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Commons Chamber

Volume 87: debated on Monday 18 November 1985

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House Of Commons

Monday 18 November 1985

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[MR. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions


Labour Statistics


asked the Secretary of State for Wales what is the percentage of full-time workers, male and female, respectively, in Rhymney Valley, Mid-Glamorgan and Wales earning less than 90 per cent. of the respective United Kingdom averages.

According to the results of the new earnings survey undertaken in April 1985, the Wales figure is 54 per cent. for both males and females. The corresponding figures for Mid-Glamorgan are 57 per cent. for males and 56 per cent. for females. Similar information is not available for Rhymney Valley.

Will the Secretay of State confirm that wages for those in Wales who are employed are not only among the lowest in real terms in the United Kingdom, but in relative terms are falling? If the Government's view is correct, that lower wages mean more employment, how can the Secretary of State justify the record level of unemployment in Wales? How much lower does he want wage levels in Wales to fall before unemployment starts to fall?

The crucial fact which explains the difference in wage levels is the different structures of industry and service employment in different areas. The point about wage levels is their effect upon wage costs. We are concerned about wages being pushed up in a way that adds to wage costs and makes firms uncompetitive. It must be an advantage in any area to ensure that the firms that operate there do so competitively.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware, how much young people resent the proposal that wages council protection for them should be scrapped, in particular holiday rights protection, and fear that this will usher in a new era of exploitation of young people? The right hon. Gentleman may be interested in Victorian values, but we know that they are bad, not good, values.

There is a great deal of evidence that the constraints imposed by the wages councils as they have applied to young people have destroyed job opportunities for them. There is also a great deal of evidence in countries which do not have the same restrictions—for example, Germany—that job opportunities for young people are thereby greatly strengthened. I should have thought that that ought to be the priority for the hon. Gentleman, but it does not seem to be.

Does the Secretary of State accept that in England last year the average wage for men in manufacturing industry was £159, whereas in Wales it was nothing like that figure? Is the objective of the Secretary of State to keep down wages, in a vain bid to try to get work to Wales, or to try to increase the standard of living in Wales?

I said that what matters is that wage costs in an industry should be competitive. I welcome the fact that successful industries are able to pay higher wages to their employees. As we diversify and strengthen the Welsh economy, as we are doing, I hope that there will be higher earnings for a great many people.

Will not the Government's proposals on Sunday trading further undermine the wages and conditions of the people who live in the valleys and towns of Wales? Would it not be better for the Government, after six and a half years, to concentrate on getting people back to work regularly for five days, from Monday to Friday?

The important point is that individuals and companies should be able to choose on which days of the week they wish to trade. I see no reason to believe, particularly with the safeguards that will be built into the legislation, that there will be the kinds of effects about which the hon. Gentleman speaks. That has not been the experience in Scotland, which does not have the kind of protective legislation that exists in England.

Is it not typical of the Opposition and their head in the sand attitude that they are still unaware that the majority of people in Wales want Sunday trading?

Above all, it should not be imposed by law. It should be a matter of individual choice and conscience whether people want to shop on Sunday, and traders should be able to decide whether they wish to open their businesses on Sunday.

House Building


asked the Secretary of State for Wales what steps he is taking to seek to ensure that the level of house building meets the current demand and anticipated demand.


asked the Secretary of State for Wales what is the latest number of housing starts in Wales this year.

Substantial resources are available to local authorities for housing. So far as new house building in the public sector is concerned, the Government are giving priority to the housing associations, whose starts in the first nine months of this year were 200 per cent. higher than in the same period of 1984. Local authority spending, on the other hand, has changed emphasis towards much needed renovation of the existing stock.

In all, 6,418 housing starts were reported in the first nine months of 1985.

A year ago the Minister's predecessor told me that 11,000 new units of accommodation were required each year to keep pace with demand. Each year since 1980 we have failed to come near that total. Does the Welsh Office realise that that accummulated deficit, year on year, is building up an increasing housing crisis?

We have not changed our overall objectives. Last year's completions, which totalled 9,209, were the best since 1980.

Now that the Minister's answers have revealed the desperate position being faced by the homeless in Wales, will he reveal just a little more and tell us how much of the Chancellor's largesse is likely to come back to Wales for housing? When will we receive the proceeds from the sale of council houses promised repeatedly by his right hon. Friend? When will that money be spent on council housing and housing generally in Wales?

My right hon. Friend is at this moment considering the implications of the Chancellor's autumn statement for Wales. An announcement will be made at the appropriate time.

As regards capital receipts on the sale of council houses, the hon. Gentleman will be aware that the 1980 legislation made it clear that those receipts would not be available for spend in any one year. They are linked to the overall position on capital spending, and they remain so.

Is my hon. Friend in a position to assess the performance of the various housing authorities in the light of the resources available to them?

We believe that housing associations are making a substantial contribution to housing in Wales. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will bear that in mind when making allocations in the coming year.

Why are Welsh housing authorities allowed to spend only 15 per cent. of their council house sale receipts, while English authorities are allowed to spend 20 per cent.?

As I am sure the hon. Gentleman is aware, it is a combination of allocation. The fact that local authorities are allowed to spend 15 per cent. in the coming year is reflected in the overall sums that come from central Government sources.

By playing with percentages, the Minister has shown a substantial increase in the number of starts in the housing association sector, but will he address himself in greater detail to the question posed by his hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Sir R. Gower) and study the role of the housing associations in Wales? Will he give an assurance that, in the allocation, there will be a further substantial increase to meet the needs of housing in Wales and also the commitment which the housing associations tell us they can fulfil?

The current programme for the Housing Corporation this year was £43 million. As I said earlier, my right hon. Friend is considering the allocations for the coming year, but he is already on record as saying that increased resources for housing are a priority.

It was encouraging to read last week's statement by the South Wales House-Builders Federation about the record progress in house building, but I noticed that its only major constraint was the availability of land. For that reason, or any other, has my hon. Friend instructed local councils to sell certain school playing fields?

It is not our policy to instruct councils on the manner in which they should use their resources or dispose of surplus land. However, where councils have surplus land, it is our policy to encourage them to sell it.



asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he is satisfied with the present state of education in Wales; and if he will make a statement.

As our White Paper "Better Schools" made clear, although there have been marked improvements in recent years in both primary and secondary education, sustained efforts will be needed to ensure that all our schools achieve the high standards of our best schools. The Government's education policies for the schools are aimed at securing that objective. I must add that the present strike is doing serious damage to the education of our children.

Are not the hon. Gentleman's ministerial colleagues responsible for the prolonged pay dispute with the teachers? Will he accordingly advise them to get on with the job of trying to sort out this dispute, for the sake of children, teachers and parents?

I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman that the Government are responsible for prolonging this dispute—quite the reverse. The Government are not intransigent. They have shown their helpfulness by promising to make a further £1·25 billion available over the next four years. That will be in addition to whatever award is received by the teachers by way of increases in wages during those years.

Is my hon. Friend aware that Clwyd county council is prepared to spend up to £2 million of its normal capital allocation on developing the castle and grounds at Bodelwyddan, at a time when it proposes to defer the school capital programme? Is that not a scandal? Will my hon. Friend bring the utmost pressure to bear on the county council to persuade it to concentrate on its statutory obligations, the principal one being education?

The development at Bodelwyddan castle is a matter for Clwyd county council. I have visited the technical and vocational education Initiative established at the castle, and been very much impressed by it.

Is the Minister aware that Labour councillors on Clwyd county council have been against the development and that Conservative councillors have been pushing it? Will the hon. Gentleman have a word with them over the matter?

The hon. Gentleman is confirming what I have already said, that this is primarily a matter for the county council.

Is my hon. Friend aware that I have been informed that the National Association of Schoolmasters and the National Union of Teachers have selected both his constituency and mine for special disruptive action? Does that not show a cynical disregard for the welfare and education of our children, and prove beyond any shadow of doubt that much of the present action is politically motivated and has nothing to do with the interests of the teachers?

There is much cynical disregard, in particular, of the interests of the children, about which we are most concerned, although we are also concerned about the interests of the teachers. The Government, as I have said, have shown their helpfulness by saying that further money can be made available over the next four years, provided that we get changes in the pay structure and conditions of service that we require.

If the Minister wishes to raise the quality of teaching in our schools, will he implement the market law, which is that the higher the wages paid to the teachers, the better will be the quality of the teachers that we have in our schools?

We accept, and have said, that there are shortages of teachers in certain subjects, and that we should like to pay more to attract people to take up teaching in those subjects. That is one of the aims of the restructuring proposed by the Government.

Labour Statistics


asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many people are unemployed in Wales and in Clwyd; by how much this has increased since May 1979, as a total and as a percentage; and how many are long-term unemployed as a total and as a percentage.

On 10 October 1985 there were 182,734 unemployed claimants in Wales, an increase of 105,534, or 136·7 per cent., since May 1979. On 10 October 1985 there were 24,982 unemployed claimants in Clwyd. A comparable claimant-based figure for May 1979 in Clwyd is not available. In October 1985, 77,412, or 42·4 per cent., had been unemployed for more than one year in Wales, while for Clwyd the figures were 9,835, or 39·4 per cent.

In the Deeside travel-to-work area, 13,000 people are jobless, and manufacturing jobs have recently been lost at Deeside Titanium, P.D. Cans and at Catharall's Brick at Buckley. Will the Secretary of State urgently consider how he may make available the accounts of Buckley Brick, so that the work force may challenge the proposed closure? Does he know of the brick workers' discontent at the low redundancy payments being offered to them? How will he help the brickworkers at Buckley?

The hon. Gentleman will have an Adjournment debate on this and related employment issues later in the week. I suggest that would be a better time at which to discuss the affairs of the company. The hon. Gentleman listed job losses, but he might have listed the impressive number of job gains that have been announced during the same period. For example, there was another announcement of jobs created at Sharp, and the company to which he referred has announced some investment at Lane End, Buckley. He should give both sides of the story.

What would be the effect on foreign confidence, and hence employment, in Wales if a future Labour Government were to implement their proposals to spend an additional £51 billion in public expenditure?

I agree with my hon. Friend that it would severely dent the confidence of investors, who would recall exactly what happened when a similar policy was implemented by the Labour Government, who had to go cap in hand to the IMF, which cut capital programmes by 45 per cent.

How does the Secretary of State reconcile those terrible and tragic figures with the renewed boast of the Chancellor of the Exchequer about a week ago that Britain is in the third, the fourth or the fifth year of national recovery? Has Wales had a share of that national recovery? Will the right hon. Gentleman, even at this eleventh hour, stop the cut in regional aid that he is carrying through, which could only add to those terrible figures?

I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would welcome the growth in the economy and the fact that it is likely to continue in the year ahead, just as I hope he welcomes the fact that there has been a small reduction in unemployment in Wales during the past month. We have announced a range of measures especially to help the long-term unemployed. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will welcome the fact that the number of community programme places in Wales will increase from 9,600 in April to more than 20,000 places to be filled by June 1986. That is a sign of the Government's determination to meet the special problems of areas such as Wales.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, had it not been for his efforts and those of his colleagues at the Welsh Office, trotting the globe to entice foreign industries to come to Wales, and had not those industries come to Wales, unemployment in the Principality would have been much worse?

Hon. Members on both sides of the House will welcome the substantial inward investment that has taken place and the fact that about a quarter of all the inward investment to the United Kingdom for two years has come to Wales. That gives the lie to the absurd proposition of the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) that the Government do not have an effective regional policy.

Ncb (Closures)


asked the Secretary of State for Wales if, when he last met the chairman of the National Coal Board, he discussed the recent closure programme.

I met the chairman of the National Coal Board on 14 November and discussed a range of matters affecting the Welsh coalfields.

That was not much of a reply, considering the damage that is being caused to parts of Wales, especially Ogmore. I should tell the Secretary of State—the coalfield rapist of Wales—that since 1979 he has closed or been responsible for the closure of the Caerau and the Coegnant collieries in the Llynfi valley. St. John's colliery—the only colliery left in that valley—is subject to the new review procedure. Wyndham Western colliery, which was the only one left in the Ogmore valley after 1979, has also been closed. There is also now a threat to close Garw colliery, which is the only colliery left in the Garw valley.

Will the right hon. Gentleman comment on the promise that was made by Philip Weekes, reported in the Western Mail, to the Welsh miners who were on strike in April that we would have a new colliery in the Margham area? What does he intend to do—

My original answer was precise and answered the main question. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that south Wales deep mine losses in 1984–85 amounted to £188 million and that, against that loss-making background, it was inevitable that measures would be taken to deal with the situation. I should have thought that he would welcome the fact that productivity is increasing significantly, that the operating cost per tonne has fallen sharply and that some £38 million of capital expenditure has been announced for 1985–86 for the south Wales coalfield.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the worst enemy that the coal industry in south Wales has is the NUM, associated and allied with some of its friends on the Opposition Benches?

The disastrous strike led by Mr. Scargill and encouraged by the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) has probably had as catastrophic an effect on the south Wales coalfield as it has had elsewhere on the interests of the NUM.

Has the Secretary of State had the opportunity to examine the Department of Trade and Industry survey into the post-redundancy experiences of Welsh steel workers? If so, will he say how relevant those findings are to the experiences of coal miners in Wales?

A lesson that we learnt from the experience in the steel industry was the valuable work done by BSC Industries. That is one reason why a substantial share of the comparable operation launched by the NCB has been devoted to south Wales, and I am glad to say that it is already associated with about 600 new jobs.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that whereas the steel organisation which was set up to deal with redundancy gave valuable advice to the recipients of redundancy benefit in that industry, it appears that the NCB does not do that, and that no comparable advice is, given to recipients of redundancy in the coal industry? Will he make representations to the NCB and the Secretary of State for Energy to ensure that similar advice is given to recipients of redundancy in the coal industry?

The new NCB industry organisation is, among other things, helping to fund local enterprise trusts and organisations geared to provide that type of advice. However, as my hon. Friend has made a specific point, I shall draw it to the attention of the management of the NCB and follow it up.

The right hon. Gentleman seems incapable of understanding the impact of closures on vulnerable valley communities. These communities are now facing social and economic crises, yet the right hon. Gentleman seems to have no sympathy for them. Is he aware that 11,000 jobs have been lost since 1979 in the south Wales coalfield? Is he further aware that 1·5 million tonnes of prime coking coal are being imported into south Wales this year? We feel a sense of betrayal of the Margam deep mine. We look to him to help us on that project.

If the hon. Gentleman does not understand that the cost per tonne of deep-mined coal bears a relationship to the amount of coal imported, he does not begin to understand anything. He should ask the steel industry about the relationship. I should have thought that he would want a competitive steel industry that can buy coal at a competitive price.

Hill Farming


asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he is satisfied with the present state of hill farming in Wales; and if he will make a statement.

Following the abnormal weather experienced during the summer months this year, farm incomes are expected to be adversely affected in 1985–86. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food announced on 8 October that assistance will be given towards the extra costs incurred this year and the amount and extent of that assistance is under consideration. Announcements about this and the rates of hill livestock compensatory allowances for 1986 will be made shortly.

When will the Secretary of State pay the hill livestock compensatory allowances? Will he pay them in full?

The hill livestock compensatory allowances are being considered at the moment. It is only within the past 10 days or so that we have had the normal meetings with the unions. They have expressed the hope that an advance payment of allowances will be made this year. The Government are well aware of the need to make early payments to relieve the problems that arise from this year's very wet weather.

Because of the serious difficulties suffered by hill farmers, will my right hon. Friend consider introducing a generous outgoers scheme on the milk side?

We already have such an outgoers scheme. Not only has it helped those on the milk side who wished to leave the industry, but it has enabled us to put more than half the Welsh producers back to their original 1983 base levels. We do not have any plans to introduce a further scheme. The European Commission has put forward tentative proposals for a European scheme, and we shall have to consider them in due course.

Labour Statistics


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 was the percentage increase in each case.

On 10 October 1985 there were 12,911, 29,173 and 182,734 unemployed claimants in the Newport travel-to-work area, Gwent and Wales respectively. The equivalent figure for Wales in May 1979 was 77,200. The increase was 136·7 per cent. Comparable figures for 1979 in Newport and Gwent are not available because of changes to travel-to-work area boundaries and the move to claimant-based figures.

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen last week's report by the Gwent county engineer, Mr. Howard Pullen, who pointed out that, in the past seven years, cash for road maintenance has fallen in real terms by 45 per cent.? Does this not explain why our roads are in such a shocking condition? I remind the right hon. Gentleman that, even in the 1930s, Conservative Governments had the wisdom to take people out of the dole queue in great numbers and to employ them on road maintenance.

Of course I appreciate the need for road maintenance. That is why we have carried out the largest and most expensive road maintenance project yet undertaken in Wales. This is being carried out in Gwent on the M4. The need for a continuing maintenance programme will be very much in mind as I take our decisions on the road programme, which results from the public expenditure announcement by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor.

In view of the figures for Gwent, Wales and Newport that were cited by my right hon. Friend, will he assure me that he will do everything in his power to ensure that, when the Ministry of Defence finally makes up its mind about the disposal of the Vauxhall camp at Monmouth, the Department has it firmly in mind that there should be employment opportunities for Monmouth? I have been trying to find out the Ministry's plans. I hope that my right hon. Friend has greater success than I have had.

I note my hon. Friend's point. I shall take the matter up with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, who has responsibility for that matter.

Agricultural Support


asked the Secretary of State for Wales what was the total amount spent by his Department on agricultural support in Wales in the latest year for which figures are available.

The sum of £82·2 million was spent by my Department in support of agriculture in Wales in 1984–85.

In addition, certain other payments under the CAP were made by the intervention board for agricultural produce, including payments in Wales amounting to about £4·7 million on the beef variable premium scheme; about £21·4 million on the sheep variable premium scheme; and about £0·8 million on school milk.

In view of that figure, does the Secretary of State acknowledge the vital contribution made by public expenditure to the Welsh rural economy? Will he give us an assurance that there will be no further attempt to reduce jobs or opportunities for farmers to obtain advice through the advisory services as a result of his Department's privatisation proposals?

My Department's estimated provision for expenditure in support of agriculture in Wales in 1985–86 is £82·7 million. That is a substantial sum. The Welsh Office's share of changes over previous plans for agricultural support for 1986–87 involves a net reduction of about £4 million over the previous year. That reduction mainly reflects revised forecasts of future demand-determined expenditure on grants for capital and other improvements. We have announced that we are making some savings in ADAS and charging for some of its services. I can confirm that there will continue to be provision for a substantial level of advice from ADAS.

When does the Secretary of State expect that the help to compensate for the wet summer will be available? The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food announced to the Conservative party conference that it was to be finalised by the end of October. October has come and gone, and no aid is forthcoming.

Discussions are going on at the moment. I well understand the need to arrive at early decisions. It is not entirely a straightforward matter to arrive at a scheme that directs help to those people and areas that most need it, because, as the hon. Gentleman will be aware, the damage and consequences vary substantially. In some places they are horrendous, while in neighbouring areas the effects have been much less. They are not entirely straightforward matters. We are considering them urgently. I hope that it will not be long before we can make an announcement.

Will my hon. Friend assure sheep farmers in my constituency that the Government will resolutely oppose the EC Commission's surrender to French protectionism by its iniquitous proposal for a claw-back on exported ewes.

As my hon. Friend will be aware, we registered our objections formally. We voted against the European Commission's proposal about a week or 10 days ago. We continue to oppose the alternative proposals. The position is somewhat uncertain at the moment because the original scheme has come to an end and no new scheme has yet formally taken its place. I fully understand the importance of that matter, and the Government will continue to take a resolute stand on it.

Development Board For Rural Wales


asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he has any plans to give extra financial aid to the Development Board for Rural Wales; and if he will make a statement.

We are currently considering the board's funding as part of this year's review of public expenditure.

Does the Minister recognise that whatever direct aid is given to Mid Wales Development there is a crying need for greater indirect aid in the form of the rapid development of the east-west road link? Does he accept that there is great dissatisfaction in mid Wales about the lethargy being shown by the Welsh Office in producing that road link?

I am glad that I detected that the hon. and learned Gentleman approves of the budgeting of the development board so far. It has done well this year by having £10·3 million to spend, which is £600,000 more than last year. With regard to roads, yes, representations have been made to me about those roads by the chairman as late as last Friday, and we shall, of course, consider them in our roads programme.

Sporting And Recreational Facilities


asked the Secretary of State for Wales what discussions he has had with the Sports Council in Wales about the availability of sporting and recreational facilities within easy travelling distance of every community in Wales.

I discussed the development of sport in Wales generally with the chairman of the Sports Council for Wales on 30 October.

Does the Minister accept that there is a disgraceful position in the Dwyfor area? There is not one indoor swimming pool or sports centre open to the public in that district. That area has been identified by the Sports Council as the most deprived in Wales in that respect. Will he give an undertaking that when considering the capital allowances for local authorities for the coming year, sympathy will be shown to an application to remedy that weakness?

The hon. Gentleman has already written to me on this subject. The application by the Dwyfor district council for a special capital allocation to build a leisure centre at Pwllheli is still under consideration. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that his representations will be taken into account, but I must point out that we have received numerous other applications as well.

Does the hon. Gentleman not understand that, following the Bradford disaster, many small football and rugby clubs are having to spend considerable sums of money to make their grounds safe? Is it not right that the Welsh Office, perhaps through the Sports Council, should assist those clubs? Without such help, many of these clubs will be driven out of existence, with the consequences that all of us can imagine.

The right hon. Gentleman is quite right to say that clubs are being asked to undertake improvements to their grounds to make them safe. The Government do not accept that there is a case for Government assistance for this aspect of sport.

Is my hon. Friend aware of the great need for indoor tennis facilities in Cardiff city? Will his Department give every assistance towards providing these facilities, which are urgently needed in the United Kingdom generally?

I take note of what my hon. Friend has said about indoor tennis courts. I am sure that representations about this matter have also been made to the Sports Council for Wales.

Duchy Of Lancaster

County Palatine (Visit)


asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when he will next visit the county palatine.

On 29 and 30 November next, when I visit Manchester and Blackpool.

When my right hon. Friend goes to the county palatine, will he make sure that he draws attention to the suffering that is now being imposed on some of the residents of the palatinate as a result of the cruel activities of Liverpool city council?

It is quite likely that on my next visit, or even before it, I may comment upon the follies of those who have been actively destroying the city of Liverpool by their activities on the city council. No doubt I shall be able to quote from the words of the Leader of the Opposition and the many leaders of trade unions who have condemned extreme Left wingers in the Labour party in Liverpool.

At the same time, will the right hon. Gentleman look at the whole of the county of Greater Manchester and take note of the fact that over the past six years unemployment there has increased from around 5 per cent. to something nearer 14 per cent.? That matter greatly concerns the residents of the area.

I understand that concern. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, Her Majesty's Government have been active in many ways in seeking to combat the problems, of unemployment. As he knows, the average level of unemployment has risen under every Government since the end of the war. These are deep-rooted problems and I know that he, like me, will take some comfort from the fact that at the moment this country is generating more new jobs than the rest of Europe put together.



asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will make a statement on his duties as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

My duties are such that I have overall responsibility for the work of the Duchy of Lancaster Office.

That tells us a lot. Is it not also part of the right hon. Gentleman's duty to try to ensure that the deputy chairman of the Tory party does not keep putting his foot into his mouth? The right hon. Gentleman in particular is always talking about other organisations being democratic. Can he explain why there are no elections for the position of party chairman? Why is the appointment subject to only one person's choice?

If providence had not pre-empted him, the hon. Gentleman would be in danger of making a fool of himself. The fact of the matter is that my duties as chairman of the Conservative party, for which I emphasise I do not answer in this House, are entirely similar to those of the general secretary of the Labour Party, Mr. Whitty, who is not elected to his post, either.

Church Commissioners

Bishop Of Durham (Palace)


asked the hon. Member for Wokingham, as representing the Church Commissioners, how much the Church Commissioners have spent on (a) dilapidations and (b) other works at the palace of the Bishop of Durham in each of the last 10 years; and if he will make a statement.

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

As the answer contains a number of figures I will, with permission, circulate them in the Official Report. However, total expenditure by the Church Commissioners over the last 10 years was £816,000.

Can my hon. Friend say whether that is the truthful expenditure on the palace of the Bishop of Durham, or whether other money is being spent, and if so, from what sources, and why it is being spent? Is it not possible for the Bishop of Durham to live in more modest surroundings, instead of at such enormous cost?

Of the total of about £940,000 which has been spent on the chapel at Auckland castle, about £320,000 was met by grants from the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission. Auckland castle is a great ancient and historic house, and I understand that there are very strong feelings in the diocese that the bishop of the diocese should continue to reside there. It is illustrative of the great burdens on the Church. For example, we have had to provide £6,300 for the replacement of beetle-infested timbers. I am sure that my hon. Friend would not want the bishop to be infested with beetles.

Is my hon. Friend aware that most people who care about these matters will be glad that the money is being spent? I remind him that Auckland castle is far more important than any of its temporary inhabitants, and far more inspirational than any of them.

I listen carefully to what my hon. Friend, with his special skills in this matter, tells me, but he will join me in reminding ourselves that this is money that could otherwise be spent on stipends and other matters, and is part of the very expensive heritage of buildings of the Church of England.

Will my hon. Friend consider hiring a reliable medium to take advice from the late Bishop Hatto about how the inhabitants of the building should be entertained and preserved?

I should be very grateful if my hon. Friend would volunteer for that task.

Following are the figures:

Expenditure on dilapidations and other works by the Church Commissioners on the Bishop of Durham's official house (Auckland castle) over the last 10 years has been as follows:


Other works





Year to 31.03.764,3481254,473
Year to 31.03.776,493276,520
Year to 30.03.7824,0098,52032,529
Year to 31.03.7957,3255557,380
Nine months to 31.12.7942,5341,24343,777
Year to 31.12.80118,5103,941122,451
Year to 31.12.81131,58113,967145,548
Year to 31.12.82269,26420,095289,359
Year to 31.12.8317,45613,73031,186
Year to 31.12.8453,32529,75083,075

(As a result of the commissioners changing their financial year, the period to 31.12.79 covers only nine months).

Employees (Hours Of Work)


asked the hon. Member for Wokingham, as representing the Church Commissioners, what are the normal hours of work of employees of the Church Commissioners; and if he will make a statement.

I am not surprised that the Church Commissioners are working from Monday to Friday and doing only 41 hours, and I am relieved that they do not yet have to work on Sundays. Does my hon. Friend agree that there is a double standard in operation when the Church Commissioners' assets committee invests £240 million in new shopping centres in Glasgow, Bury St. Edmunds, Ipswich and other areas, and supports several leading shopping chains, such as Mothercare and Habitat, which want to open on Sundays? Should not my hon. Friend, through the Church Commissioners, be encouraging them to stay shut on Sunday, the day of rest?

The Church Commissioners as such have not made any pronouncement on the matter, partly because they wanted to wait and see the terms of any Bill. However, my hon. Friend must not assume that they will necessarily continue to remain silent.


South Glamorgan Health Authority


asked the Secretary of State for Wales what were the provisional allocations for spending by South Glamorgan health authority in 1984–85 and 1985–86; on what dates those allocations were advised to the health authority; and what extra moneys have been found for the health authority in each of these financial years.

The provisional allocations notified to the South Glamorgan health authority in 1984–85 and 1985–86 were £119·4 million and £128·5 million. The revenue and capital elements of these allocations were notified on 10 February and 27 February in 1984 and 25 February and 26 March in 1985. Additional funds totalling £6·3 million were provided during 1984–85, and an additional £0·2 million has been provided in 1985–86. A further £1·27 million of provision for specific developments will be released to the authority when required.

We are all appreciative of the real increase in expenditure on the National Health Service achieved by my hon. Friend and his colleagues, particularly the extra moneys that have been found during the financial year. What staff of South Glamorgan health authority has he instructed should be axed?

My hon. Friend is right. There has been a 21·25 per cent. increase in the funding of health authorities in Wales since 1979. It is not my right hon. Friend's policy to instruct health authorities to reduce the number of staff. It is for them to decide how to use their allocations.

The Arts

Northern Arts


asked the Minister for the Arts what recent representations he has received from Northern Arts about the impact of the abolition of Tyne and Wear county council on arts spending in the region; and what response he has given.

I have received a number of representations, and I visited Tyne and Wear on 11 November. As I announced in the House on 14 November, the Government will make £25 million available to the Arts Council next year, towards the replacement of arts funding in the abolition areas. It will now be for the Arts Council to decide its regional allocations and for successor authorities to play their part.

During his visit to the region last week, did the Minister notice the unique arrangement which means that a large proportion of arts expenditure is funded by Tyne and Wear county council rather than by the districts? Does he think that the excessively London-minded Arts Council has grasped the significance of that in regard to the use of the money that he announced on Thursday? Is he aware that that and the small increase in the base rate of grant will result in rural areas such as Northumberland being left behind when it comes to arts grants while the region tries to sort out the problems created by the abolition of Tyne and Wear?

I had useful discussions in Newcastle last week with Tyne and Wear county council and the successor authorities. I am aware of the distribution of money between various authorities and I am satisfied that the Arts Council will take the factors that the hon. Gentleman mentioned fully into account when disbursing the additional money. As for rural areas, I have announced an increase in the amount of money available for regional development. It will make an important contribution.

Can my hon. Friend extend that assurance to metropolitan county areas generally? I have the west midlands in mind.

Yes, I can. It is up to the Arts Council to decide how to disburse the money. I am sure that it will take each region's needs into account.

Can the Minister confirm from his visit to the north-east last week that the whole region utterly opposes the Government's asinine policy of abolishing the county of Tyne and Wear and the resulting chaos?

The purpose of my visit was to have constructive discussions—which I had—with Tyne and Wear county council and the successor authorities about how they can play their part in financing the arts, in addition to the Government's role. I thought that the successor authorities demonstrated a positive approach.

Victoria And Albert Museum


asked the Minister for the Arts if he will make a statement about the voluntary system of charges introduced by the Victoria and Albert museum.


asked the Minister for the Arts if he will make a statement about the introduction of the voluntary entrance fee at the Victoria and Albert museum.

Charges are a matter for the trustees' discretion. The trustees of the Victoria and Albert museum have decided to introduce a voluntary donations scheme at the museum and to suggest a donation of £2 per adult and 50p for students and old-age pensioners. The donations will accrue to the Associates of the V and A, an independent fund-raising body, which will use them to support museum ventures not met from the moneys voted by this House.

Will my hon. Friend also congratulate Sir Roy Strong and the trustees on devising this popular and sensible means of subsidising the arts? What will he do to encourage other museums to do the same and to retain more of the receipts from charges?

It is entirely up to the trustees of national museums to decide what methods they use to provide additional funds. The Government provide basic funding for national museums and will continue to do so, but we should do everything to encourage them to raise extra money by other means to improve services. I would encourage any method of raising extra revenue. Indeed, I am considering methods of improving the system.

While I also commend the initiative taken by the Victoria and Albert museum, and point out that there is a world of difference between its scheme and compulsory charges for our national museums, may I ask whether my hon. Friend agrees that the person who led the publicity campaign against it on television and who said that his taxes had paid for the V and A only showed that his sense of history was as poor as his misplaced histrionics on television?

I agree with my hon. Friend. The trustees have discretion and can either raise voluntary donations or impose admission charges, as the National Maritime museum does. It is at their discretion. I agree with my hon. Friend that almost every other country with a national museum makes charges, and it seems extraordinary that people should discourage the efforts of those who are trying to increase their available resources.

We should be proud of our policy of free admission to museums. Does the Minister not realise that these voluntary charges are a form of moral blackmail, and will undoubtedly deter many people from visiting museums? Will he keep a careful check on attendances at the V and A, and, if they fall off, will he dissuade other museums from carrying out a similar policy?

I shall not. It is up to the trustees and governing bodies of local museums to decide how they secure extra revenue in addition to the basic funding from the Government. When one considers the range of places that are chargeable, for example, visiting a country house, it is extraordinary that the hon. Gentleman should say that it is immoral to experiment in this way.

Does the Minister accept that his comments on the freedom of trustees might be listened to with more care if it were not for the fact that in 1973 and 1974 the present Prime Minister compelled them to introduce charges, the consequence of which was a 50 per cent. decrease in attendances at the V and A during the three months following their introduction? We persuaded the museums to drop those charges, and we shall rescind these charges next time. These are national institutions and they cannot be left to make such decisions, which will result in an immediate fall in attendances. Any extra money will be clawed back.

It is regrettable that the hon. Gentleman should suggest that if ever he had the chance to be in office he would look to ways of discouraging museums from raising extra revenue. If museums wish to do so, why should they not have the freedom to improve their services?

Business Support


asked the Minister for the Arts what plans he has to simplify and improve the incentives to businesses to support the arts.

The Government have already made a number of tax improvements designed to make it more attractive to give to the arts, thus honouring the commitments in our manifesto. In addition, the business sponsorship incentive scheme has generated an extra £5·5 million in its first year.

Will my hon. Friend seek to impress on his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer the fact that the complication and uncertainty of the present tax rules discourage many potential sponsors, and that it would be better if we simply allowed businesses that wished to support the arts to set off donations up to a certain percentage of pre-tax profits, as other countries do?

I note what my hon. Friend says, and I shall convey his views to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. My hon. Friend will acknowledge that during our time in office we have undertaken many moves to encourage businesses to sponsor the arts, ranging from a reduction in the covenanting period to relief from capital transfer tax on all gifts to charities. That is an encouragement to sponsorship. I am anxious to find any way that will enhance further the amount of support from the public and from businesses for the arts.

While the Minister has the gratitude of the House, and particularly the people of East Anglia, for his continued support of the business sponsorship scheme, may I ask whether he accepts that opera houses cannot function on an annual basis, and, in order to plan ahead, desperately need endowments?

I note what the hon. Gentleman says, and I am grateful for his support of the business sponsorship scheme. I am glad that his wife has benefited from it, and rightly so. The scheme provides support for many regions; not only East Anglia, but all parts. I understand the hon. Gentleman's point about opera houses. In addition to any basic grants from the Government, opera houses should be encouraged to find ways of securing extra outside private support.

Regional Facilities


asked the Minister for the Arts if he is satisfied that sufficient resources are being made available for the extensions of facilities for the arts in the regions.

It is for the Arts Council to allocate its funds, taking due account of the needs of arts bodies, and the contribution of local authorities. I have every confidence in the council's regional development strategy as set out in "The Glory of the Garden", and the grant for 1986–87 which I announced on 14 November will enable it to continue. The £3 million development money allocated by the council in the current year has, I am pleased to say, already generated more than £2 million additional local funding.

Does the Minister support councils such as Burnley borough council, which is converting the Mechanics building in Burnley to a theatre and a multipurpose arts centre? Will he give that council financial support? Is he aware that it seems that present Government policy will penalise Burnley once it has converted the building and has to meet the revenue costs?

I know of the hon. Gentleman's keen interest in the Burnley Mechanics Institute Theatre project, but, as he knows, it is now Arts Council policy not to support capital expenditure of the kind that he has described. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will look not just to local authorities, but to private sponsorship as well, to help in this connection.

Yes, Mr. Speaker. Given the importance of my question No. 5 and the indequate reply from the Secretary of State, I should like to give notice that I intend to raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Anglo-Irish Agreement

3.30 pm

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement about the meeting which I attended with the Taoiseach on 15 November. I was accompanied by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Dr. FitzGerald was accompanied by Mr. Spring, the Tanaiste, and by Mr. Barry, the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs.

An agreement was signed between our two Governments, which has been published in a Command Paper. The text of the communique, issued after the meeting, is also included in the Command Paper.

The purpose of the agreement is to promote peace and stability in Northern Ireland; to encourage reconciliation between the two communities there; to create an improved climate of friendship and co-operation between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland; and to strengthen cross-border co-operation between the two countries, particularly in combating terrorism.

The agreement will not come into force until it has been approved by Parliament and by the Irish Dail. The House will have an early opportunity for a full debate.

The agreement has two principal features. The Irish Government have affirmed in a binding international agreement that the status of Northern Ireland will remain unchanged so long as that is the wish of the majority of its people. They have also recognised that the present wish of a majority is to remain part of the United Kingdom. This is the most formal commitment to the principle of consent made by any Irish Government.

The second main feature of the agreement is the establishment of an intergovernmental conference within the framework of the existing Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Council. The conference will be serviced by a secretariat on a continuing basis. In this conference the Irish Government may put forward views and proposals on certain aspects of Northern Ireland affairs.

If devolution is restored—both Governments are committed to support this—then those matters which become the responsibility of the devolved Government will be taken out of the hands of the intergovernmental conference. The conference will also discuss cross-border co-operation, including improved security co-operation.

The two Governments have agreed to make determined efforts to resolve any differences that may arise, but the conference will not be a decision-making body. Full responsibility for the decisions and administration of government will remain with the United Kingdom Government north of the border and with the Irish Government south of the border.

The first meeting of the intergovernmental conference will take place as soon as practicable after the agreement enters into force. Particular subjects on which the conference will concentrate at its initial meetings are: ways of improving relations between the security forces and the minority community in Northern Ireland; action to improve security co-operation between our two Governments; ways to help to underline the importance of public confidence in the administration of justice.

The agreement recognises that it would be for parliamentary decision in Westminster and Dublin whether to establish an Anglo-Irish parliamentary body of the kind described in the Anglo-Irish studies report of November 1981.

The Irish Government have announced in the communiqué their intention to accede as soon as possible to the European convention on the suppression of terrorism. We welcome this.

No single agreement can resolve the deep-rooted and complex problems of Northern Ireland and deliver the peace for which the great majority of people in Northern Ireland long, but I believe that the present agreement will make an important contribution. It maintains and confirms the status of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom and recognises the legitimacy of the Unionist position. It provides for co-operation in the intergovernmental conference to be a two-way street.

We shall wish to pursue matters affecting the Republic in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland—for instance, improved security and economic co-operation. It encourages the political parties in Northern Ireland to reach agreement on an acceptable form of devolved government. It offers hope to all those in both communities who want to defeat the men of violence and to work together peacefully for a better future for their children. That is the purpose of the agreement. It is in that spirit that I commend it to the House.

May I first express the Opposition's hope that the Anglo-Irish summit succeeds in its intention of promoting peace and stability in Northern Ireland? We wish the initiative well.

Is the Prime Minister aware that we regard two of the principles on which the agreement is based as especially important? These are, first, the reassertion by the Dublin Government of their acceptance that a change in Northern Ireland status could not come about without the consent of the people of Northern Ireland, and, secondly, the acknowledgement by the British Government of what was described in a previous summit as the all-Irish dimension.

Against that background of general welcome, I ask the Prime Minister four specific questions. The right hon. Lady said that the intergovernmental conference may put forward views and proposals on certain aspects of Northern Ireland affairs. What are the subjects which have been agreed as unsuitable for discussion by that body? Secondly, is the intergovernmental conference to discuss plans for possible devolution before the Government consider putting them to the House, or is that essentially constitutional issue regarded as the prerogative solely of the United Kingdom?

Thirdly, there have been many reports since Friday of the United States proposing or offering governmental assistance to Northern Ireland. [Hon. Members: "Bribe."] May we be told what the facts are on these matters? Fourthly, the newspapers since Friday have referred constantly to promises by the United States Government to provide various forms of grant for use in Northern Ireland. Are these promises fact? If so, what form will the grants take?

Fifthly, I gladly acknowledge that the Ulster Defence Regiment was created as a non-sectarian force to inspire the confidence of all Northern Ireland, but sadly that is no longer the position. Have any decisions been taken, or assurances given, about the future role and the entire operation of the UDR?

Finally, no one suggests that the agreement is without its faults—no such agreement could be—but, in our view, it offers some hope for the people of Northern Ireland; it is for that reason that we wish it well.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his general approach and for the good wishes that he has expressed to the purposes behind the agreement. The right hon. Gentleman asked four questions. First, he asked what subjects were regarded as not suitable for the conference. The subjects that are regarded as suitable are set out in the agreement itself. They are clear. Article 2 says that the conference shall

"deal … on a regular basis with … political matters … security and related matters … legal matters, including the administration of justice … the promotion of cross-border cooperation"
and certain other matters such as economic and cultural matters referred to in the agreement. The subjects that are suitable are set out in the agreement rather than the subjects which are not suitable.

The right hon. Gentleman's second question referred to decisions relating to devolved government. It is of course for the United Kingdom to approach the constitutional parties about devolved government. It is for the Republic of Ireland to put forward views in the conference about that matter. However, decisions north of the border rest with the United Kingdom Government.

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned promises and grants from the United States. It has been suggested that the United States should provide moneys to assist both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. I do not know any more than has been published.

We believe that some money will be forthcoming, but I do not know the amount or in what form it will be.

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the Ulster Defence Regiment. I congratulate the Ulster Defence Regiment upon its most excellent record. There are no changes in its structure. The matter to which the right hon. Gentleman referred is dealt with in paragraph 8 of the communiqué, which states:
"In addressing the improvement of relations between the security forces and the minority community, the Conference at its first meeting will consider
(a) the application of the principle that the Armed Forces (which include the Ulster Defence Regiment) operate only in support of the civil power, with the particular objective of ensuring as rapidly as possible that, save in the most exceptional circumstances, there is a police presence in all operations which involve direct contact with the community."

Can my right hon. Friend, who has proclaimed herself rock firm for the Union and reaffirmed her Unionism at Hillsborough castle, assure the House that the agreement, whether in terms of is wording or in fact, gives Dublin no veto in the exercise of executive authority in Northern Ireland?

That is correct. Decisions north of the border are for the United Kingdom. Decisions south of the border are for the Republic. The Republic has no veto in decisions north of the border.

Is the Prime Minister aware that instructions have been given for leave to be sought forthwith to apply for the judicial review of a number of the issues which the agreement raises? I understand that the initial steps in court are likely to take place within the next 48 hours. I look to the Government not to proceed with any action in implementation of the agreement until their legal right to do so is clarified.

I do not think that I can give the right hon. Gentleman the answer which he seeks off the cuff. I believe that we are right to go ahead with debating the agreement next week and putting forward a motion that the agreement has the approval of the House. That is our intention.

Will the Prime Minister agree that, while it is always easier to destroy than to create, nowhere is that more true than in the history of Northern Ireland? Will she accept from these Benches support on the basis that this creative step is preferable to the status quo of bitterness, division and bloodshed? Will she further agree that those who are not prepared to accept the decisions of this sovereign Parliament, as they apply to that part of the United Kingdom, should cease to arrogate unto themselves the title of moralist?

I welcome the right hon. Gentleman's constructive approach in support of the agreement. It is designed to mobilise men and women of good will everywhere against the men of violence so that there may be peace and stability in Northern Ireland, against a background where the Republic of Ireland recognises the legitimacy of the Unionist case and the fact that the status of Northern Ireland cannot be changed without consent.

It will come as no surprise to the right hon. Lady to hear that I shall not be commending this document of treachery and deceit to the House. As the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic arrived home from Hillsborough castle it was widely publicised on television, radio and in the press that he said:

"In future, the Ulster Defence Regiment will operate differently from the way in which it has operated for the last 12 years. That means that from now on the present position under which the Ulster Defence Regiment can stop people on the road, search them and question them will no longer operate."
He also said something which affects the sovereignty of this House over a regiment of the British army:
"The question of how security should be organised in Northern Ireland is one for the new intergovernmental conference."
In view of the fact that the people who live on the border in Northern Ireland get no defence from anybody but the Ulster Defence Regiment, what will they do in these circumstances, and why should a Prime Minister of a foreign republic have a say in the government and direction of a British Army regiment?

I pay tribute once again to the bravery and courage of the men and women of the Ulster Defence Regiment. I repeat that under the agreement the Governments of both the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland may raise with one another matters of security: we with them about certain matters south of the border and they with us about matters north of the border. Decisions north of the border will remain with the United Kingdom. Decisions south of the border will remain with the Republic. For many years, the policy of Her Majesty's Government has been that the armed forces should operate in aid of the civil power. We have been trying to make arrangements progressively to bring that into effect. The only difference about the Ulster Defence Regiment relates not to the agreement itself but to the particular matter which I read out from the communique. It says that the conference will consider the objective of ensuring

"as rapidly as possible that, save in the most exceptional circumstances, there is a police presence in all operations which involve direct contact with the community."
That is in pursuance of the general policy that in a democracy the armed forces act in aid of the civil power.

Does the Prime Minister agree that a great deal will depend upon the implementation of the agreement? Can she assure the House that it will be implemented in the same spirit of good faith as was evident on Friday between the two Prime Ministers? Despite the ill-judged and prejudged reaction from certain quarters, my party believes that this agreement is an opportunity to make progress towards peace and reconciliation. We shall offer our fullest cooperation to the new institution. That includes willingness to enter into discussion and dialogue with anybody in Northern Ireland, particularly those who represent Northern Ireland, in this House, about any matter that will lead to peace and reconciliation, including the sharing of responsibility for certain matters in Northern Ireland. Recognition of the validity of both traditions, which was explicit in this agreement, is the only true basis for reconciliation. My party and those who support me do not believe that there will be any resolution of the conflict in Northern Ireland which involves in any way the crushing or the defeat of the Protestant heritage there. Not only would that be unthinkable; it would be impossible.

May I most warmly thank the hon. Gentleman for what he has said? I believe that his constructive contribution will help greatly to defeat the men of violence and to bring peace and stability to both traditions in Northern Ireland. Whenever there is a change, obviously hopes and fears are raised on both sides. It is for us in this House and those who take the lead in all communities in Northern Ireland to quell those fears and to bring forward those hopes so that we may move forward to the peace and stability that we all want.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in these coming months, and whatever view we take about the Anglo-Irish agreement, restraint in public utterance will assist, and intemperate and inflammatory public utterance will injure the true cause of Ulster?

Is my right hon. Friend further aware that charges of treachery levelled against her, whether within or without this House, are resented deeply by me and will be repudiated totally by me?

I warmly agree with my hon. Friend about restraint in public utterance. His objectives for peace and stability and for defeating the men of violence are the same as mine. I am very grateful to him for what he said in the latter part of his question.

No one who has had any responsibility for Ulster—for Northern Ireland—could do aught else than wish the Government well in their endeavours. I was especially pleased to hear the words of the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume).

Is the right hon. Lady aware that I regret the reports in the weekend newspapers that, in the light of the response of the Unionists, there is talk of sending 9,000 soldiers and two battalions of paras—[AN HON. MEMBER: "Rubbish."] I am referring to what has been reported.

I have noted that, unlike in 1974, the Unionists on these Benches have not had any truck with paramilitaries and are not talking about an Ulster workers' strike. They are talking about standing again for election and of going to the High Court. At least in the short run, we should give them credit for that. We must fight their arguments, if that is necessary, with the spoken word and not with threats, because that would be counter-productive to Northern Ireland.

The crisis is likely to come next year. If the Ulster Unionists win through overwhelmingly in their communities, the Orange card will no longer be able to be played over here—the Orange card will no longer be a trump card. I simply say to the Government that it is about that time that they should be thinking, because it is my view that the union is at risk not from this part of the United Kingdom but from within Northern Ireland.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for raising the matter of that report. I know of no such plans as those referred to in that report, and we have issued a statement from No. 10 Downing street to that effect. I do not see any need to increase the security forces in Northern Ireland as a result of the agreement. I hope that any views that are to be put will be put in the customary way, through representatives in this House or through representatives in the Assembly or elsewhere in Northern Ireland. I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for allowing me to make that clear.

Should not those who are most vocal in their wish that Northern Ireland should remain part of the United Kingdom bear in mind the fact that it follows logically from their position that the acceptability of this agreement is a matter for the United Kingdom as a whole, and that the United Kingdom will warmly applaud the agreement and wish it success?

Yes, my right hon. Friend is correct. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and will remain so unless the majority wish the contrary and the House endorses their wish. Decisions are a matter for the United Kingdom as a whole.

On behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, I join in expressing the hope that this agreement assists the process of peace and security. Is it the Prime Minister's intention to table a motion and allow a free vote on the proposal that there should be an Anglo-Irish parliamentary tier?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the first part of his question. There will be a motion, subject to the approval of my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal. We hope to have a debate next week and we shall table a motion to approve the agreement. I cannot give the hon. Gentleman the answer that he wishes to receive on the voting. The parliamentary tier is a matter for the House and for the Dail.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, while the prospect of additional American investment in Northern Ireland could be useful, provided that it is properly targeted, by far the best hope for the security and prosperity of Ulster and for its marvellously skilled work force would be if efforts could be mounted to ensure that the agreement is built upon and not undermined and eroded by pointless unrest?

I agree with my right hon. Friend. I understand that it is the intention of the United States of America to put up some money to help peace and stability in Northern Ireland and for inward investment. I do not know how much or what form it would take, but it would be tragic if there were to be internal unrest, because that would put back the cause of peace and stability in Northern Ireland.

Is the right hon. Lady aware that the prime challenge to this agreement may not arise from the customary threat, nor even from great expectations about improved security, but from the response of the indigenous nationalist community? Is she further aware that, if the agreement does not provide some evidence or even offer a glimpse of a fundamental and irreversible shift in the balance of Northern Ireland, and of movement towards its legitimate unity aspirations, the right hon. Lady will not achieve her principal objective of defeating Sinn Fein, whatever role she accords Dublin?

I disagree with the hon. Gentleman. The agreement refers to the possibility of devolved government on a basis acceptable to both communities. If that could be provided, the matters that are within the scope of the intergovernmental conference would leave the scope of the conference and be dealt with by devolved Government. That offers some hope, and the fact that we are mobilising all people who are against violence to fight it offers hope to all the people of Northern Ireland. I hope that one day we may even get the hon. Gentleman to come round more to our view.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many people who may feel uneasy about some aspects of this agreement would have felt very much more uneasy if my right hon. Friend had not succeeded in reaching this agreement?

I recognise that not everyone can agree with every part of the agreement, but most people support its general purpose and wish it well.

Will the Prime Minister be completely candid with the House and the public about what is contemplated in the context of the administration of justice, especially in view of the discussions that have taken place on the operation of mixed courts in Northern Ireland?

The agreement shows that we have agreed in good faith to consider the possibility of mixed courts. We are considering that possibility without commitment, because we know from experience the difficulties and we cannot yet see our way around them. We are considering the possibility without commitment.

My right hon. Friend has consistently argued that, despite the Republic's claim to sovereignty over Northern Ireland, it has no right to intervene in the domestic affairs of this kingdom. Now, she proposes to give it a legally enforceable right to do so—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—in clear breach of the spirit, if not the letter, of the constitutional guarantee to Northern Ireland. Why has my right hon. Friend abandoned her Unionist principles?

As my hon. Friend is aware, I have not. The intergovernmental conference is about the Republic putting forward its proposals and views within the context of that conference. Article 2 makes it clear that

"There is no derogation from the sovereignty of either the United Kingdom Government or the Irish Government, and each retains responsibility for the decisions and administration of Government within its own jurisdiction."
Thus, the undertaking I gave after the Chequers conference that there would not be a united Ireland, joint sovereignty or joint authority has been fully honoured and upheld.

Will the Prime Minister accept that on Merseyside, in Liverpool and in my constituency of Bootle, where I represent second, third and fourth generation Irish people, sectarian conflicts and violence have been removed and conquered? Conflict existed in full force as a reflection of what happened in Ireland many years ago, but it has now been killed. That was achieved because the Catholic minority on Merseyside did not face an Ulster Defence Regiment or a police force that is seen to be sectarian. It was achieved because the Catholics of Liverpool and Bootle had the same civil liberties as the Protestant majority—

Yes, and the same Parliament.

It was achieved because a climate of good will and tolerance was created in the Orange and Catholic communities. Although the Irish people whom I represent do not want a return to sectarian conflict in Merseyside, they believe that the problems of Northern Ireland will not be solved until Ireland is unified.

The latter part of what the hon. Gentleman said is not helpful in any way. It will only arouse fears in people who are the majority in Northern Ireland—fears which do not arise from the agreement. For the first time, the Republic has recognised the legitimacy of the Unionist cause and the fact that Northern Ireland shall retain its present status because the majority wishes that to be so, and that that will be the case until the majority changes. Obviously, we must work with both communities. The hon. Gentleman will recall that the Unionist document "The Way Forward" recognises some of the hopes and fears of both communities. It states:

"It is the responsibility of the majority to persuade the minority that the Province is also theirs."

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the most welcome part of her statement is the reference to the priority which the conference will give to co-operation in security matters? Achievement in that area is the best way to gain support from both communities for the work of the conference. Does my right hen. Friend agree that no one should assume that the agreement is a preliminary to a united Ireland and that the conference and the Government should have an open mind to the many possible solutions? Would my right hon. Friend confirm that a united Ireland is not the aim of her Government?

Most certainly. Article 1 of the agreement states:

"The two Governments
(a) affirm that any change in the status of Northern Ireland would only come about with the consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland."
That has been signed by both Governments. The agreement should add to the confidence of Northen Ireland Unionists.

If the Irish Republic is a friendly state, why was it necessary for the Government to sell out on the sovereignty of Northern Ireland to obtain co-operation against terrorism? Should not co-operation against terrorism be given as of right by any friendly neighbour?

We hope that the agreement will enhance co-operation against terrorism by mobilising from the nationalist community in Northern Ireland the support of all those who are against violence, and that cross-border support will be enhanced through the increased cooperation that the agreement affords. That would be to the advantage of all the people of Northern Ireland.

To what extent is the Prime Minister's word her bond? Does she recall that in November 1984 she signed a communiqúe with the same viper that she took to her breast in Hillsborough castle? In that communiqúe, she promised that any political structures or processes affecting Northern Ireland would have to be acceptable to both sections of the community. What test of acceptability does the Prime Minister intend to use? Has she the least appreciation of the deep sense of betrayal felt by the people of Northern Ireland at this act of political prostitution?

The hon. Gentleman is deliberately trying to work up fears when he should be doing everything to allay them if he really wished to defeat the violence that afflicts Northern Ireland. The acceptability to which he referred related to devolved government, which would have to be broadly acceptable to both sides of the community. That would be a matter for the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland after discussions with the constitutional parties in Northern Ireland. After what the hon. Gentleman has rather scandalously said—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—I must repeat the agreement:

"The two Governments
  • (a) affirm that any change in the status of Northern Ireland would only come about with the consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland;
  • (b) recognise that the present wish of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland is for no change in the status of Northern Ireland."
  • That is the best guarantee from the Republic that the people of Northern Ireland have ever had.

    Does the right hon. Lady accept that there is a difference between treachery and treason? Does she accept that, since it is absolutely necessary to arrive at a reasonable solution to the problems of Northern Ireland, no method of arriving at the solution should be neglected, including assistance arising from our special relationship with the Americans?

    I understand that it is the wish of the United States Administration to give some help. I do not know how much or what form it would take. We gladly accept their good wishes and we are grateful for the way in which they have tried to stop any help going to Noraid, because that would go to the men of violence. We gladly accept their help.

    I warmly commend the Government for this initiative, which offers something to all parts of the community in Northern Ireland, except the extremists and the men of violence. Will my right hon. Friend say a little more about article 12, which deals with inter-parliamentary relations? If there are to be regular formal meetings between Ministers, is there anything that those outside the two Governments might offer in a more formal structure than we have? My right hon. Friend says that she would accede to the wishes of Parliament in this. How does she think that those wishes might be made manifest?

    Whether there should be an inter-parliamentary arrangement is a matter for both Parliaments. If a wish is expressed, through the usual channels or through my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, for such an arrangement, we, the Government, would support it.

    Is the Prime Minister aware that all those Protestants who have in the past been in favour of a united Ireland have not actually adhered to the Orange banner—I refer, for example, to people such as Robert Emmet, Lord Edward Fitzgerald and Wolfe Tone—and that there is another tradition, a Protestant tradition, in Ireland that believes that Ireland has a right to a united country? Having said that, is the right hon. Lady aware that, while many of us want this to be a success, we have reservations because we are concerned that there may be not only a Protestant backlash but, equally, a backlash from people who fear, even at this stage, that they are not getting a proper deal in relation to this agreement?

    The agreement recognises that there will be no change in the status of Northern Ireland except with the consent of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland. Anyone who is trying to undermine that is only trying to raise fears which do not exist. This is the first time that we have had a recognition of that in writing from the Republic of Ireland, and that is valuable in calming the fears of the Unionists and reassuring them that change would come about only by the will of the majority in Northern Ireland.

    While I warmly congratulate Her Majesty's Government on the agreement, is it not a fact that one party to the agreement always seems to be left out of account, and that is the British people as a whole? They will not take kindly to people who seek to frustrate the will of this Parliament yet who call themselves loyalists.

    Everyone in Northern Ireland who detests violence has a duty to try to make the agreement work, in loyalty to and recognition of those who regularly risk their lives in defending our freedom in the Province.

    Will the Prime Minister agree that, despite the drama of recent days, there is nothing very much in the agreement that takes us beyond the status quo, apart from formalising the links that exist between Dublin and London? Despite that, we have seen an intransigent and unreasonable outburst from the Unionist parties in Northern Ireland. Does the right hon. Lady feel that the time has come for the British Government to take more heed of the views of the people of Britain and all the people of Ireland and begin the process of bringing about the reunification of Ireland and the withdrawal —[Interruption.]— which is what the majority of people want?

    No. Nor do I believe that such a statement is helpful in any way to getting the agreement accepted. I recognise both the hopes and fears of people in Northern Ireland. In a democracy, the majority in Northern Ireland should have the say, and the agreement says that the status of Northern Ireland will not be changed except with the consent of the majority. That gives a good deal of assurance to those who are in the majority and who wish the Union to remain, as I do.

    Is it true that the American Administration put great pressure on Her Majesty's Government to enter into this agreement? If it is true, would it not have been better to tell our American friends that matters concerning Northern Ireland are no business of theirs, to have thanked them for their offer of money but asked them to mind their own business?

    No, it is not true. Naturally, when we began these negotiations, I told the United States Government that we were negotiating. I have had occasion many times to criticise those in the United States who contribute to Noraid and to ask for the help of the United States Government and her leading citizens to prevent those contributions, because they go to men of violence. They have always tried to assist us in stopping contributions to the men of violence. Yes, I believe that they wanted an agreement and I told them that we were negotiating, but at no stage did they put pressure on us.

    I never knew what desolation felt like until I read this agreement last Friday afternoon. Does the Prime Minister realise that, when she carries the agreement through the House, she will have ensured that I shall carry to my grave with ignominy the sense of the injustice that I have done to my constituents down the years— when, in their darkest hours, I exhorted them to put their trust in this British House of Commons which one day would honour its fundamental obligation to them to treat them as equal British citizens? Is not the reality of this agreement that they will now be Irish-British hybrids and that every aspect—not just some aspects—of their lives will be open to the influence of those who have harboured their murderers and coveted their land? Is the Prime Minister aware that that is too high a price for me and hundreds of thousands of others in Northern Ireland to pay?

    No. The status of Northern Ireland cannot be changed unless the majority so wish. The hon. Gentleman chooses to ignore that, although it is one of the best assurances that he could have. The agreement also makes it clear that there is no derogation from the sovereignty of the United Kingdom Government or the Irish Government. Each retains responsibility for the decisions and administration of government with their own jurisdiction. The hon. Gentleman and a number of other hon. Members are trying to undermine that. They cannot; it is in the agreement and is a cardinal point of it.

    Will the Prime Minister tell the House and the people of Northern Ireland what is the legal status of Northern Ireland in the eyes of the Irish Republic? Does she know that in a Deny newspaper today it is reported that one document that was signed by the right hon. Lady at the Hillsborough summit recognises Dr. Garret FitzGerald as the Prime Minister of Ireland? [Interruption.] The document is in the hands of the right hon. Lady. In response to a question about that, a Northern Ireland Office spokesman said:

    "The references to the Governments are the same as has been followed in a variety of agreements between them for almost 20 years."
    The Stormont spokesman added:
    "Eire does not recognise the constitutional position of Northern Ireland."
    That was an official statement from Stormont. On behalf of my constituents, I have a right to ask my Prime Minister, is she in agreement with that, or will she hold a ballot of the people of Northern Ireland and let them give their answer on the agreement?

    The hon. Gentleman is working himself up. [Interruption.] Equally the Taoiseach recognised me as the Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and it was in that capacity that I signed the agreement.

    The hon. Gentleman is referring to a practice that has existed with regard to all agreements since April 1946. There are two descriptions, and one is as he described it, but there has been no change in that practice since 1946 and I have not heard him raise this point before, though he could have done so many times.

    To what does the reference to aspects of the criminal law being harmonised refer in article 8? What does the phrase "mixed courts" mean and what offences are contemplated in article 8 as being likely to be tried by mixed courts?

    I am not going to put a gloss on any words in the agreement. There would only be difficulty if we attempted to do so. I have already answered the question about mixed courts. We say without any commitment that we shall consider the possibility of mixed courts, but in considering that possibility we are aware of the many difficulties that have arisen when it has been considered previously.

    Does my right hon. Friend accept that the majority of people—certainly those on the mainland of the United Kingdom—will judge the validity of the Hillsborough agreement not so much by finer points of sovereignty as by simple facts: will the terrible killings and woundings in Northern Ireland decrease and, above all, will less be asked of British troops?

    The purpose of the agreement is to mobilise the help of all the people in Northern Ireland and in the Republic who detest violence and reject it, as a way forward in order to defeat the men of violence. Our purpose is to achieve exactly the end which my hon. Friend has described.

    You will remember, Mr. Speaker, that on Thursday I asked the Leader of the House whether one of his right hon. Friends would tell the House today the basis on which, in the light of history, the Government built their confidence that any agreement would be kept and the change that will come about in the relationship with the Republic on recognition of the status of Northern Ireland?

    I have listened intently to the Prime Minister's responses. No light has yet been thrown on my questions. The right hon. Lady says that this is the first time the status has been recognised in international law, but I would correct her, because we were so recognised in 1925. We have constantly been recognised as a fact of life and not de jure. There has been absolutely no change in that position. In this agreement, we have given the Government of the Republic a place to which they are not entitled.

    The Prime Minister said that the status has been recognised and that the people's place has been protected. Why does article 1 state that a formal change would take place if the people of Northern Ireland decided that they wanted a United Ireland? They want something else. I ask the right hon. Lady to bear in mind the fact that the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) assured us not that our Unionism would be protected but that our Protestantism might be respected?

    I said in the statement that this was the most formal commitment to the principle of consent made by any Irish Government. The status of Northern Ireland in United Kingdom law is, of course, protected. I believe that this is the first time in a formal international agreement that the Republic has recognised this position in Northern Ireland and has recognised that it cannot be changed except with the consent of the majority.

    Article 1 states:
    "The two Governments
    (a) affirm that any change in the status of Northern Ireland would only come about with the consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland".
    In a democracy the consent of the majority is required. Something else would also be required under our law—the consent of the House, and we should not—

    That is in our law as well. It is also a great protection for the Unionists in Northern Ireland.

    Does my right hon. Friend accept that the great majority of people on these islands, of which the Province forms but a part, greatly prefer a chance of reconciliation, which is wholly absent from the policies put forward by the representatives of the Ulster Protestant majority?

    Yes, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point. There is a chance for reconciliation, peace and stability, provided that all the people take that opportunity now.

    How can the Prime Minister reconcile article 9(a) about the right of the conference to

    "set in hand a programme of work"
    on aspects of security, including "operational resources" with article 9(b), which states:
    "The Conference shall have no operational responsibilities"?
    Does not the right hon. Lady realise that this is a contradiction, in that the Chief Constable and the Secretary of State cannot retain their operational integrity while the resources fall within the bailiwick of the conference? Does not the right hon. Lady further realise that the RUC manpower and all the military personnel operating in support of the RUC are, in fact, "operational resources"? Does not she realise that she has effectively placed our armed forces under the direct influence of another Government?

    That article is about cross-border co-operation. We can raise matters relating to cross-border cooperation with the Republic through this intergovernmental conference—

    "threat assessments, exchange of information, liaison structures, technical co-operation, training of personnel".
    We can raise with the Republic matters affecting security because we both want to defeat the men of violence. The Government of the Republic can raise matters with us. Operations in Northern Ireland will come under our decisions and operations in the Republic under the Republic's decisions. This agreement is about cooperation. More co-operation is needed. It should be to the advantage of everyone in Northern Ireland.

    I hope that I shall not be accused of bias if I refer to a body with which I have some connection—the Northern Ireland Assembly. The Government's last initiative on Northern Ireland is likely to be overlooked. It has been overlooked so far in these exchanges. The Northern Ireland Assembly was set up more than three years ago by the British Government to create peace and stability and to bring about reconciliation and progress in Northern Ireland. I should like the Prime Minister to confirm that the Assembly is a democratically elected body, that it is elected under proportional representation and that every elected representative is on an equal footing. Will the right hon. Lady confirm that she continues to give it her full backing?

    Of course, the Assembly was a democratically elected body. As the hon. Gentleman is aware, we hoped that more parties would participate in these proceedings than has been the case. We shall have to consider this matter together with the article that considers further devolved government structures in Northern Ireland. We have taken no decision on the Assembly, so at the moment it continues.

    I represent a constituency that has suffered many atrocities in the past 16 years, many of which emanated from the Irish Republic. The right hon. Lady's remarks on Friday that we owe it to those who lost their lives to accept the agreement were highly offensive and totally insensitive. The families of those who lost their loved ones feel that they have been betrayed by the Prime Minister whom many of them may have trusted. Why should we accept the Prime Minister's solemn promises and assurances in the agreement when every other promise and assurance ever made by successive United Kingdom Governments have proved to be worthless and have succeeded only in bringing death and destruction? [HON. MEMBERS: "Reading."] If Conservative Members think that this is funny, I assure them that people in Northern Ireland do not think so. The agreement will only bring death and destruction and more anarchy to Northern Ireland.

    I should have thought that most people in Northern Ireland would honour the way in which the security forces have operated to protect them—whether the armed forces, the Ulster Defence Regiment or the Royal Ulster Constabulary under the aegis of the United Kingdom. I think we owe it to those young men and women who put their lives at risk in order to protect us to do everything we can to defeat the men of violence.

    I believe that most people in Northern Ireland would take that view.

    Mr. Fred Silvester
    (Manchester, Withington)