ireland

Health And Social Services

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on his plans for future health and social services provision in Northern Ireland.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
(Mr. Richard Needham)

The Department of Health and Social Services will shortly be issuing new strategic planning guidelines which will set parameters for the area boards' strategic plans on which the Department's new regional strategic plan for the period 1987 to 1992 will be based.

I appreciate that that is movement of a kind. Under the new consultancy arrangements, will the Department now have to consult the Irish Republic? In such consultation, is it possible that the Department will come down in favour of the Western area board, or on behalf of a firm in my constituency which has been owed £16,000 since May by that board, which has refused to pay, claiming that the Government will not give the board the money?

The guidelines are a long-established process. I hope that it will be possible to discuss them fully with all concerned so that they may be published in the near future. I acknowledge the success of the Western area board in its efforts to save money. I am not aware of the particular case that the hon. Gentleman mentioned, but I shall look into it. There has been no cut in the amount of money to the Western area board, and I see no reasons why it should not be able to fulfil its financial commitments.

Will the Minister now answer the question that he was asked? Will the Government of another country, following the Cabinet decision this morning, be consulted on these matters?

I answered the question by saying that the guidelines are a long-established process agreed through the Department of Health and Social Services. We are continuing on that basis.

The Minister said that he would be consulting others. Will he say whether included in those "others" are the Government of the Irish Republic?

As I said, a statement will be forthcoming—[HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] This has nothing to do with the issue of the regional guidelines. I referred to consultation, and I hope that that will be with Members of this House, with Members of the Assembly and with those involved in the health profession.

Public Expenditure

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what are his proposals for public spending in Ulster for the year 1986–87.

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in his autumn statement on Tuesday that the planned total of public expenditure in Northern Ireland in 1986–87 would be 4·52 billion. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will announce the detailed allocations to Northern Ireland programmes as soon as decisions on these have been taken.

Has not the high provision of public expenditure in Ulster on education and housing and in many other areas over the years enabled successive Governments to avoid securing a full political settlement? Is it not fair to say that for decades the people of Ulster have been bought off by public expenditure which has been out of proportion to public expenditure in other parts of the United Kingdom, such as the northern region?

The hon. Gentleman referred to housing and education. The average teacher-pupil ratio is still one more in Northern Ireland than anywhere else in the United Kingdom. I agree that the housing situation is not satisfactory. The figure for Northern Ireland is 10·4 per cent., compared with 6·4 per cent. for the United Kingdom.

I have the figures. If the hon. Gentleman will listen, I will give them to him. The rate of unemployment in Cumbria is 12·8 per cent. In Northern Ireland it is 20·5 per cent. Nobody wants deprivation or unemployment anywhere. However, it does not help for an hon. Member to blame other areas, when those other areas are sharing the problems of the present time.

Does my hon. Friend accept that many hon. Members would argue that the expenditure levels are about right? Is he able to provide the House with details of both internal and external expenditure for the Province? Will my hon. Friend accept from me that there is considerable admiration for the work that he has done during the last 12 months in the Province?—[Interruption.] I can say that with absolute honesty and with no prejudice whatsoever. There is great admiration for what my hon. Friend has done and is doing in the Province.

I am trying to withhold my blushes from my hon. Friend, with whom, obviously, I have had no contact over a long period of time. I am sure that the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) will agree that what we all want, both in his area and in Northern Ireland, is internal and external investment in new, high technology industries which will provide employment and prosperity both in his area and in Northern Ireland. During the past year the first Japanese and Hong Kong firms have come to Northern Ireland. Furthermore, about one in eight people are now employed by American-owned firms. I hope that both in Workington and in Cumbria—

Very well, I shall deal with the region. I am trying to help the hon. Gentleman. Both in Cumbria and in Northern Ireland there is a need for investment, prosperity and less unemployment. There is a need in those areas for public expenditure.

Will the internal allocation of these sums be influenced by, or be the subject of, consultation, under formal arrangements, with the Government of the Irish Republic?

The decision about the money going into the Northern Ireland block will be made by Northern Ireland Ministers.

Assembly Elections

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he proposes to announce the dates of the elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
(Mr. Nicholas Scott)

We shall be considering the future of the Northern Ireland Assembly during the coming months.

I had hoped to be responding to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and congratulating him on coming to the Dispatch Box in his new post. We are sure that he will bring to it the dedication and energy for which he is well noted.

Does the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State agree that, in the deliberations relating to elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Assembly should reflect the views of the people in Northern Ireland via Northern Ireland politicians, duly elected? Will he confirm that if the Assembly is to be kept in being, appropriate steps will be taken to ensure that political parties, such as the SDLP, will be properly represented and will be able to take their duly elected seats?

I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will have heard the kind remarks of the hon. Gentleman and will be grateful for them.

If the Assembly is to continue in existence, of course we shall seek to ensure that all those who are involved in constitutional politics and who wish to stand for election should be able to do so. It is up to the representatives of the Social Democratic and Labour party to decide whether they wish to do so and to take their seats.

In view of the rubber stamp decision that was taken by the Cabinet this morning, is the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State a free agent? Are the hon. Gentleman and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in a position to take a decision on that or any other matter?

The right hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members may have heard things on radio or television or read about them in the newspapers. If there is to be any such agreement, as is rumoured, I recommend the House to read its terms carefully and to listen to any statement that is made to the House of Commons.

If, as the Minister hinted in Omagh, the Nationalist community is to be given a veto on the Stormont structures, will the Unionist community be given a veto on Anglo-Irish structures which may be based at Stormont?

I made no suggestion in Omagh about any veto for any party. I said that the suggestions that had been put forward and upon which I was commenting would merit careful consideration by the Government.

Is the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State aware that I cannot understand this furore about what appear to me to be very modest proposals, which are nevertheless a step in the right direction? In any review of the role of the Assembly, will the Government pay careful attention to the amendments that were put down to the original Bill by the official Opposition and consider bringing them into operation so that there is proper repesentation within the Assembly, which the SDLP will then be prepared to enter?

When we reach the stage of coming to a decision about the Assembly, I am sure that there will be widespread discussions and that all views will be taken into account. However, I have to make the same reply to the hon. Gentleman as I gave to others: wait and see.

Does my hon. Friend hold out any good prospect of devolving further functions to the Assembly on the far side of the elections—assuming, of course, that the duly elected Members take their places and attend?

The main task of the Assembly was to produce widely acceptable proposals for a system of devolved government. It is a matter of regret that no proposals that would have commanded widespread acceptance across the community have yet been put forward.

Scheduled Offences (Royal Prerogative Of Mercy)

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will review his practice in releasing under the royal prerogative of mercy persons imprisoned for scheduled offences.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the justified public indignation that is excited by these unexplained decisions will become tenfold when it is known that they are open to the influence of Ministers of the Irish Republic? That will infuriate those who regard them as insults that are directed at those who have been bereaved or injured.

On the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's question, I understand that it has never been the practice to give reasons for the exercise of the royal prerogative, and I confirm that I propose to maintain that position.

In respect of any speculation into which the right hon. Gentleman entered in the second part of his question, I echo the words of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State.

In the right hon. Gentleman's speech to the East Belfast rotary club he said that the Government had already taken into account questions and points of concern put to him by the Irish Republic. Did he mean that the Government were already doing what the Irish Republic wanted them to do, as well as being prepared to do it in future?

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether his decisions will be influenced by the formal arrangements with the Irish Republic?

I say again what I have already said—that I urge the House to study the details and the consequences of any agreement, should there be one, before entering into any judgments.

Constitutional Reform

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he will make a statement on recent meetings he has had with Ministers in the Government of the Republic of Ireland.

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the talks with the Republic of Ireland Government.

14.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the latest negotiations with the Government of the Irish Republic over Northern Ireland.

I met Mr. Barry, the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, on 17 September in Dublin and on 7 October and 6 November in London. I was accompanied on the last two occasions by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. The aim of the talks has been to deepen our relationship with the Republic in ways that will benefit both communities in Northern Ireland. They have been taking place on the basis that there can be no change in the status of Northern ireland as part of the United Kingdom without the consent of a majority there, and that there can be no derogation from sovereignty on the part of the Government of the United Kingdom.

With regard to the forthcoming summit, what steps will my right hon. Friend take to carry with him the elected representatives of the majority community in Northern Ireland? Should they not already have been properly consulted?

As my hon. Friend knows, any negotiations between sovereign states must inevitably be conducted with some degree of confidentiality. However, I have sought to take the opportunity at least to explain the background—for example, as I did in answer to my hon. Friend's main question—and the framework within which such talks have taken place. I am anxious that, at the earliest opportunity, the consequences of any agreement will be put fairly before the elected representatives of all parties in the House.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that in the absence of an agreement between the two Governments, those who would rejoice most would be the Sinn Fein terrorists? They would do so because it would set back closer co-operation between the two Governments on terrorism, and because they would immediately seek to undermine the SDLP by saying that the minority community could hope for no progress through constitutional means.

It certainly must be in the interests of all those in the Province and in the United Kingdom generally that we ensure that constitutional means triumph and that terrorism is defeated. It is clear from their published statements that those who aspire to terrorist approaches are extremely concerned about any chance of better cooperation between the Irish Republic and the United Kingdom.

Would it not have been better if the House had been kept fully informed, instead of being faced with all the leaks and rumours that have been flying about? Is the Secretary of State aware that we shall judge any Anglo-Irish agreement on how far constitutional progress is made in Northern Ireland, and that we shall not be swayed by the hysteria that we are likely to witness on the Unionist Benches?

The hon. Gentleman will have heard me explain why discussions of this sort between sovereign Governments have inevitably to be conducted confidentially. I hope that any judgment that is made on any agreement will not be made in the absence of the full facts, and will not be based on what may be leaks, rumours or slanted impressions from certain quarters. I hope that everyone who cares about the future prosperity of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom will recognise his responsibility to await the facts that may emerge from any agreement and then to judge the agreement fairly on its merits.

I hope that the Secretary of State was not suggesting that I am not concerned about my future, my children's future and my constituents' future in Northern Ireland. If, as we assume will be confirmed, the Secretary of State has conceded the right of a permanent presence of representatives of the Irish Republic in Northern Ireland, will he advise me how to reassure my constituents that those agents of a Government who lay claim to jurisdiction over Northern Ireland will not be working to further the territorial ambitions of that Government? Would it not be natural for such representatives to do so?

With the responsibilities that I have the honour to hold, I fully share the hon. Gentleman's concern for his family and the well-being of all those in Northern Ireland. In such a situation, it is all too easy to stir up passion, fear and prejudice that can be turned easily to violence and tragedy. I believe that I am entitled to ask those who have been elected to represent others in the Province at least to suspend their judgment until they have seen the terms of any agreement that may be reached. We shall then be able to decide whether such fears are justified.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, despite what he has said, any legal obligation to consult a foreign state about a matter within Britain's domestic jurisdiction will be a derogation of sovereignty and will need precise statutory authority, on the lines of the European Communities Act 1972?

I know that my hon. Friend, with his legal training, will be the first to say that advice should never be given without having seen the full terms of any agreement. I know that I can look to him to consider these matters objectively and to form his judgment on the facts of any agreement that may emerge, and not on hypothesis, assumption and rumour.

During the meetings between the Secretary of State and his ministerial colleagues and Ministers of the Republic, did they at any time promise any relinquishment, to any degree, of the British Government's sovereignty over the government of the Province? The right hon. Gentleman should take the opportunity now to clear the air on that issue.

I think the right hon. Gentleman will understand that he puts me in an extremely difficult position. I have explained clearly—[Interruption.]—that the substance of any discussion between sovereign states must be confidential. I take note, obviously, of the issue that he has raised. He will have to make his own judgment on any agreement that is reached.

Has the Secretary of State not contributed to the rising tension in Northern Ireland by not consulting the representatives of the Unionist community over the past 12 months—those who will be affected—while the SDLP leader, some Conservative Members, the Secretary of State to the Vatican, the President of the United States, the United Nations and the European Community have been consulted? If there is not consent for the agreement in Northern Ireland, does he believe that he can govern Northern Ireland?

Throughout our discussions, we have observed the necessary requirements of confidentiality. I understand the concern, but my first act on walking into the office in Stormont was to write personal letters to all the leaders in the Province to invite them to come and talk. I only regret that the hon. Gentleman and his party refused to accept that offer.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a young policeman was shot and critically injured in my constituency this morning, and that it has already been established that the gunmen made good their escape across the frontier to the haven of the Irish Republic? Does the right hon. Gentleman really believe that, by conceding territorial rights to the Irish Republic, there will be better security on the frontier? If so, does he believe that that country can be a good neighbour when for 16 years it has allowed slaughter to take place across its frontier and has to wait for political advantage to make amends?

I made it clear—and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman listened to my original answer—that there is no question of conceding territorial rights. I note the hon. Gentleman's belief that there could be a considerable advance in security if it were possible to achieve improved co-operation between the Republic and the Government of the United Kingdom relating to border problems. I understand that point, and I share the hon. Gentleman's view.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of us are growing tired of those who would constantly put up barriers against a solution and seek to deny advantages to the minority as well as to the majority in Northern Ireland? Will he bear in mind that the future of the people of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom is a matter that will be decided by this Parliament of the United Kingdom?

I note what my hon. Friend says. We are all Members of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and we should support it. There are strong feelings over this matter at a time when there is still uncertainty about the content of the agreement. I hope that those most closely in touch with people in Northern Ireland and who have a position of responsibility will recognise that. Hon. Members will recognise the difficulties of their position, but we are entitled to look to such people to show responsibility as well.

Is it not a fact that the British people can see no end to the trouble in Northern Ireland, and that it is in that context that the British Government are having discussions with the Republic of Ireland? Is not the cause of the trouble that during 50 years of strife, and 16 years of the troubles, the Unionist party when in power would not treat the minority party in the proper democratic manner? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that even now, sitting behind me and across the Floor of the House, such people are proving intractable and still have the same opinions as they have had all the time—the opinions that cause the trouble?

This is not the occasion to decide where all the blame should be allocated. The purpose of any talks with the Government of the Republic is to see whether we can find a way to deepen our relationship, to the advantage of all those who live in the Province, in the United Kingdom and in the island of Ireland. I hope that every hon. Member will ultimately share that objective.

Will the Secretary of State note that constructive progress to reduce alienation and provide reassurance for the genuine anxieties in the communities of Northern Ireland is worthy of our support? Will he also note that violence by word or deed would be a form of prejudging agreements that may be entered into, and would not only jeopardise sensible discussions, but would be construed as a demonstration of weakness on the part of the perpetrators—weakness in the sense that they would not believe in their own argument? Will the Secretary of State further confirm that no one in Northern Ireland has anything to fear from peaceful progress towards the solutions of its long-standing problems?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind words of welcome, which he delivered via my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State. I appreciate them. Obviously, the purpose of any agreement is to ensure that by constitutional means the constitutional parties can achieve advance, and that the men of violence will not succeed. Those are the key components of our approach, and I hope that they will ultimately commend themselves to all parties in the House.

Devolution

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on Her Majesty's Government's policy towards devolved government in Northern Ireland in the light of the publication of the third report from the Devolution Report Committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The Government believe that a new devolved administration which the constitutional parties would be willing to operate together would have much to offer. I am studying the report against that background.

Have there not been too many abortive attempts at devolved government since the abolition of Stormont? Will my right hon. Friend concentrate on administrative devolution, and govern this integral part of the United Kingdom as though it were an integral part?

Obviously I shall take careful note of the third report, which has been sent to me. I understand that it was sent to me as a basis for negotiation, and that the parties in the Assembly have made it clear that they are not committed to any of its details. I have undertaken to study it carefully, and I shall do so.

Does the Secretary of State realise that if there is passion on this Bench today it is because the hon. Members on this Bench, more than any others, know exactly what will flow from the agreement which has been so widely published? We are worried because we know exactly what the results of it will be. What will the Secretary of State, the Government and the House do when we are proved to be correct?

The hon. Gentleman says that he knows exactly what the details are, and that the report has been widely published. Neither statement is correct. Part of the complaint that I have had to deal with is that hon. Members have been kept in the dark. If there is an agreement, will the hon. Gentleman please study its terms carefully, and not rush into judgment until he has had a chance to look at the facts?

Security

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the security and safety aspects in various council chambers following the election of various Sinn Fein councillors.

Representations have been made to Ministers that the election of Sinn Fein councillors may have prejudiced the security of other councillors and of council employees. The situation is being kept under review.

Is it not worrying that so many Unionist members who are in the majority on their councils, have now adjourned those council meetings throughout Ulster? At present, 17 councils are not sitting. Some people may say that while the councils have been adjourned nothing has happened and, therefore, they have not been needed, but would it not be better if we proscribed the IRA and Sinn Fein council members, and ensured that they could not stand for office in future?

My hon. Friend the Member for Wiltshire, North (Mr. Needham), the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, is meeting a large number of deputations from various councils within Northern Ireland and, in due course, will report to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State about that. On the substance of my hon. Friend's original question, obviously I recognise the fears, sometimes exaggerated, of those on councils. I wish to emphasise that any individual who feels that he may be at risk can raise that matter with the Royal Ulster Constabulary, which will be ready to give him appropriate advice.

Since 16 of the 26 local councils in Northern Ireland are now on strike, does the Minister accept that his policy has failed? Does he recognise that he practises double standards by refusing to meet Sinn Fein representatives, yet demanding that the elected councillors in Northern Ireland should work with Sinn Fein?

I do not recognise that. There is a difference between elected representatives on councils who have competed with Sinn Fein members, and those responsible centrally for governing Northern Ireland, who try to draw the greatest disinction, within the law, between those who follow constitutional politics and those who reject constitutional politics. As to the other part of the hon. Gentleman's question, I refer him to what I said earlier.

Is the Minister aware of how many Sinn Fein council members in Northern Ireland are wanted by the RUC for murder? How many of them are well-known murderers who have blood on their hands? Does the Minister agree that quite a number of those elected councillors were murderers and are still murderers in their hearts?

I could name several, but one is Davey, the finger man in south Londonderry.

If the RUC has evidence that a councilor or anyone else has committed an offence, he will be brought before the courts and charged.

Departmental Co-Ordination

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps he is taking to ensure maximum co-ordination on planning and other matters between the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.

Existing co-ordination arrangements are satisfactory and I have no plans to change them.

Has the Minister had discussions with representatives of the Irish Republic on these matters? Has he obtained their full approval for his answer? Will he explain what arrangements will be made for future discussions on such matters with representatives of the Irish Republic?

I should not be giving away any secrets if I said that the major part of the agreement would have nothing to do with the planning procedures between my Department and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.

Extradition

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many extradition requests involving alleged terrorist activity have been made by the Royal Ulster Constabulary to the Republic of Ireland since 1970; and how many have been granted.

The Royal Ulster Constabulary started forwarding warrants to the Garda Siochana involving terrorist-type offences in 1971. Since that time they have forwarded warrants in respect of 96 persons, three of whom were subsequently extradited.

Does not that make a mockery of the diplomatic row created by the Irish Republic when, a few weeks ago, the Chief Constable of the RUC was reported in America to have said precisely that? Linked with that is the fact that the Irish have honoured only three extradition requests from almost 100, and the fact that there have been hundreds of cross-border incursions from the Republic. Does that not herald the sort of nonsense that will occur once we formalise the complaints procedure for the Irish Republic?

The Chief Constable of the RUC answered accurately a direct question, as I have done today. But that does not necessarily give the whole picture. The majority of those cases were rejected by the courts after warrants were produced by the Garda Siochana in the courts. Some of the objects of those warrants were apprehended in other jurisdictions and some, of course, have not been traced by the Garda. I should also say that the authorities in the Republic have co-operated wholeheartedly in the operation of the extra-territorial legislation that was passed by both Parliaments.

Will my hon. Friend seek to reduce terrorism still further by clearing up a little uncertainty and saying here and now in this Chamber that not only is Northern Ireland part of the United Kingdom, but that he is confident that it will always remain part of the United Kingdom?

We have made it absolutely clear that for as long as it is the wish of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland, it will remain part of the United Kingdom.

Security

12.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the security situation in Northern Ireland.

16.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the current security situation.

18.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the current security situation in the Province.

Since my predecessor last answered questions in the House on 11 July, eight civilians and two members of the security forces have died as a result of the security situation in the Province.

The security forces have continued to show great determination in their efforts to defeat terrorism. Since the beginning of this year a total of 435 people have been charged with serious offences, including 23 with murder, and 206 weapons, 11,524 rounds of ammunition and 6,121 lb of explosives have been recovered.

In the light of the exchanges, and in the light of what the Secretary of State said, in his heart of hearts does he not agree with his security advisers that any Irish promises of effective co-operation will be meaningless, worthless and incapable of delivery? In effect, the only result from the granting of any kind of consultative role on security matters will be to inhibit and damage the efforts of our own British security forces.

No, I do not accept that. At local level there is certainly good co-operation along the border between the RUC and the Garda Siochana. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman and all hon. Members will look for continuing efforts to improve that co-operation in a common attempt to defeat terrorism, which is just as much an increasing threat south of the border as it is north of the border.

Is not the police reservist who was shot within the last 24 hours in Aughnacloy the first victim and the first tangible result of the Anglo-Irish process? It is a process that can be summed up in a single word—betrayal.

I have to say to my hon. Friend that that is a most disgraceful comment. There is no justification whatever for it. As an hon. Member of this House, he shares a responsibility with other hon. Members not to prejudge situations, but to wait and judge them on the facts. He knows perfectly well that it is the determination of this Government, as I hope it is the determination of every hon. Member, to act more effectively against terrorism, reduce the loss of life and reduce the number of casualties that have been such a tragic stain on the life of the Province.

Does the Secretary of State accept that the signing of any agreement, and the setting up of any secretariat in Northern Ireland which would permit representatives of a foreign Government to be in Northern Ireland, will be seen as the greatest possible insult to the loyal citizens of the Province? Those citizens have historically been supportive of the British Government. Does he recognise, as we see clearly, that such an agreement and such a secretariat will be an immediate encouragement to further murder and bombing, because the gunmen and the bombers will recognise that they have brought this about and will proceed further?

At this stage, I know that the hon. Gentleman will not want to speculate on the contents of any agreement that may be reached. I also know that he will not wish to make any inflammatory comments without full knowledge of the facts.

Does my right hon. Friend recognise that if there is one group of people who wish him well in seeking to reach agreement and turn down the graph of terrorism, it is those men and women in Northern Ireland who suffer most, the members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary? They will not regard it as betrayal if he can achieve an agreement. Will my right hon. Friend nevertheless recognise that while operational arrangements between the Garda and the RUC in general are excellent, they are not helped by public squabbling between the two chief constables?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that tribute. One of the most vivid impressions made on me when I took over my responsibilities was the enormous contribution made and the amazing courage shown by members of the security forces, whether the RUC, the UDR or the British Army units posted there. It is right that this House should recognise the real results that they are achieving in the fight against terrorism.

On the question of punishing large-scale criminal activity, what efforts, if any, has the right hon. Gentleman made to ensure that John De Lorean is returned to Northern Ireland to stand trial for his crimes against Irish people?

Constitutional Reform

13.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he has any plans to bring forward proposals for a referendum in Northern Ireland on constitutional matters.

In the light of what we have heard this afternoon from Northern Ireland Members about the discussions which they have described as constitutional change, should not my colleagues at least consider that, if this is constitutional change, it involves the electors of the whole of the United Kingdom and the electors of Southern Ireland? If there is to be consultation with the electorate, all the electors of both countries should be involved, preferably by being asked the same question.

I must repeat what I have said to several other hon. Members. My hon. Friend had better wait and see what is in any agreement. We have no intention of holding any such referendum.

Prime Minister

Engagements

Q1.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 14 November.

This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet and had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House I will be having further meetings later today. This evening I shall attend a dinner given by the Amir of Qatar.

I thank the Prime Minister for that reply. Will she take the opportunity to congratulate the Northern Ireland team on reaching the final of the World Cup, as it did last night? Will the right hon. Lady reassure alliance Members that this will in no way deflect her in her negotiations with the Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland, Mr. Garret FitzGerald? We hope that she can conclude those negotiations tomorrow. She certainly will have our support and, I believe, the support of the vast majority of the people of this country.

I join the hon. Gentleman in congratulating the Northern Ireland team. The win gave great pleasure to both sides of the House. I think the hon. Gentleman will understand that I can say nothing further today on the possible agreement.

Does the Prime Minister's Conservative and Unionist Administration believe what the 1969 Labour Administration believed—that Northern Ireland affairs are entirely a matter of domestic jurisdiction?

As I have made clear in the House, should any agreement be reached, it will be against the background that decisions north of the border are a matter for the United Kingdom, and decisions south of the border are a matter for the Republic of Ireland. I hope that that answers the hon. Gentleman's question.

Does the right hon. Lady understand—if she does not yet understand she soon will—that the penalty for treachery is to fall into public contempt?

I think that the right hon. Gentleman will understand that I find his remarks deeply offensive. Any agreement that may be reached will be within the bounds that I have indicated. No agreement that may be reached could be implemented before it came before the House for approval.

Does the Prime Minister recall telling the severely disabled bandsmen of the Royal Green Jackets who were injured in the outrage that killed eight of their comrades that they would never want for anything? Has the right hon. Lady now read of their poverty and sense of betrayal? Has she read that, according to the Daily Mail, the mother of ex-corporal David Timms wrote to her last June and was still awaiting a reply last Friday? How does the right hon. Lady react to that bitter criticism?

If that is so, I should have hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would contact my office. We shall certainly look into the matter most urgently. I understand that the MOD's obligations with regard to the financial support that it should give have been met. I understand that a number of the bandsmen have already received compensation under the criminal injuries legislation and that the MOD is doing all it can to help the others to secure compensation. I shall look further into the right hon. Gentleman's point.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in the Cyprus secrets trial 12 of the jury were removed by peremptory challenge following a meeting of all defence counsel, chaired by John Alliott, QC, on the morning of Sunday 14 April, when counsel discussed how best to use the right of peremptory challenge to obtain a jury most likely to acquit? Is it not quite intolerable that this should remain legal, and surely it is time that the law was changed as a matter of urgency?

The circumstances that my hon. Friend describes would in the particular instance possibly be a matter not for Her Majesty's Government but for the Bar Council. On the wider matter, Law Officers do not at present have sufficient information on which to make a reasoned judgment as to whether the use of peremptory challenge is being abused, but the Attorney-General is arranging for the new Crown prosecution service, when it is established and in place, to conduct a full survey of the use of that right by the defence.

Q2.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 14 November.

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

Does the Prime Minister not recognise that in Leeds and, no doubt, in other cities, community associations, tenants' groups and other voluntary bodies are determined and able to tackle inner city problems, but that they are stifled by the virtual drying up of revenue funds under the inner city programme? Why on earth have the Government chosen this time to cut back on the funding available under this programme?

Since 1979 the Government have allocated £1,900 million of urban programme grants to inner cities, and that is meant to help with the problems. The hon. Gentleman will realise that not all of those problems can be solved simply by extra money. We are looking very much at the direction in which the money is spent.

During her busy day, will my right hon. Friend tell the House whether any member of the current American Administration, or any official of the American Government, is already aware of the terms of the Anglo-Irish treaty?

My hon. Friend will understand that I cannot comment further on whether or not any agreement will or will not be signed.

Twice in the past 20 minutes we have heard talk of treachery. Will the right hon. Lady accept from me and the Labour Benches that such talk is inflammatory, irresponsible and should have no place in this democratic assembly?

Does my right hon. Friend accept that a vast number of people in this country and in this House support the negotiations that have been taking place in the direction of this agreement, and wish the Government every possible success in the outcome?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I make it clear, as I have done before, that if any agreement is signed it could not be implemented before it had been debated and approved by this House.

Q3.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 14 November.

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

Has the Prime Minister given any consideration to the harmful effects of unemployment on the health of our young people? Will she take time today to study the book containing the results of a four-year follow-up study by Edinburgh university of more than 1,000 school leavers, which show a clear link between drug use and unemployment? Instead of planning tax cuts, is it not high time that she and her Ministers used the money to create jobs for our unemployed young people, some of whom are living in areas where youth unemployment is more than 50 per cent.?

I shall certainly have a look at the book to which the hon. Gentleman has referred, although not today. He will be very much aware of the strenuous efforts that this Government are making to combat the evil of drugs, not only among young people, but among all people in our society. He will also be aware that the millionth young person enters the youth training scheme between now and Christmas, and that is a very creditable record.

Given the strong belief of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in the family unit, as expressed in two recent speeches, will she pay more than lip-service to those ideals by amending the Sunday trading Bill even at this late hour to ensure reform of the present law so that the traditional British Sunday, which is for rest, recreation, religion and family life, can survive?

Furthermore, will my right hon. Friend ensure that when this important matter is debated in the House there will be a free vote on the issue, according to the wishes of the majority of Back Benchers?

I think I am right in saying that the Bill to which my hon. Friend refers may be introduced into another place today. It will, therefore, come to the House after deliberations in another place. I am sure that the deliberations of this House will be followed with the greatest possible interest. I believe that it is right to give people the choice on this Bill. Decisions on voting are never taken until the measure comes before the House.

Q4.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 14 November.

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

Why does the right hon. Lady continue to suggest that her Government have provided more financial help to the hard-pressed inner cities when, in fact, the figures show that inner London is typical in having lost four times as much by way of cuts in rate support grant than it has gained through the urban programme?

If all programme and partnership authorities had budgeted to spend within Government targets, as, for example, Birmingham did under Conservative control until this year, they would have received since 1981 nearly £1 billion more in grants. They lost it because they overspent.

Has the Prime Minister had an opportunity to read the Northern Echo this week? If the right hon. Lady did read it, she would be much better informed on northern matters than she is now. Has she read that the chairman of the Conservative party admitted to the Northern Echo's reporter that it is highly likely that there will be a lost generation in the north? By that he meant that there will be a generation of young people who will never have a job. Does she agree with that?

If the hon. Gentleman reads the autumn statement carefully, he will realise the full measure of what the Government are doing to try to create genuine jobs. He will know that the autumn statement continues the approach that has brought five years of steady growth, low inflation and 670,000 new jobs in the past two years. He will know that the rate of job creation is the fastest since 1973 and that it is forecast by the OECD to be the fastest in Europe in 1986. I hope very much that the north will benefit from that job creation.

As Sunday trading can hardly be described as a party political issue, and as my right hon. Friend quite rightly believes in freedom of choice, why can we not have freedom of choice on this matter?

As my hon. Friend knows, decisions on whipping, if one may refer to it in this Chamber, are only made just before the week in which the business arises.

Q5.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 14 November.

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

In view of the welcome decision of the Government to renew the right of individual petition to the European Court of Human Rights, and the recommendation of the Ulster Unionists contained in their document, "The Way Forward", that there should be a Bill of Rights in Northern Ireland, will the Prime Minister now initiate the inter-party talks on the incorporation of the European convention, which she suggested at an earlier date to my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) should precede that step?

No. We have not had cross-party consultations on this matter. We have considered it a number of times. I do not think it right to incorporate that convention into our law.

Q6.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 14 November.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind during her busy day the problems of less successful areas such as the west country, where decisions about road planning have been too long delayed, and where implementation of plans have been delayed even further?

Yes, Sir. My hon. Friend has been to see me about this matter. He has complained bitterly about the length of time taken to reach decisions. I share his opinion that planning decisions take far too long, and I shall do what I can to speed up the decision in which he has a particular interest.

Why have the Government withdrawn tax relief from tenant management housing co-operatives and so attacked people trying to manage their own housing environment?

Taxes are determined either directly by the law or by concession. The concessions are subject, not to ministerial decision, but to that of the Inland Revenue board itself.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In practically every answer about the Anglo-Irish agreement the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the Prime Minister advised us to wait to see the contents of that agreement and to study the statement. Is it not intolerable that the House of Commons should be the last to hear the contents of that agreement, which were widely published 48 hours ago?

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Have you noticed that 175 questions to the Prime Minister were tabled for today, of which six of the first eight and seven of the first 12 were by the alliance? Are you prepared to examine the procedures for balloting?

I have no influence whatsoever in the ballot, which is purely the luck of the draw.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. When dealing with procedures the Prime Minister referred to the Sunday Trading Bill being introduced in another place. Only last week at business questions the Leader of the House promised that this matter would be considered and that he would report this week. I am asking—

That is not a matter for me. Business questions follow in a minute, and I shall seek to call the hon. Member to put his question then.

May I tell the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) that a blinding light has just struck me. This is a public ballot.

I am not prepared to take it. This is not a question for me. Business questions will follow. The hon. Gentleman prefaced his remark by saying that the Leader of the House had made an announcement. I cannot answer for the Leader of the House.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I accept your valid point in response to the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) that we are talking about a public ballot. However, could you use your good offices to ensure that the original questions are shuffled better before they come out of the box?

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. During Question Time I was appealed to on numerous occasions to use whatever influence I had to dampen down the rising tensions in Northern Ireland. You, Mr. Speaker, know better than most how hard I have tried in the last 48 hours to confirm the details of the widely leaked agreement. If I cannot appeal to you to protect me and my constituents in this matter, to whom can I appeal?

I cannot help the hon. Gentleman, because neither I nor any hon. Member has seen the agreement.

Further to the point of order raised by the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours), Mr. Speaker. You said that you had no dealings in the shuffling of the papers, but I am sure you realise that you picked the 20 private Members' motions today, not one of which was tabled by the alliance.

I am sorry to disappoint the hon. Member. It was not I. It was the Chairman of Ways and Means.

Business Of The House

3.35 pm

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he will state the business for next week?

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

MONDAY 18 NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Local Government Bill.

TUESDAY 19 NOVEMBER—Remaining stages of the Okehampton Bypass (Confirmation of Orders) Bill.

There will be a debate on a motion on the European Council directive 85/397/EEC on health and animal health problems affecting intra-Community trade in heat-treated milk and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food's explanatory memorandum of 26 June 1985.

WEDNESDAY 20 NOVEMBER—There will be a debate on a motion on the televising of the proceedings of the House of Commons.

Motion on the Supplementary Benefit (Requirements and Resources) Miscellaneous Provisions (No. 2) Regulations Order.

THURSDAY 21 NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Armed Forces Bill followed by Second Reading of the Museum of London Bill.

FRIDAY 22 NOVEMBER—There will be a debate on UNESCO on a motion for the Adjournment of the House. The 5th Report from the Foreign Affairs Committee, Session 1984/85, "United Kingdom Membership of UNESCO", House of Commons Paper No. 461, will be relevant.

MONDAY 25 NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Agriculture Bill.

[Relevant European documents

Debate on Tuesday 19 November

(Unnumbered) Draft Directive on heat treated milk

Relevant Report on European Legislation Committee

HC 5-xxv (1984–85), para 1]

In view of the forthcoming Anglo-Irish summit, will the Leader of the House ensure that the results of the discussions are reported to the House for questioning as soon as possible, and will he also give an undertaking that he will ensure that time for a debate is provided in the near future?

The Government's decision to press ahead next Wednesday with powers to withdraw board and lodging allowances from those in need is an outrage. The right hon. Gentleman will recall that the original regulations were found to be illegal by the courts and the social security appeal tribunal and were unacceptable to the Statutory Instruments Committee. Now, without consultation with the Social Security Advisory Committee, the Government are putting forward new regulations which may be constitutionally correct but which are, nevertheless, still morally wrong. Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the changes will mean vagrancy for many unemployed young people and misery for old and sick people who are dependent upon residential care? I appeal to him even now to prevail upon his right hon. Friends, in the name of plain decency, to examine the regulations again to see what impact they will have on people in need.

Has the Leader of the House seen the results of the Department of the Environment's inquiry into the condition of local authority housing stock in England which was recently published? The report states that nearly 4 million homes in Britain, 84 per cent. of which are public housing stock, are in need of substantial repair and renovation. Will he provide Government time in the near future for a debate on that report?

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, as I am sure the House is, for so speedily arranging for a debate next week on televising the proceedings of the House. Will he confirm that if there is an affirmative vote, as I sincerely hope there will be, he will proceed to set up a Select Committee so that we can discuss the televising of our proceedings in a few months' time?

May I renew my request for early debates on the third report of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs and the autumn statement, especially as we now discover that old age pensioners are to lose £120 million next year as a result of uprating changes made by the Government?

Following the Home Secretary's careful retreat from the wild allegations made by his Minister of State against hon. Members who legally help visitors who encounter difficulties at ports of entry, will the Leader of the House ensure that we have an early debate in Government time to discuss that and other related matters?

The Leader of the Opposition has given me a fair catalogue to which to respond—[Interruption.] It nearly matched Wilson's 14 points. I shall seek to reply to the points in the order in which they were presented.

If the discussions that are currently taking place between the British Government and that of the Irish Republic give rise to the necessity for a report and a debate, I gladly undertake that that will be arranged as early as possible.

As to the point about the board and lodging allowances debate promised for Wednesday evening, I recognise that that is a highly controversial issue. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman realises that there are two sides to the case. Doubtless they will be fiercely contested.

I take note of the request for a debate in Government time on the Department of the Environment inquiry into housing stock. I cannot indicate the likelihood of an early debate in Government time, but doubtless we can consider it through the usual channels.

As to the debate on Wednesday about the possible television broadcasting of the House of Commons, should the House on Wednesday approve the experiment, that would bring into play the Select Committee, which would have a central role in determining the circumstances and conditions in which the experiment might proceed.

We shall be happy to consider through the usual channels the request for a debate upon the third report of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Last week I intimated that we should like to have an early debate upon the autumn statement in the terms requested by the right hon. Member for Birmingham Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), but it is also a matter that properly engages the interest of the Select Committee on the Treasury and Civil Service.

I have noted the point made about the Home Secretary and the immigration rules. Again, that could be considered through the usual channels.

Can my right hon. Friend make arrangements soon for a debate on the fifth report of the Select Committee on Agriculture about the imminent accession of Spain and Portugal to the European Community, which will have considerable potential for the benefit of the British economy?

I appreciate very much the importance of that point. My hon. Friend will know that legislation on the accession will come before the House. It is possible that it could be debated then.

Last week, in reply to a question from my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition about Sunday trading, the Leader of the House stated that if we felt anxiety he would investigate the matter and report to the House through the usual channels. I note that the Prime Minister has given a reply. I do not know whether she is now Leader of the House as well as Prime Minister, but she stated that the Bill will come before another place today.

As there is no mandate from the people for such legislation, does not the Leader of the House consider that he should have allowed this House to discuss the matter before it went to another place because it is important to some of us who represent shopworkers and 2,250,000 people involved in the industry? The House of Commons should have been allowed to debate the matter before it went to a non-elected Chamber. Will the Leader of the House let us know what discussions have taken place and why the legislation has gone to another place first?

I take entirely the hon. Gentleman's point. It is a repetition of the point he made last week. I considered the decision in the light of what he said, but I judged it appropriate that the Bill should be introduced in another place for at least two reasons. There is always a problem of balancing the flow of legislation between the two Houses of Parliament. In taking that into account, I felt it appropriate that the Bill should be introduced in another place. Also, the Department concerned has a heavy programme of legislation in the current Session. Again, that point weighed in my judgment. I have no doubt that this House will be able to make its own judgment without inhibition or any sense of feeling deprived when the legislation comes here.

To give a little stability to the position relation to the agreement between Britain and Ireland, may I ask my right hon. Friend to say when the document will be published and when a statement will be made in the House? Will we have an early debate on the subject so that worms in the woodwork may be revealed to us?

My hon. Friend asks a conditional question because no such agreement has been concluded. I assure him that, should such an agreement be concluded, it will be put before the House at the earliest practical opportunity and debated shortly thereafter.

No doubt there is an explanation for the right hon. Gentleman's coyness about the Anglo-Irish discussions. As a meeting will take place tomorrow, and as an agreement will be signed tomorrow, may we be told when a statement will be made in the House and who will make it?

I was forthcoming to my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Sir J. Farr) and I cannot go beyond that.

Does the Leader of the House recall that in 1982, when it was decided by the then Government, of whom he was a member, that there should be a consultative body in Northern Ireland for elected representatives, it was found necessary for legislation to be passed in this House? May we be assured that a measure would have to go through this Chamber allowing the Republic of Ireland any consultative role in the affairs of Northern Ireland?

It is impossible to answer that question until the agreement, if there is to be one, is made available.

If the House decides next Wednesday to establish a Select Committee to look into the televised broadcasting of Parliament, may we be assured that that Select Committee's findings will also be subject to a vote in the House?

Will a Minister soon make a statement in the House about the decision of Liverpool city council this morning that its 31,000 employees will not be paid from next week? What contingency plans do the Government intend to announce in those circumstances?

The answer to the first question is yes. The answer to the second is that I shall draw the point to the attention of the Secretary of State for the Environment.

In view of the great importance to everyone in Britain of the arms control process, will my right hon. Friend please arrange for a debate in Government time ahead of the Geneva summit so that hon. Members in all parts of the House may express their views?

I take sympathetic note of my hon. Friend's suggestion, which addresses an important topic, but he will understand why I would not wish to go beyond that today.

Does the Leader of the House consider that a one-day debate on the subject of televising the proceedings of the House of Commons will be satisfactory, bearing in mind that many of us who supported televising our proceedings now have definite qualms about it? I should have thought that, as more than 600 hon. Members have views on the subject, an additional day's debate would be necessary.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that we should have an early debate on the situation in Liverpool, bearing in mind that the basic responsibility for what is happening there is that of the Government, who should be questioned on the matter in debate?

The answer to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question is that I hope we shall be able to deal with the matter in a day's debate, although that will probably require the discipline of short speeches. I say that because of the context in which I replied to the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton). If the House approves the principle of a television experiment, there will be a subsequent opportunity to debate the matter pending the report of the Select Committee.

The answer to the second part is that there will be a debate on the Liverpool situation on Monday. I shall draw the attention of the Secretary of State for the Environment to the desire for the much wider debate that I think the hon. Gentleman would prefer.

Although the power to make international treaties and agreements is for the Crown and not for this House, do not my right hon. Friend and Her Majesty's advisers think it right that we should debate the terms upon which there should be an agreement with the Irish Republic before the conclusion of any agreement or treaty?

I appreciate my hon. Friend's point, but he knows that I cannot helpfully speculate upon what agreement may or may not be signed. However, should there be an agreement, the House will have an opportunity to debate it before it is put into effect.

Does the Leader of the House accept that the time is now overdue for this country to review its mental health legislation, especially in respect of the profoundly handicapped? Does he agree that it is time for us to turn our backs on Victorian values, and will he support such measures if they are put before the House?

The hon. Gentleman has made a pertinent observation about the very important role that legislation can play in dealing with mental health matters. He does so from the vantage point of one who has just come top of the ballot. All hon. Members will follow his efforts and wish him good luck.

I presume that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House intends to speak in our forthcoming debate on televising the proceedings of the House. Does he envisage elegantly pushing the ball down the middle of the pitch or will he give a clear lead to the House on this matter?

I think that the House is looking not for a lead but for a chance to assert its own views.

Is the Leader of the House aware that the fifth report of the Select Committee on Agriculture, referred to by the hon. Member for Ryedale (Mr. Spence) had the unanimous support of the Committee? Is he also aware that considerable damage will be done to this country's horticulture industry and also to our very depleted fishing industry when Spain enters the European Community? Is he further aware that Spain's fishing fleet is greater than that of the whole of the European Community put together? We should therefore have an early debate on this matter.

The hon. Gentleman will find that the accession legislation has a favoured position in the queue of Government legislation. However, I understand why he feels that the findings of the Select Committee are particularly important to the consideration of that question.

Is the Leader of the House aware that some hon. Members believe that there are too many votes in this House when we are asked to express our views upon "take note" motions relating to the European Community, upon which our views can have no effect? I suggest, therefore, that the vote should take place before the debate. By having the debate we should be taking note, and those hon. Members who wanted to stay and take note could do so. If the vote took place at 4 o'clock instead of 10 o'clock at night, it would save the time of many hon. Members.

That is an entertaining diversion for this time of the week, but my hon. Friend ought not to disparage too readily the importance of relatively formal motions. The Chamberlain Government fell on the Adjournment. The procedures that we use for dealing with European Community documents have merit, but this matter could doubtless be considered by the Select Committee on Procedure.

In view of the reticence of the Leader of the House concerning the so-called Anglo-Irish summit, may I ask him whether he is prepared to ask one of his right hon. Friends, in the event of a statement being issued about agreement having been reached, to come to the House and tell right hon. and hon. Members about the grounds upon which they base their confidence that the Government of the Irish Republic will honour that agreement, in view of its history as a free state and as the Irish Republic in failing to honour similar agreements? Can the right hon. Gentleman say wherein the difference will now lie in that we are told Northern Ireland is to be recognised as part of the United Kingdom de facto? We understand that for years Northern Ireland has been recognised de facto as part of the United Kingdom but that the Government of the Republic of Ireland have resolutely refused to recognise Northern Ireland de jure and under their constitution they cannot.

If an agreement should be concluded, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that it will be reported to the House by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister at the earliest practical opportunity and that a general debate will follow shortly thereafter.

Does my right hon. Friend share my surprise and concern that the Government have not yet come to the House to make a statement on the very serious crisis in the tin industry—not only as it affects the City of London and the London metal exchange but as it affects the producers of tin in Cornwall? Would he be so kind as to have a word with the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry about making a statement on this important matter early next week?

Yes, I shall most certainly have a word with my right hon. Friend about that matter, which, as my hon. Friend rightly observed, is important for both Cornwall and the wider world. Meanwhile, he might think of trying his chance in an Adjournment debate.

Was it not unusual that, for the debate on the Gracious Speech, the usual channels made no arrangement to debate the National Health Service, especially as we have a new Minister for Health and as there have been a number of other developments? Will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for a full day's debate in Government time as soon as possible so that some of the recent changes and other important aspects of the NHS may be discussed?

It is not for me to question the wisdom of the usual channels. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has been in this place long enough to realise that the choice of topics does not always lie with this side of the House. However, I take note of his request. I cannot hold out any immediate hope, but I realise that it is a most important topic.

As everyone in this House—apart, apparently, from those on the Treasury Bench—understands that, short of Armageddon, an arrangement will be signed tomorrow between Dublin and London, will my right hon. Friend ensure that a statement is made in this House on Monday or Tuesday?

Does my right hon. Friend accept that many English Unionists think that a debate on Wednesday on this important matter is of infinitely more importance than a debate on whether we should televise the House?

Once again, I cannot anticipate whether there will be an agreement. However, I assure my hon. Friend that a question of such importance to the House, and a debate thereafter, will be considered with the utmost expedition.

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that an amendment would be in order next Wednesday, when we debate the damaging and ridiculous proposition that cameras should be brought into the House, to the effect that cameras should be allowed into Standing and Select Committees, which would provide the public in Britain with a much better view and opinion of the proceedings of Parliament?

Since the European Court of Human Rights has an effective veto over the statutes and Acts passed by these Houses of Parliament, why cannot we have a debate on whether we should extend the right of individual petition before that decision is finally made and the signatures ratified?

Will my right hon. Friend exercise some of those qualities of leadership with which he is most abundantly endowed by telling the House how he will vote on Wednesday?

I do not think that how the House votes on Wednesday will bear any relationship to my personal gesture. All that I can say is that I feel less enthusiastic about the topic, one way or the other, than a great many of my hon. Friends.

On my hon. Friend's first point, I take account of the importance of the topic. We have had exchanges on this matter in the past, and I cannot go beyond what I have hitherto said.

On 5 December, the Secretary of State for Education and Science announced from the Dispatch Box his intention to publish a Green Paper on student support systems. On Tuesday, in answer to a planted written question, he said:

"no useful purpose would be served by the publication of such a paper."—[Official Report, 12 November 1985; Vol. 86, c. 113.]
Will the Leader of the House ensure that, in future, if a statement is made from the Dispatch Box, any statement rescinding that statement should also be made from the Dispatch Box so that Back Benchers may have an opportunity to question the wisdom of such a decision? If that is not done, the Chancellor of the Exchequer will come to the Dispatch Box and announce a cut in taxes, and then rescind it in answer to a planted written question—which I am sure is the very last thing that we want.

I am sure that that is the last thing that the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud) believes would happen. Nevertheless, I accept the hon. Gentleman's point and will be in touch with him after I have considered it.

With reference to the important debate on Wednesday about televising the proceedings of the House, and bearing in mind the reply of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Latham), will he assure me that there will be an absolutely free vote with no hidden strings attached?

I understand these arcane issues are for the Patronage Secretary, who will have heard what my hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) has requested.

The Leader of the House will be aware of the recent announcement by the Secretary of State for Energy of a new independent colliery review procedure under which all proposed closures of coal mines will be examined impartially by a judicially appointed organisation consisting of a number of eminent silks and judges. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that nobody knows how this procedure will work, least of all the Secretary of State for Energy, the National Coal Board or the National Union of Mineworkers?

Will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for an early debate on this important subject? Three pits are due to be closed before the end of 1985 and until the procedure has been completed no final decision can be made. This is infinitely more important than a parochial and ridiculous debate about televising Parliament.

I take note of the hon. Gentleman's remarks, but I must tell him that I can hold out no hope of a debate in Government time on that matter. I shall draw the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy to his remarks.

Is my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House aware that the Leicestershire National Union of Teachers has today launched a day of inaction in my constituency on the ground that, as the secretary of the Back-Bench education committee, I should be punished along with my constituents, especially parents and children? Does my right hon. Friend agree that this is a callous way to act? Should not the teachers be back at work? After all, that is what they are paid for. Why should they be paid for being on strike today?

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. I believe that the tactic of industrial action is especially reprehensible. No doubt my hon. Friend will wish to take advantage of education questions on Tuesday to reinforce his argument.

I declare my full support for the teachers' action. They are merely seeking to secure decent pay and conditions for themselves.

Is the Leader of the House aware of the circumstances surrounding a constituent of mine called Kevin Capenhurst, aged 17 years, who was detained in a borstal while terminally ill with cancer? He was released only after a vigorous campaign but has now died.

Will the Leader of the House allow a debate on the scandal of the detention unnecessarily and without campassion of those who are terminally ill in prisons and the equivalent of borstals, and about the proper notification of such cases to the Government, which does not now take place?

I shall refer the remarks of the hon. and learned Member to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. It occurs to me that this is precisely the sort of topic that might feature in an Adjournment debate.

Bearing in mind the disaster at Manchester airport and the incident involving the British Airways aircraft at Copenhagen on Tuesday, will my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House ask the Secretary of State for Transport to make an early statement on aircraft safety, with particular reference to maintenance procedures? If the aircraft on Tuesday had taken off and the undercarriage had not collapsed during taxi-ing on the runway—which was a sheer fluke and very fortunate for those involved—there would probably have been another disaster at Manchester, its point of destination.

I note what my hon. Friend says. As I come from the north-west, I realise that these accidents leave harrowing memories. I shall draw the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport to this matter.

Will the Leader of the House give further thought to Wednesday's debate on board-and-lodging payments which are extremely contentious? It is not satisfactory to have only a one-and-a-half-hour debate on this subject after 10.15 pm, or possibly later. Many hon. Members are anxious about the nature of the order and the complicated procedures attached to it.

Would it not be better for the Leader of the House to ensure that we have longer for that debate? If he cannot guarantee more time on Wednesday, will he consider an early opportunity for the House to discuss the complicated procedures that are involved in this type of order, especially as they seem to affect policy issues rather than administration?

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's second point, which he makes with his authority as Chairman of the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments. He is right to say that it is a contentious order, but its merits are familiar to the House. I hope that the matter will be resolved on Wednesday.

I refer my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to early-day motion 76:

[That this House notes that the Miss World contestants were invited to use the dining room and terrace of the House; regrets that the facilities of the House were used to promote a particular company, namely Mecca; and particularly regrets that the House should have been used to promote the Miss World contest which reinforces the idea that what matters most about a woman is what she looks like and whether she is sexually attractive to men.]
Will he arrange a debate on it? Would it be possible for, you, Mr. Speaker to allow the six lady sponsors to be apparelled as they think fit, when perhaps the House could choose a "Ms. House of Commons" from among them?

As I do not have the faintest idea what early-day motion 76 refers to, I shall give it my active consideration.

I should like to reinforce the plea of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition for a debate on the report published on Tuesday afternoon by the Department of the Environment on the quality of the housing stock. There was no debate in Government time on housing matters in general in the previous Session and in March the former Minister for Housing, Urban Affairs and Construction, the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow), who is now the Minister of State, Treasury, said it would be unbelievable if it were found that the cost of repairs and renovations required to the housing stock would be £19 billion. The report puts the figure at £18·8 billion, and, as the report was published by the Government, that reinforces the case for an early debate in Government time.

I understand the hon. Gentleman's argument, but he must appreciate that it would be inappropriate for me to argue its merits. Clearly I cannot go beyond what I said to the Leader of the Opposition, but I recognise that this is a matter of great general interest.

Will the Leader of the House arrange an early debate on the economic and political consequences of the new telephones installed in the Palace of Westminster and its environs? There is an economic consequence, because at vast public expense to the taxpayer, when we are supposed to be holding down public spending, we have replaced telephones which the less intelligent of us like myself could understand with machines which we cannot.

For those in favour of the political consequences, against leaks and in favour of open government, I would warn them that if one puts one hand over the mouthpiece in order to tell one's secretary that there is an idiot git on the other end, the idiot git can hear one saying it.

That might be one of the less damaging things one would say to one's secretary. I shall bear in mind my hon. and learned Friend's request, but in the domestic arrangements of the Palace of Westminster, I fear that research assistants still have a head lead over any other topic.

This is an appropriate moment to say first that I shall call those hon. Members who have been rising in their places, but I ask them to be brief.

Will the Leader of the House do his best to ensure that discussions through the usual channels on the request made for a debate on the serious allegations made by the Minister of State, Home Office are conducted urgently?

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the Minister of State has apparently written to more than 20 Members of all parties asking for correspondence to be published and that it would be much better to have a debate to allow the Minister of State to substantiate or withdraw his serious allegations? Members could then justify the important right that they have to intervene in immigration matters.

I note what the hon. Gentleman says, but I cannot go beyond what I said to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition.

Will my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House consider extending the time for the debate on televising the House if he will not provide time for a two-day debate?

I shall consider the matter, but I hope that the House will reflect on the virtues of short speeches and tolerably early nights.