Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, at its rising on Friday 30th July, this House do adjourn till Monday 18th October and shall not adjourn until Mr. Speaker shall have reported the Royal Assent to the Appropriation Act and to any other Acts which have been agreed upon by both Houses.—[Mr. Biffen.]
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Have you selected the amendment in my name?
§ Mr. Speaker
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, and sorry to disappoint him. The answer is in the negative. I did not select the amendment, but no doubt the hon. Gentleman will be fortunate enough to catch the eye of whoever occupies the Chair and can advance his views.
§ 4.4 pm
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)
I wish to raise with the Leader of the House a matter of which I hope I have given him adequate notice. The matter affects affairs during the prospective adjournment of the House that should be taken into account before the House rises. It concerns the administration of justice in Northern Ireland, especially the administration of the county courts. That administration is the responsibility of the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General, and in Northern Ireland we have been conscious of the personal interest of both those Law Officers in their duties in Northern Ireland.
To mention courts of law in Northern Ireland brings to mind criminal justice, but promptitude and efficiency in the administration of civil justice is no less a requirement than in the administration of criminal justice. In Northern Ireland, any delay in the administration of the law and any impediment to the citizen in obtaining redress is a proper cause for anxiety.
By an order that came into force on 1 June, the jurisdiction of the county courts—the limit of the value of cases brought before county courts in that province—was increased in line with similar increases affecting the county courts in England and Wales. However, although the order for England and Wales was debatable and was debated in another place, under the present constitutional arrangements for Northern Ireland we have not been able to debate the implications of that extension of jurisdiction of the county courts.
Such is the pressure upon the county courts and such are the physical difficulties faced by those who work in them, that, whereas an order of the High Court can be obtained by the litigant's solicitors from the appropriate office within a few days, in the county courts—some of the poorest people and those in the greatest difficulty have recourse to the county courts—especially in Belfast, which covers the main areas of population in the Province, it usually takes five weeks from the date that the court gives its judgment for the order to be corrected. That statistic, which refers to the period before the increased jurisdiction, cannot be acceptable or satisfactory. The pressure will be increased abnormally by the increase in the jurisdiction.
In England and Wales it was estimated by those commending the extension of the jurisdiction that it should be about 3 per cent. this year. The minimum such estimate that has been made for Northern Ireland is 9 per cent. Arguments that have been advanced in a most detailed and logical manner by the Law Society and the Belfast Solicitors' Association, show that it is much more likely to be about 20 per cent. or 25 per cent. That is based upon 1241 an analysis of the value of the cases that have come before the High Court in recent years and which, under the extension of jurisdiction, are likely to be moved to the county courts.
It is one thing to preach lightly so minuscule an increase in burden as that anticipated in England and Wales, but when one is to place, at any rate a 10 per cent., and those best qualified believe a 25 per cent., increase in burden upon the already overburdened county courts of the Province, then those who represent Northern Ireland are entitled to remonstrate and to ask that certain undertakings be given by the Government before the House rises.
The undertaking that I have in mind is that the deficiencies, both of staff and equipment, which even before the extension of the jurisdiction were imposing unacceptable delays and inefficiencies in the administration of justice, will be swiftly removed in the next few months. Had we had the opportunity to make these representations on the Floor of the House before the enactment took place, we would have sought an assurance that the order would be implemented only pari passu with the increase in the facilities. I believe that that is technically impossible now that the order has come into effect on 1 June.
Shortly before that debate, in a written answer on 27 May from the Solicitor-General I was told that:I am assured that there are sufficient premises and staff to cope with this increase when it"—I think "it" means the order—comes into effect on 1 June."—[Official Report, 27 May 1982; Vol. 24, c. 371.]With the greatest respect to the Solicitor-General, he is misinformed. Indeed, the figures that I have already given to the House show both the fact and the extent of the misinformation which must underlie such an assurance as was given to him. The assurance that I therefore seek through the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House I shall put in a different form.
It is that without delay, and in no circumstances as late as the resumption of the House, the Law Officers of the Crown will urgently assess the deficiencies in the county courts of Northern Ireland, both in terms of staff, that is the judiciary and the assistants of the judiciary, and the physical equipment of the courts, and will make a public statement as to the speed with which they expect to remove them.
I venture to say that neither the legal profession nor the laity in Northern Ireland ought to rest satisfied with the previous level of delay in the administration of justice. They should expect some indication from the Law Officers responsible for that administration that within the next three months those deficiencies will be removed so that those who, as a result of this extension of the jurisdiction, will take their cases—and there are advantages in doing so—to the county court instead of the High Court, can look for no less prompt satisfaction of their claims than they would have obtained under the High Court procedure.
Unless that can be assured, it is a mockery to seek to assist litigants by increasing the jurisdiction of the county courts. Therefore, I trust that the Leader of the House, on behalf of the Law Officers of the Crown, will be able to recognise the unacceptable circumstances to which I have drawn his attention. I trust that he will undertake that they will be of immediate concern and the subject of an inquiry of the Law Officers, and that within the next three months we in Northern Ireland shall have reason, in terms of a 1242 statement by Law Officers, to anticipate a dramatic improvement in the efficiency of the administration of the civil law in the civil courts.
As I said at the outset, one is dealing here with the civil jurisdiction, but it would be rather absurd for an hon. Member representing a Northern Ireland constituency, in raising a question affecting civil jurisdiction, not to draw attention to the fact that still, despite proposals for the extension and improvement of the existing courts, the physical circumstances under which the criminal law is administered in Northern Ireland are in many places completely unacceptable and would be found shocking by hon. Members if they were to visit those courts.
I add that lest anyone here or elsewhere should assume that by raising a matter that affects civil jurisdiction I was in any way implying satisfaction on the part of my hon. Friends or myself with the circumstances in which physically the criminal law is administered in Northern Ireland. I trust that that point too, although one familiar to the Law Officers of the Crown, will reach their ears, once again and loudly, through the mouth of the Leader of the House.
§ Mr. Fergus Montgomery (Altrincham and Sale)
Before the House rises for the Summer Recess some consideration should be given to what to do with those who commit terrorist offences. The crimes that were committed in London just last week are too vile to bear mention, and I cannot help but wonder at the mentality of those wo can plant bombs in the way that those people did. They put bombs under a bandstand at lunchtime when a concert was about to take place and when innocent children could have been there. They planted a bomb filled with nails and watched the Blues and Royals ride through Hyde Park and draw near to it before exploding it. Those people must have the minds of sadists to do such terrible things.
I am thankful that I was not in that area, as some hon. Members were, to witness those terrible scenes. We did not pay sufficient tribute to the enormous amount of work that was done to help, particularly by the police. I feel sad that certain Liberal Members chose that same day to attack the police. If those hon. Members have evidence of corruption in the Metropolitan Police, their remedy is to send evidence to the Attorney-General or the Director of Pulblic Prosecutions. The necessary investigations could then take place. To make the bland charges that they made and to blacken the reputations of a large number of innocent members of the Metropolitan Police Force is not fair play.
The terrorist incidents last week caused tremendous shock in this country, and there was a universal call that the people responsible for these events must be caught and brought to justice. I quote part of a letter in the Daily Mail on 26 July from a lady who lives in St. Leonards on Sea. She says:Before the expressions of rage and horror die down, and complacency becomes the order of the day again, can someone please answer a few questions for ordinary folk like me?Why are so few IRA terrorists brought to public justice? Why are they apparently allowed to parade through the streets, and fire tributes to their dead members at funerals.And why are we so eager to fight injustices and tyranny in the Falklands (and quite rightly so) and yet are so ineffective against the enermy within?I realise that the Northern Ireland question is a very complex matter and difficult for we lay people to understand. What we do notice, however, is the pride wth which the IRA claim 1243 responsibility for their atrocities andthe number of innocent bystanders and the families of policemen and soldiers who suffer at their hands.Such points have been repeated over and over again by millions of our people.
It is because of this that we have to think seriously of what to do to those who are found guilty of terrorist offences. I realise that on several occasions the House has overwhelmingly rejected the idea of reintroducingthe death penalty. However, before we leave for the Summer Recess we should have some chance to discuss that vexed question again. There are a number of reasons why I believe that the death penalty should be brought back as a deterrent.
First, life imprisonment does not seem to have deterred the terrorists. The risk of being put in prison for the rest of their lives does not stop them planting bombs. No doubt they hope that one day there will be a political solution in Ireland, and that they would then get an amnesty because they would be regarded as political prisoners. Secondly, capital punishment would be a deterrent, and, as a consequence, innocent lives would be saved. Thirdly, I believe that the overwhelming majority in this country are in favour of capital punishment for those found guilty of murder by terrorist activity. People generally are becoming increasingly cynical because they think that hon. Members are completely out of touch with their views and that we ignore their wishes.
I am sure that even the strongest abolitionist in the House would not deny that a referendum would show overwhelming support for the restoration of capital punishment. I do not see why hon. Members should feel that we know better than the people whom we represent how to cope with the terrorist threat. The IRA itself realises that capital punishment is a deterrent. As Sir James Fitzjames Stephen, the eminent Victorian lawyer and writer on legal history stated,No other punishment deters men so effectually from committing crimes as the punishment of death".As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) said in a previous debate, the IRA believes in capital punishment. It uses capital punishment for those who renege on it. It would follow, therefore, that if capital punishment were restored for terrorist offences, it would deter some IRA supporters. The IRA thrives on the fact that it can put fear and terror into the hearts of many people. As a consequence, many of its members are shielded. Is it not likely that the security forces would get more information about the whereabouts of IRA activists if people realised that they had just as much to fear from the State as from the IRA?
The outrages in London on 20 July shocked the world. I hope that the Irish Americans who give money to Noraid now see clearly how that money was spent. I only hope that the shock of knowing that six inch nails were exploded into the bodies of helpless men, women and animals will mean the drying up of financial aid for the IRA from the United States. The monsters responsible for those crimes boast about it, and do it in the name of a united Ireland.
I am Irish. My grandparents were all Irish. On one side they were Northern Irish Protestant Orange, and on the other they were Southern Irish Catholics. It is a terrible mixture, and perhaps that explains a great deal. As a child, 1244 I saw the tremendous bitterness that religion caused between different members of my family. It taught me one thing: never to argue anybody's religion.
As one of Irish descent, I cannot help wondering why the citizens of Eire who come to this country are given preferential treatment. They can come and go as they please, free of immigration controls. They have the same rights as citizens of the United Kingdom to our social services and the National Health Service and—surprise, surprise—they can also vote in our parliamentary elections. If there were reciprocal agreements, and if citizens of the United Kingdom who live in Eire could vote in parliamentary elections there, and take the benefits of their social services, I could see some justice in the arrangement, but that is not so. It is entirely a one-way traffic. That should be examined seriously because the latest terrorist attacks have sparked a mood of resentment in this country.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (Newham, North-West)
Has the hon. Member checked his facts? Both Eire and Britain are members of the EEC, and I understand that the EEC had stipulated that any resident of an EEC country must receive the same social services as he obtains in his own country. The hon. Gentleman shakes his head. Certainly, the French, the Germans and the Italians who come here are entitled to our social services under the EEC rule. I should have thought that Eire should reciprocate under the EEC regulations, even if it does not do it by an arrangement with Great Britain.
§ Mr. Montgomery
I think that that is done by individual agreement, but certainly the citizens of France, Western Germany and other members of the EEC cannot vote in our parliamentary elections. That is what I am saying.
The latest terrorist attacks have sparked a great mood of resentment in this country. People feel that those privileges should be stopped and that the citizens of Eire should be treated exactly the same as our other European neighbours. Certainly, we did not get much support from the Prime Minister of Eire during the recent conflict in the South Atlantic. In truth, not only did Mr. Haughey not give us much support, but he could not put the boot in quickly enough. I remind my right hon. Friend that one of the problems facing our security forces in Northern Ireland is that IRA terrorists come and go across the border with impunity.
My hon. Friend will also realise that British courts cannot touch the terrorists, because the Dublin Government regard them as political offenders. As a consequence, they are safe from extradition. I am sure that my right hon. Friend agrees that the time has now come to deal with these privileges which have existed for many years for what have been termed by respective Ministers in successive Administrations historical reasons. I very much hope that I can have an answer to the matters that I have raised before we rise for the Summer Recess.
§ Mr. Clinton Davis (Hackney, Central)
I want to raise certain matters, primarily about immigration—of which I have given notice to the Leader of the House—as matters that should be looked at before the House rises.
The Summer Recess, generally speaking, gives rise to certain difficulties for a number of people who, often for 1245 legitimate reasons, wish to visit this country, seek admission here, and are confronted by peremptory refusal by immigration officers. Such people, particularly during this long recess, often find it virtually impossible to make representations through Members of Parliament, even when the visit is likely to be of short duration and the application is refused at the point of entry. Members of Parliament, particularly during this recess, may be difficult to contact. People who come here may not be aware that they can make such representations and that help is available in that way. There must be a better system for dealing with such matters, because adverse decisions can often have devastating effects on the people concerned, who, perhaps, are prevented from meeting relatives whom they have not seen for a long time, even when there are compassionate circumstances, because the immigration officer does not believe the person seeking admission.
The situation is made far worse because there is a lack of a coherent policy in the Home Office for dealing with people from countries such as Iran. Alone among all the EEC countries, we appear to be adopting a far more inflexible policy to people from Iran who seek to remain in this country and who, by any reasonably objective standards, would qualify as political refugees. We are talking here of a Government who afford no recognition of the elementary standards of justice that we in this country take for granted. Iran is a country where there are summary executions and where torture is the order of the day. Nevertheless, our Government, at least in their immigration policy, seem to consider that the Iranian Government have a somewhat benign face. Evidently, for that purpose at least, although in some respects they proclaim otherwise, they are unaware or uncaring about the excesses and uncivilised behaviour that mark that Government. People who oppose the fundamentalist views of the Iranian Government face a risk of dire penalty if they are forced to return, although, of course, some cases are not so extreme.
During the recent debate on immigration, I drew attention to a constituency case of a young Iranian woman who had studied architecture in Britain. She had become used to the modern standards that apply in Britain and which are completely foreign to those currently applying in Iran. For her to be forced to return to Iran was unacceptable and even abhorrent. Yet, it was the Minister's decision that she should return. It so happens that she was saved from that fate because she married a British citizen, but the issue of principle was not faced by the Minister.
It is unacceptable that all too often the burden of proof of establishing that a person resident here and seeking to remain here would, in such circumstances, be exposed to the treatment to which I have alluded—harassment and punishment—should fall upon them. Such persons must establish that those penalties would necessarily befall them. That burden of proof is exceptionally difficult to discharge in individual cases. It may be too late when they are forced to return and those penalties befall them and the trap is sprung.
I regret that the Minister's views about this subject are so painfully inadequate. It is incumbent upon the Home Office to review its policies in this respect as a matter of great urgency. During the debate on immigration on 28 June 1982, in reply to my question about Poland, the Minister said: 1246In the prevailing circumstances, we are not returning people to Poland."—[Official Report, 28 June 1982; Vol. 26, c. 690.]Hon. Members would generally agree that the activities of the Polish Government are, in many respects, wholly unacceptable. There are serious breaches of human rights, but they are not in the same league of horror and abomination as exists in Iran today.
Why should such a distinction be drawn? Why not extend the same policy to Iranians? The Government should not place such people in such appalling jeopardy. The benefit of the doubt should be given to them and we should do exactly the same as we have done in regard to Poland.
I turn from that to an issue affecting South Africans—primarily white South Africans—some of whom feel that because of the racist nature of our immigration laws there must be some white victims to establish the Government's credentials in purporting not to apply racist standards in the operation of our immigration laws. Many South Africans seek permanent residence in Britain because they abhor the concept of apartheid and find the idea of returning to South Africa as utterly unacceptable as did the Iranian lady who faced being made to return to Iran. Here again, the Home Office appears to have no coherent policy.
We should not apply a strict, inflexible view to matters, almost, of political asylum. We should broaden the considerations and criteria that apply. That is particularly true of young South Africans who find abhorrent the idea of having to serve in the South African Services, perhaps being made to serve in Namibia, or Angola, making incursions of hundreds of miles, perhaps playing some part in suppressing human rights in South Africa. Those views should be taken proper account of.
However, in a case which I dealt with professionally rather than as a constituency matter, the Minister wrote to me through a Member of Parliament on 13 January, saying, in relation to young South Africans,We are currently reviewing cases involving South African nationals who wish to remain in the United Kingdom in order to evade military service in their own country.On 12 July he wrote to say thatThis review has been completed, but I regret to inform you that the particular young South African has to return.Is that fair? Is it equitable? Does it accord with the standards of justice that we think should be applied in Britain? Should not we apply a far broader concept in relation to our immigration policies in that regard?
Finally, I turn to an unrelated but important matter that was partially raised during Prime Minister's questions today. It relates to the need to ensure that the British shipbuilding industry can flourish if orders do not go abroad. What steps are the Government taking as a matter of urgency to confer with the shipowners, through the General Council of British Shipping, about flagging out? In other words, what steps are being taken about the avoidance of responsibilities that should be applied internationally to ensure that there are decent standards of employment and that ship-owners do not escape their obligations?
Recently several of our merchant vessels went to the Falkland Islands. The National Union of Seamen gave unstintingly in its efforts then. All sorts of tributes were paid at that time. How lasting will those tributes be? If some of the British shipowners had had their way, if the National Union of Seamen and the Merchant Navy and Air Line Officers Association and other shipping unions, had 1247 not fought against flagging out on the part of some of the owners of vessels that went to the Falkland Islands, they would not have been able to sail.
If the Minister were to say that we can always repatriate the vessels in time of emergency—there may be such an agreement but I do not think that it would always apply because seafarers cannot be repatriated—it must be remembered that one of the corollaries of flagging out is that decent standards are abandoned in the seafaring community and there will not be a seafaring community worth its name in a few years' time. That has been found to be the case in the United States of America. THerefore, faced with such a crisis again, we might not be able to crew the necessary vessels.
That is an extremely dangerous situation. I see no evidence that the Government have thought positively about that dangerous state of affairs. If there is to be a credible defence policy, one cannot apply the standards of the market economy to a vital branch of that defence strategy. Yet it is that market economy to which the Government seem to be totally wedded, however irrelevant it may be.
I urge the Government to think seriously and positively about our Merchant Service. It must be recognised that those concepts cannot be applied because they would inevitably weaken the contribution that the Merchant Service can make. I hope that the Leader of the House will assure hon. Members that the Government are giving those matters urgent attention. If they do not, grave damage will be done to the whole fabric of Britain's defence strategy.
§ Mr. John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)
We should not adjourn for the long Summer Recess until we have debated the state of the police forces in this country. However, before coming to that subject I wish to mention briefly another topic that I spoke about this time last year. I refer to the condition of the Church of England and other Churches in Britain. I know that this subject worries many hon. Members. The controversy that unfortunately broke out about the content and style of the service on Monday for the Falkland Islands typifies the problem that the House increasingly has to face vis-a-vis the Church.
We are supposed to deal with matters temporal, and the Church with matters spiritual. However, unfortunately many of the bishops and clergy, instead of being concerned with the state of individual souls and fundamental matters such as sin and redemption, seem much more interested in secular subjects such as nuclear disarmament, pacifism and what I would call general welfare matters—that subjects that are so loved by the Liberal intelligentsia. Can one wonder the the churches are emptying as a yawning gap develops between what the clergy think and talk about and what ordinary people believe, and expect the clergy to teach them?
This issue must deeply concern the Synod, but if it fails to deal with the problem it will be our duty to step in, once again.
§ Mr. Stokes
I shall not give way, because many hon. Members wish to speak and interventions will lessen the time available for their speeches. After all, the hon. Gentleman is a frequent contributor to our debates.
1248 As a loyal churchman, this subject is extremely painful to me and so I shall say no more about it now. However, unless there is a change among the bishops and clergy, and unless they return to fundamental truths instead of the more modish, fashionable but temporary phases of thought, the House will have to return to it.
In recent months many people have been concerned about the state of our police force. Therefore, we should certainly debate that subject before the Summer Recess. I do not mean, of course, that we should attack the police. That would be wholly wrong and utterly irresponsible. Nor do I want the police forces in the provinces to come under political control. That would have the most dangerous consequences. However, I wish to propose one fundamental reform: that the police force should introduce a new officer class. I ask hon. Members to consider the difficulties under which the police have laboured in recent years.
Under the Labour Government, as we all know, the police were underpaid and seriously under strength. Many experienced men in the middle ranks left the force. They had to contend with a continual rise in crime and, above all, in crimes of violence. The Old Christian morality and standards were breaking down and in many urban areas, particularly in new towns and on new estates, people seemed rootless and seemed not to know where they belonged in society. Parents were no longer so strict or confident in training their children and the wretched permissive society of the 1960s and 1970s did not help matters. Therefore, the police had to face not only new difficulties, but new problems with immigrants as well as the terrible rioting that was formerly unknown in this country's long history. The police were not helped by the activities of the pro-immigrant lobby, or by some of the statements made by Lord Scarman, who suggested that the police should go easy on the blacks.
The other day I read a complaint from a senior policeman in one of the former riot areas. He said that nowadays a riot could easily be caused by stopping a black to ask him not to ride his bicycle on the pavement or by asking a motorist for his licence. The police can be helped only if the law is applied equally to everyone and if newcomers adopt our standards of conduct and behaviour.
The police record in relation to the continuing menace of terrorism is good. They have also had their successes in dealing with the drug problem. However, incidents such as burglaries and street crime have unfortunately defeated them. The public has a large part to play in assisting the police and those who criticise the police should particularly remember that. Despite its faults, our police force is still the best in the world. The local bobby, who is now increasingly returning to the beat is, in most places, a popular and respected person. Our police are certainly gentler than many foreign police forces. They need all the help that we can give them.
Nevertheless, recent events have been disturbing. The bungling and delays in capturing the Yorkshire Ripper were deplorable. Recent events in Buckingham Palace are almost unbelievable. On hearing about the slackness of Buckingham Palace's resident police I immediately asked myself where the orderly officer was, but of course, there was no such officer.
Corruption in the Metropolitan Police is the most serious problem of all, although I deplore those who exaggerate the possible number of police involved. My next remarks apply both to the Metropolitan Police, with 1249 its own special problems, and the provincial forces. The whole force lacks and needs leadership at every level. That can be properly provided only by introducing a new officer class, properly recruited and trained, starting in a college such as Sandhurst, and on the lines of Her Majesty's Forces. That reform would take several years to have its full effect but it would, at once, change the climate and morale in the whole force. I am well aware that the function of the police service is quite different from that of the Armed Services, but leadership is still required and that leadership has been lacking. The police need the leadership that officers in Her Majesty's Forces give.
Since the end of Lord Trenchard's experiment along those lines before the war, the police force has been, in Sir Robert Mark's phrase, "an artisan force". That is to say, everyone has to enter the force as a police constable and has to work his way slowly and solidly up the ranks. There will always be some who will rise in that way, and that is wholly admirable, because they have the highest personal qualities. That should be the exception, not the rule.
No one in the Armed Services believes that all senior officers would have risen from the ranks. I hope that those new men who might enter the police force to become officers would be the product of our public and independent grammar schools, where the accent has always been on leadership. Leadership of the highest standard from men of a higher social and intellectual background is urgently required in the police force. Their entry would quickly alter the social composition of the force and give a sharper and clearer definition to the fight against crime and today's horribly clever criminals. I believe that corruption would be rooted out in a remarkably short time.
Too many comparisons must not be made between the police and the Armed Forces, but it is sad that when our forces did so well in the Falkland Islands the police should be having their present difficulties. I hope that the Home Secretary will consider my words carefully. He knows that I am pro-police, and that I want to help. I do not believe that the present position should be allowed to continue. I see no other long-term solution except the creation of an officer class. No obstacles should be allowed to stand in the way—no inquiries, no further delay and no pressure from the Police Federation of England and Wales. The nation expects quick and determined action to raise the status of the police forces to that enjoyed by the Armed Services and to put right what has unfortunately gone wrong.
§ Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
This is rather a shock. I want to draw the attention of the House to a matter that has not been discussed during the Session and which I think will be discussed at great length when we return on 18 October and throughout the Session. I may be wrong.
The nurses are still fighting for their wage increase. In case any of my hon. Friends are interested, there is a group of them in Victoria Gardens near the Emily Pankhurst statue. They will be pleased to see any Opposition Members—I do not know about Tory Members—to explain that they will be fighting for their wage claim after the House has gone into recess. I have no doubt that other hon. Members will refer to that matter.
I have been watching the signs over the past few months of the impending international banking collapse in the way that I did in 1972, 1973 and 1974. It was apparent to me, 1250 but not to many people then in Government or in Opposition, that there was a possibility of a banking collapse.
Many people thought that because the then Leader of the Liberal Party was one of the directors it was wrong to refer to London and Counties Securities Group Ltd. which was slipping down the drain fast in the summer of 1973. It was part of the collapse that took place during the summer of 1973–74, which resulted in the Financial Times index dropping to about 146 points in the Following January after the Labour Government were returned. The collapse was sparked off because of all the money that had gone into property speculation. It was somebody else's money and it was there to be burnt. Many other secondary banks used other people's money without penalty, making profits—
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Biffen)
It was not real money.
§ Mr. Skinner
I agree with the Leader of the House that it was not real money. The secondary banks only played at monetarism when it suited them and when it made profits. The moment that the money started to go down the drain, they did not want to play that game. They wanted somebody else to bail them out. The people that did that were the taxpayers—those maligned workers who are talked about whent they threaten to take industrial action or take a couple of days off work, those whom the Tory Government and others, unfortunately, think are ruining the economy. Keyser Ullmann, is headed by the right hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) who is trying to make headway in the House, so I am told.
I read a report this week that the Bank of England is still setting aside money—nine years later—to cover the 1973 secondary banking collapse. Since then interest rates have shot up higher. There is a temporary lull because of the mid-term elections in the United States of America and other factors in the British economy. The United States banks are making efforts to reduce interest rates because of the problems in the banking system. Unless something drastic happens in the future interest rates will continue to increase.
Whenever there is a crisis or collapse of that kind it is always the workers, the unemployed, the taxpayers and the ratepayers in this and other countries who have to pay the bill. The picture now is not of an imminent collapse in the secondary banking system, but a crisis of more gigantic proportions—the collapse of the primary banks. We are on the verge of an international breakdown.
The right hon. Lady the Prime Minister returned recently from summit talks and talked about rescheduling the Eastern block debt, as if there were only a problem with Poland, Hungary, Rumania and Yugoslavia. That is not the case. The big debtors to the Western banks, and principally the United States banks, are Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Taiwan, the Philippines and South Korea. Those are the countries where the Americans, like a travelling pawnshop, with their ever-rising interest rates, have gone with their petrodollars saying "Here is your money. It does not matter whether you have any money to pay back. Invest in this, and buy some arms." As a result those countries are up to their necks in debt, not because of strikes—we are always told that the eager beavers work away in those countries to produce goods and beat British shipbuilders and textile workers.
1251 South Korea has to pay about £2,500 million in interest this year out of the £3,500 million that it owes. That country is held out as an example to us. It is one of the areas in which we shall see trouble in the future. It is all part of the casino economy. There are two types of economy in the world—the industrial economy involved in the manufacture of goods and services, and the casino economy where money is made from speculation. With high interest rates the casino economy has made a fortune. It will not last for ever even with increasing interest rates. It is easier to invest money and receive 15 per cent. interest than to invest in manufacturing industries where the rate of return is only about 4 or 5 per cent. There is more ability to make money in the casino economy.
§ Mr. Skinner
No. Others of my hon. Friends wish to speak.
The top four clearing banks made £3,000 million in the first two years of this Government. Many people may have thought that the massive profits of the casino economy would continue for ever, but we are now seeing the first signs of even that bubble beginning to burst. That is happening not only because the Tory Government took away the extra profits from the banks in the Budget. The real reason is more fundamental. The practice of money being borrowed and lent at interest rates of up to 20 per cent. has to stop somewhere. The 93 less developed countries on the receiving end cannot pay it back at those rates. They are up to their necks in debt.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lewis
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman will not give way to anyone. He is giving a seminar on banks.
Mr. Deputy Speaker
The hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Lewis) knows that that is not a point of order.
§ Mr. Skinner
I am not drawing the same conclusions as the Brandt report. The hon. Gentleman should not think that I have been carried away by the ideas of his right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), who usually sits in the corner seat across the Gangway and stares at the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins), who wants to sit in the opposite seat. Their recipe would not solve the problem, but merely throw a blanket over it. They want to settle it forever so that there is peace.
§ Mr. Skinner
I mean economic peace.
In the capitalist world the result is inevitable. The right hon. member for Sidcup cannot reconstruct the situation in the way that he thinks. Bankers will not lend money at 5 per cent., 8 per cent. or 12 per cent. when in the real market they can get 20 per cent. or even 25 per cent.
The crisis points to the real problems in the capitalist economy. It also shows that inflation in this country has 1252 little to do with whether ASLEF is on strike of whether Arthur Scargill and the miners are threatening to strike. Those things might affect the economy at the margin, but the real problem is high interest rates.
The ever-rising plateau of interest rates means that more and more people in the financial institutions can make money. They can lend or borrow it all over the world without taking much account of confidence or the ability of the lenders to pay it back. Massive rescheduling will soon have to take place. Already 26 countries are involved in rescheduling to the United States and other Western banks. The British banks are trying to keep out of it as much as they can, but in their search for more and more profit they, too, have become involved in the network of moneylending.
Nine of the top United States banks have already lent the equivalent of twice their assets to only six countries—the six top borrowers that I mentioned earlier, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, the Philippines, Taiwan and South Korea. It is no wonder that we are beginning to see evidence of a possible breakdown in the near future. That is why I felt it necessary to bring the situation to the attention of the House.
In the United States Drysdale Securities went off the market in May owing $160 million. As a result, one of the top United States banks, Chase Manhattan, has ended up with about $285 million debts floating around.
The Penn Square bank in Oklahoma went in July with about $200 million loans left for someone else to pick up. Other banks will not pick them up. At the end of the day it will be the workers in America—or those people who would like to work—who will pick up the tab, and as a result of the international finance network workers all over the world will be affected.
The international financiers will try to build a fence around those two failures and the many others like Braniff Airways in the United States. Each time there is a failure they build another fence to try to hold the system together and establish confidence, which is all the system is based on. But my guess is that they will not be able to hold the ring.
In Italy about £824 million has gone awash, we are told, because of Signor Calvi being found hanged under Blackfriars bridge. The Banco Ambrosiano has defaulted on the money and more will probably follow in its wake. In Canada the loans/loss provision has been increased by between 50 per cent. and 75 per cent. in the last six months trading. South Korea, as I said, the fourth largest international borrower, is having to find £2,500 million to pay interest charges, and a large Dutch building society went down last week.
In the City columns the situation is begining to show itself. It is emerging day after day. It all points to the fact that in the real economy it is not the workers who are at fault, as the Prime Minister and others are always saying. It is not even the few trade unions barons, as they are called who are causing the trouble. The real problems lie in the system of financing. One reason why we have 4 million people on the dole is that money is lent and borrowed in that way.
People may argue that in Britain our banking system is stronger and better controlled, and the same cannot happen. After the secondary banking crisis great efforts were made to ensure that the same could not happen again. But it is happening. Lloyds bank has had to set aside many more millions of pounds because of bad debts, as has the 1253 Midland bank. I read in the news paper today that the National Westminster bank has had to set aside between £45 million and £78 million, for bad debt provision. In addition, up to £19.6 million, has had to be set aside for bad debts in the finance for industry. That finance was going to solve all the problems by providing money to let the manufacturing base burgeon and grow.
The Government then have the cheek to talk of monetarism and say that market forces will solve all problems. We must become aware of what is happening in the casino economy not only here but internationally. Real, and not funny money has to be found at the end of the day to meet the debts. There will be more liquidations, and those whom we represent will bear the burden.
One of my hon. Friends asked a parliamentary question about the number of empty factories, and the reply was that 1,000 factories belonging to the English Industrial Estates Corporation are empty. Why? Because it cannot afford to borrow any more money for machinery and wages for the workers. It cannot continue to borrow at the rate of 15, 16 or 20 per cent. That makes the intervention by the International Monetary Fund when the Labour Government were in power pale into insignificance.
We should compare what is happening now, the impending crisis as a result of the so-called freedom of market forces and allowing money to be used that way, with that puny intervention by the IMF, which some Labour Members got worked up about. They took many harsh measures and lost the election as a result, although North Sea oil was waiting around the corner with £8,000 million or £10,000 million a year to be used to strengthen our industrial base.
This is an important issue. We shall return to it after we come back on 18 October. There are real danger signs on the horizon. Banks are able to survive only on the basis of confidence. That confidence is beginning to wane fast. Once the ring to which I referred is broken, that confidence will be more severely dented.
Therefore, I say to my hon. Friends who have listened patiently to my remarks that I hope that more misery will not be caused to our people I hope that at the Labour Party conference we bear in mind that it is not our job to look at tiny internal crises. When we talk about taking over the banks, we should say to the people of Britain that we are trying to safeguard our banks against all the problems in the outside world. That might not make the difference that some of us would like in the wake of a banking collapse, but it would give us the ability to withstand it and guide our national investment as it is not being guided at the moment. For those reasons we should debate that matter before the House rises.
§ Mr. Michael Latham (Melton)
The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) did well. He should get into Frank Johnson's column tomorrow with that speech. He should get good coverage. I am not sure how greatly his speech extended the sum of human knowledge.
The hon. Gentleman talked about the coming crisis of capitalism. I seem to have heard that somewhere before. Did not people called Marx and Engels write books about it? However, nothing happened. I think that the hon. Gentleman's speech was directed towards the fact that he lost the argument with the Labour Party National Executive committee over the nationalisation of the banks. 1254 He is still trying to pursue that argument by other means. However, that is his problem and he can carry on in his own way.
Some years ago, when Lord Glenamara was Leader of the House, he said that the Summer Adjournment debate should be used occasionally for hon. Members to raise constituency points. I remember being ticked off by the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) when he was Leader of the House for making general political points in my speech.
I shall mention four constituency issues on which there is direct ministerial responsibility. I have given my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House notice of them. First, I am extremely disappointed that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has refused to include the Melton borough council on the two working parties that have been set up to examine the advantages and disadavantages of remote disposal of mine spoil, or underground stowage of it, in the Vale of Belvoir coalfield. The argument that has been given in correspondence and meetings with me is that the working parties are concerned with the whole coalfield and that if he puts Melton on the working parties other local authorities, such as South Kesteven in Lincolnshire and Rushcliffe in Nottinghamshire, will want to be on the working parties as well.
That is an incomprehensible argument. At present there is only one plan for a coal mine in the area, which is at Asfordby. A planning application has been made and most people support the idea in principle, although there are some difficulties which I am sure we can sort out with good will on all sides.
However, the disposal of spoil remains a major problem and an emotive issue. Surely the body that is closest to the people, the Melton borough council, should be fully involved in the discussions. Asfordby is entirely in its area and no other. No one could be offended if the council were included on the working parties. I hope that that will be approved forthwith. The excuses against including it seem feeble to me. They were badly received locally.
I now come to three matters on which my constituents need early decisions from the Secretary of State for Transport. First, progress on planning in the town of Melton Mowbray has been held up by uncertainty over the inner relief road. A public inquiry was held into the road proposal in March. The town has a severe congestion problem arising from heavy lorry traffic, which causes many environmental difficulties and considerable local resentment. I hope that we can have the Minister's decision on that road within the next two months, before the House returns. The issues are not complex and are of strictly local significance. Nothing will be gained by delay.
To the north of Melton Mowbray lies the village of Bottesford, which is divided by the A52 trunk road. Thanks to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) in his previous capacity as Under-Secretary of State for Transport, we now have a clear proposal for a bypass round Bottesford. That is a part of the post-1984 programme. I understand that the consultants' report has been received by the Minister. I hope that it will be published forthwith so that public consultation can begin and so that we can get on with building the road.
I welcome the Minister's decision to give the go-ahead to the scheme to improve Muston Bends on the A52, a mile 1255 or so away. I am sorry that the work that was supposed to begin in early 1983 is now to be in late 1983. I hope that there will be no further slippage. That work is needed now in the interests of road safety.
Finally there is the A6 trunk road through Quorn and Mountsorrel. The good offices of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe, who came to Mountsorrel last year and met local residents, have achieved a bypass proposal in the Government's programme. The environmental conditions are dreadful on the A6 in those villages. Planning will continue to grind to a halt until the old pre-war bypass line can be revoked. The old line makes no sense any more. Everyone knows it. The sooner my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Transport publishes the Mountsorrel revocation order and holds any necessary public inquiries, the sooner much-needed industrial and residential development can go ahead. As for the bypass itself, the consultants should be appointed forthwith so that the road can be under construction by the end of the decade at the worst.
All those matters are of great and urgent importance to thousands of constituents. I hope that they will evoke a sympathetic response and early action from Ministers, through the offices of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House.
§ Mr. Ted Graham (Edmonton)
Before the House goes into recess I wish to raise a matter that is of general importance, which also causes deep concern to many of my constituents who come from Cyprus or who have relatives who are still in Cyprus. Many hon. Members have a deep interest in the affairs of Cyprus.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
My hon. Friend is right. Many hon. Members are interested. However, not one Liberal or Social Democrat is interested in the subject.
§ Mr. Graham
No doubt my hon. Friend will make his points later, when I shall be prepared to listen to his speech.
The issue about which I am concerned is raised by constituents of hon. Members who are aware of the problem without fail every July because July is the month when they remember two black anniversaries. The first is the anniversary of 15 July, when the coup took place. The second is 20 July, when the invasion took place. Those two events left a trail of desolation and disaster, and particularly heartache and concern among my constituents.
The facts are stark and simple. Some 6,000 civilians died in the immediate aftermath of the invasion. There were 200,000 refugees who could not return to their homes. Most of them were Greek Cypriots who could not return to the part of the island in which they had lived all their lives. Moreover, there were many Turkish Cypriots who were unable to return to that part of the island that they knew well.
We also know that since 1974 more than 30,000 people have been settled on the island by the Turkish authorities. Most of them have been settled in homes that formerly belonged to Greek Cypriots in the part of the island that is now dominated by the Turkish authorities. It is fairly well established and not denied that more than 30,000 Turkish troops occupy between 37 and 40 per cent. of the 1256 land area in spite of the fact that the Turkish Cypriots account for only 18 per cent. of the population. Vast swathes of territory in Cyprus are controlled against the will of the majority of the people.
Despite the fact that, eight years later, more than 10,000 people have been admitted and are now settled happily in Britain following their status as refugees in 1974, and despite the fact that Britain has been generous in that sense, there is much bitterness, anger and despair among not only those 10,000 people and their families, but among million of other people who follow the tragedy with great interest. The reason can be told simply.
In 1974, Britain was a co-signatory, with Turkey and Greece, to a pledge to maintain the sovereignty, integrity and independence of Cyprus. To our shame and regret, we know in retrospect that Britain should have done a great deal more to stop the invasion.
Many hon. Members have been painfully reminded of that black day of shame. The word "betrayal" has been used in many other contexts. Many of us were reminded of the invasion especially when, in a debate on the Falkland Islands on April 14 my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), said:I hope the House will reflect on another occasion, on the attitudes that we should follow where territorial disputes have been successfully pursued by force in recent times, and, notably, in the case of the island of Cyprus. We cannot take one line on one part of the world and another on another simply because it happens to be inconvenient to our personal interest or attitudes."—[Official Report, 14 April 1982; Vol. 21, c. 1200.]I know that the Leader of the House is listening with care and attention to those matters that we consider should be brought to the attention of his colleagues,. My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East was rightly condemning the Argentine aggression in the Falklands in the speech from which I have just quoted.
My constituent, David Kyriacos of 89 Westerham Avenue, Edmonton asked me pertinently:If Britain justifies going to war in 1982, why did we not defend our honour—and the integrity of Cyprus—in 1974?It may be argued that the two invasions are not comparable. It will take a great deal to convince my constituents, who were made refugees, whose homes and villages have been destroyed and whose families were killed and maimed, that the two are not comparable.
I shall now deal with the missing Greek Cypriots who have disappeared without trace. I am glad to see that the hon. Member for Enfield, North (Mr. Eggar) is present. he has done a great deal about these matters. I know that he will agree that there are now about 2,000 missing people. I received more informantion recently that 1,619 people were missing. Perhaps that is the result of additional research. There is evidence to suggest that those people were taken prisoner and were in the hands of the Turkish authorities. Yet no trace of them can be found.
I should like the House to imagine the anguish and heartache that lies behind those disappearances. It is bad enough if one's husband or father has been killed. Nevertheless, there is some certainty in knowing that a close relative is dead. There is a finality to it and one may determine to make the best of a bad job. But consider the anguish when one has no idea of what has happened to that person.
When I visited several refugee camps in Cyprus a few years ago nothing left a deeper scar on my memory and emotions than those who could no get news of their loved 1257 ones. I shall read part of a letter that I received only this week from my constituent, Maria Kyriakou of 216 Hedge Lane. She wrote:During the summer of 1974 and after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus my husband … from Komi-Kebir Famagusta district, born 1918 is missing. Since then, my husband is considered officially a missing person and he is among the 2,000 missing persons as a result of that invasion. Despite our repeated requests, the Turkish Government refuse to give us any information as to their whereabouts. Because of this I and my family live in constant agony and uncertainty as to whether my husband is alive or dead".When Rauf Denktash, the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community came to the House and had discussions here, I asked him bluntly whether he was satisfied that there was any evidence, of which we were not aware, that the Turkish authorities knew what had happened to these people. He told me that careful inquiries had been made but that no evidence had been produced.
I know that the Foreign Secretary is a busy man, I wish him well in his present journeys. He is a caring and compassionate man. I make a simple request of the Leader of the House before the House goes into recess. Will he undertake to advise the Foreign Secretary that if he does two things he will earn the gratitude of my constituents and thousands of others who think of the tragedy?
First, will the Leader of the House ask the Foreign Secretary to urge on the Turkish authorities the paramount importance of resolving the mystery of the missing persons? Perhaps he would also point out that that would be assisted by allowing Greek Cypriots access to the evidence that the Turkish authorities profess not to have. Secondly, will the Leader of the House ask the Foreign Secretary to pledge himself to keeping a solution to the Cyprus tragedy high on the agenda and an assurance that he will not be satisfied until a settlement has been achieved?
§ Sir Paul Hawkins (Norfolk, South-West)
I urge on my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House that we should not rise for the Summer Recess without a clear statement on a matter about which I know he knows a great deal—the need for a rural policy, especially some policies that will help young qualified entrants to farming to get holdings of their own.
The National Farmers Union and the Country Landowners Association have, at long last, come to an agreement. They were late in coming to it. However, that agreement does not go nearly far enough. They agree that legislation is necessary on some aspects—I agree with them. Nevertheless, if we once get some legislation on those points, it would be many years before the House would allow any further legislation. The policies set out by the NFU and the CLA will not produce many holdings to let.
Pension funds have been buying large tracts of land in arable communities in Eastern England, which, to pay them tribute, they have good reason for not letting because of British fiscal policies and legislation that was introduced by the previous Labour Government that allowed tenants and their descendants to inherit farm tenancies. This puts possession of his own land out of the landlord's reach for perhaps 100 years.
The Leader of the House will be well aware that a healthy agricultural sector needs a continual influx of dedicated and well qualified younger farmers to take up 1258 the torch where their fathers left off. Many hundreds of younger men well qualified at agricultural colleges cannot find any land to farm on their own account. Many people besides myself are very concerned about the great difficulties facing those who wish to farm. Those difficulties include very high land prices, the loss of land for industrial and commercial development and the amalgamation of small and medium size acreages into very large farming holdings.
Many people are greatly worried about the depopulation of rural areas and particularly the loss of leaders. The squire has gone. In many cases, the parson, too, has gone Now the farmer has also gone. Many villages that I knew as a boy had perhaps 10 farmers but now do not have one. Those farms and many others have been amalgamated. I know of 10,000-hectare holdings in my area farmed by one company, probably from London, with perhaps a manager in one village. The other villages are then without leadership or any chance of any other person taking a farm there.
Urgent measures should be taken to reduce the dangerous loss of valuable agricultural land by rebuilding the old industrial cities rather than taking green fields for new industrial areas. We should look very carefully at any piece of land that is taken for housing or industrial purposes, because I believe that in this battle for land the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is very much at a disadvantage. Industrial concerns want flat fields, which generally means the best farming land, and they will not drain land that is unsuitable for agriculture but which could quite well be used for industrial and housing purposes.
I also seek an assurance that we shall develop a complete rural policy. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House comes from a farming background and no doubt knows the farming district of his constituency well. Perhaps in his area there are plenty of smaller holdings available to let, but in my part of the world—Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire—there are very few. Almost every other holding that comes up for sale is bought by a pension fund. I therefore seek his assurance that before the House rises, or very shortly afterwards, we shall get down to producing a rural policy to give young entrants to farming the chance to farm on their own.
§ Mr. Ken Eastham (Manchester, Blackley)
I am grateful for the opportunity to bring to the attention of the Leader of the House the grave problems facing Manchester. It was suggested earlier that the Prime Minister should have a good rest and a good holiday. Many citizens in Manchester cannot look forward to a good rest or a good holiday or even to enough money to meet their basic needs.
I refer to the very serious developments for employment in Manchester. Earlier this week, the Opposition chose unemployment as the major issue to be debated before the House rose for the recess. Today, however, I raise the special case of Manchester. The Government have decided that from 1 August—in two days' time—no further aid or assistance whatever will be given to the city. They are depriving the city of assisted area status, so there will be no help.
I substantiate my case on behalf of Manchester and my appeal for reconsideration of that decision by citing some alarming facts that should distress every hon. Member. A 1259 census taken in 1981—the situation in Manchester has deteriorated still further since then—shows that of 36 metropolitan districts,, Manchester is fifth from the top in the unemployment league. The only districts that have male unemployment rates as high or higher than Manchester are Knowsley with 24.6 per cent., Liverpool with 21.6 per cent., South Tyneside with 18.5 per cent., and Sunderland with 18.1 per cent. All of those districts have been afforded special development area status. Yet Manchester, which also has 18.1 per cent. unemployment, is to receive no assisted status. Towards the bottom of the list, however, Doncaster with 11.9 per cent. unemployment is to have intermediate area status, Wigan with 11.3 per cent. development area status and Barnsley with 10.7 per cent. intermediate area status.
The situation in Manchester is constantly deteriorating. With unemployment already more than 18 per cent., the city can no longer contain the economic blizzard. It must now suffer complete neglect and the denial of any aid or grants. At the same time, it suffers the continual cuts imposed by the Secretary of State for the Environment, who seems to be conducting a vendetta against inner city areas. All this compounds the grave predicament facing the people of Manchester.
We have made representations to Ministers many times about the acute crisis in Manchester. We are told that the Government work on a travel-to-work area formula which produces a considerably lower unemployment figure, and so no consideration can be given to our case. We pointed out to many Ministers that it is well-known in Manchester that the people living in suburbia are travelling to the city and taking the jobs. Manchester is left with a massive residue of unemployed, unskilled people who are unable to secure work.
Local authorities and economists feel that no longer is an honest formula being followed for awarding development area status. Unemployment in Manchester is far higher than in Newcastle, Sheffield, Leeds or Birmingham, but our representations on behalf of the city receive no sympathy or assistance. I recognise that there is mass unemployment all over the country. However, the situation in Manchester is so acute that dramatic and radical steps will have to be taken. Manchester is suffering far more than any other region except Northern Ireland. The unemployment exchanges advise that for large parts of the inner areas of Manchester the unemploymnt rate is 35 per cent. There are 35 unemployed people for every available vacancy.
The position is the same for those under 19. The total of unemployed youths in 1980 was 2,477. It is now 4,395. For the age group 16 to 64 the unemployment rate in Manchester is 20.9 per cent. That compares with the rate for England and Wales of 11.3 per cent., Scotland 14.4 per cent. and Wales 15.2 per cent. In the North-West region the rate is 14.5 per cent. and in the Northern region 16.2 per cent. This is a glaring example of where something dramatic must be done.
To the dwindling job opportunities must be added extreme poverty and a growing number of applications for supplementary benefit. In 1980 there were 50,000 applications for supplementay benefit. That figure has risen to 69,201 for 1982.
1260 I received a news release from the CBI this week dealing with jobs and employment in the various regions, and special reference is made to the North-West. The report said:General level of industrial activity remains low and there is some evidence that it will deteriorate still further. Order books are weak. Interest rates are seen as the largest single constraint to investment and are still imposing significant pressure on company finances. Company liquidations in the North West for the first six months of the year at 73r j 4–68 equalled 13 per cent. of the national total—the highest for any single region.The report specially mentions interest rates, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) referred. It is not inflation but high interest rates that are causing so much trouble, with the banks skimming off the profits.
Manchester is rapidly becoming a city of despair. As the House knows, last year there were serious riots in parts of the city. Does anyone wonder that the city finally erupted? I shall not be surprised if there are not further serious cases of unrest by citizens who have nothing to lose and, out of desperation, cry out for attention to their most miserable plight.
At this late hour I appeal to the Leader of the House on behalf of Manchester. The Government have decided that from 1 August they will no longer give the city assistance. But something dramatic must be done. Manchester is not getting a fair deal. The Government are showing brutal indifference. Irrespective of which party is in power, the Government have a responsibility to the citizens of Britain and I appeal to the Government seriously to reconsider their decision.
§ Mr. David Atkinson (Bournemouth, East)
I shall not detain the House for long, but I should not want the House to rise before debating an issue that is causing one of the deepest rifts within the Western alliance in recent years—the Siberian gas pipeline deal.
Today the country stands with the rest of the European Community in opposing the American embargo on exports of equipment for the project. I question whether Britain would now be taking the same strong view if the engineering company of John Brown and Company was not involved. Either way, the whole unhappy affair represents yet another failure on the part of the alliance to produce a firm, effective and united approach towards our trading relations with the Soviet bloc.
I realise that the arguments about the pipeline may now be academic because it is to go ahead, but we should remind ourselves of the possible consequences, which seem to concern President Reagan far more than those nations involved in Western Europe. The fact that France, West Germany, Belgium and Italy are prepared to put themselves "in hock" with the Soviet Union on such a vital commodity is an indictment of the concept of the European Community and illustrates its failure to produce an adequate energy policy of its own. That West Germany, usually one of the Community's most enthusiastic partners and its prime banker, is prepared to rely on the Soviet Union for more than 30 per cent. of its gas and 5 per cent. of its total energy needs in the 1990s is especially surprising. The decision to go ahead with the pipeline also ignores the fact that north-western Europe is entirely capable of supplying the same amount of gas from its own proven and probable reserves.
1261 One assumes, and hopes, that these countries have thought out the consequences to their domestic consumers and to their industries should the Soviet Union decide to cut off the flow of gas. The Soviets have done precisely that in the past to their own customers and for their own reasons. China, Yugoslavia and Albania are all closer, ideologically, to the Soviet Union than are any of its new capitalist customers. We must also presume that they have thought out how they will stand if and when the Soviets display the same aggression as they did in Afghanistan, the same suppression of self-determination as they did in Poland as well as the continuing suppression of freedom for their own people.
My fear is that every European country that is a party to the deal will make a small but serious move towards neutrality. The moment that the French, the German, Belgian and Italian homes and factories rely upon an uninterrupted supply of Soviet gas they will render themselves "Finlandised'—self-interested, hesitant, fearful, and muted in speaking out against or retaliating against any further Soviet aggression, intervention or suppression.
Moreover, I wonder whether such countries have thought who will build the pipeline. I am not talking of the supply of Western technology and equipment but of the hard labour. The pipeline is already being built. Reports from various locations in the Soviet Union suggest that more and more prisoners sentenced to hard labour or internal exile are being used. About 100,000 such people are estimated to be involved. About 10,000 of them were sentenced because of their political opposition to the Communist regime, because they were monitoring the Helsinki Final Act, because of their religious beliefs, or for attempting to form trade unions in the Soviet Union.
From the source of the huge Urngoy gas field in northern Siberia, labour camps line the pipeline westwards, housing prisoners, not in houses or barracks, but in camps or scanty wagons which offer little protection from winter temperatures, which sometimes reach below minus 40 degrees centigrade.
Workers in exile are similarly appallingly provided for in their colonies. The few shops are never well stocked. Workers rely on food from relations. Vitamin deficiencies cause disease. Little heavy construction equipment is used and they are forced to perform most of the heavy manual labour involved in constructing the pipeline. Injuries and accidents occur frequently. Women working with the asbestos and fibreglass used to line the pipeline suffer from severe blistering. Gloves are issued only twice a year. Eczema is widespread and there is a high rate of lung collapse.
Such inhumanity to man by man rivals that which occurred during the construction of the pyramids by the Pharaohs. Its purpose is to advance the living standards of people in Western Europe.
It is suggested that President Reagan is being less than honest in attempting to sabotage the European end of the deal while continuing to sell American grain to make up the shortfall in Soviet harvests. That is to misunderstand the facts and to fall for Soviet propaganda. American grain is paid for in cash. That leaves less for the Soviet war machine budget. Moreover, as we know from President Carter's grain embargo following the Afghanistan crisis, alternative suppliers from the West, notably from Argentina, are only too happy to step in. The pipeline will not only make Western Europe more dependent on the 1262 Soviet Union, it will increase Soviet hard currency earnings by as much as one-third, and our technology will substitute theirs.
The whole unhappy episode serves as yet another warning to the Western Alliance to decide with the utmost urgency on a united approach to East-West trade, to outlaw cheap credits, to control the sale of advanced technology and to agree an effective sanctions and embargo policy as a deterrent against a future Afghanistan or an event such as the imposition of martial law in Poland.
I look forward to hearing from my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House about a British initiative to resolve the issue. If we do not learn the lesson of the Siberian pipeline deal Lenin will be proved right in predicting that capitalism will manufacture the rope by which it will be hanged.
§ Mr. Ronald W. Brown (Hackney, South and Shoreditch)
I draw the attention of the House to the problems that I mentioned on 1 April when I objected to the House rising for the Easter Recess until the Secretary of State for the Environment had reconsidered his decision to hand over GLC property to the Hackney borough council. I argued that Hackney was not capable of absorbing 17,500 properties overnight and that the tenants would suffer badly.
Four months have passed and all that I forecast has happened. Conditions in the Hackney housing department are almost chaotic. People are suffering because their properties are not maintained. In the debate on 1 April I said that, although I could understand handing over property to a council in full control of its affairs and which maintained its property well, I could not understand how it was possible to hand over so many properties to an authority which was already having grave difficulty in managing its own properties.
The properties are in an appalling state. For years I have argued with the GLC about their condition. To hand them to an authority already in difficulties does not make sense.
I have been fighting hard to get some sense into the housing system in my constituency, to little avail. In the previous debate I said:I am continually pressing Hackney borough council to carry out proper maintenance and repairs, but it cannot do those either. In Hackney, one sees damp walls and ceilings, leaky roofs and rotten frameworks."—[Official Report, 1 April; Vol. 21, c. 508.]I recently made a complaint on behalf of a constituent and received the following letter from a council officer:I refer to your inquiry regarding conditions existing at the above premises of … I am informed that the ceiling, although damp and bulged, did not appear to be imminently dangerous. I would also advise you that there are a number of other defects existing which require attention.I am still trying to have that place put right. I am told that the council officer has to serve a notice under section 9(1)(a) of the Housing Act 1957. That is typical. I am not describing a one-off case. It is impossible. We are not dealing with an academic issue but with tenants who have to suffer. Only because they are exasperated do they come to see me to demand help. The tenants do not pay cheap rents, but very high rents forced upon them by the Government.
In the debate on 1 April I said that there was insufficient discussion between the council and the GLC about the problems. I said that the GLC did not even know its own 1263 tenants, its own property, or whether they owned it or had sold it. I said that it did not know whether the property was empty or occupied. In such circumstances to hand over the properties is nonsense. I predicted that there would be interminable trouble. That has proved to be true. Hackney had to take extraordinary decisions to cancel all movements between properties. The position is chaotic. The tenants were not happy because they were unable to move and could not get things done.
During the earlier debate I drew attention to the separate work forces of Hackney borough council and the GLC. The employees of Hackney borough council do not enjoy the same conditions as those of the GLC. Consequently, it was impossible for me to believe that as soon as the GLC employees were taken over by Hackney borough council, they would have their terms of service reduced to those of Hackney borough council. Because that has not happened, the Hackney borough council personnel refuse to go on to the ex-GLC estates.
We have an emergency patrol system. The idea is that there should be 24-hour a day cover so that any problems within the authority's properties can be immediately dealt with. Now, if there is an emergency on an ex-GLC estate, the emergency patrols refuse to go there because, they claim, the conditions of service are such that they are not prepared to cross the boundary to an ex-GLC estate. An elderly lady has had her windows smashed. She was unable to get anything done. I had to arrange for something to be done. If I had not crossed the boundary she would have gone all night with broken windows because the emergency patrol refused to do so.
I would not mind so much if the problem was being resolved, but it has gone on for four months and it could go on for another 40 months. There has been no resolution of the problem. I am told "We are sorry but there is a dispute between the two groups of workers and there is no means of resolving it." I cannot accept that. The Secretary of State was aware of the problem on 1 April. I warned him that this would happen and yet he went ahead with the transfer of the properties.
I also said during the debate that transfers would become a lottery. It is a lottery. We have had constant discussions about the mobility scheme. We have heard the argument that the national mobility scheme works. We are also told that inner London had its mobility scheme. I continually pointed out to the Secretary of State and to his Ministers that it is not working in Hackney. I have brought them evidence to show that it is not working and I have raised the issue in the House. They still argue that it is satisfactory and when it is pointed out to them that that is not so, they say "That is only Hackney." But I am responsible for Hackney and must argue its case.
Since the changeover, transfers have been reduced almost to a trickle. Most empty property is being identified for homeless families. Tenants can transfer only if they are of the highest medical category or if the property is underoccupied and there is some advantage to the authority in a transfer. I hear of distressing circumstances of people who want to leave properties for a variety of reasons but are unable to do so. The tenants are dissatisfied because they recognise that the transfer system is neither fair nor just.
I had a letter sent to me this afternoon from a lady constituent with a son aged 11. They are living more than 1264 11 stories high in a high-rise block of flats. She has tried to be rehoused for some years because when the child was young he kept trying to climb out the window. Now, the child is in desperate need of psychiatric treatment. In her letter the lady described a recent experience. She said that there had been a knock at her door and because she was ill in bed the boy had gone to answer it. She said that, through the spy hole, the boy could see a man. Without opening the door, the boy asked the man what he wanted but the man would not answer. The man then left that door, went to the next flat, and rang the bell. The man then left. The boy was worried and within a few minutes the doorbell rang again. The mother again told the boy to answer it. The next thing that happened was that the mother could not find the boy. She had been lying in bed, ill, and she became panic stricken. She tried to find her son in the flat. Suddenly, she heard the doorbell ring again. It was the next door neighbour who told the woman that the boy was in her flat in a hysterical condition, screaming about burglars and people trying to break in the door. The boy had climbed out of the window—11 storeys high—had crept along a small ledge with his arms around a pillar and had climbed into the neighbour's flat. That lady has been trying to get another flat for years. The position is appalling. The boy has grown up and has become meurotic. Yet there is no way that I can get that lady rehoused, although I shall go on fighting and arguing. It will not happen because other problems have been imposed on the authority with the transfer of the properties on 1 April.
I have raised this issue today because the Secretary of State must be told that he must treat the housing problem in Hackney seriously. Rumour is rife in Hackney about maladministration. One can listen to such rumours on street corners. It is said that police inquiries are going on. One cannot find out much about what is happening. One does not go on rumour, but the rumour is rife on the estates. It is said that proper repairs are not being carried out because things are not as they should be. That is causing a great deal of trouble.
There is also a feeling that the officers themselves are all at sea with each other. I heard a rumour yesterday, which I find hard to believe, that some officers of the council have now formed themselves into a group called the Hackney Labour housing group. Apparently, the group meets privately in the evenings. It is alleged that its task is to try to persuade the other officers of the council to join the Labour Party. It is alleged—here again, I do not have evidence—that staff are being pushed around, and that appointments and promotion will rely on the possession of an extreme left type of party card. I say this only because tenants are beginning to feel that they are in the middle of a political cockpit. The tenants do not like what is happening. When one sees the state of the properties and one experiences the type of problems that I have identified, it is not surprising even though it be untrue that people believe that things could not be run in this way unless there was something wrong.
I have complained publicly and bitterly about what is happening in Hackney. It is time that Hackney had the opportunity to tell the Secretary of State exactly what has gone wrong. I hope that the Secretary of State will undertake to set up an inquiry into the housing position in Hackney, which can only get worse. A decision was announced this week to take more money away from local government. Hackney will be one of the principal 1265 candidates to lose money. Given the position that I have described, that will be virtual disaster for the people in my area.
Before we go into recess, I hope that the Secretary of State will say that he is prepared to order an inquiry into Hackney borough council housing management to ensure that the people in my constituency can have their houses properly repaired and maintained and to ensure that when they want transfers they can have them and that everything is just and fair in Hackney.
§ Mr. Christopher Murphy (Welwyn and Hatfield)
Before the House adjourns for the Summer Recess it should first consider the state of civil defence. It is regrettable but realistic for the Government to have postponed the proposed civil defence exercise "Hard Rock" in consequence of the refusal by a number of Labour-controlled local authorities to make adequate preparations. Those councils should be thoroughly ashamed that as a result of their misguided attempts to make political demonstrations against nuclear weapons their own citizens are left the more vulnerable.
The council of Welwyn and Hatfield has declared that it will take as little action as possible for the defence of the district against nuclear attack. This attitude towards civil defence can be regarded only as irresponsible and an example of a local authority failing its people.
Citizens' lives could be put in jeopardy because civil defence would be essential should there be a nuclear war, conventional warfare, a natural disaster or a major accident. The advent of the nuclear deterrent has proved to be exactly what the term implies, a deterrent. Since the last world war conflicts have been carried on without such weapons. All such conflicts are tragic, but it is surely incumbent upon us to reduce tragedy to the minimum. The Government rightly seek true multilateral disarmament and we must ensure peace through security. Civil defence is part of that approach.
It is worth remembering that nuclear protection covers the possibility of a nuclear war involving Britain and defence against accidents in nuclear installations, terrorist attack with nuclear devices and fallout from large-scale or more limited wars between other countries fought elsewhere. All these possibilities threaten life, freedom and prosperity. They also threaten property.
Left-wing gimmickry in declaring nuclear-free zones will do nothing to prevent awesome consequences such as those to which I have referred, and nor can it achieve a certainty of freedom from attack. The key to survival is preparation. The community's well-being is such that necessary protection should be provided in the event of any form of warfare or disaster. That well-being should not be disregarded by a policy of doing the absolute minimum at present required by law.
Other services are provided for the good of local people. The fire, ambulance and police services are obvious examples. It would be foolish to argue that they encourage arson, accidents or crime. To deny the maximum number of the population the opportunity to survive because of a belief by a council that services such as civil defence encourage nuclear attack must surely be wrong. Civil defence is concerned with saving lives and not destroying them. All countries, neutral as well as aligned, which accept humanitarian principles have proper civil defence organisations.
1266 With the Summer Recess before us, I hope sincerely that the Government will use the opportunity to consider legislative proposals to amend the planning regulations made under the Civil Defence Act 1948 so that our citizens have civil defence as a right and not as a privilege depending upon the political will of their local council.
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)
The Prime Minister said earlier today that she could not stand more than another 10 years of years such as this one. I shall spend about 10 minutes talking about the people of Keighley who have had one of her years. They have not benefited from her year. They face a workless existence because of the policies in which the right hon. Lady glories.
We should bear in mind that when we go into the Summer Recess the Health Service workers will continue working throughout much of the summer, having, a much shorter holiday than Members of Parliament. They will be fighting for a decent wage increase, which the Government are denying them. These people are vital for the maintenance of our health services. I have no doubt that lush barristers who come into the Chamber for a few hours to make their contributions find what I have just said amusing, but Health Service workers would very much like the earnings that barristers receive from the courts and the salary that they receive as Members of this place as well. If there were no more banisters tomorrow, they would be much less missed than if there were no more nurses or other Health Service workers.
Several months ago I initiated an Adjournment debate in which I asked the Government to retain intermediate area status for Keighley. I was told that there were areas that were much worse off than Keighley. I shall now describe what three years of Tory Government have achieved. From May 1979 until June 1981 the Conservative Government had increased the level of unemployment in Keighley by 181 per cent. On 8 July, a month later, the level of unemployment had increased by 1 per cent. to 13.3 per cent. and the total had increased by 52 boys to 251, by 55 girls to 169, by 145 men to 2,587 and by another 40 women, to make a total of 1,061, making a global total of 4,068 chasing about 80 vacancies in the Keighley travel-to-work area.
Keighley is a low-wage area. In the textile and engineering industries the trade unions have been highly co-operative in accepting new work practices. They have low wages and they have done everything that the Government have wanted them to do. However, they face redundancies month after month. The Government have no answer. They merely seek to attack the trade union movement.
The future is bleak. The multi-fibre arrangement which the Government are negotiating is based on high import quotas and it will do certain damage to the textile industry. The engineering industry is facing a bleak time and one major firm in my constituency is working on short time. I remind the Prime Minister through the Leader of the House of her achievements. In Keighley 1,521 people have been unemployed for up to 26 weeks while 820 have been unemployed for between six months and a year and 920 have been unemployed for between one year and two years. There are 316 who have been unemployed for over two years. They have about 80 vacancies to share between 1267 them each month. I obtained those figures on 22 June in a reply to a parliamentary question. The position is now worse.
I ask the Government to review the curtailment of intermediate area status, which starts on 1 August. It is crazy economics to curtail industrial assistance which might give some encouragement to the production of permanent real jobs when by cutting back the Government will increase the payment of unemployment benefit and supplementary benefit payments.
Another Government achievement is that between May 1979 and February 1982 the increase in payments of supplementary benefit in the Keighley travel-to-work area to people of working age increased by about 200 per cent. The money is being paid out to those in the dole queue in a form of unemployment benefit and supplementary benefit.
The Government must take action to diminish those payments. At the very least, the Government should first restore intermediate area status to Keighley. If my constituents follow the hard-hearted attitude to the Secretary of State for Employment, get on a bike and cycle down to Bradford, they will find that Rank-Wharfedale has just closed, with the loss of several hundred jobs, and that GEC—a company brimming over with money that is run by Arnold Weinstock, who is one of the greatest admirers of the Prime Minister is closing its factories. International Harvesters, a large international combine, is also closing, with the loss of several thousand jobs. The prospect is extremely bleak and the restoration if intermediate area status would be a modest contribution to restoring confidence in the area.
Bradford people produce some of the finest textiles and engineering equipment in the world. They wish to have the opportunity to demonstrate their diligence and skill. Their present plight is not due to chance. The Government intend to crush the workers into supine acceptance of their policies.
I propose to quote extracts from a letter. I must be careful not to reveal the identity of the writer in case the employer, who is a Tory supporter, attempts to victimise the person. The letter says:Please can you help or advise us? … We feel we are being victimised, and hardly know what we can do about it. Because of the present job situation, we feel we must hang on.How is that for Tory policy working.We work on a collective bonus scheme, and until October had good wages, which we were working very hard for.In October, we were told we had to take a £10 cut in wages, and the bonus rate was dropped accordingly, and although we complained it didn't get us anywhere. We were promised that there would be no more cuts for 6 months, but starting tomorrow, a new bonus scheme goes into operation, which has been solely devised to ensure that we earn little or no bonus … We did join the … union but that was a couple of years ago, and"—the boss—threatened to close the sewing room down unless we dropped out. Everyone was scared of losing their jobs and now there is only two of us still in the union. Last year we were on short-time and Government grants, but things picked up and we have been on full time for the last six months … Is there anything that can be done, or is he going to be allowed to trample all over us?If the Tory Government wish to demonstrate that people have a right to join a trade union and to expect a job, a reasonable expectation of being able to work and to bring 1268 up their families, the least that they can do is to listen to such a plea and restore confidence and dignity to people by helping to create jobs.
We are asking only for a small measure—the restoration of intermediate area status to Keighley. I know the argument that larger areas of the country should have assisted area status. Under Tory policies, they need it. Will the Leader of the House review the position with the Department of Industry in order to restore intermediate areas status to Keighley and give it some badly needed confidence?
§ Mr. Tim Eggar (Enfield, North)
I support the comments of the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Graham) about Cyprus and missing people. We represent neighbouring constituenceis and have similar problems.
Another matter that should be discussed before the recess is the difficulties that face people who have been permanently disabled by accidents and their problems in being reintegrated into the community. The problem came to my notice through the experience of a constituent, who does not wish to be named. An accident on a motorcycle left him a paraplegic. He was fortunate enough to be admitted to the National Othopaedic hospital in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes). I know that my hon. Friend has a special interest in the work of that hospital.
The spinal injuries unit at that hospital is pioneering new methods of treatment for people with serious spinal injuries. One effect of the new treatment is that, whereas traditionally it has taken some months to rehabilitate a person and return him to the community, the new treatment means that he can return to the community in a few weeks. There is a difference of between three and four months.
One difficulty with the new unit is the problem of coordinating the other elements in the local authority and central Government so as to ensure that, as soon as the patient is ready, the necessary facilities are available for him to re-enter the community. The first difficulty is the mobility allowance. The average amount of time that it takes for a patient who has been treated at the National Othopaedic hospital to receive the mobility allowance is about six months. That is extremely serious, because the majority of patients, if they are to work, must take driving lessons and must have a mobility allowance to be able to afford them. The second difficulty is that, regrettably, there have been considerable delays in the provision by the National Health Service of lightweight, modern wheelchairs. The third and major difficulty is that the hospital cannot ensure that local authorities respond quickly in providing accommodation for the patients.
Those with spinal injuries are often young. Alterations are made to their existing accommodation or new housing may be found for them if they have relied on the State in the past. Local authorities have a statutory obligation to provide such facilities, but the legislation is drafted in such a way that it is a matter of negotiation between the patient—in practice the hospital—and the local authority. My constituent found that, although local authorities are willing to help at the lower level—the officers who are responsible for making the alterations—there are considerable delays because decisions must be taken at senior officer level.
1269 Something must be done to improve co-ordination and the power and influence of the hospital in order to persuade and perhaps force local authorities to make the necessary arrangements. We are not talking about huge sums of money. The average cost of alterations is about £5,000. It costs £88 a day to keep a patient in the spinal injuries unit. My constituent waited for about six months, occupying a bed in the hospital, because the local authority could not provide suitable accommodation within a reasonble time. In his case, there was a dispute between two local authorities as to who was responsible for him.
Quite apart from the financial side, there is the considerable psychological stress on the individuals. It is bad enough for these people to find that they are for ever to be paraplegic and confined to a wheelchair. It is worse to find, just as they are beginning to adjust and think about getting out in the world, that they are restricted to a hospital bed—not because of their ailments, because the hospital has done everything it can, but because of the slowness of local authorities. What is more, the work of the unit is much less effective. Staff become demoralised because they are having to turn away other patients whom they know would benefit from their treatment.
I realise that this is a difficult problem. I do not think that it would be appropriate for the House to pass legislation stipulating exactly what local authorities must do in every case. Nevertheless, is there not a case for the small number of units that deal with those who have become permanently disabled and their reintroduction into the community to be allocated funds that they can spend on making the necessary alterations for their patients?
This matter raises a number of questions, but I hope that my right hon. Friend will bring it to the attention of the appropriate Ministers, and that there will be an attempt during the recess to study this idea. I hope too that my right hon. Friend will draw to the attention of the Secretary of State that it is not appropriate for patients in spinal injury units to have to wait six months for their mobility allowances. This delay is caused partly by the need to have a GP counter-check the assurance given by a consultant surgeon as to the lack of mobility of the person concerned.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)
I should like to raise three matters, but before doing so I shall refer to the speech of the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Montgomery), who mentioned corruption in the police force and criticised hon. Members who took up the issue. This is certainly not a question of police baiting. Two police officers have been found guilty of corruption by the process of the law, and have been sentenced to imprisonment. There have been allegations of obstruction of the investigations by Operation Countryman into corruption in the Metropolitan Police. The best way to defend the police force—and every community needs a police force —is to ensure that, if there is continued corruption, it is rooted out as quickly as possible. No doubt we shall receive a statement from the Home Secretary as soon as we return after the recess.
§ Mr. Montgomery
I said that I thought that the matter could have been handled differently. As the Prime Minister said during Question Time, the police are anxious to root out any corruption. Had the Liberals gone to the Attorney-General or the DPP, it would have been better than making the innuendoes that they did in the way that they did.
§ Mr. Winnick
Neither the Prime Minister's comment nor the way in which the hon. Gentleman raised the matter gave the impression that this was as serious a matter as it seems to be. These allegations should be looked into as quickly as possible.
The first of the three issues that I wish to raise concerns the terrible tragedy of the Middle East and the continued bombing and shelling by Israeli forces of the Lebanon. There is no doubt of the terrible civilian suffering that is taking place. Some of us saw on the television news last night the civilian casualties of the continued Israeli bombing.
I have never taken the view, as some of my hon. Friends know, that the Middle East is a simplistic issue. I know that some believe that the problem exists because Israel exists. I believe that Israel has every right to exist, although not I think with its present borders. There are also those who take the view that there is no Palestinian problem and that Palestinians, if there are such people, should merge with the other Arab countries. I do not believe in either of those two approaches. There needs to be a lasting political settlement. The trouble with the Israeli Government is that they seem to look upon the whole issue in the Lebanon as a military problem when it is a political one.
I wish to pay tribute to what I believe is the great courage of an outstanding and brilliant Israeli soldier, Colonel Eli Geva, who, although he supported at the beginning the excursion and invasion into Lebanon, later declared that he could not serve honourably in that operation. He asked on grounds of conscience not to continue to be involved in the war in which Israel was engaged in the Lebanon.
Colonel Eli Geva, who is no longer in the Israel Army, has shown two things: first, that there are many people in Israel, both military and others, who have consciences; and, secondly, that there is a lesson here for other countries as well, in the East, the West and the Arab countries, which is that if one puts on a uniform one still has a conscience. Perhaps that lesson will be learnt by other military people in other parts of the world.
The second issue I shall raise only briefly because my old friend the hon. Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. Davis) has already raised it. This is the question of Iranian students in Britain. It is generally accepted that there is a state of terror, perhaps the worst terror taking place anywhere in the world, in Iran. It would be wrong to send anyone back to Iran who might face execution. This is why we hope that the Home Office will exercise great care before any Iranian is forced to leave the United Kingdom.
The Home Office has said that if there is no evidence of any special risk to the individual concerned the Iranian will be expected to leave. But, what does the Home Office mean by "special risk"? Those who have studied in Britain, for example, can come under immediate suspicion when they return to Iran because they have studied in a Western country. Westernisation or any contact or association with those in the West, is immediately, in terrorist Iran, a subject for suspicion. A person could easily lose his life.
Therefore, as we are about to adjourn for nearly three months and many Iranians could be involved in appealing to the Home Office for permission to stay, I hope that the matter will be looked at favourably. I am not suggesting that those Iranians who ask to stay on for a while should be given permanent residence—that is not the issue. It is 1271 simply a question of allowing them to stay longer, perhaps for 12 months, as Poles are allowed to do. These people should not be forced to return.
The third issue deeply concerns my constituency. In May 1979 unemployment in the Walsall travel-to-work area was 5.1 per cent. Last week, according to the latest unemployment statistics, the figure was 18.6 per cent. The Leader of the House knows the West Midlands well, but what I have described as the growth of mass unemployment in the past three years in the West Midlands is an illustration of the devastation to industry in the area with which I am associated.
In May 1979 there were 8,429 people unemployed in the travel-to-work area and today it is 31,368. There are 427 registered job vacancies, and out of that 427 very few are related to engineering, the type of work in which most of those made redundant in the past two or three years were employed. In one part of my constituency, Willenhall, where there are manufacturers of locks, the increase in unemployment since the Government have been in office has been 370 per cent. In Aldridge, represented in the House by a Conservative Member, the increase has been even greater.
In the same travel-to-work area the increase in the number unemployed for over 12 months has been, since July 1979, 420 per cent.—that was before the figure announced last week. Clearly it is not a minor problem. It is not a matter of people who are unemployed for a few weeks, or four or five months, which would be bad enough.
In the West Midlands as a whole unemployment was also 5.1 per cent. in May 1979. The latest figure is 16.1 per cent., with 369,114 people registered as jobless. So that there is mass unemployment not only in areas where there has been long-standing unemployment. There was no such problem in the West Midlands. Naturally, it has many problems, but it did not have high unemployment. I am sure that no Conservative Member would wish to argue that the increased unemployment in my travel-to-work area and in the West Midlands as a whole is a coincidence, or the result of overseas difficulties, and so on. The fact is that very high interest rates, an overvalued pound, and a tight monetary policy have been responsible for factory closures, massive redundancies, and the misery and devastation that go with mass unemployment.
There is not much room for optimism. If I am told "You are a Labour Member", or "Trade unions do not want to express optimism", I reply that the same lack of optimism is felt by the regional CBI and the Birmingham chamber of commerce. They have both said that there is no sign of recovery in the West Midlands. The director of the Birmingham chamber of commerce said this week that the news was very depressing from the point of view of business and jobs. He said:We cannot see where any upturn is going to come from in the foreseeable future.The people who have been made unemployed have been hurt while they have been on the dole queue by the disgraceful 5 per cent. taken away because of taxation to come, although when unemployment benefit is subject to taxation, as from this month, the 5 per cent. is not restored. I cannot understand how members of the Cabinet, on their incomes, can justify taking away 5 per cent. from people who are unemployed, and who are living 1272 on the barest minimum. That same Government abolished earnings-related benefit—which alone meant that the unemployed lost about £11 a week.
We need a change in policy, as was stressed in our debate on Tuesday. Without that change, unemployment will grow both nationally and in the West Midlands, and many more of our constituents will be denied the opportunity to earn their living. The Government had no mandate to bring mass unemployment to the country. They did not say in May 1979 that they intended to pursue these policies. Many people in the West Midlands, who voted Conservative, who made it possible for Conservative Party members to sit on the Government Benches, feel deeply betrayed. They believed the Prime Minister—then the Leader of the Opposition—and Conservative candidates when they said that certain policies would be pursued.
The situation now in the West Midlands is even worse than it was in the pre-war days. There will be no let-up in the region until there is an end of mass unemployment. Our objective is for people to find jobs and earn their living in the area which is the heartland of the engineering industry. That is our objective, and if it means the removal of this Government, the sooner that happens the better.
§ Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton)
That there has been devastation in industry in the West Midlands, there is, sadly, no dispute. Burton has been more fortunate. However, for the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) to pretend that the causes have nothing to do with the years of bad Labour Governments encouraging bad union practices and bad management is extremely naive. The cure must be to do something about those deep-seated ills—as, I hope, this Government are doing.
However, I wish to raise another matter. Three months will have passed before we return, and I hope that by then the Lebanon war will be over, and that at least temporary peace will reign again in the Middle East. It might help to bring about that peace if the House did not adjourn before the Government took a slightly more realistic attitude to the longer-term Israeli-Arab conflict than the Government recently have taken.
The Government's somewhat unrealistic attitude can be summarised in the following way. They seem to believe that the Venice initiative is alive, when it is dead, and that Camp David is dead, when it is just alive. There is a tendency to draw an irrational distinction between the IRA and the PLO, so that it is absolutely wrong—as it is—to negotiate with the IRA, but that somehow it is less wrong, and perhaps to be encouraged, to negotiate and raise the status of the PLO. There is a belief that, despite evidence to the contrary, the Israeli Government have no concern for Palestinian rights to self-determination. There is a general lack of sympathy with Israel, which shows itself in an unwillingness to accept the moderate reports, and an overwillingness to accept the exaggerated reports, from the Lebanon. I shall give an example.
On 16 June, on the "Newsnight" programme, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said:We are told that half a million people (have been) made homeless (in South Lebanon) which has a devastating impact".That statement was based on PLO claims. The next night, the Foreign Office advice to my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Oxen (Mr. Hurd), the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, was thatUnited Nations estimates are that in South Lebanon alone 200,000 have been displaced in their homes".1273 That is a substantial difference in the space of 24 hours. The comment on the second night was a little closer to reality than that of the first. The Israelis would ask why the Government, if they are friendly, do not accept the Israeli estimate that the figures were one-tenth of that. Certainly, in recent weeks, the numbers of the appalling casualties and the homeless in that part of the world turn out to be much nearer to the Israeli estimate than to that of the PLO.
Another example is the overwillingness—again, not justified by the evidence that has since emerged—to reject the Israeli claim that the PLO had stockpiled enough arms to destroy the State of Israel 10 times.
What is the new realism that I am asking of the Government? First, I ask for a realisation that there will be no settlement in the Middle East to which Israel does not agree, and support.
Secondly, if we in Britain want to persuade Israel to be more relaxed and flexible about the Palestinians, we stand no chance unless the Israelis respect our view, and they will not do so while they think that we are biased against them. They understand our support for Arab causes. It is based on a traditional and present trade relationship. Substantial orders have currently been placed by our Arab friends with Britain, and will help to get us out of our economic difficulties. It is based on close traditional ties in the Foreign Office with Arab countries. For every British ambassador to Israel who retires there are 22 British ambassadors to Arab countries who retire. So it is not surprising that there is a close affinity in the Foreign Office to the Arab countries. I do not think that the Israelis bear us any ill will because of our close ties with the Arab nations.
However, they appear to know what the Government have not shown much sign of knowing, that the Arab leaders believe that their interests would be much better served if the PLO ceased to exist than if its existence were encouraged. That is why no Arab country is rushing to help the PLO in its present plight.
Thirdly, there should be a realisation that Israel asks only for guaranteed security. It has been disappointed in the past by the failure of guarantees that have been given by the United Nations and others. If we want to make an effective contribution towards peace in the Middle East, we should be bending all our efforts to strengthening those guarantees and to ensuring that the Israelis can rely upon guarantees that the West provides for that security. If we do not do that, we cannot blame the Israelis for trying to establish those guarantees in their own way.
Fourthly, there should be a realisation that it is no use Britain being at odds with the United States over the Middle East. The United States realises that the survival of a democracy in the Middle East that is friendly to the West is necessary to safeguard world peace. If the PLO were given power to threaten the stability of Saudi Arabia, it would threaten the West's oil supplies with all that that would entail. Therefore, our interests are very much the same as those of the United States in the Middle East, and we should be careful not to cross it in its aims.
Fifthly, we should accept that Israel is concerned that the Palestinians should enjoy the right to self-determination. Under the Camp David accords, the Israel Government accepted clear obligations to the Palestinians. It accepted an obligation to negotiate with Egypt the establishment of a self-governing administrative council representing the Arab inhabitants of the West Bank and 1274 Gaza, chosen in free elections with wide powers. It accepted an obligation for the Israeli military Government and the civilian Administration to withdraw as soon as that self-governing authority had been freely elected. It accepted a transitional period of five years with negotiations between Egypt, Israel, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza, to determine the final status and relationship with its neighbours and to conclude a final peace treaty between Israel and Jordan.
It is not only absurd to pretend that the Israelis have no concern for Palestinian rights, but it flies in the face of the facts. Do the Israelis want to be outnumbered by Arabs in their State? That is patently absurd. That leads one to the second question, for if not, do they not realise that there can be no lasting peace while 1½ to 2 million Arabs have no home? If the Jordanians will not take them, they will have to find a home somewhere. The common sense is that the Israelis appreciate that the Palestinians must have a settled and peaceful relationship in Palestine or in the region. The Camp David accords have given them the only constructive suggestions for the achievement of that end.
It is true that the Camp David accords do not propose an immediate transfer of powers and that the transfer of powers is by stages, but, who are we, the British, to show no understanding for that course in the light of our recent colonial experience? Why should anyone doubt the good will of the Israelis towards their peaceful neighbours when they have given ample earnest of their good will over the surrender of Sinai and the destruction of Yammit? To go on talking as if the Israelis have no interest in Palestinian self-determination is not so much to play the ostrich as to play the mischief-maker.
With a more realistic and sympathetic attitude to Israel, British influence would be greater and the chance of peace in the Middle East would be considerably enhanced. Let us hear something of a change of attitude, if not in this debate, then at least as soon as possible after the House rises. The civilised world has everything to gain from a right-thinking British Government giving their support for every practicable peaceful measure in the Middle East.
§ Mr. James Lamond (Oldham, East)
The Summer Adjournment debate has followed its usual course this afternoon. We have had a lively and interesting series of debates which, unfortunately, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you were unable to join us in listening to until about an hour ago.
When one listens to the various speeches, it is difficult not to be dragged into making some comment on them because most of them touch subjects on which we are all interested. With one brief exception I shall try to resist that temptation because time is moving on.
My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Eastham) made an eloquent speech about unemployment in the Manchester area. As my constituency is in that area I should like to confirm, underline and support all that he said. There are 15,000 people now unemployed in Oldham. On my calculation, the Government must be spending between £150,000 and £200,000 every day of the week on unemployment benefit in Oldham. When one considers those figures, it brings home clearly the enormous expense to the community of having 3.2 million people out of work in Britain. I do not criticise the money that is paid in unemployment 1275 benefit—far from it, because it is inadequate. However, I am criticising the complete and final loss of a very important British asset—its skilled work force.
With those words I pass to my point for the attention of the Leader of the House. The Leader of the House is a patient, intelligent and shrewd man. All hon. Members know that. He is shrewd enough to be able to have a good guess at the point that I want to raise. If he thinks that it is about the special session of the United Nations, he is correct.
I have raised that matter with the Leader of the House several times and he has answered me as kindly as he can. During the whole of the Session, since last November until today—and I suggest this will be the case even into the overlap at the end of October—it has not been possible to find time to discuss the special session of the United Nations on disarmament. That is despite all the subjects that we have discussed, the six special debates on the Falklands crisis and the many debates on unemployment.
It is four years since the first special session. It is an important enough subject to have attracted some attention in the House. The Prime Minister went to New York to address the special session. President Reagan addressed the special session. Mr. Gromyko spoke for the Soviet people and read a special message from President Brezhnev, and many other foreign Ministers and leaders of nations throughout the world attended. However, we have not been able to find half a day, before or after that session, to discuss what should be said or its outcome.
I have made those points already in your hearing, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and you, as well as the Leader of the House, may be weary of them. However, I should like to add a couple of points that have arisen since I last mentioned the matter.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Perez de Cuellar, has visited Britain and had a meeting with the Prime Minister. There was a short report of what he said and how he felt after that meeting in the Sunday newspapers 10 days ago. Those who were interested enough to read those reports will have noticed that he was extremely pessimistic, not as a direct result of his meeting with the Prime Minister but because of the world situation and two matters in particular. The first has been touched on by one or two hon. Members this afternoon and that is the position in the Lebanon. It is extremely serious and if it drags on it could lead to the involvement of world Powers and, ultimately, to a world war. The United Nations Secretary-General regarded that as one of the most serious matters to have arisen since 1945.
The second cause of grave concern to him was the negative outcome of the United Nations special session on Disarmament. I had the privilege of attending sessions in 1978 and 1982. This year, I was struck by the wide participation of the public, through non-governmental organisations, in the special session. There were at least 10 times more people directly involved than in 1978. The very fine document that resulted from the first special session was not matched in any way by the document resulting from the second special session.
Such matters must concern us. I know that hon. Members have many other matters on their minds. Someone who continually preaches that world war is round the corner and that we are likely to be blown to smithereens any day will not be listened to happily. I can 1276 understand that. It gives me no great pleasure to have to pass on this message to hon. Members, but they must realise that a most dangerous situation faces the world. All the other subjects that have been discussed this afternoon, even including the interesting speech about the imminent collapse of the banking system in the Western world, which was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), are not as important as the maintenance of the human race. The human race will be in jeopardy unless we are prepared. The human race will be in danger unless we are prepared to get down to concrete negotiations on disarmament. I am not alone in thinking that. The Leader of the House should realise that twice in the past year ¼ million people have been mobilised in Britain in demonstrations for peace. Is there any other subject—whether trade union legislation, or reform Bills—that could muster two such demonstrations a year? There have been enormous demonstrations, not only in Britain but throughout Western Europe.
I participated in a demonstration of at least 1 million people in New York when I was there for the special session. The people came from every part of society. My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) had the honour to address the meeting and was extremely well received. He preached the same message as I preach—that it is essential to sink the political differences between ourselves and the Socialist countries in Eastern Europe and to get down to discussing the survival of the world.
Fortunately, we live in a democratic country and the peace movement can express its views. However, that is not so everywhere. Turkey is a fellow member of NATO, an organisation set up to defend what we believe to be the best way of life. As a democrat, I strongly support that view. However, the Turkish Peace Association has seen its members arrested and placed on trial. At this moment its members face the death sentence for nothing more or less than participating in the peace movement and trying to bring home to Turkey the same message that we can peacefully bring home in Britain.
I should have liked an opportunity—apart from that offered now—to debate these matters. The Leader of the House will probably say that I could have raised the matter during the debate on the Defence Estimates. I tried to do so but it was a ragged and unfortunate debate for me, because only about one other hon. Member was interested in this subject. Most of the debate consisted of demands for more and more expenditure on armaments. We should find time for a debate on this subject. We could then discuss, perhaps, the interesting issue of the cost of civil defence and so on.
There is much in the point that was raised about civil defence, but it should be borne in mind that boroughs and towns up and down the country that have declared themselves nuclear-free zones and said that they will not participate in nuclear civil defence expenditure and in organising such affairs have done so from the best possible motives. They want to show the rest of the world that at least in Britain there are people who will speak out for peace and who will make a cry from the heart, asking that the rest of the world should focus its attention on this vital issue. We should begin by holding a proper debate on the subject so that people can see that we take it seriously.
§ 7.5 pm
§ Mr. Les Huckfield (Nuneaton)
I warmly support the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Lamond), but I hope that he will forgive me if I do not take up his remarks.
I am glad to have the opportunity to raise certain matters internal to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. To some hon. Members it may seem an insignificant matter, but it should be raised because what should be one of our most significant public institutions is, I fear, fast becoming the object of major national concern. I thought long and hard about whether to raise this subject in this way, as adverse comment could affect people's attitudes to the society and their willingness to give money to it. However, having tried every other means at the disposal of an hon. Member, and being convinced that bad publicity in continual newspaper reports could affect the RSPCA far more adversely than anything that I could say, I decided that it was only right to pursue the subject tonight.
I am greatly concerned about what could transpire between now and October. That is why I thought it fitting to raise the issue today. There can be few governing councils which, despite a vote of no confidence, have still met during the lunch break as this one did at the annual general meeting on 26 June to re-elect themselves. There was a simple re-election during the lunch break despite the vote of no confidence in the entire council.
There was such a rumpus at the annual general meeting that the president had to switch off the microphone and thus break up the meeting. We now discover that the 1980 annual financial report has still not been properly approved and we understand that the society was £1.5 million in debt in 1981. Hardly any of the major executive officers have remained in post. The executive director, the inspectorate controller and the finance controller were sacked in March. The executive director, Mr. Julian Hopkins, was not only on a salary of £22,000 per annum, but left amidst allegations of international air travel with his wife and family and of occupying a magnificent Queen Anne home called Roffey Place, adjoinging the training centre. He should have been paying a market rent of about £6,000 a year but paid only a small fraction of that.
In addition, the staff at the RSPCA passed a vote of no confidence in the management. There are numerous other allegations of financial malpractice. Therefore, such serious matters cannot be left until October. Nothing I say can damage the society as much as it has been damaged already by reports of those occurrences. The Times on 15 May this year printed a story about a Sussex police inquiry into the RSPCA. The Guardian of 28 June carried a story headed "RSPCA thrown into chaos". The Times of 29 October last year headed a story "Expulsion increases conflict in RSPCA". I could give a number of other headlines which have appeared in national newspapers. I make those few references to underline the point that publicity continues to damage the society's interests. Similar stories are repeated throughout the country in local newspapers where they often cause even more damage.
We are not talking about a small organisation, but about a society that is supposed to be a public charity with a budget of £9 million, employing about 600 people and with a membership of more than 30,000. Legacies make up about 70 per cent. of the society's income. It is a substantial public organisation.
1278 Many of us who are members of the society—I think I am still a member—are convinced that the society will find itself in great difficulty if it tries to cure or mend itself. Inquiries have taken place in the past and produced little result. I refer to the internal investigation in 1974 by Charles Sparrow QC, the 1980 internal investigation by Thomas Field-Fisher QC and the internal report on the 1980 accounts by the accountants Binder Hamlyn. Arising from this, when one of the leading members of the governing council tried to take some of those matters further he was expelled from the society for his pains.
It is just as bad at branch level. I took a deputation to see the Charity Commissioners on 14 September. They were extremely good in the amount of time that they gave to us. I referred to them, on behalf of my constituents Dr. Roger and Mrs. Margaret House, several serious irregularities in the way in which regional elections had been conducted. Those allegations included interference with elections by officials and employees of the society. I took Mr. and Mrs. Graham Page from Newark and referred to the Charity Commissioner the rather devastating affair of the East Nottinghamshire branch where almost the entire branch membership was expelled from the society. That was done without any apparent internal investigation. There were serious financial discrepancies alleged in that branch. Complaint was made that a new annual general meeting was then held which was inaccessible to most of the previous members.
I took Mr. and Mrs. Page and my constituents to the Charity Commissioners after they had tried hard within the society to secure some redress for their complaints. The Charity Commissioners told us at that meeting that they were able to do very little about internal matters. They wrote to me on 24 September saying:It seems to us that these are all essentially questions of administration which are outside the scope of our jurisdiction and that to set up a formal inquiry would be an abuse of our powers.I submitted further evidence to the Charity Commissioners including the sudden appearance of £6,000 in the funds of one branch. It has been difficult to make any progress with the Charity Commissioners. Among the matters I raised was the fact that the society has the right to expel any member. First, the society told me that I was a life member. Then it told me that I was not a member. I am pretty sure that after today I shall not be a member of the RSPCA.
After making no progress with the Charity Commissioners, on 19 April I wrote to the Attorney-General asking whether he would receive a petition gathered by Mr. and Mrs. House and others requesting an independent inquiry into the RSPCA. The petition contains no fewer than 10,000 signatures. I was told by the Attorney-General's office to try the Home Secretary. I wrote to the Home Secretary. On 25 May he replied:The only Minister having any standing in these matters is the Attorney-General.I wrote again to the Attorney-General. On 22 June he replied:The matter would appear to be an internal one which can only be resolved through the RSPCA procedures.Since then I have put down a number of parliamentary questions asking about ministerial responsibility for the Charity Commissioners and matters affecting the RSPCA. I put one question to the right hon. Lady the Prime Minister about the allocation of responsibility for the Charity Commissioners, between the Home Secretary and the Attorney-General, again, I am afraid, to no avail.
1279 I have sought to initiate Adjournment debates about ministerial responsibility for the Charity Commissioners—I do not blame you for this, Mr. Deputy Speaker—but unfortunately I have not been able to do so. When my constituents and members of the society are pilloried in that way an hon. Member has a duty to raise the matter in the House when every other avenue would seem to have been explored. I cannot stand by and see my constituents and others insulted and publicly pilloried. There is a wider public interest. We are talking about a significant major national public institution. We are not talking about a small private money-making organisation.
I submit to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House that the Government cannot stand back any longer with matters deteriorating and disintegrating within the RSPCA. I hope that he will accept what I say, and that such matters cannot be left until October because by then they will have become even worse. There will be far more bad publicity in the press and media which will alter radically people's attitudes towards giving money to the RSPCA. I hope that the Leader of the House will use his good offices as soon as possible to prompt the Home Secretary and the Attorneyn-General, both of whom have overall responsibility for the Charity Commissioners, and press for a full independent investigation into the internal affairs of the RSPCA which cannot be left any longer. It cannot be left without a serious mention before the House rises.
§ Mr. Thomas Cox (Tooting)
I wish to raise the subject of Cyprus. It is now eight years since Cyprus was brutally invaded by Turkey and the suffering exists still. Cyprus is a member of the Commonwealth. Sadly, it sees little attempt being made by the Government either to rid the island of the Turkish troops or to play any part in creating once again a united Cyprus.
When the Turkish army invaded, many people were forced to leave their homes, lands and possessions for their own safety. We are aware of the tradegy of the hundreds of people in Cyprus who are listed as missing. Despite all the evidence that exists—names, addresses and occupations—and is readily available the Turkish authorities have said nothing whatever about where those people are. Hon. Members should try to understand the enormous personal tradegy for the many Cypriot people whose loved ones have been missing for such a long time, with no attempt being made by the Turkish authorities to state their whereabouts.
Many thousands of Turkish troops are in the occupied northern area of Cyprus. They have vast supplies of military equipment. It is time that the Government stated what action they intend to take to get those troops out of Cyprus. In the past few years they have done very little. After we sent the task force to the Falkland Islands 8,000 miles away, the Prime Minister repeatedly stated that people have a right to live in freedom. That applies equally to the Cypriot people.
Over the years when we have debated the question of Cyprus, Ministers have stated that the problem is difficult but we should have confidence in the inter-communal talks, which are the basis for settlement. Sadly, no one believes that any longer. The talks are still ticking over but no one has confidence in them.
1280 At the end of last year, with other colleagues, I visited Cyprus. We did not seek narrow consultations; we visited Greek and Turkish areas. It was clear that the military junta that operates from Ankara will decide the future of Cyprus. Unless pressure is put on it, it will show no interest in an honourable settlement involving Greek and Turkish Cypriots. The Prime Minister many times said that a Fascist dictatorship controlled Argentina. A similar and evil regime exists in Turkey, but Turkey is a member of NATO and Britain does not seek to do anything to upset a fellow member of NATO. But we must face the fact that we are a guarantor Power for Cyprus, and Cyprus is a member of the Commonwealth.
Cypriot people will not indefinitely allow their country to be occupied. The time may soon come when we are put under increasing pressure over the future of our military bases in Cyprus. The moment that the good will of the Cypriot people to allow the bases to continue ends, serious problems will arise. The Cypriot people feel that the Government have had ample opportunity to show their interest in Cyprus and perhaps they should take action to force them to put pressure on the Fascist junta in Ankara. I do not wish that to happen, but Cypriot people discuss with me what they should do. They feel that they have been patient for eight years and have had no response. The problem is crucial for us and I hope that the Leader of the House will take it seriously.
I wish to draw attention to two other issues. First, one of the Governments' most stupid decisions was to increase fees for overseas students. Cyprus has been badly affected. Many young Cypriots used to come here to study. They felt that Britain was the natural place to come. Many of the Greek and Turkish community leaders furthered their education by coming to Britain. But fewer and fewer Cypriots now come. Instead, they go to the United States or Eastern Europe. We are losing the contacts and good will that were built up by their coming here. The Leader of the House is fair-minded. I hope that in the next Session the Government will examine the issue closely.
Secondly, after the invasion many Cypriots came here. More Cypriots live in Britain than in any other country, apart from Cyprus. The people who came here had friends and relatives in Britain. They have presented no problems or burdens for the authorities, but it appears that pressure is starting to be put on them by the Home Office to leave Britain. These people were forced out of their homes in the north of Cyprus. If they are forced to leave here they have nowhere to go in Cyprus. The Cypriot community and the House is entitled to know whether action is being taken against these Cypriot men and women who have lived here for a long time. If the Leader of the House cannot deal with all the points that I have raised this evening, I ask him to ensure that his right hon. Friends are made aware of them.
Many hon. Members are deeply committed to the rights of Cypriot people. I emphasise the words "Cypriot people", be they Greeks or Turks. Unfortunately, successive Governments—the Labour Government as much as this Government—have not been as responsible as they should have been towards Cyprus. As long as I am a Member of the House, I shall use every opportunity to keep Governments fully aware that they have a crucial responsibility to see that as soon as possible the Turkish Army and its equipment leave Cyprus and that Cyprus is united once again, so that men and women can live together in peace, as most of the Cypriots wish to do.
§ Mr. Frank Hooley (Sheffield, Heeley)
The House should not adjourn until the Government have made a statement to the effect that they do not intend to continue the process of destroying the capacity of the British Steel industry to produce the steel which this country needs and which the steel industry is well able to produce.
Today the shadow of 2,000 redundancies hangs over two major steel firms in Sheffield—one in the private sector and one in the public sector—which already has 40,000 unemployed. When the Government came to office the level of unemployment in Sheffield was about 4.5 per cent. It is now close to 14 per cent. Although we have heard more terrifying figures than that in the debate, the Leader of the House should be aware that that figure is part of the Government's outrageous and disgraceful record.
The problem in Sheffield is that for the past two years the Government have been pursuing a policy of steadily reducing the capacity of the steel industry to produce the goods for which Sheffield is internationally famous. That is being done by a series of mergers, hiving off and rearranging, under the code name of Phoenix. Phoenix 1 has been carried through. A company called Allied Steel and Wire Ltd, which is a merger of the interests of Guest Keen and Nettlefold and the British Steel Corporation, has been created. Phoenix 2 seems to have run into the sand or got lost. It would involve strip mills and bar mills in North Wales, the Midlands and Yorkshire, although it is not clear whether the private sector is as keen now on the operation as it was at one time.
I am most directly concerned with Phoenix 3. It involves two famous major steelworks in Sheffield—Firth Brown in the private sector and the River Don works, which belongs to the British Steel Cororation, in the public sector. Those two famous and efficient steel-forging companies are apparently destined to be merged, although the trade unions and the men who produce the steel—the men who do the work and operate highly complex and valuable equipment—are not being consulted and informed about what is going on. There are all sorts of rumours and stories. There is a belief that in the middle of August the axe will come down and the workers will be presented with the usual fait accompli and told that probably 2,000 jobs will go and the two firms will be merged.
It is absolutely disgraceful that the men whose livelihood is at stake and on whose skill and ability the production of the steel depends are not being consulted about the merger, if it is to take place, and are not being told what the consequences will be for jobs and for this country with regard to the production of specialised heavy forgings, which are necessary in certain sectors of the industry.
Perhaps the workers in those firms—the highly skilled engineers, scientists, machinists, operators and others—have alternative ideas. They are not looking forward to the merger. Neither the Firth Brown men nor the River Don men approve of it. They do not in any way look forward to the possible loss of 2,000 jobs in a city where 40,000 people are unemployed. If it was properly consulted, the work force in River Don and Firth Brown might come up with alternative ideas and suggest alternative markets where those firms could find an outlet for their products.
1282 The works are not old-fashioned or producing things that are out of date or not needed. I quote from the annual report of the British Steel Corporation which was published recently. It states that the River Don works hascontinued to attract new customers and to increase its order intake as a result of product and process development.What is the firm producing? It produces pressure vessels for AGRs, the most advanced nuclear power stations in this country, components for nuclear-powered submarines, which I should have thought would appeal to the Government, although it does not greatly appeal to me, and, more important, cast steel nodes for offshore oil rigs, which are an essential requirement for further exploration in the North Sea, on which the prosperity of this country depends. Those products are designed for the most advanced and important industries in this country. They are not produced by a firm or by men whose work is out of date or not needed by the United Kingdom in the 1980s and 1990s.
The same can be said for Firth Brown. Over the past few years Firth Brown has installed millions of pounds worth of the most technically advanced equipment in Europe for forging work. It is responsible for part of the work on turbine blades for some of our most advanced aero engines. The recession in the aircraft industry has had a backlash on Firth Brown.
Those firms have a tremendous technological capacity for the most advanced work in the steel industry. The Government's only objective appears to be ruthless and savage cuts in the steel-making capacity of the United Kingdom. They have been making such cuts for the best part of two and a half years.
The Government will argue that if steel companies want to survive they must be competitive. In 1981–82 BSC produced 14 million tonnes of liquid steel, which was 1 per cent. short of its target, despite the country's economic difficulties. Its exports rose from 2.3 million tonnes to 2.7 million tonnes. The price of steel rose by 8 per cent. over the 1978–79 figure, whereas the general price rise in manufacturing industry has been 29 per cent.
Overmanning is one of the favourite stories of the Government. Since 1977 the steel industry has reduced its work force from 208,000 to 100,000. The figure is still decreasing. There has been a 50 per cent. increase in productivity in BSC over the past four years. The figures from 1979 to 1981 show that in 1979 there were 13.2 man hours per tonne of steel produced, but that figure has been brought down to 9.6 man hours per tonne. The process of continuous casting, which is vital to the modernisation of the steel industry, has been extended. Whereas it was 22 per cent. of capacity a little while ago, it has been pushed up to 28 per cent., and the level is still increasing. Despite the ferocious difficulties that have been inflicted on the steel industry by the Government's energy pricing policy with regard to electricity, energy consumption per tonne of steel made has been reduced by 12 per cent. during the past year.
Another excuse that the Government constantly advance about the future of British industry is the demand for higher and higher wages. This year, steel workers have been given no national pay increase. One can go no lower than that. The only increases that have been secured at plant level by plant bargaining have been the strict basis of what the chairman of the British Steel Corporation 1283 called "Something for something". In other words, the only increase in pay has been for a direct increase in output.
The British Steel Corporation and the private steel industry have had to cope with a rising tide of imports that the Government are prepared to do nothing about. About 100,000 tonnes of steel is imported each week. It does not come from Third world countries. Imports from those countries are minor or negligible. The major sources of imports are our so-called Common market partners. They are causing serious difficulties for the Sheffield steel industry.
What is the reward for all the effort in productivity and pay restraint and the efforts that the BSC has made in the past two or three years to modernise and increase output and efficiency? There have been 600 redundancies in stainless steel and there is a prospect of 2,000 more redundancies in the forthcoming merger between Firth Brown and the River Don works. We are being shut out of the United States market. There have been savage cuts in capacity and, apparently, more are contemplated. Above all, the workers are being treated with contempt in the merger negotiations between Firth Brown and the River Don works. They are being given no information, they are not being consulted and they are being given no opportunity to bring their expertise and knowledge to bear on the future of the industry.
Before the House rises for the Summer Recess the Government should, at the minimum, give an assurance that the representatives of workers in the two major steel firms in Sheffield—Firth Brown and the River Don works—should be brought fully into the consultations about matters that vitally affect their future and the capacity of the United Kingdom steel industry to provide the steel that the nation needs, not only today, but in the next 10 years.
§ Mr. John Browne (Winchester)
May I remind my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House that the recent debate on the Middle East concentrated upon the Israel-PLO problem and the problem of Beirut. There was little or no mention of the severe escalation of threats and the military weapon systems on the Israeli-Syrian front. Nor was there much mention of Russian designs on the Middle East.
I believe that the escalation now taking place on the Israel-Syrian front is so serious that my right hon. Friend will be ill-advised to allow the House to rise before the matter has been debated. The escalation has two aspects. The first is the escalation of military hardware, the second is the escalation in software in terms of manpower, and the threatening words from both Governments, that are now reaching a most ominous pitch.
I shall deal with military hardware first. In late June, the Israelis, sometimes using remotely piloted vehicles, exposed a serious weakness in the Soviet, heat-seeking SAM 6 missile that is used by Syria. On 24 June, Syria used the SAM 8 missile which was probably operated by Soviet advisers. There are some 4,000 of them in Syria at the moment.
As my right hon. Friend will know, SAM 8 is a highly sophisticated missile and has a tactical nuclear capability. Its use represents a quantum jump in the level of Syrian 1284 weapons systems. Furthermore, on 26 July, The Times referred to the fact that Syria has 12 batteries of Soviet Scud surface-to-surface missiles, which have a 500 kilotonne nuclear capability. My right hon. Friend will know that the C type Scud has a range of about 450 miles.
With regard to software and threatening words, I shall note one extremely serious development. The Syrians are now threatening to use "previously unused weapons" on Israeli population centres. That threat is consistent with intelligence reports that say that the Syrians have threatened to use surface-to-surface missiles on Israeli population centres. On the Israeli side, there have been suspicions for some time that Israelis have been developing a nuclear capability. I shall quote the words of Mr. Dan Meridor. He said thatthe very gravest consequences would lie on the shoulders of the Syrian Government if it fulfilled its threat to retaliate against Israel with 'all types of weapons'.He expressed the hope that the Syrian threat to strike at Israeli population centres was nothing more than words. However, he added most ominously that the Syrian Government wouldknow very well what any such move would mean".It has long been realised that Russia has vital and strong designs on the Middle East. In keeping with its strategy of fishing in troubled waters, I believe that Russia is now escalating alarmingly the war on the Israeli-Syrian front. Indeed, the escalation is beginning to hint, on both sides of the conflict, of the possible use of tactical nuclear weapons. I ask my right hon. Friend once again: does he believe that it is wise for us to go into recess without a debate on this issue urging the super Powers to de-escalate this high-risk situation?
§ Mr. Charles R. Morris (Manchester, Openshaw)
This debate marks the closing stages of a parliamentary Session that has undoubtedly been, and will be considered to have been, historically significant. It is perhaps right and inevitable that as we look back over the Session our minds turn from the determination, professionalism and courage of the British Service men in the South Atlantic to the major and crucially important economic battle that still confronts the nation and to which the Government's policies seem to be making little or no contribution.
I have listened to every speech in the debate so far, and I have been impressed by many speeches from my right hon. and hon. Friends. I listened attentively to the speeches of my hon. Friends the Members for Keighley (Mr. Cryer), Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick), Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley), Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Eastham) and Oldham, East (Mr. Lamond). The theme that has consistently run through those speeches was the problem of the consistently run through those speeches was the problem of the contraction and the virtual collapse of manufacturing industry which has now manifested itself in some regions of Britain. I noticed the emphasis that all of my hon. Friends rightly placed on the increasing unemployment figures. I noted what my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley said about the contraction in the textile industry, which is now evident in his constituency and the problem of growing unemployment in an area where there is no industrial conflict. Keighley is a reasonable, hard-working community of low-wage earners. The same is true of Oldham, Sheffield and the other areas that have been identified.
1285 I noted particularly the plea for assisted area status from my hon. Friend the Member for Blackley as he drew attention to the fact that from 1 August Manchester and a host of other areas will lose assisted area status. That will indeed be a black day. My hon. Friend emphasised the situation in Manchester, but 16 areas in the north-west will lose assisted area status. They include Preston, Clitheroe, Burnley, Blackburn, Bury, Warrington, Manchester, Oldham, Ashton, Macclesfield, Crewe and Chester. Yet all those areas have reported increased and growing unemployment.
Perhaps those areas could bear the burden of the loss of assisted area status more easily if they were less mindful of what I can only describe as the growing concern about political gerrymandering that seems to be a factor in the allocation of assisted area status. While all those areas are losing assisted area status, one area—Blackpool—will achieve that status on 1 August. Yet unemployment in Blackpool is 13 per cent.—appreciably lower than the average of 16.2 per cent. in the north-west and lower even than the national average of 13.2 per cent. How does one explain that to areas that will now lose any power at all to attract new industry? That aspect of the matter should be seriously examined.
Let us consider the level of unemployment in some of the areas that are to lose assisted area status. My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East has pointed out many times the problems of his area. In Oldham, for every vacancy at the local jobcentre there are 164 unemployed. That is a staggering figure. In Wigan, the figure is 116 and in St Helen's it is 81. Yet those areas are to lose assisted area status in order presumably, that Blackpool may have it.
We are told that assisted area status is determined by travel-to-work areas. In this context, I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Mr. Callaghan) for forwarding to me a letter that he received from the Minister of State, Department of Employment, explaining how unemployment statistics for travel-to-work areas are arrived at. It states:The present TTWA network was last reviewed in 1978 using data about people's actual commuting patterns from the 1971 Census of Population".If assisted area status is determined on that basis it is about time that the Government brought their statistics up to date and adopted more realistic policies to deal with the crucial problem of growing unemployment in the regions.
My hon. Friend the member for Hackney, Central (Mr. Davis) referred to the almost inflexible policy of the Home Office towards Iranians seeking to enter this country and my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North referred to the serious problems faced by Iranian students who may be returned to what he rightly described as a reign of terror in that unfortunate country. I hope that the Leader of the House will convey to his colleagues the deep concern of the Opposition that the Home Secretary and the Home Office generally should adopt a more humane attitude to those people.
My hon. Friends the Members for Edmonton (Mr. Graham) and Tooting (Mr. Cox) spoke of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. It is a matter of great concern that, eight years after the invasion, many Greek Cypriots still yearn to know what happened to their husbands and families. I have listened to the responses of Ministers to both my hon. Friends on this throughout the Session. I hope that the Prime Minister and the Government will 1286 bring to bear on the problem of missing people arising out of that conflict the same enthusiasm that they have shown in relation to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The two situations are analogous—save that Britain was a guarantor Power in relation to Cyprus.
Opposition Members, and even Government Members, have referred to the Leader of the House in the most charitable terms. He was described as able and as a man of integrity and intelligence. In responding to the speeches that have been made today, he will need all those qualities. The hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) suggested that the Leader of the House might change the attitude of the bishops and clergy of the Church of England. My hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Huckfield) then suggested that the Leader of the House should put right the problems of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. With those two remits alone, the Leader of the House will need all the qualities that he no doubt possesses.
§ 8 pm
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Biffen)
The right hon. Member for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. Morris) said that we have just come through seven months of extremely hard and taxing work. It has been dominated by the South Atlantic affair and that experience has very much sustained the reputation of the Chamber and the House as a means of national debate when the country is confronted with great and mighty issues.
However, we are now approaching a recess and the motion suggests that we should go away for 79 clear days, which is slightly less than the average of recent years but which none the less will be profoundly welcome. This matter was obliquely referred to by the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) in comparing the holidays of Members of Parliament with others, but there is simply no anology between the length of a recess and the holiday for a Member of Parliament. Just as I do not believe that the House is at its best when overdominated by legislation, so I do not believe that politics is at its best if concentrated merely at Westminster. There is a great deal to be said for the chance to take one's politics to the sticks.
This has been a wide-ranging debate and I suppose it is something of a collector's piece because, as a result of the recent procedural decisions of the House, this will be the last time that this debate will be conducted precisely in this form. Traditionalists may feel that the old form has been underscored by the way matters have been conducted this afternoon, but however this debate proceeds in future it will have one characteristic, touched on by the right hon. Member for Openshaw—the assumed omnipotence and omniscience of the Leader of the House. Every conceivable problem is thrown upon him for instant consideration and resolution.
I was particularly heartened by the realism of the hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox). He said that I could not conceivably have answers for all the points raised but that it was important to ensure that they were referred to the relevant Government Department. I confirm that the whole debate will be considered and the various sections will be referred to the appropriate Government Departments so that the issues raised may receive due consideration.
Inevitably in such a debate it is difficult to form a structure since the problems range so widely, but it will 1287 assist the House if I first answer the points raised that have a regional or constituency consideration, secondly, those that touch upon national issues and, finally, the problems of international affairs that have also featured in the debate.
The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) referred to county courts in Northern Ireland. As the right hon. Gentleman said, the Solicitor-General has already expressed, on the Lord Chancellor's behalf, his assurances that the resources of the Northern Ireland court service are suffficient to cope with any effects of the increase in jurisdiction of the county courts in Northern Ireland. I should add that it takes up to a year for any staffing effects to be felt in full. If these changes create a greater burden than expected, it will be possible to make any necessary staff adjustments in step with the changing load of procedure, which is working satisfactorily in England and Wales.
As regards court accommodation, each county court division has at least one major court building capable of accommodating any overspill work. In addition, a second programme of building works means that within a year eight county court buildings will have been expanded and further projects are already in hand.
The order giving effect to the jurisdictional changes in Northern Ireland, and bringing them into line with the arrangements in England and Wales, was laid before Parliament on 4 May, but I understand that no prayers were made against it. Nevertheless, I undertake to bring the points raised by the right hon. Gentleman to the attention of the Lord Chancellor and to ask him to write to the right hon. Gentleman.
A series of avowedly constituency points were raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Melton (Mr. Latham). He referred to the involvement of Melton borough council with working parties on the disposal of spoil from the Vale of Belvoir. My hon. Friend has tabled a question to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment who will be replying tomorrow. I cannot anticipate my right hon. Friend's reply.
My hon. Friend also spoke about the Melton Mowbray relief road. My right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for the Environment and for Transport received the inspector's report relating to the Leicester county council's proposal for the Melton Mowbray inner relief road on 7 June. The county council proposal is a complex matter in a sensitive area, relating to a side roads order, a compulsory purchase order, applications to demolish several listed buildings and an application for a certificate that land which forms part of an open space is needed and that the giving in exchange of other land is unnecessary. My right hon. Friends are carefully considering the report and will jointly issue a decision as soon as possible.
§ Mr. Biffen
Yes, this is the drama of Parliament. This is the very stuff of these debates year after year. I in no sense disparage the fact that I am asked to deal with relations in the Middle East on the one hand and the A52 at Bottesford and Muston on the other.
As regards the A52, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport is well aware from the questions that he has put to him of the need for the two schemes and my hon. Friend's interest in them. The consulting engineer's 1288 report on a bypass for Bottesford has now been received and my right hon. Friend expects to make an announcement later this year. As for the improvement at Muston, orders under the Highways Act have been made and a draft compulsory purchase order has been published. How quickly the scheme can progress will depend on whether there are objections to the draft order.
My hon. Friend also referred to the A6—the Quorn and Mountsorrell bypass. I understand that my hon. Friend has recently met my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Transport about the scheme. I can assure my hon. Friend, as she did, that the Department is pressing ahead as quickly as possible with the preparation of the scheme and the associated revocation of the old bypass line.
Perhaps I may now turn to matters that are more congenial to the right hon. Member for Openshaw. The hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Eastham) made a powerful speech about the acute problems of unemployment in Manchester. He said that the rate for male unemployment was over 18 per cent. and that Manchester was not receiving assistance under the regional assistance scheme. The same point was argued in regard to their own constituencies by the hon. Member for Keighley and the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick).
I can add little to the statement made recently by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry about the regional map, so to speak, and the amount of aid that is being distributed. The case that the hon. Member for Blackley portrayed of an aid programme that has little relationship to the areas of sharpest industrial recession cannot be gainsaid. The recession has affected many of the areas that traditionally have been impervious to such events, and I cite the West Midlands which I know the hon. Gentleman has at heart. Nevertheless, the point is taken and it was powerfully argued by the hon. Member for Blackley.
The hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Brown) spoke of the difficulties caused by 17,500 council properties being handed over to the Hackney borough council and the alleged shortcomings of the Hackney borough council in coping. The hon. Member has discussed the matter before. His speech was the more moving for his stories illustrating the difficulties. I shall ensure that what he says is relayed to the Department of the Environment so that it can consider whether an inquiry is needed.
One of the clutch of issues raised by the hon. Member for Keighley was the multi-fibre arrangement and the current negotiations. I cannot add to what is already known. This is the last time for a while that the House will be able to consider the issue. The European Commission has initialled 13 bilateral arrangements under the multi-fibre arrangement. I accept that they cause the least difficulty. The great debate will take place with Hong Kong, Korea and Macau about the cuts required in the Commission's negotiation document. The Commission expects to report to the Council of Ministers in September and the report will be considered in October. The matter will be topical when the House resumes.
My hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Montgomery) referred to an issue of deep public disquiet—the recent IRA terrorism in the capital. The House will join my hon. Friend in welcoming the evidence that the latest events may have an impact on drying up or impeding American funds flowing to the Irish Republic.
1289 The House has recently considered and judged whether the death penalty should apply to terrorist murder. That issue could be considered again in the autumn if hon. Members seek to use the opportunities available.
The hon. Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. Davis) referred to the immigration rules and he was kind enough to tell me in advance that that was his intention. He talked of the Government's treatment of Iranians compared with their treatment of Poles. The Government decided, in conjunction with other Western nations, that the imposition of martial law in Poland justified the exercise of exceptional treatment towards Polish nationals. The situation is under continuous review, as are the circumstances of Iranians in the United Kingdom who express a fear of returning to Iran. In appropriate cases of both nationalities asylum is granted. My right hon. Friend is always prepared to consider individual exceptional cases on their merits. I shall draw my hon. Friend's attention to what has been said.
§ Mr. Clinton Davis
There seems to be an illogicality. The Leader of the House has drawn attention to martial law in Poland. With all its objections, martial law in Poland cannot begin to measure up to the saga of tyranny and oppression in Iran. How can a distinction be drawn? All Poles are treated on one basis and Iranians are treated selectively.
§ Mr. Biffen
The hon. Gentleman will be the first to concede the difficulty when one must apply value judgments about the unacceptable nature of overseas regimes and how that affects immigration rules.
The Home Secretary has considered applications for asylum in the United Kingdom by South African citizens in accordance with the standard practice for all asylum seekers. Active opposition to apartheid is taken into account with other factors peculiar to South Africa.
My hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) discussed the Church of England and the police force. As Lord President of the Council, I am ex officio a Church Commissioner, but that does not validate any comment of mine or what I can sensibly observe. I think that my hon. Friend speaks for a larger number of people outside the House than we sometimes care to admit. In history, the established Church has often become part of the current fashion. I speak particularly of the eighteenth century. The doubt in the Church today cannot be dismissed as something which is of no concern to the House. I regret that we have less formal authority over Church of England affairs than we had when I first came to the House. I do not think that I should use the privilege of standing at the Dispatch Box to give my own views about the Church of England, but I thoroughly enjoyed listening to my hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge.
My hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Sir P. Hawkins) called for a rural policy. I am sure that the House will consider that when it returns in the autumn. A Select Committee has just reported on rural policy. The questions of rural depopulation, the change in the social character of the countryside and other matters are of concern to people from rural areas. I look forward to my hon. Friend, having rehearsed his anxieties, returning recharged from the recess and making the topic an occasion for a major debate.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Atkinson) drew attention to the issue of the Soviet gas 1290 pipeline. He did so commendably in that he argued—I do not wish to put words into his mouth—for more sympathetic understanding of the American point of view. One does not hear too many voices raised at the moment asking for a more sympathetic hearing of the American point of view, particularly on this matter. I hope that that debate goes further. The Government are deeply disturbed by what is implicit in what the United States Government is now proposing because it affects existing contracts. It also postulates an extension in the scope of American-inspired jurisdiction outside the United States of America. I also hope that Americans themselves will reflect upon the anxieties that this is causing in Western Europe because it means that a great many countries trying to seek a partnership with American technology cannot be too sure in the future whether they will have the degree of sovereign action and freedom that they now think they possess. However, my hon. friend made a persuasive case from a different point of view from the one which I have just put. I wish him well in trying to ensure that the debate is even-handed.
My hon. Friend for Welwyn and Hatfield (Mr. Murphy) raised what is undoubtedly a matter of major importance—civil defence. He will appreciate that my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. Pawsey) proposes to raise the issue on the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill, immediately after this motion is disposed of. Any few faltering comments of mine would be but chaff against the rich grains that will come when the Minister replies to the debate later this evening.
My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, North (Mr. Eggar) described some of the difficulties that have affected people with spinal injuries. Doubtless he was drawing on his experience of the Royal National Orthopaedic hospital. I noted the major points that he listed and I undertake to bring them to the attention of the Department of Health and Social Security and, indeed, to the other Government Departments, as he requested.
The hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Huckfield) raised the issue of the Charity Commissioners and the RSPCA. I am rather fastidious about my controversies. I have kept away from this quite exceptionally fierce and divisive affair. The hon. Gentleman had every authority to raise the matter. I understand that he was originally hoping to do so in the debate on the Consolidated Fund (Appropriations) Bill. I undertake to ensure that he will receive in written form the answer that he would have received had he pursued his original intention. That answer will be with him as speedily as possible.
I turn now to the speech of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley). He had said that he would like to discuss the reorganisation of the steel industry in the debate on the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill. Six o'clock in the evening is immensely more attractive than four o'clock in the morning, so I quite understand why he made a tactical adjustment. However, in the process, he has deprived himself of the priceless jewel of a ministerial answer from the Department of Industry, only to be left with a few passing observations from me. Once again, as in the case of his hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton, I will ensure that he receives a more comprehensive reply. I hope that he will agree with me that, whatever the heartaches and difficulties of contraction in the steel industry, the difficulties of the steel 1291 industry today would have been much nore seriously compounded if there had never been the rationalisation and contraction of earlier years.
I turn now to the areas of international concern. The hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Lamond) spoke of the need for a further debate on the general disarmament proposals and discussions at the United Nations. I understand his feelings on the subject. He certainly made his own potted contribution to this debate, which was a condensed but none the less profoundly effective edition of the speech that he would contribute to that specialised debate for which I am never able to find time, and to which he is never able to persuade his Front Bench to devote a Supply day. Between us, we have our problems. I say to the hon. Gentleman that come the Queen's Speech there will be endless days of general debate as we square up for the last Session before the political drama of the general election. I know that his voice will not be missing in urging the virtues of general disarmament. I shall be fascinated to see how many he can take with him.
The hon. Member for Walsall, North, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) and my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne) all referred to the Middle East. The hon. Member for Walsall, North described succinctly the agony of the present situation. Part of the agony is that, however deeply committed we feel to trying to resolve these matters, the level of our effective competence is extremely limited. Whatever we do is likely to be done only in concert with others of a broadly similar view and with similar economic and political interests. The immediate objective has been set out by the Government, and that is an Israeli withdrawal under the terms of Security Council resolutions 508 and 509.
The problem becomes infinitely more intractable when we consider the longer term. It can be encapsulated in the rather easy phrase of reconciling Israel's rights to security and the Palestinian's right to self-determination. I suspect that the hard and unrewarding search for something in that direction will occupy the mind of the House and the effective action of many others over not merely months but possibly years ahead.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton delivered a measured case but one that was unmistakably sympathetic to that of Israel. I am only sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) was not in his place. If my hon. Friend had been present, we could have had a mini diversion. I was appreciative of my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester for drawing the attention of the House to some of the implications of the sort of weaponry that is now being given use in the Israeli area of the conflict.
§ Mr. John Browne
Will my right hon. Friend urge the Government to urge the two super Powers to bend their efforts to de-escalate the system that is rapidly escalating in the area?
§ Mr. Biffen
I can assure my hon. Friend that his remarks will be drawn to the attention of the Foreign Office.
The hon. Members for Edmonton (Mr. Graham) and Tooting (Mr. Cox) both drew attention to the problems of Cyprus. The hon. Member for Tooting said that he hpoed that the British Government would be committed to a 1292 policy of a unified Cyprus. I am sure that both hon. Members will appreciate that they have used their undoubted advocacy on successive Governments and that the behaviour of those Governments has testified the intractable nature of the problem. I shall ensure that their remarks are brought to the attention of the Foreign Office. I understand the concern of the hon. Member for Tooting about overseas students' fees. He may have observed that my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) will be raising that issue later this evening.
I thought that the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) made a delightful contribution to our proceedings. It continued for 21 minutes, which was by far the longest contribution to the debate. This is meant as a compliment: 21 minutes from the hon. Gentleman is half as long as 10 minutes from many other hon. Members. It was a magnificent tour de horizon of the banking system. The hon. Gentleman drew on his recollection of history and seemed to sniff a latter day Creditanstalt collapsing some time between now and when we return after the Summer Recess. The hon. Gentleman seemed to visualise the Western economies collapsing like a pack of cards. If that happens, his moment will have arrived. I hope that he will elbow his way ahead of all the neo-Social Democrats who have left the Labour Pary behind, who might try to take advantage of the situation.
I take a rather different view from the hon. Gentleman and that is why I look forward to the autumn, when there will be a little legislation, but that is diversionary. The important matter will be squaring up for the next general election. We shall be marking out the ground over which we hope to fight to secure the affection and loyalty of the British electorate.
The hon. Member for Bolsover has a fundamental view of what is wrong and how it needs to be put right. He is right in his analysis about the dangerous extent to which Western society has developed an economy based upon debt to Third world countries—not debt created by Western bankers but debt that has been encouraged and manipulated by Western Governments. The United Kingdom is less exposed to such a risk than many other countries. That is because we have never had the same vested interest in creating such an extended debt since, when 30 per cent. of the gross domestic product of a country's economy is derived from exports, that country cannot afford to be in the business of giving it away. Other countries are more at risk than the United Kingdom. If there is a message for us, it is that we should be much more prudent and classical and live within our means. We are witnessing the consequences of an international never-never system that is now showing signs of unease and creakiness.
The hon. Member for Bolsover was asked whether his analysis led him to support the Brandt report. In a moment of commendable honesty, faint nausea passed across his face. He said that he would not dream of associating himself with the tinkering that is associated with the most emaciated Social Democrats. He then referred to my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) and the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins). He said that they were uncertain of their territorial status in subterranean areas. I thought of a neo-Marxist slogan: "Wets of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your corner seats". I shall take that memory away with me for the recess and commend it to everyone else.
§ Question put and agreed to.1293
That, at its rising on Friday 30th July, this House do adjourn till Monday 18th October and shall not adjourn until Mr. Speaker shall have reported the Royal Assent to the Appropriation Act and to any other Acts which have been agreed upon by both Houses.