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Mr. Sainsbury : I hope that the hon. Gentleman will encourage firms in Wales to bid for MOD business. We like to see as many firms as possible, including small firms, competing as main contractors and as sub- contractors. There is a problem with the figures to which the hon. Gentleman referred. It relates to information on the head office to which we send our cheque. The Ministry of Defence does not necessarily have information on where the product for which we pay is actually manufactured. I suspect that more work is done in Wales than is shown by the information on the location of the head office where we send the cheque for our supplies.
Mr. Freeman : We are anxious to see a more even spread of defence employment across the regions. We are currently examining a range of further relocation possibilities, but I remind my hon. Friend that any moves must be justified on operational and economic grounds.
Mr. Rathbone : As the services are recruiting a disproportionate number of personnel in the north and locating them disproportionately in the south, to the extent that 60 per cent. of service personnel are located in the south, would it make sense to post them in the north and, therefore, follow the Government's lead in urging industrial companies to establish employment opportunities in the north and thereby relieve pressure on housing in the south?
Mr. Freeman : I can give my hon. Friend some encouragement on that point. We have just completed a review of Royal Air Force ground training establishments, and we hope shortly to make an announcement.
We are studying the location of all Army training units. It will take a little longer, but the implications are more fundamental.
Mr. Campbell-Savours : Is it true that, although they support defence policies, people in the north are suffering because they do not have their share of jobs in the defence industry? Is it not about time that the CBI in the north and all regional promotional bodies in the north-west of England and the northern region went to the Government and demanded a fair share of the defence cake? At present, all the money goes to the south.
Mr. Hind : In the light of the announcement about European fighter aircraft, does my hon. Friend consider that the relocation of the Procurement Executive in the north of England would be appropriate, bearing in mind the amount of military equipment that is manufactured for our forces in the north of England?
Mr. Sainsbury : No. Before disposing of surplus property we obtain professional advice either from within the MOD, from the district valuer or from commercial consultants. They prepare valuations of surplus property on the basis of full open market value, taking account of existing or established uses and, when appropriate, development potential.
Mr. Turner : Does the Minister agree that Royal Ordnance land has been sold on the cheap and that public assets have been given away? It is an absolute scandal. In addition to the hundreds of millions of pounds that have been given away on the land, there has been cheating on the property rights, which have also been given away.
Mr. Sainsbury : I remind the hon. Gentleman that Royal Ordnance was sold as a company with all its obligations and all its assets. Furthermore, that sale was the result of a satisfactory competitive tendering process on the open market and the highest bidder succeeded in obtaining the company. I remind the hon. Gentleman that we obtained an open market value, including development potential, of the property about which he is expressing so much concern, and that the figures were extremely low--so low that we did not reveal them to the prospective purchasers because we thought that they would have a more optimistic assessment.
Mr. Ian Bruce : Will my hon. Friend consider the speed at which we can sell land and property which is empty, particularly in the south-east, and certainly in my constituency, because there is a housing crisis in that area and the MOD seems to be hanging on to rather a lot of land and property that could be better used in the private sector?
Mr. Sainsbury : I assure my hon. Friend that we in the MOD are extremely anxious to make the best use of land assets and, where land is surplus to requirements, to release it for alternative use as soon as possible. If he has any particular case that he would like to bring to our attention I should be grateful if he would write to us, and we shall certainly look into it.
Mr. O'Neill : Was not a reason for selling the Royal Ordnance factories the surplus capacity, with the obvious follow-on that the land would become available for sale because the company would not require it? Did the MOD valuers and surveyors at any time take into account not only alternative uses, but the ease with which outside planning permission for other activities could be obtained?
Column 571Is that not the reason why the property and land were sold at such a knock-down price and taxpayers were denied a sizeable income, which they could have had if a proper assessment had been made?
Mr. Sainsbury : In his last remark the hon. Gentleman seemed to be assuming that certain rumours in the press and speculative valuations that have originated in the City must necessarily be true. He may like to take some independent advice on that. I assure him that the chartered surveyors came to the Department with a valuation of the land that was included in the sale of the company--the company was sold as a whole--which took into account the factors to which he referred. The report on one valuation stated :
"The land is within the Metropolitan Green Belt and redevelopment would be resisted. Our valuation assumes primarily agricultural or recreational use but with hope value of obtaining limited industrial or warehouse consents over a period."
Mr. Younger : At the nuclear planning group meeting on 27 and 28 October Ministers reaffirmed the essential contribution made by nuclear weapons to NATO's strategy of deterrence and underlined their determination to take those actions required to keep the Alliance's forces, nuclear and conventional, up to date where necessary. While no decisions were taken or required at the meeting, Ministers noted the progress being made and agreed to continue a step-by-step approach to the work in hand. A copy of the communique issued after the meeting, and agreed by all Ministers, has been placed in the Library of the House.
Ms. Ruddock : Is it true that at that meeting the Secretary of State helped to crush Belgium's protest that it was too soon to discuss deploying new nuclear weapons in western Europe? Through those actions, is he not ruling out any further disarmament agreement; such as the INF, that would be available from the Soviet Union and would remove another entire range of nuclear weapons from our continent?
Mr. Younger : There is no truth in what the hon. Lady has said. There was no need for me to alter any Belgian view, because the Belgian Minister made it perfectly clear that he did not disagree with the content of the report. It was merely a matter of the timing of when we should approve it.
As the hon. Lady probably knows, we have succeeded--against all the advice that she has given us over the years--in obtaining the INF treaty, and if we continue to ignore her advice I hope that we shall obtain many more such treaties.
The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher) : This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall be having further meetings later today. This evening I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty The Queen.
Mr. Winnick : Why is it that after almost every speech by the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Prime Minister telling us that the economy is in good shape we hear news such as that of the massive trade deficit and even higher interest rates that penalise industry and home buyers? Are we not paying the price for the substantial decline of manufacturing industry in recent years while every encouragement has been given to the spivs, the financiers and the speculators in the City?
The Prime Minister : The hon. Gentleman omits to say that we have higher incomes than ever before, that we have a higher national income than ever before and that we have higher expenditure on social services than ever before. The nation is doing well, as I am sure the House will demonstrate tonight by a massive majority behind the Chancellor.
Mr. Kirkhope : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the failure of the Belgian Government to extradite Patrick Ryan was utterly shameful? Does she further agree that the apparently deliberate lethargy of the Irish Government in response to our requests for his extradition casts grave doubts on their commitment to the fight against terrorism?
The Prime Minister : I can well understand my hon. Friend's sense of frustration. Our request for Mr. Ryan's extradition from Belgium was prepared with the active co-operation of the Belgian authorities to meet all the requirements of Belgian law. We are utterly dismayed by the Belgian Government's decision to refuse extradition. As regards the Republic of Ireland, fresh warrants for Mr. Ryan's arrest were obtained and transmitted to Dublin straight away last Friday night, together with all the additional documentation required by the Irish Attorney-General. Despite this, no action was taken by the Irish Attorney-General to serve provisional warrants or to endorse the original warrants.
The failure to secure Ryan's arrest is a matter of very grave concern to the Government. It is no use Governments adopting great declarations and commitments about fighting terrorism if they then lack the resolve to put them into practice.
Mr. John D. Taylor : As the Government's policy appears to be to maintain stability of exchange rates between sterling and European currencies, why will the Government not join the European monetary system?
Mr. Mates : Further to what my right hon. Friend has said, will she please make the strongest representations today to the Irish Government about their abject surrender for short-term political gain when one of the
Column 573most wanted terrorists has been let free? Does this not show that despite the fine words that the Irish Government speak about the Anglo-Irish Agreement and about co-operation, there are many who will still believe that the Irish Republic is a safe haven for some terrorists seeking to escape the consequences of their actions?
Attorney-General's failure to secure Ryan's arrest is a matter of very grave concern to the Government. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that, although the Government of the Republic of Ireland make fine-sounding speeches and statements, they do not always seem to be backed up by the appropriate deeds.
Mr. Ashdown : may I ask whether the Prime Minister is aware that her concern over the handling of the Ryan affair is very widely shared by many hon. Members and by people in many parts of the country? Does she agree that this matter comes at a particularly disturbing time in view of the review of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, which many in Britain who wish Ireland well want to see operating successfully?
The Prime Minister : I agree with the hon. Gentleman that fighting terrorism requires combined action on the part of all Governments to try to bring those who are accused of grievous crimes before the proper courts for them to pronounce justice. I hope that we shall receive support for that from all parts of the House.
Sir Jim Spicer : Will my right hon. Friend give an undertaking that neither her Government nor any British Government will accept a ruling by any court anywhere that will hinder us in the fight against terrorism?
The Prime Minister : I think that my hon. Friend is indirectly referring to a judgment given by the European Court of Human Rights. I assume that from his question. The European Court of Human Rights accepted that the purpose of the arrests fell within the provisions of the European convention on human rights. That is an important and welcome decision. Where the court disagrees with the Government is over the length of time that a suspect may be held without being brought before a court. Obviously we shall consider the judgment carefully, and in doing so we shall consider the human rights of victims and potential victims of terrorism as well as the human rights of those suspected of terrorist involvement. We shall ensure that the police have the powers that they need to tackle terrorism vigorously.
Mr. Fields : Does the Prime Minister recall her effusive praise and that of her party for the hospital workers in the aftermath of the Brighton bombing? Midwives are now leaving the Health Service and nurses, sisters and auxiliaries are discontented with the review. She is
Column 574allowing her jackbooted Secretary of State for Health to trample all over the nurses. Is it not obvious that the review is phoney and needs to be overhauled in the interests of the Health Service and those who are employed in it?
The Prime Minister : As the hon. Gentleman is aware, nurses have had a 45 per cent. increase in salaries in real terms during the lifetime of this Government. The hon. Gentleman spoke about nurses being in dispute. The vast majority of nurses and midwives are working normally and are satisfied with the generous award that they have received. This is hardly surprising, because it gives them an increase averaging 17.9 per cent. at a cost to the taxpayer of almost an extra £1 billion. I am proud to be able to take the credit for that extra pay for nurses.
Mr. Evennett : Naturally, my right hon. Friend's reply will disappoint her many supporters in the London borough of Bexley. However, will my right hon. Friend ignore the whingeing and whining from the Opposition Front-Bench speakers on economic policy, because they do not understand economics? Will she come down to Bexley to see the successful results of her economic policy in action? Is she aware that in the past year unemployment in Bexley has fallen by 25 per cent.?
The Prime Minister : I am glad to hear that the changes that the Conservative Government have brought about have given a considerable increase in prosperity to my hon. Friend's constituency--the more so because many years ago, in 1950 and 1951, I fought the constituency of Erith and Crayford, and it was nothing like as good then.
Mr. Shersby : Is my right hon. Friend aware that her leadership in calling for a world summit on the climate in London next March will be welcomed by everyone who is interested in the need to protect the ozone layer? Will she express the thanks of the House to ICI for its investment of £30 million in two new chemical plants to produce ecologically safe substitutes for chlorofluorocarbons?
The Prime Minister : I thank my hon. Friend for that question. We have called another conference for 7 March in London to take further the previous decision on chlorofluorocarbons because of the effect that they are having on depleting the ozone layer. At the moment, the production of these chemicals has been taken down to 50 per cent. of its previous level and we wish to take it down much further--until we have only 15 per cent.-- and eventually to eliminate it. It is complicated because, as my hon. Friend said, we must have proper scientific substitutes for the work that those chemicals do. I gladly join him in congratulating ICI on the great initiative that it has undertaken to find those solvents.
Mr. Kinnock : What advice has the Prime Minister to give to first- time home buyers--to those outside London who this year have had to find an average £40 a month extra in mortgage repayments, to those inside London who have had to find an extra £70 a month for their mortgage repayments and to those who dread the mortgage rises yet to come? As someone who, like me, is in favour of home buying, what does she advise them to do?
The Prime Minister : I find it difficult to believe the last part of the hon. Gentleman's question. I wonder why he fought so much against the sale of council houses. No one wishes to put up mortgage repayments. I point out that, except for those who recently purchased houses, the asset value of people's houses has gone up enormously in the past two years.
The Prime Minister : Nonsense. Home ownership has gone up enormously under this Government and will continue to go up. As I am sure the right hon. Gentleman must know, people who have bought their houses have seen the asset value of those houses increase colossally.
Mr. Key : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the first duty of any dean and chapter of a cathedral is the maintenance of Christian worship? Does she also agree, however, that, as so many of our cathedrals are in need of substantial renovation to their fabric, they should at least be accorded the status given to parish churches and be eligible for restoration grants from the taxpayer?
The Prime Minister : As my hon. Friend is aware, the Government make a good deal of money--or perhaps a certain amount of money--available for the restoration of parish churches and all of it is taken up. As my hon. Friend is also aware, a number of cathedrals have had special appeals and have been very successful in raising the money. I think that they have been stronger because they have raised the money privately, than they would have been if they had just had a grant from Government bodies. I hope that they will continue, but we would not like the amount of money available to parish churches to be less because of the demand from cathedrals.
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