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Mr. Mallon : Is the Minister aware of the growing concern that exists in all kinds of schools, be they integrated, controlled or voluntary, about the Department's policy of publicising school inspectors' reports? Will he agree with me that these have been used quite shamelessly on a selective basis by some sectors of the media? Because of the growing concern and the abuses, will he give the House a commitment that he will review the decision of his Department to make these reports public?
Dr. Mawhinney : No, Sir. There are two quite separate issues here. The first is whether inspectors' reports should be published. The Government believe that they should be, just as they are in England and Wales. The other issue is the use--and at times, I agree with the hon. Gentleman, the selective use--of those reports, particularly in local newspapers. That is not an attractive aspect of local reporting in Northern Ireland and, like the hon. Gentleman, I should like to see a more balanced reflection of what the inspectors have actually said about schools.
Mr. Kilfedder : Is it not true that all the trainee teachers in Northern Ireland could be accommodated in one teacher training college at considerable saving to the hard-pressed taxpayer? Will he consider ending the religious apartheid in teacher training and, therefore, in schools throughout Northern Ireland by moving teacher training into the university, no matter what people might say to the contrary?
Dr. Mawhinney : As the hon. Gentleman knows, because he takes a deep interest in these matters, he reflects a view held by a number of people in Northern Ireland. However, that is not the majority view, for reasons that he understands. But I note what he says.
10. Mr. Simon Hughes : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what representations he has received concerning revisions to the review procedures for prisoners serving life sentences or detained at the Secretary of State's pleasure ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Ian Stewart : Representations are received from time to time about various aspects of the review procedures from prisoners themselves and from those writing on their behalf. The review procedures are themselves kept under review, but we have no immediate plans to change them significantly.
Mr. Hughes : Is the Minister aware that there is strong cross- community support for a review which produces a permanent change in the present system in respect of life prisoners and those detained at the Secretary of State's pleasure? Is he also aware that certain specific aspects, including the important proposal to allow prisoners to have access to their files and to challenge the reports, would command widespread support and give much greater confidence in the whole system of review?
Mr. Stewart : I am aware of the representations of the kind referred to by the hon. Gentleman. However, when criticisms of the present system are made, it is often forgotten that the system has been working very effectively for five years or more. Release dates have been set for 120 prisoners and more than 80 have been released under the
Column 1122existing provisions. I am far from convinced that we should turn the review procedure, which is not a legal process, into a legal battleground. That is the last thing that we want for the process.
Mr. Tom King : I last met the chairman of Harland and Wolff on Monday to discuss his proposal for a management-led buy-out. Other discussions with possible acquirers are also continuing. It is clear that under public ownership there can be no future for the yard and it is therefore a matter of urgency to try and achieve a private sector solution to Harland and Wolff's problems.
Mr. Howarth : In view of the job losses and the Government's consistent failure to provide a sound future for Harland and Wolff, would it not be better if the Secretary of State considered the policy of public ownership? What can he possibly achieve by talking to Mr. Olsen or anyone else?
Mr. King : It is not the Government who will provide a future for Harland and Wolff, but orders. It needs orders which can be achieved in an effective and economic manner. Under public ownership, the yard has been a one-way street to bankruptcy. The only hope for Harland and Wolff is a private sector solution and many people, including the management, who are completely committed to it, are working together with us to achieve that.
Mr. Peter Robinson : As the Secretary of State says, it is now an urgent matter. Can he give the House some idea of the time scale that he imagines is likely for the full evaluation to take place? Is he in a position yet to say which of the two bids he is considering he prefers to the closure of the yard?
Mr. King : No, I cannot say anything further today. The hon. Gentleman, of all people, will understand if I would rather say less than more at this time when very detailed discussions are taking place.
Mr. Beggs : Does the Secretary of State agree that it would be cheaper and more cost-effective to transfer Harland and Wolff into the private sector now than to bring about closure and redundancies? Does he agree that if the Olsen management-employee buy-out happens, it would provide good prospects for Belfast and the employees at the yard? Will he also assure us that he will not place any obstacles before the new company, which we are confident will be formed, in bidding for contracts for Ministry of Defence work? Will he also ensure that intervention funding will be available?
Mr. King : As the hon. Gentleman knows, discussions are taking place at this very moment on the complex issues involved in the possibility of Harland and Wolff moving into the private sector. I do not want to say anything more today because this work is going on. It is too early yet to tell whether it can be brought to a successful conclusion.
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. Bennett : Has my right hon. Friend seen the report published yesterday by the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs on inward investment which shows that Wales, with 5 per cent. of the population, attracted nearly 20 per cent. of all inward foreign investment to the United Kingdom in 1987? Does she think that Wales would have succeeded in attracting such investment had power been devolved to two or three regional assemblies, as suggested in the latest U-turn by the Leader of the Opposition?
The Prime Minister : The direct and immediate answer to my hon. Friend's question must be no. I agree that Wales has a remarkable record in attracting inward investment, which has been very good for Wales and for jobs. It shows that people have confidence in this Government when they invest in the United Kingdom. That confidence comes from the Government's policy.
The Prime Minister : My right hon. Friends seek the advice of their professional advisers on the facts on research. When they receive advice, it is given out freely. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, further advice was given out last week on other matters such as unpasteurised milk. There will also be further advice later today on mineral hydrocarbons. When we get advice from the Food Advisory Committee on the recommendations for research, we take it. That is the right way to proceed.
Mr. Kinnock : On advice, does the Prime Minister recall that back in 1980 her Government rejected the proposals of the Labour Government that licences should be limited only to those processing plants that had the means of killing salmonella? That was nine years ago when salmonella poisoning was one seventh of what it is now. When will the Prime Minister do her duty by the consumer?
The Prime Minister : The salmonella enteritidis is a new strain, as I believe the right hon. Gentleman knows. We are trying to find out all the latest facts. During the past 10 years there have been enormous changes in food technology. All these, plus the habits and customs of people and the way they cook, must be taken into account. We shall shortly be issuing a leaflet based on the best advice that we can gather about food hygiene from professional advisers. We shall make it available to housewives, schools, and shops and offices generally.
Column 1124only research facility into it? Does she recall that when the proposals were rejected at the beginning of the decade it was because, as the Government said :
"In the present economic climate the industry should itself determine how best to produce"?
Nine years have elapsed. Salmonella is officially described as an epidemic. We are told that the economy is transformed. When will the Government do their duty by the consumer?
The Prime Minister : The more questions that the right hon. Gentleman asks, the more I am convinced that he knows less and less about the matter. That research establishment had completed its particular line of research. He knows full well that when we are dealing with these problems, the best course of action is to seek professional advice on further research. As he is well aware, the code of practice announced by the Ministry of Agriculture has been in preparation since last August, which is why the Ministry was absolutely ready to announce it following the Chief Medical Officer's advice on salmonella.
Mrs. Ann Winterton : Is my right hon. Friend aware of the importance of national reconciliation through a pre-independence constitutional conference in Namibia, if civil war and genocide are not to follow elections in that country? Will my right hon. Friend actively pursue this possibility during her forthcoming visit to Africa?
The Prime Minister : I know that my hon. Friend feels strongly about this and believes there should be a sort of national constitutional convention before elections. As she is aware, Security Council resolution 435 has been agreed by everyone and is now being implemented. The elections would include elections to such a convention, to decide the future constitution and government of Namibia. There is not much chance of changing that proposal now.
Mr. McCusker : Will the Prime Minister tell us whether the Government raised with the Government of the Irish Republic yesterday the case of Father Ryan? Did they discuss whether he would be tried under the extraterritorial legislation? Were they assured that Father Ryan was still within the jurisdiction of the Irish Republic?
Mr. Patnick : Does my right hon. Friend agree that bacteria have always been present in food and that proper cooking, storing, chilling and preservation of food are therefore essential? Is it not true that, while the public are aware of the present epidemic of food-related illnesses, the media have been hyping it up far too much?
The Prime Minister : Of course, bacteria and other organisms have always been present in food. There is a problem now with a number of bacteria, and many new factors are coming to the fore with the introduction of new materials, processes, habits, customs and technology. We have completed the first phase of recommendations on the food hygiene programme, upon which, as I said earlier, we
Column 1125are taking advice. We shall make that advice available to the public at large as soon as we can. We must obtain professional advice and the facts in order to do so.
Mr. Adams : Does the Prime Minister agree with her right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, who has apparently told the Scottish media that he is in favour of retaining the vet school in Glasgow? Will she also tell the House whether she agrees with retaining the vet school in Cambridge?
The Prime Minister : As the hon. Gentleman is aware, a committee of the University Grants Committee under, I believe Sir Ralph Riley, made the proposal. It is considering provision for veterinary education throughout the United Kingdom. There will be a period of consultation and, at the end of that time, the Universities Funding Council will make its decision. I fully agree with my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, who is deeply concerned because that school carries out a great deal of valuable research that applies to both animals and human beings and a good deal of which is privately funded. We believe that that should be taken into account in the consultation and the decision.
Sir Charles Morrison : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Opposition and the sillier sections of the press are getting the salmonella problem completely out of perspective, while the Government are entirely right-- [Interruption.]
Sir Charles Morrison : The Government are entirely right to treat the problem seriously, because, if the silly campaign about salmonella continues we shall be importing far more foreign foods, over which we have far less control than we have over home-produced foods.
The Prime Minister : As my hon. Friend is aware, the Chief Medical Officer has given advice which has been widely publicised and should be followed. My hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture has produced codes of conduct, and has taken steps to see that eggs do not get to the market from farms that we know are infected, until they are fully and properly cleared. I believe that although there is a problem, solving it depends on the good common sense of the public, as well as very close monitoring of the flocks of this country.
Mr. Cryer : Is the Prime Minister reluctant to visit Norway because the Norwegians do not allow nuclear weapons on to their soil, although they are members of NATO and signatories of the United Nations nuclear non- proliferation treaty, which calls on the United
Column 1126Kingdom to get rid of nuclear weapons? Which does the right hon. Lady think is the morally superior attitude : that of Norway, or her warmongering policy that continually threatens the world with extermination on a scale that would make Hitler and Pol Pot look like boy scouts?
The Prime Minister : I had a very good visit to Norway some time ago and went to have a look at some of their military installations, and talked to some of their military. Norway is a faithful member of NATO and adheres firmly to the NATO nuclear policy.
Mr. Watts : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the proposals from the European Commission for withholding tax of 15 per cent. on investment income is yet another example of the wrong-headed attempt of the Commission to complete the internal market by imposing uniform regulations on the European economies, rather than deregulating as we have done in order to release the dynamic of the economy?
The Prime Minister : Yes, I agree wholeheartedly with my hon. Friend. This country has instituted freedom of capital movements and has not found it necessary to have a particular withholding tax, or to ask for a uniform withholding tax throughout the Community. Indeed, to do so would be a way of alienating capital from this country and from Europe, and sending it overseas. We shall oppose any such proposals by the Commission.
Mr. McGrady : Is the Prime Minister aware that one of the consequences of the development of the Social Security Act, introduced on 11 April last year, is that young widows between the ages of 40 and 45 are deprived of the widow's pension? Is she further aware that young widows who were in receipt of pensions, even widows with families, have had their pensions withdrawn? Will she take immediate personal action to correct this piece of legislation, which is so draconian to those young widows who are least able to afford it, as this society can well afford to pay them a widow's pension?
The Prime Minister : The purpose of that Act, as the hon. Gentleman is aware, was to concentrate the higher widow's pensions on older widows, and of course widowed mothers, and not so much on the younger widows. That piece of legislation also gave newly bereaved widows a sum of £1,000 to be paid immediately, so that they should not have immediate worries.
With regard to widows of 44 to 45, there is a case going through the statutory authorities at the moment. The initial adjudicating officer said that that particular widow was not entitled to a pension. It went to the next layer of appeal, who said she was so entitled, and now there is an appeal up to the commissioner, for him to decide. We believe that, as a whole, that piece of legislation was justified, and well founded in concentrating extra help on the older widow.
Mr. Thorne : Will my right hon. Friend find time to consider the serious situation that is arising in Belgium as a result of that country's reluctance to take effective measures against terrorism? If it becomes necessary will she use her influence to ensure that the centre of the European Community is removed from Brussels?
The Prime Minister : As I said earlier this week, it is vital that, in respect of terrorism, we obtain full co-operation from all our European partners, as well as from other countries. In the main, we do, but there are exceptions. I am sure that my hon. Friend would like the European Community's headquarters to be located in his constituency, but that is not in the gift of this Government.
Mr. James Lamond : Is the Prime Minister aware that her right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence boasted on Tuesday that, since 1979, the Government have reduced the number of nuclear warheads in this country by 2,400 or 35 per cent? As negotiations on international disarmament have been going much better since the right hon. Lady made that unilateral arms cut, will she abandon her argument that one must negotiate from strength before achieving any success?
The Prime Minister : No. There were reductions in the number of very small nuclear warheads on the central front in Europe, but that decision was taken by NATO and did not affect the effectiveness of our nuclear deterrence. It is vital that we maintain effective nuclear deterrence, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence was quite right.
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