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Commons Chamber

Volume 115: debated on Thursday 7 May 1987

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House Of Commons

Thursday 7 May 1987

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[MR. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business


Order for consideration read.

To be considered upon Tuesday 12 May at Seven o'clock.



Orders for Second Reading read.

To be read a Second time upon Thursday 14 May.

(By Order)

Order for Second Reading read.

To be read a Second time upon Tuesday 12 May at Seven o'clock.

Oral Answers To Questions

Home Department

Sentencing Policy


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps his Department has taken to monitor the effect on the pattern of sentencing of the operation of the Lord Chief Justice's guidelines; and if he will make a statement.

Sentencing trends are constantly monitored and we have carefully examined the effects of recent Court of Appeal guideline judgments. As I would expect, they have a real impact on sentencing.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the long sentences available are being used for serious crimes? Does he believe that there is sufficient differentiation in sentencing between those found guilty of medium-ranking crimes against property and those found guilty of serious crimes against people, especially children?

That differentiation is something that everybody would like to see. The guidelines have an effect in the direction that my hon. Friend advocates. For example, the rape guideline in the Bilham case in 1985 has been followed by an increase in the proportion of those received into prison with sentences of more than five years from 20 to 45 per cent. There has been a similar increase following the Boswell guideline on causing death by reckless driving.

In view of my right hon. Friend's apparent satisfaction with the operation of the important guidelines, would he consider dropping clause 29 from the new edition of the Criminal Justice Bill, which, by general consent of Bar and Bench, is manifestly and palpably absurd?

I have observed that clause 29 has been criticised in another place, as here, with equal force both by those who say that it goes too far and by those who say that it does not go far enough. We should wait and see how we get on next week.

Crime Prevention


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what new initiatives he will take to promote crime prevention.

We are planning to launch a new national crime prevention campaign, with an enhanced publicity budget, later this year. We have made provision to sustain this campaign over the next two years. The emphasis will be on showing how all those who are concerned about rising crime can make their own contribution to preventing it.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that response. As 96 per cent. of crime involves property and 25 per cent. of that proportion involves cars, is it not absolutely essential that the public be involved in the protection of their own property? In his crime prevention programme, what attention will be given to specific schemes such as neighbourhood watch, which has a very good track record of success? Will he promote that scheme, among others?

We shall certainly do that. It is amazing and encouraging that there are 29,500 neighbourhood watch schemes in England and Wales, whereas three years ago there were only about 1,000. This is a real outburst of energy by the citizen in co-operation with the police, and we warmly welcome it.

I welcome my right hon. Friend's excellent news. Referring specifically to the Metropolitan police district, does he welcome also the 7,000 neighbourhood watch schemes that exist in the district and recognise the excellent contribution that they are making to community-based crime prevention? Will he hazard a comment on the quite extraordinary behaviour of the nine Labour London borough councils which persistently attack the police and refuse to co-operate with crime prevention measures both in their districts and in the inner London schools? How does this sit with the extraordinary claim by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) that he is in favour of crime prevention based in the community?

I do not know where the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) is, but my hon. Friend has certainly put his finger on the reason why the Labour party's campaign on law and order has completely failed to get off the ground. Part of its document asks me to do things that I have been doing for some time already, and the rest asks me to do things that no one in his right senses would think of doing, such as handing over responsibility of policing policies, priorities and methods to elected Labour authorities, particularly in London.

Leaving aside the party political propaganda that we have just heard, let us concentrate on the facts. In view of the Secretary of State's answer, which suggests a welcome shift in opinion in the Conservative party and the Government, and bearing in mind the answer that the Under-Secretary of State gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) on 23 April, which again suggested a shift in Government thinking, can he tell us whether the Government are to fund crime prevention in the way in which we are recommending in our document? if so, do they intend to announce that prior to the general election, in the same way as for nurses pay and school education?

There is ample funding of crime prevention from a wide variety of sources—publicity by the Home Office and a mass of schemes financed partly by the urban programme and partly by local authorities. The hon. Gentleman is unfair. When I came to the Home Office for the first time in 1983 I found that the then Home Secretary, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Brittan), had already begun to put massive emphasis on crime prevention, and that has been intensified and developed ever since. I am delighted that the Labour party is clambering on board and hope that it will manage to bring with it all those boroughs which are still obstructing the scheme.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the increasing number of crimes involving knives, particularly in south-east London, and of the concern in the community about them? Is he aware of the extent of frustration among police officers caused by the rules imposed upon them under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, which limits the extent to which they can stop and search people suspected of carrying knives? Will my right hon. Friend consider reviewing the way in which this part of the Act is working and, meanwhile, perhaps introduce legislation to prevent the sale of some of the horrifying weapons that are at present freely available in the shops?

My hon. Friend is right about knives, but not right in what he said about the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, which does not limit the power of the police in that respect. It simply requires them to make, when they can, a record of what occurred and why. I do not think that that is unreasonable. We are looking at my hon. Friend's final point about sale and possession. Of course, there are many wholly innocent reasons why people should carry knives from time to time, and that creates a problem about legislation. However, if we can find ways of strengthening the law to deal with offensive weapons, such as my hon. Friend suggests, we will take it.

Exeter Prison


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many prisoners Exeter prison is designed to accommodate; how many were there on the last day of January, February and March; how many cells have more than the intended number of occupants; and if he will make a statement.

Since Exeter comprises three separate units, a local prison, a remand centre and a long-term youth custody centre, each with its own certified normal accommodation and population, I will, with permission circulate in the Official Report the information requested.

I cannot anticipate the information that my hon. and learned Friend will provide, but may I ask whether he knows, for example, how many hours per day the average prisoner is locked up in Exeter prison? How many of the cells have even the most fundamental forms of running water and sanitation? Is he satisfied that, when so much money is being spent by the Government on improving and rebuilding prisons, Exeter, which serves the few criminals in north Devon, is not being left behind in the race?

Work is going on at Exeter. One wing is out of commission for work at the moment. As my hon. Friend has rightly said, we have embarked on the biggest programme of any Government this century to improve the condition in the old prisons. I shall certainly bear in mind what my hon. Friend said about Exeter. We are aware that it is currently overcrowded. We are aware also that on some days prisoners are locked up for 23 hours, but sometimes it is as little as nine hours. Plainly, the situation is not satisfactory, and it is entirely in accordance with my hon. Friend's concern for his area that he should raise the matter with me.

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware of the stresses and strains suffered by prison officers as a result of overcrowding at Exeter prison, which, as he said, is a remand prison? When does he envisage a proper complement of prison officers being reached at that prison?

Perhaps I could write to my hon. Friend about the details. As he knows, we have recruited a large number of additional prison officers over the years. Indeed, the ratio of prison officers to inmates is running well ahead of any increase in the prison population. I shall certainly ensure that the needs of Exeter are not overlooked.

To my knowledge — which goes back to 1964—the question of overcrowding in our old prisons and the appalling conditions in which we keep prisoners has been raised again and again, and we have received exactly the same replies. That is scandalous. Is the Minister aware that the conditions in which we keep men in prison, three to a cell and with no sanitary provision except for a chamber pot, is not conducive to good remedial prison practice? When will the Minister change that?

No, it is not excuses. It is a sign of the impotence of the hon. Lady and others who, like her, felt that they were utterly incapable of persuading the Government that they supported slavishly over the years to spend any money on prisons. Since 1979 we have embarked on the largest prison building and improvements programme, but we cannot overturn the neglect of decades in just a few years. Matters are a great deal better now than they were when the hon. Lady was on the Government Benches.

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that the real and main cause of prison overcrowding is that the Labour party, when it came to power in 1974, cancelled, as a deliberate policy decision, the prison building programme that it had inherited from the previous Conservative Government?

Yes. I agree with my right hon. and learned Friend. If anyone could be bothered to consult the record, I dare say that it would be found that the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Short) voted in favour of that decision.

The implication of the Minister's remarks is completely unacceptable. We all know that the crime rate, the number in prison and the number of young people

The Certified Normal Accommodation (CNA) and population figures are as follows:



31 January 1987

28 February 1987

31 March 1987

Remand Centre53567068
Local Prison209336363343
Youth Custody Centre41393939

The number of prisoners sharing cells is only recorded centrally once a month. Recent figures are:

Remand Centre

Local Prison

YC Centre

8 February 1987

Number of inmates held two to a cell26162No sharing
Number of inmates held three to a cell9129No sharing
Number of cells overcrowded13124No sharing

8 March 1987

Number of inmates held two to a cell36176No sharing
Number of inmates held three to a cell3105No sharing
Number of cells overcrowded19123No sharing

12 April 1987

Number of inmates held two to a cell30186No sharing
Number of inmates held three to a cell15102No sharing
Number of cells overcrowded20127No sharing



asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has any plans to seek to change the length of time taken by coroners in dealing with inquests.

We are satisfied that coroners accept the need to avoid unnecessary delay. We do not consider that there is a general problem which calls for any special action on the part of my right hon. Friend.

Is the Minister aware that that is a very unsatisfactory and complacent reply? He really must consider urgently the appointment of more coroners. Is he aware that some of the implications are not immediately noticeable — for example, the delay in receiving

incarcerated have rocketed under this Government. Is it not disgraceful, and an insult to the electorate, to make excuses citing the past? The Government must accept that their law and order and prison policies have failed. They included in the Criminal Justice Act 1982 a provision to enable the Home Secretary to release the prisoners that they wanted to release, and they are not doing so only because they are scared of the electoral consequences.

The hon. Gentleman's celebrated impression of a 78 rpm record stuck in the groove is no more impressive this week than it has been for the many weeks during which we have had to put up with it.

Following is the information:

insurance and possible compensation, to say nothing of the distress caused to the bereaved who in some cases, have to wait months? Will he apply his mind rather more urgently to the problem beyond what he said in his original reply?

I appreciate the importance of the matter. Coroners are aware of the additional distress that can be caused to relatives if there is delay in completing an inquest. However, sometimes investigations take a long time.

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State has written to the hon. Gentleman about a particular case that he raised. It is not right for me to comment further, except to say that there has always been a part-time coroner in the district concerned and that, during the whole of the coroner's nine years in office, he has been supported by two coroner's officers. There is no question of the case being affected by a cut in resources, as has been suggested. Indeed, the number of inquests has actually fallen recently.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has a general responsibility for the law, but has no power over the way in which coroners carry out their duties in a particular case. They are independent judicial officers It is wrong to imply that in this case the coroner behaved improperly or was starved of the normal resources given to coroners.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that most coroners' inquests have wide public support and are carried out with little difficulty? Nevertheless, a very small number each year cause great difficulties of fact and law, and it often takes a substantial period for the inquest to be carried out. Is my right hon. and learned Friend prepared o consider again whether it is possible or practicable to appoint special coroners from among senior members of the judiciary to carry out the inquests in that very small number of cases that cause public anxiety and difficulty?

Obviously, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will bear in mind my hon. Friend's point. I repeat that my right hon. Friend has a general responsibility for the law, but he has no power over the way in which coroners carry out their duties in a particular case. I do not think that the public take the view that in the vast majority of cases coroners do other than carry out their duties responsibly and properly.



asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will call for a report from the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis on the progress of his investigations into the Zircon affair; and if he will make a statement.

Is it not 13 weeks and four days since executives and staff of the BBC were unceremoniously hauled out of their beds at 3 am on a February Sabbath? Is it not also a fact that, of course, the police got hold of no leakers, for the simple reason that there were no leaks? Did not Duncan Campbell put this programme together out of published information then have it confirmed by those from the stratosphere of Whitehall, such as Sir Ronald Mason and Sir Frank Cooper? Is it not time that this police wasting of time came to an end and the Government admitted their folly?

I am not calling for a report on this matter from the commissioner because, as the hon. Gentleman knows, the commissioner reports direct to the Director of Public Prosecutions. I understand that the commissioner's report on this matter has now been received by the director.



asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what proposals he has to reduce prison overcrowding.

We are proceeding with measures to make the best possible use of existing accommodation. The building programme, including refurbishment of existing prisons and new prisons, will produce 17,200 places by the mid-1990s. This includes five new prisons opening in the next 12 months. We continue to encourage the courts to use non-custodial sentences in suitable cases.

I welcome those new places, but will the Home Secretary confirm that our prison population is the second highest in Europe, second only to Turkey? How many people are in our prisons for offences that are of no danger to the public? For instance, how many debt defaulters are in prison? What steps will the right hon. Gentleman take to resolve that problem?

The hon. Gentleman welcomes the provision of new places, but the Labour party's official policy is to halt the prison building programme. Among many zany undertakings, that is perhaps the most irresponsible. I sympathise with the hon. Gentleman's general point. We have a high prison population in comparison with the total population. I think that Austria has a higher proportion than us. I agree with the hon. Gentleman, but the answer is not for politicians to step in and tell the courts who they are and who they are not to send to prison, but to ensure that the courts in the kind of lesser cases to which the hon. Gentleman referred have before them persuasively argued, tough and practical alternatives to custody. We are pursuing that course through our investment in the probation service, the training of the service and the encouragement of such measures as community service orders, the application of which has almost trebled in recent years.

Yesterday the report of the Home Affairs Select Committee on prisons recommended that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary should consider whether the American practice of using private contractors to build, refurbish and manage prisons could be used here to overcome the problem of chronic overcrowding. Will he confirm that he intends to send a Minister to America to look at such prisons? Will he further confirm that the Prisons Officers Association has nothing to fear from the report's recommendation?

I am glad that my hon. and learned Friend has raised that last point. Privatisation is not an accurate description of what he or I have in mind. We are not talking about selling-off existing prisons and putting them under private management. We are talking about whether, by using the private sector and its techniques more intensively, and perhaps at an earlier stage, we can accelerate the provision of prison places and thus ease as rapidly as possible the overcrowding with which we are concerned. I am asking my noble Friend Lord Caithness to go to the United States to follow up the research that was undertaken by the Select Committee.

Is the Minister aware that I entirely agree with him that under his Government the major growth industry in Britain has been the prison building programme?

The hon. Gentleman is falling below his level. The fact of the matter — this has already been mentioned during these exchanges — is that under the Government whom he supported crime and the prison population grew sharply and nothing was done about it. They continue to grow, which I regret, but the difference is that we are, and have been over the past six or seven years, doing a great deal about it.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is wrong that alcoholics and rate defaulters should be sent to prison? Does he agree that the Government could reduce the overcrowding of our prisons by stopping the closure of psychiatric hospitals? Is he aware that during our inquiries into the prison medical service the Select Committee for Social Services found several hundred people in our prisons who more correctly should have been in a psychiatric hospital or asylum undergoing treatment rather than being in prison?

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend, and one of the matters on which we have worked hard and successfully is the reduction of the number of inadequates who are sent to prison because no one can think of anywhere else to send them. The pressures that my hon. Friend and others have brought to bear have been effective.

With regard to fine defaulters, my hon. Friend has raised a difficult point, because, in the last resort, when all other measures have failed, it is hard to imagine how one can proceed except with the use of prison. I was interested to note that in the Standing Committee the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) endorsed that point of view.

Will the Home Secretary accept and recognise that many people will feel repelled by the proposal that our prisons should be privatised or run by private companies, because people who are in prison are supposed to be there because they have committed crimes against society, so it should be society's—that means the Government's — responsibility to administer those prisons? I suspect that this will be the last time that the Home Secretary will be at the Dispatch Box, because undoubtedly my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) will be Home Secretary at the next Home Office questions. However, does today's Home Secretary agree that we need a long period of consultation before we move over to the privatisation of our prisons?

It is because I thought that there might be that kind of mischievous supplementary that I said that privatisation is not what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Fylde (Sir E. Gardner) and his Select Committee or I have in mind. We are not thinking of handing over existing prisons to private management. If, by using the private sector and private sector techniques, we can accelerate and improve the provision of prison places, it would be stupid not to try to do so. The hon. Member said that the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) will take my place in the next Parliament. He has not bothered to come here today. It is notable that, on this matter, on which the Labour party is purporting to campaign, there are now 10 Labour Members on the Opposition Benches.

Will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to clarify the point that nobody is in prison for debt, but, rather, for contempt of court?

The Home Secretary said that politicians should not interfere. Has he forgotten that his Government's Criminal Justice Act 1982 contained a provision for the executive release of prisoners? Why does he not read his own legislation?

I have read the debate on the legislation often enough. We have discussed it in the House. The provision, which the hon. Member correctly said is in the 1982 Act, is clearly designed for use in an emergency. We are not in an emergency.

Electoral Law


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has any plans to introduce legislation further to amend electoral law; and if he will make a statement.

During the next Parliament we intend, after the usual consultations, to bring forward legislation to extend the period during which British citizens may live overseas and continue to register as overseas electors.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend consider issuing advice about the legality of direct mail letters that are targeted to particular constituencies during election campaigns? Is he aware that, according to The Guardian, the Conservative and alliance parties have received legal advice that such practice is illegal, and that they do not propose to use it during an election campaign, but that the Labour party proposes to do so? Would it not be a good idea to clarify the matter beyond any doubt?

We should be grateful to my hon. Friend for raising what is obviously an important point. I am sure that the public would expect fair play and a reasonable understanding between the parties as to what is allowed by law. The public would not look kindly on a party that they thought had cheated.

The Minister's views on electoral reform have been publicised. We know that he is in favour of it. Is it too much to hope for that, in the next few days, he can put through a Bill to conduct an election on a system of proportional representation? Given that the Government are often critical of extreme militants on local authority councils, does he accept that one way of controlling them is to have lair representation on local authority councils to ensure that extremism does not have its head in a minority of votes.

There will certainly be no extremism when the Government are returned at the next general election. The Government believe that the simple majority system is the best system. It is well established, it is easily understood and it is most likely to produce Governments for whose policies the electorate has voted.

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware of the dissatisfaction that has been expressed over the forms available for absent voters to be able to record their votes? Will he urgently consider the form and determine whether it could be simplified and made clearer in time for any possible early election?

I am told that the form was designed on advice from electoral registration officers. Obviously, I shall discuss the matter with my right hon. Friend.

Violence (London)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to deal with the rise in acts of violence against the person in the Metropolitan police area.

The number of recorded crimes of violence against the person in the Metropolitan police area in 1986 was about the same as in 1985. Operational decisions about the investigation of specific offences are a matter for the commissioner; but I strongly support his decision, recorded in his strategy statement for 1987, to place particular emphasis upon the safety of the citizen.

Have not crimes of violence against the person in the Metropolitan area risen by 43 per cent. since the Government came to office, and is there not one such crime every 26 minutes in our capital city? Is not the best way of preventing crimes of violence against the person to make sure that our streets are better lit and that there are no dark corners offering ample scope for lurking muggers? Why, then, have the Government reduced rate support grant, imposed penalties on local authorities, rate-capped London boroughs, and taken away from them, by so doing, the means with which to light our streets better?

Crimes of violence generally have risen more slowly under this Government than under the Labour Government, although I do not make a great point of that. The hon. Gentleman is perfectly right about street lighting, but wrong in supposing that the way to improvement is merely to shell out more money to local authorities.I visited the constituency of my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State, and the Labour wards in the Roehampton part of that constituency the other day. A great deal is being done there by the Wandsworth borough council to improve the street lighting, precisely with a view to crime prevention, and it has managed to keep the rates at a steady, reasonable level as compared to its neighbours.

Will my right hon. friend join me in welcoming the Government's present initiative in putting a large amount of money into improving street lighting in London boroughs, and advise boroughs such as Islington, which do not know about that, to find out about it? Does my right hon. Friend agree that Labour boroughs such as Ealing, which are financing expensive campaigns to ask people to complain against the police, would be better advised to put the money used for that into extra policing to overcome the violence of which they complain?

It is certainly true — even in London, where the boroughs have no police responsibility whatever — as the example of Wandsworth bears out, that a borough that is well disposed to working with the police to improve the security of its citizens can give a lead and manage to contrive ample ingenious schemes of crime prevention without new expenditure.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that dealing with crimes of violence against the person is regarded as the highest possible priority of the Government's law and order policy, and of the commissioner and his senior officers in the Metropolitan police? In that context, will he give his support to further measures of encouraging more police on to the beat and more crime prevention techniques?

Yes, indeed. As far as London is concerned, last month I further increased the establishment limits of the Metropolitan police. It is now for them to recruit up to those limits, and the commissioner's reorganisation, as my hon. Friend knows, has, by itself, put over 218 more officers on the beat.

Why does the Home Secretary say that no London boroughs have responsibility for policing? Does he not know that the City of London, which is one of London's boroughs, is a police authority? Is that not an anachronism that should be ended? When will the Home Secretary come forward with proposals for elected police authorities in London such as those that exist elsewhere in the country?

I am not going to come forward with proposals that would put the priorities for the policing of London under the control of people such as Mr. Bernie Grant.

Does my right hon. Friend think that efforts to reduce violent crime would be helped or hindered, by Opposition policies to extend political control over police tactics and operational strategy?

That would be lunatic. I do not know what candidates the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) is supporting today, but if he is supporting candidates of the Manchester city council Labour party, they are precisely the same type of leaders as those in the half dozen or more boroughs in London in which Labour leaders such as Bernie Grant—unlike Miss Atkin, who was got rid of overnight—continue in full favour with the Labour leadership—despite the fact that the things that Mr. Grant said were much more offensive to the British people than what Miss Atkin said.



asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received about the steps he is taking to reduce the level of crimes which involve cars.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what proportion of overall crime involves cars; and what plans he has to seek to reduce this level.

We regularly receive correspondence from right hon. and hon. Members as well as from members of the public about various aspects of autocrime. Theft of or from cars accounts for about 25 per cent. of all recorded crime. Most such offences are committed by opportunist criminals preying on cars which are intrinsically insecure, and car owners who fail to make the best use of security devices. Accordingly, efforts to reduce autocrime concentrate on preventive measures. Crime prevention publicity seeks to make motorists more security-conscious; car security advice leaflets are being distributed with licence reminders; and the new highway code also contains suitable advice. Manufacturers are being encouraged to improve the security aspects of new cars and the advice on car security which they give to car owners.

I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend for that most helpful reply. Does he agree that a crucial consideration in the level of crime involving cars is police manpower? Is he aware that the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) recently visited my constituency to talk about law and order without, apparently, knowing that the major problem is that the Labour group of the Strathclyde regional council, uniquely in Scotland, keeps its police numbers below authorised establishment as a matter of policy? The resultant swing to the Conservatives in Eastwood and the fact that the right hon. Member for Gorton made an ass of himself are not matters of regret, but is it not important that the public throughout Great Britain know of the importance of proper levels of police manpower to deal with crimes involving cars as well as other crimes?

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that the high level of autocrime distorts to some extent overall criminal statistics? Secondly, does not the answer lie in far more electronic gadgetry being installed by motor car manufacturers? It is absurd how easy cars are made for the criminal to break into.

My hon. Friend has touched on two crucial issues. Autocrime is one of the great growth crimes, and has been for the past 20 years. The reason is that it is easily carried out. Too many car owners are slack in the manner in which they leave their cars, and one in five is still left unlocked. Secondly, perhaps too little attention has been focused in the past on the need for good car security as a selling point for a car, and I am glad to say that a new British standard of vehicle security has been launched. We are getting co-operation from motor manufacturers. I hope that car security will improve, that the public will be aware of the improvement and that they will make use of improved security measures.

What has happened to our education system if it leads Ministers to come out with expressions such as autocrime, which, if it means anything, means crime against the self? Does the Minister realise that many crimes involving cars involve drink as well? Instead of being sympathetic to the progress of the Bill promoted by the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart), will he recognise that we should tackle the problem of drink and driving if we are to make changes to our licensing laws?

It took about half an hour for an alliance representative to appear in the Chamber for questions. I am glad that when one did he was able to ask such a bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed supplementary question. Of course drink-driving offences are important. The Department of Transport has a committee under the chairmanship of Dr. North that is considering whether the present laws and penalties are adequate, and it will be reporting shortly.

Crimes Of Violence


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received seeking steps to increase sentences for crimes of violence; and whether he will make a statement.

We receive many letters suggesting that sentence levels for crimes of violence are too low. In fact, they are increasing. Individual sentences are a matter for the courts, but the Government understand the strength of public concern about alleged over-leniency and have responded to it with clause 29 of the Criminal Justice Bill.

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that the judges appear to take no notice of the guidelines that are set out? Are they not losing the public's confidence, and what more can be done?

When a well-publicised sentence appears to be over lenient, there should he a mechanism to deal with it. That is why we introduced clause 29. It is right to recognise that there has been a considerable response by the judiciary to the need to pass appropriate penalties for those convicted of violent crime. My hon. Friend may be interested to know that during the six months after the Billam judgment the proportion of rapists sentenced to over five years has almost doubled. Similarly, since 1980 the number of offenders sent to prison for robbery for more than five years has almost doubled. I am sure that my hon. Friend will welcome that as a step in the right direction.

Crime (Public Assistance)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what further plans he has to involve the general public in the fight against crime; and whether he will make a statement.

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford (Mr. Shepherd) earlier.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. The House is only too well aware of the good work done by the Government in improving our laws and strengthening the police force. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is the responsibility of the individual to obey the law and, if the individual breaks the law, it is not the Government's fault, it is the individual's fault? What would my right hon. Friend suggest should be done to bring home to the parents of individuals who break the law their responsibility for teaching their children the difference between right and wrong and producing a better citizen?

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. A heavy responsibility falls on parents and teachers in a society where one third of crime is committed by juveniles. The courts are enabled to fine parents for the misdemeanours of their children. My hon. Friend will have followed the steps put forward by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science about the nature of the curriculum.

Prime Minister



asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 7 May.

This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet and had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. En addition to my duties in the House, I shall be having further meetings later today.

Will my right hon. Friend find time today to read the new Department of Health and Social Security study published in the May issue of the Employment Gazette, which confirms that under her premiership pensioners' incomes have risen at twice the rate they did in the 1970s and that pensioners are not only spending more but saving more than they have ever done? Is this not yet another real vindication of the Government's economic policies?

The article referred to received quite wide publicity in the press this morning. The Government have honoured their pledge to pensioners about the basic pension for 1 million more pensioners than there were in 1979. As the article shows, the net income, taking the total income of pensioners as a group — [Interruption.]—Yes, as a group—has gone up far more than the income of the population as a whole. That means that more people are retiring with occupational pensions and other income, so that prosperity is extending to all pensioners, which is exactly what we wish. I commend the article not only to Government Members but especially to Opposition Members.

Does the Prime Minister not find it fascinating that those figures for pensioners' incomes include SERPS, which she is intent on abolishing? Has the Prime Minister seen today's reports that 4 million children live in deep poverty and are more subject to serious illness, early death and low achievement than children of comparable age who are not in poor families? As these numbers are nearly double what they were in 1979 when she came to office, does not that record of increased poverty and deprivation among the most vulnerable group in our society fill her with shame?

First, the right hon. Gentleman is wrong in saying that we will abolish SERPS. He knows full well that we will not and that it was announced that we will not. As usual, he is utterly wrong. I thought he would have been pleased that more people are retiring with an occupational pension. It has been part of our policy that all people who retire should have two pensions—their basic pension plus either an occupational pension or a fall back on SERPS. That is good. I cannot think why he thinks it is bad.

Secondly, the right hon. Gentleman implied that the higher figure of people on supplementary benefit means that more people are in poverty. Those figures refer not only to supplementary benefit but to incomes which are 140 per cent. of supplementary benefit, which would be an income of about £167 a week. With all due respect, that is not poverty and it is absolutely absurd to say that it is.

Does the Prime Minister, in a very selective view of statistics, want to go on avoiding the truth about the immense spread of child poverty in our country? Does she really think that the £10-odd a week that is provided under DHSS regulations for young children is anything like enough to bring them up on when all evidence shows that £35 a week would be a bare minimum? Does she not agree that, with such an immense spread of poverty, her record over eight years is one of unmitigated shame?

I remind the right hon. Gentleman that the report to which he refers defines poverty as incomes that are 140 per cent. of supplementary benefit. When the report first came out, or a similar report was first published, even The Guardian described such a definition as running counter to common sense— I am sorry, it was the New Society that called it running counter to common sense. The Guardian, which I have here, merely described it as perverse. I could not have chosen a better word myself. The right hon. Gentleman is aware that the Government's record on social security is excellent in every way.

If the Prime Minister takes her own Government's figures of numbers of children on the supplementary benefit bare rate, there are a million more children in this country now on that bare rate than there were when she came into office. In addition, the Government have cut child benefit. Is that what she is proud of?

What the right hon. Gentleman is saying is that if we had not put up the supplementary benefit rate as much as we have there would be fewer people in poverty because the definition would be different. That is absolutely ridiculous. I remind him that supplementary benefit rates for children under five and aged 11 to 12 have increased by about 29 per cent. after inflation has been taken into account.

Will my right hon. Friend have the opportunity today to study the latest unemployment statistics from the parliamentary constituency of Corby, in which she will notice that the year-on-year decline from 1986 to 1987 of those out of work and claiming benifit is no less than 22 per cent., and in the wards where unemployment has been highest it is up to 30 per cent.? Will my right hon. Friend recognise that the single most important reason why that has been possible is the combination of Government policies applied to an area of high unemployment?

Yes, Mr. Speaker. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving the House such an excellent record.

As the Secretary of State for the Environment has withdrawn the threat to dump nuclear waste on sites in England, will the Prime Minister give her guarantee that there will be no dumping of such waste in Scotland?

As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, there was a report that it would be no more expensive to store low-level nuclear waste with medium-level nuclear waste and we shall consider, along with NIREX, the best place to do so.


asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 7 May.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Government's Green Paper proposing further reforms of the trade unions and giving additional rights to their members has been widely welcomed by rank and file trade unionists? Is she further aware that, according to the Labour party's general secretary, Mr. Larry Whitty, basing himself on Labour party research, a majority of rank and file trade unionists no longer vote Labour? Is that any wonder, given the determination of the Labour party to scrap my right hon. Friend's popular policies in that area?

I agree with my hon. Friend. I hope that an increasing number of trade unionists will continue to vote Conservative, and that more and more will do so. We have done more than any other Government, for rank and file trade unionists, not only in giving more powers back to them, but because real take-home pay for the man on average earnings has risen by more than 21 per cent. during the lifetime of Conservative Governments. In addition, an increasing number of employees share in the success of their companies, either through profit-sharing or share-ownership schemes, which, again, are part of our policy for extending property ever more widely among our people.

Was it by design, or by error, that the Prime Minister yesterday failed to read that part of the text that she had given to the press about MI5 and using information in a way that it ought not to he used?

The part of the text, which some members of the press must have given to the hon. Gentleman, was excluded because it added nothing whatever to the statement. As he has seen it, he should know.

Will my right hon. Friend take time today to study the proposals of the London strategic policy unit for transferring the powers and responsibities for policing the Metropolis to an assembly of London councillors? Does she agree that it would be most undesirable to change the present arrangements for policing the Metropolis, and that the proposal is just one more example of the loony Left undermining the police?

I agree with my hon. Friend. It would be absolutely disastrous for impartial policing to hand over the policing of the Metropolis in the way that my hon. Friend has said that the Opposition intend to do.

In view of the Irangate inquiry now proceeding in Congress, will the Prime Minister give an assurance about whether representations were made to representatives of the British Government by those of the United States Government to provide Iran or the Contras with weapons or support? Will she give a categorical assurance that no such weapons or support were supplied either to Iran or to the Contras?

As a former Foreign Secretary, the right hon. Gentleman knows full well that we never reveal communications between Governments. He operated that policy while he was Foreign Secretary.

I have made our position on Iran clear. It is exactly the same as my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary indicated in October 1984. I have also made it clear that the British Government have not authorised the supply of Blowpipe to the Contras. Our actions have been entirely consistent with our support for a political rather than a military settlement of the problems of Central America.


asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 7 May.

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

Does the Prime Minister recall that she has twice done me the courtesy of meeting me when there have been major closures in my constituency, at Gartcosh and Martin and Black? Will she bear in mind that this week MacKinnons Knitwear in Scotland issued close on 1,000 redundancy notices, yet the Secretary of State for Scotland refuses to meet me, referring me instead to a junior Minister, whom I have already met? Given that unemployment in Scotland has risen by 2,300 each month since the Prime Minister took office, will she use the opportunity in her speech in Perth next week to apologise to the Scottish people, not least for the intransigence and insensitivity of the present Secretary of State for Scotland?

The present Secretary of State for Scotland does an excellent job, as did his predecessor.

With regard to Dawson International's proposed closure of its subsidiary MacKinnons, that is a commercial decision for the company to make. Officials of the Industry Department for Scotland are in contact with the company and will help in any way possible to try to find a buyer for the business.

May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention — especially as this is the day of the local elections — to the fact that the Labour-controlled Norwich city council has kept empty a house that it owns worth £100,000 for the past five and a half years? Does she agree that that is disgraceful, and that the sole solution to the problem of homelessness lies in ensuring that properties are occupied, not in keeping them empty for five and a half years?

I agree with my hon. Friend that keeping property or land empty or unused for a very long time is a very bad use of assets. I agree with him, too, that I should be delighted if the natural consequences of voting against any council that did that were to follow.


asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 7 May.

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

Will the Prime Minister assure me that adequate funding will be made available by the Secretary of State for Wales to keep open the Lucas Industries factory at Ystradgynlais and save 700 jobs there? The Prime Minister knows that Lucas has lost orders because Honda has given instrumentation contracts to Nippon Seiki and that this is an insidious penetration of the British car market. Austin Rover has also given a contract to it. Will the Prime Minister assure me that adequate funding will be made available so that those workers can continue to work at that factory for the forseeable future?

No, and the hon. Gentleman is quite aware that the answer must be no. If funding were given automatically to every company that had the misfortune to close, money would be piled into companies that were unable to compete and far less money would then be available for building new businesses, of which Wales has many, to create the work of the future. Of course I sympathise with the hon. Gentleman about the redundancies at Lucas and I understand his concern for his constituents, but the sourcing of individual components, whether by Austin Rover or by Honda, must be their decision. If Japanese component companies are set up in this country, we set limits on the number of components that must be purchased from this country, but they must be of excellent quality and price competitive. I understand that a Lucas subsidiary hopes to establish an expansion project at Ystradgynlais. That would safeguard employment at the site, and all concerned are doing everything possible to ensure that the development proceeds.

Order. The hon. Gentleman was called at Prime Minister's Question Time. I shall take all genuine points of order immediately after business questions, in their usual place.

Business Of The House

3.32 pm

May I ask the Leader of the House to tell us the business for next week?

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

MONDAY 11 MAY—Private Members' motions.

Debate on nuclear power and the Government's decision on the CEGB's application to construct the Sizewell B power station, on a Government motion.

Motion on the Industrial Relations (Northern Ireland) Order.

Motion on the Representation of the People (Variation of Limits of Candidates' Election Expenses) Order.

TUESDAY 12 MAY—Second Reading of the Dartford-Thurrock Crossing Bill.

Motions on the Parliamentary Constituencies (England) (Miscellaneous Changes) (No. 2) and (No. 3) Orders.

The Chairman of Ways and Means has named opposed private business for consideration at seven o'clock.

WEDNESDAY 13 MAY—Consideration of Lords amendents to the Abolition of Domestic Rates Etc. (Scotland) Bill.

Remaining stages of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill [Lords].

Motion on the Lord Chancellor's salary order.

THURSDAY 14 MAY—Remaining stages of the Local Government Bill.

FRIDAY 15 MAY—Debate on small firms on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

MONDAY 18 MAY—Opposition Day (13th Allotted Day). Subject for debate to be announced.

The House will wish to know, Mr. Speaker, that, subject to the progress of business, it will be proposed that the House should rise for the Spring Adjournment on Friday 22 May until Tuesday 2 June.

I can see that some of the business for next week is making even the right hon. Gentleman's hair stand on end.

The first matter that I should like to raise with him relates to next Wednesday's business—consideration of Lords amendments to the Abolition of Domestic Rates Etc. (Scotland) Bill. This legislation, which would introduce a poll tax in Scotland, is widely opposed even by, as the Leader of the House knows, members of his own party. In view of that and the fact that the Government want to levy the poll tax on even the poorest in the community and would like to extend it, if they had the chance, to the rest of Britain, does not the Leader of the House think that it is wrong to guillotine debate on this legislation in the way that is proposed?

I asked the right hon. Gentleman on 9 April for a debate on the important issue of launch aid for the A330 and A340 airbus. Will he press the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to make a statement about the need to give appropriate aid to enable British Aerospace to participate in this project? Even a pre-election statement of commitment would be preferable to further slothful delay by the Government.

Will the Leader of the House ensure that the House shortly gets an opportunity to debate today's report from the Commission for Racial Equality which records the fact that black graduates experience much greater difficulty in obtaining work for which they are qualified than do white graduates? Since this very disturbing factor clearly depresses motivation as well as neglecting qualified talent, does not the right hon. Gentleman think that it would be a worthy subject for discussion in Government time?

Finally, could the Leader of the House ensure that the House is given some time to debate the statement in a written answer given by the Secretary of State for Education and Science earlier this week relating to small schools in rural areas? Since in that statement the Secretary of State gave absolutely no undertaking that schools with fewer than three teachers would not be closed and absolutely no assurance of any extra funding that might become necessary if such schools were kept open on educational grounds, I am sure that the Secretary of State would want to correct any impression that he was being helpful to small rural schools and the communities which depend on them since that obviously would not be true. Could the Leader of the House, who I know has an interest in small rural schools, see that the Secretary of State gets that redemptive opportunity?

Taking the points of the right hon. Gentleman in the order in which they were presented, both he and I might be fairly disposed to abstinence in our rhetoric instead of using the analogy of hair standing on end.

As to the right hon. Gentleman's second point, I note what he says about the possible use of the timetable facilities for the Abolition of Domestic Rates Etc. (Scotland) Bill. The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that the main timetable motion provided for a supplementary motion to deal with Lords amendments, and I can see no reason why this cannot be introduced.

As to the question of launch aid, the Government's discussions with British Aerospace have reached an advanced stage and my right hon. Friend hopes to make an announcement to the House soon.

I note the suggestion that we might have a debate on employment opportunities for black graduates in the context of the recent report of the Commission for Racial Equality. I think that might be pursued through the usual channels.

Finally, I note what the right hon. Gentleman said about the excellent statement of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science on schools in rural areas. He was generous enough to concede that I have a lively and constituency interest in this matter. I am perfectly satisfied with it and I invite the right hon. Gentleman to follow my example.

Next Wednesday we shall debate almost exclusively Scottish business. Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Scottish Conservative party conference is also beginning on that day, and the arrangement of business will make life extremely difficult for some of us who would like to be there?

I have always thought that, if Parliament were to be sitting during the Conservative party conference, it would be a wonderful excuse to be here and not there. However, we all have our appetites and inhibitions. I take account of what my hon. Friend says, and I will look at the matter.

The Leader of the House has intimated that he sees no reason why the guillotine or the timetable procedure should not be used for Lords amendments on the Abolition of Domestic Rates Etc. (Scotland) Bill. Given that there have been very few constuctive amendments in the other place and that this Session has considerable time to run, I do not find that his reason is particularly convincing and wish to hear him amplify it.

Given the cascade of Government announcements of recent weeks—perhaps with an eye to the electorate—and given the fact that we will not be here from the week beginning 25 May, can the Leader of the House anticipate any Government statements that he might have been thinking of bringing forward during that week and give the House an opportunity to discuss them before then?

On the second point, the hon. Gentleman will have to accept the good news as it comes.

As to the first point, of course there will be a debate, possibly preparatory to the supplementary motion. The sound arguments will he made then.

Has my right hon. Friend noted that a candidate for the SDP at the last election, who was once a Member of the House, has recently spoken on a Government party platform, asking people to vote Conservative in the coming election? Will my right hon. Friend arrange to issue blanket information to Opposition Members, asking them all to come into our little ring so as to make it bigger?

I am not sure how that arises on next week's business, except that it will provide an opportunity for initial repentance on the part of Social Democratic Members if they start voting with the Government next week instead of with the Opposition.

May I make a special appeal to the Leader of the House? I refer him to early-day motion 860 on the future of the West Yorkshire county hall in Wakefield.

[That this House, recognising that the purpose-built County Hall, Wood Street, Wakefield has been in existence since 1898, was built and paid for and maintained by the ratepayers of the West Riding of Yorkshire and the ratepayers of the West Yorkshire Metropolitan County Council, and that it contains very valuable and unique furnishings, a marvellously panelled council chamber and all the requirements for local government and other public bodies, calls on Her Majesty's Government to instruct the West Yorkshire Residuary Body to suspend the consideration of tenders for the said County Hall and to negotiate a sale of the same to the Wakefield Metropolitan District Council and to the West Yorkshire Police Authority for their joint use.]

I have raised this issue on many occasions. I refer the Leader of the House to page 1397 of the Order Paper. There we have 152 hon. Members supporting the motion in my name. I have only one opponent; there is only one amendment. I cannot identify the constituency of my opponent because he is so unknown to me; it says that he is Mr. Gary Waller. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who?"] Mr. Gary Waller. Have hon. Members heard of him?

Does not the Leader of the House think that I should be given an opportunity next week, or possibly on the Opposition day on 18 May—here I appeal to my hon. Friends—to discuss the future of West Yorkshire county hall which is to be privatised? I appeal to the Leader of the House to give me the opportunity for a debate next week or on 18 May, the Opposition day.

Knowing the formidable characteristics of the right hon. Gentleman as I do, I am lost in admiration for my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller) that he alone can thwart the ambitions of the right hon. Gentleman. Of course I will look into the matter. I understand that it is essentially a matter for the residual body, which is a rather demeaning concept, but none the less I will consider how it might be debated.

I welcome the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition that we should debate at an early opportunity village schools in rural areas. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has shown by his question that he does not understand how they are financed, perhaps because his party has little to do with or cares little for people in rural areas. May I point out to my right hon. Friend that it would be good to debate the announcement made by the Secretary of State for Education and Science about his attitude to village schools in rural areas because of the important part they play in the community and the importance they have for the education of children in those villages?

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. I only wish that with a song in my heart I could guarantee a debate on this topic in Government time, but I must have a prudent sense of responsibility on how I mortgage that time for the weeks ahead.

May I refer the Leader of the House to the business for next Thursday, the Local Government Bill? On 5 February the Minister for Housing, Urban Affairs and Construction, in the course of a fairly lengthy statement, announced that as from midnight that day it would be illegal for local authorities, among other things, to guarantee private finance for a host of housing initiatives worth, effectively, about £500 million. That was because there was going to be this Bill, which would take retrospective powers back to 5 February to make it a legal requirement to ask permission of the Ministry to proceed with such guarantees, among other things. Should the Bill fall, in the eventuality about which we are all speculating, would it be possible for the Minister, who will be before the House on Thursday, to indicate — this is an important point — that local authorities would not be acting illegally were they to give such financial guarantees for private finance to provide housing to the extent of about £500 million throughout the country in critical areas of shortage? Would the Leader of the House undertake to get the Minister to make it perfectly clear that, should the Bill fall because of the possibility of a general election, they could go ahead and give that financial guarantee so that we could get that private capital into the housing that is needed in many parts of the country?

The right hon. Gentleman very fairly conceded that he was making an important but none the less hypothetical point. However, I will most certainly see that it is drawn to the attention of my right hon. Friend so that he may take account of it.

The House is probably at its best when there is ground common to both sides. I therefore support the Leader of the Opposition and my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Mr. Baker) in making a further request for a debate on rural schools. I say this because the small Church of England school in the village of Wincle, in the hill country to the west of my constituency, has just been the subject of an inspector's report which praises it for the role which it plays and for the quality and scope of education which it provides. So that in every sense bigger is not necessarily best. As many rural schools are under threat and could well be closed by unsympathetic local education authorities, may we have a debate?

I also support the Leader of the Opposition in his call for a debate on the aerospace industry, with particular reference to launch aid for the A330 and A340 airbus. This concerns the future of our vital aerospace industry and we must match the Germans and the French in seeking to ensure its survival. I believe that the House and constituencies such as mine which have a vested interest in the future of aerospace — and I refer to British Aerospace, Woodford—want my right hon. Friend to try to find time for a debate on this critical and important issue.

I always enjoy these Thursday tours of the Macclesfield constituency. I feel that I know it intimately and could never get lost in it. I am fascinated by my hon. Friend's commitment to consensus politics, and I am sure that we shall hear more of that in the next Parliament.

As for a debate on village schools, I assure my hon. Friend that I entirely accept the force of his arguments. It cannot be arranged for next week, but I am sure that debate will take place both indoors and out of doors, as it were.

With regard to the airbus, I am sure that if my hon. Friend reflects further on what I said to the Leader of the Opposition he will draw some encouragement from that.

I wonder whether the Leader of the House will join me in expressing pleasure that, following a small number of fairly moderate speeches by my hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) and myself, the sponsor of the Obscene Publications Bill drew stumps and surrendered last night. Will he comment on the attempt that was made to ram this Bill through by bringing in a sittings motion which would have had us meeting all night, if hon. Members had had the guts for it, and all day in order to have the Bill brought forward for its Report stage with only 12 hours in between? Will he give his views on that and, above all, rejoice with us that such a depressing, reactionary, ill-formed measure has been dropped and, we hope, will not appear again?

It is quite out of character for the hon. Gentleman not to have done his homework. If he had, he would have discovered that I voted for the Second Reading of the Bill. As to the subsequent arrangements for the passage of the Bill, that is a matter for the private sector. I represent the public sector. Therefore, I cannot sensibly and honourably comment upon what happened.

May we have a statement next week from the Attorney-General, and possibly from the Secretary of State or the Solicitor-General for Scotland, on the electoral law relating to direct mailing to targeted constituencies? During Home Office questions earlier I was not clear whether my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department, in answer to the supplementary question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, Moorlands (Mr. Knox), covered the situation in Scotland. The Secretary of State certainly did not refer to the Scottish National party and any legal advice it may have received. I make no allegations about the Scottish National party, but this is an important matter on which the House should be clear.

My hon. Friend referred to exchanges that took place earlier during questions to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. In truth, I cannot add anything to those exchanges, but I will most certainly see that his question to me is referred to the Law Officers.

Will the Leader of the House take into account the fact that the Prime Minister's statement, which she might wish to amplify next week, has given great pain to the family and friends, such as Anthony Cavendish, of the late Sir Maurice Oldfield? I see Conservative Members nodding their heads in support. Could not people such as George Young have their questions answered about this because great pain, and possibly misunderstanding, has been created? Will the right hon. Gentleman convey to the Prime Minister the fact that I did not receive something from the press that I should not have. I read it in the press. Some of us are surprised that a statement about the possible misuse of information gained by MI5 is a matter of little consequence, adding nothing to the statement. Would she think about that?

Finally, will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to be given an opportunity to explain why Barrie Penrose and Roger Courtiour, two BBC journalists, interviewed Harold Wilson on the question of dirty tricks by MI5, and why the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, along with the right hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Sir P. Blaker) and the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow), and the late Airey Neave interrogated the journalists? Could some statement be made by the Chancellor?

I note what the hon. Gentleman says. On his first point, I will convey his request to No. 10. As to his second point, I will inquire of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster about the matter that has been raised, and doubtless he will be in touch with the hon. Gentleman.

Looking to the future, I give notice to my right hon. Friend that, unless I hear sooner, in the forthcoming debate on the Loyal Address I shall be raising with great force the future of the village schools of Easton Royal and East Grafton in my constituency, about whose future I have been trying to extract decisions from the Department of Education and Science ever since the beginning of December.

All these exchanges show that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science is blessed with the twin characteristics of sound political judgment and progressive educational instincts. I will ensure that the point is passed to my right hon. Friend.

Is the Leader of the House aware that once again the future of Fulham football club has been thrown into doubt and jeopardy as a result of the irresponsible actions of Marler Estates, a company which has on a number of occasions reneged on undertakings and agreements? On this occasion a further failure to honour an agreement is causing the difficulty.

Will the right hon. Gentleman urge the Minister with responsibility for sport to come to the House next week and make a statement on the steps that the Government will take to safeguard football clubs against the actions of predatory property speculators? Will he also speak to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, who as yet has not responded to a question that I raised some time ago about the possibility of there having been improper insider dealing in the shares of Marler Estates earlier this year?

There must be scope for a private Member's Bill to convert the Fulham football club technically into a village school. That, it seems to me, is the most immediate helpful prospect of its preservation. Having once lived under its shadow, I understand that it is a matter of great seriousness in London. I will refer the points that the hon. Gentleman has raised to my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for the Environment and for Trade and Industry respectively.

Will my right hon. Friend accept that my admiration for his judgment has been nudged a little by the reply he gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) when he suggested that it was preferable to be anywhere in this kingdom, for whatever reason, even a party conference, than at Perth? Since that is the place from which the Government were launched, succeeded and relaunched, and will no doubt be relaunched again, will he use his influence with the Welsh section of the Labour party to persuade it to use its thirteenth allotted day to initiate a debate on the north-south divide in order to remind the House of the immeasurable benefits of living north of the border, thanks to the Government?

I am always anxious to make the most ample common cause with my hon. and learned Friend, so let me say that I have the utmost devotion to Perth, particularly when it is unblemished by over-zealous political activity. My hon. and learned Friend's point is one of great seriousness, and I am sure that through the usual channels we will be able to accommodate his point.

Is the Leader of the House aware of two major financial question marks over British financing of the EEC? First, there is the court case relating to the extension of VAT to house building and construction and, secondly, there is the Delors package, which has been presented and is in the Vote Office—Com. 87/101—which takes apart the whole of the current EEC financing structure and dismantles the much trumpeted Fontainebleau agreement obtained by the Government. As it is almost certainly to be referred for debate by the Select Committee on European Legislation, will he assure the House that when the package is debated in the Council of Ministers on 25 and 26 May next, if a debate has not for some reason taken place in the House by then, Her Majesty's Ministers will give no commitment whatsoever on the grounds of the resolution of the House of which he is aware?

The hon. Gentleman raises a point that is substantial in its economic implication and constitutional consequences. He knows perfectly well that I can give no guarantee about the behaviour of Ministers at the council of Ministers. However, I shall certainly see that the matter is referred to my right hon. and hon. Friends.

Will my right hon. Friend bring forward the traditional time for announcing rate capping for councils from July to next week, bearing in mind the extreme difficulties of people in Ealing, Waltham Forest and other areas? Will he bear in mind that I have had packed meetings throughout my constituency of hundreds of people objecting to the Ealing rate rise of 65 per cent. for domestic ratepayers and 57 per cent. for industrialists? A total of 3,500 people came on a march to Ealing town hall on the wettest day of the year when the Grand National was being shown on television, as well as the Calcutta cup. There is strong feeling and people need reassurance that wicked councils such as Ealing and others will be stopped in their tracks as soon as possible. Will he bear in mind the fact that pensioners and many others have been to my surgery and met me in the street and are deeply upset to the point of tears in facing rate bills that they know they cannot pay?

I do not doubt for one moment the very strong feeling that has been generated by the rates issue in many parts of the country, particularly in Labour authorities which have had high spending policies. I note the request for the rate-capping announcement to be advanced somewhat dramatically to next week. My heart is with the proposition, but holding a responsibility for the management of Government business, I must say that I cannot easily see how it can he accommodated. However, I shall be in touch with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.

Is the Leader of the House aware that in my area the Conservative party is posing quite disingenuously as the champion of the ratepayers, yet the Government have stolen £40 million in rate support grant cuts and penalties since the Prime Minister came to office? If the Conservative party is really the champion of the ratepayer, will the right hon. Gentleman find time to give back that £40 million?

The search for an equitable distribution of the rate support grant is one of the eternal and fascinating aspects of our national politics, and I have no doubt that it will continue.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, if he agreed to the call of the Leader of the Opposition and. of my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) for a debate next week about the future of small village schools, I could point out that the Government have been fairly consistent in their policy? For example, seven or eight weeks ago they saved such a school at Mugginton in my constituency, which was under threat of closure from a Labour county council.

I thank my hon. Friend for his contribution, which reinforces the powerful case for an early debate on the educational and social significance of village schools in the shires, and the signal duty that has been undertaken by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science in that regard. Although I cannot immediately offer such a debate, we shall certainly have one, either here or in another place.

Is the Leader of the House aware of reports circulating in American newspapers today to the effect that pressure has been put by the British Prime Minister on the United States President in the event of the zero—zero option being finally agreed to define Europe as mainland Europe? Britain would therefore be excluded, and all the B52s and cruise missiles would thus be located in this country. Would the right hon. Gentleman comment on the story that is circulating in the United States? More important, will he guarantee that if an announcement is made today or tomorrow, we shall have an emergency debate on the matter in Government time?

I have always feared that the hon. Gentleman was, at heart, a trendy internationalist. I share the prejudices of his hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) in that I do not regard this country as part of mainland Europe, and I shall go to the grave thinking that it is not part of mainland Europe. As to the hon. Gentleman's other points, I certainly have no responsibility for the speculations of American newspapers, and I therefore cannot help him.

Will the Leader of the House take another look at the business for next Wednesday and change it a little? First, will he give the Scottish people a reprieve by not having the debate on the Abolition of Domestic Rates Etc. (Scotland) Bill so that the poll tax is not imposed on them? Secondly, will he ask the Lord Chancellor if he can get along on £78,000 a year for just a little longer? Instead would the right hon. Gentleman allow the House a full debate on the parliamentary control of the security services and the Government's action to prevent Peter Wright's book from being published in Australia so that the public can see exactly who controls the security services and what threat they may have been to previous Governments? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that this a matter of great importance and that it is in the public interest that there be such a debate?

I would not want to be the first, or last, person to suggest that the business for next week is fixed irrevocably and cannot be altered. However, it would be altered only after the most profound consideration and deep argument and with the utmost conviction. Therefore, I am disposed to stand firmly by the business announced for Wednesday and to disappoint the hon. Gentleman.

Bills Presented

Data Protection Act 1984 (Amendment)

Mr. Harry Cohen presented a Bill to amend the Data Protection Act 1984: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 3 July and to be printed. [Bill 153.]

Political Opinion Polls (Regulation)

Mr. George Foulkes, supported by Mr. Ernie Ross, Dr. Norman A. Godman, Mr. John Maxton, Mr. Tony Banks, Mr. Jeremy Corbyn, Mr. Tom Clarke, Mr. Willie W. Hamilton and Mr. Harry Cohen, presented a bill to regulate the carrying out and publication of results of public opinion polling and to set up a Supervisory Commission to oversee all aspects of political polls and their publication: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 12 June and to be printed. [Bill 154.]

Statutory Instruments, &C

With the leave of the House, I will put together the three motions relating to statutory instruments.


That the draft Charities (Northern Ireland) Order 1987 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.
That the draft Companies (Mergers and Divisions) Regulations 1987 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.
That the Urban Development Corporations (Financial Limits) Order 1987 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. —[Mr. Lightbown.]

Orders Of The Day

Banking Bill

Lords amendments considered.

Clause 1

Functions And Duties Of The Bank Of England

Lords amendment: No. 1, in page 2, line 2, after first "or" insert

"who is, or is acting as."

4.4 pm

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

This is a technical amendment to put it beyond doubt that the immunity in clause 1(4) extends to those members of the Bank's staff who are seconded to the Bank rather than being its permanent employees. Although not directly employed by the Bank, they act essentially as employees, and it is important that they are able to act firmly and confidentially in their supervisory duties.

As this is the first of the Lords amendments, I shall say a general word about the coming into force of the Bill's provisions. We intend that the bulk of the Bill's main provisions will come into force on 1 October this year. However, there will be an exception in the case of the large exposures reporting regime, for which a target of 1 January 1988 has been set to give the banks time to prepare their systems for compliance with the requirements. We propose, too, that the provisions on the disclosure of information should be implemented two months after the Bill receives Royal Assent to enable the Bank of England to co-operate more fully with other supervisory authorities as soon as practicable.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 21

Notification Of New Or Increased Control

Lords amendment: No. 2, in page 16, line 6, leave out

"which is a body corporate".

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

This is a drafting amendment which simply removes some unnecessary words to make for consistency with similar references elsewhere in the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 22

Objection To New Or Increased Control

Lords amendment:: No. 3, in page 17, line 25, leave out subsection (4).

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

With this, it will be convenient to take Lords amendment No. 4.

The amendments correct the procedural provisions for the giving of notices of objection by the Bank of England. As drafted, the clause did not take account of the period allowed for representations to be made by a person who has acquired a controlling shareholding without clearance and is subsequently served with a preliminary notice of objection by the Bank of England. The Bank might therefore run short of time to consider the case, given that the final notice must be served with an overall time limit of three months. The purpose of the amendments is to take account of that passage of time and also to clarify the Bank's authority to require information and documents in such cases.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendment No. 4 agreed to.

Clause 26

Restrictions On And Sale Of Shares

Lords amendment: No. 5, in page 20, leave out lines 10 and 11.

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

The amendments are designed to ensure that copies of notices of restriction made under clause 26 are sent to all those affected by the notice, which may include a number of people acting as associates. Earlier drafts of the Bill did riot adequately deal with such cases and the amendments are designed to meet that question.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendment: No. 6, in page 20, line 16, at end insert

"in a case where the notice of objection was served under section 22 or 24 above".

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

This is a technical and drafting amendment and represents a correction consequential on the introduction in this House of clause 23. The decision to object on grounds of reciprocity is a matter for the Government and is not subject to appeal to the tribunal constituted under the Bill. The existing reference to allowing time for an appeal in clause 26(4) does not, therefore, apply to action under clause 23.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendment No. 7 agreed to.

Clause 37

Notification Of Acquisition Of Significant Shareholding

Lords amendment: No. 8, in page 28, line 21, after "institution" insert

"incorporated in the United Kingdom".

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

The amendment relates to clause 37 which deals with notification of significant shareholdings which was a measure introduced during the Bill's passage on which we had extensive debate. The clause requires shareholdings of between 5 and 15 per cent. in an authorised institution to be notified to the supervisors. Such "significant shareholders", as they are defined, are then subject to the powers to require information and to mount investigations, which appear later in the Bill. However, in the same way as the Bill's requirements for shareholder controllers apply only to United Kingdom incorporated banks, which is clearly the matter of concern, the provisions of the clause were also intended to apply only to significant shareholders in United Kingdom incorporated banks. The amendment is designed to achieve that effect.

I do not wish to disagree with the amendment, but it provides a useful hook on which to hang some points of public interest. One concerns the link of the Bank of England to the £26 million Morgan Grenfell sale. According to press reports, the bankers refused to comply with a request to name a major shareholder. Given that the bank is now committed to more open disclosure of nominee shareholders to prevent abuses of the takeover code, I should like the Minister to comment on these interesting mystery shareholder stakes wherein someone has used a nominee company owned by the Bank of England to build up a stake, apparently of nearly 5 per cent., in Morgan Grenfell during the past few months. One should know exactly how and why this is happening.

To strengthen the Minister's hand and his resolve—of course, I am relying on press reports and do not necessarily have the latest information— I remind him that the Government no longer owe anything to Morgan Grenfell. More recent press reports make it clear that Morgan Grenfell will no longer countenance political payments without the prior agreement of shareholders. Last year, it funded the Tories to the tune of £25,000. No doubt, Central Office will be particularly interested in that report. Even when the former Chancellor, the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins), sat on Morgan Grenfell's board, the annual payment to Conservative funds was "stolidly maintained", to quote from a press report. That only confirms the deepest suspicions of Labour Members that the right hon. Gentleman and his party are much more closely aligned with Conservative Members than with anyone else. I think that the Minister is now in a position to come clean about Morgan Grenfell and the Bank of England and exactly what is going on. I am sure that the House—it is not exactly full—will be delighted to hear what the Minister has to say.

4.15 pm

As we are rattling along fairly well, I should like to make a few comments because I was a member of the Standing Committee and important questions have arisen in relation to significant shareholdings. Recently, I heard from the acceptance houses committee, a most distinguished body, which would like to make certain comments. I should be grateful if my hon. Friend the Minister will give me a reply, if not immediately, then shortly after, and in writing, if necessary.

Discussion in the other place drew attention to a number of defects that were thought to exist in the Bill and could have great significance in certain circumstances. The Bill has received a great deal of support from the banking industry and there has been a great deal of helpful consultation throughout its passage.

One concern is the action that the Bank of England may take when an unwelcome shareholder announces that he has 5 per cent. of the voting capital in an authorised institution. When such a shareholder increases his holding to 15 per cent., he has to seek the approval of the Bank of England before going further. If the Bank does not consider him fit and proper, it can take quite drastic action under the Bill to prevent him from doing damage to the bank in which he holds shares.

Unfortunately, the Bill does not make it clear that the Bank of England can do anything before the 15 per cent. point is reached, even if it has already formed the view that the shareholder is not fit and proper. It seems somewhat illogical that an undesirable shareholder should be allowed to play around between 5 and 15 per cent. without interference by the central bank charged with the maintenance of the stability of the banking system. However, a number of assurances have been given in another place by Ministers that the Bank of England would not be powerless in such circumstances and would be able to warn an undesirable off the course. The important point is that there should be a proper warning system to ensure that the results that I am sure we all want —including the Government—are produced.

There is another difficulty in that the Bill does little to resolve the interaction between itself and the Financial Services Act 1986. I served on the Standing Committee on the Financial Services Bill and have viewed this matter with some interest over the past 18 months or so. The main point is that, since the passage of that legislation, it has become clear that two sets of regulations will apply in certain circumstances, which I have described, coming from two different regulatory authorities. That will cause considerable burdens for the banking system. It is hoped that the securities regulators are able to accept the Bank of England as——

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member. I allowed the hon. Member for Thurrock (Dr. McDonald) to go fairly wide, but the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) is going very much wider than the Lords amendment. We are dealing with Lords amendments and remarks must be addressed to them. I am sure that the hon. Member will bring his remarks into order.

The point that I wish to make—I think that I can make it briefly—is that the Bill could have contained a provision to enable the banking supervision used by the Bank of England to be equivalent to the system used by the securities regulators. It would be helpful to know how the current talks are progressing. We want to be sure that the banking system as envisaged by the amendment tabled in the Lords ensures that banking supervision operates in a way that would not be needlessly undermined by different securities regulators. I think that my hon. Friend the Minister knows the point that I am making. It has been made a number of times, so there is no need to dwell on the subject.

The hon. Member for Thurrock (Dr. McDonald), drew attention to some comments that had appeared in the press about a shareholding in Morgan Grenfell and asked about the implications of that and of nominee shareholdings. My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash), also on significant shareholdings in banks, pointed to the situation which applies where an individual or company owns between 5 and 15 per cent. of the share capital of the bank.

I will begin by dealing with the point that was made by the hon. Member for Thurrock about a report in the press. I suspect that that report is the same one as I saw on 29 April, which was not entirely accurate, so it may help, therefore, if I explain the provisions with regard to holdings in companies and banks in particular.

As to nominee shareholdings, under the Companies Act a company has a right to know the identity of its shareholders who are registered through nominee companies. There is an exception to that in section 216(5) which applies to certain categories of shareholders, notably Governments and Heads of State. It provides that a person is not obliged to comply with a notice to reveal identity if he is exempted under that section. That only applies up to the figure of 5 per cent., which is the same figure as applies for the purposes of the Banking Bill in relation to significant shareholders.

Until recently 5 per cent. was the figure required for disclosure in the case of a hid for a company under the rules of the Takeover Panel. That figure has been reduced to 1 per cent., but it applies under those circumstances only once a bid has been announced. For this purpose it is not relevant to the case that the hon. Member for Thurrock has raised.

The nominee position runs out when a shareholding reaches 5 per cent., so at that point there is no further protection on anonymity and, at the same time, any holding of 5 per cent. or more would trigger the provisions that we have included in the Banking Bill. The Bank of England, as supervisor, would have to be notified of a holding to be able to keep a check on significant shareholdings in authorised institutions.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford repeated some comments that he had made in the earlier stages of the progress of the Bill. He said that there was little of effect that could be done if a shareholding lay between 5 and 15 per cent. In practice. that is not a fair description of the position. because any undesirable shareholders, to be able to own and take advantage of a shareholding of 15 per cent. or more, would have to satisfy, at that stage, the Bank of England as supervisor that they were fit and proper to be controlling shareholders of an authorised banking institution. That would mean that their conduct as a shareholder of an amount of the capital of that bank that is lower than 15 per cent. but above 5 per cent. would be directly relevant. We have included provisions in the Bill for the Bank of England to be able to obtain relevant information from such a significant shareholder.

To use a phrase that I used earlier in the proceedings of the Bill, the strengthening of the 15 per cent. hurdle, which we accomplished by making it apply not just at the time of acquisition of the 15 per cent. but continuously thereafter, casts its shadow back to the time before the shareholder reaches the figure of 15 per cent. That gives an effective preliminary opportunity for the Bank of England to monitor the conduct and behaviour of a shareholder who may aspire to become a controlling shareholder.

It would be wrong to set a figure lower than 15 per cent. for the strong measures that are in the Bill. After all, they enable voting rights, or even ownership, to be divested, which are very powerful measures. If one had a figure significantly lower than 15 per cent. one could only accompany it by rather weaker measures, and I would not be in favour of that.

Will my hon. Friend look into the question that has been raised that the securities regulators do not seem to be able to accept the Bank of England's method of consolidated supervision under which the capital of the banking conglomerate stands behind its engagements. It appears that it is insisting on a surfeit allocation of capital to each separate business that is undertaken. Talks are occuring on this question. but perhaps my hon. Friend will drop me a note about it.

I will certainly look into that. It is a separate point from the one that we have been discussing, but since it has been raised I will comment on it.

I know that there is the question of capital adequacy calculations under the different supervisory regimes, but I am anxious that a sensible solution should be found to this. Any institutions which are affected or potentially affected by the different regimes and are concerned about it should not hesitate to make their views known and put their comments to the supervisors concerned. I hope that by so doing they will enable a reasonable and workable basis to be found between the two.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 39

Power To Obtain Information And Require Production Of Documents

Lords amendment: No. 9, in page 31, line 39, leave out "or subsidiary" and insert ". subsidiary or related company".

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

With this it will be convenient to take Lords amendments Nos. 10, 12 to 17 and 55.

These amendments slightly widen the power under clause 39 for obtaining information by including "a related company" among the connected companies from which information and documents can be obtained. A "related company" is defined in the Companies Act as a company in which the authorised institutions hold 20 per cent. or more of the nominal value of the shares in the company.

The amendments widen the reach of the powers of investigators appointed under clause 41 to include companies in which the authorised institution or its shareholder controllers have a 20 per cent. or more stake, rather than just 50 per cent. as is the case in the Bill as it stands. These amendments were originally put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley) on Third Reading.

The amendments reflect suggestions that have been made by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. The Government undertook to consider them and subsequently concluded that a widening along the lines of these amendments would be desirable. Therefore, such amendments were able to be included in the proceedings of the Bill in another place.

The Minister will know that we welcomed these amendments when they were moved in the other place, but we note that they go pretty wide. It is proper that an investigation should be thoroughly carried out and should include related companies as well. The Minister will know that companies may, for one reason or another, find themselves over 20 per cent. owned by an authorised institution, perhaps as a result of underwriting.

The amendment is a wide one, but nevertheless the Opposition accepted these amendments in the other place and realised that investigations must be able to be carried out as thoroughly as possible.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendment No. 10 agreed to.

Lords amendment: No. 11, in page 32, line 19, after "information" insert "or documents"

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

It alters subsection (9) of the clause by empowering the Bank of England to require the provision of documents as well as information from a director, controller of manager to assist it to determine whether that person is fit and proper. This brings the subsection in the clause into line with the other provisions in the Bill relating to the obtaining of information and to investigations, all of which include powers to require the furnishing of documents.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 12 to 17 agreed to.

Clause 4

Investigations On Behalf Of The Bank

Lords amendment: No. 18, in page 34, line 4, after "every" insert

"person who is or was a".

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

4.30 pm

The amendments correct omissions from the Bill as originally drafted. They relate to clause 41, which deals with investigations into the affairs of authorised institutions by inspectors appointed for the task by the Bank of England when it believes that an investigation is necessary in the interests of depositors. Subsection (5) imposes a duty on the directors, managers and controllers of an institution under investigation and on others closely connected with its business to co-operate with the inspectors. The analogous provision, section 17 of the 1979 Act, applied that duty also to people who were in such positions as well as to those who continued to be in such positions but were no longer at the time that the investigation took place. The drafting of the replacement provision in clause 41 did not include that, and we have taken this opportunity of correcting it.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendment No. 19 agreed to.

Clause 43

Powers Of Entry In Cases Of Suspected Contraventions

Lords amendment: No. 20, in page 36, line 44, after "to" insert "laying an".

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

With this it will be convenient to take Lords amendments Nos. 21, 37 and 52.

The amendments are technical drafting ones that improve the Bill in its application to Northern Ireland. I am advised that in clause 43, to which the amendments relate, the correct usage is to refer to laying information and making a complaint. Amendments Nos. 20 and 21 reflect that usage. In clause 79, the reference to Article 296 of the Companies (Northern Ireland) Order 1986 should, to be more exact, be Article 296(2). In clause 89, the reference to that order should have included the word "arrangement". Amendments Nos. 37 and 52 respectively correct those points of drafting.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendment No. 21 agreed to.

Clause 45

Audited Accounts To Be Open To Inspection

Lords amendment: No. 22, in page 37, line 24, at end insert—

"( ) In the case of an institution incorporated in the United Kingdom the accounts referred to in subsection (1) above include the auditors' report on the accounts and, in the case of any other institution whose accounts are audited, the report of the auditors."

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Amendment No. 22 relates to clause 45 and requires an authorised institution to keep at each of its offices in the United Kingdom at which it holds itself out as accepting deposits not only its audited accounts but the auditors' report on the accounts. The amendment was suggested by the Opposition in Committee in another place, and I am glad to confirm that it is an acceptable improvement to the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 47

Communication By Auditor Etc With The Bank

Lords amendment: No. 23, in page 38, line 41, leave out

"shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either"

and insert

"no such regulations shall be made unless a draft of them has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each"

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Amendment No.23 fulfills an undertaking that I gave on Report. At the time, I agreed that, if the Government wished to introduce rules specifying the circumstances in which the auditors of authorised institutions should communicate information to supervisors, as the hon. Member for Thurrock (Dr. McDonald) suggested, it would be more appropriately dealt with by affirmative resolution of both Houses of Parliament. Again, I am happy to agree to that. I am glad that the provision has been able to be included in the Bill.

My remarks will be even briefer on amendment No. 23. I thank the Economic Secretary for ensuring that the amendment that I proposed in Committee has been put forward in the other place and is now part of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 58

Compensation Payments To Depositors

Lords amendment: No. 24, in page 44, line 7, leave out

"end of the deposit's original term to maturity"

and insert

"deposit is or becomes due and payable under the terms on which it was made".

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

With this it will be convenient to take Lords amendments Nos. 25, 26, and 28 to 34.

The amendments relate to clauses 58 and 60, dealing with technical aspects of the administrator procedure. That procedure was introduced by the Insolvency Act 1985. It has recently come into force for the generality of companies, but as yet does not apply to banks. It will do so in due course when secondary legislation under the Insolvency Act is laid.

The Bill, with a view to that order being made in due course, provides for the deposit protection arrangements to apply in respect of deposits with an institution, subject to an administration order. The amendments relate to the way in which calculations are made with regard to deposits and the amount of compensation payable in an administered institution. The amendments were accepted unopposed in another place. They are a useful piece of forward planning in relation to the application of the Insolvency Act provisions and the administration procedure in the case of banks.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 25 and 26 agreed to.

Clause 59

Meaning Of Insolvency

Lords amendment: No. 27, in page 46, line 5, at end insert

"or on the making of a winding-up order against it by virtue of section 90 below".

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

It is designed to remedy a gap in the circumstances in which the deposit protection fund is brought into play when a Scottish partnership is wound up. It ensures that the deposit protection fund is triggered when an institution that is a Scottish partnership is wound up by the court on the petition of the Bank of England under clause 90. At present, the drafting is defective in that respect. The position of partnerships in the rest of the United Kingdom is already covered, but for the sake of completeness it is wise to make provision for what I hope will be an exceedingly rare occasion, if it ever arises at all.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 28 to 34 agreed to.

Clause 66

Tax Treatment Of Contributions And Repayments

Lords amendment:: No. 35, in page 52, line 47, after "an" insert "allowable".

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

I should inform the House that the amendment involves privilege.

After that ominous warning I must tell the House that the amendment was proposed, for the sake of clarification, by the Opposition in another place. It is designed to make clear that contributions to the deposit protection fund could be deducted from taxable profits. Although I was advised that clause 66 did not need amendment, there is no harm in the amendment. If it could conceivably assist in the avoidance of doubt, I am happy for it to be included in the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.[Special Entry.]

Clause 74

Meaning Of "Overseas Institution" And "Representative Office"

Lords amendment: No. 36, in page 59, line 13, at end insert

"; and 'establishment', in relation to such an office, includes the making of any arrangements by virtue of which such activities are promoted or assisted from it."

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Under the Bill, an overseas bank proposing to establish a representative office in the United Kingdom is required to give not less than two months' notice to the Bank of England. As the Bill stood, an overseas bank would not clearly be required to give such notice if it entered into an arrangement with an agent that had already established premises here for the purpose of conducting representative activities through that agent. Therefore, the amendment closes a potential loophole in the requirement to report establishment of a representative office. It is not a loophole which, under current circumstances, is likely to be exploited, but it is wise to close it now because it may well be that, in future, further arrangements will need to be made with regard to representative offices, and it would be unfortunate if the Act, as it would then be, did not cover that point.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendment No. 37 agreed to.

Clause 84

Disclosure For Facilitating Discharge Of Functions By Other Supervisory Authorities

Lords amendment: No. 38, in page 63, line 4, column 2, leave out "section 431, 432, 442, 446, 447 or 448" arid insert "Part XIV".

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

With this it will be convenient to take amendments Nos. 39, 40, 41, 42 and 43.

Amendments Nos. 38, 39, 42 and 43 extend the purposes for which the Bank of England can disclose supervisory information to the Secretary of State for the purpose of investigations under the Companies Act 1985. As presently drafted, clause 84(1) allows disclosure by the Bank to the Secretary of State only to assist him with some of his powers under part XIV of the Companies Act, which deals with investigation of companies and their affairs. While it is unlikely that disclosure will be necessary in many of the remaining cases, it is not impossible. The amendments therefore replace the references to specific sections of part XIV of the Companies Act and the equivalent Northern Ireland order, with reference to the whole of part XIV and its Northern Ireland equivalent.

Amendment No. 40 adds to the list of supervisory persons to whom the information may be disclosed a person appointed by the Secretary of State to obtain a company's books or papers under section 44 of the Insurance Companies Act 1982.

Amendment No. 41 arises as a consequence of the approach adopted by the draftsmen in the Building Societies Act 1986.

As a whole, these are a rather miscellaneous list of technical tidyings-up of clause 84 on disclosure to other supervisors, and while I would not try to exaggerate their importance, they tidy up an important clause in the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 39 to 43 agreed to.

Clause 87

Disclosure Of Information Obtained Under Other Acts

Lords amendment: No. 44, in page 67, line 1, leave out subsection (2).

4.45 pm

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

With this it will be convenient to take Lords amendments Nos. 45 to 50.

These are minor, technical, drafting amendments that deal with cross-references to the Companies Act and the Financial Services Act 1986.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 45 to 50 agreed to.

New Clause

Electronic Transfer Of Funds

Lords amendment: No. 51, after clause 88, insert the following new clause—

— After section 187(3) of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 (arrangements to be disregarded in determining whether a consumer credit agreement is to be treated as entered into in accordance with prior or in contemplation of future arrangements between creditor and supplier) there shall be inserted—
`(3A) Arrangements shall also be disregarded for the purposes of subsections (1) and (2) if they are arrangements for the electronic transfer of funds from a current account at a bank within the meaning of the Bankers' Books Evidence Act 1879.'"

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

The amendment involves a new clause that is designed to clarify the existing law as it affects banking transactions carried out with the latest technology. Without the amendment, there would have been some uncertainty about the position under the Consumer Credit Act of electronic transactions on a current account by means of a plastic card. It can be difficult for the law to keep pace with such changes, and the amendment, which is designed to remove a possible constraint on the development of an important project in electronic banking — electronic funds transfer at point of sale— was and is welcome, and I am glad that it has been incorporated in the Bill. It is one item to which the banks attach considerable importance in planning their developments in the area, and for that reason it has been taken ahead of other matters that have been referred to the review of banking services law in general.

I do not wish to oppose the amendment. Nevertheless, it is somewhat surprising to find legal obstacles to the introduction of EFTPOS being dealt with at this stage of the Bill, and, as the hon. Gentleman has just said, in advance of a full review of banking services. He will no doubt be aware that consumer associations and consumers in general may have certain anxieties about the way in which such systems may operate, and may be concerned about whether their interests are properly protected. I want to put on record the fact that the Opposition, while not opposing the amendment, express doubts about the wisdom of removing legal obstacles without ensuring that sufficient consumer protection has been built into the legislation. I should be interested to know what thought has been given to that matter.

I understand that the banks wish to move ahead with EFTPOS, and that this is an opportunity to remove any possible legal obstacles, doubts or misgivings, but the Government have not paid sufficent regard to consumer protection in this case.