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Mr. Shaw : The hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) asks me how. Once student loans have been established and people have grown used to repaying them, they will then take them up to develop their education later in life. We shall see education continuing after university, at business graduate level. More and more people, some of whom already take out loans for business degrees, will have greater opportunities. I want to see that practice developed, which will be good for the nation and for the people.
The opportunity to develop one's own economic future is also greater than ever before. The development of small businesses and of self-employment has continued. There are 3 million self-employed people, which is nearly 1 million more than when Labour was in office. I confess to being disappointed that the Gracious Speech made no mention of further measures to help small businesses. Needless to say, the Opposition have not raised that point ; the Opposition Front Bench never mention further measures to help small businesses. The Government's
Column 192small business policy has been a success, but that does not mean that enough is being done and that more cannot be done. I hope that it will be done. The fact that the Prime Minister was able to state that more than 1,000 new businesses are being created every week is good news, but it is not necessarily good enough. Why should not 2, 000 or 3,000 new small businesses be created every week? More individuals should be encouraged to set up on their own, perhaps by the offer of fiscal incentives.
I recommend that consideration be given to the entrepreneurs scheme, whereby entrepreneurs may enjoy the same tax relief as those who invest in small businesses under the business expansion scheme. It will also be helpful if small companies are given corporation tax relief so that their small profits can be used to build up their reserves and that they may develop more easily than they can at present. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will look into those matters before the next Budget. The fact that the Gracious Speech made no mention of small businesses does not necessarily mean that there will be no legislation or other action during the Session.
I welcome the Gracious Speech. There is much in it for my constituents and for the nation. As a result of the measures it announces, there will be more freedom and fairness, and undoubtedly there will be more opportunity for all.
Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian) : I find people like the hon. Member for Dover (Mr. Shaw) wholly incomprehensible. The sort of speech he has just made and the values that he tried to express in it demonstrate the gigantic chasm between the two ends of the United Kingdom. At one point he had the effrontery to say that the Prime Minister was one of the most respected leaders in the world. He should try coming to my country. He would find that she is about the most hated person in Scotland
Mr. David Shaw : I visited the hon. Gentleman's country recently, as my wife is a Scot with a large family in Scotland, and I can assure him that many people in Scotland respect the Prime Minister immensely.
Mr. Home Robertson : There may be many such people, but the hon. Gentleman would struggle to find them in heavy concentrations anywhere in Scotland. The Prime Minister is one of the most universally loathed people there.
This brings me to the points made by the now absent hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars). I cannot help recalling that, 10 years ago to the month, he and I were on the Government Back Benches and he was kind enough to congratulate me on my maiden speech. Shortly after that, his new friends joined the then Conservative Opposition and voted down the Labour Government, ushering in 10 years of grim Government for the people of Scotland, about whom he claims to care. I have been watching the hon. Gentleman's perambulations in and out of various parties and constituencies since then, and without wanting to be churlish to him in his absence, I must say that I do not welcome his election to the House. The loss of a Labour seat can only bring comfort to the Prime Minister and Cabinet whom he and most Scottish people so earnestly loathe.
Column 193However, I welcome the debate that has been initiated by the Govan by-election result. This is my first opportunity for five years to speak with the freedom of a Back Bencher. I must express serious fears about the prospects for the unity of the United Kingdom that I care about and support. The hon. Member for Govan is a comparatively trivial manifestation of the danger posed to the unity of the United Kingdom. The real source of the problem is the right hon. and learned Member for Edinbugh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind), the Secretary of State for Scotland. The general election of 1987 should, on any analysis, have been a constitutional turning point in Scotland. The result had been widely predicted as the Doomsday scenario and the Secretary of State now imposes alien rule on a nation which has returned only 10 Tory Members of Parliament and in which support for the governing party has slumped to below 20 per cent. in the polls.
The Conservative party professes to be baffled by the ingratitude of the Scots who refuse to embrace the message of the hard Right. That was the message conveyed by the hon. Member for Dover. We have heard various responses to that idea. the Prime Minister came to Edinburgh last year and addressed an astonished General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in her rather bizarre "Sermon on the Mound", and we are now being subjected to even heavier doses of hard-line Thatcherism.
It was the Secretary of State for Scotland, the right hon. and learned Member for Pentlands, who told the House in 1976 : "Scotland is the only territory on the face of the earth which has a legal system without a legislature to improve, modernise and amend it. This is a crazy anomaly".-- [ Official Report, 16 December 1976 ; Vol. 922, c. 1832.]
It may have been a crazy anomaly they : it is downright intolerable today after almost 10 years of Conservative rule.
There are ways and ways of approaching the problems of government by minority. The wise approach should be through conciliation and, when possible, partnership with the people being governed. At the other extreme there is what I choose to describe as the Jaruzelski option.
It is interesting to contrast the styles of the former Secretary of State for Scotland, the right hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger), and the present Secretary of State for Wales, with the Rifkind regime in Scotland today. The substance may not be so very different, but the style has been calculated to embitter and alienate the subjected people of Scotland. It is abundantly clear that the Secretary of State cares far more about his standing in Downing street than about his reputation in Scotland, the nation he is supposed to be serving. He seems positively to relish opportunities to humiliate and provoke the people whom he is supposed to serve.
Let us go through some examples. The poll tax is to be inflicted on the people of Scotland. The paperwork is already coming through our letter boxes and the tax will be levied in four months' time. The disruption of Scotland's excellent education system is to be taken one stage further as a result of the Queen's Speech. The Housing (Scotland) Act 1988 is designed to exploit the homeless for the benefit of private landlords. The Secretary of State is ruthlessly exploiting his power of patronage in Scotland. Examples of that include Sir Alex Fletcher, who was rejected by the
Column 194people of Edinburgh, Central at the general election, turning up as a paid member of the Scottish Development Agency. There is also the bizarre phenomenon of the Greater Glasgow health board being nominated by the Secretary of State but not representing anyone in Glasgow. It is apparently exclusively composed of clones of the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth), and it is now confronting the nurses of Glasgow head on.
The Secretary of State for Scotland has enthusiastically embraced the Jarulzelski option. We in Scotland find it puzzling to hear the Prime Minister calling for freedoms in Poland which she is denying to the subject nations of the United Kingdom. The scenario of Government from the bunker at St. Andrew's house, supported by English Tory Members who seem to find the situation enormously amusing, must raise questions about how the Scottish majority should repond. Obviously, the conventional process of debates, questions and Committees must continue in the House, but the cynical manipulation of the composition of Scottish Committees and the shameless refusal even to set up a Scottish Select Committee have inevitably tarnished the image of Parliament in Scotland.
My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) and our hon. Friends on the Front Bench, past and present, have approached this task conscien-tiously and constructively, and sometimes, when we have been lucky, that fact has been reflected in Scottish press reports. But when the Government administer the devolved power of a nation such as Scotland with flagrant disregard for the wishes of its people and go out of their way to humilate the elected representatives of the majority at national and local level, other considerations must be raised. The situation calls for a little more than ritual debates that end at 10 pm and occasional prayers against statutory instruments which extend the process to 11.30 pm. Many people in Scotland would have liked the Opposition to make a major stand in the House to highlight the obscenity of the Housing (Scotland) Bill in the last Session of Parliament. I, too, should have liked the opposition to that Bill to be taken a little further and to have made a stand to block progress on that oppressive legislation--but that could not be done : we were overruled. I am not advocating a course of general disruption in the House--I have been here long enough to know the Standing Orders and to know that such disruption would not be practical--but properly targeted issues should be exploited to highlight the extreme examples of repression in Scotland. Under these extreme circumstances there is ample justification for the initiatives outside Parliament, as well as those in the House.
This potential for constitutional crisis has been on the Scottish scene for a long time. I think in particular of one of my favourite predecessors in the East Lothian seat in the Scottish
Parliament--Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun, who wrote in a pamphlet in 1706 :
"It is certainly the Interest of all Good Men to promote a nearer Union with our Neighbours in England in the most Absolute and Incorporate Union that can be made betwixt these two Nations, there are several Interests (and of the greatest Consequence to which are and must be reserved separate to each Nation It seems beyond human comprehension, how these separate distinct Interests, and Establishments, can be regulated and supported by one Parliament". He went on :
Column 195"and the Scots deserve no pity, if they voluntarily surrender their united and separate Interests to the Mercy of a united Parliament, where the English shall have so vast a majority".
He was a man with foresight, but I doubt that he realised that the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) would one day become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and spring that trap on the people of Scotland. As we know, the Scottish Members surrendered Scotland's Parliament and it is only in comparatively recent years that a consensus has grown up in Scotland about the case for our own Parliament and for home rule within the United Kingdom.
Nevertheless, our two nations have lived with that inherent contradiction of one Parliament and two legislative areas for 281 years. We have two distinct nations with separate legal systems, separate administrations, different Churches and separate financial centres, which still share one Parliament, in which one nation's representatives must be massively outnumbered by those of the other nation. It is to the great credit of a long succession of Governments that such an inherently flawed system has survived for so long. It is a great pity that the matter was not resolved by mutual consent in 1979, following debates in the House on the Scotland Act 1978 and the referendum, when the people of Scotland voted by a majority of 77,437 to set up their own assembly within the United Kingdom.
As we know, this Government unceremoniously repealed that Act and they have gone out of their way to confront Scottish public opinion ever since. We need initiatives outside Parliament too, and I suggest that the proposed establishment of the Scottish constitutional convention, following the extremely important and closely argued report of the Grieve committee entitled "A Claim of Right for Scotland", is a matter of profound importance and significance. The Secretary of State for Scotland has rejected an invitation to take part in such a constitutional convention in Scotland on the grounds that the Government
"do not believe that Scotland would benefit from an additional layer of Government".
That conveniently overlooks the fact that the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Scottish Office are already a layer of government that is unaccountable in Scotland. That is what people in Scotland find so intolerable.
We are rightly and properly concerned about the rights of other small nations around the world--perhaps Estonia is a relevant and topical example. It is time to recognise the rights of the nations of the United Kingdom too. Conservative Members would do well to remember that Britain is not a nation--it is a union of nations and there should be respect between the nations in the union if the union is to survive and prosper.
The Secretary of State is provoking a potentially dangerous and destructive situation and he is opening the door for destructive forces, such as those represented by the crude nationalism of the Scottish National party. There is great irony in the fact that the Labour party should be made to suffer for the actions of a Tory Administration, but that is what happened at Govan two weeks ago. Nothing will be achieved by whingeing about that state of affairs. We must take the initiative on the Scottish political scene. That can be done by sharpening up our style of opposition in the House and instead of responding to pressure, we should be seen to be taking a lead in expressing the mandate that we have been given by
Column 196the people of Scotland. If that means that the focus of Scottish politics has to shift temporarily from the House to the Scottish constitutional convention, so be it.
My immediate predecessor as Member for East Lothian, John Mackintosh, had a clear vision of dual nationality--Scottish nationality and British nationality. The overwhelming majority of Scots share that desire for a continuing close partnership with our neighbours south of the border. That is a union that is not incompatible with the election of an assembly in Scotland to control the legislation, the power and the budget--which has already been devolved to the Scottish Office. Scotland wants home rule within the United Kingdom and that is a legitimate demand which must be accommodated by the House and by any responsible Government. If the Government are not prepared to acknowledge that need they will be putting the unity of the United Kingdom in jeopardy. One must remember that they are the party that professes to be the Unionist party, yet the actions of Ministers are putting the union of the United Kingdom in jeopardy.
The Scottish majority--the Labour party and the Social and Liberal Democrats--will, I hope, approach the constitutional convention within the spirit of a union that we want to preserve. It would be a spectacular irony if, by its actions and omissions and by provoking the people of Scotland over the past nine years, the Conservative party was to open the door to the nationalism expressed by the hon. Member for Govan today.
Mr. Peter Thurnham (Bolton, North-East) : It has been interesting to listen to the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson). It is not clear which part of the Scottish Labour party he representas or exactly what initiatives members of the Scottish Labour party will adopt. Perhaps they should choose to stand on a turntable rather than a platform, so that they can face in all directions at once and members can change direction at any moment. The Labour party is shell-shocked by its total defeat at Govan and it will take a long time to decide in which direction to face. No doubt we shall hear more speeches like the hon. Gentleman's
I praise the Government for the measures that they have introduced in the Gracious Speech. It is excellent to see a 10th year of radical measures being brought forward, which will continue to restore the country's fortunes and which will improve the quality of life in every possible way.
I regret that I did not hear all the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Miss Widdecombe), but I was sorry to hear her criticise the Government for not having chosen to bring forward a Bill on the Warnock committee's proposals. The Government have committed themselves to bringing forward legislation when the time is right and I congratulate them on the way in which they have handled the issue. It is an area in which there have been rapid developments and the Government are aware--even if some hon. Members are not--that this country leads the world in medical biology. It is impossible for one country to lead the world in all aspects of scientific research, but it is accepted by all the people who have studied the matter that this country has a worldwide lead in medical biology. I call on hon. Members not to be frightened by finding this country in the lead, but to call on the great resources of British common sense so that we can
Column 197build on that lead--not just technically and scientifically, but in the way in which we cope with the moral and ethical dilemmas involved.
The Church of England Synod has come out in support of research into in vitro fertilisation. I am sorry that some of the other Churches have been unable to follow that lead. I praise the work done by the Voluntary Licensing Authority, which was set up in 1985. After its first year's work, it was praised by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister who said that she hoped that its first year's report would be
"widely studied, because the organisation's work is excellent."--[ Official Report, 24 April 1986 ; Vol. 96, c. 421.]
I recommend hon. Members to read not only the first report but the report on the second and third years, which show the continuing work of the Voluntary Licensing Authority.
The World Health Organisation has recently held an international conference on in vitro fertilisation at which speaker after speaker stood up to praise the work done by the Voluntary Licensing Authority. It is the envy of the world--a peculiarly British establishment and solution to the problems and opportunities that have arisen. We have given a lead to other countries on how to manage research in that subject so that the public can have confidence that there are sufficient controls.
Some countries have rushed into early legislation, which they will probably regret. The state of Victoria in Australia has enacted legislation that is restrictive and Germany is in the throes of introducing restrictive legislation. In this country, we can be satisfied that we need not take lessons in human ethics from a country with a record such as Germany's. No doubt Germany's restrictive legislation has been a reaction to the ghastly excesses suffered in the past.
There is no doubt that more research is needed. The latest report from the Voluntary Licensing Authority showed that 4,687 patients were treated in 1986 but that only 605 live births resulted. That is a success rate of less than 13 per cent. and clearly shows the great need for improvement. The 4,000 patients whose treatment was unsuccessful must have suffered great unhappiness.
My hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone talked about the awful suddenness of in vitro fertilisation. I do not think that it is at all awful for those who have benefited. Many thousands of children have been born in this country as a result of IVF, and I understand that in France last year 3,000 such babies were born. I am sure that parents and their children will not consider that awful at all. Some parents pray to be able to choose not to pass on to their children inheritable disorders that may result in early death or serious handicap. Those disorders could be avoided if research allowed us to choose which embryos should be implanted and which should be discarded.
In congratulating the Government on not bringing forward knee-jerk legislation, it may help if I retrace the history and development of IVF research. The first IVF baby in the world was born in this country in July 1978. That was possible only because 10 years of research had already been undertaken by the late Patrick Steptoe and Professor Robert Edwards. It was a source of great satisfaction that Patrick Steptoe was honoured in the New Year honours list and fortunately he was able to receive
Column 198that honour before his death. It is surprising that world leaders should take so long to achieve recognition just because their activities are controversial.
In July 1982 the Government set up the committee of inquiry into human fertilisation and embryology chaired by Dame Mary Warnock, and that committee reported two years later, in July 1984. It recommended that a statutory licensing authority should be established to regulate research and IVF infertility services. A small minority of those serving on the committee opposed research in different forms and shortly after the report was published a great campaign was organised. Hon. Members were subjected to a barrage of mail and petitions calling on them to demand a ban on all research. The former right hon. Member for South Down, Mr. Enoch Powell, tabled a Private Member's Bill--the Unborn Children (Protection) Bill in November 1984. It was debated in the House but it did not get further than Report. Although that Bill initially achieved a majority, its majority declined as it went through its various stages. I am pleased that at each stage at which we have considered such legislation the number of those who have supported the view of Mr. Enoch Powell has declined. The opinion polls that have been published show that a majority of the public support research when it is designed to prevent congenital handicap or bring other such benefits. Marplan and NOP polls were conducted in 1985, and I feel sure that if an opinion poll were carried out today, a greater number of the public would support research, given that so many more children have now been born as a result of IVF.
In its latest report, the Voluntary Licensing Authority shows that 44 centres have been approved. I challenge those who oppose research to say exactly what harm it has done. A great deal of benefit has come from it. It is only because those who oppose research are unable to reconcile conflicting principles in their own minds that they have been unable to accept the benefits that have accrued from research that has been satisfactorily controlled by the Voluntary Licensing Authority.
Many organisations have come out in support of research. Progress--the campaign for research into reproduction--has been supported by 50 different organisations. I shall cite a few to show the wide support that exists. Organisations that are members of Progress include the Association to Combat Huntington's Chorea--a particularly vicious inheritable disorder whose elimination would bring great benefit--as well as the Association of Community Health Councils of England and Wales, the Birmingham Stillbirth and Neo Natal Death Society and the British Humanist Association. My hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone talked about humanity, but I ask her where is the humanity in forbidding the research.
Member organisations also include the British Medical Association, the Chelsea hospital for women fertility unit, the CHILD organisation, the Family Planning Association, the International Cerebral Palsy Society, the Lichfield and District Mental Welfare Association, the Maternity Alliance, the Medical Women's Federation and MENCAP--the Royal Society for Mentally Handicapped Children and Adults. I was particularly disappointed that the Roman Catholic archbishop chose to resign from MENCAP when it came out in support of research. How on earth can his resignation have helped the interests of
Column 199hundreds of thousands of sufferers from mental handicap? I call upon the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church to review their position.
Progress is also supported by MIND--the National Association for Mental Health--the National Association for the Childless, which covers afflictions from which about one in 10 of the population suffer. Progress is supported by SENSE--the National Deaf Blind and Rubella Association--the Spastics Society, the Tay Sachs and Allied Diseases Association and the Tuberous Sclerosis Association of Great Britain, and many hospitals have also chosen to support the work being done as part of the Progress campaign. I have shown the broad measure of support that exists not only among the public but among the associations that represent people with special interests, and I hope that the minority of people who oppose research and try to pretend that they are more than a minority will recognise the force of that support.
I do not know whether a private Member's Bill on this subject will be tabled this Session. None of those tabled so far has got anywhere and I hope that hon. Members will now wait until the Government feel that the time is right to introduce legislation.
The Voluntary Licensing Authority was set up as a temporary arrangement. When the authority came into being three years ago it was as
"a temporary measure pending Government legislation."
There is a saying that nothing is so permanent as a temporary arrangement. As the temporary arrangement has worked so well and is the envy of so many other countries throughout the world, I ask the Government to continue to examine the work of the organisation and to remember that it has done well and achieved the results that we wished it to achieve. The Government should not rush into legislation on the basis of a knee-jerk reaction to unfounded fears expressed by the opponents of research.
"My Government will vigorously pursue their policies for reducing crime."
That is a decision that all sensible and law-abiding people will applaud and support. I was glad to hear my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) give the Labour party's approval to such a policy.
However, in recent months hon. Members representing constituencies in the north-west, including my hon. Friends the Members for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) and for Burnley (Mr. Pike), have been lobbied by the Greater Manchester police authority about rising crime in the area and fears that manpower resources are inadequate to counter that trend. The result of that lobby was that the north-west group of Labour Members asked for two meetings with Lord Ferrers--one before Prorogation and the other a few days ago. As Lord Ferrers is the Home Office Minister responsible for police affairs, the north-west group of Labour Members pressed on him the claims of the Greater Manchester police authority. However, despite the fact that two weeks ago Lord Ferrers accepted an invitation from the Greater Manchester police authority to visit the Manchester force, and despite our lobbying on behalf of the GMPA and the fact that Lord Ferrers appeared to be sympathetic to the case, we fear that our pleas will go unanswered.
Column 200Accordingly, I make a further plea on the Floor of the House to the Home Secretary to listen to the Greater Manchester police authority's request for policies to reduce crime in the GMPA area, a request which I believe is covered by the statement in the Gracious Speech. The Greater Manchester police authority and every sensible person want more bobbies on the beat to act as deterrents, particularly to those aged between 15 and 25 who commit more or less on-the-spot crimes, and to deter young criminals. The details of the cases speak for themselves. The Greater Manchester police authority was created under section 24 of the Local Government Act 1985. Its functions are laid down in section 4 of the Police Act 1964. Its overall duty is to maintain an adequate and efficient police force for the county. The 1964 Act makes the authority responsible for deciding the force's budget and for providing the chief constable with sufficient resources of manpower and other facilities.
It has become obvious, from the information that I have received, that the resources that are now available to the authority are inadequate, which can affect the efficiency of the police in tackling the rising crime rate in the area. The implications of the GMPA's revenue budget for 1988-89 prove my point. In his original submission to the GMPA, the chief constable had proposed a budget of about £201 million before the Home Office grant-- £24 million more than the budget for 1987-88. Of that £24 million, a total of £19 million related to spending to which the authority was committed. The remaining £5.7 million represented the cost of a number of growth items that were calculated to release additional officers for operational duties on the beat. These proposals included the civilianisation of a further 80 posts, a point which we raised with Lord Ferrers--a vehicle replacement programme and a £1 million contingency fund to cover unforeseen eventualities.
It is clear, however, that the available resources are insufficient to allow such developments, no matter how desirable they may be. The continuation of a policy of civilianisation is important, particularly in the light of the GMPA's request for an additional 700 officers over five years. The Home Office has said that no such increase can be expected unless further inroads into civilianisation take place.
When the GMPA was formed in 1974, the establishment was 6,600, against the then chief constable designate's view that it should be 7,685. In response, the Home Secretary said in a letter dated 7 February 1974 that he had noted that an eventual establishment of 7, 685 was considered desirable and he assumed that the authority would prepare a phased plan for the expansion of the force towards that figure.
Establishment reviews in 1978 and 1980 recommended realistic establishments of 8,792 and 9,161 respectively. Since the formation of the GMPA, however, a series of small increases has taken the establishment to its current level of 6,943. Leaving aside the 135 posts added in 1976 when the force took over the responsibility for policing Manchester airport, there has been a real increase of only 208 officers in 14 years. That is a 3 per cent. increment, as compared with 10 per cent. in establishments nationally. Meanwhile, there has been a 100 per cent. increase in crime in the Greater Manchester area.
In 1975, the number of rapes was 60. In 1987, that figure had risen to 110, an increase of 83 per cent. In 1975, cases of woundings and assaults totalled 3,692. In 1987,
Column 201that figure had risen to 7,361, an increase of 99 per cent. In 1975, burglaries in dwellings amounted to 18,208. In 1987, that figure had risen to 54,253, an increase of 198 per cent. In 1975, cases of robberies and assaults with intent to rob totalled 547. In 1987, that figure had risen to 2,132, an increase of 289 per cent. In 1975, thefts from vehicles numbered 13,250. In 1987, that figure had risen to 57,321, an increase of 332 per cent. In 1975, cases of criminal damage amounted to 4,889. In 1987, that figure had risen to 30,525, an increase of 524 per cent. The figures, showing the rising level of crime in the Greater Manchester area, speak for themselves. A recent analysis of the number of crimes per head of population in English and Welsh forces suggests that the Greater Manchester area suffers more crime per person than all but one other force in the country. In 1987, a total of 9.3 per cent. of all recorded crimes in England, excluding London, were committed in the Greater Manchester area. It is not only that demands on the police, imposed by crime, have increased. Increases in other areas can be compared with the 3 per cent. growth in establishment between 1974 and 1987. There has been an increase in emergency calls to the police of 30 per cent., a 12 per cent. increase in road accidents and a 10 per cent. increase in the number of persons dealt with for crime.
To combat this massive increase in crime, the Greater Manchester police authority sought in May 1987 the approval of the Home Office to increase its establishment by 700 officers over five years, commencing with an increase of 140 constable posts in the financial year 1988-89. The Home Secretary decided, in his wisdom, not to grant the authority's application. The GMPA decided that further representations should be made to all Members of Parliament in the Greater Manchester area, and it sought a meeting with senior Ministers in the Home Office to discuss the authority's request. The north-west group of Labour Members responded to the GMPA's case by requesting two meetings with Lord Ferrers--the first before he visited the Greater Manchester police force two weeks ago and the second after he had visited the force. We tried to press on him the urgency of the Manchester case and reaffirmed the request for 700 extra policemen on the beat within five years. The authority reminded him of the Home Secretary's statement at the recent Conservative party conference that, in view of the undeniable case in many police forces for more officers on the beat, there would be a further increase in police manpower of 1,000 officers next year.
It was our impression, following our discussion with Lord Ferrers, that a large proportion of the extra officers would be allocated to the Metropolitan police force and that the rest would be thinly spread among forces throughout England and Wales. I therefore urgently request--I am sure that my plea is backed by all Members from the north-west region--that in view of the soaring crime rate in the north-west, the Home Secretary should reconsider the case that has been made by the Greater Manchester police authority for more bobbies on the beat to ensure that all sections of the community are safe on the street and at home, and free from the fear that crime generates. More bobbies on the beat would help to dispel that fear.
Column 202I urge the Home Secretary to reconsider his verdict on the Greater Manchester police authority's request.
Mr. David Martin (Portsmouth, South) : I hope that the hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton (Mr. Callaghan) will forgive me if I do not follow him too far down the track that he has laid out, but I agree with him about the seriousness of crime and the importance of having an increasing number of policemen on the beat to deal with it. I pay tribute to a great deal of what the Government have done in my part of Hampshire, and no doubt in the hon. Gentleman's area, to beat crime. We must do more, and the importance of doing more is a cross-party issue which must be pressed on the Home Office at all times. I am sure that Ministers recognise that.
Of all the statements of intention in the Queen's Speech, the one that I welcome with special warmth and the one which underpins the success of much else that the Government have been able to do is the pledge to
"continue to pursue firm financial policies designed to bear down on inflation."
I believe that zero must be the target. To continue to tolerate anything more is to tolerate the continuing theft of people's savings and earnings equivalent to what happened in those supposedly darker days some centuries ago when the coinage was quite simply clipped rather than the more subtle devaluation which we have had over many decades of inflation.
As memories of the dizzy heights of inflation of the past have receded, there is a danger that its evils will be forgotten or ignored and people say that we can put up with a little--what is 2, 3, 4 or 5 per cent.? We cannot put up with it. We must not flinch from the consequences of a policy designed to reduce inflation. We must reduce it with great determination.
We did not flinch in 1981. I remember thinking then, when the Chancellor presented his Budget, that he was rather like the boy who stood on the burning deck whence all but he had fled. He faced the necessary measures then with the greatest courage, and the Government must summon the same courage to face the challenges that still remain.
The Government understand the importance of sound money. That fact has underpinned much of the confidence that they have enjoyed at home through three successful general elections, and it buttresses our standing in the world. The relationship between a sound economy and influence in foreign affairs is unquestionable. Without the one, the other will drain away, and with it will go the hegemony, unrivalled by any British leader in modern times, which the Prime Minister enjoys in Europe and the rest of the world.
It is a relief to see in the Queen's Speech that the Government have no intention of relaxing the determination of a reforming Administration to tackle some difficult and controversial issues. It is also a relief not to see proposals for some legislation. Along the lines of the prayer, the Government ought to leave undone those things which they ought not to do. We have had a great deal of the things which past Governments ought not to have done, but I see no more in the Queen's Speech, and I welcome that.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary spoke about issues which involve crime and punishment. I am pleased that a Bill for the care and protection of children is to be
Column 203introduced. It will cover a great deal of ground and implement sensible recommendations arising from the Cleveland inquiry to reform the law on child care and the family. We must protect innocent families from state-led officiousness--we saw much of that during the Cleveland inquiry--but we must not relax in the face of horrifying cruelty to children which sickens and disgusts any sane person. In the criminal justice reforms, the Government have already amended the Children and Young Persons Act 1933. Since 1 October this year, the maximum sentence for child cruelty has increased from two to 10 years. It was too late to prevent a woefully inadequate maximum sentence of two years being passed this week at Winchester following the conviction for battering to death the three-year-old Sarah Worthington. The law has now changed, and none too soon. It empowers judges to pass sentences which suit the gravity of harrowing cases of violence, irrespective of whether it results in death.
I hope that, when framing child care legislation, and during its passage through Parliament, close attention will be paid to the advice of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. I have recently been made a vice-president of the Portsmouth branch of the NSPCC. Its members, and others throughout the country, work ceaselessly on behalf of children and families and will no doubt have much advice to offer. I hope that it will be listened to by the Government--I am sure that it will.
At the end of the Gracious Speech are the hopeful or ominous words--it depends on one's point of view--
"Other measures will be laid before you."
I do not know what they might refer to, but I wish that they would refer to an amendment to the law in accordance with early-day motion 1237 of the previous Session concerning the treatment of widows of service men, an issue which has exercised the minds of hon. Members on both sides of the House for many years. It has been signed by many Members, and what I might call the ginger group has suggested that the word "immediately" should be inserted. I should like to remind the House of the motion.
"That this House recognised the unfair treatment of the war widows and widows of Servicemen who retired before 31st March 1973, and those widows who married their husbands after their retirement from the Armed Forces both prior and subsequent to 6th April 1978 ; and urges Her Majesty's Government to remove these artificial time bars in order that all war widows and widows of Servicemen may receive the current rate for those pensions irrespective of the date of their husband's retirement or the date of their marriage."
"Other measures" in this Session or the next could easily put right something which really rankles with many people in my constituency and throughout the country in the constituencies of hon. Members on both sides of the House. The implementation of legislation along those lines is overdue and would be widely welcomed. I hope that it will receive serious consideration.
I understand from today's press that we are promised 16 Bills rather than the 44 that we had in the previous Parliament. However, I suspect that we Back Benchers will not notice very much difference, that the 10 o'clock rule will be suspended with depressing regularity, and that we shall be working as hard as ever. I have moved nearer the House, and while I shall support the Government with no less loyalty, at least I shall be able to support them in greater comfort.
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Mr. Eddie McGrady (South Down) : I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in the debate. The proposed legislation outlined in the Queen's Speech was received with mixed feelings in the communities which I represent. Perhaps it is significant that in 1988, which is the 20th anniversary of the commencement of the civil rights campaign in Northern Ireland, two of the issues addressed by that campaign are finally addressed by the proposals for legislation in the forthcoming Session.
What might be called the three great demands of the civil rights movement were a house on need and not creed, a job on endeavour and not favour, and universal adult suffrage. There is still an anachronism in terms of voting in Northern Ireland. Those who previously resided in the Republic of Ireland, but who may now have resided in Northern Ireland for 32 years, can vote to elect a Member to this House or to Europe, but cannot vote on how their rates may be spent by local government or who should represent them in a local devolved assembly. I welcome the Government's intention to remove that anomaly.
The second great demand was that a job should be gained on merit and not on whom one knows or who supports a particular application. I hope that the proposed legislation on fair employment will take on board the criticisms that were offered when the White Paper was introduced and debated in the House. After 20 years, 10 of which were under the existing fair employment legislation, the 1985 report revealed that very little had changed in terms of discrimination on religious grounds in employment practice.
I hope that at last the Government will get to grips with that issue and lay it to rest once and for all. I hope that they will shape a future of fair employment and redress and eradicate the injustices of the past. We have waited for a long time and I hope that the proposals will come to fruition in the next Session, although we shall have to wait for the terms of the proposed Bill before passing comment and judgment on it.
My party does not welcome the proposed legislation on the declaration of non-violence. That may sound strange from a member of a party which at all times has rejected violence as a means of achieving a political objective. It may seem strange coming from a party which at all times has avoided the use of verbal violence to incite inter-community strife. We oppose the proposed legislation because of the practical consequences that it will have in the council chambers and the communities in Northern Ireland. Perhaps, having discussed the matter with the Ministers concerned, having made detailed submissions to the Ministers and knowing that the argument for non-implementation was won in the summer of 1988, we would have seen the end of this piece of legislation, which can be only detrimental to the democratic process in Northern Ireland. The proposed legislation is a gross interference with the normal democratic process. If proof were needed, it is the fact that the Government are not extending it to elections to this House or to the European Parliament, but are confining the declaration of non-violence to elections held within Northern Ireland.
I and my party, coming from a political position at the coalface of opposition to violence, oppose the measure for very solid reasons. We do not want any opinion in Northern Ireland to be disenfranchised. We want to see
Column 205the spotlight of publicity on all aspects and attitudes within our community. We want to expose those vile and reprehensible attitudes and we want to have the opportunity to highlight and spotlight those within our council chambers--and, if there is a devolved institution, within our assembly--who support violence, actually or verbally. The irony is that the legislation, as I understand it, will require a declaration of non-support for violence. The definition of violence has to be determined, and I do not think that it will ever be satisfactorily determined by legislation. Who will define support for violence? Are we talking about participation in physical violence or participation through membership of an organisation? Are we talking about verbal violence? The House should remember that the verbal violence that we hear in our council chambers is every bit as destructive and divisive as violence on the streets because that division of opinion in local government is translated into the community.
People who speak about the need for a declaration of non-violence always and only speak about the violence of Sinn Fein and the IRA. It is correct that those organisations should be mentioned, but we should remember that there is an equally big problem in the Loyalist community, and that 200 members of the Ulster Defence Association are presently serving life sentences for acts of violence.
I notice that no members of the Democratic Unionist party are present. That party subscribed to the Ulster Resistance Organisation which has been found guilty of storing huge caches of arms. The DUP has distanced itself only in a half-hearted manner, by saying that its intention was to have a well- disciplined army of men. Are we to decide whether that is incitement or support for a violent objective? This is a grey area and will bring the whole democratic process in Northern Ireland into disrepute. That is a great tragedy because, Lord knows, the recent history of local government, especially in Northern Ireland, is scattered with division, acts of verbal intimidation and verbal violence and the Government's proposals will add to that.
The Government have introduced the legislation, but are preparing to run away from its implementation because the offence will be not a criminal but a civil offence. Who will have to take action? Presumably it will be the local councillor, although I have heard a rumour that an amendment has been made to the original proposition that councils as a body may be able to take action. There is nothing more depressing or more likely to create antagonisms than the process of law in which we are about to engage the people of Northern Ireland.
In the years since 1985, ratepayers' money has been spent week after week and month after month in the pursuit of blatant party political objectives. I am speaking about the "No" campaign against the Anglo-Irish Agreement. This legislation gives carte blanche to people to spend more and more ratepayers' money in the pursuit of a party political viewpoint. I am convinced that the Government will regret the day that this piece of legislation is introduced. The Government are not prepared to take up the cause of the law that they are about to introduce but are leaving it to the individual to incur expense and risk--and there will be risk. The Government have abolished juries in