HC Deb 28 March 1973 vol 853 cc1466-91

11.1 p.m.

The Minister of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. David Howell)

I beg to move, That the Appropriation (Northern Ireland) Order 1973 (S.I., 1973, No. 413), a copy of which was laid before this House on 20th March, be approved. This first Appropriation Order for Northern Ireland in 1973 combines the Spring Supplementary Estimates for 1972– 73 and the sums on account which are required for the year ending 31st March 1974. It serves the two purposes.

I mentioned when speaking to the Appropriation No. 3 (Northern Ireland) Order 1972 that in the normal pattern of things further Supplementary Estimates would be required before the end of the financial year, and the details of the amounts which are required are set out in Part I of Schedule B to this order.

The total of the Northern Ireland Estimates for the year now amounts to £466,146,100 of which hon. Members will note from the order that the Spring Supplementary Estimates come to £20,696,800. This latter figure is net after allowing for savings on expenditure of £2,300,000 and increased appropriation-in-aid totalling £1,400,000. The main reasons for the increases are increased expenditure arising from the violence and troubles—£10,300,000 for compensation for malicious injuries and damage and about £2,200,000 for additional expenditure on police overtime, prison officers overtime and related main heads.

Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)

Has my hon. Friend any provision for danger money for the police? My hon. Friend will be aware of the necessity to build up the police in Northern Ireland and to increase their pay in order to improve recruitment. Has any provision been made to increase pensions and student allowances to meet the rapid inflation of the past six months or year and the inflation anticipated in the next year?

Mr. Howell

Without having checked, I do not think that allowance has been made on the second point. The first point has been raised before, that is special allowances for the RUC, but the view taken by the police authority is that that is not the right way to recognise the very considerable work put in by that branch of the security forces in Northern Ireland. This is a matter for the police authority and not one in which it would be proper for Ministers to intervene, but I will take note of what my hon. Friend says.

The other main cause of the Supplementary Estimates, the £20 million block, is pay and price increases, which account for £7,200,000 of the total.

With the extra £10,300,000 for compensation which I have mentioned, the total for the year 1972–73 under this head is now £30,300,000. It has obviously been very difficult to estimate this figure precisely, and, as hon. Members may have seen, it was necessary to produce a second Supplementary Estimate, which is incorporated in the totals which we are at present considering, purely for this head. I assure the House that every effort is being made to arrive at settlements and to pay compensation as quickly as is humanly possible. This is one of the reasons why the Estimates have had to be brought forward in this way.

The need to make compensation payments quickly was one of the main reasons for laying this order under the urgent procedure. That procedure is also essential to ensure that there will be sufficient administrative time to allow large payments from the Consolidated Fund to be made before the end of the financial year, which is just a matter of days ahead of us. This is obviously especially important in cases in which payments which must be made before the end of the financial year are due to local and other public authorities.

For the Vote on Account part of the order tonight, hon. Members will have the opportunity to consider the 1973–74 Estimates in detail when the order to appropriate the balance of Supply for 1973–74 is presented, together with the usual volume setting out the full details of the Estimates early in the new financial year.

However, it would be right to mention now that the £95 million shown in the Vote on Account statement, which appears on paper to be the increase in total net Estimates between 1972–73 and 1973– 74 is largely accounted for by, in the first place, the £45 million which arises simply from the transfer of services from local to central Government which takes place on 1st October, 1973.

So this £45 million does not represent additional public expenditure; it is merely a transfer. There will be offsets on existing local government expenditure and the central Government will receive the major part of Northern Ireland rate income after 1st October 1973. So that rather alarming jump arises in that way, and means that the two figures are not strictly comparable.

The Estimates for 1973–74 do not take into account, as they are now, any changes which might arise following the White Paper. With those remarks, I ask the House to accept the order.

11.9 p.m.

Mr. Peter Archer (Rowley Regis and Tipton)

It appears from what was said during the earlier discussion that several hon. Members have matters which they wish to raise in this debate, so it would hardly be logical for me to take up a disproportionate amount of that time complaining that they will have an inadequate opportunity of doing so. But it might be helpful to clarify our minds about the procedure that we are adopting. This was referred to in general by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) and by other hon. Members during our last debate.

This order purports to be made under Section 1(3) of the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act, which formed the subject matter of our last debate. That provides that laws, including, of course, appropriations, may be made by Order in Council instead of by Act of Parliament. On 12th June last year the hon. Gentleman, the Minister, told the House that financial Orders in Council are intended to replace the Finance Bill and that Supply will be dealt with by means of appropriation orders. So what we are now dealing with is what is dealt with in this House in relation to England, Wales and Scotland, in debates on the Consolidated Fund Bill and on the Appropriation Bill.

That raises a point of particular constitutional importance in relation to Orders in Council dealing with appropriations, because it is an ancient and salutary principle that parliamentary control of the executive is achieved largely by insisting on redress of grievances before Supply, and the process of Supply, accordingly, affords opportunity of debating matters which are close to the hearts of hon. Members and their constituents. For that purpose, in relation to England, Wales and Scotland, we are afforded a series of what sometimes transpire to be very lengthy debates.

A debate of one-and-a-half hours on an order of this kind is really not an acceptable alternative, particularly when it takes place at an hour approaching midnight. We all know what happened to Cinderella. Admittedly, this is taking place under the Temporary Provisions Act, and there is hope, notwithstanding the last debate, that that Act will in due course justify its name, but I am not encouraged to an optimistic view by the appropriate paragraphs of the White Paper referred to by the hon. Gentleman in the earlier debate, paragraphs 87 to 89. They indicate that the Northern Ireland Assembly will have some discretion as to priorities over certain services. However, their language appears to fall far short of describing what we would understand by a debate on the Estimates.

I am not concerned for this purpose with control over expenditure. I am concerned with opportunity for voicing grievances. So when the hon. Gentleman replies to the debate perhaps he will tell us what proposals the Government have in mind to provide a vehicle by which hon. Members can properly debate the control of Supply and, in the process, inform the Government of their constituents' grievances.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)

The hon. and learned Member may not ask what future administration is to be provided, but may deal only with the order as it is.

Mr. Archer

I stand corrected, but that certainly places the House in a difficulty, because whether the House approves this order may depend to some extent on what it may expect as to the future. Perhaps if I leave it in this form it will satisfy the rules of order: it will assist the House in deciding whether to approve this order if the hon. Gentleman can give some in- dication of what lies in the Government's mind about the future.

There is another matter which puzzles me, and although the hon. Gentleman offered some explanation of it I am still left puzzled. Section 1(3) of the Temporary Provisions Act says that laws may be made by Order in Council, but if we turn to paragraph 4(1) of the Schedule to the Act we read: Her Majesty shall not be recommended to make an Order in Council under section 1(3) of this Act unless either a draft of the Order has been approved by resolution of each House of Parliament or the Order declares that it has been made to appear to Her Majesty that by reason of urgency the Order requires to be made without a draft having been so approved. It seems to be clear from that formulation that the Government are not expected to use the urgency procedure, but are expected to use what we might call the regular procedure, unless there genuinely is a matter of urgency.

Under the urgency procedure an Order in Council becomes effective before debate. What we are debating now, the order of which we are debating the merits, already has the force of law irrespective of what view this House forms upon it.

Before today there were three such orders. The first was of 12th June last year, and the Government used the urgency procedure, and that was understandable. It was necessary because, as the hon. Gentleman explained, the Parliament of Northern Ireland had been prorogued and before it was prorogued, it was unable to pass an Appropriation Act. It was explained that the Comptroller and Auditor General had authorised issues from the Consolidated Fund on the Government's undertaking to regularise the position without delay. Since then there have been two further orders, on 14th July and 23rd November. On those occasions the Government used the regular procedure because clearly there was no longer any such urgency. This order has been subjected to the urgency procedure. In spite of the hon. Gentleman's explanation, I still find myself asking why, because urgency usually entails some unforeseen event which prevents matters taking their anticipated course. We are left wondering about the event which has overtaken the Government and which renders the urgency procedure so essential for this order.

The hon. Gentleman gave some clue when he explained that it was related partly to Part I Class III Item 5. The Ministry of Finance issued its Spring Supplementary Estimates in January 1973. Comparing them with the order, one finds that everything in the order is accounted for except this one item. The order includes £7 million under this item additional to that in the Estimate.

As the hon. Gentleman pointed out, to explain that we have to turn to the further Spring Supplementary Estimate issued one month later than the original Estimate, which relates to compensation for criminal injury or damages. It is an unhappy reflection that this is a necessary item. I make no complaint that provision is made to compensate the unhappy individual victims of terrorism, but what still leaves me looking for an explanation is why there is an increase in one month from £3 million to £7 million.

Was it that the damage escalated on a scale quite unforeseeable a month earlier, or is there some other explanation that I did not follow in the hon. Gentleman's remarks? If it is the former, the House and the public ought to be told.

There is a further matter on which I am puzzled, which may not be serious but on which I have an idle curiosity. Sometimes quite important matters have a habit of revealing themselves from inquiries prompted by idle curiosity. In the order there is a number of items of £100. For example, Class I Item 1 is £100 for the salaries of a number of very busy and no doubt highly remunerated people. It is a little difficult to understand how it came about that the original Estimates fell short of what was required by £100. Why do we have these very modest items, which can hardly have been a missed guess? Is it that we really fall short of requirements by £100 per item, or is there some traditional formula known only to those who live with these things which makes it important to include the items with a nominal amount against them? If the hon. Gentleman can elucidate that he will at least shorten the debate for some of us who are puzzled.

Finally, I turn to a matter very close to my heart. It relates to Class III Item 3. It is a matter which deals with the administration of justice. Does the figure under this item include legal aid? If not, why not? If it does, my complaint is that it is not larger.

Some of us have discussed for some time the possible extension of the Legal Aid and Advice Act 1972, or equivalent provisions, to Northern Ireland. The hon. Gentleman may know that I have exchanged some correspondence with his Department on this matter. In England, Wales and Scotland there has been some concern in the legal profession about the difficulties of those in need of advice, particularly advice on welfare rights. Obviously, ex hypothesi these are the very people who cannot afford to pay for their advice. Indeed, in the remainder of the United Kingdom there is still unhappily no provision for legal representation before tribunals; but at least it is possible for a solicitor to give advice under the Act, even to people whom he does not subsequently represent. It does not solve all the problems. There is still sometimes a problem of finding solicitors who are competent to advise in this matter. Many solicitors have not acquired the relevant expertise. That is understandable because for them very often it is not a method of earning a living.

Perhaps it should be recognised how much time solicitors here and in Northern Ireland frequently give to those in need without claiming remuneration. But if legal aid were available perhaps more lawyers might find it worth while to acquire that expertise. This issue has been very much the concern of the Child Poverty Action Group in Northern Ireland. In March 1969 there was a survey of the take-up of welfare benefits in Downpatrick. It was discovered that nearly twice as many families there were below the poverty line, taking the standard as the supplementary benefits level, as in Britain as a whole. One of the reasons which seems to have emerged is that people have no clear idea of their rights or of where to turn for advice on them. I see the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), who is in a position to know the facts, is in agreement with me. In consequence, a number of advice centres were set up which are now operating without any discrimination on the grounds of religion and which are frequently held in churches of varying denominations.

In 1971 discussions took place with the Law Society of Northern Ireland about how practising solicitors could offer their services in these centres. The solution was limited by a number of local factors, but chiefly finance. On 11th November last year at Queen's University a conference was arranged by the Community Relations Commission in cooperation with the Director of Law Reform for Northern Ireland. It was attended by Members of the prorogued Parliament, trade union leaders, social workers, legal staff, distinguished academic lawyers and representatives of the Northern Ireland Council for Social Services. A resolution was passed urging the Government to take a number of steps towards making advice of this kind available. Did the Minister see that resolution and if he has not seen it, will he take steps to inform himself about it and to consider it?

It has been a long day for the Minister, and I can find it in my heart to forgive him if he does not give a detailed reply to this point tonight. Perhaps this is not one of the most dramatic matters occupying the attention of Ministers, but it is of great importance to those who are most concerned. For them it is perhaps particularly important that the law should not appear as a series of prohibitions without any relevance to their more immediate concerns. It is important that they should see the law as embracing their interests and, on occasions, championing their causes, and it may prove an effective way of encouraging respect for the law if they are encouraged to see it in that light. If that is achieved the minor sums required may transpire to be sums well spent.

11.24 p.m.

Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)

We are dealing tonight with the whole cycle of Government in Northern Ireland, with the various Departments and the various amounts spent and to be spent by those Departments. The tragedy of our situation in Northern Ireland is that when there is a debate in this House concerning controversial and well-publicised matters, a cross-section of Northern Ireland representatives is present. But when we get down to such matters as were ably referred to by the hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. Peter Archer) there is not the same interest. That is a sad reflection on our society. Politics deal with people, and the points made by the hon. and learned Member are of a vital nature. I trust that if we do not have a reply tonight from the Minister those of us who have been present tonight will be told what the Minister thinks about the matters raised.

There is the important matter of legal aid. In Northern Ireland the tribunal system is very important. Those that are in need have the opportunity of appearing before the local tribunal. They have an opportunity to put their case to the tribunal, to the chairman, a representative of management or employers and a trade union official. The tribunal system is vital to the social welfare of the people.

The people who appear before the tribunal are not entitled to be represented by a solicitor under the legal aid scheme. I attend tribunal after tribunal representing my constituents. There is no week in which I do not spend hours on end doing this. I am quite willing to do it, but the matter could be handled far more ably by a trained lawyer who knew the issues and could put them more clearly before the tribunal than can a laymen who happens to be a Member of Parliament.

To the House, the problems of the people concerned may seem infinitesimal, but to the people themselves they are an Everest, the biggest problem they have ever had to face. I ask the Minister to give urgent attention to the matters raised by the hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton, which I seek to underscore, and to show the people that the law is not against them but for them.

Many people who are below the poverty line are ignorant of their rights to social benefits. They do not understand how to achieve those rights, and if an application is turned down they never pursue it even to the tribunal level. Although the Government attempt by advertising to tell the people their rights, the vast majority do not get the message and therefore do not receive the benefits to which they are entitled. The Minister would do well to look into this question.

Another matter which worries me concerns the solicitors and barristers. How many legal aid accounts are outstanding? How many solicitors and barristers have not been paid for work they have done over a period of two years? I was told by a prominent barrister who has led in six murder cases that not one penny of legal aid had yet come his way. There are solicitors who have been waiting for legal aid money for two years. I am not talking about a paltry sum of £100. Some accounts run to £12,000, yet the money is not forthcoming. So serious is the situation that solicitors and barristers may have to withdraw from the legal aid panel because they are embarrassed at not being paid for work they have done. The machinery of the law is almost breaking down.

Today, I came over on the plane with a prominent member of the legal profession who said that he did not know how long it would be before the machinery ground to a halt. I ask the Minister to pay urgent attention to this matter.

Seven courts are operating in the Chichester Street magistrates' court. There has been no increase in the number of clerks although there has been an enormous increase in the number of cases. All the remand cases in Northern Ireland now go to Chichester Street magistrates' court, yet not one senior clerk has been appointed. There has been the appointment of four junior clerks in the past year but still five clerks have to look after seven courts and one of them has been sent out as a relief clerk.

These are faithful people who have borne the burden and heat of the day. I want to say that, unless something is done at the Chichester Street magistrates' court shortly, the whole machinery there will break down. These people have been in touch with me. They have pleaded with me. I have been to the Minister and I have asked a Question in the House. Yet the Ministry of Home Affairs in Northern Ireland this week has decided that there will be no more staff and no more promotions and that the courts at Chichester Street will have to make do with the people they have. This situation is not right. I do not know whether the Secretary of State is aware of what is taking place in these matters.

Then there is the situation of the Community Relations department. This is a very important department because when people are in trouble they immediately say "We must go to Community Relations". Was the department not set up to look after people in trouble? Yet it is not able to help where it should be able to.

I give the example of a man who was intimidated. Four men got hold of him, put a gun to his back and told him that he was going to be killed. He went to the police, who told him, "You had better leave the country and go to England". He left his wife and little ones in Belfast and went to England. His wife got in touch with me to see whether they could get accommodation in England, to see whether there was any possibility of help for the family to start a new life here.

Community Relations said that it could not do anything about it. If the man left Northern Ireland, it had no way of giving help across the water with a house and helping him set up his family in England. Yet the police told him that he was not safe in Northern Ireland. They put him on a plane and sent him to England, with his wife and family remaining behind. But the Community Relations department was unable to help him because he went across the water. There should be ways in which Community Relations could help on this side of the water through liaison with housing authorities and other authorities. I know that there are difficulties in Britain as well, but we should be able to help these people.

In another incident, a young man was able to discover some terrorist activity He was a member of the Ulster Defence Regiment. He was threatened and the police told him that he had better sell his home. He did not dare go on living in his neighbourhood near the border. He sold his little farm with all the furniture in it. An attempt was made on his life by four terrorists. He went to Australia. Community Relations could not help him make a new life there. Yet the only reason he was terrorised was because he had put on the Queen's uniform and was serving in the UDR.

I am not saying this by way of criticism of the Ministers but because these are important cases which come before us as Members of Parliament from Northern Ireland, and we feel frustrated when we realise that, for all the machinery, there is no way of alleviating these ills which have come about.

There is another matter which concerns the police. There is arising a bone of contention about chief constables' certificates. I should explain that if my house is burned down I cannot claim compensation unless I can prove that two or more people were responsible and can get a chief constable's certificate in which he states that it happened because of the troubles and was malicious

I am thinking now of a substantial farmer outside Portadown. He went out one night and returned to find his farm, his shed and all his machinery in ashes. Not far down the road, another farmer—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)

Order. I think I have to check the hon. Gentleman a little. I do not see where this is going to end. I have been thinking about the first part of what he has been saying and have been doing my best to find it in order and to give him the benefit of the doubt. But he will help the House by keeping more closely to the order rather than going into individual histories.

Rev. Ian Paisley

I must bow to your Ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but if there is no way whereby I can raise these matters on these accounts, there is no use my being in this House. I am discussing payment to the police. The chief constable receives a salary and I am surely entitled in this debate to say to the House what I think about what the chief constable is doing. I am surely within the rules of order to criticise the actions of the chief constable, and I am seeking to do so in a responsible manner. How does that constituent of mine feel when he cannot get a penny piece of compensation because the chief constable is not prepared to sign a certificate that his home was destroyed by an act of terrorism?

These are matters that affect the lives of the people of Northern Ireland. I certainly would not think it worth while to come and sit in this House until 25 minutes to 12 when I have constituents in trouble at home—I would be better at home helping them—if I could not voice these matters.

Education is a very important subject and yet there are great problems. We are voting vast sums to education in Class V. It has vast problems. There is the whole question of new schools in Northern Ireland. There is the whole problem of the closing of schools. I call the Minister's attention to two instances in my constituency. Take, for instance, the case of the Glenwherry Craigs school. An attempt has been made to close it. Already four schools have been closed in this area within a radius of 14 miles, making it necessary to bus these primary schoolchildren many miles away from their homes and their localities.

These are matters in which the people in these areas are interested. The only place where I can raise these matters is here in this debate tonight. I should like the Minister to look personally at this problem of the closing of schools in Northern Ireland, especially in the rural districts. I shall be glad to give him further information. I have already had deputations to his Department.

I cite another man in my constituency, who is well known to my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux). There is a village called Rasharkin. A new school is being built in that village. The school has seven classes but the school is being given only five classrooms. In a few days' time a mobile schoolroom will be brought in. Instead of building the new school to suit the capacity of the children attending it, a school will be built which does not even reach the capacity of the classes in the school. These may seem trivial matters to this House at 20 minutes to 12 but they are very important to my constituents, to the people I represent.

I could speak for a very long time on these matters, and I know that I would receive very little support from the Chair or anybody else, but this I can say tonight. I hope that never again will we be asked in an hour and a half to survey the whole Government structure of expenditure in Northern Ireland without having the opportunity fully to ventilate our case.

This is a colossal undertaking to which we are asked to give our consent. We give it reluctantly because we cannot fully debate or ventilate it. We trust, however, that our bringing these matters before the Minister will enable him to take definite steps that will be of help to everybody in the community. My plea tonight is not a party or sectarian plea but is an attempt to help every citizen of Northern Ireland.

11.40 p.m.

Mr. James Molyneaux (Antrim South)

My hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) properly said that some of us from Northern Ireland regard it as our duty to attend to the day-to-day problems of our constituents and of the people of Northern Ireland generally, in addition to undertaking the rather more glamorous duties which sometimes fall to our lot in this House.

I wish to ask the Minister to look at the problem of special allowances to the police services. I accept what he said about the views of the police authority, but I cannot understand why that authority is so reluctant to provide from the huge sum that is available some allowance or compensation for the great hazards and hardships encountered by members of the RUC and the reserves in the execution of their duties. It does little for police morale to be told that, although a special case can be made out for other categories in Northern Ireland, members of the police, together with their comrades in the Army and in the UDR who are the primary targets for IRA terrorists, cannot be fitted into this category.

If the police authority says that it is trying hard to find some alternative way of helping, it might be argued that the officers of Her Majesty's Customs and Excise should have similar allowances. I would have no objection if the Treasury could be persuaded to grant such allowances, and I would support such a case. The same could be said of civil servants in general whose salary scales are already two years behind the relative grades in industry. We hope that when the counter-inflation measures permit, special consideration will be given to narrowing this gap.

Under Class IV in relation to the Ministry of Health and Social Services, I should like to draw attention to the special care of mentally-handicapped children, and I know that my hon. Friend for Antrim, North is also concerned about this matter. We are far from satisfied with the proposed structure for administering this important branch of the health service. It is a retrograde step to fragment an integrated structure which is recognised as a model for the whole of the United Kingdom, and indeed which is far in advance of anything in Great Britain.

Clause VI relates to the Ministry of Agriculture. I wish to refer to the scheme for the eradication of brucellosis. I understand that in recent months there have been many breakdowns in herds, resulting in heavy losses to the owners. I would ask whether a further look could be taken at this problem to see whether it is possible partially to compensate farmers who have suffered losses through no fault of their own.

In dealing with Class VIII relating to the Ministry of Development, I believe there is need to take another look at the professional staffs in county council legal departments. There is a vital need to retain these experienced units in the service of local government. This would do a great deal to smooth over many of the difficulties which have been outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North in providing legal advice in many complicated administrative matters.

My hon. Friend also mentioned chief constables' certificates. In my constituency numerous difficulties have been caused because a certificate could not be granted. I appreciate that a chief constable is a senior officer who is under great pressure and that there is great pressure on his time, but would it not be possible to streamline and smooth out these difficulties and try to speed up the process? These delays are causing great hardship to many people who can ill afford to remain in a state of indecision about the future of their businesses and properties.

Class IX, item 2, indicates the sum granted on account for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Complaints. The sum granted is £28,000. Is that likely to be a constant figure? Many of the allegations which were made in the early days were proved to be entirely bogus or without foundation. As in only one or two cases it has been possible to find even the slightest indication of maladministration or discrimination, is it likely that the volume of such cases will steadily diminish? If there is a diminution, will there be a consequent reduction in the establishment and the expenses of the Commissioner's Office?

11.46 p.m.

Mr. James Kilfedder (Down, North)

First, I make the plea that danger money should be paid to members of the police force. They have a very difficult and dangerous job.

How much money is being spent on advertising for recruits for the Royal Ulster Constabulary? It seems that the men are not coming forward to join the force. Of course, the force's morale has been badly shaken during the last few years. I cannot remember the figures for recruitment over the last 12 months, but I believe that the figures are disappointing. What is the return for the money which is being spent on advertising in the local Press and on television? Is there some way in which more young men can be brought into the police force? Obviously the time will come when the Army must give way to the civil authorities.

There is concern in Northern Ireland that many lawyers have not been paid for cases that they have conducted under legal aid. In many cases they are owed substantial sums of money. It is especially difficult for young members of the Bar to continue if they are not paid within a reasonable time.

If we pay tribute to a particular service in Northern Ireland we should express praise for the courts and the stipendiary magistrates. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) might make an exception. There is a strong case for paying a greater salary to the stipendiary magistrates. I do not know when they last received an increase. They are overworked and they live a life which is extremely uncomfortable. They are constantly under police protection. Even that does not, as we know, save them from the gunmen. A Mr. Staunton, a distinguished Roman Catholic lawyer, who was not long elevated to the bench as a stipendiary magistrate—I visited his court on one occasion—was gunned down in front of his children. There is a case to be made for paying more money to the stipendiary magistrates in Belfast.

My attention is drawn to the young offenders' centres and borstals. There is a borstal in my constituency called Woburn House. The police, when they have time—and they seem to have very little—occasionally have to chase after an inmate who has escaped. No doubt my hon. Friend cannot say how many people have escaped from the borstal. Money should be spent on making the borstal secure. Although I appreciate that a secure unit is being built at Woburn borstal, the whole borstal should be made secure.

Turning to the question of education, I am disappointed that the Government have made no move on ending segregated education. I believe firmly that the fearful grip of sectarian education on the minds of young people, particularly of the very young, and on the attitudes of their parents must be loosened if we are to make progress in Northern Ireland.

During the debate on the Education and Libraries (Northern Ireland) Order, I drew the attention of the Minister of State to the need to ensure that the sectarian division of primary and secondary education was not allowed to invade nursery education. I asked him to talk with church leaders about the question, but, as far as I know, he did nothing. A few weeks later I tabled a Written Question on the same topic, and it was clear from the reply that he had taken no action.

The Westminster Government, who have been in complete charge of education in Northern Ireland since March last year, have pumped an additional £1¾ million into nursery school provision in Northern Ireland by building another 50 nursery schools, but they have done nothing to ensure that the schools are non-sectarian for the pupils, wherever the teachers may have been trained. Those 50 schools, built with extra money voted by this House, will take Protestant children and Roman Catholic children, but they will not be mixed in the same school.

The Minister may protest that nursery schools under local education authority management are open to all. In theory they are. But in practice, as long as the Government continue to build separate schools for Roman Catholic management—voluntary schools, as they are called—and for local education authority management, just so long will Roman Catholic parents be prevailed upon to send their children to Roman Catholic schools and to no other. This is not in the best interests of Northern Ireland, where the children, particularly the youngest, should go to mixed schools. I am surprised that the Government, who talk so much about ending sectarian divisions in Northern Ireland and bringing the communities together, are aiding segregation when children are just tiny tots going to nursery schools. I ask my hon. Friend, who is always so robust in his comments, to give an assurance that he will look into this and make sure that the Government stop aiding and abetting the division of children into two sections.

I will not go into the subject of roads, although the roads in my constituency are dreadful. On the last occasion I asked my hon. Friend the Minister of State to travel round them. If he does he will find how uncomfortable that can be.

Rev. Ian Paisley

He only travels to the Culloden.

Mr. Kilfedder

That is true, he only travels to Culloden to enjoy the luxurious hotel there and taste the superb food provided by it.

Could the Government not do something more about the information services? Our young soldiers are battling in the streets of the towns of Northern Ireland against IRA terrorists. Yet they face another enemy, I regret to say—the news media. They face the difficulties of having their actions distorted by some reporters on television. It is unfortunate that the information service does not seem to give the answer. The television camera is always behind a soldier as he is fighting and firing. We do not have the picture from behind the women carrying Armalite rifles, behind the sniper lying in the dark, waiting to kill some young soldier or behind the children about to plant a bomb.

Every effort ought to be made, and as much money as possible ought to be spent on the information service so that the people of Great Britain and the world know of the struggle in Northern Ireland and know that it is not between Roman Catholic and Protestant but between the forces of evil who have been murdering, mutilating and destroying, and the forces of law and order represented by those gallant soldiers, members of the RUC, the police reserve and the UDR. That is the story that ought to be told fully to all the people in the world.

11.58 p.m.

Mr. David Howell

I am grateful to hon. Members for the way they have dealt with this order. I am also grateful to the hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. Peter Archer) for the spirit in which he put his precise and acute inquiries. He is a considerable authority on the subject of legal reform and legal aid. I could not hope to compete with his expertise.

The hon. and learned Gentleman asked first about a matter which you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, said would be out of order, which was how Estimates would be dealt with in a future Assembly. Without moving too far out of order myself, I can say simply that there would be such debates. There will be Estimates. There will be a domestic Northern Ireland Budget. The way in which it operates will have to be worked out with the Assembly by discussion in the future.

The second question asked by the hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the urgent procedure governing this order. We are dealing with a matter which is, in a sense, unpredictable. The hon. and learned Gentleman asked what event had overtaken the Government which they had not foreseen. First, there is the need for compensation arising when there is terrorist damage, and the rate at which it arises. Then the settlement of compensation is a matter for the courts, and the rate at which these settlements proceed is a matter not strictly controllable by the Government. We can influence the speed with which these matters are prepared—I shall come later to the question of chief constables' certificates—and considerable efforts have been made in past months to speed up compensation, because hardship and difficulty is caused to people who have to wait for their money after suffering appalling damage and possible shock and injury. That is why we introduced the emergency finance procedures, and we have streamlined them.

The effects of these combined with the unpredictability of the causes of compensation claims and the rate at which compensation may be settled mean that we are at the mercy of events in having to find the money for compensation. Almost at the end of the financial year, we are anxious to wait as long as possible so that in seeking money for compensation we can find funds for as many settled claims as possible.

Against that there are major problems of payments of money, including transactions with local authorities which have to be completed between the coming into operation of the order and the end of the financial year on 30th March.

We have the two forces working in opposite directions. This has meant that we have had to leave the order as long as possible and then, once the end of the financial year is in sight, get it through as quickly as possible. That is why, caught between the two timing elements, we had no choice but to bring it forward under the urgent procedure.

The hon. and learned Gentleman went on to legal aid and talked of Class III, Item 3. I think that the item number should be 8. My copy is deficient in that there is no figure at all, but it should be Class III, Item 8, miscellaneous services. That is the category which includes legal aid. That is where the legal aid provision arises.

I took the hon. and learned Gentleman's point fully, as I did that put eloquently by my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), about the importance of legal aid and about its application in the situation which he described. Certainly I shall look at the resolution to which he referred, and I shall see to it that my colleagues in the Northern Ireland Office are acquainted with the important ideas that he raised with such expertise and understanding.

Mr. Peter Archer

Before the hon. Gentleman leaves my questions, I do not know whether he has overlooked it but I referred to the item of £100.

Mr. Howell

I overlooked it, really because the hon. and learned Gentleman answered it himself. It is a device for making note of this item under this classification to put £100 there. There are similar devices in national budgeting and this is simply a device for doing that, and no more.

My hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North mentioned delays in legal aid payments to barristers and solicitors. This is something that I shall look into anyway, but if my hon. Friend can help me in my searches by directing me to any people who have been involved, that will make the task all the easier and we shall get on with it all the more speedily.

Reference was made to chief constable's certificates. This is a vexing matter to which we have continually turned our attention. We have been anxious to speed up all the procedures all the way along in dealing with compensation claims. In defence of the administration, I must say that we have often found delays occurring on the non-public sector side in the sense that difficulties have been experienced in getting solicitors to put forward claims and the necessary details. We do what it lies in our power to do in order to speed up things, and if there are difficulties about the chief constable's certificate in respect of my hon. Friend's constituent I ask him to let me have the name and I shall look into the case. We have to stick to some procedure because taxpayers' money is involved and we have to guard against abuse. The procedures have to be there, but we do everything that we can to speed them up.

Mr. Molyneaux

We accept the need for scrutiny and the fact that certain procedures have to be followed, but would it not be possible to receive an acknowledgement when a Member sends a case to the chief constable? I have had to write twice in respect of one case. It may not be the practice to send an acknowledgement, but it would help to receive one, because without it one is in difficulty in trying to prove to a constituent that his case has been forwarded for consideration.

Mr. Howell

I take the point and will look into it to see why acknowledgements are not provided. I am sure that it is the normal practice to send an acknowledgement.

My hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North asked detailed questions about the capacity of a particular school. I have made a note of what he said. I am not in a position to answer now, but I shall write to him.

My hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) brought up again the question of an allowance for the police. He feels very strongly about this. The matter has been looked at by the police authority, but it is felt that these risks, appalling as they are— and my hon. Friend mentioned that they were faced by the Army, too—are inherent in the job of a policeman. I note the strength of my hon. Friend's feeling on the matter, and I shall consider whether further thought can be given to it.

Rev. Ian Paisley

When making representations to the police authority, will my hon. Friend point out that these special grants are paid to ambulance personnel and to people in the fire service? The police appear to be treated differently. They, too, run these risks, and should therefore get the danger money.

Mr. Howell

I appreciate the point, but it is worth remembering that people in the fire and ambulance services, difficult though their task is, do not join up to deal with security problems. The police, on the other hand, are recruited to do a job involving appalling security risks. The same applies to recruits to the Army. But I note the strength of feeling on the matter, and I shall follow it up.

During the debate on the Appropriation (Northern Ireland) Order 1972 I told the House that no overtime was payable to managerial grades in the RUC. I am glad to tell the House that since then it has been decided that a long-hour's gratuity should be paid to superintendents for the year ending 30th September 1972. I thought the House would like to know that.

Points were made by my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South about brucellosis and the staffing of county council legal departments. He will appreciate that as we are in the throes of major local government reorganisation and as we move towards the new district councils, all these matters are a little difficult, but I will bear them in mind.

On the question of the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Complaints, I cannot help. The requirements depend on the number of complaints. My non. Friend may make judgments on the validity of complaints or otherwise, but there can be no control over the volume and rate at which complaints come in.

My hon. Friend the Member for Down. North (Mr. Kilfedder) talked about recruitment. I cannot tonight tell him the precise figures for advertising, although I will let him know as soon as I have them. He may, however, like to know the latest recruitment figures.

The strength of the Royal Ulster Constabulary on 28th March—that is, yesterday—was 4,284. The trend in recruitment has not, frankly been very encouraging. In November 1972 there was a net gain of 35; in December a net gain of 29; while in January 1973 the net figure was a fall of 16. In February this picked up to a net gain of 19.

We and everyone else recognise the vital and central need of a strong police service in Northern Ireland, and the Secretary of State will mention these matters again tomorrow when he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

On the reserve side there is an encouraging picture with a full reserve strength of 2,381, and when one compares this with 1,749 a year ago it is a more encouraging picture.

My hon. Friend the Member for Down, North raised the question of stipendiary magistrates. I recognise the tremendously important work they do. I have to say that any question of a pay increase, as for anybody else, must come within the limitation of the counter-inflation legislation, but that does not in any way detract from the full recognition which the Government and everybody else give to the tremendous work of the stipendiary magistrates, often in conditions of great personal danger. He mentioned also the security of a particular borstal. I will look into it further but it would not help to give a full and detailed answer tonight.

Mr. Kilfedder

On stipendiary magistrates, I asked when they last received an increase in salary. I do not know whether my hon. Friend can say tonight. I also asked how their pay compares with that of stipendiary magistrates in London. On the question of compensation to the relatives of Mr. Staunton, I would ask whether compensation will be paid quickly. It may have been paid, but it should be paid forthwith and should be an appreciable sum.

Mr. Howell

These are detailed and specific matters which I should like to look into. I should be glad to provide the facts on pay and the comparisons which my hon. Friend asks for. I should also like to look in detail into the specific matter of compensation in respect of the unfortunate magistrate murdered, and give my hon. Friend an answer.

My hon. Friend also raised the general question of nursery school education and its expansion. This is a matter to which the Minister of State concerned with education is giving considerable time. He is closely involved in the matter and shares very much the view of those who would like greater mixing and less segregation in education at all levels. At nursery level there are encouraging signs. It is not true that all nursery school education is segregated. Nor, of course, do I accept my hon. Friend's point that in some way the Government are aiding segregation. On the contrary, our aim, as he will admit, I think, in fairness, is to go very much the opposite way.

However, I will certainly draw the attention of my hon. Friend the Minister of State, who is deeply concerned in these matters, to my hon. Friend's remarks. Perhaps I will suggest to the Minister of State that he might write to my hon. Friend about his points about the nursery school expansion programme.

Finally, my hon. Friend the Member for Down, North asked whether the information services could not do better. Of course, all politicians, and certainly all Ministers and all Governments, want their information services to do better. But this is a good time to pay tribute to the work of the information services. It is fair to say, although perhaps my hon. Friend will not agree, that the story of Northern Ireland, from which he comes, and of a lot that is going on there, of the efforts of the Government and of the United Kingdom as a whole to set right the wrongs of Northern Ireland and to bring to an end the appalling violence and to carry Northern Ireland forward to a better future is beginning to be told around the world.

The world's newspapers have recognised the efforts being made, the courage of the people of Northern Ireland and the determination of the Government to improve the situation. Thumbing through the reports of the newspapers of the world, I find a very different picture being presented from that in the past. Of course one finds aspects of propaganda which do not appeal. Of course one would always like to see it done differently. But I believe that the information services have done a marvellous job, and I have no hesitation tonight in paying tribute to them.

Mr. Kilfedder

I join in my hon. Friend's tribute, but I wonder whether more money could not be poured into the services to augment them or to help achieve a better distribution of the material. That was my point. I think that they do an admirable job.

Mr. Howell

I accept that point.

Rev. Ian Paisley

There was one point that I raised which probably my hon. Friend cannot answer tonight, but I should like his assurance that he will look into it. This was about Chichester Street magistrates' court and the under-staffing in regard to senior and junior clerks there.

Mr. Howell

My hon. Friend is right: he did raise that point in addition to his other point about barristers and solicitors. I will examine this other matter, because, as in all the other aspects of the administration of the law, I recognise that people are under considerable strain. This is crucial to our maintenance of law and order and to our carrying forward a programme of restoring law and order in Northern Ireland. My hon. Friend was right to raise the matter.

I think that I have covered all the points. Any that I have not covered will be noted from HANSARD and dealt with either by letter or by the appropriate means.

I remind hon. Members again that it will be possible to consider the detailed Estimates—here, we are dealing only with the Vote on Account, the advance, as it were on the Estimates for 1973–74—at greater length when they come forward for the appropriate debate. That will provide an opportunity for going over some of the expenditures for 1973–74 at greater length.

Mr. Peter Archer

Does the Minister really mean what he says, that we shall have a debate at greater length? Does he mean that the debate on the Estimates will not be on an order of this kind?

Mr. Howell

What I mean is that it will not be an order which will involve both the Appropriations and Estimates of a previous year and all the Estimates for the coming year. I am sorry if that was not clear.

I ask the House to approve the order.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Appropriation (Northern Ireland) Order 1973 (S.I.. 1973, No. 413), a copy of which was laid before this House on 20th March, be approved.


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