HC Deb 17 December 1980 vol 996 cc298-352

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House at its rising on Friday do adjourn till Monday 12 January.—[Mr. Wakeham.]

Mr. Speaker

I gave careful thought to the amendment standing on the Order Paper and decided that I ought not to select it. That conforms with decisions in the past on other amendments in comparable form, which would have the effect, if selected, of narrowing the debate, thereby restricting the rights of Back-Bench Members to call attention to a whole range of subjects. However, I shall accept a manuscript amendment dealing with the date, if the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) has one.

Mr. John Silkin (Deptford)

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Will you accept a manuscript amendment to leave out "Friday" and insert "Wednesday 24 December" and to leave out "12" and insert "5"?

Mr. Speaker

Yes, I am prepared to accept that manuscript amendment. It is in line with amendments that I have accepted on previous occasions dealing with the date, but it in no way restricts the scope of the debate, in which all hon. Members can participate.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis (Rutland and Stamford)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. If that amendment with those dates is passed tonight, young Members of Parliament with children will arrive home after Santa Clause.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am aware of that. I understand the significance of the date. However, as the hon. Gentleman knows, that is a debating point.

4.5 pm

Mr. John Silkin (Deptford)

I beg to move, as a manuscript amendment, to leave out "Friday" and insert "Wednesday 24 December" and to leave out "12" and insert "5".

Before I deal with the amendment, may I crave your indulgence, Mr. Speaker, this being Christmas time, to ask the Leader of the House a specific question relating to the time of the House? It appears from the tape that the fishery negotiations in Brussels have broken down. I hope that in due course the right hon. Gentleman will be able to reassure the House that there will be a statement from the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food at the earliest opportunity.

The amendment is designed to enable the House to sit for a further week from today in order to deal with a variety of subjects that still affect the House and the country and for another week from 5 January to 12 January. It will be in the recollection of most hon. Members that my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) said on a number of occasions that a week in politics was a long time. I tabled the amendment on the basis that two weeks of a Tory Government is a disaster.

Two additional weeks in the House of Commons would enable us to cover a certain amount of business that is vital to the interests of the country. Purely procedurally, we shall be able to get the Leader of the House out of one difficulty in which he has been placed in recent weeks—what I call the written answer syndrome, the practice of giving important information to the House by written answer at a time when no one sees it and can therefore not deal with it. In order to plan the right hon. Gentleman's life and make his work that much easier, as well as helping the House, we should be able to have a number of oral statements on which there would be sufficient debate to elicit from the Ministers concerned exactly what they have in mind.

In the period between 19 December and 12 January, an enormous number of figures could be assumed from Government Departments on which normally one would expect the Minister concerned to comment and to give himself up to cross-examination. There are quite a few, incidentally, in the Department of the Environment.

We had yesterday, unusually, an oral statement on the rate support grant, as we have had on the rate support grant in Scotland this afternoon. That arises—I blame no one—from the fact that the debate on the rate support grant will not take place until after the recess. The amendment would enable us to debate the rate support grant much earlier, with the additional two weeks for our business. That in itself would be of enormous advantage to local authorities in England, Wales and Scotland. They have had the details of the rate support grant, but they have not had the benefit of a discussion in the House, which would have enabled them to put those details into perspective. I think that most hon. Members would be interested in further questioning the Secretary of State for the Environment on the rate support grant philosophy.

I listened as an observer to the rate support grant statement concerning Scotland. It is interesting that a large number of Conservative Members mentioned the desirability of limiting an increase in rates. I take that to be their philosophy. The Conservative manifesto of May 1979 followed the philosophy of the Conservative manifesto of October 1974. In that manifesto the present Prime Minister gave us, as the fourth or fifth point in the policy to be adopted in respect of the environment, the proposal that the domestic rate should be abolished. That was slightly altered in the Conservative manifesto of May 1979. I shall remind the House of the words, because they are important. The manifesto says, on page 14: Cutting income tax down must take priority for the time being over abolition of the domestic rating system". Yet one of the first actions taken by the Chancellor of the Exchequer was to bring down direct taxation—income tax. So the way is now clear for the abolition of the domestic rating system.

Perhaps the Secretary of State for the Environment, a man of quick decisions and quick moves, would be able, in the additional fortnight that I propose, to tell us exactly how he proposes to abolish the domestic rating system. That might get over some of the difficulties expressed by my right hon. and hon. Friends in yesterday's and today's debates on the rate support grant.

I said that the Department of the Environment would be issuing a number of statistics. For example, on 8 January it will announce the housing starts and completions. Those are important figures—figures that the Secretary of State for the Environment, with uncharacteristic modesty, did not wish to disclose yesterday. I and, I am sure most Members of the House, would like to know those figures and to have the opportunity of cross-examining the Secretary of State in that regard. I am sorry that he was so reluctant to give those figures. I realise, if I understand his philosophy correctly, that house building by councils is not to be encouraged but that private housing is to be encouraged. Even on those terms it would be fascinating to know to what extent the present Government, with the right hon. Gentleman as Secretary of State for the Environment, have been able to improve the position, so that more private houses are built than, say, at the moment when the Conservatives took office.

Of course, private housing is very much tied up with what people can afford to pay and the size of mortgages that they can get. I notice with interest that the Conservative manifesto says on page 23—it was a criticism not of things to come but of the Labour Government in the preceding years: The prospect"— I rather like that word "prospect"; it was a shadow of things to come — of very high interest rates deters some people from buying their homes" — the Conservatives can say that again — and the reality can cause acute difficulties to those who have done so". That is perfectly true. The manifesto goes on: Our plans for cutting government spending and borrowing will lower the mortgage rates.

Up to very recently the mortgage rate was 15 per cent., the highest in our history, and it is still 14 per cent., which is the second highest. It would be interesting to know whether the Secretary of State for the Environment thought that his period in office had been successful or that it had had one or two false starts—and false completions, if I can talk about the figures that will be given on 8 January.

Unfortunately, if the House rises on 19 December and does not return until 12 January, we shall not be able to question him on the date in question. The figures that I have mentioned will be issued and we shall not be here to discuss them. There are other figures to come from the Department on 22 December. That is a very good reason for the House's sitting until Christmas Eve, despite the objections of the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Lewis) that he might find himself inconvenienced, as may other hon. Members.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis

It was not I. Hon. Members who live in distant constituencies and have young families will not get home until after the children have already opened their presents from Santa Claus.

As I am on my feet, may I say a word about the right hon. Gentleman's proposal to return on 5 January? I know that a number of his hon. Friends will be abroad. They have already made arrangements. Has the right hon. Gentleman asked them whether they are prepared to come back?

Mr. Silkin

I referred deliberately to the hon. Gentleman because, having known him for 18 years, I realise that he is one of the most altruistic Members of the House. I knew that he was speaking not on his own behalf but on behalf of hon. Members who are fathers of families or mothers of families or who are without families but have relatives and who would be disadvantaged by the amendment. I had rather hoped that he would raise the point, and also the point about 5 January. Many people would like to have homes to move into and to put their families into at Christmas. They are the people who are really disadvantaged.

On 22 December we shall have more figures from the Department of the Environment. We shall have the new orders for the construction industry and we should like to be able to examine those statistics and see what the right hon. Gentleman has done with the industry since the last figures were issued

. The cuts in public expenditure have bitten deeply into the construction industry as a whole. Now there are hundreds of thousands of people unemployed. As a result, many hundreds of firms are suffering badly, and many have closed down. That is undeniable. Yet the Prime Minister often says—she has said it at Question Time on about half a dozen occasions—that we cut public expenditure in order to release resources for the private sector. She seems to be unaware of two important statistics. First, a little more than one-third of public expenditure goes to the public sector in the form of grants, aids and orders. If public expenditure is cut in that manner, it means that the public sector also suffers. That goes a long way towards explaining some of the present unemployment.

The right hon. Lady does not understand—I am afraid that here she is assisted by the Secretary of State for the Environment, who, I suspect, does understand but does not want her to know—that about 7½ per cent. of all public expenditure is on capital works. The £1,900 million that has been slashed off public expenditure on the construction industry falls in that very area of capital works. The inevitable result is large-scale unemployment, the closure of businesses and—sadly, for the future-reducing the possibility of recovering and making an advance when there is an upturn after the present slump. So much for the statistics from the Department of the Environment that would be available to us during the period of the Christmas adjournment.

I turn to the Department of Education and Science. I am afraid that the Secretary of State has already broken the moral precept of the written answer syndrome. During yesterday's debate on the rate support grant, one of my hon. Friends asked the Secretary of State for the Environment a question about education, to which he rightly replied that it was a matter not for him but for the Secretary of State for Education and Science. Unfortunately, the Secretary of State for Education and Science has not had an opportunity to make an oral statement. He had to give the information in a written answer.

We are back to the written answer syndrome. It would be attractive to be able to challenge the education cuts announced in the written answer yesterday, but unless the House is prepared to continue for much of the proposed recess we shall have to wait until 12 January, and that will be a difficult period of waiting.

Once again, I have as my authority the Conservative manifesto for 1979. I have read a great deal of it. I am sure that the Leader of the House agrees that its literary style is superb. In some cases even its content is not too bad—though in others it is dreadful— but it is the realisation of what is in the manifesto that is worrying. The Leader of the House said recently that 75 per cent. of the manifesto had already been achieved. The trouble is that it is the wrong 75 per cent.

Mr. Robert Atkins (Preston, North)

What does the right hon. Gentleman think about the other 75 per cent.?

Mr. Silkin

I have been instructed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. Morris) with such a good reply that I must give it: that is Tory economics for you.

The Tory manifesto said: Much of our higher education has a world-wide reputation for its quality. We shall seek to ensure that this excellence is maintained. Yesterday's written answer stated that higher education was to be cut by £37 million. A small matter of £70 million was also cut off the budget for schools, but let us deal with higher education for a moment. The following sentence appeared in the Gracious Speech that followed the Conservative manifesto of 1979: The quality of education will be maintained and improved. How wise and foreseeing it was of Conservative Members not to repeat that sentence in the 1980 Gracious Speech. They knew that within a few weeks the quality of education would be neither maintained nor improved. I am not alone in my criticisms. We cannot debate the matter in the House, but the committee of vice-chancellors and principals has already gone into print with its view: This must endanger the country's higher education and research effort. One could not get a much greater condemnation. Surely it is a matter that we should be debating, but if the Prime Minister's motion is approved we shall not get an opportunity to discuss the subject until 12 January, and heaven knows what we may have to discuss by then.

It would be interesting to know whether the Secretary of State for Education believes in what he is supposed to be doing. I get the impression from time to time that the right hon. and learned Gentleman's heart is not in what he is doing, but we are not able to question him and to try to move him or the Government. It is a tragedy.

The next Department that I should like to deal with is the Ministry of Transport. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has on a number of occasions asked for a statement on British Rail. The Minister of Transport has not approved British Rail's investment policies. Indeed, he has not even commented on them since May—an extraordinary period of total silence from the right hon. Gentleman. It is important that we should deal with that subject. We are interested in what employment, or unemployment, may flow from the possible cuts in British Rail's financing.

British Rail wants to increase the amount of its signalling equipment. That would provide a lot of work for British firms and a lot of employment for Britons. British Rail also wants to increase the amount of its electrical transmission equipment. Again, that would provide much work for British firms and people. In addition, British Rail wants to proceed with the jumbo ferries. That would result in a lot of work for British shipyards, which, despite the objections of some Conservative Members, are still owned by the nation. However Tory Members may regard that, British Rail's plans could provide work for our people and our shipyards. It is important that we should be able to get the Minister to outline his plans and cross-examine him on them.

British Rail is not the only form of transport for which the Minister is responsible. In the Conservative manifesto play was made about rural transport, and the Minister added to that in a press statement from Conservative Central Office on 29 April 1979: We should be clear about the bus crisis in many rural areas today. Services are either inadequate or non-existent. The next Conservative Government will make it a priority to improve the position. We should like to know whether that priority will come within the next two or three weeks, or when it will come.

Everything that the Minister is doing in connection with road transport is destroying rural bus services. The effect of delicensing and the cut in the transport supplementary grant announced yesterday is to deal a lethal blow to such services. The time is fast approaching when many people in rural areas will be as unable to have the mobility that their parents or grandparents had as were inhabitants of villages in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. That is the sort of basis to which we are returning. We should like to question the Minister on that, and I am sure that we would have the support of some Conservative Members with rural constituencies who may have the interests of their constituents in mind from time to time.

Mr. Anthony Fell (Yarmouth)

In giving way, the right hon. Gentleman is as kind and courteous as usual. Does he really intend to carry on trying hard to be so kind to the Government as to win the vote? Does he realise that in putting his case so kindly, sweetly and gently, the amendment no longer has any bite? It is nonsense anyway, but does the right hon. Gentleman really want to win the vote? We might help him. Has he considered what that would mean?

Mr. Silkin

I hate to think of the reputation that I would get, certainly in my own constituency, if I said that I had the support of the hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell). I want to win the vote. If the hon. Gentleman cares to come into the Lobby with us and to bring all his hon. Friends with him—I would not like him to come by himself—that will achieve the puropse of the amendment. I am sorry that he thinks that the amendment does not have much bite, but I never much liked the Conservative manifesto, anyway.

Sir Ronald Bell (Beaconsfield)

When the right hon. Gentleman was preparing his speech, how could he be so sure that Mr. Speaker would not accept his amendment?

Mr. Silkin

I was certain that Mr. Speaker could have accepted an amendment to shorten the period of the recess and that if the actual dates were given precedents would show that he must accept it. I hope that I shall have the attention of the hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Sir R. Bell) when I deal with the question of unemployment, because he will then perhaps be able to see the link.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Leader of the House of Commons and Minister for the Arts (Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas)

Following the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell), the right hon. Gentleman said that he would welcome Conservative Members joining him in the Lobby. I must say that he is being so persuasive, reasonable and courteous that my resolve is weakening. I am on the point of suffering a major conversion. If the right hon. Gentleman continues in this manner, he will succeed.

Mr. Silkin

That would be one of the great parliamentary achievements of all time. It would be the first time in the history of this Government that anyone has managed to get the Government to keep to their responsbilities and to understand what they are doing to the people of this country.

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, Central)

Does my right hon. Friend realise that if the right hon. Gentleman suffers a conversion it will be the only grant that has been got out of the Secretary of State for the Environment this year?

Mr. Silkin

I had not thought about that. It is quite true.

I wish to deal with the question of employment. As you will recall, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that was mentioned in the amendment that I hoped first to move. The hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield has also referred to it. It is, however, germane to the amendment that we are discussing. With the House in recess, hon. Members will be unable to consider the figures normally issued on the last Tuesday of the month. The figures will be issued on23 December, two days before Christmes. I hope that I shall have the attention of Conservative Members. This is a basic issue. It would be interesting to hear their observations after I have put the point.

The additional number of unemployed on the register has been rising since October at the rate of 31,500 a week. That is an enormous number. It means that 90, or perhaps 100, people will have become unemployed during the time that I have been speaking in this debate. That is the nature of the crisis.

It means that about 150 companies are going bust every week. In the two extra weeks that I am suggesting that the House should be sitting, over 60,000 people will be made redundant and sacked, and about 300 companies will go bust. It will not be all that good a Christmas for them. The travel problems of the constituents of the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford pale into insignificance in comparison with that situation.

I shall give one illustration that worries me more deeply than most. It was always stated that new towns had an unfair advantage over older towns because the populations were young and active and because such towns, as an obvious magnet to industry, attracted money. If, however, one looks at what is happening in the new towns today, one begins to see the real measure of unemployment and the fall in production that is occurring. Unemployment is higher than in any other OECD country. Output is falling at a greater rate than in any other OECD country.

I take as my example the second-generation town of Telford—well situated, with a vigorous chairman and development board. Hon. Members should take very much to heart what is happening to those aged between 16 and 18, whether school leavers or not, in that new town. Thirty-six per cent. of young people in that age group are still in school. Of the remainder, only 31 per cent. are at work. Thirty-three per cent. in this new dynamic town are out of work. Is that not a matter that should concern all hon. Members? Is it not an issue that we should be discussing?

Mr. Robert Atkins

The right hon. Gentleman is being a little selective in his choice of new towns. If he took as his example the Central Lancashire new town development corporation, he would find a different picture. Despite the closure of Preston docks next year, there is to be development, in terms of homes and recreational and industrial facilities, which will provide many more jobs. With the success of British Aerospace in Preston also taken into account, this shows what one new town can do. Why is the right hon. Gentleman selective in picking Telford? Why does he not pick other towns?

Mr. Silkin

I believe that Telford is a good illustration. The percentages that I give are mirrored, or are worse, in many of the older towns. Telford seems to me a good example. It is virtually a new basis of a town, not one made up of existing towns or existing parts of a town, which is true in the case of the Central Lancashire new town. There are others. Telford, on the other hand, is effectively a new town in the sense of being a new town ab initio.

Between 150 and 200 years ago Telford was, of course, the industrial heartland of Britain. I believe that hon. Members will accept that it is now effectively a new town and one developed in the second generation. It has been going for only about 15 years. I could no doubt have produced figures for older towns that would have made the percentages even worse. I think that the House will agree that they are frightening enough.

I have given what I believe to be reasons why the House should not adjourn for as long a period as the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has stated. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Yarmouth wishes to speak later, I am sure that the House will, unusually, be able to hear from him. It will be a great treat for everyone. In the meantime, I hope that he will allow me to finish my speech. I have no doubt, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that after I have sat down he will be the first to try and catch your eye.

The basis on which I have sought to move the amendment is that the House still has a great deal of unfinished business. There is a great deal of difficult business and much policy that is totally wrong and is destroying the whole basis and prosperity of the country. It is in that sense that I move the amendment.

4.38 pm
Mr. Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)

As a firm supporter of compromise and consensus, I should like to suggest to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House that the answer may lie halfway between his motion and the proposal of the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin). We should not have a further two weeks holiday, but one day should be taken off the recess so that the House can consider one of my hobby-horses. I believe that the key issue in 1981 will not be monetarism or even unemployment. It could well be the issue of local rates. It would be wrong for the Government to underestimate the concern and alarm over the size of local rates and the impact of the increase that is to take place. There is a growing feeling that the situation is intolerable.

Hon. Members are aware that the Government's intention is to control public spending. How long can they continue with such a policy when Ministers have no direct control over about one-third of public revenue spending which is carried out by local authorities? The Government have direct control over capital spending. We have seen the honest endeavours of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment to try to bring about a reduction. If, however, every local council in Britain decided tomorrow to double its revenue spending and to double the rates, there is nothing that the Government could do.

There is also a growing realisation that rates are an unfair and unjust form of taxation. Hon. Members are aware of traditional stories from constituents of two identical houses, one containing five wage earners and the other a person on a fixed income. There is, however, a growing appreciation that for commerce—shops, factories and offices—rates are becoming an unfair and intolerable form of taxation.

There is a growing appreciation that some substantial increases could occur in 1981, partly because of inflation, partly because of overspending and partly because of the rate support grant settlement announced yesterday. I cannot complain about Southend. Many authorities are to have a substantial reduction, but Southend's rate support grant will rise from £2.9 million to £4.7 million—an increase of over 50 per cent. It is the result of a fair appreciation that Southend council has consistently pursued a policy of financial prudence and has protected the interests of its ratepayers at all times. I am glad that at last we have a Government who appreciate a council which consistently has looked after ratepayers' cash wisely.

There is no doubt that substantial rate rises will take place in many parts of the United Kingdom. All parties have toyed with rating reform. A Royal Commission, study groups and other bodies have made many proposals. The time has come to rethink the proposals, because nothing seems to be the answer. The right hon. Member for Deptford was right. In the 1974 manifesto Conservatives made a commitment to abolish domestic rates. In 1979, that was downgraded to take second place to a reduction in income tax.

There is a growing feeling that, although there is a real desire for reform in the Conservative Party, the abolition of domestic rates is probably not the best answer. It would be ludicrous if councils had to decide every year what local tax to charge industry and commerce, which have no votes, so that services can be provided for domestic ratepayers who have votes. To abolish domestic rates alone is not the answer.

The search for a new domestic tax has been unsuccessful. The Layfield commission examined local income tax. When one studies its report, one realises that that is not the answer. A local income tax would be costly and bureaucratic. How on earth could a firm apply a PAYE system if there were a different rate of tax for all its employees depending on how they lived? How would marginal problems be dealt with? What would happen if a youngster from Southend, studying at Birmingham university, obtained a summer job at London Zoo? What local tax would be applied? How would we deal with the question of changing residences? A sales tax is not the answer although it can work in America, where there are large distances and large states. It would not work in a small country such as the United Kingdom.

The House should debate for at least one day the possibility not only of abolishing rates but of the withdrawal of the right of local authorities to tax in any form. It would be fair and reasonable to deprive all local councils of the right to charge rates or any form of taxation and for all the cash to be provided from the centre through national taxation. Local authorities could be given the cash in a block grant.

In cash terms, that is not such a revolutionary proposal as it might appear. Already about 60 per cent. of local council spending comes from national taxation. In Scotland the percentage is higher. There would be immense advantages in such a change. Everyone would pay instead of only householders. The cash would be raised in a fairer way. There would be no regional or local variations. We would save the cost of collection.

Let us examine the disadvantages. It would mean an increase in national taxation. The calculation is that if all the domestic rate were put on to income tax there would be an increase of 4p in the pound and that if it were put on to VAT it would increase by 4 per cent. If the charge were spread over a wider range, the effect would be much less. The money is already being paid.

Some will say that such a proposal would kill local government and that people would no longer be interested in taking part in local government and council elections. I doubt that. There is little enough interest at present. If councils were told that they had a block sum to spend according to the needs of the area and which could be supplemented marginally by charges for services, there would be more local interest.

People who believe that we can control council spending by angry ratepayers throwing out bad councils have been shown that that does not work. The Leader of the House, who is one of our great campaigners in local and national elections, will remember when posters appeared throughout the country depicting a London borough street where one side was controlled by a "spendthrift Labour council" and the other by "a good, solid Conservative council". The swing throughout the country was almost identical. Although people tend to support individual councillors because of their activities, only a few people participate in local elections and they tend to express their view of the Government at Westminster.

In spite of the immense efforts, we cannot rely on the present state of the law. Nobody could have tried harder to control council spending than the Labour Secretary of State for the Environment and the current Secretary of State. They have threatened the councils with grant cuts and done everything that they can, but that has not worked.

In spite of what has been achieved, it is difficult to see how we can have a consistent economic policy based on the control of public spending as long as the Government have no effective control over local council spending. I appreciate that my suggestion may involve great difficulties. I am sure that my proposal contains obstacles. However, surely the Leader of the House will accept that we should debate the suggestion. We should not generalise and say that rates are terrible and that something must be done. We must begin talking about specific proposals.

We have been through all the suggestions. A local income tax would be a frightening weapon to put into the hands of some local councillors. The search for an alternative local tax has failed. I do not believe that there is such an alternative. The time has come to examine seriously transferring the burden of collecting local authority revenue to national taxation. If we examined the proposal seriously, we would find more advantages than are immediately apparent. My suggestion would help the ratepayers and the Government. The abolition of a property tax could be a great boost to the nation.

4.47 pm
Mr. David Young (Bolton, East)

I wish to speak about the unemployment figures. The House should sit for longer than proposed so that we can discuss those figures. The people in Bolton, for whom I speak, are not statistics but 11,500 human tragedies. For many years Bolton has faced recession. It has faced the decline of old-established industries, such as textiles. By the natural resource of the people, old industries have diversified into engineering, electronics, paper-making, battery-making and television manufacture. Each of the new industries has been hit by redundancy after redundancy since 1979. Redundancies follow thick and fast. Union organisers believe that each ring of their telephone means another set of redundancies. Firms that form the base of Bolton's economy are being removed from the area to areas outside. That is a contraction of the basis of industry on which the future of Bolton depends.

It is no good arguing that sooner or later we shall emerge from the trauma. If the industrial base of a town such as that which I have the honour to represent is completely liquidated, there will be no place from which the upturn can come. Most worrying is that only one firm in my area is taking on the number of apprentices that it did a year ago. By cutting apprentices, the Government are cutting the future of the very industries that the nation requires to survive. I am basically concerned about that. Once the apprentices go, the future of British industry goes. We shall be left with a contracting base that will not have the strength to take advantage of an upturn, if one comes. That is happening throughout my constituency, week after week and month after month.

The number of unemployed in Bolton has doubled in the past year. The number of young unemployed has doubled in the past year. The number of school leavers unemployed has doubled in the past year. When the last set of unemployment statistics was released, there were 11,500 unemployed with only 268 job vacancies. I am well aware that the Government recently indicated that they would make additional finance available to help job opportunity programmes. We welcome that in the current circumstances. But youth opportunities, with all the good will in the world, are artificially created jobs. If no meaningful job is available for those youngsters at the end of the day, all that is happening is a postponement of the returns on the unemployment statistics. That is my worry and my concern. If we contrast the help being given by the Government with the nature of the problem, we realise that they are applying sticking plaster to a dying man.

When the Government came to power in the summer of last year, they removed the assisted area status from Bolton. When that status was first given in 1972, the unemployment rate was 4.7 per cent. When it was removed, the rate was 5.9 per cent. Currently, one year later, the unemployment rate is 10.3 per cent. When that point was put to the Minister in a recent late-night debate, he said that although he was sympathetic there was little that he could do about it. As we move towards the Christmas Recess, those matters concern my constituents. They are worried not only about the dramatic rise in unemployment but that the base on which any future industrial expansion will come is being denuded week by week. We shall be left with an industrial wasteland in that part of Lancashire.

I ask the Government to accept the amendment so that we can have more time to consider the facts. All that we seem to have from the Government is indications that if there is unemployment in one area the people should move elsewhere. Where should they move to—to Liverpool with a 15 per cent. unemployment rate or to the West Midlands? I visit my jobcentre and say that the Government tell us that people should move. I ask them to tell me where the people can find jobs. The answer is "Nowhere". One or two jobs are available, but what about the unemployed kids who are now thinking not of months of unemployment but of years of unemployment?

The Government have said that there is a danger of overmanning in British industry. The greatest danger to British industry comes from the overmanning of the Conservative Benches. If the Government feel that their policy is right, let them put that to the electorate, and put it soon, so that the electorate may decide.

4.55 pm
Mr. David Gilroy Bevan (Birmingham, Yardley)

It is a pre-surmised position that the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin), who moved the amendment, feels that there is unemployment in the House. My experience as I have sat into the early hours of the morning and listened to debates is that the position is the reverse. There is no unemployment in the House. The amendment pre-surmises not only that is there unemployment but that the only way to deal with it is by debate. We are now having a debate to have a debate just after having had a debate on unemployment, which is one of the main factors that has been alluded to.

Of course, I am worried about unemployment. I agree with the hon. Member for Bolton, East (Mr. Young) that it is no good moving to the West Midlands, which is my area, where unemployment is higher than it has ever been. My constituents in Yardley are extremely worried about it, dependent as they are on the car trade and the proximity of British Leyland.

I wish to quote Minnie Louise Haskins, who said: And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: 'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown'. And he replied: 'Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.' I realise that that makes certain Opposition Members chuckle. Their attitudes are well known. That was last quoted by the late King George VI on his Christmas broadcast in 1939, when this country was embarking upon one of the most frightening periods of its history. Those words gave comfort and endurance to many people.

Because of the inheritance of unemployed numbers that was passed on to us by the Labour Administration, the developing numbers in the face of an international and national recession and the onward frying of the silicon chip—which is bound to be labour-intensive and employment-defeating—we are facing a crisis as great as that faced in 1939, which we came through. The man who stands at the gate of the year is every man who stands at every factory gate, every shop gate, at the gate of every public undertaking and at the gate of every place of work. The gate itself is the gate to those factories, those places of work, those shops and those public and private enterprises. It is to be hoped that that gate can be opened. We must ensure that it is opened. We hope that the gate is not an insurmountable stile that cannot be climbed. We must dedicate ourselves to opening that gate.

I suggest that the method of opening is not by a debate about a debate after a debate but by delegating to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment the task of starting an immediate, in-depth investigation into the means that can be used to revert to a position of high employment and to create all those things that will give Britain the courage and the satisfaction to go forward. The time to debate it is not in the recess but when we have my right hon. Friend's report before us.

We understand the difficulties that face industry at the moment. We understand that industry is depleted and that firms are going out of business. That gives us no joy. But there are many reasons for that. One has been the necessity, regrettably, for various nationalised and non-nationalised industries to carry for decades an over-heavy payroll and too large a work force. The opportunity has now come about, in a most regrettable way, for rationalised labour scales to be adopted.

We must change our thinking, not just our addresses or our geographical arrangements and dedications. We must change our thoughts about the new technology. At this seasonal period, we must bear in mind the ghosts of Christmas past and the ghosts of Christmas present—the ghosts of the dole queue in the past, and in the present the soulless handout of State benefits, which merely encourages laziness and frustration and inclines the youth of today not to want to work but simply to wait.

Mr. James Hamilton (Bothwell)

I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman, like many of us in the House, watched a television programme last Sunday. In that programme was a lad who had said the self-same thing as the hon. Gentleman has said tonight about ne'er-do-wells and people who would not work. For the first time in his life, he found himself unemployed, and he now retracts all that he thought and said previously. Bearing in mind that the Government cannot redeem the situation, is the hon. Gentleman now prepared to bring in the Holy Spirit? I am sure that all of us would accept that.

Mr. Bevan

I have heard what has been said, and, indeed, I saw part of the programme. But I am speaking of the school leaver who has not had a job, not about the young or middle-aged person who has had a job and has become unemployed. I am talking about the person who has not had the benefit of employment. We know that unemployment is rife among school leavers far more, and to a greater degree than it is in other sections of the population.

The proposals that are asked of the Government must be in the form of a Christmas future—and a happier Christmas future. There must be an in-depth study, not the kind of fiddling, ill-conceived, badly-thought-out, costly schemes, of a temporary nature, which were introduced one after one by the previous Administration and which, in the main, failed one after one. There must be planning to mop up unemployment among the middle-aged and the old. That must involve earlier voluntary retirement, shorter working hours and shift working.

What must it involve for the young? It must involve a form of national service and national dedication. What should that national service be? It must be service by every young person in this country, both nationally and internationally, helping on schemes and projects throughout the country—the clearing of canals, perhaps, or the clearing of railways—on jobs which do not involve automatic opposition from the unions. There must be great works which can be done. Certainly, internationally there are great works to be done. There are villages to be rebuilt and roads to be constructed. There needs to be dedication to ethnic groups in the Third world. Labour Members may laugh and scoff. What, then, is their sincerity in calling for this debate? I ask the Government to consider the matter and to give us a detailed report in order to help those least able to help themselves.

Public opinion is fickle. It is like the guns of a battleship. My analogies are deliberately military, based on what I said at the beginning. Those guns range on the most difficult situations that we face. Theyranged on inflation. Taken in a six months context, it is clear that inflation is now falling. Those guns have ranged on various other matters, such as high interest rates. Interest rates, too, have begun to fall, and we trust that they will come down further. But those guns will swing and will form a new trajectory. The trajectory to which public opinion is now swinging is unemployment, but the way to deal with unemployment is not to have a debate on a debate after a debate. I ask my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and his colleagues to consider long-term methods of dealing with unemployment which can only benefit the young.

Finally, with great respect to the scribe who possibly writes better iambic pentameters than I in the House magazine, may I interpolate and slightly alter the words I quoted from Louise Haskins: I say to the youth who stands at the factory gate 'There has to be hope that you can enter soon therein' And he replied, 'I've got no hope, I've only learnt to hate, I put my hand to vote, now it finds no lathe to turn for me to live'.

5.7 pm

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Listening to the hon. member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Bevan), I thought that we were listening to one of the usual speeches by the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes). It seems that the two hon. Gentleman now speak in the same kind of language.

Listening to the disgraceful slurs upon people claiming unemployment and other benefits, I must say how deeply offensive it is for some people in the House, who earn quite a lot of money and who probably have assets outside, to make remarks of that kind towards people who have no income of any kind except what they can claim because they unemployed, sick or disabled, in supplementary benefit. I have always found such an approach deeply offensive. Indeed, I am sure that there are Conservative Members, too, who would not go along with the previous speech and who would wish, privately at least, to dissociate themselves from some of the remarks that we have just heard.

I wish first to express my regret that the Prime Minister has not yet made a statement on the Dublin talks. I raised the matter last week. It seems very puzzling to have a situation in which what took place in Dublin has, understandably, been the subject of a great deal of comment in the press and in the media generally and has led to a debate in the Irish Parliament. There continue to be comments on what happened or did not happen at the summit meeting between the two Prime Ministers. Yet there has not been any kind of statement or report to this House.

When the matter was raised at business questions last week, the Leader of the House justified what had happened by saying that on previous occasions when such talks took place no statement was made to the House. But my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition asked on what other occasion, when such talks took place, those talks actually led to a debate in the Dublin Parliament. Of course, interpretations are being made of what happened in Dublin. I make this comment to the Leader of the House and his colleagues. When we are not given information, when we are not satisfied with the position, and when we rightly believe that information is being withheld from us, we do not give up. We continue to seek that information. It would be much easier if the Prime Minister had come back, recognised the importance of the Dublin talks and reported to the House of Commons. I shall continue to press for a statement.

I wish to make only this comment about the tragedy that is now being enacted in Northern Ireland. I choose my words with the greatest of care. Like all other hon. Members, I condemn without hesitation or reservation all forms of terrorism in Ireland. I do not believe that there is any possible justification for what the Provisionals have done—such as the killings and injuries—and I would not wish—

Mr. Fell

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but I wonder whether this has anything to do with the amendment that we are discussing.

Mr. Winnick

What is now happening in Northern Ireland has every relevance to whether we decide to go into recess. It is of great importance. If the hon. Gentleman reflects on the matter, he will perhaps recognise how important and urgent it is.

I believe that every possible effort should be made to end the hunger strike and that, without granting political status to the hunger strikers, we should try to find some formula by which the hunger strike can come to an end.

I am sure that I am not alone in saying that there have been enough martyrs in Irish history. Many years ago, there were those, too, who went on hunger strike until they died. If those who are now on hunger strike were to die, it would not make the situation in Northern Ireland any better. It would only lead to more violence, deaths and tragedies. Therefore, I take the view that some way should be found to save the lives of those who are involved.

I agree entirely with the comment made by The Guardian columnist, Peter Jenkins, with whom I do not normally agree, who wrote in today's issue: They may deserve to be so treated"— he was referring to those on hunger strike— but what we are having to do in order to uphold the point that they are common criminals and not, as they would have it, prisoners of war, is so degrading to ourselves, so disgusting to behold and difficult to explain to others, that we may well wonder whether it is wise or prudent to persist. Understandably, like ourselves, he made the point that he has no wish to apologise for the terrorists. He added: It cannot be good policy to allow our prisoners to be gaolers and inflict such degradation and shame upon us. I believe that that is the right point of view. The Government should respond to the appeal which the Roman Catholic Primate of All Ireland has made directly to the Prime Minister. The bishops and the Primate himself have already appealed to the hunger strikers to give up their fast. I am sure that the Primate has no more time for terrorism than the rest of us, but he has attempted to resolve the tragedy that is now occurring in the Maze prison.

Perhaps the Leader of the House will tell us whether the reports are true that the prisoners are willing to abandon their demand for political status in favour of some reforms inside the prison. We now know that the question of reforms inside the prison was the subject of discussion at the Dublin summit. Had there been a statement at the beginning, this matter could perhaps have been resolved last week. That is all that I wish to say about the situation in Northern Ireland.

I turn to the point made by the hon. Member for Yardley and one of my hon. Friends about unemployment. I echo everything said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) when he initiated the debate.

I should like to concentrate on the position in the West Midlands. As the hon. Member for Yardley said, the situation has considerably worsened in the last year. I should like to give the latest figures, because they represent another reason why we should give careful consideration about going into recess on the dates proposed. From 1 October to 30 November, there were 13,329 redundancies in the region, and in the Black Country districts the number made jobless was 4,790. Last year in the borough of Walsall, unemployment stood at 5.9 per cent. The latest figures show that 20,000 people are now unemployed, which represents 11.4 per cent. That has occurred within a 12-month period.

I have looked at the list of redundancies and closures, and it is very depressing. Among the firms in Walsall which have decided to close are T.I. Sunhouse, with the loss of 380 jobs; Aluminium Bronze, with the loss of 290 jobs, and Musgrove and Green, with the loss of 95 jobs. That bleak, depressing picture is the same throughout the Black Country and the West Midlands.

Since those figures were sent to me, there has been further news of redundancies and closures. Dunlop has announced that it wishes to end about 1,500 jobs, mainly in Birmingham. Midland Motor Cylinder will probably close its works in Smethwick, near my constituency, and 700 jobs will go. GKN is making more than 700 workers redundant at its factories in Darlaston and Bromsgrove. Harris and Sheldon, a local firm in my own constituency, has just announced that it wishes to close, and that will involve 300 workers being made redundant.

One can well understand the feelings that exist in the Black Country at present. The picture is bleak. Apart from the fact that so many are unemployed, many others—certainly many of my own constituents—are on short-time working. In some cases, they are working only one or two days a week. Many of them go to work each day not knowing whther they will be made redundant. One can well understand the fear and insecurity that has emerged in the West Midlands since the Government have been in office.

When one compares the promises that were made by the Tories in May 1979 with what has happened on the ground in our own constituencies—unemployment, short-time working, fear and insecurity, not knowing what will happen and the undermining of one's family responsibilities—one has every right to condemn the Government and to wish for the earliest opportunity of a general election.

The hon. Member for Yardley referred to the young unemployed. That is indeed a tragedy, but, as I have said before, I am also concerned, as we all must be, about the family man in his late forties or early fifties who is made redundant. What is worse, if after 12 months he has been unable to find a job and his unemployment benefit has been exhausted, he will not get a penny of supplementary benefit if he has savings of more than £2,000. How can Conservative Members justify that? They should bear in mind that some people who are made redundant will receive redundancy money. That will enable them to save up for their old age. But they will find that those savings will go by the board if they are unable to find a job within 12 months.

It will be a bleak and cheerless Christmas for many of my constituents. They may not have suffered as much as the constituents of other hon. Members, but they have suffered as a result of the Government's policies. First and foremost, we want a change in economic policy and a recognition by the Government that what they are doing at present is to undermine job security and industry itself up and down the country, and certainly in the West Midlands.

5.20 pm
Mr. Dudley Smith (Warwick and Leamington)

I am tempted to take up some of the large-scale arguments that have been advanced, but I wish to be brief. I address the House on a small but vital matter that will concern every hon. Member. The Government are rightly concerned about small businesses, and they have taken many steps and measures to help them at a time of great economic difficulty. In the past two months the electricity board in the area that I represent—I believe that this applies to the boards that cover the rest of the country—has introduced a new policy whereby non-domestic users receive monthly bills compulsorily, as opposed to quarterly bills.

It does not need much imagination to realise that the cash flow problems of small businesses are immense at a time of severe economic difficulty. Electricity boards may have their difficulties, too, and I do not underestimate them, but they are in a far better position than is the ordinary small business.

The introduction of monthly bills for non-domestic users is a serious blow to small businesses. As a result of many complaints that I have received—I am sure that a number of other hon. Members have received similar complaints—I tabled a written question, which was answered earlier this week by my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Energy. In his reply he stated that the matter was not really for his Department but was for the electricity boards and that he would ask the chairman of the Electricity Council to write to me.

That is not good enough. Nor is it good enough to receive the sort of reply that I had from the chairman of the East Midlands electricity board, Mr. J. C. Smith, who wrote. The board is continually reviewing its operating procedures in order to minimise costs. A significant part of these costs consists of interest charges on external borrowing required to finance its activities. One of the major factors affecting this borrowing requirement is the period of credit allowed between usage of electricity and payment by customers. For quarterly bill customers up to three months can elapse between usage and billing. It might be possible to make a case for monthly billing for larger organisations, although such organisations are suffering cash flow problems, but it is surely unfair that small businesses of all types are being penalised by the electricity boards in the way that I have described. From time immemorial, for both domestic and non-domestic users, electricty accounts have been submitted quarterly. I have never before heard the suggestion that electricity was being provided on credit and that payment should be made as one went along. There are many who are facing considerable bills on a monthly basis, which they are ill equipped to meet.

A typical example came to my notice through the visit of a lady to my surgery last Saturday. She lives in my constituency and owns a small hotel with fewer than a dozen bedrooms. Her yearly turnover is £6,000 or £7,000. Her electricity bill for the last winter quarter was about £300. She is now being asked to pay that on a monthly basis by the East Midlands electricity board. This is wrong, and it is also wrong that we should sustain and underwrite a change in a long-standing practice.

I know as well as does any other hon. Member that nationalised industries and outside organisations have day-to-day autonomy, but in this instance it is important for the Government and the Minister, in the shape of the Secretary of State for Energy, to use their influence and understanding to negotiate with the various chairmen of the electricity boards to change this reprehensible practice and revert to quarterly billing. We shall be failing in our duty as a Government and Parliament unless we give help to small businesses. One of the most material ways of so doing is to allow them to pay electricity bills, especially those for the winter quarters, on a quarterly basis as hitherto.

5.25 pm
Mr. Peter Hardy (Rother Valley)

The hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Smith) is making a serious error in seeking to place responsibility for the problems of energy users on the shoulders of the energy supply industries, which are burdened by the Government's requirement that they shall not merely break even but shall make substantial profits. Thus, they have to impose burdens upon users, especially upon industrial users. That is one of the causes of great anxiety in my constituency.

There are many other anxieties in my constituency. Not the least of these is the appalling problem that will be faced as a result of the rate support allocation that was announced yesterday. The hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) told us about the burden of rates. He informed us that support from the Government for his area had been much increased. It has not been increased in the industrial areas of Britain, and South Yorkshire faces extreme difficulty. It is obvious that the basis of the Government's calculation for the distribution of rates is to take from those who have not and give to those who have. There is a clear correlation between the distribution of a higher grant to areas with low unemployment and the removal of part of the grant from areas with high unemployment.

Earlier in the year I referred to two coking plants in my constituency—Brookhouse and Orgreave—that were controlled by the chemical division of the British Steel Corporation. I was concerned by press rumours of a hiving-off operation. In September the coking part of the two plants—the entire works at Brookhouse and part of the works at Orgreave—were taken back from the chemical division to the main board of the BSC, and in Mr. MacGregor's statement on Friday I read that both Brookhouse and Orgreave are to close as soon as possible.

I have made representations, and I have discovered, as I have said, that the Brookhouse plant is to close as soon as possible. It is in an area with unemployment approaching 20 per cent. I understand that the Orgreave plant is to stay open for a while so that the BSC will be able to establish whether a cheaper form of energy will be available. I doubt whether it will be able to do that. The fact remains that there has been a sudden development only a short time after the corporation took the coking operation back from its chemical subsidiary.

I am deeply concerned about the development, for a number of reasons. First, unemployment is appalling in the area that I represent. I spoke yesterday to the headmaster of a good school in my constituency. He told me that there are still 85 school leavers from earlier this year without work. Those are school leavers from one school for part of one year. The implications for employment are serious.

Secondly, it seems a shortsighted decision. It is geared to the present levels of steel production and special steel production activity. If we take an average over many years, we see that both plants have operated profitably. There are other serious implications that might appeal to Conservative Members. Half of the Orgreave works consists of a coking plant, while the other half is a chemical works. If the coking plant is closed, the raw material for the chemical works, which are extremely profitable, will not be available.

The National Coal Board has invested heavily in the area to ensure that coal from the South Yorkshire pits is of coking quality. At several collieries in my constituency, there has been enormous investment in washeries and coal preparation to achieve that purpose. That money may well have been spent in vain if the coking plant is closed.

The national implication is perhaps even more serious. In the past year or two we have seen several important coking plants close. There was one in my constituency three years ago and one in the neighbouring constituency of Dearne Valley only two or three weeks ago. There has been a rapid contraction of coking plant.

Conservative Members have frequently recognised that the coal industry will be important and that during the 1990s it will have to provide our oil, our gas and our feedstock. Before the 1980s are over, there will be no coking industry in Britain if we continue to proceed at the present rate, and our capacity to transform our coal into modern uses will have disappeared. It seems to me that the Minister should ensure that the Department of Industry and the Department of Energy recognise that if we are to benefit from the investment in coal, which the Labour Government incurred and which the present Government have boasted they are maintaining, we must also ensure that we have a capacity to make use of that coal, which we recognise is essential.

Therefore, apart from the burden of extra unemployment in my constituency and apart from the threat and risk to an important chemical industry as a result of any further closures in this direction, and in view of the discouragement that the present situation places upon those who are seeking to maintain environmental improvements in relation to these plants—which can be offensive—the Government should look very closely at the BSC's involvement in coking activities.

I wish that the BSC would pass the coking operation back to its chemical subsidiary. I do not believe that in three months the BSC has had a proper opportunity to recognise and identify the realities. Certainly the major reality is that if this country is to have the benefits of its enormous coal reserves within the next 10 or 20 years it cannot afford this profligate and reckless destruction of a whole section of vital industry.

If the Government would consider this matter, that would be some evidence that they recognised the reality of life in Britain's industrial areas. The evidence that we had yesterday from the Secretary of State for the Environment was shabby enough. If the present policy on industry is maintained, we can say that not merely should the Secretary of State for the Environment be dismissed but that the rest of the Government should be dismissed with him. I believe that we ought not to go into the Christmas Recess until matters as serious as this have been properly considered by Ministers and the House.

5.31 pm
Mr. Anthony Fell (Yarmouth)

There is a bit of hypocrisy in the air this afternoon. Neither side wants for one minute to be debating here on Christmas Eve. All of us know that. It is sheer hypocrisy for anyone to pretend that he wants that.

I am hoping that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will persuade himself—he was very nearly persuaded a little while ago by the kindly and gentle speech of the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin)—and will be able to shake some of his hon. Friends into adopting the course to which he was nearly persuaded—to go into the Lobby with the Opposition and to support the amendment.

I hope that it will not be taken amiss if I comment on the amendment. I realise that the amendment has been changed. However, the Opposition have made their hand perfectly clear. They wanted to discuss the two items which they thought might have the most effect on the public. They thought "This is a God-given chance to make great publicity. We shall hold the nation standing ready for us to talk about employment on Christmas Eve. It has never been done before." Never, I think, has there been a three-line Whip issued on this subject. So the Opposition wanted to have a nice, cosy little three-line Whip to discuss unemployment on Christmas Eve. Then the idea was to have a further one to discuss on 5 January the industrial crisis caused by Government policy.

I have been a Member of the House for quite a long while. Some people would say "Too long."

Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)

Too long.

Mr. Fell

I said it for the hon. Gentleman, who is always so kind. At least, he says things with a smile, whereas to listen to Opposition Members today one would honestly believe that the present Government were a load of crooks—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—who were attempting to destroy the nation by trying to bring about unemployment and trying to destroy the nation's industrial ethics.

Opposition Members know, as well as they know the hypocrisy of the amendment, that the last thing in the world they want is for the amendment to be passed. They know that it is claptrap. They know perfectly well that the present Government are trying as hard, but more sensibly, as they tried when they got into power—and they managed to double unemployment in a period of one and a half years. They know perfectly well that the policy of curbing inflation and curbing public expenditure that was indulged in by them at the behest of the IMF—which was not supported by all Opposition Members by any means—was not liked, but they supported it. Now, we have the same policy but more genuinely carried out and more strongly and more determinedly carried out than they ever managed.

Now, Opposition Members are running like rabbits from their own policy—[Interruption.]Someone suggests "rats", but I would not be so unkind. They are pursued by their own nightmares of the sort of trouble they were creating and getting into when they ran out on their own policy.

I promised you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I would speak for only a short moment. [Interruption.]The right hon. Member for Deptford, who, I hope, is a friend of mine and about whose speech I said nothing rude at all, may, from a sedentary position, say anything he likes about me.

Mr. John Silkin

I did not say anything.

Mr. Fell

If it was his right hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon), perhaps the right hon. Gentleman could restrain him or persuade him to rise to his feet, when I should be delighted to deal with him.

I genuinely hope that Conservative Members will have the courage to call the bluff of the right hon. Member for Deptford and his party, for bluff it is. It is nothing else. Opposition Members would be horrified, from the Deputy Chief Whip of the Opposition to the Chief Whip, down through their leader—I notice that he has gone long ago—and the right hon. Gentleman, if they had to stay here and come back to debate things on Christmas Eve. Everyone knows that.

My only plea in this debate and the only reason why I have risen to speak is to ask my hon. Friends, now that the amendment has perforce been watered down because the Opposition were so unfortunate as to transgress the rules—so that the amendment means nothing except that we come back on Christmas Eve and again on 5 January—seeing that there is nothing any longer to worry about in the amendment, whether they will go through the Lobby in strength tonight and support it.

5.38 pm
Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, Central)

I am looking forward to the hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) joining us in the Lobby later this evening. I hope that he will persuade many of his hon. Friends to join us, because there are many subjects which we should like to have an opportunity of debating, not the least of which is the matter referred to earlier—the question of the H blocks and the H block prisoners.

On that point, all sides seem to be heading towards a tragedy, which could, perhaps, be averted by good will and by a sensible approach to something which poses enormous difficulties for the House. As I have explained to the Prime Minister, by no stretch of the imagination can we accept that killing, murder and maiming are sufficient reasons for calling people politicians. The whole basis of our society, and that of the Republic, is persuasion and argument, not violence. It is against that background that we must consider these prisoners, who are convicted of some of the most terrible crimes imaginable. We must also remember that they were convicted, not by jury trial—not under the rules of evidence that would be applied in our courts and not, in many cases, on the evidence of witnesses, but by their own uncorroborated statements.

Perforce these procedures were passed by this House—I opposed them—because of the cruelly unhappy situation of 10 years ago. Although the situation is still grim and unhappy, I hope that we have learnt something in 10 years. As my right hon. Friend the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland suggested, it should be possible for Her Majesty's Government to accept that the time has come to review procedures, the scheduling of offences and the way these people are treated. A positive statement of that nature would go a long way in present conditions to show that there is understanding that, regrettably, the position in Northern Ireland is peculiar within Her Majesty's dominions and that it needs constantly to be examined and re-examined to find better methods and procedures.

The alleged demands are freely conceded in many prison systems in Europe and the United States. They are such as one would hope to see in any sensible penal system. It should not be beyond the wit of the Government, or particularly the Home Secretary, who knows intimately from his distinguished career in Northern Ireland the problems associated with granting and withdrawing political status, to find a general scheme of prison reform in which most of these demands could be met on proper humanitarian grounds as being the way in which we should treat people who are incarcerated. Many would argue that they deserve to be treated more harshly because of the evilness of their deeds. We regard the deprivation of liberty as the important factor. If we insist on maintaining our dignity as a society, no matter how evil people are we should also try to treat them, although they are in prison, with dignity. It is possible to find a way of meeting the problem. We should welcome an opportunity to discuss this in detail and also to discuss what happened in Dublin between the Prime Minister of the Republic and our Prime Minister.

I have been away from the House for the past fortnight, but as I have read and listened to reports I believe that the Government have played the matter very foolishly. If there has been an important development, and if suspicions are not to be created—whether they be of the extreme kind, as are harboured by the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), or those of the Unionist Members who normally sit on the Opposition Benches—progress will be made only on the basis of the Opposition's being taken along with the Government in their policies. The Government are failing to do that.

What is more at stake is that the Government, by the way they have handled the Dublin communiqué risk quickly turning the Opposition's critical support and examination into opposition for opposition's sake, because it is action by a Tory Government that will automatically be opposed. That is one of the things that in the past Oppositions have attempted to avoid, rightly or wrongly—that is a matter for judgment. However, the Prime Minister has broken away completely from past precedents on this issue. That is causing grave difficulty—as grave almost as the problems being caused by the men in the H-block. The House has a right to know what was discussd and suggested.

Tomorrow, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food may be making a statement on the breakdown of the fishing negotiations. My right hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) has asked for such a statement, and I hope that the Leader of the House will say that it will be made. It is of the utmost importance. I have watched the negotiations on the common fisheries policy for many years. We have now reached a position in which what is left of our deep sea industry, based upon the port of Hull, is being sold out to try to preserve the interests of the inshore fisherman.

In many ways that was to be expected of the Government. It is the way that thoughts and ideas have gone. But there has been no realisation by the Government that if they sell out the deep sea fleet there must be some form of compensation to the people employed by the deep sea fishing industry and the areas in which it is based. Much has been said about compensation to trawler owners. But I want compensation for fishermen, to provide job creation, new factories and training, with large capital sums being put into Humberside—into Hull in particular—to replace what has been lost, not by the introduction of new techniques or the disappearance of archaic industries but by the arbitrary actions of Governments in extending limits to 200 miles and of our Government in being prepared to accept that. That has nothing to do with the economic recession, new skills or microchips. It is the result of a straight political decision, and that is why we are entitled to ask for help.

The strange factor to emerge from Brussels, with the selling out of what is left of the deep water fleet, has been compensation for the inshore fleet. That may involve a 12-mile limit, although it seems that talks have broken down on that.

The Government have made no real attempt to deal with the problems of the young unemployed. We have had promises of work experience schemes, but it will be in the experience of every hon. Member that children of 15 and 16 years old are leaving school, some with good qualifications but others often without any, and are unable to obtain any form of employment, whereas in the past it was available.

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Bevan) spoke about the benefits of unemployment. That word is etched upon my soul. Vandalism, having nothing to do and losing all desire to work are the alleged benefits of unemployment. The hon. Gentleman spoke about the fortnightly dole, as though that was something great. Unless we can find employment for our young people, they will turn themselves away from and protest against the society that, before they are even allowed to try to work, puts them on the scrap heap. The particular problems of the 16- to 18-year-olds should indeed be a subject of debate.

The hon. Member for Yarmouth felt that this debate was a load of tripe and that Labour Members did not really wish to postpone the Christmas Recess. Let me assure the hon. Gentleman that we could find subject after subject to fill a catalogue, not up to Christmas Eve but beyond that to Ash Wednesday, and never have a recess. We could debate the problems of unemployment that are facing our constituents, and the many other problems that are associated with it.

Mr. Fell

I understand that. Of course, it is true that Labour Members could find subjects about which to talk. I was not arguing about that. What I was and am arguing about—and I repeat it because the hon. Gentleman obviously did not understand it—is that no Labour or Conservative Member truly wants to be here discussing anything on Christmas Eve.

Mr. McNamara

If the hon. Gentleman believes that, let him call our bluff and come with us into the Lobby tonight.

5.52 pm
Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)

If I may go back to the beginning, I should like to tell the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin), who opened the debate and who is now leaving, that his arguments might have carried more conviction if his tongue had not been so obviously sticking through his teeth during his speech. However persuasive some of my colleagues may have found him, I am not persuaded by what he said or by what has been said by other Labour Members that the Opposition have the least heart in what they are seeking to do. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell). I know that there are many subjects about which we could speak, but nothing that Labour Members have said, either singularly or collectively—no matter how many speeches they may make—gives me any belief that it would be of the slightest advantage to the country as a whole. We might as well save money by turning out the lights on the appointed day and letting everyone go home.

There are one or two things that I should like Ministers to do while the rest of us are not here, and on those conditions I shall support the Government in the Lobby later tonight.

I hope that the Home Secretary will not long deny the House an opportunity to debate the tidal wave of drugs that appears to be coming into this country. The answer that I received to a question about seizures of cannabis by the Customs in the last 10 years is horrifying. The figures show that such seizures in the current year were worth £47 million—twice last year's figure and more than four times the figure for 1978. That may mean that the Customs authorities are being more efficient and successful than in the past, but I do not believe that the figure of £47 million represents 100 per cent. of the illegal drugs coming into this country. I doubt whether it represents 15 per cent. If there is an influx of that sort, it surely must be time for the House to discuss it and to hear, even over the voices of the Opposition Whips, what steps the Government are taking to counter this dangerous menace to our society.

I turn now to two other matters, both of which have a bearing on unemployment and both of which I hope are slightly more constructive than the mere recitation of closure figures that we had to suffer earlier.

Mr. Geoffrey Johnson Smith (East Grinstead)

My hon. Friend mentioned the alarming rise in drugs coming into this country. Can he say where they are mainly found?

Mr. Onslow

I could make a speech to the House on this subject, but they appear to be found at Heathrow, they are washed up on the beaches and they appear to fall out of diplomats' luggage. They appear to be found everywhere that the Customs people look for them. This is a matter on which we could spend more time, but I do not wish to do so now.

I turn now to a question that was touched upon by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister during her speech on the Loyal Address—the unhappy embargo that seems to exist on trade between this country and Indonesia. For the sake of a frustrated import of Indonesian textiles worth under £10 million, manufacturers in this country have already lost exports to Indonesia to the value of £150 million. Engineering exports and products of British Steel have suffered. British Aerospace has lost an order for HS 748 aircraft, which I have seen quoted as being worth £40 million. The order has gone to the Dutch. Some of the other orders have gone to the Germans. Jobs are threatened in a thriving and potentially expanding sector of our industry because we are stuck with an imaginary need to protect another corner of our industry—the textiles corner. I hope that during the recess the Ministers involved, who have been looking at the situation for the last six months, will speed up the process and will be able to report that they have found a resolution to the problem.

If it involves taking £10 million off the budget for overseas aid and spending that amount to cushion the impact of foreign competition on our textile industry, I should welcome it and I should regard it as a proper response to the changing international circumstances. It would be more welcome generally than the sort of responses that the authors of the Brandt report keep ramming down our throats. I hope that when we return after the recess we shall not need to debate the Brandt report yet again. It has become a tremendous ego trip for the aid lobby.

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

The hon. Gentleman said that the Brandt report was an ego trip for someone. Presumably he means his right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath). The remarks of the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) are an absolute disgrace.

Mr. Onslow

I am glad to be able to associate the hon. Gentleman with my remark. No doubt it is an ego trip for him, too. The Brandt report is a waste of time and the most dreadful dodging of realities. It is about time that that was said.

My next point concerns defence expenditure. Some hon. Members—I hope some hon. Members on both sides of the House—have been concerned by reports in the press this week of the danger that pressure on the defence budget may lead to cancellation of some advanced projects which have been designed to provide high-grade new equipment for our Armed Forces. I do not argue that there is no room for savings on the defence budget. There are times—I do not doubt that this is one of them—when it makes sense to cut down on training and transport expenditure, and perhaps to cut down some of the civilian manpower that the Property Services Agency seems to employ. I realise that that must be an uphill struggle. To cut anything that the PSA does must be difficult. We have only to look around and see the new carpets rolling in here. If we cannot get a grip on the PSA, it is a little unfair to expect the Department of Defence to do so.

What concerns me most about the rumoured cuts is the damage that they will do to capital expenditure on defence and the harm that must spread from savings on defence expenditure right across our space industry. I have heard one project—the "Sea Eagle" project—described as being at the leading edge of our technology. Labour Members laugh, but for some hon. Members this a serious matter, and we should like it to be taken seriously

The consequences of cuts of this kind, if they mean cancellations at the leading edge, are very familiar to us, and they are not welcome. It means that we make a gift to the United States; that we disqualify ourselves as potential partners in high technology areas; that we break up design teams; that we may have to close factories; that we put people out of work; and that we increase overheads. None of these things in this case needs to be done, because one of the reasons for the current pressure on the defence budget is nothing more nor less than a bookkeeping problem.

There is no question about the equipment being needed, or about the capability of British industry to make it or its willingness to make it at a fixed cost. But, because of some arcane dispute between the Treasury and the Ministry of Defence about the way in which defence funds are spent year on year and the way they are accounted for to this House, we appear to have got ourselves into a catch–22 situation, where we are being disarmed by accountants.

Thinking back to the Conservative manifesto, I cannot believe that any of my hon. Friends thought or intended that this would be brought about by the incoming Conservative Government. I cannot believe that the Government would have wished to bring it about. I therefore urge my right hon. Friend and his colleagues to address themselves very urgently to finding a solution to this bookkeeping problem, which appears to be a major obstacle and a major threat to high technology British industry.

I hope that the House will also show some understanding of the problem. Looking back to the time of the Lang report and the changes that it brought about in accounting procedures in the Ministry of Defence, one knows that it is the insistence of every civil servant on being able to protect himself against the Public Accounts Committee that is largely responsible for an antiquated and unrealistic system of costing defence expenditure that acts to the detriment of us all. So there is work to be done by that Committee, even if, as I recognise, my right hon. Friend cannot very well ask it to address itself to that question during the Christmas Recess.

I am sure that Labour Members will agree with the aphorism that war is too serious a business to be left to generals. If I may modify it slightly, I suggest that defence expenditure is too serious a matter to be decided by bookkeepers. I hope that my right hon. Friend will convey that message in the strongest possible terms to those who are to take the decisions in this area.

6.2 pm

Mr. Stephen Ross (Isle of Wight)

Following the concluding remarks of the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow), I hope that, as a result of the review of expenditure that is taking place in the Ministry of Defence, methods will be found to provide some of our defence equipment at a rather cheaper price than we are paying at the moment.

One has only to look at what it costs to build a new frigate in this country—over £100 million—to realise why former members of the Commonwealth now seem to have all their shipbuilding done in the United States or elsewhere. This is a matter that we should be looking at. I am sure that it is possible to defend ourselves at a much cheaper rate. The cost of a new torpedo—£950 million— is astronomical, and there are questions that should be asked in that respect. The way in which the component parts manufacturers have been dealt with under the moratorium is outrageous. They have been put into a terrible position, and it should not have been allowed to happen.

We have heard comments on why the House should not adjourn on Friday. I do not support the official Opposition's manuscript amendment because, without being big-headed, I think that I can do rather more in my constituency for some of the unemployed there than I can by sounding off in this House. It does not seem to have much effect when we talk here about unemployment. There are certain things that one can do now to help small business men and others by indicating the sort of finance that can be made available to them from companies such as Shell and the various enterprise agencies. I believe that the role of a Member of Parliament over the next few months and years will be much more in that area than it has been in the past. It will probably mean having to spend rather more time in one's constituency instead of taking part in debates in the House and uttering platitudes that do not mean very much.

Mention has already been made of the increase in electricity prices as a matter requiring some investigation. The House and the Minister concerned ought to investigate also what is happening about telex charges. A firm in my constituency has just been told that the annual rent is to go up from £500 to £1,000. It used to cost the firm £25 to move a particular machine; it is now to cost over £200—an increase of 800 per cent. Gas charges are going up by 34 per cent. in the new year. How industry is to cope with these charges, I do not know. It is certain that they will add to the number of unemployed.

When I heard the remarks about young school leavers who did not want to go to work, I immediately thought of my 24-year-old son, who has been going to an employment agency in Earls Court called Extraman Limited. He has to be there at 7 am to wait in a smoke-filled room. By 9 am, if they are lucky, there might be a couple of jobs going for the 20 or so people waiting there. The sort of job that is available is to scrub out a Honda showroom in Clapham. I remember that when I was in the Navy I used to tell the Japanese prisoners of war to chip the cable. We have come a long way since then. My son left that agency feeling very disappointed on three consecutive occasions. That is the sort of experience that our young people are going through at the moment. They want work, and it is untrue to accuse them of wanting to be on the dole. From my own personal knowledge, I resent that sort of allegation very strongly.

I wanted very much to speak in the debate last Wednesday on Northern Ireland. I apologise if perhaps I showed my disappointment too much when I left the Chamber. It is a great shame that we have not had the chance to debate the statement on the Prime Minister's visit to Dublin. I support the initiative that was taken, and I cannot understand why the Government are so coy about it. As with the initiative in Rhodesia, it is something that we on the Liberal Benches greatly welcome, but we should have liked the opportunity to say so at greater length and a chance also to investigate what is on offer.

I felt that the Leader of the House was rather less than fair when I put a question to him last Thursday. He claimed that we had had adequate time to debate the matter on the previous day. He will recall that on the previous day it was made clear to those who wished to raise the subject that they would be largely out of order in so doing. The appropriation orders are really the occasion for debates in which Back-Bench Members from Northern Ireland can raise matters concerning their own constituencies.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I was not really saying that there was adequate time to raise the matter in that debate, because I know the difficulties about keeping remarks in order and so on. What I was saying was that over the period immediately following the Prime Minister's visit to Dublin there was adequate time, taking into account Prime Minister's Question Time and the various other opportunities, to raise the matter, including the one that the hon. Gentleman is now using.

Mr. Ross

I accept that I have the opportunity now, and I am grateful for that, but I think that the only opportunity to raise the matter was in the debate on the extension of the emergency provisions in Northern Ireland. That debate lasted for one and a half hours, and only seven hon. Members were able to take part in it. I do not think, therefore, that we have had adequate time to discuss the subject. It is a pity because, as I said earlier, it is an initiative that I strongly support.

I should like to say one other thing about Northern Ireland. I do not think that we should take too much to heart the protestations of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley). I do not believe that anything that has been agreed upon in Dublin or that has been discussed there will detract in any way from the rights of the people who live in Northern Ireland. I do not think that they have anything to fear from such discussions. I am sure that most of them are bitterly dismayed that there has been yet another breakdown in the talks on the power-sharing Executive. They desperately want to see a political solution. That has been shown by recent opinion polls. They want to see a solution that will give the minority in the North a share in the administration of the Province.

That, strangely enough, is a view that comes also from working-class Protestants. Andy Tyree was reported in the press as having taken that view only two days ago, thereby totally dissociating himself from the hon. Member for Antrim, North, who seems to want a referendum in England, Scotland and Wales. They want the majority to have the right to remain within the Union if that is their wish.

I have sympathy for Ministers, particularly those who now have responsibility for the Province. They have a thankless task. They face a particularly depressing Christmas, which may be fraught with danger. I do not know what more can be done about those nearing their end in the H-blocks. I have visited the Maze prison twice. I was there as recently as last July. It is a modern prison with superb facilities. I have three prisons in my constituency, and the Maze prison knocks them all into a cocked hat.

Certain ideas have been put to those on hunger strike. Representatives of the Department have made visits to the prison. I am sure that every attempt has been made to get sense to prevail. I do not know what more can be done. I hope that the Leader of the House will pass on my message that we shall back Ministers all the way in their determination not to give way on that which cannot be yielded, namely, political status. I hope that Ministers will face better times after the recess, and I hope to God that common sense will prevail before the unthinkable happens.

6.10 pm
Mr. James Kilfedder (Down, North)

It is a scandal beyond belief that three dangerous men, who were held in custody in the maximum security wing of Brixton gaol, should have been allowed to escape with impunity. It makes nonsense of the Government's claim about law and order. They pride themselves on being stronger on that subject than are the official Opposition.

I deliberately charge the authorities, from the Home Secretary down, with, at the least, amazing incompetence and indifference. It is not sufficient for the Home Secretary to appoint the deputy director-general of the prison service to carry out an immediate investigation. The House should not adjourn until we have received answers to certain questions and until people have received some satisfaction. At present, there is grave doubt about the handling of prisoners in Brixton. We need the full facts. Those responsible, through carelessness or as a result of a deliberate act, should be identified and punished.

There could be a terrible aftermath in London. One of the escapees—Tuite—was awaiting trial on charges of conspiracy to cause explosions during the Christmas period two years ago. As a result of his escape, there may be another bombing during this year's Christmas rush in London. It could have been avoided. After many inquiries, the police were successful and captured Tuite. Now, he has escaped and may have already absconded across the sea to the Irish Republic. The House must be given full answers to certain questions. Why was an adequate search not made regularly—a number of times each day—of the cells of category A prisoners in Brixton? Why did not even the daily search—unless it was perfunctory—reveal the removal of bricks and mortar from three walls over a period of days? One of the walls was 15 in. thick. Why were the men not missed from the three cells until either the scaffolding was discovered at the wall in the morning or until the 5 am cell check, which took place seven hours after those three dangerous men were last seen by prison warders?

Are not such dangerous category A remand prisoners supposed to be under constant surveillance? Someone such as Tuite, who was recognised as a violent man who would try to escape and who had been charged with assisting in an earlier escape of an IRA terrorist, should have been under constant surveillance by warders. Why did not the closed circuit television cameras reveal the movements of three men leaving their prison cells, going down a wall and crossing a yard, even if prison warders were deaf to the noise of bricks and mortar being cut out? According to some reports, the police believe that Tuite is in a safe house in one of the so-called Irish areas of London. Wherever he is, he remains a threat to the security of innocent and decent people.

The three men are cruel, ruthless and violent. They are total strangers to decency and humanity. Their counterparts, who are on hunger strike in the Maze prison, demand special privileges on humanitarian grounds. However, they are devoid of any natural feelings. Last Saturday I helped to carry the coffin of a young factory worker aged 20. He was slaughtered by four gunmen as he left the factory. He was murdered in cold blood and in a cowardly way by IRA gunmen, who wish to destroy the economic life of Northern Ireland and who are a threat to all decent working people in the Province.

I understand the behaviour of IRA gunmen, because the IRA is a Fascist, totalitarian organisation that wishes to create something akin to the totalitarian organisation that has given it support—namely, Russia. I understand that Pravda and Tass have come out in full support of the hunger strikers. They have attacked the British for torturing Provisional IRA prisoners and for not allowing them political status. There are no political prisoners in Russia. Anyone who demands civil rights ends up in an asylum. They may not get out of such asylums with their lives and are mercilessly ill-treated. The Russians do not allow much dissent. Anyone who opposes law and order in Russia ends up in Siberia. The Russians are strange companions for those such as Cardinal O'Fiaich, who has also spoken in favour of humanitarian treatment for the IRA hunger strikers.

The young factory worker of 20 who was murdered was a part-time member of the Ulster Defence Regiment. To use a colloquial expression, he was probably "fingered" by someone who knew him and who knew that he served in the UDR. Many accusations are made against the UDR by Republicans. They are superb masters of the propaganda machine and have many friends in the media in the United Kingdom and all over the world. The young factory worker's girl friend was a Roman Catholic. I attended the funeral and I saw the family beforehand. His distraught mother, father, brothers and sisters did not demand vengeance. They prayed that their son's murderers would repent of their evil deed. That shows the attitudes held by ordinary decent Ulster people. Such attitudes are not always conveyed to the public, because the media pays too much attention to some of the more dominant politicians, who convey a certain impression of the average Ulster man.

The IRA has no interest in being merciful to its victims. As I have said before in the House, my cousin's wife was murdered just because she bore the same name as I. A bomb was planted outside the bedroom window of her bungalow, near the border. The murderers are now in the Irish Republic, where they can laugh with contempt at the British authorities. The IRA found that a soft target. The terrorists did not show any mercy to that mother. They did not wish to show any mercy to her, or to the many hundreds who have died at the IRA's evil hands.

One should compare the treatment meted out by the Provisional IRA to its victims and the demands that the Provisional IRA makes. The IRA is only too ready to scream for special category status and for all sorts of privileges when its members are arrested and properly convicted. The hon. member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) said that without the non-jury trial system in Northern Ireland convictions could not be achieved, because the IRA would intimidate witnesses. Indeed, it has already done so.

If Cardinal O'Fiaich and other clergy spent as much time and effort on the victims of IRA terrorism as they have been doing in support of privileges for these fiends from hell, the campaign of sectarian murder of Protestants and others, violence and destruction would be sooner brought to an end.

Another telegram has been sent to the Prime Minister by the cardinal. If he and all clergy were to state to all terrorists, irrespective of their religion, that they would be excommunicated from their Churches, it would help bring about an end to terrorism. Terrorists have believed for 11 years that they have the sympathy of certain clergy. That may be a misconception. Cardinal O'Fiaich has declared that he seeks a united Ireland.

I appeal to the Government to bear in mind the people of Northern Ireland during the Christmas Recess. The hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) sympathised with Ministers in the Northern Ireland Office over what they will have to face over the Christmas period. The House and the Government should think of what the Ulster people will be exposed to during that period. It is certain that people will die in Northern Ireland at the hands of the Provisional IRA, some murdered in an appalling way and others mutilated, leaving grief-stricken families behind.

I ask the Government to stand firm and to show the world that the Provisional IRA is composed of obscene, evil men, who must be destroyed, as evil terrorists must be destroyed wherever they appear.

6.22 pm
Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, Central)

At the outset of the debate, Mr. Speaker sought as best he could to protect the traditional interests of Back Benchers. I hope that I have the support of all the Back Benchers for my remarks.

I cannot recollect a time when a similar debate has been opened with a lengthy speech by a Front Bench spokesman. Traditionally, in such debates hon. Members have rightly focused attention on particular problens that they think ought to be ventilated in the House. When an attack is made on that right of Back Benchers, we had better beware.

This debate was opened with a half-hour speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin). Inevitably, that will cut out some Back Benchers from the debate. If they are not cut out from the debate, they will be cut out from the debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill. Either way, the Back Bencher will lose because of the initiative of the Front Bench.

I hope that there will not be an Opposition Front Bench winding-up speech, because that would add insult to injury. Front Bench Members have had their say. The rest of the debate ought to be left to the Back Benchers and the winding-up speech of the Leader of the House.

Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)

In my recollection, which, unhappily, goes back even further than that of the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton), it is unique to have this debate opened by a Front Bench spokesman.

Mr. Hamilton

The right hon. and learned Member has underlined my point. His experience is a little greater than mine, but we are both quite long-toothed hon. Members.

I hope that both Front Benches will take note of my remarks. Back Benchers should make it clear that they will not tolerate that sort of abuse, because the time ought to be left to them. Front Bench spokesmen have many opportunities to say what they want to say.

There is no doubt that unemployment is exercising the minds of many people throughout the country. I shall give one example of the social and mental disorder that is being created by this problem. Only a few days ago I received a letter from a friend of mine in the North-East, recalling to me that her husband had died a few months ago. She related the circumstances in which he had died. He had been working for a private firm for more than 20 years. One Thursday evening, he received notice that he would be sacked the following Tuesday or Wednesday and would be given three months' pay as his emolument for 22 years' loyal service. Within two or three months that man died from a heart attack. It is difficult to ascertain whether that was due to his being declared redundant in in middle age or to his advancing years. A man who loses his job at the age of 45 or 50 has little or no hope of getting another job.

Much has been said about youth unemployment, which is a serious problem, but it is no more serious than the unemployment and redundancy of the middle-aged man who might or might not have got rid of his family responsibilities.

In that context, I find extremely offensive the words of the Prime Minister on the radio that we should keep taking the medicine. The right hon. Lady adopted the role of the compassionate nurse, but to me she sounded more like Sweeney Todd. There have been hundreds of bankruptcies every month during the past 18 months. In Scotland, 5,000 more people have joined the dole queue every month of the Government's period in office. That is more than 150 extra on the dole every day since the right hon. Lady became Prime Minister, yet to the unemployed she says "Keep taking the medicine". There is no light at the end of the tunnel. Unemployment will become worse rather than better, but the right hon. Lady keeps saying that we ought to keep taking her medicine.

The policies being pursued by the right hon. Lady and the Government are being assailed from every quarter of the political spectrum. In the history of parliamentary democracy in this country, I have never come across attacks such as those of two Tory ex-Prime Ministers, the chairman of the influential Tory 1922 Committee, a former Minister, ex-senior Tory Ministers, Sir Terence Beckett, the director general of the CBI, Sir Michael Edwardes—the Prime Minister's own appointment and pin-up boy in British Leyland—and, not least, Sir Brian Hopkin, the former chief economic adviser to the Treasury, who said in the The Times of 15 April: The Government is blundering about in the dark, for all its stance of firm and informed purpose. Only last Sunday The Sunday Times, staid and ailing, talked about the economics of Alice in Wonderland.This is not from any Labour broadsheet or handout; it is from people who normally not only support but generously pay into the Tory Party's election coffers. All that and Nicholas Winterton, too! We are scraping the barrel now, are we not?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)

Order. It is a long tradition in this place that we do not call each other by name, save in certain circumstances.

Mr. Hamilton

All this and the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), too! But still the Prime Minister stands on her burning deck ordering chief engineer Geoff "Full speed ahead", he knows not where, and all that a few of the crew can do is to spit on the flames. That is the situation that we are now in, and it is not a pretty sight.

I should like to put some facts on the record concerning not only Scotland but my native North-East of England, the North-West, Merseyside and large parts of other depressed areas of urban deprivation. Throughout the United Kingdom there are enormous unsatisfied demands for thousands of new houses, hospitals, schools, a modernised transport system, such as British Rail, and roads. At the same time, there are thousands of unemployed skilled and unskilled building trade and other workers who would give their right arms to be able to build the houses, schools and hospitals and to modernise the railways. It is the economics of the madhouse that this absurd dilemma should be tolerated. Those thousands of workers are not only not able to build those desirable social facilities but are kicking their heels on the dole and consuming hundreds of millions of pounds of social security benefits.

One Conservative Member, who has now left the Chamber, said "Put them all in National Service. Let them help the Africans and the Indians." There is much to be said for that, but there is a good argument for saying that charity begins at home. We could do with many new houses in Glasgow, Birmingham, Liverpool and elsewhere. We need not send these people abroad. We ought to get them to work here, instead of spending the thousands of millions of pounds that we are getting from North Sea oil on keeping them on the dole.

The Prime Minister is now beginning to see the folly of her ways, because she is now talking about constructive intervention, whatever that means. We hope that it is an indication that she is beginning to see that she is making Attila the Hun look like a philanthropist. The right hon. Lady is deindustrialising the United Kingdom at a rate that has not been witnessed since the first Industrial Revolution. Conservative Members know that that is happening.

I should like to pinpoint the problem of the school leaver in Scotland. I am glad to see present a Scottish Minister, the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Fairgrieve). The hon. Gentleman has responsibility for health matters, but I hope that he will be a Post Office boy and convey this message to his superiors.

The number of unemployed school leavers in Scotland has almost doubled in the past 12 months. There will be a greater increase this month as 17,600 school leavers come on to the labour market. There are 12,917 summer school leavers without jobs six months later. There are horrifying prospects for those leaving school this weekend. There is little prospect of their getting jobs. According to the Edinburgh Evening News, there are 4,154 unemployed in the 16- to 18-year-old group in the Lothian, Fife, Central and Borders regions. That is double what the figure was 12 months ago.

The Government are creating not only unemployment but additional hardship, because, as a result of the social security legislation that took effect last month, school leavers, instead of being able to claim social security benefit from the day after leaving school, will not now become eligible until the first Monday in January–5 January. That means that they will have no money for at least two weeks. They will have to rely on parents, who themselves might be unemployed. That problem will be even worse in the summer, because those leaving school at that time will not be allowed to claim benefits until the end of the summer holidays. Those youngsters will have no help at all from anybody for seven weeks. I have made representations on this matter to the Scottish Office. I hope that the Minister will understand the insult that is being added to injury by this kind of legislation.

The measures announced a few weeks ago by the Secretary of State for Employment were welcome, in that they were better than nothing, but only just. In fact, they contradict many of the Government's policies elsewhere. For example, the measures to alleviate youth unemployment are vitiated by the savage cuts in education both north and south of the border. It is no use giving additional training to youngsters after they have left school if at the same time the Government are seeking savagely to cut the quality of education services.

Although emphasis was laid by the Secretary of State for Employment on youth unemployment, long-term unemployment is increasing, especially among older people. The forecast for the United Kingdom as a whole is that there will be about 500,000 long-term unemployed. The measures proposed a few weeks ago envisage only 25,000 places for the long-term unemployed in 1982, but we already have more than half a million long-term unemployed.

The Prime Minister is enemy No. 1 in these matters. The Daily Mirror today refers to a broadcast by the right hon. Lady on 4 May 1977, when she was Leader of the Opposition. This matter should have more widespread publicity than that newspaper gives it. At that time, under the Labour Government, there were 1,269,000 on the dole. The right hon. Lady is reported as having said: I think it's terrible if a person who wants to work can't find a job. You have no self-respect, you haven't got the respect of your family, if, somehow, you can't earn yourself a living and them a living too. Sometimes I've heard it said that Conservatives have been associated with unemployment. That's absolutely wrong. We'd have been drummed out of office if we'd had this level of unemployment. That statement was made when 1¼ million people were unemployed. The right hon. Lady was right to condemn and attack the Labour Government for that figure. We have always said that it was intolerable and unacceptable. However, it is now not 1¼ million but well over 2 million. This time next year it may well be 3 million and still increasing. I say to the right hon. Lady that the sooner she gets out of office, the better it will be for the country.

6.40 pm
Mr. John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)

I seldom find myself in agreement with the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton), but I wholly endorse his opening words about the speech of the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin). I have nothing whatever against the right hon. Gentleman personally. He spoke with his usual charm, but it is wrong that Back Benchers should be deprived of the opportunity of this most important occasion to raise all kinds of subjects.

Mr. John Silkin

It must be within the hon. Gentleman's recollection that in every debate the Front Bench speaks from both sides. I carefully regulated my speech to the normal time. The hon. Gentleman will perhaps also recall that it is a little unusual to move an amendment at the end of the day instead of at the beginning of proceedings.

Mr. Stokes

I shall not pursue the matter. The point has been made.

I oppose the amendment. The House sits too much. No one in the United Kingdom will be one whit less happy because the House will be in recess for three and a half weeks. The amendment is a legitimate political device, but it is too partisan and insincere to carry much weight in the country. Mere debating in this House will not solve the fundamental problems of our nation. I wish that it would.

One subject that is not often mentioned in the House is immigration. We should not adjourn for Christmas until we have had at least a half day's debate on the subject, first, because of its inherent importance and, secondly, because of the forthcoming nationality Bill. Immigration is a subject of public debate that is generally brushed under the carpet. Even the press is nervous of mentioning it. When it does mention the discrimation laws, it seldom dares to say that they are unfair to British people. It is considered in rather bad taste to raise the subject.

Immigration is of supreme importance to the nation. Unless it is checked, and checked soon, it will alter the composition of our country beyond all recognition. Some people want that. They want to destroy our sense of identity as a nation State, but such a fundamental change is abhorred by the vast majority of our people, who have never been asked about the subject and have certainly never had the chance to vote on it.

The worrying facts about immigration are constantly played down by Governments of both parties and by others. The large and growing number of immigrant births in London and certain other cities will mean that in time one-third, one-half or in some cases a majority of their inhabitants will be black. I know that thousands of miles of our countryside will remain untouched, but a revolutionary change will have taken place in our towns, with the indigenous English forming in some cases a minority of the population. That is the legacy that we are leaving to our children, even if we stop all immigration tomorrow.

The loophole in so-called immigration control lies in allowing dependants of immigrants into this country, coupled with the absolute discretion of the Home Secretary, which can be used in a boundless way.

Mr. Dennis Canavan (West Stirlingshire)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Stokes

If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I have waited a long time and so has he. I shall continue.

Net immigration into this country is still continuing at about 50,000 a year, which is an alarming figure. The problem has been with us for only about 25 years, but immigration in the past 25 years will be found to have changed our destiny as a nation and the composition of the nation more than any other event in our long history since the Norman conquest. The problem is hushed up and seldom ventilated. Those who raise the subject are denounced as evil people, yet the House has a right and a duty to warn the nation of the dangers ahead.

Mr. Canavan

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Stokes


On our present course of allowing in such large numbers, we are engaged as a nation in an act of self-immolation unparalleled in world history.

Mr. Canavan


Mr. Stokes

These new people whom we have allowed in to share our heritage differ from us profoundly in religion, morals, habits and customs. The unskilled immigrants are hardly needed here, particularly now, with unemployment as it is, and surely the skilled among them would serve the world far better—if we like, would serve the overpraised Brandt report far better—if they made their contribution in their own homelands, where it is so badly needed.

Fortunately, some immigrants, such as the West Indians, show signs of wishing to return home. Active encouragement and help should be given to all immigrants who wish to return to their homelands.

If we allow immigration to continue on anything like the present scale, this island and its people will become unrecognisable. If we continue diluting our national stock, we shall become a different people. The very name of England and all that it stands for will vanish. [Interruption.] No wonder Labour Members laugh. Some may like to see it.

Finally, no one who reveres our history and achievements and who loves our nation can contemplate such a future. We must act now. I appeal to the Home Secretary and the Home Office to heed my words.

Mr. Canavan


6.48 pm
Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)

The speech of the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) was repulsive, racist and incipiently Fascist.

I wish to deal with the question of the level of unemployment in my constituency and the whole of West Yorkshire. The Conservative Government achievement in my constituency is an increase in unemployment since May 1979 of 110 per cent. That has nothing to do with the Labour Government. It is this Government's achievement. They have more than doubled the level of unemployment in the Keighley travel-to-work area. They cannot argue that it increased under the Labour Government. I am allocating to them their share of the onerous burden that the people of Keighley are having to bear as a result of their policies.

The rate support grant cuts will certainly increase the level of unemployment. There are two large factories in my constituency that produce doors, frames and windows for houses, and the decline in public sector building will almost certainly mean a decline in demand and, therefore, a decline in jobs. It is daft economics to cut public expenditure in order to create longer dole queues, which then create a demand on public expenditure for the payment of unemployment benefit. The priorities are topsyturvy.

We should have a debate as soon as possible on the situation facing the wool textile industry in West Yorkshire. There have been an enormous number of redundancies. I have here a document "newsflash" from the Wool Textile and Clothing Industry Action Committee, which consists of representatives of management and trade unions and Members of Parliament and Members of the European Parliament, together with representatives of local authorities, in West Yorkshire, including Conservative-controlled authorities, such as the West Yorkshire county council. When they point out the serious position of the textile industry, the Leader of the House may take it that they are not making merely partisan points.

Redundancies in the wool textile and clothing industry in 1980 totalled 10,676. That is at the end of a decline in the industry since 1972 from 895,000 employees to 659,000. In eight years there has been a drain of jobs in textiles and clothing of nearly ¼ million. For 10,000 jobs, 8,000 in wool textiles, to be lost in one region is obviously an important, significant and saddening blow.

I hope that we shall have a debate as soon as possible, but before that the Government's policies to staunch the bleeding to death of an important industry must be spelt out. For example, what do they intend to do about outward processing, by which part of the textile process is carried out outside the United Kingdom? The European Commission has proposed for outward processing Malta, Morocco and Portugal, which are all used for outward processing at the moment, but it also suggests that Algeria, Cyprus, Spain, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Tunisia and Egypt should be added to the list of outward processing countries that are acceptable to the EEC. What is the present position and what will the Government do about it? It has been suggested that if outward processing is extended still further there might be a job loss of about 60,000 throughout the United Kingdom. I need hardly point out that such a job loss would be a serious blow to the already crippled textile and clothing industry.

What do the Government intend to do about labelling? There is false labelling by countries such as Taiwan. As evidence to an all-party committee has shown, manufacturers there are prepared to stick on clothes labels that purport to show that they have been made in Huddersfield. What action are the Government taking on that?

The Government have produced a draft order to tighten up the labelling of garments in this country. How long will the consultation process take? Such a move is well overdue, and I hope that the Government will assure us that they will curtail the consultation process as much as possible. Consult by all means, but do not drag out the process. The tightening up of labelling regulations must be concluded as quickly as possible.

High interest rates are causing enormous problems and job losses throughout manufacturing industry. That is mentioned in the action committee's document, but I get the same cry from other industries in my constituency. It is a matter of grave concern that the Government are taking virtually no action.

The high cost of energy, both gas and electricity, is also causing considerable concern to industry in my constituency. It is a heavy burden for industry, just as it is for ordinary consumers. The high cost stems from the high interest rates imposed by the Government and the fact that they are forcing the public sector to borrow less and to finance investment through higher profits achieved by higher charges.

A combination of Government policies is causing massive job losses in every sector of manufacturing industry. As my hon. Friends have pointed out, manufacturing industry is being so badly hit that if the upturn ever comes—which seems unlikely under this Government—we shall not have a manufacturing industry to take advantage of it and to meet demand. We must have action.

Finally, what will the Government do about the multi-fibre arrangement? Will the Secretary of State for Trade initiate a debate in the House about import controls and import quota protection for the industry and spell out how he intends to develop the MFA, which is so vital to the continued preservation of the textile industry?

The Government are in an increasingly desperate situation with their economic policies. They are failing continually and it is about time that some of the much heralded U-turns were embarked upon, at least so that over Christmas and in the new year some of our people have the prospect of a job—a prospect which, at the moment, is very dim for many of them.

6.57 pm
Mr. Bowen Wells (Hertford and Stevenage)

One of the interesting aspects of the debate is the cross-party concern, particularly about unemployment. I was nearly seduced by the quiet, seductive manner of the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin), because I, too, believe that there are important matters that the House should be in session to discuss during the coming weeks.

I shall concentrate on the difficult decisions that have to be taken by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence concerning the acquisition of new weapons for the Navy and the Army. The problem is the possible cancellation of the guided weapons Skyflash II and Sea Eagle, which is an air-to-ship missile and the most technologically advanced missile under development. Those weapons are being seriously considered as cuts in the defence programme. We need to debate that matter before such cuts take place. I fear that decisions may be taken while the House is in recess.

Let me spell out the potential effects of such cuts. Unemployment has increased under both Labour and Conservative Governments. We have to find a solution. I wish that there were more cross-party determination to find that solution. One solution undoubtedly lies in encouraging success among our people. We should encourage people with high technological ability to put that ability to work and to create products of advanced design and technology that can defeat any in the world.

The Sea Eagle guided missile is one of those products. If that guided weapon is cut, the design team in British Aerospace offices in my constituency will be broken up. We shall not be able to maintain those people for the service of this country in the defence industry or any other industry, They will go overseas to develop similar high technological products in the United States, Canada and elsewhere. We shall in turn have to buy back the products. This will have its effect on the advanced industrial base that must be developed in Britain, to replace old, worn-out industries that are creating fewer jobs and continuously losing money.

British Aerospace must have new and challenging design work. Otherwise, there will be loss of employment at the present time and the final demise of British Aerospace in about 10 years. Research and development on the Sea Eagle guided weapon will herald a whole new generation of missiles, together with new technology that can be used in the industrial sphere. If the technology is not developed in Britain we shall not be able to develop the new industries that we need. To cut this weapon would be tantamount to cutting the seed corn that we need to develop the new industries that this country requires.

British Aerospace cannot be left as a one-product factory. At the moment, our missiles benefit from past research and development. We have produced the Rapier missile, which is the finest of its class. It is selling well in export markets. It is British Aerospace's proud record that over 60 per cent. of its products are sold overseas, bringing jobs to this country and enormous benefits to our balance of payments. If the Sea Eagle is cut, British Aerospace will lose credibility as a guided weapon manufacturer. We shall not be able to enter into partnership with the United States to produce the short-range missile now being discussed, because the research and development will not have been carried out in this country. We shall again have to depend on the Americans to supply the weapons for our defence.

The United States, if challenged in defence terms, will face that challenge not only on the Atlantic side but on the Pacific side. This means that the United States will not have the ability to supply the European theatre. There must, therefore, be an alternative manufacturer of missiles in defence terms alone.

The research and development also benefits Britain industrially. The risk is that we shall lose industrial spin off. There have been benefits in the United States. They occur all the time in my constituency, at British Aerospace and other high technology factories. New factories and new small businesses have been started. They make money and within a matter of years have won the Queen's Award for exports. This happens when research and development of the type and quality now taking place in British Aerospace is available.

Unfortunately, we do not seem to be very good at negotiating set-off arrangements when supplying weapons to other countries. The most recent example is the welcome contract with Switzerland for the supply of the Rapier. I hope that the House will congratulate British Aerospace on that achievement. On the issue of Trident, however, no attempt has been made to enable that missile, or parts of it, to be developed and manufactured in this country. This is a great loss to British Aerospace and the country as a whole.

To cut the missile programme would jeopardise the ambitions of the Government and myself to sell off British Aerospace into the private sector to enable it to form a dynamic part of British industry. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has stated that in this financial year the Government will have spent £3,000 million on subsidising steel, the railways, coal mining, British Airways, British Leyland and shipbuilding. The figures involved in the missile area are tiny by comparison. They amount to a little under £200 million, to be spent over a period of four to five years. To cut back at this stage would be cutting our own throats. The effect would be felt not only in my constituency but throughout Britain. I beg the Government not to take such a crazy decision, especially at a time when the House would not be sitting and hon. Members would be unable to turn them from a foolish decision.

There are many defence reasons for not relying entirely on the supply of weaponry from the United States in order to support the United States on this side of the Atlantic. Russia has introduced nine new missiles into service in its forces over the last five years. We have introduced only two. This adds to the urgency of the necessity for the Western Alliance to develop guided weapons that can deter the Russians from using their missiles, which, in some cases, are undoubtedly superior to those available to our forces.

I beg the Government not to make any hasty decision while the House is in recess. The Government should consider the matter carefully before announcing to the House the welcome news that they realise that they must support successful industries and successful research and development, and that they must begin to get this country out of the slough of unemployment and rebuild the country that we all wish to see.

7.7 pm

Mr. Dennis Canavan (West Stirlingshire)

I support my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) in expressing the strongest possible protest at what can only be described as one of the most disgusting and most racialist speeches I have heard in the House, made by the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes). If the hon. Gentleman is intent on a witch-hunt for undesirable immigrants, he need look no further than the other end of the corridor in this building. I refer to those such as the Duke of Montrose, who deserted his native land, left his large estates in my constituency in the charge of his son, went away to Rhodesia and collaborated with Ian Smith in treasonable activities and rebellion against the Crown. I know that the hon. Gentleman has great respect for the Crown. Yet this House and the other place passed retrospective legislation allowing people—

Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for the hon. Gentleman to make such remarks about a Member of the other honourable place?

Mr. Cryer

Of course, when it is traitorous conduct.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. It is in order for the hon. Gentleman to criticise another Member's speech. It is not in order for the hon. Gentleman to cast aspersions on that Member's integrity.

Mr. Canavan

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was merely stating the facts of a well-known situation. A Member of the other place left this country, indulged in treasonable activities and was let off the hook by retrospective legislation passed by this House and the House at the other end of the corridor. That man is now back in this country and is a Member of that so-called legislative assembly. If that is British democracy, it is about time that the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge started looking at that kind of undesirable immigration back into this country.

Mr. Goodhew

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is the hon. Gentleman entitled to call the other place a "so-called" legislative Chamber? Until somebody changes it, the House of Lords is a legislative Chamber of this Parliament. Surely, the hon. Gentleman has no right to speak of it or any Members of that House in such terms.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Strictly, that should be done on a motion. The hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) must confine his speech to why we should not adjourn.

Mr. Canavan

We should not adjourn because we must discuss the future of the colleges of education in Scotland. I am glad that the Leader of the House is to reply, because I want to address my remarks to him personally. Last Thursday he promised me and the Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland that he would discuss the matter with the Secretary of State for Scotland. We were hoping that the Secretary of State for Scotland would make a statement about this important matter before the House adjourns.

An unprecedented incident took place in the Scottish Grand Committee on Tuesday last week, when the Government were defeated by 40 votes to nil. The Government were humiliated. Not one Minister or Tory Member had the gumption to support the Government's proposals to close three Scottish colleges of education. The Committee failed to report its deliberations back to the House. Therefore, it is incumbent on the Leader of the House, who is supposed to look after the interests of hon. Members on both sides of the House and to secure parliamentary democracy and accountability, to explain what the Secretary of State for Scotland is going to do after being hammered in that Committee and as a result of which the Committee has failed to report to the House. We have not heard a squeak from him at the Dispatch Box.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

The hon. Gentleman is talking absolute rubbish when he says that the incident is unprecedented. Does he not recall that a short time ago the Labour Government's plans to close Scottish colleges of education were defeated in the Scottish Grand Committee? Does that not show the hon. Gentleman's hypocrisy? His Government went ahead with plans for college closures, and yet he now complains of that happening again.

Mr. Canavan

The hon. Gentleman is wrong twice. He is wrong to say that the event was not unprecedented. On the previous occasion, the result of the vote was not 40 to nil and Ministers supported the motion although they later changed their minds and the colleges were saved. The hon. Gentleman is also wrong to say that I am hypocritical. I had the guts to vote against the Labour Government because I thought that they were wrong, just as I think that the Tory Government are wrong. It is a pity that some Tory Back Benchers or even Ministers do not have the same consistency as I had in 1977. In order to achieve victory in the Scottish Grand Committee, we did not have to stoop to the tactics that were used in 1977 when Members representing English constituencies were drafted in.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We must not indulge in self-justification. May we return to the subject of why we should not adjourn on Friday?

Mr. Canavan

Talking of justification, the Secretary of State for Scotland and Ministers have failed to provide any educational justification for the closure of the Scottish colleges of education.

I address my remarks to the Leader of the House because formerly he had some responsibility for education. He should have sympathy for education, whether it is in England and Wales or north of the border. The Government are using a former temporary fall in the birth rate and a temporary drop in the school population as an excuse to cut teacher supply. Perhaps the Leader of the House will back my effort to stress to the Government that this is an ideal opportunity to improve the pupil-teacher ratio in our schools instead of using it as an excuse to contract teacher supply.

Both Hamilton and Callendar Park colleges of education are in growth areas. The catchment area of Callendar Park includes my constituency. According to the Government's projection, the growth in population will be 15.3 per cent. between 1978 and 1996. Between 1978 and 1991, the population of under-four-year-olds is expected to increase by over 37 per cent. Yet the Government propose to close the college of education in that growth area. They are, therefore, proposing to cut educational opportunities for today's children and children who will be born in the next 10 years. Just as there is no educational justification, neither is there a financial justification for the contraction of the college system. In the Scottish Grand Committee last week, the Secretary of State for Scotland said that eventually the Government hoped to save the running costs of Hamilton, Callendar Park and Craiglockhart colleges, which cost £3.75 million a year to run. That might sound a lot of money. However, later in the same week the Secretary of State, who says that he cannot afford £3¾ million to run these three important colleges, managed to find £3½ million for an assisted places scheme for private fee-paying schools in Scotland which cater for less than 5 per cent. of children. His priority seems to be to do a hatchet job on the State system of education while giving public money to private fee-paying schools.

The Secretary of State also announced the spending of an extra £300,000 of public money on extra publicity for the school admission scheme. What are the Government playing at? They are trying to close two colleges of education and to submerge another—Craiglockhart—while proposing to spend more than the running costs of the three colleges on an assisted places scheme and a bureaucratic red-tape system to publicise admission arrangements. That does not make educational sense. Not only the education and economic policies of this Government are at stake but, more important, the credibility of politicians, especially the credibility of this Government and the personal credibility of Ministers, including the Prime Minister.

I know that the Leader of the House is a reasonably honest man. I do not often agree with his political pronouncements, but I have always considered him to be a man of his word. That is more than I can say about the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland who has responsibility for education in Scotland. In February he met me, my hon. Friends the Members for Stirling, Falkirk and Grangemouth (Mr. Ewing) and for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. O'Neill) and representatives from Callendar Park college. He promised that he would issue a consultative document before introducing any proposals to restructure the college of eduction system in Scotland. He has broken that promise. He is not a man of his word. Mr. Speaker objected to me and people in Scotland calling the Minister a liar. That is not allowed under parliamentary protocol, but I can say that he is not a man of his word. The Leader of the House is a man of his word. I hope that he will tell the Minister that it is about time that he began to deliver some of his promises.

The Minister followed the meeting with a letter. He put his promise in writing. It was not simply an off-the-cuff comment at a closed meeting at St. Andrew's House with the Civil Service, myself and others. He wrote to Mr. Tom Rae, the principal of Callendar Park college, on 25 February. He said: I repeat the assurance that, at this point in time, we have no porposals before us for the closure of colleges. If, in the light of the information to be examined, we conclude that there is a case for some restructuring, our findings will be incorporated in a consultative document and we shall consult all concerned before any final decisions are reached. We have waited in vain for that consultative document. Eventually, on 6 August—at the fag end of the parliamentary Session—the Secretary of State for Scotland sneaked through a written parliamentary reply stating that he was not only proposing but had decided to close Hamilton college of education, and Callendar Park college of education and to merge Craiglockhart college of education, without so much as adequate consultations with the college authorities.

I realise that often politicians, especially Ministers in this Government, have difficulty in living up to their promises. But in six years in the House, that is the worst example that I have seen of sheer deceit by a Government Minister. It is one of the worst examples of shabby treatment by a Government Minister, not only of fellow Members of Parliament but, even worse, of people who have dedicated their lives to education in Scotland.

I made a remark earlier about the issue reflecting not only on the personal credibility of the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland—who joined in a picket line in 1977 to protect the colleges of education that he is now destroying—but also on the credibility of the Prime Minister. I noted in press reports at the weekend that the Leader of the House was reported as having given up his pet name for the Prime Minister of "The blessed Margaret". He changed it to "TINA" because it stands for "There is no alternative".

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I know that the hon. Gentleman does not wish to prejudice my future. I admit responsibility for the term "The blessed Margaret", but "TINA" has nothing to do with me. I read it for the first time in The Guardian. Someone else can have the glory for having invented that.

Mr. Canavan

I do not know whether one could call it glory. I am sorry to hear that the Leader of the House thinks that the Prime Minister is a candidate for beatification or canonisation. Whether he calls her "The blessed Margaret" or "TINA", I hope that he tells her that there is an alternative—namely, to stick by the commitment that she gave in 1977 when the colleges were under threat from the previous Labour Administration.

The Prime Minister appeared on television in a party broadcast in 1977. I have obtained a transcript from the BBC. I shall read it as I do not wish to misquote people, especially the Prime Minister. The interviewer is a man called George Birrell, who must be Scotland's answer to Robin Day. He said: Our conversation covered a wide range of topics affecting Scotland. Towards the end I asked Mrs. Thatcher specifically about the threat to axe up to four of Scotland's teacher training colleges. The Prime Minister replied: I am not arguing that for the time being we have to cut down the number of teachers—I know we have. Cut down the number of new teachers in training. We accept that for the time being that has to be done, but the argument is about how do you go about it. The scheme that looks best on paper because it's tidy and neat, isn't always the best one in practice. It takes a long time to build up the reputation of a college—it can be destroyed easily. Again where those colleges are doing a very good job, let's keep them in being. I think sometimes it's better not to merge or to destroy colleges, but to say all right we'll keep them all going, because the more widely they are distributed, the more chance people who live near them have to go and train at them and still live at home. So it makes better human sense the way we're going about it than I believe the government scheme does. I ask the Leader of the House to remind the Prime Minister of her fine words in 1977 and to ensure that she stands by those fine words in 1980. What is at stake is not only jobs for teachers but the educational future and educational opportunities for this generation and for future generations of Scottish schoolchildren.

7.28 pm
Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

There are a number of reasons why the House should not adjourn on Friday. First, we understand that a state of disarray has arisen in the fishing negotiations. The news service said that the proposed offer was 36 per cent. of the fishing quotas available within what we now call the EEC pool, or within waters of EEC countries. We understand that the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has accepted that share. I hope that the Leader of the House—or, indeed, someone—is listening so that he can answer the debate. Perhaps I should wait for the Leader of the House to finish talking, if that is what he prefers.

We were told that there were further discussions about access. We always understood that the Government would stand firm behind the policy of the Labour Government—namely, that there should be no access for vessels from any other countries within a 12-mile limit. The story that appeared on the news service was that the Minister was willing to reduce that and demand only that the first six miles should be exclusive to British fishermen, and that there should be some negotiation on access between six and 12 miles. In my view, both of those concessions are unacceptable and would be unacceptable to the fishing industry. If the House will forgive the mixed metaphor, the bacon of the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has been saved by the French, who, we understand, vetoed the whole package, enormous concessions having been made.

The Leader of the House might say that he will try to arrange for a statement to be made by his right hon. Friend tomorrow. I hope that we shall have a statement, but that is not good enough. Month after month since the Government took office, the Minister and his Minister of State have made statements. They have been asked what they will do if negotiations fail. They have replied "They will not fail" or "We cannot tell you". They return the following month, and the same process is repeated. We have pressed them repeatedly to tell us what will happen.

There is an agreement within the EEC that the deadline of the end of the year should be met. Some of us believe that we shall not get the rebate that the Prime Minister negotiated, as there is now no agreement on fishing. However, as the Government have been willing to concede so much, it is not satisfactory for the Minister to tell us that he is willing to go so far and that the proposition has been vetoed. We must have a proper debate so that the Minister can tell us what he intends to do. He can no longer hide behind the fig leaf—it always was a fig leaf—that his conciliatory, friendly and less robust approach will pay dividends. Every time we have reached a single issue, he has conceded and has—I was about to say "become boxed in", but that might be taken amiss—found himself narrowed down until he has given virtually everything away, without getting an agreement. We must know from the Government what they are going to do.

I turn to the second reason why we need to have a debate before the House adjourns. When we debated the Gracious Speech, we spent one day discussing foreign affairs. It was incredible that the Lord Privy Seal made no mention of the problems of Namibia. I hope that the Leader of the House will listen to this pan of my speech and refrain from consulting the Whips. It is an important issue. I think, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that Back Benchers need some protection when they introduce serious matters and the Leader of the House—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The important thing is that I am listening.

Mr. McNamara

The Leader of the House should take an interest in these matters.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I was listening, and I was talking. It is possible to do two things at the same time. I was talking about the reply to the debate.

Mr. Hughes

The Leader of the House has unsuspected talents. We never knew that he could both listen and talk at the same time.

It was incredible that the Lord Privy Seal made no mention of Namibia when he introduced the debate on foreign affairs. For about four years, British Governments—both Labour and Conservative—have been members of the so-called Contact Group of Five, which has been having discussions and conducting negotiations with South Africa in parallel with the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

We have had no opportunity to discuss with the Government exactly what will happen over Namibia. Foreign affairs have been dealt with at Question Time on only one occasion since we were told of the negotiations last month. There has been only one question and one supplementary question. However, we learnt a couple of weeks ago that there was an agreement with the South African Government and with SWAPO that there should be a pre-implementation conference, to begin on 7 January, and that the discussions would be on resolution 435, which, broadly speaking, is the United Nations resolution on the implementation of the Secretary-General's plan for United Nations supervised and controlled elections.

There have been many negotiations and discussions between SWAPO and the United Nations. I should say that SWAPO is the South West Africa People's Organisation of Namibia. There have been negotiations between SWAPO and the United Nations, and between the South African Government and the United Nations, on what should be on the agenda and who should attend the negotiations. It was agreed under the Secretary-General's report that two parties were involved in the discussions—namely, first, the South African Government, who hold all the cards and the purse strings, and who are the illegally occupying Power of the territory that we now know as Namibia, and, secondly, SWAPO, which has conducted a liberation struggle for some years and has engaged in direct conflict with South African forces.

Part of the agreement to have a pre-implementation conference was that the conference would take place in Maputo. The Government of Mozambique issued an official invitation to both parties to negotiate in Maputo. We now find that the South Africans have objected to Maputo. According to today's newspapers, it is now agreed that the conference will take place in Geneva from 7 to 14 January.

We still do not know how the negotiations will take place. SWAPO has good grounds for believing that the South African Government, having said that they will accept the pre-implementation idea, will go to the conference purely as observers. They say that the main bodies with which the negotiations should take place are the internal parties—the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance, led by Dirk Mudge, and various other organisations. It is interesting to note that in elections for the white voters' rule recently held in Namibia the DTA emerged as a loser. I therefore do not know how that body can now be regarded as speaking for the people of Namibia.

Mr. Peter Bottomley (Woolwich, West)

I think that the hon. Gentleman will agree with me that it is important to get on the record that one of the parties that won some of the second tier elections was the Namibia National Front, and that so far there has been no sign of the United Nations calling it to any of the meetings.

Mr. Hughes

I accept that. I accept, also, as I believe SWAPO would accept—I believe that there are 13 political parties of any size and that many others claim some existence, with practically no membership—that the main parties should be South Africa and SWAPO. If South Africa wishes to include the other parties, which are creations of the South African Government, either under the auspices of the Administrator-General of Namibia or under their own auspices, that is all right. However, in no circumstances would I be willing to accept, and nor should the Government, that any of the so-called internal parties should arrive at the conference table to claim a seat in its own right. The internal parties have no rights outside the patronage of the South African Government.

I am as anxious as anyone to see that we have a negotiated settlement as quickly as possible. I have said repeatedly to the Government—I have said it in private meetings with the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs who deals with African affairs—that they must not wait until we reach the position that was reached in Rhodesia, which is now Zimbabwe, when the Government had to give way because they were being defeated by the liberation forces.

The Government are one of the Contact Group of Five. They have never made a proper statement since taking office on how they see the issue proceeding. They accept resolution 385 of the United Nations, which says that there should be United Nations supervised elections, and they accept resolution 435, which is the effective implementation of resolution 385. However, they have never told us how that will work.

Under resolution 385, there will be an elected constituent assembly that will work out the constitution for Namibia. The South Africans are trying to inject into the proceedings, under the heading of the agenda for the conference, "Resolution 435" and "other practical matters". They are trying to inject a discussion on the future constitution of Namibia. They are now making private demands that there should be reserved seats for the whites, on the Zimbabwe model.

It is not for me to decide whether that is a matter for discussion, but the Government must tell us whether that is their intention. I do not think that we can get people to a conference in Geneva under false pretences and under pressure, under whatever private threats may be made on either side, and then face an impossible situation so that the conference breaks up.

A lot of work has been done to try to get this conference off the ground. Immense concessions have been made by SWAPO in order to come to the conference table. If anyone has given way on this issue, it is SWAPO. Very often people say that it is SWAPO that is intransigent and that it is the South Africans who are the good guys. If one looks at the situation, one finds that it is clear that South Africa has always tried to prevaricate and to put off the evil day. Some of us suspect that the South Africans have once again traded on the good nature of the Government, and some would say—perhaps I would say it myself in matters of greater passion—that the Government have once again been conned by the South Africans, who are looking to break this conference and are not really seeking peaceful solution.

Given that we have had a short but reasonable term of this Session, for it to have reached this stage with no statement of Government policy and intentions is appalling and disgraceful. That is why we should have a proper and thorough debate before we rise for the Christmas Recess.

I come to a domestic matter. Government supporters must not charge us with hypocrisy over the unemployment issue. We are desperately concerned about it. I should like simply to put on record, perhaps once again, that every 10 minutes of every day of the 565 days of the present Government's existence, in Scotland alone one person has lost his or her job. The Government claim, and they are right to some extent to do so, that it is not fair to blame them for everything that has happened every day since they took office in May 1979—it seems longer than that. Looking at the last six months, one finds that the Government are claiming that their policies are working, and the Prime Minister boasts that inflation is coming down. But if she is claiming that as a credit, she must also accept the other half of the Government's policy, which involves increasing unemployment.

In the last six months in Scotland, instead of one job being lost every 10 minutes it has been one every 8¼ minutes. That means that in the month since we last had the unemployment figures another 5,200 people have lost their jobs. In the United Kingdom as a whole, for every minute of every day of the 565 days of the present Government, one person has lost his job. If one takes the last six months, one sees that it is two persons a minute. This will mean an increase of over 83,000 in the month since we last had the figures, and as the rate is accelerating it will probably rise by 100,000 this month alone.

We desperately need answers, and we desperately need the opportunity to debate these serious issues. I hope that the Government will take those points into account.

7.43 p.m.

Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)

I shall detain the House for as little time as possible. I recognise that hon. Members want to get away.

I support the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stevenage (Mr. Wells) concerning matters such as Sea Eagle and Sky Flash II missiles, which are vital to our defence programme. At this stage of the evening, I merely ask for an assurance from my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House that no decisions will be taken on these matters whilst the House is in recess. On that basis, I am content with the recess into which we go.

I ask my right hon. Friend to remember that there is no reason why it should be said that because there have to be Government cuts across the whole range of Departments they should apply to the Ministry of Defence. If I am in financial difficulties and find that I have a home that is too expensive, I can move downmarket—and I shall move downmarket and I am trying to do so. If I wish also to cut down, then I can go out less to eat in restaurants which are expensive and eat at home instead. When I have done that, I shall also, if necessary, cut down on the drink that I have at home. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] It is all very funny for Opposition Members, but I tell them that the one thing that I will not do is to cut down on my insurance. That is the one thing that I keep.

In the present situation, the Government must remember that they must act as any normal householder would do. They must see that those things that are not essential are cut down and that the things that are essential, such as insurance for the security of this country, are not run down. I beg of my right hon. Friend to give me an assurance that the missiles and other weapons that are proposed for the Armed Forces will not be cut down whilst we are in recess. I should be very happy to go into the recess with such an undertaking.

7.45 pm
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Leader of the House of Commons and Minister for the Arts (Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas)

This is a traditional debate. It has been preserved by the will of the House against the recommendations of the Procedure Committee. We voted on this matter, and this is a debate of great importance. It had its afficionados, or its stage army or whatever one likes to call them, who are regular attenders, enriched by an occasional windfall from the Smoking Room.

I should like to welcome the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) to the club—not to the Garrick, of which he is such a distinguished member and whose tie he is wearing. I share membership of that club with him. At any rate, the Garrick Mafia is better than the Gang of Three. I think that he would agree with that.

I should like to make one point of reservation. I have some sympathy with the words of the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton). I sometimes agree with him—as long as he keeps away from the Royal Family. I would be sad to see this debate too politicised. I am not so much thinking of the order of speeches, because the right hon. Member for Deptford spoke at the beginning rather than at the end. But it is rather politicising the whole thing to table somewhat absurd amendments, such as we have had today. The first amendment was not called because it was doubtfully in order, and the second was called but has hardly been debated.

The amendment that has been tabled by the official Opposition is a transparent political device. Is it seriously suggested that the House should sit until 24 December—Christmas Eve—and then come back again on 5 January? Every hon. Member knows how unacceptable that would be to the majority of the House. I say to the right hon. Member for Deptford that if the amendment is carried his run as Shadow Leader of the House is likely to be the shortest on record—and the most expensive, when one thinks of all the packets and packages that would have to be unravelled at short notice and at great cost to the subscribers. There would be an absurd scene if the House were still sitting on Christmas Eve—possibly even on Christmas Day—with the staff all here, the Serjeant at Arms here, the Leader of the House here and Mr. Speaker here, in his wig—with perhaps only a sprig of holly to mark the season.

It is a grotesque picture. It is not a serious picture. I accept that the Leader of the Opposition believes in what he calls the theatre of politics, but this is not even legitimate theatre; it is pantomime. I do not believe that anyone outside the House will take this amendment in any way seriously. It was exposed at the beginning of the debate by my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Lewis) and subsequently in a very powerful speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell), who spoke with such verve and force. He gave me a faint idea of what Sir Henry Irving must have been like in his prime.

Only less absurd is the idea that we should come back on the eve of the Epiphany. When I went out for refreshment during the debate, I found a wave of panic engulfing Labour Members in the Tea Room because rumour was going around that the Tories would abstain and that the motion would therefore be carried. Let us therefore have no more of this hypocritical nonsense. I say to the new Shadow Leader of the House, whose appointment I warmly welcome, that these manoeuvres are unworthy of such a sophisticated operator.

I cannot give full replies to all the points that were raised in the debate but I shall try to deal with them. I shall see that a fisheries statement, about which the right hon. Gentleman asked me, is made as soon as possible, and I shall communicate with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food about it. The right hon. Gentleman said that there could by more oral statements if we sat longer. The use of the written answer is essential to the dispatch of parliamentary business. If we did not use it, the business would become so clogged that the House could hardly function. However, it is right and proper that we should avoid excessive or inapporopriate use of the written answer. It should be the servant of the House, not its master, and I will certainly examine on its merits every case that comes to my attention. Precedents are a useful guide here.

The right hon. Gentleman said that there would be more opportunties for questions on the rate support grant were we to sit on. I can promise him a debate on the rate support grant orders as soon as we return after the recess; so there is no substance in that aspect of his speech. There will also be further opportunities to discuss housing. There is a division of principle about the provision of housing. All hon. Members want to see people decently and adequately housed. The difference between us lies in how that is achieved. Clearly, the ideal of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman), now one of the most glittering ornaments of the Opposition Front Bench, is that every person should be some kind of council tenant. That is not the Conservative view. We believe in variety and that there is room for private tenants, council tenants and owner-occupiers.

The right hon. Member for Deptford wanted a further debate on education. No doubt there will be an opportunity for that when we return. He asked about finance and education. Let us not fall into the error of equating expenditure on education with high standards. One does not necessarily, alas, follow from the other. That, apparently, is the belief also of the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock), whom I heard on the wireless early this morning—not an experience that I recommend. He was making the same point.

The most important factor in education is the quality of the people engaged in it. One does not need a skyscraper to construct a formula. To be a good teacher, one requires a teaching nature—a desire to communicate, a zeal to share knowledge and sympathy with the young. That has nothing to do with money. If those qualities are absent, the teacher will not be a good teacher, irrespective of how much he is paid. If they are present he will be a good teacher, regardless of how little he is paid.

The right hon. Member for Deptford raised the question of employment, but since that was raised by a great number of hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Bolton, East (Mr. Young), I shall deal with it at the end of my remarks.

My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) made a thoughtful, stimulating and constructive speech about rates. I agree that they are an unfair and discriminatory form of taxation. It cannot seriously be argued that a form of taxation that is paid by the few while the benefits of it are enjoyed by the many is equitable. The difficulty lies in determining what to replace it with. My hon. Friend found great difficulty in suggesting a suitable alternative. Our attitude was made clear in the election manifesto that was referred to in the debate. It is that we will investigate the matter further, but we said at the election that we would not give it the priority that we are giving to other taxation matters.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Bevan) on a speech that exhibited concern and hope. Sometimes we concentrate so much on the bad features that we forget the many redeeming features and signs of hope.

The hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) asked about Ireland and about the meeting between the Taoiseach and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. That issue was raised by a number of other hon. Members, including the hon. Members for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara), Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) and Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder). While there was no oral statement in the House, a communiqué was issued after the meeting. The absence of a statement here was in accord with precedent. I do not want to get embroiled in that rather threadbare argument yet again, because the substance, not the shadow, is important. The important aspect of the Irish visit was that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister greatly improved the relationship between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. That is a great gain. That is the important aspect—the substantial, not the procedural side of the visit.

For good or ill, we are bound with the Republic of Ireland by common ties of history and geography, and we cannot get away from them. Rather than making prejudiced remarks about the Republic, I hope that we can approach the matter in the spirit of Newman, who always referred to Ireland as "our sister island". That is what Ireland is. It was in that context that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister sought to improve matters in Northern Ireland—by improving relationships between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.

Those are distinctive issues, however. The relationship between the Republic and the United Kingdom is not the same as that between the North and the South of Ireland. However, if relations between them are to improve, a condition precedent is that there should be good relations between the Republic and the United Kingdom.

I add to those that have gone before my plea to the prisoners on hunger strike to give up the strike. They have been requested to do so by the Archbishop of Armagh, Cardinal O'Fiaich, by Cardinal Hume, the Archbishop of Westminster, and by the Government.

By making a general change in the rule about clothing for the prison population in Northern Ireland, we have done our best to ameliorate the situation. However, I must make it plain that the Government's position is unchanged, and I fully support the comment of the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight that we cannot concede political status to those prisoners. Murder is murder, whatever the motives. Our position is unchanged. We shall not concede political status to any of the sentenced prisoners in Northern Ireland, but we remain willing to discuss with anyone who shares our concern about it the humanitarian aspects of prison administration affecting all prisoners in the Province. In that connection, my right hon. Friend has arranged for a letter to he sent to the families of all protesting prisoners, containing a copy of his statement of 4 December, which described the present regime in relation to the demands of the protestors.

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland said, it is no satisfaction to any member of the Government or to any Member of the House to see the human suffering and the risks of violence to others that are involved in the present situation. But we cannot appease on this point. We have made such concessions as are possible, and the position of the Government remains unchanged and unalterable on the question of political status.

With regard to the question of the escape of prisoners in Britain, I shall draw the remarks that have been made to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. The whole situation is being fully investigated.

I turn now to the question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Smith) on the electricity boards and the quarterly and monthly bills that are paid. Strictly speaking, this is not a matter for my right hon. Friend; it is a matter for the electricity boards. However, I recognise the depth of feeling that has been expressed on that point and I shall leave it with my right hon. Friend to see whether anything can be done.

I say to the hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Hardy) that, of course, we are concerned about the situation in South Yorkshire. The Government have received the BSC's plan, and we shall examine it in detail. That will take several weeks, and the Government do not expect to announce their response to the plan until about the end of January.

My hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) spoke first about drugs. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary shares the concern about any indication of an increase in drug trafficking, but the Government support the police and the Customs and congratulate them on their efforts, which have resulted in some notable successes. In my constituency of Chelmsford the police have scored considerable successes, and we can have confidence in their efforts to control and suppress a vile trade.

Questions on defence were raised by a number of hon. Members, including my hon. Friends the Members for Woking, for Hertford and Stevenage (Mr. Wells) and for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew). The Government acknowledge that the Ministry of Defence is exposed to movements in the economy at large in a way that is not shared by most Government Departments. In current circumstances, it faces particular difficulty in managing within its annual cash limits. Nevertheless, control of public spending is essential to good economic management, and cash limits have to be observed. That has meant short-term adjustments in the defence programme and a three-month moratorium, which has had an impact on defence industries.

For some time now we have been in close consultation with industry as to how best to manage the Department's cash flow. It is important to recognise that the Ministry of Defence will be spending more with industry in real terms this year than last and that the Government are committed to further increases in the future.

I give my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans the assurance that no decision will be announced on Sky Flash or Sea Eagle during the recess.

My hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) raised the question of immigration, which he is certainly entitled to do. The Government's policy on this matter remains unchanged. We believe in strict control into this country and equality of treatment for everyone settled here. It is essential that I should stress equally both parts and both principles. I know that my hon. Friend feels deeply about these matters, but so do the people about whom he is talking. It is deeply hurtful to people to cast any doubt about the contribution that they make to society. After all, particularly during this season of the year, the unity of the human race and the equality of every human being must be uppermost in our minds.

I turn now to the remarks of the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer), our most sedulous and faithful attender at these debates, about textiles. The Government have said, and they repeat tonight, that they consider it essential that there should be a successor arrangement to the current multi-fibre arrangement and that the new arrangement should be the best deal that it is possible to obtain for the British textile and clothing industries, taking into account British interests as a whole. Negotiations will not begin in earnest until the latter part of next year, and it is too early to say what might prove to be negotiable. The Government are consulting all interested parties about the specific terms that they should seek. Meanwhile, we fully appreciate the gravity of the situation facing the textile and clothing industries, and we view the continuing closures and redundancies seriously. Within the framework of international agreements, we shall continue to do all we can to promote the welfare of those industries.

The hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan) raised the important question of colleges of education in Scotland. I promised that I would see my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland about the matter. I have written to him and I have discussed it with him by letter, but I shall see him tomorrow morning to discuss the matter personally and orally, thereby living up to the unsolicited reference about me by the hon. Gentleman as a person who keeps his word. I am grateful to him for that tribute.

With regard to the colleges, the point is that for economic, educational and organisational reasons the continuation of 10 colleges of education in Scotland cannot be justified. But, within the parameters of the policy, I shall do my best to see whether the views of the hon. Gentleman and me—mine are somewhat different from those of the hon. Gentleman—are both communicated to my right hon. Friend for the good of Scottish education.

I have answered some of the points raised by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes). He also raised a specific point about Namibia. As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State told the House on 3 November, there will be a meeting, under United Nations auspices, of the parties to the negotiations, starting on 7 January. We hope for confirmation of the conditionally agreed target date of March 1981 for the implementation of the United Nations plan for Namibia. In view of that promising development, I do not think that there is need for a debate. Namibian independence is a priority for the Government in overseas affairs, and together with our Western partners we continue to assist Mr. Waldheim in negotiations to secure implementation of the United Nations plan.

The main reason for the amendment put forward by the right hon. Gentleman and other Labour Members to delay the Christmas Recess is the continuing rise in unemployment. Hon. Members have said that they want a further debate on this subject, or on related subjects, covering some of those industries, such as steel and textiles, which are facing particularly serious problems, and they want it before the House rises. But, of course, it is impossible to do that.

I recognise that hon. Members are motivated by legitimate worries about the position in their constituencies. All that I ask them to do is to recognise that Conservative Members are equally concerned about the unemployment figures. No one can view the steep rise in unemployment without the deepest concern, but the interests of those who have lost their jobs, or whose jobs are threatened, would be better served if we were to concentrate on a practical and realistic discussion about the underlying problems of the British economy and how those can be overcome.

It is the worst sort of adversary politics for some hon. Members to claim that on the Conservative Benches we are blind—which we are not—to the individual family and community problems that are associated with unemployment. It is politically fraudulent to pretend that there are easy or painless answers to our economic difficulties. Hon. Members should remember that for two decades unemployment has risen to new and unattractive record levels in each succeeding recession.

I make this as a point for the record, not as a debating point and not in relation to the discharge of peashooters, to which the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) referred in the debate on the Gracious Speech. Unemployment was much higher under the previous Labour Government than it was under the previous Conservative Administration, and it was higher—and higher for longer—under the Labour Government that was formed in the middle and late 1960s by the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) than it had ever been in the preceding 13 years.

The present Leader of the Opposition has a cavalier way with history, and has sometimes an eccentric view of the past, but I remind him to put this in a wider context—of his own record, and the Employment Gazette is there to remind us of the record of the Leader of the Opposition in Government. Of course, if he had a cure for unemployment we would all be glad to hear about it. If he had had a cure for unemployment at that time, we would have been delighted if he had put it into operation. But from the time when he had responsibility it is far from clear what, precisely, his cure was.

I welcome the right hon. Member for Deptford to these debates. When he was Patronage Secretary in the 1964 Labour Government he must have been concerned with these problems—he afterwards held even higher office—but there were no miracles from the right hon. Gentleman's Administration. Indeed, unemployment became substantially worse.

The point that I want to make is that unemployment has increased and has soared under Government after Government. This is a national problem; it is not a party political problem. There is not one member of the Shadow Administration, with or without portfolio, who does not share in the responsibility for what the Labour Government did. They cannot now tell the House that all we need to do is to follow the policies—to double up in spades—that they pursued in 1974–75 and that everything will then be all right. That would be a recipe not for curing unemployment but for increasing it drastically and for moving towards disaster.

Where would the money come from for the expansion that we hear of? Of course, there is still the myth that we hear from Labour Members that there is a mysterious group of rich people who can be soaked—the dukes and the marquesses, the yachts and the fur coats. One would need shelves of "Burke's Peerage", armadas of luxury cruisers and larger herds of mink than exist even in the fervid imagination of the Tribune group to find that amount of money. I remind Labour Members that higher taxes—which would be the only way that this could be paid for—have their effect on demand, and their effect on inflation, too.

In the debate we have been attacked for being indifferent over the question of unemployment and what we are spending on employment and training measures. Let me give a Cabinet leak here, on the Floor of the House. It is the only safe place to give a leak, because we can be assured that it will not be reported anywhere. The leak is that this decision was agreed unanimously by the Cabinet; by everyone, dry, wet, washed-up—the whole lot.

We shall be spending £570 million in 1981–82 on special employment measures—an increase of £250 million. We shall be providing 440,000 places under the youth opportunities programme. That is an increase of 180,000 over the current year and double the number available in 1979–80. Next year, the Manpower Services Commission plans to offer suitable places to all unemployed school leavers by Christmas 1981 instead of Easter 1982.

We aim to provide every unemployed 16-year-old or 17-year-old with vocational preparation up to his or her eighteenth birthday. We are doubling the number of places under the special temporary employment programme. We have lengthened to nine months the time limit for the short-term working compensation scheme. We are increasing the scope of community industry. Those are not the proposals of a Government who are callous about unemployment or indifferent to the future of the youth of our country.

It is not only untrue but offensive to this House of Commons to claim that any part of the House has a monopoly of compassion. Everyone in the House feels concern about this matter. What good is compassion, I ask the right hon. Gentleman, if we construct an economic system that really can do nothing to help those in need?

The problem is not that we are making too much social provision but that we have an economy which cannot support the social provision that we need. That is the right way to face the problem, and until we get a more flourishing economy we cannot have the social improvements and carry out the social measures that we seek.

In conclusion—[Interruption.] I have been doing my duty; I have been replying to the points raised in the debate. There would by another noise if I did not do that. Some hon. Members have spoken about the Christmas Recess as though it were a holiday. It is not; it is a counterpoint. A recess is as essential to a parliamentary Session as is the Session itself. In a recess one has an opportunity to catch up on work. One has an opportunity to visit constituents. One has an opportunity—if one is so inclined—to think. May I recommend that course to the members of the Labour Front Bench?

It is no good ranting and raving and demonstrating. That is not a substitute for thought. We look to the Opposition to provide alternative policies which would make the economy work better. If they have anything to say that would improve things, let them say it. But demonstrations alone—even if they go back to the Pilgrimage of Grace, which is not a particularly successful example of a demonstration—will not be enough. May I say to members of the recess motion club that it is pleasant to see so many faithful to their old loyalties? I wish them a happy new year and a happy Christmas. I hope that all hon. Members will come back restored and refreshed and ready for the long haul to come.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 219, Noes 276.

Division No. 35] [8.20 pm
Abse, Leo Craigen, J. M.
Alton, David Cryer, Bob
Anderson, Donald Cunliffe, Lawrence
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Cunningham, G. (lslington S)
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Cunningham, Dr J. (W'h'n)
Ashton, Joe Dalyell, Tam
Atkinson, N. (H'gey,) Davidson, Arthur
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Davies, Ifor (Gower)
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd) Davis Clinton (Hackney C)
Benn, Rt Hon A. Wedgwood Davis, T. (B'ham, stechf'd)
Bennett, Andrew (St'Kp't N) Deakins, Eric
Bidwell, Sydney Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Dewar, Donald
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Dixon, Donald
Bradley, Tom Dormand, Jack
Bray, Dr Jeremy Douglas, Dick
Brown, Ronald W. (H' ckn' yS) Douglas-Mann, Bruce
Buchan, Norman Dubs, Alfred
Callaghan, Rt Hon J Duffy, A. E. P
Callaghan, Jim (Midd't'n & P) Dunlop, John
Campbell, Ian Dunnett, Jack
Campbell-Savours, Dale Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G
Canavan, Dennis Eadie, Alex
Cant, R. B. Eastham, Ken
Carmichael, Neil Edwards. R. (W'hampt'n S E)
Carter-Jones, Lewis Ellis, R. (NE D'bysh're)
Cartwright, John Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S) English, Michael
Coleman, Donald Evans, loan (Aberdare)
Conncannon, Rt Hon J. D. Evans, John (Newton)
Cowans, Harry Ewing, Harry
Faulds, Andrew Mikardo, Ion
Fell, Anthony Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Field, Frank Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby)
Fitch, Alan Mitchell, R. C. (Soton Itchen)
Flannery, Martin Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Morris, Rt Hon C. (O' shaw)
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Ford, Ben Morton, George
Forrester, John Moyle, Rt Hon Roland
Foster, Derek Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Ogden, Eric
Garrett, John (Norwich S) O'Neill, Martin
George, Bruce Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Owen, Rt Hon Dr David
Gourlay, Harry Palmer, Arthur
Graham, Ted Park, George
Grant, George (Morpeth) Parry Robert
Grant, W. W. (C'tral Fife) Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Hardy, Peter Price, C. (Lewisham W)
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Radice, Giles
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S)
Haynes, Frank Richardson, Jo
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Heffer, Eric S. Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Hogg, N. (E Dunb't'nshire) Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Holland, S. (L'b'th, Vauxh'll) Robertson, George
Home Robertson, John Robinson, G (Coventry NW)
Homewood, William Rodgers, Rt Hon William
Hooley, Frank Rooker, J. W.
Horam, John Roper, John
Howell, Rt Hon D. Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)
Huckfield, Les Rowlands, Ted
Hudson Davies, Gwilym E Sandelson, Neville
Hughes, Mark (Durham) Sever, John
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Hughes, Roy (Newport) Short, Mrs Renée
Janner, Hon Greville Silkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford)
Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
John, Brynmor Silverman, Julius
Johnson, James (Hull West) Smith, Rt Hon J. (N Lanark)
Johnson, Walter (Derby S) Snape, Peter
Jones, Barry (East Flint) Soley, Clive
Jones Dan (Burnley) Spearing, Nigel
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Spriggs, Leslie
Kerr, Russell Stallard, A. W.
Kilfedder, James A. Stoddart, David
Kilroy-Silk, Robert Stott, Roger
Kinnock, Neil Strang, Gavin
Lambie, David Straw, Jack
Lamborn, harry Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Leadbitter, Ted Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Leighton, Ronald Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Lewis, Arthur (N'ham NW) Thomas Dr R. (Carmarthen)
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Tilley, John
Litherland, Robert Torney, Tom
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Lyons, Edward (Bradf' d W) Walker, Rt Hon H. (D'caster)
McCartney, Hugh Watkins, David
McDonald, Dr Oonagh Welsh, Michael
McElhone, Frank White, Frank R.
McKay, Allen (penistone) Whitehead, Phillip
Maclennan, Robert Wigley, Dafydd
McNally, Thomas Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
McNamara, Kevin William, Rt Hon A. (S'sea W)
McWilliam, John Wilson, Rt Hon Sir H. (H'ton)
Magee, Bryan Wilson, William (C'try SE)
Marks, Kenneth Winnick, David
Marshall, D(G'gow S'ton) Woodall, Alec
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Wrigglesworth, Ian
Martin, M (G'gow S'burn) Young, David (Bolton E)
Mason, Rt Hon Roy
Maxton, John Tellers for the Ayes:
Maynard, Miss John Mr. James Hamilton and
Meacher, Michael Mr. James Tim
Mellish, Rt Robert
Adley, Robert Fookes, Miss Janet
Aitken, Jonathan Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Alexander, Richard Fox, Marcus
Ancram, Michael Fraser, Rt Hon Sir Hough
Arnold, Tom Fraser, Peter (south Angus)
Aspinwall, Jack Fry, Peter
Atkins, Robert (Preston N) Galbraith, Hon T. G. D.
Baker, Kenneth (St, M'bone) Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Garel-Jones, Tristan
Banks, Robert Gilmour, Rt Hon sir Ian
Beith, A. J. Glyn, Dr Alan
Bell, Sir Ronald Goodhart, Philip
Bendall, Vivian Goodhew, Victor
Benyon, W. (Buckingham) Gorst, John
Best, Keith Gow, Ian
Bevan, David Gilroy Gower, Sir Raymond
Biggs-Davison, John Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)
Blackburn, John Gray, Hamish
Blaker, Peter Greenway, Harry
Body, Richard Grieve, percy
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Griffiths, Peter Portsm'th N)
Boscawen, Hon Robert Grist, Ian
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W) Grylls, Michael
Bowden, Andrew Gummer, John Selwyn
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Hamilton, Hon A.
Briaine, Sir Bernard Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)
Bright, Graham Hampson, Dr Keith
Brinton, Tim Hannam, John
Brittan, Leon Haselhurst, Alan
Brocklebank-Fowler, C. Hastings, Stephen
Brotherton, Michael Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
Brown, M. (Brigg and Scun) Hawksley, Warren
Browne, John (Winchester) Hayhoe, Barney
Bruce-Gardyne, John Heddle, John
Buck, Anthony Henderson, Barry
Budgen, Nick Hicks, Robert
Bulmer, Esmond Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Butcher, John Hill, James
Butler, Hon Adam Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Cadbury, Jocelyn Holland Philip (Carlton)
Carlisle, John (Luton West) Hooson, tom
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hordern, Peter
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n) Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldf'd)
Chalker, Mrs. Lynda Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)
Channon, Rt. Hon. Paul Howells, Geraint
Chapman, Sydney Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Churchill, W. S. Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)
Clark, Hon A. (plym'th,S'n) Johnson Smith, Geffrey
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Joesph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Cockeram, Eric Kaberry, Sir Donald
Colvin, Michael Kershaw, Anthony
Cope, John King, Rt Hon Tom
Cormack, Patrick Lamont, Norman
Corrie, John Latham, Michael
Costain, Sir Albert Lawrence, Ivan
Cranborne, Viscount Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Critchley, Julian Lester Jim (Beeston)
Crouch, David Lloyd, Ian (Havant & W'loo)
Dean, paul (North Somerset) Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Dickens, Geoffrey Loveridge, John
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Luce, Richard
Dovor, Denshore Lyell, Nicholas
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward McCrindle, Robert
Dunn, James A. Macfarlane, John
Dykes, Hugh Mackey, John (Argyll)
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke) Macmillan, Rt Hon M.
Elliott, Sir William McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)
Eyre, Reginald McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)
Fairgrieve, Russell McQuarrie, Albert
Faith, Mrs Sheila Madel, David
Farr, John Major, John
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Marland, Paul
Finsberg, Geoffrey Marlow, Tony
Fisher, Sir Nigel Marshall Michael (Arundel)
Fletcher, A. (Ed'nb'gh N) Marten, Neil (Banbury)
Fletcher-Cooke, Sir Cgarles Mather, Carol
Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Mawby, Ray Shepherd, Richard
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Shersby, Michael
Mayhew, Patrick Silvester, Fred
Mellor, David Sims, Roger
Meyer, Sir Anthony Skeet, T. H. H.
Miller, Hal (B' grove) Smith, Dudley
Mills, lain (Meriden) Speller, Tony
Mills, Peter (West Devon) Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Miscampbell, Norman Sproat, Ian
Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Squire, Robin
Monro, Hector Stainton, Keith
Montgomery, Fergus Stanbrook, Ivor
Moore, John Steel, Rt Hon David
Morris, M (N'hamptom S) Steen, Anthony
Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes) Stevens, Martin
Mudd, David Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Murphy, Christopher Stewart, a(E Renfrewshire)
Myles, David Stokes, John
Neale, gerrard Stradling Thomas, J,
Needham, Richard Taylor, Robert (Croydon NW)
Nelson, Anthony Taylor, Teddy (S' end E)
Neubert, Michael Temple-Morris, Peter
Nott, Rt Hon Mrs. S. Thompson, Donald
Page, Rt Hon Sir G (Crosby) Thone, Neil (llford South)
Page, Richard (SW Herts) Thornton, Malcolm
Parkinson, Cecil Townend, John (Bridlington)
Parris, Matthew Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)
Patten, Christopher (Bath) Trippier, David
Patten, John (Oxford) Van Straubenzee, W. R.
Pattie, Geoffrey Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Pawsey, James Viggers, peter
Percivial, Sir Ian Waddington, David
Pink, R. Bonner Wakeham, John
Porter, Barry Walker, B. (Perth)
Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir D.
Price, Sir David (Eastleigh) Wall. Patrick
Prior, Rt Hon James Ward, John
Rathbone, Tim Warren, Kenneth
Renton, Tim Wells, John (Maidstone)
Rhodes James, Robert Wells, bowe
Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Wheeler, John
Ridley, Hon Nicholas Whithlaw, Rt Hon William
Ridsdale. Julian Wickenden, Keith
Rifkind, Malcolm Wiggin, Jerry
Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey Wilkinson, John
Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW) Williams, D (Montgomery)
Roberts, Wyn (Conway) Winterton, Nicholas
Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight) Wolfson, Mark
Rost, Peter Young, Sir George (Acton)
Royle, sir Anthony Younger, Rt Hon George
Sainsbury, HonTimothy
St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N Tellers for the Noes:Scott, Nicholas
Scott, Nicholas Mr. Peter Brooke and
Shaw, Michael (Scarborough) Mr. Tony Newton.
Shelton, William (Streatham)

Question accordingly negatived

Main Question put and agreed to

resolved, That this House at its rising on Friday do adjourn till Monday 12 January