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Mr. Speaker : The hon. Member asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the review of the working of the Anglo-Irish Agreement that has been announced."

I have listened with care and concern to what the hon. Member has said, but, as he knows, my sole duty in considering an application under Standing Order No. 20 is to decide whether it should be given priority over the


Column 1147

orders set down for today. I regret that the matter that he has raised does not meet the criteria of the Standing Order. I therefore cannot submit his application to the House.


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Community Charge

5.2 pm

Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East) : I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the extension of the date for poll tax rebate applications in Scotland beyond tomorrow's deadline."

The House is bitterly divided over the poll tax, but it should be united on the specific matter of trying to ensure that those who are entitled receive in full such rebates as are available to them. Yet, unless rebate applications are received by tomorrow's deadline, there is a danger that many thousands of Scots will begin to lose their rebate entitlements, for a number of reasons.

First, in many areas of Scotland, the implementation of the poll tax is causing the kind of administrative chaos that the Opposition have long predicted. There is a huge backlog of current rebate applications. There has been a much higher than expected volume of changes to the register, as people move around and across regional council boundaries--for example, Strathclyde officials are processing more than 120,000 changes to their register every week. There has been a flood of calls from angry and perplexed poll tax payers who are demanding explanations and more information on the tax. All those factors are placing enormous strains on the administrative systems and on local authority staff, and, as a result, the system is failing to deliver and to meet the administrative requirements for implementing the tax.

Today's Glasgow Herald, for example, reports that regional council finance departments are admitting that many Scots are only now receiving their payment books--just a few days before the deadline. It is little wonder that in the midst of such administrative chaos many who will be entitled to rebates will not yet have fully realised that they have to apply for a rebate or that the deadline for applications is tomorrow. If they apply beyond tomorrow's deadline, their entitlements to rebate will not be backdated to 1 April, and they will therefore suffer heavy financial loss.

That is a deplorable situation, but what is worse is that a party represented in the House is deliberately aggravating the situation by encouraging those who are not entitled to rebates to flood councils with rebate applications in the hope of bringing the entire rebate process to a grinding halt. That party is the Scottish National party. I do not know what kind of political capital it hopes to gain from such gross irresponsibility, but one thing that is certain is that the losers will be the poor, who will be denied rebates which to them could be a matter of make or break.

The poor must not be made to pay the price either of bureaucratic breakdown or of malevolent politicking. I urge you, Mr. Speaker, to consider my application for a debate on this important matter.

Mr. Speaker : The hon. Member asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely,


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"the need for an extension of the deadline for applications for community charge rebates in Scotland beyond tomorrow's deadline." I regret that I have to give the hon. Gentleman the same answer as I gave the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley). I have listened with concern to what the hon. Member has said, but I regret that I do not consider that the matter that he has raised meets the requirements of the Standing Order. I cannot, therefore, submit his application to the House.

ROYAL ASSENT

Mr. Speaker : Order. I have to notify the House, in accordance with the Royal Assent Act 1967, that the Queen has signified Her Royal Assent to the following Acts :

1. Atomic Energy Act 1989.

2. National Maritime Museum Act 1989.

3. Civil Aviation (Air Navigation Charges) Act 1989.

4. Disabled Persons (Northern Ireland) Act 1989.

5. Scrabster Harbour Order Confirmation Act 1989.


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Lonrho (Letter)

5.9 pm

Mr. Geoffrey Dickens (Littleborough and Saddleworth) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will recall that earlier this afternoon the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) called for a debate based on a whole series of early-day motions that he has tabled. I apologise for raising the matter when the hon. Gentleman is not in the Chamber. I did look for him in the building so that I could notify him of the fact that I was going to mention him, but I could not find him. Most of those early-day motions concern my constituent, Mr. David Coghlan, and his allegations of telephone tapping for Lonrho. Mr. Coghlan sent a letter to the hon. Member for Workington on 11 May, of which I have a copy, and a copy also went to Mr. Rowland of Lonrho.

The main thrust of that letter is illustrated by the following quote :

"You may recall I came to see you in the House and you showed me a photocopy of what you alleged was an affidavit sworn by myself. The contents of this so-called affidavit were extensively used by you in your early-day motions. You refused to give me a copy of this so-called affidavit. I believed it to be a forgery and told The Guardian just that In order to put the record straight I am enclosing with this letter a copy of the statement in which I set out the events of 1985 to date to the best of my ability."

He went on to say that he was sending a copy of the letter to me, his Member of Parliament, and to Mr. Rowland.

I seek your ruling, Mr. Speaker, on whether the Table Office should, in future, accept early-day motions from the hon. Member for Workington on this subject, as I have given public notice to the House that there are grave questions about the authenticity of the material on which the hon. Gentleman bases his early-day motions and on which the hon. Gentleman is relying for his vendetta against Mr. Rowland of Lonrho.

Mr. Speaker : I can give a ruling on this. First, the hon. Gentleman should have notified the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) that he was going to raise this matter. Secondly, every hon. Member must take responsibility for what he says in an early-day motion and, provided it is in order, it can then go on the Order Paper. I cannot be held responsible for the accuracy of statements that may be made.

Mr. Dickens : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I apologise to you for not informing the hon. Member for Workington, but, unfortunately, I did not know that he intended to raise this item during business questions this afternoon. I discussed this matter with your Office, Mr. Speaker, and with the hon. Gentleman and I intended to raise it in the House after the recess. Unfortunately, the hon. Gentleman asked for a debate on the subject today, so I had to raise the matter today.

STATUTORY INSTRUMENTS, &c.

Ordered,

That the draft Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments Act 1982 (Amendment) Order 1989 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.-- [Mr. Chapman.]


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Orders of the Day

Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Bill

As amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.

New Clause 1

Power to secure further undertakings or issue further directions

(1) Subsection (2) below applies where, by reason of any undertaking or directions under section 12 of this Act, any directions substituted for such directions by the Tribunal or any order made by the Tribunal for the purpose of giving effect to any such undertaking or directions, a notice has been served on any person under section 35(2) of this Act.

(2) If, while the notice has effect, the Commission forms the opinion--

(a) that the progress specified in the notice in respect of any period has not been made, and

(b) that the person concerned ought to take action for promoting equality of opportunity in addition to the action required to be taken under the existing undertaking or directions,

section 12 of this Act shall again apply in relation to the person concerned as if the Commission had conducted a fresh investigation under section 11 of this Act.

(3) Where, by virtue of this section, the Commission secures a written undertaking from the person concerned or serves a notice on him containing directions--

(a) the undertaking or directions shall have effect in place of the existing undertaking or directions, and

(b) any notice previously served on him under section 35(2) of this Act shall cease to have effect, but without prejudice to any power to give a new notice under that subsection.'.-- [Mr. Viggers.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

5.12 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Peter Viggers) : I beg to move, That the clause be read a Secontime.

The Bill, having passed its Second Reading and completed 18 Committee sessions, now moves back to the Floor of the House. New clause 1 represents a significant strengthening of the provisions in the Bill dealing with goals and timetables, and complements other amendments on the same subject which have been tabled to clauses 30 and 31.

As the Bill stands at present the Fair Employment Commission may serve on an employer a notice relating to goals and timetables, and may make further inquiries of the employer at six-monthly intervals to assess what progress has been made. The amendments to clauses 30 and 31 to which I have just referred will enable an employer to set his own goals and timetables in the context of the periodic review of his work force which he is obliged to undertake under clause 30. The amendment will empower the commission, in those circumstances also, to make further inquiries in order to assess progress.

The new clause essentially completes the exercise by enabling the commission to follow up a notice relating to goals and timetables by means of seeking further undertakings from an employer or issuing further directions to him. Both undertakings and directions are, of course, enforceable before the tribunal. An employer's failure to achieve the objectives which the commission thinks he should be able to achieve, as a result of action taken following earlier undertakings or directions, or his


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failure to achieve such objectives within the time the commission thinks appropriate, therefore become the triggers to allow the commission to seek further undertakings or to impose or modify, so as to strengthen, directions. The new clause also makes it clear that undertakings given or directions issued under this clause replace and supersede any previously given by or issued to the employer. I trust that the new clause is clear and I believe that it will be acceptable to the official Opposition as it will strengthen the Bill. I commend it to the House.

Mr. Jim Marshall (Leicester, South) : I agree with the Minister that the Bill was fully discussed in Committee. On a number of important points we were able to convince the Government of the need to alter and, in some cases, improve the Bill. We are delighted that the Minister and the Government have been able so to do.

In the spirit of bipartisanship that has arisen from the Bill, we certainly welcome new clause 1. As the Minister rightly says, it strengthens the goals and timetables and, therefore, it is warmly welcomed by the official Opposition.

5.15 pm

Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East) : There is no doubt that new clause 1 does exactly what the Minister and the hon. Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall) suggest--it strengthens the goals and timetables set out in the Bill.

It is important to consider the backcloth against which the goals and timetables will be used. The Bill is not what it purports to be--in favour of fair employment. To me and my colleagues, fair employment means that a person gains employment on merit--that that person is the best for the job. By inserting the provision that, over a specific period, the work force must be of a certain composition means that the criterion for employment is no longer merit, but the religious or political views of those who come to the personnel office. [Interruption.] I am sorry, but does the right hon. Gentleman wish to intervene? He seems to have stopped the gesticulation in which he was engaged. Perhaps that is the kind of behaviour that we can expect from the Alliance party.

Mr. Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil) : Is the hon. Gentleman talking to me?

Mr. Robinson : The right hon. Gentleman seems to be unaware of the gestures which he makes, which suggests more about his character than anything else.

Rather than enforcing the principle of employment on merit, the Bill means that people will now be employed on the basis of their religion. That is contrary to the spirit of fair employment and, for that reason, my colleagues and I will oppose the new clause. I made it clear in Committee, and I repeat today, that I support the principle of fair employment. I believe that the best way to ensure fair employment is to impose severe punishments on anyone who discriminates in his employment policy. The steps that have been taken by the Minister, however, have been taken because of pressure coming from the Republic of Ireland as a result of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. The documentation that we discussed earlier this afternoon specifies that the Bill is part of the process instigated by the Intergovernmental Conference. The Secretary of State, however, has tried to deny that there is any basis for my argument that the government of Northern Ireland is now shared between


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the Government of the Irish Republic and the British Government. The Bill was born out of the Intergovernmental Conference and was pushed through the Anglo-Irish process by the Government of the Irish Republic, no doubt with accompanying pressure from those with republican traditions in the United States.

The new clause will bring more division within the workplace and it will not assist in bringing a proper peace to the work force. We have a good work force in Northern Ireland and our workplaces have not experienced many problems. The Government, however, are attempting to introduce tension in the workplace and the new clause will go a long way towards that.

Mr. Roy Beggs (Antrim, East) : I have to agree with many of the observations of the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson). Will the Minister point out to us how he sees a policy of goals and timetables being able to rest easily with the merit principle? Does he not agree with the views expressed by the Confederation of British Industry, which is committed to fair employment and held seminars on fair employment long before this legislation was drawn up? Does he accept that the Bill puts severe pressure on the merit principle? As the CBI interprets it, it is expected that employers should meet heavy demands without somehow transgressing that principle. How are they to avoid transgressing the merit principle if they are forced to comply with goals and timetables?

Mr. Viggers : I reaffirm that the merit principle, the appointment of the best man or woman for the job, is central to this legislation. It is a principle which has guided us throughout the drafting of all the clauses. The hon. Member for Antrim, East (Mr. Beggs) referred to the CBI and I pay a tribute to the co-operative attitude of the CBI. I think that the CBI would recognise, as perhaps the hon. Gentleman does not, that it is necessary to have legislation to rectify the imbalance in employment in Northern Ireland. That is what this legislation sets out to do.

The new clause simply broadens slightly the application of goals and timetables, which was extensively debated in Committee. I would not wish to go further into the merits of the issue, except to say that we are urging companies to apply good personnel practice and to look to all the population in Northern Ireland for recruitment purposes. In so far as companies may have been drawing from only one part of the community, we are encouraging them to look at all the community. So the guiding principles in this Bill have been the merit principle and good personnel practice.

There is nothing further to say on that point and, on the basis of those two principles, I commend the new clause to the House. Question put, That the clause be read a Second time :

The House divided : Ayes 182, Noes 3.

Division No. 216] [5.21 pm

AYES

Abbott, Ms Diane

Alison, Rt Hon Michael

Amery, Rt Hon Julian

Amos, Alan

Arbuthnot, James

Armstrong, Hilary

Ashby, David

Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy

Atkinson, David

Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)

Banks, Tony (Newham NW)

Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)

Batiste, Spencer

Beith, A. J.

Bell, Stuart

Bellingham, Henry


Column 1154

Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)

Benyon, W.

Bermingham, Gerald

Boateng, Paul

Boscawen, Hon Robert

Boswell, Tim

Bottomley, Mrs Virginia

Bowis, John

Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard

Bray, Dr Jeremy

Bright, Graham

Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)

Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)

Buck, Sir Antony

Burns, Simon

Butterfill, John

Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)

Campbell-Savours, D. N.

Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)

Carrington, Matthew

Chapman, Sydney

Clark, Dr David (S Shields)

Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)

Clwyd, Mrs Ann

Cohen, Harry

Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)

Coombs, Simon (Swindon)

Corbett, Robin

Corbyn, Jeremy

Cormack, Patrick

Couchman, James

Cran, James

Curry, David

Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)

Davis, David (Boothferry)

Devlin, Tim

Dixon, Don

Dorrell, Stephen

Dover, Den

Durant, Tony

Dykes, Hugh

Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas

Fallon, Michael

Favell, Tony

Field, Frank (Birkenhead)

Fishburn, John Dudley

Forman, Nigel

Forth, Eric

Foster, Derek

Fox, Sir Marcus

Franks, Cecil

Freeman, Roger

Garel-Jones, Tristan

Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)

Golding, Mrs Llin

Gow, Ian

Gregory, Conal

Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)

Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)

Ground, Patrick

Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn

Hague, William

Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)

Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)

Hanley, Jeremy

Hannam, John

Harris, David

Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy

Haynes, Frank

Hayward, Robert

Heddle, John

Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)

Hill, James

Hinchliffe, David

Hordern, Sir Peter

Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)

Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)

Howells, Geraint

Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)

Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)

Hughes, Roy (Newport E)

Hunt, David (Wirral W)

Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)

Hunter, Andrew

Ingram, Adam

Irvine, Michael

Jack, Michael

Janner, Greville

Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)

Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald

King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)

Kirkwood, Archy

Knapman, Roger

Knight, Greg (Derby North)

Latham, Michael

Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)

Livsey, Richard

Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)

Lord, Michael

Lyell, Sir Nicholas

Macdonald, Calum A.

McGrady, Eddie

MacGregor, Rt Hon John

MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)

Maclean, David

McNamara, Kevin

Madden, Max

Mans, Keith

Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)

Martin, David (Portsmouth S)

Mates, Michael

Maude, Hon Francis

Mawhinney, Dr Brian

Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin

Mellor, David

Michael, Alun

Mills, Iain

Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)

Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)

Mowlam, Marjorie

Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley

Paice, James

Pike, Peter L.

Powell, Ray (Ogmore)

Price, Sir David

Riddick, Graham

Rossi, Sir Hugh

Ruddock, Joan

Ryder, Richard

Sackville, Hon Tom

Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)

Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)

Skinner, Dennis

Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)

Stanbrook, Ivor

Steen, Anthony

Stern, Michael

Stevens, Lewis

Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)

Stradling Thomas, Sir John

Summerson, Hugo

Tapsell, Sir Peter

Taylor, Ian (Esher)

Taylor, Matthew (Truro)

Temple-Morris, Peter

Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)

Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)

Thorne, Neil

Townend, John (Bridlington)

Vaz, Keith

Viggers, Peter

Waddington, Rt Hon David

Wakeham, Rt Hon John

Walden, George

Waller, Gary

Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)

Wareing, Robert N.

Wells, Bowen

Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)

Winterton, Mrs Ann


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