House Of Commons
Thursday 9 April 1987
The House met at half-past Two o'clock
[MR. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Order. I have to notify the House, in accordance with the Royal Assent Act 1967, that the Queen has signified Her Royal Assent to the following Acts:
York City Council Bill Lords (By Order)
City Of Westminster Bill (By Order)
Teignmouth Quay Company Bill (By Order)
London Docklands Railway (Beckton) Bill (By Order)
Orders for Second Reading read.
To be read a Second time upon Thursday 23 April.
Oral Answers To Questions
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.
Business Of The House
May I ask the Leader of the House to state the Business for the week after the Easter Adjournment?
Yes, Sir. The Business for the first week after the Easter Adjournment will be as follows:WEDNESDAY 22 APRIL—Second Reading of the Finance Bill. THURSDAY 23 APRIL—Debate on Agriculture and the 1987 farm price proposals on a motion for the Adjournment of the House. Details of the relevant EC documents will be given in the Official Report. FRIDAY 24 APRIL—Private Members' Bills.
[Debate on Thursday 23 April
Relevant European documents:
CAP Price Proposals 1987–88
ADD 1 + COR 2
ADD 3 + COR 1
Situation in the Agricultural Markets 1986
Milk Sector Reforms
Disposal of Intervention Butter
Disposal of Intervention Butter
Intervention arrangements for butter and skimmed milk powder
National Aid: French Milk Producers
Relevant Reports of European Legislation Committee:
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. Does he recognise the importance of having a debate on the failure of Government policy on research and development, a matter which has increasing and urgent importance because of the need for Britain to participate properly in European science and technology initiatives? This matter is giving deep concern to hon. Members on both sides of the House, as the Leader of the House can see from early-day motion 722 signed by several hon. Members. Will he now agree to ensure that a debate takes place in Government time as soon as possible after the Easter recess?[That this House acknowledges the difficulties and underfunding of science evidenced by reports from the Select Committee on Science and Technology (Civil Research and Development), from the University of Sussex (International Comparison of Government Funding), from the Royal Society (Evaluation of National Performance in Basic Research); recognises the need for adequate provision for science and technology to advance industrial recovery, wealth creation and higher living standards in the United Kingdom; notes the imbalance in Government fundsallocated to civil and defence research development and relative to France, the Federal Republic and Japan the poor contribution in this regard by a number of firms in the private sector; urges the Government to: (i) maintain a better balance between the general expenditure of the state and the creation of wealth creating assets, (ii) stimulate the private sector by granting further fiscal incentives and by requiring the publication of research and development expenditure in company accounts, (iii) make greater use of commissioned research by Government departments, (iv) foster Alvey-type programmes in exploitable areas of science outside information technology and (v) make additional funds available to the Advisory Board on Research Councils for allocation to research councils, and to the University Grants Committee sufficient to meet the requirements of a competitive industrial state.] Is the Leader of the House aware that there is a pressing need also for a debate on the important issue of launch aid for the A330 and A340 airbus? Even more, is he aware of the need to persuade his right hon. Friend to give the appropriate aid to enable British Aerospace to participate in that vital project? Such action would have my wholehearted support and the support of hon. Members on both sides of the House. Even before we rise for the Easter recess, I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman could facilitate the giving of good news were there any to give. I asked the right hon. Gentleman six weeks ago for a debate in Government time on the privatisation of Rolls-Royce. Since a report in the Financial Times this morning shows that the Government are not only trying to sell off Rolls-Royce for a song but are retreating from their objective of widening share ownership, does not the right hon. Gentleman think that a debate directly after the Easter recess would be most timely and of great intrest to hon. Members on both sides of the House? As the journey to Japan made by the Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, the Minister responsible for corporate and consumer affairs, has proved to be so pointless, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that on the first day that we return after the Easter recess the Minister will come to the House to make a full statement on his trip and the action that the Government now propose to take on the variety of matters that are of concern? Will the Leader of the House ensure that there is an early debate on the order on teachers' pay and conditions so that, once again, the House can register its objection to the impositions by the Secretary of State for Education and Science on teachers' negotiating rights? In the light of reports this morning of the Prime Minister's intervention in the appointment to the bishopric of Birmingham, and although I wish the new Bishop of Birmingham every success in his new post, will the Leader of the House ask the Prime Minister to make a much more full and frank statement than she made this afternoon about the conditions and the criteria that she employed in making such an intervention?
Of course I recognise that in all quarters of the House there is great interest in our national research and development programme performance. To some extent, that can be related to our tax structure; and, therefore, the Second Reading of the Finance Bill will enable some points to be raised. But I understand that the right hon. Gentleman refers to the matter in a wider context. Perhaps we can consider it through the usual channels.I shall, of course, draw the right hon. Gentleman's remarks about launch aid to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. As to the privatisation of Rolls-Royce, again I must object to the description of this promotion as being "sold for a song".
How does the right hon. Gentleman describe it?
I describe it as a prudent market operation. That is because I have some experience of these affairs and the right hon. Gentleman does not. To maintain these exchanges at the highest level, I must point out that Rolls-Royce will be debated tomorrow on the Adjournment debate initiated by the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist). Perhaps we will take the matter further in the light of what is revealed.I recognise that there is an interest, which goes far beyond that of the Leader of the Opposition, that our trade relations with Japan should be reported to the House after the recess. I shall ensure that these matters are further considered through the usual channels. Likewise, I notice the interest in a debate on the order relating to teachers' pay and conditions. I must say that it adds a handy embellishment to this pre-election time to note that hon. Members want the appointment of bishops to be further considered by the House. I shall look into the matter which has been raised by the right hon. Gentleman and ascertain the most wise, prudent and conventional methods of taking it further forward.
On Thursday 23 April, when we discuss agriculture on an Adjournment motion, will it be in order to discuss also the recent proposals by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on alternative land use and the rural economy?
My reply must be prefaced by saying that these matters turn upon the view of the Chair. But my hon. Friend has raised a pertinent point. In truth, in the countryside, agriculture and all other activities are intimately interlocked. It seems to me that, on a motion as wide as the Adjournment such a discussion could take place.
In view of the important meeting of European Community Ministers on the subject of trade with Japan, which will take place over the weekend and to which the Prime Minister referred, will the Leader of the House arrange for either a statement or a debate shortly after Easter on this important topic? Does he accept that some of us do not believe that this issue has suddenly arisen because of the Cable and Wireless interest but that it has been of concern for some time and has been contributing to the erosion of our manufacturing base? Will the right hon. Gentleman please arrange for this matter to be dealt with fully in the House after Easter?I should like to support a point made by the Leader of the Opposition on the appointment of bishops. The Prime Minister prayed in aid the support of other party leaders for the present arrangements. Therefore, will the right hon. Gentleman convey to her that other party leaders are not satisfied with the way in which these arrangements are working out?
I am interested to note the right hon. Gentleman's approach to adversarial public affairs, importing a degree of acerbity into the subject of bishops which hitherto I thought was tolerably absent.
I am a Presbyterian.
I reaslise that the right hon. Gentleman is a Presbyterian. No doubt he believes that often the spectator sees most of the game.The right hon. Gentleman's point about relationships with Japan were expressed also by the Leader of the Opposition. I believe that those concerns are felt widely throughout the House. I shall ensure that those views are taken into account.
As, thanks to the Labour party and due to the indolence and incompetence and possibly even the connivance of the Leader of the Opposition, this House after the next election will probably be faced. with political apartheid, the constitutional canker of a caucus of black Members of Parliament who are dedicated to the interests not of their constituents or the nation but of a group of people purely on their racial basis, could my right hon. Friend tell the House what constitutional preparation he is making for this abomination?
My hon. Friend has touched on a serious matter. Many of us are in no sense sympathetic to the Labour party but nevertheless recognise and applaud the judgment of the Leader of the Opposition that black sections imply possibly the unacceptable face of ethnic politics. As for what will happen in this House, it must depend on the outcome of the general election, which is as yet not certain. On the whole, the problem in the form of the number of Labour Members of Parliament in this House must be less of a difficulty than would otherwise be the case.
Is the Leader of the House aware that it would be quite monstrous for the privatisation of Rolls-Royce to go ahead without a full debate in this House? It is no good saying that it can be raised on the Adjournment or in Opposition time. This is a Government decision and ought to be fully debated in Government time. There is widespread opposition and concern among the workers of Rolls-Royce about privatisation, including those in my own constituency. We must have a debate on this matter before the final prospectus is launched later this month, as we understand the position.
I do not share the right hon. Gentleman's view about the attitudes of employees of Rolls-Royce to this particular matter.
They happen to be my constituents, not yours; you know nothing about it. That is a patronising reply.
Order. Leader of the House.
The attitude of the right hon. Gentleman belies his reputation for fairness in this House and his belief that it is possible to have two views upon the attitude of working people in this country towards the ownership of industry. I did reply to the Leader of the Opposition on this point, and I do not think I can go further in response to the right hon. Gentleman now, but I will see that his views are made known to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.
When he is arranging the business of the House, will the Leader of the House seek an early statement from the Secretary of State for Defence over an incident that affected my constituency last evening, when a Royal Air Force plane dropped a missile — happily a dummy — which landed within 30 ft of two of my constituents. I also ask that a statement should be made regarding the over-flying of areas of population rather than under-populated parts of the country. In particular, I ask that care is taken when equipment is being used so that it does not accidentally descend on the lands of North Devon.
Or anywhere else.
I will most certainly see that my right hon. Friend is acquainted with the anxieties expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Devon, North (Mr. Speller).
As the House will not want to spend all its time debating cheap party political points, as suggested by the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow), I ask the Leader of the House whether he is aware that most born deaf and profoundly deaf children have an education that is so bad that by the time they leave school they have on average a reading age of only eight or eight and a half. That is appalling. We need a change of policy so that those children can learn sign language or oral language, whichever suits the child best. I ask the Leader of the House to look at early-day motion 857 and to arrange time for a debate.[That this House believes that all born deaf and profoundly deaf children have the right to learn sign language which enables them to acquire a vocabulary; deplores the denial of this right in many schools for the deaf in Britain; notes that current oral educational methods give deaf children a vocabulary and reading ability far below those of hearing children; and calls upon the Government to include signing as part of the training of teachers of the deaf, and to ensure that deaf children are permitted to use all methods of communication, including signing, which will facilitate their education.]
I have indeed acquainted myself with the early-day motion to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred. I cannot offer the prospect of a debate in Government time in the near future, but I will certainly see that it is drawn to the attention of the relevant Government department.
May I draw the attention of my right hon. Friend to early-day motion 864 which deals with the Norcross takeover bid?[That this House is of the opinion that the William Holdings bid to take control of Norcross plc is not in the best interests of the country, the workforce or the shareholders] Will he ask his right hon. Friend to refer this takeover bid to the Director of Fair Trading because it is relevant to my constituency? That is as good a reason as any other for it going to the Director of Fair Trading. Moreover, the bid by William Holdings for Norcross is nothing but throwing paper money to get real money to destroy the limbs of part of the industry; the sale will make more money for bids eleswhere, with paper money. In other words, this is what British industry has been suffering in the last few years. It is time it stopped. This should be the beginning of the stopping of it.
My hon. Friend made that very clear. He will appreciate that it would not be appropriate for me to comment upon the merits of the case, but I assure him that, in conformity with normal practice, the matter has gone to the Office of Fair Trading.
May I support the plea of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and that of the leader of the Liberal party for an early and urgent debate on our trading relationship with the Government of Japan? This is not a party issue in the strict terms of the phrase. There are hon. Members on this side and on the Government side who are frustrated and angry about the whole business. We should like to have a debate so that those of us who represent manufacturers of electrical appliances and such things may have an opportunity to tell the Treasury Bench what we think about the whole business and through the Treasury Bench to express our deep anger with the Japanese Government.
I take note of what the right hon. Gentleman says. I certainly accept his proposition that there is deep disquiet about Japanese trading practices which unites Members from all parts of the House. I shall certainly see that his voice is added to those which are referred to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.
In view of the public refusal this week of the French and German Governments to deny a safe haven to any financial institutions expelled from London by the Government, and the consequent danger that the result of action would simply be to transfer valuable resources and employment from London to Paris or Frankfurt, can the Leader of the House give us all a firm assurance that before any specific steps are taken there will be a debate in the House? Could he also find time in that week for a debate on our trade with West Germany, where our deficit in trade is more than twice our deficit with Japan and where the non-trade barriers are in some respects more blatant and more cruel to British industry and jobs?
My hon. Friend highlights one aspect of the problems of trade with Japan which will necessarily cause reflection and debate in the House. I shall see that his request for a debate is coupled with his observation. As to his comments about trade with the Federal Republic of Germany, at the moment I would prefer our energies to be concentrated on the prospect of a debate on Japan.
Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been drawn to early-day motion 877 on the Prime Minister's statements on nurses' pay?[That this House notes that on Thursday 2nd April, Official Report, column 1220, the Prime Minister said: `Nurses' pay has increased by 23 per cent. over and above inflation since the Government came into office'; whilst on Tuesday 7th April, Official Report, column 158, she said'Nurses' pay … was one third, 33 per cent., higher in real terms, in 1986 than in 1979'; and calls on the Prime Minister to indicate which of her statements is accurate.] Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that on 2 April she claimed that nurses had had a 23 per cent. increase in real terms since 1979 but by 7 April, five days later, that 23 per cent. had gone up to 33 per cent? Can he tell me on which day the Prime Minister was telling the truth? Will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for an early debate on the allocation of British Gas shares, because evidence is coming forward that the same hon. Members who engaged in malpractices in the purchase of British Telecom shares were in the same business on British Gas shares? It is very important that we get at the truth.
On the first point, I am not in a position to adjudicate with confidence on the figures to which the hon. Gentleman has referred. [Interruption.] No, it is all right; I have to help the hon. Gentleman. I think that the figure of 23 per cent. would be reliable and would demonstrate the clear performance of nurses' pay under this Government. On the second point, which I have no doubt was raised in anxious good faith, I understand that the whole question is subject to investigation by the auditors Touche Ross. Those investigations are continuing and I think it would be wise to wait until they are completed.
Read the Daily Mirror.
As to nurses' pay, to which the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) just referred, is the Leader of the House aware that some hon. Members would welcome an early debate on nurses' pay so that the promises of past and present Governments and the promises of political parties could be well and truly evaluated? At the same time, attention may be drawn to the worrying fact that the number of agency nurses in the National Health Service has been rising, in the opinion of some hon. Members, to an unhealthy level. We would also be able to express the hopes of some Conservative Members that, whenever the recommendations on pay and conditions for nurses are received, early attention and favourable treatment will be given to them.
My hon. Friend makes a persuasive contribution from the speech that he will surely make when the debate eventually takes place. However, there is no prospect of an early debate on nurses' pay in the period shortly after Easter.
With regard to the appointment of bishops, does the right hon. Gentleman think that something might be said for what might be called a "balanced ticket"—a good sound Christian to go along with every reliable Tory appointment?
It is characteristic of the right hon. Gentleman that that is one of the more thoughtful contributions that have been made this afternoon.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is cross-party support for the urgent and important decision on launch aid for the A330 and A340 airbus? It is important because of the effect that it will have on the British aerospace industry throughout the length and breadth of the country and the jobs that depend on it. It is urgent because, if we are to continue to compete in the world market, and maintain our technological lead in the face of the American threat, we must have a quick decision. Will he convey our worries to the Prime Minister and, if necessary, arrange a debate to build on the success of the A320 airbus and ensure that we have this launch aid as a matter of urgency?
My hon. Friend puts a succinct and compelling case for launch aid for the airbus. I shall ensure that those views are conveyed to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.
Will the Leader of the House tell his Cabinet friends and colleagues that when he comes to the House in a fortnight it will not expect him to be the fall guy for the Cabinet? Will he ensure that he can say what the decision will be about the airbus, because it is crucial for the future of the aerospace industry? It is vital that we have a debate on that subject. The right hon. Gentleman must be able to give an answer, as he must be able to with regard to Rolls-Royce. I can assure him that the workers at the Barnoldswick factory in Lancashire, who recall what happened when it was privatised in the past, are fearful of what the Government proposals mean.
Everybody who has held this position has been a fall guy; some have fallen more heavily than others. 1 take to heart the point that the hon. Gentleman makes, and I shall ensure that my right hon. Friends who have responsibilities in that sector are informed.
Will my right hon. Friend find time soon after the Easter recess for a full debate on public transport needs for London and the south-east, in which we could pay tribute to the achievement of British Rail and especially Network SouthEast which, as my right hon. Friend may know, has increased its passengers mileage by about 2 million over the past few years, while at the same time it has absorbed., through efficiency, a cut in the public service obligation grant of some 35 per cent.
I am happy to endorse the tribute that my hon. Friend pays to British Rail. I am sure that he will appreciate that Government time is at a premium after the Easter recess because of the number of days on the Floor of the House that must be taken by sections of the Finance Bill. I shall bear in mind what my hon. Friend says and refer his comments to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport.
Has the Leader of the House had an opportunity to read the news item today on the front page of The Times under the heading
It is by Philip Webster, the chief political correspondent, who has had the privilege of being informed by senior Government sources that the Government have decided to move towards compulsory water metering. As water metering has serious implications for the poor, the elderly and the unemployed and as neither you, Mr. Speaker, nor hon. Members like to hear that newspapers have been briefed before right hon. and hon. Members, will the Leader of the House ensure that right hon. and hon. Members are given a statement on this matter by the Secretary of State for the Environment as soon as Parliament reconvenes after Easter?"New plan for water meters"?
I have not seen the article, but I broadly understand its content. I understand that it refers to legislation for the next Parliament. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman shares with me a profound confidence that it will be a Conservative Government in that Parliament.
May I support the calls from various quarters of the House for a debate on the appointment of bishops so that one may support the appointment of the excellent Bishop of Kensington to the see of Birmingham, which has been a see only since 1901 and has had many famous incumbents? I particularly want to support the appointment of people such as the Bishop of Kensington, who put theology and pastoral care before politics.
I warmly applaud the broad sentiments of my hon. Friend and I am certain that if eventually this subject becomes of such burning concern to the House that we do have a debate upon the Floor, he will have a chance to make those very points.
Will the Leader of the House table a motion to enable us to debate racism on the part of Liberal councillors in Hackney and Tower Hamlets and thereby enable the leader of the Liberal party to tell us whether it is his historic role to lead a racist Liberal party into the next general election?
I am not entirely aware of the situation or of the serious allegations that are now being made. I have to say, with great regret, that I cannot foresee the likelihood of Government time for such a debate, but I am sure that, if the alliance parties have time at their disposal, that will be one of the first subjects that they would wish to have debated so that the matter can be made fully explicit.
Is my right hon. Friend aware of the considerable concern that has been generated by the decision of the University Grants Committee and the court of the London university to reduce the grant to Birkbeck college by some 7 per cent. and to give an indication that even further cuts will be made in the future? Will my right hon. Friend arrange for the Secretary of State for Education and Science to come to the House as soon as possible and, I hope, make a statement saying that the Government are taking action to safeguard the future of Birkbeck college and the considerable contribution that it makes to continuing education in our capital city.
I understand my right hon. Friend's concern at the continuing good health of Birkbeck college and I shall most certainly see that his remarks are drawn to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science.
When the right hon. Gentleman is discussing launch aid for the airbus with the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry will he also draw their attention to early-day motion 558, which has been signed by 92 Members on both sides of the House? That shows the depth of feeling, because a failure to give launch aid for the airbus could mean the death of the airframe industry in this country and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would not want to see that.[That this House, noting the considerable investment made by British Aerospace plc in future projects and the substantial orders and commitments already achieved for the A320, urges the Government to make an early and positive decision about the company's application for launch aid for future funding of the A330/ A340 Airbus project, thus securing jobs in United Kingdom high technology industries, and enabling the United Kingdom to continue in this increasingly successful international collaborative programme.] As he has seen fit to discuss the views of Rolls-Royce workers, and as I think I have a greater knowledge of trade unions than the right hon. Gentleman, may I tell him that the trade unions are totally opposed to it because we are concerned about the security of the Rolls-Royce workers. We have already seen it go bankrupt under private enterprise in 1971 and we do not want to see a repetition of that.
Before I get written off as a total rural turnip on these matters, I have to point out that my constituency of Shropshire, North lies between Shrewsbury and Crewe, which both have Rolls-Royce traditions. Rolls-Royce is still an evident factor in Crewe, but I agree that it is a different story in Shrewsbury. As to the hon. Gentleman's point about early-day motion 558, I shall most certainly see that that is referred to my right hon. Friends.
May I, instead of repeating my hitherto vain pleas to my right hon. Friend to get our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to give the House a statement on British space policy, urge him to allow the House an opportunity to debate space policy as a whole? Our European counterparts—France, Germany and Italy—have expanding space programmes and contribute more fully to the important work of the European Space Agency.
Of course I bear with my hon. Friend, because he makes persuasive requests, week after week, to allow the House to debate space policy. I shall bear in mind what he says. However, I must tell him—as I have said to others — that when we return after the Easter recess a great deal of the time of the House will be devoted to the Finance Bill and I would cruelly mislead him if I gave him to think that time was easily available for other matters.
Will the Leader of the House take it from me that there has never before been a time when hon. Members on both sides of the House who are interested in aviation have seen the American civil aviation industry so worried? It is worried because it sees a real threat from the A320, and a positive approaching threat from the A330 and A340. Should we not avoid losing our lead, and make adequate and speedy provision for the building of those aircraft with a British input?
Of course I take note of what the hon. Gentleman says. I am sure that his voice will be recorded with those of many other hon. Members who are requesting a statement or debate about launch aid.
Has my right hon. Friend received the reports from the European Legislation Committee, both on the proposed settlement of the agricultural prices for the coming year and on the budget? When is he considering making time available for a debate on those important issues, which affect the future of the whole Community? Will he make time available — exceptionally — for an almost unique debate on an overseas matter — international indebtedness and the problems that that can cause, both for the developed and the under-developed world?My right hon. Friend may know that two reports by the all-party committee on overseas development and by the Treasury and Civil Service Select Committee are coming to the House. Will he bear that in mind in planning his schedule?
On the first point, of course I shall immediately look into the specific matters that my hon. Friend has raised, and I shall be in touch with him.On the second point, there will shortly be a report from the departmental Select Committee on Third-world issues, including the vital one of debt repayment. It would then be appropriate to await the Government's response and, thereafter, to decide what would be the most appropriate way for the House to proceed.
May we shortly have a debate on the desperate shortage of resources for the Health Service in the country in general, and in Leicestershire in particular? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that an all-party delegation of hon. Members representing constituencies in Leicestershire called on the Minister for Health this afternoon to express our shared concern at the impossibility of Leicestershire health authority coping within its cash limits? Is he aware of the problems of likely closures of hospitals and maternity units, and of the desperate difficulties facing psychiatric and geriatric units? As this is a matter of concern to both sides of the House, may we have a debate on it and some hope of action, as the Minister said that he could offer no hope of further central Government funds?
I am sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman will be aware that this matter was raised fairly extensively in a recess Adjournment debate. I have nothing more to add to what I said then. I take note of the hon. and learned Gentleman's observations, and I shall see that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services is made aware of them. In the meantime, the hon. and learned Gentleman's most likely way to have the matter debated in the House would be to try to raise the issue on the Adjournment debate, rather than to anticipate Government time being made available.
I associate myself with the deputation that was concerned about health provision in Leicestershire, but, exceptionally, I wish to take my right hon. Friend away from Leicestershire today to call for a debate on the apppointment of bishops and, particularly, on the activities of the Crown Appointments Commission. Those activities seem to be misunderstood by hon. Members on both sides of the House. As my right hon. Friend is aware, the Crown Appointments Commission draws up a list of two names in such a way as to provide what the former leader of the Labour party, the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) might call a balanced ticket. Those two names are presented to the Prime Minister, from which she must choose one.In such a debate, I should like a discussion of the widening of the trawl for the candidates that are proposed, so that other, far better candidates can be admitted for appointment to bishoprics. I am not declaring an interest, but I should say that there is a growing tendency for those hon. Members who are on the Synod to be lobbied by the former Bishop of Birmingham to appoint James Thompson as the next Bishop of Birmingham, a request to which I, naturally, did not agree.
The fact that my hon. Friend delicately passes Leicestershire by is a sign that he believes that his seat is becoming safer by the week. As for my hon. Friend's second point, he has clone the House a courtesy by explaining the current position. I hope that the House will take this matter with great seriousness. There is no doubt that one of the effective requirements for the continued health and virility of the Church of England is that the episcopacy represent all the traditions that are contained in the Church. Whether we can contribute much to that end is a matter about which I have sonic reservations, but we are entitled to travel hopefully.
I wonder whether the Leader of the House will reconsider what he said to my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) in respect of the multiple share applications, debate or statement, after he has read the Daily Mirror tomorrow, which, according to all reports, has done a trawl of British Gas? It seems that there will be further revelations about multiple applications from Tory MPs.On the subject of greed and materialism, will the Leader of the House also consider having a word with the Liberals to see whether the burdens of high office are beginning to get them down? He has heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore) about the problems of Tower Hamlets—the cutting of the education grant, throwing families into the gutter and all the rest of it. Now, according to my latest information, the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mrs. Barnes), having scurried along the streets canvassing for votes and promising jobs for all her constituents — thousands of them are out of work — has, within a few weeks got herself another job — a directorship of Thornton Drummond and Brett. Will the right hon. Gentleman inquire whether this multiple job application is worth £5,000, £10,000, or what? It sheds a rather curious light upon those alliance MPs.
If I could take the hon. Gentleman's second point first: looking across at him, sometimes one could forgive him for being a Socialist, when he has his back to the light. Then one realised that he was the hon. Member who co-existed cheerfully enough with the parliamentary Liberal party under the premiership of the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan) I think that, if I were an elector in Bolsover, I should want a guarantee that such a metamorphosis was not possibly in prospect again.I think that the hon. Gentleman's point is perfectly valid. We need a few weeks for some pretty good uninhibited examination of the record, so that the book is known, the crystal examined and the future divined. On the hon. Gentleman's previous point, he is inviting me to set aside the professional work of Touche Ross in favour of the journalistic achievements of the Daily Mirror. That is an interesting proposition, but I say to him that the day will come—inevitably — when he will be on the Front Bench and will have to accept responsibility [Interruption.] He will then decide at the end of the day that Touche Ross is probably the safest haven.
Will my right hon. Friend consider finding time for a debate after Easter on the independent sector of the education system? Does he agree that such a debate is urgent in view of the alliance plans which were announced yesterday, which, if implemented, would threaten the charitable status of independent schools? The parents who send their children to the sort of schools that the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) attended would continue to do so, but those who send their children to less fashionable private schools would probably no longer be able to do so. That is something that we should consider.
It most certainly is. When I hear observations of that sort, and when I think of the days that will be spent on the Floor of the House discussing the Finance Bill, my heart is heavy. I urge my hon. Friend not to give up. What he cannot say here, he can say on the hustings.
I am sure that the Leader of the House is aware of early-day motion 85 which sets out opposition to the privatisation of Rolls-Royce and which has received the support of 137 Labour Members but no support from Alliance Members.[That this House condemns the Government's intention to privatise Rolls-Royce and would utterly refute the Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement's recent statement that Rolls-Royce employees 'relish the idea of privatisation'; fully agrees, on the contrary, with the concern of most employees that their jobs, wages and working conditions would be at risk; reminds the Government that it was a previous Conservative administration which originally brought the company into state ownership, in order to prevent it from going out of business; commends the dedication and skills of the workforce, which has been responsible for revitalising the company since 1971; contends that private ownership is totally unsuitable for an industry which requires large amounts of advance investment for product research and development; re-affirms its belief that the future for Rolls-Royce and the workforce is best guaranteed by it remaining fully in the public sector and not subject to short-term yearly profit analyses; and looks forward to a Labour Government that is prepared to safeguard jobs by investing in manufacturing industry.] Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Adjournment debate that I have secured tomorrow at 1.30 pm on the future of Rolls-Royce will be the only parliamentary scrutiny of one of the largest privatisation exercises of this Parliament? Will he reconsider the answer that he gave my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and others? Why are the Government so embarrassed to have a debate on Rolls-Royce? Is it the sweetener of £645 million of debt cancellation to bribe the way for that sale in the market place? Are the Government embarrassed because of the problems with the superfan and the rejection by Airbus this week of the engine for future aircraft? Why is the Department of Trade and Industry so afraid to come to the Chamber to listen to the voice of the workers' opposition to privatisation? If the right hon. Gentleman wants the figures from Parkside in Coventry, over 80 per cent. of the work force have sent their names and addresses to the Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement opposing the sale of Rolls-Royce.
I take note of what the hon. Gentleman says. He will have an opportunity tomorrow to make a real contribution to the public debate about Rolls-Royce. I can say no more than what I said to the Leader of the Opposition — that we shall consider the matter in the light of the discussions that take place.
In the light of the local elections on 7 May, which is one election date that the leader of the Social Democratic party is capable of forecasting accurately, should not the House have an opportunity to debate Labour's appalling record in local government? In my constituency, after one year of Labour rule, the rates are to rise by 17 per cent. — [Interruption.] Is not this the true price of voting for the Labour party, and should we not have a debate on the matter?
In the absence of the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), the leader of the Social Democratic party, I thank my hon. Friend for the generosity of his observations. Although the matters that my hon. Friend has raised are properly directed to me, I would deceive him if I were to say that there was any prospect of Government time being made available to enable them to be debated before the date of the local authority elections.I return to the point that I made in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Teignbridge (Mr. Nicholls). Such debates are not restricted to the Chamber, and we are now approaching that period in our national affairs when there is a lively and growing concern that they should take place outside the House as well as in it.
Has the Leader of the House seen early-day motion 874, which is concerned with the business activities of a Conservative party fund raiser, Mr. Alan Lewis?[That this House urges the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the Right honourable Member for Chingford, to make urgent inquiries within the Duchy to ascertain whether residents there, as elsewhere in Britain, have received letters from Alan Lewis, chairman and managing director of the Hartley Investment Trust, appealing for funds on behalf of the Conservative party; urges him to write to the recipients of such letters explaining that Mr. Lewis transferred shares worth over £22 million in the textile group, Illingworth Morris, of which he is chairman and managing director, to Walbrook Investments, registered in the Netherlands Antilles, a Dutch Caribbean colony, and that he further understands that Walbrook Investments is wholly owned by Wickhams Cay Trust, registered in the British Virgin Islands, and that Wickhams Cay Trust is the trustee of the Alan J. Lewis Settlement, a trust set up by Mr. Lewis, the sole life tenant of trust; that he believes the shares were held by four subsidiaries of the Hartley Investment Trust, owned by Mr. Lewis and on whose notepaper Mr. Lewis wrote appealing for funds on behalf of the Conservative Party; that he understands the Antilles arrangement allows Mr. Lewis to control the company but will greatly reduce the amount of tax paid on dividends on shares which Mr. Lewis formerly owned directly; and urges the Chancellor of theDuchy to warn recipients of letters from Mr. Lewis within the Duchy and elsewhere that patriotic people of common sense would he unwise to contribute to any appeal conducted by Mr. Lewis on behalf of the Conservative Party.] Some might argue that the salting away of £22 million-worth of shares in a Caribbean tax haven qualifies Mr. Lewis admirably as a Conservative party fund raiser, but will the right hon. Gentleman have urgent words with the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit), the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, to persuade him to do what he has so far not done following a letter that I sent to him on 28 March, in which I asked him to dissociate the Conservative party from the financial appeal that is being conducted by Mr. Alan Lewis?
The hon. Gentleman, with unerring accuracy, has observed that I have no responsibilities for the activities of Conservative Central Office. I am sure that if there were found to be any malpractices, they would be referred to the appropriate authorities. I shall ensure that the hon. Gentleman's observations are drawn to my right hon. Friend's attention.
Will my right hon. Friend support the Leader of the Opposition's plea for an early debate on the EEC research and development initiative? That is not because we are for it; we are against it. Most of my right hon. and hon. Friends are in favour of competition. We believe that competition is the spur to research and development and not EEC bureaucrats running an R and D programme. What would have happened to our laser technology if GEC and Ferranti had pooled their research and development departments?
My hon. Friend makes it clear that such a debate would be lively and certainly two-sided. I fear that I cannot say that that necessarily makes it any more likely that Government time can be made available for it in the near future. I have prayed in aid already the fact that the consideration of the Finance Bill will make considerable demands upon the time that is available for debates on the Floor of the House. My hon. Friend has made a fair point and I hope that the occasion will arise eventually when it can be deployed more fully.
Has the Leader of the House seen early-day motion 758, which calls for time for Members to be able to debate and vote upon the principle of anti-discrimination legislation for the disabled?[That this House recognises that disabled people suffer unjustified discrimination in many areas of their lives; notes that there have been four attempts in the past years to place on the Statute Book a measure which would outlaw this practice; further notes that members of the House of Lords have already been given an opportunity to express themselves on this issue; and calls for time to be found in order that right hon. and hon. Members of this House can vote on the principle of anti-discrimination legislation.] Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it was one of the demands made by the massive lobby in Westminster Hall yesterday? Will he try to redeem the Conservative party from the disgraceful attitude that it displayed on 18 November 1983, when I tried previously to introduce such legislation? The right hon. Gentleman could redeem his party by providing Government time to debate such a measure during this Session.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising the matter. I think that he will find that the disabled were debated reasonably recently, in mid-February. I observe that the hon. Gentleman would like a further debate, but I must tell him, as I have told many others, that there is no time available—certainly not Government time—in the near future to enable such a debate to take place.
Has my right hon. Friend considered the possibility of having a debate on the arrangements that may arise in the Parliament following the next general election? I have in mind the possibility of multitudes of parties and organisations within the parties in this place, which perhaps have heretofore been unforeseen. Will my right hon. Friend take into account the possibility of parties based on racial or ethnic grounds, or on any other grounds? Has he given any thought to seating arrangements in the Chamber, the use of Committee rooms, voting procedures and various other matters that may affect political parties on the Opposition Benches, especially in the light of recent events in Birmingham, which should concentrate our minds, including the mind of my right hon. Friend, on the arrangements that may have to be made after the next general election?
Apart from thinking that the precondition outlined by my hon. Friend will presage a substantial Government majority following the next general election, everything else fills me with foreboding. The more we have factions, the more we have groups within groups —the Labour party could tell us much about that—the more we shall find that the anguished life of the usual channels will become torn worse than ever. That is something that I would not wish on anyone.
In view of the terse account of the events leading to the passing of the Disabled Persons' Rights Act 1986 that was given by the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major), the Minister for Social Security and the Disabled, in the "Today" studio yesterday, when he was conveniently beyond challenge, does the Leader of the House agree that in fairness we should have a full debate on these matters so that we can examine closely and precisely what was said during the passage of the Act? Perhaps more importantly, will the right hon. Gentleman respond to the excellent lobby yesterday and the eloquent description of it by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) by agreeing that we should have a specific debate on the implementation of the Disabled Persons' Rights Act?
I happened to hear the contribution made by my hon. Friend the Minister for Social Security and the Disabled in the "Today" programme to which the hon. Gentleman refers. I can understand why he feels vexed about it. In my view, my hon. Friend made a most impressive contribution to the debate. I fully understand those who would wish to see the debate carried forward in the Chamber in the near future. It is a request that I shall bear in mind, but given the responsibilities that oblige me to make provision for the Finance Bill, there is no prospect of such a debate early on in Government time.
When the Leader of the House reports to the Prime Minister on the exchanges concerning the appointment of bishops, will he assure her that there is a very strong view that Birmingham's loss is Stepney's gain — particularly at a time when strong moral leadership is needed to denounce the un-Christian, wretched and discriminatory policies imposed on helpless people who are homeless, and who are now to be evicted by the Liberal council in the borough?
It was a very neat piece of elastic work to embrace so many concepts within one contribution. The right hon. Gentleman's remarks deserve consideration on that account alone, and they will of course be referred to the Prime Minister.
With permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a statement about the future defence requirement for support helicopters and the orders that I intend to place with Westland plc.The services possess a number of different types of helicopter capable of transporting troops and undertaking logistic and other tasks: Chinooks, Puma, Sea King, Wessex and Lynx. A key task is to support our Army in Germany, for which—in addition to Lynx of the Army Air Corps — Chinook and Puma helicopters are currently assigned. There is also a wide range of other deployments worldwide. Until 1985, it was envisaged that both RAF Puma and Wessex support helicopters would be replaced one-for-one by a helicopter of similar size. That approach, however, came increasingly into question as a result of trials conducted by 6 Airmobile Brigade that suggested a requirement for an increased number of larger helicopters. A comprehensive review of the requirement for support helicopters in all roles well into the next century was therefore set in hand. That work showed the need for additional large helicopters in the central region, capable of lifting a platoon—that is, about 30 men and their equipment—or a substantial logistic load. Those large helicopters, together with some Lynx battlefield helicopters, would enable the Army to provide an airmobile capability and thereby enhance our defence contribution in Germany. The choice for the large helicopter lies between additional Chinooks, which are already in service in Germany, and the introduction of a utility version of the Anglo-Italian EH101 helicopter, which is due to enter service in the naval version in the early 1990s. The Government have decided that the right choice is to introduce the utility EH101 to meet that requirement. The choice will build on the investment that we have already made in the naval version, and reflects our policy on European helicopter collaboration. We have at the same time reviewed the case for continued British participation in the NH90 collaborative helicopter project beyond the study phase that was recently completed. NH90 is a smaller helicopter than EH101, and will be available later. With the decision that we have now reached on the future composition of our support helicopter force, we no longer have an early requirement for a helicopter in the NH90 class, nor is there the money to fund both participation in the NH90 definition and development programme — which is due to begin soon — and an early purchase of other helicopters. We are therefore informing our partners that we do not intend to proceed to the next stage of the NH90 project. In reaching a decision on the choice between alternative support helicopters, and particularly on the timing of orders, I have had much in mind the work load at Westland Helicopters, until work builds up on the naval version of the EH101. Subject to satisfactory resolution of the contractual and other issues with the companies concerned and our Italian partners, we intend to place an order for an initial batch of 25 utility EH101s for delivery in the early 1990s. I also intend—subject to satisfactory contractual negotiations—to order a further 16 Lynx helicopters for the support of airmobile operations. The cost of the orders—which have a total value well in excess of £300 million — will be contained within the overall public expenditure planning totals. They are in addition to an order already announced for a further seven Sea King helicopters for the Royal Navy, which I hope to place soon, following the completion of contractual negotiations. Those orders are also in addition to the continuing defence work for Westland in support of the services' existing helicopter fleet; to earlier Sea King and Lynx orders already announced; to the very large and challenging naval EH101 programme, for which we plan an initial order of 50 helicopters; and to the first stage of a new light attack helicopter. The package that I am announcing will sustain a British helicopter industry capable of meeting the demanding requirements of the services into the 1990s and beyond.
The right hon. Gentleman's statement, although extensively trailed, will nevertheless come as a blow both to Britain's armed forces and—perhaps more strongly—to the helicopter business of Westland, and those who work in that business.Our armed forces now have fewer helicopters than they had 10 years ago—at a time when the Americans and, more important, the Russians, are building up their own military helicopter fleets. The order will not make up for that deficiency, especially in battlefield helicopters on the central front; it will not safeguard the future of Britain's helicopter industry; and it will not preserve jobs in that industry. First, does not the statement prove that those of us—including the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine)— who argued that the Sikorsky solution was no solution, and that British participation in the NH90 project would not survive the Sikorsky project, were correct? Was not the Prime Minister wrong about that? Secondly, is it not the case that, although the French and German partners were informed about the NH90 some time ago, our Italian partners in the EH101 project were not told? If that is so, is it not an insult to our partners in the project? Thirdly, will the Secretary of State confirm that at least 2,000 direct jobs in Westland, as well as indirect jobs, will be lost, and that one factory is likely to close down in its entirety? The Secretary of State mentioned contractual arrangements. Can he say when Westland will receive a bankable contract under those arrangements? He also mentioned that more than £300 million would be found within the public expenditure planning totals. Will he explain that? Will the money come out of the existing defence budget totals, and, if so, where will cuts be made to provide it? Finally, will the Secretary of State tell the House how much of that £300 million will leave the defence budget during this financial year to satisfy all the orders that he announced?
I am very surprised at the right hon. Gentleman's response. If, as he says, the announcement will be a blow to the company, will not safeguard industry and is a disaster generally, I cannot imagine what an announcement that no helicopters were being ordered would have meant.As the right hon. Gentleman can see, this is a very large order, and it will be extremely helpful to the company. The right hon. Gentleman may be interested to know that the company is issuing a statement this afternoon, in which it welcomes my statement. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that all the partners have been informed at the same time; none were informed before the others. I have written to all of them. I hope that the contract will he concluded after the appropriate negotiations have taken place. That always takes some time. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the relationship with the Sikorsky deal. I assure him that there is no connection of any kind between the ownership arrangements for Westland and the need or otherwise to order the NH90. The simple reason, which I gave in my statement, is that we have no requirement for more helicopters of the size of the NH90, and it would therefore seem somewhat strange to continue with the programme officially when there are many other uses for funds. As for funds, the cost of the orders that I have announced today will come from within the defence budget, except that for the 60 Lynx helicopters there will be an addition to the defence budget to help with the cost. I cannot tell the right hon. Gentleman offhand how much of the cost will fall on this year's budget, but it will not be very much.
Having pressed so very hard and for so very long for these orders, I welcome them, but is it not outrageous that at this very moment Westland is announcing the closure of its factory in Weston-super-Mare? Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that from now on the existing Ministry of Defence fleet of Westland helicopters will have satisfactory spare parts and customer support operations, without the skilled help of my constituents?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his welcome of the announcement, but I absolutely appreciate the extremely sad effect that it must have had on him and his constituents, which I greatly regret. I pass on my sympathy to those concerned for what to them must be a very unhappy announcement. As for the provision of spare parts and customer support operations, I am assured by the company that any restructuring that it carries out will safeguard its ability to service and support all the Westland helicopters that are in service with the forces. These orders will also enable the company as a whole to look to the future, to restructure itself and to be a thoroughly sound and effective company, with what will be a very large order book. I assure my hon. Friend that the difficulties that undoubtedly will follow in some parts of the company, including that part of it which is in his constituency, will be very much in our minds and that if we can help in any way we shall do so.
The Secretary of State will recognise that this will be bitter news for the Westland work force and for the community, who now will have to pay in jobs for the mismanagement of this sad and sorry affair.
The hon. Gentleman backed it.
The Sikorsky deal had absolutely nothing to do with it.Does the Secretary of State not agree that if the company had been in the hands of the consortium that was proposed by the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) it would have been in an immeasurably worse position than it is in today and that its future viability might have been threatened? The NH90 decision was not taken as a result of Sikorsky but because this Government wished to withdraw from the European consortium. Is it not also the case that the British Army asked for more helicopters than the Secretary of State has provided to fulfil its tactical roles in Europe? Is not this, therefore, a case of the Government's short-term vision damaging the country's long-term perspectives?
I cannot agree with all that the hon. Gentleman said. Of course this must be extremely unhappy news for those who may find that they lose their jobs at Westland, but it is very good news for the company as a whole and for those who will continue to work for it. It gives the company a firm base on which to plan for the future. I respectfully suggest to the hon. Gentleman that he ought to bear in mind that he has a large number of constituents whose jobs will be secured by this announcement. They will welcome it.Of course the hon. Gentleman was absolutely right to say that the question of who owns Westland has nothing to do with going on with the NH90. The careful staff studies we have made show that we do not require more helicopters of that size. If we required them, we would be ordering some. As we do not require them, it does not seem to be reasonable to spend limited defence funds on a product that we do not intend to order. It is not the case that we have been asked for more than has been provided. The services and Westland will be very glad to have a large order for the EH101 utility version, which I hope will be a very successful helicopter for many years to come.
Will my right hon. Friend reiterate for the benefit of Opposition Members that what he has just announced shows that we have laid a firm foundation for the continuation of a prosperous helicopter industry in this country, and will he say a word about the export potential of the types of helicopter that he has mentioned?
I am most grateful to my hon. and learned Friend. He is quite correct. This is the type of announcement for which the company has been calling. It has told me continually that it wants to know what helicopters the Ministry of Defence wants so that it can sort out the restructuring of the company. The orders that I have announced for the EH101 — the naval and utility version — the Lynx and the Sea King amount to no fewer than 98 helicopters. In addition, 12 helicopters are now under construction. In the face of that, anybody who says that the Government have not done their utmost to give the company a good, secure sign for the future is running the risk of making himself look very foolish indeed.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that despite the long delay and the orders that have now been announced, we shall still be 50 per cent. short? It reminds me a little of 1939, when we had the appropriate aircraft but not enough of them. The right hon. Gentleman ought to bear that in mind. Will he take it from me that unless there is collaboration with Europe we shall lose face? If he cannot proceed with helicopter collaboration, will he urge on his right hon. Friend the need to proceed with the A330 and the A340 venture so that at least some of the face that we have lost in Europe will be restored?
The latter point is of course a matter for my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces, and I am sure that he will have noted what the hon. Gentleman said. As for the provision of helicopters, when these orders are eventually completed there is no doubt that the British services will be extremely well equipped with helicopters. What is more, the helicopters that they will have will be modern and up to date. I hope that in consequence Westland will be able to sell some of them abroad. It ought to be able to do so, with the boost of the British Government having placed orders for them.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the ending of this long period of uncertainty will be warmly welcomed by the company, by those who work in it, including a number of my constituents, and by the armed services? Is he further aware that the company very badly needs additional orders, despite the fact that his announcement, together with past announcements, means that it is already in receipt of the largest volume of orders that it has ever had in its history? Will he take note of the general feeling that there undoubtedly is in the House that, since the helicopter is a new weapon of war that has been proved both at sea and on land, further attention has to be given to its development, which means further orders in the years to come?
I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend, whose knowledge of these matters goes back further than that of most right hon. and hon. Members. I am sure he is right to say that, above all, the company will be glad that the uncertainty under which it has been labouring has been removed. The company has a short-term problem, to which reference has been made in some of the recent statements, but there is no doubt that in the long term Westland has a very large order book. I am sure that all those who live in the west country will be extremely glad to know that it will be a major force in Europe's helicopter industry for a long time to come.
Does the Secretary of State accept that there will be a void when orders run out between 1988 and 1992 and that today's announcement represents only a drop in the ocean? It will not fill the gap. Although it is welcome, the announcement will not save jobs. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House just how many people will lose their jobs and whether the plant at Weston-super-Mare is to close? It is all right for the right hon. Gentleman to say that Sikorsky is not involved, but where are all the orders that it promised to fill the gap? Does it not mean that the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) was right to propose the European consortium? He resigned over it. As the present Secretary of State has failed to fill the gap, will he also resign and go to the Back Benches?
The hon. Gentleman's long supplementary was a little contradictory. He is right when he says that there is a short-term gap. Therefore I am glad that to some extent we have been able to fill it with the Lynx order and by bringing forward, as far as we possibly can, the order for the utility EH101s. As for the loss of jobs and the possible closure of any of the Westland factories, that is very much a matter for the company. It has been asking us to let it know where we stand so that it can work out the correct disposition of its resources. That will be for the company to decide and to announce. It is no part of my responsibility as to whether or not Sikorsky takes further business to Westland, but I am sure that Sikorsky has a genuine interest in the company and will do what it can to help. It is not the case, with respect, that the orders I have announced today can be described as non-European. All of them are European collaborative projects: the EH101 with Italy and the Agusta light attack helicopter, also with Italy. That is very good European collaboration and does not bear any of the construction that the hon. Gentleman placed upon it.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the scale of the Government's contribution is indeed welcome in safeguarding this country's only helicopter manufacturer? That welcome is tinged with some regret because, yet again, in the eyes of our European partners, this country is seen as pulling out of a collaborative project. Does my right hon. Friend agree that much of the responsibility for the work force's disappointment and the redundancies rest on the exaggerated expectations that it was led to have by the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) when he so enthusiastically endorsed the prospects for the sale of the Black Hawk? Clearly that has not, come about. Has Sikorsky put any orders to Westland for the Black Hawk? Have any Black Hawks been sold?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He is right that the scale of the orders will be helpful to the company — indeed, the company has said so in its statement today. I also agree with my hon. Friend that there will undoubtedly be regret that we have decided not to proceed with the next phase of the NH90 collaborative project. I also believe that that decision will be understood. There are not many countries that are prepared to carry on with a collaborative project when they have no prospect of ordering any of the aircraft that might come out of it. I believe that that is a reasonable proposition.I am not sure about the exaggerated expectations raised, if they were, by the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) about these matters. It is a pity if such expectations were raised. However, I do not believe the question of the Sikorsky Black Hawk is relevant to these considerations——
Nobody wants it.
I am assured by the company that, even supposing there were orders for the Black Hawk, it would not produce any work for the company for about five years. It is not in five years hence that Westland will have a problem, but in the next two years. Therefore, whether the Black Hawk is a desirable development or not, it is not a solution for the short-term problem at Westland.
It was on 18 November 1985, long before any political difficulties, that I was shown round the Yeovil plant by Captain Gueterbock and trade unionists. Did the Secretary of State know that there were political overtones and political associations? That was the view of one of the Westland executives on the radio yesterday morning. Cannot such problems he exorcised only by the truth?What is the Government's view of the "World in Action" one-hour programme on Westland? If that programme is not representative and a fair reflection of the truth should not the Government ask for an apology from Granada Television? If it is the truth does it not reveal the sheer depth of the Prime Minister's deception of Parliament on this matter? After all——
Order. The hon. Gentleman must rephrase that please—nobody deliberately deceives anyone in this House.
I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, but I am not—
Order. Please do not challenge the Chair on that. Please withdraw and rephrase the question.
This is a fair reflection, Mr. Speaker, of a programme that 8 million people have seen.
Order. The hon. Gentleman is a very experienced parliamentarian. I am asking him please to withdraw that comment and rephrase his question.
The programme says that the Prime Minister must have known the role of the——
Order. We are dealing with some new orders that have been given to Westland today, not with a television programme.
I am sorry. A senior executive of that company has said on radio that this is one of the problems——
Order. I do not mind about that, but I must ask the hon. Gentleman please to withdraw what he said about deliberate deception and rephrase his question.
I am sorry, but this is a fair precis of a programme that 8 million people have seen——
Order. I am not concerned with the programme or what was on it, but I am asking the hon. Gentleman to do what I have asked and I urge him to do that.
Well, Mr. Speaker——