Motion made, and Question proposed,
That this House, at its rising on Friday 10th April, do adjourn until Wednesday 22nd April, and, at its rising on Friday 1st May, do adjourn until Tuesday 5th May, and the House shall not adjourn on Friday 10th April until Mr. Speaker shall have reported the Royal Assent to any Acts which have been agreed upon by both Houses.—[Mr.Lennox-Boyd.]
§ 7 pm
§ Mr. John Silkin (Lewisham, Deptford)
I hope that the House will not agree to the Easter Adjournment until it has had time to consider the continuing problem of speech therapists.
As some hon. Members may recall, it is just a year since I spoke to the House about the problems of speech therapists, but little of significance has happened since then. It is not that there is a lack of interest; there is considerable interest. Indeed, there is interest in the House. In the near future, for example, an exhibition will be held in the Upper Waiting Lobby on how speech therapists tackle their important job and several early-day motions are on the Order Paper, including one tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington, North (Mr. Hoyle). It surprises me that hon. Members who are interested and want to help do not get together and table one large global early-day motion on the subject. There were also many early-day motions a year ago.
A year ago speech therapists were leaving the profession in large numbers although the need for them was increasing, and a year ago the Government, including the Leader of the House, were extremely sympathetic and willing to consider anything that might be done, but nobody did anything. Here we are a year later and the problem is still with us.
The Government will point out that in November 1986 speech therapists, reluctantly, accepted a 6 per cent. increase in pay, and Ministers will make reassuring noises that recruitment is going well and we have nothing to worry about. However, hon. Members will hear a different story in their constituencies. I know of one area not far from here where the vacancy rate is about 12 per cent. That is considerable among a small number of specialists.
We shall undoubtedly have a great deal of tea and sympathy, or perhaps just sympathy, in the next few days and probably from the Leader of the House. Nothing concentrates the mind so much as the prospect of an early general election, so Ministers will no doubt treat us to the same amount of sympathy as they offered in similar circumstances before the last general election. I fear that the results will also be the same.
This problem and injustice have been with us for too long. The pay of speech therapists is perhaps the meanest possible for a job that entails so much skill, energy and effort. Nearly nine out of 10 speech therapists earn between £5,964 and £9,720 a year. That is after many years of devoted work. Indeed, I know of one who has been engaged in her task for 14 years, yet that is all she earns.
The Government will say, "Why don't speech therapists take part in the pay review body?", but that is not the answer. Speech therapists are wholly distinct from the other members with whom they have been grouped in the pay review body. First, unlike the others, they are absolute experts in their sphere. They do not work under the supervision of doctors and their clients are not the subject 1274 of reference from doctors, so their profession stands in its own right. Secondly, they must be graduates, not only in the general sense of having a degree, but in a detailed, narrow section of medical knowledge. They are experts, so they should be compared with other graduates— for example, medical psychologists. Yet they are paid about one third less than those in other remedial professions.
It is hardly surprising that after a while they look around and say, "Is there another job I can do where I will be paid rather more?" As a result, they are leaving the profession and going into jobs which do not require their training and skill but which are better paid. They may be the material gainers, although they do not gain in other ways because most of them want to perform their vocation, but the country is the loser. Thousands of people who could be helped are no longer helped.
There are few more worthwhile vocations than that of speech therapist. It requires patience, skill and, above all, a desire to serve the community. Those virtues should not be taken for granted, especially in today's society. Still less should those who have them be driven from their profession. Speech therapists help people of all ages and, above all, children whose speech is imparied but who can be trained to speak so that they can live a normal life with the rest of us.
Recently it was estimated that 750,000 British children under 16 suffer from some form of speech or language disorder. Some years ago a national report recommended that the ratio of speech therapists to speech impaired children should be 1:150. Therefore, for 750,000 children whose speech is impaired, we should have 5,000 speech therapists, but the latest available figures show that we have precisely 1,200 to help them. Considering the pay, that is hardly surprising; what is surprising is that there are so many.
I do not wish to detain the House long as many other hon. Members have points to raise and have every right and duty to do so. With all-party support—Conservative Members as well as Labour Members may be sympathetic—and with our minds concentrated because of the imminent general election, this may be an opportune moment to see Ministers do their job properly and speech therapists receive the recognition that they deserve.
§ 7.9 pm
§ Sir Dudley Smith (Warwick and Leamington)
I do not believe that we should adjourn for the Easter recess before we have a major debate on the dread subject of AIDS. I believe that that debate should take place either in Government or Opposition time and we should have a full day on the subject. I wish to concentrate my remarks on one particular aspect of the disease. Indeed, I have some fairly worrying news for the House.
Before I commence, I should like to emphasise—I do not believe it can be done too often—the potentially catastrophic nature of a disease that was completely unknown only a few years ago. I have seen some expert estimates that suggest that nearly all homosexuals who are promiscuous in their relationships will be dead within 10 or 15 years. If that is true, it is something to consider. I have also read that three quarters of drug addicts who use needles will also die. It is the explosion of the disease as a result of heterosexual promiscuity which will have a devastating effect on our society.
1275 A few weeks ago, I received answers to written questions that I had put down to the Home Office and the Department of Health and Social Security which revealed that there was a discrepancy in the recording of the figures of those who die from AIDS. I have now received a letter which reveals a disturbing state of affairs in that respect and, if the House will bear with me, I will spend a few minutes quoting from it.
The letter came to me in a roundabout way. It was written by Dr. Anthony Pinching who is a senior lecturer and consultant in clinical immunology at the department of immunology at St. Mary's medical school. He is a person of great distinction in this subject and probably one of the leading experts in the study of AIDS. Lord Kilmarnock had written to Dr. Pinching on the subject of AIDS and had sent a certain amount of parliamentary material that included my parliamentary questions. Dr. Pinching replied to Lord Kilmarnock and was courteous enough to send me a copy of the letter. I have since obtained his permission to quote from it. The letter states:In relation to the discrepancies between the information from the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys and that information provided by the Communicable Diseases Surveillance Centre, the reason is very straightforward. There has been considerable difficulty with confidentiality in respect to patients who have died from AIDS, as occurs equally when they are living. One particular problem that has led to breaches of confidentiality is the fact that the death certificate is a public document and a number of newspapers, as well as other individuals, have obtained access to confidential information about people who have died from AIDS by this means.I am sure that we all condemn this scaremongering and the exposure that some papers go in for with regard for AIDS However, as Dr. Pinching has said, death certificates are public property.
The letter continues:As a result many clinicians, including myself and members of my unit, do not put the word AIDS or anything directly relating to it on the death certificate. We try to put sufficient information on to identify the secondary disorder from which the person died without identifying the underlying disorder. In most instances we identify that further information can be made available to the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys through the subsequent confidential inquiry system which the OPCS operates. Nevertheless, the most important means of ensuring that accurate figures about the numbers of cases obtained rests on the voluntary reporting system"—I wish to emphasise that—directly to the Communicable Diseases Surveillance Centre by clinicians. This has worked extremely effectively up to now and I believe that the CDSC figures are reliable, subject to the inevitable delays involved in reporting cases from very much over-stretched clinical units, of which you know the details. When I last discussed this matter with the epidemiologists at the CDSC it was apparent that they had not obtained information about any individuals with AIDS from the OPCS records which they check, that they had not previously been aware of during a patient's life through the voluntary reporting system. I think this indicates the effectiveness of the voluntary surveillance system.
I believe that this is an important subject and that is why I have quoted at such length. Dr. Pinching concludes:It is not surprising that members of the two Houses"—he is referring to Parliament—are not aware of these details of clinical practice, but I believe that it is important that members of the Houses should be aware of the reasons underlying the fact that death certificates do not necessarily incorporate AIDS for the reasons given above. You will appreciate the extreme sensitivity of this matter and the need to protect the relatives 1276 and the close associates of our patients from information disseminated as a result of the public nature of the death certificate as a document.
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)
I am sure that my hon. Friend will be interested to know that Dr. Tony Pinching is one of three distinguished persons currently advising the Social Services Select Committee, of which I am a member, during its inquiry into the critical subject of AIDS.
§ Sir Dudley Smith
If my hon. Friend was present at the beginning of my speech he will be aware that I paid tribute to Dr. Pinching as an expert and said that he was a man of the utmost probity and expertise. I hope that the Committee will consider the subject that I raise tonight, as it is most important.
I believe that we must have an accurate, effective system of monitoring this disease and its ultimate consequences. We must know how many people have the disease at any one time and we must also know, with absolute accuracy, how many people die from the disease. It should be mandatory for doctors to record AIDS as the main reason for death on death certificates. There can be no fudging of the issue because of the lamentably distressing nature of the disease for relatives. That may sound very hardhearted, but I believe that the situation in the country decrees that we must have accurate information. We shall need that information as we get further and further into the mire of this terrible disease.
§ Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)
There will be many haemophiliacs who will contract AIDS through no fault of their own. They will receive no compensation and will be put in an extremely difficult position. There will be a great problem if every death certificate carries acquired immune deficiency syndrome as the reason for death.
§ Sir Dudley Smith
I agree with the hon. Lady; indeed, she is anticipating my remarks.
Secrecy works both ways. There are those who are genuinely dying from other causes, and, unfortunately, after they are dead, their relatives may discover that the finger of suspicion is pointing at the deceased. That is already happening in some walks of life when people say, "We know he really died of AIDS." That innuendo comes across many times, and is it fair for those families who have lost someone who contracted the disease innocently—for example through infected blood when treated for haemophilia, or as a result of a blood transfusion—not to have that fact recorded on the death certificate? The death certificate should state that the person had died from AIDS innocently contracted from a blood transfusion. It is important that that is recorded; otherwise people will say, "Ah, that is just a cover-up. He said he got AIDS from a blood transfusion, but it was because of his promiscuous way of life."
Dr. Pinching has been extremely helpful in supplying this information and I am most grateful to him. He appears to be satisfied with the current procedure and believes that it is reliable. I am not satisfied. I believe that society decrees, however sensitive the subject, that we must do rather better than this.
I believe that Government action is required. Indeed, it will be seen to be needed if this disease takes hold lake a prairie fire as some clinicians have forecast. I have talked to Dr. Pinching and he said that he is handicapped by a 1277 lack of resources and a lack of staff in tackling the disease. At the moment a ward round can last all day because of the many patients who have AIDS. Because of the nature of the work there is often no time to compile the records without delay, and to pass them on so that they can be filed and checked.
Dr. Pinching praises the Government for the energy of their campaign and for advertising the dangers of this dread disease, but he believes that more time should be spent on other areas, and I agree.
I know of two people in public life about whom strong allegations were made that they died of AIDS. In one case I strongly suspect that that was true, but it was not recorded publicly. He had been in ailing health for some time. In the other case I am sure that the allegation was untrue. There was press speculation about both cases with headlines such as "X or Y—did he die of AIDS?" That was scurrilous in the case of the person who died from a disease other than AIDS. I urge Home Office and DHSS Ministers to consider the problem seriously.
I add a final word on this grim subject. We must keep up the pressure on all the various aspects, as my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) is doing in his Select Committee. We must keep up the pressure in the Chamber. It is vital to continue to stress to the nation the seriousness of the disease.
It is ludicrous that, following advertising and television programmes on the subject, programmes follow immediately—with the usual diet from television—flaunting promiscuity in plays and in so-called comedy shows. Leaving aside moral considerations, that approach stands logic on its head. Something should be done about it.
§ Sir John Farr (Harborough)
I agree with my hon. Friend about advertising and television programmes. Has he any suggestions about how such advertising can be improved? It has been suggested to me that more effective and simple would be to use the slogan, "Promiscuity means death."
§ Sir Dudley Smith
I agree, provided that the public understands what promiscuity means. One must be fairly simplistic. That aspect needs to be stressed. It is not beyond the Department's wit to achieve the desired effect. We have taken the first step and we must now take the second.
I hope that Ministers will take into account the death certificate problem. It is essential because delays are now occurring and there is a likelihood of some discrepancy. We must have accurate figures because the problem will not go away in the next six months or year. It will be with us for a long time until a cure is found. In the circumstances, the British public is entitled to know the exact numbers.
§ Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)
I am tempted to contribute to the discussion on the important subject of AIDS. I hope that the House of Commons will take on board the responsibility for those haemophiliacs who have been infected by being given contaminated blood.
The House of Commons should not adjourn until it has discussed the urgent problem of what is happening in British Rail Engineering Ltd. workshops in my 1278 constituency. On Tuesday this week I visited BREL and saw its highly modernised and efficient shops. I was shocked by the atmosphere among the workers, who are in considerable doubt and worried about the future, yet they work in what should be the pride of our engineering units.
The House should consider the difficulties caused by Government policies. Earlier this week British Rail and BREL were split into two separate companies. If one accepts—which I do not—that the Government's plan was to make the workshops more efficient, one must realise that in Crewe we can say that even by the Government's criteria we have carried out the sort of plan that they proposed for a useful future. So why are we still at risk?
By August this year, nearly 1,000 jobs will be lost. Already 400 men have gone and another 600 redundancies will be made by the spring of next year. Most of the jobs will be lost by August. In August 1988 apprentices will be leaving their training school, but unless the unions make voluntary agreements it is doubtful whether those young men will be found jobs, even though they have undertaken long and exhaustive training.
The changes in the workshops are remarkable. I was surprised to see how many changes had been made in the short time since my last visit. The problem is not a shortage of investment. The work force at Crewe has diminished from 4,000 to 3,000. Workshops have been closed and a great deal of land has been offered for sale. The machine shop has been altered and investment has been made in high-powered and up-to-date machinery. I am talking not about small-scale retooling, but about major moves from traditional engineering patterns to highly specialised, robot machines capable of producing with ease almost any equipment required by any section of industry, not just the railway industry.
Last year, £4.4 million was invested and in the new build area £1.3 million spent on re-equipping the shops. A total of £3.5 million has been spent this year on the machine shop. As a result, the work force has not only been slimmed down, made efficient and tightly organised, but it operates high-powered, high-quality tools. Nevertheless, in the middle of the year we are suddenly told that British Rail is to change its working pattern.
The bulk of activity in the Crewe workshops has always been repair work. It is capable of new build, but it has always been able to meet a steady flow of high-quality repairs. In the last year it was the only British Rail workshop to be given a work allocation of 216 locomotives and to achieve that total. Despite that, because of changes in work patterns, there is to be an acceleration of redundancies and repair work will not be forthcoming.
The Government's line, which they push with energy, if not with conviction, is that British Rail now has more efficient engines which require less servicing. The reality is that the movement of locomotives from Crewe to other workshops is not because they do not require maintenance and servicing, but because of a management decision to put the work elsewhere.
Some of the things that have happened are difficult to explain. There is, for example, a highly efficient store system at Crewe, which is to be relocated elsewhere at considerable cost to British Rail Engineering Ltd. The reality is that, compared with other works, and certainly with any other works in this country, British Rail 1279 Engineering Ltd. at Crewe has a highly efficient and well-equipped workshop capable of competing with any workshop anywhere. What it must have, however, is equal freedom not only to tender but to get a fair crack at the existing work. That is tremendously important. lf, for political reasons, decisions are made that will steer away from Crewe the amount of work that is necessary to make the unit viable, there will he very deep anger indeed.
I cannot emphasise enough how ironic it is that, on the 150th anniversary of the Grand Junction Railway, in a town that was built for railways, a town that is synonymous with railways, we are facing a situation in which the whole work force is destabilised, not because it is not capable of doing the work for which it is trained, not because it does not have modern equipment or well trained operatives, but because political decisions are being taken by British Rail management which are having a direct and damaging effect upon the work force.
I could take the House in very considerable detail through lists of the allocations of locomotives and repairs in which Crewe has been involved over the last two years, but I hope that the House will accept from me that the real problem has not been any slackening in the high quality of the work or any inability to change work practices. Indeed, the members of the BREL work force have been so flexible in the way that they have operated that they have accepted considerable changes. The rate of change in the way that they operate in Crewe has been far greater than that in comparable manufacturing units elsewhere.
Why, then, are they faced with this very considerable challenge? Why are so many men and women in my constituency deeply worried about their future? It is really not sensible for the Government to tell them that they need not worry because they will he able to compete for work against private firms and if need be, against firms abroad. They know that in many instances the British Railways Board is positively pushing for orders to go not just to other firms but to other firms outside the United Kingdom. They find this difficult to accept when they are sitting there, after the very considerable investment of taxpayers' money, wondering what is to happen to them.
It is frightening for a constituency that has always faced the problems of unemployment by seeking to find new jobs, new technology and new ways of operating to be told that it does not matter what people have done to protect themselves, they are as expendable as any other work force. This is totally unacceptable and I find their anger and despair wholly justified.
I ask the Minister tonight to carry to the Secretary of State for Transport a very simple but very heartfelt message. It is that this country will not stand aside and watch that pool of expertise dissipated in misery, unhappiness and despair. That is what will happen if British Rail workshops are put under even greater pressure to run down for purely political reasons. They have seen the beginnings of the Serpel report being put into operation, they know how much they are at risk and their anger is very real indeed.
I ask the Minister, when he talks to his colleagues at the Department of Transport, to emphasise that it is no use talking about what might happen in the future and offering the suggestion that when the Channel tunnel comes, if we are lucky we might be able to get some of the new build that will arise from that project. Men who are faced now with order books that have been reduced by over one third know that they are going to have to find 1280 work this year, next year and the year after. They cannot be bamboozled into waiting for some project which may or may not carry with it a number of jobs in the future.
I know that the Minister understands that. I know that he will make sure that his colleagues understand it, because the House of Commons will return to this subject again and again until those men are given back their confidence in the future of industrialised operations.
§ Mr. Michael Latham (Rutland and Melton)
The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) has raised a matter which is obviously very important for her constituency. I want to do the same, and I believe that, if he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Sir J. Farr) will also deal with this matter. I refer to the need for a debate on the National Health Service, in particular so that Leicestershire Members can raise the situation in their county.
I was first elected to the House in February 1974, at almost exactly the time when the area health authorities were being founded. Leicestershire district health authority is almost exactly the same as the previous Leicestershire area health authority. At that stage, Leicestershire area health authority was one of the most poorly funded in the country. It was at 75 per cent. of the average National Health Service funding across the country. As a result of the pressure exerted by Leicester city and county Members of both parties, and also by successive Ministers in successive Governments, both Labour and Conservative, the percentage has been raised to the present figure of 96 per cent. But that figure is still below the average funding of NHS authorities in this country. This is a matter that continues to be of great concern to the Leicestershire and Leicester city Members of all parties, and the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) specifically said that he wanted to be associated with my remarks tonight, because I discussed them with him earlier.
I remember going with hon. Members of both the Labour and Conservative parties, including my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough, to see Mrs. Barbara Castle when she was Secretary of State for Social Services in 1974 to plead that we should continue to build the new Leicester district general hospital, which at that stage it was thought might be cancelled. In fact it was not cancelled; indeed, it was opened by a member of the royal family last year. So that has come to fruition and is very welcome.
Nevertheless, the Leicestershire health authority is left with some very serious problems, and the problem that I want to raise with my right hon. Friend tonight— I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough has asked to see the Minister of Health with a deputation and we expect that meeting to take place very shortly—is that of the funding of wage settlements.
This has been a particular problem for the Health Service. In 1984–85, in Leicestershire, we had a shortfall in funding pay settlements of £600,000; in 1985–86 it was £1 million; and in 1986–87 it was £950,000. If we were to have in the forthcoming financial year a 1 per cent. unfunded increase in pay settlements, it would cost the Leicestershire health authority £1.2 million. This would be a very serious matter indeed. Already, very unpalatable decisions are 1281 having to be looked at because the Government are not properly funding the settlements that have been made at the national level.
I must say to my hon. Friend—and I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough will revert to the position in more detail if he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker— that the Leicestershire Members will expect those settlements to be properly funded. We do not expect anything unreasonable or excessive. We expect, indeed demand, that our authority proceeds under the resource allocation working party formula to 100 per cent. funding, which is the intention by 1994, although I hope that it will be earlier than that.
Furthermore, if the RAWP formula is to be in any way eased to help London Members, to which I do not object because I know that they have problems, we in Leicestershire insist that it should not be to our disadvantage. We remain underfunded and this is the whole basis of the RAWP formula. I want to leave the point very firmly in my right hon. Friend's thinking that we in Leicestershire expect to have a proper part of the National Health Service.
I want to raise another matter that is also of great importance to my constituents. I am referring to the need for a debate, which I believe the Leader of the House intends to concede shortly after Easter, on agriculture, the environment and the countryside. This is of great importance in Leicestershire and also, I am sure, in my right hon. Friend's county of Shropshire. If anything is certain, it is the necessity for a statement of Government policy about where we are going, following the major changes in the Common Market as a result of the problem of surpluses. I have read Farming UK, produced by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and other Departments of Government quite recently. It reads very nicely, looks very nice, and so on, but it leaves us with substantial and serious problems that need to be addressed immediately.
The "question which dare not speak its name" almost, although tangentially referred to in the document, is that of how we are to escape the fact that farmers, being human, will expect to defend their family incomes. If the price mechanism is used, as the document regularly says, farmers will expect to grow more or produce more in order to obtain the same amount of income from a product that has been cut in price. The other problem is that if, instead, we choose to put things into intervention, as has also happened, we get the horrendous and obscene expenses that so outrage the public. A total of £66 million is the current cost of storage alone of products in intervention; products which have a notional value of about £1,200 million. Many of them have a nil value. In fact, we are giving some of them away, perfectly reasonably. Some are sold to Russia for virtually nothing. So they have no value.
These problems of how we are to alter the balance in the countryside between farming and the environment must be properly discussed by the House, because it is essential for the maintenance of rural life that we get this right. British agriculture is immensely productive and efficient. It deserves defence from this Government, and it will get it from its party supporters on the Government Benches, at any rate.
As regards the environment, which is also of great importance to hon. Members on the Government Benches, 1282 some very stupid remarks were made at the time that the White Papers were being published, suggesting that the new circular was evolving a developer's charter. That was absolute nonsense. It was never intended to be that, and will not be that, but it is incumbent upon Ministers, in the debate that we shall have, to make it clear that, while it is perfectly acceptable that disused barns and so on should be used to set up new rural industries—something that will have strong support on the Government Benches—there is no question of mass building all over the countryside.
This is well understood by the building industry. When the circular first came out, the director of the House Builders Federation was quoted in The Times as describing it as just a minor and technical change. I can say that if he had thought it a major and substantial change, of benefit to his members, he would certainly have said so. I say that with some authority, because from 1971 to 1973 I was director of the federation, and I can imagine what my reaction would have been had I been in that position now.
In a parliamentary answer to me on 19 February, my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, said:435 mecu have been set aside for use by the Commission to provide extra support for the beef sector as necessary."—[Official Report, 19 February 1987; Vol. 110, c. 784 .]Yet the magazine Farming News last Friday quoted the EEC Farm Commissioner as having told the president of the National Farmers Union:no provision has been made in this year's EEC budget to cover the cost of increased cow slaughterings.
They cannot both be right. Either the Minister was right, or the Farm Commissioner was right. We need this cleared up quickly. We have new quotas coming up. The beef industry could be seriously affected by culled dairy cows. We must have it clear whether all these millions of ecu, roughly £308 million, will be available to help the beef industry if necessary. I hope for a clear undertaking on that from my right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West)
It is some time since I took part in this kind of debate, and I have been intrigued by the remarks of the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Latham) and other remarks from both sides of the House. A prominent feature of the debate has been the repeated requests for the Leader of the House to persuade the Government to take certain actions before the House adjourns for the Easter recess.
While we in the Opposition are on good ground in asking the Government to intervene, perhaps I can say with no great hostility that, although we are in an intense pre-election atmosphere, it is somewhat strange to hear right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the Government Benches asking the Government to intervene on a whole range of matters when this Government consistently advocate a policy of non-intervention, of withdrawing from the market. What the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton wants is for the market to be cooked for farmers, manipulated so that farmers can maintain their income. We hear not a word about miners or engineers maintaining their income. I have nothing against farmers, but for them the instrument of government has to be used.
As it happens, with no collusion, the subject that the hon. Member raised in a tangential way—the Health 1283 Service—I want to raise on behalf of my constituency, but I must tell the Leader of the House that we in Scotland have no love for the Prime Minister or her economic policies and certainly no love for the view that the Health Service should be supplied— because it would be a negation of the word "service"—by the market.
One of the most nauseating remarks of the right hon. Lady— it will be deep now in the recesses of her memory—was that the good Samaritan would not have managed to get help for his neighbour if he had had no money. When disasters happen. when there are fires, the Prime Minister goes to see the victims—quite rightly, that is the role of the Prime Minister—but she never suggests to the unfortunate victims or their families that they would not have help unless they had money.
The people in my constituency are quite clear about this. For a long time now we have asked that the acute bed shortage in Fife be rectified. In 1983, the Fife health board carried out an option appraisal exercise— a rather sophisticated term— with the assistance of the health economic research unit at Aberdeen university. Five options were suggested. In June 1984, the health board decided to proceed with option C, which placed the emphasis for development on the West Fife district general hospital. particularly phase 2, in Dunfermline.
In the late autumn of 1985, the decision in favour of option C was thrown into confusion by information thought to emanate from the building division of the Common Services Agency in Scotland, which suggested that a more extensive development could take place on the site of the Victoria hospital in Kirkcaldy. I canvassed this matter in an Adjournment debate on 31 October 1986. In November 1986, the policy and resources committee of the Fife health board was presented with papers which went over the existing evaluations and contained a recommendation from the officials of the board in favour of another option, option D, which placed the emphasis of development on the Victoria site at Kirkcaldy.
The policy and resources committee did not decide the matter, but passed it to the board. On 25 February 1987, at a properly convened meeting, the Fife health board decided, by 10 votes to six, that the preferred option should be option C. I apologise to the Leader of the House as I am using a shorthand form to describe what happened, and I am not giving details of the number of beds involved as I presume he will be contacting his hon. and right hon. Friends at the Scottish Office. Subsequently, the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) and I have had meetings with Scottish Office Ministers, and especially Lord Glenarthur, who is the Minister responsible for these matters in Scotland. He and his officials accept the board's decision in favour of option C.
Not unnaturally, there are certain rumblings of discontent when a decision is made after some delay. Unfortunately for the people of Fife, there might be moves within the board to reverse this decision. I think that that would be wrong because it would not be best for the people of Fife, especially after the long delay that we have experienced. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to clarify whether the option appraisal for option C is declared and fully accepted policy. I feel that it is fully accepted by the Scottish Office. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to clarify, having submitted to them an approval in principle for phase 2 of the Dunfermline and West Fife development, whether the Scottish Office will accept phase 2 without 1284 delay and not ask the health board for detailed development and approval in principle of the whole of option C.
This is a democratic decision. It is most important that the acute bed shortage in Fife is dealt with apace. I do not want to enter into the argument on population distribution or how we in Fife resolve our differences. The board decided by a substantial majority of those who were present, and those who were absent should not be allowed to frustrate this decision that has been accepted by the Scottish office. We in Scotland recognise the great value of what has been done for us by the Health Service, and especially the hospital service. The Government must recognise that the situation, particularly in Fife, can be rectified only by Government action, not by the private sector.
§ Mr. John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)
I assure the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) that I will not ask for taxpayers' money. I wish to raise a more general and profound point.
I do not believe that this House should adjourn for the Easter recess until we have debated the moral condition of England today, Parliament's relationship with the Church of England, and what part both Church and state can play in public morals. We have to ask ourselves whether it should be the Government's responsibility to give a moral lead, or can we leave this entirely to the Church, particularly at a time when the Church does not appear to be giving strong moral leadership? The question, of course, is not new. There was the famous occasion when the late Earl of Stockton was asked about public morals and he gave the somewhat dusty answer that one should consult the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The archbishop gave an interview to Bernard Levin in The Times last Monday. Reading the archbishop's answers, one is struck by the fact that he is a very nice man indeed, but his answers were hardly clarion calls to the nation. If the apostles had adopted that tone, the early church would never have got off the ground. It is appropriate that we should consider this subject during Lent and while we all look forward to Easter. In the good old days, the monarch or Parliament would call on the nation to fast from time to time, and perhaps it is a pity that that custom no longer continues, for we need to take stock of ourselves and some of our problems.
The paradox is that most people in this country— leaving aside for a moment those who are unemployed or less fortunate—have never had it so good materially, yet there is some unease that all is not well in other aspects of our lives. I shall give some examples of where the Government and the church are not giving a clear moral lead. The subject of AIDS was raised earlier this evening. The Government issue solemn warnings about the dangers of AIDS, but no mention is made in their advertisements of marriage, only the euphemistic word "partners", and there is so much emphasis on contraceptives that it must have a crude and brutalising effect on innocent young people.
The Church of England, apart from a pamphlet by the recently retired Bishop of Birmingham, has maintained a deafening silence on the moral problem of AIDS. It does not say that AIDS concerns mainly homosexuals and drug takers. The Church does not condemn homosexuality and very seldom mentions the subject of drugs. In so far as 1285 AIDS affects heterosexual conduct, the church does not appear to say that Christianity demands chastity before marriage and fidelity thereafter. Perhaps that is too hard a saying for a generation brought up in the cult of self-indulgence.
Or take the subject of crime and violence, which worries us so much, as we heard in yesterday's debate. The Government rightly are giving much thought to a larger and better police force, sterner penalties, more prisons, the excellent crimewatch scheme, and so on. But I am amazed that, as most crime is committed by young—sometimes very young— people, no mention is made of the responsibilities of parents for bringing up their children properly. Surely this is a paramount factor in people's behaviour. The Government should stress that there must be more respect for parents and for authority in general or society will disintegrate. This applies to so much crime, including crimes of violence such as football hooliganism, mugging, rioting and the appalling act of rape, which is becoming distressingly more frequent.
The Church, meanwhile, is absolutely silent on these evils. I know, because for the last few years I have attended the General Synod regularly. It prefers to deal with matters further afield. Even after the dreadful riot when a policeman was barbarously murdered— we read recently about the trial—I did not hear a single protest from a churchman.
A much less important matter, but one of concern for those of us who love our country, and one typical of our problems today, is the cleanliness and tidiness of our towns and cities. Some beauty spots are in an appalling mess because of litter. England used to ba a far cleaner and tidier country than many on the Continent, yet unfortunately the reverse is true today. A country which is proud of itself keeps itself in good order, just as a smart regiment does. Here again the answer must surely be in part the responsibility of parents. A vast state scheme costing much taxpayers' money is not necessary.
It is the conduct of the individual that matters. If individuals behave well, we have a good state. Parents must tell little Johnny not to throw his toffee papers on the street. Much worse is the vandalism that we suffer. There is within 25 yards of my house a telephone box which is used frequently, but often the telephone is smashed. That is regrettable.
We see the most appalling graffiti on walls, inside trains, at bus stops and in similar places. That was unknown before the war, when there was much more poverty and hardship. The Government, as well as the Church and teachers, have a responsibility to ensure that children are brought up to respect their neighbours and not to make places dirty and untidy.
The Government are trying to free us from many of the restrictions that the state has placed upon us over the years. They are trying to make people help themselves rather than look to the state for assistance. That is right, but it means that we must all behave more responsibly, show concern for others and exercise good manners and courtesy. I am glad that the Government are encouraging acts of charity.
When we come to the family, which is really what I am talking about, the Church could do much more to support that great institution on which our civilisation depends. Divorce is worse in England than in almost any other 1286 country. There are far too many one-parent families. The Church hardly ever mentions that serious and lamentable position. We are not helped of course by the popular press or some television programmes which do not lift the moral tone of the nation. Rather they seem to pander to the lowest traits in human nature.
To pull ourselves together we need leadership at every level— from the Church, the bishops and the clergy; from Government and Ministers; and from leaders in every walk of life but particularly in the teaching profession, which, after parents, has the greatest responsibility for young people.
I try never to end a speech on a gloomy note. We still have a great deal to be thankful for. I speak as someone who has lived abroad for some time and who has always travelled a great deal. This island country has a long and marvellous history, which is amazing in some ways as it is such a small island. I hope that the teaching of history will be done properly in our schools and not in a modern and absurd fashion.
Despite all the faults I have outlined, we still have a quality of life which is better than the quality of life almost anywhere else. So many people who come here say how much they like our way of life. Apart from being a very old nation, we are civilised, tolerant and kind. We must try to keep it that way. When it seems that most people will be better off than ever before, it would be a pity to spoil it all by bad and selfish personal conduct. Conditions present a challenge to the Government but, above all, an opportunity to the Church of England.
§ 8.6 pm
§ Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)
I am surprised to find myself in agreement with the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) on his main point, as well as on others of which he may be aware. Although I doubt whether the Leader of the House will concede his request before Easter, I share his view that it would be opportune to have a general debate on the relationship of moral and ethical issues to civic and governmental issues. I served for a short time in the General Synod before the hon. Gentleman and I share his view that there is often a Christian answer for individuals and for problems where the state cannot provide an answer. We may disagree sometimes on the remedies, but we would look to the same place to find the ultimate and unchanging truths.
Of the six speakers so far, the hon. Gentleman, like four others, alluded to Health Service matters. We have had only one contribution, that of the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody), unrelated to the Health Service. Her speech was about employment. So the debate so far has been principally about the two major preoccupations of the public, employment and health, if opinion polls are correct in the information they interpret.
I wish to raise with the Leader of the House two matters which are specific and urgent and on which I hope the Government will act before we agree to rise for Easter, because they are both matters that cannot properly wait. They relate to two crises facing two key professions in inner London. One concerns basic aspects of the teaching profession, and the second the nursing profession.
I accept that the first is not principally a governmental responsibility, because my concern involves a shortage of primary school teachers in the Inner London education authority area. The Government, however, have some 1287 responsibility, and I should like the Leader of the House to be alert and to stress to his colleagues the seriousness of the problem and a suggested way forward.
The matter came to my attention dramatically just after Christmas when a church primary school, the parish school of the cathedral church of St. Saviours and St. Mary Overie, near to Southwark cathedral, had its reception class closed for a month. The pupils had to stay at home for a month because there was no teacher. With the redeployment of the teaching staff it has been open since, but it again faces the risk of closure after Easter for an indefinite period. A county primary school in my constituency, Albion school in Rotherhithe, has now joined that risk category. It too faces the prospect of pupils being sent home after Easter, not because of industrial disputes, but because there are no teachers. This is not because these two schools have a particular problem. The problem is much more general and it affects the county and Church sectors.
I should like to give the House the statistics to show how urgent the problem is, and I shall then suggest a way forward. I shall quote from a report from the divisional office at Southwark in relation to the county sector first:By the annual summer holiday each year, the Division's school teacher vacancies have usually all been filled; but in September 1986, there were 25 unfilled vacancies in primary schools … By Christmas 1986, the number of unfilled vacancies was down to about 5 but the new crop of resignations, confinements, and long term absences raised the total number of vacancies in January to 48"—this is in one borough in London—with 29 covered on an acceptable basis. From Easter 1987, the Division will have a further 35 long-term vacancies from Scale 1 upwards.
The next part of the quotation relates to the secondary sector. It says:The problems of covering vacancies are not as acute in the secondary sector but the cover position for sickness is not good. Currently 9 long term vacancies have adequate cover but the position will worsen after Easter with approximately 20 long term vacancies from Scale upwards.
The Anglican diocesan schools do not have as bad a problem, although there is a problem within the Anglican diocese, which extends beyond the borough of Southwark through south London into Surrey. I quote from a letter dated 19 March from the principal adviser at the diocesan hoard of education. It says:I have written to all headteachers in the Diocese asking them to predict how many vacancies there will be in Diocesan schools in September 1987. So far, I have received 27 replies out of a possible 110 … The replies received so far indicate a likelihood of 17 vacancies at Scale in these 27 schools. If this sample is representative we can project a total of 58 vacancies throughout the Diocese. These 27 schools also indicate 50 vacancies at Scale 2.
You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and the House will be aware that under the Education Act 1944 there is an entitlement to education. Parents ask me, "How is it that our right to have our children educated is not being fulfilled?" Under various sections of the Act, the Secretary of State has power to look into these matters. I urgently ask that we do not have a term after Easter in which schools have closed classes because there are no teachers.
As always, the problems are complex, but one of the problems is common to teachers and to nurses, with whom I wish next to deal. One of the desperate problems is the shortage of housing for rent in inner London at a price that anybody coming from outside inner London without an existing fixed home can afford.
1288 There is clearly a nursing crisis in inner London, and you, Sir, will be aware that in the last few days newspapers have carried headlines which dramatically illustrate the problem. A headline in The Independent of 16 March read:NHS losing 1,000 nurses a year to private sector.A headline in today's Daily Mail read:Patients 'at risk' in nurse crisis. Up to one in four hospital jobs unfilled.A headline in yesterday's London Daily News read:Share-a-bed scheme for Bart's patients. London nurses crisis.
The Royal College of Nursing was so alarmed by these problems that at the end of last year it set up an inquiry into how dramatic and crucial the position was. It reported yesterday, and the Leader of the House will, I believe, be aware, that the Government are about to receive the recommendations of the pay review body. Nurses' pay is a crucial factor, as well as that of the lack of accommodation. It is sometimes thought that, because the population of inner London has declined, the problem is not acute, but I know that the right hon. Gentleman will accept that, because of the high daytime influx of population, and because of tourists, postgraduate specialties, and other national specialties, the demand on the Health Service is enormous, even if the local resident population has been reduced.
One problem is that the cumulative drain in nursing has now reached an unprecedented level and the Royal College of Nursing's conclusion is that there is a critical shortage of trained nurses in London. The British Medical Association shares that view; it said in a letter to me received today:All the signs show that, for purely demographic reasons, the problem is going to get worse. We anticipate that there will not be enough people of a certain age going into a nursing career.
Information from the report of the RCN has generally been made available to the public, but I shall give the House the specific figures as confirmed yesterday and today by the principal nursing officers in each of the following inner London authorities. They have all bar one supplied information to my office. The Riverside health authority was 657 nurses short of establishment. At the end of February, Paddington and North Kensington was 287 nurses short. At the end of February, the figure in Wandsworth was 220. In Hampstead it was 220, in Bloomsbury about 220, in the City of London arid Hackney health authority the figure was 365, in Newham 255, in Tower Hamlets 211, in West Lambeth 189 and in the two health authorities which cover my constituency, Camberwell was 239 nurses short and Lewisham and North Southwark was 319 nurses short. That makes a total of about 3,050 nurses missing which the Health Service establishment fixed as being necessary for basic health care in London. If it is not a crisis when at least in some hospitals one quarter of the jobs are not being done by nurses, I do not know what is.
The reasons for the shortage are these. First, there are demographic reasons for the number of people of the right age group not coming into the profession. Secondly, there is no doubt that nursing pay is a major disincentive. The average pay for a staff nurse who is qualified after five years of service is about £7,000 per annum. That figure cannot allow such a person to work in inner London. That is also a disincentive to men coming into the profession. In any event, a family cannot be supported on a nurse's wage. Thirdly, there are the stretched working conditions.
1289 One fifth of the work force are student nurses and they complain that they are often left alone in charge of wards in London.
Fourthly—this is a crucial factor with this being London and national housing week— there is the problem of house prices in London. Buying property in London is effectively impossible for somebody wishing to nurse there. District health authorities have been selling off accommodation. The Government must intervene to make sure that accommodation can be provided for staff who want to live in hospital accommodation.
Fifthly, there is the cost of travel into London, which is a disincentive. Sixthly, violence in London is a disincentive to people who are taking a job which involves going home, for example, at 9.30 pm, which is the typical time for people to go off a late shift in hospitals. It is not that they are normally physically victims of, for example, grievous bodily harm, but there are aspects of vandalism, personal aggravation and personal interference.
Seventhly, staff are being tempted away by the higher salaries that are paid in the private sector and overseas, and Australia, America and Saudi Arabia have been recruiting in London. The free market economy means that nurses will respond to its attractions.
Eighthly, agencies cannot provide all the nurses that the district health authorities require, especially in the specialty sectors of nursing.
I want to sum up the crisis by quoting from a letter that was written to the authorities at the Lewisham and North Southwark health authority by somebody who was considering coming to nurse at Guy's hospital in my constituency. It was written recently. I shall leave out the name of the recipient and the author, to keep their confidentiality.
The letter said:I am sorry to say that I will not be entering the Royal School of Nursing training at the Thomas Guy and Lewisham school of nursing in May 1987. After giving it a lot of thought I feel that I cannot live for three years with so very little money, and due to staff shortages have to deal with situations at the time I cannot cope with. With the state of the National Health Service as it is at the moment, I do not feel that I will have the dedication to work so terribly hard and have no money to do anything outside of nursing. I am sorry I have not let you know earlier but it has taken a lot of thought and talking to a lot of trained nurses. I don't want to waste your time or mine by giving up half way through the course. I am sure you have many people to fill my place. Thank you for your help.Little does she know that there are not many people to fill her place.
London has the most horrendous nursing crisis. The Government can intervene and they have a key opportunity to do so in the pay awards that they are about to determine for the Royal College of Nursing and for other professional bodies in the NHS when the pay review bodies report. If the Leader of the House can ensure that before the House adjourns for Easter the Royal College of Nursing and other nursing and medical professions—the Health Service professionals in the review board categories—can be assured that they will receive what the review bodies recommend, even though some people might say that that is an advantage for the Government in a possible run-up to an election, the nursing and medical professions will, above all, be grateful. At least then we shall be able 1290 to get people back into our hospitals to look after our patients and to perform a proper duty for our Health Service.
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)
The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) has done a great deal of research in the cases that he has presented to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House this evening, and I am sure that he will receive a full and sympathetic response. I follow him in only one matter, which is of urgent importance to my constituency and should be debated before the House goes into recess for Easter, and that concerns education.
We have a terrible problem in Macclesfield in that Cheshire county council, which is Labour controlled with Liberal and Social Democratic support, is seeking to force a sixth form college upon Macclesfield and to impose a system of 11-to-16 education in secondary schools against the wishes of a majority of parents, a considerable number of teachers and the education advisory committee in Macclesfield.
I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science will call the matter in at the request of myself and all the Conservative county councillors representing Macclesfield and will consider the matter urgently because the uncertainty currently faced by parents and young people in Macclesfield is extremely damaging and we want to ensure that in future the excellent reputation of our 11-to-18 schools can be maintained. I was prompted to make those remarks in passing by the reference to education made by the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey.
There are two matters which are of great importance and should be considered by the House before we rise at the end of next week. Hon. Members will have heard and welcomed the recent statements that the problems of Japanese restrictive and uncompetitive trading practices will be tackled by the members of the EC. That is long overdue. Many Conservative Members have been highlighting for several years the unacceptable manner in which our domestic industries have suffered at the hands of the Japanese, whose support for their national companies has been— I use the phrase intentionally—blatantly ruthless in complete disregard of the spirit, if not the letter, of international trading agreements.
We should expect such support from the Japanese Government for their industries and would hope that the same spirit of self-interest was exhibited by our Governments in the past, but one thing that we in this House cannot accept and should not tolerate is an open invitation to Japan by the British Government, or a Department of Government, to tender for a contract which gives them access to yet another area of industrial production in which to date they have made little impression.
I refer to the example of the purchase by Her Majesty's Stationery Office of a new printing machine for the manufacture of the flexible laminated United Kingdom EEC passport. It is bad enough having to change our passport, but to have that new passport produced in Britain on a Japanese machine compounds my anger and annoyance.
In Stanley Press Equipment, a company in my constituency,. the United Kingdom has a supplier of similar European equipment which is used throughout the 1291 world and which has a reputation for quality and reliability. Yet in its attempt to gain the contract to supply HMSO with such a European piece of equipment, which could have done the job as well as the UNO machine manufactured by Sumitomo of Japan, at a more competitive price, Stanley Press Equipment met an unhelpful attitude on behalf of the Civil Service—a Civil Service which appears deaf to our manufacturing expertise, which seems to be mesmerised by the Japanese salesmen and determined further to undermine our manufacturing base. The Japanese Government need hardly worry about defending their own industry when our own civil servants seem so keen on fulfilling that role on their behalf.
Therefore, I urge the Government, even at this late stage, to look again at the matter. The devious trading practices of Japan justify such action. If the Government are serious in redressing the outrageous trade imbalance between Japan and Western Europe, such action is essential.
Having said that, I want to pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Treasury, who has done his utmost to help me. He saw me at short notice and has sought to investigate the matter on my behalf. But until I approached him, which was fairly late in the day because I was not approached until fairly late in this sad saga, my hon. Friend was unaware of what was being done in his name. I hope that, even at this late stage, the Government will look at the matter again.
I am deeply concerned about our manufacturing base and I know that hon. Members would not expect me to make a speech without a brief mention of the textile industry. It was with great concern that I received a letter from the president of Berisfords Ltd., the ribbon people of Congleton, in the constituency so ably represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Mrs. Winterton). That letter drew to my attention the steady reduction in the consumption of yarn for textile manufacturing in the United Kingdom and the continued growth in imports of textiles and clothing.
There has been a reduction in the use of yarn in United Kingdom textile mills and factories. In 1973 we were using approximately 900,000 tonnes of yarn and by the end of 1986 that figure was scarcely above 500,000 tonnes. That shows the dramatic reduction in Britain's manufacturing capacity. That shows why there has been such a dramatic increase in imports of textiles and clothing from overseas. In 1972 Britain imported approximately 250,000 tonnes of textiles and clothing, and by the end of 1986 the amount had risen to approximately 700,000 tonnes.
A traditional but important manufacturing sector in Britain has been decimated, in the main by unfair competition. It is no longer a sunset industry. It is an industry which has invested, rationalised and sought to respond to the market.
Therefore, I hope that my right hon. Friend will take on board from a member of his own party the message that there are those who believe that there is a vital need for a substantial manufacturing base in Britain if we are to remain not only a major economic power, but a major political power in the world.
That leads me on to say that the Prime Minister's visit to the Soviet Union has brought about the most encouraging development in East-West relations, and the strongest possibility of a lasting secure peace, since the 1292 Russian revolution in 1917. I warmly welcome her dramatic achievement, which I am sure will be welcomed by everyone in western Europe.
I also welcome what my right hon. Friend has done for trade. She announced this afternoon that, while she was in Moscow, agreements were signed for orders worth approximately £400 million, a major tranche of an annual trading arrangement which could amount to £2.5 billion. That is the sort of leadership that our industry wants and, I hope, will receive from the Government during the remaining months of this Parliament, and when they are re-elected in the forthcoming general election.
I am all the more happy about what happened in Moscow because Rieter Scragg, a company in my constituency, agreed with the Soviet authorities an order totalling £10.5 million for its world-famous draw-texturing machinery. It will begin delivering the machinery to the Soviet Union in the early part of 1988. The order will secure employment at that famous company, which has been part of the Macclesfield scene for many years—and which, I hope, proves to my right hon. Friend that the textile industry in all its forms has a major part to play. Here it is, producing a high technology, sophisticated machine that can sell well on the world market. It needs the climate and the leadership that the Prime Minister has shown during her dramatic trip can be provided.
I come to a matter of considerable concern to hon. Members on both sides of the House— that is, the predicament of war widows. Eighty right hon. and hon. Members have expressed their concern by adding their names to an early-day motion that I tabled earlier in the Session calling upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer to use the current Finance Bill to redress the discrimination suffered in the United Kingdom; particularly by pre-1973 war widows. That most deserving group have made great sacrifices throughout their lives. It does not reflect well on the House, on successive Governments or on the people of this country, whatever their politics, if we permit their plight to continue. We should have expressed in financial terms the gratitude that we owe to this aging and diminishing group whose husbands, many years ago, gave their lives in our defence and to guarantee our freedom.
There is a strong argument for improving the assistance available to all war widows to make it at least as generous as that received by their European counterparts. For instance, the basic war widow's pension in the Netherlands is nearly triple that received by our war widows. In Germany, a country that we defeated, war widows not only receive three times as much as they do in this country, but a holiday every two years with all expenses paid.
I want to be reasonable. To expect such major improvements all at once is perhaps too much to ask arid too optimistic. However, the pre-1973 war widows' case is irrefutable. Those brave women receive only about half the financial assistance that is made available to their post-1973 counterparts in this country. When I last made a detailed analysis of the figures, it was apparent that the post-1973 widow of a private soldier would receive a combined pension of more than £5,000. Her pre-1973 counterpart would have received just half that amount— about £2,500. Those pensions may now have been increased a little by the cost of living, but the huge discrepancy—and, what is more, the injustice—remains.
The time is long overdue for the Government to do what has not yet been done by either a Labour or a Conservative Government, and to ensure that the special 1293 Ministry of Defence pension, which accounts for this doubling of the later widow's income, is made available to all British war widows. I pay particular tribute to Mrs. Iris Strange and to the British War Widows and Associates which has done so much in seeking to improve the lot of its members and of those who are not even members. I hope that my right hon. Friend agrees that we must enable those brave, patient, courageous women to end their years in dignity and the financial security to which their sacrifices entitle them, and that the House will be prepared to act accordingly.
I suspect that deep down, whatever our politics, we all feel that the war widows have a genuine case. That case cannot be left unanswered any longer. I know that my right hon. Friend will listen sympathetically to my plea and will take a message to the Treasury and the MOD so that the injustice can be rectified in the next Finance Bill.
§ Mr. Brian Sedgemore (Hackney, South and Shoreditch)
When I worked for Granada Television, the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) lodged a complaint about the behaviour of Liz Howell, a reporter, and myself, a researcher, and about an item that we had featured. He was hysterical, and his complaint was dismissed: no one took it seriously.
The hon. Gentleman has been a little hysterical tonight. Perhaps he has been gripped by election fever. He is not the only one; I am told that the Lobby is saying that the Prime Minister will call an election on Tuesday for 7 May. Perhaps the Leader of the House will tell us about that, as it relates to his duties. It may be that the cause of the election is the Prime Minister's trip to Russia.
I confess that I did not hear her statement today, because rather than participate in high-flown rhetoric that belongs in the clouds I went with some young people to Randall Creamer primary school in Hackney to watch a play presented by the Theatre of Thedelma, and very enjoyable it was.
However, I suggest that the House should not adjourn until the Secretary of State for the Environment has had a chance to come to the Dispatch Box and to tell us why he is about to issue a directive to the London borough of Hackney to force the borough to sell land in Laburnum street—which, incidentally, is only about 100 yards from the school that I visited this afternoon.
It is odd that I can even come here and take the time of all these great and prescient persons to talk about a directive to sell 3.31 acres of housing land in London. But that is the bizarre nature of what is happening to Government. The Government were elected on the basis that they would take government off the backs of the people and local authorities, yet they have passed legislation that gives them the authority to issue directives to local authorities to sell land. I do not know how that squares with their fundamental philosophy.
This is not any old bit of land. Although it is not a very large site, it is the largest site in Hackney's current capital housing programme. If Hackney is forced by diktat from Whitehall to sell it off, three things will happen. First, the Secretary of State for the Environment will wreck Hackney's housing programme. Secondly—he may not worry too much about this, but others do—it will become impossible for the council to carry out its election 1294 pledges. Thirdly, Hackney will be unable to carry out its statutory responsibilities under the Housing Acts. I ask the Leader of the House to speak to the Secretary of State and to tell us what is happening.
I used to work as a civil servant in the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, which spawned that hideous giant octopus, the Department of the Environment, with its terrible architecture designed by the Ministry of Public Building and Works. When I worked at the Ministry, Ministers— whether Labour or Conservative—considered that their task was to nurture, encourage and help local authorities to develop, and to enable them to get on with their own policies.
How is it that in a few short years we can have a Secretary of State for the Environment who sees it as his task to wreck, destroy and impede local authorities in their basic functions? The notion that a Secretary of State for the Environment can destroy a local authority's housing problem by directing the authority to sell off precious land is so extraordinary as to demonstrate clearly how the political scene has changed and how some sort of authoritarianism has crept into the very Government who claim that their philosophy is based on 18th-century Liberalism.
I must ask the Leader of the House whether he can explain the curious conduct of the Secretary of State for the Environment over the past couple of years. He has broken so many laws, bullied so many individuals and made so many offers to councils that they have not been able to refuse that he now appears as a sort of godfather in a Government who are run by the Mafia. The Secretary of State's personal conduct is extraordinary. He has contempt for the rule of law and behaves in an authoritarian fashion on rate capping. He is saying now to a great London borough that he will stop it carrying out its housing policy and force it to sell off its land. How can this happen? Surely he should be invited to tell us before we rise for the Easter recess or for May day how the issue has arisen. Perhaps the Government's next action will be to block May day.
There are 700 homeless families in Hackney. Well, most of them are living in dreadful hotel accommodation in the City of Westminster. Many of the hotels would be closed if all the relevant regulations were applied. In addition, there are no fewer than 15,000 on Hackney's housing waiting list. Many of them come to my surgery on Fridays and Saturdays and break down in tears, but what is the point of crying if the Secretary of State for the Environment is to stop Hackney building new houses? The standard response is to say that there is a fair number of empty houses in Hackney. The answer is that if every empty house was occupied tomorrow, there would be only a minor dent in the problem of 15,000 being on the waiting list.
There are 8,000 on the transfer list, and these people do not want to transfer from one dump to another. They want to occupy modern, well-built, low-rise housing, which the professionals describe as living in the vernacular style. The majority in Hackney are condemned to live in high-rise flats. Who encouraged or practically forced Hackney and other London boroughs to build high-rise flats? The answer is the Ministry of Housing and later the Department of the Environment. How can I speak with some assurance on that? The answer is that I worked in the Department at the time when Conservative and Labour Ministers were forcing London boroughs to erect hideous 1295 buildings so as to provide housing at a faster rate. The blame and responsibility lies with the Department, and when a sensible, sane council says that it will build low-rise housing that is fit for families, the Secretary of State for the Environment tells it that it must sell off its land. In other words, he is saying that Hackney is not to have it.
If Hackney is not to have the land, who is? I shall tell the Leader of the House and the Secretary of State for the Environment who will have it. The land will go to private builders who will build houses on it costing £100,000 plus. That is the sort of price that the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) was talking about. We in Hackney do not want a land of yuppies at every cul de sac in the borough. We do not want yoghurt-eating yuppies. We do not want more middle-class people. They can stay in Islington, if that is where they wish to squat.
It is outrageous that the Secretary of State for the Environment should be saying to Hackney, "I shall force you to sell off this land to private builders," when the poorest people in the poorest borough in the country cannot get decent housing and when 23,000 of them are after it. I ask the Leader of the House to explain how his right hon. Friend can say to Hackney, "You must sell off the land to private developers." This approach is open to every conceivable form of political chicanery. How was Laburnum street picked upon? There are millions of acres throughout the country on which building could take place, yet 3 Laburnum street, Hackney, has been picked upon. What sort of computer picked out these 3.31 acres and said, "This is the sort of land that private developers want"? How did it come about that there was a huge press release that showed eight little blocks of land? Where does all this come from? This small piece of land has been selected because someone has said that he wants it and because someone else knows that he wants it. There is no other way in which 3 Laburnum street can find itself so prominently in the political spectrum.
The Secretary of State for the Environnment is concerning himself with a piddling 3.31 acres. It is so important to private developers that he is intent on forcing the borough to sell it. It is a damnable disgrace that Hackney is being forced to sell the land to speculative developers so that they can sell the houses that they build upon it to those who currently live far away in Reigate and Surrey.
§ The Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Biffen)
What about Devon?
§ Mr. Sedgemore
I come from Devon and I know that there is much rural poverty in that county. Devon people are not wealthy. They cannot be compared with those who live in Reigate, for example. I invite the right hon. Gentleman to visit Exmouth, where I was born, and Exeter, where I live. After he has visited the area he will not make superficial comparisons between those who live in the leafy suburban glades of Surrey and the honest-to-God fishermen and rural workers in Devon. To do so is a disgrace and an insult.
§ Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
I know that the Leader of the House cannot help my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore) on this matter, but as he has mentioned Devon, Reigate, the leafy 1296 lanes of Surrey generally, Islington and Hackney, I ask him whether in all these places there are the various addresses of the hon. Member for Ynys Mon (Mr. Best)?
§ Mr. Sedgemore
My hon. Friend tempts me but I know that you would rule me out of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if I followed him down that tortuous path and leafy lane.
The people of Hackney are so upset about what has happened, including those who live in the Haggerton area where the land is, that an 80-page document has been submitted to the Secretary of State for the Environment. The chairman of the planning committee, Councillor Brynley Heaven, and the chairman of the general housing committee, Peter Chowney, have said that they are prepared to fight the issue in the courts if it is necessary to do so, but surely a London borough should not have to go to the courts to ensure that it is enabled to carry out its housing programme. It should be able to rely on Ministers and Parliament generally to behave responsibly. It should be able to rely on Ministers to uphold the rule of law and not to sell off its land to their friends. It should not have to be confronted with the scandal of Ministers selling off land to their supporters as opposed to the deprived and poor who live in Hackney. I hope that Hackney will get the support of the Leader of the House in its wish to bring the Secretary of State for the Environment to the Government Dispatch Box to explain this outrageous behaviour.
My God, has the Secretary of State for the Environment nothing else worth while considering than one small piece of land in Hackney? Is there nothing else that he should be doing? Does Whitehall know so much about Britain that it can select a tiny dot on a huge map and say, "This is what concerns us."? Is a tiny blue dot the only thing that concerns it?
§ Mr. Sedgemore
The hon. Gentleman may be happy about that, and people may be better off in Cheshire than in Hackney. I know that they are better off in Cheshire because I lived in the county when I worked for Granada Television. I know how well off the hon. Gentleman's constituency is.
§ Mr. Sedgemore
Yes. I know that the people of Macclesfield are better off than those who live in Hackney.
§ Mr. Sedgemore
We are now having an argument, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the hon. Member for Macclesfield interjecting from a sedentary position while I am on my feet. The hon. Gentleman protests that people in Macclesfield are poorer than those in Hackney.
All I can say is that I rely on the statistics of the Department of the Environment. They produce their Z-indices of poverty. Those show that Hackney is one of the poorest boroughs in the whole of Great Britain. It contains 300,000 people, and is, on average, poorer than Toxteth, which is a smaller area in Liverpool. We all know the problems of Toxteth. I cannot believe that the hon. Member for Macclesfield will tell me that his constituents are poorer than those of Hackney or Toxteth. That does not make sense.
I hope that the hon. Member for Macclesfield will give me his support, and I hope for an explanation of this 1297 bizarre, curious, extraordinary and arbitrary authoritarian activity on the part of the Secretary of State for the Environment.
§ Sir John Farr (Harborough)
I shall not take up the arguments of the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore). He put across his point of view forcefully and no doubt has impressed the House.
My reason for suggesting that we should not rise for the Easter recess is the problem upon which my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Latham) touched, and concerns the funding of the Leicestershire health authority. My hon. Friend dealt admirably and clearly with the problems that are faced by that authority, and I can do no more than add to, or perhaps embellish to a minor degree, what he said.
It is rare for me to suggest that the House should not adjourn for the Easter recess. After this long term of Parliament, lasting 13 weeks, hon. Members from either side of the House would suggest that only for a pressing or urgent matter, because carrying on through Easter is an unusual course for us to take. Nevertheless, that is what I want, unless the problem of the underfunding of Leicestershire health authority is resolved at an early date.
I speak for every hon. Member from Leicestershire. Certainly, as my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton said—I am delighted to see him in his place—it is necessary for us to place on record the anguish that is felt on both sides of the House by hon. Members who represent constituencies in Leicestershire about the underfunding of the Leicestershire health authority.
I intend to be brief. I wrote to my hon. Friend Minister for Health on 23 March, asking whether he would see a deputation of colleague as a matter of urgency. It was a personal letter, accompanied by a great many papers, but it has not yet been acknowledged, let alone answered. No doubt the Hansard writers up above, with their usual diligence, will make an exact copy of what I am about to say, and I shall send it to the Minister in the post tomorrow.
Over the years, there have been a number of debates on the underfunding of Trent region and the Leicestershire health authority within Trent. All those debates featured the singular anomaly that has resulted in Leicestershire health authority being at the bottom of the national average for funding. As my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton said, 15 years ago that underfunding was 25 per cent. below the national average. As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security said in the House a few days ago, ten years ago, Leicestershire health authority was 20 per cent. below what is now called the RAWP target. Today, Leicestershire is still well below the RA WP target, by a factor of 4 per cent.
I have repeatedly said all this without effect. At times one feels inclined to adopt a similar attitude to that of the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch. Perhaps one should make more fuss and threaten violence to one's hon. Friends in the Department of Health and Social Security, in order to get something done. During the same period, London, southern and home county health authorities have been consistently 20 or 25 per cent. above RAWP allocations. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary 1298 of State said, on 25 March, that she hoped that the Leicestershire health authority would be funded in full for the first time ever by 1994.
I accept my hon. Friend's word, but, at the same time, I want to say to the House, and through the House to her, and through her to our hon. Friend the Minister for Health, that that process must be accelerated, because by 1994 is not good enough. In my view, there will be physical violence in the Leicestershire area unless the timetable is speeded up considerably and a further £1 million is allocated forthwith.
Not surprisingly, there have been many letters and meetings in Leicestershire and in London on this subject. In a letter to me on 18 March, the chairman of the Leicestershire health authority, Mr. George Farnham, said:As you are aware the Authority is likely to overspend its budget by £1 million this year, mainly due to its success in treating more patients within existing facilities. The Government's initiative to reduce waiting lists with a special allocation of £217,000 will help us to treat even more patients in some specialties in 1987–88 and this is appreciated.However, the Authority has been forced to review its remaining plans for 1987–88 because the resources allocated by the Regional Health Authority are less than expected and well short of actual needs. It is true that the Trent Regional Health Authority received an additional £55.3 million (6.3 per cent.) and Leicestershire received its fair share of that sum. Of the additional revenue allocation of £9.5 million almost £8 million is needed for the effects of inflation and this leaves only £1.5 million for development of services.
The health authority chairman specified what makes the Leicestershire health authority a special case in the second half of the paragraph. He said:This is a resource increase of approximately 1 per cent. but, due to the various demographic changes in population, the Authority's resource needs have increased at the same pace and it therefore remains at 96 per cent. of its (RAWP) resource target. Members of the Authority have expressed serious doubt on the Government's will to implement RAWP in the face of pressure from London authorities and are seeking a firm commitment to equalise resources within a given timescale.
The authority's financial situation has caused great concern in Leicestershire. An urgent meeting of the health authority took place on 11 March. The chairman, Mr. George Farnham, the director of finance, and other chief officers tried to convey to the members of the authority the need to economise, to pay their way, by trimming programmes to the tune of £1 million. My hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton referred to this. The meeting that took place on 11 March at the Leicestershire health authority headquarters was stormy. One might even say that it was riotous. The result was a resolution throwing out plans to make the £1 million economy measure. It was thought to be grossly unjust to sick and invalid people in Leicestershire.
The resolution concluded:this Authority fears that the full implementation of the Director of Finance's report"—that is the one that was thrown out—would result in a reduction of patient services.The resolution noted:funding commensurate with our resident population and RAWP target would provide us with an additional £5 million to enable us to continue to provide adequate patient services. The further saving of £1 million spread over all Units is unacceptable and General Managers should attempt to find an alternative radical solution.
After the resolution was passed, the chairman of the health authority, Mr. George Farnham, came to see us. The key to the trouble in Leicestershire— the 1299 misunderstanding in the Department of Health and Social Security is not deliberate— is the rapidly increasing population. The Leicestershire health authority has a great success story to tell. It does not stumble from one crisis to another. It has made some remarkable progress in patient services.
I shall place on record a couple of statistics, in the hope that my hon. Friend the Minister for Health will read them tomorrow morning. In 1978–79, Leicestershire health authority treated 72,000 in-patients, and in 1985–86 that number went up to 93,000. The number of out-patients went up from 395,000 to 554,000, and the number of day cases went up from 9,300 to 22,500. The waiting list is a key to success. It was slashed from 9,354 in 1978–79 to 7,779 in 1985–86, the latest figure that I have available. At the same time. the number of doctors in the Leicestershire health authority has increased from 556 to 617, and the number of nurses and midwives has increased from 5,989 to 6,220. A key to a successful and efficient service is the fact that the number of administrative and clerical staff remained static in the same period, thus serving many more patients: that is, 1,438 in 1978 and 1,470 in 1985. The number of ancillary staff has been reduced from 2,931 to 2,690. A decreased number of ancillary staff are serving a far larger number of patients. The number of ambulance staff—an important arm of any Health Service—has gone up slightly.
The fact that in the seven years from 1978 to 1985 the number of doctors and nurses has increased and waiting lists have been reduced, the fact that the number of patients has increased by 40 per cent., and the fact that, at the same time, the number of clerical staff has been decreased, demonstrate the great success story of which the Leicestershire health authority should be proud.
I now wish to refer briefly to the cash flow troubles that Leicestershire health authority is having. In Leicestershire we have a community health council. It is worth quoting to the House what the secretary of that council said about the critical situation in which the council saw Leicestershire health authority. In a letter dated 24 March, Mr. Brian Marshall, the secretary of the council, said:As you are so well aware, the Leicestershire Health Authority is currently funded only to 96 per cent. of the recommended RAWP allocation and in consequence is in the unenviable position of having to defer schemes currently in its programme with the danger of even more dire consequences having to be considered.
It is, in the opinion of this Community Health Council, greatly to the credit of the Authority and its Chairman that it has rigorously taken action to prevent a decline in its level of services. In many ways it can be said that the Leicestershire Health Authority is a victim of its own success as its record of increased services"—
all hon. Members aim for such services—to both in-patients and out-patients so clearly shows.
The final letter from which I want to quote in respect of this tragic matter for Leicestershire is about the funding of a new bone marrow transplant unit in Leicester. It cost £180,000 and was funded entirely by charity. There have been letters of appreciation in the press about the people who have been generous and kind enough to donate the £180,000 for this desperately needed unit.
The letter from which I shall quote is from the co-ordinator of the Leicester bone marrow transplant project, Mr. Jack Townsend, and is dated 19 March. The cost is about £180,000 for the building and equipping of the units and that the project has already raised £160,000. He says: 1300The Leukaemia Research Fund agreed to put the money up-front because they felt (i) the need was urgent (ii) the Leicester Royal Infirmary has a reputation for the excellence of its staff and the teaching faculty at Leicester University warranted support. As a result of which these two units should be open and available to the first patients in May of this year.In all my dealings I have found nothing but cooperation from the Leicester Health Authority and the Regional Health Authority. They have been splendid and one of the turning points in getting the Leukaemia Research Fund to agreeing to put the money up front was the fact that they agreed to provide revenue finance for the running of these units with effect from April of this year. It would now appear that insufficient funds will he forthcoming from central sources to enable them to carry out fully their commitment. This is in spite of the fact that, and I quote from an extract from a White Paper (No. Cm. 56 Vol. 1 & 2 on Public Expenditure) 'The NHS is committed to take full advantage of advances in medical technology and to remedy "known shortfalls" in certain surgical areas. This will mean more operations for Bone Marrow Transplants.'
Because of the lack of revenue funding, this project, the capital cost of which was paid for by voluntary donations, will run at half or little more than half its capacity. That is a disgrace, and for that reason alone I make no apology for detaining the House on what I regard as a very urgent matter.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)
Five hon. Members wish to speak before the first winding-up speech at about 9.40 pm. I hope that hon. Members will be exceedingly brief so that all can have an opportunity to contribute to the debate.
§ 9.9 pm
§ Mr. Allen McKay (Barnsley, West and Penistone)
I shall be as brief as I possibly can, because I recognise what you have said, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Harborough (Sir J. Farr) because my area is also part of the Trent regional health authority and I am conscious of the time that it will take under RAWP to catch up with the more prosperous health authorities.
On revenue funding, my area has a number of voluntary schemes that cannot go ahead purely and simply because they would be useless as insufficient revenue funding is coming through. I can inform my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore) that a Bill has just come out of Committee that will make the three and a third acres of land to which he referred fade into insignificance. The Secretary of State for the Environment is moving more powers into central Government and away from the local authorities, especially in relation to land.
The way in which our Parliament works is wonderful because it gives an opportunity in Adjournment debates to raise many issues which concerns hon. Members. We are now debating whether we should adjourn, or prevent the adjournment of the House, until such issues have been discussed. Sometimes I wonder how popular it would be if the Leader of the House stood at the Dispatch Box and agreed with us. It would not be very popular with hon. Members, staff or wives.
However, this debate gives me the chance to raise two cases that have arisen because of the problem of mining subsidence. There is no doubt that the mining industry will expand and that the Government will find the mistakes that they have made regarding cuts in the industry. This 1301 week the manufacturers of heavy duty mining machinery have brought to our attention the fact that 54,000 jobs depend upon that industry directly or indirectly.
We should discuss the Waddilove report before the Easter recess. No matter how careful people are and how careful are the plans that are made, mining subsidence will inevitably occur. We have been waiting for the Waddilove report for a long time. Several cynics in my area—perhaps they are not cynical—have said that that report has not come to the Floor of the House because moves are afoot to privatise the mining industry.
As the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House knows, in the past mine owners did not pay out subsidence money. If subsidence occurred, one had to grin and bear it. Subsidence payments were allowed only when nationalisation came in, and we should never forget that.
I am not knocking British Coal on the issue of subsidence, far from it. I have known instances in the past when after repairs had taken place the finished product was much better that the original ever was. I have always received good co-operation from what used to be the National Coal Board, now British Coal, regarding subsidence problems. Some of the problems arise not only from British Coal's interpretation of the subsidence, but from the Coal-Mining (Subsidence) Act 1957 itself.
I shall refer to two completely different cases to try to explain exactly what I am talking about. First I refer to Mr. Williams of 198, New road, Staincross, whose home suffered severe damage. In fact, it split into three sections leading to severe weather penetration. The board has undertaken its statutory obligations and, to a certain extent, repaired the damage that occurred. However, Mr. Williams' house has suffered a sever tilt. That raises another question because compensation for tilt is different.
British Coal's own valuers valued the house, undamaged, at £22,000. However, because of the damage that has occurred, it is now valued at £17,000, a difference of £5,000. For some curious reason the board has offered not £5,000, but £2,000. I believe that British Coal is interpreting the Act in that way because it believes that the new extensions that were built on to the old part of the house were not properly keyed in, and that therefore some of the responsibility rests with the owner. Alternatively, because the building is old, it could believe that the subsidence would not have been so severe if the building had been newer. That is either a ridiculous interpretation of the agreement, or a ridiculous agreement.
The argument against the board's case is that, only 20 yd away, bungalows have been pulled down to the ground and rebuilt. That shows the severity of the subsidence in the area. No matter what the age of the building, or the interpretation of the agreement, the fact remains that the damage would not have occurred if the subsidence had not occurred.
The second case, which is wholly different, concerns Eric Lodge of Royds farm, Royds lane, Elsecar, a dairy farmer. Initially he ran a mixed farm, but following opencast mining, the land became fit only for grass and cows. Subsidence severely affected the farm in 1980, 1981 and 1982 and the water supply was severely disrupted. At the end of 1981 the feeding area was depressed, so he tried self-feeding, but that was unsuccessful. The buildings collapsed, killing two cows, and three more cows were 1302 electrocuted because subsidence trapped cables. Clearly, he had to sell the herd until the Coal Board repaired the damage.
The Coal Board built a new milking parlour, repaired the buildings where it could and erected new buildings. The trouble was that milk quotas were introduced and the base year for the registration for quotas coincided with the time when Mr. Lodge started his herd again. Therefore, a herd only part the size of his original herd was available to qualify for milk quotas. All the investment that my constituent incurred on the encouragement of the Government is lost, unless something can be done.
I thank the Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) and the Under-Secretary of State for Energy the hon. Member for Wirral, West (Mr. D. Hunt) for all the help that they have given me and my constituent with this problem. They have done their best and gone as far as they can. The stumbling block has been the interpretation of the subsidence legislation.
British Coal says that it is not responsible for the loss of milk quota and that it is a consequential loss. My interpretation is that it is a direct loss. Compensation from British Coal would provide for the purchase of extra milk quotas which the Minister of State says is available.
If the Waddilove report had been discussed previously we might have got over this problem. We need to debate that report in the House. I shall pursue these cases with British Coal, the problems in the second case are greater, so together with my constituent, I hope to meet the deputy chairman of British Coal. It may be my inadequacy in putting the case that is the problem and my constituent may be able to put it better directly to the deputy chairman and prove that he is suffering, not from a consequential loss, but from a direct loss. Three families depend for their living on the success of this argument. For that reason, we must ensure that this problem does not recur. It is essential to debate the Waddilove report on the Floor of the House.
§ Mr. William Powell (Corby)
Wide-ranging debates to persuade my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to postpone the Adjournment of the House invariably throw up extraordinarily interesting material. I should like to begin by echoing one or two of the reasons which have been given why the Easter Adjournment should be postponed.
The comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) on war widows will have drawn wide support from both sides of the House. I was delighted to sign his early-day motion, not least because my grandfather died in the first world war and my grandmother was a war widow.
The remarks of my hon. Friends the Members for Harborough (Sir J. Farr) and for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Latham) about the funding of the Leicester health authority will certainly find an echo in my constituency because a significant number of my constituents have used the hospital and health facilities in Leicestershire, although they live just over the border in Northamptonshire. I can certainly speak of the high reputation which the hospital at Leicester and the health authority have beyond the county boundaries of Leicestershire.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton about the paramount necessity for this House to discuss the implications of the proposals that my right 1303 hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment have introduced concerning planning in the countryside. Those proposals are of great importance to my constituency. The commercial and industrial boom that is taking place is so great that there is not the slightest doubt that. by the end of this decade, there will be a substantial shortage of the necessary people in my constituency. That is likely to mean that thousands of people will move to the east Northamptonshire and Corby area. Some of that new population will find their housing in new accommodation that will be built in the town of Corby, but others will wish to live in the villages of Rutland, in east Northamptonshire in my constituency, and in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Freeman).
As a result of this boom we will face considerable planning difficulties and it is vital that a proper, sensible, balanced approach is adopted so that small villages are not completely destroyed by last-minute housing estates developed to provide the homes that will be needed in a hurry.
I echo what my hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) said about the role of religion and the family in society. My hon. Friend invariably brings a historical perspective to his speeches; indeed, he did so today. During his speech I reflected on the fact that this is not the first time that a speech of that nature has been made to the nation.
The first person to be known in this country as the good doctor there have been many since—was Dr. Henry Sacheverall. He was a great Anglican divine who, in the 1700s, preached a sermon in which he said that the Church of England was in great danger. He identified that danger as being Erastian Whig bishops as well as the Government of the day. That Government were a Whig junta, not a Tory Government, so the present Government can be acquitted of any malice towards the Church of England. The Whig junta decided that it was necessary to impeach the good doctor. His trial took place in Westminster Hall and he was triumphantly acquitted. The mob in London celebrated for days and weeks afterwards. His acquittal was far more important to the contemporary society than the great battles of the Duke of Marlborough which were taking place at approximately the same time.
One of the reasons why I urge my right hon. Friend to postpone the rising of the House is that I believe it is time that a plaque was set into the floor of Westminster Hall to commemorate the triumphant acquittal of Dr. Sacheverall at his great impeachment trial. It is entirely wrong that the acquittal of the Indian nabob Warren Hastings should be commemorated but not that of the great Anglican divine.
The main reason why I want the recess to be postponed concerns the route that Oliver Cromwell would have taken before he reached the battlefield of Naseby— the decisive battle of the English civil war. The House will be aware that Oliver Cromwell was a son of the old borough of Huntingdon. He would have travelled across Huntingdonshire, as it was, and Northamptonshire before arriving at the battlefield of Naseby.
A more modern battle has been fought over the battlefield of Naseby and that concerns the inquiry into the proposed construction of the Al-M1 link. It was proposed that that road should link the M1-M6 junction at Lutterworth, in the constituency of my right hon.
1304 Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with Brampton, which is in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major). The link will be 45 miles long.
The public inquiry on the proposal lasted for 10½ months and most of the time was taken up with disputes between learned historians— unfortunately, my hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge was not one of them—as to exactly where the battle took place. After 10½ months, a profound and learned battle ensued around Naseby. The inspector delivered his report in June last year, but so far we have had no announcement from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport or from my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State on what they propose to do about that planning inquiry.
The issue matters enormously to my constituents. Oliver Cromwell would have had to cross the river Neme at the small market town of Thrapston. The river Neme bridge at Thrapston is a single carriageway controlled by a traffic light. Every day of the year Thrapston is congested with long queues of heavy traffic in both directions. For 15 years there has been immense planning blight because no decisions have been taken about the proposed bypass—the A1-M1 link.
It would be entirely wrong for the House to adjourn without an announcement by the Secretary of State about what he proposes to do about that road. This is a fundamental matter to my constituncy. It is a vital matter to the 5,000 people who live in the town of Thrapston. The indecision has been going on for too long. It is too long since the planning inquiry; it is too long since the inspector reported. It is about time that my right hon. Friend announced what he intends to do.
§ Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)
The hon. Member for Corby (Mr. Powell) talked about possible future housing difficulties in his area. I want to deal with the current serious housing problems in my area. The House should not adjourn until we have debated the national housing crisis and the London housing crisis in particular. This week is London housing week. I congratulate the organisers on drawing attention to the severe housing crisis, on pleading for urgent action to alleviate the misery that bad housing causes and on demanding investment in better homes.
In the borough of Waltham Forest 9,000 families are on the housing waiting list. Nearly 1,000 families are homeless and take up 80 per cent. of the available emergency accommodation. It is estimated that 300 new homes are needed in each of the next four years to keep pace. About £200 million is needed for repairs and improvements over the next 10 years.
An answer to a question that I asked recently revealed that Waltham Forest is the 17th worst area in the country for housing. That includes Chingford, which has its problems, but my constituency contains the worst 2.5 per cent. of housing in the country. The Government's housing investment programme allocation is woefully inadequate at £7.5 million— only 80 per cent. of the previous year's figure and certainly nowhere near the £38 million that is needed to begin to tackle the problem.
Waltham Forest's housing director, Chris Langstaff, stated: 1305We know what we need to do to put right both the need for improvement and the need for new building. The only thing that is holding us up is lack of money. At the moment we have to rely on the Government. But the amount of money we have to invest in improvements is not in step with the increasing problems that are occurring. We're not standing still anymore—we're going backwards.
In London the position is as bad. Over 500,000 Londoners are on council waiting lists, 20,000 are homeless and 6,500 are in bed-and-breakfast accommodation. The 1985 Greater London house condition survey shows that one in five homes is in bad condition and needs urgent repairs. Many of these repairs would cost three times that household's total annual income. Londoners need £8 billion worth of repairs, and the repair bill nationally is enormous. That is both the council and the private sectors, yet we see housing grants halved nationally, and in Waltham Forest they have been cut out all together.
I have glimpsed the personal consequences of that. Lack of time prevents my going through this in detail, but I have seen women desperate and weeping because they cannot be moved and they fear that their babies are at risk. I have seen a young girl in a bedroom up to her neck in black, damp fungus. And there is a year's waiting list for repairs. There are estates in my constituency that are structurally unsound and where accidents are waiting to happen. There is the Mill Court estate, which needs extensive insulation work. When there is a bout of cold weather, some rooms are unusable and whole families have to huddle in one room. Pensioners do not get out of bed because they cannot keep warm in those conditions.
Housing has been cut by two thirds in real terms by this Government since 1979. This is more than in any other major public service. The Government have been told enough about the damage that has been caused by hon. Members, housing directors, the Institute of Housing, the Duke of Edinburgh in his report "Inquiry into British Housing" and the Church of England. I was going to give plenty of quotations in this debate, but because of shortage of time I cannot do so.
Lord Scarman described Britain as descending to a slum society and referred to a decline to a new Fagin's London, yet the Budget did absolutely nothing for housing. It would have made sense to invest, not just to tackle dilapidation and homelessness, but to create jobs. It has been estimated by a Cambridge economist that £500 million spent on housing would have created 64,000 jobs, while the equivalent amount in tax cuts would at the most create some 10,000 jobs. We have half a million building workers on the dole, when the need is so great. That is a disgraceful indictment of the Government's policies.
We are also faced with a shortage of skills and it is therefore appalling that building training has virtually stopped. This is the Government who said in their manifesto in 1983:Our goal is to make Britain the best housed nation in Europe.That should be a spectacular own goal, but it is really those in housing plight who are the resounding losers. As for the well-known phrase "property-owning democracy," the number of mortgage arrears cases has increased to nearly one in 10 of the new homeless nationally—from 3,000 in 1980 to over 20,000 now.
1306 We need, as a matter of urgency, a housing rescue service. This means a programme to improve existing homes and to build new ones, to build more good quality homes to rent, and to help the young homeless, whom Shelter estimated at 80,000 in 1985. We need insulation work, and sheltered housing schemes for the elderly and people with disabilities. We need to put more into housing subsidy to keep down the rents, which have been forced up artificially. We need protection for private tenants against unreasonable rent rises. We need to increase the level of housing benefit and speed up the payments. Most of all, we need a sensible economic policy to keep interest and mortgage payments down. Then, of course, we need direct help to first-time buyers and those on low incomes, help through housing co-operatives and housing associations, and a greater say for tenants in managing their own estates.
Poor housing is a false economy. It has only stored up more problems for a future Government to face. We have to invest in better homes for our people, homes that are dry, warm and in good repair, and at a price that they can afford.
§ Mr. David Amess (Basildon)
Before the House rises for the Easter recess, I hope that it will consider these few points. A year ago my cousin's wife was murdered in Worcester. She was stabbed to death 52 times in a multistorey car park. The murder and trial were reported in the papers but, as far as the media were concerned, that was an end of the matter. We all know that in the Palace of Westminster one of our hon. Members was murdered some years ago and we also remember the loss of one of our colleagues at Brighton. Following the vote last night, I think that hon. Members will have to ask themselves, the next time someone is murdered, whether we did everything that we could to stop that murder. I believe that we have failed to do so.
I am president of Essex Dyslexia Association. Until the age of five I had the nick-name of "Double Dutch". I had a very bad stutter—I could not make the sounds "st" or "th". The reason that I have no Cockney accent now is that I had to go to a speech therapist for three years. I hope that the House will do all it can to help attract more speech therapists into the profession by paying them well for the job that they are endeavouring to do. I also hope that all county councils will do their utmost to try to get statements as quickly as possible for those children who are in special educational need.
My final point concerns the Oxford student who went to court to try to save an unborn child. As the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) has said here, the student involved was not fighting for a father's rights; he was seeking to establish the right to legal protection of an unborn child capable of being born alive under the Infant Life (Preservation) Act 1929. As the hon. Member for Workington will know, it is quite extraordinary that the student, who had no money, was deprived of the opportunity to seek legal aid. That is something which the House should certainly consider.
§ Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)
I thank the hon. Member for commenting at some length on the speech that I made in an Adjournment debate last week on a very important matter.
1307 I just want to comment on a couple of things, the first of which is the failure of the House to debate the reorganisation of the BBC and its effect on the north and north-west regions. Under the new arrangements, the coverage of Cumbria on radio and television has been switched from Newcastle to Manchester, and the people of Cumbria are angry. In a recent poll 96.8 per cent. of 6,042 people polled said that they wanted the north-east coverage back because the new arrangement has broken the cultural link between Cumbria and Newcastle right across the whole of the northern region.
What surprised me was that in a recent speech in my constituency, the head of broadcasting for the BBC in the north-west said:We intend to build a new region. It needs more support and a stronger voice.He then went on to say:It now means that several artificial barriers have been brought down, bringing together radio and television for the whole of the north west region.The BBC is destroying a region that has existed for many years and is imposing upon us a new region based on the administrative changes in outposts of central Government that have been introduced by the Government in industry, employment, environment and other areas since 1979. We are at a loss to know why the BBC does not want to reverse the changes that it introduced late last year.
I want also to mention the matter which I raised earlier today and which has been on the Order Paper over the past couple of days. The House should have been give an opportunity to debate it. I do not want to comment on the activities of the hon. Member for Ynys Mon (Mr. Best)—that is not my particular task this evening. What I do want to say is that we will make this issue centre stage, because this is the unacceptable face of privatisation. It is wrong when Tory Members abuse their position—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Member for Workington has written to me about this matter and I am considering it.
§ Mr. Campbell-Savours
Are you implying, Mr. Speaker, that the letter that I wrote to you this evening complaining about the question—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Member must not reveal what he has written to me about, but I have received his letter.
§ Mr. Campbell-Savours
I hope that the Leader of the House takes note of what I have said. In reply today he referred to the sanctimonious nature of my question. The right hon. Gentleman will do well to remember that the Government have seduced the people of this country with privatisation over the last six years by promising them substantial speculative gains. We have objected and now is our opportunity to show that this is the unacceptable face of Conservative politics.
Finally, the Prime Minister's visit to the Soviet Union must be regarded as a success. When she moves into her next gear on matters that were raised in the Soviet Union, and that are now being raised in the press—the prospect of a trade war with Japan— she would do well to consider that if she conducts this trade war in an irresponsible, provocative, emotional and nationalist way, she will provoke a political backlash inside Japan that the whole world may live to regret. This Government must be very careful how they conduct this war or these so-called 1308 negotiations. They will turn on the British people and provoke great anger among the people of this country. The Government must understand that this debate must not be allowed to get out of hand because it has implications for all of us and for peace throughout the world.
§ Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)
It is typical of this Adjournment debate that in the space of half an hour we have heard about mining subsidence in Barnsley, and Cromwell has been adduced in support of the problems facing the hon. Member for Corby (Mr. Powell) and his constituents in their 15-year plight in that town. The hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Latham) has rightly drawn attention to the desperate plight of those on the health waiting list in his constituency. My hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) has touched on problems of BBC reorganisation and on other issues that Mr. Speaker would prefer us not to discuss this evening.
I was pleased to hear hon. Members return 10 the subject of speech therapists. There is wide-ranging support in the House on that issue. It is not a party issue except for the fact that the Government are not providing the funds. A year ago my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Mr. Silkin) made the same legitimate points and still they have been ignored.
The hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir D. Smith) drew attention to the real problem of AIDS and the conflict of public interest between the wish not to injure or harm people who are morally innocent but who suffer from this awful disease, and the desperate need for accurate information so that the Government can develop policies. I hope that the investigations that are now being carried out by the Select Committee will bring some logic to the way in which this information is recorded.
My hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) defended stoutly the jobs of her constituents and described the massive steps that have been made in the reorganisation of the Crewe workshops and the co-operation that her constituents have given, despite the enormous loss of 1,000 jobs, with the expected loss of 600 next year. I can well understand that in the workshops in Crewe there is a real fear that they are being set up for privatisation. The hon. Members for Rutland and Melton and for Harborough (Sir J. Farr) rightly on behalf of their constituents focused attention on the problems facing the health authorities in their areas. They should bear in mind that it is not really the health authority's problem.
Paradoxically, the Government say that they have increased pay for the nurses and then turn to the health authorities and say that nurses' pay has been increased but they expect the health authorities to find the money or they must stop the development of services or cut services. In so far as there is a problem, the hon. Gentlemen have done good work for their constituents in drawing attention to the fact that the main cause is the Government's meanness in the provision of funding for the Health Service.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) referred to the problems facing his constituents in Fife. He started with the comment that Scotland had no love for the Prime Minister. I was inclined to point out to him that, while the Prime Minister could 1309 go on a walkabout in Moscow, there are many areas in Britain where she would not dare do that; large areas are no-go areas for the Prime Minister.
We had an interesting and varied contribution from the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes). He ranged from the toffee paper problem, and parental responsibility for it, to the much more profound question of the new divide. On Monday, we are to debate the issue of a divided Britain, but the hon. Gentleman has discovered a new divide— the moral divide. He was deeply concerned about the moral condition of England. As a Celt, I was delighted that he felt able to exclude my constituents— the Welsh— and the Scots from the problems that he sees developing in England. It was slightly perverse to blame the Church of England for them all; he need look no further than his own Front Bench for the source of much of the trouble facing the country today.
I was desperately sorry to hear about the telephone box near his home. Perhaps now that we have obtained extra parliamentary expenses, he will be able to have his own telephone installed and so overcome his difficulties.
The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) will, I am sure, have massive support for his concern about the peculiar way in which the Japanese interpret reciprocity in trade. We all endorse action to force the Japanese to open up their markets. I was slightly surprised to hear the hon. Gentleman quote the example of Stanley Press Equipment in his constituency and tell me that it was not the Minister in charge who was wrong, but his civil servants. Under the constitution, in a normal, well-run Department, it is the Minister who is in charge and not his civil servants. Therefore, I was surprised that when the hon. Gentleman went to see the Minister of State, he was completely unaware of the problem. That may explain why so much industry has been led into difficulty by the Department of Trade and Industry.
The concern of the hon. Member for Macclesfield and the hon. Member for Corby about war widows will be echoed by many hon. Members on both sides of the House. As was rightly pointed out, the numbers, and therefore the sums, involved are relatively small. I hate to bring politics into the discussion, and I hope that I will be excused for doing so, but it seems strange that just a couple of weeks after a Budget in which the Chancellor had £6,000 million at his disposal, we hear about all these problems which cannot be solved within the Government's budget. One thing that the Government cannot say this year, or in a forthcoming election campaign, is that they did not have the money. They had the money, but they chose to misuse it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore) has apologised to me, and I think also to the Leader of the House, because he cannot be here for the reply to the debate. He has a desperate problem in that his constituency faces an invasion of yoghurt-eating yuppies. I was sorry to hear of this affliction. I was more sorry to hear that his constituency has suffered an even worse plight in that it has now attracted the attention of the Secretary of State for the Environment. We are told that the right hon. Gentleman is thinking of issuing directives which will render the local authority in breach of its statutory duties. I and my hon. Friend were surprised because no Minister on record has ever been so in breach of the law of the country as the 1310 Secretary of State for the Environment. He is a hardened offender. We try to keep most hardened offenders separate from the innocent, but he is put in charge of all these local authorities and he is leading them into his bad ways. I shared the fury of my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney.
The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) drew attention to the problems that face nurses and the Health Service, the shortage of housing to rent and the problems of teachers in London, all of which are problems of a sort, and if there is one matter about which the Government cannot complain at the moment it is that the resources are not available. The resources are there; the Chancellor boasted that the resources were there, but he chose to use them wrongly.
§ The Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Biffen)
The debate was opened by the right hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Mr. Silkin), who reminded us of the impending general election, and in that context I should like to say—I am sure that I am far from being alone in this—that one of the sadnesses of that election is that it will see his voluntary retirement from our counsels. He raised, as he has done previously, the question of speech therapists. He was reinforced in his considerations by my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon (Mr. Amess). The House is concerned with the profession of speech therapy and its broad relationship to the payments made within the National Health Service to those in other graduate professions. I shall pass to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services the points that have been raised in the debate.
My hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir D. Smith) raised the issue of AIDS and confronted the House with a direct problem: the extent to which we want the most comprehensive statistics on this topic when the statistics inevitably must carry some shadow of suspicion, not least because many deaths may have been the subject of a contributory AIDS factor but do not necessarily reflect AIDS solely or predominantly. I thank my hon. friend for raising that point. I understand his ringing cry that it was right for the British public to know the extent of the numbers involved.
The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) has apologised for her absence, but she made an effective speech on behalf of her substantial constituency interest in British Rail engineering Ltd. I shall pass her complaints to my colleagues, but I do not think that I will have added anything new to the controversy. I think that there is a clash of expectation rather than a clash of evidence.
My hon. Friends the Members for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Latham), for Harborough (Sir J. Farr) and for Corby (Mr. Powell) spoke of the difficulties of the Leicester health authority and the problems of underfunding. As I listened, my reaction was one of some familiarity because the West Midlands regional health authority takes a view on the distribution of its resources which many of us believe to be detrimental to the equitable consideration of rural Shropshire. I can assure my hon. Friends that it is in every sense with a spirit of fraternity that I shall pass to my right hon. Friend the points that they argued, and argued in good faith, in a situation which is admittedly complex. It does not show that a snappy and statistical 1311 formula can resolve these problems, but those of us who have to live as constituency Members with those problems know their true significance only too well.
My hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton also spoke of the problems of agriculture. I assure him that there will be the chance of a debate shortly after Parliament returns. I shall see that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agricultue, Fisheries and Food is acquainted with all the points that he raised, including the problems of the beef trade as affected by screw cows.
The hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) also talked of the health problems in Fife. I am well equipped with an answer of most compelling complexity, but I hope that he will take it in a written form rather than my taking up a few seconds of my reply in dealing with his points. I shall see that not only are his arguments put to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services but that he receives an early reply.
My hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) wisely and happily uses this spot to give us a little moral uplift every time we go into recess, and there was no absence of that today. He was joined by my hon. Friend the Member for Corby. I admire my hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge. He speaks good sound sense on these matters. It is not perhaps the wisest of courses for politicians to climb into pulpits, any more than it is a wise course for the clergy to take to the hustings, but a certain cross-fertilisation is inevitable in these matters and I accept it.
The more we live in this place passing laws, the more we realise that mere law-making does not bring about moral regeneration or an altered pattern which is essential if, for example, we are to have a happier situation in respect of crime.
Therefore, these debates are valuable in that just for a few minutes we have a chance to talk, as Parliament should talk, in a purely speculative fashion about some of the factors that can conduce a happier moral cement to our nation.
My hon. Friend the Member for Corby mentioned Bishop Sacheverall. I never thought that I would reply to a debate and say how much I welcomed that contribution. As an unregenerate high churchman, I think that he is a hero worthy of many a plaque around and about London and certainly in the Palace of Westminster. I hold out no hopes in that respect, but it showed that there was a bit of an intellectual lift to our discussions this evening.
That was sustained by the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), who comprehensively argued the case for the consideration of the problems arising from a shortage of teachers and nurses in central London. He will have recently received a written answer about the nursing pay formula and the circumstances in which it is usually honoured. Clearly I cannot add to that, but I am sure that he, like me, would feel that it was a highly equitable resolution of our affairs if the award were paid in full. That is always one's aspirations, but occasionally one has to admit to disappointment.
My hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) had a good blunderbuss with roughly four barrels. On the whole, three were aimed at the Government and one at the Opposition. I sat there in envy listening to the entire performance.
My hon. Friend spoke about Japanese trade, and I have no doubt that that will feature considerably in our debates. I have no wish to be too conciliatory to the hon. Member 1312 for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours)—he is not in my good books—but, none the less, he made a brave observation about the state of trade relations between ourselves and Japan, and in all these things the most successful policy is that which is carefully thought out and calculated. I am sure that we shall be inspired by my hon. Friend to that end.
My hon. Friend's second point concerned the continuing misfortunes of the United Kingdom yarn manufacturers. I shall ensure that that point is referred to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. I note his other points, including the one about war widows. As he says, that could be resolved in the Finance Bill Committee. I urgently suggest to him that he volunteers to serve on that Committee so that he can be the author of this much needed reform.
The hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore) raised points which were quite chilling to hear. I am told that a disposal order on the land to which he referred has not and will not be issued until it is clear that Hackney does not intend to use it. I hope that when he reads those words he will be calmed.
I find rather touching the hon. Gentleman's anxiety about yuppies. He has almost become the personification of the yuppie. He was born in Devon and with his glorious accent I shall never fear the hard Left. He then goes on to live in that detached part of the home counties called Cheshire. He eventually alights in Hackney, and now spends his time resenting anyone who may wish to follow his career and come into the borough.
The hon. Member for Barnsley, West and Penistone (Mr. McKay) raised points that I will pass to my right hon. Friends concerning subsidence and milk quotas. The hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen), a good, steady performer in our debates anti a crowd favourite, touched on housing, and made his case very persuasively. I shall quickly pass it on to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.
I believe that I have now mentioned everyone who has taken part in the debate. On the basis that enough is enough, I shall now conclude my remarks.
§ It being three hours afer the commencement of proceedings on the motion, MR. SPEAKER put the Question pursuant to Standing Order No. 22 (Periodic adjournments).
§ Question agreed to.
§ That this House, at its rising on Friday 10th April. do adjourn until Wednesday 22nd April, and, at its rising on Friday 1st May, do adjourn until Tuesday 5th May, and the House shall not adjourn on Friday 10th April until Mr. Speaker shall have reported the Royal Assent to any Acts which have been agreed upon by both Houses.