|Previous Section||Home Page|
Column 206Northern Ireland because of the risk to jurors, yet they are preparing to ask people to risk taking civil action against the person who is purported to have supported the men of violence. It is a very bad law and, like all bad laws, it is worse than no law at all. At this very late stage I ask the Government to reconsider their intentions and to prevent us from creating more and deeper divisions in the communities that we represent.
I ask the Government to take note of the debate on the White Paper on fair employment. Will they ensure that meaningful targets are achieved and given statutory backing? That is the only way in which the imbalance can be redressed.
I have confined my remarks to those aspects of the Gracious Speech dealing with Northern Ireland, but there are two other important subjects. Communities are undergoing a traumatic experience with the regrading of nurses. Irrespective of who is to blame for the mess and irrespective of the rights and wrongs, it is imperative that the Government take firm and positive action to restore harmony in the nursing communities and ancillary nursing communities and to restore confidence in the service to the people who ultimately must suffer--the patients. I ask the Government from the bottom of my heart to intervene, even if there is some loss of face. My constituency includes a high proportion of the nursing fraternity. The Government's actions are creating a division that will do untold damage to the nursing fraternity, to nursing care and eventually to patients.
I draw the attention of the House to a paragraph in the Gracious Speech :
"My Government will continue to attach very great importance to protecting our environment, both nationally and internationaly." If ever there were a weak statement of intent, that is it. There is no intention to comply with or to support the basic parameters laid down by the European Community on safety controls or to subscribe to minimum dosages, whether of toxic or of nuclear waste. There is no intention to introduce legislation to eradicate acts of grave neglect or to impose limits on the pollution-causing industries. My constituency is opposite Sellafield and I may bore the House by continuing to speak on this subject, but it constantly raises its head in my community.
The Gracious Speech does not refer to any intent by the Government to play a meaningful role in protecting the environment. The last time I heard a comment from a Minister on this subject, I could not believe my ears. He said that, to eradicate acid rain and the greenhouse effect, we should start expanding the nuclear industry. There is nothing more ludicrous or more contradictory than that statement.
It is late at night and, although I should love to develop that subject, I want your eye to look kindly on me in future, Mr. Speaker. I ask the Government not to utter platitudes but to give us positive action in coping with the greenhouse effect, transportation of toxic wastes and treatment of nuclear wastes. The Government should be honest and say whether they have already decided to dump nuclear waste at Sellafield. Everyone considers that that decision has been made already.
Column 2079.13 pm
Ms. Jo Richardson (Barking) : There have been a large number of contributions on a variety of subjects. I am sorry that it has not been possible for every hon. Member who wished to speak to do so and I hope that they will have an opportunity during the rest of the week.
We have heard contributions on the security services, freedom of information, the DSS, family courts, the disasters of privatisation, Northern Ireland and Scotland. I listened with great care to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars), who made, I suppose, his maiden speech. He has made a maiden speech before in this place, and I do not know whether one can make two such speeches. He certainly made a vigorous contribution and I am sure that we shall hear a great deal from him between now and the end of the Parliament, when he will depart.
As shadow Minister for women, I looked forward with curiosity to the Gracious Speech, because last month the Government made the amazing discovery that more than half the population were women. According to the Daily Express, "Crusading Maggie" had
"ordered a new Government drive to end discrimination against women."
To achieve this,
"the Ministerial Group on Women's Issues has been secretly working on the strategy".
I do not know why it needs to be so secretive. The group is composed of eight men and two women--that comes as no surprise--and will apparently root out discrimination against women by "scrutinising" future Government legislation.
The sheer power of the proposals, not to mention the composition of the group, left me breathless with anticipation of the Government's programme for the coming Session and the new era of equal opportunities that it would bring. Sadly, as I heard the reality, as opposed to the rhetoric of the Government, I was forced to recall that the two are usually very different. The Minister of State had told the press that the aim of his group was
"to clear the way for career women to achieve their goals and to protect the vulnerable."
I see no sign of either of those aims in the Government's programme, nor any sign that the Government have begun to understand that women, men and all disadvantaged groups want rights not patronising Tory protection. We know from bitter experience of the past nine years that we can expect neither rights nor protection from a Government who have done more than any other post-war Government to foster inequality, vulnerability and insecurity.
The Government are led by a woman Prime Minister who rightly took up all the opportunities for women for which Socialist women had fought--the right to enter university with a grant and not a loan, the right to enter the professions and to earn equal pay, the ability to get child care, and the right to enter Parliament. Finally she walked through the door of No. 10 and closed it in the faces of millions of other women.
The principles that guide Labour Members are in stark contrast to those of the Tories. We understand that the commitment to achieve genuine equal opportunities must be central to Government measures--a commitment to dismantle discrimination and break down the barriers of prejudice and bigotry which limit the opportunities of so many women and of black and ethnic minorities, which
Column 208divide classes and place people with disabilities and those who care for them outside the economic and social community, which deny gay men and lesbians free choice and respect, and which render children and young people powerless.
We shall therefore scrutinise with great care the children's Bill proposed by the Government to ensure that children's rights to protection from abuse and to the highest quality of care both from the community and from those who look after them at home are paramount and that the necessary resources to provide care and support services for all children and parents are made available. We shall also continue to press for Government action to raise standards through education, which must give emphasis to ensuring that boys and young men acquire the skills of caring for themselves and others rather than just making science and technology compulsory for girls and young women.
Indeed, a Minister from the Department of Education and Science--the hon. Member for Coventry, South-West (Mr. Butcher)--has been sent out to tell young women, "Get ready for divorce, girls," a somewhat stunning and surprising rallying call for the supposed party of the family. The Minister was, in effect, saying that girls had to be educated because one day they might be divorced and would have to go out to work. I must tell him that most of them would like to go out to work at some stage in their lives anyway, so he should not lay emphasis on their being divorced first. He no doubt told them about the brave new opportunities that the Government intend to open up for young people and women at work.
During the past few weeks a series of written answers have trailed the contents of the next employment Bill. It will be very much like the 1986 Act. Then, as now, the Government were forced by Europe to act to remove discrimination against women. They delayed and prevaricated but, eventually, we were forced to take a sugar-coated pill. The sweeteners were European requirements such as equal retirement ages in some areas, but inside the pill was a severe dismantling of health and safety regulations for women, which also played a role in diminishing the standards for men.
Once again the Government are being forced by Europe to introduce a Bill. I welcome any legislation that provides genuine equality of opportunity, especially the repeal of section 51 of the Sex Discrimination Act. However, I shall not stand idly by if attempts are made to weaken the health and safety protection for workers by using the mask of inequality. Where protection is out of date and unnecessary, we shall welcome its repeal, but there are instances when protection should be levelled upwards to include men--for example, working with lead. The Government must act appropriately in such cases. Unfortunately, the wording in the Gracious Speech gave the game away. We are not dealing with "unnecessary obstacles", although the Government persist in considering health and safety as such. Lumped into the Bill will be further attacks on trade union representation and employees' rights. The Bill will be about that, and not about greater equality of opportunity.
Further proof of that fact was contained in this year's Local Government Act which, disgracefully, dispensed with contract compliance. Yet the Gracious Speech contains provisions for equality in Northern Ireland. If we can make provision for religions--and I am not against
Column 209that--why cannot we do so for women and those with disabilities? The Government have dispensed with their legislative protection. No measures are outlined in the Gracious Speech to facilitate the 900,000-strong increase in the numbers of women with young children who will be seeking to return to work in the coming years. The Government's response has been to announce further tightening of the availability-for-work test, which they have already applied ruthlessly, to remove thousands of women from the unemployment register by rigidly refusing to recognise child care responsibilities and the care of elderly, sick or disabled relatives.
Britain and Northern Ireland are at the bottom or near bottom on virtually every policy indicator for child care facilities. Successive Ministers have been directly responsible for blocking and wrecking the European directive on parental and carers' leave. They have savaged employment rights for pregnant women in paid employment, especially for part-time workers. They have eroded the right to claim unfair dismissal, the right to return to work and the right to statutory maternity pay and the universal maternity grant.
The Government have introduced, through yet another of the Chancellor's so- called brilliant economic ideas, a tax on workplace nurseries as a perk. They have slashed local authority funding, so that we now have fewer publicly funded day nursery places than in 1945, and out of school care is virtually non-existent in most areas. The Government's response to this exercise in child care and parental provision is to announce an advertising campaign to encourage employers--not themselves--to provide child care. They should remove that tax on workplace nurseries before they go any further down that road. The Government should be advocating an integrated programme of child care giving choice to parents.
The needs of carers, who are now greater in number than the women at home caring for children, are similarly ignored in the Gracious Speech. There is not one proposal in it addressed to the recommendations of the Griffiths report on care in the community. The Government's proposal to bring forward, at last, the European directive for equal treatment in occupational pension schemes will not be much use to women who cannot seek employment because care in the community is not provided for their dependants, or who are forced to retire early to care for their dependants. That is now the second most common reason for women's early retirement.
We recognise that economic and social policies cannot be artificially divided, and that we have to tackle the root causes of both economic and social inequality if we are to eliminate the economic and social impoverishment that they generate. We also understand, as my hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mrs. Wise) said yesterday, that positive legislation and action by central Government to empower women and to improve their economic and social status is crucial and enriches society as a whole.
Column 210All the reliable evidence available to us shows that continuing unemployment, low pay and inadequate benefits and pensions will leave some 18 million children and adults existing on or below the poverty line by 1991. That is one in three of the population. The Government's dogmatic pursuit of deregulation, privatisation and cuts in public expenditure will do nothing to halt or reverse this trend. Our pensioners, the majority of whom are women, are the coldest in Europe in spite of what the Under-Secretary of State for Health says. Our children and their parents will continue to be deprived of their rightful education and caring needs. Homelessness and mortgage foreclosures, rent arrears and fuel poverty will continue to grow. Hospital waiting lists and the increased burden on home nursing for women will increase further. Our discriminatory immigration laws will continue to deprive black people of a united family life and exacerbate the racism that pervades our society and underpins the discrimination that black people face at all levels of society. Local government will go on being deprived of the resources to make our streets and estates lighter and safer. The hon. Member for Edmonton (Dr. Twinn) made a most interesting speech about lighting on the streets, and I agree with him. He said that it was easy for local authorities to help.
We need not simply lighter and more welcoming streets where women and old people would not feel frightened, but estates with proper locks on doors. That would improve the situation. However, these things cost money and when local authorities are forced to make choices between one proposal and another, such measures often suffer. Many women and black and elderly people will remain trapped in their homes after dark and cut off from social contact and employment day and night because of the lack of safe, affordable transport, which is particularly important to women who live in rural areas.
Yet again, despite the Government's new window dressing, we find over half the population deprived of rightful opportunities to build their own pathways out of poverty and denied real freedom to contribute their talents, wisdom and expertise. Acknowledging those talents and that wisdom and experience would make a better life, not only for women, but for their children and for men, too. I wonder that the Prime Minister can sleep at night with all that she has on her conscience--
Ms. Richardson : I have come to the conclusion that, as my hon. Friend says, she does not have a conscience. The sooner that she and her Government go, the sooner that better life for all people, to which women could make a contribution, will come, and it will come soon.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. John Patten) : I thought that the hon. Member for Barking (Ms. Richardson) rather spoilt her otherwise enjoyable, balanced and moderate speech with that unnecessary personal attack on my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. She is also, alas, rather ill informed about the important Government committee, the ministerial group on women's issues, which was set up by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in 1986. To show how
Column 211important it is, I should point out that the first ever chairman was my right hon. and learned Friend, the then Minister of State at the Home Office, now the Chief Whip. It is well known and is attended by the chairman of the Women's National Commission and her co- chairman. In the 18 to 20 months that I have been in the Home Office, many women's groups in this country have been well aware of it. I have letters on my desk from national and local women's groups all over the country asking that issues concerning women should be put before that ministerial group. Before the Labour party goes to Rottingdean and decides to cook up women's issues as something to sell to the electorate, it should find out the facts about the matter.
This has been a good and wide debate and there have been some notable contributions from hon. Members on both sides of the House. Some particularly important questions have been asked by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) and I must devote part of my speech to replying to his questions, although I shall not be able to keep my remarks entirely to the issues that he raised. I should be wrong if I did not begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars) on his pseudo-maiden speech, as someone who has previously been a Member of the House.
Mr. Patten : My hon. Friend says it is a retread. Consistent with his new status as a retreaded Member of the House, he was heard in semi- silence with semi-respect and gave way from time to time, which is unusual in a maiden speech. He then left the Chamber, but I am not sure whether he was wise or sensible to do so because he missed hearing a great deal of vitriol poured on his head from all around him on the Labour Benches. I do not know if his ears were burning, but tomorrow's Hansard will certainly show that there are a number of politically motivated men and women on those Benches who wish to verbally sandbag and mug him.
The hon. Gentleman's appearance in the House may well mark an interesting stage in British political history because, after all, the Labour party was born largely in Scotland. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman's victory in Govan will mark the beginning of the long decline of the Labour party in this country.
The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook, my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken) and others raised important matters on official secrets and the Security Service Bill, which was introduced this afternoon. The White Paper that sets forth the view of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on the reform of the Official Secrets Act 1911 is a liberalising document. It will lead to the removal from the criminal law of a great weight of material that is currently subject to the criminal law under section 2 of the Act. The House will have to make its own judgments when the Bill is published, which will be in the not-too-distant future.
Following the excellent debate which took place in July, I think that the House would expect the Government to have listened. It might also expect some of the views which were then expressed to have been reflected upon by the Government during the summer. At the same time, I do not think that the House would expect us to encompass in the Bill, when it is published, everything which was advocated during the July debate.
Column 212In a lucid speech, my hon Friend the Member for Thanet, South said--I think that I am representing him more or less exactly--that he thought that the official secrets legislation that is in prospect would be a step in the right direction.
Mr. Aitken indicated assent.
Mr. Patten : When the Bill is published, I hope that my hon. Friend will feel that the step forward is one of decent size, even though he may not be able to agree with everything that it contains. I hope that there will be much within it with which he will agree. It would not be fruitful for me to continue to comment on what the Bill might or might not contain. I merely say that it is important that those who are extremely interested in these issues, if not passionate about them, in this place and in the media scrutinise the facts contained within the Bill, rather than any fiction that they might pretend the Bill contains, when it is published. It is important that debate on a reforming measure, when it comes, is based on fact, not on fiction or on fantasies which have been dreamt up by those who have certain views on the issue.
I shall try to answer one question directly before moving on to the Security Service Bill, which was referred to by the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook. I can find nothing in the Acts mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman that negates what my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said in his simple statement that the disclosure of Budget secrets will no longer have the protection of the criminal law as set out in section 2 of the 1911 Act. The Acts introduce obligations of non-disclosure, but those are placed on the commissioners and tax inspectors. The Acts do not create any criminal offences for such disclosures. It is right that they create penalties, but they rely on such conduct as fraudulent evasion and incorrect tax forms, which I think we all would judge should be punished by the criminal law. During the speech of the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) I read the Income and Corporation Taxes Act 1970, which contains 540 sections and 16 schedules. I could find nothing within it on which the hon. Gentleman relies for his information. If he will identify the relevant sections and send that information to us, we shall consider them.
I applaud the qualified welcome which the Opposition have given to the Security Service Bill. I think that the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook said that he hoped that the Opposition would be able to support it, subject to close parliamentary scrutiny. I was pleased with that response. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends welcome the trend towards openness on security matters that has been marked during the period in which the Government have been in office. I shall give some major examples and some minor ones to demonstrate what I mean.
First of all, the Prime Minister has come to the Dispatch Box on nine occasions since 1979 and made statements to Parliament. Secondly, it is this reforming Government who introduced the Interception of Communications Act 1985, which has been widely welcomed, and has not been criticised by the Opposition. Thirdly, it is this reforming Government who in 1987 appointed a staff counsellor for the security services. Fourthly, we are about to publish an Official Secrets Bill. Fifthly, we have this afternoon published the Security
Column 213Service Bill. Those are substantial changes, which somehow the Labour Government between 1974 and 1979 simply avoided.
There are also some minor examples which, all in all, add up to examples of the great importance of the continuing trend to openness in local government. For example, it was this Government--not an earlier one--who allowed visits to Ministry of Defence establishments, such as Aldermaston, Portland Down and Greenham Common. It is this Government who have published the Department of Social Security manuals on the social fund. Secrecy was the motif of the Labour Government on those issues. It is this Government who, in the teeth of strong opposition from the Labour party, have published the reports of Her Majesty's inspectors of schools. It was not something that was wanted by the Labour party, but was something that was wanted by parents. When all those continuing developments are added up, it will be shown that there has been a slow, certain and measured width of information made available.
Secondly, the right hon. Members for Sparkbrook and for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) stressed the need for greater parliamentary oversight. Of course I respect their views, and the right hon. Member for Devonport, especially, has been an extremely lucid exponent of this argument. I do not agree with him any more than I agree with the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook. We shall have the opportunity to debate this Second Reading of the Security Service Bill, and doubtless we shall have the opportunity to debate it long and hard in Committee. However, I say at this stage that I believe that the case for parliamentary oversight, as made by the right hon. Members for Sparkbrook and Devonport, stems from some unclear thinking about the role of Parliament. It either demolishes the barrier of secrecy or it attempts to straddle it, which is the logical fault in the argument. We get predictably painful results either way.
If there was a new body charged with parliamentary oversight that knew it all, it could say nothing without damaging results. It would be within the ring of secrecy, and it could not say anything. However, if instead of speaking it was given powers to act, it would simply usurp the responsibilities of Ministers for the national security. The gap in our system was not parliamentary oversight, but redress for the citizen who felt that his or her freedom had been in some way attacked by the activities of the security services. It is this reforming Government who will, for the first time, give the aggrieved citizen the opportunity to seek redress in the Bill. That is a major step forward.
Mr. Patten : I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, but like his hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Ms. Richardson), I have so much to reply to in a short period that it is difficult for me to give way. I shall certainly try to do so before the end.
The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook asked an important question about warrants, and I hope that my explanation will encourage him to think that we have it right. It is all there in clause 3 of the Bill. He mentioned the
Column 214specific case of the search made of premises in Scotland. The search was not made by members of the Security Service, but was made by members of the police force with a properly drawn-up warrant from a magistrates court under existing law. The right hon. Gentleman may like to use other examples, but the one he gave concerning Scotland was not relevant because the Security Service was not a party to that search. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman accepts that.
Mr. Hattersley : For the Minister to answer that the search "was made under the authority of a warrant" is not acceptable. If ours is a free and democratic society, an individual must have been responsible. Who authorised the raid on BBC Scotland?
Mr. Patten : It was done under the ordinary processes of existing Scottish law-- [Interruption.] We shall have to continue debating that point, but I believe that the right hon. Gentleman has simply misunderstood the position of the magistrates' warrant, which has been stated in this House over and over again by my right hon. Friends.
The right hon. Member for Devonport raised another important point. He regretted the fact that the language of the Maxwell Fyfe instruction to the Security Service is lost. It is difficult to imagine putting declaratory language into statute law, which is not easy for parliamentary draftsmen to do. What we now have, if the House decides, is firm legislation in prospect. I rather agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the Maxwell Fyfe directive was expressed in firm and fine language but I assure the right hon. Gentleman that all the principles of the then Home Secretary Maxwell Fyfe are hallowed in the legislation--certainly the spirit of them is. Expressing them in the form in which they appear in the Bill is a necessary consequence of modernising non-statutory injunctions for the clear language of statute.
My hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South, whose words I noted carefully, said that he thought the Bill was, in a sense, a good step forward. Equally, he deplored the language of the Bill. I regret that we cannot use Cranmer's English but must use draftsman's English. However, if anyone is responsible for infelicities it is the Ministers responsible for the Bill and not the parliamentary draftsmen, who do such an excellent job of advising us.
Mr. Aitken : My hon. Friend, in a somewhat stately minuet, attempted to lead me into being an all-out supporter of the Security Service Bill and of the new secrets legislation. I ask him to concentrate on one central question that he has not answered. This country, alone of all Western democracies, has rejected the concept of any form of independent oversight of the security services, relying instead on ministerial oversight of a type that has failed over the years. Why is that?
Mr. Patten : My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister are personally responsible and answerable to this House. I may tell my hon. Friend that I was not trying unfairly to draw him into being a full-blown
Column 215supporter of our excellent reforming legislation. At an earlier stage, I stated specifically, in respect of the promised Official Secrets Bill, that he may like to step a little in the direction we are going but that he might not necessarily like it all. I beg him not to imagine for one second that parliamentary or any other form of oversight of other European countries is necessarily thought to be wildly successful or treasured. Canada is an extremely good example of a country where there is strong and vigorous debate about the form of parliamentary oversight there.
Mr. Bermingham rose--
Mr. Bermingham : In the light of the Minister's comments about ministerial responsibility and the Prime Minister now being responsbile for these matters--and indeed she is--will he give the House an undertaking that when the Bill comes before the House, and questions about security are asked of the Prime Minister, answers will be given?
Mr. Patten : For the whole time she has been Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend has been personally responsible for the security services in the same way as has my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department.
I listened with close attention to the impassioned speech made by the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn). When he described Mr. Wright as being probably a much valued member of the security service I thought that he was taking leave of his grip on reality. the very idea is about as likely as the right hon. Gentleman being described as a much valued member of the Labour party by that party's Front Bench team.
Should anyone wish to continue listening to debates on security matters he can stay on after 10 pm to hear the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin), who, fortuitously and curiously, has secured an Adjournment debate on the Security Service, to which I look forward to replying.
The right hon. Member for Devonport mentioned the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1984 in an important passage of his speech. Anyone exercised by the restrictions on individual freedoms contained in the prevention of terrorism proposals should consider the freedoms that are threatened by terrorist organisations, notably by the IRA. It is they, not the Government, who murder and maim innocent people in their fruitless attempt to destroy the union which has been so much discussed in today's debate by Members from both sides of the water. The Government would be shirking their duty to protect citizens if they did not take firm action to help prevent acts of terrorism and bring terrorists to justice.
I hope that hon. Members will read carefully some of what the right hon. Member for Devonport said. I even hope that some of his words about the responsibilities of the media will be carried on the BBC programmes "Today in Parliament" and "Yesterday in Parliament". His words were very important and if they are not broadcast I hope they will be read widely in Broadcasting house. His remarks about the role and responsibility of the media were of considerable importance.
Column 216The hon. Member for Barking, my hon. Friends the Members for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt) and for Thanet, South and the right hon. Member for Devonport all mentioned the importance of better protection for children and of the Bill dealing with that, which has not yet been published. It will honour the Government's White Paper commitment of 1987 to reform the law on child care and family services. It also takes account of Lord Justice Butler-Sloss's report on the Cleveland inquiry in the summer.
We have concluded that care orders--I refer particularly to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Langbaurgh--are no longer suitable as a disposal when a child is found guilty in criminal proceedings. I hope that there will be all-party assent to that. We found general support for this view when we consulted widely a few months ago. However, we intend to strengthen the courts' powers to make residence requirements in supervision orders in criminal proceedings. That is being done to put the child's interests first. As care orders will exclusively be civil proceedings in future, they should be handled in a court dedicated to civil business. That will provide the correct arena in which to hammer out these matters. The Government intend to seek power to transfer care jurisdiction from the juvenile court to the domestic court. Our proposals, which include other changes in care jurisdiction, will lead on to wider reforms of family jurisdiction overall--
The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook, in his long and interesting speech, gave a number of examples of ways in which he thought freedoms were being interfered with, and he ranged beyond Home Office issues. I shall answer the points that he mentioned in the same spirit. He talked first about education and the Government's reforming intentions towards higher education. That was of great interest to me because I represent a university constituency. I must tell him that the system of universities and of further and higher education, supported by the mixed mode of grants and loans that we propose, will make the most generous provision for students in further and higher education anywhere in the Western world. The tragedy at the moment is that in social classes C2, D and E, which represent about 60 per cent. of all young people in this country, only about 20 per cent. of those of the right age group go to university. That is after 30 years of substantial grant funding. The right hon. Gentleman dismissed international comparisons entirely, but I must point out to him that in social democratic countries all over Europe, which have long had mixed grant and loan schemes, the participation rate in higher education is substantially higher than ours. The right hon. Gentleman also forgot that 180,000 more students are enjoying further and higher education now than in 1979, and that has been an additional freedom that has been conferred on them. The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook should have listened more carefully to what the right hon. Member for Devonport said about freedom and broadcasting. That is the last time that I shall praise the right hon. Member for Devonport tonight. I do not wish him any harm. The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook also asked a direct question
Column 217about when there will be a debate on the White Paper on broadcasting. That is not a matter for me, but for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, who is on the Front Bench tonight. I shall now deal with the points made by the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook on crime and also with those made by his hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Middleton (Mr. Callaghan). Their comments compare rather unfavourably with the measured and coherent views expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Dr. Twinn). The right hon. Gentleman seems to dash into the crime issue and the Labour party seems to nibble round the edges of it and to have no coherent philosophy about handling crime. An example of that was the way in which the right hon. Gentleman addressed the crime figures. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said that crime was slowly coming down and that property crime in particular was coming down. Immediately there was some good news, the right hon. Gentleman could not criticise us for changes in the statistical base, so he said that it must mean that people were reporting crime less frequently than before. That is no praise for the 3,250,000 householders in neighbourhood watch schemes, who have contributed so much to the decline in the crime rate. The right hon. Gentleman simply does not care to put forward an intellectually coherent framework for his anti-crime policy.
If the New Statesman fulfils its promise, it will carry an excellent interview this week. Its journalists had their tape recorders on, and I had mine on. However, I must give the New Statesman a terrible warning. A few months ago I was asked to write for New Society and three weeks later it went bankrupt. When dealing with policy figures, the right hon. Gentleman called only for more police. He did not suggest what should be done with them and did not balance the need for more police with the need for greater community action. Worst of all, he trotted out all those tired and intellectually bankrupt suggestions. We were told by the Labour party in 1979 that unemployment caused crime ; in 1988 we are told that affluence causes crime. But what causes crime is people making a deliberate decision to be bad. The basis of any proper criminal policy is to try to understand why people decide to be bad. The Opposition have no answer, no policy and no understanding of the roots of criminality. They simply look for wild economic and social theories to justify--
It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
Debate to be resumed tomorrow .
Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.-- [Mr. Alan Howarth.]
Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South) : We have discussed this afternoon the Security Service in general. I want to deal with a specific aspect of the same subject, the Prime Minister's statement on 6 May 1987 about the apparent inquiry within the Security Service into allegations made by Mr. Peter Wright. I shall try to demonstrate that the Prime Minister's statement was incorrect in every significant detail. It will provide us with an early opportunity to test the Prime Minister's assertion, made yesterday, that she and her right hon. Friend the Home Secretary are accountable to Parliament. I took the opportunity, in the hope of a substantive reply, of writing to the Prime Minister last week to tell her what specific subject I intended to address and of notifying the Minister's Office early this morning, in the hope of a substantive reply.
Two years ago Mr. Peter Wright, a former senior officer with MI5, published his memoirs. On page 369 he described what he claimed was a plan by himself and an unspecified number of other MI5 officers to discredit and perhaps bring down the Government of Harold Wilson in 1974. He wrote :
"The plan was simple. In the run up to the election MI5 would arrange for selective details of the intelligence about leading Labour Party figures, but especially Wilson, to be leaked to sympathetic pressmen. Using our contacts in the press and among union officials, word of the material contained in MI5 files, and the fact that Wilson was considered a security risk, would be passed round. Soundings in the office had already been taken and up to thirty officers had given their approval to the scheme. Facsimile copies of some files were to be made and distributed to overseas newspapers, and the matter was to be raised in Parliament for maximum effect." Had such allegations been made in any other Western democracy, the resulting outcry would have led to a public inquiry. Had they been made in the United States, a country much admired by the Prime Minister, Congress would have launched the most thorough investigation. Those alleged to have been involved, be they never so mighty, would have been summoned to account for their actions. In this country, however, the Government reacted differently. The judges were asked to intervene, and instantly obliged by banning the book. Injunctions were also taken out against newspapers that dared to print extracts and against booksellers who dared to stock the book. Millions of pounds of public money were squandered in a worldwide attempt at suppression, the effect of which was to make our country a laughing stock and Mr. Wright a millionaire.
So great was the outcry, however, that even the Prime Minister was unable to resist demands that she should at least go through the motions of an inquiry. The result was that on 6 May last year she made a statement to the House, in which she said :
"I can tell the House that the director-general"--
who was at that time Sir Antony Duff--
" has reported to me that, over the last four months, he has conducted a thorough investigation There has been a comprehensive examination of all the papers relevant to that
Column 219time. There have been interviews with officers in post in the relevant parts of the security service at that time, including officers whose names have been made public.
"The director-general has advised me that he has found no evidence of any truth in the allegations. He has given me his personal assurance that the stories are false. In particular, he has advised me that all the security service officers who have been interviewed have categorically denied that they were involved in, or were aware of, any activities or plans to undermine or discredit Lord Wilson and his Government when he was Prime Minister. The then
who I believe was Sir Michael Hanley--
"has categorically denied the allegation that he confirmed the existence within the security service of a disaffected faction with extreme Right- wing views. He has further stated that he had no reason to believe that any such faction existed. No evidence or indication has been found of any plot or conspiracy against Lord Wilson by or within the security service.
Further, the director-general has also advised me that Lord Wilson has never been the subject of a security service investigation or of any form of electronic or other surveillance by the security service."--[ Official Report, 6 May 1987 ; Vol. 115, c. 724.] You would have had to fall off a Christmas tree from a great height, Mr. Speaker, to believe that statement. It is incorrect in every significant detail, and that is what I propose to try to demonstrate.