|Previous Section||Home Page|
Mr. Renton : I understand that. Indeed, it is said that more people south of Glasgow than in the Highlands and Islands are interested in Gaelic broadcasting. At the end of the day it must be for the broadcasting authorities to decide whether there is sufficient demand for there to be more hours of broadcasting in Gaelic. As my hon. Friend will know, the Government have tried, not least through educational grants, to encourage the development and teaching of the Gaelic language.
Mr. Ron Brown : Because of the language and politics of Scotland, would it not be appropriate for more resources to be allocated to Lallans as well as Gaelic, remembering that Lallans is the main language of Scotland? In any case the Scots are the largest ethnic group within the United Kingdom.
Mr. Renton : I am married to a Scot so over the years I have tried to understand the language and the politics of the Scots. I have also had discussions with the group Communn Na Gaidhlig who have told me much about the need for Gaelic programmes. However, we should not try to push down people's throats programmes in a different language to what they want.
9. Mr. Simon Hughes : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received concerning allegations of racism in the Metropolitan police ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : No record of the number of such representations is kept. The Government fully support the many initiatives taken by the Metropolitan police to tackle racism. There is no place for racial prejudice in the police service.
Mr. Hughes : Is the Minister aware that despite his bland assurance and the efforts of the Metropolitan police, allegations of racism in the Metropolitan police reach as far afield as Orkney and Shetland where my hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) had a complaint from a constituent whose daughter was working in London? Can the Minister tell us when we can go out about the capital without seeing non- white members of the community being picked on by the police? At present, black people are stopped far more often than white people, particularly for suspected motoring offences.
Mr. Hogg : Without notice, I cannot tell my hon. Friend the increase, but at present there are 421 officers from the ethnic minorities, including a number of or above the rank of inspector. It is extremely important that we increase the number of recruits from the ethnic minorities, and the Metropolitan police is doing its best to achieve that.
Mr. Flannery : Does the Minister realise that to treat the question put by the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) so casually will help none of us? Has he forgotten that when an essay was set by one of the lecturers at the Hendon police college a few years ago literally every essay written contained evidence of racism? Does he not believe that there is a problem and that we must all come to grips with it?
Mr. John Patten : From January to September 1988, the number of notifiable offences recorded by the police in Lincolnshire was 25,171, which represents a fall of nearly 5.5 per cent. compared with the same period in 1987, which is 2 per cent. more than the equivalent figures for the whole of England and Wales. That is good news out of Lincolnshire.
Mr. Leigh : These figures are a most welcome vindication of Government policies and commitment to the police. Will my hon. Friend stress that crime prevention is not simply the responsibility of Government but starts at home, that public involvement is needed and that we need to build on excellent schemes such as the neighbourhood watch schemes?
Mr. Patten : I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. What has contributed to the rapid fall of crime in Lincolnshire is the growth during the past 12 months of the number of neighbourhood watch schemes from some 400 to some 700 and, equally, the introduction of six juvenile crime prevention panels made up of active citizens helping the police in its task.
11. Mr. Ian Bruce : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has received the reports from the chief constables on the introduction of a national identity card ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Douglas Hurd : I have now received a report from the Association of Chief Police Officers in response to my request last year. The ACPO paper does not reach conclusions on the general merits or recommend a particular scheme. The view of the police is that there would be some advantages, together with some disadvantages, for the police in a system that required the
Column 421carrying of identity cards and their production on request but that a voluntary scheme would have few advantages for them.
I shall also take into account, of course, other views which have been expressed, including those of the Select Committee on Home Affairs. In the past year I have received some 350 letters on the subject from hon. Members and from the general public, most of which have expressed support for some form of national identity card scheme.
Mr. Bruce : I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for such a comprehensive reply. Can he tell the House when he will be bringing forward the Government's proposals for a national identity card, as the idea is clearly popular with our constituents and with many organisations, including many of the registrars general of births, deaths and marriages?
Mr. Hurd : There has been widespread discussion on this matter. My hon. Friend is right. The House will have an opportunity to discuss the matter at greater depth when it considers the private Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Howell). I would need some persuading that a compulsory system, with all the bureaucracy and police time involved, would be worth while. Indeed, as I have just reported, the police have said that they see few advantages for them in a voluntary scheme, although I do not rule out at this stage that there might be other advantages worth exploring down that road.
12. Mr. Madel : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many counties in England have been looked at by the parliamentary boundary commission since June 1987 with a view to altering parliamentary constituency boundaries ; how many preliminary reports have now been published by the commission following its visit to those counties ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Hogg : Since June 1987 the Parliamentary Boundary Commission for England has completed a supplementary review of European parliamentary constituencies and an interim review of two United Kingdom parliamentary constituencies in Suffolk. The commission has also published draft proposals in a review of the constituencies of Buckingham and Milton Keynes.
Mr. Madel : Can my hon. Friend assure me that as the boundary commission continues its work it will pay particular attention to projected rises in population due to new house building? Can we have an assurance that when parliamentary constituencies in England are next changed all major changes will come into effect at the same time?
Mr. Hogg : It is desirable that the latter should happen, if possible. With regard to the figures, the commission has to operate within the existing statute law which requires the commission to have regard to existing electorates.
The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher) : This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet and had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall be having further meetings later today.
Mr. Martin : Looking forward to the visit of Mr. Gorbachev to this country, will my right hon. Friend confirm that she will not be begging his consent to the wise defence policies pursued by her Government, unlike the mendicants seeking consent to their policies in Russia?
The Prime Minister : My hon. Friend makes his own point very effectively. It seems as though the Opposition want a defence policy labelled "made in Moscow". We shall insist on keeping our own independent nuclear deterrent. May I remind the House that Trident will be a smaller proportion of the Soviet strategic weapons than Polaris was when it was instituted many years ago. That is so even after the proposed 50 per cent. reduction in overall strategic weapons.
The Prime Minister : The right hon. Gentleman always mystifies me because he is quite prepared to purchase a private house, but not prepared to purchase private health care. I should have thought that he would realise that those people who pay for the National Health Service and then pay again for private health care are helping the National Health Service.
The Prime Minister : I think that the right hon. Gentleman is referring to tax relief for the elderly. There must be many older than I in this House--there are a number of them on the Opposition Benches--some of whom are quite well enough off to pay for their own health care. With regard to tax relief for the elderly, there are now 5 million people who have private health insurance. All of them may be despised by the Labour party, but they are making their own provision. As they come up to retirement they may well find two things--first, that their company made the provision under a general company scheme, which was therefore cheaper and, secondly, that as they reach the age of 60 the premiums go up because the need to use the service is greater. We therefore thought it right to give tax relief at that stage so that people can continue to use the scheme privately and by so doing bring more benefit to the National Health Service.
Dr. Goodson-Wickes : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the provision of new consultant posts as outlined in the health White Paper will contribute in great measure to the reduction of the excessive workload undertaken by junior hospital doctors?
The Prime Minister : The consultant posts envisaged in the White Paper will, I hope, help to reduce the waiting lists where they are longest and most difficult. They will also give more hope to a number of junior doctors who are very anxious to have a clear career structure and need more possibilities of promotion. We are very anxious that junior doctors should not have to work too long hours, and we have a working party on that. My hon. Friend will know, however, that on average junior doctors are already working fewer hours than they were 10 years ago.
Mr. Ashdown : Does not the Prime Minister accept that the independence of public bodies and the use or abuse of a Prime Minister's privilege of patronage are matters of major public concern? Will she tell the House why she refused to answer the question I posed last week, asking her to list the appointments and salaries in her gift? Is it because there are too many or because she is afraid of revealing too much?
The Prime Minister : The right hon. Gentleman knows that there are a considerable number of appointments. To list all of them would cost far too much-- [Interruption.] Of course it would. The hon. Gentleman knows full well, as does the Labour party, that each and every Department has a list of members. He also knows that quite a number of such positions are filled by ex-Labour Ministers.
Mr. Sumberg : In the light of the Second Reading of the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Bill and the need to promote a genuine free labour market, will my right hon. Friend enact similar legislation to protect those contemplating employment in satellite television?
The Prime Minister : I am only too anxious that as many hon. Members as possible--particularly Conservatives--get on satellite and other television. We have such a good story to tell that I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends will go out and proclaim it. I can understand why the Labour party is fearful of some of its Members doing that.
Mr. Dalyell : Does the Prime Minister recall that a Select Committee, chaired by a distinguished Conservative Privy Councillor, asserted that Mr. Powell was in a position to tell her about Sir Leon Brittan's role in the Westland affair on 7 January 1986? Did Mr. Powell really fail to tell her before the inquiry report was issued?
Mr. Marland : Is my right hon. Friend aware that Labour leaders in Manchester have confessed that during the past two and a half years £14,000 of public money has been given to Mr. Viraj Mendis and his supporters? Does she agree that that highlights the disgraceful way in which many Labour-controlled local authorities are run?
The Prime Minister : Yes, the people in Manchester will now be able to see clearly how their money is being spent. I understand the viewpoint of many people who complain about our procedures because it took so long to refer the gentleman back to his country of birth.
Mr. Beggs : Does the Prime Minister accept that we in Northern Ireland would welcome the introduction of a national identity card? Does she agree that any responsible citizen in the United Kingdom would have no objection to carrying such a card, but would be proud to co-operate with those interested in looking at it?
The Prime Minister : Many people might like a national identity card, but that is different from compelling all people to have one. That would be a significant step and we should have to consider the matter carefully before embarking on such a course of action.
Sir Michael McNair-Wilson : Is my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister aware that the Minister of State, Department of Health, and the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department have stated that a human foetus can now be assumed to be viable at 24 weeks rather than at 28 weeks as laid down in the Infant Life (Preservation) Act 1929? If they are right, should not that Act, which is a Government measure, be amended to make abortions after 24 weeks illegal?
The Prime Minister : I think that what my hon. Friend has described is the generally held medical view. I believe that I am right in saying that the practice in most hospitals is to adhere to the 24-week figure. I share the view of a number of Members that if a Bill which was introduced last Session had contained the 24-week figure right from the beginning it might have got through.
Mr. Fatchett : I am sure that the Prime Minister will agree with me that the arrangements for kidney sales at the Humana Hospital Wellington are an absolute scandal. Will she tell the House why, when her Government were asked four years ago by the Labour party to introduce legislation to prevent that vile trade, her Minister said no and her Government have subsequently taken no action?
The Prime Minister : I think that the sale of kidneys or any organs of the body is utterly repugnant and that most people would take that view. We are considering the position to see whether legislation will be necessary.
Mr. Browne : Does my right hon. Friend accept that the apparent lack of enthusiasm by the Soviets for bilateral nuclear arms control completely vindicates the Government's policy of adopting a unified NATO response to arms control?
The Prime Minister : On arms control, we should negotiate at the appropriate negotiating table. With regard to intercontinental ballistic missiles, that is sometimes between the Soviet Union and the United States, but we have rightly kept the independent nuclear deterrent out of negotiations because it is a matter for us and for France. I should point out that, as my hon. Friend knows, France is far more robust about an independent nuclear deterrent for France than British Socialists are about such a deterrent for Britain.
The Prime Minister : Because nuclear weapons have kept the peace for the last 40 years. I should have thought that even the hon. Lady would know that. It is clear from history--from world war 1 and world war 2--that neither conventional nor chemical weapons were enough to prevent the start of a war. If we ever went back to a position where we had only conventional weapons, a war could start and the race would be on as to who could produce a nuclear weapon first.
Mr. Allason : Is my right hon. Friend aware that two weeks ago the Association of Chief Police Officers conducted an exercise with a view to the introduction of a national emergency centre with a free 0800 telephone number and that the exercise was considered a success? Will she now give her support to the introduction of that system on a national scale?
Column 426benefit from tax relief for private medical care are frightened that they will receive second-rate care under her new proposals? Given that there would be no point in buying private medical care unless it were better, are they not right and what can she say to reassure them?
The Prime Minister : The elderly people in this country, the overwhelming majority of whom use the National Health Service, have profited enormously from the Conservative Government by the vast increase in resources devoted to health--from £8 billion a year to £24 billion a year--by the increase in the numbers of doctors and nurses and by the fact that both those groups of people are properly paid under Conservative Governments whereas they were not under Labour.
Mr. Burt : Bearing in mind that in recent years a growing number of trade unionists have helped the nation by taking advantage of having private health care, may I ask my right hon. Friend to agree that the likely effect of the proposed reforms, with tax relief for the elderly, will be to make more former trade unionists follow their example?
The Prime Minister : I believe that the number of people who think it right and proper, when they can afford to do so, to join a BUPA scheme will increase because a number of people will negotiate with companies for their own employees and work forces to be covered either by BUPA or by Hospital Plan.
Mr. Alton : Arising out of the reply that the right hon. Lady gave to her hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Sir M. McNair-Wilson), is she aware of the case of the Carlisle baby who was aborted last year at 21 weeks' gestation and struggled for three hours before being placed in a black sack and incinerated? Does she not agree that that child and the 174,000 children aborted in this country last year deserved the most basic right of all--the right to life?
The Prime Minister : The facts and views given by the hon. Gentleman are not always agreed with by the medical profession. Some of them are sharply contested. The figure of 24 weeks mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Sir M. McNair-Wilson) is, as far as I am aware, agreed by almost all people as being a more proper figure to be included in legislation than the previous figure of 28 weeks, and I regret that the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) did not include it in his Bill.
|Next Section (Debates)