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Commons Chamber

Volume 124: debated on Thursday 10 December 1987

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House Of Commons

Thursday 10 December 1987

The House met at half-past Two o'clock

Prayers

[MR. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

City Of Westminster Bill

Order for consideration read.

To he considered upon Thursday 17 December.

Greater Manchester (Light Rapid Transit System) Bill Lords (By Order)

Greater Manchester (Light Rapid Transit System) (No 2) Bill Lords (By Order)

Orders for consideration, as amended, read.

To be considered upon Thursday 17 December.

Teignmouth Quay Company Bill (By Order)

York City Council Bill Lords (By Order)

Orders for Second Reading read.

To be read a Second time upon Thursday 17 December.

Keble College Oxford Bill Lords ( By Order)

Selwyn College Cambridge Bill Lords (By Order)

University College London Bill Lords (By Order)

Read a Second time, and committed.

Hampshire (Lyndhurst Bypass) Bill Lords (By Order)

British Railways (London) Bill Lords (By Order)

Orders for Second Reading read.

To be read a Second time upon Thursday 17 December.

Oral Answers To Questions

Northern Ireland

Rating Reform

1.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he intends to publish proposals for a poll tax in Northern Ireland, including a proposed timetable for its introduction.

The Green Paper of January 1986, "Paying for Local Government", which forms the basis of the Great Britain reforms, made it clear that the proposals did not apply to Northern Ireland. That reflects the fact that local government arrangements in Northern Ireland are significantly different from those in the rest of the United Kingdom. My right hon. Friend has therefore decided to monitor the development of the proposals in England and Wales before deciding whether, or to what extent, they should be applied in Northern Ireland.

If that reply is not an Irish joke, is it not at least an inversion of logic to suggest that one monitors what one does to 97·5 per cent. of the population before applying it to the remaining 2·5 per cent.? As all local government services of any note in Northern Ireland are now administered by central Government, and as central Government now collects all the local government rates in Northern Ireland, should not the poll tax have been applied first to the 2·5 per cent. and monitored, and then applied to the 97·5 per cent.?

I suggest that the position is eminently logical, as 90 per cent. of local government functions in the Province are carried out centrally rather than by district councils. In those circumstances, and when making a major change in the local government financial system, given that there is a completely different base for local government in Northern Ireland compared with the rest of Great Britain, it seems eminently sensible to monitor the change in Great Britain.

Labour Statistics

2.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what is the current level of unemployment in Northern Ireland.

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

At 8 October 1987, the latest date for which unemployment figures are available, there were 124,701 unemployed claimants in Northern Ireland, representing 18·2 per cent. of the working population. Compared with the same period last year, that is a decrease in unemployment of almost 6,000.

Is it not a scandalous reflection of the failure of the Government's economic policies for the United Kingdom as a whole, and Northern Ireland in particular, that nearly 20 per cent. of adults in Northern Ireland are unemployed? Does that not contribute to the maintenance of the secretarian divide, because there are two and a half times more male adult unemployed Catholics than there are Protestants? When does the Minister expect the Government's economic policies to start working to produce some jobs in Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom?

As regards unemployment generally, Northern Ireland is now benefiting from the general upturn in the economy of the United Kingdom. If I may amplify my earlier figures, unemployment is now down by 900 a month over a three-month average. We regard that as satisfactory, and the signs are that it will continue. Of course, it is still too high, and we are doing everything that we can to reduce it.

As for the level of sectarian distinction between the Catholic and Protestant communities, we accept that having two and a half times as many Catholics as Protestants unemployed is unacceptable, and we propose to introduce legislation as soon as possible on that point.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the largest numbers of employed people in Northern Ireland are in agriculture? Does he also agree that if the so-called remedies from Europe are applied to Northern Ireland agriculture they will have a very adverse effect on Northern Ireland's family farms? Will he declare the devastated areas of Northern Ireland disaster areas in order to give short-term employment?

The Government have been active in remedying the damage by flooding and in assisting those people who suffered damage. On the general issues, it is not possible for Northern Ireland to stand aside from the main trend within Europe. It is necessary for this to be handled on a European Community basis rather than on a Northern Ireland basis.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) that in Northern Ireland a Catholic is two and a half times more likely to be unemployed than a Protestant. If we are to solve this problem, we must tell the truth about it. The unemployment problem in Northern Ireland as it stands today cannot be laid entirely at the feet of the Government. As the New Ireland Forum said in its document "The cost of violence", the paramilitary campaign of violence by the Provisional IRA over the past 20 years has directly cost 39,000 jobs in manufacturing industry between 1970 and 1980, and there are only 90,000 people employed in Northern Ireland in manufacturing industry. That campaign has caused £11 billion worth of damage to the economy of Ireland, north and south. If that money were floating around in the economy, fewer people would be unemployed. If we are to tackle the problem of discrimination, we must do it on all fronts, not just on some. We need fair employment laws, but we also need inward investment in the areas of high unemployment in Northern Ireland.

I strongly support the general thrust of the hon. Gentleman's points. If we were merely to remove unemployment from one area and allocate it to another, we would not be doing a good service to Northern Ireland. We need further investment in Northern Ireland, leading to further jobs. I endorse and support the hon. Gentleman's activity in promoting investment in his part of Northern Ireland and in the rest of the Province.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Anglo-Irish Agreement provides the best opportunity to solve many of these problems? Does he further agree that the steps that will be taken to introduce that legislation—which will be agreed between the Government and the Government of the Irish Republic — will provide an equitable basis on which to improve the ratio in favour of fairer employment opportunities for Catholics?

It is this Government's duty to bring forward the legislation, and we hope that it will have broad support within Northern Ireland.

Does the Minister agree that one of the causes of unemployment in Northern Ireland is the IRA's vicious campaign of threats and murder against business men and workers? Will he explain to the House what steps are being taken to improve that unacceptable situation?

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and other ministerial colleagues are working hard to improve the political and security climate. My narrow area of responsibility is the economy. If we can improve the quality of investment and the level of employment in Northern Ireland, that will make a contribution to Northern Ireland generally.

Given that nine further states in the United States are proposing to introduce legislation on the MacBride principles and bearing in mind the question mark that that puts over further investment in Northern Ireland, is it not in the interests of the Government to publish early their White Paper showing how far they embrace the recommendations of the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights? Is it not also important for the Government to state precisely their attitude towards the goal of reducing the ratio of unemployment of Catholic and Protestant males from 21/2:1 to 11/2:1 over five years? If the Government are unable to accept that goal, will they say why not? If the Government say that they seek to improve the situation in other areas rather than in some, can the Minister tell us the areas in which he hopes to have that improvement and the number of jobs that will be involved?

We are giving the most urgent and careful consideration to the proposals of the Standing Advisory Commission and we intend to bring forward proposals for legislation very soon. If we were to react too quickly, the hon. Gentleman would be the first to say that we had not given careful consideration to the commission's proposals. I hope that when, in due course—it will be soon—the proposals are put before the House, they will have the support of the hon. Gentleman.

Universities (Research Places)

3.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he has any plans to fund an increase in the number of research places available to postgraduate students at Queen's University and the University of Ulster; and if he will make a statement.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
(Dr. Brian Mawhinney)

On 30 November 1987 I announced a new "Distinction Awards" scheme designed to attract to the Northern Ireland universities postgraduate students of the highest ability. Under the scheme, the Department of Education will fund up to 20 additional research awards each year tenable at the Queen's University of Belfast or the University of Ulster. Each award holder will receive £2,000 per annum in addition to the normal postgraduate award.

That is welcome news. May I ask my hon. Friend for his assurance that the extra places will be allocated fairly across the religious divide? I should declare an interest: I am a Catholic married to an Irish Protestant.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the welcome that he has given to the proposals. I assure him that there will be no religious discrimination whatsoever in the giving of the awards.

Joint Educational Projects

4.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make available more resources to enable schools from different religious backgrounds to undertake joint educational projects; and if he will make a statement.

I have no plans to make further resources available. On 14 September I announced the availability of an extra f200,000 for new initiatives in cross-community contacts. The scheme, which is directed at young people under the age of 19, has already encouraged those working in this field to submit 65 applications for grant from the special fund.

I am sure that all hon. Members will join me in welcoming the previous decision and hoping that the future will see more resources allocated. Already too many children grow up in an atmosphere of prejudice in Northern Ireland and become fuel and recruits for terrorist organisations. If the problems of Northern Ireland are to be solved, is it not necessary to find ways to increase contact between young people in that troubled Province?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his support and I entirely endorse the sentiments that he has expressed. It is important that we should find ways to bring the people of the Province together, to foster their relationships and understanding of their differences, and to ensure that those differences do not become points of division later in life.

Does the Minister accept that in answer to the previous question he may have uncon-sciously given a wrong impression—

It will indeed relate to the question, but I must put on record that the tertiary—

Does the Minister accept that joint community education imposes tremendous responsibility on the voluntary schools system to teach even civics, which would allow us to move together as people and as a nation, rather than have two separate identities? Will he acknowledge that the separation and division are at that level of education rather than at the tertiary level, as implied earlier?

I certainly endorse what the hon. Gentleman has said. If I gave any impression in an answer given from the Dispatch Box that there is division at the tertiary level, that is quite untrue and it was not my intention. I do not think that I gave that impression, but if I did it was not intended.

Part of the reason for the project in secondary schools is to explore ways in which schoolchildren from the two communities can be brought together to carry out joint projects, so that they will have an opportunity to learn together and about each other. The idea is that the absence of money should not hinder the bringing together of our young people in special projects.

Is it not time to end the religious apartheid in education in Northern Ireland? Both education systems, which are supported by the taxpayer, divide youngsters from the earliest age, even from kindergarten, when they should be learning to live and play together and getting to know each other, so that Northern Ireland will have a future.

There will be much support for the sentiment expressed by the hon. Gentleman, and I take careful note of what he has said.

I welcome what the Minister has said and his speech on the establishment of the community relations unit, but what progress has been made to assist Hazelwood college? Does he agree that integrated education should be actively promoted, especially in his discussions with members of the Roman Catholic hierarchy?

I have had a meeting with representatives of the governors of Hazelwood college in the past few days. We have agreed jointly that I will reach a decision on their application to become grant-aided in the first half of next year. That decision is acceptable to the governors and to me. It will give them an opportunity in the meantime to increase numbers in the school.

With regard to integrated education, the Government see a role—perhaps even a marginally increased role—for integrated schools in the Province. It is not part of my responsibility or intention to do anything that would make the development of integrated education within the law and the constraints that we all know apply more difficult than it is at the moment.

Will the Minister bear in mind that when the project got off the ground in Enniskillen the parents were kept completely in the dark? The children were told that they were having a holiday and no parents were consulted. As the Roman Catholic Church runs its own schools in Northern Ireland, will the Minister give a categorical assurance to the Protestant community that there will be consultation with the parents of all Protestant children and that they will have the right to say yes or no to any such project, just as the Roman Catholic Church has already said no to integrated education?

I am not quite sure to what specific event the hon. Gentleman is referring. I want to make it clear that the scheme is entirely voluntary. People are invited to apply for money for projects if they wish to do so. The initiative does not lie with me. I am not forcing anyone to do anything, and I am not applying pressure. I am responding to what I identify as demand in the community for people to be allowed to come together and to do things together. That is good, and I am willing to finance it for the future of Northern Ireland. There is no sense in which anyone is being allowed to exercise a veto. It will be for the schools, parents and pupils to decide for themselves.

We are all pleased to hear the Minister say that he wants to bring both communities together and to provide finance for that. How does he square that with the view of the Department of Education, as expressed in a letter to a constituent of mine on 22 October.

"there is no need in Northern Ireland for teachers who specialise in Multicultural Education."
That is the view of the Department of Education. Is it the Government's view? If not, what steps do the Government intend to bring forward to reverse that policy decision?

The hon. Gentleman has a slight semantic difficulty. There is no great need for teachers in multicultural education in Northern Ireland because 'we do not have a multicultural society in the sense in which that term is understood in England. Society in Northern Ireland is divided on religious grounds. The policy of the Department of Education is of education for mutual understanding. As hon. Members representing Northern Ireland constituencies will be aware, I have been increasing pressure on training schools in the matter of education for mutual understanding in general. I believe that it is very difficult for teachers to teach about the other community if they have no experience of that other community. We are strongly and firmly committed to education for mutual understanding, but we do not have a multicultural society in Northern Ireland.

Does the Minister agree that apartheid in education does not exist in Northern Ireland, but that there is the exercise of parental choice? Does he also agree that the voluntary sector embraces both the Catholic and Protestant community and state schools? Does he accept that there is ample opportunity for inter-religious communicational projects between schools if proper encouragement is given, and will he ensure that his Department encourages such intercourse in the immediate future?

The hon. Gentleman will know that last April I announced that a new policy on parental choice would come into effect in our schools in September 1988. This has been widely welcomed, not least by parents, and I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his additional support.

As for bringing people together, the hon. Gentleman will have noticed that, at the educational level aimed at the under-19s, the Government have much increased their determination to try to achieve that very desirable goal. I should be grateful for the hon. Gentleman's help, and that of his hon. Friends and other right hon. and hon. Members in Northern Ireland, in doing what they can to encourage our young people to spend more time contacting one another, and less time drifting apart and causing social or perhaps other and worse problems in the future.

Security

5.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment he has made of the effect of the Anglo-Irish Agreement on the security situation in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement.

11.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement about cross-border security co-operation.

14.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the security situation in Northern Ireland.

Since 23 November a major security operation has been mounted by the Irish security forces, supported in Northern Ireland by the RUC and the Army, which has resulted in a number of important arrests and some finds of explosives and munitions.

Since I last answered questions in the House on 12 November, two civilians have died in sectarian attacks. The security forces have continued their determined and courageous work. So far this year 431 people have been charged with serious offences, including 27 with murder, while 247 weapons, approximately 18,000 rounds of ammunition and nearly 13,000 lb of explosives have been recovered.

In addition, the Garda Siochana has recovered, up to the end of October, 123 weapons, 10,000 rounds of ammunition and some 4,000 lb of explosives. That does not include a product of the recent search operation, which I understand will be announced this afternoon. It included 50 weapons and four bunkers which are believed to have been for storage of possible shipments.

Recent events north and south of the border have emphasised most clearly the vital need for both Governments to co-operate closely in the defeat of terrorism throughout the island of Ireland.

While thanking the Secretary of State for his answer, may I point out that the linking of the two other questions with mine is not quite correct? I am grateful for his information about the security position, and I deplore the terrible events that have occurred. However, my question is quite separate from the orthodox questions on security, which could well have been asked before the Anglo-Irish Agreement question. What I have asked in the question is what effect the right hon. Gentleman thinks that agreement has had on security. I am anxious that his answer should convey to me that, as I hope, the present accelerated rate of killing is temporary and will settle down.

With respect, I do not think that the hon. Gentleman listened to my answer.

At the start of my answer I drew attention to what I believe is the most significant security operation ever conducted within the Republic of Ireland. It was conducted in the closest co-operation and preparation with the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Army north of the border. It is the most tangible and obvious demonstration of the close security co-operation that is absolutely vital if we are to defeat terrorism, which is now so clearly perceived as the evil that it is for both communities, north and south of the border.

Despite the promising words from Dublin after the Enniskillen atrocity, is my right hon. Friend aware of the scepticism about the full political will of the Irish Republic to defeat terrorism, when it still withholds the direct contact of its armed forces with those of the United Kingdom? What is being done about that?

I am sure that my hon. Friend will not wish in any way to encourage scepticism on the subject. Rather, he will wish to do all that he can to work for the closest possible co-operation. His knowledge, which is profound, of the circumstances of the island of Ireland will make him well aware of the vital importance—given the difficulties posed by the border and the two jurisdictions—of close co-operation. I assure him of our commitment to achieving the closest and most effective co-operation in working with the Government of the Republic.

Given the failure to discover the Libyan ground-to-air missiles that are known to be concealed in the Irish Republic, will the Secretary of State make representations to ensure that British aircraft using Dublin airport are afforded the same protection as that given at Shannon airport to Russian aircraft on their way to Cuba?

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman would expect me to discuss the particular detail of this matter across the Floor of the House. We are anxious to respond effectively to any problems that may face us.

What could be worse for the image of Northern Ireland than the appalling sight of sectarian killings, which make it look like Sicily or Don Corleone's New York? How can anybody with an ounce of decency continue with such horror, particularly after Enniskillen?

I very much agree with my hon. Friend. There are evil tendencies among some extremes of the population in Northern Ireland that are all too easily inflamed. A heavy responsibility lies on everybody, whatever position they are in—particularly those in any position of responsibility or representational position—in Northern Ireland to do everything that they can to ensure that no such passions are aroused and, rather more, that they are condemned.

Does the Secretary of State recall the seemingly inevitable confusion that attended the recent application for the extradition of Paul Anthony Kane, which received the customary misdirected criticism? Will the Secretary of State say why errors on warrants continue to bedevil the system?

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is aware of the circumstances of the matter and that I am unable to comment on something that is sub judice.

Does the Secretary of State agree that it is the duty of all hon. Members and parties in the House to give the security forces — the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the Ulster Defence Regiment and the Army — unequivocal support in their fight against terrorism? Will the Secretary of State comment on the fact that the five members of the SDLP including the chairwoman, who is a justice of the peace, clearly and definitely voted against such support when a resolution was put to Magherafelt district council?

I am unfamiliar with the terms of the motion, but, without entering into the detail of the case, I agree with the hon. Gentleman's opening comments. It is the responsibility of everyone who is determined to defeat the evil of violence and terrorism to give total support to the RUC and the security forces in the tough challenge that they face.

I listened to the Secretary of State's comments about the security position in the Irish Republic, for which he seemed to be claiming some degree of responsibility. Will he say what he has done since he last answered questions in the House to improve progress in the fight against terrorism in Northern Ireland, for which he is totally responsible?

I certainly was not seeking in any way to claim responsibility for the search operation in the Irish Republic. I should make it clear that we sought to give them every support. The security forces put themselves at some risk and suffered casualties in their support of that search. With regard to the work that is continuing and the activities that are progressing, I am unable to discuss in detail a number of the steps that I have been taking, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we are totally committed to that work.

In which other countries of Europe does Her Majesty's Government have less satisfactory arrangements for extradition than with the Republic of Ireland?

With no other country in Europe do we have the system of the backing of warrants, which is an important point to recognise in this regard. If the point that my hon. Friend is making concerns the vital nature of an effective, speedy and fair extradition process, I can assure him that we are committed to that. There is a later question on the Order Paper on this subject, but I can assure my hon. Friend that we are determined to work to that end.

Following the remarks of the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea), will the Secretary of State please confirm that my party is the only one from Northern Ireland represented in this House that has no association of any description, and never has had, with any paramilitary or violent organisation?—[Interruption.]

Furthermore, will he confirm that the hon. Member in question and his leader—[Interruption.]

Furthermore, will he confirm that the hon. Member in question and his leader have on many occasions been seen in the streets with masked men, taking salutes from masked men, and using paramilitary organisations when it suited them? May I restate for the benefit of the House that my party fully and unequivocally supports the security forces in seeking out anybody who commits a crime in Northern Ireland?

I am grateful to the hon. Member. I have noted, and the House will have noted, the categorical statement of the hon. Member. But what his intervention has clearly brought home to the House is that, of all things at this time—and I say it to hon. Members in all quarters of the House—what Northern Ireland needs is people who try to reduce differences, who try to build cooperation, and not those who seek the whole time to exploit division.

Is the Secretary of State aware that we on the Opposition Benches welcome the great improvement in cross-border security evidenced in the past few days and salute the work of both the forces of the Republic and our own in Northern Ireland, and the degree of cooperation which they have shown over those exercises? But will he also recall—going back to the earlier statement of my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) — that one of the provisions of the agreement was the securing of greater confidence in the administration of justice in Northern Ireland? Is he yet in a position to announce any further steps in that direction and, in particular, as it hits mostly the poor of both communities, is he yet in a position to say whether the Government are prepared to repeal the Payments for Debt (Emergency Provisions) Act (Northern Ireland) 1971?

I cannot comment on the latter point, which the hon. Gentleman bowled in rather unexpectedly, but I will certainly look into it.

The hon. Gentleman paid tribute to the vast improvement in cross-border security co-operation, and that is what we are striving for. I have never concealed from the House the very considerable task that lies ahead of us. The very exercise that he referred to, the scale of the search and the problems of what actually emerged from the search, leave some very difficult questions to be answered and still pose a considerable challenge to the security forces, both north and south of the border. It is certainly a good start, but I do not underestimate the scale of the job that has now to be done.

One of the benefits of the Anglo-Irish Agreement—I use the term advisedly—was that in times of emergency police forces on both sides of the border could cross it in hot pursuit of a criminal. Has any agreement to that effect been signed, and have any incidents taken place recently?

Not on that specific matter, but there are certain understandings of the ways in which co-operation can take place and certain arrangements that can be made, so that the security forces can give extremely close support in that sort of incident.

Police Authority

6.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what recent discussions he has had with the chairman of the Police Authority for Northern Ireland; and what matters were discussed.

My right hon. Friend last met the chairman of the Police Authority for Northern Ireland on 23 November to discuss matters relating to the authority's responsibilities. The details are confidential.

Following that discussion, will the Minister give an assurance that the Army uniforms, which were apparently supplied by Mr. Frank Turner of QED to the RUC for cash and sent to Northern Ireland in an unmarked lorry, were not, and will not at any time, be used by RUC personnel or others to pose as British service men?

The hon. Gentleman has tabled a considerable number of written questions about that matter. I hope that he will wait until we give the answers to them.

Will the Secretary of State confirm that, since 1965, 733 people have been extradited to Great Britain from the Republic of Ireland and 158 from the Republic of Ireland to the north of Ireland, giving a total of 891? Given the views of the Chief Constable of the RUC about extradition—

The views of the Chief Constable of the RUC on this issue are very important. In the light of his views and the figures that I have given, is the view that Britain is a less-favoured nation in respect of extradition very inaccurate?

The Government attach profound importance to the fact that there should be no hiding place for terrorists either north or south of the border and that extradition arrangements must reflect that policy.

Is the Minister aware that the spirit of rapprochement, generated as a result of the atrocity in Enniskillen among ordinary people, is being dissipated by sectarian killings? Will he make it clear to the chairman of the Police Authority that we must do everything possible to get people to support the police and to reduce the number of unemployed in Northern Ireland by encouraging them to join the police force? I ask the Minister to appeal to the people of Northern Ireland fully to support the security forces.

I assure the hon. Gentleman that we make that appeal at every possible opportunity. It is of profound importance that the entire community gives every support to the security forces. That is a fundamental requirement and we shall continue to make that point clear at every opportunity.

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether, when he had talks with the chairman of the Police Authority, he discussed the fact that none of the SDLP representatives have ever called upon their people to join the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the Ulster Defence Regiment or the British Army? Will he remedy that position by calling upon them now to do so, after the attack on the Ulster Democratic Unionist Members, when their own leader refused to talk to the Unionist party leadership and chose to talk to the IRA?

It is the Government's clear policy that the security forces in the Province, whether the Royal Ulster Constabulary or the Ulster Defence Regiment, should be open to people from both communities. We wish to see the strongest representation from representatives of all religious denominations in the security forces in the Province.

Anglo-Irish Agreement

8.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the progress of the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

We are making worthwhile progress in our work under the agreement and are giving particular priority to our aim of enhancing security co-operation with the Republic of Ireland. The agreement has great potential to benefit all in Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that all those who believe in the Union should support the Anglo-Irish Agreement in that the agreement is a guarantee from both Ireland and Britain that the status of Northern Ireland will never be changed against the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland?

That assurance of the principle of consent is at the heart of the agreement. It is very important indeed, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend, even in his present condition, for his support.

Extradition

9.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the extradition of terrorists from the Republic of Ireland to the United Kingdom, in the light of recent problems in this area.

12.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement about the implications for his policy on seeking extraditions from the Republic of Ireland of the new extradition arrangements agreed by the Irish Government.

We welcome the Irish Government's decision to ratify the European convention on the suppression of terrorism. We note, however, that they have now introduced further procedural steps in the hacking of warrants process. We are naturally concerned that these should not impede the extradition arrangements within these islands, and we welcome the Taoiseach's commitment to review them if they are not working satisfactorily.

In the light of the Prime Minister's statements in the House on several occasions, will the Secretary of State confirm that the Government believe that the regulations put in by the South of Ireland Government inhibit rather than help the extradition of terrorists, which is not helpful in the fight against terrorism? When will the British Government call for the extradition of Owen Carron?

Obviously, I am not prepared to comment on individual cases, but on the general matter I have made clear our views on the importance of effective extradition arrangements and our commitment to work for those in the defeat of terrorism.

I am sure that my right hon. Friend would agree that many Conservative Members are bitterly disappointed with the new extradition arrangements, because they will give precisely the wrong signal to the Loyalist community. In reality, will the new arrangements make any difference, or produce any obstacle, to the extradition of terrorists?

We have made clear our concern about the inclusion of the role of the Irish Attorney-General and the problems that that could cause. We are obviously anxious to ensure—and we hope— that our fears are not well founded, and we shall be working closely with, and making our representations clear to, the Irish Government to try to ensure the most effective arrangements possible.

Prime Minister

Engagements

Q1.

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 10 December.

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.

Are we to have a statement before the Christmas recess on what action, if any, is to be undertaken to deal with the present acute crisis in the National Health Service? When beds are not available for young children, as at the Children's hospital in Birmingham, and when at the Queen Elizabeth hospital cancer and kidney patients continue to wait for beds, what evidence is there, if any, that the NHS is safe in the right hon. Lady's hands?

If the hon. Gentleman had been here when I last answered questions, he would have heard of the enormous number of operations that are now taking place—about 2,360,000 a year; of the 6·5 million inpatients a year in hospital; and of something like 38 million out-patient attendance in hospitals. He would also have heard of our excellent record on perinatal mortality, which means that some 3,000 babies are now surviving who would not have survived some 10 years ago.

Has my right hon. Friend, during her busy schedule, observed that, for the first time, the miners have now produced 4 tonnes per manshift, and that is double the production during the time of Lord Robens? Is that not partially attributable to the wise policies conducted by Her Majesty's Government?

It is very good news from the viewpoint of the miners and it shows how ridiculous is the overtime ban. It also shows the Government's wisdom in their excellent investment in mining equipment.

In an unprecedented statement this week, the presidents of the Royal Colleges of Physicians, Surgeons, and Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said—I shall use their word — that there is a deep financial "crisis" in the National Health Service. Does the Prime Minister agree with them?

No, Mr. Speaker. As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, spending has gone up enormously on the National Health Service. Spending on the family practitioner services has gone up by 43 per cent in real terms since the last Labour Government. It has gone up by 26 per cent. in real terms on hospital and community services. Capital spending on hospital and community services has gone up by 42 per cent. Indeed, the Government's record on health services far exceeds that of any other. As I have indicated to the right hon. Gentleman, expenditure on health services will continue to increase further.

The House and the country will note that the Prime Minister rejects the advice of the presidents of the royal colleges. Is that not further evidence that she is suffering from incurable complacency as well as untreatable arrogance in these matters as in many others? Following her litany of figures, may I say, in the words of Sir Raymond Hoffenberg, the president of the Royal College of Physicians:

"We know we will be hit by all the statistics … but the basic fact is that we are spending less on our health service than any other developed European country. The bottom line is that we had a service which was the envy of the world which we ran very cheaply. We are now trying to run it too cheaply."
The statement says:
"In spite of the efforts of doctors, nurses and other hospital staff, patient care is deteriorating."[Interruption.]
The House and the country are listening to those boos, when the Presidents of the royal colleges, are saying:
"Patient care is deteriorating. Acute hospital services have almost reached breaking point. Morale is depressingly low."
Does the Prime Minister not think that that is a crisis?

No, Mr. Speaker. Had the right hon. Gentleman listened to the figures, I would have thought that he would commend the Health Service on the excellent work that it is doing. I gave the annual figures for in-patients, for out-patients, and for operations. May I also point out that the Government have increased the proportion of the GNP spent on the National Health Service from 4·8 per cent. under the last Labour Government to 5·5 per cent. Not only has the GNP gone up, but the proportion spent has also gone up in real terms. Other countries are able to devote more to health care services because more is contributed privately, both from private insurance and from families' pockets. If the doctors think what they have written, they must be very thankful that there is not a Labour Government in power.

In the 40-year history of the National Health Service the presidents of the royal colleges have never found if necessary to speak to any Government in the terms that they have spoken to the Prime Minister's Government. Can she not learn from that, or from the evidence of patients, nurses and other professions in the National Health Service? When Mr. Ian Todd, the president of the Royal College of Surgeons says:

"Managers are telling surgeons to do less work to balance the books."
does she not recognise that she is responsible for setting lives against sums? What will she do about it?

Order. How can the Prime Minister possibly answer with all this noise going on?

In the 40 years of the NHS there have never been more patients treated, whether as inpatients or out-patients. There have never been more accident and emergency cases treated. There have never been more heart bypass operations or hip replacements —[Interruption.] Of course hon. Gentlemen will interrupt, because they cannot bear to hear the facts.

There are more cataract operations, more bone marrow transplants, more kidney transplants, more cervical smear tests, more people treated for kidney transplants and for chronic renal failure. —[Interruption.] Opposition Members will shout because they cannot bear the fact that the Government have a far better record than they have ever had. With regard to the future, if the Leader of the the Opposition had listened to me earlier he would have heard that next year spending on the NHS will increase by £1·1 billion. I mentioned that figure because I have heard Labour Members on the radio suggesting that an extra £200 million would do the task. Next year there will be an extra £1·1 billion—five times as much.

Bearing in mind that the demands for health care are never-ending and the fact that private spending on health care in this country is among the lowest in Western Europe, does my right hon. Friend believe that the time has come to introduce tax relief for individuals who take out health care insurance?

No. It is more important to leave people to make their own decisions about what they do with their money than to increase reliefs for a particular sort of expenditure.

Q2.

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 10 December.

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

Irrespective of the statistics that the Prime Minister throws out, and irrespective of the light attitude that she has adopted towards the statement from the Royal College of Surgeons, will she take notice of the National Association of Health Authorities, which reported that the hospital service is £200 million underfunded? Will she give an assurance to the House that the much needed increase in nurses' pay will not have to be found from the existing area health budgets?

The hon. Gentleman has given the figure of £200 million which I mentioned earlier. I have already told him that next year the increase going to the NHS will be £1·1 billion. I remind the hon. Gentleman that the previous Labour Government slashed the NHS programme. They cut new hospitals by one third, cut capital spending for two years running and, having supported a strike against patients, presided over an increase in waiting lists of 250,000, to record levels under Labour.

On the matter of those employed in the Health Service, nurses in particular, and the community charge, will my right hon. Friend confirm that among the options which she and her right hon. Friends considered as a replacement for the present unfair and outdated system was capital valuation, coupled with a local income tax? Does she agree that that would bring hardship and chaos to every individual and their families, and that the Labour party, whose policy it is, is discredited for having pursued it?

Capital valuation would have been infinitely worse than even the present basis of valuation. A local tax, similar to a local income tax, would put an even heavier burden on those who pay income tax and would mean that the amount they had to pay would be greatly in excess of a community charge.

Q3.

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 10 December.

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

Instead of burying her head in 10-year-old NHS statistics and repeating them like a cracked record, what would the Prime Minister say to Adrian Woolford, a seven-year-old Coventry lad, who has waited two years for a heart operation? What would she say to the parents of Chintu Kumar, a one-day-old baby, who died after a 100-mile dash from Coventry to Liverpool because half of Birmingham children's hospital beds were closed? What would she say to the parents of dozens of kids in the midlands who, tomorrow night, will meet midlands Members about the crisis? She might be able to buy her health and the health of her kids, but our families cannot. Does she not care?

Let me assure the hon. Gentleman that the statistics that I give are not out of date but are updated. The number of bypass operations, cataract operations and many other operations that are now performed on children could not have been performed 10 or 15 years ago. The number of nurses on paediatric work has greatly increased over and above what it was under Labour, and the number of paediatricians is also up. Services are rapidly increasing. Under this Government, not only have we had a great increase in the gross national product, but we have devoted an increasing proportion to the National Health Service, and the amount of care far exceeds that which occurred under Labour or anything that could ever occur under Labour.

Q4.

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 10 December.

Will my right hon. Friend find time to consider a survey that was published by the Department of Trade and Industry? It shows that of the 300 foreign-owned companies in this country 90 per cent. said that industrial relations had improved in recent years, and that 96 per cent. said that the performance of their British subsidiaries was equal to or better than that of their foreign-owned subsidiaries. Is that not yet another endorsement of the Government's policy?

Yes, it is excellent news. The success of this Government and the response of people to their policies are being recognised the world over. That is good news for everyone in this country.

Given the Prime Minister's concern for independent companies, will she spend some time today considering the implications of British Petroleum's likely doubling of its shares in Britoil? Britoil is an independent company in Scotland. Given that that company employs so many people in Scotland and that the smell of the Guinness takeover still lingers in the nostrils of the people of Scotland, will she assure us that. first, the Government will use their golden share to protect Britoil and, secondly, that they will use every opportunity to safeguard against insider dealing?

Insider dealing is a matter of the criminal law. It is not a matter for me. With regard to I3P's purchase of shares in Britoil, I understand that it is a commercial transaction, and it is not for us to interfere.

Business Of The House

3.31 pm

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

The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY I4 DECEMBER — — Until 7 o'clock private Members' motions.

Afterwards progress on remaining stages of the Local Government Bill.

TUESDAY I5 DECEMBER — — Completion of remaining stages of the Local Government Bill.

Motions on the Welsh Rate Support Grant Report 1988–89 (HC 142), the Welsh Rate Support Grant Supplementary (No. 2) Report 1984–85 (HC 158) and the Welsh Rate Support Grant Supplementary (No. 2) Report 1985–86 (HC 159).

WEDNESDAY I6 DECEMBER — Second Reading of the Local Government Finance Bill (1st day).

Motion relating to the appointment of Mr. John Bryant Bourn CB as Comptroller and Auditor General.

THURSDAY I7 DECEMBER — Completion of Second Reading of the Local Government Finance Bill.

FRIDAY I8 DECEMBER—Adjournment motions.

I am grateful to the Leader of the House for responding positively to our representations about providing two full days for the debate next week on the poll tax Bill. In view of the importance of the business and the number of hon. Members who will undoubtedly want to speak on Second Reading, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that, if there are lengthy statements or other business before the debate on the poll tax, business may continue after 10 o'clock? Following the right hon. Gentleman's discussions with the Secretary of State for the Environment, after his promise last week, will the right hon. Gentleman inform us when the poll tax rebate regulations will be published since those details must have a direct bearing on the debate on the poll tax Bill?

Will the Leader of the House ask the Prime Minister to make a statement next week on the reasons why the report by Sir Robin Ibbs on the career Civil Service is not to be published? In that context, does he accept that it is important that that statement is made, in the light of the words of the former Cabinet Secretary, Lord Hunt of Tanworth, in The Times this morning that
"the issue of lifelong confidentiality is a red herring: what that argument is about is unauthorised disclosure"?
The Home Office has recently announced a change in the manner in which immigration cases are to be handled. Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that those are not fully implemented until proper consultations have been undertaken to ensure that Members of the House who are involved in such cases have a direct involvement?

Will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement on the Government's defence policy in the wake of the treaty and the super-power meeting in Washington this week? The Secretary of State for Defence told the NATO Defence Ministers last month that he wants what he called "compensations" for the withdrawal and discussion of land-based intermediate missiles? Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that a statement is made next week so that the Secretary of State for Defence can tell us about his ambitions for rearmament?

I note that there is to be no debate next week on the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs and the serious situation that has arisen as a result of the report of the Committee of Selection that it is not able, at present, to recommend the setting up of that Committee? In the light of that unexpected report from the Committee of Selection, I understand that it would be sensible to allow a short period for reflection in the hope that a way forward can be found. However, the Leader of the House will recognise that this issue must come before the House as early as possible in January, regardless of the embarrassment that that will cause the Government.

I am not sure that it will cause the Government all the embarrassment that the right hon. Gentleman anticipates. Let me answer the questions that the right hon. Gentleman asked me in the order in which he asked them. First, he asked me about the Local Government Finance Bill. We can certainly have discussions through the usual channels to see whether what he suggests would be helpful to the House. I give an undertaking that I shall do my very best to keep statements away from those days to enable as long a debate as possible.

The right hon. Gentleman asked me about the decisions to be made about uprating income support in relation to the community charge. All I can tell him is that decisions on the amount of uprating will be announced in due course. I cannot be more specific than that at the moment.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about the report of Sir Robin Ibbs. I shall refer that to the Prime Minister, but I am unable to give him the information that he requires at the moment.

The right hon. Gentleman asked me about the Home Office review of hon. Members' correspondence and stops. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department announced on Second Reading of the Immigration Bill on 16 November, he is reviewing the procedures under which hon. Members take up immigration cases with his Department, whether in the form of written representations or of interventions, especially stops in port cases. The review is not yet complete, but when my right hon. Friend and the Minister of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton), have reached detailed conclusions they will be the subject of consultation with both sides of the House and with hon. Members generally.

I shall refer the question of a statement on defence to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence.

As the Leader of the Opposition said, I stated last week that I was happy to arrange a debate on the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs before Christmas, if that was the wish of the House. However, following discussions through the usual channels, I understand that it would be for the more general convenience of hon. Members if there was a longer time to consider the report of the Committee of Selection. Taking account of that, I propose to arrange a debate on that matter immediately after the House returns in January.

Does my right hon. Friend recall that he gave a modestly encouraging reply to a question that I first started putting to his predecessor before Christmas 1986 about a debate on science policy? When are we to have such a debate? It is becoming rather urgent.

I recognise my hon. Friend's deep concern about those matters and his persistence. I hope that he will be tolerant of me for a little longer.

In view of today's recommendation by the British Caledonian board to its shareholders in favour of the partnership with SAS, will the Leader of the House make arrangements for a statement to be made as soon as possible giving an assurance on behalf of the Government that there will be no ministerial interference with the Civil Aviation Authority to prevent the shareholders making a decision in the interests of a strong, second-force airline in Britain and competition for the consumer?

As I understand it, the Secretary of State for Transport has certain statutory duties in this matter that follow from any report that he should receive from the CAA. I do not believe that I can say anything else about this matter other than that I shall report the right hon. Gentleman's concern to my right hon. Friend.

As the Government expect to secure the Second Reading of the Local Government Finance Bill next week, can my right hon. Friend say whether he has any plans to take the Committee stage of part I of the Bill, dealing with the community charge, on the Floor of the House in view of the constitutional importance of the decision and the fact that many hon. Members will wish to discuss that matter in detail?

I have a feeling that we shall have plenty of time to discuss all the implications of the Bill. I have no plans to take any part of it on the Floor of the House.

May I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early-day motion 429?

[That this House calls for the profits made by the House of Commons Refreshment Department, including the Kiosk, during the week 14th December to 18th December inclusive, to be donated to the Ethiopian Famine Appeal.]

It calls for the profits made by the Refreshment Department next week to be donated to the Ethiopian famine appeal. Does he agree that the vast majority of Members and visitors, who will be spending a large amount of money next week through the Refreshment Department, would welcome a proportion of that money going to that important appeal? Does he also agree that where there is a political will there is always a way? Therefore, will the right hon. Gentleman use his best endeavours to cut through the red tape to ensure that starving people are helped by this House next week?

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's concern. However, the direction of excess funds from the Kiosk is generally a matter of the House of Commons Commission. The Government have made clear their concern about human rights in Ethiopia and the failure to provide agricultural incentives. In the present circumstances, the overriding need is to deliver food to those who face another major famine.

My right hon. Friend will be aware that the annual report on Hong Kong is likely to come out next month. Will he arrange for an early debate on the report on the territory, preferably as soon as possible and before the publication in Hong Kong of the White Paper proposals regarding representative government in the territory? Those proposals are due to be published in February and it would be helpful if we had a debate in the time between publication of the report and the White Paper.

That is certainly an important issue and I shall look at the possibilities for an early debate.

I refer to exchanges initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) yesterday which you, Mr. Speaker, said could be dealt with now. They concerned the responsibilities of the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Lord Advocate, whose responsibilities are also covered by the Secretary of State in this House.

Is the Leader of the House aware that my hon. Friend asked about the background to the pre-dawn raid by Strathclyde police on executives of the BBC in February? In reply to those questions, first the Parliamentary Under-Secretary and then the Secretary of State for Scotland denied responsibility for answering my hon. Friend's supplementary question. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary said that my hon. Friend's question was
"beyond my sphere of responsibility … and goes to the root of intelligence matters that are the responsibility of others." —[Official Report, 9 December 1987; Vol. 124, c. 433.]
Can the Leader of the House say specifically to which others we should address our questions?

I think the best thing I can do is to tell the hon. Gentleman that the Minister quite properly took the view that the supplementary question concerning grounds for suspicion related to intelligence matters. If, however, the question was intended to relate to the grounds on which the original warrant had been granted, a reply could have been given. I understand that my hon. Friend the Minister has written to the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), who asked the question, and the confusion arose as a result of a late correction to his question by the hon. Gentleman as to the date of the seizure of the material.

My right hon. Friend will be aware that there is no provision next week for a debate on the formation of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs. Can he confirm that that omission was at the insistence of the Opposition? If he can., what conclusions does my right hon. Friend draw about the attitude of the Opposition to Scottish business? Is he as concerned as I am that the Scottish people are being denied important representation in this House because of the obstructive tactics of the Opposition? When will we have a debate on the formation of the Select Committee?

We will have a debate on it as soon as we come back from Christmas. I shall leave it to my lion. Friend to draw conclusions about these matters. I reiterate that the discussions took place through the usual channels, and it was generally agreed that it would be for the convenience of the House not to have a debate next week.

Does the right hon. Gentleman acknowledge that Opposition Members are extremely anxious that the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs should be set up? Without criticising the Committee of Selection, I may say that the motion tabled in the name of the Chairman of that Committee was not really satisfactory in enabling the House to reach a satisfactory conclusion that would serve the interests of the whole House.

If there are to be strictures regarding the setting up of the Scottish Select Committee and the representation of Scotland in it, I refer the Leader of the House to the Committee considering the Health and Medicines Bill in which the absence of a Scottish Minister is to be deplored, particularly as the Opposition have two hon. Members of great expertise who wish to question the Government in Committee line by line and clause by clause on the operation of the Health Service in Scotland. Is it not a scandal that the Under-Secretary of State, who acknowledges the Adam Smith rule, is not willing to be seated on that Committee?

I am sure that the Ministers on that Committee will give a good account of themselves and will answer all the questions raised in the debates there. I cannot say anything further about that.

As for the hon. Gentleman's other question about the Scottish Select Committee, as I have said from the Dispatch Box on many occasions, I am anxious to set it up as soon as possible. If I have the hon. Gentleman's support in doing that, we may make some progress.

When my right hon. Friend considers setting up the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs, will he bear in mind that some Conservative Members will welcome the opportunity to debate what was wrong with it and why it did not perform its duty satisfactorily in the way that the other Select Committees—I served on two of them—did?

My hon. Friend does not need any encouragement from me to find an opportunity of expressing his views on these matters. My concern is to try to get the Select Committee set up in a proper and acceptable manner.

At some time during the two-day debate on the Local Government Finance Bill, will the Leader of the House try to ensure that the House—in particular hon. Members representing Northern Ireland constituencies — is told why the poll tax proposals will not extend to Northern Ireland? After all, if the poll tax is for the benefit of all the citizens of the United Kingdom, surely the citizens of Northern Ireland should have the advantage of it, too.

The issue of who is called in debates is not a matter for me; nor is that of whether these matters are in order. However, I shall certainly refer the matter to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

Could my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary be asked to confirm to the House next week that the Goverment have not forgotten Mr. Terry Waite and other British hostages in the Lebanon, and that every diplomatic opportunity will be taken to bring pressure to bear on sovereign Governments—not terrorists—to bring about their release?

Of course, I am sure that the whole House wants and expects my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State to do whatever is open to him to assist in this matter. I confirm that that is what he is doing.

Will the Leader of the House perhaps find time in the early new year for a general debate on the issue of freedom of the press? No doubt he will agree that the growing rash of writs from the Attorney-General seeking to gag parts of the press and some people is most worrying. Will he bear in mind that it is often a free press that separates a democracy from a tyranny?

The hon. Gentleman would not expect me to comment on those points, but I shall certainly bear them in mind.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that most people in the free world strongly support the INF treaty recently concluded in Washington? Does he accept that the treaty has created expectations which, if combined with major defence cuts by the United States, could have a major impact on the defence of Britain? Is not that a reason for a special defence debate, over and above the ones that we can normally expect, early next year?

I am sure that other hon. Members would support my hon. Friend, but I do not see an early prospect of having such a debate. My hon. Friend may be able to find an opportunity on Wednesday to ask the Foreign Secretary a question about this.

In connection with the appointment next Wednesday of the Comptroller and Auditor General, has the Leader of the House seen early-day motion 427 which is in my name and in the names of an increasing number of my hon. Friends?

[That this House considers that, as the Comptroller and Auditor General is an Officer of the House under the National Audit Act ( 1983 ) , appointments to the post should be made on a motion put down by the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee and that the appointment should not involve any consultation with the Prime Minister; and further considers that the requirement for the agreement of the Prime Minister to the appointment of an officer whose responsibility is to examine the financial management of the Government is constitutionally unacceptable.]

It draws attention to how unacceptable it is that the appointment of the Comptroller and Auditor General, now a servant of the House whose job it is to inquire into the financial management of the Government, should be subject to the approval, even the veto, of the Prime Minister. Will the right hon. Gentleman seek to table an amendment to the National Audit Act 1983 to establish that the appointment shall be made by the Public Accounts Committee and on a motion by its Chairman? Will the right hon. Gentleman hold up this appointment until such an amendment has been debated in the House?

No, I cannot agree to that. The procedure for the appointment of the Comptroller and Auditor General is laid down in section 1 of the National Audit Act 1983 and that procedure will be strictly followed. This is a matter for the House, but the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee has been consulted and I understand that he has given his approval to this appointment.

Will my right hon. Friend consider delaying the Report stage of the Local Government Bill? Is he aware that this week about 50 of my right hon. and hon. Friends signed an early-day motion critical of the way in which local authorities exercise their powers under the Race Relations Act 1976? Is he further aware that an amendment has been tabled today to repeal section 71 of that Act? In fairness to local authorities, they ought to know that there is a serious risk of that amendment receiving the approval of the House and they ought to have time to put forward their claims to continue to exercise what many Conservative Members regard as their pernicious powers.

A reasonable time has been allowed to deal with these matters. No doubt my hon. Friend will forcefully put his point of view in next week's debate.

Will the Leader of the House give the House time—if not now, certainly after the recess—to consider the matter of loan sharks and the credit problem, which has become a matter of public concern? Does he agree that the House ought to pay more attention to the problem of the exploitation of the most vulnerable sections of working people, many of whom are now at risk because of their indebtedness to loan sharks who demand gross rates of interest on loans?

I share the hon. Gentleman's concern about any irregularities of that sort. I cannot promise him time for a debate in the immediate future, but he might try his hand at applying for an Adjournment debate and see how we get on.

In view of the allegation by the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) that his is the only party in Northern Ireland that has no association with paramilitaries, will the Leader of the House find time before the House rises for a debate on paramilitaries? I and my party not only repudiate paramilitaries but unequivocally support the security forces and the rule of law. It is essential to put the record straight.

My hon. Friend seems to have done that effectively, but I cannot promise time for a debate next week.

Will the right hon. Gentleman provide time for a debate on the safety of equipment provided to schoolchildren following upon the death of Billy Walker, my constituent, after swallowing the top of a Bic pen? The executives of the allegedly reputable company have yet again refused to discuss the matter privately. In the circumstances, perhaps the best remedy is to discuss the matter publicly so that the company's heartless and irresponsible behaviour can be held up to the scorn it deserves and so that, at the very least, the company's shareholders will know the way in which the company's executives have seen fit to misrun it.

The hon. and learned Gentleman needs no lesson from me on how to raise matters that he rightly thinks are of concern to his constituents and to the whole country, but I suggest that an Adjournment debate may be a suitable starting point.

Will my right hon. Friend seek to arrange for the Minister for Sport to come to the House to make a statement about the problems the British cricket team is encountering in Pakistan, and to make a comparison between that and the excellent umpiring and refereeing in this country, not least the excellent refereeing in the second round of the Football Association cup last Sunday when Macclesfield Town football club, otherwise known as "the silkmen", demolished an official league club, Rotherham, by four goals to nil?

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his football team, and wish it well in future competitions.

All hon. Members will regret what has happened in recent events in Pakistan. Whatever the circumstances, there can be no excuse for flouting the authority of judges, referees or umpires. Such respect is fundamental to the playing of any sport. The enforcement of standards and the discipline of umpires are matters for the cricket authorities.

Will the Leader of the House provide time before the Christmas recess for a statement or debate on the Government's attitude to their golden shareholding in Britoil? Does he accept that there is great concern among hon. Members about the future of the United Kingdom's largest independent oil company, about 1,700 Scottish jobs and about whether the Government had prior knowledge of the BP moves? Does he accept that the Government must make a political decision in the next few weeks and that hon. Members have the right to debate it?

I cannot promise the hon. Gentleman a statement, but I will certainly refer his question to my right hon. Friend.

I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the amendment to early-day motion 226.

[That this House notes with acute concern the opposition of the honourable Member for Ealing North to the right of the Dawoodis Bohra Muslim Community to have a place of worship in Ealing, despite the support given by Labour and Conservative councillors following detailed consultation in the area,. further notes that following his campaign there has been an increase in racially motivated attacks in the area and that some behaviour at a public meeting has been offensive and came close to breaching the Public Order Act; and therefore calls upon the honourable Member for Ealing North to condemn such behaviour unreservedly and to support the right of freedom of worship.]

The motion points out that the Ealing council has mistakenly granted planning permission to the Dawoodis Bohra Sikhs to build a mosque on an industrial estate in Northolt, and seeks to persuade the council to find an alternative site for the mosque.

As the motion is signed by only 30 hon. Members and the amendment is signed by 70 hon. Members, will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate for the sake of the people of Northolt who are deeply concerned, disturbed and angry about the matter?

My hon. Friend raises matters of concern to him and a number of his constituents, but they are matters for the local planning authority, the Ealing council. I cannot promise him that we can find time for a debate in the immediate future.

Will the Home Secretary make a statement next week on the relationship between Gibraltar and Britain on the landing rights agreement with the Spanish Government? We have not had a statement on the agreement, which raises many constitutional issues. For example, if the Gibraltar Assembly were to veto the arrangement, what would happen to the agreement and the broader agreement on air fares in the EEC? The House and the people of Gibraltar deserve a full statement from the Foreign Secretary.

That is an important matter and I will refer it to my right hon. and learned Friend.

Has my right hon. Friend noticed the profound concern expressed about the future of the D notice committee? Is he aware that the voluntary D notice system has worked extremely well for many years and was working effectively between the BBC and the authorities until last week? Now that the Government's injunction has smashed to smithereens the reputation and effectiveness of the D notice committee would it not be right for the House to debate whether it should continue to be funded with taxpayers' money and kept going?

I cannot promise a debate in the immediate future, but the Government attach great value to the D notice system and hope that the media will continue to participate.

Will the Leader of the House give an assurance that, if the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments decides to request a memorandum on the Welsh rate support grant orders on Tuesday, the orders will not be taken? I am sure that the Leader of the House will agree that there is little point in having a Select Committee to examine orders and report to the House if the orders are debated prior to that report.

When does the right hon. Gentleman expect the Register of Members' Interests to be published? Will it be published early in the new year? May we have a debate on the register because there have been a number of reports about hon. Members, including the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit), being employed by organisations such as Saatchi and Saatchi, which is lobbying for British Airways in the BA-BCal bid? We should be able to explore the ramifications of the way in which Conservative Members obtain financial advantage from their parliamentary endeavours.

I am sorry that this saga is changing its nature. All hon. Members have now completed an entry to the register and it was laid on Tuesday following a meeting of the Select Committee on Members' Interests. I understand that at the meeting the Committee agreed a short report which will be published early next week. A copy of the register, which is being printed as it stood on 8 December, is in the Library. The hon. Gentleman can study it at his leisure. I cannot answer the question about the Welsh rate support grant without looking into it, but I will write to the hon. Gentleman.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, in view of the fundamental importance of the amendment tabled to the Local Government Bill by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) and his colleagues about the Race Relations Act 1976, and how that applies to local government, and as it strikes at the foundations of the Bill, will he give additional time— perhaps until midnight—on Monday for the debate on the amendment?

Certainly we have given what I believe is a reasonable amount of time. We will waive the rule on Monday to enable discussion to take place. However, there is no fixed time limit as such.

Will the Leader of the House confirm that, as it is currently compiled, the Register of Members' Interests is based upon a system that was devised more than a decade ago? Although it would require hon. Members to show whether they have any interest in stonemasonry, they would not be expected to include any reference to show whether they were freemasons, including those who are honorary freemasons, some of whom may be on the Conservative Benches. Would it not be a good idea, when the Register is compiled next time round—it is apparently ready for publication now — that it should contain a part instructing Members of Parliament who were members of a freemasons' lodge to include that information in the Register, as is the case in many local authorities?

That is of course a matter primarily for the Select Committee on Members' Interests and ultimately for the House.

Will my right hon. Friend find time next week to allow the right hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) to withdraw and apologise for his disgraceful attack on the Army colonel which was made under the cloak of parliamentary privilege and which has since been proved to have been false?

I do not believe that that is a matter for me. The right hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) is responsible for what he says and he will have to decide how best to deal with these matters.

Is the Leader of the House aware that I have issued a public statement today about the Queen's Dragoon Guard in which I said that, in view of the fact that the Ministry of Defence had found no evidence to substantiate the allegations, I withdraw unconditionally and apologise to the commanding officer and the regiment?

With regard to Lieutenant Colonel Macmillan, the complaint was not that he broke the regulations, as the MOD has implied. The complaint was that he fined a man £500 for having a very untidy room and another man £500 for refusing to stop his bicycle when asked and for being disorderly. I regard those fines as excessive. The charges and the fines were excessive. Nevertheless, I have said publicly that I regret naming Lieutenant Colonel Macmillan under parliamentary privilege before the allegations were checked.

There is far too much evidence not only of bullying, but of real brutality in the Army. I have made my apology in good faith, but that in no way detracts from my deep and profound concern about my evidence of bullying. I will pursue my campaign to try to eradicate bullying from the Army.

The whole House will be grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for making that apology as he may have caused serious damage as a result of what he said previously. We much appreciate his apology. However, I cannot accept what he said subsequently. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces have made the position quite clear. I do not believe that that coincides with what the right hon. Gentleman has said.

Given that this is apparently a Government of law and order, will the Leader of the House arrange for the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to make a statement as early as possible about the Post Office letter monopoly and its lack of enforcement in Coventry? Will he explain why the university, the district health authority and a number of businesses are clearly breaking the law by using a firm called Coventry Couriers which, at 10p a time, and with a frank very similar to that used by the Post Office, is delivering mail and breaking the monopoly in Coventry —or will it be like the Chancellor's wife this morning, with another blind eye being turned?

The hon. Gentleman knows full well that if he has evidence of the law being broken there are proper ways to deal with it.

Notwithstanding the reply that my right hon. Friend gave to the leader of the Liberal party, will he consider urgently the possibility of an early debate on civil air transport policy so that the Secretary of State for Transport can explain fully to the House how the Government intend to facilitate transnational mergers within Europe, avoid quasi monopolies by big airlines and maximise competition for the benefit of the travelling public?

I fully recognise the importance of those issues. However, I cannot offer an early debate on the subject. I will keep the matter in mind.

As the Government have introduced the Local Government Bill as a means of extinguishing the scope for mischief-making by the race relations industrialists in local government, why is this democratic Government now emasculating its own handiwork by bringing forward new clause 5 on the instructions of a discredited quango—the Commission for Racial Equality—when it can just as readily, with this Bill, get rid of clause 71 of the totally discredited Race Relations Act 1976?

My hon. Friend's question is more pertinent to the debate next week than to business questions.

Will the Leader of the House find ways, through the usual channels, to get the Secretary of State for Energy to issue a statement of concern about the sale of National Coal Board houses in Nottinghamshire? Currently 2,000 houses are up for sale and 3,501) ex-miners, most of whom are very old, need help and security. They fear for their future security in their homes. I do not believe that they should be made to wait by the coal board, which is refusing to sell to proper housing consortia which will look after them in their old age.

Does the Leader of the House realise that his comments on the Scottish Select Committee are disgraceful and completely unacceptable, indicating delay, dither and incompetence on the part of the usual channels? It is scarcely credible that the Labour party seems to be going along with it. What is the Leader of the House doing about Scottish Tory Back Benchers who are shirking their duty by refusing to serve on the Committee, and about ideas such as drafting in English Members when duly elected SNP Members who are willing to serve are deliberately excluded? When will this affront to Scotland be ended?

I do not consider it in any way an affront to Scotland that such matters must be considered properly and carefully. The Scottish Select Committee is an important matter. If we are to set up such a Committee which has the support of the House, we must make sure that we obtain agreement as widely as possibly throughout the House.

In the light of today's decision by the five Law Lords, which will prevent journalists from investigating insider dealing and other important matters, will the Leader of the House arrange for an early debate on the need to amend the Contempt of Court Act 1981? Does he agree that Mr. Jeremy Warner of The Independent should defy the Law Lords and not reveal his sources?

I certainly do not recommend anyone to break the law, but I have nothing else to say about the case in the House of Lords.

Is the Leader of the House aware of the early-day motion that I am tabling today—[Interruption.] He may have had notice of it. It calls for Sir Clive Whitmore, chairman of the D notice committee, to convene a meeting of that committee, and to recommend the resignation of all lie members.

Does the Leader of the House understand that the work of the committee is now totally undermined? The committee is recommending one course of action, while the Attorney-General and the Treasury Solicitor are recommending completely different courses. As there is an inconsistency and a contradiction, why cannot the matter be wrapped up in the way that has been suggested?

I do not accept what the hon. Gentleman has said. However, I can contain myself in patience until I see his early-day motion on the Order Paper.

May I return to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas)? Will the Leader of the House seek an early meeting with the Secretary of State for Social Services to see whether an Under-Secretary of State for Scotland can be a member of the Standing Committee on the Health and Medicines Bill? How can we possibly question the likely effects of the Bill on the Health Service in Scotland—as the right hon. Gentleman knows, health is dealt with separately in Scotland — unless someone with responsibility for it is on the Committee?

I have nothing to add to the answer that I gave to the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas).

Does the Leader of the House accept that many hon. Members are very concerned at the appointment of a new Comptroller and Auditor General? I do not intend to cast aspersions on any individual, but the appointment is of someone who has been very senior in defence procurement, and also has a Treasury background. Given the fight that hon. Members on both sides of the House have had to secure the independence of the Comptroller and Auditor General, will he allow his right hon. and hon. Friends a free vote after next week's debate on the appointment, so that they can decide having heard the full facts, and without pressure from the usual channels?

When the hon. Gentleman has been here a bit longer, he will know that we do not talk about whipping matters from this Dispatch Box.

The new Comptroller and Auditor General is a deputy secretary in the Ministry of Defence and has wide experience of public expenditure both in the MoD and in the Northern Ireland Office. He is an eminently suitable person to be appointed, and his appointment will be the subject of next week's debate.

In view of the unsatisfactory replies that we are receiving from the Government over the acute crisis in the National Health Service, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman, in the spirit of Christmas, whether any arrangements are being made for copies of "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens to be given to, every member of the Cabinet to read on Christmas day?

Instead of going on in the way that he does—I accept that it is in the spirit of Christmas—the hon. Gentleman should take heed of what I said to one of his hon. Friends the other day. If the hon. Gentleman looks at some of the figures published in The Guardian about spending on the National Health Service, I think that he will see that the record of the present Government is considerably better than that of the Government whom he supported.

Has the Leader of the House been informed that this morning the Act Now group, representing 40 organisations of or for disabled persons, has launched a campaign calling for the full implementation of the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act? In its main leaflet it asks why, given that Royal Assent was granted on 8 July 1986, nothing has happened 17 months later. What reply has the Leader of the House to that question —especially as he was Chief Whip at that time—and will he forgive disabled people for feeling cynical about the Government's inactivity?

In answer to the hon. Gentleman's first question, I did not know of this morning's announcement. However, I shall refer his question to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services.

Adjournment (Christmas)

4.15 pm

I remind hon. Members that on the motion for the Adjournment of the House on Friday 18 December, up to eight hon. Members may raise with Ministers subjects of their own choice. Applications should reach my office by 10 pm on Monday next. A ballot will be held on Tuesday morning, and the result will be made known as soon as possible thereafter.

Royal Assent

I have to notify the House, in accordance with the Royal Assent Act 1979, that the Queen has signified Her Royal Assent to the following Acts:

  • 1. Consolidated Fund (No. 3) Act 1987.
  • 2. Highland Region Harbours (Miscellaneous Powers) Order Confirmation Act 1987.
  • 3. Lerwick Harbour Order Confirmation Act 1987.
  • 4. Associated British Ports Act 1987.
  • Arms Control And Disarmament (Privileges And Immunities) Bill

    4.16 pm

    I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

    It is appropriate that we should be considering this Bill in what has been a very significant week for arms control, and for the development of East-West relations generally. As the House will be aware, the Bill was given its Second Reading on 22 October, and subsequently considered in Committee. The debate on 22 October and the Committee stage gave wide opportunities not only for discussion of the main provisions of the Bill, but for a wide-ranging review of arms control issues generally. I thank my colleagues on both sides of the Standing Committee for the insights and contributions that they made. I should particularly like to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, Moorlands (Mr. Knox) for his exemplary and good-humoured chairmanship of the Committee.

    I am sure that the House will not want me to cover the same ground as my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State in his speech on 22 October. However, it might be appropriate briefly to recapitulate the purposes of the Bill. I hope after that, if it is consistent with the rules of order, to say a few words about the historic agreement on the removal of the INF missiles signed in Washington on Tuesday, to explain both the main provisions of the Bill as they affect the United Kingdom and how it may be employed to give effect to the INF treaty.

    As it now stands, the Bill is intended to give effect to the outcome of last year's Stockholm conference on confidence building and disarmament in Europe. The conference called for privileges and immunities to be extended to inspectors carrying out on-site verification, and to observers invited to military exercises notified under the terms of the Stockholm document—which is itself a major confidence-building measure between East and West. We believe that it is a significant and rather underrated development.

    The United Kingdom's representatives have carried out one inspection in the German Democratic Republic this year and have observed 15 exercises since the document was signed. Eight of those observations were in Warsaw pact countries and seven in other NATO countries.

    For the first time, we had an opportunity to play host to observers from Stockholm signatory states, including all the Warsaw pact countries except Romania, during Exercise Purple Warrior in Scotland last month. The observation programme passed off smoothly and attracted compliments from East and West observers on the efficiency with which it was organised and on the commitment to openness and transparency that it demonstrated.

    The Bill provides for privileges and immunities to be conferred by Order in Council, to give effect to arrangements superseding the Stockholm document or to furthering arms control and disarmament generally—for example, the INF agreement, to which I shall return in a moment.

    The purpose of extending the Bill by Order in Council is to ensure that, so far as possible, we avoid the need for primary legislation each time there is a new arms control agreement. The verification arrangements of such agreements might involve the granting of privileges or immunities. I assure the House—I hope that I made this clear in Committee — that such extensions will be performed under the affirmative resolution procedure, which will give hon. Members a full opportunity to debate any order. I believe that that is a sensible way to proceed, and that it will reduce the administrative burden on the House.

    A number of probing amendments were tabled in Committee, the effect of which would have been to limit the granting of privileges and immunities to the Stockholm document alone and require the introduction of fresh primary legislation every time that a new arms control agreement was implemented. I am pleased that, in the light of some discussions, sponsors of the amendments agreed to withdraw them. The fact that no further amendments were tabled on Report suggests that the framework that was set out in Committee is acceptable to the House. I am glad about that, as these issues should, so far as possible, not be the subject of partisan considerations but should command the confidence of everyone.

    I should like to make one point clear. The Bill does not make any changes in the privileges and amenities that are given; they remain exactly as set out in the Diplomatic Privileges Act 1964. All it does is extend for a very brief period the category of people who are entitled to enjoy those privileges and immunities. In practice, this will have little effect on people who are here for a very short visit and very limited in numbers. For instance, under the Stockholm document, inspectors—a maximum of four per inspection team — and observers — a maximum of two per country — will enjoy, among other things, inviolability of the person, immunity from criminal jurisdiction and, with some minor exceptions, immunity from civil and administrative jurisdictions. Those privileges are enjoyed by diplomats who are currently accredited here. Many of those observing exercises in the United Kingdom — this was the case with Purple Warrior—will be service attaches accredited here. Many of the small Stockholm signatory countries send no observers at all.

    In the case of inspectors, the time limits are clearly specified in the Stockholm document, and no inspection may last for longer than 48 hours. It is envisaged that inspectors will bring auxiliary personnel, as the British inspection team did when it went to the German Democratic Republic in September. Auxiliary personnel are equated with administrative and technical staff at diplomatic missions in London and will enjoy inviolability of the person and immunity from criminal jurisdiction. Such immunities will be limited to acts performed in the course of their duties.

    In Committee, questions were asked about the hypothetical extension of the Bill to a range of potential arms control agreemens. I assured the Committee., and I repeat my assurance to the House, that at present we envisage the extension of the Bill to only the INF agreement, in so far as it affects United Kingdom territory. We intend to avail ourselves of clause 1, which provides for its application to other arms control agreements, in this respect. I am unable to tell the House precisely when we shall do that, because much will depend on the timing of the Bill's remaining stages, and other matters relating to the ratification of the INF treaty, which we hope will occur in the new year. I hope that it will be completed in time to allow an Order in Council to be tabled speedily. Indeed, we would want to table it before the treaty comes into force.

    I said earlier that the INF agreement was signed on Tuesday after much painstaking negotiation and considerable difficulty. Despite the doubts of Left and Right, which were expressed at different times, the two super-powers have achieved what their negotiators have long had in their sights — the global elimination of United States' and Soviet longer and shorter range intermediate ground-based missiles.

    While the Minister is on this subject, will he say when the INF treaty will be available to the House? Is the text available now? Has the Minister seen a copy of it, and will it be available in the Library?

    Order. Before the Minister deals with that point, may I say that I am sure that he will bear in mind that his remarks must be related to the content of the Bill. We cannot broaden the Third Reading debate into a general debate, or anything like as wide a debate as we had on Second Reading.

    On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Without intending any discourtesy to the Minister, surely what my hon. Friend has asked for is highly relevant. The Bill confers privileges and immunities on Soviet inspectors who will be coming here in fulfilment of the provisions of the treaty. If we are conferring privileges and immunities on foreign inspectors coming to Britain, to the constituency of, among others, the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson), surely we have a right to see the text of the treaty under which the Bill will confer privileges and immunities? Surely, therefore, it is highly relevant to this narrow Third Reading debate to ask to see the treaty?

    I wanted to remind the House that the debate cannot be broadened to a general debate on the treaty; it must relate to what is in the Bill. I have heard nothing out of order yet, but I thought that it might be helpful to fire a warning shot.

    The principal treaty between the Soviet Union and the United States was signed on Tuesday. The basing country agreement between the United States and Britain regarding inspections on United Kingdom territory at the two areas where missiles are deployed will be signed tomorrow. Subsequently, a document between the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union will have to be signed, whereby the Soviet Union will agree to abide by the arrangements that have been entered into, and that will not be done for some time. With regard to the first two documents, we shall make them available as soon as we have clean texts. We have copies of the text, but they are not in clean form.

    We have been kept in touch with the drafting as it has gone on, and as I have explained to the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson), all the arrangements affecting the United Kingdom had to be cleared with us before they were accepted. A clean copy of the treaty in proper form will be deposited as soon as possible. —[Interruption.] I am sorry that the hon. Member for Hamilton finds this funny. It is typical of the hon. Gentleman to start carping on a day when all of us—

    It is all very well the hon. Gentleman telling me not to be rude; it is like the kettle calling the pot black. This treaty should be a cause for rejoicing. We have no interest in keeping it a secret document, and when we have a proper copy of the text available from Washington it will be disclosed. At the moment, copies come in the form of diplomatic telegrams of a kind that we would not wish to deposit in the House of Commons. A proper copy will come very quickly, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman that there is no great secret that he needs to have uncovered.

    In a moment. I have told the right hon. Gentleman that I shall give way when I choose and not when he stands at the Dispatch Box, in breach of the rules of order of the House, and shouts at me. I shall make my point and then, if the right hon. Gentleman wishes to intervene, I shall give way—but not before.

    As we intend to introduce an Order in Council that would permit inspectors diplomatic immunities and privileges under the Bill, pursuant to their work on the INF treaty, I shall give some details of the verification arrangements as they will affect the United Kingdom, if right hon. and hon. Members on the Labour Front Bench will permit me to do so.

    Mr. Davies