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Commons Chamber

Volume 116: debated on Thursday 14 May 1987

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House Of Commons

Thursday 14 May 1987

The House met at half-past Two o'clock

Prayers

[MR. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

London Underground (Goodge Street) Bill Lords

Ordered,

That in the case of the London Underground (Goodge Street) Bill (Lords], Standing Order 205 (Notice of third reading) be suspended and that the Bill be now read the third time.—[The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means.]

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed, without amendment.

Oral Answers To Questions

Northern Ireland

Belfast (Development)

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what is the proposed public spending commitment to develop the city centre of Belfast.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
(Mr. Richard Needham)

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.

Security

3.

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.

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)

4.

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.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
(Mr. Peter Viggers)

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)

6.

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.

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.

Security

7.

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.

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the most recent position on cross-border security.

11.

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)

9.

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.

Horse Markets

12.

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.

Security

14.

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.

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——

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.

Public Employment

16.

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.

Intergovernmental Conference

17.

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.

Wages

18.

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.

Prime Minister

Engagements

Q1.

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.]

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.

Q2.

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.

Q3.

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.

Q4.

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":

"I lose no sleep about unemployment."?
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 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.

Q5.

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.

Q6.

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.

Q7.

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 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.

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.

Airbus A330/A340 Projects

3.33 pm

The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and President of the Board of Trade
(Mr. Paul Channon)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a statement about the Government's policy on the question of launch aid for British Aerospace's participation in the airbus A330/A340 projects.

After discussion with British Aerospace, I am glad to tell the House that agreement has been reached that up to £450 million in launch aid will be provided to enable the company to participate in the airbus A330 and A340 projects. This launch aid will be fully repayable on terms designed to yield an acceptable return in real terms on the Government's investment. At this stage our support is conditional upon our partner Governments also making the arrangements that are necessary to enable their manufacturers to participate in the projects.

At a time when the competitive pressures in the world aerospace industry are as strong as ever, I would like to praise the determination of Airbus Industrie and its partners to extend their family of large airliners.

Will the Secretary of State take it from me that the Labour party is wholeheartedly in support of British Aerospace and the airbus programme and that our attitude towards his statement is that it is better late than never? Will he confirm that, whereas the package amounts to £450 million, British Aerospace told the Government that it needed £750 million. and therefore it follows that the Government are helping British Aerospace to the extent of less than two thirds of what it needs?

Will the Secretary of State also confirm that the French and German Governments are to provide more than two thirds of the development costs incurred by their aerospace industries in connection with the airbus programme? Will he admit that, when the money runs out, it will be almost inevitable that thousands of men and women who work for British Aerospace will follow their Westland colleagues into unemployment?

I am extremely surprised at the hon. Gentleman's grudging support for the announcement. He said that it is better late than never. I do not know how he can describe it as late. We are the first Government to announce a desire to give launch aid for participation in the project. Frankly, the idea that it is late is ridiculous.

The French and Germans have not offered any money so far, so it would be most unwise of me to speculate about how much they will offer for the costs of the project. I am sure that the project will be a great success. British Aerospace and the Government have been holding constructive talks for some time. Both the company and the Government are satisfied that what I announced today will enable their essential objectives to be achieved. My announcement will help to create and maintain about 10,000 jobs. I should have thought that the House would have welcomed it.

My right hon. Friend's statement will be widely welcomed in British civil aviation. It is an extremely important boost to British Aerospace in general, which has been making an ever-greater contribution to Britain's trade balance. Will he confirm that the Government are committed to the group of aircraft that are proving to be world beaters?

I agree with what my hon. Friend said about the group of aircraft and also the achievements of British Aerospace and the aerospace industry in general. After all, last year, aerospace industry exports reached nearly £5 billion, which was 12 per cent. up on the figure for 1985. There were orders of some £8 billion, 60 per cent. of which were from overseas. The industry is one of Britain's greatest national assets, and the Government are determined to support it.

I congratulate the Government on the announcement. It is welcome on the Opposition Benches, even if it took the imminence of a general election to bring it forward, with perhaps rather more money than was previously forecast. May I take it that the money is adequate for British Aerospace to participate fully in its 20 per cent. stake in the airbus project?

It is a little unfair of the hon. Gentleman to say that the imminence of the general election brought about the announcement. We had to make the announcement by 11 June because of the Paris air show, which begins on that date. [Interruption.] I expect that other announcements may be made. British Aerospace is convinced that it will be able to participate fully. I am certain that it would not have agreed to participate in such a way if it had not been so convinced.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of my constituents, trade union officials and others in the Stroud area will be gratified by the news? I also speak on behalf of the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Northavon (Mr. Cope) who, because of his position, cannot easily speak about those who work at Filton.

It is good news for Filton and all those who work there, and it is also good news for British Aerospace in general.

Will the Secretary of State say whether there is any provision in the agreement that he reached with British Aerospace for the use of the Rolls-Royce V2500 Superfan as and when that engine becomes available for the A340?

We will have to await Rolls-Royce proceeding with that and putting forward proposals for this engine to go into that programme. It would be premature to give the right hon. Gentleman an answer at present.

My right hon. Friend's announcement is welcome. Does he agree that, far from foot-dragging, our Government are proving to be a catalyst to more effective European aerospace collaboration in securing a whole family of European airbuses that can compete fairly and squarely with Boeing and McDonnell Douglas in the world market? Is not the investment cost-effective, particularly when one considers the repayment terms which will be required from Her Majesty's Treasury?

Yes; it is a good investment. I think it is cost-effective and is a very good example of European collaboration. It will be good for the industry, for British Aerospace, and for the taxpayer.

Will the Secretary of State accept that his announcement, although welcome, may have the effect of creating difficulties for other projects which British Aerospace is funding without aid?

I do not see why that should be so. If British Aerospace had not wanted to participate in this project, it would not have agreed with the Government on this announcement. The Government and British Aerospace are in full agreement on the announcement. Therefore, I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman. If he has in mind a special point, perhaps he will get in touch with me.

I welcome my right hon. Friend's announcement. Can he please tell the House what obligation he has put on British Aerospace to support the rest of the British aerospace industry in the orders and sub-contracts which it will place? In particular, why is there no support for the British equipment industry in this project?

I know that my hon. Friend takes a deep interest in the whole industry and in the equipment suppliers. Of course, they are eligible to apply under various schemes and we will consider all cases on their merits. Obviously we have not had any applications yet. On the A320, the British equipment suppliers got a good share of the business. I hope that that will be the case in this project also.

May I also welcome the announcement by the Secretary of State on behalf of hundreds of constituents and thousands of members of the trade union which sponsors me in Parliament who were fearful of joining their colleagues on the dole queue if the announcement had not been made?

Can the Secretary of State confirm that this is a loan which will have to be repaid because the project is likely to make a great deal of money? Also, in restricting the amount that he is prepared to give to £450 million, does not he agree that other projects being considered by British Aerospace must be in jeopardy because, despite the fact that it has accepted the proposal made by the Minister, it will have to go to the market to find the remaining £300 million?

Launch aid is repayable. It is not a grant; it is not a subsidy. The intention is that the principal sum advanced should be repaid in full, together with an adequate return during the life of the programme.

I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman on the other part of his question. The Government and British Aerospace are satisfied that the launch aid that I have announced today will enable the central objectives of the company to be achieved. It is clearly necessary to safeguard the interests of taxpayers, and British Aerospace properly wishes to safeguard the interests of its shareholders. Both sides are satisfied. I see no reason to complain about the proposal.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend whose announcement will have a good effect in my constituency. Is it not £100 million more than was in question when the original negotiations took place? Can my right hon. Friend confirm that it is wholly for the airbus project and not for any other project such as HOTOL?

This is launch aid entirely for the A330 and A340 projects. I do not want to go into all the details of the negotiations with British Aerospace, but I think that it is well known that there have been talks on different sums at different times. Both sides are satisfied with this announcement. I am glad that my hon. Friend has spoken about this because I know of the great concern in his constituency which I was happy to visit a little while ago when I had discussions about this very matter.

Since many of us, on behalf of constituents working in British Aerospace factories, including those at Salmesbury, Preston and Wharton in Lancashire, have been in correspondence seeking pledges from the Government over many months for launch aid, is it not the case that both the amount of the aid and the timing of the announcement have been dictated by the anxieties of Conservatives in marginal seats? The Minister says that this money is to be repaid with a rate of return. Is it not a sad reflection on the City that British Aerospace is unable to obtain long-term investment funds for this project save from the British Government?

I do not think that that is true at all. Very large sums in funding have been committed to the project by British Aerospace itself. The characteristics of civil aircraft programmes are long development and payback periods, and the level of risk exposure means that the close involvement of Governments is a factor in many countries. It is appropriate for an element of Government support to be given. This is in no way to suggest that the City's support should be criticised. The amount is agreed with British Aerospace, so I cannot understand why any hon. Member should wish to disagree on that point.

I have made an early announcement because I thought that that was in the interests of the company and those who work in it and also because I expect that a firm decision will have to be taken by other Governments during the course of the next few weeks; and, frankly, I thought that the House of Commons had a right to he informed.

On the matter of competition, will my right hon. Friend confirm that as long as the French and the German Governments make contributions in line with the contribution of the British Government and he can give an assurance that there should be major success with these two aircraft this should be published not only to the House of Commons but also to those companies that originally placed provisional orders for these aircraft in order that the necessary assurance can be given to them to overcome the approaches of Boeing and McDonnell Douglas, which obviously would like to see the provisional orders removed from these aircraft going to the American companies'? It is most important that something should be done on these lines.

I agree with my hon. Friend. I am very hopeful that our partners in France, Germany and Spain will also wish to participate in this programme. Indeed, I am certain that they will. I believe that substantial sales can be achieved. It is extremely significant and encouraging that there are commitments from nine airlines for the A330 and the A340 totalling 128 aircraft and that these have been obtained in advance of a formal commitment to launch the programme. The House will also be aware that there are orders and options for the A320 numbering 442 with almost a year to go before that aircraft enters commercial service.

Will the Minister please assure the House that he will keep under review financial support for British firms in the civil aviation industry so that in all ways, commercially and industrially, we back these firms and enable them to maintain the leadership which they have now established in the industry?

I think that our actions speak louder than words. We have indeed supported this industry. I agree with the hon. Member about its great importance; the British aerospace industry is now the second largest in the world. It is one of our most flourishing industries and I am looking forward to supporting it still more in the next Parliament.

I welcome my right hon. Friend's statement, which seems to me to underline our commitment to the concept of a European civil aircraft industry and therefore is keeping faith with our European partners. Can he give any estimate of the additional work which may be generated for British industry from these two projects?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I agree with him about the signal that this will give to the European civil aviation industry in general.

I think that this will maintain or create some 10,000 jobs in the aerospace industry in this country. It will provide very substantial job opportunities and a very substantial amount of work. I hope that it will provide a substantial amount of work for equipment suppliers and, indeed, for many other suppliers further down the line who will have the spin-off from that. It is a very big project and will provide a great deal of work.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on making this announcement. Will he confirm that this will keep the British aerospace industry at the leading edge of technology and therefore lead to further orders outside this narrow, although very large, order in relation to Airbus Industrie? Will he point out to the House and Britain as a whole that this demonstrates the Government's continuing support for manufacturing industry in this county and gives the lie to the Opposition statements that we are constantly running down manufacturing industry?

I agree with my hon. Friend's last point. The view that he describes is sheer nonsense. As the whole House knows, it is very encouraging to see that the growth in productivity in our manufacturing industry is now outstripping that in the rest of the world. It is also encouraging to see how well British Aerospace has done since it was privatised. Its profit figures and its record of orders from abroad are excellent. The House should be proud of that, and all hon. Members on both sides of the House who have worked closely with British Aerospace know of the great success of that firm. It is winning many other orders overseas, and will take part in many other projects apart from the A330 and A340 projects.

Whatever happened to monetarism? For the past three and a half years, just as in the previous general election campaign, the Government have been telling us that throwing money at companies in both the private and the public sectors will not create jobs. Yet for the past six months leading up to the announcement of the election Ministers have been scrambling to get to the Dispatch Box to tell us about the grants, loans, subsidies and so forth that have been allocated to provide jobs. If they can provide jobs during the six months before an election, why cannot the Government be honest enough to tell us that they will do it throughout? Is it true that they are going to call this Airbus Election '87?

The hon. Gentleman does not really want a lecture on monetarism from me, and the House would be pretty bored if I attempted to give one. I believe that there is a general desire in all quarters of the House—and that includes the hon. Gentleman—that we should support this imaginative scheme. It will be very good for British aviation, and for Britain in general.

We have taken an extremely short time to make up our minds. We have done it more quickly than any of the other partner Governments, whom, in the words of the Leader of the Opposition, he no doubt considers slothful. We are determined to take part in the scheme, and the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) cannot say that we are throwing away money as the taxpayer will receive an acceptable rate of return in real terms.

Will my right hon. Friend accept the thanks of the many people who work for British Aerospace at Filton, in my constituency, for today's announcement? Does he agree that in building on the success of the A320, as he has done this afternoon, he is showing that we as a Government support success rather than wishing, as the Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr. Davis), appears to have done this afternoon, that he had come to the Dispatch Box and announced failure?

I agree entirely. We believe in backing success. This company has been very successful, and we are pleased to be able, after careful evaluation, to offer launch aid for the programme. It is extremely good news for Filton. I am sure that I am not alone in paying tribute to the excellent work done there, and I hope that there is a good future for that base of British Aerospace.

On behalf of hundreds of my constituents who work for British Aerospace at Woodford, I thank my right hon. Friend and the Government for the statement. As he has said, British Aerospace has been outstandingly successful since its privatisation, not only in guaranteeing secure jobs but in its return on capital invested. Will he emphasise that, if we are to continue to play a meaningful part in providing civil aviation aircraft, it is vital that British Aerospace should be part of any wide-bodied project so that it can compete with McDonnell Douglas and Boeing?

Will my right hon. Friend also give an assurance that if, in the light of subsequent events, the French and the Germans are seen to be giving additional launch aid, he will be prepared to consider a further approach from the management of British Aerospace for further aid? As my right hon. Friend highlighted in his statement, such aid will be repaid in accordance with the production of the A330 and the A340 as and when they are produced and sold.

I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for his support. I know of the work that is done at Woodford and of the great importance of that work to British Aerospace.

I agree about the importance of the civil aviation industry in this country and in Europe. This afternoon's announcement will enable British Aerospace to join the Germans, the French and the Spanish in European collaboration to provide these aeroplanes. It will lead to a very exciting future for European civil aviation, going wider than United Kingdom civil aviation alone, although that must be our particular concern.

As for French and German launch aid, I do not think that I should anticipate what the German and French Governments may announce, because I have no idea what that announcement may be. Therefore, I had better stick to what I have already said—that this is good news.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this decision will be widely welcomed not only in constituencies such as that of my hon. but silent Friend the Member for Kingswood (Mr. Hayward), which has a British Aerospace manufacturing facility, but also in Cannock and Burntwood, where we take an objective view of these matters? Does my right hon. Friend agree that this historic decision represents a decisive strike at Boeing's long-held monopoly in the long-haul market?

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend. I assure him that the silence of our hon. Friend does not mean that he has not been an active pursuer of this decision. I pay tribute to many of my hon. Friends, who have been very persuasive and who have explained to me very clearly and coherently why this is such an important project. I am also very glad to have the support of my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock and Burntwood (Mr. Howarth) for this very exciting project, which will be very good for the future of the aviation industry.

I thank my right hon. Friend for the statement, which will be widely welcomed by those who work at British Aerospace, Broughton, where the wings for the A330 and A340 will be built, but is he able to provide more details about launch aid? Is he able to give the time span over which the money will be made available? Will it be front-end loaded? Does he agree that these two planes can be at least as commercially viable as the A320, which had more firm advance orders than any other civil aircraft in the history of mankind?

My hon. Friend recently came with a deputation to see me about the matter, and I pay tribute to him for his continuing interest in the project. There is every prospect of these aircraft being commercially viable. If I did not believe that, the Government would not have offered launch aid. I hope that my hon. Friend will forgive me if I do not go into the details of the launch aid, which must remain commercially confidential. However, it would not be going too far to say that there is a considerable element of front-end loading that will be helpful to British Aerospace.

They also serve, Mr. Speaker, who stand and wait.

General elections always bring out the worst in everybody. Despite some of the remarks that have been made about this statement, on behalf of the thousands of people who work for British Aerospace, whether on the shop floor or in the board room and of whatever political party, may I thank my right hon. Friend most sincerely for this vote of confidence and support in them, including hundreds of my constituents in Littleborough and Saddleworth? I hope that it will be duly recorded that it was due to my representations that they got the money.

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend. During the lifetime of this Parliament I have made it an absolute rule to do everything that my hon. Friend asks me to do.

May I say to the hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth (Mr. Dickens) that very frequently those who stand have to wait!

Appellate Committee (Proceedings)

I undertook to reply today to the point of order raised yesterday by the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) about the making available to hon. Members of this House and to the public of the proceedings of the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords. In the time available, I have been able to make only a preliminary appreciation of the problems involved, but I have already concluded that the matter raised by the hon. Gentleman touches upon the rights of the House of Lords to determine which parts of its proceedings to print or publish. I undertake to draw the attention of the authorities of the House of Lords to the hon. Gentleman's point and to supply them with a copy of the arguments that he advanced in its support.

I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for your response. However, with the delicacy and tact perennially at your command in these matters, might you not also draw to the attention of the authorities in another place the fact that their expenses are met from the Consolidated Fund by a Vote of this House and that their Members subsist thanks to that Vote? Therefore, if they wish to stand on the fine point of expenditure, that may call into question an examination of their whole expenditure before this House votes it—perhaps something that neither they nor some of us would wish to bring about.

Bill Presented

Vehicle Number Plates

Mr. Fallon presented a Bill to regulate the manufacture and supply of vehicle number plates; and for connected purposes; And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow and to be printed. [Bill 163.]

Business Of The House

Ordered,

That, in respect of the Irish Sailors and Soldiers Land Trust Bill [Lords], if the Bill be committed to a Committee of the whole House, further proceedings on the Bill shall stand postponed and that as soon as the proceedings on any Ways and Means Resolution come to by the House in relation to the Bill have been concluded, this House will immediately resolve itself into a Committee on the Bill.—[Durant.]

Sittings Of The House

Resolved,

That this House shall not adjourn to-morrow until Mr. Speaker shall have reported the Royal Assent to any Acts which have been agreed upon by both Houses.—[Mr. Durant.]

Orders Of The Day

Criminal Justice Bill

Lords amendments considered.

Clause 1

The Serious Fraud Office

Lords amendment: No. 1, in page 2, line 15, after "him" insert "on reasonable grounds"

4.2 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. 2 to 4 and 172.

The Bill comes back to us in a somewhat different form from that in which it left us, as I am sure that those of us who sat through 36 sittings of the Committee will ruefully have to concede. I am glad that the other place was prepared to consider, in the time available, the very important provisions of part I, dealing with serious fraud, which have always commanded the support of all parties in the House. We properly had lively debates in both Chambers and in Committee about the precise nature of, and the demarcation lines appropriate to, the powers, duties and responsibilities of the Serious Fraud Office.

Clearly, a number of significant provisions in the Bill will not now become law during the lifetime of this Parliament; for example, the important changes to the laws of extradition and the arrangements for child witnesses to give evidence by video link as well as other significant changes to the laws of evidence, changes in penalties and important improvements in the law on confiscation. I hope and expect that those provisions will come back at an early stage of the new Parliament. I trust that they will then be considered with the seriousness of purpose and in the spirit of co-operation that characterised our debates in Committee.

The amendments mainly serve to make explicit assumptions that we believe to be implicit. Amendment No. 1 makes it clear, for example, that the director of the Serious Fraud Office may involve himself in a case only on reasonable grounds. Under amendments Nos. 2 and 3 the admissibility of prior inconsistent statements in the court when the defendant chooses to give evidence is placed beyond doubt. In the other place Lord Roskill called forcefully for the deletion of clause 2(8) on the ground that the financial and companies legislation on which the Serious Fraud Office powers are modelled expressly allow evidence obtained by the investigative powers to be adduced in court against those who provided the information.

We undertook to reflect further on that matter, and naturally gave great weight to the fact that the point was made to us by Lord Roskill, who, with others, had been charged with the duty of considering the matter and bringing forward the report upon which the present changes are based. Nevertheless, we concluded that the traditional safeguards in criminal proceedings should remain. Those who served on the Committee will remember that I relied heavily on those safeguards when defending the extension into the criminal field from the more limited field of the regulation of companies the power to require compulsory answer.

Under the rule about previous inconsistent statements, it is generally understood that if the defendant chooses to give evidence in court and his statement is inconsistent with a statement made on a previous occasion he can be cross-examined on the inconsistency, because it is part of the prosecution's duty to test the credibility of the witness. Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 put it beyond doubt that that rule will apply to statements made to the Serious Fraud Office, but do not otherwise touch on the points that were exhaustively considered in Committee.

This very important matter concerns the safeguard of the normal rules of criminal procedure, and balances it against the requirement, which most of us believe to be necessary, to allow investigators, using powers that have been used for many years in another context, to require answers when they are essential to the proper pursuit of investigation through a maze of interlinked companies or of financial transactions involving several accounts and perhaps around several countries.

I am sorry to have taken up a little of the House's time on this matter, but we think that the Bill is improved by the clarification that resulted from cross-party consideration in another place.

The Minister referred to the 36 sittings of the Standing Committee. Opposition Members believe that the Bill has emerged from the other place in much better shape than it was in when it left this place. We are especially pleased that the clause that would have removed the defence's right to peremptory challenge has disappeared. There are, of course, items which, I suspect, will shortly be deleted, and which we shall be sad to lose. Examples include the ability to ensure that children can give evidence by video link rather than directly in awesome and sometimes frightening circumstances before a court, especially in cases involving violence or sexual abuse.

A further part which we support and would certainly wish to see enshrined in legislation under the Labour Government who will take office on 12 June is the increase in compensation for victims of crime and the establishment for the first time of a statutory body to ensure that they can receive compensation. We were disappointed at the Government's lack of generosity in excluding about 28 per cent. of potential victims from the provisions of their Bill and that is something that we shall put right in a new Bill under the Labour Government.

There is much that we are happy to see going down the drain and it would be foolish to pretend otherwise. The provision on peremptory challenge is one, and is the most important of the provisions that we are happy to see disappear.

We are glad that the provision to establish the Serious Fraud Office, to which the Lords amendments refer, will remain, as we have consistently supported it. We had detailed arguments in Committee about the precise mechanisms under which the Serious Fraud Office should work, and we still have some reservations about the Government's intentions in relation to its funding. We wish to ensure that it is properly funded, especially in the light of the establishment of the Crown Prosecution Service, which hitherto has been inadequately funded.

We support the establishment of the Serious Fraud Office and we are particularly pleased that Lords amendment No. I inserts a test of reasonability on the director of the Serious Fraud Office in deciding what to investigate. It seems sensible that that provision should be included and we support the amendment. We have no major differences with the Government over the other amendments and we are happy to agree that they should be included in the Bill.

I am pleased that the Serious Fraud Office has been saved, and I entirely endorse much of what my hon Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) said. Some parts of the Bill, such as those dealing with extradition laws and certain matters of sentencing, have much merit in them and I am sure that my hon. Friend and his colleagues will bring them before the House after 12 June. If the worst comes to the worst and we must again face the Minister, they will also no doubt come back.

In the intervening period perhaps the Government and my hon. Friends will consider the views expressed by professional and other bodies on other parts of the Bill. The debate goes on, and perhaps we can use the time well by learning from those views. In the light of recent events, the extradition laws, for example, should be considered even more carefully so that we get them absolutely right.

In general there is cross-party agreement because all of us wish to see the criminal law work effectively and the time of the courts saved by law becoming definitive and clear. I ask the Minister for an undertaking in respect of the Serious Fraud Office in the unfortunate event of his party being the Government after 12 June. I have already secured an undertaking on funding from my hon Friend and I declare a public interest as a practising barrister.

I am appalled at the way in which the Crown Prosecution Service has been starved of funds, facilities and support. Experienced lawyers of many years standing have become fed up with the bureaucratic nightmare of the Crown Prosecution Service and have left. Lawyers from the old county prosecuting solicitors' department who were transferred and promoted suddenly find within 12 months that people who were transferred as their deputies are promoted to the same level. No one objects to their having the same standing, but those who were promoted subsequently are often £2,000 or £3,000 a year better off than those who were transferred and promoted at the same time. Senior Crown prosecutors are leaving the service in droves and we cannot afford to lose them. I make no secret of the fact that a member of my family is employed in that service.

4.15 pm

That concept, which both the Minister and I were in favour of, is being ruined by the short-sightedness of the mandarins at the Treasury. That is why I secured an undertaking from our Front Bench team that in the event of their forming the next Government they would ensure that the Serious Fraud Office was properly manned. Unless it is staffed with people of the highest calibre, we shall never successfully get at the rats and destroyers in the City who have creamed millions, if not billions, off the wealth of the nation through swindles at Lloyd's, share-dealing swindles in the City and a multitude of other swindles from long-term fraud to bogus supplying. A bogus supplier begins by supplying vast quantities of products but fails to pay those supplying him. They are complex, difficult matters which require the employment of accountants and people with great knowledge of the financial world. We cannot buy those people cheaply; we must pay them salaries commensurate with what they can earn in private practice or in the City. If we want the best, we must pay for the best. If we want the best investigative service, we must provide support staff and the most experienced lawyers. In other words, we must invest.

By investing in the service and making it work properly we shall in the long run save the nation vast sums. If we can catch fraud early and prosecute fraudsters successfully, others will be deterred. But it takes willpower and effort, experience and expertise to prosecute them successfully. These fraudsters are no amateurs; they are professionals who set out deliberately to cream millions of pounds from our economy. To catch a villain in a modern, complex society, we must know as much as the villain, and to know as much as the villain we must use experts who understand the subject properly, and that costs money.

Will the Minister undertake to fund the Serious Fraud Office properly? I hope he accepts that I ask for it for the best possible reasons. I do not want to see the sadnesses of the Crown Prosecution Service repeated. They are causing considerable grief to many people who have a great interest in that area and who are greatly supportive of it. It was a brilliant idea and unless the tide can be reversed it risks being destroyed by underfunding. I do not blame the Minister for that, as he well knows; I blame a lack of foresight on the part of those who do not understand the service and how it needs to be funded.

Perhaps in the next four weeks we can send the mandarins at the Treasury on a crash course to learn how prosecution services work. If the mandarins could learn that, they might let loose enough pounds and pennies to enable that service, and the service we are helping to bring into existence today, to be funded so that it can work effectively and to ensure that the guilty are prosecuted to conviction. I wait to hear whether I get the undertaking from the Minister that I have already had from my hon. Friend.

With the leave of the House, I shall respond briefly to the points that have been made.

I am grateful to the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) for accepting the amendments, and I hope that the whole House will share his view. The answer to the hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham) is that the new office will have all the resources that it needs to do its job. There is no question about that. In defence of my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who led the study within the Government from which the Serious Fraud Office emerged as our response to Lord Roskill's committee, I must say that he, as much as anyone, has a vested interest in the office running successfully and I know that he would fully endorse all that I have said.

I appreciate and have welcomed the interest of the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury in Bills such as this over the lifetime of the Parliament. I acknowledge that no one was keener than he was on the Crown Prosecution Service. However, he has been unfair in his description of its present state. It is not strictly relevant to the Bill, but I shall take just a few sentences to comment on it. My right hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General, who has taken charge of the Crown Prosecution Service at ministerial level, has made very clear the commitment of the Government to ensuring that it receives proper resources. There has been a marked increase in the resources made available, which has allowed the service to offer considerably higher salaries than were originally on offer, to the point where organisations such as the Justices Clerks Society—which springs to mind because it made the point at a recent function that I attended—have said that a number of justices clerks are now leaving that service to join the Crown Prosecution Service because of the salaries on offer.

Inevitably, when a major change is made there are bound to be teething troubles and difficulties. I do not think that any of us would have expected otherwise. The fact that we have achieved a nationwide service makes the crucial distinction. The Royal Commission established by the last Government, the views of which in other respects were carried into force by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, asserted that it was absolutely necessary to separate the processes of investigation from the processes of prosecution.

I have little doubt that in the fullness of time the idea will not only be proved to be a good one, but in practice will succeed in effecting improvements in our system, particularly if it can address what I believe is the real difficulty—the amount of expense and time taken, and the unnecessary trouble and fuss caused, when prosecutions that do not stand a great chance of success nevertheless limp through the court system and are terminated at a far later stage than need be the case if they had been scrutinised earlier.

I am grateful for the welcome the House has given to the amendments, and I further commend them to the House.

Amendment agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 2 to 4 agreed to.

Clause 4

Notices Of Transfer—Procedure

Lords amendment: No. 5, in page 8, line 18, leave out "(4)" and insert "(3) and (7A)".

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

With this it will be convenient to discuss Lords amendments Nos. 6 and 7.

I think that we can take the amendments shortly.[Interruption.] I do not know why the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) is interrupting, because this is not Scottish business. I am not sure how advantageous to the general understanding of these complicated matters his interruptions are. The first two amendments allow magistrates to order witnesses to attend the Crown court trial where cases are transferred by the new procedure in the same way as they would if the case were committed. The third amendment ensures that the judge takes into account any oral submissions that may be made in an application for discharge in determining whether there is a case to answer. They are technical amendments that improve the comprehensibility of the Bill.

We have no great quarrel with the Government on the three amendments. Amendment No. 6 states in subsection (b):

"a person whose written statement is tendered in evidence for the purpose of the notice of transfer shall he treated as a person who has been examined by the court."
At first sight that might appear to enshrine the dangerous principle that evidence can be taken as having been examined, even though it is simply tendered in writing. Because we are talking here about an early stage in the criminal proceedings that follow the investigation by the Serious Fraud Office, although we have some qualms that ought to be put on the record about the principle that appears to be enshrined here, we are happy that the amendments should be accepted.

Amendment agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 6 and 7 agreed to.

Clause 7

Power To Order Preparatory Hearing

Lords amendment: No. 8, in page 10, line 33, leave out from beginning to "it" in line 34.

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

With this it will be convenient to discuss Lords amendments Nos. 9 to 35.

All the amendments relate to the preparatory hearing procedures. The bulk of them make the distinction called for by the Criminal Bar Association between a defendant and his lawyer for the purpose of the preparatory hearing. On that basis, I hope that the amendments will be welcomed by the House.

Amendment No. 20 responds to the concern expressed by the Opposition in another place and makes the obligations upon the defence at the preparatory hearing a little less specific than they were. I accept that the wording that has been substituted follows the relevant part of the Roskill report—paragraph 6.82. In no sense do we resent the change, because it seems eminently proper. It is faithful both to the Committee's views and to our central aim of allowing the preparatory hearing to be an effective procedure for defining the issues to be put to the jury.

Amendment No. 31 also responds to a point made by the Opposition in another place. It is taken from a useful precedent in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, which allows a jury to draw such inferences as appear proper from a refusal to provide an intimate sample in a police investigation. The parallel seems to us to be apt. When one is suggesting that inferences of that kind be drawn, there is some advantage in statutes, particularly those that follow closely upon each other in time, setting the parameters and using the same phraseology. The amendment achieves that. I commend the amendments to the House.

We give a warm welcome to the amendments, especially those that have been persuaded upon the Government by the Criminal Bar Association and those that were moved by the Opposition in the other place. We give a special welcome to amendment No. 20, because it gives a much more general interpretation of the terms that must be set out by the defence at the preparatory hearing. It follows Roskill and is something that we pressed upon the Government in Committee. Therefore, I am pleased that, with the assistance of the other place, it is to be included in the Bill.

There is one question that I wish to ask of the Minister, the answer to which I suspect is probably easy and technical. In respect of amendment No. 35, the principal change that seems to be made, especially by subparagraph (b), is that material may not be disclosed
"without the consent of the person who supplied or gave it."
In the original form of the Bill it was without the consent of the defence. I suspect that in some circumstances, only a limited number, they may he different people. I should be grateful for an indication from the Minister of the Government's thinking on that. I suspect that we have no quarrel on the matter, but it would be useful to have a small amount of clarification. With that sole and small question, I should like on behalf of the Opposition to give a warm welcome to the amendments.

4.30 pm

My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) is too modest. The House may remember that amendment No. 20 follows concerns expressed in Committee during the passage of the Bill. The original draft of the Bill required the setting out in some detail of exactly the nature of the defence that was to be advanced. That was a breach of the long-standing practice by which people were under no duty to reveal their defence. The Bill in its present form merely asks the defence to state the issues upon which it will seek to challenge the prosecution case.

A considerable number of cases set out along one track and people think that the defence will do one thing rather than another. However, because of issues brought to light by way of cross-examination or otherwise, the whole nature of the defence can change as the case progresses. Under the provisions of amendment No. 20, that will remain so and people will not feel restrained or restricted as would be the case if the defence had to be advanced along the lines disclosed in the preparatory stages.

This is a sensible amendment which all practising criminal lawyers will welcome.

Again with the leave of the House, I am glad to say that I welcome the reception for these amendments. I hope that the whole manner in which the Government have dealt with this Bill is characterised by the fact that we accept good advice when we receive it. I accepted many amendments in Standing Committee, some of which were significant. My noble Friend the Minister of State, Home Office did the same in the other place. Far from that being a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength when we can gather together and draw on experience throughout the Chamber on technical matters that generate no partisan differences. On the whole, these matters did not generate such differences.

The hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) asked about amendment No. 35. This amendment follows directly from the invitation to us by the Criminal Bar Association to distinguish between the accused and his lawyer. All references to the defence have been altered in order to be more specific. If there is any additional significance to that change, I shall be happy to drop the hon. Gentleman a note. These are technical drafting amendments and I am assured that they have the effect only of meeting the point that I think we all agree ought to be met. There is no additional significance to them.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 9 to 35 agreed to.

Clause 12

Charges Of And Penalty For Conspiracy To Defraud

Lords amendment: No. 36, in page 15, line 43, at end insert—

"(1A) In section 5(2) of the Criminal Law Act 1977, the words from 'and' to the end are hereby repealed."

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

With this it will be convenient to discuss Lords' amendments Nos. 37 to 198.

These are technical amendments, the combined result of which is to reduce the Bill to only those provisions associated with the operation of clauses 1 to 12. The final amendment, which reduces the long title of the Bill, is perhaps the neatest illustration of the radical but precise surgery performed by these amendments.

The Minister is kidding us when he says that these are technical amendments. They are drastically radical amendments because, of course, they excise from the Bill everything that does not relate to the establishment of the Serious Fraud Office. We welcome the departure of much that these amendments excise, and we attach great importance to the disappearance of the removal of the right of peremptory challenge.

It may he helpful to the House if I give a strong commitment that the Labour Government who come into office in four weeks' time will seek to legislate to ensure that a proper statutory scheme of compensation for the victims of crime is established on more generous terms than those proposed in the original Criminal Justice Bill. Our legislation will include the provision that the Government gracefully accepted in Committee for the compensation of train drivers who suffer shock after an accident involving a person. We shall also seek to legislate to ensure that children can give evidence by means of a video link rather than having to give evidence in court.

We attach great importance to those matters and we hope that we can build on the constructive work that we carried out in Committee on those two specific areas by bringing forward further measures. We shall do that when we form the new Government in four weeks' time.

I have no doubt that the electors of Putney will recognise the superb service that they have had from their Member of Parliament in the last four years, and that in shortly over a month's time my hon. and learned Friend the Minister will return to the high office that he now holds. At that time he will be in a position to reintroduce these clauses. I have personal experience of my hon. and learned Friend's tremendous understanding and the courtesy that he showed during the passage of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Bill, and I know that on occasions he is willing to review situations.

When my hon. and learned Friend returns to this matter, will he consider again clause 29, which deals with the prosecution appeal against sentence? Will he reconsider the point made by many hon. Members in Committee, on the Floor of the House and in another place that if the prosecution is to have a right of appeal against sentence—and we believe that it should—it should also have the right, if necessary, to seek to have the sentence increased?

Hon. Members have already spoken about clause 89. It deals with the abolition of the right to peremptory challenge. In Committee and in the House we face assaults on this clause. The alliance spokesman, who, sadly, is not in the House, attacked this clause. In spite of their newfound allegiance to the cause of law and order which we believe was heavily leaked from the alliance parties' manifesto, I hope that my hon. and learned Friend will give no ground whatever. I hope that when the Bill comes back to the House—once more under his pilotage—we shall have the proposal to abolish the right to peremptory challenge back in the Bill where it belongs.

I wish to express my opposition to amendments Nos. 120 to 137 and amendment No. 180 which have the effect of deleting clauses 96 to 133 and schedule 9. I oppose the amendments because the clauses and the schedule cover amendments to the law of extradition that the Government were wise enough to propose in the original Bill. That was almost an heroic proposal on their part, because the extradition law in this country in the form in which we are debating it today derives from an 1870 Act. Therefore, it has taken a long time to bring forward amendments to bring the law up to date. Over the past 10 years Governments have promised reforms, but have never gone about it until, happily, this Government did. It is a great shame that the proposal before us is that we should abandon again this attempt at reforming the law of extradition to bring it up to date.

Broadly speaking, there are three sets of beneficial proposals in the clauses. There is a proposal for summary procedure in our extradition law, and that would have been very useful in cases where there was little opposition. There would have been conditions with regard to restrictions of extradition to Commonwealth states, which apply in the updated law—that is, the Fugitive Offenders Act 1967. The relevant clauses would have applied to the Extradition Act 1870, or the new extradition law proposed by the Bill. it is important to bring such matters up to date.

There would have been simplified rules of evidence. We all know how much difficulty the courts have run into because of the tortuous rules of evidence which apply to the original extradition law. Those clauses represent a very useful reform. In Committee, there was scarcely any opposition to them, so I am somewhat puzzled as to why the Government have chosen to agree with the Lords proposal that we should drop them. The matters were debated and I cannot recall any outright opposition or a single Division being called on any of part IX of the Bill.

I ask my hon. and learned Friend—I am glad that he is now officially a learned Friend—whether it was necessary, after all these years when we tried to bring extradition law up to date, to abandon the reforms attempted by the Government.

Having once had the honour to hold the office which my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State now holds, and having in that capacity taken a major Criminal Justice Bill through the House, in 1971, it is perhaps appropriate that my final words in the House should be to congratulate my hon. and learned Friend on the way he has carried out his duties in the Home Office and to say that I welcome the decision of the House of Lords to delete clause 29.

The House of Lords has twice removed what I believe to be an ill-thought-out and ill-considered proposal by the Government. My hon. and learned Friend may consider, when he comes back after the election in a Conservative Government with a substantial majority, that, as far as clause 29 is concerned, the best advice the third time may be not to try at all.

I echo and endorse what the right hon. and learned Member for Warrington, South (Mr. Carlisle) said in perhaps his last contribution. He will be sadly missed. He brings much wisdom and learning to these debates and we all learn much from listening to him.

I support, as I did in Committee, the view of the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook). The sooner we bring the extradition laws up to date, the better. We had an opportunity, on a matter which was not disputed in Committee, to rectify a series of glaring omissions from the extradition law. When crime becomes international, as it has, we must make it easier for people to be extradited to the country where the offence took place or to seek and obtain the extradition of people who have committed crimes in this country. The matter is not politically sensitive; it comes in the international context of the pursuit of crime, and our laws must be updated and modernised.

I asked my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) for an undertaking that, in the event of our forming the Government after 12 June, the provisions will be brought back to the House at the earliest opportunity. I received such an assurance. I ask the Minister whether, in the event of his party forming the next Government, the same assurance can be given. It is of international importance that we pursue crime wherever it is committed and that our law should facilitate such pursuit.

4.45 pm

I wish to speak briefly on clauses 29, 32 and 125. I am sorry that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warrington, South (Mr. Carlisle) took the view he did. I am glad that clause 29 will come out, but for a slightly different reason.

The powers in clause 29 are quite inadequate. The ordinary person in the street does not understand why those provisions were so weak. Recently in my constituency a Mrs. Whitehouse, landlady of the Lamb inn in Stafford, was brutally beaten and the person who did it received only a nine months' suspended sentence. If the power had been adequate, the opportunity could have been taken to review the position. I hope that when we return to office shortly a similar but tougher provision will be included in the new Bill.

I am somewhat concerned at the removal of clause 32. I hope that that will come hack rapidly because there is no question but that penalties for crimes must be increased.

Clause 125 relates to anonymity in rape cases. That is a matter of considerable controversy. The ordinary man and woman in the street are deeply concerned about this issue and it must be dealt with.

I take this opportunity to congratulate the Minister on the way in which he has conducted himself in his office. Those of us who are observers of these things have noted, both on the "Today" programme and on many other occasions, the way in which he has done a great service to his office.

I must tread carefully on this matter, not being an expert in legal matters. but I have checked my facts with the Minister. First, I apologise to him on behalf of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) for his absence. I am attending on his behalf because he has asked me to do so.

I support what the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) said about extradition. It incenses me and many of my constituents who lost much money in a Lloyd's fraud that a gentleman is sitting in America with vast sums of money and we are unable to bring him back for trial. I have asked questions of the Attorney-General, but so far nothing has happened. Our Belgian friends must also feel pretty sick after the recent Liverpool case.

I support what has been said by all hon. Members and hope that the new Bill will include those clauses and they will go through swiftly.

I am delighted to see my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough (Sir M. Shaw) here because he chaired the Committee with considerable distinction, just as he chaired the 59 sittings of the Committee on the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill. That had got to the Lords amendment stage at the end of the last Parliament, but had to be reintroduced. Any illusion one may have had that the Bill had been well turned over and therefore would go through speedily was set to one side, as there were 59 sittings, which I believe to be a parliamentary record. It has been asserted by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) that it was a parliamentary record and, of course, I believe implicitly every word he says.

When my hon. Friend was chairing the Committee, he told us that he suspected we would not have the last word on this Bill. I congratulate him on the ability of whatever gipsy he consults on Scarborough beach, because the prediction was right. I shall not mind in the least having another go at this measure. I am confident that the Government will reintroduce the Bill at an early stage, because it contains matters which are far too crucial to let drop.

I endorse what my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) said, supported by others, about the significance of the extradition proposals. The extradition arrangements must be modernised. We cannot go on appearing to be an inhospitable place from which other civilised countries try to get their criminals back. That merely invites a similar lack of co-operation towards our own efforts. There is a blot on our procedures because, for example, we have only one tenth of West Germany's extradition traffic, so unappealing are our arrangements for our friends and associates within the European Community and elsewhere.

I cannot criticise the other place for deciding that it could not send these matters back to us without full consideration because this was to have been the first substantive change in extradition arrangements for 117 years. We cannot begrudge our revising Chamber the right to examine such matters.

Other parts of the Bill could have been salvaged if other parties had so wished. In particular, I regret that the child video evidence provisions were not saved. I also regret that the increased penalties for insider dealings are not attached to the Bill. This is not a time for partisan points. At least the serious fraud provisions can pass into law. We intend to pursue the other matters at the earliest opportunity.

I am grateful to my hon. Friends the Members for Stafford (Mr. Cash) and for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale) and to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warrington, South (Mr. Carlisle). My hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, North asked whether we would think again about clause 29. My candid answer is that we will have to think about it again in the light of what has happened. Precisely what form those other thoughts will take is not a matter for the present. I am clear—I say this with some pain because of the respect that I have for my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warrington, South—in believing that the option of doing nothing is not open, but we shall think carefully about it.

Our commitment to the abolition of peremptory challenge is as strong as ever. That will unite all my hon. Friends in the Chamber.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, North for what he said about my personal contribution. He has been with me on a number of committees which have led to significant changes in the law, particularly to changes in the law on animal experimentation which have taken that issue out of its former context.

I am most grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford for what he said.

No one has been more consistently kind and helpful to me than my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warrington, South during my eight years in the House. I have great respect for him for what he did in government and for what he has done since for home affairs and as chairman of our Back-Bench home affairs committee. He will be much missed by all his friends here and elsewhere.

The achievement by the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) is formidable. Most of us are elected to the House on the back of a successful ongoing tide. He won his seat in spectacular fashion and held on to it. He has suffered some ill health in recent years, and I regret that that has caused him to announce his retirement. I wish him well. He has many friends in this place.

I regret that this radical surgery on the Bill is necessary. It is unfinished business and we shall not be long delayed in coming back to it.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 37 to 198 agreed to.

Parliamentary And Health Service Commissioners Bill

Lords amendments consideredc

Lords amendments Nos. 1 and 2 agreed to.

Irish Sailors And Soldiers Land Trust Billlords

Order for Second Reading read.

4.55 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
(Mr. Tim Eggar)

I beg to move, That the Bill he now read a Second time.

I am grateful to the Opposition for supporting the Bill's passage. It is a worthy measure which will help many ex-service men and their dependants. The trust was established to benefit Irish veterans of the first world war. In view of their declining numbers, it is right that surplus funds should be released to benefit Irish veterans of more recent conflicts. I commend the Bill to the House.

4.56 pm

I am sure that widows, widowers and former members of Her Majesty's armed forces and their children who are affected by the Bill will be grateful to hon. Members on all sides of the House for agreeing that the Bill should pass before the election, after which a Labour Government will be returned.

It would help if the Minister could say how much money is involved so that the people concerned know exactly what residual amount will be distributed by the distributory agency when it is appointed by the new Labour Secretary of State.

4.57 pm

The electors of Enfield will soon have the opportunity by their votes of expressing their appreciation of the manner in which my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State has served them while sustaining a heavy burden in his Department and in foreign parts.

The debt of the people of these islands to Irish fighting men is immeasurable. There is no mention of airmen in the Bill's title because the land trust was set up to help those who fought in the great war of 1914 to 1918, and their dependants. When the Bill was given a Second Reading in another place, Lord Denning recalled seeing Lord Ypres, then Sir John French, at the front. That field marshal, during recruiting tours of Ireland, promised that volunteers would be provided with housing after the war. Hence the trust. Now that the main function of the fund has come to an end, it is to be diverted to other beneficial purposes, as my hon. Friend described.

Together with the lifeboat service of all Ireland and other cherished institutions, the Irish Sailors and Soldiers Land Trust is one of those bodies which, despite partition, plays its part throughout Ireland and embraces representatives of the Governments of the kingdom and of the Republic in what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister describes as the "unique relationship".

I should like to ask the Minister about the allocation of the assets. The Bill provides for two fifths of the 68 per cent. share held by Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom to be made available. What is the basis of that computation? Why should five fifths not be distributed after allowing for administrative expenses?

I am glad that the distributing agency is to be the Royal British Legion, of which a number of us in the House are members. It is appropriate that Earl Haig should have spoken in the Second Reading debate in the House of Lords.

Like the trust, the Legion overleaps the Irish border. In Northern Ireland, the Legion is pre-eminent in poppy day collections and it is also active in the South. When the Irish Free State was established as a dominion in 1922, it was proposed to form an Irish Legion, but Irish old comrades insisted that the name British Legion be retained. There are still a number of British Legion branches throughout the Irish Republic. That is strange because the Irish Free State was set up as a dominion modelled on Canada. There is a Royal Canadian Legion but in the Irish Republic the name British Legion remains.

In the other place Lord Killanin said that the new arrangements had the blessing of the new Taoiseach. Mr. Haughey, like his predecessor Dr. FitzGerald, assured the noble Lord that the money would not be snapped up a nd put into the Treasury, but that it would be spent wisely. The Secretary of State will ensure that it is spent wisely for the benefit of the veterans and their dependants.

In the debate to which I have referred the noble Lord Prys-Davies put certain questions to my right hon. Friend the Baroness Young. My right hon. and noble Friend replied to most of those questions, but there are two questions, found in column 1425 of the Lords Hansardof 28 April 1987, to which my right hon. and noble Friend gave no answer. Doubtless no answer was given because those questions are not for the Foreign and Commonweath Office, but for the Northern Ireland Office and the Department of Health and Social Security. Doubtless the Minister will be writing to the Lord Prys-Davies and, if so, the hon. Member for Epping Forest will also be interested in those replies.

I am grateful for this opportunity to say a word of gratitude to those Irish men and women to whom we owe so much.

First, I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison) for his remarks about me. It is absolutely typical of my hon. Friend that it was he who, during the business statement, asked that efforts should be made by parties on all sides of the House to get this Bill through in the closing days of this Parliament. It is also typical of my hon. Friend that he should, quite rightly, pay tribute to the tremendous contribution that was made by Irishmen, on both sides of the border, during the first world war and of course subsequently.

The hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) asked about the amount of the trust. Leaving aside sufficient money for the prudent management of the remaining houses, the trust estimates an initial surplus of £4·5 million. That and any subsequent smaller surpluses will be shared between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland in proportion to the original contribution made by the United Kingdom and the Irish Free State. Two fifths of the British share will be paid to a distributory agency for the benefit of former members of the British armed forces and their dependants resident in Ireland.

My hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest asked about the percentage of the share that is going back to the British Government and the trustees. That percentage was agreed upon after negotiations between the Government, the trustees and the Royal British Legion. I assure my hon. Friend that the arrangements, finally arrived at, have received strong support from the trustees and the Royal British Legion.

We believe that this Bill strikes a fair balance between the interests of the contributing Governments and, on our side, between the Government and former members of the British armed forces and their dependants. I strongly commend the Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.— [Mr. Lennox-Boyd.]

Further proceeding postponed, pursuant to the order of the House this day.

Ways And Means

Irish Sailors And Soldiers Land Trust Bill Lords

Resolved,

That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Irish Sailors and Soldiers Land Trust Bill [Lords], it is expedient to authorise payments into the Consolidated Fund.—[Mr.Lennox-Boyd.]

Irish Sailors And Soldiers Land Trust Bill Lords

Considered in Committee.

[SIR PAUL DEAN in the Chair]

Clauses 1 and 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 3

Short Title, Commencement, Repeals And Extent

5.5 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
(Mr. Tim Eggar)

I beg to move amendment No. 1, in page 2, line 36, leave out subsection (5).

The amendment is designed purely to delete the privilege amendment made in another place.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 3, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill. Schedule agreed to.

Bill reported, with an amendment; as amended, considered.

Bill read the Third time and passed, with an amendment.

Territorial Sea Bill Lords

Considered in Committee.

[SIR PAUL DEAN in the Chair]