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Orders Of The Day

Volume 128: debated on Tuesday 1 March 1988

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Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions)

Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [25 February],

That the draft Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Acts 1978 and 1987 (Continuance) Order 1988, which was laid before this House on 16th February, be approved: —(Mr. Tom King.]
Question again proposed.

7.30 pm

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You will remember that in the adjourned debate, the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) used a phrase in relation to me, when he said:

"He has set up many UDR men." —[Official Report, 25 February 1988; Vol. 128, c. 490.]
Subsequently, some hon. Members sought a ruling from the Chair on that statement, and I wonder whether Mr. Speaker has had time to consider the matter further. I do not expect Mr. Speaker to master the Northern Ireland vernacular totally, but he may be able to get the flavour of what the statement meant. I ask whether you would make a ruling that the statement is, to say the least, unparliamentary language, and to set down such a ruling as a precedent?

I cannot add to what Mr. Speaker said last Thursday towards the end of the debate. It is not possible to go back on points of order —they must be raised at the time—but I think I can help the hon. Gentleman. We are now resuming the debate, and I am sure that, with a little ingenuity, he will be able to raise whatever points he wishes to in the debate.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. During the resumed debate, when you were not in the chair, points of order were made and Mr. Speaker promised that he would consider the questions raised by Opposition Members on the description used of the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon).

There is nothing I can add. I have refreshed my mind—I have the point in front of me. Of course, I have discussed the matter with Mr. Speaker, and nothing can be added. I suggest to the House that it would be better if we get on with the debate, when no doubt hon. Members will be able to pick up the threads of the debate last Thursday.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The point of order will be brief, but it is of some importance. Could you advise the House on how we should proceed? As I understand it, Mr. Speaker can notify the Procedure Committee when a statement is made, as it was this afternoon on the potential takeover of British Leyland by British Aerospace, whether Ministers should notify the House of any financial interests of hon. Members, because the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) is listed in the Register of Members' Interests as the honorary adviser to the chairman of British Aerospace plc.

Hon. Members do not and cannot look through the Register of Members' Interests at the time, but if hon. Members have an interest in the subject of the statement, it would be to the advantage of the House if that were made clear in the statement. There is no Standing Order on that at the moment, but it would facilitate matters if you could draw it to the attention of the Procedure Committee that additional information is required, so that hon. Members can make a better judgment of the relationship of the Government with hon. Members such as the right hon. Member for Chingford.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. When you are referring the matter to Mr. Speaker, would you ask him during his investigations to check on what Cabinet positions were held by the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit), at the time both of the appointment of Mr. Graham Day as the chairman of the Rover Group and of the privatisation of British Aerospace, because something smells fishy?

I have noted the points raised by both hon. Gentlemen, and they have almost answered their own points. If they feel that changes are required, it is for them, not the Chair, to draw the matter to the attention of the appropriate Committee, be it the Procedure Committee when it is set up or the Select Committee on Members' Interests.

7.33 pm

With reference to your statement, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that we should pick up the threads of the debate from last week, I sincerely hope that we do not, because the Official Report shows that it turned into a semi-pantomime. When we are dealing with a very serious issue, the last thing we want to do is pick up those threads.

I do not wish to labour the point on the accusation made by the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. I. Paisley), but I have made and will continue to make public any revelations of which I am aware as to the involvement of the security forces in illegal actions. I believe it would be a dereliction of my duty if I did not do so.

The hon. Member for Antrim, North referred to two incidents which took place in my constituency. The first was the involvement of members of the UDR in the Miami Showband murders; the other was when two men were shot dead and it was subsequently verified by the police that an unmarked, unlogged UDR patrol with its numbers blacked out was in the area at the time. That was verified by the police very soon after the incident. In my constituency, four members of the UDR have been convicted of murder. It would be highly irresponsible of any public representative not to draw attention to such events when they happen.

The hon. Member for Antrim, North referred to an incident in the first Assembly, when a Unionist refused to sit with me. I am in very good company. Of late, Unionists have refused to sit with you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and with other hon. Members. They have refused to sit on district councils and with Ministers, so the accusation should be put into context. I assure the hon. Member that I can do without the type of company of which he suggests I was seriously deprived.

This is a serious debate which takes place against a background of the events—or non-events, some may say — of the past two weeks. There is an air of unreality about the debate, because the circumstances of the past four weeks have been incredible. It takes a tremendous leap of imagination to take seriously an order which has been a contributing factor to the events of the past week. The House should be aware of that unreality. I suggest that Kafka could not have written the script for the one debacle after another and the effect that that has had on morale, as well as creating resentment, frustration, anger and disillusionment in the communities of Northern Ireland.

It is not exaggerating to say that people are punch-drunk, and staggering from one body blow to another. In the past three weeks, people have seen their hopes for good law, proper justice and freedom from injustice being dashed in a way that has not been experienced before.

I have some sympathy for the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who has to cope not just with his own mistakes but with the mistakes of others. I have great sympathy for him, because he is dealing with something he inherited and over which he had no control.

We are considering the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act and the Report of Viscount Colville. He stated in the foreword that it was not his brief
"to query the philosophy behind the legislation."
That is a terrible mistake, because the philosophy behind the legislation should be examined carefully. From that philosophy have come two Bills, neither of which has contributed to peace or created stability or justice in Northern Ireland.

Many hon. Members regard the legislation as something new, something introduced in 1974 as a result of the horrific bombings in Birmingham—but it is not. The legislation is a refinement of the Special Powers Act which has existed in Northern Ireland since the day the stayte was formed until 1970, which was a refinement of the Coercion Act 1887. I could go back into history, but I will not do that. Over that period, this type of legislation has been based on false premises, on the spurious notion that if one bends the law one can enforce it—if one introduces repressive legislation, one will somehow bring about peace. That is not so. Such action will nurture, spawn and feed violence, as has so often happened in the north of Ireland.

It is also spurious to suggest that punitive action by the police, the Army or the courts, will create stability. It merely destroys and undermines it. Empiric evidence from the past 20 years, and from many years before that, going back into Irish history, shows that there is no solution down that road. There is no solution of a military type. Anyone who saw General Glover on "Panorama" last night will have been interested to hear someone who was the GOC in the North of Ireland saying what I am saying. That is why the philosophy behind the legislation is so important.

Once one begins to derogate and lower standards, corrosion starts at all levels, so we must examine all levels and say harsh things if they must be said, looking reality in the face if it is there. The highest standards in Government have been corroded. The Attorney-General's decision not to prosecute the policemen against whom there was evidence of perverting the course of justice was a profoundly damaging mistake, whose repercussions are there to be seen, in political terms, both on the ground in the North of Ireland and nationally and internationally.

What was a regional issue became a national issue when the Attorney-General rang the bell with the buzz words "public interest" and "national security".

Would my hon. Friend accept that, if the RUC had been completely open about what happened and admitted that mistakes had been made, and had identified the persons that were involved at every level — including, perhaps, even Sir John Hermon—it might have been satisfactory then to have held merely a disciplinary inquiry as opposed to a prosecution? We are trying to find out the truth, to ensure that this never happens again. The calls for prosecutions only arise because of the cover-up.

I thank the hon. Gentleman. There are two factors in this. First, six people who could have been apprehended with the use of minimum force, but who were not, and who were innocent before the law—I am old-fashioned enough to believe that everyone is innocent until proven guilty—could have been brought before the law and charged, but were killed in an unlawful manner.

Secondly, the disastrous decision of the Attorney-General not to prosecute has created a cover-up in the North of Ireland and has kept the lid on a can of worms. Those worms are squirming out around the edges and will continue to squirm until someone, somewhere down the line, has the courage to tell the truth about what happened.

I have suggested that the highest standards in Government have been corroded. What has happened to Ministers of the Government in the North of Ireland who have inherited the problem? Perhaps it is time that the Minister who was in charge of security at the time and who is now a Member of another place had the courage to go to the House of Lords to tell us what we have not been able to hear so far—the definitive position from the person who was responsible at that time for security in the North of Ireland.

The highest standards of policing and the direction and leadership of the RUC have also been corroded. People in the police service have broken the law. There is evidence that they tried to pervert the course of justice. They have been protected on the Floor of the House by the Government, and by the entire political establishment, in a way that I believe is counter-productive for the Government and the police service. Does it not seem incredible that Mr. Stalker, who was asked to investigate events in the North of Ireland, was suspended from duty for the most spurious of reasons, while the Chief Constable of the RUC, who RS under investigation by the Northern Ireland police authority, not only remains on duty but takes every opportunity of becoming a star of screen and stage. Is that not embarrassing for the people who have tried to protect him? Is it not bad for morale in his force and disastrous for people in the police service who wish to do their jobs as good coppers without this cloud hanging over their heads?

It is difficult to imagine the outcome of the inquiry by the police authority, when the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the Prime Minister have stated that they have the utmost confidence in the Chief Constable of the RUC. I know that they have to say such things at such times, but surely a little dollop of honesty would be more effective. They should realise that, by saying such things, they will pre-empt the decision made by the Northern Ireland police authority.

The highest standards of those in charge of the Army have been corroded too. I refer to the circumstances of the release of Private Thain after serving less than three years for a murder. I have beaten a path to the door of the Minister of State in the past, asking for compassion for young people caught up in the tragic events with which we have lived for so long. I take no satisfaction from what I am about to say, but we must realise how that release was perceived in the North of Ireland.

Twenty-five Republican young offenders and nine Loyalist young offenders, all of whose offences were committed before they were of age, are still in prison, and some of them are entering their 14th and 15th years of imprisonment. That is to be measured against the decision on Private Thain, and it causes us to ask certain questions. For example, is any Irishman's life worth only two and a half years in gaol? I regret to put it that way, but that is what has been said and how the release was interpreted.

On what criteria was the decision based? The first criterion should be: has the person served a length of time commensurate with the crime he committed? Those two and a half years, as opposed to the 14 or 15 I have mentioned, should make the Minister of State reach not only for his brief but for his list of young offenders and resolve to do what we have asked him to do time and again —to show the sort of compassion which alone can start to introduce some humanity to the situation in the North of Ireland.

The second important criterion is that the words of the convicting judge be taken into consideration. His words in the Thain case were not encouraging. He said clearly that Private Thain was not telling the truth and that he was unco-operative and evasive. The judge said that he did not believe the man. Yet the Home Secretary's Department, and whoever is responsible in the Ministry of Defence, have allowed the highest standards to be corroded by this type of insensitive release, and by taking that young man back into the armed forces. I regret to say—I have a lot of compassion for those who are caught up in these matters — that it was contemptuous for the court, for someone in a position of authority in the Home Office and in the Ministry of Defence to make this decision in the way that it was made.

Once the high standards are corroded, and once there are low standards in the highest of places, one is prepared to do certain things. One creates the circumstances within which the type of incident that we saw at Aughnacloy happens and it is inevitable that such incidents will happen.

We should look these matters in the face; we should not try to avoid them. In the North of Ireland, 166 people — they were not members of paramilitary groups and they had not been involved in acts of violence — have been killed by members of the security forces. That is a startling statistic, but it is ignored. Given that those 166 cases produced two convictions, one of which was of Private Thain, people such as myself can be forgiven for believing that there is a blinkered approach not only to this legislation and its implementation but to the administration of justice in the North of Ireland.

What happened at Aughnacloy will happen again. It is inevitable that young men on the streets who are put in uniform and given guns, will see the Government's disregard for the highest standards of justice; they will see the Attorney-General's disregard for the process of justice; they will see senior police officers being able to avoid the rigours of the law; they will see that the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office, irrespective of what will happen, will protect their position. They will say to themselves, "If those people can do it, why should I try to abide by the highest standards?"

The lowest standards are permeating on the ground. They are reinforced by the legislation that we propose to renew tonight. We are making it inevitable that soldiers and policemen will take their lead from their superior officers and from the decisions made on the Floor of the House, and do so in the belief that another Irishman is dispensable. They will say, "If Thain can get off, so can I; if senior police officers can do what they did and not be made to answer before the law, I surely will too."

That is the type of attitude, climate and ethos that makes those incidents possible. They make the death of someone such as Aidan McAnespie inevitable. They stem from the example that has been given from the top. We are also guilty, because tonight we shall renew the circumstances within which that climate and ethos thrive.

I referred earlier to Lord Colville's position. I regret that he did not think it worth while to look at the philosophy of this legislation. If he had, and if he had carried it through to its logical conclusion, he would have been able to say that the empirical evidence of almost 20 years is that this legislation does not create peace, prevent terrorism or create stability. All it does is create the circumstances in which we go from battle to battle on the Floor of the House and in which the confidence in and integrity of the process of justice is eroded to the extent that Northern Ireland was discussed when the Foreign Secretary visited Mr. Gorbachev in the Soviet Union. That is the extent of the corrosion that has taken place.

We shall extend that corrosion tonight. We shall renew the power of seven-day detention, despite the fact that in the Brogan case, which was heard by the European Commission of Human Rights, it was found that seven-day detention breached the convention. The Commission's recommendation was for five days' detention at the maximum. We will disregard that advice. We shall again impose the corroding standards that are permeating down.

We shall ignore the fact that, since 1975, 41,367 people have been arrested under the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978 and the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1984 without any charges being brought. We shall ignore that fact when we go through the Lobbies tonight.

Those of us who work in the North of Ireland know that the powers given by the Prevention of Terrorism Act are being used as a trawl for information. It is an easy way to take someone out of their house for questioning. In my constituency recently, a lady who was six months pregnant was put into a helicopter, taken to Gough barracks in Armagh and kept there for a day and a half. That is the easy way to discover information about somebody else. If that is not sufficient, I can give the example of another lady from my constituency who in the past two weeks was subjected to the same treatment. That is what we shall be voting for when we renew this piece of legislation.

We shall be voting for this measure despite the complete absence of any uniform legal or statutory regulations on the use of lethal force. I should have thought that, with 166 people having being killed as a result of lethal force by the security forces—people who had not been involved in any acts of violence—it was time that regulations were written into legislation and into law.

Yes, we have the judges' rules; yes, we have the code of conduct for the RUC; and, yes, we have the Army code book, but they are all secret: they are not statutory and they are not known to the public. That matter should be looked into very quickly, because I cannot see how any Government could turn their face against making that a statutory requirement. Nothing is laid down by the House in relation to it. There is a code of practice in England, Scotland and Wales, but it does not exist for a country in which 166 people have been killed.

We shall be voting for powers to stop, search, question and humiliate young people on the streets. I shall repeat the effect that that has on the community — I see it daily. Unfortunately, there seems to be no redress if one goes to the RUC or to the military. The reality of the matter is that we are giving young soldiers and young policemen the power to do just those things without reasonable suspicion. It is happening on a continuing basis. I have seen young people on the streets having to take off their coats, shoes and socks, knowing that they had been questioned half an hour previously.

I have a calling card that was left on selected cars in my constituency last night. It says:
"Boys are back in town. 40 Commando Royal Marines."
That is not a squaddie prank. Squaddies do not waste their money getting cards printed. It was officially sanctioned, and that is the type of veiled threat that has been used by people to whom we are giving these excessive powers. That is happening daily. Therefore, can one be surprised when an incident happens such as that at Aughnacloy?

Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that the printing and distribution of those cards was approved by the military authorities in Northern Ireland? Will he clarify?

I am not aware of what may come under the military authorities in the North of Ireland. However, it is logical to deduce that the cards were not printed by a young squaddie going out on duty. I am sure that a young squaddie would not waste his money on that, and in any case would not have the facilities to get such cards printed. That type of thing happens consistently. This is not the first time. I hope that the hon. Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames) is correct and that he will take this opportunity to demand of those in authority that the matter is fully investigated and that if guilt is established —as I know it will be—proper action is taken.

Tonight, we will renew the powers of the Diplock courts about which there has been much controversy. I shall confine myself to two points about those courts. First, I shall repeat the words of the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights set up by the Government to advise them:
"The wider interests of the administration of justice would be better served if there was a system of trial which inspired greater public confidence than the present method … The introduction of three-judge courts is one of the amendments to the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act which could be made without reducing the effectiveness of the legislation but which nonetheless might lead to a wider acceptability".
The views of that public body, set up by the Government, have been ignored during the controversy.

The retention of the Diplock courts system tells us something about ourselves. 1t tells us that we are prepared to settle for something that represents a serious derogation from the norm and from the highest standards. The law is much too serious a matter to leave to the lawyers. The responsibility for this law rests with hon. Members. We may or may not answer the challenge and face up to our responsibilities in deciding whether to renew the legislation.

I again ask the House to have the courage and vision to start to look for a solution that is not a military or quasi-legal solution, because there is no such solution. Let us have the vision to create a proper system of law and justice with which everybody can identify and that everybody can support. Let us have the compassion to seek a solution rather than seeking retribution. It is only through justice that we can create peace, and peace is the only foundation on which a lasting solution can be based. We shall never go down that road—the only road by which we can succeed—until we start to re-examine the philosophy behind this legislation.

8.2 pm

Early in his speech, the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) said that he believed that someone is innocent until proved guilty. He then proceeded to pronounce 40 Royal Marine commandos guilty. Having had some rather undistinguished service in the Corps of Royal Marines, I resent that, and I look forward to hearing from the Minister that there will be a proper inquiry. It seems equally possible that someone could have printed those cards with the purpose of discrediting this fine unit of the armed forces of the Crown.

The hon. Gentleman does not wish the emergency powers to be renewed. It is a defect of our Northern Ireland legislation that we cannot amend the Acts. The hon. Gentleman criticised some of the provisions and the way in which they are operated. It is a pity that he cannot table amendments for us to discuss. However, when the Republic of Ireland cannot dispense with the Offences Against the State Act, which is emergency legislation, it seems self-evident that there has to be emergency legislation in Northern Ireland. After all, the Irish Republic has not yet—I say "not yet"—felt the full fury of terrorist attack, while Northern Ireland has.

As the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh said, the debate has been overshadowed by the Stalker affair and by recent difficulties with Dublin. The Sun newspaper is better known for its insight into the female form than for its insight into international politics, but I agree with the leader writer in The Sun who said that the Anglo-Irish Agreement is part of the problem. I also commend the letter of Senator Mary Robinson in today's edition of The Independent.

I had the pleasure to correspond with Senator Mary Robinson shortly after she had resigned from her party, with considable courage, because she considered that the Anglo-Irish Agreement was unfair to the Unionist majority. It is, indeed, a grievous and unequal treaty.

The right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) and I are at one in desiring to improve relations between the Governments and the peoples through a reciprocal treaty that admits not the interference of another Government in a province of the United Kingdom, but the discussion of the totality of relationships between the two sovereign states. It is sometimes argued for the Anglo-Irish Agreement that it enables Ministers and other politicians to dispense with megaphone diplomacy. I believe that the Anglo-Irish Agreement has simply provided an amplifier for the megaphone.

We have a common travel area with the Irish Republic and indeed with all the British Isles and we ought to have a common security area, too. It is time that there was an end to petty objections from either side when a squiggly border is crossed or air space traversed in pursuit of the common enemy.

The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh mentioned Private Thain. Concern has been expressed about his release and return to his regiment. I agree with Father Denis Faul that the decision in this case is to be praised. Father Faul has been a stern and courageous opponent of all terrorism. On 27 March 1987, he said that it was a mortal sin to be an active member of the Provisional IRA. He also makes no secret of widespread Roman Catholic support for the Union, although not for Unionist parties. However, he has regularly attacked the security forces for alleged excesses and, like the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh, has no love for the powers that the House is being asked to renew.

Father Faul, in applauding the decision on Private Thain, returned to the case that he has frequently made — and that the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh and others have made — for the release on licence of young people imprisoned for terrorist offences who, having learnt a bitter lesson, wish only to start a new life free of the terrorist oppressor. I commend that view to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State at whose pleasure many such young people are now detained.

I completely agree with the hon. Gentleman's sentiments. However, the Thain case is not the only case. It is a matter of record that someone known as Colonel Callan, among other things, who was subsequently executed in Angola, was sentenced in 1972, while a member of the British Army in Northern Ireland, to 10 years for armed robbery and released after 18 months. Would the hon. Gentleman address his mind to that?

I should be glad to address my mind to it, but I am afraid that I cannot provide any useful information now. I shall certainly have a look at the case.

As for "Stalker-Sampson", as they call it, my opinion, for what it is worth, is that there was never any question of criminal prosecution. The hon. Gentleman describes Sir John Hermon as a star of stage and screen. I did not wish to make any criticism of Mr. Stalker until I heard the hon. Gentleman say that, but I should have thought that the description might be better applied to Mr. Stalker. I did not think that it was very edifying to see him signing copies of his book in Dublin.

No less valuable than Mr. Stalker's book is Peter Taylor's book "Stalker: The Search for the Truth", published last year, well before the Attorney-General's decision. Basing himself on what the Labour Attorney-General Sir Hartley Shawcross—now Lord Shawcross— said in 1951, Mr. Taylor envisaged that the Attorney-General might decide that the effects of trial in court on "public morale and order" would render prosecutions unwise in the public interest.

Bad policemen must be rooted out, but the morale of the police is of supreme importance. It is also vital to protect the lives of informants, and with them the lives of many others.

Mr. Taylor is the man who, when he produced a film for BBC's "Panorama", seemed confident that there was a conspiracy to shut Stalker up. Then he did more research, and concluded that there was no such plot. He confirmed that view in a letter to The Guardian on 2 February 1987, in which he wrote:
"Had the authorities wished to kill off the Stalker enquiry, they would not have breathed fresh life into it by handing it over to Colin Sampson who carried on where Stalker had left off and reached almost identical conclusions. Nor would the Attorney-General have admitted in his statement to the House of Commons that there was evidence to warrant the prosecution of police officers."
To those in the House and outside who have been impressed by Mr. Stalker's literary activities, I commend the contribution of Peter Taylor, written not with hindsight but with prescience. What matters now, however, is to close as quickly as possible, with proper and searching investigation, a distressing chapter in the history of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Some of its present critics, Nationalist as well as Unionist, were glad to praise that gallant and indispensable force when its members showed themselves—despite attacks on themselves and their families—bravely impartial between orange and green. Much has changed, and changed for the better, since 1982.

8.13 pm

I strongly concur with what the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison) has just said about the need for the Minister of State to take a careful look at some of the people who are languishing in the Maze, McGilligan and the other prisons in Northern Ireland, and who may have been placed in those prisons when they were very young. I have been making representations directly to the Minister about the case of one Protestant paramilitary, Noel Hillen, and I am grateful to the Minister for the replies that he has sent. So far, however, those replies, while they have been carefully worded, have not given any hope to the prisoner. Although he has renounced violence, and is prepared to work and to put his efforts into reconciliation in the community, sadly he cannot be released to achieve that.

There is plenty of evidence that people who have been released from goal in Northern Ireland are prepared to work for peace. I saw one just two weeks ago in Derry, Liam McCloskey, who is working for reconciliation in that community. He was a member of the INLA and spent 55 days on hunger strike after Bobby Sands. He renounced violence, became a Christian, and is now committed to bringing about reconciliation and trying to work for peace through non-violence in that divided community. I think that there is a strong case for early prison sentence reviews and the Minister should listen to the views on it recorded by both sides of the House.

Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that, if those men had been of age when they were tried, they would have done their time and would now be out of prison? It seems hardly fair that someone who happened to be under age, no matter what his religion or conviction, is not even given a date for his release. That causes grave hardship both to him and to his parents.

Does the hon. Gentlman not think that the Northern Ireland Office, having been asked by those on both sides of the religious divide to look at the matter from a purely humanitarian point of view, should take cognisance of that fact?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his helpful comments. He has made a good point about those who are under age. Some of the prisoners, of course, will have been over age when the were committed to goal, but even so, some will be relatively young. People can change. Surely, for the future, we must wean people away from violence, and people on both sides of the community must put every effort into that.

We come to this debate the day after an illuminating "Panorama" programme on television in which General Sir James Glover, the former head of intelligence and commander of the British Army in Ulster, said:
"In no way can or will the Provisional IRA ever be defeated militarily. The Army's role has been now for some time … to help create the conditions whereby a full democratic, peaceful, political solution can be achieved."
I am sure that he is right. The future must be bound up with justice, with politics and with reconciliation being created by decisions made in this place, and also by those in the Dail in Dublin.

I am also certain that the future must lie in closer cooperation. Although I agreed with what the hon. Member for Epping Forest said about the need for closer security co-operation, our objectives must go deeper than that: a recognition that both North and South of the border, and across the Irish sea, there will be much more that binds us together than common, collective security.

It is inevitable that the security issue will, however, be much in our minds at present. I hope that the Minister will say something about Sir John Hermon's announcement yesterday that SAM 7s— surface to air missiles—have reached the island of Ireland from sources in Libya. Clearly, it is a matter of major concern that missiles are available that could destroy British helicopters and change the whole security position in Northern Ireland. I think that the House is entitled to know what action is being taken collectively by the British and Irish Governments and the security services to ensure that everything possible is being done to prevent their use.

It is a staggering thought, but since its creation in 1921 there has not been a time when Northern Ireland has been without some form of internal legislation which would not be acceptable in the rest of the United Kingdom. The emergency laws under discussion tonight were first introduced in 1973. I do not believe that there will come a time when Northern Ireland will be without emergency powers until there is a clear appreciation of the link between justice and security, and an acceptance that the only gainers from petty arguments and ridiculous territorial disputes are the paramilitaries.

The columnist Hugo Young put it very well when he wrote recently:
"Are these large, ongoing incursions into British liberties justified as indispensable to British security? I think I'm entitled to the opinion that they are not, without being blackened as a procurer of murder or a friend of the vilest enemy."
I agree with that. Anyone who dares to state the mildest criticism about the use of emergency powers, or about the prevention of terrorism legislation, seems invariably to be labelled as being on the side of the paramilitaries. It is not a question of that. It is simply that many see that the only way in which people will be weaned away from violence is for the link between justice and security to be strongly asserted.

This debate is taking place against the backdrop of five serious events that have devastated British-Irish relations and jeopardised the future development of joint initiatives and closer relations: the Stalker-Sampson inquiry, the Birmingham Six decision, the making permanent of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1974, the killing of Aidan McAnespie, which led to the Irish Government establishing a separate inquiry, and the release of Private Ian Thain, already referred to in this debate, after serving just three years following his conviction for murder.

Those five events add up to a devastating litany of failure, insensitivity and ham-fistedness. Many of those criticisms are not directed at the existing Government Front Bench. However, there has been a great deal of insensitivity in the way in which events have been handled, although many of them are undoubtedly, as the hon. Member for Newry and Arrnagh (Mr. Mallon) has said, time-expired. No one should underestimate just how seriously those events have set back the cause of reconciliation and co-existence.

There are one or two matters that I wish to raise with the Minister arising out of those incidents. First let us consider the Stalker-Sampson inquiry. Last week, during the first part of this adjourned debate, the Secretary of State took exception to the expression, "shoot-to-kill policy". Outside this House, that phrase is used again and again.

Two weeks ago, I met Sir John Hermon and asked about the allegations concerning the shoot-to-kill policy. I specifically asked him about the hay shed outside Lurgan on Ballyneery Road where, in November 1982, some of the shootings took place. I asked Sir John—I would like to ask the Minister again tonight—who placed the listening devices in that shed? What was recorded during the incident? Who removed them, and who gave the orders for the tape to be subsequently destroyed? Therein lies the key to the truth and about whether or not there was a shoot-to-kill policy.

I am prepared to believe Sir John Hermon, but how can anyone know where the truth lies until we know who gave the orders to destroy the tape? If the fault lies with the security services, that should be out in the open. That is the only way in which Sir John Hermon's name can be cleared and the reputation of the RUC restored.

I understand—perhaps the Minister can confirm this— that such tapes are always destroyed, under standing orders to that effect.

I hope that the Minister will confirm that tonight. However, in such circumstances, given the sensitivities involved and the knowledge that there could be prosecutions, I am amazed that those tapes were destroyed. If that is the case, surely such Government policy should be reviewed.

Sir John Hermon has taken a lot of criticism throughout, but I believe that he brings skill and determination to the most difficult policing situation in Europe. He has endeavoured to strip the RUC of every last vestige of sectarianism. Sir John simply will not do — any more than John Stalker — as a convenient scapegoat. The blame, I believe, clearly lies with the security forces and the relationships that existed between those forces and the RUC five years ago. Indeed, one of the validations of the Anglo-Irish Agreement is that I do not believe that what happened then could happen now, and I fully accept that what the Secretary of State told us last week was true.

Yet it will not do for Government Ministers to hide behind weasel words such as "the national interest." National interest amounts to many things — the relationship between ourselves and the Irish Government, our security interests on the border and the confidence that the minority community in Northern Ireland has in the RUC. If the minority do not feel any sense of confidence, how can they be expected to join the RUC?

I have pressed the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh about this on many occasions. I want to see more people from the minority community joining and supporting the RUC. However, until the RUC is seen to be totally impartial in its policing policies and its name cleared in the aftermath of the Stalker-Sampson inquiry, it is unrealistic to expect the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh to say to the minority part of the community that they should join the RUC now.

Arising out of the Stalker-Sampson affair, I believe that we need a Select Committee with investigative powers or a judicial inquiry, consisting perhaps of Privy Councillors. We smugly gloat when we hear about incidents such as Irangate in the United States, as though it could not happen here. Mistakes happen in any democracy, but our mechanisms for dealing with such mistakes are woefully inadequate. We need to improve our accountability and the mechanisms that deal with complaints to ensure that the truth comes out.

I met Sir John Hermon for the first time about five years ago. I asked him why it was not possible to attract more Roman Catholics into the RUC. He said that it was his objective to do so, but that he should make it clear that in Northern Ireland there are Catholics, Protestants and the RUC. He said that he would continue to do all that he could to strip away any sense of sectarianism from the RUC. The way in which the RUC dealt with the events in Portadown last year is evidence that the RUC is impartial. However, a shadow hangs over its reputation.

Following my discussions with Sir John, he admitted to me that the behaviour of his men was "unconscionable" in the aftermath of the events at Lurgan. There must be recognition that faults lie across a broad spectrum, and it would be wrong if all the blame were laid at Sir John's door. A Select Committee inquiry could establish where the blame should lie.

For the future, when RUC officers are killed in Northern Ireland, I believe that it would be appropriate —I have said this to the Irish Government and I hope that other hon. Members will press for this — that Gardai, in uniform, should attend such funerals. When Catholic members of the RUC have been killed I should like to see senior members of the Catholic clergy present.

That would make it clear that the RUC has the full support of those who have high clerical positions in Northern Ireland.

I believe it was wrong, for instance, in the case of the Liverpool bar murder, that there was no senior Catholic churchman present, and I have raised that matter with Cardinal Fiaich. I shall also keep on pressing that solidarity should be shown between the RUC and the Garda.

I believe that there should be a stronger Nationalist presence on the police authority. The hon. Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison) mentioned Father Faul, and I can think of no better person. He would be someone who would safeguard the nationalist interest and yet would be likely to be beyond the guns of the IRA.

During Prime Minister's Question Time today, I was disappointed that the Prime Minister was not prepared to accept the need to consider the idea of a joint security commission. I believe that we could consolidate the Anglo-Irish Agreement by considering how we could work closer together on a whole range of issues. A joint security commission would be a start.

The Diplock courts should be replaced, perhaps with courts initially sitting just outside the Northern Ireland jurisdiction. Eventually we could have mixed courts North and South of the border trying terrorist cases together and that would demonstrate our joint resolve and determina-tion to deal with terrorism. Another way of underpinning the Anglo-Irish Agreement would be the establishment of the parliamentary tier, which has been spoken of for so long, but has still not happened. That would be a good way of bringing politicians together from all parts of these islands, so that some of the old animosity, fear and hatred could be broken down.

It is difficult to realise that it is less than four months since Enniskillen when there was a genuine spirit—the spirit of Gordon Wilson —of forgiveness and reconcilia-tion. That spirit has been squandered by this series of mind-boggling blunders. The prize must surely be to push the paramilitaries on to the margins and to ensure that Ireland's future does not consist merely of worn-out slogans, abusive rhetoric and more talk of victors and vanquished.

Confidence and security are the sisters of democracy and justice—they are never the relations of revenge or political one-upmanship. Confidence and security must be our clear objectives and in turn they depend on how we are seen to administer justice.

My colleague, Dr. John Alderdice, the leader of the Alliance party in Northern Ireland, said to me earlier today:
"The series of mishaps, misadventures and misfortunes in the administration of Northern Ireland and, the conduct of Anglo-Irish relations over the past few weeks has been causing concern about the Government's handling of the situation. It is now giving way to a sense of alarm."
British policy must consist of not the endless renewal of emergency provisions, but of a long-term political strategy clearly agreed and supported by Irish and British, Nationalists and Unionists alike.

8.29 pm

May I first thank the Leader of the House publicly for arranging, in response to the vigorous demands made last Thursday, for the debate to continue today.

The order highlights the fact that the Province is in a less than equal position with the rest of the United Kingdom. The order cannot be amended or changed in any way by Parliament. It has to be accepted or rejected in its entirety. It reminds hon. Members, if they need reminding—sad to say, some of them do—that the cruel campaign of terrorism continues to crucify the people of Ulster regardless of their religion, because terrorism strikes at Protestants and at Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland, deliberately or by accident.

The most recent terrorist atrocity that received national and international attention was the massacre at Enniskillen on Remembrance Sunday. Of course, other terrorist killings, mutilations and destruction have occurred since then; they are all part of the pattern of the past 20 years.

Some months ago the Secretary of State issued a grave warning that the IRA intended to mount a fresh horrendous campaign of terrorism against the people of Northern Ireland. Despite the obscene killings, and the grave warning issued by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to the Ulster people, this is, as far as I am aware, the first debate on security in the Province since then.

However, the debate is limited to the terms of the order and is taking place only because the order has to be renewed and the Government have to table it. I am sure that people in Northern Ireland wonder about the extent of the Government's commitment to defeating terrorism in Northern Ireland. I am sure that they have come to the conclusion that the Northern Ireland Office does not wish to put its record of the battle against terrorism in Northern Ireland under parliamentary scrutiny.

Certainly the security situation is no better than it was last year, the year before or indeed, since the Stormont Parliament was destroyed by the then Government at Westminster in an attempt to placate the opponents of a British Ulster. Of course I am surprised that this debate, which is important for every man, woman and child in Northern Ireland, has been attended by so few hon. Members. The largest number of hon. Members present at any one time has amounted to about a dozen and a half. If proceedings in the Chamber were televised, the people of Northern Ireland would be shocked at the lack of interest in Northern Ireland and in the lives of the people of Ulster and the security forces in Northern Ireland.

Undoubtedly, the situation is grave because the campaign of terrorism has gone on for 20 years, and the Government should answer for that. In addition, the situation has changed because the Provisional IRA has acquired sophisticated weapons. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) referred to the possibility of SAM missiles being in possession of the IRA. The IRA has the new impact grenade referred to on Thursday during the first part of the debate. That grenade is able to penetrate 6 in. of steel. Therefore, the security forces are now vulnerable when travelling around in their vehicles, which, until the introduction of the impact grenade, gave them a reasonable degree of safety. The SAM missiles are a frightening change in the situation.

I wonder whether the Government can provide some information about the amount of arms that the IRA has brought from Libya. The GOC in Northern Ireland apparently announced on television last night that the British Army cannot defeat the Provisional IRA. What does that do to the morale of the people of Ulster and the security forces in Northern Ireland?

Insufficient credit is given to ordinary people in Northern Ireland, who have shown remarkable restraint despite the vicious campaign that has taken the lives of so many people. They have faced the betrayal of the Anglo-Irish Agreement that was entered into behind their backs and without prior consultation.

The normality that exists in the Province is surprising. I only wish that more people would come to Northern Ireland and see for themselves the indomitable spirit of the people, share their humour and enjoy their hospitality. I wish that more hon. Members from all parts of the House would visit Northern Ireland—I know that some hon. Members have been there—and speak to the police, the soldiers, the people and the representatives of the different constitutional parties. They would then be in a better position to assess the situation.

Sadly, Northern Ireland is facing not only a battle with terrorists, whoever they may be, although the principal terrorist organisation is the Provisional IRA. Northern Ireland also has to face the hostility of the media. With a few honourable exceptions, the media are not fair in their presentation of the situation in Northern Ireland or of the Ulster majority which believes in honesty, justice and fair play, no matter what has been said by the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon).

The media adopt that hostile attitude to Northern Ireland partly because of the skill of the Provisional IRA, which has a superb, sophisticated propaganda machine, working all the time in Great Britain and abroad, particularly in the United States. That propaganda campaign is threefold. It aims to raise money to buy more arms for the IRA, to make other people and Governments bring influence to bear on the British Government, and to demoralise the British people and weaken the resolve of Parliament and Government.

Of course, as part of that campaign, whenever a terrorist is arrested it is alleged that he was beaten up; whenever a confession is made, it is alleged that it was made under pressure; and whenever a conviction is obtained, there are allegations that witnesses have lied or that the court was biased because it was British.

It is further argued that if all the measures introduced to restrain and defeat the Provisional IRA and other terrorists were abandoned, the IRA would not be provoked into committing murders and bombing. I do not believe that the IRA or any other terrorists are lily white. If the police, the Army and the UDR were to disappear overnight, the IRA and other terrorists would not become as the driven snow. Such arguments are naive in the extreme and demonstrate the success of the IRA progaganda battle.

The IRA wants to limit the activities of the security forces, to put shackles on them and make them easier to defeat, to kill and to mutilate. I cannot accept that possibility, because, as a democratic society, we must do everything possible to ensure that every power is given to the security forces so that they defeat the forces of evil.

In the debate on Thursday, the Prime Minister was attacked by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) for showing "truculence" in her statement of support for the security forces. I see nothing wrong in the strength of her observations about the security forces. In the last war, it would have been regarded as a heroic statement. If she had made the same remarks at the Dispatch Box in the last war she would have been greeted in the same way that Winston Churchill was greeted for giving a lead, for inspiring the people and for helping the people along in a difficult situation. Yes, she has every right to back the security forces to the hilt.

I deeply regret that not every hon. Member gives the same unqualified support to the RUC, the men and women of the Ulster Defence Regiment and the young soldiers serving in the Regular Army. I may have been disappointed that the Prime Minister allowed herself to be talked into the Anglo-Eire Agreement, but I resent the attack on her patriotism and support for the security forces.

This is a sombre time for everyone in Northern Ireland. I hope that when hon. Members speak they will think carefully, because their words will be taken up and repeated in Northern Ireland and may provide the IRA with an excuse, if it needs one, for taking further action against members of the security forces.

The speech of the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh depressed me. I was not surprised, but, none the less, I was depressed. At no time does he or his party call on the Nationalist people of Northern Ireland to give full and unequivocal support to the RUC, the UDR and the Regular Army. That attitude, let me emphasise, is not prompted by anything that has happened in the past for days, weeks or months. It is an attitude which has been maintained for decades. It is no use referring to what may have happened in Aughnacloy or anywhere else, because, unfortunately, the divide is there. Again, I shall welcome the day when constitutional politicians will be able to work together to provide and to help security in Northern Ireland and to protect everybody in the Province.

I understand that the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh wishes, as indeed every member of the SDLP does, to take Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom against the wishes of the majority of the people in Northern Ireland, and to put it fully and squarely in the Irish Republic. That is his position, but let him make it clear that that is his position.

It would be churlish indeed if I did not respond to the hon. Gentleman's points. We give our support to the police in impartially enforcing the law. That is a reasonable position for anyone to take. I should inform the hon. Gentleman that I do not give unequivocal support to anything or anybody. My support for anything, and my allegiance to anything, must be constrained by the fact that that to which I give support acts in the proper way.

On the hon. Gentleman's second point, I can assure him without any doubt that my political ambition — my political aspiration — is to see the reunification in Northern Ireland by peaceful means and by agreement, not, as he wrongly suggests, contrary to the wishes of any section of the people in Ireland. That is an honourable political position to take. That is my position and I would expect the hon. Gentleman to respect its legitimacy and to do so now.

Before the hon. Gentleman interrupted, I had already shown that I accepted his attitude on the existence of Northern Ireland. He wants to take it out of the United Kingdom. That is it, fairly and squarely.

As to the hon. Gentleman's point about the security forces, one cannot pick and choose. One either supports the security forces or does not support them. One does not back the police when they are striking the heads of Loyalists who are engaging in some demonstration but oppose them when they are doing that to the Nationalist community.

Everyone in the community should respect the security forces and the police who have a difficult job to do. We should all tell the people in the community that they should back the police, join them and the UDR and defeat the terrorists who are a threat to everybody in Northern Ireland. They are certainly a threat to the existence of the next generation.

The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh said that the events in Northern Ireland — I hope that I quote him correctly—made the death of Mr. McAnespie inevitable. I do not believe that Mr. McAnespie's death was inevitable. What happened in Aughnacloy is to be deeply regretted. I hate to see the death of any man, woman or child anywhere in the world, and certainly in Northern Ireland. But the young soldier has said—

I shall give way in a moment.

The young soldier has said that it was an accident, and public comment by anyone, certainly by politicians, should await the verdict of a properly constituted court of law, sitting in the United Kingdom where we take pride in the standards of the judiciary.

The consequences of a cruel campaign of obscene terrorism are inevitable in Northern Ireland. Without the vicious killings of the IRA, there would have been no death at Aughnacloy. It is ridiculous in the extreme for the hon. Gentleman to produce a card in the House this evening which, allegedly, was from 40 Commando Royal Marines, although I do not have a note of the words that he alleges are in the card. The hon. Gentleman believes that it comes from 40 Commando Royal Marines. He alleges not only that it comes from them, but that it had been sent with official approval. That is an appalling allegation to make against anyone. I know many hon. Members who have served in the Royal Marines. It is an honourable regiment. Anyone could have printed that card. The IRA could have printed it and sent it to the hon. Gentleman.

I receive many nasty and obscene letters. Some are signed by people declaring themselves to be strong Loyalist clergymen. The wording would not make one believe that such letters came from a clergyman. Therefore, I do not automatically believe that they have come from any clergyman — Protestant, Loyalist or anybody else. What the hon. Gentleman said is naive and dangerous because the IRA can now pick out a member of 40 Commando Royal Marines and kill him for his "sectarian" attitude, or political attitude to a representative of the Nationalist community in Northern Ireland. That is the sad situation that we see in Northern Ireland.

I have been asked to bring my remarks to a close, so I shall not give way.

More than 250 members of the RUC have been murdered by terrorists. They would not have died but for the terrorist campaign. UDR members have been murdered. Members of the Regular Army have been murdered. I remember two young brothers, about 17 years old, who were taken out of Belfast 15 or 18 years ago, made to kneel down and shot in the head by the IRA. I do not think that those two brothers, who came from England, should be forgotten. I do not think that we should forget anybody who has died in Northern Ireland. Their sacrifices must not be in vain. We must defeat terrorism in Northern Ireland, but I accept also that we must make political progress. We must never give up hope that we can make progress.

Order. The winding-up speeches are expected to begin at about 9.20 pm. Many hon. Members still wish to speak, so I appeal for very brief contributions.

8.50 pm

I shall certainly conform to your wishes, Mr. Deputy Speaker. High-handedness on the part of the British has always been a standing threat to Anglo-Irish relations, and it is that high-handedness that I wish to address now, in what has become a wide-ranging debate.

At the time when the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed, one of the most important changes from the Government's point of view was that it seemed to promise a more equal relationship. As a result, British Ministers would become aware, through a process of consultation, of the repercussions that their words and actions might have on Irish public opinion. Much of this was due to the quality of the officials involved on both sides. That is why the recent serious breakdown in diplomacy is so disturbing and so puzzling.

There is no doubt who is responsible. There is a quite striking sympathy for Ireland's case, and in particular for Mr. Haughey, across a wide spectrum of British political and media opinion. I am excepting, of course, the gutter press.

London and Dublin have just passed through probably the worst passage in their relationship since the early 1970s. Yet, according to The Daily Telegraph yesterday week,
"Mr. Haughey … did nothing to make matters worse". The Times, on a day in the previous week, took the same view, saying:
"To his great credit, Mr. Haughey has gone to some lengths to avoid making the tensions worse."
The Taoiseach set out a position in the debate in Dail Eireann a fortnight ago which clearly reflected the belief that he and his Government hold the high moral ground. The London Government's performance has been a sorry accumulation of ineptitude, insensitivity and incomprehension in assessment of Irish reaction—matched, I regret to say, by that of a small number, happily fast diminishing, of Conservative Members.

There are two main questions. Why have the British behaved so badly? And how do we restore a relationship with Dublin that had become informed with common purpose and mutual trust? Let us look at the main issues—extradition arrangements and Mr. Stalker.

On the question of implementing the extradition arrangements, the London Government are wrong and have behaved badly. As The Daily Telegraph pointed out on 22 February:
"It could make a start by meeting Dublin halfway on the provision of evidence to back up extradition warrants for terrorist suspects. Britain requires such evidence from other countries, so it is hardly surprising if the Republic expects it from us."
If there are practical difficulties, they should have been addressed within the Anglo-Irish Conference or on a bilateral basis between the two Attorneys-General.

On the question of the Stalker affair, in 1982, as The Times of yesterday week put it:
"something went wrong—and it took 5½ years for any minister of the British Government to admit it publicly."
To suggest that RUC personnel engaged in an official or unofficial shoot-to-kill policy should merely be disciplined was to make a nonsense of the rule of law. If RUC men were not prosecuted, it would be difficult for a long time to believe that the law was being justly applied in Northern Ireland. The decision of Mr. McAnespie's family to request the exhumation of his body for further investigation can only reflect a growing disenchantment with the rule of law in Northern Ireland.

How deafening the silence of Sir John Hermon on the substance of Mr. Stalker's allegations has now become. Soon after the book was published, the RUC issued a terse statement denying that a shoot-to-kill policy had ever existed or that it had ever obstructed Mr. Stalker's inquiry into its affairs. At the time, journalists in Belfast were given to understand that there would be a detailed rebuttal of what the RUC believed were "gross" distortions and inaccuracies in Mr. Stalker's account of what had happened. To date, this has not been forthcoming. Instead, there have been vague leaks to the effect that nobody in the RUC trusted Mr. Stalker and that was why they did not talk to him.

Former Taoiseach Dr. Garret FitzGerald, one of the architects of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, speaking in that Dail Eireann debate, said that it was difficult to avoid the conclusion that they were faced with the consequences of muddle and confusion within the British Government. He reminded us in the House of Commons of the assurances that his Government in Dublin received as late as the end of 1986 that there were would be prosecutions as a result of the Stalker report. Dr. FitzGerald said that the London Government now had a duty to do all in its power to minimise the damage done and to restore confidence.

It will not be easy to restore that confidence while tragedies like the shooting of the young Aughnacloy Catholic continue to occur, not to mention the reports of his harassment over a long period.

At least 160 civilians, as the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) has reminded the House, have been killed with either lead or plastic bullets by the British Army, the RUC and the UDR in Northern Ireland in the past 19 years. In that time, only one serving soldier, Private Ian Thain, who has now been released after serving three and a half years of a life sentence — this needs to be impressed upon the House — and unbelievably is now back in the Army, was convicted of murder in the course of duty. I have to say to the Minister on the Front Bench, and it gives me no personal satisfaction to do so, that I cannot conceive of this even being considered by the Ministry of Defence in Her Majesty's Government a decade ago.

It also needs to be borne in mind that it has tended to be the poorest sections of the Catholic population whose members, young and old, including children, have borne the brunt of the British Army's attacks on civilians— [Interruption.] Well, they are all there on record. There can be no doubt in the mind of any hon. Member who is familiar with the Northern Ireland scene—

Of course, and they are to be equally deplored, if not more so.

But, in the face of such extreme provocation, let the House also not forget the gains. The Government have taken two years or more of the most intense Loyalist reaction. The RUC has stood firm on the streets. The Secretary of State has stood firm against the leaders of Unionism, who tried to break the agreement, which instead, finally and successfully, broke their veto. The Maryfield secretariat is in place and is working, with its system of monitoring and checking the work of the security forces on the ground.

The agreement holds. Security co-operation is not in question. What is at risk, unhappily, is the sense of trust and common purpose between the two Governments—the spirit in which the agreement was born and from which everything, especially our hopes, have flowed. Much influential opinion in Britain is on Ireland's side. What is important now is that Irish and British Ministers jointly effect a rescue of what remains by way of good faith and co-operation, and in that the onus is clearly on the House.

Although there was, as the Irish Deputy Prime Minister put it, every evidence of healing at the meeting that was held in Dublin last Wednesday with the Secretary of State, both will need to employ all their experience and skill before the trust and confidence essential to a sound relationship are restored. If the case for repairing the damage to Anglo-Irish relations had still to be made, it was done by the discovery of two substantial arms dumps in Ireland during the last week. The discoveries underline Britain's folly in risking a breakdown in co-operation.

Most of all, the Government must break out of their practice of seeing the agreement almost exclusively in security terms and ignoring both the spirit of the pact and the generosity underlying it on both sides, as well as the many imaginative possibilities it offers to both Governments to help create better understanding between these islands and on the island of Ireland.

9 pm

The first part of the debate on the order last Thursday was marked by an unmerited attack on my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister by the shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. It is correct to say that my right hon. Friend takes a keen interest and a keen pride in the Royal Ulster Constabulary, in the Ulster Defence Regiment and in the British Army in Northern Ireland, and rightly so. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State is a former Minister for the Armed Forces. He knows, as I know, that that interest and that pride of the Prime Minister are a source of encouragement to those whose task it is to protect the innocent and pursue the guilty in Ulster.

In moving the approval of the order, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that he wanted to deal with
"the wider issues and the present scene in Northern Ireland." —[Official Report, 25 February 1988; Vol. 128, c. 473.]
Like my right hon. Friend, I regret the need to ask the House to approve the order. Like him, I agree that in the present circumstances the renewal of the order is necessary. Like him, I wish that the circumstances were different.

There is in Northern Ireland today an atmosphere of great uncertainty and instability. Certainty and stability are the enemies of the terrorist. Uncertainty and instability are his friends. These evils have two manifestations at present—first, in our relations with the Government of the Irish Republic and, secondly, in the Province itself. It is to those two manifestations that I want to address my speech.

As to our relations with the Irish Republic, the preamble to the Anglo-Irish Agreement refers to the unique relationship between our two peoples and the close co-operation between our two countries, acting as friendly neighbours and as partners in the European Community. I endorse those statements. They are an echo of the words of the communiquè issued after the Anglo-Irish summit four years previously. That communiquè, issued on 6 November 1981, referred to
"the unique character of the relationship between the two countries."
The Anglo-Irish Agreement marked a dramatic change of policy. Ever since it was signed two and a quarter years ago, it has been interpreted differently in London and in Dublin. That is a grievous flaw in any agreement, and it is fatal when dealing with Ireland. On the day the agreement was signed, the Irish Minister for Justice claimed that the agreement meant that the Republic had been given a continuing and substantial role in the day-to-day running of Northern Ireland. It was a claim that was instantly rejected by the Secretary of State. From that basic difference of interpretation, with the Irish Government mindful of their parliamentary and domestic audience and the Secretary of State mindful of his, highly publicised differences between London and Dublin have flowed.

Does my hon. Friend share my astonishment that the Republic of Ireland should feel that the British Government are able to dictate to the judiciary or to the Director of Public Prosecutions what progress or action they would like to see in any particular case? Does he agree that that is a horrifying feature of the events of the past few weeks?

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend, and I shall deal with that point a little later.

Inevitably, disagreements have flowed from the day when the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed, and nothing, save the ending of the agreement in its present form, can put an end to continuing highly publicised differences.

Let me illustrate what I mean. London believes—in my opinion, rightly—that the extradition arrangements with the Republic, in respect of those suspected of terrorist offences, are less satisfactory than with any of the other 10 states of the Community, despite the Anglo-Irish Agreement and an especially close common interest in cleansing the islands of Ireland and of Great Britain of the evil of terrorism.

The Republic made representations to Her Majesty's Government, asking that there should be three judges and not one in the Diplock courts, despite the fact that we had already examined that proposal exhaustively and the fact that any person convicted by a Diplock court has the automatic right to go to three judges in the Court of Appeal. Moreover, the Republic appeared to link the number of judges with the arrangements for extradition.

More recently, the Republic has given the impression that it should have been consulted before the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland decided that there should be no prosecutions following his study of the Stalker-Sampson report. As the director did not consult the British Government, it is strange to suggest that he should consult the Government of a foreign power, yet that was precisely what was suggested.

Then we were told that there was considerable disquiet among senior Ministers in Dublin, including the Minister of Justice, at the decision of our Court of Appeal, presided over by the Lord Chief Justice, which upheld unanimously the unanimous decision of the jury some years earlier.

Following the tragic shooting at Aughnacloy on 22 February, the Irish Government ordered their own inquiry, even though he who fired the shot and he who was so tragically killed were both in the United Kingdom and even though the Army and the police in the United Kingdom were both carrying out urgent and thorough inquiries. Even last Wednesday's communiquè, following the most recent meeting of the Inter-governmental Conference, resulted in embarrassing disagreement about interpretation.

Each of those episodes was predictable and predicted. They are a foretaste of what is to come. That is in no way surprising, because the agreement gave the Irish Government the right to put forward views and proposals about political, security and legal matters, including the administration of justice. Article 8 provides:
"The Conference shall deal with issues of concern to both countries relating to the enforcement of the criminal law."
Those who fashioned the agreement did so in good faith. They genuinely believed that the agreement would lead to improved relations between Dublin and London. The reverse has been the case. Troubled relations between Dublin and London are bad for Ulster. However, another belief was also held in good faith by the aúthors of the agreement — that it would lead to peace, stability and reconciliation in the Province and hasten the day when there would be no need for such orders to come before the House.

I now turn to Northern Ireland itself. One advantage claimed for the agreement is that it has resulted and will result in closer cross-border co-operation between the security forces in both countries. That close co-operation is greatly to be desired. However, there is an unpleasant corollary to that argument. If the Republic had not been given the right to put forward views and proposals about the way in which Northern Ireland should be governed, its Government, army and Garda would not have given the same co-operation in what many people, including myself, believe to be an overriding duty of all civilised Governments, namely to do their utmost to protect all our people against terrorism.

Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State seemed to agree with that when he said in the House last Thursday, in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Latham), who had asked about the agreement:
"Perhaps he"—
that is, my hon. Friend—
"could explain to me how we are likely to do better in border security if we do not co-operate closely with the Government of the Irish Republic. … the closest co-operation with the Government of the Irish Republic is absolutely essential."—[Official Report, 25 February 1988; Vol. 128, c. 427.]
I agree with my right hon. Friend, but was he really telling the House that the agreement was necessary to gain the co-operation?

I remind my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, who is to reply, that there is the closest cross-border co-operation in the fight to defeat Basque terrorism between France and Spain. No Franco-Spanish agreement exists whereby France has the right to put forward views and proposals about how the Basque territory should be governed.

The agreement gave the Republic responsibility for representing Nationalists in their dealings with the British Government, over the heads of the three SDLP Members of this House. The agreement has alienated the majority, without reconciling the minority.

Article 4(b) states:
"It is the declared policy of the United Kingdom Government that responsibility in respect of certain matters within the powers of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland should be devolved within Northern Ireland on a basis that would secure widespread acceptance throughout the community. The Irish Government support that policy."
Twenty-seven months, and more, have elapsed since the agreement was signed. My right hon. Friend knows that he is not one step — not even half a step — closer to achieving what he then said was his purpose. If a policy objective is unattainable, and since we are on earth and not in heaven, it is the duty of those engaged in politics to strive for that which is attainable.

I have heard no protest from the Irish Government about the way in which Irish citizens living in London, Liverpool or Glasgow are treated by Her Majesty's Government. The complaint relates to the way in which Irish citizens living in the Province or British citizens described in the agreement as members of "the minority community" are treated.

Very well, the remedy is at hand. I agree with the Irish Government that Nationalists in Northern Ireland are treated unfairly and differently from Nationalists in Wales, Scotland, London, Liverpool or Glasgow. It is possible to treat Nationalists in Northern Ireland and Unionists in Northern Ireland in the same way as we treat citizens of this kingdom living in Scotland, Wales or England.

There is no reason why we should deny to Northern Ireland alone a county council or a regional council. Why should only the 1·5 million of the Queen's subjects living in Northern Ireland be denied that right to elect a county or regional council—a right which is taken for granted in Great Britain? Why is it that those duties which fall upon district councils in England, in Scotland and in Wales are not conferred upon the 26 district councils in Northern Ireland? Why is it that the representatives of those who live in Northern Ireland are denied the right to amend proposed legislation which affects the Province?

We should legislate for Northern Ireland in the same way as we legislate for the rest of the kingdom. Constitutional Nationalists in Northern Ireland deserve, and have the right, to be protected under a just law. Their right should be respected and acknowledged, just as the right of the Unionists is respected and acknowledged.

I said that certainty and stability were the enemies of terrorism. We would the better be able to restore certainty and stability in the Province if we were to say unequivocally that, while honouring, acknowledging and respecting constitutional nationalism, we shall henceforth govern Northern Ireland in a way that more closely conforms to the way in which we govern the rest of the kingdom. If such a policy were to be followed, it would offer the best opportunity, the best hope, of discontinuing debates of this kind on emergency legislation.

9.16 pm

Will the debate go on only to 9.20 pm, Mr. Speaker? How long have I got?

A number of other hon. Gentlemen wish to speak. If the hon. Gentleman could bear that in mind, it would be very helpful. I understand that the Front Bench spokesman will seek to rise at half past 9.

I will not take quite as long as the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow). I shall reorganise slightly what I was going to say, because I want to refer to the hon. Gentleman's curious belief that the troubles in Ireland began with the Anglo-Irish Agreement. He spent his entire speech labouring that one point.

It is, of course, absolute nonsense. The fact is that the enemy of terrorism is democracy — and there was no democracy for the minority community in Northern Ireland. The terrorists battened on the lack of democracy, especially on the part of the Democratic Unionist Members who did not understand, and still do not understand, and who want to go back to the old Stormont. [Interruption.] Despite the interruptions of Democratic Unionist Members, I want to make a contribution. I never intruded on anyone else's speech.

The hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) said something at the beginning which commended itself to me. He is a Catholic, and he was trying to help a paramilitary of the Protestants. There is a lesson here for all of us; the hon. Gentleman believes in justice and not in sectariansism. So do I. I have a very Catholic Irish name, but I am not a Catholic. I did not go to Ireland until I was nearly 50 and I have taken no lively part in the struggle. But some of us at some time must do what we can to make it clear that we are struggling on behalf of a particular grouping, not just for the interests of that grouping, but to obtain peace in Northern Ireland. I believe in a united Ireland — I always have — and I believe that the lack of democracy which drew a line round an in-built Protestant majority community caused all this trouble.

I should like to put a hypothesis. If a powerful imperialist Ireland had attacked England, occupied it and, when the time came to withdraw after hundreds of years of struggle, suddenly decided that there was a powerful Irish community in Lancashire and had drawn a line round it and, not content with that, wanted to make it even harder and had drawn another line to make sure that that community remained there, and had then added Lancashire onto that imperialist Ireland and said that it was part of Ireland, what do we think the English would be doing?

The emergency provisions, not the Anglo-Irish Agreement, have caused all the trouble. I abstained from supporting that agreement until I was sure that I felt good about what was happening, which I now do. I am sorry that the Government have done so many things in the past few weeks which have provoked the struggle over that agreement.

The Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Acts of 1978 and 1987 were unnecessary. I feel sad that a Labour Government brought them in, because there was enough law to handle the existing position. It did not need those draconian measures, which have helped the terrorists. There is confusion about what is in the emergency provisions Act and what is in the Prevention of Terrorism Act, after what has happened to the six people from Birmingham.

Viscount Colville said in the first paragraph of his review:
"New ideas, new information and a scrutiny of each provision would facilitate a more effective discussion."
Viscount Colville recommended no changes whatsoever. He said, in effect, "I believe that the solution to the problem is political." His terms of reference were
"to report on the way the legislation has been applied over the previous year and to draw attention to any of the temporary provisions which safely might be allowed to lapse."
But he did not point to anything that should be allowed to lapse. In his report, which he said was hurried, he said:
"the invitation for written submissions coincides with Christmas and the New Year. The predictable result on this occasion has been a meagre response to the invitation."
The events in Northern Ireland of recent days show that the position is as serious as it has ever been. It was getting better, but the Stalker-Sampson affair has soured relations with the Irish Republic and the refusal to prosecute certain leading members of the RUC has strengthened the terrorists, who ask whether that is British justice.

The aftermath of Enniskillen lingers on, and the recent killing of Mr. McAnespie has deepened the position. Private Thain's release was insensitive, piled on what had happened to the Birmingham six and the killing of Mr. McAnespie. It is natural that people in Ireland wonder whether there is any justice, when the British Government have been so insensitive. They should be ashamed of themselves for deepening the position, which was already bad. It is difficult to separate the two Acts.

The Baker report of 1986 set out all the details in a much larger report than that of Viscount Colville. The report said that it was restating section 8 of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978 to exclude confessions. There is a difference of opinion about whether the Birmingham six were guilty. The judges—it was not a Diplock court, but three judges without a jury, on appeal —made it clear that they took not the slightest notice of the men having been beaten up in prison. There were pictures on record of the faces of the men who had been beaten up in gaol. How can we say that confessions of people who have been beaten can be allowed as evidence? The Baker report made that recommendation, but it has still not been accepted; nor are many other recommendations.

Many of us believe that the emergency provisions Act and the Prevention of Terrorism Act are stopping justice and are causing terrorism. It is sad that not one of the hon. Members who was elected last year is present in the Chamber.

Every time this melancholy renewal comes up—it is to be indefinite, even though it is only for a year now— some of the Unionists never admit that they ever did anything wrong. They never say that what they did caused all this. Until they say something like that and admit to the lack of democracy in Northern Ireland for the minority community— there is an in-built majority where there should not have been one — there is no hope for the united Ireland that I want or for the peace of Ireland and the British people, who are also suffering.

It is in everyone's interests that the whole of Britain and Northern and Southern Ireland should come together and cross the sectarian divide. I began by saying that the hon. Member for Mossley Hill had tried to do that. I want to do that and I want to hear the Unionists saying that they want to as well, and do not want to go back to the old, undemocratic Stormont. Is there any hope of that?

9.26 pm

Tonight we have heard a verbal onslaught from the hon. Members for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) and for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon). It proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that no matter what concession the Government give Republicans and their representatives, the latter will take it, kick the Government in the mouth—and then start to demand more. We listened to the hon. Member for Hillsborough blaming my colleagues and me for the lack of democracy in Northern Ireland. If he were intelligent enough, he would know that his facts are wrong. None of my colleagues were ever in government in Northern Ireland and to blame us for something for which we had no responsibility shows the hon. Gentleman's ignorance. We were the official Opposition—

The hon. Gentleman lacks knowledge of the situation, but usually blows his mouth off about it nevertheless.

I have listened with interest to everything said tonight. I have yet to hear the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh, or the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) or some other hon. Members condemn the brutal murder of two UDR men the other day. They mentioned McAnespie, but said not one word about the two members of the Ulster Defence Regiment who were blown to pieces. Of course, some hon. Members might find that funny and exciting, but we in Northern Ireland take their statements about wanting to cross the sectarian divide with a pinch of salt. We shall carefully study their remarks in the House tonight; nothing in them will give anyone who believes in democracy any hope.

What is expected: that the Unionists will surrender every right, as the majority, to remain part of the United Kingdom? That may please certain hon. Members, but the majority in Northern Ireland, no matter what the carrot held out before them—gold or otherwise—are members of the United Kingdom and desire to remain full members of it. I heard the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh talking about a lady being taken away to one of the barracks and obtaining information on terrorists.

I remind the House that I could take hon. Members to a home in the Crumlin road in Belfast from which a young UDR man was taken out by the Provisional IRA. Barbed wire was put on his arms, which were behind his back; his tongue was cut out of his mouth and a gun put into it, and the back of his throat was shot out by the IRA. Is that justice? Instead of condemning the Provisional IRA, we hear a few wee words whenever a challenge is made by Unionist Members to SDLP Members. It may be thought that Sinn Fein is absent from the Chamber, but, having listened to the debate tonight, in scriptural terms, the voice may be the voice of the SDLP, but the hands that moved tonight were clearly those of Sinn Fein.

The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh said — I took down his words—that he was
"old-fashioned enough to believe that everyone is innocent before proven guilty."
Those were his words. He went on to enlighten the House and he produced a little card. He said that it had been produced by the 40 Commando Royal Marines. There is no evidence whatsoever of that. He believes that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. He told the House— it will be in Hansard—that the boys of the marines had come back to his constituency and he told us of the threat to hi s constituency. It could be that the 40 Commando of the Royal Marines printed those cards, but the SDLP, Sinn Fein or the IRA could have printed them. The marines are innocent until proven guilty. However, that is not what the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh wants. He wants them to be found guilty whether they are guilty or not.

The House should condemn the disgraceful and despicable act of the cardinal in Northern Ireland who tried, condemned and sentenced a young British soldier in front of his congregation, to whip up the fervour of Republican nationalism. He stood before that congregation and said that that young soldier had committed murder. That was the statement of a Sinn Fein cardinal. We may be able to take that cardinal out of Crossmaglen, but we cannot take Crossmaglen out of that cardinal.

The House is being asked to accept that a young soldier who is doing his duty does not have a right to a fair trial. Opposition Members are not interested in a fair trial. They would put him on a rope if they could. That is the type of justice that they want for young British soldiers, young UDR men and young RUC members.

Hon. Members should learn that nothing will satisfy the IRA except the removal of everyone who is British from Northern Ireland. I should like to read on to the record a short letter from a pensioner in Northern Ireland. It says:
"I was disgusted listening to Mr. Hume and Mr. Mallon, also their comrades in the South of Ireland about this 'shoot to kill'.
Shooting a young Christian girl, coming out of church. Was this not 'shoot to kill'? Going into a church and shooting the preacher, and members of the congregation gathered to 'praise the Lord'."
Was that not shoot to kill? It continues:
"Shooting three young policemen sitting in their car."
Was that not shoot to kill?

Perhaps the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh has forgotten that one evening nine members of the RUC were blown to bits by an IRA bomb in Newry. In that case, there were no calls for an inquiry. It was not said that the incident was worthy of an inquiry. Innocent men, because of the plan of an IRA man, were ushered into eternity The letter continues:
"Shooting a judge and his daughter coming out of Mass."
Was that not shoot to kill? It continues:
"Luring three young soldiers to a fake party on the Antrim Road and shooting them in cold blood"
through the back of the mouth. Was that not shoot to kill? It continues:
"What about the innocent people of La Mon; the Abercorn; Oxford Street; Donegall Street and many others?"
Was that not shoot to kill? Hon. Members must face the suffering of innocent people in Northern Ireland. I condemn the killing of any innocent victim in the Province, whether Protestant or Roman Catholic.

The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh had better tell the whole United Kingdom, the House and everyone listening that the IRA does not care whether a person is Protestant or Roman Catholic, religious or irreligious. If he stands in the way of the IRA, if he believes in being British or if he wants Ulster to remain part of the United Kingdom and in a democracy, that is enough for the IRA to sign his death warrant. No judge or jury sits in those trials; a bunch of murderous scum sit in a back room and decide that a man's life must end.

We should speak of reality. When I listen to the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh trying to portray policemen on the rampage shooting everyone in sight—160-odd innocent civilians killed — I am driven to ask him: "What about my own loved ones?" Were they responsible? A 16-year-old lad went out in the car with his 21-year-old sister who was engaged to be married. She wanted to show him the engagement ring on her finger. Was that enough for them to be blown up and put in a coffin—the two of them in one night?

Am I supposed to stand back and listen to all the tripe pumped out against the security forces? I have walked behind the coffins of those in the security forces. I challenge the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh to tell the House how many policemen's coffins he has walked behind, to how many policemen's widows he has given succour, to how many UDR men's young lads or lasses he has offered his genuine sympathy or walked with to the grave.

The SDLP has not done that. Instead, in the past few days, the leader of the SDLP has sat down with the leader of the murderers, Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams. He sat down in collusion with him. That was their second meeting and they are now deciding on a third. Has that stopped the killing? Not at all.

That is not the purpose of the meetings. Their purpose is to extract every possible concession from the Government. I say to Ministers that it is about time that they felt for the young lads and for the young UDR men and policemen. I trust that they will show their sympathy and go along to talk to the families to find out how they feel about being robbed of their loved ones.

In my constituency, not one Minister from the Northern Ireland Office has ever walked through the door of the family of a member of the security forces brutally done to death or offered his sympathy in person to those who have suffered so tragically all these years. The Minister shakes his head. I invite him to tell the House how many homes he has visited to speak to widows and orphans of members of the security forces and when. When did he last go along to follow a coffin to the grave? Those are the realities in Northern Ireland.

Whether a person is Protestant or Roman Catholic, life is precious, and we should defend the people's right to live. However, there is a murderous group in Northern Ireland that does not care who one is and is intent on destroying democracy. It is intent on destroying this House. If the IRA could get here, it would do that. Indeed, the IRA tried to destroy part of this building. When the IRA tries to destroy Her Majesty's Ministers, my life does not count for much.

I beg the House to renew the powers but also to do something else—to allow the security forces to destroy the terrorists. The Prime Minister told me that her policy was to eradicate terrorism. That is her statement and I agree with her. I feel passionately about it. I am asking the House when we shall get the murders stopped in Northern Ireland and when the people of Ulster will get around a table to talk about a future that will bring peace and stability to all our citizens.

9.40 pm

The House recognises that the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea) feels very passionately about these issues. However, the House should also know that he entered into an agreement, after my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) had shortened his remarks, that he would do the same. If my arithmetic is correct, he spoke for 12 minutes. I accept that it was passion that carried him away, just as it was passion and the power of tongues that carried away his hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) on Thursday of last week.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I made it clear to the House last Thursday why I spoke. I spoke to obtain justice for those who represent the Northern Ireland people in the House, and to obtain time for them to speak. Let me put it on the record—

Order. The hon. Gentleman is speaking on a point of order, and I do not think that he can put anything on the record during a point of order unless it is something that I can answer.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it right for a representative of the Leader of the House to come to an hon. Member, as he did to me, promise that the debate would finish at 11.30 pm and then move that it finish at 10 pm? That promise was made to all Unionist Members, and that is why some of them do not rise in their places. They were promised that the debate would go on until 11.30 pm.

I know nothing of that. All I know is that the House passed a motion that the debate should end at 10 pm.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The House is grateful to the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) for obtaining an extension of the debate. A concession was made allowing the debate to be extended this week.

There has been a degree of unanimity among Opposition Members, particularly on two issues. The first is the usefulness of, and the need to continue, the Anglo-Irish Agreement. We urge the Minister, the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister to ignore the words of despair of the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) and to seek to ensure that when renewal of the agreement comes about, agreement is reached betwen Her Majesty's Government and the Government in Dublin.

The second main area of concern, and I think unanimity, results from the early release of Private Thain, the soldier found guilty of murder some years ago. It is felt that the compassion shown in that case should be extended to many of the other young people in Northern Ireland who have been caught up in the troubles over the past 20 years, have been convicted, and are now serving long sentences. If there is to be an even-handed approach, it is only fair and equitable — and, in my view, morally correct—that the Government should show them the same compassion.

All of us wish to see peace in the North of Ireland. We are all democrats in the House, despite the comments thrown backwards and forwards across the Chamber tonight. It is in none of our interests to see terrorists succeed in bringing about political change through the use of violence, which we all condemn as a political weapon. It is also right to recognise, however, that terrorism cannot be defeated by reciprocal violence alone; the conditions that breed and secure terrorism must also be removed.

We are driven to the conclusion that security policy alone will not defeat terrorism. If we are to defeat it, both communities in the North must feel secure in the knowledge that the practice of rule of law will be objective and even-handed.

In addition, political institutions must be developed which both communities perceive as fair, and not as recreating the old prejudices.

Economic activity must be encouraged, as the present high levels of unemployment do much to institutionalise economic discrimination against the minority community. We believe that political and economic policies, are as important as, if not more important than, security policy in the search for lasting peace in Northern Ireland.

I should like to quote the words of the Secretary of State, because the Official Opposition's views on security coincide with what he said in 1986:
"Our strategy is to fight terrorism within the law. We want the most effective and vigorous action, but we believe that it must always be within the law. That is morally right. Any alternative will be bound ultimately to be counter-productive. It is the responsibility of the police, who lead in the fight against terrorism, to bring people to justice before the courts. Our aim and ambition is that the laws under which the courts will operate are fair and must comply with international standards of human and civil rights. Against the background of terrorism and the difficulties that that causes, the courts must diverge as little as possible from the ordinary law. It is vital to maintain the confidence of both communities in the institution of justice and we must do all that we can to ensure equal rights and remove grievances if they are fairly demonstrated, thus further to isolate the men of violence". —[Official Report, 16 December 1986; Vol. 107, c. 1082.]
That succinctly states the Opposition's views on the strategy towards violence.

We believe that the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Acts 1978 and 1987 have failed to meet those laudable objectives in certain important particulars. Those failings were enunciated by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara), the shadow Secretary of State, last Thursday, and for that reason we shall vote against the renewal order.

9.47 pm

I am extremely sorry to learn from the hon. Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall) that the Opposition will vote against this extremely important order tonight at a time of a serious security threat in the province.

What should be uppermost in the mind of every right hon. and hon. Member of this House is that, right now in Northern Ireland, we face a threat to security and to life which is as serious as any that has arisen in the past 20 years. Anyone who had any doubt about that from the information that is available in the public domain will have had those doubts dispelled by the BBC "Panorama" programme last night.

There is no question about the seriousness of the threat. It has been made absolutely clear by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, by myself, by the Irish Minister for Justice and by the Chief Constable of the RUC. We face an extremely serious threat in the Province at the present time. That threat and its seriousness have been vividly and visibly demonstrated in recent weeks by the massive finds of weapons, ammunitions and explosives on both sides of the border. Against that background, I believe that it is deeply regrettable and reprehensible that the Official Opposition should be voting against the order tonight.

The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) referred to the tragic events that took place last week with the murder of two UDR soldiers. He asked for an investigation into the circumstances in which the bomb was placed behind a hoarding. My hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces will be writing to him about that matter.

The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) questioned the philosophy behind the emergency powers legislation. He referred to what was said in the "Panorama" programme last night by General Sir James Glover— that there was no military solution to the problems that we face in the Province. This Government and preceding Governments have said that many times. Indeed, it has been reflected in the policies followed by successive Governments, to try to improve the political climate in the Province. The whole process of breaking down discrimination in housing and in employment, trying to increase confidence in community relations, the security forces and the administration of justice, has been part and parcel of what we have been seeking to do.

Just as it is wrong to say that the problems of the Province can be resolved by purely military solutions, I must say absolutely clearly that anybody who thinks that political actions alone will solve the problems of the Province does not recognise the nature and the threat represented by the Provisional IRA. As my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison) acutely pointed out, even in the South, in the Republic, there is unique legislation that is not generally paralleled in other Western democracies, in recognition of the particular threat represented by the provisional IRA.

In view of the time, I would be grateful if the hon. Member would let me continue. He referred to the cards which apparently have been found on cars in his constituency.

As the hon. Gentleman says, cards have been found on selected cars and they state:

"Boys are back in town: 40 Commando Royal Marines"
I share the concern expressed by other hon. Members that the hon. Gentleman, in response to an intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames), should have said that, in his view, those cards had been officially produced by military authority. I believe that there is absolutely no basis for saying that at present. However, I can tell him that the matter is under full investigation by the commanding officer of the unit concerned, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman might at least reserve judgment until that investigation is concluded.

My hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest and the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) expressed sympathy with those who had committed very serious offences very young. I must say to the House that the age at which an offence is committed is very much taken into account by the life sentence review board and by Ministers in considering release dates. Certainly I can assure the House of that.

I would also like to draw the attention of the House, and those hon. Members who were not present, to what my right hon. Friend said in answer to questions last week. I can assure hon. Members that that is a matter which we take very seriously.

The hon. Member for Mossley Hill made a comment that I would very much like to support. He made a plea that senior members of the ecclesiastical hierarchy — both Protestants and Catholics — should be willing to appear and be seen to be supportive at funerals involving members of the security forces of denominations other than their own. I very much share that sentiment. I also endorse what the hon. Member for Mossley Hill said about the importance of making certain that the Northern Ireland police authority included representatives from the minority community. I can assure him that there are some representatives already on that authority, and I fully endorse what he said about the importance of that.

The hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) referred to the extradition issue, which has certainly not been problem-free. But I can tell him that meetings will take place shortly and I hope that the initial difficulties that have been encountered in giving practical effect to the legislation passed by the Irish Government will be sorted out.

I said that we face a serious position on the security front, and I want to underline that. The find of weapons and explosives by the Garda in January in Donegal was the largest ever find in the Republic. The RUC's arms find in February in a lorry just outside Belfast was one of the largest that it has ever made. The RUC's finds of explosives last year were two and a half times larger than the year before, and the Malahide find last week was one of the largest finds of commercial explosives ever made either in Northern Ireland or the Republic.

Those finds, which the House will recognise are greatly to the credit of the security forces on both sides of the border, included huge quantities of ammunition, potent explosives, automatic rifles, rocket launchers and machine guns. The hon. Member for Mossley Hill and my hon. Friend the Member for North Down (Mr. Kilfedder) asked about SAM 7 missiles. I can tell the House that we assume that SAM 7 missiles are in the island of Ireland, although, as the House knows, they have not yet been located.

There is no doubt that, if such weapons and explosives are brought into use by the terrorists, there will be a serious position and a potentially serious loss of life. It is imperative that searches continue with great intensity on both sides of the border. I want to stress to the House that the legislation before us tonight includes vitally needed stop-and-search powers for the security forces. At a time when there is such an imperative need to locate the remainder of the supplies that have been brought in to the island of Ireland, it would be madness, and totally irresponsible, to contemplate a reduction of the powers of search at the present time.

I very much regret that doubts have been cast on the integrity of individual members of the RUC; indeed, in one or two cases, on the integrity of the force as a whole. The position is clear. As has been well acknowledged, and the DPP has concluded, there is evidence of the commission of offences relating to perverting the course of justice. My right hon. Friend has announced how the disciplinary aspects of that matter will be handled. Those disciplinary aspects should now be allowed to take their course. The integrity of the RUC as a whole should not be slurred, nor should the position of individual officers be called into question before any disciplinary proceedings have been concluded, and, indeed, before there has been any official announcement about the individuals concerned. In those circumstances, it is wrong to cast doubt on the integrity of the force as a whole.

In the last remaining moments, let me refer to the importance of the continuation order. I hope that, before we vote, the House fully understands that what is at stake in this continuation order is whether the security forces in Northern Ireland will retain or be deprived of powers that are critical to their ability to combat terrorism. The Opposition have said that they are committed to the fight against terrorism, and one takes what they say at face value. I can only say that to reduce the powers of the security forces at the same time would be an extraordinary way to fight terrorism.

If this continuation order is not passed, the security forces are going to lose their special powers of arrest, their powers of search and their power to stop and question. The Opposition are also going to make a very serious dent in our ability to deal with racketeering and other offences. I believe that it is essential, therefore, that the continuation order is passed, and I ask the House to endorse it.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 233, Noes 134.

Division No. 202]

[10 pm


Alexander, RichardBowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelBowis, John
Allason, RupertBraine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard
Amess, DavidBrandon-Bravo, Martin
Amos, AlanBrazier, Julian
Arbuthnot, JamesBright, Graham
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)
Ashby, DavidBrowne, John (Winchester)
Aspinwall, JackBruce, Ian (Dorset South)
Atkins, RobertBuchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)Buck, Sir Antony
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)Budgen, Nicholas
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Burns, Simon
Batiste, SpencerButcher, John
Bellingham, HenryButler, Chris
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)Butterfill, John
Benyon, W.Carlisle, John, (Luton N)
Biggs-Davison, Sir JohnCarlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Blackburn, Dr John G.Carttiss, Michael
Boscawen, Hon RobertChalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda
Boswell, TimChannon, Rt Hon Paul
Bottomley, PeterChapman, Sydney

Chope, ChristopherJackson, Robert
Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)Jones, Robert B (Herts W)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Colvin, MichaelKellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Conway, DerekKey, Robert
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)Kilfedder, James
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Cope, JohnKnapman, Roger
Couchman, JamesKnight, Greg (Derby North)
Cran, JamesKnight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Currie, Mrs EdwinaKnowles, Michael
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)Knox, David
Davis, David (Boothferry)Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Day, StephenLawrence, Ivan
Devlin, TimLee, John (Pendle)
Dickens, GeoffreyLeigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesLennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Dover, DenLilley, Peter
Dunn, BobLloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Durant, TonyLord, Michael
Dykes, HughLuce, Rt Hon Richard
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)Lyell, Sir Nicholas
Evennett, DavidMcCrea, Rev William
Fairbairn, NicholasMacfarlane, Sir Neil
Fallon, MichaelMacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Farr, Sir JohnMaclean, David
Favell, TonyMcLoughlin, Patrick
Fenner, Dame PeggyMcNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)Madel, David
Fookes, Miss JanetMalins, Humfrey
Forman, NigelMans, Keith
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Forth, EricMarshall, Michael (Arundel)
Fox, Sir MarcusMartin, David (Portsmouth S)
Franks, CecilMaude, Hon Francis
Freeman, RogerMayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
French, DouglasMiller, Hal
Gale, RogerMills, Iain
Garel-Jones, TristanMiscampbell, Norman
Gill, ChristopherMitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Goodhart, Sir PhilipMitchell, David (Hants NW)
Goodson-Wickes, Dr CharlesMoate, Roger
Gow, IanMonro, Sir Hector
Gower, Sir RaymondMontgomery, Sir Fergus
Greenway, John (Ryedale)Morris, M (N'hampton S)
Gregory, ConalMoynihan, Hon Colin
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)Needham, Richard
Grist, IanNelson, Anthony
Ground, PatrickNeubert, Michael
Gummer, Rt Hon John SelwynNewton, Rt Hon Tony
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)Nicholls, Patrick
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Hanley, JeremyOppenheim, Phillip
Hannam, JohnPage, Richard
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')Paice, James
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)Paisley, Rev Ian
Harris, DavidPatnick, Irvine
Haselhurst, AlanPatten, Chris (Bath)
Hawkins, ChristopherPattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Hayes, JerryPawsey, James
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir BarneyPorter, David (Waveney)
Hayward, RobertPowell, William (Corby)
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)Price, Sir David
Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)Raffan, Keith
Hind, KennethRaison, Rt Hon Timothy
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)Redwood, John
Holt, RichardRhodes James, Robert
Hordern, Sir PeterRhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Howard, MichaelRiddick, Graham
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Hunt, David (Wirral W)Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)Rossi, Sir Hugh
Hurd, Rt Hon DouglasRumbold, Mrs Angela
Irvine, MichaelRyder, Richard
Jack, MichaelSayeed, Jonathan

Shaw, David (Dover)Townend, John (Bridlington)
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)Tracey, Richard
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')Tredinnick, David
Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)Twinn, Dr Ian
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)Waddington, Rt Hon David
Shersby, MichaelWakeham, Rt Hon John
Sims, RogerWheeler, John
Soames, Hon NicholasWiddecombe, Ann
Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)Wilshire, David
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)Wood, Timothy
Stanley, Rt Hon JohnYoung, Sir George (Acton)
Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Stokes, JohnTellers for the Ayes:
Tebbit, Rt Hon NormanMr. David Lightbown and
Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)Mr. Stephen Dorrell.
Thurnham, Peter


Adams, Allen (Paisley N)Holland, Stuart
Allen, GrahamHome Robertson, John
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Hood, Jimmy
Battle, JohnHowarth, George (Knowsley N)
Beckett, MargaretHughes, John (Coventry NE)
Benn, Rt Hon TonyIllsley, Eric
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)Ingram, Adam
Blunkett, DavidJanner, Greville
Boateng, PaulJones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Boyes, RolandKaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Bradley, KeithLamond, James
Bray, Dr JeremyLeadbitter, Ted
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)Leighton, Ron
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Buckley, George J.Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Caborn, RichardLoyden, Eddie
Campbell-Savours, D. N.McAllion, John
Canavan, DennisMcAvoy, Thomas
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)McCartney, Ian
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)McFall, John
Clay, BobMcKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Clelland, DavidMcLeish, Henry
Clwyd, Mrs AnnMcNamara, Kevin
Cohen, HarryMcWilliam, John
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)Madden, Max
Cook, Robin (Livingston)Marion, Mrs Alice
Corbett, RobinMallon, Seamus
Corbyn, JeremyMarshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Cousins, JimMartin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Cryer, BobMartlew, Eric
Cummings, JohnMaxton, John
Cunningham, Dr JohnMeale, Alan
Dalyell, TamMichael, Alun
Darling, AlistairMichie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)Moonie, Dr Lewis
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)Morgan, Rhodri
Dewar, DonaldMorley, Elliott
Dixon, DonMorris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Doran, FrankMullin, Chris
Duffy, A. E. P.Murphy, Paul
Dunnachie, JimmyNellist, Dave
Eastham, KenO'Brien, William
Evans, John (St Helens N)Patchett, Terry
Fatchett, DerekPike, Peter L.
Fisher, MarkPowell, Ray (Ogmore)
Flannery, MartinPrimarolo, Dawn
Foster, DerekQuin, Ms Joyce
Foulkes, GeorgeRedmond, Martin
Fraser, JohnRichardson, Jo
Fyfe, MariaRooker, Jeff
Galbraith, SamRoss, Ernie (Dundee W)
Godman, Dr Norman A.Rowlands, Ted
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)Salmond, Alex
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)Short, Clare
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)Skinner, Dennis
Grocott, BruceSmith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Hardy, PeterSoley, Clive
Harman, Ms HarrietSpearing, Nigel
Haynes, FrankSteinberg, Gerry
Heffer, Eric S.Strang, Gavin
Hinchliffe, DavidTaylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)Vaz, Keith

Wall, PatWorthington, Tony
Walley, JoanWray, Jimmy
Wigley, DafyddYoung, David (Bolton SE)
Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Wilson, BrianTellers for the Noes;
Winnick, DavidMr. Robert N. Wareing and
Wise, Mrs AudreyMrs. Llin Golding.

Question accordingly agreed to.


That the draft Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Acts 1978 and 1987 (Continuance) Order 1988, which was laid before this House on 16th February, be approved.

Northern Ireland (Appropriation)

10.12 pm

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I want to intervene on behalf of my hon. Friends. As we were denied in the previous debate the time promised to us to discuss life-and-death issues, we are not prepared to present a charade to the House that everything is normal in Northern Ireland. The Minister can address other hon. Members, but we shall not take any part in that charade.

10.13 pm

I beg to move,

That the draft Appropriation (Northern Ireland) Order 1988, which was laid before this House on 10th February, be approved.
The order is being made under paragraph 1 of schedule 1 to the Northern Ireland Act 1974. The order has two purposes. The first is to authorise the expenditure of some £76 million, included in the 1987–88 Spring Supplementary Estimates. That amount, when added to the £3,447 million previously approved by the House, brings the total Estimates provision for Northern Ireland Departments to some £3,523 million for this financial year. [Interruption.]

Order. I ask hon. Members who are not participating in the debate to leave quietly.

The second purpose of the order is to authorise Vote-on-Account expenditure of some £1,598 million for 1988–89. That amount is necessary to enable Government services to continue until the 1988–89 Main Estimates are debated later this year. Full details of all the expenditure sought in the order are set out in the "Northern Ireland Spring Supplementary Estimates 1987–88" and the 1988–89 "Statement of Sums Required on Account", copies of which have been placed in the Vote Office.

I also draw the House's attention to our first published commentary on Northern Ireland public expenditure plans covering the years 1988–89 to 1990–91, which was published on 24 February. I hope that right hon. and hon. Members who are interested in Northern Ireland affairs—I am sorry that some have now left the Chamber—will find that a useful source of detailed information on public expenditure in the Province.

The House will be aware that the Northern Ireland Office Estimates for law and order are not included in the order. Those Estimates are covered by separate United Kingdom Supply Estimates presented to Parliament by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

As we are concerned with the entire range of voted public expenditure in Northern Ireland, other than law and order, I should like to highlight certain key features of the Northern Ireland economy which heavily influence the pattern of public expenditure provision. I am glad to say that unemployment in Northern Ireland continues to show a downward trend. The seasonally adjusted total for January was the eighth consecutive monthly fall.

The United Kingdom is now in its seventh successive year of steady growth and the Northern Ireland economy can he expected to benefit from growth at the national level in the years ahead. That expectation is confirmed by recent independent surveys, for example by the Confederation of British Industry, which suggest that the economic outlook for the Province is fairly encouraging, with an increase in investment intentions and business confidence in the manufacturing sector last year, despite some instability in the financial markets.

Meanwhile, the rising incomes of those in employment can be expected to provide a further stimulus to the commercial revival of Belfast and other urban centres, and to businesses in the service sector of the economy. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made clear when announcing public expenditure allocations on 24 November, one of the Government's main priorities is to strengthen the Northern Ireland economy through the industrial development programme and by supporting other programmes and schemes which contribute to the development of the Province's economic potential and to long-term economic regeneration.

I turn now to the specific Estimates before the House. I do not propose to refer to every Vote for which supplementary provision is being sought, which will be a relief to the House, but instead will concentrate on the main items. I start with the Department of Agriculture's Vote 1, which provides for the Northern Ireland expenditure on United Kingdomwide support schemes. An additional net provision of £4·5 million is required, mainly to meet outstanding commitments on two capital grant schemes, the agricultural and horticultural development scheme and the agricultural and horticultural grants scheme, both of which have now been discontinued.

The Vote also provides for expenditure of up to £7·7 million under the national element of the agricultural improvement scheme, primarily for the provision of effluent storage and disposal facilities. The Department of Agriculture's Vote 2 requires an additional £4·6 million, the major components of which are expenditure on the grassland scheme and residual commitments under the original Northern Ireland agricultural development programme, which ceased taking new investment in 1986.

General support to industry is covered by the Department of Economic Development's Vote 2. An extra £7 million is required to meet the current level of expenditure on industrial development grants under selective financial assistance agreements. That reflects continuing success by the Industrial Development Board in its main task of promoting and safeguarding employment. That increased expenditure is offset by reduced requirements, such as a reduction of £2 million for industrial development loans. The need for public sector loan assistance has been less than anticipated, reflecting a welcome increase of private sector involvement in the funding of projects. When the pluses and minuses are taken into account, the net additional provision for this vote is some £4·8 million.

The Department of Economic Development is also seeking increases in the provision for its Votes 3, 4 and 5. The House will note that those are "token" Supplementary Estimates, each for £1,000. Their purpose is to draw attention to various increases in expenditure which are being offset by savings elsewhere.

The final economic development Vote requiring an increase is Vote 6 — administration and miscellaneous services. The additional £1·5 million sought is required for increased staff costs arising from the implementation of further employment measures, including the expansion of the restart programme. In addition, the Department's computer facilities will be upgraded to cope with an increased workload. This, together with other efficiency measures, will improve management information and thus the service provided to the public.

Next we come to the Department of the Environment Vote 1 which covers roads, transport and ports. Some £3 million has been channelled into an extended programme of structural maintenance works on roads. That includes the repair works made necessary by the severe flooding of last October, for which additional resources were made available to Northern Ireland from the contingency reserve. Much of that has been financed by additional receipts and savings, leaving a net supplementary estimate of some £600,000.

On the Department of the Environment Vote 4, additional provision is sought to meet increased expenditure on environmental and miscellaneous services, including £4 million for the Belfast programme, £1·5 million for land acquired for the Ballymacoss development scheme and £600,000 for the general grant to district councils. However, the additional expenditure has been partly offset by savings and additional receipts within the Vote, leaving a net requirement of a little over £4 million.

In the Department of Education, Supplementary Estimates are being sought in Votes 2, 3, 4 and 5. In Vote 2, higher and further education, an extra £3·2 million is sought. That is largely required to cover grants to the two Northern Ireland universities, reflecting mainly the recommendations of the University Grants Committee, and to cover the additional costs of the pay award for further education lecturers agreed earlier this year. Additional requirements are partly offset by savings arising from lower than estimated numbers of awards for postgraduate study and by savings on the in-service training of teachers.

An additional £476,000 is sought under Vote 3 for Department of Education miscellaneous services and administration. Total increases in that Vote are £918,000, but those are partly offset by reduced requirements, mainly in respect of loan liabilities. I particularly draw the House's attention to the £200,000 required for our new community relations initiative to promote cross-community contact between schools and among the young people in Northern Ireland. Also to be noted is the £85,000 required to fund the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools, whose main objective will be to promote high standards of education in these schools.

Other additions include extra resources for the Belfast urban programme, provision for the Northern Ireland contribution to the National Council for Vocational Qualifications, payments to the Northern Ireland Training Authority in respect of the open learning centre, and increased expenditure on departmental administration, mainly on consultants' fees and equipment.

In Vote 4, which covers grants to education and library boards, an additional £11·4 million is sought. Some £8·4 million is for recurrent grants to boards, including increased expenditure of £3·5 million on rates, £2·2 million on salary costs and £2·1 million for mandatory awards and special schools. The increases sought will also enablle education and library boards to carry out certain essential maintenance work on school buildings. In particular, there will be extra money to cover the costs of repairs to schools in the Western board area, following the storms last autumn.

The additional provision in capital grants to education and library boards is £4·5 million. That is partly offset by increased receipts from the sale of land and buildings of some £1·5 million. The increased provision for capital grants is required mainly for conversion work due to the closure of gas undertakings in Northern Ireland, for expenditure on the capital elements of the youth training programme and on the vocational education and 11-to-16 programmes.

Turning to the Department of Health and Social Services, gross spending on health and personal social services this year will increase by £28·6 million. Some £2·1 million of this provision is the Northern Ireland share of the £100 million additional resources made available from the reserve in 1987–88 for the health services throughout the United Kingdom, as announced by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Health on 16 December. Of the total increase, some £16·7 million will go to health and social services boards. That will enable them to meet most of the cost of higher than anticipated pay settlements in 1987–88.

The £28·6 million increase in spending will contribute towards maintaining the high standard of health and personal social services which we have in Northern Ireland, and assist in the process of transition from institutional to community care for those in long-stay accommodation. That is in line with one of the main themes of the regional strategy — the development of community care as a real alternative to care in institutions. The increase in the capital programme of just over £1 million will be applied principally to minor works and the essential replacement of medical equipment. The sum of £9 million is required for family practitioner services to meet increased demand and higher costs, particularly in the pharmaceutical services.

In the social security programme, an additional provision of £15·4 million is sought, £6·3 million of which is for DHSS Vote 3, for administration and miscellaneous services, of which £3·4 million is needed to ensure the successful completion of the reforms in the administration of social security benefits and to maintain momentum in the computerisation programme. The balance of £2·9 million is required to meet a shortfall in receipts from the national insurance fund.

Finally, in Vote 4, an additional £9·1 million is required to meet increased expenditure on the supplement to the national insurance fund, supplementary pensions, attendance allowance, payments into the social fund, maternity grants and expenditure on retail prices index adjustment payments.

I have outlined with remarkable completeness the main expenditure provisions in the draft order, which I commend to the House.

10.26 pm

I am sure that the Minister will be pleased to learn that it is not our intention to divide on the order, and we hope that we will not detain the House at great length. I assume that those hon. Members who are present are interested in the order to follow.

We generally welcome the order and the Minister's statement, particularly on the Government's recognition of the importance of public expenditure in supporting economic development and developing essential services in Northern Ireland. We welcome the publication for the first time of the commentary by the Northern Ireland Office. In some cases it is an apology for public policy, but it is a welcome development. The commentary says on page 9:
"The Government's public expenditure plans for Northern Ireland must take account of the political, economic and social conditions in the Province."
Against that background, I would like to examine the Government's proposals and judge them in the light of the economic and social needs in the Province.

The Northern Ireland economy has deteriorated over the past 20 years. Since the early 1970s, there has been a massive decline in employment, particularly in manufacturing industry. Industries such as the synthetic fibre industry have virtually disappeared. Industrial output is now well below the level of 1973. Unemployment figures are consistently twice the national average, with more and more people falling into the category of long-term unemployed.

The future economic prospects are not good, particularly in traditional industrial areas such as shipbuilding, textiles and clothing, all of which have an uncertain future. Many people are living on the poverty line. Low pay, especially among women, is endemic. Since 1979, the inequality gap has widened substantially. That is not a phenomenon peculiar to Northern Ireland; it has occurred throughout the United Kingdom since the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) was first elected in 1979. So it is against that economic background that we need to examine the needs of Northern Ireland.

The overriding need of the Province is for peace. I regret the absence of the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) and his hon. Friends who, in a show of pique some 20 minutes ago, absconded from the House, presumably to take an early bath and have an early night. They did not think the matter sufficiently important to stay here at this relatively early hour to discuss the essential economic and social requirements—in addition to security—of Northern Ireland. I deplore the hon. Gentleman's absence and the manner of his leaving.

As I said, the Province's overriding need is for peace. Since the start of the troubles in 1969, there has been tragic loss of life and a crippling effect on the economy and economic development of the Province. Figures published in 1984 by the New Ireland Forum estimate the direct costs of the troubles at about £4·5 billion, and further indirect costs in lost economic and employment opportunities at about £3·3 billion — a total cost to the economy of about £8 billion. An economy as fragile as that of Northern Ireland cannot bear that sort of crippling expenditure. It is only through the pursuit and attainment of peace in Northern Ireland that these costs can be removed and more and more finance channelled into economic and social development.

I do not intend, as did the Minister, to pick out detailed points from the order. Rather, I want to highlight areas which are of concern to my party, and which require further explanation and additional expenditure. I shall mention them in conjunction with the relevant spending Departments.

First, I mention the Department of Economic Development. Will the Minister who is to reply comment on the future of Harland and Wolff? Last Thursday I put down some questions on that subject to the Under-Secretary of State. It is vital that the Minister takes this opportunity to dispel rumours about the future of the company. The Government and the House accept that Harland and Wolff is of strategic importance to the economy of Northern Ireland, and vital to hundreds of small suppliers which depend on the yard for orders. It is essential that the Minister give a positive answer on the future of the company.

Will the Minister also turn his mind to the issue of the Northern Ireland electricity board and the Kilroot phase 2 conversion? What do the Government have in mind for the future ownership of the board? We are keen that they should take the decision to proceed with the Kilroot phase 2 development. With regard to the Department of the Environment, the Government's commentary states:
"Poor housing has been a major social problem in the past".
That is a sentiment and conclusion with which we agree wholeheartedly.

If that has been true in the past—we believe that the problem continues today — why have the Government taken decisions to reduce expenditure on housing when we know that, first, house waiting lists are increasing; secondly, that new building by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive is being reduced; thirdly, that the numbers of dwellings in need of repair is increasing; fourthly, that the backlog on improvement and repairs is increasing; and, fifthly, that 51,000 homes are now classified as being unfit and that 131,000 dwellings are in serious disrepair. This is a time not for reductions in housing expenditure but for further expenditure.

I presume that the Northern Ireland Housing Executive has no political axe to grind. If we accept its views, the Government's allocation of finance represents a cut in real terms off £118 million over three years. Not only will that cut lead to fewer houses being built but, we are informed by the Housing Executive, it could lead to a loss of 3,000 jobs.

In the light of reductions in housing expenditure, what is likely to happen to the development of schemes such as that at Divis? The Minister knows that I have a particular interest and concern in that scheme; I believe that that interest and concern is shared by the Minister.

With regard to education, despite what the Minister has said about additional expenditure in certain areas, we believe that further expenditure is required. The Minister will know that evidence has been provided by the education and library boards and the teaching trade unions about, first, the increasing numbers of teachers leaving the education system and, secondly, despite an increase of £500,000 that was announced a few months ago, the fact that there is still a growing backlog of school repairs. That shows that further expenditure is required.

I draw the Minister's attention to the provision for youth, sport, recreation and community services, which is outlined on page 75 of the commentary. The provision is being reduced this year and for the next two years. Will the Minister say why a reduction is being made, given that this is a time of mass unemployment in the Province, which particularly affects young people?

Hon. Members who take an interest in the problems of Northern Ireland are aware of the fact that the DHSS and the Health Service in particular are facing serious problems. That is being said not only by the Opposition but by the health boards and the National Health Service trade unions in the Province. What we are witnessing in the Province is a growing and potentially catastrophic crisis in the National Health Service.

The Minister has no excuse for being ignorant of the scale of the problem. It has been brought to his attention many times. He must know that in key areas the numbers of beds are being reduced. Evidence to support that argument appears on page 87 of the Government commentary. Waiting lists are growing; staff morale is at its lowest ever ebb.

The problems are highlighted by the desperate proposals of the Eastern health board. To save £7·6 million, it has had to make the dramatic proposal of a cut in surgical beds of approximately 100 and the rationalisation of vital casualty services in Belfast. In this sense, rationalisation means a reduction in the level of service rather than maintaining the existing level of service or providing better service at reduced expenditure.

The Minister must also be aware of the major reduction in services at Lagan Valley hospital in Lisburn, proposed by the Eastern health board. These proposals and others have rightly provoked an outcry of rage in Northern Ireland. The solution to the problem lies in the Government's hands and it is for them to produce it.

The Minister of State mentioned social security. I realise that he has limited discretion in that area of policy-making, but I direct his attention to the implications of the introduction of the social fund to Northern Ireland. The Minister will be aware that, in 1986, more than £38 million was disbursed in single payments. In the first year of the social fund—1988–89—the social fund budget provides for only £21·1 million, of which only £7·2 is available as grant. That represents a horrendous cut for the poorest in Northern Ireland. Opposition Members believe that Ministers at the Northern Ireland Office should be pushing their right hon. and hon. Friends at the Treasury and at the DHSS in London to ensure that further additional funds are provided for the Province in the light of its economic plight and the desperate need of many people in poverty.

The Opposition recognise the imperative of security — despite what the Minister said in his reply to the previous debate—but it must not be at the expense of other services, which appears to be the case in some key aspects. Despite some of the opinions expressed in the previous debate, we need to encourage further economic co-operation with the Republic. I accept that at the moment political difficulties make further progress in that direction difficult for the Government. However, we should continue to press the view that further economic co-operation is vital for the development of the economies of both the North and the South of Ireland. We must impress on those on both sides of the border that the island of Ireland is one market and not two markets arbitrarily divided by a land frontier.

We need to encourage more inward investment. In that context, I suspect that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland may have words to say about fair employment legislation at some time in the near future. If we are to encourage more inward investment to the Province, especially from the United States, the Government must show beyond any shadow of a doubt their commitment to fair employment opportunities for both communities in Northern Ireland. Unless they do that, the problem will continue to cast a shadow on incoming American investment in the Province. For the sake of those living in Northern Ireland, we must encourage as much investment a s we possibly can.

The House will be pleased to know that we shall not be calling a Division on the order. We welcome many aspects of the order, but I hope that the Minister will answer some of my substantive points on it.

10.44 pm

Like the hon. Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall), I very much regret the absence of colleagues from the North of Ireland who have left the Chamber. I am struck by the fact that, last week, a filibuster took place, for the ostensible reason that the debate should not be allowed to continue while colleagues of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) were in gaol. I have checked with the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Walker), and have discovered that all the hon. Members are now out of gaol. The excuse this week seems to be different, although, judging by the suntan of the hon. Member for Belfast, North, there may be something attractive about gaol at present. I fear, however, that we shall have to do without the intellectual input and the unique insights that we would have encountered had those hon. Members remained in the Chamber.

I shall be very brief, and I shall say nothing that I have not said many times before to the Ministers concerned. The Minister, who has responsibility for the environment, knows that I believe—and I believe that he knows that I am right—that proper funding has never been given to the part of my constituency known as South Armagh. The Minister has already created a precedent in relation to Health Service spending in one of the area boards, on the ground that it had previously been underfunded. I ask him to take especial interest in the roads in the area, so that they can be brought up to a standard equal to that in the rest of the constituency, and of the North of Ireland.

Let me impress on the Minister the concern about the completion of phases 2 and 3 of the Newry bypass—not, of course, to the detriment of expenditure in the rest of the area. It is crucial that the rural areas that have suffered from neglect for so long are brought up to date, and up to the required standard. It is essential that phases 2 and 3 be continued very quickly, because, as the Minister knows—being well aware of the geographical circumstances of Newry—because of the river and the canal, there is at present only one way in and one way out. A huge bottleneck will result from the completion of phase 1.

If the Minister has a chance to visit the area in the near future, I hope that he will be able to bring good news about both the bypass and the continuing nuisance of the presence of the customs station on what is known as the Dublin road. It is the most appalling situation imaginable. No doubt the Minister will readily tell me that it does not come within his brief, and I accept that. But the roads on which the lorries are parked do, and when he sees the bottleneck created in a residential part of the town which carries an enormous volume of traffic towards Dublin, I think he will agree that there has been undue delay.

I have heard from people involved in the proposed building of the new customs station that there has been a nod from on high, suggesting that there should be no rush. That is causing enormous problems, and will continue to do so.

Again, the Minister will know that my requests are very humble. I am satisfied with very little—and I receive very little, so I am not very satisfied.

In the past three years, the expenditure on street lighting in my constituency could be counted on two hands. I hope that the Minister will accept that that is an accurate assessment. I have sought confirmation from the Department that expenditure will be made on various places such as Peter's place in Newry, the Dublin road in Newry and the Monog road in Crossmaglen. However, I am then told that the only expenditure will be on new housing. What is wrong with the people in the existing housing? They should receive such expenditure after waiting years and years to get it. I know that I have raised simple constituency matters, but I believe that all hon. Members would agree that those people who believe that such matters are simple are taking a simplistic approach to the subject.

Will the Minister also consider the problem of water supply to farmers in the Granemore area? I think that it is incredible that, in this day and age, farmers cannot avail themselves of the mains water supply. They can be taken to court and prosecuted if effluent from their farmyards and silos seeps into public streams and rivers, yet those farmers do not have a water supply to wash and properly tend their farmyards and farm buildings, so it is unfair that they should risk prosecution. I hope that the Minister will reconsider this matter, because it is archaic that people are expected to farm without a proper mains water supply.

I am rather confused about the agricultural development programme. I had hoped that, towards the end of the month, that programme would be announced. However, having listened to the Minister, I am not sure whether that will happen. It is absolutely essential that that programme is quickly reinstated for the farming community in the North of Ireland. I may have misunderstood the Minister; I hope that I did, because I am keen that that programme is re-established. I hope that the Minister will confirm that when he replies.

Another broad area of crucial importance is the position of the Northern Ireland farmer in relation to the non-devaluation of the green pound. As a result of our unique situation, the Northern Ireland farmer must compete with the farmer from the Republic of Ireland on an inequitable basis. The devaluation of the green pound in the Republic means that those farmers are able to outbid and outbuy the Northern Ireland farmer consistently. I know that that problem does not exist in England. However, as the hon. Member for Leicester, South has said, Ireland is one island, irrespective of the political divisions. Indeed, agriculture is an example of how things should be geared. As it stands now it makes no sense: it should be dealt with on an all-Ireland basis.

I know that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, would not wish me to go into details about how pigs or cows often stray across the border, and the headage payments that must be met when those animals stray. One way to deal with that unique form of farm diversification would be to equalise the green pound rate so that the Northern Irish farmer is not at a disadvantage.

The rural development programme has already been studied by the European Parliament and reported on by the Maher report, and it must be given serious consideration. Until we get to grips with all the factors that affect the rural farming community in terms of infrastructure, job creation and agriculture, we will never do anything more than a piecemeal job.

My final point relates to the provisions of the new Social Security Bill. It has been rightly stated that less money will be available under the social fund than was available under special permits. I could speak for a long time about the potential effects of the Social Security Bill, but I shall home in on one issue and ask the Minister to examine it carefully.

It seems that the Bill will affect mostly those people who are not well below the required income for subsistence, but those who are borderline cases. Those who have jobs but are very poorly paid and have dependants in their homes will move from family income supplement to family credit and will lose, especially in regard to school meals.

I visited a number of schools in my constituency and talked to teachers, pupils, parents and those who work in the school kitchens. There is no question or doubt that, as a result of this legislation, many children will not get one square meal a day. There is no question whatsoever that much of the £2·55 per week allocated to school meals in the family credit system will not go towards feeding those children in the way that school meals now feed them. That will be a serious social problem that can be avoided. Because of the unique problems of the North of Ireland, we should ensure that every child at school has at least one square meal in the day. We should get to grips with that problem before it becomes as immense as I believe it will.

10.56 pm

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. To save time tomorrow, at the outset of my speech I referred to the leader of the Democratic Unionist party as the hon. Member for South Down. May I correct that, out of deference to him and to my hon. Friend the Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady), and give his correct constituency, namely the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley)?

10.57 pm

Once again in speaking to this appropriation order I must object most vehemently to the way in which such orders are imposed upon the Province. From time to time, I have paid tribute to the Government for their commitment to the needs of the people. Sadly, I cannot pay any compliments on this occasion, when the Government are abrogating their responsibility to our beleaguered Health Service.

In the absence of democratic institutions within the various health hoards, the Minister simply cannot fudge the issues for which he must carry the can. He cannot run out of the kitchen to escape the heat. If he considers that the people whom he has appointed are not fulfilling their obligations, he should say so categorically and without reservation. He cannot simply say that there is no more money.

There is a strong suspicion in the Health Service that resources are not being effectively deployed and that they are being absorbed to maintain a top-heavy bureaucratic administration.

The hon. Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall) mentioned that the Eastern health and social services board has assessed a shortfall in funds for 1988–89 of £7·6 million and the area executive team has identified options which it says need to be considered within the service.

There are widespread objections to some of these options, and where they specifically affect the elderly population and those in need of medical care I wholeheartedly endorse them. The Minister must be aware that the public have not been convinced that Health Service spending is adequate, particularly when there is a steady increase in the number of 75-year-olds, with corresponding problems that will create the greatest demand on medical and social services.

It is in that context that any proposal to reduce geriatric provision must be considered. In my constituency the Throne hospital, although an old building, has provided the most cost-effective and economic geriatric care in the Eastern board's region. Any proposal to close that hospital would be a tragic betrayal of the rights of the elderly to gain hospital care, where needed. Too often in the past the needs of our elderly population have been neglected and overridden. The Throne hospital has an occupancy in excess of 90 per cent., with over 75 per cent. of the patients requiring long-stay care.

Such patients are a heavy responsibility on the nursing service. They require considerable attention. I pay my respects to the staff of this hospital who have striven to provide such a high standard of care for their patients, as is evidenced by the active, voluntary and continuing fund-raising programme that provides furnishings, comforts and outings for these inmates.

North Belfast has a greater proportion of residents who are over 65 than anywhere else in the Province. That population will continue to increase, particularly over the next two decades, so, instead of decreasing facilities, the Department should be looking at ways of increasing them. The suggestion that private nursing homes will accommodate patients at present requiring long-term care is incorrect. It is deceitful to suggest that they could in any way cater for those people, who in my opinion should be accommodated in the Throne hospital

I trust that, in the light of what I have said, the Minister will examine very carefully any proposal regarding the Throne hospital. Then I sincerely believe that he will concur with my views in relation to one of the best and the most caring establishments for the elderly in the Province.

Another matter that I must bring to the Minister's attention concerns the Mater hospital. There is a proposal to close the casualty department from 3.30 pm every day, with the possibility of complete closure at weekends, together with the closure of gynaecology wards and a reducation in the number of surgical beds. I respectfully ask the Minister to visit this hospital, which for the last 100 years has served the people of north Belfast impartially and has delivered the highest standards of care that are available anywhere.

If these proposals are implemented, the people of north Belfast will lose an acute hospital to which they have every right. The casualty department serves north Belfast and also other areas, such as Newtownabbey, Carrickfergus, Greenisland, Antrim, Whiteabbey, Ballyclare and Glengormley. If these proposals go ahead, the people of north Belfast and those who live in a large part of the county of Antrim will lose a valuable and essential accident and emergency service. In such a case there would be no casualty service between Ballymena and the Royal or City hospitals. That would inevitably lead to the death of seriously ill patients in transit from any of these areas.

In addition, my constituency has the highest number of sectarian incidents in the Province. The Mater hospital has played more than its part in saving the lives of patients, who would almost certainly have died if they had been transferred to any other hospital. The Mater hospital also treats a large number of children. If the unit closed at 3.30 pm, these children would have to be treated at the children's hospital in the Royal complex, which is stretched to breaking point and could not possibly cope with the increased work load.

Eleven million pounds is currently being invested in a much-needed new block for the Mater hospital. This new block was intended to house a new casualty unit, a new X-ray suite and an observation ward, and to provide updated and more modern facilities to meet the health care needs of the people. I am very concerned that any dilution of services at the Mater will result in the new block becoming a vastly expensive white elephant with no acute services left to be transferred to it. Surely it would be a more financially sound proposition to ensure that acute services were retained as at present, so that completely efficient use could be made of this new facility.

The Eastern board, in a strategic plan document, recognises the need to make increased use of the resources of the Mater hospital because of this investment. It now appears to me that financial logic and the needs of the patients are being totally disregarded in a frantic effort to cut money from budgets.

I would also contend that the board would not realise the financial savings estimated to accrue from these proposals inasmuch as much greater demand would be placed on the ambulance service to transport patients to and from hospitals, thereby increasing the amount of money that would be needed to meet that demand.

Going on to the section on housing services, I take issue with the Minister on the cut-off date for repairs grant aid, which has been standing at 31 December 1956 for far too long. The Department, as the funder of the scheme, has set these rules and guidelines, and the Housing Executive cannot entertain applications for properties built after 1956. The Minister must be aware that in the period 1958–1960 we experienced some of the very poorest housebuilding. The owners of these properties are now having to live with the results of the jerry-building of those houses. It seems completely unfair that the Housing Executive can actively pursue a repair and renovation programme based on a 25-year cycle which now caters for properties built up to 1963, whereas the private tenants, most of whom purchased their houses with the encouragement of the Prime Minister, have been left out on a limb without any means of redress. I suggest to the Minister that he raise the cut-off point to an appropriate level, in the interest of justice and fair play for those who accept the responsibility and consequences of home ownership.

In conclusion, further to any proposals to cut provision for the elderly, serious consideration should also be given to the criteria for housing need in sheltered schemes provided by housing associations. The Housing Executive now operates on a basis of 35 places per 1,000, fixed by the Department and based on Scottish special criteria. But this is completely inappropriate to the Belfast situation, where we have had a drift of the younger and more mobile familes to the suburbs, which has left the population completely distorted, with a much higher proportion of elderly in need of care. Apparently it is the Government's intention to release more elderly back into the community, but if this is the case they must provide the type of accommodation needed to cater for them. There are little pockets of land all over Belfast in areas very compatible with the needs of the elderly where sheltered schemes could be built quickly and economically.

I ask the Minister to examine this acute situation sympathetically and as a matter of extreme urgency.

11.9 pm

I charge the Government with financial discrimination against Northern Ireland in the Health Service. In the recent review of public expenditure for the United Kingdom, Great Britain was given a 6·3 per cent. increase to allow for inflation for the financial year 1988–89, but Northern Ireland was granted only 5·3 per cent. That means only one thing: the Government are discriminating against the sick in Northern Ireland. I urge the Government to think again.

The Northern Ireland health boards will have less real money than last year when they made cuts. Public expenditure cuts last year and in preceding years have deeply and adversely affected the hospital and other services. That has been particularly true in my constituency.

Last summer the Minister published a regional strategic plan for health in the Province. The disparity in the provision to meet inflation in Great Britain and in Northern Ireland means that the Minister's strategic plan has been undermined. There will be less real money available this year than last year, taking inflation into account. There will be further reductions in the number of beds available in hospitals for ordinary and geriatric patients and less money available for the services provided by district nurses and home helps. Day centres, too, will be affected, although they are very useful to the people. There will be less money available for the disabled and mentally handicapped.

I represent an area of great population growth. There is also a high percentage of elderly and retired people in the area, yet North Down and the adjoining Ards area are facing massive and unacceptable cuts in hospital and social services. To save money, the Eastern health board is considering the closure of the accident and emergency facilities at Ards hospital and the transfer of patients to the Ulster hospital at Dundonald.

I do not see how the Dundonald hospital can cope with the extra patients. Last year 26,000 people were treated by the casualty unit in the Ards hospital in Newtownards. So many extra patients at the Ulster hospital, where people already have to wait long periods, would create an intolerable and unacceptable situation. It would add considerably to the misery not only of patients but of their families. At the very least nothing should be done by the Government until extra money has been made available for the Ulster hospital at Dundonald to increase facilities and medical and other staff.

The Government are thinking of saving money with cuts here, there and everywhere. But, as my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Walker) said, they should cut out the fat in the bureaucracy. I urge the Minister, instead of cutting and saving money, to think of the cost in human terms. Regional hospitals have provided a good standard of medical and nursing care and support at Dundonald, Bangor, Newtownards and in the geriatric unit at Crawfordsburn hospital. But year by year the Government have chipped away at the hospitals in North Down and elsewhere in Northern Ireland.

There is an additional problem. The Eastern area board, which covers North Down and Ards, also takes in the city of Belfast, to the detriment of the hospital facilities in my area. For years I have advocated dividing the Eastern board and establishing a separate board for Belfast so that a proper and balanced Health Service could be provided in North Down.

It is essential in a modern society—I hope that the Minister will heed my words—to provide a decent level of health care, and sufficient resources should be made available to ensure such a service. I have been impressed by the dedication of the staff at the Bangor, Ulster and Ards hospitals, but every reduction in service means a reduction in medical staff, student nurses, ancillary staff and, of course, in all the other facilities that should be available.

In addition to social factors, which are relevant when considering the question of hospital facilities, the age of the population is highly relevant. In the Eastern health board area, those over the age of 65 account for 50 per cent. of the use of all hospital facilities. The work load has increased in the Eastern health board area with a 6 per cent. increase in admissions to general hospitals, despite a decrease of 9 per cent. in the number of beds available. The reduction in the number of beds is due to the board's cut, dictated by the Government.

The number of surgical beds has been reduced by 15 per cent., despite the 11 per cent. increase in the number of major operations. That is surely bad for those in need of medical care. Waiting lists continue to increase and that means further anxiety and suffering for many patients and their relatives. I refer particularly to the waiting lists for ophthalmic surgery which are at an all-time high, despite the efficiency of the staff.

The ophthalmic medical staff at the Royal Victoria hospital, a distinguished team led by Professor Archer, stated in a submission to the Eastern health board:
"The past two decades have seen a progressive decline in the funding of the ophthalmic specialty in the Eastern Area Board both relative to similar ophthalmic specialties elsewhere in the United Kingdom and other surgical specialties in Northern Ireland … centralisation of the speciality at the Royal Victoria Hospital site has resulted in a net loss of 4 operating sessions and the reduction of ophthalmic beds far below any norm for ophthalmic inpatient accommodation in the United Kingdom."
The staff stated that the minimum required to provide a basic ophthalmological service for the area is the provision of a third operating theatre and the necessary running costs, an immediate increase in the ophthalmic bed complement, the appointment of two consultant ophthalmic surgeons, the improvement of out-patient facilities and nursing services to take care of the current patient load and allow some development of day surgery, and the funding of the outstanding ophthalmic equipment list, amounting to about £250,000.

I hope that the submission made by the ophthalmic unit at the Royal Victoria hospital will be studied carefully by the Minister. I do not expect him to answer tonight, but I should like, in due course, to hear from him that he is prepared to respond positively to the proposals of Professor Archer and his team.

The threatened closure of Crawfordsburn hospital, which deals with geriatrics, continues to cause anxiety to the staff, the residents and their relatives. I have been told that approaches have been made to a private nursing home in Donaghadee to take 40 residents from Crawfordsburn.

I should like to know whether there is any truth in that rumour. What will happen to the residents who wish to remain in the Crawfordsburn area so that they can be close to their relatives?

I do not understand how vitally needed money is denied to hospitals, which could provide essential services, yet money is made available by the Local Enterprise Development Unit to establish some private residential homes, while it is not given to others. I should like to know from the Minister how much taxpayers' money has been spent in setting up such residential homes, which are companies for private profit. Presumably, money is provided only to establish industries where no similar industry exists, but Northern Ireland has a plethora of private nursing homes. Therefore, I should like to know how much taxpayers' money has been spent setting up those homes, and how much money will go back to the taxpayer or at least be made available to the hospitals.

I conclude by making a personal appeal to the Minister. I urge him to provide more money for hospital services in the North Down area. I urge him to come with me to meet the surgeons in those hospitals and the consultants, doctors, housemen, nurses and ancillary staff who work together to provide what I believe is the most efficient hospital service in the whole of the United Kingdom. I ask him to come and meet them because if he listens to them and sees their patients and the patient care and studies the record of their work, I am sure that he will come to only one conclusion and will provide more money for a service that is vitally needed in my constituency.

11.21 pm

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

I shall, of course, respond to the points that have been made by hon. Members as fully as I am capable, but if, by any chance, I miss one jot or tittle of a comment that has been made, I shall study Hansard most carefully and write in full.

I begin by welcoming the hon. Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall) to our debates on appropriation orders, which are usually rather more colourful affairs than we have been able to have tonight, as the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) removed himself and his colleagues from the Chamber. Further, the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) is not here. Therefore, what is usually a fairly thick Irish stew has turned into rather thin gruel. I mean that with no disrespect to the hon. Members who have contributed. However, it means that perhaps we shall get through the feast rather quicker than we usually do.

I am sure that the hon. Member for Leicester, South will considerably broaden his experience and understanding of Northern Ireland affairs when he has been through a series of these debates. I am grateful to him for the fact that he has no intention of seeking to divide the House this evening, and supports—or rather does not oppose—the Government's expenditure plans. However, the fact of the matter is, as he well knows—as do most hon. Members — that about 70 per cent. of the GDP of Northern Ireland is generated through public expenditure. Even for the wettest of the wets, that figure must cause some alarm in terms of the requirement to improve private sector income generation, wealth creation and so on. If the hon. Gentleman is not aware of it, it may interest him, and the House, to know that public expenditure per head in Northern Ireland is 40 per cent. higher than the figure for the rest of the United Kingdom. We must consider public expenditure as a whole in the light of those large sums of money. I shall deal in a moment with the points made by the hon. Members for North Down (Mr. Kilfedder) and for Belfast, North (Mr. Walker) as to whether it is realistic to suppose that at the present time this Government, or any other, could increase the amount of public expenditure in the Province.

I cannot agree altogether with some of the comments by the hon. Member for Leicester, South because, having accepted, it seemed to me, the basis of the Government's position, he then went on to make calls for substantial additional funding. Nor can I altogether agree with some of the comments that he made about the future of some of the industries. He is quite right to say that some of the basic industries of Northern Ireland face difficult times, but I am not prepared to accept, for example, that textiles, clothing or linen are industries which are not doing extremely well in Northern Ireland at the moment, that they have not got a fine record and that they are not likely to improve on that record in future.

I hope that the hon. Member will, on reflection, reconsider that point, because I am sure that he would not want his words to give the impression that those industries are not doing well and will not continue to do well. They have a very fine record and make some very fine products.

I am sure that the Minister does not wish to take my remarks out of the context in which I made them and that, on reflection, he will accept that the industries to which I referred employed in the past substantially more people than they do now. The point that I sought to make was that the industries which employed substantial numbers of people in the past are no longer capable of sustaining those levels of employment.

I accept that point, but there are many industries which employ substantially fewer people than in the past and which now have very much higher levels of output, productivity and wealth creation. If the hon. Member looks at industries making linen, clothing and textiles such as Desmonds, for example, he will see enormously successful companies. I hope that this success will continue.

Agriculture faces difficult times, not only in Northern Ireland but in the rest of Europe too. The Government understand and accept the problems of agriculture in Northern Ireland, and spend approximately four times more money in agricultural support there than they do elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

The hon. Member asked me about Harland and Wolff. I have nothing further to add to the answers given to questions by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State last week. The future of the yard must depend on the ability of the management to win orders within the European Community sixth directive on shipbuilding. That cannot be the Government's responsibility; it must be the responsibility of the management.

The hon. Member for Leicester, South went on to ask me about Northern Ireland Electricity, and the decision on whether or not to proceed with phase two of the Kilroot conversion. As he is well aware, no new generating capacity is expected to be required in Northern Ireland until the mid-1990s. The Government will, of course, consider and evaluate the options, including phase two of Kilroot, before coming to a decision on what would be the most appropriate additional generating capacity at that time.

The hon. Member for Leicester, South also questioned the amount of support being given in the housing budget in Northern Ireland. He commented on the number of houses that are unfit and in need of repair. While I accept that the figures are not as good as any of us would like, they have improved dramatically in the past seven or eight years, with unfitness coming down from 14 per cent. I am certain that when the new figures come out from the household survey they will be lower than that. The Government accept that there is a major requirement to continue the housebuilding programme in the public sector at higher levels than elsewhere in the country; and this year the amount that will be spent on public housebuilding in Northern Ireland, in capital expenditure, will be double the amount spent in England. The public expenditure contribution is £338 million, with a gross expenditure of £552 million.

The Government are determined to move from public expenditure, where it has fulfilled the needs, to more private expenditure in joint ventures with the private sector. More will be done with housing associations—a point made by the hon. Member for Belfast, North — which is a crucial area of joint partnership. We are spending much more with the private sector on urban regeneration. The sum of £21 million will be spent in Belfast in the forthcoming year. Castle Court is a major new scheme costing £60 million, £50 million of which will come from the private sector, and £10 million from the Government, to rebuild and regenerate the heart of Belfast.

The Laganside proposal will cost £240 million spread over 10 years, £210 million of which will come from the private sector and £30 million from the public sector. The Government will provide the infrastructure for the scheme to go ahead. We have announced in our forward rolling programme plans for new bridges across the Lagan — road and rail bridges, which will cost £60 million.

In Londonderry the William street and Spencer road development will be funded totally by the private sector — a scheme worth some £11 million. Throughout the Province we want to build on the success of regenerating the private sector — industrially, commercially and in retailing.

The hon. Member for Leicester, South referred to the problems facing the construction industry because of the reduction of Government money. The hon. Member must look at the whole construction industry and take in what is happening in the private sector. The industry figures in the third quarter of this year were up by 22 per cent. when compared with last year. Many major public and private construction projects are coming forward in the programme over the next few years. The redevelopment of Great Victoria street, which is crucial to Belfast, involves spending £3·5 million for the provision of a new multi-storey car park and a new bus station, which, together with retailing and commercial aspects, will cost a total of £10 million.

We are not forgetting the need to provide adequate funding in the public sector. The hon. Member mentioned Divis. I am sure he is aware that we have come forward with the proposal to have Divis knocked down, as well as Unity and Rossville flats. It is not only a question of finding the finance; it is a question of priorities and time and finding the space and a place for those people to go to, particularly in west Belfast, where housing space is not easy to find. So those things must be phased in.

We must proceed as fast as we can, within the constraints of the budget and while ensuring that adequate land is available, not only for construction but for the future of west Belfast; land that can be used for industrial and commercial development.

Does the Minister accept that if the proposals put forward by the Divis residents' association and their planners were accepted, which could form the basis of a planned redevelopment, many of the people who remain in Divis would be able to live on the existing site in the new homes?

Many of the people would, but not all of them. We already have a large waiting list. It is not possible to redeploy all the people at the moment and put them into the areas to which they want to go. The balance must be struck between the facilities available and funding in the budget.

The hon. Member for Leicester, South next spoke about education provision and drew particular attention to the backlog of school repairs. He will appreciate that the position has been fully recognised in recent expenditure allocations. An additional £1·5 million has been made available this year for additional minor works and maintenance on schools, and 24 major new school projects have been released at an overall cost of £21 million. The House will accept that this is a clear indication of the priority that the Government accord to education.

While the hon. Member for Leicester, South spoke of reductions in provision for some recreation and community services, he will appreciate, having accepted the overall thrust of the Government's policies, that this has not been an easy year from the point of view of the public expenditure survey in Northern Ireland. We have had to make difficult decisions between the various blocks—to which I will come—in relation to health. The law and order block and the employment and industry block have taken a greater share than we had anticipated, and this has meant our being unable to do all that we would have done in more normal times.

The hon. Member for Belfast, North spoke about post-1956 dwellings constructed in his constituency not qualifying for renovation grant aid. I have written to the hon. Gentleman recently, along with the Housing Executive, pointing out that the latter is carrying out an investigation into the defects in those houses and the possibility of presenting proposals to my Department for some form of assistance to the owners. We shall examine this matter thoroughly and treat it as sympathetically as possible. The renovation grant scheme will be revised in the light of the Government's home improvement proposals for England and Wales which were published in the form of a White Paper in September 1987. These issues will be taken into account in determining the future policy and legislation affecting Northern Ireland.

The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon), who is no longer in his place, raised issues about roads that he has raised with me on a number of occasions. I will try as soon as possible to visit the sites with him. I can think of nothing more pleasant than spending a day travelling around the south Armagh border with the hon. Gentleman examining the problems of the roads, even though it is not a subject which is looked at overall in a tremendously sympathetic way by the RUC. Nevertheless, I accept—in the hon. Gentleman's absence—that it is important to visit the area and see for oneself.

The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh has also been in constant correspondence with me over the water problems of the Granemore area. I am examining ways of trying to assist, for example, by seeing whether there are EC grants which could bring mains water to the farms about which he spoke. They are not that far from mains water, and I was wondering whether a digger and some plastic pipes might be one way of solving the problem. I appreciate the problems that the present situation causes small farmers, and if anything can be done, I will examine it.

The hon. Gentleman also referred to peripatetic pigs. We accept the need to try to find a way, within the EC, of getting rid of the differentials of the green pound and abolishing the differing green rates and the MCA system. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is fully aware of the strong feelings on this subject and I am sure that he will take it up in Brussels. As the hon. Gentleman knows, there is agreement in the EC that these differing green rates should disappear. Although I cannot give him a date, I can tell him that the special aid provisions will be announced shortly. They remain at £7·5 million, which is a significant additional resource for Northern Ireland agriculture.

I turn now to the major issue that has worried and bothered hon. Members tonight—the Health Service. I say to the hon. Members for North Down and for Belfast, North that I take no pleasure in the fact that the health budget has been increased this year by only 5·2 per cent. I am glad to see that the hon. Member for North Down is engaged in conversation with my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne—when he has finished, perhaps he will give me his attention.

If there was any way of increasing funds for the Health Service, I should be the first to want to do so. However, I must point out that we spend 23 per cent. more per person in Northern Ireland than the rest of England and Wales. Opposition Members constantly demand that the percentage of GNP spent in the United Kingdom should be upgraded to something like the equivalent of what is spent in France and Germany. The United Kingdom spends about 6·5 per cent. of GNP on health; France and Germany spend about 9 per cent. But the figure for spending on health care in Northern Ireland is 12·5 per cent. I do not deny that such spending is necessary and important. But when the hon. Member for Belfast, North asks for more, I must ask him where it will come from. It will have to come from some other block of the Northern Ireland budget; it cannot come from the national Exchequer. The hon. Member for Leicester, South and his hon. Friends, by deciding not to divide the House, have shown that they do not completely disagree with the amount of public spending on Northern Ireland.

This year's budget has not been as much as I had hoped it would be because of the additional money spent on law and order. Some Conservative Members, and even some Opposition Members, may think that when taxpayers' funds are spent, as they are on the Health Service, it is not wholly unreasonable that all taxpayers should at least support such spending. Some hon. Members who have not been paying all their taxes in Northern Ireland have, through their failure to pay road taxes, rates and television licences, rather put themselves out of court in this argument. Their actions do not give a good lead to the rest of the population. They also cost a lot of money because of police time, court time and prison officers' time involved. The hon. Member for Belfast, North came back — according to the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh—with a suntan from where he was last week. I hardly believe that, but it cost £120 a day. That £120 a day could, conceivably, have been better spent on the Health Service than on the hon. Gentleman's suntan—

I was not incarcerated with the rest of my hon. Friends last week. Will the Minister accept from me that the people of north Belfast who are interested in the under-provision for the Health Service have, in their opinion, no responsibility for law and order or security work? Is he saying, specifically and categorically, that none of the £100 million that is being discussed for the United Kingdom will be considered for the Northern Ireland budget?

I am delighted to hear that the hon. Gentleman was not incarcerated with his colleagues. However, as the hon. Gentleman knows, there are rules of parity. Additional money that is made available on this side of the water is made available on the other side.

My argument with the hon. Member for Belfast, North concerned the 5·2 per cent. increase in health provision in Northern Ireland—the hon. Member for North Down also raised this matter—compared with the 6·3 per cent. for the rest of the country. The reason for that is that more has had to be spent on the law and order budget. Everybody in Northern Ireland must accept some responsibility for that. It is difficult for me, as the Health Minister for Northern Ireland, to see how that matter is helped by hon. Members showing their deep opposition to the Anglo-Irish Agreement by refusing to pay their road tax. I fail to see the connection, as, I suspect, do most people in Northern Ireland.

I say to the hon. Members for Belfast, North and North Down that the vast majority of options being put forward by the Eastern health board are for rationalisation projects that it was considering in any event within its area strategic plan. The hon. Member for Belfast, North knows very well that three legs of our plan are preventive medicine, community care and rationalisation of acute services. As to the proposals for the Throne hospital, I endorse what the hon. Gentleman has said and I pay a warm tribute to the work that has been done there. However, as the hon. Gentleman said, it is an old building and it must make sense for the patients to be properly rehoused in better accommodation, as is envisaged by the health board. I should add that we are not talking about moving them into private nursing homes.

With regard to the accident and emergency service, we have put substantial new investment into the hospital. If proposals from the Eastern board will not make proper use of that investment, I shall have to look carefully at them. The same would apply to proposals in Down, Lagan Valley or anywhere else.

I must return to the other point that the hon. Members for Belfast, North and North Down raised. The proposals that we are bringing forward are within the strategic plan. It may be we shall have to do some things faster than others. I should like to do things that we must do slower faster and those that we must do faster slower. Nevertheless, that is the position in which we find ourselves within the block. I cannot at present foresee any likelihood of finding a large amount of additional funds.

The increase in the Northern Ireland block grant of 4·5 per cent., which is 1 per cent. or more above the rate of inflation, is commendable. I am delighted that the Opposition are not opposing that increase, and I believe that the funds that we have made available will benefit the people of Northern Ireland and will continue to give a high level of services to them.

Question put and agreed to.


That the draft Appropriation (Northern Ireland) Order 1988, which was laid before this House on 10th February, he approved.

Firearms (Amendment) Bill Money (No 2)

11.48 pm

Queen's Recommendation having been signified

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department
(Mr. Douglas Hogg)

I beg to move,

That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Firearms (Amendment) Bill, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of sums required by the Secretary of State for making payments in respect of property the possession of which becomes unlawful as a result of that Act.
The House will know that in Committee on 9 February I announced that the Government had decided on a buy-in scheme. The money resolution is an implementation of that commitment, and it is couched in very wide terms to enable hon. Members to raise any points that they think proper.

The Government's view is that payment under the scheme should be confined to weapons surrendered or otherwise disposed of by persons who lawfully held them on certificate immediately before 22 September 1987, and which will become prohibited by clause 1(2) of the Bill. For people who have already sold such weapons, we shall be ready to pay the difference between the price that they received and the level fixed under the buy-in scheme. It is not our view that the scheme should extend to dealers. Government amendments to the Bill, including an enabling clause, have already been tabled.

I am not yet in a position to give firm proposals on the details of the buy-in scheme. The Government's underlying aim is to introduce a scheme based on a fair price which bears a reasonable relationship to second-hand values in early September 1987.

It is likely that we shall operate a two-tier approach, inviting the choice by the claimant between a flat rate sum or individual claims, with evidence of purchase price or insurance value.

I must stress that a buy-in scheme has been agreed because of the unique circumstances involved; individuals are being prohibited from holding articles that they were expressly authorised to hold prior to the announcement.

11.50 pm

The Minister has been commendably brief, and uncharacteristically modest. I hope that the House will accept that this is a victory for the House of Commons and for Members of Parliament. The majority of the members of the Committee insisted on an opportunity, denied them by the earlier money resolution, to discuss possible compensation for those whose weapons now held legally would become illegal under the Bill. I marvel that the Minister did not acknowledge that. I am doing my best to resist the temptation to gloat at his embarrassment at this humiliating climbdown over payments to owners of weapons that will become illegal under the Bill.

The hon. Lady says that it is democracy. I do not argue with her, and I welcome it. However, it would have done the Minister more good if, in his brief introduction to the new money resolution, he had acknowledged that. I say, in no partisan sense and irrespective of the fact that we are in opposition at present, that the Standing Committee on this Bill has been one of the rare Committees to behave as I believe Committees on Bills should. The issues were debated, and the Minister was defeated. The Minister has now responded, and I make no complaint about that.

On Second Reading, the Minister and his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said that they would listen. The Minister was on a steep learning curve in that debate, because every Conservative Back Bencher who spoke—perhaps bar one—got at his throat about the absence of a compensation scheme for weapons that are to be declared illegal. More important—this is my complaint to the Minister, who wound up the Second Reading debate—when I came to wind up for the Opposition and said that Labour was prepared to listen and think again about compensation, the Home Secretary intervened from a sedentary position to say, as reported in column 1180 of Hansard for 21 January 1988, "That is a change."

By the way, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I do not know whether you have any authority over this matter, but when I went to the Vote Office earlier tonight to get that copy of Hansard, I discovered that it is out of print. We have had enough trouble getting the reports of the proceedings of the Standing Committee. Quite apart from hon. Members, those outside who are trying to follow what we are doing and who go along to the HMSO to try to buy copies of Hansard are now denied them.

Under heavy pressure from his hon. Friends behind him, the Minister was needlessly rude at the end of the Second Reading debate. He refused to deal with the constructive points that we had put to him, and at one stage there were complaints that he was turning his hack on the Opposition Front Bench from the Dispatch Box. I hope that he has learnt from that, as surely as he is learning from—

Order. Let us not have a debate about a past debate. The motion is the one on the Order Paper. That is what we should be discussing.

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

It does not matter that I welcome the new money resolution; the whole House will welcome it, because it is a proper Government response to the views of members of the Committee. The Opposition have been arguing for more effective control of firearms, and we want it to happen. We claim no credit—the Minister said that we were trying to do so—because we share the view that the public are entitled to a proper assurance of public safety, alongside the rights of those who shoot as part of their jobs, or for leisure or sport.

I do not suggest for a moment that this is the right time of night to discuss the matter, but the buy-in scheme raises a number of questions. I understand that the Minister cannot go into the details tonight, and the second money resolution that he has now laid enables the Committee to debate the subject properly. I feel, however, that lie owes the House an explanation of the difference between a buy-in scheme and compensation. The money resolution talks about making payments. That is wide, and I do not complain about it. But on what basis will the payments be made? How will the value be decided, and by whom? Why has the date of 22 September 1987 been decided on?

I have a suspicion, which I believe will be shared by some of the Minister's hon. Friends, that the real difference between compensation and the buy-in scheme is a silly obsession on the part of the Government, who wish to avoid acknowledging the will of the Committee. I do not say that lightly. The Committee came to a view, and the Government have had to respond. I see nothing wrong with the Government, in the shape of the Minister, acknowledging that.

Perhaps, if he is able to speak again, the Minister will let us know exactly what the buy-in scheme involves. Does it refer to the purchase price, and, if so, is that the price on the date when the weapon was bought? Does it refer to the insured value, or— as the Minister suggested— to the notional market value on 22 September 1987? In the interests of the House and Back Benchers, it is important that we agree the money resolution— I make no bones about it— so that our Committee can debate and decide this important issue.

Some very wide doors may be opened. The Minister has said that he has no idea at present what the buy-in scheme will cost. There is, I believe, a way of avoiding heavy payments to owners of firearms which are to be made illegal, without in any way weakening the Government's attempt — which we support — to introduce more effective control of guns. If the Minister will consider again restricting the capacity of self-loading rifles to carry more than three or perhaps five shots within the weapon without reloading, that will dispose of the argument about whether proper control is possible of the capacity of magazines and their interchangeability. I am advised that that is technically possible and it avoids the difficulties of trying to place restrictions on magazine box capacity.

We welcome this new, wider resolution, not in a narrow or party sense, but on behalf of all hon. Members, whatever their opinion about the Bill. The resolution will enable us to discuss this extremely important matter upstairs and to decide upon a matter upon which, earlier, the Government said we could not decide.

12 midnight

I am glad to have the opportunity to speak after the grudging and ungracious speech of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett).

I am grateful to the Minister for accepting the representations that were made to him by many hon. Members. I wrote to my hon. Friend about this matter when the Bill was introduced and I have discussed it with him many times. I am glad that my hon. Friend listened to people who put a case to him. It is extremely grudging of the Opposition not to accept the money resolution in that spirit.

There is only one matter that I wish to raise with my hon. Friend. He used the words, "not dealers". There are a number of genuine collectors who, to avoid having to change their licences every time they buy a weapon, have become part-time dealers. All sorts of people operate as part-time dealers and I hope that the Minister will consider their cases so that those dealers, who earn their livings in other ways, are not penalised and are able to take advantage of the scheme.

12.2 am

I do not wish to detain the House for long at this time, but I would like to welcome the money resolution and the Minister's explanation.

I do not consider the resolution to be the humiliating climbdown to which the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) referred. It is a sensible recognition of the considerable body of opinion, inside and outside the House, that greeted the publication of the Government's proposals. On Second Reading I believe that virtually every hon. Member who contributed made reference to the issue of compensation. In the Minister's defence—if he needs me to defend him—it should be noted that, throughout that debate, he made it clear, as did the Home Secretary, that the Government were willing to reconsider the matter of compensation. For that reason I believe that it would be rather grudging to do other than welcome the resolution now before the House.

The resolution is a recognition of the legitimacy of those who held weapons under the law as it stood. Special circumstances attach to the changes to the law now proposed by the Government and under those special circumstances compensation is a proper thing for the Government to consider and to implement. For those reasons, I believe that the resolution should be warmly accepted by the House.

12.3 am

I wish to thank my hon. Friend the Minister for introducing the money resolution. In fairness it should be said that, despite all the comments that were made when the Government introduced the White Paper and on Second Reading, it seemed most unlikely that we would achieve a money resolution and compensation. It is only in the face of a failed sittings motion that we now have the money resolution and the possibility of debating in Committee either amendments to clauses or new clauses that will introduce the essential compensation. I am somewhat mystified about the difference between buy-in and compensation. There must be some subtle reason for the Government to have changed the wording from compensation to buy-in during the past week or two. I suspect there may be some Treasury small print that no doubt will be elucidated later.

The only point that I wish to make—I have hated having to say this innumerable times—is that all this could have been saved had there been proper consultation during September, October and November with the British Shooting Sports Council. Perhaps in future there will be such contact with the equivalent of an expert committee that can advise the Minister of the hazards that the Government will face if they proceed with such legislation. That is why there have been so many subsequent changes.

I am glad that the Minister accepted so many amendments. I hope that there are more to come. I welcome what the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) said about a compromise on self-loading rifles with perhaps a magazine of three or five rounds so that—

Order. We cannot anticipate the debate that may take place in Committee. We have to deal with the motion on the Order Paper and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will address himself to that.

The point is that it will substantially reduce the amount of money required in the money resolution if the Minister is able to accept my proposals. There would be savings for the Government and for many frustrated riflemen throughout the country if that were to happen.

I reiterate that I welcome the fact that the Government have moved the money resolution and look forward to debating the subsequent amendments to the Bill in Committee.

12.6 am

I merely want to point out that the money resolution exists because of a deficiency in the debate on 21 January. I well recall the horrified looks on the faces of the Minister and other Conservative Members when I stood up to debate the money resolution. As I said then, and as I say frequently, money resolutions should not go through on the nod.

As the debate on 21 January proceeded, it became transparent that the original money resolution was insufficient for the compensation scheme that the Minister said he would introduce. We said so on many occasions. The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) also said so, but (did not think too much about it as he voted for the money resolution on 21 January.

The Opposition opposed that resolution as a gesture. As I recall, we did not intend to do so, but we said that the money resolution was inadequate, and that it reflected hasty legislation and inadequate consultation and that if the Government were to withdraw the money resolution and think again, we would be prepared to support a proper money resolution which covered a compensation or buy-in scheme—whatever the term. We knew what we were talking about, but the Minister, far from readily acknowledging the error of his position, refused to concede that there was any deficiency and, as I recall, attempted to bluster his way through, with a few sneers thrown in for those of us who were intent on helping the House by drawing attention to the deficiencies of the money resolution.

I am sure that the Minister will not begrudge me the opportunity to say "I told you so on 21 January". It is a case of the biter bit. I hope that the House will take money resolutions seriously. The House very often shoves through money in great quantities on the nod.

On 21 January, I was asking about the extent of the Government's expected revenue from the increase in fees, for the cost of administration which they were preparing with legislation. The Minister was not able to answer me, because the Government had not thought enough about the expenditure involved, and that is why we are here tonight.

I am pleased that the Minister has taken note of the representations, principally of Opposition Members, and of the subsequent representations in Committee. I think that he now recognises that he was a bit quick-tempered on that occasion. Further contemplation of the matter has led him to introduce the money resolution that we said on 21 January was necessary.

12.9 am

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary on what he said. Unfortunately, I did not speak in the Second Reading debate. I did not think then and I do not think now that compensation is necessary. The reason why I am sure that what my hon. Friend has said is correct is that there has been a big public outcry and a demand for compensation, largely stirred up by many hon. Members on both sides of the House who have had representations made to them by organisations that are financed by the trade.

The arms market is international. My hon. Friend has announced that from the relevant date there is to be a floor for such transactions. It should be no more than a floor; it should not be a costly exercise. The order should not prevent dealers from offering the full market value for surrendered weapons. There are ready buyers overseas for weapons that are surrendered here, but can still be used legally abroad. What my hon. Friend has done is circumspect and correct, but I trust that it will not cost a great deal of money.

12.11 am

It is regrettable that under our system it is difficult for the Government to adopt a new view once they have drafted their legislation. Whether by choice or under duress, the Government have very wisely changed their mind. I welcome the new clause.

I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Minister was unable to spell out in more detail the terms of payment. That is crucial to the support that he can look for in Committee from some of his hon. Friends. In its wisdom the Committee removed clause 7 from the Bill. That considerably reduces the cost, because weapons that have been altered will not now return to their original category and need not be purchased by the Government. I hope that when new clause 1 is debated we shall be able still further to reduce the cost to the public purse. I am sure that my hon. Friend will listen with care to our arguments during that debate.

The Bill was a knee-jerk reaction to the sad and tragic events at Hungerford. Compensation will be paid for rifles that are hardly ever used in criminal activities. Out of 9,500 crimes in 1986 that involved weapons, fewer than 60 involved rifles of any sort—0.6 per cent. The idea that this legislation will reduce the use of firearms in crime is erroneous. My hon. Friend did not persuade me or anybody else who listened to the Committee proceedings of the rightness of his case.

The legislation was hasty and ill thought out and will not carry out the Government's perfectly reasonable objective of reducing crimes of any description.

12.15 am

Like many other hon. Members, I do not wish to prolong the debate unduly, but I hope that the money resolution will be endorsed. I think that it is rather unfair of hon. Members, on whichever Benches they may sit, to beat my hon. Friend the Minister about the head over this matter, because he made the position quite clear on 21 January, when he said:

"my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and I are not so arrogant as to assume that the Bill is necessarily perfect."— [Official Report, 21 January 1988; Vol. 125, c. 1182.]
Throughout the Committee proceedings, and indeed before the Committee even sat, my hon. Friend made it clear that the Bill would not necessarily pass through the Committee intact. So those who feel that they are brandishing great swords on behalf of whatever lobby are perhaps deluding themselves, if not deluding the lobby they seek to represent.

I do not think that the money resolution need be seen by my hon. Friend as a climbdown but he might perhaps wish to spell out to the House in terms of the new clause that will follow the money resolution exactly what the difference will be between weapons that are surrendered and those that are otherwise disposed of. I think that many hon. Members would be happy to see the taxpayer pay justified compensation for the surrender of firearms, but they might be less enthusiastic about seeing that money simply paid out on the basis of "otherwise disposed of" firearms, which is the term used in the Government new clause that was tabled today.

I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to make that clear to the House.

Order. The House cannot substitute itself for the Committee. The House must address itself to the motion on the Order Paper.

12.16 am

I just want to ask my hon. Friend the Minister one question, as I understand that he may catch your eye again, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The buy-back scheme will apply to firearms. What about the equipment on the firearms? My hon. Friend will know that there are certain types of guns for which sights are expensive accoutrements intrinsic to the design and cost those who own them a good deal of money. I have had representations from various people, not least very senior shooters in the police service, who are anxious to know whether the compensation scheme covers the additional pieces of equipment that are integral to the firearm and have no value if they are removed from the weapon.

This is the time to look forward, and not back, but I would like to say to my hon. Friend the Member for Somerset and Frome (Mr. Boscawen), the Government Whip on the Standing Committee, how grateful I am that he has obviously conveyed to the Chief Whip and the others who run the machinery of government in this place the importance of the money resolution having come to the House in time for the Committee to be able to complete its work in the knowledge that the Government have taken this difficult decision. I am grateful to those who have made it possible for the Committee to complete its work more effectively than would otherwise have been the case.

12.17 am

I am very grateful to hon. Members who have spoken in this debate for the unanimous support which I have received. It is rather refreshing, and a bit of a change. I am particularly grateful for the support that I have received on this occasion from my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin). That was refreshing too, and a bit of a change.

I found myself in very considerable agreement with what my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Mr. Conway) had to say about this matter, and I am grateful to him for his support. This is not a humiliating climbdown at all. In the course of the Second Reading debate, the Home Secretary and I made it perfectly plain to those who had ears to hear that we were reconsidering our attitude. The money resolution that we have laid before the House now is a reflection of that position. So I do not regard it as a humiliating climbdown. I am a realist, but I am not humiliated on this occasion—perhaps on other occasions, but not on this one.

My hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman) asked about dealers. It is not our intention, at least at the moment, to make any payments to dealers, basically because dealers are in a position to export and the international market price remains sound. Furthermore, it is extremely difficult to make a sensible distinction, either in law or in logic, between those who are whole-time dealers and those who choose to make themselves dealers in law but are not whole-time. That was their choice, and it is very difficult to make a distinction between them.

I am following the logic carefully. Will the Minister not agree that, while it is their choice, it was their choice at the time when possession of those weapons was perfectly legal in this country, and that dealers, be they full-time, part-time or whatever, are just as much caught in the web as the individual who owns one weapon? If we pass the legislation, dealers, especially part-time dealers, will be caught with the weapons in their hands and they will not be able easily to dispose of them.

That is a fair debating point. It is one of the reasons why we have drawn the money resolution in such wide terms. We have not by its nature excluded any argument or proposition that hon. Members choose to debate. The money resolution is widely drawn, so precisely the kind of point advanced by the hon. Member for Stockton, North (Mr. Cook) can be advanced.

But it seems to me that there is a difference between an individual who holds weapons in his individual capacity and a person who holds them in the capacity of a dealer. A dealer is in business, and there are always trades and hazards associated with being in business.

Furthermore, as I think the hon. Gentleman will accept, there remains a strong international market. Those who are in trade as gun dealers are in a much better position to dispose of weapons on the international market than are individuals who hold guns in their capacity as individuals. So, although I expect to debate such issues, I say to the House that the Government's present intention is not to extend the scheme to cover dealers, whether whole-time or part-time.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Sir E. Griffiths) asked about equipment. This is a very difficult question, because some items of equipment are attached to the gun itself, whereas others, which might very well have been purchased to be used with that weapon, are not attached to the gun itself. Again I find it difficult to make a distinction either in law or in logic between the two classes of equipment. My present view is that the buy-in policy should extend to the gun. I suppose that it is possible that one could in logic extend that also to the bits which are fixed permanently to a gun. One could argue that they became the gun, but these are the kind of questions that we will have to consider in the context of what has been said.

My hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham understandably asked what we mean by "otherwise disposed of". To him I give this answer: for people who have already sold weapons, we shall be ready to pay the difference between the price they received and the level that will be fixed under the buy-in scheme.

Hon. Members have asked what the difference is between compensation and a buy-in policy. I am not sure that there is a difference. What we are doing is buying in guns. That is why we have called it a buy-in scheme. In one sense that is compensation; in another sense it is not. Compensation could be said to extend to compensation for loss of use, for example. We do not intend to do that. What we intend to do is to buy in guns. If there be a distinction of importance, I rely on the phrase "buy in" rather than on the phrase "compensation".

This has been a happy debate, because I have received such support. I commend the money resolution to the House.

Question put and agreed to.


That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Firearms (Amendment) Bill, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of sums required by the Secretary of State for making payments in respect of property the possesson of which becomes unlawful as a result of that Act.

Job Losses (Wakefield)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.— [Mr. Garel-Jones.]

12.23 am

I am most grateful for the opportunity to raise certain issues which are of deep concern to my constituents within Wakefield. The last time I was present in the Chamber for an Adjournment debate at this ridiculously late hour it was to discuss the closure of the Woolley and Redbrook colliery complexes. The debate was led by my hon. Friends the Members for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Illsley) and Barnsley, West and Penistone (Mr. McKay).

I believe that it is appropriate to start my brief contribution in the early hours of this morning by referring to the problems that affect my constituents directly as a result of the rundown of the coal industry in the Wakefield area. I should like to refer briefly to some statistics which show the major problems affecting my constituents as a direct result of the pit closures.

In 1979, in my constituency of Wakefield, there were 4,395 jobs at eight pits. In 1988, there are only 565 jobs at one pit, the complex at Denby Grange and Calder Drift. In 1979, in the Wakefield district, there were almost 17,000 jobs in the mining industry at two pits. In 1988, there are fewer than 5,000 jobs at six pits. It is important to make the point that there are knock-on effects of pit closures. I am concerned not simply about the issue of miners' jobs, although that is important, but about the effects on the rest of the economy. I am particularly concerned about the fact that, directly following pit closures, job losses arise in manufacturing companies and service organisations supplying the goods and services to the coal industry.

The engineering industry in my constituency is extremely dependent on the prospects of the coal industry. I remind the Minister of the closure of the British Ropes factory in Wakefield in January 1986, with the loss of 180 jobs. One of the main factors contributing to that was the rundown of coal in the Yorkshire area. Several other large employers are very much dependent on the prospects of the coal industry, including British Jeffery Diamond. It currently employs 780, yet as recently as 1986 that company employed 950 people in my constituency. Fletcher, Sutcliffe, Wilde employs 385 people at its factory in Wakefield. In 1981 it employed as many as 781, so, clearly, those two companies, together with a number of smaller companies, are very dependent on the prospects of the coal industry.

In detailing the knock-on effects of the rundown of the coal industry, it is important to discuss job losses in local services caused by loss of spending power among mining families. I refer the Minister to the study carried out by Barnsley borough council, which estimated that, for every 100 jobs lost in the coal industry, an additional 24 were lost through loss of spending power by former employees in the coal industry. I understand that that is a rather conservative estimate of the impact.

There are also similar problems in my constituency in the textile industry. Recently there have been major closures at Paton and Baldwin, Listers, where several hundred people lost their jobs. Clearly, there is a similar knock-on effect in the constituency.

I do not want to give the Minister the impression that local people have not attempted to do something about the situation. I wish to pay tribute to the role of the local authority, not just because I was chairman of its Economic Development Committee. Recently, Wakefield district council has made great efforts to attempt to offset the problems that we face in my area as a result of the declining industries, such as textiles and coal. Wakefield district council has established excellent relations with the private sector at local level. People in private industry locally would support that. The district council has worked closely alongside the Wakefield and Kirklees chamber of commerce and, with private industry, has developed a number of initiatives in job creation, which are to be commended. It has developed successful enterprise centres based in the worst hit areas of Wakefield, which are clearly generating new jobs, although not to the extent required to replace the jobs that we have lost in the coal and textile industries, among others.

It is also fair to say that the district council has made strident efforts to attract new investment into the Wakefield district by marketing the area, trying to sell it to inward investment, with substantial success. The Minister will probably be aware of recent proposals by Coca-Cola-Schweppes to open a factory in the Normanton constituency, which, although not in Wakefield itself, will clearly have some bearing on my constituency.

In my opinion, the efforts that are being made by the local authority have been totally undermined by the Government's withdrawal of assistance. I want to give four brief examples of the ways in which I feel that the Government have directly damaged the prospects of the local economy in the Wakefield constituency and in the wider Wakefield district. Way back in 1982, the industrial development certificate system was abolished. Until that point, that system had actively encouraged the movement from the prosperous south-east to areas of unemployment in the north of people who would be prepared to create jobs. I felt at the time, and have certainly felt since, that such abolition was a backward step. In the same year—this is probably the most crucial point—the review of regional policy led to the withdrawal from Wakefield of the intermediate status that it had previously enjoyed. I shall refer to that later.

In 1985, the Department of the Environment announced that Wakefield would no longer be eligible for urban development grant. At local level, much progress had been made as a result of the use of those urban development grants. Indeed, I recently discussed the successes that we have had with the hon. Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Mr. Trippier). When he visited my constituency before Christmas he was able to see the successes that we have had directly as a result of urban development grants being available to firms in Wakefield.

My request for this Adjournment debate stems from a recent spate of job losses that have hit my constituency. I should like to detail briefly the extent of those job losses. February 1988 was a black month for employment prospects in my constituency. On 4 February, as I am sure the Minister is fully aware, Hagenbach's bakery was scheduled for closure by Allied Bakeries Ltd. I believe that the bakery employs altogether over 300 people, but Hagenbach's and the people at the bakery have run a number of shops in the Yorkshire and Lancashire area. I believe that the total package of losses announced by Allied Bakeries on 4 February was about 430 jobs—more than 300 jobs in the bakery in my constituency and the rest based in shops throughout the north of England.

What was especially worrying was that there had not been any prior warning to the employees about the drastic nature of the step taken by Allied Bakeries, although it is fair to say that 46 redundancies had occurred the previous October. However, there had been no subsequent attempts to cut production or reduce costs. As I understand it, distribution patterns had remained constant and there had not been any staff cuts.

I had subsequent contact with a gentleman by the name of Mr. J. W. Mutch, the personnel director of Allied Bakeries. I explained my concern and that I felt that it was discourteous, when there was such a sizeable closure, that the company had not taken the trouble to notify the local Member of Parliament which, from discussions with my predecessor, I had understood to be normal practice. Because of his concern at my involvement, Mr. Mutch came up to Wakefield overnight and I met him together with the local manager of the bakery to discuss in detail my concern over the issue. I also discussed with the trade union representatives at the bakery their concern about what had happened. Mr. Mutch informed me that the closure decision was
"based on commercial decisions connected with the changing pattern of trade in the bread market, against a background of overcapacity in the plant bread industry."
In a letter to me, Mr. Mutch further stated:
"We very much regret that the closure decision has had to be taken and it is important that we should assure you that the decision is no reflection on the skills and attitude of the workforce—many of whom have given loyal service over many years."
I do not have to tell the House that, in a situation such as this, the staff who had given such loyal service were devastated by the announcement. What particularly concerns me is that many of the staff are female and many are under 40: this poses particular problems when it comes to generating the jobs to make up for the major loss of this bakery.

As if that were not bad enough, in the same month Northern Dairies, which has a plant in Back lane, Wakefield, announced 58 job losses caused by a
"reduction in milk production"
at its Wakefield site. In his official announcement of this reduction, Mr. N. F. Benson, the area manager, stated:
"This decision, which has not been taken lightly, is as a result of the cost of updating the Wakefield operation, the difficulties of the site itself and the need to maximise the effectiveness of production capacity across the company."
To be fair to this company, I understand that it intends to upgrade the remaining operation to what it calls "modern standards" and to spend some £750,000 on the site in the next 12 months. Nevertheless, this changeover has resulted in the loss of 58 jobs in an area where we can do without such a loss. It is likely that there will be other redundancies as a knock-on effect of the Northern Dairies announcement, presumably in the supply of milk to that dairy.

In addition to these two announcements of major job losses, two others were also made in February. An organisation called CAIB UK Ltd., previously based in the Horbury area and owned by an Australian conglomerate, Brambles Europe Ltd., has moved the operation of its railway wagon hire business from the Wakefield constituency to London; seven of its employees have been offered work in London but the remaining 18 have been made redundant. So here are more job losses directly affecting my constituents.

The fourth major announcement last month was the fact that the Britvic Corona soft drinks depot in Flanshaw lane, Wakefield, is to be closed in the not too distant future. On that site at present there are 35 jobs altogether. I spoke to a Mr. Michael Salter, who is the new company secretary of Britvic Corona, based in Chelmsford. He told me that this was
"part of a rationalisation programme."
He added that there was hope for relocation of some of the jobs in Leeds. But for me, attempting to keep work in my constituency, it is a net loss of 35 jobs for the people of Wakefield.

In a matter of four weeks, therefore, over 400 jobs have been lost to Wakefield people, So I am here to tell the Government that we need some assistance and some response about the situation in Wakefield.

What do Wakefield people want from the Government? We need a recognition that unemployment is a human issue, not an abstract concept. It worries me sometimes, listening to debates in the House, that people forget that it is human beings we are talking about. It certainly hit me when 1 met the people at Hagenbach's, who told me that when the announcement was made people there who were not prone to show emotion wept openly, because it was the end of the world for them: their future was a complete blank, a mystery, to them from that day.

We require recognition, particularly when it comes to closures in the coal industry, that redundancy payments, however generous, are no substitute for real jobs which are needed by school leavers, by young people and by unemployed people in my area.

We need a recognition of the problems facing the local economy in Wakefield. It concerns me that much of the Government policy at present directed towards local economies is based on figures in the 1984 census of employment. As regards Wakefield, those figures pre-date the huge decline in mining jobs, in particular, which have taken place in the past two or three years. At that stage, of course, there was what I would call a stockpile of miners, awaiting the development of the new Selby coalfield. Things have changed significantly since 1984, and the Minister should he clear about that.

It is important to stress the concern that the Government's industrial policy is aimed largely at inner areas of large cities. Wakefield has small towns and communities, which are not suited to the type of redevelopments undertaken by the Government in certain of the large inner-city areas.

Further, the Wakefield people want recognition that Wakefield's problems are in many ways a consequence of the operation of market forces. We do not believe that free market operations will resolve the serious problems that we are facing. Wakefield people want their area to be granted appropriate economic development status, so that public funds are made available to invest in the infrastructure needed for job creation — roads and factory premises—and to attract direct investment in jobs.

Other Yorkshire Members and I received a letter from the Yorkshire and Humberside Development Association about the urgent need for advance factory units, especially in non-assisted areas such as mine. The letter refers to the reply from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, the hon. Member for South Ribble (Mr. Atkins), when he said that in his opinion the issue will be dealt with by market mechanisms. The YHDA said:
"The trouble is, if you compare the 1982 to 1987 figures quoted above with the 1977 to 1982, and with the 1972 to 1977 figures, the general picture remains the same. Taking the entire 1972 to 1987 period, industrial property values rose by 12.5 per cent. in the South … If you take inflation into account, at 11 per cent., you will see that there is a positive growth rate in the South and a negative one in the North. We have been waiting 15 years for market mechanisms to sort out the problems we presently face. It is our belief here at the YHDA that those market mechanisms need a gentle nudge."
I am sure that the Minister will take the points I have made seriously.

I am not here with a begging bowl; I am here with pride in my local community, in which I have lived all my life, and a strong conviction that, with the restoration of the minimal assistance from Government that was taken away, Wakefield can begin to tackle successfully the problems I have outlined and start to rebuild its economy.

12.43 am

I congratulate the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe) on having secured this Adjournment debate. I fully understand his concern for the needs of his constituents and his commitment to them.

I accept that job losses have occurred in Wakefield and that the unemployment rate is higher than any of us would wish it to be. I recognise that we are talking about human beings. Like many areas throughout the United Kingdom, Wakefield has suffered from a decline in traditional industries, particularly coal mining. I shall be spending much of this speech talking about matters of particular relevance to Wakefield, but I should first like to put Wakefield's situation in a broader context.

Unemployment is not just a matter for local or even national concern. It is an international problem: over 16 million people are currently unemployed in the 12 countries of the European Community. We are constantly searching for ways to help industry and commerce create new jobs, and to help the unemployed help themselves, and we are having some success.

Unemployment in the United Kingdom has now fallen for 18 months in succession: by almost 647,000 since July 1986. This is the largest sustained fall on record. Over the last six months, unemployment has fallen by a record average of 52,000 per month. Over the past year, United Kingdom unemployment has fallen faster than in all other major industrial countries, and our rate is now lower than in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Ireland. Of particular note is the fact that unemployment has fallen significantly among under 18-year-olds and among those who have been unemployed for more than 12 months.

Unemployment has been falling for the last 18 months, but employment has been rising for the last 18 quarters. In that time, the civilian labour force in the United Kingdom has grown by over 1·5 million. This is the longest period of continuous employment growth for nearly 30 years. I am particularly pleased about that, although much of this growth has been in the service industries and in the ranks of the self-employed. Manufacturing employment has also been rising over the last three months.

Wakefield and the whole Yorkshire and Humberside region are sharing in these favourable trends.

Unemployment in the region fell by 46,600 in the 12 months to January 1988. In the same period, unemployment in the Wakefield and Dewsbury travel-to-work area fell by over 2,600, and in the hon. Gentleman's constituency by 828, which represents over 15 per cent. of the total unemployed in the constituency at January 1987. Unfilled vacancies at jobcentres at January 1988 totalled 878, up 20 per cent. on 1987.

In this same period, in the 12 months to January 1988, youth unemployment in the Yorkshire and Humberside region fell by over 25 per cent. and the number of those unemployed for more than 12 months fell by over 16 per cent. In the period from June 1983 to June 1987, the civilian labour force in the region grew by 97,000. This represents a 5 per cent. increase, which exceeds the growth in the north as a whole.

The specific job losses in Wakefield to which the hon. Gentleman referred are primarily job losses due to colliery closures and cuts, the closure of a bakery and staffing reductions in a local dairy. I am sure that, as in almost all situations where workers stand to lose their jobs, there are arguments, some more valid than others, that can be mounted against these particular cuts. But ultimately they are clearly all decisions for the commercial judgment of the companies concerned. I have to say bluntly that none of them is a matter in which it would be correct for the Government to intervene, and it would be unfair to the employees concerned to pretend otherwise.

It is a fact of commercial and industrial life that companies both large and small sometimes find themselves in a position where closure or a reduction in the workforce is unavoidable. Legislation exists, subject to certain conditions and thresholds, for the notification of redundancies, for consultation with recognised trade unions and for redundancy payments. In many cases employers—the National Coal Board is one—go beyond the strict legal requirements in terms of consultation and redundancy pay, and of course all the facilities of the Department of Employment and of the Manpower Services Commission, to which I shall refer extensively, are available to those who lose their jobs, and that is all to the good.

But it is futile to think that the Government or anyone else can wave some magic wand, halt the process of change or turn the clock back to the employment pattern of some past time so as to prevent these closures and job losses from occurring. Change is inevitable. What matters is how we respond to change.

There is evidence that not all the change in Wakefield is in the direction perceived by the hon. Gentleman. I have referred to the favourable trends in unemployment and employment which can be seen in the hon. Gentleman's constituency. Jobs are being created to replace in part those being lost. We had the recent planning decision, taken against a background of some local opposition, to allow a major soft drinks warehouse on the outskirts of Wakefield which it is hoped will create several hundred jobs. I also note that Wakefield district council is encouraging job creation by giving financial assistance provided by the European social fund to local firms taking on young people.

I have taken an interest in the problems of Wakefield, and went there last April. One of my engagements was to visit a job club, of which there are three in Wakefield. They have an excellent record and two thirds of the unemployed who have passed through these job clubs have found employment. I also visited M. P. Stonehouse Ltd, at Albion Mills, Wakefield, a textile company which, certainly at that stage, was trading well.

I also understand that the Wakefield enterprise zone, which exists on three sites in the locality, has shown an excellent record of attracting employment. In December 1986, the latest date for which I have seen figures, there were 65 firms located in the zone, compared with 18 on the dates of designation in 1981 and 1983, and that there were 2,700 jobs compared with 1,200 on designation and 1,700 in December 1985.

While the Minister says that the enterprise zone has attracted jobs, my impression is that the zone, which is not in my constituency, has attracted those jobs from elsewhere rather than having created new jobs.

My experience of enterprise zones—I have the experience, I am glad to say, of having two in my constituency — is that, while some jobs move from outside into an enterprise zone, normally some new jobs are created. Also, an enterprise zone creates new factories, which obviously help modern manufacturing processes.

The Government believe that they are creating an economic climate in which industry is becoming more competitive in world markets, and which allows enterprise and job creation to flourish. But it should not for one moment be thought that we are leaving it at that. We are also helping firms, especially small firms, to equip themselves for growth, and helping the unemployed to equip themselves for a return to work. My Department and others have a wide and costly range of measures to help industry and the unemployed.

The Department of Trade and Industry recently launched its enterprise initiative, which will provide assistance mainly to small and medium-sized firms. My Department, through its small firms centres, supports the budding entrepreneur as well as established small firms with low-cost information and advice, offered through more than 300 counsellors in 170 locations, including Leeds. In 1987, the small firms service dealt with 282,000 inquiries nationwide and provided more than 38,000 counselling sessions.

The local enterprise agency movement is also proving to be a potent force for encouraging enterprise and employment at a local level. Nationally, more than 3,000 private sector companies now support local enterprise agencies. Although the Government believe that this movement must be led by the private sector, we have introduced a grant scheme to strengthen agencies and make them better able to attract further private sector funds. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be familiar with the Kirklees and Wakefield venture trust, which was launched in 1981 and which has received assistance under the grant scheme.

My Department is particularly concerned about unemployed people who possess initiative, ideas and some capital, but who hesitate to take the risk of losing unemployment benefit. To help them we have introduced the enterprise allowance scheme, which encourages enterprise among the unemployed by paying them £40 a week for the first year of self-employment. About 274,000 people nationally have so far started a business using this scheme, and more than 1,600 individuals are currently benefiting from the scheme in the Wakefield area.

I have tried to demonstrate that, despite certain job losses, there are encouraging signs in Wakefield's employment position. Unemployment is falling; and employment in the region as a whole is rising.

Assisted area status is a matter for my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, not for me and my Department. However, I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to an article in the Yorkshire Post on 26 February, headed
"City on the verge of a job bonanza".
It refers to the comments of Councillor John Pearman, who
"hinted at exciting developments on the jobs front in the immediate future",
and later to the comments of Councillor Peter Box, chairman of Wakefield's employment and economic development committee. He said:
"There's a certain buoyancy at the moment as far as interest from private sector companies is concerned. We are dealing with a substantial number of inquiries from firms large and small."
He went on to say that
"it seemed that Wakefield's geographical advantage being close to the M1 and M62, was central to the attraction, coupled to a reputation of having a good workforce and excellent industrial estates."
One hopes that some of those general optimistic comments will, in the fulness of time, come through in the form of specific jobs.

I have tried to show that the Government are helping Wakefield and areas like it to overcome their economic problems. We are putting in place measures, such as YTS and our new adult training strategy, which are not merely short-term expedients, but are long-term programmes designed to meet the nation's long-term future needs.

Above all, we see our role as establishing economic conditions conducive to enterprise and job creation. 'We are succeeding in that. We are now well into our seventh successive year of steady growth, and the fifth year in which growth has been combined with low inflation—

The motion having been made after Ten o'clock and the debate having continued for half an hour, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at seven minutes to One o'clock.