asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he will initiate a study on the long-term effects of toxic waste in Lough Neagh.
A study by the Ulster university on chironomids in the Lennymore bay area of Lough Neagh is under way. This, together with the studies of algal growth and pesticide residues already being carried out by the Department of Agriculture, will indicate the effects of toxic waste.
Will the Minister confirm that in January this year there was a significant spillage of a highly toxic chemical called tributyl tin oxide into Lough Neagh and that, while it may not pose an immediate threat to people who drink the water, there is a serious possibility that this chemical is dangerous to wildlife and plantlife in the lough? Does the Minister agree that a survey should be carried out into the effects of that spillage so that we know what is happening and to give an assurance to local people who are concerned about it?
The hon. Gentleman is right in saying that there was a spillage, but as soon as it occurred my Department advised the Department of Agriculture, the Fishery Conservancy Board for Northern Ireland and the residents living near where the spillage took place. Three separate laboratories analysed samples from the lough, and I am pleased to tell the hon. Gentleman that the spillage was confined to the immediate area where the tributyl tin oxide was spilt. There was a feeling that perhaps the Department would have been better advised to have made a statement about the spillage as soon as it occurred. We took the view that that may have caused unnecessary alarm about the nature of it. When we checked, we found that the spillage was closely confined. Therefore, the results will not affect the lough. At the same time, we are ensuring that studies are taking place within the lough to check exactly what the position is.
Does my hon. Friend, with his Ulster nurture, recall that Finn McCool plucked out the land where Lough Neagh now is, hurled it into the sea, thus creating the Isle of Man, and that Lough Neagh is reputed in consequence to be bottomless? Did the studies to which my hon. Friend referred take into account the bottomlessness of Lough Neagh?
I am afraid that that leaves me slightly out of my depth. My information is that Lough Neagh is a shallow lough, and my hon. Friend and I would not be likely to sink very far in it. I shall refer his question to Finn McCool for verification.
Will my hon. Friend take account of the fact that in days gone by I have not only fished in the lough but eaten the excellent eels that come from it? Will he bear in mind that it is important to protect the eels and the eel industry over there, because when smoked the eels are probably the finest in the world?
The ecology of Lough Neagh is of extreme importance, not only because of the quality of the eels and the pollan, which is a freshwater herring almost unique in the world, but because of the salmon and the trout. I assure my hon. Friend that I will do exactly as he asks, because I enjoy eating them as well.
Accident And Emergency Services-
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he last met the chairman of the Eastern health board to discuss accident and emergency services in Belfast.
I have frequent meetings, both formal and informal, with the chairmen of all four health and social services boards to discuss the range of services for which they are responsible. I met the Eastern board chairman on 2 March and 9 March and expect to meet him again at his board's forthcoming accountability review.
Did the most recent meeting that the Minister had with the chairman of the health board reflect the deep concern that is felt in the Lisburn area over the potential closure of the Lissue hospital, which is a specialist hospital serving the young mentally handicapped, and the serious possible closure of the Mater hospital casualty unit, which serves north Belfast, which is being considered by the board? Were that closure to go ahead, it would force people to travel up to 30 milies to Ballymena or to the city hospital and, therefore, potentially across sectarian lines where conflict may exist. Why are the Minister and the Secretary of State under-funding the Health Service in Belfast and Northern Ireland to such an extent that closures of such seriousness as this have to be considered?
Lissue hospital has had a very long life. The facilities that it offers are not what we would wish to offer to children in such conditions. The reason for the closure is to ensure that the patients are better cared for elsewhere. Northern Ireland has a much higher rate of attendance at accident and emergency units than anywhere else in the United Kingdom: 441 per 1,000 in Northern Ireland, compared with only 293 per 1,000 in England and 251 per 1,000 in Scotland. Less than 1 per cent. of the accident and emergency attendances are a, result of terrorism, which is one of the areas of concern that have arisen over the closure of accident and emergency units. We are asking the boards to consult most fully with everybody involved to ensure that any proposals that come forward are properly discussed and thought through, and any money that we may save will, of course, be put back into the Health Service.
Is my hon. Friend aware that many of us who have recently received his package of information about Belfast, both in terms of the good news and the potentially exciting news in that great city, are very pleased to have received it and hope that he will continue to argue the case both on this side of the water and in the rest of Europe and the world so that Belfast may continue to go from strength to strength?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I believe that in the Health Service we have as good, if not better, facilities in Belfast than anywhere else in the United Kingdom. The city as a whole has suffered in the past two days but, that aside, the city is undergoing a regeneration, the likes of which it has not seen for a century or more, supported by the public and private sectors to a great degree. The determination of the people of Belfast to live through the problems that they are currently facing is an example to us all.
Republic Of Ireland (Meetings)
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what meetings he has had with the Irish Government since their general election.
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what subjects he discussed at his last meeting with representatives of the Government of the Republic of Ireland.
I met the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Lenihan, on Monday. We had an informal discussion on a wide range of matters, including the future work of the conference. I look forward to working with Mr. Lenihan as co-chairman of the conference in the months ahead in the interests of both our countries. In addition, yesterday, under the auspices of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, I had a valuable discussion with a distinguished delegation of Members of the Dail.
Has my right hon. Friend had any indication from the new Irish Government of the way in which they intend to implement the Anglo-Irish Agreement? Will he ask that Government to launch an energetic campaign to stamp out the terrorists who are engaged in gun-running across the border?
I certainly received full assurances, both in the meeting that I had with Mr. Lenihan, the Foreign Minister and Tanaiste, and with the Fianna Fail representatives whom I met yesterday with the Inter-Parliamentary Union. It is also clear, from the statements of the Taoiseach, Mr. Haughey, in the Dail, that the Irish Government accept the Anglo-Irish Agreement as an international, binding agreement that they will honour and implement. It was clear from my discussions with Mr. Lenihan, with whom I discussed a wide range of matters, that they recognise clearly — as is evident to hon. Members on both sides of the House—the damage that is done to the economy, and therefore to employment, throughout the island of Ireland by the scourge of terrorism. They are clearly determined to seek every constructive way in which to reduce and eventually eliminate terrorism from the island.
If the purpose of the so-called Anglo-Irish Agreement is to help to bring peace to Northern Ireland, how can the Secretary of State justify to the Irish Government — or to anyone else for that matter — the heavy, provocative police presence at the recent funeral ceremonies? Whatever the organisation to which deceased people may have belonged during their lives, would it not be in the best interests of all concerned to let people bury their dead in peace?
It would be the fervent wish of all responsible hon. Members that the dead, from whatever quarter, community, faction or element they come, should be buried in peace, with dignity and without any paramilitary displays. Over the years it has given enormous offence to see deliberate, provocative paramilitary demonstrations of that kind. If the hon. Gentleman remembers only the events in Belfast this week, I should remind him of the events in Londonderry two weeks ago when, contrary to the wishes of the family itself, and in flagrant breach of the standards and laws of the church, two gunmen with guns appeared out of the church and fired a volley over the coffin.The reality is that the Royal Ulster Constabulary is faced with a difficult dilemma. It has a responsibility to uphold the law and it is entitled to expect full support from all corners of the community in fulfilling that duty. I know that the last thing that the RUC would want to do isto attend and police funerals of that kind. It would much rather have the confidence and knowledge that those funerals will be conducted in a thoroughly proper and law-abiding way, without deliberate provocation of that kind.
At his meeting with the Irish Foreign Minister on Monday, did my right hon. Friend express satisfaction at the extent to which the Anglo-Irish Agreement has been able to bring peace, stability and reconciliation to the Province? If it should become clear to my right hon. Friend that the agreement cannot achieve those objectives, which he and I share, will he propose some change?
My hon. Friend's views on the Anglo-Irish Agreement are well known to the House, which respects the principled stand that he has taken on it. I have never maintained that the Anglo-Irish Agreement could suddenly, in a short period of time, transform attitudes and prejudices that stretch over all the troubles and go hack over centuries. I challenge any hon. Member to disagree with my belief that we are more likely to succeed in making the life of both communities in Northern Ireland happier, more prosperous and more secure, not by hostility towards and distrust of the Government of the Republic, but by seeking to co-operate in a way that protects the legitimate interests of the majority. The agreement does that and it has been recognised by successive Irish Governments. Both major parties in the Dail have given the assurance that the agreement is a binding undertaking. The agreement protects the interests of the majority and recognises the legitimate concerns of the minority.
Why did the Secretary of State deliberately go out of his way on a previous occasion to inform the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) that one of his predecessors in office had wished to proceed on an entirely different policy towards Northern Ireland? What was his motive in putting that on the record?
I think that I had better establish exactly what the point is that the right hon. Gentleman is making. Having done that, I shall be in a better position to answer his question.
Do the members of the Government of the Irish Republic still adhere to the view expressed by their leader before the general election, that the Anglo-Irish Agreement breaches the constitution of the Irish Republic? As that is a correct view, what do they propose to do about it?
I am interested to hear my hon. Friend's statement that it is a correct view, but that view has not been upheld by any court. My understanding is that that is not the view that is held. We accept the agreement in the spirit in which it was entered into by both sides. We accept also in good faith, and readily, the clear assurances that have been given by the new Taoiseach, Mr. Haughey, and by Mr. Lenihan personally to me, that they accept the agreement as an international treaty that is binding on the Irish Government, that it is the practice of Irish Governments to honour international agreements and that they intend to honour it.
Will the Secretary of State raise with the Irish Foreign Minister the damnable cross-border mortar bomb attacks on British troops? Will he ask the Foreign Minister and the Taoiseach whether they are prepared to deploy units of the Irish army across the southern border, where terrorists are operating in relative safety and bombing British troops? If the Taoiseach and the Foreign Minister really believe in working with the right hon. Gentleman on a successful Anglo-Irish Agreement, will he put that to them and let that be their test?
As a previous holder of my office, the right hon. Gentleman is familiar with some of the problems that we face. He will know that, with the length of the border, it is extremely difficult to police or to patrol with security forces every inch or it. I am satisfied that we can look to the Irish Government to co-operate fully with us, and the same can he said of their security forces, the Garda and the army. I have discussed this matter with the new Irish Foreign Minister and I can give the right hon. Gentleman the assurance that I shall he pursuing this matter further with him.
I thank my right lion. Friend for his balanced statement on the difficult problems that the Royal Ulster Constabulary faces in the policing of funerals. I am sure that will be widely appreciated.When speaking to the Irish Foreign Minister, did my right hon. Friend tell him that it is his intention to impose on the men and women of the RUC discipline and complaints arrangements that the House has rejected for all other British police forces, and that do not and could not apply to the Garda south of the border?
We did not discuss that matter. It is an issue that will have to come before the House and I think that my hon. Friend will understand if I do not pursue that topic further this afternoon.
Does the Secretary of State agree that the reason why the IRA fires volleys of shots over coffins is to get a few moments of publicity and propaganda? Is it not rather counter-productive to create circumstances that present it with three days of worldwide propaganda and publicity as a result of the arrangements that were made to cover the incident over the past weekend?
The hon. Gentleman highlights part of the dilemma that the RUC faces. It would be a serious matter to allow unimpeded paramilitary displays at funerals. The answer lies in a responsible attitude and a clear recognition that the law must be observed. If the law is not observed, and if such organisations intend on every possible occasion to stage paramilitary displays, police action will inevitably be required, and that will raise problems for the RUC. However, I understand well the difficulties present when certain people have no inhibitions about using even a dead man as a propaganda weapon.
The Flags and Emblems (Displays) Act (Northern Ireland) 1954 is shortly to be repealed. However, has my right hon. Friend had an opportunity to discuss with Irish Ministers the deeply offensive misuse of the Irish tricolour, particularly at IRA funerals? Does he accept that most people find that a terribly offensive, obnoxious, cheap party political stunt by cowards who do considerable damage to the cause of unity in Ireland?
The Flags and Emblems (Displays) Act has been abolished. The legislation has passed through the House, and the Order in Council has now been made.The tricolour aspect is clearly covered by the question whether it is likely to lead to a breach of the peace. The RUC did not object to a tricolour being placed on the coffin. It is the paramilitary displays that give the greatest offence and are unacceptable.
As one of the specific matters referred to in the Anglo-Irish Agreement is the improvement of relations between the security forces and the community — and having regard to the events in the Ardoyne to which reference has been made, and which demonstrate that those relations require sensitivity and sense on the part of those under pressure—did the Secretary of State discuss with Mr. Lenihan what could be done within the framework of the agreement to improve those relations? Can he confirm a report in this week's Irish Post that the Dublin Government have asked for the Stalker case to be placed on the agenda of the Inter-Governmental Conference? If so, will he agree?
I am not aware of any such request. In any case, it is not possible for me to discuss the matter, because reports are now with the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland and the Chief Constable. The matter is not within my domain, but it can be dealt with through the normal legal processes that the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows extremely well.It is no secret that the Irish Government believe that, in the interests of the minority and in the fight against terrorism, it is crucial to take every possible step to improve relations between the minority community and the security forces. A number of aspects of that are under discussion, and I can confirm that the Irish Government are concerned about the possible propaganda use that the IRA and other terrorists might make of the events of the past couple of days.
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on his policy towards the future of electricity generation in Northern Ireland.
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he will make a statement on his policy towards plans to use lignite for the generation of electricity in Northern Ireland.
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he expects to give approval to the Northern Ireland Electricity Service for phase 2 of Kilroot power station.
Electricity generation policy in Northern Ireland is aimed at reducing the Province's over-dependence on oil-fired generating capacity and at promoting efficiency within the electricity supply industry.To this end a number of options for a new generating capacity required in the mid-1990s are being considered. These include a lignite-fired minemouth power station, for which proposals have been received from Northern Ireland Electricity and two private sector companies; phase 2 of Kilroot as either a coal-fired or dual coal/oil-fired facility; and interconnection with Scotland. No decisions can be taken until all these options have been fully evaluated.
I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. When will he be in a position to make an announcement, particularly about the lignite-fired power station, because the Antrim Power Company Limited has spent a good deal of money on its tender? It is an entirely privately backed consortium, supported by a number of medium-sized and large companies and private individuals. If the company obtains the contract, it will be a big boost for Northern Ireland, and particularly for inward investment.
I agree with my hon. Friend that the private generation of electricity might indeed be a considerable boost for Northern Ireland for several reasons—the possibility of cheaper electricity arising out of private sector efficiencies, the welcome boost to the construction industry and to the economy generally, and the impact that such a significant demonstration of confidence would have on Northern Ireland's industry. However, it is not possible at this point to put a timetable on the decisions, because they are extremely complex and involve a number of issues.
Is the Minister aware that all the unions involved in the electricity industry in Northern Ireland are bitterly opposed to any schemes that would lead to the establishment of a private generating capacity in Northern Ireland? They are particularly concerned that, because any contract that was then entered into with the Northern Ireland Electricity Service would be at a fixed price, it would eventually be terribly costly for the consumer. Is the Minister further aware that all the arguments that he advanced regarding generating stations could apply equally in the public as in the private sector? Does he realise that Opposition Members believe that the guinea pig scheme that is suggested for Northern Ireland would be introduced into the United Kingdom, since in the past the Government have used Northern Irelnd as an exploratory body for draconian anti-civil liberty measures that have then been introduced into this country?
We are well aware of the trade union representations. A number of representations have been made on the Electricity Supply (Amdt) (Northern Ireland) Order 1987 that has been sent out for consultation. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and I have agreed to meet union representatives. As to the hon. Gentleman's further points, I submit that there could be substantial advantages in private sector involvement in electricity generation in Northern Ireland. I have not had discussions with ministerial colleagues who are responsible for electricity generation in Great Britain. I am responsible only for Northern Ireland. Our absolute determination is to do the best for electricity consumers in Northern Ireland.
Will the Minister assure the House that, when a decision is made between the option of going ahead with the phase 2 of Kilroot—which is preferred by the Northern Ireland Electricity Service, which is responsible for the provision of electricity in Northern Ireland—and the option of private generation of electricity by means of a lignite power station—which is being promoted by the Bechtel corporation and the Hanson Trust — the fact that in 1986 £50,000 went from the Hanson Trust into the funds of the Conservative party will not influence the decision that is made?
It would be grossly improper to take a decision on such a basis, and I think it is most unfortunate that the hon. Gentleman should have made such an allegation. He is, of course, interested in the project on a long-term basis, and I am fully conscious of his interest in Kilroot station being developed, which would use coal. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we shall give the most careful consideration to that possibility.
Will the Minister confirm that equipment has been purchased for phase 2 of the Kilroot station? If he is looking for efficiency, as he said in answer to an earlier question, would it not be grossly inefficient if equipment that had already been bought was not able to be put to use?
Equipment has been purchased for the completion of phase 2 of the Kilroot power station, but the long-term interests of electricity consumers in Northern Ireland are best served by making sure that the contract as a whole over the life of the station — whichever station it may be that is developed — is the most advantageous and provides consumers with the cheapest and most secure form of electricity. The capital cost of developing Kilroot could be less significant in making the final decision than the fact that a cheaper source of fuel might be available, because fuel is more significant than the initial capital cost. However, no decision has been taken on the matter.
I hope that my hon. Friend will not take too much notice of what has been said by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara). Surely the greatest interest is the interest of consumers in Northern Ireland, particularly industrial consumers, who for far too long have found that their energy costs, particularly at Harland and Wolff, in aircraft production and in a whole range of industries in Northern Ireland, are much too dear. If the private sector has a contribution to make to reducing energy costs, it should be given every opportunity to do so.
The private sector construction, and perhaps operation of such a station might provide economies. It is one of the factors that will be taken into account when we make our decision. Brown lignite, the fuel source, is indigenous to Northern Ireland and provides the possibility of a breakthrough for cheaper energy for Northern Ireland. Should that be possible, and should we decide to pursue that route, it might provide a substantial boost to the economy of Northern Ireland.
If the options are still to be considered and no decision has yet been taken, is it not premature and provocative to lay an enabling order to "introduce competition" into the industry? Does it surprise the Minister that that created great anxiety among employees and consumers?
I am grateful for the fact that the right hon. and learned Gentleman used the expression "enabling legislation", because indeed it is such, broadly replicating the terms of the Energy Act 1983 in Northern Ireland. This is enabling legislation. It does not commit the Government to a decision, because no decision has yet been taken. It is taking the Government some while to come to a conclusion because we are making the most industrious effort to ensure that we have all the facts available to us. We believe that we can reach certainty about the price of brown lignite on a long-term contract, the object being to have a fixed price or a price on a formula for the life of the station. What is less easy is to fix the price of coal on a long-term basis. That is also an important factor.
Irish National Liberation Army
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what reports he has received from the Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary regarding murders of members of the terrorist organisation known as the Irish National Liberation Army, carried out by other members of the same organisation.
I receive regular reports on a wide range of security related matters from the Chief Constable. The contents of those reports are confidential. I know, however, that the RUC is making every effort to bring those responsible for these murders, and every other terrorist crime, to justice.
Are not these deplorable gangland killings more reminiscent of the streets of Palermo or Don Corleone's New York than the United Kingdom? Will my right hon. Friend confirm that it should finally be obvious to even the most muddle-headed romantic American-Irishman that he should not send a nickel to terrorist thugs such as these?
It is certainly true that those incidents and those appalling murders that have been committed have given, in some ways, a clearer insight into the total bankruptcy and viciousness of the terrorists involved in campaigns in Northern Ireland. I very much underline what my hon. Friend said.
As an aside to the internecine struggle in INLA, is there any suggestion that the shootings and killings have gone up this year compared to this time last year?
The figures are not dissimilar from last year. Obviously, we very much regret the level of casualties that there have been, but one must recognise that the level of casualties is much lower than it was some years ago in the middle 1970s.
District Heating Schemes
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he has yet received proposals from the Northern Ireland Housing Executive concerning district heating schemes on the Cromac estate, and the Sandy Row and Lower Newtownards areas; and if he will make a statement.
I have now received from the Housing Executive a formal proposal to remove the district heating scheme from the Cromac estate. The proposal is being examined and I shall write to the hon. Gentleman when I have reached a decision.I do not expect the Housing Executive to make proposals for the district heating systems at Sandy Row and Lower Newtownards road until it has completed consultation with tenants served by these schemes.
Is the Minister aware that consultation took place with the tenants of the houses in those ares and there was an overwhelming majority in favour of retaining the district heating schemes in their dwellings? Is the Minister also aware that there are now on the market efficient meters by which pre-paid heat could be obtained and, therefore, there would be no income collected for heat with the rents? If there is any value to be attached to the consultations that took place, is it not in the best interests of the tenants to retain district heating and thus obtain some value for the money spent on providing this heating scheme for those areas? Will the Minister rule that the district heating is to be retained, and agree to the tenants' request?
I hear what the hon. Gentleman says. Of course, I shall take into careful consideration the points he has made. I must say that at Cromac a majority of 65 per cent. of the tenants, responding to consultation, favoured the retention of the scheme, but that was a minority of the total number of tenants. Clearly, the Housing Executive must take that into account, but it must also take into account value for money considerations, the viability of the scheme and debt control. Having said that, clearly one would like to do what one can to meet the tenants' wishes. However, it is not just the considerations of the tenants that the Housing Executive rightly has to consider when looking at these schemes.
Will the Minister impress upon the Housing Executive how wrong it is to create in Northern Ireland Housing Executive houses heating systems that the tenants simply cannot afford, and that the priority should be that which is best and cheapest for the tenants rather than that which is cheapest for the Northern Ireland Housing Executive?
I know that the hon. Gentleman takes a great interest in these things and does a great deal on behalf of his constituents when these matters are raised. Previously, the heating scheme that we are discussing was much more expensive, but there was a reduction of 15 per cent. last year and 15 per cent. this year. There will be no increase in the prices of district heating during the course of this year. Therefore, the various systems of heating do not vary in cost as much as they did. In those circumstances, one will clearly do what one can to take into account the views of the tenants.
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on cross-border security in the Province.
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement about cross-border security.
Although there exists a significant Republican terrorist threat to border areas of Northern Ireland, enhanced security co-operation between the security forces north and south of the border will continue to help to combat that threat. A programme of measures designed to improve security co-operation has been developed under article 9(a) of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, and we look forward to continuing discussions with Ministers of the new Irish Government about further progress in this area.
I thank my hon. Friend for that most helpful reply. I congratulate him and our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on bringing forward these important proposals to close a number of routes on the border. Does he agree that there have been more than 12 border incursions in the past two months, some caused by poor map reading and some purely by error of judgment? May I suggest that the next time he meets Irish Government Ministers he puts pressure on them for a give and take policy because, while the closing of these routes is meant to keep our boys in, it is also meant to stop the boys from abroad coming across on IRA terrorist excursions. There must be some give and take on both sides.
My hon. Friend should not underestimate the degree of co-operation that exists on the border. I hope that there will be a growing recognition that when security forces from both jurisdictions have to operate right up to the border, occasional mistakes must occur. I hope that there will be an understanding of the circumstances in which that can sometimes happen.
I congratulate my hon. Friend and all concerned on the conclusion of the unfortunate affair at Magilligan. May I ask him whether he thinks that it is consonant with the Anglo-Irish Agreement that when helicopters of the Irish Air Corps come across the border, presumably in pursuit of terrorism, Her Majesty's Government find it necessary to raise the matter? Conversely, is it really consonant with the Anglo-Irish Agreement that when British soldiers place a listening device just across the border for the protection of human life, it should be necessary for the Dublin Government to raise the matter and for Her Majesty's Government to make amends? Should not the security forces of both countries make each other welcome in each other's territory in pursuit of terrorism?
I thank my hon. Friend for his remarks about the outcome of the Magilligan incident, where it was clear from the outset that this was a futile exercise and would certainly not achieve the aim that those who took part in it had in mind. I repeat what I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Bruinvels) that I hope there will be an increasing understanding on both sides that in the operation against the common enemy, the terrorist, the actions of security forces of both sides operating right up to the border may result in occasional incursions.
To what extent is cross-border security being affected by the allegations of Holroyd, Wallace and Miller? Does the Minister accept the proposition that if there are any civil servants or any officers, former or present, of the security services or any persons in the military anywhere in the United Kingdom who have any allegations to make about the programme of destabilisation of Labour in the mid-1970s, or about the campaign of terrorism against the Irish Government in the mid-1970s, they should make statements and that information should be brought into the public domain in the public interest'?
Not a shred of evidence has ever been advanced to suggest that the allegations of Holroyd and Wallace have any foundation whatsoever. I cannot see how they can have any effect on the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
As the emergency in the Province has now lasted for 17 years, as only last night we further revised legislation to deal with that emergency, as, since the Anglo-Irish Agreement, we have sought to improve cross-border security and to reassure the minority Nationalist community in the North, and as the violence continues, is it not time that we reappraised the entire security operation in the Province?
The basis of the security policy that has operated since 1976, with the police taking the primary role in support of the Army, has steadily reduced the impact of violence in Northern Ireland. That policy is based on the right premise and will continue in that way. I take the opportunity to express gratitude to the RUC and the Army for the efforts that they make on behalf of the entire community in the Province.
asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 9 April 1987.
This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet and had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall be having further meetings later this afternoon, including one with King Hussein of Jordan.
Will the Prime Minister find time today to ask her Ministers to reconsider the treatment that they give to disabled people in relation to the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986? Does she know that, despite the barrage of Government propaganda, over 1,000 severely disabled people came to Westminster yesterday to voice their resentment because they feel cheated and betrayed? However, they did not receive any concessions, and not one Minister from the responsible Department was there to listen to them. What kind of treatment is that?
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, sections 4, 8(1), 9 and 10 of the Disabled Persons Act were implemented on 1 April. These sections clarify the duty of local social services authorities under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 —[interruption]—to consider the needs of disabled people when requested, and provide for local social services authorities to improve their assessments of the needs of disabled people. On sections 5 and 6 of the Act, which undoubtedly arose yesterday, we have said that we should like to bring these provisions into effect in time to benefit disabled school leavers leaving full-time education this summer and we are urgently consulting the local authorities about achieving that.
Will my right hon. Friend comment on the process whereby bishops of the Church of England are appointed, her role in that process and the criteria that influence her judgment?
Before my time, and by agreement with the leaders of the Opposition and the other main parties at the time, a procedure was set up. It has been honoured scrupulously since 1979, as I am sure it was honoured before that time.
Does the Prime Minister recall saying a fortnight ago to her hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) and to the House that she saw the Cable and Wireless issue as a test case of how open the Japanese market really is? In the wake of the fruitless visit to Tokyo of her hon. and learned Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, does she think that the Japanese have passed, or failed, the test?
The Cable and Wireless issue is still under discussion with the Japanese Government —[Interruption.] Opposition Members may not like it, but that is the fact. My hon. and learned Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary has not yet returned from his visit to the far east.
That does not make the visit any less fruitless — [Interruption.] The Prime Minister made it clear that we got the brush-off on all counts in Tokyo. [Interruption.] What will she do—[Interruption.]
Will the Prime Minister tell us and, indeed, an interested country, what she will do to protect British interests in relation to the Japanese? Will she operate fully the powers under the Financial Services Act 1986? Will she operate powers under the Telecommunications Act 1984? Most important, what will she do to turn round a trade deficit with Japan that has increased fourfold while she has been Prime Minister?
In relation to the right hon. Gentleman's opening remark, he is an expert in fruitless visits. My hon. and learned Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry made clear our willingness, if necessary, to use reciprocity powers under the Financial Services Act, and the right hon. Gentleman is aware that an order was laid for that purpose about a week ago. My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary discussed trade with Japan with his European counterparts last weekend — the right hon. Gentleman will be aware that trade matters and initiatives must be taken by the Community—and they agree that urgent consideration should be given to the issue by trade experts, who will meet in Brussels tomorrow. Those experts are expected to examine proposals put forward by my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary on more effective protection against dumping of components, possibly unbinding of tariffs on certain products as a result of Community enlargement, and measures that may be necessary to avoid diversion if the United States acts against Japan — [Interruption.] The answer is long because a great deal is being done.
We heard all that, but what action will the Prime Minister take under existing statutes?
The right hon. Gentleman can neither know nor understand the provisions, arrangements and agreements that we have with Europe. That is precisely why I had to tell him that as a result of the initiatives of my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary a meeting is being convened tomorrow to discuss the three matters that I outlined. I shall tell the right hon. Gentleman of them again. The matters to be discussed are effective protection against the dumping of components by Japan, possible unbinding of tariffs on certain products as a result of Community enlargement, and measures that might be necessary to avoid diversion if the United States acts against Japan. The committee is to meet tomorrow. It is within the competence of the European Economic Community. Would the right hon. Gentleman leave the Community?
Is my right hon. Friend aware that on 5 May the all-party committee on overseas development is to launch a report on managing Third world debt? With her powerfully increased reputation since her visit to Moscow, can I tempt her to undertake another initiative on an intractable international situation and to find a way to solve the Third world debt problem, as the report suggests? Could she find a way in which we may help the impoverished countries of Africa to resume growth and at the same time begin to cut unemployment in the United Kingdom by increasing our exports to those countries?
My hon. Friend will be aware that the United Kingdom has converted aid loans to grants, particularly in respect of many sub-Saharan countries, because they are the poorest. Indeed, we have almost completed that process. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is proposing that other countries follow suit. We are fully aware that those countries are not only heavily indebted, but grindingly poor and many are unlikely to be able to repay interest or some of the capital that has been loaned. That is why we have taken this action and why my right hon. Friend proposes that other countries follow suit.
It is absolutely right that—[Interruption.]
Is the Prime Minister aware that the European Community is the right mechanism for dealing with unfair trading practices by the Japanese Government'? But would it not assist the European Community and our other partners to take firm action if the British Government would help the European Community science and technology initiative to build up our industry so that we can compete with the Japanese?
We have proposed that the framework agreement should consist of some 4·2 billion ecu over five years. The amount of European research and development on these matters is only about 2 per cent. of the total that takes place. Many people say too easily that research and development are of necessity good, without looking at the results. The right hon. Gentleman is very much aware that we have spent a great deal on research and development without getting out the industrial results that we should have had. It is that aspect to which we must give our attention. With respect, I do not think that the first and second parts of the right hon. Gentleman's question were really related.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that in the Government's stand on trade with Japan the vast bulk of the British people will be firmly behind her and her Ministers and relieved that at long last the British Government intend to take a strong line? That will make a change from what previous Labour Governments have done. Will she please bear in mind in the negotiations that she has announced that there are some British industries that are particularly heavily penalised? I put in a plea on behalf of the British leather manufacturing industry, which, after a very small quota, has to surmount a tariff of 60 per cent. to export to Japan? Will she please ask our negotiators to do their best for that industry?
I am, of course, aware of that particular industry and the problems that Japanese imports cause. As my hon. Friend is aware, if we were to take action alone, first, we should probably be taken to the European Court and, secondly, it would probably not be effective because the Japanese would just export into other countries of the Community and the goods would then have the right to come over here. That is why we have to try to get the rest of the Community with us. I believe that more and more members of the Community are willing to take action, although we often meet resistance from Germany, Holland and Denmark on these matters.
asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 9 April 1987.
I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.
When will the Prime Minister start to treat the pensioners of this country as decent, dignified human beings? When will she stop her cold, inhuman actions, such as ending the death grant this week, defeating free TV licences and ending heating allowances? Why will she not immediately restore the link with earnings as per the last Labour Government, which would make single pensioners almost £8 a week better off and married couples over £12 a week better off? When will she stop this nonsense of saying that pensioners are better off than ever before, when it is just not true? Why will she not treat our pensioners as princes of Europe and not as the paupers of Europe?
Our record on looking after the elderly is second to none. Spending on the elderly is the third highest in Europe as a proportion of national income. Denmark and France are above the United Kingdom. We are better than Italy, the Netherlands and Germany. Secondly, the hon. Gentleman refers to the previous regime. I would remind him that in 1979 this Government made good an uprating deficiency against earnings created by the Labour Government in 1978 and gave full price protection to pensioners. Thirdly, — [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman asked a long question. I shall continue to give the answer.Thirdly, with regard to the payments for pensions and the numbers, there are 1 million more pensioners now than in 1979 and they have received the full amount. The payments for pensions are made by the working population in this country. If the Opposition's proposals were followed there would be substantial increases in the working population's national insurance contributions. That is what the Labour Opposition are complaining about.
asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 9 April.
I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave some moments ago.
During the remainder of the day will my right hon. Friend find time to talk to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and draw his attention to the front page of the Middlesbrough Evening Gazette yesterday, which showed that we now have record steel output in Teesside and that the workers in that industry will be receiving record bonus payments this week? Is that not in complete contrast to the report of gloom and doom by the Northern Region Councils Association? That association does not know what is really happening in the north of England.
May we congratulate the Middlesbrough Evening Gazette on providing that excellent news. May we congratulate even more the workers in the British Steel Corporation, all of whom have achieved that excellent result. They have turned round a loss in 1979 to a considerable profit of £76 million in the British Steel Corporation as a whole. Last year the corporation is likely to have made a profit of £170 million. Most workers like to work for profitable industries and that means that they like to work under a Conservative Government.