§ Mr. Speaker
Before I call the Leader of the House to move formally the Adjournment motion, I should inform the House that I have selected the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer).
Motion made, and Question proposed.
That, at its rising tomorrow, this House do adjourn till Monday 22 October and that this House shall not adjourn tomorrow until Mr. Speaker shall have reported the Royal Assent to any Acts which have been agreed upon by both Houses.—[Mr. St. John-Stevas.]
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)
I beg to move, after "rising", to leave out "tomorrow" and to insert "on Tuesday 14 August".
§ Mr. Speaker
With this amendment it will be convenient to discuss the associated amendment, after second "adjourn" to leave out "tomorrow" and to insert "on that day".
§ Mr. Cryer
This amendment was tabled with the idea of giving Parliament a greater amount of time to debate serious and important issues. The date of Tuesday 14 August was chosen because I thought that on Monday 13 August there might be a welcome absence of Conservative Members who were on the grouse moors and we would probably be able to debate matters in a more constructive manner and perhaps even get a few positive votes as we did, for example, on the vote to reject the break-up of the Post Office monopoly.
To substantiate the argument for more time, I must say that most hon. Members are concerned at the way that legislation has been crammed through the House over this past week—and not without error. Certainly the announcement today of the Royal Assent to one Bill ensures that at least one statutory instrument is no longer ultra vires and is given validity. It is because of this that I suggest that Parliament needs more time in which to debate important issues. One of the issues that I should like to see debated—I raised this matter during business questions today—relates to the Select Committee on Members' interests.
At present there is no great pressure about this Select Committee. It has been established by the House and the register 925 has been working to some degree. It is part of Labour Party policy—indeed, it was introduced by Labour Members—that there should be a register of Members' interests. It represents part of the pressure for greater freedom of information so that the public can know what interests Members of Parliament have and, therefore, make a judgment as to why an hon. Member might vote in a particular way.
The proposal to set up a Select Committee, which has been approved by the House, has been accompanied by a further proposal regarding the membership of that Committee. This House must demonstrate to the people outside that what it does is clear and without any undue pressures generated by other interests. Of course, I make no implication in respect of hon. Members whose names have been put forward for membership of that Select Committee, but I believe that it would be regarded by people outside as less than satisfactory if the majority of the Committee had outside financial interests. I must tell the House that in the last published register of Members' Interests, which unfortunately was as long ago as May 1976, the majority of those hon. Members did have outside financial interests. Therefore, if those hon. Members recommended that in some way the register should be curtailed, even though in their own lights they made the recommendation for the best possible motives, people outside might not see it in that way.
I urge the Leader of the House to consider for debate my amendment relating to the membership of that Select Committee, which suggests that the 1922 Committee of the Conservative Party—we are all in favour of greater democracy these days—should produce seven names that do not have outside financial interests. It may be impossible to do so, in which case we should know about it.
§ Mr. Cryer
That might well be the case, but in debating this issue we ought to reflect on the great enthusiasm which Conservative Members displayed during the time that our salary increase was discussed. We should perhaps discuss what 926 sort of commitment is relevant to that level of payment—for example, whether it would not be reasonable to have full-time Members of Parliament without any outside financial interests. The result of that investigation by the Conservative Party could be conveyed to Parliament, and debated, if my amendment, which is supported by several hon. Members, were selected for debate.
There is another reason for having a Committee that has some determination, drive and enthusiasm to bring the register up to date. We are all concerned about the good name of the House of Commons abroad—by "abroad" I mean outside. The register was not introduced because hon. Members were enthusiastic about it. The first question that I ever put down asked when the register would be compiled, and an old Member told me "Of course, it will never happen. Nothing will change in this place." Several hon. Members who were sucked into the conventions and traditions were supposed to be very Left-wing agitators indeed.
However, a change did occur, not as a result of the attitude of hon. Members but rather as a result of the attitude of people outside. There was a succession of scandals relating to Members of Parliament with outside financial interests voting in a way that seemed to put them in line with those financial interests and not in line with their constituents or the political party that they represented. That was the pressure which resulted in the register of Members' interests.
It should be remembered that there was a Royal Commission on standards of conduct in public life. It should also be remembered that this House made determined noises about how local authorities should conduct their affairs. Indeed, many local authorities have improved their standard of conduct. If we are determined to maintain the reputation of the House of Commons, we should be wary because there may be other scandals around the corner. To that extent, we must have a Committee whose membership is seen to be determined in such a way that criticism cannot be levelled, even though that criticism might be unjustified. It must be clear and above board that decisions are made without any pressure.
927 I refer to The Guardian of today and an article by Brendan Boyle in Amsterdam, in which he points out thatThe fugitive former South African civil servant, Dr. Eschel Rhoodie, … is being held in a French gaol awaiting extradition".Dr. Rhoodie has said previously that if he is to be subject to criminal proceedings there is a lot of information floating around that will be revealed. That article stated:He has revealed among his new disclosures that the South African Government spent more than £30,000 on a covert project involving the British Parliament. It had previously been claimed that British MPs were taking money from South Africa's Department of Information.Therefore, already claims are being made about what is happening in this Parliament and we are all concerned about it. We are all concerned to ensure that there is some machinery whereby we can refute those claims.
§ Mr. J. W. Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)
My hon. Friend mentioned the Royal Commission on standards of conduct in public life, whose report was published in July 1976 and has never yet been debated. He has just referred to the allegations of Dr. Rhoodie about a Member, or Members, of Parliament acting in ways that might be alleged to be corrupt. But, as pointed out in the Royal Commission report, no hon. Member is subject to the criminal law for accepting money or bribes or being corrupt in pursuance of his parliamentary activity. It is that fact that is at the root of the recommendations of the Royal Commission. That would also be an interesting subject for debate between now and 14 August.
§ Mr. Cryer
My hon. Friend has made a point that we often forget. When we are confronted by some item of grave public concern, we go into the matter in great detail and the press asks "Why should this happen?" The matter then becomes forgotten, and people become comatose and content. We only react to a scandal. That is not good enough. We should set standards that are reasonable. The register of Members' interests was a useful guide, but some of the information that it contained was ludicrous.
I do not suppose that it could really be sustained that Lord Lever is devoid of 928 private financial support. Indeed, he did not even receive a Cabinet salary. He was not on supplementary benefit, and I assume that he had enough doubloons in the bank to pay himself. Yet his entry in the register of business interests was nil. That is the sort of area that needs to be tightened up, because we do not want to bring Parliament into disrepute.
§ Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. For the benefit of the House, can you explain whether hon. Members are able to debate the subjects that they would like to debate if we were to stay here for another fortnight, or whether they are merely allowed to state what subjects they would like to debate if we did stay here that extra time?
§ Mr. Cryer
I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for your protection in ignoring such a frivolous non-point of order.
I have referred to the article in today's issue of The Guardian. The whole point of this debate is that we are saying that Parliament should not adjourn—I have given a useful date to clarify hon. Members' minds wonderfully—so that we may debate these issues now.
There is urgency about the matter, because a man who could be back to South Africa within the next few days is making serious allegations about hon. Members. That is why we need to debate the whole background, so that if the matter bubbles out during the recess we can say that we are taking serious steps. I do not want to go into more detail on that issue because many other hon. Members wish to raise urgent matters that they want debated before the House rises.
I turn to a local constituency matter. I have tabled questions about transport in the Aire valley. Promises have been made about a public inquiry into the Kirkhamgate-Dishforth proposed road. It has been promised before the end of the year. When we return from the recess we shall be perilously close to the end of the year. The reason for my asking about the inquiry particularly is that the Airedale trunk road inquiry has been deferred until after the Kirkhamgate-Dishforth road inquiry.
Many people in my constituency have been vitally affected by the proposal for 929 more than 10 years. The Labour Government promised that a public inquiry into the proposed Airedale trunk road would be held in November this year. It has now been deferred. I should like clarification of the timetable. The issue is important in the Aire valley.
We also want further details of schemes that I have suggested. I secured an Adjournment debate in February, when we discussed proposals for the electrification of the railway from Leeds to Skip-ton, running through my constituency. This is an important matter. Because of public expenditure cuts, the passenger transport authority almost certainly cannot contemplate the sort of expenditure on developing that railway service that it would have made but for the Conservative Government. We want to see a wholesale development, with the plans brought into the public arena, so that when the trunk road public inquiry is held people have full knowledge and know the background.
As we are approaching an energy crisis, we want action by the Government to develop the railways. We want them to consider electrification and to secure a shift from road to rail. This is an important matter. I hone that the Leader of the House will comment.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ Mr. John Ward (Poole)
First, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to address this House for the first time.
I begin by paying tribute to my predecessor, Oscar Murton, who served his constituency and the House in the same quiet and courteous way, a manner which the House got to know when he was Chairman of Ways and Means. He was ever kind, but on occasion he could be firm. I am sure that the House found, as we did in the constituency, that when he made up his mind that something was just, he could not be swayed. I know that other hon. Members will join me in wishing him every success as he continues to serve Parliament in another place.
Many people think of Poole as simply another holiday resort on the South Coast. As we enjoy the second largest natural harbour in the world, it is not surprising that sailing, water sports and 930 so on should be among our main attractions. An enlightened borough council has managed so to control development that we have a balance between industry, offices and residential developments, so that those young people who wish to do so can continue their careers in their own home town and spend their whole lives there.
We have also solved some of the problems of vandalism, the problems of empty streets at night. The entertainment centre, the swimming baths and the sports centre are all adjacent to the main shopping area, which means that at virtually any time of the day or night there is some activity in the centre of the town. The town is full of businesses, large and small, which I am sure will benefit from the measures recently introduced by my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry.
We cover the whole range of industry, from electronics and engineering, caravans and boats to some of the better-known food products, which start life in Poole. We also have the headquarters of one of the major international banks. We are proud that the Royal National Lifeboat Institution is also in Poole. The whole lifeboat movement is controlled from one of the buildings in my constituency.
It is perhaps a strange fact that many electronic instruments exported from Japan are fitted with liquid crystal displays exported from Poole. That achievement was recently recognised by a Queen's Award.
We have a thriving and bustling port. Those responsible for its development are determined that it will continue to be the servant of the people of Poole and not become their master.
It is in Poole that the European Community really takes life, because we are twinned with the town of Cherbourg. We have had one visit so far this year, and we look forward to another, when 800 people from Poole are going to Cherbourg to meet our friends there. Our roll-on/roll-off ferry, with three services a day between Poole and Cherbourg, plays its part in exporting. Even the oysters that so many holiday makers enjoy in Britatny start life in Poole harbour.
931 You will see, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that all in all it is possible to say that in Poole we are export-oriented.
You may find it strange, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I should want to tear myself away from the delights of such a constituency to suggest that we might extend this Session. I find myself—perhaps for the first and last time—in agreement with the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) that we should put off the recess.
I continually receive messages from my constituents to the effect that exporting is becoming harder. The markets are tougher, yet more than ever, if we are to have economic recovery, we need those exports. My constituents welcome the fact that there will be less inteference by the Government in their affairs. They welcome the fact that as managers they will take decisions without the Government looking over their shoulders and that they will live by the result of their decisions. They hope that the shortage of skilled technologists which is apparent in Poole will be remedied now that tax cuts will make it worth while putting up with long and sometimes exacting training.
I also make a plea for continuing sympathy with the export salesman. He is the lifeblood of the export industry, but too often he has been neglected. I freely acknowledge the efforts of the last Government, but we still find that he is at a disadvantage from the point of view of disruption of his family life and the fact that he is often taking physical risks and putting up with arduous conditions. He is also still at a tax disadvantage compared with those who set up homes overseas in relative comfort.
Export orders are not obtained by correspondence. The salesman must be prepared to jump into an aeroplane at an hour's notice to get together with the potential customer. He often finds himself competing with salesmen from other countries who have been subsidised by their Governments.
Our customers are not interested in this country's problems. They are not interested in the fact that we have delays in manufacture and delivery, in the fact that we have industrial troubles. They feel that those are our problems, for us to sort out. Too often, while there are 932 quarrels within our industries, out competitors jump in and run off with the orders.
As I have said, the export market is a difficult area in which to work, and we need the wholehearted support of the Government at home and overseas. From my experience in exporting buildings and building management, that overseas support varies considerably. Where the ambassador appreciates the need for trade, the members of his staff are enthusiastic and helpful. Indeed, they often go out and seek commercial opportunities for our people. Regrettably, however, where in some areas we are still regarded as an intrusion in the daily round, we get less than the support that we deserve, and that gives our competitors a head start.
I should like to call for a more positive attiude from the Export Credits Guarantee Department at home, and I am concerned that we are moving that Department so far away from the banking world of the City. It provides a valuable service, but inevitably it is in the more difficult territories that we most need its help. Rarely is a decision reached with the speed that our customers demand, and our competitors have often obtained their credit insurance before we get off the ground. I am not asking for noncommercial decisions, but when inquiries are made they should be dealt with at a sufficiently high level to enable much speedier and more next-day decisions. Even if the decision is unfavourable, there should be time to seek other sources of finance. If a firm is left waiting for some weeks before a decision is made, its competitors have moved in and are halfway down the negotiation course before it starts.
Most of the export people belong to the "trade, no aid" school. Too often aid is wasted and has got into the wrong hands. Aid should be given in the form of building up industry within the countries to which it is given so that they can use their own natural resources. I include in that the training and management that a country needs to run new industries. I see nothing immoral, and everything good for this country and the recipient, if, when we give aid, we specify that the money shall be spent in this country with British industry. Our competitors are not slow to do that.
933 In basic industries such as building, the precious commodity of one satisfied customer is better than thousands of pounds of advertising. I look to the Government for more enthusiastic support for free enterprise, and those engaged in free enterprise are largely the exporters of this country. I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench will bear in mind the needs of the people who take the physical and financial risks in going into markets abroad.
As many of my colleagues have done, I conclude with thanks to the staff of the House and to other hon. Members. Over the past few weeks their friendliness and courtesy have made a memorable occasion also a happy one.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)
I warmly congratulate the hon. Member for Poole (Mr. Ward) on an eloquent, informed and impressively genuine maiden speech. As he said, his predecessor was much respected on both sides of the House, and he is remembered for an abiding courtesy and a jealous concern for the reputation of the House. The hon. Gentleman will clearly be a worthy successor. In terms of local patriotism, he will certainly succeed. The House looks forward to hearing from him on many future occasions.
Now there are many strong, indeed compelling, reasons why we should not have such a long Summer Recess. I want to deal with one of them that is of prime importance to disabled people and their families. My purpose in intervening is to urge that we should not go into recess until we have had from the Government an assurance that very many disabled people are deeply anxious to hear. Long before October, they want to hear that the Government have unequivocally rejected the recent call from the Association of County Councils for section 2(1) of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 to be emasculated.
In a press release on 10 July, the association published what is called… revolutionary ideas on how local authorities can save money.Its ideas included one for the provision of services under section 2(1) of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act to be made discretionary.
934 These services include practical help for the disabled person in his home; adaptation of the home; the provision of a telephone and of any special equipment necessary to enable him to use a telephone; transport to and from services provided by the local authority outside the home; meals in the home or elsewhere; radio, television and recreational facilities inside or outside the home; holidays; and assistance in taking advantage of educational facilities. These are services that have helped to sustain many hundreds of thousands of severely disabled people in their own homes. They would otherwise have been forced into institutional care, to the distress both of their families and themselves.
To emasculate section 2 of the Act, to pull it to pieces in the way proposed by the Association of County Councils, would not save public money. On the contrary, by forcing disabled people out of their homes, it would raise public expenditure, since hospital and other forms of institutional care are so often very much more expensive than domiciliary services of the kind provided under the Act. The assurance I am seeking before the House goes into recess is, therefore, of importance to taxpayers and ratepayers as well as to the disabled people who feel threatened by the proposals that the association has put to the Government.
The Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act passed into law in 1970 entirely without party animus. As its promoter, I was assured by the Conservative Party's then Shadow spokesman for social services, Lord Balniel, now the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres, that if my Bill failed to reach the statute book because of lack of time before the general election of 1970, his party would enact it as one of its first acts on assuming office. So there was certainly no acrimony about the enactment.
It is also worth recalling that a Bill sponsored by my hon. Friend the Member for Dearne Valley (Mr. Wainwright) to strengthen section 2(1) of the Act was given an unopposed Second Reading by this House only a few months ago, in the presence of a great many right hon. and hon. Members opposite, including two who are now Ministers at the Department of Health and Social Security.
935 For section 2 of the Act now to be gravely weakened would be regarded as a gross betrayal by disabled people. They would think it irresponsible and inexcusable for us to adjourn until October without pressing the Government to reject the false, inhumane, mean and demeaning economies proposed by the Association of County Councils. One of the central principles of the Act was that an entirely new obligation would be put on local authorities to go out and find chronically sick and disabled people in their areas who could benefit from the provision of social services. That principle is enshrined in section 1(1) of the Act. The association does not suggest the repeal of that subsection. Instead it wants to make the provision of local services discretionary. The only logical conclusion is that social services authorities will be empowered to go out and find disabled people in need and, when they have found them, say "Yes, you certainly do need help with services under the Act, but we will not give them to you unless we feel like doing so". That would be a cruel and cynical course to take in dealing with permanently and substantially handicapped people.
It might, of course, be argued that we live in times of great difficulty for the economy and that, if needs must, everyone must face sacrifices. The Labour Government had their fair share of economic difficulties to resolve, but our policy, as put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson), speaking as Prime Minister on 12 March 1974, was that the broadest back must bear the biggest burdens. A memorable statement in support of that policy was made on 15 March 1974 by one of his Cabinet colleagues, who said:As my right hon. Friend The Prime Minister said the other day, the fact that we are passing through a period of economic stringency and difficulty is all the more reason why we should aim at satisfactory standards of social justice. As he put it, if sacrifices are to be borne, the broadest backs must bear the heaviest sacrifices. Therefore, at this time above any other, we should redistribute income in favour of pensioners, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn, (Mrs. Castle) proposes …"— [Official Report, 15 March 1974; Vol. 870, c. 622.]That statement was made by the present Minister responsible for the disabled, the right hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Prentice), who was then Secretary of State 936 for Education and Science in the Labour Government.
I wholeheartedly agree with what the right hon. Gentleman said then. Does he himself still accept the philosophy that he put to the House only a few short years ago? If he does, he must agree that it would be outrageous for anyone to accept the ACC's proposals for cutbacks in expenditure on the disabled, and the withdrawal of pocket money from people in old people's homes, after a Budget which has given £1,400 million to the richest 5 per cent. of taxpayers. Whatever description might be given to that policy, it is certainly not one of making the broadest backs bear the biggest burdens.
There are many other assurances that I should like from the Government before going into recess, not least that they will look urgently again at the very heavy extra mobility costs that have fallen on disabled people who are not helped by Motability and in direct consequence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's own policies. I have restricted myself, however, to just one urgent, specific and extremely important question, asking for an assurance from the Leader of the House, who takes a close personal interest in these matters, that the ill-considered and dangerously short-sighted proposals of the ACC are rejected by the Government. It is an assurance that would, I am sure, be more than welcome on both sides of the House.
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)
I hope that the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) will forgive me if I follow him on only one subject, namely, his tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Poole (Mr. Ward) for his admirable maiden speech. My hon. Friend did particular credit to his predecessor, Mr. Oscar Murton, whom we all remember with great affection in this place. We look forward very much to hearing my hon. Friend again.
However, I cannot agre with my hon. Friend on one thing, and I hope that the longer he is here the nearer he will come to my position. The proposition advanced by the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) is, like most propositions advanced by the hon. Gentleman, too extreme by half. I would not mind if we stayed here a week longer, but I do not think 937 that there is any particular justification for staying a full fortnight longer.
I want to refer in particular to the motion on the Order Paper in the name of the Chairman of the Committee of Selection. I hope we shall hear more about it before we go into recess. So far, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has been uncharacteristically guilty of carrying moderation to extreme. The motion may have more than one cause underlying it, but no one seriously disputes, not even the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot), that it is basically because of the attitude of the Opposition that it has had to be put down. We would like to know why the Opposition have taken that attitude.
Being a charitable fellow. I will not automatically assume the truth of reports in the capitalist press—I use that term because it is the sort of language that hon. Members opposite understand—of civil war in the Labour Party. We should not automatically assume such stories to be gospel truth. We know how well the members of the Manifesto group and the Tribune group get on together. All of those who see them in the Tea Room know how comradely they are, chatting together, and for all I know even drinking out of the same saucer. So I do not make the assumption that there is no other possible explanation. I therefore put it to my right hon. Friend that there might be another reason for what the Opposition appear to be doing. Indeed, it might command my support.
The Opposition might actually want to sabotage these Select Committees. I would not blame them. I do not think that these Committees are all that they are made out to be. Until we get to the point where the voting of Supply will depend on acceptance by the House of a report of one of its own Committees, we shall he far from giving those Committees real power. Whether we want to go that far, I do not know, but if the Opposition take the view, as I am inclined to do, that Select Committees are no more than a device for finding work for idle hands, I am all for their sabotage.
The situation raises a question which I should like to put to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. What are the Select Committee staff doing? From time to time, a number of people 938 have been employed to service the Committees. The Committees needed staff. But so far as I know the Committees have not done a lot of work since the new Parliament began. They do not appear to have any work to do until Parliament reassembles in October. I do not notice any great queue of unemployed about the place.
What is going on? Who is meeting the bill? How big is the bill? If the Opposition want to go the whole way and make a full contribution to cutting public expenditure, perhaps they would like to say that not merely would they not like to see these Committees set up but that they would like to see the staff laid off as well. Clarification of that would be welcome.
Whilst I am suggesting areas in which the Opposition might like to join in cutting expenditure, I remind my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Clitherce (Mr. Waddington) of another matter on which the House took a decision some time ago and which is costing a bit. It is the question of the tribunal on the Crown Agents, which was set up by the House nearly 18 months ago. I do not quite know what has been happening since then, except, I understand, that the tribunal is now providing steady employment for 38 counsel.
I asked the Library to be kind enough to do a small calculation of how much it might cost to hire 38 counsel. It was not an easy question for the Library to answer, but it did its best. It came back with an estimate of about £1,500,000 over two years, which is the sort of time scale we are thinking about. To hire 38 lawyers to flog a dead horse is a waste of £1,500,000. But that, of course, is not all that it is costing, because there are the clerks and the staff, and the space that is needed, and so on. We should perhaps pass on to the tribunal the immortal words of the hon. Member for Feltham and Heston (Mr. Kerr), who, of course, is again not with us today—"Speed it up". It has to be brought to an early conclusion.
§ Mr. Onslow
The hon. Gentleman has his own bloodthirsty solutions, but I am a moderate and charitable man.
There are many other matters that other hon. Members would like to stay 939 here to discuss. We could fill a week of parliamentary time without too much difficulty. But there is one point that worries me a lot. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has argued, whenever he has been pressed by hon. Members that we should not get up quite so soon, that a large number of hon. Members he knows personally have family responsibilities, and that it is up to him to see that they can get away and join their families—the bucket and spade brigade must have their dads.
I do not quarrel with that, but I sometimes wonder whether that argument holds equally true of all hon. Members. My family responsibilities, for example, are, I am happy to say, now earning money, which makes a change. I suggest that for the convenience of the House we might consider in the last fortnight of July the possibility of drawing up a register of dependants, and that those hon. Members able to claim dependants could perhaps be automatically paired in the first week of August while those of us who were old and past it would be able to stay on and carry on the business of government. It might be for the general convenience of the House as a whole if we made that innovation.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
Obviously the hon. Gentleman heard my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) speaking about the declaration of interests. Perhaps we should have a register. However, the trouble is that we would not all know what to put in it, would we?
§ Mr. Onslow
The hon. Gentleman must speak for himself. If he does not know who his dependants are and he is ashamed of them or unable to register them, that is his problem and not mine. I shall not go further into that.
§ Mr. Onslow
I do not like to ask where the hon. Gentleman is looking. I hope that his look receives a gratifying response.
If we must go when the Leader of the House suggests, I suppose we must. I am sure that we all look forward to resuming. I know that the Opposition would like to have us believe that by that time the picture will be one of unrelieved gloom, and no doubt they are 940 revelling in the prospect. I do not hold that view. I think that by the time the House reassembles in October we shall find that many changes have taken place and some of them will be very much for the better, that many opportunities will have been recognised rather than seen as changes which are too terrifying for the Opposition to contemplate with their well-known fixed minds, and that we shall have legislation before us to amend the Rent Acts, to change the law on industrial relations and to improve the country's prospects. I wish the Government well in making use of their time during the recess to that end.
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Price (Lewisham, West)
I want briefly to refer to three matters which in my view are so important that right hon. and hon. Members should not go away until at least we have had a statement of the Government's intentions.
The first matter concerns the proposed new immigration rules. We were to have had them before the House rose. Now we are told that the new rules may be published as soon as we return after the recess. But if the Government are to take a view on an issue which puts people in jeopardy to the extent that we understand their new rules will, we should have a debate in this House so that, before the new rules are framed, the Government can hear what hon. Members have to say. Any debate on the rules will inevitably be after 10 o'clock for one and a half hours, and the rules will take a form which will make it impossible for hon. Members to table amendments. The House will be asked simply to vote for or against them.
There are many individuals whose applications are in the pipeline at present. They are the foreign husbands of women who are British citizens. It is a position with which the Prime Minister's daughter might become acquainted if she found someone in Australia with whom she wanted to settle down. The people concerned do not know where they are and whether they may stand in jeopardy of being expelled from this country when the Government publish their rules.
As an example, I bring to the attention of the House the case of a constituent of mine who stands in jeopardy 941 of being deported this weekend. He is Mr. Savvas Christophi. I had discussions about his case with Labour Government Ministers, and I understand that the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) has taken up the case with the present Home Secretary.
Mr. Christophi is just the sort of man the present Government say they want to encourage. He has built up an important small business in an area of London which is being stripped of employment. He runs a factory in South-East London employing more than 50 workers. That factory will have to close, and the unemployment total will rise by 50 on Sunday of this week if he is deported.
Throughout his stay in Britain, Mr. Christophi made no attempt to avoid detection. He is well known. His name is in the telephone directory. He has never tried to evade anything. He genuinely thought throughout that he had an absolute right to stay here. The Home Office has apparently decided that, because of the way he went about things, he does not have this right.
This is an issue which it is customary to raise in this debate. But we are to have another debate on deportation and the immigration rules tomorrow, when I shall return to this matter if I do not get a satisfactory answer from the Home Office today.
A test case has been prepared, and it is being put into the list of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The Government say that for judicial purposes they do not consider that court to be a court within the meaning of the word. In the past, therefore, they have not been willing to hold up deportation cases for that reason alone. But this will be a test case. It has received a great deal of publicity. Right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House have been amazed to discover the impact of the immigration rules and the havoc which they can wreak with honest individuals who are trying to help achieve the aims which this Government have set themselves.
§ Mr. Price
He came in 1972, quite legally. He thought that because of the 942 procedures that he went through to set up his business—indeed, he was given advice to that effect—that put him right. It happened at the same time as the amnesty was granted, and he thought that the amnesty applied to him. At the moment, the Home Office insists that it did not.
In all the circumstances of this case, before this man is deported, I beg the Home Office, both for the reasons that I have advanced and for pure humanitarian considerations, to agree that Mr. Christophi should be allowed to stay. He lives with his common law wife. For technical reasons he is unable to obtain a divorce from his legal wife in Cyprus. He has a child who was born in this country and has a right to stay here. Mr. Christophi would be in a very difficult social position in all the circumstances if he were sent back to Cyprus.
I ask the Minister at present on the Treasury Bench to draw the attention of the Home Office to this matter and see whether the Home Office could not at least have one look at this new case which is being put to the European court before executing the deportation order. If Home Office Ministers were willing to do that, they would give the House some earnest of their intention to show that flexibility about the immigration rules which the present Prime Minister insisted again and again during the election campaign that she would demonstrate. I ask the Minister to get for me some sort of reply from the Home Office as soon as possible. The case is very urgent.
The second matter which I raise concerns the need for this House to clear away some of the problems which arose last year about open government, freedom of information and the Colonel B episode with which my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham. Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) was concerned. This involves the deliberations of the Committee of Privileges. Over this period, the Committee of Privileges produced three reports. There is a tradition in this House that when the Committee of Privileges makes recommendations about changing the practices of this House, which can be done quite easily by means of a resolution, time should be found to do it.
The Privileges Committee has suggested that people should no longer have 943 to petition this House to be allowed to quote Hansard in court, as has always been thought necessary. The Committee made a specific recommendation about the degree of privilege which this House should afford to newspaper reports. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) will remember that Committee of Privileges. When it started its deliberations, it looked as though it would be a sort of Star Chamber court. But, by the end of its deliberations, it came to some very sensible conclusions. However, there is no point in the Privileges Committee making recommendations unless this House gives effect to them.
I ask the Leader of the House, who was also helpful on that Committee, to read again these recommendations and to bring them before the House so that the whole sub judice issue in the House can be brought much more in line with its application to the press. We should not be faced with the situation in which the press can say and do things and put things on its front pages while we are tied hand and foot in the House.
While on the subject of freedom of information, I would like to raise the important issue of the individual in the Foreign Office who is in charge of vetting information about the Second World War which goes into the Public Record Office. We have justly criticised the Russians for rewriting their textbooks and altering history. But it is now revealed, for the first time, that the individual, Colonel Box-shall, who is in charge of vetting Special Operations Executive matters during the Second World War, out of which grew the SAS and other developments, is 82 years old. I was shocked by this piece of information. If the Government want to take seriously public records and matters that go into the Public Record Office, is it right that this task should be entrusted to the oldest civil servant in the Civil Service?
A letter from the Minister of State Foreign and Commonwealth Office stated that Colonel Boxshall is very valuable because he has a good memory. I am sure that he does have a good memory. But this whole issue arose because one of Britain's most eminent historians, Mr. E. P. Thompson, wanted to find out some information about the circumstances in which his brother was killed in Bulgaria during the Second 944 World War in an operation that was properly secret at the time. Now, 43 years later, it is unreasonable, when some historian wants to write about what actually did happen, that the Foreign Office should rely on an octogenarian, who, judging by the letters I have seen, has a hopelessly unsatisfactory attitude towards releasing matters for the public record. I ask that the Government should take the matter in hand.
The next issue that I want to raise is the most serious. The public expenditure cuts in the National Health Service will have a drastic impact during the recess. It will be contrary to all the traditions of this House if such decisions are to he taken left, right and centre when Parliament is not sitting. The Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark area health authority meets, I understand, on Monday to try to comply with an impossible demand made by the Government about how it should cut its budget.
It is forcast that the Sydenham Children's hospital, in my constituency, will have to be closed in the course of the next few weeks without any alternative paediatric arrangements being made. It is a well-known London children's hospital. It is used by hundreds of my constituents. I am sure that almost every hon. Member will face this sort of situation. If it is impossible for them to call Ministers to account, because the House is in recess, it will be a scandal.
Equally scandalous is a letter I received recently from the Minister of State, Department of Health and Social Security, who asked if I would stop writing to him about these Health Service matters and write instead to my area health authority. It is disgraceful, at a time when the budgets of area health authorities are being slashed to pieces, that this sort of letter should emanate from Ministries. I have replied, saying plainly that I shall continue to write to the Secretary of State for Social Services to make him fulfil his responsibilities regarding public expenditure to the House. If the Sydenham Children's hospital closes, not only I but hundreds of my constituents will be writing to the Secretary of State.
I am told that the Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark area health authority may decide that it does not wish to accede to the demands made of it, that it intends 945 to maintain the level of services in South-East London and that the Minister can answer for the money. With the crisis of cuts in public expenditure on our hands and the possibility of certain area health authorities defying the Minister—they have a duty to protect the level of services as well as trying to meet cash limits—it would be a scandal if, during August, September and October, the Secretary of State was not available to stand at the Dispatch Box and answer for the situation.
For that reason, I am sure that we should stay longer to enable a statement to be made by the Secretary of State for Social Services about the impact—in terms of closures of hospitals, old people's homes and other institutions—of these cuts in the next few weeks.
§ 6.6 p.m.
§ Mr. John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)
I do not believe that the House should adjourn for the Summer Recess until we have discussed the very bad trade figures announced recently and the failure of many of our factories to produce the products that we need. The problem of failing to produce in this country is not new. For the last 100 years we have been falling slowly behind our competitors in manufacturing industry. This may be part of the penalty that we have to pay for being first in the Industial Revolution of 200 years ago. But the problem has got dramatically worse since the 1950s.
Demand for industrial products is still strong, but the supply is missing. Hence the huge flood of imports, not only from EEC countries but other European States such as Sweden, and also from the United States and Japan and the rapidly rising new countries of the Far East, Taiwan and Korea. Anyone with eyes to see should realise this state of affairs from the number of foreign cars and lorries on our roads and the multiplicity of goods in our shops, household appliances, textiles, fashion goods, china, glass and hardware and even foreign food. There is almost a fetish now for buying foreign products. The solgan "British made" seems no longer to carry the high prestige it once possessed.
The serious nature of this failure to produce in our country is to some extent 946 hidden from ordinary people because of the receipts from North Sea oil. I should like the Government to publish the oil receipts to see how much goes towards the deficit in Government expenditure, how much is used in financing our daily lives and how much is being saved or put into new capital investment, including energy saving. If Ministers cannot make a statement on this serious state of affairs today or tomorrow, it is a subject on which they should speak constantly, up and down the country, during the recess, to warn people of the dire situation in which we find ourselves.
We need a Marshal Foch to co-ordinate our efforts in the factories and to say "Everyone to his war" or "Everyone to the factory bench." We need prestige awards to workers in factories on the lines of those to Heroes of the Soviet Union. Young people need their imagination fired. Our educational system and our careers advisory service need overhauling, so that industry and commerce can get a better share of the best young people who at the moment tend to go into the Civil Service, the City or the professions.
I recently attended a course at Windsor Castle among industrialists, educationists, church leaders and members of the Armed Forces. It was no surprise to me that the most outstanding men there were the three generals. They had the qualities of leadership, they had been staff college trained, they were excellent communicators and, of course, they looked the part. It is people like those that we need in charge of great enterprises. [Laughter.] I cannot see why that should be a matter for amusement to hon. Members opposite.
Prince Charles touched on this subject recently when he criticised some aspects of British management. The key to productive efficiency in our factories lies to a great extent with the foremen who deal with the workers making the products. In the old days, the foreman was a respected figure, with his bowler hat, his gold watch chain and the power to hire and fire. Today he is a pale reflection of that, outranked on one side by the shop steward and on the other by the personnel officer.
One has only to compare the foreman in industry with his exact counterparts in the Services—the warrant officer and the NCO, who are highly trained, motivated 947 and respected—to realise how industry falls down. Middle management too often lacks the required leadership, drive and inspiration.
Trade union leaders cannot escape some blame. Their job is to look after their members' real interests and concern themselves less with politics. They should certainly spur managements to become more efficient, in the interests of their members.
The Labour Government did not help by concentrating too much on trying to save dead jobs instead of creating new ones and the climate in which they could be created. There was also vast public expenditure, which the present Government are trying to curb. The cuts of which we have heard so much are not in present expenditure but in expenditure planned by the last Government.
Far too many people are employed in the public sector and the Civil Service; we hope that more of them will move to the manufacturing sector, thereby increasing the real national wealth. In industry, we have for too long been obsessed with techniques instead of with flesh and blood, with organisation instead of with leadership.
There is still a great need to put everybody into the picture. In certain big factories I know, even today, however good the top management, the people in the factories do not know what is going on.
Much depends on the tax changes in the Budget. We hope and believe that they will make everyone work harder, whether he be factory floor man, chargehand, foreman, manager, director or chairman.
§ Mr. Stokes
I have been all my life in industry since the war, as the hon. Member probably knows. Furthermore, in the enterprises with which I was connected, people knew what the object was and they were all successful.
Reduction of taxes will not only encourage people in our factories; it will also, as my hon. Friend the Member for Poole (Mr. Ward) said in his admirable maiden speech, encourage our export salesmen to get more of the orders which the country requires.
The key to greater production in the big firms depends on new machinery and 948 on using our plant and equipment to the full, but the main role in reducing unemployment will be that of the small firms and the self-employed. They are the people who will take the risks, the entrepreneurs who will improve the situation in Glasgow, Merseyside, Newcastle and other areas which have been depressed for so long. These individuals may need to be helped even more than by tax changes—for instance, with more assistance from the banking sector.
We shall have a difficult time over the next few months, and to ensure the fastest possible take-up we must give all possible help to the self-employed and small businesses. All Government policies must be tailored to that end. They, more than anyone else, are the people who can save this country.
However, in the end, Governments cannot make people work. People must do it for themselves. That is the challenge facing this old nation. Somehow, those who were defeated in war, who endured awful suffering, pulled themselves up, exerted themselves and made tremendous strides. Perhaps we were exhausted, perhaps we temporarily lost the will, but there can be no other way forward. Either we must work for our salvation or we cannot survive. The right leadership is required at every level, not only from the House and from the Government but from managers, directors, schoolmasters, dons and all people of influence.
We face a much more serious situation than hon. Members realise. No amount of oil money will save us. If we cannot produce the ordinary products that people require in this country, let alone for export, we have no future. That is the supremely important matter facing the country.
I have spoken many times about national morale—and we certainly need to improve it. These matters are of the utmost gravity. We do not have more than a few years in which to turn ourselves around, to change attitudes. From the young to the old, we must work or die.
§ 6.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles R. Morris (Manchester, Openshaw)
I trust that the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) will forgive me if I do not follow his arguments. I believe that Marshal 949 Foch and the hon. Gentleman's other heroes should be allowed to rest in peace.
However, I am at one with the hon. Member in supporting the amendment. We should certainly devote more parliamentary time to considering the impact of the Government's regional aid strategy.
I am reinforced in that view by a report in the Manchester Evening News. The distinguished parliamentary and political correspondent of that newspaper recorded his experience at a press conference held by the Secretary of State for Industry. The Secretary of State had arranged the press conference to explain the Government's regional aid strategy. Mr Andrew Roth, for the Manchester Evening News, asked the Secretary of State what impact the Government's proposals were likely to have on the Greater Manchester area. The Secretary of State turned to a civil servant and asked "What have we done to Manchester?"
All my hon. Friends who represent Manchester area constituencies can help the civil servant to answer that question. Our area is reeling from two blows delivered by this Government. The first blow was the withdrawal of intermediate area status from Manchester. The second was the Secretary of State for Industry's statement about the National Enterprise Board.
Great industrial enterprises in Manchester and the Greater Manchester area are anxious about what the Secretary of State for Industry proposes for the National Enterprise Board and the companies in which the NEB has major investments.
Manchester will also be directly affected by the withdrawal of intermediate area status. Building grants of 20 per cent. on all new manufacturing premises in the city will be phased out. No further factory building will be undertaken by the Government after 1982.
Selective financial assistance to firms creating new manufacturing jobs, usually in the form of loans at concessionary rates or interest relief grants, will disappear. New offices and service industry grants, of between £1,000 and £2,000 for each job created by a firm moving into Manchester from a non-assisted area, will disappear. Key worker grants and allocations will be phased out.
950 Losing intermediate area status means that Manchester is no longer recognised as a deprived area by the European Community. It is, therefore, ineligible for any benefits from the European regional fund.
How can the Secretary of State for Industry reconcile that with a policy which specifically gives Manchester appreciable financial support to help with the problems of inner city deprivation? There is a glaring contradiction between the two policies. It is as if the right hand of the Government does not know what the left hand is doing.
Manchester's entitlement to priority for grant aid under the European social fund will be lost. This means that grants will not be available for the training and retraining of workers. The city's entitlement to borrow from the European Investment Bank will be severely curtailed.
Derelict land grants are anchored to intermediate area status. The Greater Manchester area has large pockets of derelict land because that is where the Industrial Revolution really began. There is a great deal of industrial dereliction. Yet a question mark now hangs over whether the city will qualify for a derelict land grant.
The basis of the withdrawal of intermediate area status is the travel-to-work area classification imposed by the Department of Employment for the collection of unemployment statistics The travel-to-work area unemployment statistics have been used to determine whether the area qualifies for intermediate area status. The Manchester travel-to-work area includes the more prosperous areas of the conurbation, and that masks the high unemployment rate in the city itself.
The problems of Greater Manchester now appear to be as serious as those of Merseyside. Inner Manchester lost more jobs in absolute and percentage terms between 1966 and 1975 than inner Merseyside. The discrepancy in regional aid given to Merseyside and Greater Manchester is no longer valid. If Merseyside should have special development area status on the basis of job loss, so should Greater Manchester.
The Secretary of State for Industry should look at the criteria. He should consider whether the decision should be 951 made on the basis of the travel-to-work area unemployment rate or its job loss. He should certainly take into account the fact that Manchester has experienced a major deterioration in employment prospects.
Manchester's case is irrefutable. Its difficulties are structural: they do not arise out of performance. Greater Manchester is better able to benefit from regional assistance than Merseyside. The Government have fallen into the trap of using the broad brush approach. Do they really believe in the special problems of the inner cities? If they do, there is no question but that Manchester should retain its intermediate area status. In the coming months, my hon. Friends representing the Manchester area will be paying close attention to the impact and effects in Manchester of the Government's policies.
We want a review of the Government's decision to withdraw intermediate area status from Manchester. The Secretary of State for Industry should come to Manchester and meet those who will suffer as a consequence of his policies. He should talk to those who are striving for the economic well-being of an area which has contributed so much not only to the industrial history but also to the prosperity of Britain.
§ 6.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)
I am pleased to follow the right hon. Member for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. Morris) because we both come from the North-West and he is one of my constituents. I agree that Manchester is an important industrial part of the United Kingdom. The city of Manchester in particular has many structural problems which will take some time to put right. Substantial funds will be required.
I do not join the right hon. Member for Manchester, Openshaw in his criticism of the Government for seeking to rationalise regional aid in Britain and remove some of the anomalies. My constituency of Macclesfield has lost the intermediate area status which was granted to it by the last Conservative Government. Macclesfield now falls into the same category as Manchester. I am pleased that my constituency has the lowest level of unemployed in the North-West. I seek in my representations to the Government 952 to ensure that that position is maintained, and that the number of unemployed—which is still too high—is reduced.
§ Mr. Charles R. Morris
Will the hon. Gentleman accept that the problem is much greater in the Manchester area than in Macclesfield?
§ Mr. Winterton
I do not entirely agree, because Macclesfield probably started its industrial revolution at the same time as Manchester, and we have many infra-structural problems in Macclesfield. Quite by coincidence, a sewer collapsed in Oxford Road in Macclesfield while at the same time a sewer collapsed in Oxford Street, Manchester. Many of those services, which are vital to the community and to the success of development in the area, were built at roughly the same time. Macclesfield, although a shire town, has many problems in common with Manchester. I am not unsympathetic to the case advanced by the right hon. Gentleman.
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Poole (Mr. Ward) for his excellent maiden speech. My hon. Friend said that his predecessor, Mr. Oscar Murton, had been respected in the House and had always shown considerable understanding and compassion. My hon. Friend the Member for Poole has certainly shown an understanding of his area and of those whom he represents. He will be listened to with interest whenever he participates in debates.
The first matter I raise is of considerable importance to the textile industry. It is outward processing, which involves the dispatch of fabrics from one country to another for making up and reimport as a finished garment. It includes, for instance, the dispatch of yarns for knitting into sweaters. The practice is widely followed in Germany, not only in the textile and clothing industry.
The United Kingdom undertakes an appreciable quantity of outward processing with Cyprus, and, to a lesser extent, Malta. There is also some outward processing trade with other countries. In various discussions about outward processing with United Kingdom Government officials, Comitextil and others, the British Textile Confederation—an organisation representing many individual and corporate interests within the textile industry 953 —has stressed that outward processing is a legitimate commercial practice. It stresses, however, that it must be carried out within normal quotas.
The textile industry has opposed extending outward processing beyond normal trade quotas for four reasons. Firstly, additional quota allocations for outward processed products create additional imports, and so erode the clothing textile regime. Secondly, the extension of out-ward processing leads to an outward processed garment replacing a home-manufactured garment. That garment then represents an export of jobs from Britain. As we have heard from several Labour Members, we can ill afford to export jobs now.
Thirdly, this process may also represent the export of manufacturing knowhow, because of the need to maintain manufacturing standards. Fourthly, the more skill in manufacturing clothing that other countries acquire, the greater the risk that those countries will extend their activities upstream into textile production to create their own fabric supplies.
Earlier this year the EEC decided to introduce outward processing allocations for Portugal and Greece, despite the United Kingdom's opposition. They will be in addition to the quotas—or, more strictly, the indicated limits—for normal trade agreed with those two countries. Those allocations were put on offer to the members of the European Economic Community. The United Kingdom declined to bid for any of them for the reasons I have given. They are all good reasons and should be noted.
The outward processing trade with Portugal and Greece and with any other Mediterranean associated countries was to be conducted within the terms of a Community regulation which at present is in draft form only. That is one of the reasons why I raise the subject, and I hope that the Government will give an answer before the recess.
Outward processed products returning to the EEC enjoy free circulation—that is, they may move from one EEC country to another without restriction. That freedom is strongly contested by the United Kingdom. The textile industry was recently informed that the Commis- 954 sion proposed that member States should be invited to take up the unallocated balances on the burden-sharing formula. The proportion of the balance would be held frozen in the individual countries until September, and any unclaimed balances would then be offered to any member State wishing to apply for them. Information on the balances on offer to the United Kingdom is available to those seeking it.
I seek certain assurances from my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. I seek on behalf of the textile industry the assurance that the EEC regulation should restrict outward processing to genuine manufacturers using fabric of EEC origin, limiting such operations to a proportion of their normal output. It should provide for the licensing of outward processing operations by member States.
The present draft is deficient in one major respect. The definition of "manufacturer" is so wide that non-manufacturers would qualify for outward processing licences. There are other deficiencies, but I shall not delay the House further. Our approach to the question of outward processing must be largely determined by the context of the final EEC regulation or any supplementary United Kingdom regulation which it may authorise.
I understand that there is a difference of view between member States about the outward processing draft regulation, which applies only to the Mediterranean associates. If that draft regulation is approved, it could no doubt be extended to other countries because of the precedent of outward processing arrangements. The differences are so great that it seems possible that no agreement will be reached on the regulation, even though the outward processing allocations were introduced by the Commission with the assurance that there would be a regulation to guide countries.
If there is no regulation, or just a milk and water regulation, it is essential that the United Kingdom should press for a complete review of the Community's outward processing policy. Without a satisfactory regulation, there must be no separate and additional outward processing allocations. Instead, all outward processing traffic should be counted against normal trade quotas or limits. I raise the issue now because the Commission 955 requires a reply from the Government in September about the allocation or non-allocation of a proportion of the outward processed balances which have been put to the United Kingdom.
Bearing in mind that the matter is of considerable significance to a strategic industry that employs about 800,000 and that this one breach of what we consider to be orderly marketing could result in many tens of thousands being put out of their jobs over the next few years, I hope that the Government in negotiating with our European colleagues will ensure that the interests of the textile industry are taken fully into account.
The second matter, on which I shall be brief, relates to my constituency and expenditure on roads. To some extent I am taking up the issue raised by the right hon. Member for Openshaw. Much of the future industrial development in my area depends upon the construction of a major north-south road. A considerable amount of land that could be used for industrial and commercial expansion is now blighted because the line of the north-south relief road in Macclesfield is not known. Despite valiant efforts by the local authority to obtain the cooperation and support of the Ministry of Transport and its North-West regional office to try to get a joint participation exercise under way, little help, support or co-operation has been forthcoming.
The Government are deeply concerned about employment, even in the areas that have lost their intermediate area status, such as mine. However, I hope that the message that I am giving to my right hon. Friend will be transmitted to the right quarter—namely, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport, so that he may get in touch with his office in the North-West to ensure that the requests made by the Macclesfield borough council are dealt with speedily by his Ministry to ensure that industry is not deterred from coming to Macclesfield.
I remind my right hon. and hon. Friends that Maclesfield has a fine work force with an excellent reputation. Macclesfield can provide fine housing and some of the finest countryside in the United Kingdom. There is no point in industry seeking to come to Macclesfield if sites that could fulfil a useful purpose and could be developed with a view to 956 providing employment are blighted by road proposals, the line of which has not been finalised because of lack of co-operation on the part of the Ministry of Transport.
I shall not be opposing the Adjournment motion. Members of Parliament can usefully spend more time in their constituencies ascertaining what is going on. The Summer Recess is an ideal time for that job.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Meacher (Oldham, West)
Contrary to what the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) has said, I believe that the House should not adjourn until the implications of a constituency case of mine have been fully digested by the Government and until the Government have considered the procedures that relate to the handling of those accused of being illegal immigrants.
I cite the case of Abdul Azad, who was aged 12 years when his mother and father brought him to the United Kingdom. He lived with them in a terraced house in Oldham and studied for three years in a school in Oldham. Like many other Bengalis in that town, when he grew up he worked long hours to keep the cotton industry going. He led a normal life until 4 October 1978, when a disaster occurred. The police came to his factory and told him that his mother had been found dead in a pool of blood. Although it was immediately obvious that he was innocent of the murder, the police kept him imprisoned for 10 days and made him sign a statement under duress that he was an illegal immigrant. It was only at that stage that they permitted him to meet his father and to see his solicitor.
Abdul was detained without trial for a further twelve and half weeks at Risley remand centre. It was only through the efforts of friends and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, and to some extent through my own efforts, that he was finaly allowed bail. The threat of deportation was still held over him. That threat remained for nearly 10 months. I am pleased to say, and to acknowledge readily, that that threat has now been lifted. Prior to the debate I was informed by the Home Office that the decision has been taken to permit Abdul to stay in this country. After 957 such an immensely long period of suspense, I am glad that that is the outcome. However, that does not expunge the nature of the procedures to which alleged illegal immigrants are subject and which I believe this case reveals are in need of urgent reform. That is why I have raised the matter today before the House goes into the Summer Recess.
I turn to what is alleged to have happened in Oldham police station on and after 4 October 1978. I quote from a letter that Abdul has sent to the chief constable dated 22 June 1979. The letter states:The complaints are as follows:It may be said that physical maltreatment is completely different from alleged illegal immigration. However, I submit that those who have been given a status that deprives them of legal rights—namely, illegal immigrant—are much more likely to be mistreated. Had a white boy received the treatment that was meted out to Abdul, there would have been an immediate national outcry.
- 1. They kept me for eight days in the police station.
- 2. They did not tell me what my legal rights are.
- 3. They did not allow me to see my father and brother for six days.
- 4. They did not let me see a solicitor for nine days.
- 5. They forced me to sign statements that I did not understand.
- 6. They beat me up, threatened me and said that they would kill me and made me scared.
- 7. They did not let me have any food or drink for at least 24 hours."
I shall specify in more detail what happened to Abdul. On 6 October he was collected by the police and taken to Oldham police station. Neither he nor his father was informed of the reason for that. They were both in a state of serious shock and distress as a result of the murder. Abdul states that the police put to him that he had entered the country illegally and that he was not the son of the persons with whom he had lived all his life as his parents. He claims that he strenuously denied these allegations. He further states that he was verbally insulted and physically assaulted by police officers while at the police station and given no food for over 24 hours. It was in a condition of acute fear and dis- 958 tress that on 9 October he signed a statement admitting that he had entered Britain illegally.
I assume that the statement was used as evidence of the illegality of his immigrant status, but I submit that it is most unlikely that any court would regard it as proper evidence. First, he was denied access to legal advice. He was not allowed to see his father before signing the statement. He was not cautioned and the interpreter employed by the police was a Pakistani who spoke no Bengali and whom Mr. Azad could not understand, Furthermore, the form of words contained in the statement is most unlikely to be Mr. Azad's. The word "bogus" appears in the statement, and that is not within his vocabulary. The statement has subsequently been retracted.
Secondly, I refer to the handling of the evidence of his alleged illegal entry. On the evidence that has been obtained since the release of this youth following his second period of detention at the Risley remand centre, it can be reasonably assumed that he is either the legitimate or illegitimate son of the man he believes to be his father.
On that basis and as other evidence was produced which satisfied the entry clearance officer that he was the dependant of a parent legally entitled to be settled in this country, he would have been entitled to admission. There is no evidence as to any deception practised prior to his entry. It would surely have been right at the outset to confirm that he should remain in Britain as of right. Yet the threat of his being removed from Britain and dumped in Pakistan 7,000 miles away, where he had neither family nor friends, in the wake of the murder of his mother, was held over him for almost 10 months.
Thirdly, there is the question whether the blood tests, which I believe feature in a number of such cases, should normally be accorded what I would regard as the spuriously definitive authority that they seem to have been given in this case. His own solicitor disputed the validity of the Home Office blood test. The most important point in this case is that irrespective of what the blood tests showed, he was regarded, and was certainly treated, as the son of the family, not only in his own eyes and those of his parents but in 959 those of his friends and the local community. As a son he enjoyed the rights and accepted the obligations of that position. He completed his education in this country and worked in a local mill to help support his father and younger brother. Both he and his father led impeccable lives in this country and showed themselves to be thoroughly useful and industrious citizens. He had a record of employment which, prior to his arrest, was continuous. The cost of his detention, the series of examinations, the blood tests and the time taken up by the Home Office and other officials since his arrest must undoubtedly be considerable.
I ask: to what end was that done? How does it benefit this country to prove that one boy is, in our terms, not the child of the couple whom he has grown to regard as his parents? Frankly, what real difference—even if that were true—in human terms, does it make?
Finally, there are the implications of the legal entitlements, or perhaps I should say disentitlements, of alleged illegal immigrants which, as this case illustrates, urgently need changing. At no time was Abdul Azad brought to trial, because under the Immigration Act 1971 the authorities are not obliged to try any case of a suspected illegal immigrant. The accused can even be deported without seeing a solicitor. Although the law of England has said for centuries that people should not be imprisoned without trial—and this is enshrined in the habeas corpus Acts—immigrants are not protected by that law. I therefore submit that the procedures as to the legal rights or otherwise of suspected illegal immigrants should be changed in the following ways and that this is not a matter that should wait over the course of the long recess.
First, in no circumstances should such people be subject to intimidation so as to secure a confession. Secondly, they should not be deported without first being given access to a solicitor. Thirdly, they should be brought within the provisions of the habeas corpus Acts, so that they are not subject to imprisonment without trial. Fourthly, they should have a right to stand trial before a court and their fate should not be determined at the discretion of the Home Secretary.
Those serious matters require urgent action because of the large number of cases to which, no doubt, the present rules 960 —or perhaps I should say the absence of rules—will apply in the next few months while Parliament is not sitting.
I ask the Leader of the House to give an assurance that this matter will be looked at urgently by the Government so that persons accused of being illegal immigrants—especially those who have long been resident in this country—should, irrespective—I stress this—of whatever final decision is correctly, properly and legally taken in their case, be given proper protection under the law and accorded proper legal rights until the decision is taken.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. William van Straubenzee (Wokingham)
I seek brieflly to raise a House of Commons matter. I hope therefore that the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) will forgive me if I do not follow him in what he will accept was wholly a constituency matter, which was perfectly properly raised.
I wish to refer to the matter raised at the start of this debate by the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer). I am sorry that he is not in his place. He will forgive my speaking in his absence. He was wrong to imply that not many Members of Parliament were long convinced of the view that there had been such a development in financial relationships outside the House that it was good for the cleanness of the House that there should be a register of Members' interests. My own record in this matter is known. I do not need to develop it on this occasion. I believe that the hon. Gentleman is right in principle.
I have always argued that it is not possible for a Member of Parliament, for example, secretly to be a director of a company. I am a director. It is not possible for a Member of Parliament secretly to be a member of a learned profession. I am a member of such a profession. Those facts must and should he properly ascertained in the appropriate places.
Over the years, as Parliament under all Governments has progressively and increasingly interfered in the affairs of companies, persons and commercial organisations, these people and these bodies have increasingly equipped themselves to deal with this situation by appointing hon. Members, perfectly fairly, as their advisers in one sense or another.
961 Again, perfectly openly and for many years past, I have been a political adviser to one organisation which undertakes that work. I have always thought that that development was one which could not be ascertained anywhere, which was not registerable anywhere but which should, perfectly properly, be disclosed. The hon. Member for Keighley was right. Such matters should be disclosed for all to see. However, I strongly resented that inference in his speech which seemed to me to be that any Member of Parliament with outside interests—whatever the side of the House on which he sat—was thereby, in himself, somewhat unclean. That seems to me to be a very low view to take of one's colleagues in the House. That was buttressed by an especially graceless reference to Lord Lever of Manchester. When the hon. Gentleman comes to reflect, he will see that that reference did not do justice to the noble Lord.
I am firmly of the view that the register is important. Here I seek an assurance from my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. In the judgment of myself and that of many hon. Members, a most unsatisfactory situation has now been reached. As a result of the actions of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), that register has not been published for a considerable time. In accordance with the normal courtesies of the House I gave notice to the right hon. Gentleman that I would make this reference. Characteristically, he drew my attention to the place in the Official Report where his argument is set out. I refreshed my mind on the matter last night. In fairness to the right hon. Gentleman, who cannot be here, I should point out that his arguments why it is not proper for him to comply with a resolution of the House are contained in the Official Report, 12 June 1975 at column 745.
When I read the argument I was reminded of the comment often made about the right hon. Gentleman in years gone by—namely, that the right hon. Gentleman has the finest mind in the House of Commons until it is made up. I think that that remark is well sustained by his argument.
I regret that the previous Parliament, by resolution, decided that we should all be asked to file certain information with 962 the registrar. We were informed that every Member of Parliament did so, with the exception of the right hon. Gentleman. The members of the Select Committee were so fed up with the inactivity of the then Leader of the House and others involved that they refused to carry on with the work. The result was that for some time, although the then Leader of the House constantly reminded me, either in correspondence or on the Floor of the House, that anyone could go and look, the register was never subsequently printed and published.
Now, however, in this House, with a number of newly elected Members on both sides—happily more joining on these Benches than on the Opposition Benches—there is no way, as I understand it, that we can find out about these matters, at least in printed form. Quite frankly, I think that what the hon. Member for Keighley said was right—I did not expect to find myself agreeing with him—when he said that, in conditions which are unhappily different and when in fairly recent years we have had one or two most unfortunate episodes, not confined to one side of the House, it would be good for the general standard of the House that we should have this register on the record once again.
I ask my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House what he, in his highly responsible role, intends to do about the matter. I take it that we shall now see the Select Committee at work. If the Select Committee asks him to process the necessary regulation by way of the House's own discipline. I should like to be quite sure that he will do so.
As the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) knows—I warned him that I should make this reference—I am afraid that I entertain the darkest suspicions that in the last Parliament, owing to the very close voting position, the right hon. Gentleman did not wish to upset the right hon. Member for Down, South. I see that the right hon. Gentleman denies that. All right, so be it that is all in the past. But that situation does not apply now. We are under no obligation to the right hon. Member for Down, South and I hope that the House will now he able to proceed.
I shall illustrate by a recent experience of mine why this action is necessary. On a recent Thursday night I was 963 handed in some urgency a letter from a company—I have its headed notepaper with me—called Sallingbury Limited, which trades in Victoria Street, Westminster. The company asked me to table an amendment to the Finance Bill in relation to private education on behalf of an unnamed client.
That is not an activity that I care for very much. I took no immediate action. Whereupon I was bombarded—I think that in my Northern Ireland days I should have said "harassed", which was the phrase used there—by the managing director, a Major-General N. St. G. Gribbon. That gentleman proceeded to badger me in every possible way—on the telephone, by appearing in the Lobby, and the rest of it. What the gentleman did not know was that I happened to hear his crisp instructions to my research assistant when I was in the room. I took very grave exception indeed to that kind of approach.
I ascertained from this gentleman that his client was British Petroleum. What is British Petroleum doing employing a firm called Sallingbury Limited, whose headed notepaper gives not the smallest idea of what activity that company is engaged in? Is British Petroleum too grand to write to me if it feels that I have some service to perform for it, and which I would happily do, or is it too busy? It has never bothered with me or noticed me. Why should it? I do not blame it. I have never been asked to lunch, for a drink, or received a letter from that company, but quite suddenly I had some use, apparently, in tabling an amendment to an important Bill. But British Petroleum did not bother to handle the matter itself—it is much too grand and too busy for that. It did it through an agent.
If I wanted to find out, which I did, whether that firm employs an hon. Member as its parliamentary adviser, which it would be perfectly entitled to do, as the position stands I am unable to discover whether any of my colleagues on either side are advising it. I regard that as a thoroughly unsatisfactory state of affairs, and a most unstraightforward way of behaving.
§ Mr. Rooker
I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, and I did not wish to interrupt the important example that he has given to the House. 964 However, before he gave that example he made a remark about the actions of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot). He said that in this Parliament, because there is a big majority, it does not matter about one right hon. or hon. Member. Does the hon. Gentleman realise that, at the present time, six weeks after the closing date when hon. Members had to register their interests, 30 have not returned their forms?
I do not know from which side of the House these hon. Members come. One has to assume that they may be evenly split. But it may well be that, because of the well-known propensity for business interests to Members on the Government Benches, the majority of them are the hon. Gentleman's colleagues. The matter is not one of insignificance, whereas it might have been thought to be insignificant if it were still only the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) who was concerned.
§ Mr. van Straubenzee
I think that the hon. Gentleman may have misunderstood me. I was, when speaking about one hon. Member, referring to the last Parliament. I concede perfectly freely that, until he gave me that information, I did not know that there were so many of our colleagues who, apparently, have not completed these pieces of information. To be perfectly frank, I am not entirely surprised. Owing to the inactivity of the previous Leader of the House, the register has fallen into such disrepute that I am not surprised that hon. Members do not feel that it is a matter that should be urgently dealt with. I take a different view, and I have expressed that view and do not need to go into the matter further.
However, I think that I ought to warn the hon. Gentleman that he must not for one moment assume that the business activities of the sort that I have in mind are confined to only one side of the House. If we are to engage in that sort of operation I shall be very happy to enter into it, to his discomfiture.
In conclusion, I simply ask that the new Leader of the House, armed with the full authority that he has, and ardent in his duties as I know him to be, will be so good as to give close and immediate attention to this matter. I believe that 965 action on the lines that I have indicated is long overdue.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Cox (Tooting)
I wish to speak this evening on the subject of Cyprus. I do so because of the long historical association of Britain with Cyprus, the fact that we still have military bases on the island, and because, I am sad to say, no Minister has yet visited the island since the election.
The tragedy of present-day Cyprus started with the Turkish invasion in 1974. Five years have passed since then, and the suffering and injustice that the Greek Cypriots on that island are now facing—while it may be forgotten in the minds of some—is, I am sorry to say, still something that the Greek Cypriots have to live with day by day.
Following the Turkish invasion, about 40 per cent. of Cyprus was occupied by the Turkish army, and it is still occupied. Greek Cypriots were forced from their homes against their will, and those homes have now been occupied, according to information that I have, by some 50,000 people from mainland Turkey. They have been brought to Cyprus by the Turkish authorities as settlers, are now registered and have identity cards that have been issued by the Turkish authorities. They have now called that part of the island the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus.
A plan is under way by the Turkish authorities completely to change the Greek character of Cyprus. The names of villages, towns and streets have been changed into Turkish. What were formerly Greek churches have now become mosques, and other Greek churches have been deliberately destroyed by the Turkish authorities. All the attempts by the United Nations to bring some satisfactory conclusion to the sad events in Cyprus of the last five years have met with a total rejection by the Turkish authorities.
United Nations resolution No. 3212 of 1974 mentioned four specific points. These were respect for the independence, the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus, the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the territory of the republic, the safe return of all refugees to their homes, and respect for the human rights of all Cypriots, include- 966 ing tracing and accounting for those missing.
I am sorry to say that absolutely nothing has happened in response to that resolution. The Turkish army is still in Cyprus. Not an inch of the lands that it occupies—and it is occupied, because Cyprus does not belong to Turkey—has been given back to the Greek Cypriot people who for many centuries have lived on that island. Not one refugee has been allowed to return to what was his home. Tragically, the repeated attempts which have been made particularly by the United Nations, by the Greek Cypriot authorities and by the Greek authorities to find the people who have been missing since the invasion have met with a total refusal by the Turkish authorities to co-operate.
Will the Leader of the House say whether it is still the attitude of the Government, as of the previous Government, fully to support the United Nations resolution on Cyprus? What is the attitude of the Government to discussions between Greece and Turkey to try to formulate a basis for the reunification of Cyprus? What is being done by our representatives in the EEC to start to put pressure on the Turkish authorities? I am sorry to say that the lack of action in starting to rebuild Cyprus so that both Greek and Turkish Cypriots can live together in peace and harmony is without doubt due to the lack of will on the part of the Turkish authorities and to their obstruction.
I do not think that anyone will dispute that the problems of Cyprus will not go away. The Greek Cypriot people do not intend to go on living as they have been forced to live for the last five years. They believe that they have a right to return to their own homes. They believe that they have a right to call for the withdrawal of the Turkish army from their island.
I accept that I have asked the Leader of the House some very detailed points. We are about to start on a recess of three months. That will mean that the issue will not be discussed in the House during that time. In view of this and of the extreme urgency of the matter, will the Leader of the House give an assurance that my comments will be conveyed to the Lord Privy Seal, and that he in turn will seek to reply to them in detail?
§ 7.14 p.m.
Mr. James Kilfeder (Down, North)
I fully support the arguments of the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) in proposing that the House should not adjourn until 14 August. In view of the short time available to me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I will not pursue his arguments, except to say that I endorse everything he said.
I hope that when the Leader of the House replies he will guarantee that the Committee dealing with Members' interests will be made into a meaningful one.
I am absolutely convinced that the House should not adjourn tomorrow for such a long recess, bearing in mind that between now and 22 October many innocent people will have been slaughtered or mutilated in Northern Ireland. For almost three months the Ulster people will have to suffer acutely and agonisingly, and in no way will their elected representatives be able to refer on the Floor of the House to the horrors to which they are exposed and subjected. Before this House adjourns, the people of Northern Ireland are entitled to a clear and absolute assurance from the Leader of the House that the war against the Provisional IRA and the Irish National Liberation Army will be continued by the Government and the security forces with the utmost vigour.
Last night the Government introduced a measure, which was passed by the House, proscribing the Irish National Liberation Army. It will do nothing to stop the activity of that organisation. It will have perhaps only one benefit, and that is to prevent the BBC from televising another interview with the murderers of our former colleague, Airey Neave. The Government should take it from me that the people of Ulster are not impressed by such measures on their own. The proscription of the Provisional IRA did nothing to hamper the activities of that evil organisation.
What is appalling, in the tenth year of the Provisional IRA's campaign of death and destruction, is that there are fewer soldiers to be seen operating on the ground throughout the Province. I believe that there are fewer soldiers operating today in Northern Ireland than there were a few years ago under the previous Government and under the vigorous direction of the right hon. Mem- 968 ber for Barnsley (Mr. Mason). For example, on several occasions when the police called on the Army for assistance in the Falls Road area of Belfast, the Army said that it could not provide that assistance for the police and that the police could go about their business of restoring law and order.
I accuse the Government of pussyfooting on security. I hope that the Government will now, through the Leader of the House, be able to reassure the Ulster people as they face three months when the House will be in recess and as they face death and destruction at the hands of the Provisional IRA.
The Labour Government increased the number of SAS men operating in Northern Ireland, particularly in the border areas, where innocent people had been murdered. I understand that the number of SAS men in Northern Ireland has been drastically reduced, although it is difficult to get any information about this. That is an indictment of a Government who have declared their intention of restoring order throughout the United Kingdom, and in particular in Northern Ireland. It must call into question the Government's determination to destroy this evil organisation.
I accept fully that the Army must get assistance from other sources. It must get assistance from the Irish Republic. It is disgraceful that the Irish Republic has not been able to provide the full-hearted support that it should give to the security forces in Northern Ireland, bearing in mind that the Provisional IRA and the Irish National Liberation Army are linked with other international terrorist bodies whose aim is the destruction of democratic rule in Western European countries and elsewhere. It should be in the interests of everyone—not only member nations of NATO, but countries in the Common Market and elsewhere—to defeat these terrorist organisations.
The terrorist organisations will not be effectively defeated until there is total determination by the Government of Eire to wipe out the Provisional IRA. The half-hearted measures of the Government of Eire are aimed largely at convincing the world that they are doing their best, in embassies all over the world, to say that the fault lies with the Westminster Government and not with the Dublin Government. I believe that it is up to 969 the Government to refute that emphatically.
Not so long ago the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland made an appeal to the Government of Eire, asking them to allow the RUC to interrogate terrorist suspects who were arrested in the Irish Republic and detained by the police. I think that it speaks volumes when we hear of the flat refusal of the Dublin Government to give that assistance to the RUC. It would have been in the interests of law and order in both countries.
We need vigorous measures from the Government. I hope that the Leader of the House, instead of giving us flowery language, will be able to give us concrete assurances that the Government will make an all-out effort to protect the people of Ulster from the gunmen and bombers in Northern Ireland.
I return to what the hon. Member for Keighley said earlier. We must ensure that the Committee on Members' interests is not just a charade but something that will enable people to see what interests various hon. Members represent.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Edwards (Wolverhampton, South-East)
I hope that the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) will forgive me if I do not take up the points he made about Northern Ireland. I should like to say a few words in support of my hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox), who raised the subject of Cyprus.
I visited Cyprus as a member of the European parliamentary delegation. We submitted to the Turkish authorities a list of 2,000 missing persons, all of whom had been alive at the end of hostilities in Cyprus. The Turkish authorities promised faithfully that they would set up a committee to inquire into the whereabouts of those missing persons. Not one word has been heard since then.
The relatives and friends of those 2,000 people live a nightmare life. They do not know what has happened to their relatives. Therefore, I support strongly the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Tooting, who suggested to the Leader of the House that perhaps the question of Cyprus could be considered at the Commonwealth conference, in addition to that of Africa and Rhodesia. After all, 970 Cyprus is a member of the Commonwealth and deserves some support from us.
Half the population of Cyprus are exiles in their own country. They have lost everything and the whole country is unable to develop its resources, and the beauty of the island, without some new initiative which should come from this Government.
Unfortunately, we have always held on to the coat tails of America, expecting that country to solve the problems of the Middle East and Cyprus. It is time a British initiative was taken with regard to the Middle East and Cyprus.
The main purpose of my intervention in this debate is connected with a constituency matter. A month ago Wolverhampton metropolitan borough council submitted a report to the Secretary of State for Industry entitledSubmission to the Government on the effect on Wolverhampton's Economy of the closure of Bilston Steel Works and other Plants.I followed up this report with the Minister concerned and asked for a meeting with representatives of the local council. Just half an hour ago I received an acknowledgment that the Government had received that document.
During the last decade 25,000 jobs have been lost in Wolverhampton. In Bilston, which is part of my constituency, with the closure of the steelworks unemployment will double. Yet we have never had any proper consideration of the future of that plant.
There have been other closures in the area. Most recently Stankey's Plastics factory closed with the loss of 650 jobs. Another 1,000 jobs have been lost in Goodyear Rubber. Another 1,000 jobs will disappear, as if they never existed, at the Ever-Ready factory. In the Wolverhampton area 200 firms have closed down during the last decade.
Wolverhampton, once a very prosperous area, with workers of great skill and technicians of great ability and new ideas, now faces the fact that parts of it will become a wilderness of despair with thousands of our people denied the right to work. They feel like criminals and outcasts. There is nowhere that they can fit in and play a constuctive part in society.
971 The modest demand of Wolverhampton council was that the area should be given special status. That does not seem to me an outrageous demand. If special area status were given to Wolverhampton, it would be entitled to submit schemes to the European Community and make some claim on the social fund. It would be able to borrow money from the European Investment Bank under very favourable conditions.
If Wolverhampton does not get special status, it will be denied those necessary facilities. Therefore, I believe that I am entitled, on the last day but one of this parliamentary term, to receive some consideration from the Government on this important document which was submitted by the council. All I have had is a letter that I nicked un half an hour ago acknowledging receipt.
I ask the Leader of the House—who, I notice, is not listening—to draw the report I have mentioned to the attention of the Secretary of State for Industry. It is a matter of urgency to many hundreds of thousands of people in the West Midlands and is of particular importance to the workers in my constituency.
The British Steel Corporation has, in my estimation, been wrong about the way it has planned the steel industry. It sent a deputation to Japan to study technology in nine plants producing 10 million tons of steel a year. The Corporation thought that that would be the pattern for Britain, but all the evidence from America and Japan has proved that that was wrong.
Many steel plants were very successful in supplying local needs and now they are to be closed. We want new technology in the Bilston steel plant, but that does not exist in this country, according to the British Steel Corporation. That technology has already been established in France, Sweden and America. The tragedy is that the most successful modern plant in Sweden, based on new steel technology, was built by a British firm in Stockton. We supplied the new technology, but we have not even got it in our own steel industry.
I should like to dwell on this subject at greater length, but I do not wish to abuse the opportunity I have had to say a few words in this debate.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. John Farr (Harborough)
I want to be brief. Therefore, I shall not follow the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-East (Mr. Edwards), except to say that I shall refer to the British Steel Corporation in a moment. Before I go on, I should like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Poole (Mr. Ward) on an excellent maiden speech and say that, like the rest of the House, I hope to hear him often.
I want to raise a couple of points in relation to the British Steel Corporation. I have taken the opportunity of warning the Minister that I would raise these points, and also of informing the hon. Member for Flint, East (Mr. Jones), because one of the plants to which I wish to refer is Shotton.
Both at Shotton in Wales and at Corby in Northampton, which is adjacent to my constituency, there is the danger—nay, the certainty—of the loss of many thousands of jobs in the imminent future. I feel that it is quite wrong for this House to consider going on a long Summer Recess lasting 12 weeks when the future of the steel workers at Corby and Shotton is so undetermined.
I shall not deal with Shotton, because that is the responsibility of the hon. Member for Flint, East. However, I should like to say one thing, which is that I was disappointed with the attitude of the British Steel Corporation when I wrote to the chairman, Sir Charles Villiers, a couple of months ago with regard to the sale of 5,000 acres of land at Shotton. The custom is that if a Member of Parliament writes to the chairman of a nationalised industry, he at least gets a reply. However, I had no reply from Sir Charles. Instead, I received a reply from the Welsh divisional manager. I asked about the disposal of 5,000 acres of BSC land at Shotton and asked Sir Charles to assure me that this land had been offered for sale publicly, and not conducted privately, and to notify me for my records what the price was.
I was unable to obtain that information. I then approached the Secretary of State for Industry, and again I was unable to obtain the information from him.
I feel very strongly that when a nationalised concern is disposing of any area 973 of land—never mind 5,000 acres—it has a duty to provide the necessary information to a Member of Parliament who requests it. After all, a private firm engaged in such a sale would be questioned by its shareholders, and to a certain extent I suppose that we are shareholders, or representatives of BSC, in this House. Be it one acre or 5,000 acres, I believe it to be totally wrong that I as a Member of Parliament should be told in the letter that I received from my hon. Friend the Minister of State that this sale accords with BSC procedures, that it was not appropriate to tell me what the price was but that he had taken advice and understood that the price was fair.
I wanted to record that objection, because I do not believe that Members of Parliament who make these inquiries should be treated in this cavalier manner. After all, 5,000 acres of State land were sold to a private buyer in a private deal, the details of which will not be disclosed to me as a Member of Parliament. I strongly deplore that.
I turn briefly to Corby, which is on the south-eastern boundary of my constituency. I want to say how concerned we in Leicestershire are about the problems that Corby faces. About 5,000 to 7,000 jobs will come to an end within 12 months. I do not think it right that the House of Commons should break up for a 12-week recess without a care in the world, or without spending at least a little time in exploring the possibilities of providing work, not only for Shotton but for the thousands of workers at Corby whose jobs are about to come to an end.
Being a neighbouring Member of Parliament, I have been in close touch with the situation at Corby. There does not seem the slightest doubt that the iron and steel making process is outdated and would be very expensive to update. Assuming that the BSC decision to close down the steel-making capacity at Corby is correct, the very least that the Government must do is to take immediate steps to ensure that the 5,000 or 6,000 people who will lose their jobs have alternative employment.
I urge my right hon. Friend to pass on a message to his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry that 974 Corby must not be closed, and those 5,000 or 6,000 jobs ended, without the town and the area first being declared a special development area. I do not want that to happen when those people are out of jobs. I want it declared now. It is a possibility. There is no reason why an interested Government should not take this action now rather than wait until this personal, human tragedy has occurred. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will tell the Secretary of State for Industry that the East Midlands economic planning council strongly advocates this view as well and feels that Corby should be made a special development area today, before the hatchet falls and not after.
I hope that I have stressed that I think we would be well employed in spending at least a day or two longer at Westminster.
§ 7.36 p.m.
Mr. J. W. Winker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)
I shall be extremely brief. The hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) raised a substantial point when he talked about the BSC land deal. I am sometimes accused of being the sort of person who sees a conspiracy around every corner. I think that is a bit unfair. But that deal poses the question whether it has been done secretly. For example, we are not able to check whether friends or relatives of members of the main board or subsidiary boards are involved in the deal. The hon. Gentleman did not pose that question. All I am saying is that such a question comes to mind. It is a legitimate interest for an elected representative of the shareholders of BSC.
It is doubly outrageous that the chairman of a nationalised industry should not reply to a Member of Parliament, because he does not own the industry. It is not his private property. Chairmen are not appointed by this House. We have no check on them, and when they are appointed they then become a law unto themselves. The chairmen of the nationalised industries must be brought to book. The Leader of the House would do well to take cognisance of the pressure in this House for more accountability and more involvement by hon. Members in the appointment of chairmen and deputy chairmen of nationalised industry boards. That is the sort of 975 example that springs to mind. The question raised by the hon. Member for Harborough is an excellent example, because a substantial land deal is involved. I hope that the hon. Member will receive a decent and considered reply, and likewise my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer). If they do not, I shall have no alternative but to join them in the Lobby if the amendment is pressed to a Division.
I wish to raise two points. The first concerns the National Health Service. It is quite outrageous that we should consider a 12-week recess without a debate on the recently published report of the Royal Commission on the Health Service. In the words of the Secretary of State, the Government's avowed intention is to "denationalise the Health Service". That is what he said on the ITN "News at Ten" programme.
I have with me the report by the financial officers of the West Midlands regional health authority, which states that the Health Service faces a grave financial situation in the current financial year. An extra £100 million of expenditure has to be met, which did not have to be met before 3 May—£40 million because of the higher rate of VAT, £24 million because of the extra contribution towards the higher pay awards and £36 million for fuel and other price rises. This £100 million forecast is greater than the total NHS development addition for 1979–80. Therefore, under this Government there is a cut in NHS expenditure, in strict contradiction to what the Prime Minister said during the election campaign. It is outrageous that we should consider going away for a long recess before the matter is thrashed out in a full debate, possibly lasting two days.
I want to know the answer to the same question as the members of the regional health authority in the West Midlands asked. Will the 1980–81 cash limit be based on the actual pay and price levels during 1979–80? That is a crucial matter. Clearly, the real effect of pay and prices this year is being fully met within the cash limits. Therefore, there is a cut in real resources going to the NHS. Next year's cash limits must be based on something. What will that be? Will it be this year's cash limits or the real cost this year, which 976 will be far greater than the cash limits laid down by the previous Government?
If there are to be in 1980–81 the cash limits based on this year's cash limits plus a small addition, there will be a further cut in NHS expenditure in the next financial year, in addition to that which is taking place in this financial year.
My second point concerns what some hon. Members might consider to be a rather mundane matter. It is not mundane in the sense of numbers of people affected, but it is not a substantial national or international issue, although it is important. I refer to accidents involving members of the public, particularly small children, travelling on escalators. In 1969 there was a public outcry, which led to questions and debate on the Floor of the House. Hon. Members on both sides of the House were firing off parliamentary questions, there were Adjournment debates, and there were campaigns outside the House to secure better accident prevention equipment for escalators.
In Birmingham early this year a young girl aged four was trepped on a departmental store escalator for more than an hour. She subsequently underwent five major operations, and at one time there was a threat of an amputation. She will walk with a limp for the rest of her life.
It has now come to light, because of the actions of the girl's father, Mr. John Lloyd, that there was no proper reporting of the accident by the company concerned. There was nothing wrong with the escalator. No one was breaking the law. But we discovered, 10 years after the big campaign of 1969, in which the Home Office and the Department of Employment took an interest, that accidents to the public on escalators, whether in subways or large departmental stores, are not reportable under safety legislation. No record is kept. We do not know how many accidents there are. Therefore, those who wish to lobby for a change in the law to make provision safer do not know the scale of the problem.
Mr. Lloyd tells me that since he raised the matter through the British Safety Council he has received dozens of letters from parents all over the country whose children have suffered accidents—not all so serious as that suffered by his daughter—travelling on escalators in stores.
977 There is no law governing the safety of escalators, which by definition have moving parts and therefore are as dangerous as any piece of equipment in a factory. What will the Government do about the matter? I have today received an answer from one of the junior Department of Employment Ministers, the one who did not turn up at the Dispatch Box the other night. He says that new regulations regarding notification of accidents and dangerous occurrences, on which consultation has been taking place for some time, will be published soon, but they will relate only to work activities.
I hope that we shall not go into recess, so that we may debate the effect on the general public, who are not involved in work activities. More and more in city centres, particularly in Birmingham, the public are shoved underground into places like rabbit warrens to get them out of the way of the car, and they are forced to travel on escalators. The Minister tells me that there is no possibility of the Government introducingfurther legislation to make accidents on escalators specifically reportable.Parents of young children are warned day in and day out not to let their children travel on escalators. They are warned to make sure that, if the children do go on escalators, they are not wearing wellingtons or soft shoes. They are told not to take animals or wheelchairs on escalators. The parents want action.
When accidents do occur, they are not reportable. Secondly, there is no legislation governing this matter, which affects many hundreds of thousands of people and not simply a few people who are involved in accidents.
What will the Government do? I expect a substantial reply from the Leader of the House, similar in style to that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) when he was Leader of the House, dealing with similar motions. My right hon. Friend took meticulous notes and answered every speech in great detail. I am sure that the new Leader of the House will try to do so in his first reply to such a debate—
§ Mr. Rooker
The other did not count, for various reasons. It was not like today's. We face a 12-week recess, not a two-week holiday, including the European direct elections. This is not quite the same thing.
For a quarter of the year the Government will not be accountable to the House. Members of Parliament will not be able effectively to table questions, ask for Adjournment debates and seek to put private notice questions. This is our last opportunity.
I hope that we shall receive a substantial reply to all our points, particularly those concerning the British Steel Corporation and British Petroleum and the amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley.
§ 7.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
My hon. Friends the Members for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) and for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) have proved by their illustrations that there is still plenty of business for the House to transact. Nobody can deny that their case is strong, as is the case made by several other hon. Members. There is a whole crowd of issues that needs to be examined. I cannot tell my hon. Friends that if they carry the matter to a vote, as they are entitled to do, I shall necessarily support them, but I have great sympathy with the views that they have expressed
If the motion is carried and the House departs for the recess in accordance with the dates suggested, the Opposition will certainly watch closely to ensure that if it is necessary for the House to be recalled we make representations to that effect. We trust that if those representations are made the Government will listen to them. But I fear, such are the actions of the present Government, that it would take us much more than even the period allowed so generously by my hon. Friends for us to debate these matters and deal with them satisfactorily.
I shall not refer to every subject that has been mentioned, not because I do not think that important matters have been raised on both sides of the House but because I think that it would be tedious. I shall refer to one or two matters which I believe that it is proper for the House to debate.
979 My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) raised the question of the reports of the Select Committee of Privileges and the prospect of a debate on them. I entirely agree with what he said. 'I believe that those reports are important. The Committee went into matters in the greatest detail. The atmosphere was very different when we came to the end of our reports than it was during our discussion in the House when they were referred to the Committee. Therefore, I believe that it is important that the whole House should take note of the Committee's conclusions, reached after detailed investigation. I think that the reports can help us in the future. Therefore, I hope that we shall have an undertaking that when we return we shall have a full debate on the reports.
It is also right to debate the matter referred to by the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) and some other hon. Members, on the register of Members' interests. I know that there is concern in different parts of the House about these matters. The proper way to deal with them is to have a debate. Then we can express our views. Different views may be expressed and there will be the opportunity for proper argument. The matter cannot be satisfactorily concluded on a motion for the Adjournment.
I join other hon. Members in congratulating the hon. Member for Poole (Mr. Ward) on his maiden speech. I do so with special eagerness because of the association that some of us had over many years with his predecessor. In my capacity in the last Parliament I had a special association with him because of his position in the Chair, and all the greater is my recollection of the contribution that he made to the House.
I had an especially soft spot for him, because when I was introducing the Second Reading of the Bill for the repeal of the Industrial Relations Act 1971 I referred to a trigger-happy member of Her Majesty's bench of judges. Some hon. Members thought that it was out of order for me to refer to one of Her Majesty's judges in that way, and I see that that mistaken view is still held by at least one Conservative Member. I am happy to abide by the verdict of the Chair at that time, and it was precisely because Oscar Murton thought that I was in order that ever since I have believed that I was. No 980 hon. Member was entitled to contest it then, and if any hon. Member does so now I invite him to look up that debate.
Our timetable was hopelessly jammed earlier this week and it is hopelessly jammed again today. That is partly because of the flood of Government statements, statements that are so grievous and injurious to the nation that the Government have to be cross-examined by hon. Members with the utmost care. There is no doubt a whole store of other measures that the Government have in mind that they have not even brought to the House. There are certain matters on which I urge the Government to undertake not to act until we return when we can cross-examine on them. Major matters of public expenditure come within that category, but a whole series of people may be affected if some of the other measures talked of, particularly in the Conservative newspapers, are carried through.
To give an example, there were headlines in the newspapers today to the effect that the Government would engage in further big cuts in foreign student grants. That is shocking, and the Government should certainly come to the House and tell us about these before they embark on them.
There is then the question of the Government's attitude about the representations made to the right hon. Gentleman by those who work in the theatre. They are concerned about the doubling of VAT and the consequent effects on the London theatre and the entertainment industry throughout the country. The right hon. Gentleman has sought to escape from that matter by saying that the Labour Government did not abolish VAT on theatre tickets. We may not have abolished it but we did not double it. Surely the representations from those in the theatre have proved to the right hon. Gentleman that he has inflicted a serious injury on theatres in this country, and I hope that he will comment further on the subject.
The big cuts may be among the major issues to be debated in the House, but there is a vast series of minor cuts—minor because of the total amount of money involved—already in operation or contemplated by the Government which will inflict grievous injury on one British institution after another.
981 During Question Time the right hon. Gentleman made a most inapposite remark when he said that the previous Government were in some respects a philistine Government. I deny any such charge, and I say to him in more agreeable terms that he looks a little out of place in that Cabinet of suburban barbarians. I can give instance after instance to back up that description.
There are the proposed cuts of £4 million in the overseas service of the BBC. There was a report in The Guardian a a day or two ago that the manager of the external services of the BBC had asked the Foreign Secretary which of three possibilities he would choose to cut. We can either cut the BBC services to Western and Southern Europe and Latin America, to Iran, India, the Middle East, South-East Asia, China, Japan and Vietnam in six languages, or South-East Europe in eight languages and all the Arabic countries—and I have not read out the full list in each category. I gather that the facts are not questioned by the Foreign Office or the Government, and if the £4 million cut were to be carried out one of those three major services would he detroyed. It is hardly possible to conceive a more senseless activity for this country to engage in.
The greatest and most precious asset that this country has, and one that may be our salvation in years to come, is the English language. I say nothing about the BBC's domestic service—we all have criticisms there—and I do not say that the foreign service is perfect, but since the 1940s the BBC has provided an incomparably better service than any other country. Moreover, the elaboration of what we can put out in such services is of enormous benefit to this country in every possible way. The only conceivable way to make a case that may appeal to the Prime Minister is on profit and loss accounting, and even on the commercial test one of this country's greatest assets as a trading nation is that more and more people throughout the world are speaking English—and at such a moment the so-called patriotic Conservative Government are proposing to cut these services.
§ Mr. Raymond Whitney (Wycombe)
Will the right hon. Gentleman advise 982 the House whether he has his facts right? The world service of the BBC deals with what he rightly calls that precious asset of the English language, but surely most of the cuts refer to the external services that are related to the vernacular.
§ Mr. Foot
The hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) has not followed the point. The facts are all there in the report. It is not only a question of whether the BBC broadcasts in English. The hon. Gentleman worked previously for the Foreign Office and that is no doubt why he has it all wrong now, and I suppose that he is rallying to the defence of the Foreign Office, which is engaging in these absurd cuts. The broadcasts are in a series of different languages but also in English.
§ Mr. Foot
The hon. Gentleman has not extracted anything. He has belatedly woken up to the truth, and he should apply his mind to whether he is in favour of the cuts. I believe that it would be a disgrace for the Government to proceed with that £4 million cut. When the right hon. Gentleman replies, I hope that he will give an undertaking that the cuts will not be made at least until the House has had the chance to decide whether it is an intelligent step to take. We should not proceed on the basis that the test of a Minister's virility is how eager he is to cut particular services.
I could give dozens more examples and keep the House going on the matter for many hours, but I have no intention of doing so. However, when the House returns, we shall put these matters to the Government in the strongest possible terms. In the meantime, I think that we must accept the motion. When we return we shall ensure that the country as a whole knows what the Government are doing. I ask the right hon. Gentleman for the undertakings for which my hon. Friends have asked, and particularly on the special point that I have raised. I urge the Government not to proceed with these cuts, which they have so far not presented to the House, until they have obtained the sanction and approval of the House for them.
§ 8 p.m.
§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas)
I express my appreciation of what the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) has said, particularly of his undertaking—I take it to be so—that he will not divide the House on the motion. I take it from that that he is not as anxious to sit into August as some hon. Members are. I myself would be happy to sit here permanently. The House of Commons is rather like a drug—the more one has of it, the more one requires. I am always very happy, on the very few occasions I go out to dinner these days, to return here. It gives me an excuse for leaving some dull official gathering to come back here and be reinvigorated by the debates and the final speeches.
I have been exhorted to reply to all the points raised in the debate. They cover a vast range of subjects, and I do not think that I would be believed if I presented myself as an expert on all of them. I will do my best, within the limited amount of time I have and within my limited range of ability. At an rate, I am sure that that approach will command more general assent.
First, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Poole (Mr. Ward) on his excellent maiden speech and express my appreciation of his choice of this debate in which to make it.
The hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) started the debate by calling for the House to sit until 14 August. He is one of the most assiduous Members in attendance. I do not think that I have ever been here without his being here. Perhaps on the occasions I am not here, he is not here either. I wonder what we would have done if the election had gone the other way in Keighley and his seat, which he held by such a narrow majority, had gone to the Conservative candidate or to some other party. There would certainly have been a great gap among those who sit on the Front Bench below the Gangway.
Whilst I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's argument about sitting on until 14 August, I must point out to him that the length of this coming recess is well within the normal range. It is 86 days in all. In 1978, for example, the Summer Recess was 81 days and in 1977 it was 88. 984 On average the length of the Summer Recess has been about 75 days over the last few years, so there is not a great deal of difference between the two sides of the House on the matter.
I have been doing some research. I have gone back over the last 15 years. There I stopped, because I felt that the point had been established. The hon. Gentleman will understand why I could not spend more time on the matter. We have not sat to 14th August at any time in the last 15 years, so what he is suggesting—and perhaps it is not unsuitable to him—is a revolutionary procedure.
The second important point raised by the hon. Gentleman concerned Members' interests. He put forward the view, which he is well known to hold, that every Member should have no outside interests. That is a point of view, and one can argue it, but I believe that the view of most hon. Members is that we should preserve a balance between full-time and part-time Members, between full-time occupation here and additional occupation outside, because the House benefits from having the experience of Members who are engaged in occupations other than parliamentary work. I believe that the level of the salary should be such that Members have a choice as to which role they will play.
I turn now to the question of the register of Members' interests raised by the hon. Member for Keighley and by my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee). My hon. Friend was in correspondence with my predecessor as Leader of the House and has now initiated a correspondence with me. I point out that those Members who want to see the register brought up to date, published and so on should reflect that the best way to facilitate that is to encourage or facilitate the appointment of the relevant Committee. Until that Committee has been appointed, we are unable to make further progress in this matter.
In the first instance, it will be for the new Select Committee on Members' interests to advise the House of what, if any, action should be taken to enforce the 1975 resolution if the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) or any other Members refuse to register their interests. That is a matter for them. Of course, it may be suggested that legislation should be introduced compelling 985 Members to register their interests. That must be a matter for the House, and it would alter the decision taken when the House last considered this matter fully, when legislation of a compulsory character was rejected.
It will also be for the Select Committee when appointed to consider the question of public access to the new register. Following the dissolution of the last Parliament, the register of the interests of Members of that Parliament was not accessible to the public and it was in the custody of the registrar. The new Select Committee will no doubt wish to consider arrangements for the public to have access to the new register, and the Committee may, unlike its predecessor, agree to a general publication of the register by the Stationery Office despite any failure on behalf of one or more Members to register their interests. But that is a matter for the new Committee. I will bring to it attention what has been said in the debate when it is appointed, but it is not a matter on which I can comment further at this stage.
§ Mr. Rooker rose—
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
I have a great many important points to reply to. Usually I give way very readily, but I must consider the other business of the House and those other hon. Members who are waiting to speak tonight.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
If I have, it was not intentional and we could have another debate on that.
The third point raised by the hon. Member for Keighley was an important constituency point about the Airedale trunk road. The A650-A629 Airedale road will be the subject of a public inquiry which I understand will probably take place early next year.
My hon. Friend the Member for Poole was especially concerned with export services. The Government grasp fully the importance of the exporting community to the country's economic recovery. We think that the best way to help exporters is by providing the right climate for profitable initiative, and I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend's recent Budget is a step in that direction. I note 986 my hon. Friend's comments about the commercial role of our Diplomatic Service staff and on the Export Credits Guarantee Department. I am sure that he will agree that the commercial involvement of our embassies has improved greatly in recent years, and we all welcome it. I should point out that the ECGD handles about 4,000 applications for cover every week and that it is only in a tiny minority of cases that complaints arise. However, I shall make sure that my colleagues are aware of my hon. Friend's remarks.
I turn to the matter raised by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) about the future of the provisions of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act and the effect that certain suggestions by the Association of County Councils may have on the operation of that Act. The whole House knows the work of the right hon. Gentleman in this area. He was kind enough to refer to my own involvement in the matter which arises from a constituency interest where I have an excellent DIG branch. We have made remarkable progress in this sphere in the past few years, though I am the first to acknowledge that there is a great deal further to go before we can be satisfied with the provision being made.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services has made it clear that he expects local authorities to give priority to those most in need. He hopes that any cuts in services affecting disabled people will be minimal. He cannot guarantee absolutely that such people will not be affected at all by the revisions in expenditure being undertaken by the Government.
My hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) raised in characteristic vein a number of matters. I hope that his exhortations to speed up the work of the Crown Agents inquiry will be heeded. It is a major work and therefore there is a great deal of logic in saying that those involved should go faster in order eventually to come to an end of their inquiry whilst some of us are still around to appreciate the conclusions.
I share my hon. Friend's concern about the future of the Select Committees. He asked what the staff were doing. They are doing what they can. They are preparing themselves for their tasks when 987 they are able to carry them out. If they are not occupied fully in this, I think that the responsibility rests not upon them but upon us because we have not yet succeeded in setting up the Committees.
The hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) raised a number of important matters. I refer particularly to what he said about the nationality Bill and the immigration rules. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department is preparing new nationality legislation for introduction as soon as possible. He is also considering as a matter of great urgency changes in the immigration rules. It has not, however, proved possible to work out the details of the rules in the short period available to the Government between the general election and the Summer Recess. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be the first to agree that for matters as delicate and important as this it is vital to get the rules right rather than to have anomalies built into them. But an announcement will be made on these rules as soon as possible after the recess.
The hon. Gentleman referred also to the specific cases of two of his constituents and to the problems which Mr. Christophi and Miss Tryfonos face. The hon. Gentleman is always assiduous in taking up constituency cases. I am sorry to say that I am not in a position to help him on this one. The appeals which they have made have been dismissed by the appellate authorities. The current position is that the couple are due to leave the country on deportation on 28 July. I am sorry to have to give the hon. Gentleman such a disappointing reply.
The right hon. Member for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. Morris) asked about the removal of the intermediate status from Manchester. As the House will know, my right hon. Friend came to his decision in the light of the objectives which he outlined in his statement on 17 July, namely, to concentrate assistance on areas most in need to make it more cost effective and to remove anomalies in the assisted area gradings.
I turn to the important matters raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) about outward processing and the important north-south road. On the outward processing textiles point which he raised, the Government recognise the complexity of the 988 problem. They will ensure that close contact is maintained with the industry and endeavour to see that its interests are safeguarded. Our efforts in this direction will be intensified following my hon. Friend's remarks in this debate.
As for the north-south road, I understand that my hon. Friend will be seeking to raise the matter later tonight during the debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill. I am happy to tell him that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport will seek to give him a full reply. However, should the subject not be reached in the course of tonight's debate, or if by chance my hon. Friend's stamina should flag, my right hon. Friend will write to him on the matter in full.
I turn to the case raised by the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher). I am grateful to him for giving me notice of his intention to raise it. I know his concern about the case of Abdul Azad, and I have seen his early-day motion. The Minister's decision on the matter has now been communicated to the hon. Gentleman, and the general issues which he raised will also be considered. I hope that there will be a fuller opportunity to consider the complicated issues which are raised in this case. But in all these immigration cases where human considerations are involved it is essential that we proceed with firmness for the general law but realising also the difficulties which individuals face in these cases.
The hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) asked about Cyprus. He was kind enough to suggest that I might convey what he said to my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal, who clearly has more up-to-date and expert knowledge on this matter than I do. However, the talks which began on 15 June have been adjourned by the United Nations following difficulties over the Turkish-Cypriot demands for commitments on bi-zonality and security. There are political problems in Turkey which seem likely to hamper progress. The United Nations is likely to suggest that the talks should not be reconvened until the autumn.
The Government welcomed the resumption of the intercommunal negotiations under United Nations auspices on 15 June. It is those negotiations which offer the best chance for progress. Statesmanship and a spirit of compromise will be 989 needed from both sides if progress is to be made towards a just and lasting settlement. The moderate and enlightened interest that the hon. Gentleman has taken in this difficult and complicated matter is a contribution towards a solution of the problem.
My hon. Friend the Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) raised the question of the security situation in Northern Ireland. There have been a number of serious terrorist incidents in Northern Ireland during the last two months. The Government have completed a review of anti-terrorist operations and have announced that they will be seeking fresh progress in three areas. Special attention is to be given to the border areas of Northern Ireland. Financial resources will be found to meet any additional needs of the security forces and the present intelligence gathering effort is being intensified. The Government's policy remains to defeat terrorism and to extend the pattern of normal policing throughout Northern Ireland.
I turn to the questions that were raised by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-East (Mr. Edwards), who also expressed an interest in Cyprus—a point that I hope I have covered. The hon. Gentleman is concerned about steel closures, especially at Bilston. The future of individual plants is a matter for the British Steel Corporation. The Government expect the Corporation to operate efficiently and commercially in the interests of the taxpayer, the work force and those of other industries dependent on steel. It is not for the Government to make decisions about individual plants in the light of these considerations, consulting the trade unions as appropriate. That applies to the plant in the hon. Gentleman's constituency as well as to those at Shotton and Corby.
My hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) was also concerned about the steel mills. I will pass on to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry the remarks made by my hon. Friend. The question of the sale of land in the Dee estuary was also raised. This is a matter on which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry has a particular expertise, although I understand that the procedure followed has been the normal one for sales of this nature. It is a matter 990 primarily for the commercial judgment of the British Steel Corporation. But my right hon. Friend will look again at the matter in the light of what has been said.
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker), in raising a number of important points, mentioned the Royal Commission on the National Health Service. That report, as he knows, is long and contains 117 individual recommendations. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services has already indicated the Government's preliminary reaction in his statement to the House on 18 July and urgent consideration has begun of the report's many recommendations. That will continue throughout the recess.
The hon. Gentleman also raised the question of cash limits and the relationship between the 1980–81 cash limits and the cash limits of 1979–80. It is an interesting question. I am interested in the answer myself. A decision on this important matter has not yet been taken. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the whole public expenditure review is proceeding and has not yet been completed.
The hon. Gentleman raised the further question of the safety of escalators. That is a technical problem, as he will recognise. Perhaps the best service I can do is to draw the important points he has made to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment to see what further action needs to be taken to improve safety.
§ Mr. Cryer
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that point, will he answer my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) and give an assurance that he will recall the House if these issues burgeon forth during the recess and if, for example, accusations are made against various Members? I mentioned a report in The Guardian and the matter has also been raised by other hon. Members. Will the right hon. Gentleman assure us that in those circumstances he will recall the House before 22 October for important debates to take place?
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
I can, of course, assure the House that if an emergency of sufficient gravity arises the Government will consider the powers that they possess to recall the House under the relevant Standing Order. I could not give 991 a guarantee in the terms that the hon. Gentleman wants because it is a matter for the Government.
Finally—I will not say last but by no means least—I come to the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale. We are proceeding in the ecclesiastical order of precedence with the greatest at the end. With regard to the Committee of Privileges and its most interesting report, I will certainly look at the matter with a view to having a debate. That was the point raised by the hon. Member for Perry Barr—no, the hon. Member for Lewisham, West, who played such a key role. I recognise the difference between the two hon. Members, but a certain amount of confusion can arise for both have a certain terrier-like zeal in pursuing a point. Once they have their teeth into anything, it is difficult to get them out again.
With regard to the spate of policies and statements about which the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale complained, I would point out that this is a radical Government. We are attempting a very great task, namely, to turn Britain round from a course of decline and impoverishment back on the road to prosperity. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the public expenditure White Paper will be published in the autumn ahead of the dates that were normally followed by the Labour Government and that there will be an early chance to debate its proposals.
I share the right hon. Gentleman's concern for the theatre. I agree that the British theatre is one of our greatest literary glories and achievements. It faces a great number of problems. Not all of them are to do with VAT, but a problem does exist on that matter, and I acknowledge it. There are problems of patronage. In these months, it is a dropping off of the tourist trade which has caused the problem.
But no hon. Member can be indifferent to the future of the theatre. I certainly am not, and within the parameters of collective responsibility, a constitutional doctrine to which I fully subscribe, I assure
§ the right hon. Gentleman that the interests of the British theatre will be kept under consideration by the Government and that its representations will be heard.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
The right hon. Gentleman must place his own exegesis on my words. I thank him for what I took to be a commendation, when he described my colleagues as "suburban barbarians". I shall certainly pass on that description with no exegesis of any kind. I note that I am exempted from the description. I do not know whether to be pleased or aggrieved. I am not sure whether the right hon. Gentleman is exempting me from the adjective or the noun or both.
I agree that the English language is one of our greatest instruments for influence in the world. If power has gone from us in the sense of the nineteenth century, the power to influence the world is still there and the great medium for that is the English language. That a tongue spoken by a few thousand islanders on a fog-encrusted island in the North Sea should have become the international language of the world is an extraordinary achievement and we should take full advantage of it.
I have done my best in the time allotted to me to answer the points raised. I do not claim that everybody has been satisfied, but I have done what I can to live up to the standards set by the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale.
§ Mr. Reg Race (Wood Green) rose—
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Michael Jopling) rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.
§ Question put accordingly, That the amendment be made:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 22, Noes 144.993
|Division No. 82]||AYES||[8.31 p.m.|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||George, Bruce||Lamond, James|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)||Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)|
|Dobson, Frank||Haynes, David||McDonald, Dr Oonagh|
|Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)||Kerr, Russell||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Kilfedder, James A.||Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)|
|Race, Reg||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Richardson, Miss Jo||Sheerman, Barry||Mr. Bob Cryer and|
|Rooker, J. W.||Skinner, Dennis||Mr. John Maxton.|
|Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)|
|Alexander, Richard||Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)||Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)|
|Ancram, Michael||Greenway, Harry||Parkinson, Cecil|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)||Patten, John (Oxford)|
|Atkins, Robert (Preston North)||Grylis, Michael||Pawsey, James|
|Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset)||Hawksley, Warren||Penhaligon, David|
|Bell, Ronald||Hayhoe, Barney||Pollock, Alexander|
|Benyon, Thomas (Abingdon)||Heddle, John||Proctor, K. Harvey|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Henderson, Barry||Raison, Timothy|
|Best, Keith||Hill, James||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Grantham)||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Blackburn, John||Hooson, Tom||Rossi, Hugh|
|Blaker, Peter||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Jessel, Toby||St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon Norman|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Bottomley, Peter (Woolwich West)||Jopling, Michael||Shepherd, Richard(Aldridge-Br'hills)|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes||Kershaw, Anthony||Silvester, Fred|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Knox, David||Sims, Roger|
|Bright, Graham||Lang, Ian||Speed, Keith|
|Brinton, Timothy||Lawrence, Ivan||Speller, Tony|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Le Marchant, Spencer||Sproat, Iain|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'thorpe)||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Butcher, John||Lester, Jim (Beeston)||Stevens, Martin|
|Cadbury, Jocelyn||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)||Stradling Thomas J.|
|Carlisle, John (Luton West)||Lyell, Nicholas||Tebbit, Norman|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||McCrindle, Robert||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Chalker, Mrs. Lynda||Macfarlane, Neil||Thompson, Donald|
|Channon, Paul||MacGregor, John||Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)|
|Chapman, Sydney||Major, John||Thornton, George|
|Clark, Hon Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Marland, Paul||Trotter, Neville|
|Clark, William (Croydon South)||Marlow, Antony||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Mather, Carol||Viggers, Peter|
|Colvin, Michael||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Waddington, David|
|Cope, John||Mellor, David||Walker, Bill (Perth & E Perthshire)|
|Costain, A. P.||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Waller, Gary|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove & Redditch)||Ward, John|
|Dickens, Geoffrey||Mills, Iain (Meriden)||Watson, John|
|Dodsworth, Geoffrey||Mitchell. David (Basingstoke)||Wells, P. Bowen (Hert'fd&Stev'nage)|
|Dover, Denshore||Moate, Roger||Wheeler, John|
|Dunn, Robert (Dartford)||Morrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester)||Whitney, Raymond|
|Eggar, Timothy||Murphy, Christopher||Wickenden, Keith|
|Fairbairn, Nicholas||Myles, David||Wilkinson, John|
|Fairgrieve, Russell||Neale, Gerrard||Williams, Delwyn (Montgomery)|
|Faith, Mrs. Sheila||Needham, Richard||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||Nelson, Anthony||Wolfson, Mark|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Neubert, Michael||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Newton, Tony|
|Fox, Marcus||Normanton, Tom||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Fraser, Peter (South Angus)||Onslow, Cranley||Sir William Elliott and|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Page, John (Harrow, West)||Lord James Douglas-Hamilton.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Main Question put and agreed to.
That, at its rising tomorrow, this House do adjourn till Monday 22 October and that this House shall not adjourn tomorrow until Mr. Speaker shall have reported the Royal Assent to any Acts which have been agreed upon by both Houses.