House Of Commons
Thursday 16 July 1981
The House met at half-past Two o'clock
[MR. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Humberside Bill Lords (By Order)
Order for consideration, as amended, read.
To be considered upon Tuesday 21 July.
Ullapool Pier Order Confirmation Bill
Read the Third time, and passed.
Oral Answers To Questions
Mr. J. Enoch Powell
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he expects to introduce legislation to improve the enforcement of planning control in the Province.
The Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. David Mitchell)
It is hoped to introduce legislation in the next Session on the enforcement of planning control in Northern Ireland. The proposed order will include provision for appeals against enforcement notices to be decided by the planning appeals commission, instead of by courts of petty sessions as at present.
Does the Minister recognise that this will be a valuable change in the law and that it is urgent to bring it into force in view of the spreading recognition of this loophole in planning enforcement? Is he aware that the legislation will receive the support of my hon. Friends and myself?
We are always grateful for support from any part of the House for the provisions that we introduce. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the main change will be to transfer appeals against enforcement notices from the petty sessions to the planning appeals commission. That will prevent the common evasion tactic of concurrent planning application and appeal to the petty sessions court.
Is my hon. Friend aware that there is a need to improve the law and the regulations on the serving and implementation of enforcement notices elsewhere in the United Kingdom? Will the changes be uniform throughout the United Kingdom? Has my hon. Friend consulted my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment?
Changes affecting Great Britain are not matters for my Department. I can assure my hon. Friend that the steps that we are taking are to bring the law in Northern Ireland more closely into line with that in the rest of the United Kingdom.
Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement about the security situation in the Province.
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the current security situation.
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement about the security situation in the Province.
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Humphrey Atkins)
Between last May and early July the violent disturbances which occurred in some parts of the Province virtually died out. Not surprisingly, there has been some fresh rioting since the deaths of two more hunger strikers on 8 and 13 July, though not on the scale of that in April and May. The police and the Army have dealt effectively with these outbursts but have suffered a number of injuries in the process. One youth, one of a group in a vehicle loaded with petrol bombs which attempted to force its way past the guard at a bus depot, was shot dead by soldiers on 8 July. On 9 July a woman died from injuries sustained the day before, alleged to have been caused by a baton round. Another youth died of gunshot wounds after a shooting attack on the security forces who returned fire. These incidents are the subject of police investigation.Yesterday, an explosion damaged a hotel in Belfast, and another near Newry damaged the railway line to Dublin. For the time being the line is closed. Terrorist attacks over the last few weeks have continued at a higher level than in 1980, though there has been a noticeable reduction from the level experienced in May. Since I last answered questions on 18 June two people, one a policeman and the other a civilian, have lost their lives at the hands of terrorists. One of the most deplorable incidents of the period was a Provisional Irish Republican Army mortar attack on a security force base in a residential area of West Belfast, when people were intimidated into leaving their homes. The principal casualty was a six-year-old boy. This shows the regard of the Irish Republican Army for human life and human dignity. The Government and the security forces will continue their unrelenting efforts to bring to justice those who commit these dreadlul crimes.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is now a certain commonality between the policing problems in Northern Ireland and those in England? In those circumstances, has he any plans for members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary to be appointed to the staff of the police training college at Bramshill? Will the fire resistant overalls which are to be made available to police on the mainland also be issued to the Royal Ulster Constabulary and to our troops in Northern Ireland in view of the danger that they run from attacks by fire bombs?
In the comparison between Northern Ireland and England, the terrorist element is, happily, missing in England in street disturbances. The Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Army have to face not only disturbances on the streets but determined men who are tying to use those disturbances for their own ends and to shoot, kill and maim the security forces.As regards the expertise of the RUC, perhaps it is worth reminding my hon. Friend that the commandant of the police staff college at Bramshill is Sir Kenneth Newman, who for several years was the Chief Constable of the RUC. With regard to the protective clothing issued to the security forces in Northern Ireland, both the Chief Constable and the GOC tell me that they are satisfied with what they have, but, as I have often said, if they want any more material help of any sort they can have it.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply, but does he agree that the recent visit by mainland chief officers of police to Northern Ireland pays a general tribute to the expertise that the RUC has acquired in recent years? Furthermore, does he also agree that recent operations by the security forces, particularly by the Army at the recent funeral when a firing party was seized, show great initiative, which has met with widespread approval and which should be commended by all concerned?
Yes, Sir. The recent visit by people from the Metropolitan Police force to Northern Ireland is part of the normal co-operation which is extended between one police force and another. The RUC is always ready to help in any way it can. I agree with my hon. Friend that the arrest of people at the recent funeral was a good exercise. As I have already said, decisions must be left to the judgment of the security commander on the spot. He exercised his judgment in this case with good results.
Will the right hon. Gentleman send a message of congratulation to the President of the United States for rejecting the attempts by the Dublin Government to involve him on the side of the Provisional IRA terrorists? Will he deliver a protest to the Government in the Republic for its actions, which included putting the lives of the Provisional IRA and its political life before the lives of decent people in Northern Ireland?
I note what the hon. Gentleman says, but I must tell him that communications between Governments are a matter for my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.
Does the Secretary of State agree that there is rising concern in Northern Ireland about the use of plastic bullets, in particular about the circumstances surrounding the death of the lady last week? Is he also aware of the great discontent that has been caused by a statement by his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in the House that plastic bullets would not be used in this part of the United Kingdom for riot control? If plastic bullets are to be used in Northern Ireland, they should be used here as well. I suggest that they should not be used at all, but if they are used against only one section of the population—in Northern Ireland—that will give rise to a great deal of concern that double standards are being applied. Will the right hon. Gentleman do what he can to expedite the inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of the lady whom he mentioned in his original answer?
None of us wants the police to use plastic bullets anywhere in the United Kingdom. I remind the hon. Gentleman and the House of the circumstances faced by the police in Northern Ireland. They face large numbers of determined people who throw petrol bombs, acid bombs, nail bombs and blast bombs at them, and they have to protect themselves. The judgment of the Chief Constable is that the best way of containing the situation, using minimum force, is by the use of the plastic baton round. No one would be more pleased than he or I if that could be stopped. It can be stopped at any moment if the rioting stops too.
Mr. Peter Robinson
Will the Secretary of State take it from me that many people in Northern Ireland have been greatly encouraged not only by the actions of the security forces at the funeral of Joseph McDonnell but at the recent search and seizure operation at Divis flats, where many arms were found? Given the success of that operation, will the Secretary of State now recommend that such operations be stepped up?
I shall pass on to the Chief Constable the hon. Member's congratulations. All of us are pleased when law breakers are brought to justice. That is the basis of what we are seeking to do and it is what everyone wants. The precise operations which are carried out by the police are and must remain a matter for the Chief Constable. Of course, he has my full backing in everything he does.
Mr. Wm. Ross
Is the Secretary of State aware of the increasing evidence of pressure being extended to the Roman Catholic community to support the various H block marches? What steps does he intend to take to remove from society those who are putting that pressure on the Roman Catholic population in many areas, including my village of Dungiven?
Anyone who does anything unlawful should be brought before the courts. That is what we continually seek to do. I am aware that pressure is being put on people to join H block marches and other such marches. It has not been successful because it seems that attendance at such marches is not on the increase but on the decrease.
Crumlin Road Prison
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what progress is being made in the efforts to recapture those involved in the breakout from the Crumlin Road prison on 10 June.
The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Michael Alison)
The Royal Ulster Constabulary is making every effort to recapture these men, but it would not be in the public interest to say how it is going about it. At least one of the eight is now thought to be in the Republic of Ireland, where I am confident that the authorities will continue their efforts to bring him and any of the others who may be in their jurisdiction to justice.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply, but is he content in the knowledge that one or more of those escapees seems to be able to live and move freely and with impunity in the Republic? If he is not content in that knowledge, what steps are he and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State taking to end that position?
As far as I am aware, it is only hearsay that one or more of those escaped prisoners has been sighted in the Republic. I am confident that if those men were openly moving around in the Republic, they would be arrested and brought to trial.
If the escaped terrorist in the Republic is apprehended there, what charges will be brought against him under the extra-territorial legislation?
I believe that I am right in saying that the Republic's Extra-Territorial Criminal Law Jurisdiction Act would be implemented and activated by the crimes which the men concerned committed—that is to say, breaking out of a Northern Ireland gaol.
Rev. Ian Paisley
Is the Minister aware that one of those escapees appeared publicly at a press conference in the Republic? Is it not his duty to put his extra-territorial powers into operation to have that man arrested and brought to trial, even in the Republic?
It would be the responsibility of the authorities in the Republic, if the man appeared in public, to arrest him under the appropriate legislation. I have heard reports that he has appeared, but not in such a way as to make it possible for him to be apprehended at that moment.
Will the Minister say something not only about the recapture of those men but about the inquiry into the prison break? There are all sorts of rumours, and when rumours start to emanate from Northern Ireland they can quickly gather ground. What stage has the inquiry reached? Will the Minister scotch some of the rumors about the lack of security in the prison at the time of break-out, because those rumouurs are spreading? At the same time, to show the even-handedness of the Government, it is as well to state that there have been other finds of arms, not only at the Divis flats but at the UDA headquarters. There was to be an inquiry into that. How far has it developed?
I regret that I cannot reply to the latter question without notice, but I shall see that the right hon. Gentleman is informed. The inquiry by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons into the escape is being conducted as rapidly and as vigorously as possible. The Chief Inspector has completed his local inquiries, having extensively interviewed and examined the situation in the prison concerned. He has now left Northern Ireland and we hope to have his report by the end of the month at the latest.
Republic Of Ireland (Talks)
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what discussions he has had with the new Government of the Republic of Ireland about Northern Ireland.
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he has any plans to hold discussions with the new Government of the Republic of Ireland.
Mr. Humphrey Atkins
On 3 July I attended a meeting which my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal had with the acting Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic and the Foreign Minister designate, at which they made known to us their views on current issues in Northern Ireland which affect them. There are no plans for further meetings at present, but meetings will take place as and when appropriate between myself and my collegues and Ministers of the new Government in the Republic.
Does the Minister agree that relations between Her Majesty's Government and the new Irish Government are unlikely to be normal until a solution has been found to the hunger strike? Is not the Irish Government's view that the dividing line between the British Government and the hunger strikers is now very narrow? Since the Irish Government support terrorism no more than we do, should not an effective effort be made by the Government to find a solution to the strike?
We have been doing our utmost for the past nine months to bring the strike to an end, and we shall continue to do so, but there is no way in which we shall abandon the two principles upon which our position has always rested. First, we shall not acknowledge that a political motive for a crime makes it less heinous, and, secondly, we shall not surrender control of the prisons to the prisoners.
Will the Minister accept that the Southern Irish Government are under far more pressure over Northern Ireland than previous Irish Governments have been? Will he also accept that on a cross-party delegation five or six years ago, when we spoke, for instance, to Garret FitzGerald and to Conor Cruise O'Brien, before he fled to The Observer, they would not take Northern Ireland into account because they did not believe that it was electorally important, but that now it is very important? Therefore, because of the massive pressures in the Republic and in Britain, should not the two Governments get together and make at least some concession to break the log jam. If they do not, we shall be killing each other for years and years. Should the right hon. Gentleman not take some action, such as allowing the prisoners to wear their own clothes in gaol, which is one of the five points?
I entirely accept that it is sensible for Ministers of both Governments to get together to discuss matters of common concern, and that is precisely what happened at the meeting held by my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal, which I attended. I have no doubt that the Government of the Republic have their difficulties; all Governments do. However., that is no reason for us to abandon the principles to which we have stuck, with the support of the House, for the past nine months.
Mr. J. Enoch Powell
In view of the Secretary of State's earlier welcome intimation that communications between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the Irish Republic are the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, why did he accept this question?
I did so because the question asked what discussions I had had, and not what discussions any other Minister had had. I therefore reported to the House on the meeting. I repeat my words for the right hon. Gentleman's benefit. I attended a meeting which my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal had. So I did.
Did the Eire Minister mention the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace? If so, the Secretary of State should bear in mind that that is a misnomer and that its correct name is the Irish Roman Catholic commission for Republican victory in Northern Ireland. Will he make sure that he deals with it with great care, or he will end up talking with the hunger strikers in the Maze prison?
I only know the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace by the name that it gives itself. I do not know what else it is called by other people. As the hon.Gentleman knows, the prisoners have rejected the commission's proposals as falling far short of their demands, and they do not want to see it any more.
Does the Secretary of State accept that recent statements emerging from the prisoners at Long Kesh seem to recognise that the demands for political status have been withdrawn? It was on the basis of those demands that I took the stand with him in saying that they should never be given political status for the crimes that they committed. May we now be in a position where it is possible to lose face and save lives? May this issue hinge on the question of saving face and losing lives? If the Provisional IRA and its members have withdrawn the claim for political status, to which I was bitterly opposed, may there not now be room for manoeuvre?
I obviously take seriously what the hon. Gentleman says, but he places me in something of a difficulty. The next question on the Order Paper from the hon. Member for Battersea, South (Mr. Dubs) deals with precisely those matters. However, may I say that I always listen carefully to what the hon. Gentleman has to say?
Is it not rather difficult to have a close relationship with the Government of the Republic when they have apparently invited a foreign Government to intervene in Northern Ireland? Did the Irish Government consult my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary over the invitation to President Reagan to intervene?
I can only say that there was no consultation with me, but then I would not expect there to be. As I said earlier, relations with foreign countries are a matter for my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. The Government of the Republic, as was said earlier, have their own difficulties, but then all of us do.
Several Hon. Members
Order. I shall not be able to go around all the parties for the rest of questions if we are to make progress.
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he now has any proposals to alter prison regulations in Northern Ireland.
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will visit Her Majesty's prison, Maze.
Mr. Humphrey Atkins
As to the question of my visiting the prison, I have done so in the past and will do so again when I judge it appropriate.The position as regards prison regimes in Northern Ireland was set out in my statements of 30 June and 8 July, copies of which are in the Library of the House. I have made it clear throughout that I do not rule out the possibility of further reform when the hunger strike comes to an end. The protesting prisoners indicated, in a statement made on 4 July, that they are not looking for special treatment compared with other prisoners. That may mean that they are now more concerned with prison conditions. Therefore, I thought it right, as I announced yesterday, to accept an offer by the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit Northern Ireland prisons to assess conditions there and, if it thinks fit, to make recommendations to improve them.
Is the Secretary of State aware that, despite what he said this afternoon and on earlier occasions, many people are still genuinely puzzled as to why the hunger strike has not yet been brought to an end? Given that the prisoners have dropped their wish to be treated separately from other prisoners in the gaol, and that they appear to have conceded that there should be no para-military organisation in the gaol, what remaining issues prevent an agreement to bring the matter to an end?
I share the hon. Gentleman's puzzlement as to why the prisoners are continuing their hunger strike. They appear to have dropped their demand for differential treatment. If, therefore, they are complaining about prison conditions, which it appears that they are, they have always had the remedy available to them to complain to the European Commission of Human Rights. They do not take it, and I do not know why. However, if it is a matter of prison conditions, it seems right to accept the offer of the International Committee of the Red Cross, which has wide experience in these matters. We believe that the conditions in the Maze prison are superior to conditions in any other prison, and I am convinced that we are right. Nevertheless, it is right that the International Committee of the Red Cross should go in. In fact, I hope that it is going to the prison this afternoon. If it has comments to make, we wish to hear them.
Does the Minister agree that the Red Cross committee, though no doubt welcome, is no substitute for negotiations with the Government, who run the prisons and with whom, presumably, the hunger strikers regard themselves as being in dispute? As the Minister has specifically mentioned political status and control of prisons, and as those two conditions now appear to have been dropped, cannot negotiations now take place which will reduce the loss of life both inside and outside the prisons? Is not that something that everybody wants?
This is not a trade dispute. These men have been convicted by the courts of hideous crimes.
But these men are starving to death.
The Government's business is to carry out the sentence of the court, which is that they should be kept in prison for whatever term of years has been imposed. It is our duty to do that, and by doing that to protect the public. It is also our duty, as we judge it, to have the most humane and best regime that we can in the prisons, consistent with securing the safety of the public by keeping these people inside. This we are anxious to do. As I have said, it is my belief that conditions in the Maze are superior to those anywhere else. We shall see. The International Committee of the Red Cross, which has wide experience of prisons throughout the world, is coming to look.
Rev. Ian Paisley
Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that, the prisoners having made it clear in their call to the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic that he should now support all of the five points, they have dropped none of the five points? Moreover,did not the right hon. Gentleman himself say at the Dispatch Box that in his opinion those five points constitute political status?
It was not my opinion that they constituted political status. That was what the prisoners themselves said way back in 1976. It is their interpretation of political status that those five demands should be met. As regards their calls on the Government of the Republic to support them, they are trying desperately to get support wherever they can.
Will the Secretary of State confirm that as late as this morning Mr. Gerry Adams said that the International Red Cross should visit the Maze only if it intended to support the five demands? Will he go further and recommend to his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that when that international body has visited the Maze it will find time also to visit Rollestone camp, which I believe is to be used to house the rioters on the mainland, and make a decision as to whether facilities there are in any way comparable with those offered in the Maze?
I have seen the same report about what Gerry Adams said, and it is perhaps not surprising that he should have said it. As I have said, the International Committee of the Red Cross has its own standards and its own way of going about things. I have no doubt that when its representatives go into the Maze—they may even now be there—they will exercise their judgment and do their job impartially, whatever Mr. Adams may say. The International Committee of the Red Cross has not been invited to visit prisons in the rest of the United Kingdom.
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what is the current annual per capita public expenditure devoted to Northern Ireland from central funds; and how this currently compares with the per capita pro vision from public funds in the Republic of Ireland.
The figure for 1981–82 is estimated to be £1,625 at 1980 survey prices. This is calculated on the basis of table 2.17 of the last White Paper on public expenditure—Cmnd. 8175—but also includes expenditure in Northern Ireland by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and is adjusted to take account of additional resources made available for the Northern Ireland electricity service. A comparable figure for other countries is net readily available.
Does the Minister agree that the economic condition of Northern Ireland should be regarded as of at least equal importance to its history and record of sectarian division, and that it might be of advantage in both the north and the south of Ireland if regular and full comparisons were made so chat eventually, perhaps, the advantages of co-operation or even unity might be more readily perceived?
I take note of the hon. Gentleman's point. The OECD no doubt tries to produce comparable figures and statistics for both countries, but there can be no compulsory basis for unifying and harmonising those statistics. We therefore have to make do with what we can get by scrutinising independently published figures.
Mr. Wm. Ross
Can the Minister give comparable figures for the Rother Valley?
Not without notice.
Sir John Biggs-Davison
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on his latest consideration of constitutional changes for Northern Ireland.
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on constitutional progress in Northern Ireland.
Mr. Humphrey Atkins
On 2 July I announced to the House my intention to form a Northern Ireland Council and outlined my proposals for its composition and range of functions. I also told the House that I would consult the Northern Ireland political parties about the details of those proposals before inviting the House to approve them. This process has begun.
Sir John Biggs-Davison
Has my right hon. Friend analysed The Sunday Times poll, which indicates that there is considerable Roman Catholic support in Northern Ireland for the Union and that about 39 per cent. of Roman Catholics would find integration acceptable? As then: is no general agreement on forms of devolution, will he give more consideration to integration?
I have seen The Sunday Times poll. My hon. Friend will remember that one of the range of functions that I shall invite the Northern Ireland Council to consider is the future form of administering the affairs of the Province. It seems to me better in the end, rather than simply relying on a poll, to collect together the elected representatives of the political parties and get them to advise me.
Since, in the legislative field, the Secretary of State could well make more use of the Northern Ireland Committee consisting of all hon. Members representing Northern Ireland in this Parliament, and in the local government sphere he could transfer more powers to district councils, why does he persist in the antediluvian idea of an advisory council?
The question of the Northern Ireland Committee of the House is more a matter for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House than for me. I am not aware that any meeting of that Committee requested by Northern Ireland hon. Members has ever been refused. If I am wrong about that, I stand to be corrected. It is a matter for Members of the House how much use they make of that Committee.On the second point, I repeat that one of the functions of the Northern Ireland Council will be to discuss among its members how we should proceed—including, if it wishes, the restoration of more power to local authorities—and advise me. I shall then be able to come to the House and make recommendations, knowing, I hope, that they have the support of the elected representatives in Northern Ireland.
With regard to the preliminary consultations about the advisory council, does not the Secretary of State see the impossibility of anyone engaging in what he describes as discussions on matters of detail when one of the parties is utterly opposed to the concept in principle?
The hon. Gentleman must say what he thinks is possible or impossible. I shall find it very surprising if political parties in Northern Ireland refuse to take an opportunity to discuss how they may be more closely involved and take more power in controlling their own affairs.
Mr. Nicholas Winterton
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what initiatives the Government are taking to encourage the use of the provisions of the Education (Northern Ireland) Act 1978; and how much support it is giving to the plan to open an integrated non-sectarian school in Belfast in September.
The Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. John Patten)
The decision to seek controlled integrated school status under the Act is a matter for the transferor representatives in the case of a controlled school or for the trustees in the case of a voluntary school. The Government have made it clear that they will support integration wherever practical proposals are put forward and there is a local wish for it.As to Lagan college, to which I think my hon. Friend refers, this school will be established as an independent school. The founders—the All Children Together Charitable Trust—have been told that the Government will give them whatever assistance they can, consistent with that status, and it will, of course, be open to them to apply for grant-aided status whenever they consider it appropriate to do so.
I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for that very full reply. While he and I, and no doubt all Members of the House, fully appreciate the part that Church schools can play in education, is he aware that there is considerable support among the Roman Catholic population of Ulster for integrated non-sectarian education? Will he and the Government do their utmost to support integrated non-sectarian education and provide the necessary finance for it to take off in a big way?
Of course—wherever there is clear evidence that members of the local communities and the parents of children wish that to happen. The Government constantly face the dilemma of a society which, on the one hand, seems so divided, with segregated housing, but which, on the other hand, produces opinions to the effect that, perhaps, there should be more integrated education.It is difficult for the Government to judge how far one can force on any society—we certainly do not on this side of the water—education of one sort or another against the wishes of parents. At the same time, it is worth drawing to the attention of the House the fact that there are schools in Northern Ireland attended by both Roman Catholic and Protestant children and that such schools function normally and well.
As the hon. Member responsible for that Act, I recognise the limitations to which the Minister has referred. During the next year or so, will the Government carry out a thorough review of the movement towards desegregation within schools and other education institutions in Northern Ireland, and perhaps publish a detailed report?
I shall draw the hon. Gentleman's comments to the attention of my noble Friend, who is the Minister responsible.
As the Government recognise that there is a deep division in Northern Ireland over housing and every other matter, surely their duty is to stop paying taxpayers' money for the maintenance of religious apartheid in education. They must face up to their responsibilities some time.
The Government always face up to their responsibilities. They in no way support religious apartheid in Northern Ireland. Apartheid is the forced separation of different races or communities, but there are schools in Northern Ireland which Protestant and Roman Catholic children attend together.
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will renew attempts to secure effective extradition arrangements with the Irish Republic.
Mr. Humphrey Atkins
The Government's views on extradition are well known to the new Government in the Republic of Ireland. We consider that extradition would be the best way of bringing to justice fugitives south of the border for the crimes they are alleged to have committed in Northern Ireland. In its absence, the extra-territorial legislation remains the best alternative. As in the past, we expect the Government of the Republic to use this legislation, which permits prosecution in one jurisdiction for an offence committed in the other.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that my question was tabled some time before his statement this afternoon about the responsibility of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs? For that I apologise. However, does not extradition depend on the definition of the term "political offence"? Should not the Government and the courts of the Irish Republic be forced to explain before international opinion how they can apply that term to murder, robbery and other such crimes?
The Government of the Republic, like any Government, must answer at the bar of world opinion. I am sure that they will note what the hon. Gentleman has said.
Sir John Biggs-Davison
Have not the Criminal Jurisdiction Act and the Republic's Criminal Law Jurisdiction Act proved ineffective? Will my right hon. Friend urgently review their working and report to the House?
The cross-border jurisdiction Acts have not produced the results that we hoped. However, I remind my hon. Friend that a man is currently appearing before the courts in the Republic charged with the murder of Mr. Ross Hearst, a member of the UDR, just inside the border in County Armagh last September.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that we would take the blandishments of the Government of the Republic on other matters a little more seriously if they took this matter more seriously? Is he aware that some of their actions suggest that they are not responding to the full, in particular their unwillingness to hand over some of the escaped criminals and others who are living in their country?
I note what the right hon. Gentleman says. The new Government of the Republic are in their early days of office. Let us hope that the procedures agreed between us will prove to be more effective than they sometimes seem to have been in the past.
United States Congress (Members' Visit)
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will invite any six members of the United States Congress to spend two months in Northern Ireland with complete and untrammelled access to all persons and places.
Mr. Humphrey Atkins
No, but members of the United States Congress are always welcome visitors to Northern Ireland, and appropriate facilities are provided for them.
Might it not help to dispel some of the current mythology in the United States about what is happening in Northern Ireland if we extended such a formal invitation and gave absolutely free facilities to the people concerned?
I repeat that members of the United States Congress are welcome to come, and they do. We talk to them. Indeed, four members of Congress were in the Province only a fortnight ago. I cannot go along with the hon. Gentleman's suggestion that they should have
for two months."complete and untrammelled access to all persons and places"
Mr. J. Enoch Powell
In view of the horrific accounts circulating as to conditions in American gaols, ought not such arrangements be made on a reciprocal basis, if at all?
If the right hon. Gentleman wishes to visit American gaols, I have no doubt that the United States will offer him all the necessary facilities to do so.
Mr. Thomas Cox
asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 16 July.
The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)
This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet and had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall be having further meetings later today.
Is the Prime Minister aware that the Government will today suffer a most humiliating defeat that will clearly indicate the total rejection of their economic policies? Does the right hon. Lady realise that if she will not start to listen to what the British people are saying and change the policies that have caused much of the social unrest that we have witnessed in the last few weeks, she should step aside and allow someone else to lead the country—someone committed to rebuilding our society rather than to its continuous destruction?
The Prime Minister
It is not unknown for by-elections in mid-term to cause problems for most Governments.
Rev. Ian Paisley
Will the right hon. Lady speak today to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland about the proposed closure of British Enkalon in Antrim, which will throw another 1,100 people out of work? Will not the right hon. Lady relax her inflexibility and give a grant to that factory?
The Prime Minister
1 am aware of the closure of British Enkalon, and the news was disappointing to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Generous arrangements were offered to British Enkalon to share the losses, but they were not taken up. Therefore, my right hon. Friend will do everything than he can to attract further industry to that area, including the building of new advance factories.
Mr. John Silkin
As it is better for young people to lay bricks than to throw them, what hope can the Prime Minister offer to the 320,000 school leavers who are now on the dole and to the 100,000 school leavers who will he joining them next week?
The Prime Minister
The right hon. Gentleman will be aware of the pledges given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment and myself at Question Time and during the last debate on this subject. We shall ensure that school leavers who have not got a job by Christmas are offered a place on the youth opportunities programme, and we shall increase that programme by a sufficient amount to ensure that that guarantee is met.
Go and tell them that in Brixton.
Is not the problem one of long-term employment rather than one of job opportunities? Is it not a fact that the Manpower Services Commission has pointed out that two-thirds of young people under the age of 18 will be unemployed by 1983 unless the right hon. Lady and her Government change their policies?
The Prime Minister
If the right hon. Gentleman had read his former leader's speeches, he would know that we shall improve the prospects for employment in Britain only if we keep labour costs down, below those of our competitors.
Mr. David Steel
Even in advance of this afternoon's debate, may I ask the Prime Minister whether she is aware that yesterday I met a number of police officers in Liverpool who are doing their best—amidst some aggression and hostility—to restore good relations with the ethnic minority communities? Is she further aware that their efforts, and those of many others, will be hopelessly undermined by the type of police raid tactics seen yesterday in Brixton?
The Prime Minister
The right hon. Gentleman is unwise to make a judgment about what happened in Brixton yesterday before he can know the facts. My right hon. Friend, having had a report from those who have been to Brixton this morning, will doubtless comment about it in his speech. As regards Liverpool, I saw the strenuous efforts that the police are making to restore good relations with the community. I believe that they are succeeding. We should support the police in those efforts and encourage them in every way.
Mr. Nicholas Winterton
asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 16 July.
The Prime Minister
I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave some moments ago.
Will my right hon. Friend find time today to deplore the attitude of the "simply divine and holier than thou party" and its self-appointed leaders, Mr. Jenkins and Mrs. Williams, in seeking to lay the blame at the Government's door for many of the problems that we face? Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that these people are responsible, because Mr. Jenkins said that a permissive society was a civilised society and repealed the Riot Act and Mrs. Williams stood on the picket line at Grunwick, where we witnessed such violence and intimidation? Will my right hon. Friend assure our people that she will seek to re-establish the disciplines and aptitudes that made this country the most influential and civilised in the world?
The Prime Minister
I wholly agree that Mr. Jenkins' saying that a permissive society is a civilised society is something that most of us would totally reject. Society must have rules if it is to continue to be civilised. Those rules must be observed and upheld by Government and by all leaders throughout the community. I also agree that the incident in which two Labour Cabinet Ministers stood on the Grunwick picket line should never, never be forgotten.
As the Prime Minister has recognised—somewhat belatedly—the North-South divide internationally, as described in the Brandt report, when will she recognise the North-South divide in this country? Does she realise that the gap continues to grow and that the unemployment figures in the five counties of the Northern region continue to be the highest in the country? Given what has happened recently in this country, will she not try the patience of the Northern people too far?
The Prime Minister
That is exactly why we have a regional aid programme and why a number of us make strenuous efforts to try to secure major overseas contracts, some of which are of great benefit to the people of the North-East and of Scotland. As regards the implication in that question, I should point out that the aid given to Liverpool and the Liverpool area last year under the Industry Act was nearly twice the amount given durng the last year of the Labour Government.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the vast majority of people in Britain strongly support the firm line taken with rioters and looters? However, will she consult her Cabinet colleagues to see what can be done to encourage greater public participation in the organisation of youth activities of every kind? Does she believe that this can greatly help to keep young people busily occupied—
What about work?
during the summer months in worthwhile activities?
The Prime Minister
I agree that participation is needed from all groups in society to try to find things for our young people to do, to find extra jobs and to find things to occupy their spare time. Such things can never be solved by a Government alone. They must be solved by leadership at all levels, including the voluntary societies.
Is the right hon. Lady aware that the people of Warrington will speak—[Interruption.]—for England—
What about the Scots? What about the Welsh?
Order. We must hear the right hon. Gentleman's question.
Is the right hon. Lady aware that while she is making cheap jibes at a former distinguished Home Secretary—
The right hon. Gentleman is trying to pinch his job.
the people of this country are waiting for her to demonstrate from the Dispatch Box the breadth of vision, understanding and sympathy that they expect from a Prime Minister when faced by the social tensions that we have seen in the past fortnight? Is the right hon. Lady aware that throughout the past fortnight she has been supported by the Social Democrats in her bid to uphold law and order, but that she will be condemned by us and the people of this country unless she demonstrates a similar capacity to concentrate on the economic, unemployment and social problems of our inner cities?
The Prime Minister
The right hon. Gentleman said that I made cheap jibes at a former Home Secretary. I quoted a former Home Secretary. If that is a cheap jibe, it is a jibe from Mr. Jenkins' mouth. A Government must uphold law and order and expect to be supported by the vast and overwhelming majority of the people in this country. I believe that we are supported by them.
asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 16 July.
The Prime Minister
I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave some moments ago.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that as long ago as November 1976 influential observers predicted that there would be 2·5 million unemployed by 1981? As that prediction was made by the Labour Party's finance and economic affairs committee, will my right hon. Friend use her good influence to obtain another debate in the House on unemployment so that we may have an opportunity to find out why—if the Labour Party's policies had been pursued—we would have had 2·5 million unemployed by today?
The Prime Minister
I know the prediction to which my hon. Friend referred. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment referred to it in our last debate on employment prospects. The Labour Government also knew that there was considerable overmanning in Britain and that it would have to be dealt with. They knew that our industry was not competitive, and that until it became so we would not get the lion's share of the jobs. They also knew something that has now come to pass, namely, that the size of the labour force would increase because there were comparatively few people of retirement age while, for three years, a large number of young people would join the labour force. Even if there had not been a world recession, we should have had to find about 1 million extra jobs. That is a big task, which the Government are setting about.
Mr. John Silkin
May I say that I support the right hon. Lady when she talks about law and order? However, from my experience of my constituency may I point out that the police should never be used as an alibi for her failures and those of her Government.
The Prime Minister
The police are never used as such an alibi. It is monstrous and disgraceful that the right hon.Gentleman should imply that they are. I hope that he will uphold the police in the actions that they take to restore law and order and that he will accept that, until law and order and public confidence have been restored, we cannot set about improving the economic or social conditions of this country.
I support the police and law and order and I have seen them at work in my constituency. However, is not the right hon. Lady aware that public confidence is involved and that public confidence will not be gained when we have a Government who have given the country unemployment, who destroy our industry and who show a total disregard for the unity of the nation?
The Prime Minister
If there was a quick answer to unemployment, why did the right hon. Gentleman's Government have 1·6 million unemployed and why were they unable to do much about it?
And if there was no quick answer to unemployment, why did the right hon. Lady and her party promise to give it on 3 May 1979?
The Prime Minister
I did not promise a quick answer. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] In every one of my replies I give the only answer that there is to unemployment, and which is always rejected by the Opposition. The only answer there is to unemployment is to have labour costs below those of our competitors and to produce goods that the right hon. Gentleman's constituents will buy and that we can sell overseas. Until that is understood, we shall not have better job prospects. I ask even the right hon. Gentleman to recognise that there is a connection between pay and jobs—the bigger the pay increases, the bigger the unemployment.
Business Of The House
Mr. John Silkin (Dulwich)
Will the Leader of the House make a statement about the business for next week?
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Paymaster General and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Francis Pym)
The business for next week will be as follows:MONDAY 20 JULY—Debate on The preliminary draft general Community budget for 1982 and on the draft amending budget No. 1 for 1981. Third Reading of the Finance Bill. Motion on the European Community document 5704/81 on fresh poultry meat. TUESDAY 21 JULY—Supply [28th Allotted Day]: There will be debates on the motions on the rate support grant reduction reports for the Lothian region and the Dundee and Stirling districts. Motion on the undertaking by the Secretary of State for Scotland with Western Ferries (Argyll) Limited. WEDNESDAY 22 JULY—Supply [29th Allotted Day]: There will be a debate on the Navy, on a motion for the Adjournment of the House. The Questions will be put on all outstanding Votes. Consideration of Lords amendments to the Contempt of Court Bill. Motion on the Co-operative Development Agency (Grants) Order. Motions on the undertakings relating to the Highlands and Islands shipping services. Motion on the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board Order. THURSDAY 23 JULY—Proceedings on the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill. FRIDAY 24 JULY—A debate on the Brandt report, on a motion for the Adjournment. MONDAY 27 JULY—Completion of remaining stages of the Wildlife and Countryside Bill [Lords]. Consideration of Lords amendments to the Armed Forces Bill. Motions on the European Community documents 7305/81, 7306/81 and 7825/81 on the steel industry. The following documents are relevant to the debate on the preliminary draft budget for 1982 (7450/81) and the preliminary draft amending budget No. 1 for 1981:Preliminary draft supplementary budget No. 2, 1980 (12085/80)Draft supplementary budget No. 2, 1980 (unnumbered)Modifications and amendments by the European Parliament to the draft supplementary budget No. 2, 1980 (12547/80 and 12489/80)Decisions taken by the Council on the European Parliament's amendments and modifications to draft general budget, 1981 (unnumbered explanatory memorandum of 11 December 1980). The following reports of the European Legislation Committee are relevant to the debates:Budget: 10th Report, 1980–81, HC 32-x, para. 2; 28th Report, 1980–81, HC 32-xxviii, paras. 1 and 2.Poultry Meat: 25th Report, 1980–81, HC 32-xxv, para. 4.
I thank the Leader of the House. I thank him for arranging a debate on the Brandt report. It is a most important debate and the Opposition expect that it will be wide-ranging. I hope that the Lord Privy Seal will be able to tell the House at the beginning of the debate how the Government intend to approach the summit. Perhaps Friday is not the best day for that; I understand the difficulties of the Leader of the House.Can the Leader of the House confirm whether on Tuesday we may have a statement from the Secretary of State for Employment because, by all accounts, the unemployment figures on Tuesday will be the worst ever—probably over 3 million? I believe that the Secretary of State for Employment should make such a statement on Tuesday as it will probably be the last opportunity to challenge him before the recess. Will the Leader of the House also give us an assurance that the Secretary of State for the Environment will make a statement before the House rises about the planning application by the National Coal Board to develop the Vale of Belvoir? My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has raised this subject twice before and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will now respond to it. I know how difficult time is, but will there be time for a debate on the cuts being made in the BBC's external services? The amount of money is small, but it is a matter of great importance to both sides of the House. Finally, will the Leader of the House confirm that the House will not be sitting on Wednesday 29 July? Can he yet give us a date when the House will rise?
I am grateful for what the right hon. Gentleman said about Friday's debate. I note his remarks about its wide-ranging nature. I will convey that to my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal. I will also convey his remarks to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment about the figures that are likely to be announced next Tuesday. The right hon. Gentleman said that that was the last moment when matters under that heading could be raised. That would be an appropriate subject to be raised, if any hon. Member so wished, on the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill on Thursday 23 July. I note the right hon. Gentleman's request.I have nothing further to add to what I said to the Leader of the Opposition last week about the Vale of Belvoir. My right hon. Friend still has that important matter under consideration. He will announce his conclusion and his decision as soon as he has reached it. I cannot guarantee that that will happen before the House rises, although I appreciate that that is desirable. I do not see a possibility of a debate on the BBC's external services before the House rises, but that, too, would be an appropriate subject to raise in next Thursday's debate on the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill.
Mr. Joseph Dean (Leeds, West)
The hon. Gentleman may say "Disgraceful". I have said that I do not see such an opportunity. I have provided many days in recent weeks at the request of right hon. and hon. Members, and it would have been open to the Opposition to have chosen that subject for a Supply day debate, had they so wished. That is a matter for them.I can confirm that, subject to the necessary motion being approved, the House will not sit on the day of the Royal wedding. It may be for the convenience of the House to know that, subject to the progress of business, I hope that the House will be able to rise for the summer on Friday 31 July, but, as the House and the right hon. Gentleman will understand, I am not able to guarantee that date. I believe that it is the wish of the House to rise on that date if it can possibly be arranged.
Will the right hon. Gentleman please convey to his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment the concern of the Opposition that it is now six months since the inspector's report on the Vale of Belvoir? We are due to go into recess, as the right hon. Gentleman said, on 31 July. We should know the answer before the House goes down.
I shall convey those strong representations to my right hon. Friend. The right hon. Gentleman will understand that I cannot guarantee an answer, but I will convey those representations.
Mr. John Peyton (Yeovil)
Will my right hon. Friend take note that the last 20 minutes appear to suggest that the right hon. Member for Dulwich (Mr. Silkin) could become a source of added pressure on the parliamentary timetable unless we are careful?Will my right hon. Friend give further consideration to an earlier announcement of when Parliament will rise for the Summer Recess? I say that not because I am anxious to go on holiday—of course I am not—but because I ask my right hon. Friend to give it careful thought. A House of Commons which is incapable of deciding either when it is to go on holiday or when it is to go to bed will have little influence on national affairs.
My right hon. Friend may have a point about the right hon. Member for Dulwich (Mr. Silkin), but it is also fair to say that normally the right hon. Gentleman does not detain the House often or at great length by his interventions.On the question of the recess, I think that the immediate circumstances of the House and country are somewhat unusual. For that reason I have thought it right not to give an absolute commitment on the date. However, I believe that the House would wish to rise, if possible, on 31 July. I hope that that will prove to be possible.
Several Hon. Members
Order. I must inform the House that over 60 right hon. and hon. Members are hoping to participate in the major debate of the day. They will be exceedingly lucky if they are all able to participate. I hope that questions will be brief and to the point. If we have not finished the questions by 3.55, I propose to move on.
Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Stockport, North)
Will the Leader of the House confirm that five social security uprating orders are to be debated before the Summer Recess? Will he ensure that there is a proper and adequate debate on them, because many people are concerned that the pension will go up by 2 per cent. less than the inflation rate this autumn?
I am seeking to find a proper opportunity to discuss the orders in the way that the hon. Gentleman wishes.
Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)
Will my right hon. Friend please consider finding time to debate the absurd waste of money by the Equal Opportunities Commission, which has spent a considerable sum on suing a wine bar in Fleet Street which provides special facilities for lady customers? If the commission does not concentrate on its essential duty of dealing with employment opportunities for women, should not its grant be cut drastically?
My hon. Friend must find his own opportunity to raise that matter.
Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)
Has the right hon. Gentleman noticed over the last few months a growing demand for arts questions? The list is increasing weekly and monthly. Does he not agree that it is an important matter because Britain is not renowned for its cultural concern? Should we not increase the time available for arts questions, which at the moment stands at the ridiculous figure of 10 minutes every month?
That is a matter that I am prepared to pursue through the usual channels.
Mr. Cyril Smith (Rochdale)
Will the Leader of the House note, if there is to be any announcement in the coming days about increased aid for inner cities as a consequence of recent riots, that many of the problems apply to towns which do not qualify for inner city aid at present? If any announcement is made about extra aid to inner cities, will he ensure that the House has an opportunity to make its views known to the Government if that aid is not wide enough geographically?
I think that I shall just take note of the hon. Gentleman's request.
Mr. Barry Henderson (Fife, East)
Is my right hon. Friend aware that many local authorities in Scotland which have been prudent in their expenditure are concerned that the over-spending authorities do not steal from the resources that should be available to others? Can he clarify the business on Tuesday? Did he announce the subject for the Supply day, or are the rate support grant orders for Lothian and Dundee to be part of the Supply day debate?
The motions that I announced for Tuesday are to be taken in Supply time.
Mr. David Ennals (Norwich, North)
When will the Transport Bill come back from the other place? When will the House have the opportunity of deciding on the important amendment on seat belts?
I hope that I shall be able to make an announcement on that subject next Thursday.
Mr. A. E. P. Duffy (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Does the Leader of the House recall that in last week's defence debate there was widespread dissatisfaction on both sides of the House with the pathetic Government wind-up when the focus of concern was the Navy? In view of next Wednesday's business and as we no longer have a Navy Minister, will the right hon. Gentleman see to it that the Minister who introduces the debate knows what a modern naval vessel looks like and, preferably, has met lower deck personnel and knows what is worrying them? Will he also see to it that the Secretary of State for Defence winds up, because there are still too many questions arising out of the review which remain unanswered and which relate not only to Trident, although that is the number one question?
I cannot accept the allegations and criticisms made by the hon. Gentleman. The team in the Ministry under my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence is very competent. I am sure that it will perform competently on Wednesday.
Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West)
Does the Minister not know that the decision whether to open up the Belvoir coalfield involves many thousands of jobs in devastated Leicestershire and that it would be scandalous if that decision were announced when the House was not sitting so that we had no chance whatever of querying it? Does not exactly the same apply to the BBC? To debate such issues on the Consolidated Fund means that there can be no vote on subjects of great importance.
I have said that the matter is important. My right hon. Friend will announce his decision when he has made it.
Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South-West)
May I express a contrary view and remind my right hon. Friend that many people hope that the Secretary of State for the Environment will not allow the Belvoir application to go forward? Is he aware that we believe that it would be totally wrong so to do and that we do not bow to the views of the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner)?
It is not for me to enter into arguments about the merits. It is a matter of when my right hon. Friend is going to reach his decision.
Mr. Arthur Palmer (Bristol, North-East)
Further to the point about the Vale of Belvoir, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that three other major reports on energy are in Ministers' hands? Is not it about time that the House had the opportunity to discuss energy generally?
We have spent an unusual amount of time on energy this Session. There may be other opportunities in the next Session. There will be no further opportunities that I can see before the Summer Recess.
Mr. Leo Abse (Pontypool)
Particularly because of the link between family breakdown and social disorder, might I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early-day motion No. 479, signed by 170 Members of all parties, which relates to conciliation, custody and financial provision in divorce?
[That this House, concerned about the rising divorce rate and the consequent increase in the number of children affected by divorce proceedings and about increasing public disquiet concerning the law relating to financial provision in matrimonial proceedings, calls upon the Government, as a matter of urgency, to establish a committee of inquiry: (a) to review existing practice and procedures relating to the custody of the children of the parties, with a view to ensuring that greater emphasis is in future placed upon their interests and welfare, (b) to examine present locally-orientated and funded conciliation schemes within the procedures of the courts which exist to assist parties to divorce proceedings to resolve differences arising in relation to the consequences of such proceedings, and in particular in a manner which minimises the impact on their children, and to make recommendations as to the best manner of securing, on a permanent basis, the general availability of suitable schemes, and (c) to make specific recommendations as to the fundamental principles upon which reform of the law governing the financial consequences to the parties of divorce should be based, in the light of the discussion paper published by the Law Commission entitled The financial consequences of divorce: the basic policy' (Cmnd. 8041) and, in particular, the possible models for reform set out in Part IV of that paper.]
Will the right hon. Gentleman draw the motion to the Lord Chancellor's attention? In view of the increasing support in the House for the inquiry suggested in the motion, will the right hon. Gentleman ask the Attorney-General to make a statement?
I shall certainly convey the hon. Gentleman's request to the Lord Chancellor and the Attorney-General. I do not think that a statement will be possible—nor, unfortunately, will there be time for a debate in the near future.
Mr. Stan Crowther (Rotherham)
Roughly how long does the Leader of the House expect that the Government will make available for the debate on the EEC steel industry documents on Monday week? At approximately what time does he think the debate will start, bearing in mind the Scrutiny Committee's view that the documents are sufficiently important to warrant not the usual 90 minutes in the middle of the night but a half day's debate? Would it not be contemptuous of that Committee if the debate did not start until late at night?
I am afraid that the debate will start reasonably late in the evening. I am seeking to arrange through the usual channels what I hope both sides will agree is adequate time to debate this important subject.
Mr. Peter Hardy (Rother Valley)
May I stress the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. Crowther)? Is the Leader of the House aware that the amount of work facing the House on the Report stage of the Wildlife and Countryside Bill was assumed to be about three days? Does he accept that the Opposition have been extremely co-operative in this matter, but that we now find that we have only two days, during which there is a great deal of work to be done, and now there is a suggestion of less time on the Monday evening? Does he agree that it looks as if the steel debate will take place at about dawn on Tuesday morning and that some of us might wish to take longer, perhaps because of exhaustion, as a consequence? Does the right hon. Gentleman not perceive any threat to Tuesday's business?
We must see how we get on. I think that the Wildlife and Countryside Bill has shown itself to be capable of taking an almost unlimited amount of time, occupying practically every day in both Houses, so far as I can see. After all that has been said and after all the time that has been taken in both Houses, it seems that reasonably rapid progress would now be appropriate. At any rate, I hope that the House will take that view. The Government have done their best to be as generous as they can with time.
Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
Will the Leader of the House reconsider his statement about the Vale of Belvoir? Is he aware that the Vale of Belvoir, apart from being partly owned by the Duke of Rutland, is very good hunting country? Is he aware that it has been reported in the press that the Secretary of State for the Environment's wife is a member of one of the local packs? [Interruption.] I am sure that the Secretary of State for the Environment will want to dismiss all the speculation that the reason that, seemingly, he is going to turn down the applications for mining in the Vale of Belvoir is that his wife frequents that area on the various hunts.
I think that the House enjoyed the hon. Gentleman's question about the Vale of Belvoir as much as he did, but I have nothing to add to what I have said.
Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill
For the debate on Thursday 23 July on the Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill, hon. Members may hand in to my office by 9 am on Wednesday 22 July their names and the topics they wish to raise. The ballot will be carried out as on the last occasion. An hon. Member may hand in only his or her name and one topic.The debate will cover all the main Estimates originally presented for the current financial year in House of Commons Papers Nos. 190 and 193 and the Supplementary and revised Estimates presented since then in House of Commons Papers Nos. 266,381,382 and 405. It will be in order on Second Reading to raise any topic falling within the compass of those Estimates. I shall put out the result of the ballot later on 22 July.
Civil Service Dispute (Keighley)
Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)
I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,
The Government's action represents a widening of the Civil Service dispute. The matter is specific because 25 unemployment benefit officers at Keighley have been suspended as part of the Government's obdurate and unbending attitude in the lengthy Civil Service dispute. I believe that the officers were locked out on the instructions of the Government to escalate the confrontation on the backs of the unemployed. In their dispute with the Government, the civil servants have strenuously avoided this area for action. By their refusal to allow arbitration, the Government, and not the civil servants, have created this situation. Officers of the DHSS in Keighley were instructed to carry out work undertaken by the 25 suspended officers. They refused and, consequently, several have been suspended. This afternoon the complete office is out, and whether they return is to be decided tomorrow. I understand that the Government are suspending officers in similar circumstances in other areas of the country. The matter is vital to thousands of people who are dependent on unemployment benefit or supplementary benefit. Bradford metropolitan council is providing an emergency service with the full co-operation of the Council of Civil Service Unions and NALGO. The unemployment benefit officers offered to pay unemployment benefit in cash, but the management, acting on Government instructions, refused to allow that to take place. The matter is urgent because if the Government continue to behave in this provocative fashion the dispute and unrest could widen with widespread consequences and this issue could no longer be separated from the subject for debate in the House today. It is also urgent because a resolution of the dispute is needed to avoid hardship to those already suffering hardship imposed by the Government who put them in the dole queue in the first place."the Government's provocative action in suspending civil servants in the unemployment benefit office of the Department of Health and Social Security in Keighley."
The hon. Gentleman gave me notice that he would seek leave to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he thinks should have urgent consideration, namely,
As the House knows, under Standing Order No. 9 I am directed to take account of the several factors set out in the Order, but to give no reason for my decision. I listened carefully to the hon. Gentleman, as, I am sure, did the whole House, when he referred to the difficulties that have been caused, but I must rule that this submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order and, therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House."the Government's provocative action in suspending civil servants in the unemployment benefit office the Department of Health and Social Security in Keighley."
Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South-West)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am not suggesting that the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) was wrong in seeking leave to move the Adjournment of the House, but could you, Mr. Speaker, please refer to the Procedure Committee the whole content of Standing Order No. 9?It seems to many of us that the Standing Order is being abused and that constituency, as distinct from national, matters are frequently raised in applications made under the Standing Order. The whole matter should be looked at again by the Procedure Committee.
I am sure that what the hon. Gentleman has said will have been heard by the usual channels in the House. It is a matter for them.
Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. If the usual channels or yourself deal with this matter and take into account the number of times the Standing Order No. 9 procedure has been used in the House, I hope that the powers that be will also take into account the period of the so-called winter of discontent in 1978–79, when the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South-West (Mr. Cormack) was in Opposition and used the Standing Order No. 9 procedure many times during that period. I hope that all the occasions will be carefully catalogued.
I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman.
Statutory Instruments, &C
To save the time of the House, I shall put together the Questions on the two motions relating to statutory instruments.
That the Films (Quotas) Order 1981 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.
That the draft International Development Association (Sixth Replenishment) Order 1981 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.— [Mr. Pym.]
Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.— [Lord James Douglas-Hamilton.]
Before I call the Home Secretary, I should tell the House that more than 60 right hon. and hon. Members have already indicated to me that they hope to catch my eye. I hope that that will be borne in mind by all who participate in the debate.I hope that hon. Members will not come to the Chair to canvass their interest. In the words of my illustrious predecessor, such action would be counter-productive. I have always thought that that was a very good phrase. When we have such a long list of hon. Members wishing to speak, it makes the life of the Chair a misery if hon. Members come to the Chair canvassing for a place.
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. William Whitelaw)
Since Friday 3 July, there have been major incidents of civil disorder in many of our great cities. The first occurred in Southall, London. Over the following weekend—from 4 to 6 July—there was serious rioting in Toxteth, Liverpool. By Tuesday 7 July, and on the two days after that, the focus of disorder had shifted to Moss Side, Manchester, but there were still serious outbreaks in various parts of London.From Friday 10 July, there was repeated street violence and looting in a number of cities. From 3 July to date, more than 3,000 people have been arrested for offences committed during the disturbances. Large numbers of police officers have been injured. Some are still in hospital. Damage to property and theft of property, have been widespread. If the House and the country are to use this debate to plan our future action, we must recognise that we are not dealing with a single, simple phenomenon. The reasons for the eruption of violence, the course it took and the necessary responses to it varied from place to place. In Southall, skinheads from other parts of London moved into a predominantly Asian area. Their behaviour was provocative. The violence that followed was undoubtedly an expression of racial tension, but the main victims were the police, trapped between warring factions. In Toxteth, in Liverpool, there was concerted violence of a wholly new ferocity and intensity, directed first, and specifically, against the police. The weight of numbers, the fury of he violence, and appallingly high police injuries and property damage, compelled the chief constable as a last resort to use CS gas. A compact triangle of the city was devasted. Liverpool 8 has long suffered a range of social, economic and high crime problems. The three days of violence reflect the complexity of the situation. The first night consisted largely of black youths, children of many generations of Liverpool people, erupting against the police. The second saw a concerted attack on the police by white and black youngsters. The third witnessed a predominantly white crowd of looters exploiting the earlier disturbances, while local black leaders played a major part in keeping their young people off the streets. In Manchester, the violence was spread over a number of areas for three nights. Some of it appeared well co-ordinated. In the main it focused not on a set-piece battle with the police but on window-smashing and theft. The events there seemed to set a pattern of criminal hooliganism and imitation, which was repeated around the country. I should like now to report to the House on yesterday's events in Brixton. At 2 am yesterday, police officers entered 11 premises in Railton Road in execution of search warrants. Five people were detained on the grounds that they were alleged to have in their possession small quantities of cannabis resin. They have all since been released pending analysis of the substances. A further person was detained and charged with obstructing the police in the execution of their duty, and one other was detained on suspicion of being in possession of equipment for manufacturing petrol bombs. However, subsequent analysis of the substance in question allowed the man to be released. Last night crowds of local youths gathered in the area. Cars were burnt and barricades set up. In the process, of clearing the streets, 10 policemen were injured and five arrests were made. It is alleged that in the course of the morning operation serious damage was caused to property and personal effects. It would not be appropriate for me to comment in detail on these questions—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"]—for the reasons that I am giving. It would not: be appropriate for me to do so, beyond saying that I understand that a number of complaints have been made to the Commissioner and are being urgently investigated under the procedure being laid down by Parliament, which includes scrutiny by the independent Police Complaints Board. The Commissioner has also assured me that he intends to hold a full inquiry into the conduct of the operation as a whole and that he will report to me his conclusions. Thereafter, I shall report further to the House. Last night in this House both I and my hon. Friend the Minister of State, the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison), were approached by the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) and the hon. Members for Lambeth, Central (Mr. Tilley), for Norwood (Mr. Fraser) and for Vauxhall (Mr. Holland), all of whom reported their concern about the situation. I readily agreed to a visit being paid to the scene of the raid by my officials this morning. As a result, two senior officials went to Railton Road, where they met the leader of Lambeth council and local residents. Also present was a representative of the Receiver of the Metropolitan Police, responsible for dealing with claims for damage compensation. The officials entered property at the invitation of the owners and saw over the scene of events at first hand. They subsequently reported what they saw to me. For the reasons that I have already explained, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further. However, I can tell the House that the Receiver's representative will this afternoon be having a meeting with the chief executive of the Lambeth council to settle how repairs and damage claims should be dealt with. I was very glad that yesterday evening Lord Scarman, on a visit to a community centre in the area, was able to inspect the situation himself and talk to community leaders. I know that he will take this matter into consideration, along with a wide range of others, in phase two of his inquiry. It is clear that a variety of factors have contributed to the propensity for violence that we have seen break out in the streets of our cities. Of course, there will be—
Mr. John Fraser (Norwood)
I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman, as he is the Member concerned in the Brixton issue, but in view of the large number of Members who wish to speak I should be doing damage to the debate and to the interests of many hon. Members if I were to give way frequently.
Was there one general warrant, or were there several warrants, for the search? Secondly, may I make it clear to the right hon. Gentleman that investigation under the Police Act alone will not be regarded as sufficient?
I shall look into the detail of the hon. Gentleman's first point. I understand—I speak subject to correction—that there were search warrants. When I have received the report from the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis and have reported his conclusions to the House, I shall make sure that the House has an opportunity to question me on these matters. I do not think that I can be fairer than that.
Mr. George Cunningham (Islington, South and Finsbury)
Why did the police do it at 2 o'clock?
It would be much better for me to reply when I have had full reports and know all the facts, which I could not conceivably have known at 2 o'clock.I want to emphasise my strongest possible support for the way in which the police service has handled the operation of dealing with the riots. Of course, there will be, and there have been, some criticisms of detail of the way in which the police have handled particular situations. But I think that in general the feeling that they have handled the riots with great skill should be recognised. Nor is this my view alone. The local authority leaders of all parties, and the police authorities themselves, firmly expressed that opinion to me. Whatever suggestions, therefore, are made about police action or criticisms that may have arisen over a much longer period than that of the recent disturbances themselves, I am sure that the House will be united in assuring the country that it expects from the police a firm and effective response. I know also that we would all wish to applaud the efforts of the policemen, many of them young, who through long hours of duty showed great courage in the interests of protecting us all. It must, therefore, be my first duty as Home Secretary to reassure the public that the police will have the full support of the Government, and the necessary resources, to tackle street violence. Whatever else the disorders that we have suffered represent, they were first and foremost criminal acts that have to be dealt with by the police on the spot in containing them, in arresting the offenders and bringing them before the courts. No reason, no explanation, for recent troubles justifies what has occurred. The police are the bulwark on which we all depend for our protection. To do this effectively in the face of new levels of recent violence, they, too, need extra protection. The decisions that I have therefore made were announced to the House yesterday. I want to emphasise again, however, that better protection has helped chief officers in adopting positive tactics to break up violent groups. The chief officers who have been most closely involved in the recent events are firmly of the view that their most effective approach lies in training their officers and developing their tactics for mobile and positive public order policing. The events of recent days, and the police reaction to them, have demonstrated the value of the national reporting centre of Scotland Yard in organising the rapid deployment of assistance between police forces. Discussions with some chief officers of police who have been most concerned have ranged over all the arrangements for organisation, training—for senior and junior officers—and tactics. Intensive work will take place in this field, coupled with a determination on the part of chief officers to obtain as much advance information as possible about the potential for widespread criminal violence. This basic strategy sets in perspective the decisions to make available equipment such as water cannon, CS gas and plastic bullets. Each of these may have a part to play as a means of last resort, depending on the circumstances that a chief officer faces. Neither chief officers nor I wish to see or encourage their use. Equally, it would be wrong not to have such facilities available against the possibility that the police are faced with a type of violence that cannot otherwise be contained. The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) asked me certain questions yesterday, particularly about CS gas. Chief officers of police and I are fully aware of the dangers attendant on the use of CS gas or plastic bullets. As I reported to the House yesterday, a review has been undertaken of the stocks of CS available to the police. Although the gas itself is of the same type, there are wide varieties of CS gas equipment. The stocks held by police forces were essentially for use against armed, besieged criminals. Some of these are appropriate for riot control, but not all forces hold the latter because, until the riot in Toxteth, it had not been envisaged that they should be used for that purpose. In Merseyside, use was made of a type of canister that had to be fired so as to detonate against walls or other hard surfaces. The chief constable is conducting a full inquiry into the way in which the injuries reported have occurred, and he will present his report to me. As a result of the review of stocks, I have asked my Department to ensure urgently that every police force has available to it a type suitable for the two main circumstances for which they are designed. The basic principle for the use of either equipment, as a means of last resort, is that they should be used only in circumstances where other conventional methods have been tried and failed and where, in the judgment of the chief officers, such action is necessary to prevent serious risk to life or widespread destruction of property. Such equipment should be authorised for use only by specially trained personnel and only with the authority of the chief constable himself or, in his absence, his deputy. In the light of this basic principle, careful and urgent attention is being given to further detailed guidance on the use of such equipment and on the training needed. All these points will be followed up and developed in continuing discussions between my Department and the police.
Mr. Norman Atkinson (Tottenham)
Will the right hon. Gentleman give way on that point?
I was asked yesterday whether I would consider reserving to myself a decision to use CS gas or plastic bullets to restore order in riotous circumstances. I have reflected carefully on this but believe this would, on balance, be mistaken. Despite the fact that any Home Secretary must always be available to be consulted urgently at all hours of the day and night, the responsibility for operations is that of the chief officer alone. He is on the ground. Only he can be in full possession and appreciation of the facts in what, by definition, will usually be very rapidly changing circumstances. I therefore believe that the proper responsibility of the Home Secretary is best discharged in authorising the guidelines and circumstances. I have set out the principles on which these will be based and will inform the House in due course when the details have been decided.
Mr. Norman Atkinson
Many criminal charges arising from the riots are now being dealt with in the magistrates' courts. The more serious will be going to the Crown court for trial. We must be grateful to the magistrates and their staff on whom this extra burden, involving additional sittings, has fallen. The final responsibility for deciding what priority should be given to any case or class of case in the Crown court rests on the judiciary and, in particular, on the presiding judges of the courts. I have no doubt that they will do whatever circumstances allow to bring these cases to trial without delay.Some of the charges will result in custodial sentences. It must fall to me to ensure that I provide for necessary facilities so that the sentences can be properly fulfilled. As the House will be aware, the prison population had been increasing even before the recent disturbances began. It now stands at the figure of 45,500. The prison system is under great pressure and I warmly appreciate the prison service's response in dealing with the additional numbers who have been committed to its custody and the inevitable strains that the present level of population places on it. We are discussing with the staff the measures that are now required. Within the system, arrangements are in hand to provide extra detention centre places at Lowdham Grange in Nottinghamshire and at Erlestoke House in Wiltshire and these will he ready next week. I have also made arrangements with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence to use military camps to provide additional prison accommodation. The first of these will be at Rollestone on Salisbury Plain and others will be brought into use if they are required. They will accommodate suitable inmates drawn from the prison population as a whole and they will be staffed by members of the prison service. I have a duty to ensure that the law that the police and the courts have to enforce not only sets the appropriate limits on what is tolerable but also provides a sufficient means to combat violence and effectively supports the police in their task. I should therefore comment on the recent calls to reintroduce the Riot Act.
Mr. Norman Atkinson
In fact, the Riot Act 1714 had as its object not the creation of a new criminal offence but the conversion of what was already a misdemeanour into a felony. Under its provisions, people ordered to disperse were made guilty of felony if they did not do so but instead continued to riot. Many people have something different in mind—that it should be a criminal offence simply not to disperse when ordered to do so. I have considered carefully whether such a provision would have helped quell recent disorders.We must remind ourselves of what was the nature of these disorders. They were least often, but most dangerously, a large group of violent people confronting the police. They were most often scattered groups of looters causing damage to property. Riot Act provisions are mainly designed for the first category. There are in this field wide-ranging existing powers—in common law offences of riot, rout and unlawful assembly—and powers to arrest for actual or threatened breach of the peace. There is also section 5 of the Public Order Act 1936 and the offence of obstructing the police in the execution of their duty. But, despite the range of powers and penalties currently available, I am persuaded that it is indeed often difficult for the police to isolate and identify particular wrongdoers in such violent circumstances. I am equally sure that it would be wrong, in any event, to hurry forward in this difficult field. I therefore intend to examine in consultation with my right hon. and learned Friends the Lord Chancellor, the Attorney-General and the Lord Advocate the value of such proposals in the overall perspective of what new powers generally should be available to the police to maintain order and to deal with disorder. So far, I have spoken about my duty to take the measures necessary to enable the police and the courts to deal with street violence effectively when it has occurred. It is the duty of every Government to underline, and act on, their fundamental responsibility to uphold the rule of law. I also have the other and wider responsibilities, both as Home Secretary and as a member of the Government. These are simple to state but complex to carry out and achieve. Put briefly, they are to promote the conditions in which violence does not flourish but is rejected, so that a peaceful and harmonious society is a reality and seen to be a reality for all people. Many of the young people committing criminal violence on the streets in recent weeks live in inner city areas, which suffer relatively from a range of disadvantages, including serious unemployment over a number of years. Youthful violence and youthful frustration have been evident in outbreaks of football hooliganism and other acts of violence, quite apart from the much more serious outbreaks that have occurred in the past two weeks. The complexity of the issue has to be recognised rather than reduced to a matter of simple slogans. We must, therefore, be prepared to acknowledge some measure of failure in our society, particularly as regards young people. We have to work to minimise the sense of frustration that is evident and try to prevent it turning into violence. The problems of urban decay and deprivation are intractable and deep-seated, particularly in Merseyside, despite decades of efforts to remedy them and the expenditure of very considerable sums of public money. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has asked my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, who is, of course, the chairman of the partnership committee for Merseyside, to go up to Merseyside to discuss with the local authorities there, with the urban development corporation and with representatives of industry, commerce, the unions and the various communities the problems of the area, the urgent issues raised by recent events, and the opportunities that exist. He will not only be concerned with those areas of policy for which he has departmental responsibility; he will be looking generally at Government policies, into the way in which they interact with the responsibilities of the local authorities, and into the ways in which ideas, resources and energies can be brought to bear from a wide social and industrial background. He will be based on, and will spend much of his time in, Merseyside. He will be accompanied and supported by my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Home Office, the hon. Member for Aylesbury. They will be supported by a small team of officials from the two Departments and will be able to call upon the advice and support of other Government Departments, including the regional directors of the various Departments in Merseyside.
Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
My right hon. and hon. Friends will start by convening a meeting of the partnership committee. My right hon. Friend will report the outcome of his consultations to his colleagues in the Government, and we shall then consider both how we should proceed in relation to Merseyside and the extent to which the procedures adopted and the measures envisaged in respect of Merseyside are capable of being, and ought to be, considered for extension to other areas with similar problems, with the intention of reporting to the House again when we resume in October.
Since the hon. Gentleman represents a Liverpool constituency, I shall give way to him.
Will the right hon. Gentleman accept from me that that sounds pretty good? But will he say that one of the first things that his Government will do is to stop telling the Merseyside county council that it has to reduce its budget by £19 million or have £4 million taken off its rate support grant, which, incidentally, because of the cuts, led last year to the police authority on Merseyside having to reduce its budget by £2½ million? Will the right hon. Gentleman say immediately that that will be taken into consideration and that action will be taken on it?
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) for saying that my statement sounded pretty good. Equally, I believe that these are matters which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment will look into when he goes to Merseyside, and I am glad the hon. Gentleman welcomed the decision that my right hon. Friend should go there. He will be looking into all these matters, of course.I should like now to set before the House the steps we have been taking from the Home Office point of view. First, I know that the police themselves, and their police authorities, want to continue all their efforts to mobilise the maximum community support. They are not, nor do they want to be seen as, the agents of the Government. They are the agents of the societies and communities which they serve. They need the community's support in sharing in the task of establishing a peaceful and orderly society. Perhaps in this context I might say that during my visit last week to Greater Manchester, for example, I found that there had been the closest consultation and understanding between the chief constable and the police authority. Nothing I have said, therefore, about firm police measures to put down violence when it occurs implies any departure from the necessary policy of continuing to develop closer and increasingly sensitive relations between the police and the local community. Much of the training of officers, junior and senior, is directed towards this. Fortunately, as the numbers of our police have recently increased, it has become more and more possible to reintroduce constables on the beat, working day by day with their local community. This is a policy to which I know chief constables attach great importance. I believe that chief officers need to be more involved, and more systematically involved, in the way in which local authorities plan their spending programmes and execute them in the high crime areas of inner cities. Already a great deal of good work is done, for example, by police officers being invited into schools. We cannot continue to allow a situation in which we point, often persuasively, to a wide range of environmental and economic factors as contributing to disorders such as these and then sit back and expect the police to pick up the pieces. I am, therefore, pursuing urgently with chief police officers and my colleagues with local authority responsibilities the way this systematic involvement can be achieved. I am sure also that the probation and after-care service, with its extensive knowledge of local problems and of local patterns of delinquency, has a uniquely valuable contribution to make. Next, there is the crucial strand of race relations. There is an underlying thread of racial difficulties which runs through many of the incidents which either have triggered or are thought to have triggered wider demonstrations against the authorities and the police in particular. I think it is right, therefore, in the context of this debate to repeat two assurances to the ethnic minority communities in Britain. The first is the complete commitment of the Government to a society in which none is a second-class citizen. We want a society in which people are treated according to their merits and as fellow citizens. The second is my determination as Home Secretary to support the wish of the vast majority of citizens, black and white, to see the evils of extremist racialist activity isolated and eliminated. It was for that reason that I set up the inquiry into racial attacks. I shall report the conclusions of this important work to the House. I can, however, say at this stage that it will certainly show that inner city communities, their leaders, the police, local authorities and the Government, together with the Commission for Racial Equality and community relations councils, must work to prevent tensions between these communities and authority being exploited by the extremists of Right and Left. All that I have said this afternoon matches the purpose and extent of phase two of Lord Scarman's inquiry into the disorders in Brixton in April of this year. The inquiry that he is undertaking fits exactly, and in the most timely way, into the interlocking policies I have outlined for trying to promote the conditions in which violence cannot flourish.
Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)
I wish to emphasise in conclusion that the immediate task for the Government, backed I am certain by the whole House, is to remove the scourge of criminal violence from our streets. To this end, we must give our fullest support to the police and the law enforcement agencies and provide them with all the equipment necessary to carry out their task. But at the same time we must develop policies designed to promote the mutual tolerance and understanding upon which the whole future of a free democratic society depends.
Mr. Roy Hattersley (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)
I congratulate the Home Secretary on a speech which contained very much which commended itself to the Opposition. He will understand that I am not implying any good will towards the Government when I say "Long may he continue in his present office." Much of what he said seemed not only right but to measure up to the circumstances in which the country finds itself. I should be wrong if I did not offer him the congratulations of this Bench, against the background of what we and the country have faced during the past 10 days. During that time, we have witnessed violence on our streets which has exceeded anything that: has been previously seen in this century.It is important not to exaggerate the extent of the damage, the number of the participants, or the risk of general conflagration. But it is equally important that we should not assume that a couple of comparatively peaceful nights mean that the danger of renewed violence has passed. While the causes of disturbance remain—poverty, unemployment and deprivation—the chances of violence breaking out again will remain, and perhaps even increase. I share entirely the Home Secretary's view that our principal duty is to create conditions in which violence cannot flourish. I share, too, his opinion that it is equally our duty to act swiftly and strongly when violence breaks out. There is no reason why the fundamental causes and the immediate symptoms should not be tackled simultaneously, for while our first duty is to remove the underlying causes of violence—and none of us should condone or appear to condone such conduct—when violence breaks out because of those causes the police must be supported in their proper determination to restore law and order. The people who organise or take part in criminal activities—arson, assault and looting—must be caught, prosecuted, convicted and punished and the police must be given whatever protective equipment is necessary for the proper and responsible discharge of their duties. On the evidence of her performance at last Tuesday's Question Time, the Prime Minister regards the Opposition's attitude to CS gas as the test of our sincerity in these matters. She pressed the Opposition to give her a categorical answer about whether we supported its use in certain circumstances. I shall answer the question that she put directly to us, because I believe that her question and the way she asked it demonstrate the dangerous path along which the Government have been tempted to travel during the past 10 days, and from which they have turned back, I suspect, not least because of the wisdom of the Home Secretary. I shall answer the Prime Minister's question in this way. In Toxteth, as I understand it from the Home Secretary and from people who were present during the riots, a tires. and outnumbered police force was in imminent danger of being overrun. Had that happened, there might well have been a number of deaths. There would certainly have been serious casualties. In those circumstances, it seems to me self-evident that the use of a temporarily incapacitating gas, notwithstanding its operational weaknesses, was infinitely better than the risk of death and injury. Having given that unequivocal answer to the Prime Minister, I must point out that her simple question does not measure up to the complexities of the situation. For instance, it now appears that some chief constables have in their possession CS gas of a type which is potentially lethal. Perhaps it is time for the Prime Minister to answer a similar question. Does she approve of the use of that gas when it is known that it might well kill not only rioters but innocent bystanders? I ask that question with no intention of causing the kind of confrontation to which the Prime Minister treated the House on Tuesday but simply to remind her and people like her that these questions are much more complex than simple slogans about law and order suggest. I ask the Home Secretary three questions on the simple subject of the potentially lethal gas. Did he know that some police forces had it in their possession? Can he say whether he knew when it was used? Does he believe that it was right to use it in those circumstances? My criticism of the simple questions to which the House was subjected on Tuesday is of rather more than the incompetence of putting complex matters in that jejune form. It is that the obsession with sounding tough will harm rather than help the chances of ending the violence that we all detest. After all, Toxteth demonstrates that chief constables in extremis already possess the power and the resources to use CS gas. I fear that all the talk of police moving on to the offensive and the rejection of even questions about such a policy—let alone criticism of it—can have two damaging consequences. The first is that tough talk encourages the view that tough policing alone will end the violence. It not. The disturbances will continue until the social causes of disturbance are removed. The second is that the tough talk will, as a senior chief constable told me last night, prejudice years of careful community relations work within the inner cities. In short, tough talk is a product of the view that our principal aim is to defeat the rioters. In my view, that opinion is wholly inadequate. Our real aim should be to stop riots taking place. My fear is that much of what leas been said over the past week will not reduce their possibility but positively increase it. Water cannon, CS gas and plastic bullets are indiscriminate, dangerous and operationally inadequate. Few chief constables will wish to employ them. However, the atmosphere that they create and the atmosphere associated with the publicity about them over the past week will do nothing to prevent, and may actually promote, the recurrence of what happened in Toxteth and Southall last week, in Brixton last Easter and last night, and in Bristol last year. I specify those areas because I believe that more recent disturbances over the past week had different causes and a different character from what happened 10 days ago. Some of last week's violence was the result of mindless imitation of what had been seen on television, of provocations by political extremists, and of exploitation by criminals who hoped to loot where others had smashed. But the second wave of violence was the product of the first, and the chance of the first recurring—Bristol, Brixton, Toxteth and Southall—will be increased if there is a change in the character of the British police force which alienates the police from the people they serve and protect. It has become clear that, despite the headlines in Tuesday's morning papers, little in practice will change in terms of police equipment and police powers. I am delighted that the Riot Act has been finally sunk in those delphic words of the Home Secretary. Clearly, the new equipment of which he spoke in a private place on Monday will not be used to any great extent, not least because most chief constables are too sensible to take the advice of the 1922 Committee. Since last Monday, there has been a new atmosphere. While the Home Secretary properly restates his commitment to community policing, others build on the Government's tough talks to insist that the days of community policing are over. I want the traditional relationship between the police and the public to be preserved, and where it has broken down, as has happened in some places, to be restored. We do the police no service by pretending that that breakdown did not occur in some of our inner cities. The Leader of the House said in Beverley last Saturday, speaking about the police:
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw)—who was much quoted by the Prime Minister for what he said had not caused the riots, but not quoted by her for what he said about their cause—said in the House a week ago that"They themselves know that their approach has not been wholly beyond criticism".
had made a major contribution. I think that that overstates the police's responsibility for the riots, but it surely demonstrates that what we need is not a new Riot Act, the fingerprinting of children or the right to stop and search, to hold without charge, or to arrest for refusal to give names and addresses—all of which proposals have been advocated from influential sources. We need more officers with regular beats and the commitment to the local community that that brings. We need more specialised training, particularly including the understanding of the special problems of the ethnic minorities. Calling for stronger powers and stiffer penalties can easily divert attention from the need for a real policy. I know that it wins cheap cheers, but it can have wide and potentially disastrous consequences. I do not know how much the recent talk of more aggressive policing influenced what happened in Brixton yesterday but, on the evidence at present available, yesterday's police raids in Brixton were wrong in principle and wrong in practice. What has been said by the police since they occurred has only made my fears of the police's attitude the greater. I must say three things to the Home Secretary. First, it seems to me to be a miracle—for which we must be thankful, not least, to Lord Scarman—that Brixton was not the scene of much more disturbance last night than actually occurred. Secondly, last night's events demonstrate that riots and the prevention of rioting are inextricably linked with the relationship between police and public, the need for the police to be accountable to a proper authority, and the necessity for a wholly independent complaints procedure. Thirdly, the Home Secretary tells us frequently, and with great pride, that he is the police authority for London. The police authority for London had better act over the Brixton incident, and act quickly. We want an inquiry, we want it to report to this House, and we want it to report within days, not within weeks. Having said that, I repeat my belief that the principal cause of last week's riots was not the conduct of the police."a genuine belief not only in the black community but in the white community that in that area the enforcement of law is not even-handed"—[Official Report, 6 July 1981; Vol. 8, c. 24.]
Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)
Does my right hon. Friend recognise that the police authority for London, like the police authority for anywhere else, is not supposed to be charged with the control of policing policy? The only place in the United Kingdom where the police authority has that power is Northern Ireland. Is it not about time that in the rest of the United Kingdom we had the same power in our police authorities?
I said that yesterday's disturbances demonstrated the need for proper control, proper authority and proper responsibility. But we must make the best of what we have. We have a police authority for London who sits in this House, and we must therefore take advantage of his seat among us in order to insist and require that a statement is made by him at the first possible opportunity.I repeat that I do not believe that the principal cause of last week's riots was the conduct of the police. It was the conditions of deprivation and despair in the decaying areas of our old cities—areas in which the Brixton and Toxteth riots took place, and areas from which the skinhead invaders of Southall came. Those areas have four common features. The first is housing that is decaying and inadequate. In the inner city area that I know best—Sparkbrook—this year's housing investment programme has provided the sudden and arbitrary ending of the entire house improvement programme. Secondly, those areas have a woeful lack of amenities. Thirdly, there is inadequate provision of remedial education for deprived families and the nursery places that can give poor children a head start. Fourthly, and most important, unemployment in the inner cities is monstrously high, even by the standards of July 1981—perhaps 40 per cent. or more of the whole working population—and with youth unemployment, of which I believe the riots are a direct product, particularly breeding despair. The Secetary of State for Employment said in Cheshire last Friday:
Nobody could agree with that more strongly than those of us who occupy these Opposition Benches. We can do no more than hope that the Secretary of State for Employment will be successful in convincing his colleagues that what he said in Cheshire is true and that some action must be urgently taken, for nothing would help to reduce the risk of persistent violence more than a general upturn in the economy. Until the Government abandon their policy of managing the economy by deepening the slump, something must be done specifically to aid the special areas in their special problems—the inner cities and in particular the young unemployed within them. In May 1968, the President of the United States received the report of the National Advisory Committee on Civil Disorders. It is important not to overstate the comparison between what happened in America in 1967 and what happened here. The scale was wholly different. But some of the conclusions of that report have a terrible relevance to what is happening in Britain today. The main conclusion of that report was this:"Undoubtedly the present high level of unemployment is a fruitful breeding ground for the sort of thing we are seeing. We must recognise that to have such numbers out of work leads to a disaffected people."
I do not think that the division in Britain of the two societies is quite the same. The divide is essentially between the inner cities and the rest of the country. But within the inner cities the people with least hope are the young unemployed, and the people with a desperate shortage of hope are the young black unemployed. I do not suggest for a moment that the young black unemployed in the inner cities had a particular responsibility for last week's violence. Anyone who watched those tragic events on television could see that black youths and white youths were together carrying out some of the unacceptable practices that we all condemn. The black residents of inner cities did not cause urban deprivation. They are the victims of it. But they are the most dramatic example of fading hope and rising resentment. As their hope fades and as their resentment increases, we must tell them—and I shall continue to tell them—that in a democratic society there are democratic ways of solving their grievances. But I must be honest and say that I have some pessimism about the sort of answer that I am likely to receive from a young man of 16, about to leave school, certain to become and to remain unemployed, and denied any unemployment benefit until the second week in September. If that young man is black, how do the Government think that his answer is affected by the Prime Minister talking on television of other blacks "swamping" this country and the knowledge that a dozen or two dozen of her Back Benchers want to send that young man home, when he knows no other home than Brixton, Toxteth or Southall? Our task is to make such people think that they have a stake in our sort of society by showing them that our sort of society responds to their needs, and that must mean special help for the inner cities—help, not inquiry."Our nation is moving towards two societies, one black, one white—separate but unequal."
Mr. Cyril. Smith (Rochdale)
I ask the right hon. Gentleman to bear in mind the fact that, while these problems are particular to inner cities, there are other areas which are not classified as inner cities but which none the less have exactly the same sorts of problems, connected with immigration, unemployment and housing. I am extremely anxious that any extra aid that he is able to extract from the Government shall not be confined simply to those areas that are classified as inner cities.
I understand the hon. Gentleman's point and I appreciate that there is much truth in what he says. However, at a time when the Government are talking of limited resources, the scale and intensity of the problem that I have described is greater in the inner cities than anywhere else. It is to the inner cities that our first resources should go. The hon. Gentleman overestimates my powers of persuasion if he believes that the Government will provide any money. We know that the Prime Minister is opposed to throwing money at the inner cities. All that we have heard today is that she will throw Ministers at Liverpool. I do not believe that that will remotely meet the urgency and desperation of the problems that that city faces.I shall tell the right hon. Lady what we should do. First, for all its inadequacies, the Prior plan must be implemented. That is the assurance of a job or training for every school leaver and the assurance that resources will be made available to the school leaver's family to ensure that the opportunity turns into a reality. That alone is not enough. That alone is only a beginning. There must be greater incentives for private firms to move into the inner cities. Some local authorities and public enterprises must be located in all those areas. There has to be investment in inner city schools, houses and public services that will improve their conditions and, at the same time, create jobs. There has to be a policy of positive discrimination in favour of those young people whose job prospects are the worst. Those people are the young blacks and the young Asians, and special assistance must be given to them. I share with every hon. Member the determination that riots, when they occur, will be brought to a speedy end. However, I fear that policing, no matter how strong, and equipment, no matter how innovative, will not achieve the result that we seek. The riots will end only when the social and economic conditions that brought them about are ended and changed. It is to that obligation that the Opposition will work in Opposition, and eventually in Government.
Sir Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)
I promise not to take more than seven minutes of the time of the House.I am sure that the speeches of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department and the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) will be remarked upon for the tragic note that they struck. The fact that the House should be discussing the use of plastic bullets, CS gas and armoured cars against part of our population is the feature that fills me with despond. Order must be maintained, but do not let the House or anyone else imagine that any of these items in the hands of the police or of others will do anything but put a check on behaviour. They will do nothing to change attitudes. It is attitudes that we must change if we as a civilised nation are to survive. The past 10 or 15 years have been a period of decay. That applies not only to the inner cities but to the attitude of young people towards the nation as a whole, to national discipline and to their own advantages and hopes. That is what the House must face. Some of the suggestions of the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook, and some of the matters mentioned by my right hon. Friend, which no doubt will be taken up by those who reply to the debate from the Front Benches at a later stage, do not touch the main issues that are at stake. The problems are not confined to the inner cities. They are concentrated in the inner city areas, but they exist elsewhere. Many hon. Members have talked of the need to do something for our youth. Youth is a force which can be used for the destruction of society or for the rebuilding of society. That is what the House and the nation should be about. That is what our leadership should be about, on both sides of the House. The art of politics is to change the negative or destructive to the positive. The young should be turned to a proper purpose that will benefit us all. That is what we must do. I shall be attacked from many quarters for what I am about to say. I could not care less. We must make full use of youth. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have said that we want voluntary schemes in which youth may participate. The Government are spending millions of pounds on so-called youth employment programmes, many of which are pointless. We are told that £93 million more is to be offered for such schemes. That does not begin to approach what is needed. We need a compulsory form of youth service to undertake many of the tasks upon which we should embark. I have in mind many areas of dereliction. Whatever the so-called leaders or Establishment may say, the country would back such a national service to the hilt. The Establishment has been wrong. It has been wrong, and wrong again, for the past 20 years. It is time that something new was done.
Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)
The Home Secretary reached almost the end of his speech before he referred to that aspect of the recent disorders which was most visible and best understood by the people at large, particularly by those in the areas most affected. When he reached it at the end of his speech he used phrases—I make no complaint that the phrases were careful in their nature—such as "working to prevent tensions" and to "promote mutual tolerance and understanding".It is right that the House should ask itself seriously how far those phrases and those intentions correspond with practicable reality. If they do not, I submit that we are not doing our duty as a House of Commons. On 3 April 1980, after the events of Bristol, I asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he was surprised by what had happened and, if not, why not. He thought for a moment and then seized the less uncomfortable of the two prongs of the dilemma. He said that he was surprised. I imagine that his surprise and that of others has progressively diminished since then. It is certainly a surprise which was not then shared, and is scarcely shared at all now, in the areas which are affected or in the areas which believe and fear that they may be affected. There are two radical over-arching facts. When I say "facts" I mean facts. First, there is in inner London and in many of the major cities of England a young generation aged up to 24 or 25 years which is, in varying places, one-quarter, one-third and anything up to one-half New Commonwealth. The second fact, which is inseparable from that and which, linked with it, is of ultimate significance, is that we know that therefore, over the next generation, the size and proportion of the New Commonwealth population in those areas will double and that in the years further on it will approach treble. That is an automatic consequence of the fact that the young generation reproduces itself and its pattern. The only way in which one can escape from that consequence is by one of two assumptions, which I would have thought to be unacceptable. The first is that there will be wholesale and vast decentralisation of that population. The second is that the fertility of that population will be far less than that of the population at large. Unless one or other or both of those conditions is fulfilled, then, in the pattern of the young generation, we see the pattern of the total population of a generation or so ahead. When I say "We see", I do not just mean that we see it statistically or logically: it is what is actually seen by the people concerned. I imagine that during the past weeks hon. Members will have received much evidence; some of it they, like myself, will have rejected as unbalanced and unacceptable: by other of it I believe that they will have been moved to read the analysis which their fellow citizens were making. I shall trouble the House only briefly with one such which reached me, for it seemed to me to express those facts succinctly as they were seen by an individual. He wrote:
It is because of those two facts and their interaction—"What the riots in England are all about basically is that the immigrant areas are not static pools…but expanding entities. Therefore it follows that as they expand house by house, street by street, area by area, so the indigenous population must retreat house by house etc. at the same rate…As they continue to multiply and as we can't retreat further there must be conflict."
Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
That is a National Front speech.
—that those of us who have seen—the insight is not restricted to any single party or to politicians alone—the future population content of inner London and other great cities have been unable to imagine that that could come about without at some stage—I will use phrases which I have used myself—inner London becoming ungovernable or violence which could only effectually be described as civil war.
Several Hon. Members
I am in some difficulty because I want—
What does the right hon. Member know about inner cities?
The hon. Member asks me what I know about inner cities. I was a Member for Wolverhampton for a quarter of a century. What I saw in those early years of the development of this problem in Wolverhampton has made it impossible for me ever to dissociate myself from this gigantic and tragic problem.
Several Hon. Members
My difficulty is that if, as would be my wish, I gave way to hon. Members from all parts of the House, which I would be happy to do in a different discussion, the inevitable consequence would be that what I wish to say to the House would extend over a longer period and I would deny many of my colleagues in the House the opportunity to say anything. May I say to hon. Members that they will have—I hope they will have, if it can be done—the opportunity in the course of the debate to refute what I am saying?
But there is a parliamentary convention of intervention. Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?
The right hon. Gentleman is frightened of the arguments against him and he dare not take an intervention.
I believe I am best serving the House if in these circumstances and at this stage of the debate I can continue my remarks.This prospect which I have described points not merely to the likelihood but at some point to the certainty of major conflict.
Can I suggest that there is an answer?
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)
Order. The right hon. Gentleman is not giving way. The hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) well knows that he has no right to rise when the right hon. Gentleman is not giving way.
I want to give the right hon. Gentleman an answer to his dilemma.
If the hon. Member catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, no doubt he will make his contribution.There were, however, two features of the events of the past two or three weeks which, although they were foreseeable and predictable, were, so far as I know, not actually predicted. They are features of which the House should take note. If I had been told on 1 April last year that there was a certain city in England where the police would come under attack from large numbers of the New Commonwealth population, I would not have said that—
And the native population.
I would not have said that—
The right hon. Gentleman does not know the facts.
I can assure the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) that, anxious as I am to serve the purposes of the House, there are certain things which I wish to say today and which I intend to say. I hope that I may say them as briefly as possible.
Without allowing any intervention.
Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I must say to the hon. Member for Warley, East that he well knows that interruptions from a seated position are not in order.
I am prepared to interrupt from a standing position.
Mr. Deputy Speaker
Unless the hon. Member desists, I may have to ask him to leave the Chamber.
I would not have said that it would be Bristol. But when what happened did happen in Bristol at the beginning of April last year, I remembered how, 10 or 12 years earlier, I had received from that precise area of Bristol a mass of information expressing fear and anxiety as to what might occur because of the change in that area and the local concentration of New Commonwealth population.I believe the whole pattern of events in the last 10 or 20 days has illustrated the fact that not merely is it fallacious to average percentage figures over large areas or over England as a whole; it is not even satisfactory to take a whole city or the whole of inner London and simply to look at the percentages and the figures relating to that. One has to realise that the same consequences can be produced, what the Home Secretary calls the same "tensions" can exist, when those proportions are found in a much more restricted area. The other feature which has become more prominent is the role of the police, that in this conflict, ultimately feared and apprehended, between the indigenous population and the newcomers—one uses words of generality, but they are well understood—it seems to be the police who were the objects of attack. I do not really think that that is so difficult to understand. If a city is becoming ungovernable, if the tensions which exist there are becoming uncontainable, it will be the police, as representing the attempt to maintain law and order, as representing the attempt to contain those tensions and to restore the integrity of the community, who will be the butt and the object of attack. Those are features which we should acknowledge will be a regular part of what we face. I say "of what we face" because, although there may be remissions—the Home Secretary said something very like this—although we may have a pause, even a reaction for a time, we should grossly deceive ourselves if we supposed that we are nearer to the end of this experience than to the beginning. The Government and the House will not be serving the country unless they address themselves to the ultimate reality, the ultimate cause, the sine qua non, without which what we have witnessed and are witnessing could not and would not have happened.
Is that the German example? Does that happen in Germany? Is that the German explanation?
The right hon. Member for Birrningham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) gave three causes—poverty, unemployment and deprivation. Are we seriously saying that so long as there is poverty, unemployment and deprivation our cities will be torn to pieces, that the police in them will be the objects of attack and that we shall destroy our own environment? Of course not. Everyone knows that, although those conditions do exist, there is a factor, the factor which the people concerned perfectly well know, understand and apprehend, and that unless it can be dealt with—unless the fateful inevitability, the inexorable doubling and trebling, of that element of a population can be avoided—their worst fears will be fulfilled.Something has happened in these past weeks that will not be reversed. People have come to terms with this reality as they never did before. Our New Commonwealth fellow citizens are not such fools as we commonly take them for. They are perfectly capable of reflecting upon the circumstances, of foreseeing the future and of drawing deductions as to the dangers to which they and the society in which they live will be exposed. In these past days, for the first time, people have begun to accept, or at any rate to envisage seriously, that the lesser evil may be what might in other circumstances have been discounted—measures whereby that inevitable increase, that inevitable doubling, will not take place.
Cattle truck mentality.
Dame Judith Hart (Lanark)
The right hon. Gentleman might like to take account of the fact that the great majority of hon. Members regard what he says as an evil incitement to riot.
I am within the judgment of the House, as I am within the judgment of the people of this country, and I am content to stand before either tribunal.I was about to say that there has recently come in France a Socialist Government, whose policies were announced by the new Prime Minister. They included proposing
The circumstances in France are very different from the circumstances in this country—different numerically and in the legal and economic background—but it is salutary to be reminded that a new Government—and a Socialist Government at that—coming into power in France have considered the return home, by agreement, of immigrant workers not merely a practicable or desirable objective but one that a Government—and a Socialist Government at that—might envisage. As the weeks go by—this is happening already, among the New Commonwealth population as among the rest of the population of this country—the question will ever more practically be asked "Is it inevitable that we accept a future in which the inexorable increase of that proportion of the population of our cities will drive us into a conflict which neither of us desires, or can we, by humanity and generosity and by a common recognition of the dangers, avoid in all human wisdom what otherwise might befall?" The Government may well say to me "We know that for years past you have said you regarded that course of action as the only practicable means of avoiding unacceptable and unimaginable conflict in the country in the long run, but are you seriously suggesting that we should now sit down and produce an element of Government policy like that mentioned by the new French Prime Minister?" No, I am not. I am asking of the Government something much more simple, but a necessary preliminary. It is something that I have asked for before. It is that they should candidly tell their fellow citizens in inner London and the other cities what the future will be 10, 20 or 30 years ahead. [Interruption.] All around me there break out the cries "We do not know." Of course, we do know what the consequences and their implications are."to the countries of origin of the present immigrant workers agreements on…their eventual return home."
Would the right hon. Gentleman give way? There is a simple answer to some of his queries. I shall enlighten his ignorance.
The hon. Gentleman may give the answer in due course.
I shall not be given a chance, unfortunately, either by the right hon. Gentleman or by Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Well, that might be a mercy.
My answer would make more contribution to the common weal than the right hon. Gentleman's bloody rubbish.
Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. If I hear one more such contribution from the hon. Gentleman, I shall order him to withdraw from the Chamber.
The Government have a duty frankly to tell the people of London and of the other cites what after all an ex-Home Secretary some 15 years ago told the House of Lords—that one-third of the population of our great cities would, before the end of the century, be coloured.Let the Government say what they believe, what their advice is, what their information is, about the future composition of the population of the metropolis and of those other cities. Then let them come before the people to whom they are responsible and say, if they can, "That is the future that we believe you can and must accept. We believe that it is a future in which there need not and will not be conflict, ungovernability and civil war in our cities." Let people and Government face and debate their future. That is the first step. Until that first step is taken and those facts are recognised—[Interruption.] The police forces in England are learning from the experience of the police force in Northern Ireland.
Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)
How many blacks are there in Northern Ireland?
I would not have thought hon. Members would have been anxious to refer to the intractable existence of two populations there that do not both identify themselves with the same country—[Interruption.]—and I would not have thought that hon. Members, at any rate on this side of the House, would laugh at the spectacle of the entrenchment in a part of this United Kingdom of two incompatible ambitions for its future.I referred at the beginning to expressions of opinion which reach us in the House from those whom we represent. Hon. Members will know that many of those who write to them—the elderly and the old—say how glad they are that they are old.
Miss Joan Lestor (Eton and Slough)
Will the right hon. Gentleman give way to one of the few parents in this House of a black child?
Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Lady knows that the right hon. Gentleman is not giving way.
Many hon. Members in this debate who represent the areas know well—
And their black children.
They are expressing—and express to us—their sense of relief that they are too old to live to see what they know lies ahead. If hon. Members deny that, either they do not know what their constituents are thinking or they are denying what they know. [Interruption.] I shall be going for only another two or three minutes.
Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Our parliamentary democracy depends upon the absolute freedom of hon. Members to speak their minds in this place uninterrupted by their colleagues, and when limitations are sought to be put upon that, the continuance of our parliamentary democracy is put at risk. Nevertheless, it must be asked of you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if there are no limitations upon what hon. Members may say, whether it is open to right hon. and hon. Members on the Floor of the House to advocate breaches of the law and racial—
Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman is raising a point of order. He must not make a speech.
If a right hon. or hon. Member advocated murder in the House—
Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I think that I have the gist of the hon. Gentleman's point of order. I answer it like this. Our democracy consists of people in the House taking responsibility for their own speeches. There have been many speeches with which either side of the House may disagree. The right hon. Gentleman has every right to say here what he wishes to say and he takes personal responsibility for that.
I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My point is a serious one. The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) has now spoken for nearly 25 minutes—
Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. No point of order arises on that.
I was not seeking to make a point of order about the time that the right hon. Gentleman is taking. The point I wish to raise is a matter of deep seriousness. Is it open to a right hon. Member to advocate on the Floor of the House a breach of the law of the land for which this House is responsible?
Mr. Deputy Speaker
Mr. Enoch Powell.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, if anything that I have said in the House falls under the description that has just been applied to it by the hon. Gentleman, I assure him that I have said and will say exactly the same outside the House where my privilege can in no way cover me. I have no intention to be in breach of the law or belief that I am; but I do not rely upon my privilege, nor have I ever done so, in order to say what I thought needed to be said on this subject.I conclude by saying this. Unlike so many, I do not share the view of those whose feelings I have described. Rather, like Chatham at the worst and most shameful point of the American war, "I rejoice that the grave has not closed over me", for I believe that when it sees the reality and the magnitude of its peril and the choice which it faces, this nation will rise to its danger, as it has in the past, and that it will do so with wisdom, with humanity and with courage. It is the duty of Government to enable the people to do just that, by being candid and truthful with them and by presenting them with the prospect of what the Government know, as the people themselves know, lies ahead.
Mr. Edward Gardner (South Fylde)
I am most grateful for this opportunity to address the House on the problems which have arisen as a result of the civil disorder. I find myself a distressed Member of the House listening to some of the remarks which have just been made by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell).I wish to deal with two matters which I believe are of the utmost importance to the House and to the country at large. One is tie role of the police and their relationship with the public, which I believe is becoming misunderstood. There is a fallacy, which has grown into a myth, that the police have to court universal popularity and that everything they do must be approved of by all sections of the community. I do not believe that that is the role of the police at all. The role of the police is to deal with crime. The role of the police is to protect and serve the community at large. Where there is assault, where there is arson and where there is theft, it is the duty of the police to see that they act in such a way as to stop those forms of crime as quickly and effectively as possible. There is no doubt at all—this must be recognised as a basic fact—that riot and what happens in the course of a riot is crime. The police cannot afford to neglect to deal with that crime. I believe that the country at large and also right hon. and hon. Members recognise that that is one of the basic functions of the police. The traditional role of the police has not basically changed, but the role of the police has been extended and enlarged because of the additions to their duties which have come about as a result of riot. The unarmed, unprotected, avuncular policeman is as much out of place in a riot as a bowler hat in a battle. We must recognise—I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on having recognised it—that the police must have the protection that they deserve in order to meet the terrible events that have occurred during the riots. One of the matters which concern me and one which has concerned many other hon. Members is whether we ought now to have some form of emergency legislation to deal specifically with riot and the crimes involved in riot. I would respectfully agree with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that we must move cautiously in this respect. For what it is worth, I am sceptical about the need for anything approaching a new Riot Act. In the circumstances of the kind of events suffered in the various cities that have been the victims of the recent riots, I cannot see that the reading of the Riot Act would have brought those riots to a swift conclusion or would have done anything to assist materially. It might sound splendid to say "We shall bring in the Riot Act", but we must ask ourselves what that Act does. Riots are not new to this generation or to this century. I have with me a textbook on the law relating to riots and unlawful assemblies which was printed in 1848. It has on it the signature of Sir Edward Clarke, who was the Solicitor-General of the day. Based on the law contained in it, as hon. Members will recollect, he prosecuted tie people responsible for what was called the "Bloody Sunday" riot of November 1887. The two people charged were John Burns and a Member of Parliament, a Mr. Cunningham Graham. The object of the riot was to achieve the release of an Irish Member of Parliament called Mr. William O'Brien, who was refusing to wear the clothes of a prisoner and was demanding special privileges as a political prisoner. That reflects a similiarity of problem that we are facing elsewhere today. The reason why I mention that is that during that serious riot, in Which 100 people were injured and two people were killed, a magistrate came along with the full power of the Riot Act but did not read it because there was not an opportunity to do so. I do not believe that a new Riot Act—unless it merely had the title and powers that we have not yet discussed and will have to consider carefully—is the answer to the problem. Emergency legislation rushed through at the speed with which we should have to do it, were it to be appropriate to today's problems, would be bad legislation of which we would not be proud in the future.
Mr. S. C. Silkin (Dulwich)
In so far as tensions of the kind referred to by the Home Secretary in the latter part of his speech may exist, no speech could be more likely to aggravate them than that of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell).It is an irony that the Government, who were helped to power on the back of a law and order campaign, have presided over more widespread lawlessness and greater disorder than any since the war. Their record includes the highest number of prisoners, more than 45,000, a prison officers' dispute, which brought home the folly of an excessive prison population, and unprecendented disorders and disturbances, which ought to bring home to us other follies in our society. In condemning, as we do, the lawlessness, looting and violence, we must ask how this last example in the long history of broken promises has arisen. Is it a cynical disregard for promises made, or sheer incompetence? I do not think that it is either. It is both. I have great sympathy for the Home Secretary. He is an honest and compassionate man, as his speech showed, who ought not to have been subjected to so many concentrated short, sharp shocks. As often happens, unhappily, they have brought him into bad company, and the danger is that he may be learning bad habits and even becoming institutionalised. The Governor of the institution—perhaps I should say the Governess—is no help to him. She rushes in where the more prudent people tread gently around the edges, and she seems to regard recent events not as symptoms of a disease whose cause must be cured but as an affront to her personal position. What respect can we possibly have for a Prime Minister who openly says that we can tackle the causes of the breakdown in law and order only when law and order are restored, and who makes it patently obvious when she loses patience with her own Ministers? It was obvious from the Home Secretary's speech on the Representation of the People Bill that his stomach and mind were not in it. It is equally obvious that the pressures put upon him over the last few weeks have told upon him. The trouble is that he has been put up to show a tough front on the symptoms and to make a public display of aggressive measures to deal with lawlessness—I am glad that he mentioned other things as well—never mind that the sacrifice required by tough aggressiveness may be the erosion of the long-term patient policy of bringing the police more closely into, and in tune with, the community. It is not the Home Secretary but others who bear the responsibility for the malaise, but when the consequences are seen, it is they who retire into the background, leaving the unfortunate Home Secretary to field the bricks and the petrol bombs. Therefore, it is he who, with praiseworthy and obvious reluctance, announces the possible use of offensive weapons which, if they are used, can only widen the barriers that exist, and which are at the root of the evil. Indeed, they are weapons which the militants on both the Left and Right would dearly like to see used, because their ends would be served by their use. Yesterday I asked the Home Secretary to consider reserving a personal authorisation for the use of some of the more extreme weapons, which he assured us would be used only in the last resort. I deliberately did not press him yesterday. He explained the difficulties today, but I hope that on reflection he will see the wisdom of the proposal that I made. It must be wrong that the decision to use extreme weapons, such as water cannon and plastic bullets, should be in the hands of those, however able and trustworthy, who are not directly responsible to Parliament. These weapons are repugnant to virtually the whole House and, from what they say, to most chief constables. If they are used, it is right that we should be able to challenge their use and question whether their use was really necessary. We can do that only if the Home Secretary takes direct, personal responsibility on each occasion that they are used. The argument that they may be needed at short notice and that the Home Secretary may be unavailable is specious. A senior Minister must be available in his place and the Home Secretary must take the ultimate responsibility. It is far too important a power to delegate to officers who, however able, are not responsible to this House. Therefore, I urge the Home Secretary to think again with his colleagues and to make this concession. If he does so, it will not endear the weapons to me, but I should at least know that there would be nothing automatic and that there would be reasonable consistency about their use. The debate has been and must be about deeper causes. Can there be any possible doubt that among those causes two stand out? I refer first to the ever-increasing drift to worklessness. It is not merely that those who are workless may suffer poverty and squalor, but at least as much that they suffer unending boredom and frustration. How much does that apply to the young and the black young? If they can see no prospect of a bright morning again, and if their vision is of lengthening days of idleness, uselessness and hopelessness, can we be surprised if they develop feelings of deep alienation towards the society that has caused that situation? What is their incentive to accept society's norms of behaviour when they can expect so little from it? If I had agreed with anything in the speech of the right hon. Member for Down, South it would have been the implication that if that situation applies to young blacks, they are likely to be even more alienated than young whites. I do not condone lawlessness, but when we are faced with it we cannot shirk our duty to explain it and to remove its cause. Alienation is the second most predominant cause of recent events. It is bred of the deep inequality that is rooted in our society. It fosters the spirit of "us" and "them". It produces an antagonism to authority, to what is regarded as the Establishment, which shows itself, unhappily, from an early age. That antagonism has grown over the past decade. It is a deeply regrettable aspect of the malaise that many young people should regard the police as the protectors of—and indeed part of—that Establishment. That is why the police are so often the target. That is why we must look with deep mistrust on any measures that may widen the gap and erode the process of bringing the police and the community more closely together. Therefore, our measures must be directed certainly against the symptoms, but even more against the disease. That is why we mistrust the Prime Minister's attitude. We mistrust it all the more when we see that the mounting toll of unemployed is accompanied by the growing decay of our inner cities. Those are the very areas where disturbances take place. Indeed, Brixton is a notable example. Much remarkable work has been done in restoring areas and communities, including multi-racial communities in Brixton. Indeed, I often pass such areas on my way to my constituency. They are hardly a stone's throw from the troubled areas in Brixton. Resources need to be provided to areas such as the troubled areas. The blame for the fact that these things are not done does not lie at the Home Secretary's door. It lies at the door of the Prime Minister and her closest advisers. In the early hours of tomorrow morning, one part at least of the electorate will have taught her a lesson. The question is whether her arrogant assumption of perfection will allow her to learn it.
Mr. John Wheeler (Paddington)
I hope to keep my remarks brief. I should like to pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for the statement that he made. What he said was remarkable. He made one of the finest speeches that I have heard him make. He struck the truth and spoke common sense, and I am sure that that will be welcomed by all hon. Members.When the first paid police force was established in London in 1829, the tradition of the constable as a citizen—and only as a citizen—was maintained. Our arrangements are unique. The police officer is a citizen. He is not a Government or local council employee. He does not take his orders from the Government or from a local authority. He enforces the law that Parliament alone passes. Let us remember that our tradition of policing binds the citizen constable with the citizens. It is the role of the police to carry out their duties with the consent and approval of the community. Nothing has happened during the past few days to change that situation. Events have reinforced the importance of the police working with their local communities. There is no demand to make a change in the accountability of the police. After all, a police officer is accountable to the court. If he breaks the law, or if he arrests or prosecutes someone, it is for the independent judiciary to decide whether his action was right. Nothing has happened since the establishment of the Metropolitan Police as the first of those paid police forces to suggest that our constitutional arrangements should be changed. However, in the intervening years we have heaped on the police service a responsibility for enforcing more laws and regulations than ever before. Sometimes their enforcement brings the police into conflict with sections of the community, and in particular with the young. Hon. Members should bear in mind that about 2,000 motoring offences could be committed on the Queen's highway alone. The conflict that arises in our cities between the police and the young springs from the attempt to enforce so many laws. Nothing has occurred to excuse the disorders of the past 10 days. The police must maintain the Queen's peace on the streets of our cities. It is the Home Secretary's duty to ensure that police forces are equipped with all that is necessary to ensure that the peace is kept with the minimum of violence. Recently, many members of the police force have told me that they seek only to enforce the law in the traditional way. They have told me that they do not seek water cannon and special equipment. They have said that they do not want to use such apparatus in order to carry out their duties. They have told me that they wish to maintain the traditions of their service. I hope that hon. Members will use their voices and energies to encourage the police to continue down that road. I pay tribute to the way in which the police have grappled with the new problem. Their first duty is to control and then to contain outbreaks of disorder. I think that they are now achieving that. I remind the House that throughout the country, especially in the big cities, chief constables and commissioners of police have worked for many years to establish community relations departments to liaise with different parts of the community and ethnic groups who dwell in our cities. An excellent effort has been made and it should be encouraged, not forgotten. Those who, in considering the background to the disorders, say that a member of the Government is responsible for some policy or action that has contributed to the present position have short memories. Those of us who represent constituencies in inner cities know that the problems have been with us for several decades. The shame of it is how little has been done by any Government to solve the problem. We should consider what confronts us in many of our cities. The largest property owner is the local authority. What does it do with its property? It builds council estates that are no more than slums and tower blocks that are hideous to live in. Is it any wonder that so many who live in our inner cities are alienated and frustrated in their life styles? We should be working towards allowing those who live in our inner cities to be the owners of their homes, their environment and their businesses. People who own things rarely loot, set fire to property or steal. They have a vested interest in the quality of life about them and in maintaining it. The truth is that in our cities that is not so. In Liverpool 8, one can examine the black British community that has lived there for 150 years. It has remained virtually unchanged in not owning anything, not even the corner shop that serves the locality. Such conditions have contributed much to the difficulties that we have experienced during the last few days. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment is to visit Liverpool. I hope that he will do something about the conditions that he finds there and elsewhere in our cities. He must take action to ensure that the people who live in cities become the owners of property and are involved in the businesses. We should consider the position of small businesses. It is a 30-year scandal. In the United States, about 48 per cent. of business is small business. In West Germany the figure is 54 per cent. In the United Kingdom it is a mere 25 per cent. That is a measure of the failure of successive Governments over many decades. It is much worse in the cities, where fewer people own businesses than elsewhere. Those conditions must be remedied rapidly if we are to see a change in the life style and characteristics of those who live in our great cities. It is not a question of throwing more money into the council hall for it to be used to build a bigger town hall or a larger council estate or a larger swimming pool. The money must be used so that people can relate to it, have a genuine involvement and feel that they belong to their environment.
Mr. A. W. Stallard (St. Pancras, North)
Did the hon. Gentleman vote against the cuts?
It is not a question of the cuts but of using the money properly.
Mr. Stuart Holland (Vauxhall)
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
No, the hon. Gentleman will make his own speech. Brixton has received £8 million, and Liverpool £17 million. What has the money been used for? Has it benefited those who live in those places? The answer is that it has not, alas.
It has not been used so that people can identify themselves with it and relate to it. Those are the underlying causes and questions to which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment must address himself.In conclusion, I refer briefly to the work of the Select Committee on Home Affairs and its Sub-Committee on Race Relations and Immigration. On 6 August the Committee will publish a report on racial disadvantage in England and Wales. The Committee spent about eight months looking into the complex problems of minority groups who live in our cities. The Committee visited many of our cities. When the report is available, it will contain many practical and sensible recommendations which I hope will be considered and acted upon at the earliest opportunity by both the Government and the local authorities.
Mr. John Fraser (Norwood)
I suppose the first question that we must answer in the debate is what factors or elements are responsible for the plague of disturbances in our country. I use the word "elements" because the best analogy is between a chemical explosion and the sort of explosion that I saw last night in my constituency.There is not one cause but usually three or four elements or factors. They are not always the same elements or factors in one place and another. Sometimes there is spontaneous combustion and sometimes a plausible cause, as we had in Brixton last night. It is necessary to understand that there is not usually one cause for the problems. I have heard stories about the four motor cyclists of the apocalypse going from place to place throughout the United Kingdom stirring up the riots. Anyone who knows, knows that that is a ludicrous explanation. Or there is the militant paper seller—a member of my general management committee—who travels from one part of the United Kingdom to another. It is ludicrous to suggest that one person could do anything to stir up these matters. There will always be parasites and camp followers, but they are the consequences, not the causes, of what has happened. There are criminal elements and, my God, they put fear into me when I see some of the things that they do. Let us examine the proposition about criminal elements. Of course there are criminal elements in rioting in one form or another, but those who commit crimes are but one colour at the end of the spectrum of social and economic deprivation and disadvantage. They cannot be separated and made discrete from the conditions. When trouble flares up, those who are inclined to criminality are often the front-line troops of the riot, but they have been trained not by extremists or by any political or militant organisation but by the economic and social conditions that they have endured for some time. Anyone who imagines that the blame can be put on one small group of agitators is gravely mistaken. I am sure that when Louis XVI was talking to Marie Antoinette they deplored what was occurring then and said that there was no justification or that there was a simple explanation. We know from contemporary accounts that there were explanations of the same nature for the peasants' revolt, but we understand that there are deep and long-standing social and economic causes. One cannot go through all the factors responsible, but one of the first and most important must be unemployment. Unemployment disproportionately affects young blacks in our inner city areas. There is massive evidence that even people with the same qualifications and ability, but with different coloured skins or different racial backgrounds, are treated differently. That explains why the reactions to unemployment in our inner cities, where there are mixed races, is different from that in places such as Consett, which has a homogeneous population. Because people are treated differently, bitterness and disillusion have grown, particularly among the young people. Within the inner cities there is a contrast between the glitter and the gutter. Those who experience deprivation, poverty and unemployment are alienated. At the same time, they can see the ostentatious consumption of wealth about them. I do not say that any of that justifies the reactions, the burnings and lootings, but it helps to explain them. Our job is to explain, not simply to dismiss these matters. It will be difficult to recover from the situation. The growth of bitterness and alienation has been taking place for such a long time that it will be difficult to bring about redemption. Relations between the local communities and the police cannot be left out of account. I cannot begin to describe the depth of distrust and disaffection that exists between some of our people—and not only young people. There are several reasons for that. The police force is regarded as being mainly an all-white force, representing white authority. The police have to take the blame for that which others are responsible for. The "sus" law, for example, created distrust between young blacks and the police force. Some policemen tend to make assumptions about people based upon their colour. People are treated differently according to their status and colour. The police have become remote from the community because of the gradual ending of intimate policing. The police now patrol in panda cars. They are not seen in the street and do not get to know the local population. Far too few black policemen are in the force. There are historic reasons for that. The police do not always take account of the desires of local communities. In London, in particular, there is no proper accountability. As Members of Parliament, we have a heavy responsibility to support our police force and to support those in the front line of maintaining law and order. At the same time, we must not shrink from criticism when we believe it to be fair. All the support that I have tried to give was gravely undermined in my constituency on Wednesday. I do not believe in the conspiracy theory, but, if I were to be persuaded to believe in it, what happened on Wednesday might persuade me. I went to five shops and three houses in Railton Road in Brixton. I was aghast and stupefied by what I saw. How on earth there could be a connection between five separately owned shops and three houses I do not know. The police said that they had received a tip-off about the presence of explosives. When I looked inside the properties, the degree of damage was beyond comprehension. I taped notes, which run to four pages, describing the damage that I saw. As regards two houses, I could come to no conclusion other than that a large number of policemen had deliberately set out to wreck the houses to make them uninhabitable by taking up floorboards, breaking water pipes, removing gas and electric meters, hand-rails and banisters and smashing almost every window. It seemed that they had tried to make two houses uninhabitable, as local authorities sometimes do to prevent squatters moving in. That was the only conclusion to which I could come. I spent most of yesterday trying to bring about some calm. I tried to arrange a meeting with the local commander, who led the raid, and local people. I tried to reach an agreement about compensation. I conveyed the Home Secretary's message of last night to my constituents. I am grateful to him for that and for his response today. I emphasise that the action that I have described takes away my credibility and undermines the credibility of the community leaders. It provides a plausible cause for the type of events that occurred much later last night in Brixton. I deeply deplore those events, but the cause lay there. As my son said yesterday, "You know, Dad, when we had the burglars in, they did not make as much mess as the policemen made when executing a search warrant." What a comment from a young man who should have some respect for the police. We want an independent inquiry into the events which detonated the further explosion yesterday. The third factor is more abstract. One of the causes of what took place is a long-standing deterioration in the fabric of our society. It comes partly from the breakdown of the family. That is a particular problem among West Indians with the breakdown of the extended family and the supportive help that it gives, which is one of the causes of alienation between the parents and the children. Other forces inside that community have become less reinforcing to the observance of law and order. I refer to redevelopment and large council estates. It would take too long to discuss the factors in detail, but an examination of patterns of behaviour deserves consideration. Another abstract factor is Northern Ireland. Events shown on television night after night have habituated people to violence. Responses are weakened by seeing such events. People are prepared to tolerate more as a result of what is happening in that part of the United Kingdom. We are catching the plague in this part of the United Kingdom. That cannot be ignored. People are bewildered and insecure because of the way in which economic conditions have changed as a result of inflation. The abstract factors involve the family, insecurity in the economy and people's surroundings. The Home Secretary must be careful about the use of camps, which, rightly or wrongly, will be categorised as concentration camps. They will create a new type of folklore and legend. There is a great danger of that happening if camps are used. The time that elapses between arrest and trial is far too long. Many young men and women have to wait between 18 months and two years between the commission of an alleged offence and the date that they come to trial. Their whole social circumstances might change in that time. We do not want instant drumhead court martial. I reject that idea. There must be a reasonably short interval, with adequate time to prepare the defendant's case, between arrest and trial.
Mr. Arthur Palmer (Bristol, North-East)
Is my hon. Friend aware that in Bristol the interval is between nine and 10 months?
That is far too long. There must be an increase in training, but I am afraid that the youth opportunities programme is not enough. The large number of "YOP—Rip-off" badges shows the disenchantment and distrust that young people have even for such a well-meant scheme. We must have proper craft training, in particular, and we must create employment.The Government can help. I was impressed this morning, in another part of my constituency, by a new industrial estate opened by Lambeth Enterprises, which is chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Lambeth, Central (Mr. Tilley), where hundreds of jobs have been created as part of the inner city partnership. It is good to see that there is a positive and hopeful side as well as the troubles that we endured last night. There must be a change in police attitudes. I intend to send the Home Secretary a long and detailed paper on the subject. We must try to change some of our values and to endorse more ideals. If the pursuit of profit and greed and the possession of items of personal ostentation are to be the only values of our society, we shall be sowing the seeds of repeats of the disruptions. The Government's economic policies must bear a grave responsibility for what has happened. I remember the voices that we heard in 1975 and 1976 from the Conservative Benches when hon. Members talked about the smell of Weimar and the disintegration of our economy and society because we had a regrettably high rate of inflation. It was not a Weimar republic. We did rot collapse; we got things right. But the Government are presiding over the disintegration not only of our industry and employment but of our cities. A change of policy by the Government—in particular, a change of view by the Prime Minister—would perhaps be one of the most hopeful signs we could see until she leaves the Government Benches for good.
Mr. Anthony Steen (Liverpool, Wavertree)
I should like to make some observations on the rioting in Liverpool and explain why I believe that the past level of public intervention has made matters worse rather than better. I should also like to explain the ways in which we can avoid a repeat occurrence of the events of the past few weeks.There is no doubt that there was an element of party politics in the violence. One does not know how much, but it was there. Inflammatory leaflets were distributed and the police were a deliberate target. There were section commanders who negotiated the evacuation of one of the hospitals. The targets were clearly selective. A membership club was plundered before it was set on fire. Works of art were looted and removed through the windows. A bank was destroyed, and so was a furniture warehouse owned by a former Tory councillor. The Sefton Park Conservative club, over a mile away, had a petrol bomb thrown at it. Thatcher's tea and coffee house, run by my local Conservative association, had all its windows smashed. It cost £800 to replace them. One does not wish to say what the balance of the party political element was, or what party was involved, but it was present in that trouble. My second point is how and why public intervention has contributed to the decline of Toxteth. It is an inner city neighbourhood which has had 22,000 dwellings destroyed in the past 10 years. They have been pulled down, families have disappeared and neighbourhood communities have been abandoned. However, the bulldozer continues to drive out small firms and knock down homes. Vacant and derelict land has not been built on or sold. Since 1968 a whole range of community projects and social organisations have been involved in Toxteth, including the community development project and the educational priority area which covered Toxteth. The urban aid programme has been very active. The inner area studies, the Inner Urban Areas Act 1978 and the partnership committee have all operated in the district and neither the urban development corporation nor the enterprise zone is far away. In Upper Parliament Street—the hon. Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw) will know more about this than I do—there are 12 community centres, mostly or wholly financed out of public money. It is worth looking at what they all do and where they all are. Upper Parliament Street, where the riots took place, is about a mile long. It is a sort of high street. It contains the Harding centre, which is run by the local education authority; the Charles Wroten centre, which is an educational advisory centre; the Chatham Street project, which is unfinished but has already received £¼ million of public money; the Caribbean centre; the Princes Park and Granby community centre; a Pakistan centre; Stanley House; the Rialto centre; the Davis Lewis youth centre; the Rialto neighbourhood centre; and the Chinese community centre. They are all in or near that street. A great deal of public and private money is wrapped up in those centres, which encourage the growth of rival gangs. They are fiercely independent and, far from helping racial integration of the area, they have caused racial separation. Each centre has its own members and is fiercely determined to maintain its independence. I believe that the best way of preserving the cultural and social identity of minority groups is for them to work together in a jointly run neighbourhood centre, in which they have their own separate parts but do not develop separate camps and units. Of course, those who get excluded from all the centres are the half-blacks and half-whites whose families have lived in the area for hundreds of years. They are not identified with any of the centres. I hope that when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State goes to Liverpool he will have close regard to how the urban aid programme has been financed and whether it is part of a policy for the area or merely responds to needs as they appear. Toxteth is another hon. Member's constituency and perhaps the best contribution that I can make is to talk about what could help to resolve the problems of Toxteth and other inner city areas. Politicians and planners tend to forget that downtown communities like inner Liverpool have an important contribution to make, even though they are in an advanced state of decline. Neighbourhood councils have already demonstrated the extent to which close-knit communities can make social and community provision for themselves. Liverpool 8 used to be the centre of a vibrant city life, where the cut and thrust of private enterprise once occurred. Neighbourhood renewal must no longer be thought of as the putting in of public funds for social and community work, but of involving people in generating the revitalisation of their areas. It is a serious condemnation of the Liverpool partnership that it excludes both the private sector and the community groups in the city. It depends solely on the local authority, the Government and health authorities. I should like to suggest the setting up of a neighbourhood development corporation with the aim of restoring the economic help of the neighbourhood, involving those already living and working there and, through a subsidiary development finance company, raising private money and levering additional finance from the public sector. It would not be another quango; it would be a non-profit making organisation with a board made up of local people elected for that purpose. Each of those people would have an interest in and a commitment to improving the life of the neighbourhood. They would require the help of a small team of professional consultants to put together what they wanted. Street by street, building by building, they would consult various interest groups and go into considerable detail. Such corporations might engage in marketing studies and analysing the retail demand to help local businesses. Others could put up general schemes concerning the environment to the local authority. They might suggest to neighbourhood retailers how they could make the shopping precinct more attractive, and they might wish to get involved in giving the area a facelift and generally making the neighbourhood a more vital and successful place in which to live. The neighbourhood development corporation's sole purposes would be the regeneration of the neighbourhood and the attraction of new money through a subsidiary development finance company, which would be run by those with a financial interest in the area. It would be the neighbourhood's vehicle for raising money and would act as a conduit for personal and business loans. The development finance company would be a broker for the people and would be required to raise money to help existing businesses. With no special allegiance to any bank, insurance company or building society, it could effect the best possible terms and have considerable clout stemming from its potential volume of business. By creating a new focus for neighbourhood regeneration and an opportunity for local people to help themselves, the older inner city districts would start to assume a new life. Never before have those living and working in depressed areas been encouraged, let alone had the chance, to get involved in the economic regeneration and renewal of their areas. A very important aspect of the older inner areas is the houses and other homes. I am appalled by the number of houses that are still pulled down in the inner areas of my city. An important aspect of neighbourhood renewal is therefore saving from the bulldozer the older houses still standing. Homesteading can do this. It means that local authorities sell for a nominal sum—perhaps only £1—private houses that it has acquired through compulsory purchase to those willing to live in them and repair them to an agreed standard and not to sell them for five years. The important part is that it brings younger people back to the areas that they formerly abandoned. Not everyone will be willing to do his own repairs in the homesteading process, so loan rehabilitation finance would be made available through the neighbourhood development corporation's finance company. The potential benefit from homesteading is considerable. It can provide homes for first-time buyers, younger people otherwise unable to afford to purchase, and it can bring back life to depopulated inner city neighbourhoods. Homesteaders become home owners; housing stock is saved. There is also the importance of shopsteading, just like homesteading. The depressing appearance of shops in many of the inner city neighbourhoods contributes to the general rundown feeling of the area. The aim of shopsteading is to do something about this. It works on the principle of levering grants out of the local authority to improve, say, the appearance of the shop frontage. In return, the shop owner would improve the inside. The whole principle of the neighbourhood development corporation is that, by borrowing private money from the neighbourhood bank, whether it be black or white, it can stimulate the local authority to do things that it would not otherwise have done. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has now acted to protect the police and to reassure the community that it is safe. That was the first and the most important step, and it is now being taken. But a great deal of remedial work must follow. Strengthening the police and improving their equipment will put the lid on, but inside the areas are still boiling. Unemployment is certainly a cause. The general malaise of the inner city is another cause, but trouble can also flare up in the outer city council estates. We should not under-estimate the aggravation in the vast, soulless council estates on the edges of the provincial areas. If we are to reduce the temperature, we need to start a neighbourhood development corporation and neighbourhood councils as fast as we can and to involve the people who live in the areas in something constructive. Only in this way can we hope to save the situation and rebuild the communities that are so depressed and give them new hope.
Mr. Reginald Freeson (Brent, East)
There were ingredients in the speech of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Steen) that are worth pursuing. I make only one general criticism of his style. He tended to suggest that there was an instant blue print solution—that, if only we could have a neighbourhood development corporation, the problems of Liverpool 8 and other such areas would all be solved. Not so; but I agree with some of the characteristics of the hon. Gentleman's approach, and I shall return to them later.First, I state my credentials. I chaired the inner area studies group for three years—most of its life. It had been initiated by the right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker) in 1972, when he was Secretary of State for the Environment. Whilst I do not represent a constituency that has the deep-set problems of Liverpool 8 and such areas in other parts of the country, my constituency is now largely described as an inner city area. What virtually drove me into political activity years ago and eventually into this House was a concern about what we now call inner city problems. I should like to speak about what was referred to as the gutter and the glitter aspect of the problem. We rightly concentrate on the problems of the inner city, its deprivation—economic, environmental—and so on. We talk from time to time about a more difficult to define social malaise in the inner city. The breakdown of the extended family was referred to, as was the breakdown of the community by the massive movement out that has taken place in the last 30 years. It is an illusion that most of that movement out was planned. Only about 15 per cent. of it in any of our big cities has been undertaken as a result of new towns or similar programmes. The vast bulk of it has been the spontaneous movement of industry, commerce, the movement of the population into decent housing on the outskirts, down-market owner-occupation and so on. That has led to the stresses and strains of the declining community. We should not be over-sentimental about it. Most of those overcrowded conditions should have gone, and I am glad that they have gone. The population should have declined, and I am glad that it has. That in itself is not a problem, but there are problems associated with it. One of the biggest problems has been our failure to undertake in the old inner city areas, over the past 30 years, the approach that we began to develop in the new and expanding town developments. That would have given a community dimension to inner city renewal, a better environment, and a greater variety of housing, job opportunities, education and training such as we have seen taking place at its best in some of the new towns and better planned suburbs. There are also plenty that are not so well planned. I come back to the question of the glitter and the gutter. We speak of the malaise of the inner city as well as the specific deprivations, but it is the malaise in our society as a whole that must be faced if we want to develop or renew our inner cities. Ending this social malaise and getting resources into these areas has major implications for our society, for the way in which we apply our resources and for the extent to which we wish to increase our personal consumption as individuals at the expense of what is loosely called a social wage—that is, public, community expenditure. I wish to use phrases that do not conjure up pejorative ideas in people's minds. Many years ago, Galbraith, the well-known American economist, shook the world by his book on the affluent society. It influenced many people of all colours of the political spectrum—more so those on the Left, but others also. One of the important themes of his book, and of much that followed from it in the debates in the 1950s and 1960s, was the continuance of public squalor amidst private affluence and the fact that we were chasing after constant growth of personal consumption, inequitably spread, at the expense of our community life and environment. Much has been done in the years since to try to counteract that, but no one can say with hand on heart that we have really achieved success. Everyone seems to think that if only the standards of the inner cities could be raised to the standards of consumption in what we loosely call the affluent suburbs all would be well. I do not believe that this is so. Just as it is impossible to achieve the resources required in these areas and in many other aspects of our economy without restraining expenditure elsewhere, so we cannot rely on growth to break down the barrier and narrow the gap between inner areas, where poverty of various kinds is concentrated, and suburban life, with its much higher standard of living, both environmentally and in terms of personal consumption. There are deep-seated questions involving the nature of our economy and society, which will not be easy to resolve unless we face the basic dilemma. One cannot constantly have growth of personal consumption and also achieve decent community standards in declining areas. The divisions between the highly developed industrial societies and the poorer countries of the world are even sharper. There is a community and social malaise that spreads in different ways far beyond the inner cities. I wish, however, to concentrate on the inner cities and to say how much I welcome the two Front Bench speeches, which complemented each other. I cannot endorse all the details. I am anxious and worried about the genuflexions, if that is not an unkind expression, of the Home Secretary towards aggressive policing, although he did not use the phrase, I am glad to say. I am still worried about where we may be driven if we pursue that road. The tumbler standing on the Table of the House, which I shall be grateful if my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) will pass to me, is smaller than a plastic bullet. I do not know how many hon. Members have seen a plastic bullet. I saw one for the first time only about a week ago. Does any hon. Member really want to see this sort of thing used in the cause of law and order? We have to be wary even of genuflecting in that direction. I return to the more positive aspects. The Home Secretary referred to the fact that the Secretary of State for the Environment, along with some other colleagues, is to visit Liverpool to look at the situation, to study it, to consult the local authority, private interests and community leaders, and to report, if I understood his words correctly, to the Cabinet on the conclusions to be drawn. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), I welcome that proposal. It is a good move—so far as it goes. I have to say, however, that this will not be the first time that Ministers and others have been to Liverpool 8 and to Lambeth. The first port of call of every Minister for housing shortly after his appointment was Lambeth, to study the problems. Yet now, 10, 15 and 20 years later, we have the riots in Brixton. I am not trying to knock the initiatives that have been taken. I do not intend even gently, to sneer at all the things that have been done for Liverpool 8 and elsewhere over the years. I believe that further research, examination and study should be a constant process in these areas. However, we must not wait any longer before we do something more effective, in national and local government terms, about the renewal and the better management of the public services, the economy and the environment of these areas. I do not say that in the belief that the problems can be resolved quickly. We have failed for too many decades to take the opportunity to renew areas of declining population. The solution will not be easy or rapid. We cannot be certain that we shall succeed. We should continue to monitor, to research and to consult as frequently as we wish, but the need to organise more effectively is long overdue. I ask the House to believe that it is not conceit that prompts me to mention the fact that the first part of the speech that I had intended to make, but which I shall not make, contains a fairly long quotation from a memorandum—I kept a copy—that I submitted to the then Minister of Housing and Local Government in May 1970, shortly before the Labour Government lost office. At the time I was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. I had carried out a tour of 25 authorities, studying housing and related problems. The memorandum called for a more concerted effort in Government and for new types of organisation in local authorities and the Government to achieve more collective and more integral planning and management of inner city areas. I did not use the phrase "inner city" in the document. It is only in recent years that that label has come to be used. I spoke of urban renewal. I referred to the education priority areas, to the housing improvement areas and to the initiatives that had been taken, stating that there was a need to build on those initiatives, developed over the previous 10 years. My memorandum went on to say:
That was in May 1970. It is now July 1981, 11 years later. I also stated in the memorandum:"we must ensure that Government and local government organise more effectively to deal with the problems of decay and obsolescence. Large parts of our cities are in a mess and we have got to act more speedily, consistently and comprehensively to make them really worth living in. Unless the Government and local government organise more effectively to deal with these problems, they will be as great in a decade's time as they are today". .
It is diff cult to get that sort of thing done in Government. Anyone who has served in national or local government will recognise the difficulties of breaking down barriers between departments, whether at ministerial or town clerk level. Nevertheless, it has to be done. That is why I welcome a ministerial presence although not on the basis of a report back and a chat in Cabinet and perhaps, if a certain lady allows it, another few trillion pounds put into special projects, much as I would welcome that, or an addition to the rate support grant, much as I would welcome that too. We must be prepared to organise in Government and in local government an across-the-board approach on budgeting and on team work at neighbourhood level within the larger areas. I advocate strongly, as I did when in Government, with only partial success, as the Labour Government moved down the road towards partnerships and the programme authorities, the need for a Minister of Cabinet rank, responsible to the Prime Minister, whose duties would cover urban renewal as a whole. I also advocate, which I did not propose in Government but which experience has taught me, that that Cabinet Minister should have working with him a senior Minister from the Treasury, whose job should not he simply controlling other people's expenditure but rather that of a strategist, who would get expenditure undertaken to achieve objectives. His role should not be to tell people not to do this or to do that because it costs too much. A senior Treasury Minister should work alongside a Cabinet Minister responsible to the Prime Minister for urban renewal policies and action. His job should be part of a unit in Government that crosses the boundaries between education, employment, and housing—I do not say that this should happen overnight—to get concerted urban renewal programmes undertaken in designated areas. Those programmes should not be interfered with overmuch by separate Departments under separate Ministers. It should also be his job to require, persuade and enable the local authorities concerned to reorganise themselves in a similar way. There were two big failings in the inner urban studies. The first was that they started out simply as Department of the Environment studies, although I sought to extend them into other Departments while I was in charge of them. Secondly, they were just studies. In the early 1970s, when they were put in hand, we should have concentrated on the creation of central and local government machinery in which they could operate so that they could proceed to undertake coherent planning and management of the areas concerned and renew them with the help of the communities. Unless we get that kind of approach started and stuck to consistently for years to come, there will not be genuine urban renewal and we shall have the same problems in 10 years or so, although they may not show themselves in the same way. We need variety of tenure. We need town development trust agencies, for example. In some parts of the country, such schemes are in hand already. We need a variety of methods under ministerial guidance and direction and a similar form of organisation in the town halls. Unless we get it, we shall not succeed. If we could undertake that kind of reorganisation in the inner areas and get it rolling, two results might flow from it. First, by the very fact of local authorities and the Government acting in this concerted neighbourhood approach—a total across-the-board approach—we might begin to induce in our community a collective and communal approach to the problems. We could create neighbourhood relationships, because physically and organisationally we should be doing it in Government and in local government. If we could achieve that we should, secondly, learn lessons that could be of assistance to some of the suburbs, because they will have their own problems to come as the years go by. Unless something is done along those lines, I am convinced that we shall be worried about and arguing about the problems 10 years from now. The sooner such action is taken, by whichever Government are in power, with the necessary resources available, the better it will be for the whole of our society, and not just the deprived inner areas."New methods for national and local government are needed to tackle priority areas in a comprehensive and continuing programmme of action on housing, community services and planning. This will require close co-ordination and integration of national and local government departments, both in policy and in executive action—in housing, planning, health, welfare, social security, employment, education, training and research".
Mr. John Ward (Poole)
As I listened to the right hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Freeson), I was reminded that 35 years ago I started work in the borough of Lambeth. Even then we had our fair share of inner city deprivation. Looking back, I see that many material improvements have been made but that the heart has gone out of large areas of the place. It seems to me that we should be a little cautious about simply moving in with more taxpayers' money without looking at the fundamental problems which may lie behind many of the matters that we are discussing.Before developing that theme, I wish to add my tribute to what my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said. In my view, he grasped the mood of the nation—undoubtedly he grasped the mood of my constituents—in what he proposed. Perhaps the most over-used word in the Chamber today has been the word "but". We have heard hon. Members time and again say "I support the police, but…" I make it clear that I support the police, full stop. They are our last refuge between the civilisation that we enjoy, despite all the rude remarks made about it, and total anarchy. Any measure that the police need to defend themselves and to enforce the law is acceptable to me. The hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser) asked a number of pertinent questions of the Home Secretary, and I am sure that he will receive answers. But if we support the police, we have to realise that we are not talking of individuals who are calm, mature "Dixon of Dock Green" figures. Many of them today are in their early twenties and are inexperienced. I suggest that many of them are even more scared than the people they stop when going about their business. Given the expansion that we have seen in the police force, this lack of experience is inevitable. However, I am sure that right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House will join me in paying tribute to those young policemen who have gained a lot of experience in the past 10 days. The will have learnt a great deal from it and will be better and more efficient police officers from now on. Although some of our police are very young, that in some ways should be an asset, bearing in mind that they are trying to deal with young people. However, some of these young policemen are probably facing riots for the first time in their lives. The right hon. Member for Brent, East was seen just now to hold up a tumbler and compare it with the diameter of a plastic bullet. I must point out that it is considerably smaller than a half-brick, considerably less dangerous than pointed pieces of metal which are flung about, and most certainly less dangerous than a glass container of similar size that is filled with petrol and has a lighted match applied to it. We deliberate these matters calmly in the House, but I think that once in a while we ought to try to put ourselves in the shoes of the man on the beat who may face this problem at any time of the day or night. In that connection, little has been said about the mental and physical suffering of the families of policemen in recent times. We ought to pay tribute to them, too. I welcome the snnouncement that Ministers are to go to Liverpool. However, I hope that the people of Liverpool and other cities will not be led to believe "I am from the Government. I have come to sort it all out for you." That will take a change of attitude not only from what might be described as the official side but from the people who are allegedly to receive help. For a few years before I came to the House I tried to employ young people from inner city areas. I made no distinction between black and white. But I found that it paid me to employ older people with a sense of responsibility who were willing to accept that, although they might not like the system, by making the system worked in that firm more efficient we would all profit. I found that attitude lacking in many young people. It may be that we should look at what we have done to educate and to set an example to young people over recent years. I find my views much in tune with the suggestions for a form of youth service. Until a youngster has learnt to serve other people, it is difficult for him to be put in a position where he can control their lives. If the Government feel that this suggestion should be pursued, I hope that they will go for volunteers. One of the difficulties in most youth movements, of which I have some experience, is a lack not of youngsters willing to participate but of adults willing to give their time to help, organise activities and to use their experience and skills in training youngsters. It is very much a two-way problem. If we have not the time for the youngsters, should we be surprised if they have not very much time for those of us who know it all, have seen it all and look back and think "What a mess we have made of it?" Some humility in dealing with the younger generation might be better than lecturing them too often and for too long. Some comments have been made about the attitude of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. I pay tribute to the fact that she realises that if one attempts to solve the problem by using money to produce false jobs and false expectations, there will be more trouble than there has already been. We must not build up expectations which are then dashed when more unemployment results from the fact that we have not created real jobs. Finally, I want to say a word about inner city planning. We all now condemn tower blocks, and some of us condemn council estates of a certain type. Yet, people were queueing to get into those places. With hindsight, the policy was wrong. We should have learnt that an effective community cannot be planned from a town hall or from a Government Department. Areas where people cease to move after dark become areas of fear where vandalism can occur. I make a plea that we should give private industry which knows best what the customer wants, the chance to plan those areas and show what it can do. We must stop placing constraints on private industry. Wherever private enterprise has been given its head—whether it involves the small corner shop or renovating an old property—a community has started to emerge. When an authority moves in with bulldozers, concrete mixers and mass production, the area becomes derelict. In most cases, it becomes almost a prefabricated slum. The activities and buildings in our inner cities should be planned by the people who will use them, not by the men in Whitehall or the town hall.
Mr. Richard Crawshaw (Liverpool, Toxteth)
I shall take up one or two of the matters mentioned by the hon. Member for Poole (Mr. Ward) later. First, I want to stress that nothing that has been said about the reasons for the riots in Liverpool can justify the violence that took place there. I am sure that almost everyone in Liverpool would echo that sentiment.We were glad that the Prime Minister and the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary came to Liverpool. I am only sorry that since the advent of "rent a mob" it is not always possible for Ministers to visit such areas. That should be rectified, because people must see for themselves, in conditions that allow them to do so. The Secretary of State for the Environment nods, and I know that he had an unfortunate incident in the area. In cases of civil disorder, the priority should be to protect law-abiding citizens and to restore order. I sometimes wonder whether we in the House live in a real world. We say that we must not do this and that we must not do that in case a rioter gets hurt. I accept that, but I do not understand how anyone can wish to deny the police the ability to put down a riot. The right hon. and learned Member for Dulwich (Mr. Silkin) said that the consent of the Home Secretary should be sought in such cases. I wonder whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman has ever seen a riot, where the situation changes from minute to minute, and where the police line can be driven back 100 yards or 200 yards down the road. How is it possible to get the consent of the Home Secretary to use CS gas in such circumstances? In Liverpool, Lodge Lane, with a shopping centre that is about half a mile long, was given over to the mob because the police could not get there. There are dwellings over the shops, and the people living there did not dare to come out because of the violence of the mob below. One shop after another was set on fire below where they were living. Is that the kind of instance when one rings the Home Secretary and asks for permission to use CS gas? People should see these things happening before they give glib answers about how to rectify the situation. Then there is the matter of police casualties. In a riot, everyone is suspect. Police officers were taken away, one after the other, with battered faces and broken limbs. I am amazed that the young police officers stood up to it. Hour after hour they had to face the riot and were unable to respond to it. I wish to say a word about what I think were the causes of the riot on Saturday night. It is important because, in my opinion, what happened in Liverpool triggered off what happened in the other areas, where the riots seemed to be riots of opportunity, rather than anything else. That is what happened eventually in Liverpool in the Dingle area, where it was a case of "Which shops have the best takings?" When that stage is reached, the situation has little to do with unemployment. It is a case of "What can I get for myself?" I pay tribute to the police, as I have done on many occasions. However, we must accept that things are wrong and that they must be changed. It has been suggested that the riot on Saturday was a black riot. That is not true. There are people who wish that it were true. I had not intended to go into this matter, but, having heard the speech of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), I think that I should give my view of the situation. The riot in Toxteth on Saturday night was a black and white riot. The impression that I got of a press conference was that the intention was to conceal the fact that white youths had been involved. The conversation was along these lines: "They were nearly all black, but there were white people there later. 'Question: How many were there originally?' Answer: 'We could not see, because it was too dark.'" I do not know how one can say that they were all black when it was too dark to see. It was then suggested that they came just before it got light. I am not making that up. That is what was said at a press conference, and it hardly inspires confidence or credibility. On the Sunday morning I was walking through the debris and met two lads, aged 11. They said to me "It will be 10 times as bad tonight, mate. They are coming from all over the place. The cops will really get it tonight." That was said by two respectably dressed white boys. So this was not a race riot, and I am glad that it was not. Unemployment is, of course, an important factor. When people do not have a job, they are bound to talk about how bad society is, so unemployment is one of the factors involved, but how often are we responsible for making the position even worse than it is? We have interchanges across the Floor of the House, during which hon. Members on each side suggest that someone is getting satisfaction from throwing people out of work. The policies may be wrong, but that is a different matter. I an certain that the Secretary of State for Employment spends as many sleepless nights over the unemployment figures as the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) ever did when the figures doubled during his period of office. Unemployment is not a party matter. We are living in times when some of these problems are thrust upon us, and often they are made worse by politics. I believe that the Government's policies—carried through, as they are, without any refinements—are aggravating the problem, but that criticism can be applied to all Governments, of whatever party, and we do no good by pretending that anyone gets pleasure from throwing people on to the dole queue. The environmental factor is also important, yet the first riot in Liverpool was in an area containing two new housing estates. Of course housing is important, but however much money we put into housing, we shall not cure the problem if we tackle it on the basis of party dogma. Why should we always seek to build in an area a complete council estate, putting people into ghettos in the way that we have done? Hon. Members from Liverpool might like to work out how many millions of pounds it will cost Liverpool in the next 50 years to pay for the dwellings that have been built in recent years and then had to be demolished. We must rethink our ideas on housing and the environment. Unless we can achieve a completely mixed development we shall produce only ghettoes and slums, however much money we spend. Money has been spent on social projects, and it has brought about various improvements, but there is obviously a great need for the environment to be cleared up and made presentable. Thousands of houses have been demolished, leaving only a few bricks. But when the Government provide money to clear up the area, some hon. Members criticise them for doing so. They cannot have it both ways. It is important to improve the environment. We have witnessed the breakdown of moral sanctions in all aspects of our society. Indeed, I am not certain that some of the conduct in this Chamber encourages people outside to believe that we are a responsible body. Some young people see films about the troubles in Northern Ireland and get involved in doing the same sort of thing themselves. But they also hear or read of the behaviour in this House and may think that that is the way in which people should conduct themselves. If the day arrives when argument no longer decides issues, our democracy will have gone. All too often I have seen instances, inside and outside the House, when free speech seems to be denied to anyone who disagrees with others. I thought that I was imagining things when I read about what had happened in Brixton. If anyone had been trying to sabotage the work of the Home Secretary, he could not have done it more effectively.
Dr. David Owen (Plymouth, Devonport)
That is true.
I do not know the facts, and I do not intend to go into any details, but if it be true that the police found drugs when they raided premises in Brixton, would this country have gone under if the presence of those drugs had been ignored for a few weeks? I thought that the police action in Brixton must at least have been designed to prevent an insurrection against the Government, but all that we find at the end of it is that some people have been arrested on suspicion of possessing drugs, and that one person has been arrested on suspicion of making explosives. But when the type of explosive was examined, the police saw fit to release the person concerned.If one-tenth of the suggested damage has been done in that police raid, I should like to see an impartial inquiry held into it. We do not get impartial inquiries in these matters. The police should not be involved. The inquiry should be impartial. If, at the end of the inquiry, it is found that high-handed methods were used, I hope that the people responsible will not be allowed to be in the position to do the same thing again, because it has caused untold trouble throughout the country. With regard to the breakdown of relationships between the police and the community, it should be understood that in the area of Toxteth where the trouble occurred it is not just a matter of the blacks versus the police; it is the whites versus the police as well. The young policemen in the force are not responsible for the problem. They have come in at the sharp end. It has been going on year after year, gradually getting worse and worse. There used to be policemen on the beat, but, because of violence, they were taken off and put into panda cars, so that they became even more remote from the rest of the population. The only time that they are seen by the people is when they jump out of a panda car, get hold of a man and start searching him. That is not imagination. Last Sunday morning, after the service, I spoke to a complete church assembly. I was appalled at the number of white people who were talking about the harassment that is taking place in the area. Night after night, people—black and white—are being stopped as they go along the streets. Sometimes they are coming home from work in the middle of the night. It goes on night after night and week after week. On many occasions it is accompanied by violence. Is it to be wondered, therefore, that there is a breakdown of relationships between the police and the community? It is one thing to pinpoint what is wrong; it is another to try to put it right. Some people in the black community now have such a big chip on their shoulder that it will never be possible to put things right for them. One of the chips on their shoulder concerns joining the police force. In Liverpool, coloured girls cannot even be persuaded to go into the shops to serve as assistants. That attitude is wrong, and they must be shown that it is wrong. Until we can have black policemen on the beat, and black inspectors in the inner city areas, we shall not cure the problem. We shall spend more and more money and still end up with the same problem. I think that it is true to say that more institutions and establishments are destroyed by their supporters than by their opponents, because their supporters always try to pretend that everything is right. I want to see our society continue, because I believe in it. I believe that it is the best in the world. But unless we are prepared to be critical and put our finger on the trigger points that are causing the trouble, the riots will have been of no use whatever. If we fail to take proper notice of them, it will be at our peril.
Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
In following the admirable speech of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw), I start by noting that the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), in his speech, attributed the riots mainly to social and economic factors—poverty, unemployment and deprivation. The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) attributed the riots mainly to immigration and race factors. I believe that there is something in all these things. But there is another factor—criminality.In 1978—not a year when the Conservative Government were in office—the courts convicted more than 27,000 burglars and nearly 45,000 muggers and thieves under the age of 16, and a further 25,000 such offenders under the age of 14. They were not all poor, unemployed or deprived, and most certainly they were not all black. There is, in my view, an element of criminality as well as other factors in the riots we have seen in recent weeks. Whatever the cause of the violence, three things are certain. First, the police did not create it. Secondly, the police more than anyone else, unhappily, are involved in the consequences. Thirdly, the police cannot and should not be asked to handle the problem alone. I speak on behalf of the Police Federation and I shall make five main points. The first point is one of perspective. Despite the Home Secretary's decision, which I welcome, to issue protective clothing and the riot suppression equipment that the police need, the British police are not about to abandon overnight their traditional image or traditional methods. There is no question of their suddenly becoming a paramilitary British equivalent of the CRS. I believe, and the police service believes, that 99 per cent. of the policing in Britain will continue to be as it has always been. It will be operated on the basis of consent, trust and confidence. We are dealing with a problem, though a violent one, that is the equivalent of the remaining 1 per cent. It would be wrong if we allowed the violence to give the impression that we have changed the entire order of policing. The fact is that we have not. Secondly, some sections of the media seem almost to be wanting to see the water cannons used and the plastic bullets flying. But these are instruments of last resort. It is right that they should be available, but no police officer in this land will ever seek to use them unless there is no alternative. It is a hopelessly wrong perspective to suggest that our police service has suddenly become an armoured and aggressive force. My third point—it is the hard one—is that in the circumstances that have been described there must none the less be occasions when the iron fist is needed. When the mob tastes blood, which it has, the police must use whatever force is needed to prevail. I agree very much with the Police Federation that the time for "softly, softly" has ended when dealing with mobs. Fourthly, along with the iron fist there needs to be offered, above all by policemen themselves, the velvet glove of friendship. I give a pledge on behalf of the federation that the police service holds out the hand of friendship to young people and to the immigrant community. Long before the House began to debate these matters, the police service had been conducting, at every level, meetings and discussions with representatives of the immigrant community. It is manifest that there were not enough meetings and discussions and that those that took place were not successful enough. But the effort has been made. It will continue to be made. The constituency of the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser) has seen some of the worst of the violence, and only last night it experienced that unfortunate raid. The federation and the members of the Metropolitan Police joint branch board are just as upset as the hon. Gentleman by any setback to relations between the police service and the immigrant community that may have arisen. As I do not have the facts as yet, I prefer not to make any judgments until they are in my possession, but if there has arisen, as seems probable, a new friction between police and public arising from the raid, the federation will want to see the fullest possible inquiry. It will want to see the Home Secretary, as the police authority, seeking to discipline those who may have been responsible for any error that may have been made. It is the members of the federation who have to pay with their limbs for the consequences of bad decisions by their own commander. So if a serious error was made, the police service is big enough to offer an apology to those in the area of Brixton who last night it may well have discomforted.
Mr. Alexander W. Lyon
Discomforted! Their homes were wrecked.
I turn briefly to the need of the police for certain items of equipment. A request was made for protective helmets and fire-proof clothing, and these items are now being issued. I ask my right hon. Friend whether the new helmets will include earpieces that are capable not only of receiving information and commands but of transmitting back some indication that the individual officer has actually received that information and/or command. There needs to be two-way communication, especially during a riot.I hope that my right hon. Friend will also indicate at some stage that the police vehicles that are used to bring up reinforcements will have sufficient armouring so that police officers do not get sprayed with broken glass in the bus before they go into action. When the right sorts of CS gas are provided to forces, not for use but so that they are available if their use becomes unavoidable, will my right hon. Friend give an undertaking that the police will have enough gas masks? It is my understanding that when it became necessary in Liverpool to use a particular brand of CS gas, which might not have been the best in all the circumstances, there was a shortage of gas masks for the police. I regret the necessity for making water cannon available. I believe that there will be comparatively few of them. I hope that we shall not go for the enormous cannons that have been seen in some pages of the press. I prefer that we adopt the smaller and more effective cannons that are to be seen overseas. I hope that there will be a change from the procedure whereby police officers are stationed as sitting ducks, as it were, across narrow streets. That is the wrong way in which to proceed. It is of some significance that the Royal Ulster Constabulary suffered fewer injuries over the past two years, despite the violence in Northern Ireland, than the Metropolitan Police suffered in Brixton alone. Thai: is largely because the tactics and the training of the English police have not been brought up to date. I am sure that they should be changed. My right hon. Friend has rightly decided that it would be wrong for him to attempt to remove from chief officers their discretion to decide, alone, how much force should be used, when it should be used and in what circumstances it should be used. It follows that a great weight of responsibility is now placed on the shoulders of some 15 or 20 chief officers of police in our principal urban areas. On them rests, particularly now that the new equipment is available, some deadly serious decisions. I believe that it is of the utmost importance that the Home Secretary and his successors most carefully scrutinise the appointments that are made to chief officer rank. I do not want to make any invidious comparison, but I am bound to say, of our chief officers as a whole, that a number are first-class bat that some are less than first-class. It is of great importance, when so much is resting on them, that the Home Office should think carefully about some of the appointments that it makes. My last point simply concerns legislation. I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to say something about the immunities which the police may need to have if they are forced into circumstances where they have to use riot suppression equipment. I should like to know what is to happen about the Riot (Damages) Act, the Public Order Acts, the Children and Young Persons Acts and the Police Act. It may be that all those matters are being studied—I am sure that they are—but if the police are to be asked to take on those onerous and difficult additional responsibilities it is essential that the immunities and responsibilities which they bear under those Acts of Parliament should be understood plainly. A number of my hon. Friends and some people outside the House have criticised my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary over the manner in which he has responded to the recent emergency. At first there were those who said that he was not doing enough. Now there are some who say that he is doing too much. In this matter, I can speak only for the police service and for my constituents, but, having worked in my present capacity with the Police Federation alongside five Home Secretaries of both political complexions, I can say that we have enjoyed a useful and generally constructive relationship with them all but that none has won the affection and loyalty of the federation so much as my right hon. Friend. To those who criticise my right hon. Friend I would simply say that the police value the way in which he has supported them on numbers and pay and in their difficulties. They have every confidence in both him and the Prime Minister. I thank him on their behalf for the manner in which he has handled this immensely difficult problem.
Miss Sheila Wright (Birmingham, Handsworth)
I speak today for the multiracial community of Handsworth in Birmingham, a community in which there were civil disturbances last Friday and Saturday, but fortunately not the most severe in the country. We have not heard so much about those disturbances.I am saying deliberately and after considerable thought that those disturbances were planned and orchestrated because, as far as I can judge, race and community relations in Handsworth have been and are still today—not last week—a great deal better than in many other parts of the country where there is equally great deprivation and high unemployment. On Monday and Tuesday in the week before the riot I had been told by more than a dozen totally unrelated people, who by and large did not know each other, that there would be bad trouble in Handsworth on Friday and Saturday. I was told by constituents of all colours that Soho Road would be hit on Friday night and Lozells Road and Villa Road on Saturday, and that everyone knew that. The local police told me that they knew the same thing. Large numbers of the immigrant community leaders knew it. By Friday it was common knowledge in parts of Birmingham five and six miles away. Basic common sense tells us that spontaneous demonstrations are not known and are not pinpointed to the streets in which they occur five or six days beforehand. No one can justify or condone hooliganism and violence of the type and on the scale that we have seen in the last two weeks. Handsworth, for which I speak mainly, had a bad start with police-community relations some years ago. There was a time when I and most local councillors were acutely critical of police attitudes and activity to the extent of having formal meetings with and making complaints to the then chief constable. Since then a great deal has been done and a vast improvement has taken place. I am not saying any more than the local superintendent, who was quoted in the local press last week as saying that there are not cases of unnecessary and undue provocation by the police. Those I take up and other people take up. Whatever people may think is police policy in the rest of the country, senior police officers in Handsworth consciously and actively promote good community relations. The community leaders work with each other and with the police to keep it that way. It was all the more of a tragedy that last Friday and Saturday I saw in Soho Road, Lozells Road and Villa Road youngsters of all races—black, brown and white—breaking up community property, stoning and petrol bombing police, fire engines and even the local schools. It does not help any of us, and it certainly does not help them, to produce greater devastation in the area in which they live than we have already produced as a result of years of neglect and misunderstanding of the difficulties, problems and tragedies of the inner cities. Throwing bricks at each other or petrol bombs at the police will not produce one rehabilitated house, one new amenity or one offer of employment. That is what all my constituents are saying to me. It is not a question of race or colour. That is the unanimous opinion of despair in Handsworth. We thought that we were producing a better community. We were putting pressure on for the amenities and employment that we do not have. It is a tragedy that this trouble should have happened. That is one side of the picture. I am sure that no one in the House will advocate or justify the violence that we have seen or any violence which, unfortunately, may yet come. How we deal with it and how we deal with the underlying cause is the other side of the picture. A spark will not ignite a tinder box if the tinder box is not there for the spark to fall into it. We must stamp on the sparks. No one in the House is saying that we should allow people to be terrorised by violence or that they should not be protected, but let us not be so preoccupied with dousing the sparks that we forget to remove the tinder box. I am talking particularly about Handsworth, but I believe that this applies to other areas. There are appalling conditions in the inner cities not only because there is bad housing, poorly provided schools and big cuts in social services, but, above all, because there is increasing hopelessness. No one can envisage employment for the vast majority of the hundreds of thousands who are on the dole. There is no date or hope for them. The thousands of youngsters leaving school this summer are cynical about work experience schemes, youth opportunities programmes and the sops that they are offered instead of employment and a future. The one clear message that I have been asked to bring to the House by my constituents in the past week is "Will all you politicians in your ivory towers in Westminster"—that is how they see us—"stop arguing and realise that there is disaster on your doorsteps—human disaster for the people rotting away in poor conditions and unemployment with no foreseeable end?" There is a potential major disaster for society if it ignores the problems of so many of its citizens. The problems will not go away, whether we ameliorate them with the community involvement that we are trying to build up in Handsworth and other places or whether we try to drown them with water cannons. It is nonsense, when our industrial centres face the deepest recession since the 1930s, that the same areas are singled out for higher than average cuts in Government grants to local services. Many of my ex-local government Conservative colleagues say the same as Labour Members. In 1980–81, Birmingham had a grant entitlement of £180 million. It is estimated that in 1981–82, after clawback and holdback, there will be a reduction of nearly one-fifth to £151 million—and that in a period of rising unemployment, rapidly deteriorating services and inflation. It is the economics of Bedlam to pay out ever-increasing vast sums to keep people unemployed, while at the same time ensuring that the conditions in which they live get worse by the day. Looked at objectively, there is no quicker way to wreck what is left of the economy and, in the process, promote the maximum civil disturbance, where even further costs will fall on local authorities to make good the effects of the riot or to compensate industry. Incidentally, we have heard nothing about whether the Government intend to help with compensation. Speaking for my constituency again, the one bright spark is that, whatever may have been said by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), in Handsworth there has been no inter-community rioting. Black, brown and white are united in their condemnation of the violence. Individual policemen are still welcomed on the streets and in the shops. However, the message to us all is clear. It is "Stop the violence and deal with its cause." From whichever party we come, we ignore that message at our peril.
Mr. William Shelton (Streatham)
As in all terrible events, a number of strands are involved. A bad car accident is seldom caused by one mistake; it is caused by a number. As has been said, the events in Lambeth and other parts of the country spring from a number of different causes, intertwined together. Had one element been missing, they probably would not have happened.It is easy to identify some of the elements. Inner city deprivation has been mentioned, which involves housing, amenities and cash shortages. However, I remind the House that Brixton is one of only two inner London boroughs that has funds from the inner city partnership. It also has the largest HIP programme for this year, and it came off best from the grant-related expenditure procedure. I understand that Toxteth has also had additional funds. If the problem could be solved by throwing money at it, I am sure that the Government would do so. Unhappily, that is not the answer, as it would be an easy way to solve the problem. Incidentally, Lambeth is deeply envious of Toxteth. No Ministers have been thrown at us, and we should have liked Ministers to help us in Lambeth, as I am sure that they will in Toxteth. Another strand is unemployment. However, we are seeing children rioting, and unemployment is not their problem. They should be at home or at school. That is another difficulty. Policing methods are yet another strand. Two or three years ago, together with the other three Lambeth Members, I went to see the Lambeth olice after an incident in which they had been ult. I concerned the council for community relat However I remind the House that the crime level, Lambeth is the highest in the country.
No, it is no
Forgive me. I ean street crime—gs and street violence.At n my constituency the police presence in the street very much welcomed. They are highly respected. The only criticism is that there are not more of them. I believe the vast majority of Lambeth citizens share that view. We cannot mention the police without praising their courage and long suffering. They put in long hours to defend people and property. Another strand concerns ethnic minorities. We are not talking about race riots, except in Southall. We are seeing black and white on the streets. Last Friday in Lambeth there was a slightly less serious riot. A witness told me that a large crowd of coloured youngsters turned over a car and a white man unscrewed the petrol cap and put a match in the tank. That is not the sort of racial co-operation that we are looking for. Another strand is the influences at work, deliberately or inadvertently, increasing tension between the police and the community. I do not know the answer to the problem, but we must give the matter more attention. A little while ago I referred to the leaflets that had been flooding into Brixton for some time from all sorts of extraordinary organisations employing all sorts of seditious methods. However, when I send the leaflets to my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General, he usually tells me that those organisations are not breaking the law. The aim of those people appears to be to stir up hatred and suspicion of the police. To what extent are the riots spontaneous and to what extent are they organised? I do not support the great conspiracy theory—a man in the East End planning the riots and pulling strings. That is nonsense, but people who intend ill to our society cake advantage of the wretched people in these wretched areas, such as certain parts of Lambeth. They are organising them to their advantage and will no doubt to some extent continue to do so. They tried to organise students and the peace movements. They believe that in our inner cities they have found the Achilles heel of our society. We must show them that they are wrong. I am prompted to make my remarks by an incident in Lambeth last week. I mentioned the rioting on Friday. On Friday morning, the Streatham chamber of commerce picked up rumours of a riot in Brixton on Friday evening. It called the police, who confirmed that there were rumours but said that they knew nothing definite. The chamber of commerce rang round its traders scattered throughout Lambeth. It received a specific report from one that there had been a great influx of hooligans—his phrase—into the Acre Lane area on Thursday night. The chamber of commerce therefore advised the police and advised all its traders that there might be trouble on Friday night. The traders removed stock from the shop windows and began to board them up. On Friday night, as I have said, there was indeed trouble. About 30 or 40 windows were smashed and goods looted. Thanks to the presence of mind of the chamber of commerce, the damage was slight. Burton's, which had lost £40,000 worth of goods in the first Brixton riot, lost practically nothing, because it had removed its window displays. The same hooded and masked men, and the same motor cycle riders, were seen then as were seen again yesterday evening. The incident was well contained by the police and passed over as riot a major riot. Extraordinarily enough, there was a similar case in Chelsea and Kensington. I have here a leaflet, which was pushed through the door by the very respectable Kensington and Chelsea chamber of trade and commerce on 7 July, headed "Important notice to members", which said:
If hon. Members go to those areas, they will see that the shops are boarded up. In fact, nothing happened. How does a chamber of commerce have that information if there is not some form of planning? How did Streatham chamber of commerce have correct information if someone somewhere is not indulging in forward planning to some extent? Streatham chamber of commerce believes that it is extreme Right-wing, rather than Left-wing, organisations that are stirring up most of the trouble in Brixton at the moment. I think that it is probably a bit of everyone, but I must tell the House that that is the belief of the Streatham chamber of commerce. We must look to the police and to police intelligence forces to provide the answers. One cannot simply let it lie. This gives added importance to the organisation of "snatch squads"—I find that a horrible expression and prefer to call them "arrest squads"—because I believe that if some of the ringleaders were arrested and identified that would help to calm the situation."it has been brought to the notice of your Chamber that there is the possibility of a threat to premises in our area this week…Following our enquiries, it appears that these may be directed at the King's Road—World's End area, in particular."
Mr. Alfred Dubs (Battersea, South)
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there were rumours about possible trouble last weekend in all parts of London? The rumours were flying around everywhere, so it is not surprising that some proved correct and others did not.
I understand that. But if one were organising and planning something, one might deliberately set out to create rumours in a number of different places. I am sure that on reflection the hon. Gentleman will agree with that.There are, however, some clues as to who might be behind the trouble or inadvertently making the situation worse. In Southall, it was clearly the Right-wing skinheads. Where did they come from? Who paid for the buses that took them to the pub that was later burned down? Elsewhere, it is the Workers Revolutionary Party. I wonder to what extent it is pure coincidence that the first of their youth training centres happened to be in Brixton. A second, I believe, was in Toxteth—certainly it was in Liverpool—a third in Manchester, and another in Nottingham. Moreover, I understand that it is planned to extend them to 25 in all. Its 1981 manifesto refers to the struggle for workers' revolutionary government. I wonder to what extent that is pure coincidence. Even Labour Members' colleagues outside the Chamber are not entirely immune from criticism. I exempt hon. Members from that, as I very much appreciated the speech of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) today. I refer to the remarks of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. Alton), who attacked a leaflet printed by the Labour Party Young Socialists and which appeared during or after the riots in Liverpool. I have a similar inflammatory and unpleasant leaflet published by the Labour Party Young Socialists, headed "Defend Brixton", which was published during or after the first Brixton riots. I shall not weary the House by reading the leaflet, but it is a fairly savage attack on the police, with a call to
and"Drop all charges. Disband the SPG. Democratic control of the police"
There is phrase after phrase of that type. The leaflet further states:"An end to police repression".
and so on. Leaflets of that kind printed by a branch of the Labour Party can only, inadvertently or deliberately, increase pressure, tension and hostility between the police and the community and must indeed be damaging. Secondly, I must refer to the duo of agitators currently plaguing parts of London. They seem to pop up wherever there is trouble. This can hardly be explained as the exuberance of youth, as it might be in the case of the Young Socialists. Both are important people in the Labour Party who hold responsible positions as a result of their Labour Party membership. I refer to Mr. Kenneth Livingstone, the leader of the GLC, and councillor Ted Knight, the leader of Lambeth council. The House will be aware of their recent notoriety. I merely say that Mr. Livingstone happened to be addressing an Anti-Nazi League meeting at Brixton town hall during Friday's riot. Councillor Knight was holding a press conference in Railton Road yesterday morning and addressing the crowds. I was not present, but I understand that he was attacking the police, blaming them for the raid and what happened in the raid. I am not saying whether he was right or wrong. I am only saying that the words that he used can only have increased tension in the community."The riot was spontaneous. It was sparked by provocative police action…Responsibility for what happened lies squarely on the shoulders of the police",
Mr. Stuart Holland
I was there yesterday morning. Councillor Knight said that the action of the police and the way in which they raided premises and destroyed property in them was itself unwarranted. Indeed, the Home Secretary himself has today expressed grave concern about it. Is the hon. Gentleman implying guilt by association in some way in the case of Ken Livingstone's addressing the Anti-Nazi League in an area which then happened to have difficulty? Does he attribute no blame or responsibility for this to, for example, the National Front?
First, I said that whether Councillor Knight was right or wrong, he should not have made the remarks that he did to a crowd of 400 or 500 youths, which developed into a riot in which 10 policemen were injured, one seriously. Those remarks must have contributed, however slightly, to what happened later in the evening. I contrast with that the remarks of Lord Scarman, who also visited the area and whose presence and remarks helped to cool the situation. I refer the hon. Gentleman, although I know that it is not his favourite reading, to today's editorial in the Daily Mail, which makes the same point. I was not present, but I cannot believe that it was helpful to have a press conference of that style with a crowd of 400 or 500 people who felt that they had a grievance anyway, and a riot indeed followed later that evening.
Mr. Stuart Holland
On a point of information, there were not 400 or 500 people at the time of the press conference. There were some 40 or 50 people around Councillor Knight when he was speaking. It is important to put it on record that he and others who were there, including my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser) and myself, were urging restraint in the community, despite what has been seen even by the Government Front Bench as provocative action.
It does not surprise me at all that the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend were urging restraint. The reports that I have had of the remarks of Councillor Knight, however, certainly do not imply that he was urging restraint on the crowd. I wish very much that people of that ilk could keep quiet just for a few months until the winter comes. If any Opposition Members have any influence with them, will they please quietly take them aside and ask them to shut up for a while? It would be a great boon to the community in London.I welcome the speech of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. I disagree with the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). As a result of my right hon. Friend's common sense and determination, coupled with the growing awareness of all those associated with these wretched problems of the real issues involved and the courage of the long-suffering police, I believe that we are now witnessing the beginning of the end.
Mr. Eric S. Hefter (Liverpool, Walton)
I do not intend to follow the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Shelton) down some of his stranger paths. The events that we have recently witnessed are serious and a danger to democracy.A short while ago, in Warrington, I attended a public meeting addressed by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. During questions at the end of his speech, a young man said, "It now appears as if we shall get some money to start settling some of our problems". A shiver went down my spine, because it meant that Ministers have not sufficiently listened to elected representatives who for a long time have warned what would happen unless action was taken in the inner cities. Some of our youth now believe that the only way to solve the problem is to throw petrol bombs. That is the most serious and dangerous thing that I have heard for a long time. For a number of years, Labour Members have stressed the importance of dealing with the inner city problem, particularly in areas such as Toxteth and Birmingham. The Liverpool playwright, Alan Bleasdale, summed up what I feel about the situation in Liverpool when he said:
Apart from the looting aspects that came afterwards, what we saw originally was youth against society. Wally Brown, a community leader in Liverpool, who happens to be a coloured man, made the point that the police were picking up the bills for the failure of society. That means Ministers, myself and all of us, particularly those elected to the House of Commons and to local authorities, because we have not done enough. We have not looked at the problem properly and we have not acted properly. I draw the attention of the House to an article written by Professor Fred Ridley of Liverpool university. He was chairman of the job creation programme in Merseyside and vice-chairman of the MSC's special programmes board for the area. This article appeared in Political Quarterly and part of it was reproduced in The Guardian on 24 January. He said:"But I'll tell you this much. I love this city and its people and I still don't want to live anywhere else. But like anyone else with some semblance of sensibilities, I've been waiting, with total foreboding, for this time to come … however much I may disagree with the results of this weekend, and while I refuse to condone anyone carrying a petrol bomb and a brick, we must look further that Toxteth and the reservations some of us may have about the policing of Merseyside. The causes lie elsewhere. And I believe that the major cause is a society, and the Government that represents that society, which is throwing out onto the streets like rubbish to be collected, more and more young people with little prospect of a future".
I hope that when the Secretary of State for the Environment and other Ministers go to Liverpool they will not just meet the people, go back and produce another report. We have had many reports on the problems on Merseyside, particularly in the inner city. We know what is wrong, but we have failed to take action to deal with the problems. Incidentally, the article to which I have just referred is extremely interesting and the Government would do well to study it. It gives figures about educational achievement. It states:"What is happening in Liverpool now has not been grasped by our masters in the South either. Knowing the facts, of course, is not enough. The politicians and civil servants who come up for the day to attend meetings or even to 'meet the people' return without any real understanding of life by the Mersey".
Is not that an absolute failure? Why have we also allowed 40 per cent. of our children not to go to school, to play truant in certain areas of our cities? I was amazed when I saw that figure. It is perfectly true that there are two modern housing estates on either side of Parliament Street, where the riot took place on the first night:. However, if one walks into North Hill Street, one sees piles of rubbish and houses that have be"Half of those registered as unemployed with the Liverpool Careers Offices in October 1979 had no qualifications whatsoever and a further 20 per cent. only had CSE at grades 4/5—thus 70 per cent. did not reach the level required for craft apprenticeships".