asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what is the proposed public spending commitment to develop the city centre of Belfast.
Although a complete picture is not available of public spending commitment in Belfast city centre, I can say that Government policy is to concentrate on building up the private sector through providing urban development grant and public sector infrastructure improvements. This policy has led to private sector investment of £90 million in the last three years, with a further £80 million already committed. The cost to the Government urban development grant in the last three years has been £14 million, and a further £16 million is currently on offer.
Are not the very exciting potential new shopping and other developments in the centre of Belfast yet further evidence of the determination of everyone in Britain to see Belfast flourish as a European city? Will my hon. Friend make arrangements early in the next Parliament to organise an exhibition in the Upper Waiting Hall showing the proposed new developments in Belfast? I suspect that many hon. Members would be very excited if they also could see what is proposed for that city.
I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for his comments. Of course, I shall have to ask the electors of Wiltshire, North to ensure that those arrangements can be made early in the next Parliament. On current form, I think that they may accede to his request.My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The regeneration of Belfast is going ahead despite the problems there, which we all know about. The people of Belfast are showing just how determined they are to live ordinary normal lives, and there is a great show of new development, new plans and new progress, which, I think, gives hope for the future.
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he will make a statement on the latest security situation in the Province.
Since I answered questions in the House on 9 April, 22 people have died as a result of the security situation. They included Sir Maurice and Lady Gibson, four policemen, and one member of the UDR. The figures also include eight terrorists, shot in an attack on Lough,gall RUC station, and one person in Belfast believed to have been killed while carrying explosives. Since the beginning of the year a total of 154 people have been charged with serious offences; 88 weapons, 3,660 rounds of ammunition and 6,048 lb of explosives have been recovered in Northern Ireland.I also understand that since 9 April the Garda Siochana has recovered some 1,360 lb of explosives and 1,000 rounds of ammunition, as well as certain weapons and miscellaneous equipment.
Following that sombre statement, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he saw on television last night the deplorable sight of masked gunmen at funerals on both sides of the border? Will he confirm that whoever stands at the Dispatch box as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in a month's time will be wholly committed to an unrelenting fight against terrorism in Northern Ireland?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his comments. It is my firm conviction that the sights that caused him such offence caused equal offence to the overwhelming majority of people in the island of Ireland. The events of the past few days have brought out very clearly the condemnation throughout Ireland, both north and south of the border, of the men of violence—whether it be from the Nationalist community, in the forthright statements of the hon. Members for Foyle (Mr. Hume) and for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon), from the Church or from the Foreign Minister of the Irish Republic. It is symbolic that most of their activities now take the shape of funerals, whether they be of their victims or of their own perpetrators of violence.
Does the Secretary of state agree that when lives, no matter whose lives they are, are lost in Northern Ireland it is particularly distasteful that there are always those who will gloat over the loss of life and see death as some sort of victory? Does he agree also that it is particularly distasteful when politicians do so, because that only feeds the bitternesses and the hatreds that ensure that death will occur in the future? Does the Secretary of State further agree that the most powerful statement in the past 12 months was made at the weekend by Mrs. McCartan, the mother of an innocent 17-year-old who was the victim of a sectarian murder, when she shouted. "Stop," and appealed to all sides to stop the killing?
I well understand the feeling with which the hon. Gentleman comments, particularly as he has been the victim in the past week of mindless and most unpleasant violence, directed against him and his family. The whole House respects the courage with which he discharges his responsibilities against very evil men indeed.The tragedies of the terrorist outrages, which confirm the terrorists' ability to kill—there is no question of their ability to commit such outrages—and the whole pointlessness of it, which has been brought out clearly by others, not least by Bishop Cahal Daly and Mr. Lenihan, demonstrate that, whatever the cause they espouse, the use of violence advances that cause not one iota but is counter-productive.
May I first congratulate the security forces on their recent successes? They have had a very difficult time, particularly in recent months. Therefore, one or two of their recent actions are highly commendable. My right hon. Friend referred also to the achievements by the Garda. I wonder whether he can say anything further about the development of cross-border co-operation between the security forces? He will recollect that, shortly after the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, I stressed that the agreement would commend itself to Unionists if cross-border security improved. That point remains as valid today as it was then. There can be no doubt that, without the defeat of terrorism, without the ending of conflict and bloodshed, and without lifting from the people of the Province fear and the sense of insecurity, the problems of Northern Ireland cannot be solved.
Before answering that question, may I add my personal regret that I fear that this may be the last time that my right hon. Friend will make a contribution in this House. I know what a loss so many hon. Members feel that in future we shall not have the pleasure and the value of his contributions. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear. hear."]I am grateful for my right hon. Friend's comments about the efforts of the security forces. In view of fairly wild speculation, I think that I should make it quite clear that the events of last Friday night were the consequence of a number of steps that we have been taking to seek to improve the security of police stations against a number of attacks, particularly attacks against police stations of a rather "softer" nature, and that what was prevented was quite clearly a deliberate attempt to murder two policemen. It was a very determined attack indeed. We were extremely fortunate not to suffer serious casulties among the security forces. I recognise that they managed to resist very effectively, but there is no question but that the responsibility for the casualties lies exclusively with the IRA, which launched such a futile but dangerous attack. As for co-operation with the Garda Siochana, others may have seen last night the events to which my right hon. Friend referred—the incidents surrounding the funeral of one of the terrorists and the hatred that the IRA also shows to the Garda Siochana. It was for that reason that my right hon. Friend will have noted that I included those statistics in my original answer. They show something of the contribution that the Garda Siochana is seeking to make to defeating what is an evil, whether it is north or south of the border.
We on this side of the House associate ourselves with the remarks of the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Latham). We who aspire to stand at the Government Dispatch Box after the election will follow the policy of Her Majesty's Government in giving full support to the security forces in Northern Ireland. We recognise that we face a long, long haul to combat the hatred, animosity and bitterness which are converted into a sad litany of death and destruction, and we support the Government in their recent measures. We, too, regret the fact that 22 people have died and others have been injured, but we welcome the fact that those responsible have been charged and will stand trial. It is right at this stage in our proceedings to associate the Opposition with the Government in their security policy on Northern Ireland.
Question No. 4—Mr. Brown.
Perhaps I might just answer the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bell), Sir.I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his comments and for the resolute position that he and his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) have taken in support of the fight against terrorism. This is an appropriate moment at which to make that absolutely clear. I add that the statistics for the year, which underline the futility of terrorism, include a number of INLA members accused of shooting each other, as well as the terrorists who lost their lives in recent events. That shows what a tragedy of death and destruction terrorism brings with it. The House will also be aware that, tragically, in the attack launched by the IRA at Loughgall, an innocent passer by and his brother were caught up in the tumult. One of them died and the other was very seriously injured. The whole House will share my concern and distress at the death and injuries suffered and at the tragedy suffered by the men's family, which was entirely the result of this appalling IRA attack.
I apologise to the Secretary of State. We shall return to this matter again on question No. 7.
Aor1 (Completion Date)
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what is the latest forecast cost to completion of the AOR1 vessel and how this compares with Harland and Wolff's original bid; what is the latest profit forecast for the contract and how this compares with the forecast assumed at the time it was awarded; and if he will make a statement.
I regret that I cannot provide details of either the original projections of cost and profit in respect of the AOR veseel or latest projections, as this is commercially confidential information.
That answer will not come as much comfort to the people of Tyneside, and I am sure that the Minister understands why. Two thousand shipyard workers on Tyneside lost their jobs because the Government chose to award the contract to Harland and Wolff, with an assurance that there was to be no public subsidy. Can the Minister repeat that assurance and, in particular, can he assure us that the Northern Ireland Office and the Government will hot pay the interest on bringing the profits forward on AOR1, but that that interest will be paid from Harland and Wolff's own resources?
I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's interest and the support for private enterprise reflected in his remarks. The commercially based assumptions made by Harland and Wolff in arriving at the tender price were reviewed by independent consultants, who confirmed that the tender was unsubsidised and comprehensively costed. The hon. Gentleman's repetition of his question adds no merit to it.
Belfast (Retail Premises)
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what is the total area of retail premises in the city of Belfast which has been the subject of planning applications dealt with by his Department in the last three-year period for which figures are available.
The figures for total area of retail premises are not available, but since 1980 nearly 700 planning applications for retail development in the city of Belfast have been approved. That includes the recent approvals in Belfast city centre for the Castlecourt shopping complex of 345,000 sq ft, and one of 105,000 sq ft in Castle place. The Castlecourt development due to start later this year involves investment of £60 million, with Government backing of £10 million-worth of urban development grant. The people of Belfast are at last getting the range and quality of shopping that they deserve.
Further to one of my hon. Friend's earlier answers, is he aware that many of his hon. Friends—and, indeed, many other hon. Members—look forward to his re-election to the House? Is he further aware that the city of Belfast offers outstanding investment and development opportunities and that many investors and developers from the mainland are very favourably surprised when they learn of the returns that they can achieve by investing in Northern Ireland?
I am grateful for my hon. Friend's good wishes and I shall make sure that they are properly passed on to the electors of Wiltshire, North. He is absolutely right that there are tremendous investment prospects for Belfast which are not always understood by people on this side of the water. I am grateful to him for bringing that to the attention of the House, because the more we can get people to come to Belfast to see the conditions there for themselves, the more they will be pleasantly surprised and be prepared to put their money where their mouths are and develop the city in a way which the people deserve and which will benefit their shareholders' returns.
The Minister will understand if I do not join the hon. Member for Suffolk, South (Mr. Yeo) in extending good wishes to him.
The Labour party has no interest in north Wiltshire.
We have an interest in the total outcome. May we be permitted to join in the well-deserved congratulations to Belfast on its determination to return to normality? Is it not true that it is a city where affluence and squalor exist side by side? Is there not a need to ensure that all citizens share in its success? How many successful planning applications have there been in the Shankhill in the past three years, and how many in the Falls?
I cannot give the right hon. and learned Gentleman the exact figures, but I am wholly aware of the need to ensure that the prosperity is spread throughout Belfast. The Brookfield development under Father Myles Kavanagh has been a major success in the Andersonstown area and we are supporting major investment in the Beltex development in the Ardoyne. I can assure him that the Government will do everything in their power now and from June to assist in developments in the deprived areas of Belfast. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will be aware of the Belfast city initiative and the fact that city action teams have been set up specifically to assist the poorer areas and to allow the communities to feel that they are involved in the development of the city. The Government accept that without that it would be more difficult to develop the city on behalf of everybody.
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps he is taking to improve cross-border security; and if he will make a statement.
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the most recent position on cross-border security.
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on cross-border security co-operation.
We are constantly seeking ways of enhancing security co-operation between ourselves and the Republic of Ireland and we aim to implement as quickly as possible the programme of measures under article 9(a) of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Security co-operation was one of the subjects discussed with representatives of the new Irish Government at the meeting of the Intergovernmental Conference on 22 April, and at the next meeting we shall be reviewing progress and discussing proposals for further developing co-operation. Recent events have further underlined the need to ensure that such co-operation is as close and effective as possible.
As many of Leicester's sons are serving in Northern Ireland, may I congratulate my hon. Friend the Minister and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on their determination to improve security in Northern Ireland? Whether it is true that additional forces and troops have been sent there, I know not. Will my hon. Friend reassure all hon. Members that the co-operation and determination that have been shown by the Secretary of State are being reciprocated and reinforced by those on the other side of the border?
The foundations have been clearly laid for much improved security co-operation through consultation between the police forces and between Ministers. Indeed, there have already been manifestations of that improvement. On both sides of the border we look forward to enhancing that co-operation in the future.
Does my hon. Friend agree that we shall get better security only through the activities of the Governments on either side of the border and through the full co-operation of the people living on each side, and that those who incite their followers not to co-operate are undermining their security?
That must be so. I hope that people throughout the island of Ireland will be increasingly aware of the futility of the actions in which the IRA is engaged. As the Tanaiste said in a debate in the Dail on Tuesday evening, the armed struggle is increasingly unacceptable to a majority of the Irish people. I hope that that will become increasingly clear and will manifest itself in support for the security forces north and south of the border.
Is my hon. Friend absolutely sure that the link between north and south is secure, by virtue of co-operation between the Garda in the south and the RUC in respect of cross-border car journeys? I am not asking my hon. Friend to refer to the tragedy recently when a distinguished member of the Northern Ireland judiciary was killed, but very often travellers from the south entering the Province are escorted by the Garda as far as the border and, as soon as they get over the border, there is no sign of the RUC. Will he look at this again and make sure that not only is there a suitable link-up, but that there is a safe and secure link-up between the two forces?
As I said in the debate on security last week, these are operational matters for the RUC. It has to be careful that it does not establish some pattern of movement across the border, particularly on well-traversed routes, which may lay it and members of the RUC open to attack by terrorists. I am absolutely sure that this is being tackled by the Chief Constable and by the RUC command in a flexible and intelligent way, and in a way that reflects close co-operation between the Garda and the RUC.
Does the Minister agree that when distinguished persons are travelling by road between Dublin and Belfast they should not be abandoned in no man's land, whether they are travelling by road or by rail? I refer particularly to rail journeys, because the same thing happens with them at present.
I know that the hon. Gentleman has another question on the Order Paper. In case that question is not reached, may I say how much we have admired his contributions to discussions on the subject. He will be sadly missed, personally if not politically, in the next Parliament. We wish him well with whatever he turns his hand to when he leaves the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Of course we recognise the importance of the matter that the hon. Gentleman has raised. Co-operation between the railways, both in the Republic and in the north, and the security forces, is very close, as is co-operation on the security of road links between the two parts of the island.
Will the Minister confirm that his military advice is that there is no military solution to the security problem in Northern Ireland and that gloating over the deaths of eight alleged terrorists and the killing of an innocent man is as likely to inflame the situation as to improve it? What plans has he other than pure security measures to improve life in Northern Ireland to reduce the likelihood that young men will go off and join military organisations?
The hon. Lady has not heard any gloating from me, from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland or from our colleagues. I regret every life that is lost in Northern Ireland, not least because of the futility of it when there are constitutional and political routes open for people to pursue, whatever cause they espouse within the island of Ireland. It is absolutely futile, and nobody gloats when young people lose their lives. I understand that, if we are to have a solution to the problems of Northern Ireland, the relationship within Ireland and between Britain and Ireland, politics, economics and security all have their role to play. In Northern Ireland the Government are committed to tackling each of those problems as constructively as possible. However, as long as the IRA carries on its vicious and sustained campaign, security will have to play an important part.
I wonder whether the Minister of State can help us, because, in some of the briefings from his Department, and possibly from the Ministry of Defence, we were given to understand that those eight men had been under supervision, that the farmhouse where they collected their high explosives had been watched for some time, that there was only one access road into the village where they tried to carry out their most evil crime and that they were surrounded by the security forces. In those circumstances, why was it not possible to pick up the men beforehand? Why, if they were surrounded in the circumstances in which we have read in the newspapers—if those reports are accurate—was not a megaphone, a searchlight or something of that nature used to give them an opportunity to surrender?
I shall say two things to the hon. Gentleman. First, he should not believe all that he reads in the newspapers, nor should he identify, as he thinks, the source of what appears in the newspaper. Secondly, this whole incident will be the subject of a detailed investigation by the Royal Ulster Constabulary and, as in any incident in Northern Ireland in which people lose their lives, the papers will be forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions. I advise the hon. Gentleman to await the outcome of those inquiries.
Turning to the main subject of the question, are the two Governments any closer to marking out a zone on both sides of the common frontier in which the security forces of the two countries can operate freely and in partnership? Where there may be deficiencies in material, technique or training on the other side of the border, are Her Majesty's Government ready to give whatever assistance may be asked of them?
The answer to the second part of my hon. Friend's question is yes. Discussions are held largely between the professionals, the policemen on both sides of the border, to seek to find ways in which they can co-operate and exchange the experience and skills of the two police forces. As necessary, they will be supported by officials and, indeed, by Ministers in due course. My hon. Friend's point about some sort of corridor along the border raises more fundamental questions about sovereignty that have not yet been raised in discussions between the two Governments.
Housing (Heating Costs)
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what estimate he has as to the cost in use of individual coal fires, as compared to the exising district heating schemes in the Sandy Row and lower Newtownards areas and the Sandy Row estate; and if he will make a statement.
As the answer contains a number of figures, I shall with permission, Mr. Speaker, arrange for it to be published in the Official Report.
I am grateful to the Minister for that information. Has he read the report of a survey carried out by people attached to the University of Ulster? That report was published last October on this very subject and shows comparisons between district heating schemes and individual units in the various estates. If he has read the report, will he consider the issue of value for money as between the comparable solid fuel district heating scheme and the individual units? Will he also consider the value to the tenants and the savings to the Housing Executive, because the card procedure for purchasing heat before it is used is economic and of value to everyone concerned?
Due to the overwhelming desire of the House to hear the figures, I shall give them now rather than circulate them. The comparative costs at Sandy Row are £8·30 for district heating and £5·06 for solid fuel heating. The figures for the Newtownards road are £8·40 compared to £6·08 and at Cromac £9·87 compared to £8·17. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman will understand that all these factors will be taken into account before we come to a decision.
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what information he has as to the number of horse markets in the Province; and if he will make a statement.
No regular weekly or monthly horse sales exist. Sales are occasional in nature, usually being at local fairs or sales on owners' premises.
Does my hon. Friend agree that there is no horse like an Irish horse for racing, riding, driving or for any other purpose? Does he further agree that though the sales methods for horses in Ireland are somewhat different from those in the rest of the United Kingdom, the Farm Animal Welfare Council's recommended standard should be applied at those sales, and that horses should be given treatment equal to that given to cattle?
These matters are under the vigilant eye of my noble Friend Lord Lyell. I have no doubt that he will take such action as is necessary should cases of abuse occur. However, no cases of abuse of any kind have been reported from any source and we are currently satisfied with the regulations.
Mr. Stephen Ross.
Pass, Mr. Speaker.
Order. Other hon. Members may wish to take part.
No. 14, Mr. Speaker.
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on cross-border security co-operation between the United Kingdom and Eire.
I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer that I gave to a question by my hon. Friend, the Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Bruinvels) earlier today.
I take this opportunity to thank the Minister for his kind remarks about me and I wish him well in his continuing job in Northern Ireland.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman.
Does the Minister appreciate that when we have successful security operations, such as the most recent, or when terrorists are apprehended, it is often found that the criminals are among those who escaped from the Maze prison? What recent steps have been taken to ensure that we never have a repetition of terrorists escaping from the Maze prison and then being able to kill people as a consequence?
It would be a bold Minister who stood at the Dispatch Box and guaranteed the total security of any prison establishment anywhere in the United Kingdom. Following the escape from the Maze in 1983, Sir James Hennessy produced a report with many recommendations, which have been implemented progressively. There is no doubt that security has been substantially enhanced at Her Majesty's prison Maze and the lessons have been applied to other prisons in Northern Ireland.
With reference to the question tabled by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) on discrimination against Catholics——
Order. That is wide of the question.
With reference to this question, does my hon. Friend agree that as we come up to the general election this is a time for requesting those who take part in political activities in Northern Ireland, on cross-border security or other related matters, to ensure that there is no unnecessary hostility on the basis of religious bigotry? This is a time for people to consider the political situation, not racial or religious prejudice.
I endorse what my hon. Friend implies in his question. I assure him that within the security forces in Northern Ireland, whether in recruitment, promotion or training procedures, there is no discrimination whatsoever against Catholics. Steps have been taken to ensure that that is so.
Further to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth (Mr. Dickens), is it not a fact that recidivism among those convicted of terrorist offences is vey high? Therefore, should we not consider introducing powers to enable the courts of Northern Ireland to sentence offenders convicted of terrorist crimes to imprisonment for the duration of the emergency?
We are conducting a study at the moment into the degree of re-involvement in terrorist activity of those who have been convicted of terrorist-type offences. There is some superficial evidence that re-involvement exists to a certain extent, but, unless my hon. Friend has evidence to show that it is particularly high, I advise him not to jump to too many conclusions on that front. I would be most reluctant to consider a procedure which moved away from treating those who have been convicted of terrorist-type offences as criminals within Northern Ireland and dealing with them according to the law. The IRA and its supporters whould love us to treat those convicted of terrorist-type offences as some sort of prisoners of war. We will not do that. They are criminals. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said, a crime is a crime is a crime, and those who commit those crimes should be treated accordingly.
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what consideration he has given to the relocation of public employment in areas of high unemployment in Northern Ireland.
Policy on Government office accommodation is under review at present. The review is considering the most appropriate siting of Government offices, taking account of the need to locate them where they can most effectively provide services to the public.
Does the Minister agree that if the Government are to be taken seriously about their intention to promote fair employment in Northern Ireland, the one area under their control where they can make a major contribution is the redistribution of public employment? With new technology it is no longer necessary to centralise such employment. Will he explain why, with such a simple matter as training centres, only limited skills are available in areas of highest unemployment, such as Strabane in my constituency?
Over 40 per cent. of non-industrial civil servants in Northern Ireland are located outside the Belfast area. Many other major public sector bodies are sited in various parts of Northern Ireland. The health and education hoards and other bodies are, by definition, scattered round Northern Ireland and provide employment in the public sector.We are taking a careful look at the Civil Service deployment pattern. Any move will have to be measured against the service to the public and the efficiency of the public service as a whole. We must bear those two things in mind when we come to a conclusion. On the question of training centres and training within the further education sector, so far as possible we shall seek to ensure that services are demand-led. Where there is a demand for services they should be provided, consistent with economy and efficiency. We shall examine both those aspects in the light of what the hon. Gentleman has said.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the way to combat high unemployment in the Province is to reduce terrorism, because the only way to reduce high unemployment is through private sector investment? Does he agree that the private sector will not invest until the threat of terrorism has been eliminated?
I endorse what my hon. Friend has said. The pattern of unemployment in west Belfast, in parts of Derry and Strabane and elsewhere reflects the IRA's hypocrisy when it complains about unemployment among Catholics in those towns and cities, yet we know that it has contributed more than any other single factor to that unemployment in Northern Ireland.
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the issues discussed at the last meeting of the Intergovernmental Conference.
I last met Irish Ministers at the meeting of the Intergovernmental Conference on 22 April. We discussed security co-operation and measures aimed at promoting equality of opportunity in employment. Details are set out in the joint statement issued after the meeting, a copy of which has been placed in the Library.
I am grateful to the Secretary of State for that reply. At this stage in our parliamentary proceedings, may I say how much I appreciate the courtesy of the Secretary of State and his colleagues over the past two years when dealing with Northern Ireland matters? May I assure the Secretary of State that after 11 June, when my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) and I are standing at the Government Dispatch Box, he will receive the same courtesy from us?Will the Secretary of State take note that as a future Labour Government we shall give full support to the Anglo-Irish Agreement? We reaffirm that commitment now and look forward to the first Intergovernmental Conference in the new Parliament.
I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's opening remarks, although I did not particularly enjoy his second point. I believe that all elections in the early stages are founded on a fine degree of fantasy among Oppositions. The hon. Gentleman will find the reality at the hustings. After the election I look forward to the hon. Gentleman, in opposition, showing the same consistency in support of the Anglo-Irish Agreement as he has so far.
Has the Intergovernmental Conference addressed its attention to the question whether it is possible to govern one part of the United Kingdom differently from the rest of the United Kingdom, and differently from the way that it has been governed before, without the consent of a majority of those who are to be governed differently?
No, Sir. The government of any part of the United Kingdom is a matter for the United Kingdom Government and this Parliament. This is entirely our affair. There has been no change. I know that my hon. Friend holds a different view, but I maintain positively that there has been no change whatsoever in Ministers' responsibilities and that there has been no change in the sovereignty of the United Kingdom or its Parliament.I respect the Government of the Republic of Ireland's views. I am interested in listening to their views and value them. The events of recent days—the evidence on the television screens—of the problems that the IRA poses for the Republic of Ireland, as well as for Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom, are clear enough confirmation of the very close identity of interest that we have in the defeat of terrorism.
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what number and proportion of workers in Northern Ireland were paid less in 1979 than the Council of Europe decency threshold; and what are the latest available figures for workers in this category.
There is no such thing as a Council of Europe threshold for a minimum acceptable level of earnings.
The Minister is absolutely wrong. The Council of Europe has set down a decency threshold, which is reommended right across Europe. In Britain it would represent £126 a week, or £2·40 an hour. In the whole of the United Kingdom 8·8 million people are paid less than that, and I understand that in Northern Ireland that proportion is much worse. Indeed, the incidence of low pay, as with unemployment, is much worse in Northern Ireland. I am disgusted that the Minister has nothing to say about this serious question.
The hon. Lady is wrong. No such proposals have ever been endorsed by any member state, by the Council of Europe or by its governmental committee on the European social charter. If the hon. Lady wishes to put down any specific question on numbers she is, of course, at liberty to do so. However, first it will be necessary for her to win the seat of Birmingham, Ladywood, which, judged by current events, must be regarded as marginal.
asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 14 May.
This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet and had meetings with Ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall be having further meetings later today.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the extremely encouraging fall in unemployment announced this morning represents further evidence that her Government's policies of sharing the fruits of economic growth between cuts in income tax, cuts in public borrowing and cuts in interest rates, together with selective increases in public expenditure, are the right policies for Britain for the next five years?
I agree with my hon. Friend that the figures are encouraging. They show that unemployment is on a downward trend. They also show that the number of jobs is rising, and that sound financial policies, private enterprise and incentive taxation are a winning combination.
When 750,000 people are on hospital waiting lists and some people have waited for more than four years for operations, is not the right hon. Lady's claim that the Health Service is safe in her hands a sick joke against sick people?
No. The right hon. Gentleman complains that waiting lists are too long. The fact is that Labour Governments have presided over [Interruption.] increases in waiting lists and Conservative Governments [Interruption.]
Order. The Prime Minister.
Labour Governments have presided over increases in the waiting lists, but Conservative Governments have cut them. Between 1964–70, under Labour, waiting lists increased by 85,000. Between 1974–79, under Labour, waiting lists increased by nearly 250,000. By contrast, between 1970 and 1974, under the Conservative Government, waiting lists fell by 31,000, and since 1979 the waiting lists have fallen by 70,000.
Both in terms of the numbers on waiting lists and in terms of the waiting time on waiting lists, the Prime Minister is misleading the House—[Interruption.] In both cases, after eight years in government, the figures under the Tory Government are 15 per cent. higher than they ever were under Labour Governments. Is it not obvious that if the right hon. Lady or any of her loved ones had to wait on a list for treatment under the National Health Service she would have a different view of the pain and anxiety suffered by those who do?
As I have shown, not with rhetoric, but with facts, Labour Governments have presided over increases in the waiting lists and Conservative Governments have cut them. The number of patients being treated under this Government has increased. There are almost 1 million more patients in hospital per year. Patient services have also increased. The number of heart bypass operations has tripled, perinatal mortality has been reduced by more than a third, the number of hip replacements has gone up by a quarter and the number of cataract operations has gone up by a half. That is our record.
When the Royal Colleges of Surgeons and Physicians, the Select Committee on Social Services and, indeed, all patients who use the Service and the people who work in it say that the Prime Minister has never made the proper commitment to the National Health Service that is required by modern needs, is it not obvious that there is not so much a shortage of money as an absence of morality on the Prime Minister's part?
The right hon. Gentleman talks about a shortage of money. The day that I went into 10 Downing street, £7·75 billion a year was allocated to the Health Service. Today that figure is £21 billion a year, giving a very much better Health Service and a very much better standard of care.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that, however hard the Leader of the Opposition may try, and whatever they are praying for in Moscow in the next few weeks, millions of people in the United Kingdom will be praying that she will be given the health and strength to continue to give the magnificent lead that she has given to us all for eight solid years? Whatever hon. and right hon. Members opposite may say, that, and her personal input of ideals, ideas and effort, and those of her Governments and the people of this country, have enabled the people of this country to regain their confidence, their self respect, a place in the world and the real prospect of a better future. provided that we return her to No. 10 Downing street four weeks today. God bless her.
I thank my right hon. and learned Friend and assure him that I have never felt fitter.
asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 14 May.
I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.
Is the Prime Minister aware that since 1979, full-time employment opportunities for young people have fallen by one third? Will she now reconsider, as a matter of urgency, the cuts in benefits for young people, and act to cancel the restrictions on accommodation and finding homes for young people, so that they have the independence to find work?
Unemployment among those under 25 years old fell by more than 80,000 in the year to January, and, in fact, the unemployment rate for under 25-year-olds in the United Kingdom is fortunately below the average for our major European competitors. Even so, it is too high, and the hon. Gentleman will be aware of the extensive measures taken under the youth training scheme and the new job training scheme to try to match training to jobs for which people cannot be found.With regard to housing, perhaps the hon. Gentleman will wait until the manifesto comes out. There are still certain controls which are not conducive to finding private rented property.
asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 14 May.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that last Friday the Labour Opposition deliberately blocked a Bill that would have stopped very young children in our schools from being encouraged to grow up as homosexuals? Will she give an assurance to the House that, in the next Parliament, she will, in legislation, protect both children and the concept of the family?
I know of my hon. Friend's great concern for protecting family life, and I congratulate her on her promotion of the Bill to which she has referred. No one voted against it, and I think that it was a great pity that it did not complete its passage through the House. The Government supported her objectives. I hope that she will bring the Bill back before the House when she returns and that it will then go through both Houses.
asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 14 May.
I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.
Does the Prime Minister recall the appalling statement that was made by the Secretary of State for Employment on 12 February, when he said on "Newsnight":
On the eve of an election, the right hon. Lady having been Prime Minister for eight years, leaves us with 3 million unemployed, despite the figures having been fiddled 19 times. Will she come to my constituency and tell the 7,000 there who have become unemployed as a result of her activities over the past eight years that she endorses the statement of the Secretary of State for Employment?"I lose no sleep about unemployment."?
I know of no such statement, and I wish to make that perfectly clear. As the hon. Gentleman has made an assertion, I hope that he will attempt to adduce chapter and verse, which I think he will find extremely difficult to do. Business produces new jobs, and it is a necessity to have an economic policy that produces thriving businesses, without overmanning or restrictive practices, that use the latest technology. We have steady economic growth, and that is good for future jobs.
asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 14 May.
I refer my hon. and learned Friend to the reply that I gave some moments ago.
As the hon. Member with the smallest majority, might I wish my right hon. Friend the best of luck? Is my right hon. Friend aware that, under her leadership, Leicester has become once more a great city of enterprise that is bursting to return three Tory Members?
I know that all my right hon. and hon. Friends wish my hon. and learned Friend well and hope that he will be asking a similar question shortly after the beginning of the new Session. I know Leicester well. It has always had varied industries and I congratulate it on the level of enterprise and on the increasing number of jobs that it is providing for its people.
In the coming election campaign, will the Prime Minister promise to disown any candidate who tries to stir up enmity between white and black people?
All those who are here for permanent settlement have the same rights and the same responsibilities, and we must continue to make that clear.
asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 14 May.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is to the eternal credit of the teaching profession that so many of its members defied recent union pressure to strike and decided to put the education of children first? Has not a great deal of this to do with recent Government action, and has not the time come for the Government to put in hand radical measures to change the running of schools?
I agree with my hon. Friend that parents are grateful to those dedicated teachers who have insisted on putting the children first throughout a time when others have gone on strike. Our new pay arrangements are designed to give just such teachers higher pay. When the manifesto appears, I hope that my hon. Friend will be pleased about it. It is designed to give greater choice, power and influence to parents in the education of their children.
When the Prime Minister told the House last week that the director of the security services had conducted an investigation into the allegations against MI5, she did not make it clear whether that investigation embraced allegations about Northern Ireland, such as infiltration of paramilitary organisations, the commission of murder and attempts to discredit public figures, including myself. Will she tell me whether the investigation included that, and will she also tell me the outcome of it? By the way, when she next speaks to the director, will she tell him that if he ever finds that forged bank account that is attributed to me I shall halve it with him.
The hon. Gentleman is aware that I made a very full statement last week and I have nothing to add to it.
tgomery asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 14 May.
Following the point that was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway), does my right hon. Friend agree that children also have rights, as well as teachers, and that children have been badly affected by the industrial action that has occurred in our schools in the past few months? That time will never be made up. Will she pay tribute to the good teachers who have refused to obey the dictates of their union bosses?
I gladly pay tribute to all those most excellent teachers who regard their first duty as the education of their pupils. Parents throughout the country are very grateful to those teachers. The new pay arrangements are designed to give those teachers greater promotion and greater incomes than others.
Will the Prime Minister tell us whether she read an article which appeared in her favourite newspaper, the Daily Mail, a few weeks ago under the heading, "Who takes the prize for champion liar …?" Since that publication, it would appear that President Reagan and his team are well ahead in the race. When the Prime Minister goes on television——
Order. It is a well-known rule that we do not make accusations by attribution. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not trying to do that.
I have made no accusation, I am quoting from the newspaper.
But that is accusations by attribution.
I do not intend to make any accusations against anyone. When the Prime Minister goes on television during the election, will she confirm to the British public that never at any time in the past seven years has she ever told a single lie?
I hope that the hon. Gentleman has looked at the replies that I have given from the Dispatch Box and found them accurate to the very level best of my ability.
Mr Speaker (Members' Farewells)
I have a brief statement to make. In view of what was said on Tuesday about hon. Members desiring to have an opportunity to bid me farewell, which I much appreciated, I wish to inform the House that I will be in the Chair at the close of business tomorrow to shake the hands of hon. Members, especially those who are not standing for re-election.I shall be at home in Speaker's House on Monday next between 12 noon and 1 pm. I would welcome the opportunity, on that occasion, to offer refreshment and good wishes for the future to hon. Members who are retiring, and I say to the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) that no one will be turned away.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.
I shall take it after the statement.
Order. I will take points of order in their usual place. Nothing arises on my statement.Later ——
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. This is more in the nature of an RSVP than a point of order, and I am sure that you will allow me to make it. It was extraordinarily kind of you to issue such a privileged invitation to me for these small drinks—[Interruption.]—perhaps large drinks—on Monday. I shall be responding to you privately about that, with great gratitude for your extraordinary and unique invitation.However, on the question of the cancellation of the prorogation, do you not agree, as I am sure my colleagues on both sides of the House would agree, that it would be more fitting if in future the wishes of this House and its Speaker were considered rather than the lazy inclinations of the other place and its chairman?
I should be careful about giving my hon. Friend open invitations to your place, Mr. Speaker. You never know, he might just sus it out for the future.On the question of the prorogation——
Yes, dissolution. May we have it stated openly, before anyone else puts his foot in it, that the ceremony was stopped in 1979? It did not happen in 1983, and the lack of it is not something new for 1987.
It is not for me to express an opinion. Indeed, the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) once wisely advised me not to do so. However, such ceremonies have good historical reasons and act as a reminder of many of the past struggles of those who have been before us in this place. It would be a matter of regret if we were to let them go.