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Mr. Needham : I always like to offer inspiration to everyone. We are implementing the Act in Northern Ireland as fast as we can. We started behind and we have to work out with the boards exactly what the costs are. At present I cannot go further than that.
Mr. Alton : Given the Government's ability to publish figures about the denominational make-up of employees in Shorts, does the Minister think that it is reasonable to publish figures for the number of disabled people working in the Northern Ireland Office and in local government in the Province? Can he tell the House how many disabled people are employed by the NIO?
Mr. Needham : I cannot, but I shall find out and write to the hon. Gentleman. Our policy on disablement in Northern Ireland bears cognisance and competition with any other part of the United Kingdom and we are extremely proud of it.
8. Mr. Dalyell : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if in the light of allegations in the book "Who Framed Colin Wallace?", he will allow independent inspection on Privy Councillor terms of the records of his Office relating to contacts with Colin Wallace.
Mr. Dalyell : What on earth is there to hide from Privy Councillors? Did the Minister notice that in the review by R. W. Johnson, a fellow of Magdalen college, Oxford, it was highlighted that Colin Wallace offered to give evidence to the Hughes inquiry on condition of immunity from prosecution under the Official Secrets Act and, according to that fellow of Magdalen, it was turned down by the Prime Minister personally? Will the Minister ask the Prime Minister whether that is true? She is sitting next to him.
Mr. Stewart : Mr. Wallace was given assurances that he would not be prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act if he gave evidence to the Terry and Hughes inquiries. No matter how many questions the hon. Gentleman asks, no evidence has been found in many thorough investigations of the case to substantiate the allegations which Mr. Wallace has made over many years.
Mr. Tom King : I last met representatives of the Government of the Republic of Ireland at the meeting of the intergovernmental conference in Belfast on 24 May. At that meeting, we completed the review of the working of the conference. Copies of the joint statement issued afterwards and the communique were placed in the Library.
Mr. Latham : Is it not significant--and may this not arise as a result of the better relations with the Government of the Repulic--that there was a sharp fall in the vote for Sinn Fein in recent elections in both north and southern Ireland?
Mr. King : It is significant that the vote for Sinn Fein in the Republic fell from 1.9 to 1.2 per cent., and in the European elections in Northern Ireland, the vote of the Sinn Fein candidate almost halved. Those are significant developments. On the political and security fronts, as well in the economic sphere, we see the value of working together. The events of the last weekend show all too clearly the value of having the closest possible co-operation in the security sphere.
Ms. Short : Does the Secretary of State believe that in the current situation in Ireland it might be possible to obtain a ceasefire? Does he agree that that would be the biggest gain for the people of Ireland, in the North and the South, and will he have serious discussions with the Irish Government about the possibility of achieving that?
Mr. King : The ending of violence in the island of Ireland is the greatest ambition that anybody could possibly have. One side is perpetrating the violence. There is an easy way to achieve the hon. Lady's request, and that is to desist from the use of violence. There is one way by which the desire for it could be publicly tested. It is clear, as the elections in the Republic showed, that Left-wing parties can secure a substantial number of votes if they repudiate violence. Those who insist on perpetrating violence were repudiated by the electors, north and south of the border.
The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher) : Our excellent legislation has provided a model for many European Community proposals. On the latest available figures, standards of enforcement in the United Kingdom are among the highest in Europe, and the level of accidents among the lowest.
Mr. Powell : Will my right hon. Friend confirm that according to the latest figures available, the number of fatalities in industry in Britain is the second lowest after the Netherlands of EEC countries, that our record is four times better than that of France, six times better than that of West Germany and more than seven times better than that of Italy? Does that not suggest to my right hon. Friend that they may have something to learn from what is taking place in this area in this country?
The Prime Minister : Yes. On the latest available figures, our record in health and safety is extremely good. So also is that of the Netherlands, Denmark and Belgium. Other countries are not quite so good as ours. We are proud of our record and when I took our social charter to Europe, I had some material information about our record on health and safety and it was very favourably received.
Mr. Bell : Is the Prime Minister aware that during the current docks dispute, middle management on Teesside are driving cranes and in doing so may be in breach of health and safety regulations applying to the docks? Is she aware that representations have been made to the docks inspectorate about the matter? Does she agree that it would be wrong for people seeking to break a strike to break the health and safety regulations at the same time? Which comes first, safety or strike-breaking?
The Prime Minister : As the hon. Gentleman knows full well, health and safety always come first. If he has evidence, I am sure that he will give it to the inspectors so that they can take the necessary action.
Mr. Marlow : What action is being taken by Her Majesty's Government to ensure that those decisions which should be taken on health and safety within the United Kingdom, and not at the European level, are in future taken within the United Kingdom? For example, what has it got to do with the European Commission as to the quality of water that comes out of the taps in Northampton, Sunderland and in other parts of the United Kingdom?
The Prime Minister : As my hon. Friend will know, under the Single European Act, certain directives and decisions can be taken by majority. It is in our interests that some decisions should be taken by majority because we have been able to ensure that other countries accept standards which they might not wish to have applied by outvoting them.
As for the water measures, we are coming up to most of the standards, as my hon. Friend will be aware. Indeed, the Secretary of State for the Environment has done a superlative job of work on water legislation and standards.
The Prime Minister : 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. Mallon : I am sure that many right hon. and hon. Members will agree with me that the French Prime Minister, Michel Rocard, got it wrong when he accused the Prime Minister of social cruelty. When the right hon. Lady comes to assess the effects of chronic unemployment, the poll tax, the Government's butchery of the Health Service and the cuts in social security, which she has presided over like a latter day Marie Antoinette, will she be able to accept that the phrase "social cruelty" was a mild understatement which should have read "social butchery"?
Column 515is a pity that hon. Members are not prepared to recognise the facts. For every £1 spent under Labour, £3 is spent on the Health Service under the Conservatives, and last year an extra £2 billion was allocated to it.
The community charge is a far fairer way of paying for a proportion of local government expenditure than any rating revaluation since 1972 would have been, and it is far fairer than the Opposition's alternative of capital valuation accompanied by local income tax which would be infinitely worse for everyone.
The Prime Minister : The Government receive, representations about civil defence from time to time. Civil defence is a basic duty of any responsible Government. Since 1986, Government grant-aided civil defence expenditure by local authorities has risen from just over £15 million to £23 million, a significant real increase.
Mr. Browne : Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that the recent Government announcement on planning for emergencies in peacetime will in no way change their attitude to civil defence in time of war?
The Prime Minister : It will not, because of course, as I said in my original reply, we have a basic duty to provide civil defence. Although we hope that East-West relations will improve, it would be very wrong to retreat from that basic duty. I have seen, at first hand, the need for excellent services in emergencies and disasters, and what the civil defence people can do to help. We are anxious to do everything that we can, on a national basis, to take all practical steps to help our emergency services meet the demands upon them. The measures that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary recently announced about a civil emergencies adviser will lead to clear improvements in our capacity to respond to those tragedies.
Mr. Spearing : Can the Prime Minister tell us why she has abandoned the long-established and successful means of raising local revenue to pay for civil defence? Why, as the high priestess of market forces, has she managed to persuade her right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, the high priest of market forces, to take on the ill-formed plans of the former Secretary of State for the Environment, the present Secretary of State for Education and Science? Surely a much better way of raising revenue for civil defence and all local services would be a tax on property, based on either rental or freehold value?
The Prime Minister : The question was about civil defence, and I pointed out that since 1986 Government grant-aided civil defence expenditure by local authorities has risen from just over £15 million to £23 million. The hon. Gentleman asked about the community charge, which is by far the fairest way in England to raise 25 per cent. of local government expenditure, in Wales to raise
Column 516only 18 per cent. of local authority expenditure and in Scotland to raise only 14 per cent. of local authority expenditure.
Mr. Bendall : In view of the continued rail strike, and the inconvenience being caused to commuters, will the Government consider bringing in legislation to outlaw one-day strikes, such as other European countries are considering? What encouragement will the Government give to trade unions and employers to rationalise affairs so that there is one union for one industry?
The Prime Minister : I think that it is tragic that there has been no settlement in the rail dispute, especially as two unions accepted the award of the independent arbitration tribunal. Only one, the NUR, decided not to and prefers to put the public--the customers, who will retreat from using rail if they are treated like this--to great inconvenience once again.
We are looking at the possibility of further legislation and examining European legislation which usually includes some protection against unions in the public sector going on strike. European legislation and history tend to be very different from ours, but we are looking at it all to see whether we can learn something from it. With due respect, I do not think that it would make much difference to have only one union. It is much more complicated than that, but I hope to bring forward in the future any proposals that we may have.
Mr. Kinnock : May I congratulate the Prime Minister on the characteristic generosity that she showed yesterday by staying away from the poll tax statement so that her Secretary of State for the Environment--
Mr. Kinnock --so that her Secretary of State could gain all the glory and the credit for himself? How does the Prime Minister think-- [Interruption.]
The Prime Minister : I note once again that the right hon. Gentleman resorts to personal criticism because he has neither the intellect nor the guts to ask a real question about the community charge which he knows will show up--when in operation--high-spending local authorities for what they are : extravagant expenders of taxpayers' money.
The Prime Minister : Once again the right hon. Gentleman resorts to personal abuse because he cannot do anything else. I have the greatest confidence in my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, and, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, the community charge is a way of asking people to pay for what they vote for, and when they do, they will vote against Labour authorities.
Mr. Hamilton : Is my right hon. Friend aware that more and more dockers are sensibly defying the strike leaders and returning to work? Is she aware that many former registered dockers have entered into new and more flexible
Column 518practices with the port employers, which will ensure prosperity for those ports and jobs for those dockers and many others? Does not their forward-looking behaviour contrast markedly with the last twitchings of bonehead trade unionism, as on the railways?
The Prime Minister : I agree that many dockers and most people are coming to realise that the end of the dock work labour scheme and that monopoly means a much more prosperous future for those ports and for the industries in the hinterland that they serve. Many dockers are steadily going back to work, and I hope that they will continue. We have yet to know whether the Opposition will support the NUR, which did not follow the established procedures, does not think of the customers, or support those unions that wisely follow the established procedures and think more of their customers and of travellers than of themselves.
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