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Lords Chamber

Volume 387: debated on Thursday 24 November 1977

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House Of Lords

Thursday, 24th November, 1977.

The House met at three of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Southwell.

The Earl Fortescue—Sat first in Parliament after the death of his father.

Raf Sydenham Base: Redundancies

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government why the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has persistently refused to meet a delegation of trade unionists who represent workers at the RAF Sydenham Base and desire to discuss with him the redundancies with which they will be faced due to its proposed closure in April 1978.

My Lords, my honourable friend the Minister of State met representatives of the trades unions at RAF Sydenham on 18th March and again on 4th October. The redundancies caused by the decision to close the base, and the prospects of finding alternative employment for the workers, were fully discussed. I understand that the unions are not seeking a further meeting at this time.

My Lords, in thanking the noble Lord for his reply, may I ask him whether he is aware that a large proportion of trade unionists, particularly in the non-industrial sector, were not in fact consulted; nor was the Whitley Committee consulted? Is he further aware that when his honourable colleague the Minister of State visited the RAF base at Sydenham late one afternoon last March many trade unionists were not acquainted of the fact that he was present, allegedly on security grounds, and would he not agree that consultation and communication is not only what good industrial relations are all about but also what good government is all about?

My Lords, I would certainly agree with the final remarks made by the noble Lord, but I would not accept that the consultations and discussions which my honourable friend has had with those representing the work force at Sydenham have not amounted to good and thorough consultation. So far as I know at the moment the trade unions are not seeking a further meeting with my honourable friend, and indeed they are extremely appreciative of the efforts which the Government are making on many fronts, both to find alternative employment and to re-train those affected by the closures. At the meetings on 18th March and 4th October the four main industrial unions were represented, and on the 4th October the Industrial Whitley Panel was represented at the meeting in addition to an AGTWU representative.

My Lords, in further thanking the noble Lord for his reply, and in continuing to hope that the Secretary of State will yet change his mind, but in case he does not, may I ask my noble friend whether he will now very kindly explain the logic behind a policy of, with one hand, pouring millions of pounds into Northern Ireland with a view to creating new jobs while at the same time, with the other hand, axing hundreds of specialist, skilled jobs in an area of high unemployment, thus forcing premature retirement on many of those concerned? And will he also very kindly declare the estimated cost of transferring the operation to St. Athan, which still does not seem to have the capacity to handle the relevant contracts?

Several noble Lords: Order!

My Lords, I was asking the noble Lord a question, namely, would he kindly tell us the cost of that operation?

My Lords, I am afraid I do not have the information on the costs, which I think is rather wide of the noble Lord's original Question. As the noble Lord knows, the decision to close RAF Sydenham was taken by the Secretary of State for Defence, and the necessity to cut back public expenditure and expenditure on defence made the closure necessary. My understanding is that the representatives of those workers at RAF Sydenham are satisfied with the extensive steps which the Government are taking to attempt to find alternative employment and to re-train those who are affected.

Aghalane Bridge

3.11 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the first Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government if they approve the veto imposed by the RUC on the rebuilding of the bridge over the Woodford River at Aghalane, where it carried an approved route across the Fermanagh—Cavan Border until its destruction by terrorists.

My Lords a decision to rebuild the Aghalane Bridge is contingent upon the local security situation. It is for Security Force commanders to advise on this and their latest assessment, which is supported by the Government, is that the crossing should remain closed for security reasons.

My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for that reply, I should like to ask him whether it does not reveal two rather extraordinary facts. Is it not remarkable that the destruction of a bridge by terrorist forces should be considered an act which is indispensable for security purposes? Secondly, does my noble friend know that there are over 100 unauthorised crossings of the Border between North and South and that I could take him over 10, 12 or 14 of those crossings very close to Aghalane where he would not see any sign of Security Forces going either way, by day or by night? Why, therefore, is it necessary to maintain closed a road which is approved and which has Customs and security facilities for supervising traffic?

My Lords, I am conscious of the inconvenience caused to those living on either side by the fact that roads across the Border are closed, and certainly the Government would wish to see any route, which was previously an approved route with Customs facilities, reopened as soon as the Security Forces in the area, on whose advice we must depend in regard to these matters, decide that this would not present additional security risks. At the present time, as I have said, the advice of the Security Forces is that it would not be wise to reopen this particular road.

My Lords, are the Government aware that interference by his noble friend, a citizen of a foreign country living in a foreign land, in security matters and the factors affecting the life and death of people who are Her Majesty's subjects is deeply resented by the people of County Fermanagh, and the people of Northern Ireland as a whole?

My Lords, as I have said, in these matters the Government rely on the advice given by the Security Forces. That remains the position.

My Lords, in view of the intervention made by the noble Viscount, I wonder whether I could ask two further questions. Is my noble friend aware that this bridge is half in the Republic and half in Northern Ireland, and therefore this affects the Republic as much as it affects the North? Secondly, I have been approached by members of the Fermanagh District Council and they fully approve of my raising this question; therefore, may I say that what the noble Viscount says about the matter being resented in Fermanagh is completely untrue.

My Lords, my information is that it is the case that the bridge is half on one side of the Border and half on the other. As to the views of the Fermanagh District Council, I understand that recently the district council did advocate reopening the bridge and did so unanimously. But they did so with an important qualification; namely, that they had first been satisfied by the Security Forces that any security risk was not increased, and I have already told your Lordships what the advice of the Security Forces has been in the event.

My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether it is not true that there have been six attempted murders in the vicinity of this bridge, and very shortly after the bridge was restored two people were in fact murdered? Does not this uphold the case that the Security Forces are right in seeing that this bridge is not restored at present?

My Lords, as I said in my original Answer, the Government certainly accept the advice they have been given by the Security Forces.

My Lords, may I put one last question? Is it not a fact that there is an unapproved route 10 or 12 miles to the West by Ballyconnell, that this is absolutely uncontrolled day or night by Security Forces, and that terrorists and munitions can come up and down along that road without any control whatever? Why is it necessary to keep this particular road closed?

My Lords, with regard to the question of the particular route which the noble Lord has now raised, I understand that the Customs forces on either side of the Border are in touch on the possibility of reopening this route for the transfer of gravel. I understand that the Border is marked on the road. Of course, I could not disclose what particular dispositions the Security Forces make, but I can assure the noble Lord that they are well aware of the existence of unapproved as well as approved routes.

Sean O'conaill

3.17 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the second Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government how long before his death on 1st October it was known that Sean O'Conaill, then in Gartree prison, had terminal cancer;

how long elapsed before ( a) his family was informed and ( b) he was admitted to hospital in Parkhurst; whether his solicitor was then informed he was not seriously ill; and why his dying requests to see a visitor were refused.

My Lords, Mr. O'Conaill was transferred from Gartree prison to Albany prison on 28th July. After complaining of pains in his abdomen and chest he was seen by a consultant surgeon on 31st August and admitted to Parkhurst prison hospital that day. Following further examinations by consultants, and the removal of a small tumour on 12th September, the doctors were satisfied that Mr. O'Conaill was suffering from cancer. This was not confirmed, however, until 21st September. Mr. O'Conaill's mother was informed of her son's illness on 16th September, but Mr. O'Conaill would not allow his wife to be informed until 20th September. I regret that when his solicitor made a telephone call to Parkhurst prison one evening the officer who received the call told the solicitor, incorrectly but in good faith, that Mr. O'Conaill was not seriously ill. The Deputy Governor telephoned the solicitor the following morning to correct this error.

After Mr. O'Conaill had been informed of the nature of his illness, he asked to see his solicitor, his wife and certain other prisoners then in Parkhurst Prison. All these requests were granted and he was also visited by his mother. No request that he then made to see a visitor was refused.

My Lords, though I thank my noble friend for that reply, can I ask these questions: first is it not a fact that, as long ago as March last year, this prisoner began feeling ill with stomach pains; that in June of this year his lungs were X-rayed, but that if any cancer was diagnosed he was not notified; that he received no treatment and that his family was not informed? Is it not extraordinary that somebody who dies of cancer of the lung and of the liver is not known to be suffering from this until the month before he dies, and that his family is not notified until a little over two weeks? Finally, is it not the case that he made a particular request to see a certain visitor, Miss Jacqueline Kaye of the Prisoners' Aid Committee; that this was his dying request, and that it was turned down?

My Lords, I have gone into this matter very carefully. I have seen the reports which are relevant to this particular case. Mr. O'Conaill had a history of complaint about nausea and abdominal discomfort for some considerable time. There is no reason whatsoever for thinking that the doctors suspected cancer earlier than they did. It is the practice in our prisons to call in outside consultants as and when necessary, and that in fact was done on a number of occasions as far as Mr. O'Conaill was concerned. I wish to repeat that it was not until 12th September that the doctors were satisfied that he was suffering from cancer. They then asked for a biopsy which was undertaken. The cancerous condition was confirmed on 21st September.

It is the practice in our prisons that a person who is suffering from a terminal illness should not die in prison. Immediate steps were taken to try to find hospital facilities for Mr. O'Conaill so that he could be transferred elsewhere. That was done on 30th September and, as I have said, he died the following day.

As regards the request, no request was made by him to see the person named by my noble friend Lord Kilbracken. She did ask to see him, but the practice in our prisons when a person is in a high security prison and is designated category A, is that people who wish to see him must be approved and the prisoner must request to see them. At no time, according to my information, did he request to see the person named.

My Lords, I should like to press the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, on that last matter. I have met Miss Jacqueline Kaye on more than one occasion. Is it correct that she wanted to see the prisoner but that he was not informed that she wanted to see him, and therefore he was not in a position to say whether he wished to see her or not? Is that the position?

My Lords, the position is that she sought permission to see Mr. O'Conaill, but Mr. O'Conaill had not asked to see her. He had asked, knowing his condition, to see a number of people, and all those persons whom he asked to see did, in fact, see him.

My Lords, I think that we have gone far enough on this rather sad issue.

Polish Government Shipbuilding Contract

3.23 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what proportion of the loan or credit promised to the Polish Government for the building or equipping of their ships will be spent in the United Kingdom.

My Lords, more than 90 per cent of the estimated cost of constructing these ships will be incurred in the United Kingdom.

My Lords, why is there such reluctance to let the British shipowners know the detailed terms and arrangements that have been entered into so that they can assure themselves that they are not likely to be disadvantaged as a result of this arrangement? Are the terms that have been given to Poland available for British shipowners and builders in this country? Is the noble Lord aware that when his right honourable friend made his euphoric speech at the Labour Party Conference and said that it would bring business to our shipyards, the figure then was £150 million? It was then reduced to £130 million. It is now suggested that it is down to £115 million, and some responsible newspapers have even suggested that it may fall to as low a figure as £70 million. What is the truth? Why cannot a clear statement be made so that the people involved may know what it is all about and British interests can be properly safeguarded?

My Lords, British interests will be properly safeguarded. British Shipbuilders have offered to supply British owners with the same ships at the attractive prices which the series production of this large order makes possible.

Secondly, the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, must realise that a contract of this type must contain a great deal of confidential information, because it is between two contracting parties who would naturally wish to keep it secret. The changes which have been made since the period of the Labour Party Conference are clearly changes that took place during those negotiations.

My Lords, when the noble Lord was asked on 16th June at Question Time whether the financial arrangements would be published, he replied "Yes". Will the Government now publish those arrangements in order to reassure the British ship owners that there is no possibility that this Polish deal, which it is hoped will bring some relief to British shipbuilders in a difficult time, will place them at a disadvantage vis-à-vis their foreign competitors?

My Lords, perhaps I misunderstood the noble Lord's question. However, I remember answering the particular Question to which he refers. First of all, finance for the sale of these ships comes from three sources. In the first place, British Shipbuilders are receiving a grant from the Shipbuilding Intervention Fund. This has the effect of reducing the sale price of the ships. The ships are being sold to a company resident in Poland, jointly owned by the Polish Steamship Company and British Shipbuilders, on normal credit terms. That is the only Government credit for the sale. It is being guaranteed by the Export Credit Guarantee Department in the normal way and is in conformity with our international obligations. British Shipbuilders have, in addition, raised finance from commercial sources. That is the basis for the financing of this particular contract.

The contract complies with the OECD understanding on credit for ships and the EEC Commission has informed the Government that it does not wish to raise any objection. The whole of the transaction is within OECD and EEC understandings on this matter. I repeat that British Shipbuilders have offered to supply British owners with the same ships at the attractive prices which the series production of this large order makes possible. If they ask for different sorts of ships they will have to have a different price. However, British shipbuilding interests are safeguarded.

My Lords, I found the noble Lord's answer a little difficult to follow. Is the noble Lord really going to carry out the undertaking that he gave to me in answer to a Question which I tabled on 16th June last, when he said, in effect, that everything would be publicised? Is he aware that I am, of course, in contact with the General Chamber of Shipping which is extremely interested in this matter? Will he now implement the undertaking that he gave to me last June which is very important? I should like to know quite definitely in terms of "Yes" or "No".

My Lords, I do not know how I can say "Yes" or "No" to a lady on a complex matter such as this. I thought that I had given a very full answer. If the noble Baroness could, by putting down a Question, indicate where I have failed to satisfy her, I shall try again.

My Lords, is it a fact that the Polish Government shipbuilders won an order from India and have farmed on to us the order for ships which we are heavily subsidising?

My Lords, I have no knowledge of negotiations between the Poles and another nation. However, the noble Lord is quite right. If we did not have this order, it would have gone to some other nation to the detriment of our shipyards.

My Lords, I should like to revert to the point that I made. The noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, said that these financial arrangements would be published. Is he able to tell us whether part of the financial arrangements will be published in addition to what he has said today—which is very little though good as far as it has gone?

My Lords, first of all, it is obviously not in the national interests to state the exact grant received from the Shipbuilding Intervention Fund, because every transaction of this type will be subject to negotiations with foreign shipbuilding lines, and naturally we do not want to show our hand before we start playing. Secondly, the transaction is within the guidelines of the OECD and EEC. It is funded normally and guaranteed normally.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that some of us who have listened to the cross-fire of derogatory questioning, think that a little praise should be given to the Government for having the initiative to employ our skill once more in the great game of shipbuilding. We are proud of the fact that at least the Government have kept their promise in this direction.

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. About 8,000 man years of work have been provided to this country by this contract.

My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Winter-bottom, a non-derogatory question. Which of the figures which my noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls quoted as being the value of the contract, is correct?

My Lords, the figure published at the end of the negotiations is the correct one.

My Lords, knowing that the noble Lord has given an assurance that the exact figures will be published, would he not agree that such as have appeared in the Press are mostly confusing. Does he not believe that this confusion leaves in many people's minds an impression that a definite subsidy is involved? In view of the current important international negotiations with regard to the MFA and GATT, does it not appear that unless this is set out very clearly it will generate the danger of retaliation in many quarters?

My Lords, I tried to show that we have not broken any rules. Naturally there will be competition, but we play the competition within the existing rules. This is a complex subject and hardly one on which I can satisfy the House during Question Time. If noble Lords table an Unstarred Question, or some other method of discussion is arranged, I shall be glad to take part in it.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that to hide behind the excuse of confidentiality undermines confidence in our own industry? There is a real feeling that as a result of this deal there will be unfair competition in the shipping world, which will be to the disadvantage of our shipowners. It is only by giving a clear statement on what it is all about that we can remove that suspicion and demoralisation which will flow as long as confidentiality allows it to exist.

My Lords, the attitude of the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, is somewhat petty. Obviously business must be conducted in confidence. Is the noble Lord in favour of totally open Government? I should have thought that the House was glad that this country has had a major success in winning a very significant international contract.

My Lords, would the noble Lord support Inc if I asked a Private Notice Question on the subject next week? Could I have an answer then?

My Lords, why is it quite right that Parliament, which provides the money for subsidies, should not know how much the subsidy should be? Surely this goes to the basis of English constitutional Government. It is no good the noble Lord shaking his head. Can we have an answer?

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that those of us in this House and in another place who are aware of some of the details and the background to this contract believe that it is totally uneconomic? Therefore, could the noble Lord assure us that it is economic? Could he ask his right honourable friend the Prime Minister not to interfere in future contracts of this nature by announcing them before they are signed, thereby reducing the negotiating power of the British team?

My Lords, would the noble Lord agree to an Unstarred Question in order that this can be discussed in detail, so that the country knows what it is all about?

My Lords, I can repeat only what was said earlier. It is a deal which will provide work. The economics of it must not be forgotten. Our shipyards are in a precarious position and the provision of about 8,000 man years of work at this moment may keep in existence shipyards that may otherwise go under. If the noble Lord wants to table an Unstarred Question, the noble Lord is a free man and can do so.

Aberdeen Shoemakers Incorporaton Order Confirmation Bill

3.33 p.m.

Read 3a , and passed.

City Of Glasgow District Council Order Confirmation Bill

Read 3a , and passed.

Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1973 (Amendment) Order 1977

rose to move, That the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1973 (Amendment) Order 1977, laid before the House on 3rd August, be approved. The noble Lord said: My Lords, with your Lordships' permission I should like to speak briefly to both the orders that stand in my name on the Order Paper.

These two orders were made under the urgent procedure on 26th July. I regret that it was not possible to arrange a debate in the ordinary way before the summer Recess, but the Government's view was that use of the urgent procedure was necessary in these cases. Nothing in the orders is in any way controversial; indeed, the increased penalties for which the orders provide are identical to provisions introduced for England and Wales in the Criminal Law Act 1977, an Act which was, of course, debated fully in this House.

The Criminal Law (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order creates three new offences. These are placing or sending a hoax bomb, sending a hoax bomb message and threatening to kill someone other than in writing. The maximum penalties for the hoax bomb offences are three months' imprisonment or £1,000 fine on summary conviction, or five years' imprisonment on indictment. The offence of threatening to kill other than in writing is designed to deal with telephoned death threats and carries a maximum penalty of 10 years. The order also makes two important penalty increases. For conspiring or soliciting to commit murder the penalty is increased from 10 years to life imprisonment. For attempting or conspiring to cause an explosion or making or keeping explosive substances with intent to endanger life or damage property, the penalty is increased from 20 years to life imprisonment.

Although the provisions of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Order are to be permanent additions to the law of Northern Ireland, the Government felt that the new offences, except in individual cases certified by the Attorney-General, should be included among the "scheduled offences" under the Northern Ireland Emergency Provisions legislation. This is done by the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1973 (Amendment) Order 1977.

The Government have also decided to take advantage of this order to close a loophole in the law which arises where persons are charged, under Section 5(1) of the Criminal Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1967, with concealing from the police information relating to a person who has committed a scheduled offence. In future, all those who conceal information about terrorism will be committing scheduled offences. These changes are not dramatic, but the Government believe that they will make our legal powers against terrorism more effective. We continue, of course, carefully to monitor the legislation to ensure that there are no other areas where improvements could be made. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1973 (Amendment) Order 1977, laid before the House on 3rd August, be approved.—( Lord Melchett.)

3.38 p.m.

My Lords, these orders which the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, has asked the House to take together, add to the list of scheduled offences the further offences of bomb hoaxes, threats to kill and concealment from the police of information relating to a scheduled offence, and impose a maximum period of life imprisonment for the offences of conspiring or soliciting to commit murder and attempting or conspiring to cause an explosion. If the noble Lord will allow me to say so, I think he has made out, briefly, a perfectly strong case for the need for both these orders, and I shall certainly support him in moving their passage through this House.

Clearly, bomb hoaxes and causing explosions are very serious offences indeed, particularly at the present time when it is the Security Forces who have to deal with fires. With regard to threats to kill and concealment of information about scheduled offences, I know the Government are well aware that more people are being brought before the courts than ever before. Possibly when the noble Lord replies to the few remarks that we shall make on these orders, he may have the latest figures of people being brought before the courts and being convicted, which I think would be of interest. The noble Lord will be well aware that, although this is happening, many of those who commit terrorism in Northern Ireland, who direct the bomber or the assassin, remain untouched by the due processes of the law.

Eighteen months ago my noble friend Lord Brookeborough introduced a Bill to try to deal with this particular problem, and he called it the Trial of Terrorists and Witness Protection Bill. If my noble friend will forgive me for saying so, one defect in his Bill lay in the provision that the identity of witnesses would be concealed. It is difficult to see how witnesses can be protected from intimidation if there is not resort to concealment of identity, which must prevent the normal processes of cross-examination; that is a problem which remains unsolved. None the less, I was one of those who criticised his Bill in that respect.

My noble friend's Bill also would have allowed the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland to bring any criminal offence within the jurisdiction of single judge courts. Again, my noble friend's Bill was criticised on that ground, saying that that was too blunt an instrument. The reason why I have gone off at a tangent about my noble friend's Bill is that it is interesting that this order now moves in very much the same direction as my noble friend's Bill 18 months ago did by adding three further offences to the list of scheduled offences in the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1973.

Might I just turn aside and say one other thing which is related to these orders but which perhaps at first sight may not be so. Recently Thames Television transmitted three programmes about Northern Ireland. The last was shown—I understand, because I did not see the programmes and I have been unable to get transcripts of them—on 22nd October. I understand that it included attacks on the police by unidentified witnesses which clearly put the lives of the RUC in danger, and the programme before that was devoted to the subject of prisons in Northern Ireland. Two days later the Secretary of the Prison Officers' Association, who had been interviewed in that particular programme, was shot dead.

I do not intend to say very much more about these programmes because I believe my noble friend Lord Brookeborough, who after all lives on the spot and is affected by them, wants to say a word about them. The point I want to put is this: I really wonder whether television programmes of this sort do not come very close to falling within the scope of the offence of threatening to kill, and possibly even concealment of information. I should like to express the hope this afternoon that the Government can confirm that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has now represented to the Independent Broadcasting Authority the danger in which these programmes place those who are working for security and peace in Northern Ireland. I trust that the IBA has now responded by recognising that its responsibility includes the preservation of public order in all parts of the United Kingdom, with special responsibility for the particularly difficult conditions in Northern Ireland.

Finally, I have one question about the order. I apologise to the noble Lord, in that I am afraid I did not give him notice of it. He referred to it in his remarks, and if he prefers to write to me I shall be perfectly content. The first order includes a proviso that a bomb hoax or threat to kill can be certified by the Attorney-General for Northern Ireland as not to be treated as a scheduled offence. This was a matter to which the noble Lord referred. I should be grateful if the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, could explain in what circumstances it is envisaged that this might be done.

I am aware that note 1 to Schedule 4 to the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1973 provides the same certifying-out procedure for murder and for manslaughter. I wonder whether this provision has been used at all; perhaps it has, in some tragic cases, for charges against the Security Forces. If that is the case, then I wonder why these two further offences, which could not possibly refer to the Security Forces, are to be included in the certifying-out procedure. I am sure that there is a perfectly understandable answer to my question. Those are the only matters which occur to me on what I think are two important orders in the Secretary of State's continuing policy of tightening up both in security and in the corresponding legislative provisions which go to the tightening up of security. With those words, I support the passage of these two orders.

3.45 p.m.

My Lords, I should like to join with my noble friend in welcoming these two orders. I thank him for his kind reference to my Bill, which got fairly short shrift from the Government. There is no doubt that, since we last passed these orders, the level of violence in Northern Ireland has decreased. I should like to congratulate the Secretary of State and his team on the part they have played in bringing this about. Much of the credit must go to our Security Forces and, at this time especially, to the Royal Ulster Constabulary which, under their directions, is increasingly taking over and taking the lead in establishing law and order in the Province.

I wonder whether the time has not almost approached when the Government should consider a special police medal for the Royal Ulster Constabulary and its Reserves. It was very noticeable on Armistice Day, when I was inspecting the guard parade going to church, that every member of the Ulster Defence Regiment had a medal—and rightly; they deserve it—but the chests of the police were completely bare. They have surely played their part in all areas.

The Secretary of State and his team—and I particularly include the noble Lord, Lord Melchett in this—deserve great credit. I feel that they should also give credit where credit is due to my colleague in another place, Mr. Airey Neave. All the advice that he has given over the last two years has eventually been followed, so I feel that that credit should be given.

What I think is not known in this country is the effect of the Secretary of State's down-to-earth statements. It has been a tonic to hear his Yorkshire tones demonstrating quite clearly the will to win against the terrorists. I feel that he has almost established a Queen's Own Yorkshire Government in Northern Ireland. This determination has a very strong bearing on the level of terrorism. I believe that he has almost reached such a point of trust with the people of Northern Ireland that, if the Security Forces were to say that a lower level of manning of troops was advisable, he could carry out a reduction to that level without it being greeted with cries of "withdrawal". Twelve months ago, it would not have been possible. There is no doubt that he has created this atmosphere of determination.

May I ask the noble Lord whether he realises that there has in fact been a change of atmosphere in the Irish Republic? Where there was previously a clear will to win, I am informed that the IRA now consider not that they are getting an easy time but that the climate is rather less hostile. I should like Her Majesty's Government to continue to press the Trish Republican Government to make sure that that hostility is seen to exist.

My noble friend Lord Belstead referred to the question of what I would call trial by television. We have had three programmes shown in Ulster. Two of them involved allegations of assault by the police during investigations, or interrogation. As my noble friend said, one of them involved prison officers. In spite of protests, these programmes were shown and, subsequently, two valiant officers were murdered. In both cases, the Provisional IRA claimed responsibility and, in one case, directly as a result of the programmes. That is the bare outline of the programmes. But the relatively new element in terrorism has been the immediacy of the television screen. Every terrorist, be he Baader-Meinhof, PLO, or IRA member, is determined to reach the television screen as quickly as he possibly can. The object is to further the terrorists' aims of revolution. But the first of their aims, without which they could not achieve anything, is to discredit the forces of law and order.

As noble Lords will remember, under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, the police now have a right to question and detain people for seven days should they have solid evidence or solid belief that somebody is involved in a terrorist activity. Parliament has said that this is right, and nobody should imagine that it is going to be a tea-party or anything of that sort because, when dealing with terrorism, if seven days is necessary, it will certainly not be a very pleasant operation. However, Parliament has also said that the police must investigate within the law.

At the same time, to protect the suspect, Parliament has provided what I would call a quasi-judicial complaints procedure which, when it is started—and it is started for even the most trivial of complaints—ends up on the desk of the DPP. There is a further safeguard for suspects in that they are subject to medical examination both before and after interrogation. In two of the programmes that I mentioned the suspects, some of whom were known terrorists, were making absolutely unsubstantiated allegations of assault by the RUC, but, to the best of my knowledge—and I am informed that this is correct—the allegation was in each case already being investigated under the complaints procedure. The television companies were fully aware of this but they still showed the programmes.

I believe that the freedom of the Press is absolutely vital to the defence of our democratic institutions, but television reporting, certainly as I have seen it in Northern Ireland, is rather different from Press reporting in its immediacy and in the way in which it confers a credibility which is not the case with a Press report. People who see a known terrorist being interviewed by a figure like Keith Kyle think that the terrorist is not such a bad fellow after all and that he has a pretty valid point of view. If it is accepted—and I think that it has largely been accepted—that television violence has an effect on young people in that it creates violence, how much more true is that in the case in Northern Ireland when accusations of assault are made against RUC personnel? Will not some of these younger people who are involved in terrorism, some of them unwillingly, feel that it is justifiable to go out and murder a policeman? That was the risk that was put on our people as a result of these programmes.

It is my belief that had Great Britain had the same level of violence as we have had in Northern Ireland in the last years, I should not have 'build it necessary to come here to plead that we should have a re-think about how we make a judgment on this issue; 50,000 casualties would have been the number and there would not have been any interviewing of any known terrorist on the television screen. It simply would not have been allowed. The principle which I believe should be observed is that, since Parliament has provided a quasi-judicial complaints procedure, and taking into account the present situation in Northern Ireland, it is intolerable, unfair and dangerous to allow television interviews of complaints while the investigatory procedure is continuing. At any rate, we are definitely giving succour to the enemy; we are giving him immediate access to television, which is one of his aims, and we are helping him to discredit the forces of law and order.

In raising another subject, I want the Government to look at this question of television programmes and the way in which the problem can be dealt with because I fully realise that the television people were not acting illegally but were fully within the law. However, so far as we were concerned, we felt there was an enormous increase in risk to the RUC and UDR personnel and to everybody else involved in law and order.

I said at the outset that there has been an improvement in the level of violence, which is now much lower, but one incident has not received the prominence which was due to it for its beneficial effect. In conventional war, it is quite easy to see which side is winning; territory and battles are won or lost. In terrorism, however, it is largely a matter of the mind and it is extremely difficult to judge at what point one can say that one is really winning. This summer, there was an exception. We fought a battle and we won it, and that battle was won by Her Majesty the Queen through her visit to Northern Ireland. Without her presence, the Secretary of State and his forces could not have created the conditions to win that battle. Win it they did and I do not believe that that fact has been fully realised. My own knowledge, which has been fairly accurate, is that the IRA mounted a major effort and were defeated. Under those conditions, the credit should go to our wonderful Queen who made such an impression. It is no wonder that Ulstermen are Queen's men. I welcome these two orders.

3.56 p.m.

My Lords, I thank the two noble Lords who have spoken for their welcome of the two orders and for the kind remarks they made about my right honourable friend the Secretary of State and his colleagues, which I will pass on to the appropriate quarter and which I am sure will be much appreciated. It was said that we should give credit where credit is due, and I particularly wish to echo the remarks that have been made about the Security Forces and the RUC under the chief constable in particular. I do not think there is any doubt in the mind of anybody who either lives or works in Northern Ireland about the tremendous increase and effectiveness of the RUC, certainly in the period in which I have been involved in Northern Ireland. Their bravery and devotion to the job they have to do is something which everyone admires and I echo everything the two noble Lords said about them and the other Security Forces in Northern Ireland.

The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, asked about the number of offences and charges in recent months. The improvement in the security position to which both noble Lords referred is reflected in the numbers of terrorists who have been caught. In 1976 a total of 1,276 persons were charged with security type offences. Up to 17th November of this year 1,211 persons have been charged, including 260 charged with murder or attempted murder. In 1976 a total of 963 persons were convicted of scheduled offences on indictment and 214 of those received sentences of 10 years or more. Up to 30th September of this year 784 persons have been convicted of scheduled offences, including 260 who received sentences of 10 years or more.

The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, asked about the procedure for certifying that one of these offences which the orders introduce should not be treated as a scheduled offence and should therefore be treated by the courts as an ordinary criminal offence, and tried in front of a jury; and as the noble Lord pointed out, a similar provision is made in all those orders which provide for scheduled offences in Northern Ireland. My understanding is that the certificate would be given by the Attorney-General in the case of a crime which had been committed, for example, in family circumstances which clearly had no connection with terrorism or terrorist offences. It is unfortunately the case in Northern Ireland, as elsewhere, that there are still murders of husbands by wives and vice versa, of children by parents and vice versa, and that sort of offence undoubtedly would be tried in normal circumstances by a jury. I do not have any figures of the number of occasions when this has happened, but if any are available I will let the noble Lord know.

Both noble Lords referred to recent television programmes that have been shown about various events in Northern Ireland. I can certainly confirm to Lord Belstead that my right honourable friend has expressed his concern to the broadcasting authorities about some of their recent programmes. However, I would hasten to add, lest there be any misunderstanding, that this in no way means that either my right honourable friend or Her Majesty's Government are in any way advocating, or would ever support any suggestion, that media of any sort should be censored either in Northern Ireland or elsewhere. As the noble Lords will be aware, programme content, so far as the programmes to which they have referred are concerned, is a matter for the Independent Broadcasting Authority in accordance with the statutory responsibilities that it has been given by Parliament. I have no doubt that those responsible will have noted what both noble Lords have said about the recent programmes.

The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, made the suggestion that it was possible that at least one of these programmes may have come close to concealing information from the police. I do not think that there is any question of that being the case. The recent "This Week" programme, for example, merely repeated allegations which had already been made in the Press, or elsewhere, in Northern Ireland, and most, if not all, of which, as the noble Viscount, Lord Brooke-borough, pointed out, were already being investigated, or had already been investigated. It is the fact that they were under investigation that prevents the security forces from making any detailed comment on the allegations. But as I know both noble Lords will be well aware, allegations are not the same as evidence, and it was simply allegations that the programme was repeating. As I say, I hope that any noble Lords with any anxieties over the content of particular programmes will refer them to those authorities who have the responsibility, as my right honourable friend has done. I should like to thank again both noble Lords for their welcome for these orders.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Criminal Law (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 1977

My Lords, I beg to move the acceptance of this order.

Moved, That the Criminal Law (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 1977, laid before the House on 3rd August, be approved.—(Lord Melchett.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Royal Assent

4.1 p.m.

My Lords, 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 Acts:

  • Pensioners Payments Act,
  • Aberdeen Shoemakers Incorporation Order Confirmation Act,
  • City of Glasgow District Council Order Confirmation Act.

Education (Northern Ireland) Bill (Hl)

4.2 p.m.

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. During the last Session of Parliament your Lordships were good enough to permit me to introduce an identical Bill, and you were also good enough to give it an unopposed Second Reading. On that occasion there was a debate which lasted very nearly two hours. A total of 10 noble Lords made valuable contributions by participating in the debate. In view of the fact that that was as recently as the 23rd June last, and of the fact that the subject was covered so fully then, I do not intend to weary your Lordships by once again going over the ground then so well covered. I would merely recall, for the benefit of noble Lords who may not have been present then, two or three points—which in my view, were of importance—made by my noble friend Lord Melchett.

First, he said that the Government's policy is to encourage integrated education where there is a local wish for it, but that any attempt to force integrated education on Northern Ireland could only be counterproductive. He also said, as reported at column 815 of the Official Report,
"We wish to encourage integrated education, but we will not force it on people. I believe that that is the right policy and one that would be agreed by the vast majority of the people of Northern Ireland".
In so saying, my noble friend was underlining the major point that I had been trying to make when speaking immediately before him, and I was extremely grateful to him for having so done. He also reiterated another point that I had tried to make, and that was that none of us are so naïve as to think that the introduction of integrated education would be any kind of panacea, or instant solution, to our problems in Northern Ireland, but rather that it would be a very significant step in the right direction of long-term improvement in community relations.

My noble friend went on to say that he had some doubts on the particular provisions in the Bill for keeping open the schools which would become redundant, were not the number of pupils increased as a result of their becoming integrated. My impression was that his misgivings fell roughly into two categories. First, there were the procedural and administrative difficulties which would arise, and I appreciate that these exist, and that as such they would require considerable thought in order to be overcome. I am glad that the terms of reference of the Independent Working Party which he has set up, include the words
"… the Government's wish to ensure that integration where it is desired should be facilitated and not impeded, and to make recommendations".
No doubt this body will be giving careful consideration to the problems which my noble friend has in mind.

Secondly, and perhaps more important, he was afraid that the proposals in the Bill could be used as a means of keeping open a school which should properly be closed, and that public money would thus be wasted on retaining an old building in poor condition which has no realistic prospect of ever becoming a viable school, whether or not integrated. I appreciate that there could be opportunity for abuse in this respect, and that attempts could be made to keep the odd school open on the pretext of a desire for integrated education.

Realising this, the Bill leaves the Minister with absolute discretion to act on, or, alternatively, to ignore, the expressed wishes of parents. I would therefore respectfully invite the noble Lord to table a suitable Amendment for consideration at the Committee stage of this Bill, provided of course that it is read a second time today. He, I know, has a very deep understanding of all the problems and implications of education in Northern Ireland. He also has access to the most highly qualified professional advice that is available—an advantage that I do not have. I should, therefore, be more than pleased to give serious consideration to any Amendment which he, or for that matter, any other noble Lord, may wish to move, provided of course that it is not contrary to the spirit of the Bill with which my noble friend has stated himself to be in accord.

For those who feel keenly about any project or aspiration, I suppose that there is always an element of frustration when a Bill has to lapse through lack of Parliamentary time. But on this occasion it has possibly been no bad thing. In the intervening period we have had the benefit of very interesting and very useful public debate on the subject of education in Northern Ireland as a whole, and in particular on integrating education.

My associates in the All Children Together movement, and I, have been keeping our eyes fairly closely on the correspondence columns of the Northern Ireland Press, and we have noted with interest the views which have been expressed through that medium. They seem, roughly, to fall into two categories. Those who favour the principle of this Bill would appear to be people who have acquainted themselves fairly well with its purpose and implications. Those who do not favour it seem to be suffering from some lack of perception as to what are in fact the rationale and the implications. There are exceptions, of course, to both those categories, but this tends to be the main pattern.

One of the principal areas of misunderstanding—and, of course, one cannot expect every member of the public to read Parliamentary debates in full—was that a significant effect of the Bill would be to dilute religious education in the schools. In the previous debate, on the 23rd June, I did my best to make it clear that that was far from being the case. My colleagues and I believe that religious education in schools ought to improve rather than deteriorate, and in our view this Bill should bring nearer our aspiration to have really full-blooded religious education. There are those who have argued that segregated education is desirable because a school ought to be an extension of the home and of the Church. I agree that the school ought to occupy this role, but, far from integrated education detracting from it, in my view it ought to promote it. Hopefully, indeed, a neighbourhood might become non-sectarian as being an extension of a nonsectarian school. The important thing is that there should be a truly representative management committee, and that there should be available clergy and laity of adequate quality to provide really first-class religious education.

As I have said, divergent views were expressed through the correspondence columns of the Press, but it is significant to note that, whereas education is still 98 per cent. segregated in Northern Ireland, recent surveys have shown that, while between two-thirds and four-fifths of the parents interviewed (the samples having been taken from all denominations) favour integration, the number who oppose it remains fairly consistent at about 12 to 13 per cent. That is an interesting statistic.

It is because of the public discussion which has been generated and the fact that this Bill has again to be read a second time and gives the opportunity for misconceptions to be clarified that I welcome the chance to do that today in your Lordships' House. During my winding-up speech, I shall welcome the opportunity to answer any questions that noble Lords may wish to ask during the course of the debate and to fill in any areas which I may have overlooked—though, as I say, in the interests of brevity I did not want to cover the same ground as was covered before; nor, indeed, did I want to get entangled in any of the more technical and legal aspects which could perhaps be more properly dealt with in Committee. To summarise, I genuinely think that this Bill (which, I agree, could possibly well benefit from amendment in its later stages) would, if passed, constitute a significant step out of the dark ages for Northern Ireland, and I would therefore appeal to your Lordships to give it a fair wind today. My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Dunleath.)

4.15 p.m.

My Lords, first I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, on once again introducing this Bill on integrated education. I think he is extremely brave, because very often when a Bill is first introduced and time in that Session of Parliament then runs out it is either forgotten or dropped altogether. So I congratulate the noble Lord, and should like to say that there is an old saying that most of us know:

"If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again".
The noble Lord has indeed done that, and has just taken us very quickly through this important Bill on education in Northern Ireland once again.

During the last debate we had on this Bill it appeared from all corners of the House that there was a unanimous decision that this Bill should go on to the Statute Book. It was agreed by all, including Members from the different religious denominations, in your Lordships' House. It has also been agreed by the Second Council of the Vatican that this integration in Northern Ireland should go ahead. But, of course, even if this Bill does go ahead—and I hope it does for the noble Lord's sake and for Northern Ireland's sake—it will still be a very long time, many years, before much of it can be effective or we can see a result. Nevertheless, it is a small step forward, a step in the right direction, and I think that in our last debate we all agreed on that. One of the most important instruments or media to counteract violence and crime is, I believe, education, and it is catching them young and integrating them that is all-important, and what this Bill is about. Unfortunately, while they are mixing with others of different religious denominations when they are at school during the day, when they are outside, in their homes, it invariably breaks down again, so there is a problem which will exist for some time.

I do not intend to go any further than what I said last time. We had a good debate then, and many spoke on it. But the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, who I much admire, and who we all admire, for his patience in his particular job—he always has a smile, though it must be very disheartening at times—told the House that he had set up a working party to investigate this problem. I did not give him notice of this question, but if he says "Yes" or "No" I shall be very grateful; or if he writes to me afterwards I shall be very grateful. What I should like to ask him is this: How far has his working party progressed, and when will the House hear a report from that working party on what they have been able to achieve?

Any delay in this Bill is on my side at the moment, so I will not go any further or say anything more except to congratulate the noble Lord again for being very brave a second time. I hope that, once we have heard from the Government what Amendments we are to expect in Committee, this Bill will be able to go through your Lordships' House as smoothly as possible. Equally, I should like to feel that, in another place, the Government will be able to find time for it to be put on to the Statute Book. I look forward to the Government's reply, and once again I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, on reintroducing this Bill.

4.20 p.m.

My Lords, first I should say that we welcome this second chance that the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, has given us to give this Bill a Second Reading. I do not propose to repeat much of what I said in the debate last June. I deliberately painted a gloomy picture of the scene in Northern Ireland over the last few years and, alas! as it still is in many ways today. I spoke from what I have been told and from what I have read. I have never had the pleasure of visiting Northern Ireland but that does not lessen my desire to help the people of that country wherever help may seem to be sought. I spoke of the all-too-apparent bitter divisions between many of the Catholics and Protestants and of how the children may be brought up to hate and distrust each other, and how many of them seldom have a chance to learn to work and play together and to respect their neighbours as lovable human beings and not as evil ogres. I spoke as one convinced by the courage and reason of the All Children Together Movement in pressing this Bill which seeks to facilitate integrated education as one measure which they believe will in the long run lessen the tension and make for a happier land. No one believes—and the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, has mentioned this—that this will be an immediate panacea, but that does not mean in itself that the Bill should not be passed now; it should and not further delayed.

I was deliberately emotive in our last debate, but I do not want to go over all that again. The noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, has repeated the significant statement that he made then that 98 per cent. segregation in education still exists but that more than two-thirds of parents have declared that they favour integration. The noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, from his personal experience, cast doubt on the value of these figures and is sceptical of much early progress being made. None the less, I understand that he still believes that this Bill should be on the Statute Book in case the climate of opinion changes at any time. It cannot be said too often that there is no compulsion in this Bill. It is only an enabling measure for those who want more easily to have their children of different denominations educated together.

I repeat that in that earlier debate I painted a gloomy picture, but I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, will bear with me if I now quote, as something more encouraging, from the newspaper of his Alliance Party for September 1977. In an article entitled "When it Stops" came these words:
"Most would agree that the biggest bonus of the troubles has been the increase in community awareness, the realisation of the value of good neighbours, the many links forged between the different Churches and groups almost unknown to one another and the many sterling qualities which have been brought out by the challenges of emergency and danger. At no time in our history have there been such numbers of social and community workers beavering away, so much honest realisation of, and facing up to, our inherited problems by individuals in all groupings".
Such comment gives one hope for the future and calls for admiration of those who are so courageously
"facing up to … inherited"—
and often, one might add, almost over-whelming—
The noble Lord, Lord Melchett, is held in respect for his dedication to his task by many who work with him. He himself has said—and I repeat once more what the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, has said—that:
"all surveys of public attitudes that are available show a large majority in favour of integrated education".
I think it is true to say (and I shall accept correction if I am wrong) that so far no speaker, either now or in June, has opposed the theory of integrated education. The doubt comes as to whether it could and would work out; and whether, therefore, this Bill should be enacted.

The noble Lord, Lord Melchett, has, as reported in the Daily Telegraph of 29th September, suggested, I believe, that sixth form colleges might be one answer. At the age of 16 students from Catholic and Protestant comprehensives would meet together for the first time. Unfortunately, I and my colleagues believe that this would often be too late. I accept that the Catholics and Protestants mix at universities and that young men and women of different beliefs often wish to marry. But I am told that all too often there is bitter opposition from the parents. Surely integration at an earlier age would help to bring both children and parents closer together!

We on these Benches would like to see this Bill, modified if necessary, on the Statute Book. We should like, but I fear are unlikely, to see the Government take it over and push it through. We believe that it is owed to those who are optimistically working for an ideal which pessimists say is unworkable. We supported the Second Reading of this Bill in June and I think that my noble friend Lady Seear will support me when I say that we support it again now.

4.25 p.m.

My Lords, like previous speakers, I am conscious that all the arguments in favour of this Bill were rehearsed in the summer. I only want to add a very brief postscript in support of the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, and those who are working to get this Bill on to the Statute Book. Those of us who believe strongly in shared schools from a very early age—and I underline "very early age", for it has to start when schooling starts; it is too late when attitudes have been formed—do not want to embarrass the Government by placing on the Statute Book legislation which would complicate their already vastly complicated task. At the same time, the enormous courage of the people who are working towards shared schools—and this is physical and psychological courage in terms of the kind of society in which they have been brought up and the views and attitudes of the Churches that they support—needs our utmost support.

This Bill, as drafted, simply makes it possible for the shared schools for which they are working to come into being. It does not require the Government to take action; it merely enables that action to be taken when parents in the schools have themselves demonstrated that they want this to happen. For this reason, I want very much to support what the noble Viscount, Lord Long, has said: that we want to get this onto the Statute Book and we hope that the Government will find time for it, not only in this House but in another place, so as to see that it really becomes part of the law of the land, if only to encourage the people who are working in what must be the right direction. It is to make a plea that the Bill should not get lost in this House or in another place that I want to add my voice in its support.

4.28 p.m.

My Lords, a short while ago, I was criticised by the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, who I regret is not in his place, for intervening in your Lordships' House on a matter pertaining to Northern Ireland. One of the reasons for this, was, apparently, that I live in the Republic of Ireland and, he said, am a citizen of a foreign country. I do not think that I should have to say, but I do say, first, that I have dual citizenship, so I am also a citizen of this country, and, secondly, that I have received a Summons from the Queen to attend this House. I think it would be more disrespectful to ignore that than to ignore the advice of the noble Viscount. The noble Viscount seemed to resent anything that I was doing in the affairs of Northern Ireland. One of the things I am doing happens to be of some relevance to what we are now discussing and my experience may be of interest to the House.

I am well acquainted with more schoolchildren in the North than perhaps anyone except the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, himself because, for the last eight years, the children we are talking about, from some of the worst ghettos of Belfast, such as Short Strand, Ballymurphy and other such areas, have been coming at my invitation to my home and have had the freedom of my lands and my waters. I have been proud and pleased to welcome them. I think that I may possibly have contributed from this place in the Republic of Ireland quite a considerable amount to the happiness of the school days of those children whom we are now discussing. This work that I have been doing with the youth leaders in Belfast has led me, I would suggest, to perhaps the worst areas in Belfast and to more personal danger than the noble Viscount is likely to find in Enniskillen.

I am not content merely to have these ghetto children, these wonderful kids who, despite this shocking environment and these disgusting conditions are such splendid, completely trustworthy boys and girls, come to Killegar and treat it as a second home, but I go to where they come from, I go to the Short Strand and to Ballymurphy. Has anyone in this House ever bothered to go into the slum areas and seen the filth and the degradation of violence? When I hear it said that I am not qualified to make an intervention on Northern Ireland, I should like to make it known that I am doing as much as any other noble Lord—and a great deal more than most.

The point I want to make is that when we started this scheme of bringing children from the slums of Belfast for a week of peace and quiet in the Republic, it was our principal aim that it should be an integrated scheme, that we should have children of both denominations, and both should be equally welcomed. In so far as that has been humanly possible, it has been done. But unfortunately, owing to intimidation on one side—and I do not intend to say on which side—by the paramilitary forces, among the parents, among the adults, it has proved very nearly impossible to bring people from both sides of the religious divide. I deeply regret that.

In my meetings with youth leaders in Northern Ireland I have spoken to them about the other holidays that have taken place under different auspices where children of both denominations have gone on holidays to England or France. Once they get out of that urban environment, once they get away from their parents, their teachers and their priests, and they can be themselves, there is no problem. They form relationships and friendships. Religion becomes irrelevant and there is never any trouble at all. They make their friendships; they come back to Belfast; and I have spoken to boys and girls in the Short Strand who have made friends with kids from the Shankhill. In no way can they see one another; in no way can they continue their relationships. They want to do so; but will their parents, the paramilitary leaders, or the priests let them? No, my Lords. That is what I have learned from my safe haven in the Republic where the bombs go off much more frequently than they ever do in England, or Fermanagh for that matter.

If only it could be left to the children, we should have nothing to fear. The problem is the parents, the older generation, this terrible polarisation and entrenchment that is taking place. If the noble Lord's Bill can make the smallest impact and begin to break down the terrible division that exists and which is at the root of the whole evil, then his work will have been more worth while than I am capable of saying.

4.34 p.m.

My Lords, as my noble friend Lord Dunleath has said, this Bill is identical to the one that received an unopposed Second Reading in this House in the last Session. I therefore intend to be as brief as possible, but some things of relevance to integrated education have happened in Northern Ireland during the past few months, and I should like to tell your Lordships about them.

On the principle that lies behind this Bill, the Government's attitude is clear. The Government believe in the value of integrated education. We believe that increased contact between the two communities in Northern Ireland can and does improve community relations, and any increased contact among young people clearly has particular scope for altering or softening attitudes received from parents or the community at large.

We believe, as I think do all supporters of integrated education, that this is not something that can be imposed on unwilling or hostile communities, parents or children. To some extent we have to recognise that developments like integrated education, which we hope will change attitudes, are themselves only going to be possible when attitudes have altered. Given this, I think we all recognise—and my noble friend Lord Dunleath said so in introducing the Bill this afternoon—that the changes we want to see will come, at least at first, slowly and steadily, rather than overnight.

I should also make it clear, as I did when we last discussed this Bill, that the Government recognise the right of any group—and I am thinking in particular of the Churches—to maintain voluntary schools, and, as long as parents want their children to attend such schools, and as long as they are of an acceptable standard, we recognise the right of voluntary schools to receive substantial grant-aid from public funds.

Since we last discussed this Bill there have been a number of opportunities in Northern Ireland for the Government to demonstrate their support for integration in practical ways, and these we have been glad to take. I have now established the working party under Professor Astin to which the noble Viscount referred, which is looking into school management, with the following terms of reference:
"To consider the arrangements for the management of schools in Northern Ireland with particular regard to the reorganisation of secondary education and the Government's wish to ensure that integration where it is desired should be facilitated and not impeded and to make recommendations".
The noble Viscount asked me about the time scale on which this working party is operating. As he said, it has a very complicated area to investigate and I would not expect it to come to conclusions in the near future, and certainly not within a time-scale which will affect this Bill and its passage through Parliament. It has recently issued an invitation to the public to produce evidence for the working party. It will obviously take some time both for that evidence to be put to the working party and for it to consider it and make its recommendations. As the Bill we are discussing makes clear, it is in the arrangements that the Education and Libraries Order lays down for school management that the main legislative impediments to integrated education lie, and that is why the Government attach particular importance to Professor Astin's working party.

Since we last debated this Bill, I have also published the promised feasibility study on sixth-form colleges. The noble Lord, Lord Hampton, referred to this and to remarks which I have made. I hope that this study will stimulate further discussions of a concept which has attracted considerable interest in Northern Ireland. The study points out some of the advantages of separate sixth-form provision, in particular the range of academic opportunities which such colleges can provide. In many places in Northern Ireland, these educational advantages will exit only if a sixth-form college caters for all pupils in an area irrespective of religious denomination.

I certainly accept, as the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, said, that we need to see action taken through the whole age range; but I feel that the advantages of sixth-form colleges, if they were introduced on any substantial scale in Northern Ireland, would be that one would see a substantial degree of integration happen quite quickly. We are all agreed—and the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, made this clear—that the provisions in his Bill, which would apply to secondary and primary schools, are not likely to make major changes in the education system, at least in the near future. I am, however, well aware of the great significance which many people attach to the integration at the other end of the age range. I have published a discussion paper on day care and education for the under fives. One of the important issues discussed in that paper is integration.

It is a fact that most of the existing pre-school provision in Northern Ireland is segregated on religious lines, mainly because of the extent to which housing is segregated. But the paper emphasises the Government's belief that there are substantial advantages in integrated provision for the under-fives where this is feasible and locally acceptable. I am now waiting for comments on this document, and hope to make a full statement on Government policy on provision for the under-fives when views have been received.

May I now refer to something which my noble friend Lord Kilbracken said in the course of his remarks about the attitudes of young people in Northern Ireland. On all my visits to those areas to which the noble Lord referred—the Short Strand, Ballymurphy and indeed other areas of Belfast, for example Tiger Bay, the Shankhill—all of which, of course, contain appalling conditions which the Government are doing a great deal to try to put right, but not nearly enough, as I would readily accept—and in all the discussions I have had, particularly with sixth-form pupils, I have been very struck by the extent to which they have said they were interested in meeting with children of the other denomination, whatever it happens to be, and would welcome increased contact. This is borne out by schemes such as the holiday scheme whereby the Government in Northern Ireland give grant aid to enable children of different denominations to go on holiday together.

The noble Lord referred to holidays in England and overseas. We are now concentrating our grant aid on holidays in Ireland in an effort to get more children for the same amount of money benefiting from such holidays. Of course, the cost of travelling anywhere abroad, and to England, has gone up a great deal. I am glad to say that last summer the number of children benefiting from these holidays increased substantially, and I am currently looking at policy for next summer in the hope that we shall be able to make more resources available for these schemes.

I have made clear that the Government support the principle enshrined in this Bill, and I agree with my noble friend that school management is at the heart of the issue. The Bill is consistent with the Government's view that integration should take place by agreement and in response to local wishes. Given our support for the principle of the Bill, it might well be asked why the Government themselves are not introducing legislation along these lines. As noble Lords know, throughout the period of direct rule we have seen it as our job to take the greatest care to consult with local people before making major changes in the law in Northern Ireland. Consultations on the re-organisation of secondary education went on for nine months after the publication of a major Consultative Document, and for over four years after the first working party recommended reorganisation, before any decision was made. To take another topical example, our proposal to legislate on seat belts in Northern Ireland follows a report produced in Northern Ireland by an expert committee representing all the major interests concerned with road safety in Northern Ireland itself.

We certainly recognise that the Order in Council procedure for Northern Ireland legislation requires that the greatest care is taken by the Government to consult widely before legislation is introduced. As I have already said, I have recently appointed a distinguished working party to look at school management in Northern Ireland, and that working party has just issued, as I said, an invitation to interested organisations and to the general public to give evidence. Clearly, the Government must wait for this working party to report before we introduce our own legislation, and once the working party has reported clearly we shall have to introduce our own legislation. However, I do not believe that this need precludes changes being made in the meantime by Private Member's Bills, particularly where the provisions are entirely permissive, as in this case.

Having, I hope, made my position clear, I have the usual rather negative task of Government Ministers at the Second Reading of Private Member's Bills: that of raising some of the practical or drafting difficulties which we sec in the Bill, and to which I have no doubt your Lordships will wish to return at Committee stage. Again, I shall be brief because I raised most of these points the last time we discussed this Bill, and indeed the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, referred to most of them in his opening remarks.

As my noble friend made clear, my main concern is with the proposals in Clause 1(1), (2) and (3). These are the provisions which would allow redundant school premises to be kept open as integrated schools rather than being closed down. The idea is certainly imaginative, but I think it would lead to serious problems. One major difficulty relates to the circumstances in which schools are normally closed down. Whether this is because the population in the area has declined or because the premises are very old and have outlived their economic life, it is seldom the case that such a school could usefully and economically be kept open in any circumstances. Of course, here we are talking mainly about very small, very old, rural primary schools. If a school were kept open, it would probably be duplicating other provision. That would be expensive; but I do not want to over-emphasise the cost aspect of the problem, because I would be more concerned about the problems of abuse of the provisions in the Bill.

When a school is due to close, there is often very strong opposition in the local community to the closure taking place and, of course, there are existing procedures for considering such objections. In effect, the provisions of this Bill would give objectors another way of blocking a school closure. Even though, say, for practical reasons of geography or local feeling, there might in fact be absolutely no prospect of an integrated enrolment at a school, parents in the area might well wish to see it given a purely nominal standing as an integrated school, if that meant it did not have to close.

I do not think these objections I have would be removed by the fact that the poor Minister who had responsibility for education would be able to exercise some discretion. I think it would be almost impossible in practice for a Minister, faced with a majority of the parents concerned and with a majority of the management committee, which would be required under this Bill, to then say that the school must nevertheless close because it was too small, too old or because of some other reason. I think myself that if the noble Lord wishes the Bill to be practical and feasible in operation he should consider dropping these first three subsections of Clause 1 at the Committee stage.

Of course, Clause 1 also provides for other circumstances in which a school could become a controlled integrated school, and the same problems do not arise there. Under these provisions the school would become an integrated controlled school if the trustees, in the case of a voluntary school, or the transferor's representatives, in the case of a controlled school, so request. In that event parents of children attending other schools in the area might also be consulted.

Since the Second Reading of the previous Bill, my officials in the Department of Education for Northern Ireland and I have been giving more careful thought to the detailed proposals in the Bill; and one or two items have occurred to us, to which I should like now briefly to refer. The Bill places the onus of producing a scheme for consulting parents on the appropriate area education and library board, but it is not clear just how widely the net is to be cast in consulting parents. The Bill talks of parents living within a reasonable area; but that is a very broad phrase, and I hope that my noble friend might consider drawing this a little tighter when we come to the Committee stage. Given that this is an issue where there is considerable scope for local dispute and controversy, I think the local education and library board should have more specific guidance than just those whom Parliament wants them to consult.

Clause 3 of the Bill applies the general provisions of the Education and Library (Northern Ireland) Order 1972 to controlled integrated schools, in the same way that the order currently applies to controlled schools. However, my noble friend clearly expects that, since the 1972 order was not framed with schools of this sort in mind, not all of its provisions will necessarily be appropriate. The clause therefore provides that the provisions of the 1972 order shall not apply if "the context otherwise requires". I am afraid that a general "let-out" of this sort would give rise to endless practical difficulties and I am not clear what provisions would be applied if the provisions of the 1972 order are not going to apply and are deemed inappropriate.

I think my noble friend will have to consider taking the 1972 order in its entirety, except where it is specifically replaced by provisions in the Bill which is before us today. Any other course seems to me to demand an impossibly complex Bill, or to lead to too many uncertainties to be workable. There is a final minor point. A number of controlled schools in Northern Ireland are operated under grouped management committees, where one committee is responsible for several schools, and I think it would be desirable to have some clarification of how the Bill's provisions would be applied in such cases.

I apologise for going into so much detail on the Second Reading of a Bill which we have recently considered. But, as I said, there are some practical points which I hope my noble friend, having heard me make them this afternoon, will be able to consider before we come to the Committee stage, when we shall no doubt go into them in more detail. May I repeat that the Government support integrated education where this is locally desired, and the fact that this Bill has been put forward by a Member of this House from Northern Ireland, on behalf of a number of people in Northern Ireland, is evidence that it has local support. I am sure that the difficulties I have mentioned, only one of which seems to me to be really substantial, can be looked at in detail at the Committee stage. In the meantime, I have no doubt that the House will again agree to give the Bill a Second Reading.

4.51 p.m.

My Lords, I should like sincerely to thank the noble Baroness and noble Lords who have been good enough to make such interesting and valuable contributions to this debate. The noble Viscount, Lord Long, made reference to a hope that the Government would be able to give time to the Bill. Naturally, I hope this, too. I sincerely hope that, eventually, the Government will find themselves in a position where they can give it Government time, particularly when it goes to the House of Commons. But my noble friend Lord Melchett has outlined some of the reasons why they are perhaps not yet quite in a position so to do.

The noble Lord, Lord Hampton, made reference to sixth form colleges being integrated, and I agree with that. But I think that it is too late by then. Preferably, integration should start at nursery school age and should then continue because, otherwise, attitudes begin to harden during the main opinion-forming period of a child's life, which is probably the primary and early secondary school age. Therefore, I quite agree that there ought, where possible and where desired, to be integration, right from nursery school through to the sixth form and then on to the technical college or university stage, where integration already exists.

The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, once again underlined—and I am grateful to her for having so done—that this is entirely an enabling Bill, and that its whole emphasis is on parental choice so that parents can have their children educated in the way that they want. The noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, made a sad but very penetrating comment, when he said that, in his experience (which accords with the experience of many others who have tried to do the same kind of good work) when children are taken out of their normal environment and mixed together they get on perfectly well. No one would know which one was Protestant, which one was Catholic, which one was Unionist and which one was Nationalist or Republican, and they integrate perfectly well. But put them back again into their own environment and the polarisation immediately resumes, whether it be, as the noble Lord said, through intimidation or just through the environment of the home and the children's friends and neighbours. That is a sad thing. It must be more than a matter of just taking them away for the odd fortnight; eventually, it will have to be throughout the whole school period. But I thank the noble Lord for his contribution.

I was particularly grateful for the interesting and constructive remarks which my noble friend Lord Melchett once again made. I think he more or less said that we could not rush this. He also said that we had to wait for attitudes to change. I would slightly challenge him on that. In my opening speech, I quoted statistics from surveys showing, according to the wording of the questions asked, that between two-thirds and four-fifths of parents interviewed were in favour of integration. I do not think that it requires very much change of attitude as regards the principle of the matter, although I agree that the mechanics of it may be more difficult.

My Lords, I think it would be most interesting to know whether the noble Lord has had any breakdowns of those figures; that is to say, whether approximately the same percentages occur among parents of both religions in their attitude towards integration.

My Lords, I cannot give any precise answer to that question. I think that, on the whole, there was a greater proportion of Roman Catholic parents who opposed integration, but, as I said earlier, the percentage opposing it was fairly consistent at 12 to 13 per cent. The percentage favouring integration varied fairly widely between two-thirds and four-fifths, largely because of the different wording of the questions, but, perhaps more important still, because of the large number of "Don't knows" and those mainly on the Protestant side, who did not feel strongly about the matter. So that is more variable. But I am afraid that I cannot give a precise answer to the noble Lord's question.

My noble friend Lord Melchett said—I think quite understandably—that the working party which he has set up has a very wide range of topics to consider, and one obviously could not hope for it to come up with an answer in the immediate future. But I should like respectfully to put it to your Lordships that perhaps that would be no impediment to our passing the Bill through this House at this stage, so that it would be ready when the working party is in a position to report. The Bill would be there on the Statute Book, and then the mechanics of it could be put into operation.

My noble friend also mentioned consultation. I made reference to the surveys, and I hope that his Department of Education will do its best, through suitable publicity, to encourage parents, members of school management committees, teachers and members of the public who are interested in education to make their representations to my noble friend's working party, in the same way as the public responded so well in making representations to the Standing Commission on Human Rights in the recent past.

My noble friend also made reference to school closure. I know that this is one of the matters which worry him most. I should not like to withdraw this at the moment and, if he would be good enough, I should much prefer him to get his experts to draft an amendment which he thinks would be more acceptable, to which I should certainly give very careful consideration indeed. I believe that this matter is cardinal to the whole principle of the Bill, and that is why I am not keen to withdraw at this moment. But I am open-minded in so far as any amendment is concerned. I have spoken for long enough and, as I said, I am grateful to the noble Baroness and to noble Lords who have contributed to this debate.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

European Communities (Definition Of Treaties) (No 3) Order 1977

4.59 p.m.

My Lords, I beg to move that the draft European Communities (Definition of Treaties) (No. 3) Order 1977, laid before the House on 3rd November, be approved. Your Lordships may recall that when in May last we debated draft Orders in Council, some noble Lords expressed concern that it had not been possible for them adequately to consider the draft Orders in Council on the basis of the information made available then for the debate. They were unhappy that details were not given about those aspects of the Treaties contained in the Schedule to the orders which might be considered to be directly applicable within the United Kingdom. The Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments had drawn the attention of Parliament to the difficulties of understanding this type of order from the information of that time contained in the orders themselves. I was able to assure Members that the Government were considering what assistance they might be able to give Parliament in assessing the implications of the Treaties to be specified.

The Government gave considerable thought to how this might best be done and decided that the most appropriate means was to expand the Explanatory Memorandum which is presented to the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments with each draft Order in Council. Notice of the Government's intention was given to your Lordships in response to a question put by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, on 25th July last. Noble Lords will therefore have come to this debate with the opportunity of being better informed of the contents of these draft Orders in Council than they were previously. The Government have done their best to give indications of which Articles of the Treaties being specified they believe likely to be directly applicable in the United Kingdom. That opinion, of course, is subject to the decision of the European Court of Justice which alone has jurisdiction to determine which Treaty provisions are directly applicable.

As the Explanatory Memoranda—the one relating to this draft order and the one relating to the draft order which we shall be separately considering—contained a considerable amount of information, I shall only deal briefly with the Treaties being specified. It is not necessary to discuss at length the details therein but I should perhaps set them in their political context. The House will recall that in 1974, after political changes in Portugal, both the Portuguese Government and the Community wished for closer relations to help alleviate the political, economic and social difficulties in Portugal. The Portuguese Government proposed modification of the agreement which had been signed between the European Economic Community and the Portuguese Republic on 22nd July 1972. The present Treaties are the result of subsequent negotiations.

The 1972 Treaty had dealt only with trade matters, but the new agreement allows the Community to give Portugal considerable help to overcome the effects of social and political change and to develop her economy. The rehabilitation of industry is being assisted by a delay in the dismantlement of the tariff for industrial goods which gives some additional protection (against Community imports); and simultaneously the Community, for its part, has encouraged traditional Portuguese exports by the reduction of tariff against some products more quickly than was originally planned. For example, on most industrial products duties have been unilaterally removed.

I trust that noble Lords will agree that the efforts being made by the Community to assist generally in Portugal's economic and social development are most welcome. The Community will assist in providing a basis for co-operation in the industrial, technological and financial fields through participating in financing measures to assist development in these sectors through the medium of the European Investment Bank and the EEC/Portugal Joint Committee.

The financial protocol provides a second tranche of aid; the first was an emergency provision which was agreed in October 1975, fairly soon after the new, and hopeful, political developments in Portugal had occurred. It will help the financing of projects proposed by the Portuguese development agencies. Assistance will be to small and medium sized businesses and economic infrastructure and also to agricultural processing and development. The Agreement also embraces social security and health care. It has been agreed that Portuguese workers will qualify for benefits within the Community free from discrimination based on nationality.

All the terms of the Treaties are intended to establish a closer relationship between Portugal and the Community and will provide significant assistance to Portuguese negotiations for membership of the Community. The Government, and I am quite sure all parts of the House, strongly support democracy in Portugal and welcome the Portuguese application for membership which represents a further investment in the democratic future of Europe. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft European Communities (Definition of Treaties) (No. 3) Order 1977, laid before the House on 3rd November, be approved.—(Lord Goronwy-Roberts.)

5.7 p.m.

My Lords, we are very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, for explaining the legal inplications of this draft order which is before your Lordships' House and the relevance of the additional protocol and financial protocol as specified in the draft order. I should also like to convey gratitude on behalf of my noble friend Lord Elton for the way in which his request was treated and for the courtesy of the Minister in seeing that his request was implemented. We are extremely grateful for the new form of Explanatory Memorandum which has undoubtedly been of great help. I am sure that if this form of Explanatory Memorandum is continued in the future it will be of benefit to both Houses when dealing with Definition of Treaties Orders.

The extension of the earlier agreement of 1972 to include provisions on social security and industrial and technological co-operation is to be welcomed, as the noble Lord has welcomed them, provided that the people of Portugal will be able to benefit economically and socially from these terms and conditions. Apart from the intrinsic merit of continuing to facilitate and, indeed, expand commercial links with our oldest trading partner and former EFTA partner, the people of Portugal are in urgent need of outside political support which the Community is undoubtedly able to give. What is questionable is whether the present Government of Portugal are able to use the advantages of these provisions for their people.

So far as I am aware and so far as Press reports are concerned, and I haw only the Press reports to go by, the IMF have withheld assistance from the Portuguese Government until some assurances have been given on the economic measures to be taken by the Government. I repeat that this is knowledge that I have gained only through the Press; I cannot confirm it officially. Does the Community, therefore, also ask for some assurances before parting with money from the European taxpayer? This is a legitimate question to ask. Also, can no pressure be put on the Portuguese Government, if assistance is to be given particularly to the agricultural sector of the economy, to ensure the implementation of revised legislation on the disastrous agricultural land reforms which followed the July 1974 uprising?

The world welcomed, as indeed our Government and country did, the return of Portugal to a system of pluralist democracy, but the domestic economic situation has worsened since that date, the agricultural output being less than in 1974; the trade balance, which was in surplus between 1966 and 1973, being now in deficit to an amount somewhere in the region of one billion U.S. dollars; and the enormous unemployment being due largely to the influx of about half a million refugees from former Portuguese African States. The refugee problem alone is a monumental problem for Portugal to handle, and sometimes it must be questioned whether or not a degree of financial concern and responsibility ought to be taken by United Nations' agencies, considering the importance and influence of resolutions taken consistently over the years in the United Nations for decolonisation, regardless of the consequences to the physical and economic survival of thousands of human beings. Nobody questions the policy, but I do question the results of a policy which has resulted in half a million refugees having to go not to Portugal but, in the vast majority of instances, to a country which was alien to them.

This consideration is of relevance since the additional protocol provides for the non-discrimination of Portuguese nationals working in the Community, and I should be grateful if the Minister could give an assurance that these articles under Title 2 of the additional protocol do not imply that they will be interpreted as meaning free movement of labour from Portugal to Community countries, but that the articles do just provide for non-discrimination of treatment in work and social security on a reciprocal basis.

I was somewhat worried by Article 12, which refers to the question of treatment of families and the receiving of benefits for Community nationals in Portugal because it refers to Article 11 (1) and (4) and omits subsections (2) and (3). The Explanatory Memorandum in paragraph 9, however, includes the fact that the family allowances should be paid to the nationals of Member States in the Community. I am not sure whether I have any right to be worried by this interpretation, but I think the matter should be clarified because in the normal circumstances I should have thought that in the third line Article 12 should read: "In Article 11 (1) to (4)". I may be wrong about that, but I should be grateful for a clarification at some stage, perhaps in a letter after the debate.

The continuing of democratic processes in Portugal is of course essential for the West as a whole, and the first step of closer integration, warmly welcomed, was of course the membership of Portugal in the Council of Europe. I hope the Minister and noble Lords will forgive me if I welcome Spain to the membership of the Council of Europe, since it is happening today. As it is part of the Iberian Peninsula, I hope I may be allowed to extend the discussion, just to state from this Dispatch Box our welcome to Spain into the Council of Europe.

Conditions in Portugal are such that the economic situation may lead—and we hope it will not—to a worsening of democratic processes. Therefore great responsibility lies within the consultative and monetary monitoring machinery included within this protocol, to ensure that the assistance given by the European Community does contribute to the objectives of economic and social improvement for the Portuguese people in a democracy. I have pleasure from these Benches in supporting the draft order for the approval of the House.

5.15 p.m.

My Lords, right away I should like to concur in welcoming Spain to the Community and I am glad that the noble Baroness made that point.

I shall be brief. I think this Statutory Instrument is of much more economic and historic importance than the man in the street realises and, while the noble Baroness hinted at the social and economic position, one must remember that under this Statutory Instrument there shall be no discrimination between Portuguese and Community workers in respect of conditions, employment or remuneration. In Britain already all our migrant workers enjoy full equality but, as I think the noble Baroness was hinting, we ought to see that there are likewise the same sort of opportunities for workmen and their wives who may migrate to work in Portugal. But as the position is now, there is no first-class legal social security system anywhere near the British system, and the reality should be pointed out to the man in the street that, while Portugal has the problem of migrants from Angola—and there is massive unemployment there—we cannot, by our own laws, prevent Portuguese workers coming into Britain, offering contracts to local authorities or even to the Government.

Therefore there is much more in this Statutory Instrument than meets the eye of the man in the street and, without quoting from the Treaty, Articles 23(9), (10), (11), are directly applicable to the British position. Consequently, I hope that while people may be enthusiastic about the Common Market, the implication of these Statutory Instruments, which we have not the possibility of debating (and there is no system of Parliamentary representation anywhere near the British system, at Brussels or anywhere else in Europe) is that most of these Directives are coming from the Commission and are likely to be bureaucratic rather than democratic. I do not want to denigrate the Treaty, but it seems to me that something ought to be said, in the way I have said it tonight, so that people are much more aware of the realities of joining the Common Market than they are at the present moment.

5.17 p.m.

My Lords, I wish first to express my appreciation of the graceful way in which the noble Baroness has referred to the improvements that have been made after consultations with the Bench opposite, and indeed with the House as a whole, which has led to the improvement in the presentation of these not always easily debatable orders. The noble Baroness raised a number of important points. The last one I can deal with at once. I agree with her that the question of social security and family allowances is best examined by a considered communication to her which she may then decide could, through the normal processes of the House, be given a more permanent life in the Official Report.

I will now pass quickly to the other important point she made. I think it is a sound point to raise, that despite our very strong sympathies with the Portuguese people in emerging from 40 years of non-democracy into the great testing time of unaccustomed democracy, nevertheless we need, by advice and perhaps some measure of guidance, to see that funds which are made available to them are properly and usefully spent. There are of course in the original Agreements between the EEC and Portugal—the Agreements of 1972—provisions for this. A Joint Committee was established which is responsible for the administration of the agreement and its proper implementation. The European Investment Bank and the Joint Committee have not yet discussed specific projects which may form the subject of loans to Portugal from the funds to be allocated. I should expect that both the EIB and the Joint Committee will wish to discuss purpose and programme in regard to every proposal put to them.

The noble Baroness quite frankly raised the question of the attitude of the IMF. I understand that the Portuguese authorities do not regard those negotiations as having broken down. The present suspension of the talks provides an opportunity for Prime Minister Soares to consult the other parties and to seek the necessary support for his economic policies. I understand that the talks are due to resume in early December and I think we all hope that it will be possible for the negotiations to be successfully concluded.

As to the question of the movement of labour raised by the noble Baroness but, I quite agree, without over-pressing it, the position is that in this order as in the next order which we shall be considering, the Agreements relating to the movement of labour might amount to a granting of free movement—that is the right to enter and reside in any other Member State in order to seek or take employment. I can give the assurance that free movement of labour still only applies to EEC nationals. The general position for workers from Portugal, and indeed the Maghreb—and I am sure I am not abusing the practices of the House by referring to a forthcoming order relating to the Maghreb countries—is that they need a work permit if they wish to take up employment here, and they will still continue to do so. The present Agreements relate not to movement of labour but to conditions of work; that is, conditions of work for migrants already working in the Community or the Maghreb or Portugal, as the case may be.

This brings me to the point made by my noble friend Lord Davies of Leek, who asked about reciprocity. This is absolute, but conditioned, of course, by the state of social legislation in the respective countries. It is an exchange of whatever facilities there are in the two countries according to the level that those facilities have reached. Like him, I would hope that those facilities will reach an equally high level, not only in these countries but throughout Europe, in all respects. But on the point he made, that there is no discrimination based on anything like nationality but rather a global reciprocity based on the availability of benefits and services, I think I can give him an absolute assurance.

My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me to intervene? He was commenting on the statement made by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, who seemed to be assuming that it was only because they might be Members of the Community that they would be getting equal treatment. Is it not the case that any foreign national working in this country always receives equal treatment, regardless of where he comes from?

My Lords, the noble Baroness and I can speak for our country in that regard. As I said last night, comparisons are sometimes odious. We are very proud of that fact. That is the position so far as we are concerned. I do not know about other countries, but I do know that this country follows that policy. The noble Baroness is absolutely right.

I think both the noble Baroness and the noble Lord mentioned the question of the relationship of these orders with Parliamentary control. We have not yet perfected this process by any means. I think we have made great strides in the last two or three years. The Government's view on the signing of Agreements before the European Parliament has had an opportunity to discuss the financial implications is that, certainly at this stage, this is a matter to be raised between the President of the Assembly and the President of the Council of Ministers. This is not a finally satisfactory answer, I know, but this is the state of progress at the moment. I think we have made progress, not enough perhaps; but the noble Lord's point is well taken, and I can assure him that Her Majesty's Government are fully apprised of its importance.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

European Communities (Definition Of Treaties) (No 4) Order 1977

5.24 p.m.

rose to move, That the draft European Communities (Definition of Treaties) (No. 4) Order 1977, laid before the House on 3rd November, be approved. The noble Lord said: My Lords, this order contains three similar Treaties signed in April 1976 between the Community and Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. These are known collectively as the Maghreb Co-operation Agreements. As the Treaties were negotiated in parallel and the provisions are almost identical, they are grouped together in this one order.

The Treaties were negotiated under the Community's "overall approach", as it is called, to those countries which border the Mediterranean. The aim of the overall approach is to establish wide ranging co-operation between the Community and its Mediterranean neighbours in a coherent manner, in order to contribute to the economic and social development of the Mediterranean countries. The Maghreb Agreements were the first to be negotiated under the overall approach.

The Agreement covers five areas: trade, economic co-operation, aid, technical cooperation, and co-operation in the field of labour. The trade provisions of the Agreements provide for free access to Community markets for industrial goods from Maghreb countries. There are some temporary derogations for sensitive products and general safeguard clauses. The intention of this part of the Agreement is to encourage industrial development in the Maghreb countries while simultaneously providing adequate protection for industry within the Community. Easy access is also granted to the Maghreb countries' major agricultural exports, particularly citrus fruits. The objective of the Agreements is the liberalisation of trade, although, with the present level of development in the Maghreb countries, provision is not at this stage made for the granting of reciprocal concessions to the Community.

Financial co-operation will be extended through the European Investment Bank by way of loans and there will be Community aid in the form of loans and grants. Algeria will be eligible for 114 million units of account (about £75 million), Morocco for 130 million units of account (£86 million) and Tunisia for 95 million units of account (£60 million); the United Kingdom's contribution to all this will be approximately £13 million. These sums will be disbursed between the date of ratification of the Agreements and the end of October 1981. They will be used for financing investment projects, technical co-operation and training schemes. Emphasis is laid on joint ventures in which the Maghreb countries themselves, EEC Member States—I take it, bilaterally—non-Member States or international organisations would cooperate together with the Community. It is hoped that projects of this kind might involve the oil-producing States also. We are dealing here with the poorer Arab countries, and one would hope that the richer Arab countries, together with Europe, would feel an interest in assisting those poorer Arab countries.

In the field of labour, the Agreements specify that Maghrebi workers should benefit from the same pay and working conditions as European workers and should enjoy specified social security rights. There are agreed reciprocal advantages for European workers in the Maghreb States. There are about 800,000 Maghrebi workers in Europe, the bulk of them in France and Germany.

The operation of the Agreements will be monitored by three Co-operation Councils which will meet each year at ministerial level. The Government believe that the provisions of the Agreements establish a comprehensive approach to development. While wishing to assist the Maghrebi States, the Community's interest in concluding these Agreements is not entirely unselfish. The Community will benefit—and Britain will benefit as part of the Community—in maintaining close trading links with those countries which represent markets for its products and which are also sources of important primary commodities. It is also hoped that the co-operation will result in the stable conditions under which European companies can operate in the Maghreb. The facts of co-operation and, certainly, of joint ventures will, in themselves, assist in creating the stable conditions which European companies, including British companies, need in order to operate in Northern Africa.

The overall aim of the Agreements is that long-term economic benefits will arise from providing assistance to the Maghreb countries to develop their own economies. There will be long term economic benefits to those countries and also to Europe. The Government therefore consider that the co-operation which the Community and the Maghreb States wish to set up will be of benefit to all of the signatories of the Treaties. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft European Communities (Definition of Treaties) (No. 4) Order 1977, laid before the House on 3rd November, be approved.—( Lord Goronwy-Roberts.)

5.31 p.m.

My Lords, once more this afternoon we are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, for giving us an explanation of the political and economic significance of the Treaties which are referred to in the draft Order before your Lordships' House. The three Treaties with Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria contained in the draft order are just one example of the expanding and continuing development and co-operation of the Community with Third World countries. The realisation in recent years of the need for Western industrialised nations to play an active and positive role in the improvement of economic and social conditions of less developed countries has been systematically implemented within the Common Commercial Policy of the European Community.

In the Fortieth Report of your Lordships' Select Committee on the European Communities, it was interesting to read that reference is made to the fact that the Community already has 74 Agreements with 92 different countries, which is just about two-thirds of the membership of the United Nations. It is no small achievement for the Nine Member States—and in this particular case I think that it refers to the different Governments that we have had in this country: Labour and Conservative have made their contributions—to be able to adopt a common position before the negotiations began with these three countries and to continue and persist for over three years until the completion of the Agreements which contain many politically sensitive issues. I think we should pay tribute to the work of the Commission and the Council of Ministers who have achieved this.

Nevertheless, these Treaties extend far beyond the normal trade and commercial relations between States which were contained in former Agreements. They involve financial aid from the Community. The noble Lord, Lord Goronwy- Roberts, and the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, referred to this point when we were considering the earlier order. However, it should be emphasised that where such considerable financial aid is involved, surely there should be some debate both in the national and European Parliament to approve these sums before completion of negotiations. The European Parliament has to approve the aid figures contained in the Community Budget. The figures appear in the Community Budget but, at present, they have already been treated as being signed within these documents before the European Parliament has even been consulted. Therefore, I ask the Minister to accept that there is need to give more consultative powers—I am asking only for consultative powers—to the European Parliament, before such agreements are signed in the future.

Also, surely it would be more democratic to debate these issues in both Houses of our national Parliament before the documents are signed? We know that it is very difficult when there are delicate negotiations taking place. No one wants to intrude on the difficult processes of government. However, at some stage policy matters are involved and Members of both Houses should have the opportunity to debate those issues.

These Treaties, which are the outcome of the Mediterranean policy of the Common Commercial Policy, represent, as stated in the preamble of the Treaties, a new model for relations between developed and developing countries. The combination of financial aid in the form of long-term, low-interest-bearing loans and grants, generous tariff concessions—as the noble Lord pointed out, on a non-reciprocal basis—and provisions relating to non-discrimination of workers, are part of the Community's answer to the demands of developing countries in the North-South dialogue and UNCTAD for a more just and equitable economic order. It is worth pointing out, when we hear so much about the new international economic order, that the policy of the Community is one long continuing process in developing this economic order. Therefore, I think that it is worth making reference to this matter. In all honesty, it must be said, as the Minister has already indicated, that the prosperity in neighbouring countries and an assured supply of raw materials, are also to the advantage of Member States of the Community, including our own.

Although the overall objective is admirable, the practical results may have, in some cases, serious repercussions. I should like to refer to the Association Agreement with Turkey which was signed in 1964. Turkey is a possible eventual applicant for membership of the European Community. That agreement was less favourable to Turkey than the present agreement with the Maghreb countries, tariff concessions being on a reciprocal basis. I draw attention to the fact that the Council of Ministers, when making further agreements, should be careful not to upset the balance of relations with countries which are important to us both strategically and as long-standing friends of this country and of other Member States of the Community.

The agricultural products of the three Maghreb countries, particularly wine and olive oil, will, under this Agreement, be in competition with agricultural products of a similar nature in the southern part of the Community itself, and may well contribute to further surpluses and heavy expenditure within the CAP budget. Undoubtedly diversification of agricultural products and growth of crops suitable to the Maghreb climate, which the Community now has to import from other countries, should certainly be encouraged by the Governments concerned.

The inflow of workers, especially during a period of high levels of unemployment within the Community—nearly 6 million at present—will undoubtedly cause difficulties both in the labour market and in the provision of housing, schooling and so on, and a heavy burden on social security disbursements. The Minister has already confirmed that this does not imply free movement of labour in the case of the Portugal additional protocol, and I gather that the same explanation applies as regards the present Treaties. In fact, the migrants will be entering the Community for specific employment under work permits.

There is also the question of the relatives of these workers coming in from third countries. I have always believed that it is perfectly right that workers should be allowed to bring their immediate families with them when they come to take up work in another country. Nevertheless, it is fair to point out that the experience, especially in the Federal Republic of Germany, of extended families being allowed entry without control, caused considerable difficulties, especially in the case of family allowances. So many children were brought that it was inconceivable that some families could have had quite so many children. In the end, it was suggested that the family allowances would be paid to the country of origin in order to stop so many children coming in.

Therefore, my contention is that it is very much better to have effective and clear controls at the outset so that the families know the position, know who is allowed in, and there is no question of these misunderstandings which lead to very great political and economic difficulties for both the host country and the country of emigration.

Although the basis of the Treaties is co-operation—commercial, technological and social—financial aid and consequent foreign investment are a considerable feature of all three Agreements. I should like to ask the Minister—not, of course, for immediate reply, if that is not possible—whether the Community has any guarantees of protection of these interests under national legislation of the three countries against expropriation without compensation; and also, protection of the lives, property and employment of Community nationals in those countries. That is a very important point which is sometimes overlooked, but in the light of the political events particularly in the Southern area of these three countries, at some stage there may be great political difficulties. The Community now has an opportunity of making these points before the ratification of the treaties. I hope that these matters will be raised with the respective Governments.

The Consultative Committee on these particular Treaties—also set up to watch over the successful implementation of these Agreements—must take these elements into account. These countries which are to benefit from Community policies for the economic and social improvement of their people must, I believe, also show their political willingness to conform to international standards of nations, for instance, in their attitudes to terrorist activities and the hijacking of planes.

The full use of the consultative machinery and general monitoring of the Agreements will play a leading role in the efficacy and success of the agreements so that they may benefit the citizens of Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria. I would ask my noble friends to approve the draft order before your Lordships' House.

5.42 p.m.

My Lords, I do not want to trespass on the time of the House for more than about three minutes. Let me say once again that it is a pleasure to endorse pretty well everything that the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, has said. I should like to re-emphasise that, so far as finance is concerned, there is a new tactic in relation to the British Parliament. Because of our peculiar Constitution, so far as this noble House is concerned, there is little that we can say about European finance and EEC finance. I believe that some formula must be found through which there is closer control of these sums of money.

Secondly, we are grateful to the powers that be who were good enough to produce the draft European Communities (Definition of Treaties) Explanatory Memoranda for the use of the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments. I hope that those who produced these will appreciate that some of us on both sides of the House are grateful for the information contained therein, because it makes much more clear to busy people what we are actually doing when we come to pass these Statutory Instruments.

I notice that I have one more minute and I shall yet finish within the three minutes. On a Thursday afternoon one does not want to upset a lugubrious noble House. I turn to a point in which I am always interested. We are told that:
"The main agricultural exports of the three Maghreb countries will be admitted to the Community at reduced rates of customs duties. The concessions are not made for products subject to the Common Agricultural Policy. For certain items where there is a significant Community production, the concessions are only granted 'out of season'".
That brings me to the last part of paragraph 9 of the Memorandum, which states:
"On the other hand the Community retains the right to take safeguard measures to protect any sector of its economy or"—
and this is the point that interests us in Britain—
"of individual Member States' economies, in the event of serious disturbances ensuing out of the trade provisions of the Co-operation Agreements".
In other words, we shall have powers to protect ourselves from floods of goods of various types.

I am well within my three minutes. My noble friend the Minister said that the estimate of the British contribution was about £13 million. I shall not quibble about that. The estimate given here in the Memorandum is £21 million. That again emphasises the point which was made crystal-clear by the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, about control of finance and knowing exactly how this money will float over frontiers. With that, I have pleasure in endorsing what has so far been said on these Statutory Instruments.

5.45 p.m.

My Lords, I very much appreciate the way in which both the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, and my noble friend Lord Davies of Leek, have spoken in support of this order, which is so similar to the first one which your Lordships' House has approved. I note with total agreement the point made by the noble Baroness that we must work at achieving a role of consultation for the Assembly and a right of control for the national Parliament. That is difficult to achieve but progress is being made. As I said when speaking on the previous order, we may not get perfection in this for quite some time, but I think everyone is bending his best efforts towards this in Strasbourg, Brussels, and certainly in London.

The noble Baroness referred to the new economic order. I agree with her that this is a continuous process. It cannot be achieved overnight. That links both of us with the point made by my noble friend Lord Davies of Leek about the need to include in these Agreements proper and reasonable provisions for the protection of the concessionary country, in this case the countries of the Community. We are of no use to the developing world if, in attempting to help them, we do serious damage to our own economies. This is not a world of automatic "demanders" who are to be satisfied overnight. This is a world in which there must be real co-operation between the developed and the developing, based on a clear understanding that the developed must be enabled not only to maintain their stronger economies but to improve them. It is on that that the pace of advance in many developing countries in fact depends.

In a more statistical mood my noble friend—I knew he would get on to the figures sooner or later—questioned the figure I gave of £13 million as the British contribution. I gave it as a sterling figure. What people can do with units of account I shall leave for another more spacious opportunity for expansion. For the moment I am quite prepared to confine myself to the familiar beatitudes of sterling.

I confirm in the case of the Maghreb countries that the same arrangements and, indeed, control as I described when I moved the first order, will apply to migrant workers from those countries. The question raised about Community legislation or legal agreement by treaty to protect properties and other interests of Community nationals in countries like those we have been discussing under these two orders, is a subject for a considered reply, as the noble Baroness suggested. Perhaps she would define the scope of the question for me and we might have a word about it. I should like to give a considered reply to this. I agree that it is of immense importance.

It is not only frustrating but dangerous to the whole process of economic and social co-operation if the West or, in this case, the Community extends substantial assistance at the cost of its taxpayers and then finds that there has been expropriation without compensation in some country which has benefited greatly from the gifts as well as the loans which a country like ours makes available to it. I take the point and I hope to give a reasonable answer to the noble Baroness on it.

On Question, Motion agreed to.