|Previous Section||Home Page|
Column 1222extended rights of audience in the hands of the professions, the advisory committee and the judges. In effect, they kicked the ball into touch. The questions are whether judges will want to see rights of audience extended very far, and whether solicitors, or the Crown prosecution service, having won a victory in principle, will want to push the judges into conceding far wider rights of audience. If little changes in practice and the Bar does not dwindle away, I will not feel that the whole exercise has been too disruptive. But if much changes in practice, either great harm will be done to the system or there will be warfare between the judges and the Government of a kind that cannot possibly be conducive to the proper administration of justice.
What, then, is to be done? As the House rises for the summer recess, I make three suggestions. First, between now and the final drafting of the Bill, I hope that the Lord Chancellor's Department will have further consultations with the Bar Council and the Law Society to see whether blood on the carpet can be avoided and the Bill drafted in a way that will maximise co- operation and minimise confrontation, which is what the Bar and most of us want.
Secondly, the Government should take another look at the extent to which the Bar's response will make for cheaper, more available and higher-quality legal activity.
Finally, the Government should consider just what it is that ordinary people complain about when they complain about lawyers. I suggest that they complain that they are too costly, which the Government's proposals will not remedy. They complain that the lawyers are not available when they want them, which, again, the Government's proposals will not, on balance, remedy. Ordinary people who have no great access to funds want more available legal aid. I agree that limitless legal aid is not desirable, but if, as Professor Cyril Glasser of London university assures us, 10 million people have dropped out of eligibility for legal aid in the past 10 years, a Government bent on wider access of the law to the consumer must at least look at legal aid before they seek refuge in divisive and counter- productive legislation.
As I said at the beginning, I welcome my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House to his new position, although I am sad that he left his previous one. I know that my right hon. and learned Friend will bear in mind the points that I have made so that the best advantage can be secured from all the proposals for the future of our legal system.
Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) : The hon. and learned Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) in some respects made an interesting speech. He is a Conservative Member who, on every possible occasion, attacks restrictive practices, over-manning, and the rest. He does not have a sympathetic word for the dockers or anyone else. But when it comes to his own profession, the hon. and learned Member is steadfast in his defence of the existing position. No one could be a firmer defender of the status quo in the legal profession than the hon. and learned Gentleman.
The hon. and learned Gentleman may ask, "Why not?" He is a barrister and he considers that certain practices must be defended. I hope that on future occasions, when
Column 1223some of my right hon. and hon. Friends try to describe the situation in industry and the viewpoint of the people who work in it, he will be a little more sympathetic.
Mr. Lawrence rose --
I want to speak on a subject which directly concerned the Leader of the House in his previous position of Foreign Secretary. Before I do, I should say that the reshuffle will in no way change the deep-seated hostility that is felt in the country towards the Government's policies. High mortgage interest rates, the decline of the economy, the notorious poll tax--it is a poll tax ; even the Government's literature refers to the "so-called" poll tax--water privatisation and the attack on the NHS all explain why there is such a deep-seated hostility to the Government. There is no doubt that, in the recent European elections, the Conservative party suffered badly. The only other point that I want to make about the reshuffle is one on which many people have reflected and to which I referred during business questions. I am sure that many hon. Members will have heard a group of activists at a Conservative club on the radio this morning who were hostile to the Prime Minister. Some of them described her conduct as being like that of a dictator.
It is not for me, a mere Opposition Back Bencher, to defend the Home Secretary or the Leader of the House. If the Prime Minister wishes to treat her Cabinet colleagues in the way she has done, that is her business. If she has an irresistible desire to humiliate, as she undoubtedly has done, the Leader of the House and the Home Secretary, that is her right.
It is clear that the Home Secretary considered that his position was perfectly safe. We read in the press that he was eating his sandwiches on Monday, when, lo and behold, he heard various rumours that his job had been offered to the then Foreign Secretary despite his having been given all those private assurances by the Prime Minister.
I do not understand why Cabinet members are willing to put up with such conduct. The only possible explanation is that they believe that if they stood up to the Prime Minister they would lose their jobs more quickly than they otherwise would.
The views that I have just expressed are clearly the views of Conservative activists, and I imagine that, in the Corridors of this place, enough Conservative Members have been more or less saying in private what I have just said in public. It would be foolish to deny that.
The matter that I am about to raise is the one that I raised before the previous recess. I do not wish to be misunderstood in any way, and it is no reflection on my hon. Friends that at that time I was the only hon. Member to raise what was happening in China. I congratulated the people associated with the pro-democracy movement in China on their courage.
As I have said before, and I repeat now, it is all very well in a democracy to demonstrate. We know that sometimes the police can be rough, but there is all the difference between demonstrating in a democracy and trying to do so in a dictatorship. I have the greatest respect for those in dictatorship countries, in almost totalitarian conditions,
Column 1224who are willing to do what the students and workers did in China. Those people were not saying that they wanted all the civil rights and liberties that Britain has gained and which exist in most, if not all, of the countries of western Europe. They wanted only some basic rights which were being denied them, so they demonstrated, and what an impressive demonstration it was. For weeks on end, they demonstrated in the way that we all saw on television. I say again that I have the greatest respect for them.
The manner in which that demonstration was crushed, the massacre that took place, aroused a feeling of revulsion not only in Britain but throughout most countries, and certainly throughout all the democracies.
The Chinese authorities peddled the lie--like Dr. Goebbels they no doubt believe that if they repeat the lie often enough people will believe it-- that there was no massacre and demonstrators were not shot. We know that to be a lie. We know of the bloodshed and the hundreds of people who were massacred in Tiananmen square, and what happened on that occasion is never likely to be forgotten in China. The time will come when we see in China what has happened in countries in eastern Europe. In 1956, the Hungarian uprising was crushed and Imre Nagy was hanged. Yet only a few weeks ago, his remains were buried with great honour. What happened in Hungary a few weeks ago is likely to happen at some stage in China.
In view of the experience of the Leader of the House as Foreign Secretary, I want to ask him what will be the attitude of the United Kingdom and the EEC if terror continues in China. There was a report in The Guardian today, and there have been other reports, one issued by Amnesty International, on the subject of the repression and the way in which people considered to be in any way involved with the pro-democracy movement are arrested, tortured, certainly humiliated and often executed.
Like all dictators, the Chinese leaders say that they want business to carry on as usual. They see no reason why western countries should take economic action against them. If the state of terror continues, can Britain and the European Community turn a blind eye and say that it is all very unfortunate, but we should have business as usual? A warning should go out from the Governments of the European Community and other countries--I only wish that the Soviet Union would associate itself with that--that if the Chinese authorities continue their repression of their own people economic action is bound to be taken. I hope that, in the negotiations that I understand will take place between the new Foreign Secretary and the Chinese leadership, the point will be made clearly that, after 1997, Chinese troops should not be stationed in Hong Kong. One development above all else would give some feeling of security to the people of Hong Kong, leaving aside matters such as the right of abode, and that is the view that the state of terror and repression in China had ended. That would produce in Hong Kong a feeling of more security than exists at present.
There is ambiguity, to say the least, in the agreement signed between Britain and China over the stationing of Chinese troops. I hope that the point will be made clearly in the negotiations with the Chinese leadership that it would be quite inappropriate--all the more so after the terrible events of the past few weeks--for Chinese troops to be stationed in Hong Kong after 1997. If a guarantee could be given by the Chinese that no troops would be stationed there, it would do a great deal
Column 1225of good in trying to reassure the people of Hong Kong that they have a future in that place once the agreement is implemented in 1997.
Mr. James Kilfedder (North Down) : I can predict, sadly, that before Parliament meets again after the summer recess, many innocent people in Northern Ireland will have been slaughtered in obscene acts of terrorism. I ask hon. Members, therefore, to think about my part of the United Kingdom, which is haunted by the spectre of the terrorist.
Next month is the anniversary of the arrival in Northern Ireland 20 years ago of extra soldiers of the regular Army to be used to act as a barrier between religious groupings in different parts of the Province. It was not long before the soldiers, who were originally greeted as peacekeepers, were spat on, reviled, shot at and killed. Twenty years on, the situation is worse, although to a greater extent the Royal Ulster Constabulary are in the front line in the maintenance of law and order.
I want to pay tribute, as most hon. Members would want to do, to all the police officers and soldiers, both in the Regular Army and the Ulster Defence Regiment, who serve and have served in Northern Ireland where so many of their comrades have gallantly given their lives to save others and to defeat terrorism. Civilians--men, women and children--have also been injured, mutilated or killed, sometimes in the most terrible atrocities, although the Provisional IRA has not hesitated to destroy human life here in mainland Britain and on the continent. Every death is a tragedy. Throughout the Province, mothers, wives, children, husbands and fathers mourn the loss of loved ones who have died in such frightening circumstances ; sadly, relatives here in Britain also mourn those who have been murdered by the evil and vicious members of the Provisional IRA.
To the outside world, Northern Ireland appears to be a war zone, where hate triumphs and people are bitterly divided into two warring camps. Those who live in Northern Ireland and those who visit Northern Ireland know differently. Northern Ireland is, despite its media image, a beautiful place, with charming and generous people. The majority of the people of Ulster wish to live normally and harmoniously with their neighbours, regardless of politics or religion. The vast majority reject the gunmen who live like parasites on their communities, whether in Republican or Loyalist areas. The vast majority of Ulster people yearn for peace and the prosperity that peace will bring to that battered part of the United Kingdom. I think especially of senior citizens in the community who fervently wish to see an end to strife before they die. I think above all about the young generation who are being denied the normal opportunities which peace can provide--many of whom, through frustration, seek employment here in England or elsewhere. The people and politicians of Northern Ireland cannot defeat the terrorists, but they can make a significant contribution to the elimination of terrorism by giving their full, unqualified and unequivocal support to the forces of law and order. The politicians have a major role to play in the restoration of normality. They should make a contribution, but the people also have a contribution to
Column 1226make and they must endeavour at all times to ensure that, wherever a terrorist roams, the police are notified of his activities. I call on all constitutional politicians in Northern Ireland to get together to see what political progress can be made in the next six months. I know that the Anglo-Irish Agreement is a symbol of the betrayal of Unionists by a Conservative Government, but politicians cannot for ever remain in their trenches. I appeal, therefore, in this House to politicians, to official Unionists, to Democratic Unionists, to the Social Democratic and Labour party, the Alliance party and all other constitutional politicians, to suspend their antagonism and to begin to talk.
The appointment of a new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland provides an ideal opportunity to end the four years of political stagnation which existed under his predecessor. That change of Ulster Secretary should be the cue for Ulster politicians to come together. I have already offered through the media in Northern Ireland to chair such discussions, as the former Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, and I shall shortly be writing to the leaders of the constitutional parties that were elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Of course it is easier not to talk. It is not difficult to find excuses to justify a refusal to get together. Talking with other constitutional politicians exposes one to criticism and perhaps even to charges of betrayal. However, in my judgment, politicians, in the interests of Ulster people young and old, must get together, must risk attacks, must endure insults and must attempt to devise a solution that would enable political progress to be made in Northern Ireland.
I am sure that there is tremendous good will in the Province. As I said earlier, I know that the people of Northern Ireland are marvellous, generous, charming, humorous and kind-hearted. It is extraordinary that some can hate each other out of their love of God. For the love of God, let us start building bridges, talking together, making peace and providing a future for the young people of Northern Ireland.
Mr. Ray Powell (Ogmore) : I share the sentiments expressed in the last part of the speech made by the hon. Member for North Down (Mr. Kilfedder). The message must go out not only to hon. Members but to politicians elsewhere and people everywhere that it is high time that a solution was found in Ireland.
The motion before us calls upon us to adjourn for the summer recess. I am always concerned that such debates do not allow us a vote. Some Conservative Members ask for time to debate major issues and then, a soon as they have finished their speech, they get through the door, pick up their cases and go to Heathrow for their flights to Bermuda. I am not one who would do that.
I call for special consideration to be given to the question that this House should not adjourn. I do so because I want time to be allowed for a debate that Welsh Members have been demanding for the past five or six weeks--a debate on the National Health Service in Wales. We have asked, we have begged and we have pleaded. I did not say this at business questions, when I asked the Leader of the House a question regarding his new appointment, but I welcome him to his position as Leader of the House because, as a Welshman, he might be more sympathetic to
Column 1227our demands in the future--especially our demands for health debates. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will be dealing with a Secretary of State for Wales who has not been elected to represent a Welsh seat and who is probably more interested in representing his own constituency, which is Worcester.
We have asked for a debate on the National Health Service in Wales not only because of the long waiting lists or the under-funding of hospital services in Wales but because we fear the Government's new proposals and their effect on our constituents. In 1988, when we debated hospital waiting lists in Wales, we were promised that various sums would be invested in new hospitals and in reducing waiting lists. I regret to report that waiting lists in Wales have not been reduced since that promise was made in 1988. As a matter of fact, they have substantially increased. That is one reason why I think that the House should not adjourn.
We should be considering the thousands of people who are waiting for hospital beds, for hospital treatment or for consultants to be available to perform major surgery which may save their lives. Many people who are now waiting for hospital treatment will no longer require it when the time comes, because they will have passed away, as has happened to a number of my constituents who were in that position.
The Welsh group of Labour Members of Parliament tabled an early-day motion, which said :
"That this House notes that on March 1st, 1989, the Secretary of State for Wales told the House that he was about to issue papers, similar to those issued for England, setting out his proposals for the implementation of the Health Service White Paper in Wales, that thereafter he would issue papers of specific Welsh proposals, and that there would be plenty of time for discussion during which he would be anxious to hear the views of hon. Members in all parts of the House ; further notes that comment from all levels of the health service and from the general public in Wales amounts to outright rejection of the White Paper proposals ; and calls on the Secretary of State either to withdraw the White Paper proposals from having any application to Wales or to take immediate steps to honour his three- fold pledge of March 1st and allow full debate on his proposals within Wales."
Since then, we have received documents from the Royal College of Nursing documents about NHS funding and documents about the crisis in the acute hospital sector. We have had comments from a research team dealing with matters affecting elderly people and the review of March 1989.
Will the Leader of the House bring pressure to bear on the Secretary of State for Wales--whom he will be joining as yet another wet in the Cabinet, no doubt--to ensure that in future, when we request debates on major issues such as this, we are afforded the opportunity to have them, bearing in mind that, of 38 Welsh MPs, 25 are Labour Members? Surely that is sufficient to allow us a debate when we request one.
It is no good the Secretary of State for Wales hiding behind all sorts of excuses, as he has been doing for weeks now. I renew my request, which is supported by all my hon. Friends, that the documents should be published-- as promised on 1 March--explaining how the Secretary of State for Wales intends to apply the White Paper in Wales and that we may have an early opportunity for a full debate. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Delyn (Mr. Raffan) need not get all excited. I have not finished yet. I was told 10 minutes, and I have only taken four so far.
There are many Health Service matters that I could raise, and I am sure that I should receive a sympathetic hearing from the Leader of the House, given that he was born in Port Talbot.
Another major issue that the House should debate before we go into recess is the enforcement of the Shops Act 1950. The House had an opportunity for a full debate, action was taken and a proposal presented by the Government. We won that debate, although I am sorry to say that that is the only time in 10 years when the majority of Members have rejected major legislation that the Prime Minister and the Government wanted to introduce. Although we rejected any amendment to the 1950 Act, we constantly see traders, large and small, trading on Sundays and thus deliberately flouting the law. When I asked the Prime Minister a question some years ago, she replied that she would ensure that all the laws of the country were upheld. Why is not the law on Sunday trading given the same consideration by magistrates, courts, judges and chairmen of magistrates courts, to ensure that it is enforced?
Let me ask the Leader of the House three specific questions. First, what action does he think the Attorney-General is taking to ensure compliance with the law, concerning the admitted illegal Sunday opening by Heal's and Habitat, both shops in the Storehouse group? Secondly, will he ask the Attorney-General whether he will now consider prosecuting the chairman, chief executive and other members of the Storehouse group under the aiding and abetting provision of section 44 of the Magistrates Courts Act 1980, concerning the admitted flagrant breaches of the Shops Act 1950 by Heal's and Habitat shops? Thirdly, in the light of the ruling on 27 June 1989 by the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice, what guidance will the Attorney-General now consider giving to local authorities about their statutory duty to enforce the law on Sunday trading? I would like answers to those questions when the Leader of the House replies.
The House should not adjourn because we have not yet debated the major reform in legislation protecting children--the people in this country who have no rights or proper opportunities to advance their own cases. When can we have an early debate on the Children Bill? What will happen to the family courts which have been requested? I know that 10,000 grandparents have been pleading for their rights as grandparents to be legally represented at court to allow them to plead for their grandchildren. We should debate those matters ; we should not adjourn until October while all those grandparents and children are not protected by the laws of this country. It is high time that action was taken to remedy that failure.
Mr. Jim Lester (Broxtowe) : My right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House is very welcome in his new position on the Government Front Bench because we know of his considerable sympathies for the individual. Like the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell), I want to propose that the House should not adjourn for the summer recess. However, if we get our way, I am sure that we would be the most unpopular Members of Parliament ever and would probably act as leads for the return of capital punishment.
Column 1229The House should not adjourn until there has been an environmental audit in my constituency. Although I have every confidence in the new Secretary of State for the Environment and his team, what is happening in my constituency is an extreme example of what might be happening elsewhere in the country. The events in my constituency will affect my constituents profoundly over the weeks, months and years ahead.
Many of my constituents who have made plans for the future, and other long- established communities, feel trapped by a steamroller of inevitability which crushes their views and faith in democracy and their ability to influence their own destinies. In these green days, people talk about the rape of the countryside. I want to draw the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House to the fact that there is a multiple rape in my constituency. Four environmental hazards in one constituency are excessive by any standards.
Unknown until the beginning of this month, a proposal has come to light to add a further option to the A453 access route to Nottingham. That new option is known as the green route. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Health wrote to my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Mr. Bottomley) in his former capacity as the Minister for Roads and Traffic, and said :
"I am now horrified to discover that a quite unacceptable new proposal described as the Green Route running from Barton past Clifton Wood and over a new bridge to Beeston has been added to the alternative proposals. Everyone familiar with the debate over the years has always expected that the choice would lie between what is now called the Red Route through Clifton and the Yellow Route which would be a Clifton Bypass between Clifton and Ruddington. I did not know that your engineers were working up another proposition as an alternative to those two. I hope that the Green Route will not complicate the arguments for very long, because as shown on your plans, it would be an environmental disaster."
I can only agree with that completely. People in Beeston Rylands purchased their houses beside the river and the canal. Those are modest, not grand, houses and their owners value their valley and their environment enormously, as do all the other people who use the Trent valley as a recreational area.
There are three proposals to opencast the spine of the Erewash valley. If the proposals go forward, my constituents in relatively close communities can look forward to 20 years of development involving dust, dirt and the total destruction of their landscape in a completely unnecessary way. My hon. Friend the Member for Amber Valley (Mr. Oppenheim) shares my views on that.
At a recent exhibition, the Coal Board called the first proposed site for opencasting the "Engine lane" site, which will involve the dereliction of the Moorgreen colliery which is famous in D. H. Lawrence's work because he based many of his stories there. British Coal does not reveal that the other four fifths of the area is known as Beauvale--obviously it has that name because it is very beautiful. Those who are familiar with Lawrence's work will be aware of his contrast between the industrialised east side of the area with its pit, and Hagg's farm and going to Miriam to escape the awful pressures of the industrial revolution. British Coal now wants to introduce a modern industrial revolution into an area which, even in Lawrence's day, was not touched. British Coal is talking about a five-year development in a tiny community. The
Column 1230development would involve 52 lorry movements a day on a B road, causing dust, dirt and the total destruction of the environment. The next site for opencast development is called the Shilo north site, which affects the villages and small towns of Kimberley, Eastwood and Awsworth. The site is at the bottom of the valley. I agree with the comments in the Nottingham Evening Post which stated :
"I applaud the campaign by the Shilo North Action Group to preserve their locality. A vast gaping hole torn in the earth, destroying the essence of the countryside, is too great a price to pay for coal we don't urgently need. I can imagine the outcry should Stratford or Constable country be threatened in this way."
The third site due for development is known as Robinettes. It will affect the villages of Cossoll and Awsworth. That area is close to Nottingham, but is green land offering great recreational opportunities. There are many farms in the area, and it has not been touched by the industrial revolution, but it is now being sized and drilled in another proposal to rip up the land and terrify the local community through a long process of destruction and potential dereliction.
All the local communities are firmly opposed to those environmental hazards. Broxtowe district council, Nottingham county council, the protest groups and I have joined together as we grind our way through the due processes of planning and public inquiries.
I want to give my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House a flavour of what this means to so many people who cannot sell their houses. I am not talking about the great and the good ; I am talking about people in normal small terraced houses who face the long prospect of the real difficulties in their personal lives. We all accept that, in a developing society, we cannot stand still. However, before we can accept the degree of environmental dereliction that I have described, we must be sure that the need for it is critical. No one is sure that the need for opencast coal is that critical. A balance is essential. There is a price which we must be very careful not to pay in terms of people's environmental privilege, for which no compensation can be paid.
I will end with a quotation from the Nottingham Evening Post "Comment" written by Suzanne Kirk :
"We are rapidly approaching a crisis point. It seems more change has taken place over the last 20 to 30 years than during the rest of history.
The undistinguished Erewash Valley, although not mentioned in any tourist guides, is very special to the people of West
The abundant wildlife, tranquil foot paths and panoramic views make it a place to escape to--but not one for much longer if British Coal's plans to outcrop the valley succeed."
Mr. Pat Wall (Bradford, North) : During business questions last week I referred to a Chinese dissident, Xu Hai Ning, who returned to China about 10 days ago. I received a brief answer from the Home Office, but I have had no opportunity further to pursue the matter. My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) has also referred to this issue. This subject is apposite, as the former Foreign Secretary will reply to the debate.
I am a frequent and, on occasions, vehement critic of the way in which the Home Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office deal with numerous immigration cases in my constituency, but I have nothing but praise for the Home Office staff who have dealt with this case. I make
Column 1231no criticism about that person's return to China. When we phoned the Home Office we got very good support from the staff. Mr. Xu was interviewed at the airport on his way back to China. He was seen on his own, and attempts were made to allow him to ask for protection if he had any objection to going back. I mention this case because it raises one or two matters in which the Home Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office can be of assistance.
When I interviewed him in the House of Commons a fortnight ago, Mr. Xu was distraught and unsure of his status here. He had been granted leave to stay in Britain for 12 months. In the circumstances, that decision was reasonable. He was concerned about having no travel documents, about what would happen at the end of the 12 months, and about his ability to take up employment, become a student, and so on during his stay. Dissidents who come to this country are often highly emotional and could be helped by proper counselling.
I am somewhat disturbed about advertisements that were placed in a Chinese business newspaper published in Soho and about accusations that Chinese diplomatic staff in this country have been phoning people to find the addresses of safe houses, saying that they have messages from their family- -in other words, putting pressure on them. I realise that it is difficult to deal with advertisements, phone calls and, possibly following people and searching out safe houses, but people need the maximum possible protection.
It is 148 years since Britain obtained part of the colony of Hong Kong through two treaties and a leasing deal that was made in 1886. Those treaties were unfairly imposed on China because China was dominated by Britain and other imperial powers at the time. Since then, the vast majority of Chinese people in Hong Kong have had no say in the running of the country, the distribution of its wealth or their own future. Much has been made of the so-called Hong Kong economic miracle. It is no miracle. Hong Kong is one of a small number of countries--for example, Singapore, Taiwan and, formerly, South Korea--that enjoy a privileged position in free trade. It has had a compliant, cheap labour force and the advantage of massive international capital investment, in particular in Hong Kong by America, Japan and Britain. Investors have had a free hand to exploit a tremendously hard-working and compliant population who, in turn, have been denied any real democratic or trade union rights. It is true that the majority of people in Hong Kong enjoy a far higher standard of living than those in the rest of China. That is hardly surprising considering their trade advantages, the fact that China was ruled for centuries by emperors and warlords, was pillaged by a variety of imperialist powers, was devastated during the Japanese invasion and the civil war of 1945-49, and that the majority of the population were uneducated, extremely poor peasants. Hong Kong falls far short of being a so-called capitalist paradise. Several hon. Members have lived in Hong Kong. Many others have visited it with parliamentary delegations. Others like myself have visited the colony during their previous employment. However, few hon. Members have had an opportunity to see the sweated labour conditions that exist in many factories and workplaces in Hong Kong. They see an entirely different side of Hong Kong--the good houses in Repulse bay and the better areas of Hong Kong. They see the private clubs that are enjoyed by
Column 1232British and European people and by some of the richer Chinese. They see the fabulous hotels, nightclubs and bars. Very few have spent a weekend with an ordinary Chinese family and travelled in a plywood-sided lift to the 15th floor of a 20-floor block, which is one of 20 or 30 similar skyscrapers in one housing development. Few people have taken any interest in seeing the thousands of people who pour from the workplaces at lunchtime to eat their lunches in the shanty canteens that line the roads. Few appreciate the pollution and overcrowding in the streets or see the conditions of the boat people--not just Vietnamese boat people, but Chinese boat people--who eke out their lives in the typhoon basins of Hong Kong. That is the reality of life for most Chinese people in Hong Kong. I accompanied an injured colleague to hospital at 3 o'clock one morning in Hong Kong. I will not describe what it was like going into the hospital and the interviews that one had to have with the police. However, we ended up in the ward. I had never seen anything like it in my life. It was a typical rectangular hospital ward. The four sides of the ward were lined with beds touching each other, and, in front of the beds, were camp beds, also touching each other. Seated in hospital chairs were people with drips in their arms and noses. All the lights were on at 5 o'clock in the morning. Two arguments were taking place. There may be private hospitals for the rich in Hong Kong, but that is the standard of treatment for many ordinary people.
The debate on the return of Hong Kong to China was a golden opportunity for the majority of Chinese people to have the right to a say for the first time in how the colony is run, how its wealth is distributed, and what its future should be. If universal sufferage had been granted to everybody over the age of 18, Chinese people could really say what their wishes are. Hon. Members have debated Chinese people's right of abode, but, to a large extent, it is a side issue. An old friend of mine who has carried on business in Hong Kong for 15 years has recently returned. He wrote :
"Numerous people I have spoken to over the last few days, from taxi drivers to industrialists, have used almost the same words to me : They are shooting my people! Why did they have to do such a terrible thing?' I must say that I think there is now a considerable risk of civil unrest in Hong Kong, depending on events in China, British reaction to those events, and the short-term political evolution of the very broadly-based movement within Hong Kong."
My friend went on to talk about the right to abode. The right to abode has been wrongly tackled in the House. The 3.5 million people in the Irish Republic and 1.5 million people in Northern Ireland have the right of abode, given the possibility of an Armageddon or a Beirut-type situation developing in Northern Ireland. Also, 270 million people in the Common Market have the right of abode in this country. People in Hong Kong had that right of abode up to 1962. My view is that the granting of the right of abode to Hong Kong citizens would diffuse the situation and would concentrate the mind not on that issue, but on the much more important issues which concern relationships with China and the democratic rights in Hong Kong. The Chinese claim that theirs is a Socialist Government, a Socialist society and that they are Communists. However, as a lifelong Socialist and an unashamed Marxist, I believe that a river of blood separates Stalinism from real Socialism. The events in
Column 1233China, the appalling events in Soviet labour camps, the massacre during the Hungarian revolution and the events in Czechoslovakia have nothing to do with my ideas of Socialism.
I can recall walking off a mountainside in Hong Kong with a Chinese friend, past a filthy, horrible, degrading and disgusting squatter camp, and seeing coming out of that camp two small children, aged about five years and two years. They were dressed in immaculate pyjamas. They were doing their ablutions brushing their teeth and washing themselves at a standpipe that the local authority had erected at the side of that squatters camp. That was a touching scene. However, what it brought home to me was not how nice and beautiful those little children were, but the resolve of their parents, living under that filth and horror, to keep those children decent and to strive to find a better way of life. That is the real side of humanity, which the Chinese rulers will realise when the Chinese people rise again, as they will, and end for ever the totalitarian system there, as I hope one day we will end the inequalities that exist in capitalist society throughout the world. 7.11 pm
Mr. Keith Raffan (Delyn) : I begin by referring to the speech of the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell). I know that my right hon. and learned Friend will not be seduced by the legendary charm and the equally legendary scant respect for the facts of that hon. Gentleman. The hon. Member for Ogmore knows as well as I do that it was open to the Labour party to choose to debate earlier this year the subject of the National Health Service in Wales in the Welsh Grand Committee, but it did not choose to do so. It was equally open to the Labour party to debate that matter on one or part of one of its many Opposition supply days in the House, but it did not do so. It had those opportunities, but it did not take them. The hon. Gentleman, therefore, cannot complain about the lack of opportunity for a debate on the National Health Service in Wales during this current session. Indeed, so enthusiastic was the Welsh Labour party for the proceedings of the Welsh Grand Committee that at this stage of the Session we have had one fewer debate than usual.
I assure the hon. Member for Ogmore that, far from being reluctant to debate the subject of the National Health Service in Wales, Conservative Members are exceedingly keen to do so. How can we be otherwise, when there has been in real terms a 40 per cent. increase in expenditure on the National Health Service in Wales in the past 10 years? If the record of the Government on spending on the National Health Service in England and Wales has been good, in the Principality it has been remarkable.
I wish to raise an issue that I have already raised twice today in questions both to my right hon. and learned Friend during business questions and to the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, during his statement on food safety--the serious salmonella poisoning outbreak in my constituency in north Wales and in other parts of the north-west. The severity of the situation can be measured by the fact that there are 53 suspected cases of salmonella poisoning in Clwyd ; 29 of those have been confirmed bacteriologically, 13 people have been admitted to hospital and, tragically, one person has died.
Column 1234I pay fulsome tribute to Delyn borough council and Clwyd health authority for the thorough way in which they have investigated the outbreak so that within a short period they were able to track down the source. The suspected food was withdrawn from sale, the production of cooked meat by the company implicated in the outbreak was halted, and distribution of the food was suspended. A list of outlets has also been supplied to all environmental health departments and visits are being undertaken as quickly as possible to those outlets. The health authority has also, of course, given advice to the public about ready- cooked and prepared meats.
I have no doubt that Delyn borough council, as the public health authority, has taken all the appropriate steps, on the basis of the circumstantial evidence available, to contain the outbreak. However, I want to draw to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend, which I know he will in turn bring to the attention of his colleagues, the problem the council faces. I raised this problem this afternoon with the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. The council, as public health authority, finds itself in a dilemma in deciding whether to name the company suspected of being implicated in the outbreak, because it has at present only circumstantial evidence and must wait several days for that evidence to be backed up and confirmed by medical and scientific analyses. As soon as the investigation was initiated into the outbreak, faecal and food samples and swabs were taken from potential suspects and sent to the public health laboratory for analysis.
I welcomed the Welsh Office's decision today to issue a food hazard notice naming the company which is believed to be involved, in the interests of consumer safety, and also to list the various outlets for prepared and cooked meat originating from that company. In the event of an outbreak of this kind, it is important that we not only have full and effective co- operation between the relevant health and local authorities, but that there is also a clear chain of responsibility. I believe that ultimately the onus must be on the health authority to decide whether or not to name a company which it has good reason to believe is implicated--perhaps 60 or 75 per cent. certain--even though it has not received medical and scientific back- up. When there is such an outbreak, time is of the essence. It is very important that the name of the company is disclosed to the public so that those shops which sell food originating from the company can withdraw that food from sale and those who have bought suspected food can see their doctors as soon as possible. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will bring that matter to the attention of the Cabinet sub-committee on food safety which, because of its importance, is chaired by our right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. When we come to legislate on these matters in the autumn, it is important that we cover the "chain of command" in such an outbreak, the relationship between the Government, the health authorities and the local councils as public health authorities. I understand from those whom I have spoken to in the past few days that the first suspected case was notified to Delyn borough council's environmental health department on Tuesday 20 July. Clwyd health authority informed me that the first it knew of the outbreak was when the first patient was hospitalised on Saturday 22 July. I do not criticise anyone at this juncture. The important thing is to help all those who are dealing with
Column 1235this difficult and serious situation and who are doing their utmost to contain it and get it under control. But it is important for the Welsh Office to ensure that all available information is provided to the Clwyd health authority and to the neighbouring health authorities as soon as possible. That is a must if the community physicians are to be able to do their job, to contact potential suspects and take samples from them.
Earlier, I asked my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to consider issuing guidelines to butchers and delicatessens on cooked and raw meat. As the Institution of Environmental Health Officers said in the press today, it is important that raw and cooked meats are not allowed to stand near each other and that the same machinery is not used to slice them. When we had the serious salmonella outbreak connected with eggs at the end of last year, the Ministry was not slow to issue the necessary guidelines. The chief medical officer of health issued advice to consumers on salmonella in eggs and poultry. Codes of practice were issued to producers and National Health Service hospitals were rightly briefed on the cooking of foods involving eggs. The Ministry must now seriously consider issuing guidance to butchers, delicatessens and consumers.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food undertook quite a devastating survey of domestic kitchen hygiene. It showed that consumers have an important part to play in reducing the risk of food poisoning. It revealed that consumers do not normally read the storage instructions on chilled or frozen pre-packed foods ; that 94 per cent. of respondents never checked the temperature of their refrigerator ; that 66 per cent. never adjusted its temperature control ; and that only 18 per cent. appreciated the hazard of keeping food at room temperature for prolonged periods.
It is equally important to embark on a renewed campaign of public awareness --following the one earlier this year. This is especially important given the extraordinary hot weather that we are currently experiencing--so that people are made aware of the importance of separating cooked and raw meats in their fridges and of ensuring that their refrigerators are at the necessary low temperature. The Government have acted promptly, swiftly and efficiently on food safety, but it must worry all hon. Members that the number of cases of salmonella enteritidis phage type 4 increased from seven to 109 between 1964 and 1974 and increased sharply from 1,362 in 1984 to 12, 522 in 1988. Those figures originate from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.
I warmly welcome the White Paper and look forward to an early debate and early legislation on these matters in the new Session. I hope, in the meantime, that my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House will bring the points that I have made to the attention of not only the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food but the Secretary of State for Wales, who is responsible for agriculture and food in the Principality. I would also ask that the guidance to butchers and delicatessens I mentioned is issue as soon as possible.
I hope that the Cabinet sub-committee on food safety will give urgent attention to ensuring that in the event of an outbreak there is in future a clear chain of responsibility and command ; that all the authorities involved co-operate
Column 1236fully and effectively ; and that there is no delay in naming a company that is clearly implicated, on sufficient circumstantial evidence, in a serious outbreak.
Mr. Elliot Morley (Glanford and Scunthorpe) : I should like to raise a couple of issues before the House adjourns. The Government have not taken adequate steps to deal with environmental issues in the environmental Bill proposed for the autumn, or to deal with water quality control and the proposals for the Nature Conservancy Council.
Will the Leader of the House assure me that the Secretary of State for the Environment will respond to the challenge of my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) to publish the proposals that will be included in the environmental Bill before the autumn so that hon. Members can try to achieve consensus on them? Hon. Members who are genuinely concerned about improving the environment want to achieve consensus. My hon. Friend the Member for Copeland has made a generous offer, but consensus will not be achieved unless hon. Members are aware of the Bill's provisions and what is the Government's line of thinking.
I am concerned about how the Nature Conservancy Council is being run. The proposals for its restructuring have not been thought out, and the NCC was not consulted on them. The first that it heard about them was when it was announced in the press that the previous Secretary of State for the Environment intended to merge it with the Countryside Commission and break up its functions.
I must express my concern at how the NCC was directed by the previous Secretary of State, who appeared to be directly involved in altering its role and direction, especially on field and blood sports. He appointed a number of new members to the NCC in March, among whom were two landowning earls--one maintained a large grouse moor and the other was a master of foxhounds. Although I am sure that they are worthy individuals, they do not seem compatible with our premier organisation for nature conservation. One of the NCC's staff said :
"I cannot imagine what some of these people, however worthy they are, are going to do for nature conservation, as opposed to the interests of landowners and grouse shooters."
Many people are concerned about the NCC being manipulated by people who are not sympathetic to the environment or to the nature conservation ideals that many share. An example was when the previous Secretary of State said that the NCC should take into account what he termed "traditional country sports" before it gave grants for the purchase of land.
The NCC signed an agreement with various shooting organisations on what it termed "areas of common interest", under which a grant was given to Kent wildfowlers to purchase an area to shoot wildfowl. I accept that wildfowling is a legitimate interest and pastime, but I am not sure that it is the role of the NCC to give public funds to wildfowling organisations for them to pursue their interests. That should be contrasted with the way in which other organisations have been treated when applying for grants. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds applied for a 50 per cent. grant to extend its nature reserve in Nene washes, Cambridgeshire. The NCC told the RSPB that it