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Commons Chamber

Volume 234: debated on Friday 17 December 1993

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House Of Commons

Friday 17 December 1993

The House met at half-past Nine o'clock

Prayers

[MADAM SPEAKER in the Chair]

Israel

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

9.34 am

I am grateful for the opportunity to address the House on the subject of British policy towards Israel at the United Nations. This year's General Assembly is now coming to a conclusion, and the debate will give the Government an opportunity to comment on the ways that Britain is seeking to further the peace process, both at the United Nations and in terms of our interests and responsibilities in the middle east.

I am looking forward to hearing what my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister has to say about Britain's attitude towards the many resolutions on the middle east, which come up year after year at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

As long ago as 1982, I was able to secure an Adjournment debate on Britain's responsibilities under the United Nations charter for our dependent territories. I did so because, in late 1982, I spent some two months at the General Assembly as the parliamentary delegate from the United Kingdom. That experience taught me that the United Nations is a Parliament. Like every Parliament, if it is to function properly, it has what we would call Standing Orders. It has precise rules and procedures. The countries that perform effectively at the United Nations are those which, like Britain, have mastered the fine print of the United Nations charter and mastered in turn the way that a country must learn the Standing Orders of the United Nations to undertake the day-to-day work with speed and efficiency.

At the time of the Falklands, the role of the British mission in New York was not only vital to this country's effort but exemplary in terms of the contribution that our diplomats made. I do not believe that that contribution could have been as successful as it was had they not been masters of the art of United Nations diplomacy, which frequently means having an understanding of the fine print, not just of documents but of the rules of the organisation.

I believe that the peace process needs every possible encouragement. It continues to be fragile and we should therefore do everything that we possibly can to assist. I want particularly to raise the question of Israel's participation in a regional group. That issue has come up on previous occasions, and requires some clarification as the peace process develops.

I should like to see Israel playing a fuller part in the work of the United Nations, not least because that might help to make Israel's response on some issues less defensive, and would at the same time try to encourage and assist the situation in which Israel and the Arab countries can be seen to be working more closely together.

As I understand it, Israel is the only country which, unwillingly, does not belong to any regional group. That means that it cannot participate fully in the proceedings and work of the United Nations, with the adverse consequences to which I was referring earlier. I agree that Israel belongs naturally to the Asian group, but it is not accepted there because of Arab resistance.

As I understand it, Israel just wants to be treated as a normal country, in United Nations terms, and wants to be more involved and be elected to United Nations bodies. In that sense, Israel is isolated, because it is only by belonging to a regional grouping that a country can participate in internal United Nations elections or eventually become a member of the Security Council.

Israel has sought to deal with that problem by applying for temporary membership of the Western European and others group—temporary because, once peace in the middle east is established, Israel should join the Asian group. As I understand it, Israel is already accepted in the Western European and others group in other international organisations, such as the World Health Organisation, the International Labour Organisation, UNESCO and the Food and Agriculture Organisation.

I believe that rights bring responsibilities, and Israel's membership of a regional grouping within the United Nations would mean not only that it would take on the benefits of membership, but that its closer relationship with other group members could grant scope for a more responsive dialogue between the member countries. I attach weight and importance to that argument.

In that regard, the position of the United States is interesting. I note that in 1992, for example, a spokesman for the United States Department of State, Office of Assistant Secretary, was asked by the press the following question about Israel and the United Nations:
"Does the United States have a position on whether Israel should be able to enjoy membership in the UN's elective offices, such as the Security Council?"
The answer was unequivocally
"Yes, the United States strongly favours full Israeli eligibility for UN elective offices such as the Security Council. This is why we strongly support Israel's membership in one of the five regional groupings at the UN, which propose candidates for elective offices. Israel is not now a member of a regional grouping. For a number of years we have supported Israel's membership in a regional grouping, and we will continue to do so."
That is a clear statement of the United States' position. Canada and the Netherlands support that stance, and the remainder say that they would support a consensus to admit Israel, but will not lobby for it. I should be grateful if my right hon. and learned Friend could clarify the present position.

In July, in an answer to the hon. Member for Warley, West (Mr. Spellar), my right hon. and learned Friend said:
"We believe Israel should be allowed into the Asian group of the United Nations. But until they are, we would not object to Israeli membership of the Western European and others group of the United Nations if there was a consensus among other member states."—[Official Report, 16 July 1993; Vol. 211, c. 725.]

On 13 August, I received a letter from my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, which noted:
"We have discussed this issue with EC colleagues and it is clear that there is no consensus in favour of Israeli membership of WEOG"—
the Western European and others group—
"Our EC partners are fully aware of our own position."
In those circumstances, I should welcome further clarification of how the Government see the British position and their view on the way ahead on this issue.

At this juncture, I should like to draw the attention of the House to the implications of the arguments about Israel's membership of a regional grouping for the chemical weapons convention. At the 47th United Nations General Assembly, Israel co-sponsored the resolution endorsing that convention. On 13 January this year, it signed that convention in Paris, therefore making Israel one of the original signatories. As a consequence, Israel decided to send a delegation to participate in the work of PrepCom—the preparatory commission of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons—which is based in the Hague. Israel signed that convention with strong encouragement from the west.

Israel believes that that act should have strengthened its case for membership of the Western European and others group, particularly since some of Israel's neighbours still have chemical weapons. I should be grateful if my right hon. and learned Friend could say how he sees Israel's position within the particular context of the chemical weapons convention.

The wider question of British policy towards Israel and the middle east, as expressed in resolutions at the General Assembly and with particular reference to those passed this autumn, should be considered. For as long as I can remember, the texts of Security Council resolution 242 of 22 November 1967 and resolution 338 of 22 October 1973 have been the bedrock of the United Nations position on the middle east and that of many member countries. As the years have rolled by, the references to those resolutions have multiplied. Time and again, the House and other Parliaments have had detailed discussions of those resolutions and their implications.

As I understand it, the news from New York this week is that a new resolution has been tabled, which seems to represent a welcome step forward. It enjoys 105 sponsors, one of which is Britain. The resolution was adopted this week, with a vote of 155 member countries in favour. There was only one abstention, and Libya and three other countries voted against—Syria, the Lebanon and Iran. I should like my right hon. and learned Friend to say whether he believes that that new resolution will, in effect, be the bedrock resolution on which further debate and discussions at the United Nations will take place.

I note that the resolution refers to the earlier resolutions 242 and 338. It goes on to review the startling progress that has been made this year in seeking to bring peace to the middle east. It calls on member states to do everything possible to take that process further. I am sure that all hon. Members will attach great importance to that aim.

I should like to draw the attention of the House to correspondence that took place late in 1992 between a group of United States Senators and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, because it highlights a problem that still exists. Those Senators pointed out:
"over 30 anti-Israeli resolutions are passed each year in the United Nations with the specific objective of condemning and embarrassing the government of Israel … We believe these resolutions are unjustified … In our opinion, Israel should be commended for its commitment to the peace talks rather than openly condemned in resolutions at the General Assembly."
My right hon. Friend replied:
"We have made clear to the Arabs … our view that ritual condemnation of Israel in United Nations' resolutions is counter-productive, hindering rather than promoting the peace process."

I invite my right hon. and learned Friend to comment on the present situation and whether he believes that the plethora of resolutions at the UN General Assembly could now be reduced. May we take it that, henceforth, the resolution that was passed this week will be the principal resolution, and that it will be possible to concentrate on its wording, rather than deal continuously with other anti-Israeli resolutions, which have done so much damage in the past?

I welcome the changes that have taken place this year. I draw the attention of the House to the resolution on Israeli nuclear armament. In 1992, Britain abstained on that resolution, the text of which deplored Israel's refusal to renounce possession of nuclear weapons and urged it to accede to the treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons convention.

That has been replaced this year by the call on Israel to renounce its possession of nuclear weapons and to accede to the treaty on non-proliferation. The United Kingdom and the rest of the European Community member states voted against that resolution.

What does my right hon. and learned Friend think will be the future approach to that resolution and others? Will it be British policy at the UN to try to persuade other countries to forgo resolutions of that kind in the foreseeable future? They do not help the peace process; in many respects, they hinder it, for the various reasons that I have given.

I remind the House that, although the UN has at times not seemed an especially appropriate place in which to further the aims of British diplomacy and there are occasions on which it is easy to become bogged down in what my noble Friend Baroness Thatcher referred to as a procedural morass, times change and, in the middle east, the UN has always participated in the various peace talks and working parties that have been set up; certainly, that situation will not change.

An understanding and knowledge of the rules of the organisation are essential if Israel, Britain and other countries are to pursue their diplomacy effectively. If Israel were allowed into a regional grouping, it would bring about an improvement in the present situation in New York.

The more that Israel can be encouraged to co-operate and to look for means whereby she can further her diplomacy in a manner that is consistent with the objectives that we all want to see fulfilled, the more that the peace process will be enhanced. I believe that British policy at the UN has been directed towards furthering that wholly necessary objective. I look forward to the reply of my right hon. and learned Friend on those specific points.

9.52 am

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Hazel Grove (Sir T. Arnold) for raising this subject and for giving me the opportunity to respond to the important points that he has made. It is a great pleasure to see my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Mr. Kirkhope) on the Front Bench; his interest in these matters and concern for the state of Israel is well known.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hazel Grove began by speaking highly of the skills of the United Kingdom diplomats who work in New York. I entirely agree. I am sure that the House will agree that the reputations of Sir David Hannay and his colleagues are second to none. I pay tribute to Sir David Hannay and his colleagues, and thank them for the warm welcome they gave Members of the House who visited the UN some two or three weeks ago.

My hon. Friend concentrated at some length on the possibility of Israel's becoming a member of the Western European and others group, and also of participating in the organisation of the preparatory commission on the prohibition of chemical weapons.

Our position on Israel's admission to WEOG is as follows: like my hon. Friend, we believe that Israel's proper home is in the Asian group. We are at one on that. As my hon. Friend knows, there is a delicate balance to be struck between the regional groups in the UN system. WEOG has not accepted any member from outside the western European area in the past 40 years and, for that reason, there are natural inhibitions about doing so now. However, at the same time, we do not wish to be unhelpful towards Israel and we will not block a consensus in favour of Israel membership on a temporary basis. We anticipate that the membership will be renewed annually.

It is not for us to lobby for Israeli membership, but if there is consensus, we will not seek to block it, and will be content to see Israel as a temporary member of WEOG. The Government of Israel know that fact, partly because we have disclosed it to our colleagues and partly because, when I saw Foreign Minister Peres in Vienna earlier in the year, I stated our position clearly. I hope that my hon. Friend will be reassured on that point.

My hon. Friend also raised the question of Israel's membership of the preparatory commission of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons at the Hague on 15 December. It was agreed to accept conditionally Israel's request for temporary membership, pending its admission to the Asian group. I hope that my hon. Friend will be reassured by that fact.

The debate in the General Assembly took place against the background of the developments in the middle east. Is the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) seeking to intervene?

I am grateful. I would have truncated my remarks if the hon. Member had wanted to intervene.

The breakthrough in the negotiations between the Palestine Liberation Organisation and Israel was a tremendous achievement and has unquestionably affected all our attitudes to the problem of the Arab-Israeli dispute. The handshake on the White House lawn on 13 September is an image which will rest in our minds for a long time, as will the visit of Chairman Arafat to London.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary gave a lunch for Chairman Arafat and, in many ways, it was an extraordinary occasion. Chairman Arafat was a welcome guest to lunch, and also present were the Israeli ambassador to London, the President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Judge Finestein, and the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner).

We should give credit to the United States. In a sense, the breakthrough was the result of the Madrid process. It would not have begun without the initiative of Secretary Baker and President Bush, which was carried forward by the Norwegians in the Oslo talks. The process in Madrid that began in October 1991 was based on Security Council resolutions 242 and 338. Those resolutions and the principle of land for peace which is reflected in them, remain the basis for all negotiations.

In the declaration of principles signed by Israel and the PLO, the aim of the negotiations is described as a permanent settlement based on Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 and the permanent status negotiations aim at the implementations of those resolutions.

Against that background, we and our partners in the European Union have taken a fresh look at all the resolutions that concern Israel—as have the Arab states, which drafted many of those resolutions.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hazel Grove referred to the new resolution. We were delighted to be able to co-sponsor that new resolution, which we thought was forward looking, in that it welcomed the developments in the peace process. My hon. Friend rightly said that that resolution was adopted by a huge majority, with 155 votes for, three against and one abstention. Israel herself voted in favour. I hope that that is symptomatic of a new atmosphere of co-operation and relative harmony in New York.

I am glad to say that this year's resolutions have been much less condemnatory in tone than those in previous years, and that has made it possible for more resolutions to be adopted by consensus. I hope that people will be careful not to draft or seek to push through one-sided resolutions in the context of the debate in the middle east.

We must all be conscious that there are constituencies on both sides—in the state of Israel and in the occupied territories—that have to be carried if the peace process is to survive. It is unhelpful to pass one-sided resolutions that alienate one or other of the constituents. We need to be even handed in this matter.

Lebanon's opposition to the new resolution came about because there was no express reference to Security Council resolution 425—which does, of course, require Israel to withdraw from Lebanon. I should like to take this opportunity again to reiterate the support that Her Majesty's Government give support to resolution 425 and to the need for a peaceful solution to the Lebanon track of the peace process.

In that context, it was a great pleasure for me to welcome yesterday to London the Foreign Minister of Lebanon. I am pleased that the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie had the opportunity to talk to him. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary had a substantive meeting with him yesterday afternoon, which was no doubt extremely helpful, I hope for both sides.

The recent euphoria that has come about because of the agreement between Israel and the PLO emphasises the value that everybody places on movement. However, the Government adhere to the belief that peace in the middle east requires more than just a deal between those two parties. I have always taken the view that one cannot get a lasting settlement in the middle east unless and until there is an agreement between the Palestinians the state of Israel. It is a mistake to suppose that there is the possibility of making bilateral agreements between the state of Israel and individual Arab states unless there is agreement between the state of Israel and Palestinians.

Therefore, the agreement made between Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Rabin is important not just because it opens up the possibility—even the probability —of a long-lasting accord between those two peoples, but because it unlocks the door to the wider, more comprehensive peace settlement that is essential. We need a comprehensive settlement that covers all tracks of the peace process and is freely agreed to by all the parties. I hope that, by next year, the General Assembly will be considering resolutions welcoming further progress on all tracks, including that of Syria and that of Lebanon.

Let me say a word about the Syrian track. The General Assembly resolutions have this year continued to address the question of the Golan Heights. We abstained on that question, as we have in the past, because we thought that the language would not help progress in the negotiations. But there can be no doubt about our support for attempts to resolve that problem as part of a comprehensive settlement.

An agreement between the state of Israel and Syria is, in my view, essential and urgent. Two key questions have to be addressed—first, the withdrawal by Israel from the Golan Heights and, secondly, the establishment of a full state of peace between Syria and the state of Israel.

One of the key problems at the moment is that both the negotiating parties are unwilling to make plain exactly what they mean by the concepts. What does the state of Israel mean by withdrawal? The Syrians are entitled to press the Israelis on that. And what does the state of Syria mean by peace—is it a full relationship between friendly states or is it merely a cessation of the state of hostility? The state of Israel is entitled to press President Assad on that.

Those negotiating positions must be opened up and disclosed as soon as possible. In that context, I welcome the fact that the parties are returning to talks, and that President Clinton is to hold a summit with President Assad. It is most important that the parties move urgently in those negotiations.

This week, we have seen the implementation of another resolution—Security Council resolution 799, which, as the House will recall, calls for the return of all those who were deported to south Lebanon at about this time last year. I am glad to say that all those who were deported and have spent the past 12 months in south Lebanon have now returned to the state of Israel.

Certain problems remain, however; they stand in the way of a peace process and need to be addressed. Perhaps most prominent of all is the Israeli settlement building in the occupied territories. It is true that settlement building has been reduced, but it has not been wholly stopped. That is particularly true of east Jerusalem. Not surprisingly, the Palestinians are deeply concerned by that.

We have taken every opportunity—I take the opportunity now—to say to our Israeli friends that the construction of fresh settlements is an obstacle to the peace process and we very much hope that it will stop. We voted for the General Assembly resolution condemning the settlement building.

In the light of the new situation this year, we have reconsidered how to vote on a number of Arab-Israeli resolutions. On the subject of Israeli nuclear armament, for instance, we felt that in the present situation it was no longer appropriate to refer only to Israel. The issue of security is an important one. Laying the foundations of the region's peace and security falls to each and every state in the area. All of them, without exception, need to be active in arms control and disarmament. All countries must play a full part in preventing the spread and build-up of weapons of mass destruction, which we regard as a major threat to security and stability in the area.

Nuclear non-proliferation is one of our highest security priorities. We fully support the concept of a nuclear weapons-free zone in the middle east, and we and our European partners supported the resolution calling for that at the United Nations General Assembly this year.

We do not, however, consider it desirable to single out one particular nation for condemnation. We prefer the subject to be dealt with in the overall context of peace in the middle east, so we voted against the resolution specific to Israeli nuclear armament. That is not, however, a sign that we take the issue less than seriously. We continue to call on Israel and all other states in the region to accede to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and to place all their nuclear facilities under full safeguard agreements with the Internationl Atomic Energy Agency.

Accession to the treaty by all states in the region, and their full compliance with its obligations, would be the best way to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the middle east. Similarly, we urge all states in the region that have not already done so to accede to the bilogical and chemical weapons convention as soon as possible. We fully support the work of the multilateral working group of the peace process on arms control and regional security.

I have already referred to WEOG and the chemical group. The 12 member states were pleased to be able to support the Israeli candidate for election to the UN administrative tribunal, and Mr. Gabay was elected on the first vote. The role of the United Nations in the middle east goes further than a string of resolutions. Hon. Members will be aware f the work being done by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees. It is important work, which will not be diminished by the peace accord. We fully support that organisation—politically, with bilateral donations and through the European Community—and we will continue to do so.

The peace process is of historic importance. No part of the world is more volatile and dangerous than the middle east. The economic interests of the whole world are focused on it. Years of history, tradition, hostility, fighting, murder and religious divide make it an extraordinarily difficult problem to resolve.

There are very legitimate concerns on all sides. Israel has a legitimate concern for security and we must keep that very much in mind. The Palestinians have a legitimate concern to assert their political rights as a people to acquire land of their own and create a political entity. The Arab states also have legitimate concerns. Syria's territory is occupied, as is that of Lebanon.

There are problems not only of history and tradition but of current needs and priorities. Against that background, what Prime Minister Rabin and Chairman Arafat have done is an extraordinarily courageous and statesmanlike act. Chairman Arafat has put his personal security on the line, as well as his political reputation. President Rabin has also put his political reputation on the line. They were right to do so. It was no small matter and they both deserve credit.

It is for that reason, at least in part, that my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary were pleased to receive Chairman Arafat in London as a guest of the Government. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is looking forward to his visit to Israel and the occupied territories in January.

We must rally behind the peace process, politically and financially. We can do some good by sending messages and making clear what we believe to be true. The central problem is that important constituencies, in both the territories and the state of Israel, must be carried if the peace process is to last. People in the occupied territories must realise that powerful benefits flow from the accord and that it is not the end of the matter but the beginning.

To the state of Israel, I say, "Be generous; make progress with all possible speed; make it plain that you are withdrawing and that Jericho-Gaza is but the first step. Press on, be generous." To our Palestinian friends, I say, "You must take account of the genuine security interests of the state of Israel. Do not press for more than public opinion in Israel can currently give. If you do, the process will collapse. Encourage your Arab friends to get closer to the state of Israel. Relax the trade embargo that is seen as a major obstacle to the establishment of proper relations. Do your utmost to ensure that there is no further violence in the territories."

We will do all we can to make sure that the negotiating parties recognise those facts. It is an historic moment and all parties deserve credit for what they have achieved. We believe that the process is irreversible and we will reinforce it as much as we can.

I am pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Hazel Grove has given me the opportunity to say that and that my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East was here to reinforce that message.

Hospitals (London)

10.15 am

I am grateful for the opportunity today to speak about the situation in London's hospitals. We have two contradictory views of reality— that of the Secretary of State for Health and everyone else's. The Secretary of State tells increasingly bewildered and angry Londoners that all is splendid in the national health service; another version is played out, day by day, in the casualty and acute wards of London's hospitals.

I received a letter yesterday from a constituent who is a consultant at Bart's—the hospital which the Secretary of State seems to have a particular mission to close. His letter was written on Wednesday of this week. He says:
"You may be interested to know that the situation here today has been chaotic. There have been two patients waiting in casualty since Monday afternoon, that is for 40 hours, for beds to become available in the hospital. A further 11 patients were in casualty overnight as there were no beds available for admission to the hospital, and therefore 13 of the 16 casualty trolleys and cubicles were occupied prior to the working day commencing. In fact I visited the department and, as you can imagine, the situation is chaotic. Accident and emergency or casualty departments are not adequately staffed or in fact geared to having in-patients as there are no facilities for this. With regard to hospital admissions today, five out of 10 admissions have had to be cancelled for elective surgery. This includes two of my patients with gynaecological cancer."
Is that what the Secretary of State means about making London better?

Last night I visited four of the major casualty departments in London, and another this morning—five in all. At none of those hospitals—the Whittington, Bart's, St. Thomas's and King's—were any beds available. At King's, 16 patients were waiting to be admitted to the hospital and being nursed or cared for on trolleys. At Bart's a man who was clearly very ill arrived. The hospital had no trolleys and had to throw a mattress on the floor in order to treat him. Every hospital repeats the same story. When I asked the staff, "Has it got worse?" the unanimous answer from every nurse and doctor was, "Yes, it has got worse —much much worse."

What is needed to make it better? The answer is simple. More beds—so that hospitals can admit patients who need to be admitted. It is an irreconcilable contradiction that we have hospitals in London that can perform transplant surgery and give the hope of life to people who, even five years ago, would have been regarded as terminally ill—treatments that are more complex, more advanced than in almost any other part of the western world—yet we cannot guarantee that our hospitals can find a bed in order to admit an elderly lady with a broken arm, who needs to go into hospital only because there is no one at home to look after her.

For patients who wait on trolleys for admission to hospital in the middle of the night, their only hope of being admitted before the following morning—when other patients are discharged—is by filling beds left empty by patients who have died during the night. London hospitals regularly start the night with no empty beds.

None of that chaos has come about by chance; it is the predictable outcome of the Government's being hoodwinked by their own rhetoric—the rhetoric that says that London has too many hospital beds and that market forces will now do what successive Governments, and 20 inquiries into the state of London's hospitals, have so far failed to do. The situation that is now unfolding is entirely the result of Government policy, although the Government are now distancing themselves from it.

Let the Secretary of State tell the people to whom I spoke last night—nurses working in the casualty departments of London hospitals, consultants and the relatives of patients—that London has too many hospital beds. The Government are alone in believing that, when waiting lists lengthen, the answer is to cut the number of beds. That remedy will make matters even worse.

Moreover, Ministers do not even seem to know how many beds, consultants and staff are available, what the waiting times are for each unit and how many beds at any one time are "blocked"—which is the rather unpleasant term used when patients are waiting to be discharged, but are unable to leave the hospital. That information is not held centrally, although it is essential for Ministers to have it if they are to deal with the turmoil that they have created.

What, then, is the actual number of hospital beds in London, and how has the position changed in recent years? In 1986, London had nearly 50,000 acute beds; by 1991 —the most recent year for which figures seem to be available—the number had fallen to 36,000, a reduction of more than 14,000. In the rest of the country—comparisons are constantly made with the rest of the country—the rate of closure was 80 beds per million people per year. In London, the rate has been three times as high: 240 beds for every million people close every year. That, too, is a direct result of Government policy, through the operation of the internal market.

In his report following the inquiry into London hospitals commissioned by Ministers, Sir Bernard Tomlinson estimated that London needed to lose 2,500 beds. It is not clear where that calculation came from, what was the start date for the closure programme or, indeed, whether that figure has long since been exceeded—which the statistics suggest is very likely. Even Sir Bernard offered a cautionary note, stating:
"We do not make anywhere in the report the statement that there must be an immediate reduction in beds. We believe there have to be planned reductions in beds to go along with the other changes we have supported."
He offered the following warning:
"It will be essential that adequate transitional funding be provided to ensure that service changes take place in an orderly fashion. The level of such funding will to a large extent dictate the pace of change. Change that is not managed and funded in this way is likely to be chaotic, and will do serious damage to London's health services, and to its medical research and teaching."
Given what Londoners now confront daily in their hospitals, Sir Bernard's remarks were prophetic. There is nothing planned about the random, chaotic and disruptive closures that are now taking place.

Rigorous and systematic research has been carried out on the required level of hospital beds in London. In April this year, Professor Jarman, of St. Mary's hospital medical school, published an article in the British Medical Journal. He concluded:
"Hospital admission rates for acute geriatric services for London residents were very similar to the national values in all age groups."
In inner London, acute services showed an admission rate at 22 per cent. above the average value—or the average rate —for the rest of England.
"However, the admission rate of inner deprived Londoners was 9 per cent. below that of comparable areas outside London. For psychiatry, admission rates in London roughly equalled those in comparable areas. When special health authorities were excluded"—
SHAs will, incidentally, join the market next April—
"in 1990-91 there were 4 per cent. more acute plus geriatric beds available per resident in London than in England. Bed provision has been reduced more rapidly in London than nationally. Extrapolating the trend of bed closures forward indicates that beds (all and acute) per resident in London are now at about the national average. Data from the Emergency Bed Service indicate that the pressure on available hospital beds in London has been increasing since 1985."

Information from the Emergency Bed Service, which compels emergency admission to hospital by some means or another when hospitals say that they have no beds and cannot admit seriously ill people, is generally regarded as one of the best tests of the adequacy of hospital bed provision in London. Since 1985, the number of admissions of seriously ill people through the service—people who have had to be "refereed" into hospital—has risen threefold.

According to Professor Jarman,
"Data regarding bed provision and utilisation for all specialties by London residents do not provide a case for reducing the total hospital bed stock in London at a rate faster than elsewhere. Bed closures should take account of London's relatively poorer social and primary health care circumstances, longer hospital waiting lists, poorer provision of residential homes, and the evidence from the Emergency Bed Service … higher average costs in London, some unavoidable, are forcing hospital beds to be closed at a faster rate in London than nationally."

In the light of the research evidence provided by Professor Jarman and his colleagues, and the daily experience of the Emergency Bed Service and London hospitals, I shall be interested to hear how the Minister will continue to sustain the case that London has too many hospital beds—given that waiting lists have lengthened, and the number of people waiting for more than two years for treatment has grown.

Waiting lists in London increased by a staggering 19·3 per cent. between June 1992 and August 1993. Within that average for the four Thames regions, there is a disturbing variation from 30·7 per cent. in North East Thames to 4·2 per cent. in South East Thames, with nearly 27,000 patients waiting more than a year for treatment at August 1993.

London's complex problem is made worse by the fact that six out of 10 hospital beds are occupied by elderly people over 65. The difficult relationship between acute care and community care in London must be understood, especially as two policies are heading for a collision. The loss of capacity to care for elderly people in hospital has not been matched by replacement facilities, or continuing care beds, as they are called, in the community—quite the reverse.

The health service has withdrawn, almost wholesale, from long-term care for the elderly. All that care—or virtually all—is now in the private sector, provided by private nursing and residential care homes. Many of my elderly constituents want to be looked after in the part of London in which they grew up and where they have always lived, but the nursing and residential care homes that they need do not exist in Southwark. For them, going into a residential nursing home means moving to Clacton, Bexhill or Eastbourne, many miles from their families and from what has always been their home. National comparisons shows that London has been specifically disadvantaged in that respect. In the rest of the country, about 12 beds are available for every 1,000 people, whereas in London the figure is little more than nine.

The way in' which the Government chose to distribute the community care money last year—the special transitional grant—further disadvantaged London. My constituents lost close to £1 million because the Government chose to place the money where the homes rather than the elderly people and the needs were. That combined formula advantaged the parts of the country with large numbers of residential homes, but disadvantaged areas such as inner London where, for obvious reasons, the number of residential homes is very small. The crisis facing London's hospitals cannot, therefore, be separated from the crisis in community care

A consultant at one of the teaching hospitals told me recently that one needs to be very fit if one is leaving hospital at 85 and living in Southwark, Lewisham, Lambeth or any other part of our deprived inner city. The pressure on beds means that many elderly people are not fit when they leave hospital which is why the readmission rates are so disturbingly high. Elderly people may return to poor accommodation. They may live in poverty on a low and inadequate income, having to make daily choices between keeping warm and having enough to eat, and not have the support of relatives.

At King's yesterday, about 68 beds were occupied by people who were regarded as medically fit, but who were unable to leave the hospital because the community care that they needed was not available. Elderly people are often without the support and care at home which would enable them to cope for very long if they left hospital. They therefore stay in hospital in beds which would otherwise be available for other people and so exacerbate the crisis.

Before the Minister leaps to blame local authorities, let me remind him that the Government cannot follow their ideology and have good, working community care. One of the problems has been the straitjacket placed on local authorities in arranging their community care. They are required to spend about 85 per cent. of the money transferred by central Government in the independent sector, so their freedom to arrange what they regard as the best and most appropriate form of care is fettered by a purely ideological stricture placed on them by central Government.

All the headlines that we see almost daily in central London could have been foreseen. We have a lethal combination of the Tomlinson proposals laced with the rather contradictory recommendations of the specialty reviews and topped up with the internal market. The result is chaos, a chaos that keeps the Secretary of State away from the Dispatch Box and out of Marks and Spencer at times when shoppers would be there to confront her.

Sir Bernard Tomlinson said:
"It would be quite disastrous to let hospitals simply be destroyed piecemeal by market forces. If you are going to have to remove a hospital it has to be done in a planned way over a considerable period of time."
That was his commentary on the aftermath of the impact of his proposals, the Government's reaction and the specialty reviews, his reaction to the chaos that he predicted when his report was published. It is time to ask whether Ministers listen to the advice that they receive or only to take account of what they want to hear.

The King's Fund also established a commission to examine the future of London hospitals. It was similarly concerned about the chaos that is now ensuing. At the end of October, its chief executive, Robert Maxwell, wrote in a letter to The Times:
"It is now increasingly urgent that ministers announce their main decisions on the London hospitals, in the light of the specialty reviews published in June."
We were promised statements before the end of the year. The written answer that passed for a statement earlier this week scarcely fits the bill.

Robert Maxwell goes on to say that if we are to sort out the problems that have ensued, money must be made available to fund agreed capital and other expenditure, to enable all the changes to happen. He finishes by saying:
"any business that was undertaking changes on a scale remotely resembling that of the changes that are proposed for the London hospital service would recognise that it simply has to spend more money to bring about the changes and it has to convince its customers and its staff that it knows what it is doing."

This week, the Secretary of State acted by putting her finger in the dyke and stopped University College hospital from going to the wall. In the same breath, however, she announced that Bart's accident and emergency department is to close. The Secretary of State claimed that the statement would bring an end to uncertainty in the health service in that part of London—the statement relating only to north and east London. When will the Secretary of State make a statement in the House of Commons that will end the uncertainty for Londoners throughout London and provide the stability that health services in London so desperately need?

It is interesting that when the Camden and Islington health authority put its purchasing plans in relation to UCH out to public consultation, not a single person replied in support of its proposals.

Let us compare two conflicting situations. When it appeared that the internal market would close UCH down after the threatened withdrawal of contracts by the Camden and Islington health authority, because it said that it could find cheaper treatment elsewhere, Ministers intervened. Contrast that with the situation in Dulwich that faces my constituents and hundreds of constituents of other hon. Members, where the renal unit at King's is threatened by the recommendations of the specialty review, not because it is not to use the Government's terms, "commercially successful", but because it is in the wrong place, according to the cursory appraisal of the renal specialty review.

Staff working in the renal unit were informed of the likely outcome for south London's renal services before the review team had made any visit or taken any evidence. The provisional decision to move the unit to St. George's hospital has been taken, therefore, without what, locally, is felt to be any recognition of the excellent service offered at King's, Dulwich. It is not a line with which the patients of the kidney unit at Dulwich agree. The patients have raised about £1 million for the refurbishment of the kidney unit; they know what an excellent service they receive. They have a sense of security, knowing that the unit provides dialysis as well as transplant where necessary. They are people who are chronically ill, many of whom have moved to be near the hospital. It is their lifeline. The proposal to move the unit tampers with the rawest feelings and anxieties in those patients' lives. Tampered with is what those patients feel. On Monday, I shall go with a deputation of patients and staff to Downing street with their petition, asking the Prime Minister to listen; asking the Prime Minister to be persuaded by the 25,000 signatures asking that the successful renal unit be allowed to remain at King's.

There is a road consensus about the need to improve health care for Londonders. However, the need to reduce the number of beds further is completely unproven and indeed, as I have already indicated, is refuted by the available systematic evidence. Hon. Members on both sides of the House will accept that there is a crying need for the standard of primary care in London to be improved. Virtually nothing has been achieved in the 11 years since the Aitchison report, which was specifically about standards of primary care in London, was published.

It is not a simple equation, however, that improvements in primary care lead eventually and inexorably to a reduced demand for hospital places. Improved primary and community services would mean that patients who are in King's and other London hospitals waiting for discharge, would be able to leave, but the evidence rather contradicts the declining need for hospital beds; it suggests that better primary care means that people go to their doctors earlier and are treated earlier, and that the demand on hospital services actually increases.

Secondly, we do not know to what extent the particularly deprived conditions in inner London will act as a brake on demands on hospital services. The extent to which the work done in hospitals can be done as safely and effectively in the community remains to be seen.

The impact of new medical technologies is also uncertain, but I hope that the Government will maintain an open mind. I hope that they will look at the evidence, first, that better primary care increases demand instead of reducing it and, secondly, that there is no certainty that the number of beds in London can be reduced further, and especially not reduced in anticipation of those long-heralded improvements in primary care.

There is also evidence, from the purchasing authority in my part of south-east London, that about 30 per cent. of the Tomlinson money that is being made available is being used simply to keep existing services going.

In conclusion, I shall leave some important questions with the Minister. The Government are devoted to the market as their means for distributing health care. The market will always choose the cheapest treatment, but there is no equivalence between the cheapest care and the best care.

What guarantees and monitors will there be of the quality of the contracts that are now being taken up by hospitals outside London which were previously placed with the specialist hospitals? What guarantee will the Minister offer patients, whose care is transferred to those hospitals, that their chances of recovery, their life expectancy and the quality of treatment that they receive will not in any way be compromised as a result of the change?

Is it true that the rate of success of heart bypass operations at Bart's is better than anywhere else? If so, is that successful unit to close? If so, what similar guarantees of excellence will the Minister offer patients whose treatment is transferred elsewhere? What guarantees will the Minister offer to parents whose babies are delivered very prematurely and do not go to a highly specilised neonatal unit, but to a special-care baby unit in their own areas?

Quality of care means people get better. What auditing of quality will Ministers undertake? Are the Government really set on making London better or are they simply set on making London's health service cheaper? Are they really concerned to provide a health service which everyone in London will use or is London's health service to become a service only for the poor and those who have no choice?

I will finish the words of a member of staff in an accident and emergency unit that I visited last night. When she looked at the line of people waiting on trolleys that were touching each other, she said, "I just don't know what I'd do if one of those people was my mother." Are those the kind of standards that the Government believe are fair and proper to apply to the health care of everyone who lives in London and uses London's health service?

10.52 am

I congratulate the hon. Member for Dulwich (Ms Jowell) on raising the subject. In particular, I commend her for her visits to various hospitals yesterday. I should like to comment generally on her points. If she will excuse me, I will consider the possibility of responding to her in writing on same of the specifics. However, I have a few minutes in which to comment on the points that she has raised.

As the hon. Lady is aware, the Tomlinson report is one of many reports that have identified the number of hospitals in London and the number of sites on which acute services are delivered. The Tomlinson report stated that there is, and will continue to be, over capacity in London in many specialties. That is a difficult situation and one which Health Ministers have faced for a long time. However, when the hon. Lady said that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health had a particular mission to close Bart's, she does my right hon. Friend an injustice.

If the hon. Member for Dulwich believes that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State enjoys having to recommend the reduction of acute services in some hospitals and the concentration on to fewer sites, with all the worry and disruption which that would cause potentially—and certainly worry in the short term in many people's minds—the hon. Lady seriously misjudges her.

The problem is very difficult and it must be handled with great care. That is precisely what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is doing. The hon. Lady will be aware that a great deal of time has already elapsed since the publication of the Tomlinson report. We have been extremely careful to assess all the possibilities. Many learned people from London and elsewhere have put together the reviews of different specialties and all the options so that we do not rush into decisions which we will regret later.

The hon. Member for Dulwich referred to accident and emergency units because she has visited them. I am aware that there are problems with some A and E units. I am aware of the current problems with regard to emergency admissions not just in London, but all over the country. For many reasons, including this winter's flu epidemic, emergency admissions have risen sharply and that is placing extreme pressure on A and E units and other hospital departments.

I remind the hon. Member for Dulwich that there are a number of major schemes in London to upgrade A and E departments. The hon. Lady will be aware of the scheme at King's in her constituency. She will also be aware of the £25 million development at the Homerton which involves considerable upgrading of A and E facilities. She will also be aware of proposals—not yet confirmed—to make improvements at the Whittington which she also visited last night. We are aware of the increasing demand and of why, for a whole series of reasons not all of which can be addressed quickly or in the short term, we need better and upgraded A and E facilities in London and elsewhere.

The hon. Member for Dulwich referred to the argument about numbers of beds. That is a long-term view of what will be needed in the years to come in respect of acute beds. While we may argue about different hospitals and numbers at different places, I remind the hon. Lady that there are certain fundamentals that mean that we will need fewer acute beds. Those fundamentals include the fact that developments are being made——

I do not have time to give way if I am to make a sensible response.

Provision is being made outside London for many specialties where previously it was necessary for people to travel to London. An example of that is the very impressive oncology centre in Maidstone. Many local people in the area who would otherwise have been treated in London, will now be treated near their homes. The hon. Lady might like to visit that facility to put the problem in perspective. She might like to talk to the staff there and discover what they are achieving. That facility will have an effect on provision in south-east London.

The increase in day surgery is another enormous factor. The hon. Lady will be aware that day surgery accounts for about 25 per cent. of operations in this country. That figure is heading towards 50 per cent. in America. I have opened many day surgery units around the country over the past year and a half. Day surgery will have an enormous effect on demand for in-patient acute beds.

It is absolutely right that, where possible, people should be treated within a day and then return to their own homes. There is nothing to be gained by unnecessary stays in hospital. There have been enormous advances in the efficient use of theatres and in-patient surgical beds. That is also having an effect on future demand. We must consider a 10 or 20-year period when deciding the real need in future. Therefore, we must take all those trends into account in our current plans.

As the hon. Lady is aware, there has also been a decline in the population of parts of inner London as there has been in most of our inner cities. That must have an effect on hospital provision. As people move out to the suburbs or other areas, they will quite rightly want to be treated close to where they live.

The hon. Lady said that the Government are alone in the view that we must make these changes. We are not. The King's Fund report is very clear and, in many ways, is even more radical than the Tomlinson report in its view of future provision. The main burden of the letter that the hon. Lady read out was that we had to get on and take decisions. The recent announcement by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was the first of such announcements which must be made about our response to the Tomlinson inquiry.

Many professionals in London and elsewhere are acutely aware of the enormous subsidy to London health care from the rest of the country. They are aware of how much of the funding of the national health service is spent in London. We have to try to restore the balance to some degree.

Yesterday, an article in a national newspaper said:
"No one likes shutting hospitals, but 20 reports going back 100 years have documented the surplus supply of hospital beds in London … inner London has 70 per cent. more beds than the national average and twice as many consultants. Closures have not kept pace with the falling population … yesterday's decision"—
it was made earlier this week—
"makes sense."
That was not The Daily Telegraph or The Times—it was certainly not the Evening Standard—it was The Guardian.

Un Department Of Humanitarian Affairs

10.59 am

Perhaps six weeks ago, Mr. Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations with special responsibility for humanitarian affairs, resigned. His resignation became public immediately, although it will not take effect until the end of January 1994. It is a matter of such importance that I believe strongly that it should be marked by a rigorous analysis in this Chamber of the reasons for Mr. Eliasson's resignation, of the genesis of the Department of Humanitarian Affairs itself—a very recent part of the United Nations—and of the way forward, because of the value of the department in helping the neediest of the needy worldwide.

The start of the Department of Humanitarian Affairs was perhaps the Gulf war and the tragedies that lay in its wake, with the uprisings in the north and south of Iraq against the great dictator Saddam Hussein. At a G7 meeting in Houston in May 1991, the Department of Humanitarian Affairs was suggested and set up. Its purpose was to scrutinise the humanitarian work of the agencies of the United Nations, to increase the accountability of those agencies, and to bring transparency of operation to their role.

How was the structure proposed? It was planned that there would be the classic pyramid structure and that the department would have a direction role, that the agencies would, in effect, report to the department, and that the department would direct their work. On the location of the new department, it was suggested that, for policy, it had to be in New York. However, Geneva is the humanitarian capital of the world, so it had to be there as well. The House quite properly endorsed the creation of the new department. In early-day motion 538 in January 1992, the House welcomed
"the appointment of a single humanitarian aid co-ordinator by the United Nations who shall have the authority to deal with governments that deny assistance to suffering peoples, and those that use humanitarian relief for political ends".

I am afraid that the wording was just wishful thinking. Indeed, to see the real way in which the department was in fact set up, we need to look at the General Assembly resolution of 30 October 1992, the general overview of the Department of Humanitarian Affairs, the 47th session agenda item No. 37, the report of the Secretary-General entitled
"Strengthening of the co-ordination of humanitarian and emergency assistance of the United Nations".
It is an important document, in which the Secretary-General tells us:
"New demands for emergency humanitarian assistance underline the need to assess the scope of international response and continue to refine the modalities for co-ordinating it. The establishment of the Department of Humanitarian Affairs (DHA) was designed to strengthen a co-ordinated and coherent system-wide approach."
He goes on to tell us:
"The new Department was staffed through the redeployment of resources, combining the former Office of the United Nations Disaster Relief Coordinator (UNDRO) in Geneva with other existing capacities within the United Nations. The Department, both in New York and Geneva, is also supported by seconded staff made available by the World Food Programme … by … (UNICEF), by the Office of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees … and the … (UNDP)."
The Secretary-General stated:
"The secondment has enabled the Department to benefit from the experiences of these organisations in its day-to-day work, thus enhancing its capacity to coordinate and to achieve a system-wide approach in response to emergency situations."

The Foreign Affairs Select Committee also reported on the DHA. Its report for the Session of 1992-93, ordered by the House of Commons to be printed on 23 June 1993, entitled "The Expanding Role of the United Nations and its Implications for United Kingdom Policy", suggests:
"The old constraints … against interference in matters which are "essentially" domestic are no longer accepted. The change is a very recent one and has occurred in response to two very different emergencies: in Somalia and in Iraq after the Gulf War. Decisions to intervene militarily on humanitarian grounds have not been taken according to a clear set of guiding principles, but in response to sudden emergencies. The UN has not so intervened in other humanitarian disasters of perhaps comparable scale—such as that in Sudan."
The report goes on:
"Better criteria, which are internationally accepted, need to be drawn up to determine the circumstances in which armed intervention for humanitarian purposes is acceptable."
Earlier, the report talks about the need for intervention and about the way in which the United Nations has responded through the formation of the DHA.

On a critical matter, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee made the critical statement:
"Perhaps the most complex and difficult problem with which the UN is currently grappling is this: under what circumstances is humanitarian intervention by the international community justified?"
The report goes on to state correctly:
"the number and diversity of humanitarian crises have increased sharply over the past few years and enhanced media coverage has heightened public awareness of the suffering involved and increase expectations of the abilities of governments and of the UN to respond. Not only are there more concurrent crises, they are becoming more complex, with civil conflict inextricably linked with the need for humanitarian assistance … Humanitarian intervention does not always … involve use of the military … It has happened to protect aid convoys … distribute food directly … to protect areas designated as safe havens or safe areas (as in Iraq and now in Bosnia) and to help rebuild a civil society (as in Somalia)."

Since May 1991, therefore, a new United Nations department has existed in response to the need that a Select Committee discussed and reported on eight or nine months after its inception by the Secretary-General in the General Assembly report. The problems, however, were clear from the very beginning. Indeed, as I read out those statements, it could be seen that they conflicted at once, that the expectations that the creation of the new department brought with it were immediately thrown up in sharp relief against the actual support that the G7 countries and other members of the United Nations gave its new child.

If we look, for example, at the problems of structure, we can see immediately that to have such a new department split up already into two places gave a management problem of large proportions. If we look at the siting of other United Nations humanitarian agencies, we can also see at once that Geneva is undoubtedly the humanitarian capital of the world.

Geneva is home to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Mrs. Ogata, a truly remarkable person, leads UNHCR, with an annual budget of $1·2 billion. Geneva is naturally the site of the International Committee of the Red Cross. It is also home to the Federation of the Red Cross and Red Cross Societies. The World Health Organisation is in Geneva. So is the International Labour Organisation. The World Food Programme, which I have already mentioned, is only down the road in Rome. It is left to the United Nations Children's Fund and the United Nations Development Programme among the major aid agencies of the United Nations to be based in New York.

Therefore, at once it can be seen that there is inter-agency competition, if only for attention. But, of course, competition goes much further than that. Funds are scarce always, even for the best of purposes—humanitarian purposes. Therefore, the budgetary problems needed to be addressed at once if the new department was to be successful. The appropriate budgets were not forthcoming. The DHA was given a very modest budget indeed, and a small number of staff. It has been noted already that those staff were drawn from other agencies.

The underpinning of the funding needed to make the department a success was not thus provided. As the department straddled the globe, or at any rate the Atlantic, core operating budgets were needed and were not forthcoming. The staff of the DHA in Geneva have worked immensely hard in mobilising expenditure funding.

Here I pay a special tribute to Mr. Gerhard Putnam Cramer, who is head of the Geneva office with special responsibility for Iraq. He and his staff mobilised $1 billion for Iraq alone for the United Nations agencies to spend. But that is not funding that belongs to the DHA. It is funding that he and his staff have managed to attract through diligent hard work for the United Nations agencies to spend in Iraq—generally in northern Iraq.

Indeed, the modality of the operating programme under the leadership of Mr. Putnam Cramer is excellent. The operating promgrammes in the field in Iraq alone at the practical level have been exemplary. Daily meetings have been co-ordinated with all the agencies involved in northern Iraq.

Within a short time, the DHA has made its mark in many areas of the world. Programme work has been carried out already and is continuing in the horn of Africa, southern Africa, Somalia, Mozambique, Angola and Luangwa, for example. In addition, thematic issues have been addressed. The department has responsibility for United Nations reaction to natural disasters. It has taken over responsibility for relief co-ordination from the United Nations Disaster Relief Organisation. It has the overriding responsibility for United Nations action in disaster prevention and mitigation, and for de-mining.

What a programme. What a responsibility. Surely carefully designed terms of reference are needed to carry out such a vast programme. Not only does the new department have to attract funding to support itself and for its organisations—the agencies of the United Nations—to spend, but it must offer sensitive support and strong leadership to those agencies. I believe that the true weakness of the United Nations is reflected in the fact that the correct and proper terms of reference for the DHA were not created. The G7 gave birth to the new department, which was a wonderful concept, but did not support it properly.

When the responsibility was given to Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali in the totality of his overall United Nations responsibility, he did not give the DHA full and proper support, either. Thus, the 100 staff in Geneva and the 50 staff in New York who make up the 150 full-time staffing of the DHA, have been left without leadership or proper terms of reference to fulfil their massive and crucial task.

My first conclusion this morning has to be that Mr. Jan Eliasson is the victim of that lack of will and managerial effectiveness within the United Nations. The role of the DHA was not properly defined. Mr. Eliasson, the key architect of resolution 36182 which created the Department of Humanitarian Affairs, has been the victim of a lack of practical support by the leading officials of the United Nations.

In the wake of the Gulf war, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, the special rapporteur for human rights in Iraq, resigned because of the enormous difficulties of trying to affect positively humanitarian matters inside Iraq. Now we have the resignation of Mr. Jan Eliasson, whose task was co-ordination, management and direction and who attempted a hands-on policy to effect the necessary resolution of the conflicts and the reconstruction of human rights in Iraq and other places.

I therefore felt that it was of large importance to discuss this important matter today. I wish to take as a critical example of the need for the DHA, the work that it has carried out in Iraq. I give once more a summary of the background. I take it from the United Nations inter-agency humanitarian programme in Iraq co-operation programme document for 1 April 1993 to 31 March 1994. The background statement says:
"The United Nations Department of Humanitarian Affairs has continued to provide coordination of the Humanitarian Programme in Iraq through the Inter-Agency Relief Coordination Unit in Baghdad and the Special Unit for Iraq in Geneva Since October 1993, IRCU has expanded its role by providing stronger field coordination in the north through field delegates located in Arbil, Dohuk and Suleimaniyah."
Mr. Putnam Cramer, under Mr. Jan Eliasson, gave us the implementation report of 1993, when he laid out for us the ways in which various agencies under his co-ordination had delivered their aid. I commend that work and those two reports to the House.

I have already displayed to the House the difficulties that the new department has faced and the ways in which it has not been strengthened or supported, tasked correctly or supported by proper terms of reference to enable it to fulfil the role that was laid out for it. Perhaps I should turn for a moment to the need for the department to continue, to be properly strengthened and co-ordinated and to have a proper budget. We know that it is always very easy for non-governmental organisations and similar United Nations outgrowths to spring up without proper need.

Indeed, it could be said that, with the resignation of Mr. Eliasson, we should accept that the move of the G7 in May 1991 has failed, and that perhaps the new department is not needed. Perhaps that is why it has essentially failed to attract and gain the support that it says it needs. I think not.

Permit me to spend a few moments considering the need, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Just a few days ago, on 13 December, the European Parliament passed on the nod a resolution on human rights violations by the Iraqi Government against the Iraqi Shi'ites. The draft resolution reads:

"The European Parliament
Appalled by the findings of Max van der Stoel, the UN Special Rapporteur for Iraq, in his latest rapport, on the continued Attacks on the Marsh Arabs,
Drawing attention to the Special Rapporteur's statements that the Government of Iraq is responsible for continuing indiscriminate shelling of civilian settlements on a large scale, despite the creation of a no fly zone by the coalition powers on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 688,
Drawing attention to the Special Rapporteur's statement that the Iraqi Government by various measures is denying the marsh dwellers access to food and health care,
Drawing attention to the Special Rapporteur's conclusion that the Government of Iraq is responsible for the draining of the marshes and so for the consequent destruction of the traditional ways of life of the indigenous people,
Points out that this drainage is detrimental to the environment of the marshes and has a negative impact on the neighbouring regions,
Points out that the findings of the Rapporteur are in line with the report of Middle East Watch,
Considers this action by the Iraqi authorities a flagrant violation of its international obligations,
Taking into account that due to these actions thousands of Shia's have fled to Iran where they live in refugee camps in extremely poor conditions,
Recalling its previous resolutions on the subject,
Calls upon the Council in the framework of the Common foreign and security policy of the EU to take all necessary steps which might bring an end to these murderous campaigns by the Iraqi Government,
Warns that further delay in bringing these atrocities to a halt might cause an escalation of violence in the region,
Urges the Commission to provide emergency aid to the refugees in Iran and use all possible means to send food and medical supplies to the people in the marsh lands,
Sees as one of the conditions to lift the international boycott against Iraq the fact that all actions against the Marsh People should be stopped,
Requests its President to transmit this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the members of the UN Security Council and the Government of Iraq."
The very fact that that resolution was passed on the nod surely displays the European Community's understanding of the deliberate destruction of the south of Iraq.

I shall now mention the north, and I am indebted to the Kurdish Information Centre in London, which yesterday sent me its new year appeal for action on Kurdistan. The letter reads:
"Dear Emma Nicholson … We are writing to you to request your urgent support in raising attention once again … What appears as a peaceful situation to the outside world is far from being so.
The main threat is firstly still posed by the Iraqi Government which maintains a constant military presence just a few kilometres away from most of the main centres of habitation. Attacks are still feared and Saddam's agents keep the people living in suspense by carrying out bomb attacks in public places.
The second threat comes from the Turkish Government's control of the only open border into the Kurdish region, which is the lifeline for all supplies coming in. The Turkish Government is frequently imposing difficult conditions on the Kurdish Administration in exchange for keeping the route open. For example, asking the Kurdish Administration to assist them in their war with their own Kurds, leading to Kurds from Iraq being forced to fight Kurds from Turkey against their will … It is very well known that the Turkish Government is no friend of the Kurdish people, as it is destroying Kurdish villages and massacring the people. In Turkey there are no rights for persons who claim Kurdish origin … There is the extraordinary difficulty caused by the fact that Kurdistan is still subject to the UN embargo because it is a part of Iraq … The Iraqi regime is refusing to allow any electricity to be supplied to the entire governate of Dohuk, where the people have been without power supply since August this year. Although the power is actually generated from the Kurdish region … it is routed through government controlled areas. It can be supplied directly by installing local supply stations. This is not costly, but it is currently impossible due to the embargo.".

I must again put on record a fact that I have mentioned to the House for many months. Most international aid for Iraq—most of that aid is for Kurdistan—is routed through Baghdad, and 95 per cent. of it is benefiting Baghdad and not the Iraqi people who depend on it. The Iraqi Government profiteers on the exchange rate and a huge amount of money is being lost by the aid agencies, including the UN and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, in that way. That is a most important point.

I shall now move from the north to the south, and remind the House of the terrible situation of the Iraqi Shi'ites.

The marshlands of southern Iraq, as a unique habitat, are ceasing to exist. Perhaps within a few weeks, that damage could be irreversible. They have been drained in an exercise that has used civil engineering as a weapon of environmental terrorism. An eco-system that dates back to biblical times will soon cease to exist and the implications will feed through to the ecological systems of Europe and western Asia. The damage to wild life is incalculable—an area larger than the state of New Jersey is being made a quagmire of stinking mud.

Prince Charles has called that
"an utterly inhuman policy of cultural genocide."
Those were his words in his introduction to the leaflet of the appeal by AMAR, Assisting Marsh Arabs and Refugees, an humanitarian aid agency which I chair, more than a year ago.

I remind the House that Saddam Hussein has diverted almost the entire flow of the Euphrates into a large drainage canal, known as the third river. Earlier this year, the UN human rights commissioner, special investigator Max van der Stoel, stated that two thirds of the water which normally flowed into the marshes had been prevented from doing so. That work has continued since his report. I have visited the area several times since it was written, and 80 or 90 per cent. of the water may now have gone and the people cannot live without water.

I remind the House that the International Wild Fowl and Wetlands Research Bureau believes that the marshlands are the most important wintering site for migrating birds from western Eurasia. The habitat has supported several million birds a year. By the end of this year, and certainly by the beginning of next, it will have disappeared into history.

The effects on the people have been devastating. Perhaps the House recalls that Wilfred Thesiger wrote a wonderful book called "The Marsh Arabs" and introduced the English-reading nations of the world to their way of life. They have been almost wholly destroyed. It is not merely their environment and their habitat that have been destroyed: the marsh Arabs as a people have been destroyed, because, without water, no human being can exist.

Thousands of marsh Arabs and other refugees have fled to Iran. Millions have been killed or imprisoned throughout the south of Iraq, which has suffered continuing bombardment and an increase in assaults of all types, including chemical weapons. The evidence given by myself and others to the United Nations on chemical weapon assaults led to a mission to Iran and the Iraqi marshlands, but it will be some months before we see the results of that.

It is difficult to prove that chemical weapons have been used anywhere. We were slow to accept that they had been used in Kurdistan in 1988 and even slower to recognise that they had been used in Iran in the early 1980s in the Iran-Iraq war. Subsequent conclusions by eminent scientists proved to them that chemical weapons had been used. Events that will come to light in the south of Iraq will prove conclusively that chemical weapons are continually used by Saddam Hussein's forces as normal weapons. Other nations that adhere to the 1925 Geneva convention do not use such weapons in that way.

The plight of the people in southern Iraq has for many years been abominable. Recently, the House was good enough to allow me to stage an exhibition from the AMAR appeal archives of the past two years. We showed photographs of the plight of the people and our most senior doctor, Dr. Al-Hariri came to speak. The exhibition was opened by my noble Friend Baroness Chalker, and the British Government have been generous and kind in enabling the AMAR appeal group to try to support survivors who have entered Iran.

The European Community has been wonderful in helping us to assist those still surviving in the marshes and on the borders. Dr. Al-Hariri, Dr. Mussawi and Dr. Amin, the three most important members of the AMAR appeal medical team in Iran, spoke to us, and I should like to quote from Dr. Al-Hariri's speech:
"Iraq has suffered a lot under the aggressive regime of Saddam in the last 27 years. We Iraqis will never forget the bitter experience of what happened in Iraq. We have lived through the tragic era of Saddam's rule, we have witnessed the suffering and devastation of the two destructive wars. When we tell about the intimidation and torture that has happened in Iraq, nobody can believe. In Iraq one can be executed for his political or religious belief. Large numbers of people have met the same fate because they have refused to be involved in the past in the two destructive wars. The heart-rending view of manslaughter in our country will never be forgotten. Complete villages have been wiped out from the map in a short time because they said no to Saddam's rule."

What has happened in the marshlands is the most recent and perhaps the most horrible thing of all. Dr. Al-Hariri said:
"He has violated the environment not only in Iraq … all the world witnessed what he did in Kuwait, now in the marshlands against his own people."
What has happened has been a disaster of unparalleled proportions. Dr. Al-Hariri said:
"What happened in the marsh was really a disaster, an event that caused great harm and damage to the environment and to humanity. Half a million people have had their water turned off. The place in which they have been surviving for more than 6,000 years has been dried out. This will lead to the extinction of a civilisation that has existed almost untouched for centuries. The drying out of water means the end of these people. Saddam will do everything in order to stay in power. He will not hesitate to kill all the Iraqi people if that will allow him to stay in power."

Iraq is now facing destruction and the sanctions affect the poor people because Saddam will not use his power to give them food and medicine. Dr. Al-Hariri says:
"The intimidation, the artillery, firing at random at villages and people, setting villages and farms on fire, polluting the environment, launching operations of mass arrest and deportation by forces have led his people to flee the area. They have been forced … to leave everything behind if they have left alive. They have been forced to leave everything behind, to leave a place and a civilisation that they have lived in for the last 6,000 years. Those new victims of Saddam Hussein came to the border of Iran in a miserable way. They were … suffering epidemics of diseases … polluted was all that they had to drink. Their survival was only a matter of chance."

I now believe that Saddam Hussein is in serious trouble. United Nations sanctions are biting, the Iraqi dinar has plunged to an historic low, and the butcher of Baghdad has embarked on the slaughter of Takriti kinsmen who underpin the security of his regime. It is surely a measure of the Iraqi dictator's insecurity that, for the first time, he has started to pick on members of his own tribe, one of the country's four sources of power. The others are the army, the Iraqi branch of the Ba'ath party, and the internal security apparatus.

In western countries, people and politicians niggle about the intrusion of the media, but in the context of the destruction of southern Iraq and the marshlands and of the horrors continually perpetrated in the north of Iraq in Kurdistan, I have nothing but praise for members of the press and of television and radio who have consistently tried to do the almost impossible—to bring out the news.

Shyam Bhatia of The Observer made an epic and historic journey, risking grave personal suffering and danger in the marshes nearly a year ago. Reporters from The Sunday Times have also been consistent in trying to trace stories in a different way. Managing editor Michael Williams has kept his attention focused on this important matter. The BBC has been especially remarkable. Recently, two senior people from its evening news team came with me to southern Iraq and to southern Iran.

However, all our advocacy is not enough, and if we are to help these people in Iraq and other places, we must look to the future of the Department of Humanitarian Affairs of the United Nations and to the major UN agencies. UNICEF has just published a book entitled "The State of the World's Children 1994", which shows that, in recent years, significant progress has been made against some of the major threats to the health and well being of the world's children.

Social goals reflecting the possibility of reducing child malnutrition, disease, disability and illiteracy show that such ills could be drastically reduced by the year 2000, and those goals have been agreed by a majority of the world's political leaders. Experience shows that national progress in health, nutrition and education depends not on economic development alone but on sustained commitment to improve the well-being of the poor.

Despite the great generosity of the European Community, its peoples and its Governments, arid the people of other countries, only a small proportion of international aid is devoted to nutrition, primary health care, basic education, safe water supplies and family planning. It is clear that if we concentrated on those important goals, the state of the world's children would vastly improve.

I ask my hon. Friend the Minister to ponder thoughtfully and carefully on the problems of the Department of Humanitarian Affairs. I pay special tribute to Mr. Eliasson, who has made his mark. I ask my hon. Friend to examine some of the difficulties that the department has faced in its first two and a half years—the lack of co-ordination, and in controlling its field operations in Iraq through Baghdad.

Those are tough political issues, but if they can be addressed positively, our Government should be a leader—if not the leader, because of our country's experience—in improving the state of the world's children internationally. Rescuing child and adult victims in Iraq could still be within our grasp.

11.40 am

This is an important subject, but this cannot be said to be a particularly full House. It does not do justice to the seriousness of the issues raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Torridge and Devon, West (Miss Nicholson). It reminds me that, when I began my maiden speech, I found myself addressing three hon. Members. When I ended, only the Speaker and myself were in the Chamber. On this occasion, at least there is an hon. Member on the Labour Front Bench, together with a Whip—my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Hughes)—to hear what must be a brief winding-up speech.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Torridge and Devon, West not just for her speech today but for all her work in drawing attention to humanitarian tragedies that beset the world, and particularly for her work—often at first hand—in drawing world attention to the plight of marsh Arabs in southern iraq.

Unfortunately, we live in a world in which the number and complexity of humanitarian disasters are increasing in scale. We have not only our normal share of natural disasters—drought, famine, earthquakes—but a number of deep-rooted political and unresolved ethnic conflicts, human rights abuses, and so on. They all create vast numbers of refugees and people displaced in their own country.

Money alone cannot solve those problems. They require huge political effort and co-ordination between all the agencies and non-governmental organisations involved. I think sometimes that we ask too much of the United Nations. We expect it to be the world's development authority, foreign affairs Ministry and, in some cases, Ministry of defence. It cannot take on all those tasks across the globe. However, we must do our best at local and international level.

The founding of the Department of Humanitarian Affairs described so well by my hon. Friend was an important initiative. It was established two years ago, largely in response to an initiative by Britain and Germany, and led to United Nations General Assembly resolution 46/182. Despite some disappointments and mistakes made by many people, the Department has been a force for good, and we will certainly not withdraw our support from its concept.

Whoever is appointed to take on the role vacated by Mr. Eliasson will have our support, and I hope that the right man or woman can be found. The job specification is daunting. The appointee must have a knowledge of humanitarian concerns and be a substantial and respected figure on the world stage, and must also be an effective manager of the agencies and financial resources that many Governments are committing to the problem.

The aims of the British Government and of the United Nations can be summed up in the observation that we all want humanitarian aid to be provided quickly, to the right people, and on a cost-effective basis that avoids waste and misappropriation. That last point is important, because if that is not done, humanitarian efforts risk being discredited. Any story of scandal and duplication undermines in the mind of the public the very aims that we are pursuing.

I pay particular tribute to the efforts of my hon. Friend in Iraq, and emphasise her remark that responsibility for the continuing suffering there lies with Saddam Hussein and with no one else.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I draw your attention to what I consider to be an abuse of the procedures of the House in the answering of written questions. I put down a question to a Home Office Minister after the Police Federation, to which I am a parliamentary adviser, received the information that the number of officers in the Metropolitan police area was reduced by more than 400 in the first eight months of this year.

The Home Office replied that it would answer in a letter, which will presumably reach me after the House adjourns for the Christmas recess. Should not the House be provided with such serious information in a written answer in Hansard, rather than in a letter?

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Has the Chair received any indication from the President of the Board of Trade that a statement will be made this morning on the Stock Exchange announcement just made by British Gas about a a major restructuring that will possibly involve the loss of 20,000 jobs and the elimination of the regional tiers of management of British Gas Scotland and British Gas Wales?

The House has been awaiting a statement from the President of the Board of Trade in response to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission inquiry, which has apparently been delayed a number of times—as recently as this week. If British Gas has gone ahead with its restructuring, that would indicate that it knows the content of the President's announcement before the House, or does not know the content but does not care two hoots. May inquiries be made to establish whether there is any vestige of influence left over that powerful, over-mighty company?

The Chair is not aware of any such information, but no doubt the hon. Gentleman's remarks will be noted by the occupants of the Government Front Bench.

Arable Aid

11.47 am

I apologise to the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland for delaying his Christmas holiday and mine, but I offer no apology for raising this important subject. The short Adjournment debate on the issue three weeks ago raised more questions than it provided answers, so it is important to examine again a matter that affects the entire Scottish agricultural industry and similar industries.

The Minister must be aware of widespread anger and anxiety at the effect of his Department's attitudes and actions. I have been a Member of Parliament a long time, but I have never experienced lobbying as extensive as that relating to this subject by not only farmers but representatives of all the ancillary industries, who came to the House to express their great concern and request that the Minister change his mind and take appropriate action.

This is not a party political issue. It is an agricultural matter first, as is signified by the presence in the Chamber of the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker), who supports the agricultural industry's plea to the Minister, and of the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley), representing the view of the Labour party. All parties are telling the Minister that something must be done —that he should listen to the industry's arguments and produce action that allows it a level playing field in the European context.

There is genuine and continuing anger about this. It is not good enough for the Minister to say that nothing can be done, that it is all settled and that he is stuck with EC rules and cannot do anything about it, or that the statistics involved in calculating the base area are immutable and unchangeable. That is not good enough, because the industry genuinely feels let down and discriminated against on that issue. It is an issue which simply will not go away. Nor can it be swept under the carpet or ignored by the Government. By its very nature, the base area and the set aside problem will recur year by year and, unless changes are made, will be a cumulative problem and burden on the industry.

The purpose of the debate is to allow the Governnment to explain more fully the basis of their actions and get to the truth regarding the base area situation. I know that the Minister feels that he has been misunderstood and that false statistics have been used. This is his opportunity to get the record straight. What cannot be disputed is that the 5·4 set aside penalty being imposed on the industry will cost the industry dear unless something is done to alleviate the situation.

The industry is concerned about the direct consequences of such a Scottish set aside penalty. More than 20 per cent. of arable land in the main grain-growing areas will be set aside next year despite output having declined by some 20 per cent. this year. If the policy is carried out, I am told that Scottish farm incomes will probably fall by about £20 million as a direct consequence. Producers' net margins could drop by up to 57 per cent. The increased set aside is likely to hit the spring barley crop in particular, reducing production by about 300,000 tonnes. Those are the concerns of the industry and I hope that the Minister will react and provide a solution to them.

I am told that users of Scottish grain, especially maltsters, distillers and oat millers will have to source a sizeable proportion of their requirements outside of Scotland. That is a crazy situation for our industry to be in. The lost acreage will reduce the turnover of Scottish merchants and co-operatives by £33 million, which includes lost sales of £3·5 million in seed, £2·5 million in fertiliser and about £1·4 million in agrochemicals.

Unless it is changed, the consequences of the decision will reverberate throughout the whole of the farming industry and its ancillary industries. For example, the haulage industry reckons that lorry movements will be reduced by about 13,000 trips. That means lost opportunity, lost income and lost job opportunities unless something is done. That is the general picture, but it also applies in individual cases. A farmer in Angus said to me:
"On this farm it means a loss of income of £5,000 for 1993-94, makes it uneconomical to retain my one employee and involves a 36 per cent. increase in my set-aside area for 1994. This is on a typical 320 acre arable farm"
Both globally and specifically, the measure can be damaging to the industry unless action is taken.

The Government cannot simply wash their hands of that responsibility. Nor can they ignore the genuine anger and fears throughout Scotland's agriculture and ancillary industries. The agriculture industry has a right to expect the Minister to defend its interests when it is facing such financial problems. It now looks for an urgent political response. If action is required in Europe, action must be taken in Europe to defend one of Scotland's fundamental and crucial economic interests.

The Minister has said that the "base areas are correct", and that there is "no discrepancy whatsoever" in the statistics. He is sure that the overshoot is "a real one".

I should like to challenge those assertions, because they have been at the root of the Government's inaction in the face of this crisis situation. The Minister believes the data to be unshakable, but two sets of data were used to calculate the set-aside base area: the June census returns and the set-aside payments made. The base area for Scotland was worked out using actual set-aside payment figures and was not based on the June census returns.

While England is better off by some 11 per cent. using the actual rather than the census figures, Scotland is 140 per cent. worse off. The Scottish Office Agriculture and Fisheries Department must have known that. Yet as late as November 1993, the Department was using two sets of data, despite the fact that it knew in the summer of 1992 that the base area calculation was to be on 1989-90 and 1991. Yet it made no attempt to reconcile the massive discrepancy involved. In other words, it was a disaster waiting to happen, about which only the Scottish Office knew and about which only the Scottish Office could do something.

The claim has been made that the set-aside figures are higher in Scotland because a few farmers mistakenly included the area that they registered for set-aside and not the area for which they were claiming. Why did the Department not take that up at the time in 1989 and 1990? It is normally a very fastidious and efficient Department. The Minister has enormous expertise available at his disposal within the Department.

If there is a difference of 0·1 hectare in the total submitted on their forms, farmers find that their forms will be sent back to them pronto, yet these enormous global discrepancies are appearing. The census forms clearly paid a part in the present problem. Like many other statistics, agricultural census data are useful in portraying trends, but are less accurate in absolute terms. However, it appears that the Scottish Office was issuing two differing sets of data from different sections of its Agriculture and Fisheries Department.

The census unit figures show a mean average that closely corresponds with the integrated administration and control system, and therefore with the accurate data. The Scottish Office appears to have used actual payment figures to calculate the base area, at a far lower and therefore punitive overshoot level. To my mind, that seems to be the core of the present problem. The Minister, however, has stated that the Scottish Office figures are "absolutely accurate". Yet I have a note from the Scottish Office stating:
"Set aside: Please note we are currently revising all June census data under this heading for every year it has been collected. We know many farmers have entered incorrect areas when completing their census form. Please disregard any set aside data previously supplied."
It is dated 10 November 1993—only last month—so those are hardly immutable and absolutely accurate figures on which the Minister bases his overshoot case. That view is also confirmed in correspondence that I have received from farmers.

If the Minister believes that those statistics are absolutely reliable can he explain why the total area of agricultural land in Scotland dropped from 5,967,551 hectares in 1986 to 5,364,003 hectares in 1987? That is equivalent to a drop of 11 per cent. According to the June census, the amount of land in agricultural use remains at that lower figure. Why does an area of land the size of Tayside disappear from statistics that are supposed to he immutable and absolutely accurate? I should be interested to know whether common grazing has been taken out of the total.

Perhaps the Minister can also explain why the area devoted to roads, yards and buildings, as recorded in the June census for the years 1982 to 1992, varies from the mean by minus 15 per cent. to plus 25 per cent. Why is such a gigantic variation of 40 per cent. acceptable to the Scottish Office? Roads, yards and buildings do not just materialise and dematerialise, but that is what has happened according to the reliable, immutable statistics on which the Minister has based his case. So far he has said that he will brook no further changes to them.

The doubts about the statistics and their effect on agriculture are grave enough to enable the Minister to argue in Europe about the base area in order to ensure a better deal for our agricultural sector.

The statistics have been used to impose a massive financial penalty on Scottish agriculture. Why did the Scottish Office declare to the European Commission an overshoot of 16 per cent., before it realised that some farms had been wrongly classified as belonging purely to the less-favoured area category? Those farms were split between LFAs and non-LFAs. Surely that problem should have been foreseen when the base figure was being calculated. A glance at the size of the LFA figure should have warned the Scottish Office, because it was far too high, but it used that figure to declare an overshoot of 16 per cent. It then had to rush to negotiate that down to 5·4 per cent. At least that action has established a precedent, because the Scottish Office changed those supposedly immutable, absolutely accurate statistics.

The Scottish Office changed the figures relating to the LFA and non-LFA split, but no allowance was made for the fact that the percentage area of crop in LFAs could vary from season to season. That is yet another possible variation in the supposedly immutable statistics.

The Minister set a precedent—I am glad that he did so —by using IACS forms in 1993 to adjust retrospectively the LFA and non-LFA split. Given that it is not possible to pinpoint the LFA and non-LFA crop on such split farms, can the Minister confirm that it was only possible to estimate the area of land included in the LFA base area? I am told that it is not possible to calculate that figure accurately. The answer derived must have been a guesstimate because it uses figures which, by their nature, cannot be accurately substantiated.

The Minister was prepared to argue the 16 per cent., overshoot down to 5·4 per cent. on the basis of the figures quoted, but he should go one further. He should follow the example of the Germans and argue to get the set-aside penalty reduced further.

For the purpose of the June census, the split farms were returned as LFAs, but we know that that return has always been false because the estimated number of LFAs is greater than the number that exist. It is on the basis of that miscalculation that Scottish agriculture now faces a swingeing set-aside penalty.

The Minister should consider Scotland in its international context within the European Union. So far only two countries have officially admitted to an overshoot in their base areas—Scotland has admitted a 5·4 per cent. overshoot in non-LFAs and Germany has admitted an overshoot of 9·7 per cent. Germany, however, has had that overshoot reduced to 1 per cent. and is now arguing for a further reduction. Scotland's overshoot was reduced from 16 per cent. to 5·4 per cent. as a result of the figures submitted, but the Scottish Office has now stopped arguing its own corner.

The English figures are due out soon, and it is thought that the original substantial undershoot will be reduced close to the English baseline limit. The Minister should also consider the example of Spain. It had reported an overshoot, but, because of a drought during the three base years on which calculations were based, the Spaniards are sorting that problem out, before their figures are submitted.

If I were at the Cortes and I were a Spanish Member of Parliament, I would find that the Minister would agree and would do something about the matter. If I were a German Member of Parliament, I would find that the Minister would go further and ask for more reductions to the much reduced levels that had been achieved. Fortunately, I am a Scottish Member of Parliament; unfortunately, however, I am arguing with a Minister who appears to be remaining static over the 5·4 per cent. figure.

The hon. Gentleman may be surprised.

I hope that I shall be surprised and that the Minister will make an appropriate announcement. As I would be the first to criticise his mistakes, I would also be the first to congratulate him if he does make an announcement. It would be the result of calls from representatives of the sector and hon. Members of all parties to reverse a decision that should not have been made in the first place.

The Scottish farmers are asking the Minister to fight on the political front and to reconsider the Scottish figures and, like his European counterparts, to take that political battle to the Commission before penalties are imposed. Scottish cereal growers already have the highest rate of set-aside and the highest reduction of production in Europe. Unless that 5·4 per cent. figure is withdrawn, further excessive penalties will be imposed on the agricultural sector.

In a recent Adjournment debate, the Minister stated that the scheme was entirely voluntary and that farmers do not have to use it and can grow as much as they wish. My reading of his own example of a 600-acre farm is that farmers would be 56 per cent. worse off in 1994 and 77 per cent. worse off in 1995 if they stayed out of the scheme. Far from the Minister's claim that the income of a 600-acre farm would increase by 17 per cent. in 1994, I am informed that farmers would face reductions in profitability of between 28 and 56 per cent. next year and between 51 and 77 per cent. in 1995. Farmers' returns will remain reasonably static, as the scheme intends, only if there is no penal set-aside imposed on the sector.

The Minister said that English farmers are growing malting barley over and above feed barley, which is, he said:
"perhaps being grown ineffectively in Scotland."—[Official Report, 24 November 1993; Vol. 233, c. 560.]
Such comments only make Scottish arable farmers feel that they do not have the support of the Minister in charge of agriculture. If the Minister thinks about that comment, which was perhaps made in the heat of the debate, he may wish to withdraw it or to clarify it further.

The farmers are facing an acute situation. Who is to blame? The Government say that it is not them and that they gave a clear warning over a year ago on overshoot penalties. The Minister said that the farmers are to blame and that Scottish farmers were:
"No doubt following what their college advisors or other experts told them."
He said that the farmers have tried to maximise their share of £80 million taxpayers' support available to them on a voluntarily scheme. The Minister is accusing Scottish farmers of greed and Scottish colleges and advisers of offering bad advice. I find that incredible. The Minister is also attacking his own Scottish Office officials who worked hard to advise farmers at meetings throughout Scotland about the new scheme.

The whole exercise has been Treasury driven. The Minister was keen to point out the total amount of cash that has been provided for the agriculture sector and that the £20 million loss should be put in that context. He should also acknowledge that politicians created the set-aside provision as a mechanism to reduce cereal production and to stabilise incomes through a period of transition. Politicians created the system in Europe to ease dislocation during that period of transition. If that system is the bedrock of change in other parts of Europe, why single out Scotland for extra financial punishment? Is the measure Treasury-driven rather than agriculture-driven? There must be more than a suspicion that it is. Compensation given by Europe is designed, as the Minister will know because of his background, to redress the balance against prices falling to world levels. Set-aside payments leading to lower production and oil seed payments replacing crushing subsidy paid to crushers are all measures introduced to help the industry through a period of transition.

I must refer the Minister to the heart of the matter, which is the base area calculation. I believe that the Council of Ministers met at 6.50 this morning, and that the base area of the new Länder in Germany is to be increased by 181,000 hectares to take account of a statistical error. I hope that the Minister will continue to ensure that Scotland is treated in a similar fashion. Let him join his German colleagues who succeeded in securing a reduction from 9 to 1 per cent. and who have now gone further, securing that extra concession from the Commission.

I believe that penalties that would otherwise apply in Scotland because of the overshoot in the base area will be reduced in line with the procedure already used for the new German Länder—namely, the progressive application of the levy. Will the Minister clarify that? If the penalties are reduced in line with the arrangements for the new Länder, it will be on a reducing scale. But there will be overshoot next year and, although it may be less, a penalty on overshoot remains.

Can the Minister clarify whether the new move through the EC Commission applies to the base area or purely to the payments? If it applies to the payments alone, it is a palliative and the problems will continue, because it is the base area calculation which lies at the heart of the difficulties facing the industry and which will cumulatively impose a penalty on it in coming years. Is the derogation for both payments and set-aside or for payments alone? If it is for payments alone, the root base area problem will not be solved.

If the base area difficulty remains, will the Minister look again at base area size to ensure that it truly reflects the reality of Scottish agriculture? Unless that is done, the problems will return to haunt us year after year, and the problems and anxieties of the past traumatic months will remain. Agriculture is too important to Scotland and the Scottish economy to be treated in this way. I ask the Minister to give our industry the sort of level playing field that his European counterparts have fought to secure for their industries. I hope that he will clarify the base area issue and tackle that problem, which lies at the heart of the difficulties that the industry faces.

12.11 pm

I thank the hon. Member for Angus, East (Mr. Welsh) for allowing me a couple of minutes. I doubt whether I have ever known a time when Scottish farmers were so upset. I am deeply concerned at the breakdown in communications between agriculture and the Department. That needs to be mended. It is important that the good relations enjoyed in the past continue.

My views on Europe are well known to the House. We are supposed to be at the heart of Europe. I want to be sure that farmers in Scotland cannot point the finger at the Government and say, "We are not at the heart of Europe because we are not being treated in the same way as everyone else."

12.12 pm

I congratulate the hon. Member for Angus, East (Mr. Welsh) on his contribution to the debate. Let me also remind the House that my hon. Friends the Members for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) and for Edinburgh, East (Dr. Strang) have been closely involved in the debate generally and share the hon. Gentleman's concern about the overshoot in Scottish agricultural payments.

The points about the German treatment were well made. I understand that the penalty has been reduced to about 10 per cent. of what was originally suggested. Can the Minister say just how the Germans have managed to achieve that and whether the British Government can secure a similar deal for our producers?

My second point is that Opposition Members have always had grave doubts about the whole principle of the set-aside programme. Is it not disgraceful that Scottish farmers are being prevented from meeting a demand for barley? I thought that the whole point of the reform of agriculture was that we should match supply to demand, not that we should restrict Scottish producers from providing cereals for which there is a demand and so support jobs in the ancillary industries.

12.13 pm

I am grateful to those hon. Members who have participated in this important debate. They made valid points.

Just a quickie to the hon. Member for Angus, East (Mr. Welsh): he quoted a sentence about "ineffectively producing barley". I must say that I winced at that when I read it the next morning. Something must have happened in Hansard. I certainly did not say that and, if I did, I did not mean it.

I welcome the debate because it gives me a further opportunity to answer various points that have been made in the press over the past few weeks. It is essential that farmers should not be misled and should know the true position about the overshoot that has occurred. I can announce good news from this week's Agriculture Council in Brussels, which finished earlier this morning.

The issue is detailed and complex. A good deal of misleading material has been circulating, hence my public rebuttal last week of the claims that my Department's figures were inaccurate. The statistical position has not changed, in essence, since we last discussed the matter in the House.

The overshoot is a real one. When we brought in the CAP reform package in 1992 it was a major United Kingdom victory—a point acknowledged by the National Farmers Union of Scotland at the time. We all have our views on set-aside. I have never been an enthusiast because I do not like to see agricultural land lying fallow or with a poor level of husbandry. I do not think that it is a good principle, but it is there and it is bringing a huge amount of money into agriculture.

The agreement was that the base arable area would be the average of the last three years before the CAP deal was struck. There was no discretion about which three years to use. Farmers had to use the three previous years, as laid down by the regulation. There was a discretion to divide Scotland into two base areas, specifically to allow our large high-yielding specialist arable farmers to benefit from the higher rate of payments available to them under the scheme. We did this with the agreement of the union, which was enthusiastic about it.

The Scottish base areas are correct; there is no discrepancy in the statistics. I specifically emphasise that it was correct, and a formal requirement under the EEC rules, to include in the base area the land that farmers actually set aside in the base years, and not the land that they might have thought about setting aside at one time or other. There is a considerable difference between the two.

The failure to realise this has contributed to much of the confusion within the industry. For example, some 6,000 farmers registered an interest in the five-year set-aside scheme whereas only 780 have entered the scheme. I once again give a categorical assurance that the figures used in my Department in relation to overshoot are accurate. Officials take great care and expend considerable efforts in their statistical work. It is a matter of regret that others have misunderstood or misinterpreted them. People did not choose to question the figures that were used to defeat the MacSharry proposals last year.

No, I will press on because I have something important to say.

We do not believe that it would serve any useful purpose to repeat all that I said during the previous debate about the LFA—non-LFA split, but I must stress that it was with the NFU's agreement and encouragement that the Government secured that split so that the grain-growing areas of the non-LFA would receive more grant to reflect their higher yields than grain growers in the LFA region.

It is important to reiterate that the compensation under the scheme is substantially in excess of that required to overcome any fall in prices that may have occured. Compensation rates under the scheme are very generous, and it is not surprising if individual producers have claimed every possible hectare in their IACS forms, as it is their right to do. It is wrong for those producers, and others, to try to discredit the base area figures because of the collective result of the individual actions of some farmers. We must face up to what has occurred. Over a year ago, my Department gave a clear warning about the penalty for any overshoot over base area.

Participation in the scheme is entirely voluntary. Farmers are not obliged to join; they may sell as much arable crops outwith the scheme as they wish without setting aside land. If farmers do apply, there is no obligation on them to do so on all their arable land. They can be in the scheme and still grow grain over and above what they have applied for in terms of compensation. They are, however, collectively responsible for their individual actions. Those are, quite simply, the rules of the scheme.

Compensation rates will rise substantially in 1994. The increase will be combined with other increased payments to Scottish farmers so that the total direct agricultural support available in 1993-94 is estimated at some £300 million, an increase of almost 60 per cent. on this year's support of £188 million. Against that background, it is not credible to talk—as many have—about a spiral decline in the rural economy as a result of the overshoot.

Today, the Ministry is starting to issue payments to farmers under the scheme. A total of £64 million will be disbursed among 9,000 farmers. By the end of March next year, some £93 million will have been paid under the scheme. That is a huge sum in anyone's book. It should be remembered that the farmers did not have that £93 million last year; it is new money. The scheme is voluntary, and is there to help farmers withstand any fall in the grain price. I know that we have had a frightful harvest, but, by and large, the fall has not been substantial.

As the hon. Member for Angus, East explained the Spanish position very clearly, I shall not explain it again; nor shall I say any more about Brussels. Let me deal with a more important point. The hon. Gentleman did not give Ministers much credit for beavering away fiendishly over recent weeks to try to rectify the position resulting from the overshoot. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has been doing superb work in Brussels over the past few days, and has come up with a very satisfactory solution this morning. I give her great credit for what she has achieved. She will add to what I have said about set-aside—and, indeed, the whole issue —in a written answer later this afternoon.

Changes in the rules have been agreed specifically to alleviate the penalties that have applied in Scotland. Both the cut in hectare payments this year and the uncompensated set-aside penalty next year will be very much reduced. The arrangements are expected to be comparable to those relating to the German Länder. Those arrangements ensure that only 10 per cent. of the penalties due for the 1993 overshoot will be applied. If there is another overshoot in 1994, only 20 per cent. of the new penalty will be applied, and only 50 per cent. will apply in the event of an overshoot in a future year. The full penalty will apply only from 1996 onwards.

"Ten per cent." means 10 per cent. of 5·4: the penalty will be 0·5 per cent. The uncompensated set-aside in 1994 will be reduced from 23,000 hectares to around 2,300—a relatively small percentage in terms of overshoot. I stress that if we had the same overshoot in 1994—and we really must try to ensure that that does not happen—the figure would be 20 per cent. of 5·4: that is, 1 per cent. That represents a substantial improvement in the position of farmers in Scotland. If the 1994 overshoot were 23,000 hectares, the uncompensated set-aside in 1995 would be reduced to 4,600. All in all, that is a spectacular improvement in the position that farmers have got themselves into this year.

Does that derogation apply to both set-aside and payments, or only to payments? I am sure that all farmers will welcome this respite, but if it does not apply to the base area the problem will recur.

I hope that I have already explained that the payment this year will be 0·5 per cent.—10 per cent. of 5·4—while the uncompensated set-aside will be reduced from 23,000 hectares to 2,300. That is a very small amount, when it is spread over the whole of the non-LFA area. It is an important victory for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and it has been warmly supported by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, both of whom have been beavering away in Europe to achieve a satisfactory solution. However, as Scottish farmers, we must understand that we must not overshoot again because, as has been proved, the problem builds up and will prove detrimental to the overall payments.

I in no way underestimate the large sums coming into Scottish agriculture this year as a result of the scheme. It was wrong of the industry, the millers and others to say that £20 million would be lost to the rural economy when I am putting £93 million into it. I do not understand how the hon. Member for Angus, East came up with the astonishing equation that the rural economy will be £20 million worse off when £93 million of absolutely new money is entering the Scottish agricultural scene.

The new scheme is extremely satisfactory for Scottish farmers and it is something which they should greet with open hands—I am sure that they will welcome the cheques that are already being sent out this week. I hope that farmers will realise that the change means that we shall have to continue to make the payments that were in the pipeline earlier in the week but that the additional money will be sent to them as soon as we can carry out the necessary administrative work.

Bearing in mind that the compensation rates will rise in 1994 and that there have been other increases in payments to Scottish farmers, the total direct agricultural support available in 1993-94 is estimated to be some £300 million, an increase of 60 per cent. on this year's support of £188 million. That makes it one of the best deals that the Scottish farming has had for many a day. That is true not only for the grain and arable sector but for the livestock sector, where payments have substantially increased and will overtake the income lost because of the reduction in the hill compensatory allowance. The extension of the suckler cow payment will mean that the same will happen for cattle.

We hope that with the continuing high level of the annual sheep premium, the farming community will realise that it is being well looked after by the Government, particularly in the less-favoured areas and hill areas. Of course, in the highlands and islands a special additional payment is also being made this year, so I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) is here.

My hon. Friend's comments will have done much to restore confidence and faith and to allay the concerns that brought me here this morning. I congratulate him and his colleagues on what they have achieved.

I am most grateful to my hon. Friend. We have made a significant announcement today, which shows that we have been doing all that we possibly could to alleviate the serious problem of overshoot. The position has now been clarified and the payments will go ahead, but I must issue a warning.

The Government want to help farming and ensure that the farming community receives the greatest possible income because of all the hazards of rural life. In exchange, however, we must ask farmers to try not to overshoot in the coming year. They will perhaps find ways of setting aside other areas of land, thereby not reducing the area of land under crop, especially grain. No one grows better malting barley than we do in Scotland and I do not want the quantity to be reduced. We want to help our distilleries further—they have already been helped by the general agreement on tariffs and trade and the Chancellor. We want to give the Scotch whisky industry the very best quality malt so that it can provide the best drink available anywhere in the world.

All in all, we are going away from our Christmas recess feeling that a major problem has been resolved, and that farmers can enjoy their cheques and use them—as I know they will have to—to maintain the quality of their output and the environmental advantages of living in Scotland. I hope that they feel that the Government have worked very hard to resolve the problem and that that is now satisfactorily resolved.

Royal Assent

Order. I have to notify the House, in accordance with the Royal Assent Act 1967, that the Queen has signified Her Royal Assent to the following Act:

CONSOLIDATED FUND (No. 3) ACT 1993.

Community Care

12.30 pm

Policies for the care of the mentally ill were far too restricted in the 1940s and the 1950s. Many people who should have been allowed to stay in the community were incarcerated in asylums. I believe that the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. The entire basis of our policy is predicated on the assumption that the mentally ill are sufficiently mentally well to take rational decisions about their treatment. That paradox is compounded by the all-too-frequent reluctance of psychiatrists to section patients.

I shall refer to two letters that were sent to me by constituents. In one, a constituent said that her son had been released from prison where he spent four months as a result of violent behaviour. He was then sectioned by a judge to stay in Friern hospital for up to six months. Two days after he had arrived at Friern hospital, he telephoned his mother and said that he had been told words to the effect that he was well enough to leave. It was only as a result of the mother ringing up the hospital and imploring its staff to keep her son there that a meeting was arranged which she attended and it was agreed that he could stay in hospital somewhat longer.

That is an example of a judge sectioning someone to stay in hospital for up to six months and the hospital saying after two days, "You are well enough to leave". On closer examination, it was obvious that the boy was not well enough to leave and that he should stay in hospital.

A neighbour who lives just up the road from me in Hendon has had great problems with his sister. He wrote earlier this year that his sister had been arrested at the end of last year after a number of incidents. As a result, she was sectioned and taken into Napsbury hospital and detained for two weeks. She behaved herself in there, but refused any treatment and was released. The family was most concerned that that could happen and a meeting was arranged with her social worker. The other members of the family were invited to attend the meeting, which took place at Edgware general hospital. When they arrived, however, they were told that the sister and her husband had refused to attend. The meeting served only to convince my constituent that the social workers are just "not of this planet" and that the whole system needs reforming, for the main reason that, as he says,
"a human being is living a life of anguish and torment when there is a possibility that with treatment her condition could be improved."
As my constituent continues—and no one could disagree—he finds it
"incomprehensible that a person who is known to be mentally unbalanced is asked to decide if she wishes to receive treatment or not."

He ends the letter:
"We can only cling to the hope that the present law will be reformed sooner rather than later."

I shall give another example of the reluctance of psychiatrists to section patients who need treatment in mental homes but who may not be willing to take it. A constituent of mine is convinced that the most gentle right hon. colleague of ours, my right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson), is trying to poison her. One weekend there were 19 messages on my answerphone saying, "Sir Roddy"—as she calls him—"is trying to get me." I can think of no Member of this House who is less likely to poison a constituent than my right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North.

I can think of no reason why my right hon. Friend should decide to move to a west Hendon council estate to poison one of my constituents. However, that poor lady suffers from that particular delusion and nothing is being done to help her. I have written letters to doctors and others, but they have not been dealt with satisfactorily.

That example underlines my point that all too often when a psychiatrist has to decide whether to err on the side of individual freedom or sectioning a patient, he will nearly always say, "Let him stay in the community as that is his freedom and right." At the end of the day, that benefits no one.

I want to underline that point by referring to a case in respect of which I attended the funeral of a 24-year-old constituent last summer. There is nothing unusual in Members of Parliament attending the funerals of their constituents. However, this occasion was particularly poignant because it was the funeral of a 24-year-old schizophrenic who had been receiving care in the community and who had committed suicide.

That young man had once been a lively, artistic and friendly lad who had never played a mean trick on anyone. However, he is alive no more. The occasion was particularly poignant because that boy's mother had warned the psychiatrists for many years that they were not giving that boy the right kind of treatment.

I have a file that deals with that case. The first letter on the file dates back to 29 November 1989 when a meeting took place between the psychiatrists and the boy's mother. The psychiatrists wrote back saying:
"Following our last meeting with you and David and Diana, I thought that it would be helpful to clarify the agreements that we reached on that occasion. We are aware that you all feel that Mark is suffering from a mental illness sufficient to warrant his detention in hospital under the Mental Health Act since he is unwilling to come into hospital voluntarily and that so far on the occasions when he has been assessed by our crisis team, their assessments have not concurred with yours."
The mother battled on for another four years to try to secure the treatment that she felt was suitable and satisfactory for her son. The psychiatrists always said, "No, you don't understand. We are the experts. You are just the mother." However, at the end of the day, the mother understood her son better than they did. That poor boy finally committed suicide by jumping off a seven-storey building. It seems to me that we should listen more to the relatives on those occasions than we sometimes do.

When Ben Silcock was mauled by a lion, the problems of schizophrenics momentarily became headline news. However, I believe that there is little doubt that mental health has become the Cinderella of the health service. What is even worse is that the whole policy has become far too optimistic.

Care in the community sounds wonderful, but it ignores the wishes of relatives and basic reality. The reality is that many patients and schizophrenics refuse to take their medication when they are released from prison or hospital. Public opinion may concentrate on the 32 murders committed by schizophrenics who were enjoying care in the community. However, those deaths—all of which are regrettable and, more importantly, all of which were avoidable—are but the tip of a much larger iceberg.

Since I was first elected to the House, I have had several meetings with my local branch of the Schizophrenia Fellowship. The stories it tells are uniformly horrific. I will always remember a mother telling me that her daughter was sleeping on a park bench somewhere in London. She did not know which park and still less which bench. It is one of the ironies of care in the community that many of those who sleep rough in London are discharged mental patients.

Do we really enhance the quality of their lives by saying, "No, we will not give you care in an institution, but you can sleep rough on the embankment"?

One hears stories of a vicious circle—patients failing to take their medication and often becoming violent. All too often, those who are released into care in the community end up receiving institutional care in prison. They suffer unnecessarily; so, too, do their relatives, who feel powerless to influence psychiatrists and policy makers, and so, too do many innocent third parties.

On one occasion, I received a delegation from residents of a block of council flats in my constituency. I said, "What is your problem?" I wondered what Barnet council had done to annoy them. They said, "It's Mr. Campbell." I said, "What's Mr. Campbell done to annoy you?" They said, "Well, he was released from Napsbury." I said, "Yes, what else?" They said, "He has a hobby. It is to play his hi-fi system for 12 hours a day, starting at 8 pm and finishing at 8 am," rather like the sittings of the House this week, but it was quite unsocial for those who had to do a day's work after having their night disturbed by that gentleman.

The suicide case to which I referred is not isolated. Some of the others who attended that funeral told me that, in north-west London, five or six people who had received care in the community had committed suicide. The Boyd report said that, in one year, 107 discharged psychiatric patients had committed suicide. Each week, about three people die either by suicide or are murdered by schizophrenics because care in the community has failed them and failed the community.

It is not only in Britain that difficulty has been experienced in persuading schizophrenics to take their medication. In Canada, for example, social security benefits are now paid only to those who are still taking their medication. Although that policy was originally opposed on civil liberty grounds, it is seen to be effective and it could be tried here.

There needs to be a closer working relationship between psychiatrists and relatives. The mother of my deceased constituent said of the psychiatrist, "If only he had listened to me." Many of those whom I meet are critical of psychiatrists' attitudes to them, the parents, and those who know the victims of schizophrenia.

In London, patients have frequently been released, despite an adequate number of psychiatric beds elsewhere in London which could take them. Despite the reluctance of individuals to take drugs when they are released into the community, they are still released into the community. One cannot blame individuals for refusing to take medication —it is not particularly pleasant. When we were children, we were told that the nastiest medicine was the most effective, but that did not make us more willing to take it, whatever else our mothers might have said and however well they might have tried to sweeten the pill.

If a patient is told, "You can go into the community, but carry on taking the medicine," he must be tempted to say to himself, "They have said that I can go into the community, so I must now be all right; I do not need to take the medication." We then have the vicious circle of individuals refusing to take medication, becoming violent and then indulging in antisocial behaviour, ending with their being institutionalised, not in hospitals but in prisons.

We must remember the impact of the release of individuals not only on themselves but on others. We must consider the impact on relatives. They are frequently devastated when they see the poor quality of life that their loved ones have outside hospital. We must remember victims who are murdered, assaulted, attacked or raped when individuals are cared for in the community.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health is widely recognised as a humane Minister and someone who is socially concerned. I should like to ask her and my hon. Friend the Minister who will reply to the debate to look again at the policy that has caused heartache to so many and to look again at the availability of psychiatric beds in London before deciding to close our other hospitals or to encourage psychiatrists to release people into the community.

We must also remember the potential victims and try to stop them becoming victims when people who should not be are released. Only a few thousand people need to he treated in institutions rather than in the community. It is not a major problem in terms of numbers, but it can be a major problem if one is the patient, the patient's relative or a potential victim of someone who is not taking his medication.

Individuals who suffer from mental illness are just as deserving of care in hospital as victims of other illnesses. In days gone by, there was no disgrace in being sent to a fever hospital because one suffered from fevers. Today, there should be no disgrace in being in an asylum if one suffers from an illness which needs to be treated there. It is much better that such individuals are treated in the appropriate place rather than sent into the community, where the care may well be inappropriate to their illness and may cause them to do things that they later regret, and which their relatives and their victims regret.

12.46 pm

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) on securing time today to debate the important topic of community care and the mentally ill. I think that my right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Sir R. Boyson) will read the proceedings with some interest, if not some astonishment.

I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South has close links with several voluntary organisations working in mental illness. He takes a keen interest in matters that affect mentally ill people. I pay tribute to his hard work on behalf of that vulnerable group in our society. I know that he is a keen supporter of the National Schizophrenia Fellowship. The NSF does much valuable work to promote the interests of people with schizophrenia. That is why we are supporting it to the tune of more than £170,000 this year.

My hon. Friend expressed several concerns about the provision of services. I am pleased to be able to respond and say how we are taking forward care in the community for the mentally ill. I begin by reminding the House of the size of the agenda before us. About one person in 10 suffers from some form of mental illness in the course of a year. Mental illness is as common as heart disease and three times more common as cancer. For example, about seven people per 1,000 of the population will suffer from schizophrenia at some point in their life. Currently, it affects an estimated quarter of a million people.

Our policy is to encourage the development of locally based health and social services to meet the needs of people of all ages who suffer from mental illness. The aim is to provide a range of services that are local, comprehensive and sensible. The principal components of such a service must be effective assessment of need, community mental health teams supporting mentally ill people in their home, effective links with primary care services, an adequate range of day care services, adequate short and long-term hospital provision and an adequate range of health authority and local authority respite services.

This policy can be delivered successfully only by health authorities and local authorities working together and in co-operation with the relevant voluntary organisations and the private sector to provide a multi-agency and multi-disciplinary range of services, treatment and care. There is no doubt that our policy of providing care in the community enjoys widespread support, which is borne out by public attitude surveys. However, I recognise and understand the concern about the level and range of services being provided. That is why we set up the mental health task force. Its remit is to help unlock resources from the old, long-stay institutions and to help build up a balanced range of local services, based on best practice. That should meet my hon. Friend's request about places being available before hospitals are closed.

My hon. Friend also referred to rough sleepers and mental illness. He is right that very often many people who sleep rough suffer from some degree of mental illness. However, surveys of such people show that they have never been in touch with the psychiatric services. They have not been under their care and then returned to the community. He also mentioned some suggestions on conditions for benefits based on the experience in Canada. I, too, have visited Canada and the United States to look at some of their schemes. The one that he highlighted would be a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security, should it be decided that conditions be attached to benefit. I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend will see and hear what my hon. Friend has said.

We are taking several initiatives to help provide a better range of services and those include the mental illness specific grant and the care programme approach.

The grant is paid to local authorities to help bring about a significant improvement in the social care provided to people with mental illness. It has been widely welcomed by local authorities and has proved a great success, stimulating more than 800 projects and bringing help to about 64,000 people. Since we started the grant two years ago, we have increased it by 47 per cent. in real terms and this year it stands at £34·4 million, supporting total spending of £48·4 million.

We introduced the care programme approach in April 1991 and it is intended to cover all patients being considered for discharge from mental illness hospitals and all new patients accepted by the specialist psychiatric services. The needs of each patient for continuing health and social care and for accommodation should be systematically assessed and effective systems should be put in place to ensure that agreed health and, where necessary, social care services are provided to those patients who can be treated in the community. Explicit, individually tailored care programmes are drawn up and a key worker is identified to keep in close touch with the patient and to ensure that the agreed package of health and social care is being delivered.

We now intend to strengthen that system. In particular, we want to deal urgently with the problem presented by a very small number of patients who, as my hon. Friend said, slip through the net of community care. On 12 August, we announced a 10-point plan to reinforce the provision of community care for mentally ill people. That plan very much takes into account the sort of difficulties and the occasional tragic cases that my hon. Friend mentioned.

That comprehensive package of measures, reinforced by stronger legal powers, includes a new power of supervised discharge. That was discussed in depth in the report that we published of the Department of Health review of the legal powers and of the care of mentally ill people, on which we are consulting.

The idea is to provide a legislative framework to enable carers to give greater support to that small minority of especially vulnerable patients. Those are the people whose condition can deteriorate, especially if they fail to take their medication as my hon. Friend said, so that they present a risk either to themselves or to others. We want patients to be clear about what their treatment in the community involves and their care programmes will be carefully agreed with them before they are discharged. A failure to comply with the conditions would lead to an immediate review of the case and recall to hospital, if appropriate.

The other measures announced in our 10-point plan are intended to ensure that that happens. They include clarification of existing powers under the Mental Health Act 1983, attention to the special demands on the mental health services in London to which my hon. Friend referred, and a review of the clinical standards of care for people with schizophrenia. We shortly aim to issue new guidance on the discharge of psychiatric patients, and we are moving ahead with arrangements for a national conference to establish an agreed approach to the training of key workers.

The new version of the code of practice that has been approved by Parliament emphasises the criteria for admission to hospital under the Act. In addition, we are discussing with the Royal College of Psychiatrists a possible training pack for section 12 doctors who are approved under the 1983 Act as having special experience in the diagnosis or treatment of mental disorder. As part of that, we shall consider whether the material might be used for training social workers in their responsibilities under the Act.

I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the code of practice, which makes it clear that people can be taken to hospital for assessment should their health be at risk or if they are a potential safety risk to themselves or to anybody else. Perhaps that has not always been understood in the past, but it is made clear in the new code of practice and I hope that that will be helpful.

The best safeguards for patients and the public are still professional judgment, co-operation between services and a proper understanding of the powers that are available under the Act and the limits that it imposes. It is just over a year since the Government's public health strategy, "The Health of the Nation" was published. As the House knows, the White Paper set targets for improvements in health and reductions in morbidity. It is significant that mental illness, which has often received insufficient attention in the past, was chosen as one of the five key areas. Reducing suicide is the other side of the coin of improving the health and treatment of people with mental illness.

My hon. Friend spoke about a tragic case and I am determined to do everything possible to reduce the rate of suicide. As he knows, the targets in "The Health of the Nation" are for the overall rate of suicide and the specific rate in the case of people who have some form of mental illness.

We also seek to improve primary care for the mentally ill. General practitioners come into contact with, and are responsible for treating, the bulk of those with psychiatric disorders. My Department is funding the work of the senior mental health fellow in general practice so as to cascade knowledge and skills to GP tutors and course organisers, and it supports the "Defeat depression" campaign being run by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Royal College of General Practitioners.

Adequate resources are important and the Government are firmly committed to improving services for the mentally ill. That is demonstrated by the fact that, including secure provision, about £2 billion is being spent this year on mental illness. That figure, although impressive, does not tell the whole story, because it does not show the 37 per cent. increase in real-terms in gross expenditure on hospital and community health services since 1979, and a real terms increase of 86 per cent. in gross expenditure on local authority social services.

Those figures clearly demonstrate that the Government are committed to their policies for the mentally ill. However, the Government can provide only the framework and guidelines for policy. It is up to local health and social services departments to use and develop those as they assess and seek to meet local needs in mental health. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for initiating the debate and for the measured way in which he put his case.

I am grateful to the many people working in the professions and voluntary organisations, who do so much for mentally ill people. I am grateful also for the opportunity to respond to my hon. Friend. I share his determination that mentally ill people should receive the right blend of high-quality treatment and care.

Cyprus

12.59 pm

Cyprus is often debated by the House and we would all say rightly so. It is a member of the Commonwealth, and the United Kingdom is one of the island's guarantor powers. Nineteen years after the brutal invasion by the Turkish army that divided the island, thousands of Turkish troops are still there and thousands more settlers have been brought from mainland Turkey. Both actions were and remain a scandalous infringement of the rights of the democratic republic of Cyprus and its people.

I welcome the presence in the Chamber of my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster, North (Mr. Hughes) and the hon. Member for Bexleyheath (Mr. Townsend), who have loyally been committed to finding an honourable and just solution to the tragedy that has befallen Cyprus since the Turkish invasion. We have always made it clear that we seek a settlement that ensures the rights of both the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities.

There have been many hopes of such a settlement over the years, but time and again Mr. Denktash and Ankara have rejected any attempt to reach one. One has only to read the reports of the United Nations Secretary-General to know who is clearly to blame for that lack of progress.

After 19 years, can progress be reported? After all the discussions, is it possible to say, "Progress has been slow in some respects, but here is an example of the commitment of Mr. Denktash and Ankara"? The purpose of this debate is to learn Government thinking, the actions that they think should or need to be taken to restart talks, and what they think should be on the agenda. Are the Government in discussions with the United Nations Secretary-General? If so, what is the subject of that discussion?

The United Kingdom is not only a guarantor power but a member of the United Nations Security Council. What contacts have the Government made with the two other guarantor powers—Greece and Turkey? I hope that the Minister will give a clear and direct answer. Would the Government support any action taken on Cyprus by the Greek Government when it assumes the EC presidency in the near future? What would be the Government's attitude if the Greek Government wanted, as a guarantor power, to put Cyprus high on the agenda?

When Commonwealth Heads of Government met in Cyprus last October, they issued a statement on the Cyprus situation that was fully supported by the British Government and every country represented at that conference.

Perhaps the Minister will tell us what has happened since then. Will I hear today? Will the House be informed of the actions that the Government have taken following the passing of unanimous resolutions at the Commonwealth Heads of Government conference in Cyprus in October? We hear repeatedly of the need for confidence-building measures and we would all agree with that.

I could name a couple of actions that could be taken in a matter of days and which, without doubt, would lead to confidence-building measures starting to take place: first, a sizeable reduction in the number of Turkish issue troops who are now in northern Cyprus; and, secondly, a complete stop—I emphasise "complete stop"—in the number of settlers who now come from Turkey into northern Cyprus. Those are confidence-building measures which could be taken without any great delay or problem if the Turkish Government wished to.

I must tell the Minister that the real confidence-building measure would be regarded as the decision that is taken on the town of Famagusta. It is empty of people, except for troops. Just what do the Government say on the issue of Famagusta? Do they support the return of Famagusta? I stress "Famagusta". I do not say "parts of Famagusta", but the full return of the town. The Minister may be aware that that is fully supported by the United Nations.

I am often told, as are other hon. Members who have come to hear my remarks and who hope to make a short contribution, that the United Kingdom Government fully support the efforts of the Secretary-General. The Secretary-General is now calling for the full return of Famagusta. As one of the guarantor powers, do we support that? I must stress to the Minister that it is not some kind of trade-off. It is an issue on which the actions of Mr. Denktash and Ankara will be judged as to their real commitment to a settlement and to the full return of the town of Famagusta.

I have a copy of the document of the Security Council of the United Nations dated 15 December, which was adopted unanimously. Perhaps the Minister has seen it. It says that the Security Council
"Requests the Secretary-General to submit a report by the end of February 1994 on the outcome of his efforts to achieve an agreement on a package of confidence-building measures."
The next two months will test the sincerity of Mr. Denktash and Ankara. I stress to the Minister that that sincerity will not be expressed through their ideas or proposals, but by their full support for the actions of the Secretary-General on Famagusta. The Cyprus Government have fully supported the proposals of the Secretary-General since May this year. There is no question of needing to go to the Cyprus Government to see what they believe. They have clearly announced their stand on this very important issue. The real test of commitment will soon be on Mr. Denktas and Ankara. I hope that we shall hear today where the British Government stand on that commitment.

During Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs questions this week, my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) asked what the Government's response would be to the request from the European Union to have a monitor attending the forthcoming discussions between Cyprus and the officials from northern Cyprus. That person would sit in on those discussions and report back to the Community. The Minister replied that a decision would be made on 20 December. I need hardly remind the House that Monday is 20 December. I expect the Government have already made their decision and I hope that it is favourable to my hon. Friend's request.

Last week, elections took place in occupied northern Cyprus. Although no other country in the world, with the exception of Turkey, recognises northern Cyprus, to be frank, we all know that the Government have contacts in that area. That is what one would expect. What is the Government's views of those elections? To whom are they talking in northern Cyprus?

Those who care about Cyprus look to the future when we genuinely hope that the island of Cyprus becomes a united Cyprus in which the rights of both communities are properly safeguarded. The British Government should ensure that basic freedoms are secured for the people of Cyprus—that is of paramount importance. Refugees should be free to return to wherever their homes were before the 1974 invasion. People should have the freedom to own property and the freedom to move anywhere within the island of Cyprus. Those basic freedoms should be guaranteed for all Cypriots and should be contained within any agreement. I hope that the Minister will make it clear that such commitments and confidence-building measures, about which we hear repeatedly, are supported by the Government. I hope, in time, that they will also be supported by Mr. Denktash and others in Ankara because, as I have already said, in February the Secretary-General will report back to the Security Council on what has happened in the intervening two months since this week's resolution was passed.

I am grateful to the Minister for his presence today, because this debate is of crucial importance to our country. We cannot say that we are concerned about the problem but argue that it does not affect us. I hope that the Minister will offer a real commitment on the part of the British Government. I also hope that he will confirm that between now and when the Secretary-General reports to the Security Council, the Government will make it clear to Mr. Denktash and his colleagues in Ankara that the time has come for their meaningful involvement in the discussions conducted by the Secretary-General.

In recent years, we have had many discussions that have got nowhere. The latest discussion in the long-running tragedy is a test of the sincerity of Mr. Denktash and those in Ankara.

1.13 pm

I am immensely grateful to the hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox), who is a fellow friend of Cyprus, for allowing me to contribute to this debate. I congratulate him on securing more Adjournment debates on Cyprus than I have managed to do over the years. I thought that I had the record. I also congratulate him on putting the obvious points with great vigour and effectiveness.

I have been involved in the fortunes and misfortunes of the beautiful but tragic island of Cyprus since I first went there as a young, inexperienced soldier in 1958, when I had the privilege to guard the last colonial governor of Cyprus. From that time, Britain has had more responsibility towards Cyprus than any of the other 180 countries in the United Nations. In recent years, there has been a temptation for the Foreign Office to say that we are fitting in behind the United Nations and the Commonwealth and that we are playing our part. I passionately believe that we should not just be playing a part, but taking a leading role because of our unique responsibilities. Indeed, the United States looks to London to give a lead.

What is happening in Cyprus is intolerable. It is a European and fellow Commonwealth country which is tragically divided. It is too small in political, economic and commercial terms to be divided in that cruel way.

I hope that the Minister will comment on the use of northern Cyprus to harbour refugees from justice, which is an unattractive feature and a growing tendency. As the Ministers knows from my correspondence with him and his officials, it is time for the Government to take some action and we are anxious to hear the Minister's response. Above all, I hope that he will tell us that Britain understands its clear duty in the matter.

1.17 pm

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) for allowing other hon. Members a few minutes in which to speak and I congratulate him on securing the debate.

After almost 20 years, it is time that the Government, as a guarantor, decided to do something positive. For almost 20 years, the northern part of Cyprus has been illegally occupied by Turkish troops and it is time that the Government set about settling the problem. Most people refer to the occupation as the Cyprus problem. I refer to it as the Turkish problem, because Turkey made the initial decision and it has the problem. How could we allow such a situation to occur and how can we allow it to continue in this day and age? I welcome the recent moves that the Government have made over Northern Ireland, as do most hon. Members, but it is time that the Government started to make moves to sort out the problem in Cyprus.

On a recent visit to Cyprus, what moved me most was meeting the people who are refugees in their own country. It is unimaginable to us that those refugees look over the border and the barbed wire and see living in their houses and stealing their property, people who were brought in by Turkey and were not born and bred in Cyprus. It cannot be nice to look over that barbed wire week in and week out for almost 20 years at other people who are occupying one's land. It is time that the Government began dealing properly with the problem.

1.18 pm

I, too, congratulate the hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) on having secured the debate on this important issue. I know how strongly he feels about the matter from meetings that we have had at the Foreign Office and from correspondence on behalf of the people whom he represents. He has brought his judgment to bear on that issue for many years, as have the hon. Member for Doncaster, North (Mr. Hughes) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bexleyheath (Mr. Townsend).

We are bound to Cyprus by many ties of family, of history, and of political interests. It is an island which is tragically divided and I also believe that the division is unacceptable. We must not accept that just because the division has existed for 20 years we must somehow learn to live with it. We must redouble our efforts to reach a settlement and a solution. This is not a party political issue: the original division took place under a Labour Government and it has persisted under Conservative Governments. It is generally recognised on both sides of the House that the present situation is unacceptable.

I warmly welcome the Minister's comments—especially those about the unacceptability of the division of Cyprus. Have the British Government officially made it clear to Turkey and the illegal regime in northern Cyprus that, no matter how long it continues, the present division can never be tolerated or accepted in a civilised society?

I can add to that. We have made it clear that we do not recognise the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and that we have no intention of doing so. We were disappointed—and said so—when Mr. Denktash was not able to follow President Clerides in accepting a package of confidence-building measures, which, as we heard, was proposed by the United Nations Secretary-General. We were particularly disappointed when Mr. Denktash did not return to New York—effectively stalling the talks since that time in the summer. We attach considerable weight to the success of those measures. The hon. Member for Tooting mentioned Famagusta. Among the confidence-building measures is the return of Varosha, which is part of Famagusta, to the control of the United Nations. That, in turn, should lead to a more general settlement.

Such measures are crucial because confidence is essential if any long-term settlement is to be achieved. A new generation is growing up on both sides of the divide. Those young people have no experience of living together in a united island. At one time, Turks, Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots lived together and, despite undoubted differences, by and large rubbed along and learnt to live with one another. Memories of that time are fading; it is outside young people's experience. For that reason, too, it is important that the political leaders on the island find it in themselves to reach a long-term political settlement.

Since the talks were stalled, there have been elections in northern Cyprus. We do not know what the final outcome will be in terms of the Government, but those elections give a new opportunity. There is the hope—shared, I know, by the United Nations—that we can return to the question of the confidence-building measures. Mr. Clark, the special representative of the Secretary-General, has been asked to resume intensive contact with both sides—and, indeed, with Turkey—following the elections. On 15 December —the date mentioned by the hon. Member for Tooting —the Security Council also endorsed that approach.

The question of an EC observer has been raised. I have been asked what will happen on Monday at the Foreign Affairs Council. That will depend on what European Union member states conclude at the time. I cannot prejudge that discussion. It is, after all, a joint decision that we hope to reach about the possible appointment of an EC observer. I can tell the House that we are being genuinely open-minded about the matter and approach it without prejudice. Our judgment must be influenced chiefly by what is best for the prospect of confidence-building measures. Will the appointment of an observer aid that process? In answer to a question on Wednesday, I said that, if we are satisfied that that will help and not impede the success of those confidence-building measures, we will give the matter favourable consideration.

The Secretary-General laid considerable emphasis on other means by which the European Union might visibly support his efforts. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary did just that when he, along with other European Ministers, met Mr. Cetin, the Turkish Foreign Minister, on 8 November at the European Union/Turkey Association Council. My right hon. Friend made it clear to the Turkish Minister that we wished to make rapid progress with the confidence-building measures, after the election in northern Cyprus, and that we looked to the Turkish Government to use their influence and best endeavours to accelerate that process.

We all want a just, viable and lasting settlement, which must be reached by the two communities together. No great imperial power can impose a settlement. The days of colonialism are past—[Interruption.] No doubt to the regret of my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames). We must take the longer, perhaps stonier, road of getting the local communities and politicians to negotiate between themselves, within a framework set by others, together with all possible assistance and support from friends of Cyprus and from both sides of the community.

We are aiming at a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary put it clearly in the House on 19 November when he said that he was aiming for
"one country, one Cyprus, one Government and two communities."—[Official Report, 19 November 1993; Vol. 233, c. 117.]
There is no question of our recognising the so-called "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus." We condemned its purported declaration in 1983 and the Government helped to secure the United Nations Security Council resolution 541, which considered that declaration to be legally invalid, and that remains our position.

People get confused about why we have contact with the Turkish Cypriot community at all. We are one of the guarantor powers of the treaty of guarantee, and we have a clear obligation to deal with both communities. For that reason, we maintain contact with Mr. Denktash and others who are prominent and have influence in the northern Cyprus community—but that does not imply recognition.

Future efforts will be directed chiefly towards the success of the confidence-building measures, and the recent elections have given us a new opportunity in that respect. Following those elections, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has sent messages to his Greek and Turkish counterparts, and to Mr. Clerides and Mr. Denktash, urging them to do their utmost to reach a settlement.

We will follow that up. We have reopened the issue not only by way of direct correspondence with those concerned, but my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will discuss Cyprus with Mrs. Ciller, the Prime Minister of Turkey, when he meets her in the margins of the NATO summit on 10 January. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will raise the issue of Cyprus when he meets Mr. Cetin, the Turkish Foreign Minister, in Akara during his visit to Turkey on 19 and 20 January. After that visit, my right hon. Friend plans to visit Greece and to follow up those discussions in direct communications with the Greek Government on 21 January.

We should see the package of confidence-building measures as important, but they are only the first step. After that, we must make progress with the Secretary-General's set of ideas—which, naturally, we shall support. We cannot compel a solution to be found, but we must work with a will.

Compromises will be required on both sides. We require genuine power sharing between the two communities. The possible nature of the ultimate political arrangement cannot be foreseen at this point, but I can reaffirm that we will not rest until a final solution has been achieved.

Live Animals (Transport)

1.29 pm

This is a matter of great concern to hon. Members on both sides of the House. I have been involved with horses all my life, as a rider and as one concerned about their welfare; I am in my 21st year of service on the council of the British Horse Society, to which I have been consistently re-elected. The society is the national controlling body: it controls everything to do with horses except racing. Some years ago, I received the award of merit from the society for outstanding services to the horse world.

This is probably the last chance for us to wish my hon. Friend the Minister all happiness: next week, he is marrying a wonderful lady, and marrying into a wonderful family whom I have known for some years.

The transport of live animals deserves considerable attention from both the United Kingdom Government and the European Community—and, indeed, from the whole world. The British people are enormously concerned about the welfare of animals, which is reflected in the size of the post bags received by Members of Parliament. A recent survey revealed that, apart from housing, animal welfare constituted the largest single element of hon. Members' post bags.

Although animal welfare as a whole covers a huge range of subjects, the House should be in no doubt about the extent of public concern about the transport of live animals. In a recent parliamentary answer, my hon. Friend the Minister acknowledged that his Department had received more than 100,000 items of correspondence on the issue, as well as numerous petitions. A further answer revealed that, since 1 November, the Ministry had received more than 17,000 letters. In recent weeks, more than 800 letters a day have been pouring in. I congratulate the Minister on coping with all that, and the British people on their vigilance in writing.

Why should the British public express themselves in such numbers? They may have been made aware by the campaigns of the RSPCA, the British Horse Society and others—including the International League for the Protection of Horses—of the plight of animals subjected to lengthy and unnecessary journeys en route to slaughter; but awareness alone does not generate such large post bags. The answer lies in public revulsion at the suffering of the animals—more than 2 million of them—that leave our shores each year, and impatience with the continuing trade and the horrors that accompany it.

In recent years, undercover RSPCA inspectors have documented numerous examples of animals suffering in transit. It is true that some are treated properly, but many experience real, terrible suffering leading to death. In September this year, at the port of Trieste in northern Italy, RSPCA inspectors recorded on film, for all to see, a plethora of abuses to animals after long journeys across Europe. Sheep, for instance, were starved and dehydrated after a long journey, and then unloaded into a holding pen. The water troughs in the pen were so high that the animals were unable to drink from them—what meanness. Dying sheep, exhausted and stressed after one journey, were reloaded without rest on to another vehicle to begin the same nightmare all over again. Dead sheep were dragged off a lorry, which is evidence in itself. A horse was stabbed in the eye because it was reluctant to move due to severe exhaustion. Such scenes are so horrific and disturbing that I do not think that they should be shown on television before 9 pm. Indeed, I doubt whether they could be shown before 9 pm.

On one occasion, after pigs had made a 35-hour journey from Holland to Rome without rest, food or water—the three essentials of life—RSPCA inspectors witnessed them so exhausted after their nightmare journey that they were not able to walk steadily. They were falling from the vehicle while being unloaded. I have heard many personal testimonies by the late Glenda Spooner, a great fighter for the welfare of horses, who saw horses being unloaded after travelling long distances, stumbling and not behaving as they should, and receiving a severe thrashing for it. The beating was inflicted either out of bad behaviour, to indulge the miserable temperament and mood of individuals or out of sheer cruelty.

Such scenes, which appear commonplace, suggest that the European rules are rarely enforced. The abuses are so widespread that on almost every occasion that RSPCA inspectors monitor ports such as Calais they record yet another journey of 30, 40, 50 and even 60 hours without respite for the animals. Such journey times are in breach of European law. I have asked the RSPCA what intelligence or information it requires to follow such illegal journeys.

I agree with what the hon. Gentleman has said so far. His interest in horses is well known. Does he agree that we need to establish maximum journey times? I am sure that he will share my disappointment about the recent draft directive which failed because it extended the length of journey times above our legal maximum. Does he also agree that, apart from the cruelty of exporting animals, the problem also exports jobs from this country? Should not slaughter take place as near as possible to the point of production?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman on both points. It is a tragedy that when, led by the Government, we were making good progress on journey times and on the general welfare of horses and other live animals, we have now moved in the oppositite direction.

I was talking about illegal journeys. The answer appears less conspiratorial than I had suspected. Inspectors wait at Calais or other ports, watching for the arrival of a multi-decked lorry. They look for two drivers, which is a sign of a long journey. When lorries arrive on ferries from the United Kingdom, up to 800 sheep are loaded and the horrendous journey begins. Most disturbing of all is the fact that on almost every occasion the lorries have not been stopped once en route through several countries. Enforcement appears to be wholly mythical.

That begs the question that, if a handful of RSPCA inspectors can so easily find examples of cruelty and disregard for animal welfare, why should basic enforcement be such a problem? It is so easy to find examples of abuse that they should be picked up without the slightest difficulty. Some hard punishment for those involved would have a tremendous effect on a wicked trade.

I am aware that following yesterday's deliberation at the Council of Ministers, there is still much to be resolved on the live transport directive. I hope that equal weight will be given to enforcement and the basic limitation of journey times. Enforcement matters just as much as limitation; if that principle is not established, the lengthy and difficult negotiations will have been wasted.

The deliberations on the European directive on live transportation bring me to a matter about which I and the British Horse Society, on whose council I have served for 21 years, feel most passionately. That is the retention of the Minimum Values Order.

The fight against the trade in live horses and ponies has been going on for more than 100 years. The RSPCA, the British Horse Society, the International League for the Protection of Horses and others have sought to stem the suffering inflicted on thousands of old, decayed and worn-out horses, as they are described, sent across the channel for butchery in continental slaughterhouses. That was at one time a lucrative trade and many people were brought before the courts for transporting a horse in an unfit state. In 1900 alone, the RSPCA, secured 4,651 convictions for that form of cruelty to horses.

The Minimum Values Order has played a huge part, which cannot be over-estimated, in stemming that trade. Today's Minimum Values Order, which prevents the export of any horses valued at less than £495 or pony valued at less than £220 or any horse over the age of eight years, except in very limited circumstances, has proved a valuable weapon against cruelty.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
(Mr. Nicholas Soames)

Hear, hear.

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's support.

We have to remember that horses who were, and sometimes are, exported for slaughter have often done a lifetime's hard work and do not deserve that type of treatment. However, there is great worry in horse circles that our open border with the Republic of Ireland—to which the order does not apply, unfortunately—provides a back-door route to butchery and death for many horses. It is a worry because each year many horses are stolen from loving owners and are never recovered. It would appear that stolen horses can be transmitted to the Republic of Ireland without paperwork and could then be shipped to the continent for slaughter.

I am grateful that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) is in his place, because he and I have done a great deal of work together on that and many other animal issues.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for saying that. May I offer him a double congratulation this afternoon? I congratulate him on all the work that he has done for the welfare of animals; I also congratulate him on getting this Adjournment debate, and therefore perhaps preventing the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the hon. Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames) from going out and—who knows—shooting a number of small furry and feathered things and eating them in even greater quantity.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for the initial compliment.

Finally, I commend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for her determined stand during the live transport negotiations by refusing to accept a lowering of the high standards of protection for animals who are transported live to mainland Europe. That is a matter for great thanksgiving and congratulation and I welcome it warmly.

I hope that in future negotiations, the Government will seek to establish the important principle of maximum journey limit for animals destined for slaughter, as the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) so rightly said. That was supported by 271 votes to six in the European Parliament on Wednesday this week. More importantly, we must establish that the good practice of slaughter happens close to the point of rearing. The hon. Gentleman said it; I have been saying it for years, in the House and in many other places.

An eight-hour journey limit would allow any purchasers to reach a choice of slaughterhouses of proper standing. Furthermore, we must promote the carcase trade. It represents 80 per cent. of British exports and, as has been shown in a recent report on the economics of the trade, it costs only £1·20 to transport a carcase from the United Kingdom to southern France, but £6·25 to transport the sheep live. Those figures tell their own story.

It is also surely in our best interests for British lamb to be sold as British lamb—the best lamb in the world—and not sold in French butchers' shops masquerading as French produce. British farmers received not a penny more at market for the 2 million sheep who were transported live to the continent this year. Meanwhile, jobs in our slaughter industry decline and the needless suffering continues.

The other reason for a maximum journey limit is enforcement. Feeding and resting periods complicate the enforcement of such rules. Indeed, the dreadful case that was successfully prosecuted by the Ministry just two months ago—I congratulate the Minister on that—highlights the difficulty of enforcement. The transporter in question had submitted to the Ministry, as part of the export licence that was used then, details of the stopping points for resting and feeding the animals. However, on no fewer than 42 occasions, he breached the written guarantees on the treatment of the animals in his care.

On one occasion, no doubt to save time and money, the journey lasted 44 hours from Calais to Piannella in Italy during which time the sheep were not fed or watered. On another ocaasion, the same journey lasted 47 hours. I wonder whether that individual would have done that to his next of kin. However, in respect of 42 instances of false declarations, the transporter concerned—a Mr. Mills—was fined only £4,200 and £3,500 costs.

I absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman. The transporter concerned was fined £7,700 for the trails of suffering that he sanctioned. That is an outrage. I wonder how much Mr. Mills saved in respect of feeding costs and wages by completing those journeys without stops. I am sure that he must have saved quite a lot more than £7,700.

I hope that the penalties for breaches of the live transport rules will be toughened. We cannot let that cruelty pay and we should not allow traders who compromise the welfare of those animals to continue in that business. I am grateful for the opportunity to raise an issue about which many of my constituents, and the constituents of many other hon. Members, feel very strongly.

In the years to come, I hope that I shall not feel that I have to return to the issue to highlight further cruelty and suffering; a sensible and rational policy, well enforced, would safeguard Britain's reputation as the guardian of animal welfare without compromising Britain's economic interest.

1.46 pm

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
(Mr. Nicholas Soames)

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) for his kind words and, in the Christmas spirit, I ask him to forgive me for the disagreeable manner in which I let him know that I had to give up a day that I intended to devote to matters relating to conservation in the north of England in order to answer my hon. Friend's debate. I am glad to have given up that day on this occasion—

They are not animals—they are birds.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North is a real expert on the matter. The horses and ponies of the United Kingdom, past, present and future, owe him a considerable debt for his great knowledge and quite exceptional contribution to the horse world which, as he mentioned, was recognised when the British Horse Society gave him one of its highest awards. My hon. Friend has served for 21 years on the British Horse Society, which is one of the most important bodies governing horses in this country. My hon. Friend's knowledge of the matter is well known.

I am also grateful for, and should like to acknowledge publicly, my hon. Friend's support and the support of hon. Members on both sides of the House, by and large—and certainly unqualified in the case of my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North—for the very tough line that the Government have been taking in the European Community negotiations on the protection of animals during transport.

I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will recognise that what happened in Brussels over the past two days—which frankly was a most unsatisfactory result as far as animals are concerned—was no fault of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food who laboured hard and long, as did the chief vet, his colleagues and the officials in the Ministry who spent months preparing for the Council, lobbying in Europe and trying to bring the other countries round to a more sensible and honourable way of thinking about the care of animals. It was a great sadness to all of us that we were unable to reach a conclusion. However, I will return to that point later.

As my hon. Friend rightly said, the treatment of animals in transport and elsewhere is a subject for which the British people have enormous vital, instinctive and entirely justified concern. I hope that my hon. Friend agrees that the Government's approach fully reflects that concern. We are not prepared to accept proposals that would fail to improve the welfare of animals during transport; nor will we play politics on the way in which we arrive at such agreements. Negotiations are taking place with people who simply do not understand and who have a cultural and attitudinal difference from ourselves about the handling, keeping and using of animals. That is why my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food demonstrated the strength of our resolve this week in Brussels, when she refused point blank to accept a compromise proposal which failed to address our vital concerns.

I hope that my hon. Friend and Opposition Members will not mind if I rehearse the background to the negotiations, as they are complex and the situation bears careful thought.

In 1991, when the existing directive on the transport of animals was adopted, it was acknowledged as being incomplete. It lacked vital and, as my hon. Friend said, enforceable details on the intervals between rest, food and water for animals. This summer, the Commission published proposals to complete the directive based on advice from its own scientific veterinary committee. We regarded the proposals as a sound and prudent starting point for discussions. Pending implementation of the further rules, member states are permitted to have their own national rules.

I shall be very brief.

On the point about national rules and enforceability, the Minister will be aware that we had a brief discussion in Committee about the concept of a licensing regime for animal transporters. The Minister will know also that I have written to him further on that matter. I do not expect a response until he has had time to consider the point, but it might be useful if he would indicate whether it is a principle which might be worth examining further.

I cannot comment on that. I have seen the hon. Gentleman's letter, and I applaud him for following up where other people do not bother to follow up after making a suggestion. We shall study the proposal with care. I have no intention of commenting one way or the other on the principle. I shall be happy to talk to him about it later.

The United Kingdom has taken advantage of the right to use national rules, and we maintain a maximum interval of 15 hours between feeding and watering horses and farm animals. We have always made it clear that, in negotiations, we would seek a solution reflecting our standards.

The Commission's proposal set a maximum feeding and watering interval of six hours for horses. For other farm animals, the intervals varied between eight and 24 hours. In negotiations under the Belgian presidency, it soon became apparent that many member states had acute difficulties with the Commission's proposals. In addition, much attention was devoted to measures that could improve enforcement of the rules, and we were extremely keen to encourage that. Those aspects are of fundamental importance for the proper care of animals, and we were encouraged by the realistic approach demonstrated during that part of the discussions. There was general agreement that the proposals should be simplified in order to set a smaller number of categories of animals for which different feeding and watering intervals would be established.

In the initial stages of the discussion, it was pleasing to have the weight of our arguments accepted, because the presidency proposed rules that were indeed very close to our own ideas. In the final stages of the negotiations, however, it was clear that several member states would support only intervals significantly longer than those that we have maintained in the United Kingdom.

There was also pressure to reduce the eight-hour rest period during long journeys, which the presidency had proposed. The final compromise which was on offer failed to meet any of our vital objectives. Accordingly, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food made it clear in the Council that the compromise was wholly unacceptable to the United Kingdom and, as a number of other states shared our concerns, no agreement could be reached.

I shall read an extract from the communiqué that my right hon. Friend issued following the animal welfare discussions. It bears some reading.

She said:
"Our vets had worked hard to try to establish satisfactory intervals for feeding, watering and resting animals during transport. They pressed for current United Kingdom national rules … to be adopted throughout Europe where the current maximum is 24 hours. We also pressed successfully to link health certificates and journey plans so that national authorities can more easily enforce those intervals.
Going along with a package which was fundamentally flawed would have further prejudiced the welfare of those animals already most at risk. I was not prepared to support this. In the meantime, the United Kingdom's national rule of 15-hours maximum journey periods, between watering, feeding and rest will remain in place. We shall continue to press for these high standards to become the norm in all parts of Europe."

I wish to say how pleased we all are about that and how strongly the whole House and the whole country are behind the Government on the basic points that my hon. Friend the Minister is putting before us. We should make that clear.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend.

The events have demonstrated once more the huge gulf which sadly exists between those countries in Europe that have an enlightened attitude to animal welfare, and others that see no need for improvements and have little interest even in talking about the subject. It is perfectly clear that the latter countries are the obstacle to progress and it is to them that the protests of animal welfare lobbyists need to be addressed.

I wish to say some harsh words about the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals which I regret having to say. I warned the RSPCA months ago that there was no point in its wasting huge sums raised from its hard-pressed supporters to run a series of advertising campaigns in this country promoting animal welfare. The RSPCA already has our support. We are the animals' friends in Europe. We are what stands between the animals and real cruelty in some of the southern states of Europe.

By pursuing that fatuous, money-wasting campaign, the RSPCA has failed to spend any money lobbying where it should have lobbied—in the capital cities of those countries which do not support our proposals such as Spain, Greece, Italy and France. It should have concentrated its efforts—

No, I will not give way. I am sorry, but I must get on. The RSPCA really must concentrate its efforts where it can help the animals.

In addition to anxiety about the transport of farm animals, I fully understand and share the special regard for horses. Welfare interests help to ensure that the subject is kept on the European agenda by vigorous lobbying. The horse lobby is an example to the rest of the animal welfare world of how to get one's points across in Europe.

Following earlier talks in the Community, we had obtained agreement that our national rules on horses could continue. We have accordingly maintained our controls, which you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will know as the minimum value system for horses. That was one of our major achievements in the 1991 negotiations. The discussions in Brussels this week did not contain any proposals to place that agreement in jeopardy. Of course, the concern for horses extends far beyond Britain. There is great concern about the trade in horses between eastern Europe and the Community. We are most anxious that such trade should be conducted under proper and decent conditions, if it has to take place at all, so that those vulnerable animals do not suffer the indignity of being treated like junk. The 1991 directive already goes some way towards achieving that objective. It provides the authorities with powers to stop journeys if any animal is suffering.

The key point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North and the really important point with which the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) will agree with is that there is no point in any regulation in Europe on the welfare of animals if it is not properly enforced by the member states. Until we have a proper system of enforcement of the rules on transport of animals in Europe, any improvements that we might secure are not worth the paper they are written on. That is why every effort must be made to lobby the countries that oppose these ideas in order to secure the interests and welfare of animals throughout Europe.

In future negotiations, Her Majesty's Government will continue to seek the best possible standards of transport for all animals in the European Community and, above all —almost standing over that—a proper and decent enforcement regime so that the public in Britain and elsewhere in the Community, and everyone who minds about animals may have complete confidence that such matters are handled with the care, attention and decency with which they should be treated.

Perhaps most important of all is that everyone with an interest in improving standards should do everything possible to promote a more enlightened attitude towards animal welfare—an attitude which, is so seriously lacking in some other Community countries. Until that happens, we will fight with all the vigour and force at our command. We have the moral authority of a huge animal welfare lobby in this country, of whose views we are acutely aware. The trouble does not exist here.

I hope that my hon. Friend will continue to press, through his other interests, those countries that so flagrantly ensure that animal welfare is not properly attended to when animals are transported through their territory.

Mr James Smyth (Extradition)

2 pm

I have been associated with many of the campaigns against miscarriages of justice that have resulted from the problems of Northern Ireland and the way in which those problems have spilled over into Great Britain during the past 25 years. I must start by making it absolutely clear that I do not for one minute believe that injusticies have been done only to nationalists and Catholics. Many miscarriages of justice have been perpetrated against the majority community and loyalists in the north and I have been associated with the campaign for the UDR Four.

Whereas in war, truth is the first casualty, in the dirty war that has been going on during the past quarter of a century, justice has been one of the first casualties, as the urgencies of the hour have tended to lead to unreasonable decisions that are taken without due regard for the facts.

My involvement in the case of Jimmy Smyth arose because I happened by chance to meet him and his defending counsel when I addressed an Irish Americans for Clinton rally, just before the November presidential elections in California. Following a discussion about the work that I had done in the House, I was asked to submit to the defence 242 questions that I have tabled in Parliament, 30 written questions, 13 oral questions and six of my speeches. That led to my being invited to appear to give evidence in court, as an expert witness on British Government policy. The Government may not have been terribly happy about that, but I seem to have spent a great deal of time examining British Government policy.

I must read into the record two decisions taken by the judge presiding over the case because they are very concise and easy to follow and enable me to boil down the essence of the matter very rapidly—

Notice being taken that strangers were present, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER, pursuant to Standing Order No. 143 (Withdrawal of Strangers from the House), put forthwith the Question, That strangers do withdraw:—

The House proceeded to a Division: but no Member being willing to act as a Teller for the Ayes, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER declared that the Noes have it.

Question accordingly negatived.

They have been nominated. On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You asked for names for the Tellers for the Ayes and my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Walker) said, "Mr. Cecil Walker and Mr. John D. Taylor."

Order. Both hon. Members have been in the House long enough to know that the Chair looks to one side for the Ayes and to the other side for the Noes. I looked to the right and there were no Tellers in position for the Ayes. The hon. Gentleman should know the rules of the House. The Tellers for the Ayes were not present.

Question again proposed, That this House do now adjourn.

I hope that hon. Members who are interested in preventing this debate will not miss any of it. As I did not expect to continue my speech, I lost my place in my notes.

The case in question is taking place at the moment, and yesterday the closing written submissions were submitted by the defence and the prosecution. The court's written judgment is expected to be delivered some time after Christmas. Before I was so rudely interrupted, I was about to read into the record two accounts written by the presiding judge that perfectly capture the specific problems in understanding this case. They are two judgments by Judge Barbara Caulfield, a United States federal judge who was appointed by President Bush on the nomination of the Republican senator for California, Senator Wilson, who is now Governor Wilson. This is not some dear old radical hangover from the good old days of the new deal: it is a fairly recent judicial appointment under the Republican Administration.

This is the first airing and testing of the extradition treaty that was negotiated by Prime Minister Thatcher with the then President Ronald Reagan. The House will recall that the British Government were profoundly unhappy with the operation of the previous extradition treaty and, after considerable pressure by Mrs. Thatcher, an amendment was carried. It is under that that the case is being heard.

On 14 September 1992 the United Kingdom filed a formal request for the extradition of James Joseph Smyth to serve the remainder of his sentence for a 1978 conviction in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The case is being heard under the supplemental extradition treaty between the Government of the United States and the Government of the United Kingdom which went into effect on 23 December 1986. That is quite specific. The treaty negotiated by Mrs. Thatcher with former President Reagan spells out that
"extradition shall not occur if the person sought establishes to the satisfaction of the competent judicial authority by a preponderance of the evidence that the request for extradition has in fact been made with a view to try or punish him on account of his race, religion, nationality, or political opinions, or that he would, if surrendered, be prejudiced at his trial or punished, detained or restricted in his personal liberty by reason of his race, religion, nationality or political opinions."
It is remarkable that such a wide-ranging defence opened up after Mrs. Thatcher's intervention, because that ruling effectively changed the way in which extradition cases would be heard. Now, the British Government and their conduct of policy are on trial.

Judge Caulfield issued a decision on 29 September 1992 on whether Jimmy Smyth should be granted bail. It examined the basic bones of the case, based on the judge's reading of the Diplock judgment that convicted Mr. Smyth in 1978. She stated:
"Mr. Smyth has indicated that he will attempt to prove at the hearing that he is not guilty of the crime of attempted murder for which he was imprisoned in 1977. He will argue that his imprisonment was the result of his political views and religious background rather than his conduct. He has indicated that he will offer expert testimony regarding the due process problems of the Diplock court system which can lead to unjust convictions and did so in his case.
This court has had an opportunity to review the opinion of the Diplock judge who convicted Mr. Smyth in 1978. The evidence against him was almost entirely circumstantial. The fact that the victim and his wife, who were purportedly in the presence of the perpetrators for ten to fifteen minutes, were unable to identify Mr. Smyth is noteworthy, as is the lack of any forensic evidence connecting Mr. Smyth to the crime scene. Despite the fact that numerous fingerprints were recovered at the scene none of them were Smyth's. Indeed, the only eyewitness evidence against Mr. Smyth was the testimony of an off-duty police officer who stated that he saw a man near the victim's house, lost him three times as he chased him in his car and eventually captured Mr. Smyth about a mile away from the crime scene. This is not a case where the defendant argues that the evidence does not establish his guilt beyond any reasonable doubt; rather it raises serious questions about the validity of Mr. Smyth's underlying conviction.
Between 1972 and 1976, Smyth was detained on at least six occasions. Only once was he charged or convicted of any offence —that being in 1972 when he was sentenced to six months for disorderly conduct; a conviction that was overturned on appeal. On one occasion, Mr. Smyth was interned for an entire year without charges. He maintains that, during his detentions, he was beaten by police and military personnel.
After Mr. Smyth's internment, his name was in the police files. He was stopped and questioned by police as many as four times per week while walking home. He was often put up against a wall, spread-eagled, and then soldiers or police would come up behind him and stomp on his feet. On one occasion, Mr. Smyth was kicked between the legs. On another occasion he was given two black eyes.
Mr. Smyth has also offered to prove and has presented some evidence which indicates that his life was threatened by guards when he was imprisoned in the Maze. Such a threat was specifically noted in the opinion of Judge Babington, the Diplock judge who convicted Mr. Smyth.
In addition, Mr. Smyth has offered to prove that other men who escaped from the Maze prison with him and have been released from prison have been killed by British military personnel and protestant Loyalists. He has further offered to prove that men from his cellblock who remained behind when he escaped were subjected to inhumane treatment. He has offered to prove that guard dogs were set on them and they were denied medical treatment for their resultant injuries."
Judge Caulfield concluded:
"This case is distinguishable from other recent reported cases in which Irish nationals have fought extradition to the United Kingdom in that Mr. Smyth denies membership in the IRA. And indeed, the government has presented no evidence to indicate that Mr. Smyth has ever been charged with membership of that organization."

The case started to deteriorate when Mr. Smyth's counsel asked for discovery of certain Government documents. It seems quite remarkable that if we seek to extradite people from the United States that we should then ignore American court procedure and traditions in hearing the case. The defence asked for access to several Government reports. I shall quote once again from the judgment handed down by Judge Caulfield after the British Government refused to grant the documents.

Of the Stalker-Sampson reports, the report says:
"The Stalker-Sampson reports arise out of the investigation of officers in the Royal Ulster Constabulary ("RUC") for the shooting deaths of six people in 1982 whom they suspected of being members of the IRA. The purpose of the inquiry was to determine whether or not criminal offences (involving, inter alia, the giving of false or misleading evidence and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice) had been committed … The UK maintains that the reports contain highly sensitive information regarding internal affairs investigations and the procedures and identity of security forces personnel.
The Kelly report: In 1988, Charles Kelly, the Chief Constable of Staffordshire, was appointed to consider whether disciplinary charges should be brought against RUC officers of the rank of chief superintendent and below who had been identified by Stalker and Sampson as having committed criminal offences, including murder. The declarations of Patrick Mayhew, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, filed on June 7, 1993 and June 18, 1993, do not specificially invoke a state secret or national security privilege claim with respect to this report. Instead, Mr. Mayhew states that '[t]he public interest here is in the maintenance of an honorable, disciplined, law-abiding and incurrupt police force.' Mr. Mayhew's declarations not only fail to specify that he has read the report, but they also fail to specify that the report contains any state or national secrets.
The Stevens Inquiry: … into allegations of collusion between members of the Security Forces and Loyalist paramilitaries. As a result of the investigation, the RUC confirmed that Security Forces personnel had disclosed to Loyalists photos of republican suspects and the names, addresses and photographs of more than 400 people from the Catholic community in Northern Ireland. With respect to the Stevens' Report, Mr. Mayhew's June 7, 1993 declaration states:
'So far the actual report is concerned, I am satisfied that its disclosure would be injurious on two grounds; firstly the integrity of the process of criminal investigations and the making of decisions as to prosecutions and secondly, the efficacy of the efforts of the Government of the United Kingdom to counter terrorism and the protection of persons involved in those efforts.'
A summary of this report has been disclosed to Smyth; however, the court finds that the summary does not contain sufficient detail to aid Smyth in preparing his defense …
The government of the United Kingdom, through the United States Attorney's office for the Northern District of California, has refused to produce any of the above-referenced documents to Mr. Smyth. The UK has also refused to permit an in camera review of the documents by the Court …
In light of Smyth's strong showing of need for the documents and the vagueness of the UK's declarations invoking privileges from production, the court viewed that an in camera review of the documents was necessary …

That was refused by the British Government. It seems to me that it is not a good start to a case when one insults the judge by suggesting that the judge may not be someone that one would trust to review the documents.

The judgment continues:
"The court welcomed any suggestion from the UK regarding the redaction of particularly sensitive information regarding the identity of activities of security forces personnel. In response, the UK has indicated that it would not be possible to redact the documents and declined to submit the documents for in camera review by the court."
In conclusion, the judge ruled:
"For the foregoing reasons, the good cause appearing therefrom, the court grants Smyth the following presumption:
(1) Catholic Irish nationals accused or found guilty of offenses against members of the security forces or prison officials are subjected systematically to retaliatory harm, physical intimidation and death in Northern Ireland.
(2) Members of the security forces in Northern Ireland either participate directly or tacitly endorse these actions."

That is the result of the British Government's failure to co-operate with the court and provide the documents. The court has conducted its business on the basis that those presumptions are taken as true. I submit that that represents a gross misconduct of the British case. I hope that we shall hear today which politician, and at what level, decided that those documents should not be submitted to the court, not even in camera, for the judge to consider.

As the case wound its way through the courts, the problems associated with it were compounded by the fact that, on 31 occasions, British Government witnesses refused to answer direct questions in court. That created the impression in America that those officials were rather like the godfathers who appear in mafia movies and refuse to answer questions on the ground that they might incriminate themselves. I should like to be told which politician, or Minister, was responsible for deciding that British Government officials should refuse to answer questions on oath in an American court.

The evidence against Mr. Smyth is flimsy and I believe that he is innocent. Normally, no IRA member denies membership of the organisation; rather he or she refuses to co-operate with the court system. Those IRA men who escaped from the Maze along with Mr. Smyth went back to bombing and killing, but he got to America, married and settled down to become a painter and decorator. There is nothing in that to suggest that Mr. Smyth is guilty of the crime of which he is charged. He was convicted at a time of hysteria when anyone whom the security forces considered to be a threat was likely to be convicted, on virtually no evidence, in a Diplock court.

The final evidence in my case is absolutely damning. On my advice, I suggested that the American court should call Captain Fred Holroyd as a witness. The House will be aware from the many other questions that I have put in the past that he served for two and a half years in Portadown with distinction and courage. He operated many agents —who put their lives on the line—in the area on behalf of MI6.

Fred Holroyd appeared in court and gave testimony. The British Government, however, were unable to question him because, although they had been given a week's notice, they claimed they did not have enough time to prepare detailed questions. They had no rebuttal to the evidence of Fred Holroyd. Given that the row has gone on for 20 years, it is completely unacceptable for the British Government to say suddenly that they did not have time to prepare questions to challenge his evidence.

I believe that Fred Holroyd finally got his day in court. The British Government had no case to answer the charges that he has made for years, for which he has been rubbished and his reputaion smeared by the British press.

As I came out of the American court I was met, as the House can imagine, by a large number of British journalists and we held a press conference. They asked me whether I had been traitorous and suggested that my behaviour had been outrageous. I can back to them with one simple reply, "Was there anything that I said in court which you would say was untrue?" Not one journalist could point to such an instance.

The conduct of the case has not just been mishandled, but it has damaged Britain's reputation. The Government have pursued an innocent man who is now suffering severely from ulcers after years of worry and strain. I hope that when Mr. Smyth wins his case, as I expect him to do, the British Government will recognise that they made a mistake. They have pursued an innocent man. I hope that they will not drag him through further years of doubt and worry, which will damage his health. I hope that they will let the case drop.

I am sorry that I have overrun my time. I have tried to squeeze my remarks into a shorter speech, but it is not my fault that we have such a problem.

2.22 pm

It is customary on these occasions to congratulate an hon. Member on securing an Adjournment debate and I do so now.

In the limited time available to me, I shall try to catch up on some of the points that the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) has made, even though his recollection of the proceedings in San Francisco is highly selective. The hon. Gentleman referred to the allegations of a Mr. Fred Holroyd. Her Majesty's Government had 48 hours' notice, not a week, of Mr. Holroyd's appearance before the court in San Francisco. He gave evidence and he repeated and embellished allegations that he has made over a number of years and which are certainly now well known and in the public domain.

Rather than having his day in court, I am afraid that Mr. Holroyd departed from it. Before the Government could cross examine him and call witnesses to refute some of his extremely serious allegations, he claimed that he had a more important engagement elsewhere. He decided to leave San Francisco rather than to face cross-examination. The judge, in her wisdom, accordingly struck Mr. Holroyd's evidence from the court record—so much for the testimony of Mr. Holroyd.

The hon. Gentleman referred to the Stevens report and the allegation that Her Majesty's Government refused to disclose aspects of that report during the court proceedings. It is important to deal with that issue at the outset of my remarks. Her Majesty's Government refused to disclose or to discuss the report because it is entirely irrelevant to the issue in the Smyth case. The issue is whether a terrorist who is convicted of attempted murder and who escaped from prison should be returned to Northern Ireland to continue to serve his sentence. In any event, Her Majesty's Government would not disclose or discuss the Stevens report because to do so would give information to terrorists about security and intelligence structures in Northern Ireland that could lead only to more death and destruction. I cannot believe that any Member of the House would wish to see that continue.

I am grateful to have the opportunity to respond to some of the hon. Gentleman's remarks about the San Francisco trial in which Mr. James Smyth is engaged. It will help the House to know that Smyth was convicted in 1978 of a number of offences including the attempted murder of a prison officer, John Carlisle, who was shot at in his home in Belfast. For his part in the offence, Smyth was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment.

In 1983, Smyth participated in the violent, mass breakout from the Maze prison with 37 other prisoners. He was subsequently arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on 3 June 1992 in San Francisco, where he had lived for eight years. He had in his possession a false passport in the name of a person who has been dead for many years. He was charged with making a false passport application with another Maze escaper, who had been arrested on the same day. A third Maze escaper, Paul Brennan, was arrested in California in January.

The Government's policy is to return all fugitive convicted terrorists to custody. All three men were convicted of serious crimes and Her Majesty's Government seek the return of all of them. James Smyth's extradition hearing is being dealt with first. It will be the first terrorist case that has arisen since the 1986 United States—United Kingdom supplementary treaty, to which the hon. Gentleman referred. That treaty was negotiated between the British and American Governments to eliminate the so-called political defence. That defence enabled Provisional IRA terrorists to escape extradition by claiming that their offence had a political motive. If it were not for that treaty, James Smyth might have argued that his attempted murder of a prison officer was a political offence and he might have escaped extradition on that basis.

I am sure that right hon. and hon. Members will agree that the 1986 supplementary treaty was an important advance in international co-operation against terrorism. In James Smyth's case, on which the judge has not yet decided, Smyth is arguing that, on return to Northern Ireland and after his release from prison there, he will suffer punishment, detention or restrictions of his personal liberty. Smyth says that that is because he is Irish, Catholic and a nationalist. I can tell the House that the Government have contested that argument resolutely. James Smyth will suffer no such thing. He will be fairly and properly treated in prison, as he was before he escaped; and when he is eventually released, he will be free to go about his business like anyone else in Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom.

Right hon. and hon. Members will be aware that the hon. Member for Brent, East, as he disclosed, took it upon himself to give evidence on behalf of James Smyth in San Francisco in October. Hon. Members may recall that the hon. Gentleman told the court that, once elected, the British Government have powers similar to those of the old eastern European regimes. That may surprise hon. Members.

It being half-past Two o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

Non-Domestic Rating Bill

Ordered,

That, in respect of the Non-Domestic Rating Bill, notices of Amendments, new Clauses and new Schedules to be moved in Committee may be accepted by the Clerks at the Table before the Bill has been read a second time.—[Mr. Chapman.]

Organ Donation

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

2.30 pm

I am grateful for the opportunity to raise this most important subject in this, the last debate of 1993. I do not believe that it could have been better timed. As people look forward to sharing Christmas with their families and to what 1994 has to offer, one group will be looking to the new year with hope but also with fear and trepidation. I refer to the 5,500 people awaiting organs for transplant operations. Unfortunately, approximately 1,300 will die next year because a suitable organ will not be found.

The Government have gone some way towards trying to find more donors for people waiting for operations—with the introduction of the donor card scheme in 1971, for example. But even with that scheme, approximately 40,000 people have died waiting for an organ since 1971. We can put that into perspective by comparing it with the 3,111 people who have been killed in Northern Ireland during the same period. We are talking about a needless waste of life—a tragedy being played out. I use the word "tragedy" purposely; it need not happen.

One reason why there is such a shortfall between organs needed and organs available is that the number of road deaths in this country has declined dramatically over the years, with the use of seat belts, air bags and motor cycle helmets. We now have some of the safest roads in the world. The House will appreciate that I am not complaining about that, merely referring to the reality. The most recent figures show that the United Kingdom had 81 road accident deaths per million people; Germany, 117 per million; France, 168 per million; and Spain, 172 per million. My concern today is to ensure that those people whose lives are cut short can lengthen and improve the quality of the lives of others.

The situation was brought home to me by the BBC 2 "40 Minutes" programme entitled "Will they ring tonight?" No one who witnessed the brave struggle facing thousands of families in this country daily and hourly as they wait for the telephone to ring—to be told that an organ has become available and that their life chance has arrived —can have failed to be moved. I have nothing but admiration for the families who miraculously discover the inner strength to cope with the pressure that is put on them. Stress and uncertainty greet their every waking hour. We must also not forget the stress experienced by doctors and nurses, as they see their patients fading away.

We have an opportunity to ease those people's pain. We have at our disposal the ability to give them a better chance of life. We cannot stand by. We do not have the moral choice to turn our backs on these people: we have to act.

I pay tribute to the amazing skills of our surgeons, doctors and nurses, who help to perform these miraculous operations. In 1992, 1,614 kidney transplants, 301 heart transplants, 53 heart and lung transplants, 89 lung transplants and 501 liver transplants were performed.

John Wallwork—whose father lives in my constituency —performed the first heart and lung transplant in the country. He works at that great centre of excellence, Papworth. He and others like him are testament to the high level of service and care available in hospitals in Britain today. It is thanks to their ability and dedication that the success rate of transplants is so high.

Notwithstanding that success rate, the number of people waiting for transplants, as at 30 March 1993, is almost 4,500 for kidneys, 270 for hearts, 231 for lungs and hearts, 124 for lungs and 109 for liver transplants.

The public's goodwill towards donating organs is evidenced by the number of people who have filled out an organ donor card—approximately 18 million people—but, unlike the American Express card, unfortunately not everyone never leaves home without it. In too many cases, the card is not available when needed.

The Government's commitment to the scheme is unquestioned. I applaud the campaign that took place earlier this year, on which the Government spent more than£1·5 million, to raise the profile of the donor card scheme, but we must harness the technology currently available to bring the organ donor scheme into the 21st century.

When I first considered how a scheme that matched organs to patients could be devised, I thought of using a normal credit card on which there would be stamped a heart symbol, so that in an emergency or accident doctors would know that the card holder wished his or her organs to be donated. Then I thought about why we needed a card. We use computers to store data on virtually every subject; why not use a computer to register organ donors?

The driver and vehicle licensing centre in Swansea has a computer that registers 35·5 million car licence holders; perhaps that computer would be appropriate for the scheme. The national insurance computer has an enormous capability; perhaps that could be utilised. The technology —into which hospitals could tap to find out what organs are available and match them to waiting patients—is available.

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will know of the scheme that is operating in Wales called "Lifeline Wales". That scheme was launched by the Princess of Wales in 1986 and currently has 300,000 entries on its computer. The information on its computer is made available to intensive care units and neuro units in Wales. The computer can store up to 6 million entries, so even that scheme has a long way to go.

For any scheme to be a success, it must be sold well and the advantages of registeration to the nation spelled out. The donor message should be targeted towards certain groups, particularly young people. That could be achieved by advertising in magazines that are read by young people, or by advertising on television or by being featured in television programmes that are watched by them. Radio 1 recently ran a campaign to raise the profile of the problem of homeless people, which I heard on the Lynn Parsons show. It was so successful that it had to be extended so that more people could participate. The organ donor scheme could be equally successful if we target it carefully.

The two ten-minute Bills that were introduced this year promoting the opt-out scheme—under which it is assumed that people wish their organs to be used after their death unless they say otherwise—are evidence of the importance of the subject. Similar schemes are operated in Belgium, France and Austria. I oppose that measure: an assumption that inaction means consent is not good enough—we have to persuade people to come with us, not hope that the mass of people will slip into the system because they had not noticed that it was there. It would also lead to confusion for relatives—particularly if they are to be consulted about the scheme—and further pressure would then be put on doctors to negotiate with them.

Mr. Robert Johnson, a doctor working at Manchester royal infirmary, told me yesterday that he believed that doctors should be trained far more in the skills of coping with bereaved relatives when seeking their permission to use organs. He had recently attended the European donor hospital education programme in France; he said that he had learnt more in two days than in his entire previous working life. I believe that, if we can ensure that far more of our doctors are given an opportunity to take part in such schemes, we may be able to reduce the number of instances in which people are so shell shocked by the sudden death of a relative that they refuse to allow that relative's organs to be transplanted, although he had filled in the donor card.

Mr. Johnson also said that we must ensure that intensive care beds are made available and manned, giving a better chance to those who are critically ill, and also ensuring that those people's organs are in perfect condition should they die.

I cite two cases of brave young people who chose to donate the gift of life. One was a 10-year old called Paula. Last year, after being informed that she had a brain tumour, she told her mother that she wanted to donate her organs so that others could benefit. An eight-month-old baby girl received her liver; her heart went to a 57-year-old man; two teenagers received her kidneys; and her corneas went to two other people.

The other case is that of Peter Cox, who died four years ago aged 24. I pay tribute to his family, who have helped me with my campaign—his sister Christine, and his father John. Christine recently wrote this about her brother:
"My brother Peter was born in Wolverhampton on 21st September 1965. He was educated at Malvern Boys College and graduated in Civil Engineering from Nottingham University. Pete was a keen Wolves supporter and enjoyed running the London Marathon in under 4 hours one year, an accomplishment I was unable to equal!
Pete was 23 when he was found to have an inoperable brain tumour. It was particularly hard to understand since he had been healthy, brilliant, good and kind with a terrific sense of humour. Moreover, he was totally unselfish and always thought of others before himself.
He was certainly one in a billion. Throughout his illness Pete remained brave and positive without complaining once about the difficulties and the pain he was experiencing. When the Specialist told us that the fight was lost and medication should be stopped, it was Peter who told us that he wanted to die as long as others could benefit from his organs. To our knowledge, possibly 17 people did and with his ultimate gift he saved lives and improved the quality of life for not only the recipients but their families as well.
Peter died aged 24 on 12th November 1989."

One of the recipients wrote to Christine Cox afterwards.

He said:
"I have been in limbo for 6 years and now thanks to your nurses on the unit, I can start my life."
The quantity of life is obviously important, but the quality of life makes the quantity worth while.

I remind the Minister that Christmas—which is only a few days away—is a time for giving as well as receiving. Today, he has the opportunity to play Father Christmas to thousands of people by helping those who are able to give to do so, and allowing those in need to receive. I hope that he will take that opportunity. I believe that there is nothing in the world more precious than the gift of life; I plead with the Minister to give these people some good news this Christmas.

2.44 pm

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) for the moving way in which he presented his case. I am very pleased that for the last topic for 1993 he has chosen the subject of organ donation.

We can be justly proud of the way in which the organ transplantation programme has developed in this country. This debate is about courage and life—the courage of relatives who say yes and the life that is saved or enhanced by our willingness to sign and hold a small card.

Advances in medicine have enabled the doubling of kidney transplants in the past 15 years from 849 in 1978 to 1,640 last year. There are now in the United Kingdom more than 11,500 people with functioning grafted kidneys —more than in any other country in Europe. There were just three heart transplants in 1979; last year there were 325. The liver transplant programme did not start until 1982. In that year, there were 21 liver transplants; last year, there were 506. We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the dedicated doctors, scientists, nurses and all others who helped to pioneer, develop and carry forward the transplantation programme. However, we should never forget that all those operations required donors—all volunteers or people who had died and whose relatives wished their organs to be used in that way. They, too, deserve to be remembered with deep gratitude.

It is perhaps ironic that advances in medicine similar to those that have enabled more transplants have contributed to the growing waiting list. In each of the past few years, there have been some 2,500 transplants of solid organs —kidneys, hearts, livers and lungs—but there are currently about 5,500 people awaiting such organs, of whom about 4,500 are awaiting kidneys.

The situation has arisen because advances in medicine have enabled many people to live who would previously have died. For example, more people than ever are receiving renal dialysis—more than 21,000 in 1991, an advance of 200 per cent. on 1978. However, the majority of dialysis patients would, I am sure, prefer to have a transplant. Many of them find dialysis unpleasant as well as inconvenient. If they were able to receive transplants, most of them would be able to lead fuller and much more independent lives. Anyone who attended the British Transplant Games in Newcastle this summer would have been tremendously impressed by the participants' ability not only to perform strenuous sports but to achieve such high standards.

For people awaiting hearts, livers and lungs, of course, there is at present no alternative. Without new organs, they will surely die. The remedy is to increase the supply of donor organs and the Government would dearly like that to happen. There is no shortage of funds or expertise for transplants; there is a shortage of donor organs. As my hon. Friend said, that shortage is in part due to the fact that the potential pool of suitable organs is limited. Generally speaking, organs are suitable only if they have come from people who have suffered sudden brain damage from a stroke, road accident or something similar. Organs must also be free of disease or other damage to be suitable for transplantation. That means that the maximum potential yield of suitable organs is only a few thousand a year.

Another problem is that the pool is shrinking. About a quarter of current donors are the victims of road accidents. As my hon. Friend said, deaths from road accidents in the United Kingdom have, happily, been falling for many years; they have gone down from 5,554 in 1989 to 4,379 in 1992—a reduction of more than 20 per cent. That is welcome news, but it presents problems for organ transplantation. Deaths from other conditions that can result in organ donation are also going down—brain haemorrhages, for example. We are, therefore, faced with the prospect of fewer transplants unless the number of people prepared to be donors can be increased.

An important principle of organ donation, to which the Government have always subscribed, is that donation should be a matter of choice by the individual or his immediate family and that it should be a positive, altruistic gift. That was also recognised by the working group set up by the Government under the chairmanship of Sir Raymond Hoffenberg, a past president of the Royal College of Physicians, to consider ways of increasing the supply of donor organs. In its 1987 report, the working party made a number of recommendations. They included regional health authorities having plans and written guidance on organ donation and the identification of donors, education and publicity initiatives, education for medical and nursing professionals, a reimbursement scheme for donor hospitals, multi-organ retrieval teams and a donor declaration on driving licences. I am pleased to say that all those recommendations have now been implemented.

As I have said, one of the Hoffenberg recommendations was about publicity. Last year, we were able to increase the Department of Health's budget for organ donation publicity to £350,000. That has been used for a variety of purposes, including providing publicity material to charities, funding the Freefone advice line, research, exhibitions and displays, and publicity for ethnic minorities. In addition, the Department of Health funded the prime time television campaign last March. Given that the pool of potential donors is shrinking, it is vital to maintain publicity and, if possible, to increase the numbers.

At this point, I pay tribute to the many voluntary organisations that do so much valuable work to publicise organ donation. The Government must and will play their part, but not nearly so much could be achieved without the help of the voluntary organisations.

One of the main ways in which people can indicate their wish to be donors is by means of the donor card. People sometimes claim that the donor card scheme is not effective, or there would be more transplants. I disagree. Research has shown that the card is well known and popular. It is excellent publicity and good value for money and there can be no doubt that it has made a major contribution to the cause of transplants over the years. However, research has also shown that although about 70 per cent. of adults claim to favour the scheme, only about 25 per cent. claim to carry the card at all times. That underlines the point that my hon. Friend made. I suspect that the true figure is probably somewhat less.

That can cause hospitals considerable problems. It is, of course, possible to find out whether a person wished to be a donor even without a donor card, but the presence of a card makes life a lot easier for hospitals. That is why the department's publicity states:
"carry your card at all times"
—but unfortunately, many still do not.

In that connection, as my hon. Friend has pointed out, a computerised register of organ donors would be a help. That would enable hospitals to ascertain quickly whether a person is a donor. We are considering carefully options for such a register and we will consider the ideas that my hon. Friend has put forward today. We hope to make a decision early in 1994. I am not sure whether Father Christmas is allowed to arrive after Christmas as well as on the eve, but if my hon. Friend will allow him that latitude I am sure that he will see what he can do.

Whether or not a patient has a donor card, doctors invariably establish with his or her next of kin that they are content for the organs to be donated and will not proceed if the relatives object. That is common practice even in countries that operate opt-out schemes, where the presumption is that one is willing to donate one's organs unless one specifically expresses a wish not to. The reason for that practice, which in the United Kingdom and many other countries is not a legal requirement, is that certain people have strong religious or other beliefs in the integrity of the human body after death and we respect those views. Doctors also fear that families could be profoundly shocked if they discovered that their loved one's organs had been removed without their consent. The whole organ donation programme could be damaged if such a thing were to happen.

I am informed that refusal is virtually unknown if the relatives know that the deceased wished to donate. The problem is that relatives often do not know and it is hardly surprising that in their state of grief some of them refuse. In fact, refusal by relatives who do not know is the biggest single reason why suitable organs are lost to the transplant programme. About 30 per cent. of families who are asked refuse in that way. That is a loss we can ill afford. My Department is therefore funding a study into the reasons why relatives refuse. The study is expected to be completed by July of next year.

A number of people have called for a presumed consent or "opting out" system under which anyone's organs could be taken unless they had registered their objection. However, there is no consensus support in the medical profession or in the public generally for a system which would make retrieval of organs a presumed right on the part of the state. The evidence from countries where it is used seems to be that, after an initial increase, supply drops off as a result of people opting out—perhaps as a result of the publicity surrounding the introduction of such a scheme. It is also probable that even if such a scheme were introduced, doctors would still continue to consult relatives.

Another suggestion has been the "required request" which has been introduced in some states of the United States of America. That legislation requires doctors to ask relatives in every case if they may remove organs. Results so far are not encouraging and enforcement has been a problem. Doctors may judge that in some cases it would be inadvisable to approach relatives and we must respect that judgment.

In response to a point made by my hon. Friend, may I say that my Department is funding a pilot project in teaching doctors and nurses about techniques of approaching relatives. I hope that that will play a big part in enabling doctors to reassure relatives and to encourage the 30 per cent., to whom I referred, to be more willing to give their consent.

The standard of British transplantation services is second to none in the world, not least because those services have developed cautiously and responsibly. Survival following transplant is now 10 years in 85 per cent. of cases and the improvement in quality of life is enormous. Great progress has been made in the short period since transplantation began. I am sure that the House will want to join me in paying tribute to the dedication and skill of all those who have played a part in this story of success and to thank all those who, by their extraordinary generosity, have donated their organs to help others.

Madam Speaker, as I wish you, my hon. Friends, all hon. Members, Officers and staff of the House the very warmest of good wishes for Christmas and the coming year, there is one present that I hope everyone in the House and beyond it will consider: please give blood for Christmas. We need 10,000 donations every day. In every sense, such a donation, with the carrying of a donor card, really would be a present for life.

May I reciprocate by placing on record my good wishes for a merry Christmas to all hon. Members, Officers and staff of this House and I wish them a very happy and, if I may say so, peaceful new year.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at three minutes to Three o'clock.