HC Deb 21 May 1968 vol 765 cc287-9
Q5. Mr. Whitaker

asked the Prime Minister what plans he has for further legislation to provide for the independent investigation of citizens' grievances.

The Prime Minister

None at present, Sir. The Parliamentary Commissioner has been at work for less than 14 months and the House has only just received the Select Committee's first Report.

Mr. Whitaker

Since the Government's very welcome extension of the protection of the rights of the individual by introducing the Parliamentary Commissioner, which the previous Administration failed to do, would my right hon. Friend agree that the same arguments for independent investigation apply to allegations against the police, hospitals, nationalised industries and the Armed Forces?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend will be aware that these were not included, in the first instance, in the work of the Parliamentary Commissioner, whose contribution to solving these problems we shall want to study after he has been at work for a suitable period of time. But there are adequate provisions for inquiries concerning the police under existing legislation, and also, of course, in relation to hospitals and the other cases mentioned by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Ian Lloyd

Will the Prime Minister, in considering this question, not lose sight of the fact that the citizens' principal grievance at the moment is that there is already far too much ill-digested legislation?

Mr. Fitt

Is the Prime Minister aware that 1½ million British subjects in Northern Ireland do not have the opportunity to take their grievances to a Parliamentary Commissioner? In view of this, would the Prime Minister not now regard the time as opportune to have further discussions on the subject with the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, who is at present in danger of being overthrown by a Right-wing Fascist clique?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend will be aware of the concern I expressed on the very point he made in answer to a supplementary question by my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. Whitaker) when this matter last came up at Question Time. I indicated then what I thought was the right way of dealing with the problem. I am sure the whole House will join with my hon. Friend in deploring the reports which we have read in the Press of these vicious attacks on the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland who, all of us recognise, has gone a great way—not anything like far enough to meet many hon. Members—and shown considerable courage in what he has done.

Sir Knox Cunningham

On the question of citizens' grievances in the United Kingdom, may I suggest a General Election?

Mr. Thorpe

Is the Prime Minister aware that we all understand the sympathy which he feels for the vicious attacks being made on the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland? Could he tell us, as a result of his talks, why the Ulster Government have not thought it necessary to have an Ombudsman for grievances in that part of the United Kingdom, whereas it has been the overwhelming wish of this House of Commons that the grievances of citizens in the rest of the United Kingdom should have swift redress from an Ombudsman here?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman's wording in the early part of his question was unfortunate. I was expressing sympathy with the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland in respect of the vicious attacks, not what the right hon. Gentleman has said.

Concerning the talks with the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, while nearly the whole House is impatient about this matter—and I share that impatience—the right hon. Gentleman will not under-rate what has been done and the strong backlash into which the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland has run as a result of what he has done. Nevertheless, I am sure that nearly all right hon. and hon. Members would wish him to proceed much further and much faster as soon as he can.