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Column 70been a surprise to us all. One of the factors behind that change was the visit of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to Poland. That was a great help in encouraging people to understand that the West looked towards those people achieving their freedom. One must not, however, be drawn into a false security as there are many difficulties. Gorbachev faces great difficulties in his country, with its different nationalities. Incidentally, the east European countries have disputes among themselves. That is why my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was right to say that we should not go too quickly and that we must take it gently. We could set off something between those countries that we would regret. That is why I believe my right hon. Friend was so wise.
We must encourage democratic change not only in the Soviet Union--a much more difficult task--but within Poland, Hungary and East Germany and we must realise that the reunification of Germany, dangerous though it may be, will take a long, long time. It will not happen today or tomorrow. We must not count on that at the moment. The hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) was right to say that the demonstrations in those east European countries are demonstrations of the people. We must avoid inflaming those demonstrations so that internecine war breaks out. That is why I repeat how important it is to keep a cool head. Also, we must not forget that we must work for peace. That is our most important job. Those two objectives are not antagonistic, but march together. The security of the Soviet Union and of our country and their respective strengths make it impossible for a war to break out. We must retain that balance.
The European Community can help by supplying the east European countries. I know that the supplies for Poland, however, are getting into the wrong hands in many cases. One of the difficulties of supplying such countries is to get the goods into the right hands rather than in the Communist commissars' pockets or mouths. Such practices are not unusual.
If we have co-operation in Europe we can then set an example to other countries. Slowly and surely we can draw them into us. That will not happen tomorrow ; it is a slow process. It requires patience and leadership. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has shown leadership, wisdom and judgment in her approach to those matters, not only by visiting Gorbachev, but by keeping in with the Americans, and she has ensured that things work coherently.
Cambodia has been mentioned. It is a far more difficult problem than that presented by eastern Europe. I have been to Cambodia, but now the forces involved are so complex that it is almost impossible to arrive at a solution unless some sort of international settlement is achieved.
Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill) : Will the hon. Gentleman agree that the Khmer Rouge forces are at least as bad as the Nazis were in the last war and must not be supported? Will he further agree that the American intervention in countries such as Nicaragua, El Salvador and Chile is doing nothing for the status of Western democracy?
Dr. Glyn : The hon. Lady is right to say that it is almost impossible in countries where four or five factions exist to bring them together and reach a solution. That applies however much international force is brought to bear.
Column 71Consider, for example, Cyprus. Clearly the problem in the countries to which the hon. Lady refers is more difficult even than the problem in Europe.
I welcome the reference in the Gracious Speech to the renewed attempts that are to be made to combat terrorism and to secure the release of hostages. I do not think that any hostage releases can take place until there is peace between Israel and Jordan. Enormous problems face us in relation to crime and drug trafficking. These problems must be tackled because the situation is becoming extremely serious. The sources are mainly in the South American countries and, from conversations I have had with ambassadors from those countries, it is clear that ample machinery exists easily to convert the products into drugs. We must consider not only what action should be taken against the drug barons, but how to provide occupations for the growers of the raw material. In other words, there is the dual problem of stopping the activities of the drug barons and providing other work for those who grow the raw plant.
In dealing with the environment, our most important task is to establish that toxic waste is not dumped. We must also establish cleaner cities, and I was glad to hear the Prime Minister refer to the £1,000 fine that will be meted out to people who break the law in that respect.
I hope that the education scheme will provide youngsters with the right type and proper balance of education that will enable them to face the challenges. Technology is making the challenges different all the time. Let us not forget that it is difficult to balance technological education with cultural education. Nor should we forget that it takes time to learn the technology on which our youngsters will be dependent for their livelihood.
I will say about the National Health Service only that when our policy has been completed it will be a question of patients first. There will be a better service for patients than has ever existed before, with much less being spent on administration and overheads. We are told that in the coming year we shall face a difficult time. Perhaps we shall. Even so, we shall get through it and, under the leadership of the Prime Minister, who has become not only a national but an international leader, we shall win through.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge) : I shall discuss some issues with which the Gracious Speech does not deal as well as some to which it refers. After all, the one is often as revealing as the other. The Gracious Speech contains no prospect of relief for those in Britain who have suffered most as a result of earlier Conservative legislation, to say nothing of any prospect of relief for those such as I who are suffering from sore throats. There are no proposals which would begin to repair the damage that has been done to our manufacturing industries.
Ten years ago I worked in a factory on Tyneside. It was part of what is now known as NEI. That one factory then employed 10,000 people and led the world in its field. Today, after 10 years of Tory rule, it employs fewer than 2,000 people and has lost its world lead. That story is painfully familiar on Tyneside, where the Government's policies have ravaged our industries--and I do not refer to
Column 72outdated smokestack industries, as ignorant Government apologists often allege, but to important industries relevant to the modern age.
The nations of the world still need ships and power generation equipment. Companies such as Plessey and Marconi, far from being outdated, were at the forefront of technology. Yet such important foundations of our local economy have been eroded in the past 10 years, and there is nothing in the Gracious Speech to suggest that the Government recognise that fact, let alone intend to do anything about it. But hon. Members who represent the area will continue to press for meaningful action, and--perhaps this will be some compensation--I look forward to the announcement that the recently proposed centre for the study of climatic change will be located in my constituency, as I had suggested that it should be.
There is also no suggestion that the Government intend to do anything about the social effects and the devastation of the northern economy. Unemployment is still running at 19 per cent. in my constituency, which has the dubious distinction of having the worst two wards for unemployment--at 31.4 and 22.3 per cent. respectively--in the whole of Tyne and Wear. Such jobs as exist are generally part-time and low paid. The training schemes are, in general, unsuited to the limited opportunities available or to the long-term interests of the trainees. The only recognisable strategy of the Department of Employment is to reduce the unemployment figures by any means possible--except, that is, by the provision of meaningful, useful and decently paid work.
There came to my advice surgery recently a lady pensioner living on her own who was desperately worried because the Government's social security changes, which affected her housing benefit from April, had only recently caught up with her. She explained how her rent card was showing arrears of £81. It was the first time in her life that she had ever been in arrears with her rent. She is desperately worried by that. She receives a total income of £49.51 per week. By the time she has paid rent of £14.51, gas £4.50, electricity £3.08, telephone--her only lifeline--£3, and television licence stamps £1.25, she is left with £23 a week to feed and clothe herself and look after her home. Entertainment, other than the television, is among the luxuries that she cannot afford. I heard nothing in the Gracious Speech or in what the Chancellor said last week to bring comfort to that lady, or to the thousands of pensioners like her who have been so badly neglected by the Conservatives that their living standards are far behind most of their fellow senior citizens in other European countries. Despite the rising and worrying rate of crime, there are no proposals in the Gracious Speech to deal with the deteriorating social conditions and the political atmos-phere that lies at its roots, feeding and encouraging it. While I agree that international crime and drug trafficking must be tackled--there are references to that in the Gracious Speech--the crime that concerns my constituents most is taking place on the streets and in the housing estates. Private security firms are welcomed by the Government as a method by which the private sector can contribute towards crime prevention, but Ministers turn a blind eye to the exploitation of the underpaid operatives and the dangers to which they are subjected. In a case in the north-east recently, two security guards, a male and female, both of whom were over the statutory retirement
Column 73age, were attacked and robbed of the money in their charge by criminals carrying shotguns. At the same time, the Northumbria police force continues to appeal unsuccessfully to the Home Secretary for fair and adequate resources to meet the growing problem and to deal with petty crime, vandalism and hooliganism.
As I listened to the Gracious Speech, I was reminded of the Prime Minister, for like the right hon. Lady's speech today--which was lacking in the characteristic abrasiveness and arrogance to which we have become used--the eloquence of the delivery of the Gracious Speech disguised the sinister nature of its content. Two Sundays ago, The Sunday Correspondent published an interview with the Prime Minister in which she said that people were
"entitled to dignity, liberty and choice".
Where is the dignity for those youngsters who are driven to begging and sleeping rough on our city streets? Where is the dignity for those old people who, once again this winter, will be virtual prisoners in their own homes, afraid to go out after dark yet unable to afford even the basic comforts indoors? Where is the choice for those families who, as Christmas approaches, face Government-inspired increases in rents and mortgages as well as having to finance Christmas? Is it any wonder that the Prime Minister's empty rhetoric is beginning to turn the stomachs of some of her most senior colleagues? We heard from one of them today. That is happening to such an extent that the appropriate anecdote for the Prime Minister must be that she was only the grocer's daughter, but she was well past her sell- by date.
If it is not clear from the Prime Minister's empty words, it is certainly clear from the Queen's Speech that the Government neither listen to nor care about the opinions of British families. The proposals to go ahead with controversial reforms of the National Health Service, despite almost universal opposition, are a stark example of the "I know best" attitude of Tory Ministers and, particularly, the Prime Minister.
My right hon. Friends have promised total and unremitting opposition to the proposals inside and outside Parliament. I can confirm that the opposition will be massive and sustained from the hon. Members and people of Tyneside, where the Health Service is considered to be an essential and integral part of the community, not some adjunct to be messed about in the interests of the dogma of Tory competition policy. Those hospital managers and others who seem to be of the opinion that the service is theirs to do with as they will had better get it into their heads that the service belongs to the people and neither they nor the Government have any mandate to make the kind of changes proposed without the approval of the people.
I also regard the proposals for broadcasting as particularly worrying. Having served on the Select Committee on Home Affairs, which produced a good report on the subject, I believe that the proposals as outlined confirm some of the Committee's worst fears. There is no clear method of protecting, let alone improving, quality. The proposals for television could be seriously damaging and bring about an advertiser-led or sponsor- led regime, leading to a diet of soap and low quality imported material and presenting a real threat to the important regional structure which has been built up in the commercial sector in this country.
As with the Health Service, the Government show little regard for informed opinion and put their idolisation of
Column 74free enterprise above all other considerations. If they have their way, the land of hope and glory will become the land of soaps and Tories. There are undoubtedly great opportunities in the new broadcasing technologies for improving the services available, for widening choice without damaging quality, and for the introduction of interactive services which could transform the lives of the disabled and housebound, to say nothing of the opportunities for business, education and entertainment.
I welcome the new innovations and the new services, but they must be properly integrated into the present system, which is widely acknowledged to be the best in the world, and they should not be allowed to trample over what has taken years to develop. Television has developed at a relatively slow rate in this country and has benefited from that. Any attempt to make rapid, ill-thought-out changes could cause irreversible damage.
I cannot stress too much the importance of a regional structure based on communities with strong cultural ties. We in the northern region are becoming increasingly concerned at the tendency for people of influence from outside the region to propose changes in our regional boundaries for the provision of regional services. The latest example of this is the proposal to merge Northern Arts with Yorkshire Arts, a proposition which will be vigorously opposed in both regions. We shall therefore be watching closely to see what the broadcasting Bill proposes in terms of regional coverage. The introduction of new services presents opportunities to assist regional economies by directing investment where it is most needed. In that respect, we in the north will be looking to the Government to see that the new channel 5 is located in the northern region to help begin repair some of the damage to which I referred earlier. The proposals to legislate yet again to restrict even further the legitimate activities of free trade unions and people at work is in stark contrast to the Prime Minister's applause and encouragement for Lech Walesa and the Solidarity movement in Poland.
The Government have been picking away at civil liberties and human rights for the past 10 years, leading to a reduction in the abilities of ordinary people effectively to challenge authority and its paymasters. The attacks on the trade union movement are part of this process and the proposals in the Gracious Speech demonstrate that the Tory party will go on eroding and reducing effective protest until they return the workplace to the system of masters and minions which was such a feature of the Victorian era so admired by the Prime Minister. While the powers of the eastern bloc are having to concede the right to protest, consultation, dignity, liberty, choice and democracy, the British Government are moving in the other direction so that people will be chained to the workplace, unable to make effective protest or invoke democratic decisions.
The proposals expose as a complete sham the Government's policy of giving the unions back to their members. Having taken away from the union leaders the power to call for industrial action, and found that it has not worked, they now propose to take away from the members also the power to make decisions, by democratic means, in matters relating to union membership or working conditions.
Has my hon. Friend the Member for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Clelland) considered that when the Tory Government talk about giving back a trade union to its members, what happened in the case of the ambulance crews--whom the Labour party supports--was that the trade union leadership accepted 6.5 per cent. but the membership decided to turn it down? The Government have the cheek to condemn those ambulance crews for turning down the union leadership's recommendations when the union members took the decision.
Mr. Hill : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is not this a blatant use of the camera? I have never before been accustomed to seeing the back of the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner). It is his more attractive side, but I hope that he will not continue to turn his back.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean) : The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) is at least half-facing the Chair and I could hear what he said. However, it is customary to address the Chair during speeches and interventions.
Mr. Clelland : My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) makes an excellent and topical point. The Government, having taken away the trade union leaders' power to make decisions and given it back to the members, they now condemn the members for taking decisions with which the Government do not agree. It is clear that the Government are interested not in democracy or in the membership making decisions, but merely in getting the decision that the Government want.
Food safety is also a worrying issue and it is right that the Government should at last propose to do something positive about it. However, unless the responsibilities for food and farming are separated, the inevitable conflict of interests in having a Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will continue, to the detriment of the consumer in view of the strong farming and manufacturing lobby within the Tory party.
The inclusion in the Queen's Speech of proposals to introduce a Bill dealing with the environment are to be welcomed. We wait with interest to see exactly what the Bill contains, but at least it will provide the opportunity for detailed discussion on this vital issue. However, if statutory duties are to be placed upon local authorities to deal with dogs, litter, and so on, these must be accompanied by the necessary financial powers and resources. The Government cannot have it both ways. They cannot impose extra duties on councils and then accuse them of so-called overspending. If we are to clean up our environment, local authorities must play a central role.
I would draw the attention of the Secretary of State for the Environment to the recent Audit Commission report which stated that the Government have been undermining local authorities' status and responsibility for the past 10 years. The report called for more freedom for local authorities to act in the nterests of local people and accused the Government of being an obstacle to inner city
Column 76regeneration because of their attitudes and policies. The Secretary of State for the Environment should pay special heed to that advice if he wants to give his green Bill the status that it deserves. No Bill can be called a green Bill if it does not address in a meaningful way the problem of global warming, and it will not be meaningful if it ignores energy efficiency and conservation. If the Bill is to be credible it must contain the proposals supported by the Select Committee on Energy requiring the electricity companies to implement and encourage energy efficiency and conservation measures and to see to it that the Director General of Electricity Supply has the necessary powers of enforcement. I suspect that that is a vain hope, however, because such an interventionist approach goes against the Government's whole philosophy, to say nothing of the problems that it would bring to their already bungled electricity privatisation programme.
The Government's "hands off, leave it to the private sector" approach has led to Britain becoming less well educated, less healthy and more polluted. In terms of our cities, Britain is generally a more unpleasant place in which to live than many of our neighbouring European countries. That is the state of the nation after 10 years of Tory rule--what a record! The Government's attitude clearly shows that, far from acknowledging the real problems and responding to the desires of decent British families, they are happy to wallow in the cesspool of Tory philosophy, to pander to the whims of the Adam Smith Institute and to worry about the problems of the electorate only when an election approaches. It is clear from the Queen's Speech that an election is not contemplated in the near future. No doubt next year's Gracious Speech will be designed to soften up the voters. Perhaps we should look forward with great eagerness to the next Loyal Address because it may well be the last before a general election. If that is so, it will the last one from a Tory Government for a long time. 7.50 pm
Mr. James Kilfedder (North Down) : I am delighted to follow the hon. Member for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Clelland), who spoke about the problems of Tyneside and especially about the problem of unemployment. There is massive unemployment in many parts of Northern Ireland and it is exacerbated by the campaign of terror that is waged against people, factories and jobs. However, it is not just a matter of losing jobs, because lives are lost as well.
For more than 20 years the people of Ulster have suffered terribly from a diabolical and vicious campaign of terror that has taken many innocent lives. Hardly a family in the Province has not lost a relative or does not know someone who has been murdered by terrorists. My condemnation of terrorism applies not just to the Irish Republican Army but to any terrorist organisation that parades under the name Loyalist. There can be no democracy, peace, freedom or prosperity in Northern Ireland until the evil of terrorism is extirpated.
Sadly, in the last few days more civilians and members of the security forces have lost their lives. The sympathy of all hon. Members goes out to the relatives of those people. They are not the only ones who have had to mourn during the past 20 years and, sadly, it seems that many more families will mourn the loss of loved ones in the days to come. I am sure that I speak for all hon. Members when
Column 77I say that at times such as this I feel deeply for the members of the security forces and the Ulster Defence Regiment and officers of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. We praise their courage and dedication because without their service many more lives would be lost. When people in England mourn the loss of a son, that loss is also mourned by a vast number of people in Northern Ireland. There is no point in appealing to the better nature of terrorists because they have no better nature. There is no point in directing Christian pleas to them because they get their satisfaction not only from the money that they obtain from their terrorist activities but from the pleasure that they get from killing and mutilating people in the Province and in Great Bitain and, as we know to our cost, in Germany and other parts of Europe.
I have a liking for the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and therefore felt particularly sad about his awful statement that the IRA cannot be defeated. Those are not words which the leader of the Province should direct to the people and the security forces in Northern Ireland. In June 1940, when Britain was facing its darkest days and possible defeat, Churchill said in this Chamber : "We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills ; we shall never surrender,".--[ Official Report, 4 June 1940 ; Vol. 361, c. 796.]
Sadly, there now seems to be a different attitude towards terrorism. I hope that on reflection the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will change his mind and realise, as his right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said, that the IRA must be extirpated from the community.
I spoke about the Ulster Defence Regiment. It is a scandal that a political decision was taken to arrest some of its members on the basis of allegations about leaks. I deplore leaks from that regiment or from any other regiment. One of my constituents, a young man who was on a course in Scotland, came home late one night to his young wife and baby. At 6 o'clock the following morning he was rooted from his bed by the police who had arrived in Land-Rovers with radios blaring. Everybody in the area knew what the police were after. After 12 or 16 hours this young member of the Ulster Defence Regiment was released, but of course he has been fingered by terrorist sympathisers. They know where he lives and he now has to leave that area and take his wife and child somewhere else. He was lifted as if he was a common criminal with a long list of crimes to his name, yet this young man was doing his best to serve his community and had done nothing whatever wrong. That is now absolutely clear.
I expect the Government, through the security forces, to defeat the terrorists in Northern Ireland and elsewhere. I look to constitutional politicians in Northern Ireland to join together to plan the future of our Province. The politicians there cannot shirk their responsibilities. As we have heard, all over eastern Europe the old order is giving way and the people, especially the young, are striving for change. They wish to see a better future for eastern Europe and desire to rid themselves of the shackles of the past. The barriers of hate and suspicion are coming down. I hope that in Northern Ireland, which is on the periphery of Europe, hate and suspicion will be dissipated as soon as possible.
I believe in reconciliation, and I was sorry when the leader of the Official Unionist party and the leader of the Democratic Unionist party, who are not here at the moment but who were here earlier, refused my offer to
Column 78chair talks at a meeting of the leaders of the constitutional parties in the Province. They refused to participate in such talks, and I was surprised at the hostility of their joint reply to my invitation. That invitation was dictated solely by the need to make progress and to bring about reconciliation in Northern Ireland. My invitation was accepted by the leader of the Alliance party and the leader of the SDLP.
We must get together as soon as possible. There is no point in getting caught in some sort of time warp from which there is no escape. We have to say to the people of Northern Ireland, and especially to our young people who wish to see change, prosperity and jobs, that it is time to prepare for the future. Therefore, I urge the leaders of the other two Unionist parties to change their minds and, for the sake of the people of Northern Ireland and the future of our Province, to get together with other constitutional parties in political talks.
Our wealth is in our young people. As much as possible should be done to provide for their future. The Government should invest in the best education for our young people so that they can develop their talents to the full. A devolved Parliament at Stormont would provide a training ground for young politicians. They need to gain experience in matters affecting Northern Ireland and to be able to make the difficult decisions that have to be made on the allocation of money. My first speech in the Chamber was about the elderly, and I have referred constantly to them ever since. We owe our senior citizens a debt of gratitude. They have worked all their lives in the community and, in the evening of their lives, they deserve dignity and comfort. They should receive more than their present pension. Each senior citizen should receive an extra £10 a week. Many pensioners have the greatest difficulty in managing on their pension with the current cost of heating, food and clothing. Their problems are not fully appreciated.
In addition, the home help service should be restored to what it was before the recent massive cuts took effect. I have nothing but praise for home helps. They are like close relatives to many of those whom they look after. We should ensure that the elderly have someone who will go into their home, give them a meal, clean their room, change their bed clothing and help them in every possible way. That is the best way of caring for the elderly. They should be helped to stay in their own homes for as long as possible, with all their belongings about them. I feel deeply about the elderly. We must show care and compassion for them.
Finally, I want to refer to a personal matter. Last month, at the Conservative party conference, the Conservative party decided to organise in Northern Ireland, particularly in my constituency of North Down. That decision placed me in an invidious position which, lamentably, I felt made it necessary for me to cross the Floor of the Chamber. However, I have received a most generous gesture from Conservative Members. I was deeply moved by a letter signed by 86 Conservative Members. I am told that many more would have signed it if it had been brought to their attention.
That letter makes it clear that most of my Conservative colleagues in the House do not like the prospect of a Conservative candidate standing against me in my constituency. It is an honour for me to represent my constituency, with its men and women, young and old--great people. That letter, and the views expressed to me personally by my Conservative colleagues, have made it
Column 79clear to me that my proper place in the Chamber is on the Conservative Benches, and on these Benches I shall remain. 8.4 pm
Mr. Allen McKay (Barnsley, West and Penistone) : I agree with the hon. Member for North Down (Mr. Kilfedder) about the tragic loss of life in Northern Ireland and share his wish for a peaceful solution as quickly as possible. Many soldiers have lost their lives in Northern Ireland and many of us have constituents who have lost their sons there.
It is regrettable that we are now having to use the Army to solve the problems that have arisen from the ambulance men's dispute. In another walk of life I was an industrial relations officer. The ambulance men's dispute is a classic example of how not to deal with such an industrial situation. When an industrial dispute cannot be resolved in any other way, it should go to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service.
The Government seem afraid that arbitration will not look at all the problems. The Secretary of State for Health highlighted the fact that the Health Service has already accepted a 6.5 per cent. increase. But of course that would be taken into consideration. The amount of time and energy that has been spent on various other things would also be taken into consideration. All the aspects that the Secretary of State highlighted would be taken into account. Therefore, there need be no fear of arbitration.
We have had a classic example of how to escalate an industrial dispute. First, the Secretary of State used emotive language when it was completely unnecessary. Therefore, it can only have been intended to exacerbate an already desperate situation. When an industrial dispute is limited to a particular area, it should not be allowed to go beyond that area. However, the Secretary of State allowed it to extend to the provinces. Therefore, he now has a first-class industrial dispute on his hands. Either the Secretary of State is inept in handling industrial disputes, in which case he should not have touched it, or he wanted such a dispute. If that is so, we must ask why. It is no news that the Government are in desperate trouble, economically and otherwise. The polls show that. They needed to divert attention from that problem. The ambulance men's dispute has probably been used deliberately to distract attention from the Government's problems.
The Government say that there will be extra money for paramedics and so on, but that that can be offered only when the dispute is over. Therefore, it is essential that the ambulance men should go immediately to arbitration to settle their dispute and then talk about the future.
The ambulance men's problem did not start yesterday, last week, with this Government or with the previous Government ; it started at the beginning of the 1970s when the ambulance men were not classed as an emergency service. The Secretary of State says that they cannot be an emergency service when sometimes they do not turn out, only go to certain cases and act as carriers for old ladies going to hospital. However, I once belonged to the fire service and that is exactly the same. Firemen do not fight fires 24 hours a day. They fight fires when they occur and for the rest of the time they do other work. Ambulance men work in the same way. If the dispute can be settled by
Column 80arbitration, the running of the ambulance service and how it relates to other emergency services can be discussed to make sure that such a disastrous dispute never happens again. It is so unnecessary. I believe that the final stage of any conciliation machinery or service should be arbitration. I have discussed the matter with ACAS and it agrees entirely. Therefore, that argument must have some merit and should be considered.
Mr. William O'Brien (Normanton) : Before my hon. friend leaves the ambulance dispute, will he consider that the Secretary of State, the Government and Tory Members may have another motive? There is talk of privatising the ambulance service, perhaps in the new legislation, cutting away the essential services that sustain the welfare of the injured, the aged and the sick. I wonder whether my hon. Friend has considered that it may be a subtle move to introduce privatisation into the ambulance service.
Mr. McKay : I agree with my hon. Friend. I had not thought of that, but it is certainly a possibility. Perhaps the Government plan first to cause a problem, then to say that the system does not work and to propose another system. If they cause a problem with the ambulance service they can then say that the system has broken down, the Army has to be brought in, the service cannot be sustained and, as it appears that the present system is not working, perhaps it can be made to work through privatisation. That is a classic Tory party solution.
My hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract and Castleford (Mr. Lofthouse) spoke about the mining industry. I doubt whether anyone working in the mining industry worked in it under private ownership. [Interruption.] I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract and Castleford did and so did I. We were pleased when the blue flag was raised at the top of the winding tower because at that moment the mining industry came into its own. From then on, the mining industry became a top industry in terms of mechanisation, work force and health and safety.
Under private enterprise many short cuts were taken to encourage massive production at the least possible cost and that cost lives. The nationalised industry stopped those short cuts, mechanisation was introduced and maximum output was achieved. Now, the output per man shift is the best in the world for that type of deep mining. Since nationalisation the mining industry has been bedevilled by three words. The first was "uneconomic". At one time, one had only to call an industry uneconomic and it closed. That was in Lord Robens's era in the 1960s. The second was "reorganisation", which meant that parts of the industry disappeared. The latest word is "restructuring" which means exactly the same thing. But it also means that the Government intend to parcel up the industry in a restructuring programme in preparation for selling it off. God forbid that that should ever happen. If it does, once again the health and safety of people at work will be called into question. Under private enterprise the industry will move back to the maximisation of profit rather than safety. Therefore, there will be an urgent need to strengthen the inspectorate to ensure that that does not happen. It would also be necessary to protect it through legislation.
Moving on to another problem that was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract and
Column 81Castleford, throughout my constituency mining subsidence has caused massive devastation. The people who work in the industry accepted the problem of mining subsidence, as their well-being was protected in the closures that it caused. There were fairly generous compensation settlements and the National Coal Board took a flexible attitude in dealing with subsidence. However, in the past few years its attitude has changed and it has tightened up its offers of compensation so that the flexibility that I and my hon. Friends have been able to use is no longer available. In addition, British Coal has sometimes refused to accept liability, hiding behind the fact that the mine workings had occurred some time ago so the damage could not have been caused by subsidence. So British Coal has been judge and jury. Under privatisation, or perhaps before, it will be necessary to set up a tribunal to act as an ombudsman to adjudicate on problems associated with subsidence and to ensure that proper compensation is paid. Such a tribunal would take the matter out of the hands of British Coal and people would get a fairer deal.
The Waddilove report has been available for some time. Irrespective of the pressure applied and the questions put to Ministers and the Government, they have refused to bring the Waddilove report before the House. The reason for that is well known to most of us. Its implementation would cost money and the Government cannot afford to put the report into practice as it would kill any share issue to people who might invest in the coal industry.
All those matters relate to each other and it is time that we had a clear statement of fact and intent. I and many of my hon. Friends will fight the privatisation of the coal industry tooth and nail. It would be the worst step ever taken for the coal industry and for the country. While we have our own coal industry we can depend on it at all times.
I now turn to the problems of independent television and radio. If we are not careful, we shall fill up television with a load of rubbish. We have to ensure through legislation that we protect religious services and school services and those that have been provided not simply for entertainment but for education. If we are not careful, those services will go out the window and we will end up with more Mickey Mouse programmes than ever. The people who run television will say that they can fill the programmes with Mickey Mouse and make quite a substantial profit and many people will like that. But television was not made only for entertainment. If it had been, we probably would not have the House of Commons televised as it is now. I am saying that tongue in cheek, because our proceedings should be televised.
Mr. Skinner : Labour Members are concerned about the new broadcasting Bill and the proposal for more adverts because we want to safeguard the integrity of the BBC. If there are more adverts, I can visualise that there may be widescale sponsorship. The Secretary of State for Transport may appear selling cherished number plates to produce a parliamentary programme. I am not saying that it would make a lot of money, but one can see how far it could go.
Column 82Lucy is next." We have advertising on the football field, so I see no reason why we should not have it in the House of Commons. I should like to say something about a measure that does not appear in the Gracious Speech but about which hon. Members will be well aware--concessionary television licences for aged persons. When the Government last made changes, they made matters worse because when people who had a concessionary television licence moved house they lost it, and there is no way of getting it back. At some dwellings we have had the spectacle of one person being entitled to such a licence but another having to pay £71. I cannot think of anything more ridiculous. The Government can act instantly to make matters fair for every aged person, irrespective of how or where they live. Aged persons should not be discriminated against, but should be given a concessionary television licence. I do not know whether the broadcasting Bill will assist with that.
I bring to the attention of my right hon. and hon. Friends the fact that the Labour party made a promise and is committed to phasing out the television licence for all aged persons within the lifetime of a Parliament. I want to put that on record to ensure that when we win the next election we legislate for that immediately.
Mr. Winnick : Is it not right that, far from the Government doing what we all know to be right and exempting pensioners from the television licence fee, on 16 January 1987 they voted down by 21 votes my private Member's Bill, which my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, West and Penistone (Mr. McKay) and other Labour Members voted for in the Lobby? Had my Bill become law, all pensioners, without qualification, would now be exempted from the television licence fee.
Mr. McKay : My hon. Friend is right. I am sure that in this Session a Bill will be brought forward for concessionary television licences for aged persons and others. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) once fought tremendously for other people who ought to be entitled to a concessionary television licence.
The Government are to introduce an environment Bill. They said that they want the co-operation of local government. Despite the way that they have treated local government over the past few years, they will be begging for that co-operation. Environmental procedures and measures need money, which can come only from central Government. If the Government insist that it comes from local government, it will place an additional burden on ratepayers, who will have sufficient problems when the poll tax comes into force next year.
Over the past five years, all the collieries in my constituency have closed. All the miners in my constituency work at collieries on its periphery. Much dereliction remains in my constituency. To attract new industry to the area, we must consider developing green belt land. Rightly, people are up in arms about using green belt land for industrial purposes. However, 98 per cent. of my constituency is in the green belt, and previously all the jobs were underground. Unless we are given money to clean up the derelict areas, industry will not be attracted to the area. We have the necessary infrastructure, such as roads--a new one is to be built very soon--and a skilled work force. Our young work force is not, as the Prime Minister suggested, idle but is waiting for jobs. We have
Column 833,900 people unemployed, and 357 jobs available. People are not idle ; there is simply no work for them. Through the local council, central Government and private enterprise, their circumstances can be improved. Local government needs the co-operation of central Government, and not the other way round. If we receive that co- operation and some money, the area will lift itself up by the bootstraps. The local chamber of commerce and the local authority are prepared to rejuvenate the area. We need only a little more from central Government, and then we can make it go.
Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) : My contribution to this important debate will be brief. I am always pleased to follow the hon. Member for Barnsley, West and Penistone (Mr. McKay) because he is an utterly sincere man. I know that he brings much wisdom to the House and that he serves his constituents well. I am sad to learn that he may not be standing at the next election. It will be a loss to the House if he is no longer with us.
I draw attention to what I consider to be a vital sentence in the Gracious Speech. In the other place, Her Majesty said :
"My Government will continue to attach the highest priority to national and Western security and to the preservation of peace with freedom and justice."
How right she was to say that on behalf of the Government, and how sad it was that the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) seemed to fail to realise that because we have maintained modern, technologically advanced conventional weapons and developed nuclear weapons since the war we have made the world a safer place, perhaps contributed to the reductions in tension that have occurred recently and also made a contribution to the tearing down of the Berlin wall and the barriers between the East and West. It would not be inappropriate to pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for the work that she has done and for the relationship that she has developed with President Mikhail Gorbachev, and to President Reagan for the major contribution that he made in breaking the ice with President Gorbachev and establishing much greater understanding, which has certainly reduced world tension.
Mr. Winterton : President Bush will make his own contribution, but he has been in office for only a few months. I reserve judgment on him until we see precisely what role he will play. With my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister being the pre-eminent statesman in world affairs, he has much to do.
Having served in the Federal Republic of Germany when I was in the Army, and having served for a year of that period in Berlin, before the wall went up, I am delighted that the wall has come down. We must be extremely careful in handling this sensitive situation. We do not want to upset the negotiations on reductions in conventional arms or nuclear weapons which, I hope, will take place between East and West. We want to encourage democracy in the eastern European countries, and not just in Poland and Hungary, where limited democracies are in place, and in the German Democratic Republic. We want to go further and encourage democracy in Bulgaria,
Column 84Czechoslovakia and other countries which have been under a totalitarian system for far too long. We are trying to ensure that their current form of government is replaced by a multi-party democratic parliamentary system. Once that is achieved, we can consider the next step. Until then, it is irrelevant nonsense to talk about the reunification of the German Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany.
If we are to ensure that there is progress in those countries which hitherto have been behind the iron curtain, we will not interfere with what is happening in them ; we will encourage them. I should like the European Community and other groups of countries to give them financial assistance to build up their economies. We know that the one way to guarantee democracy is to have a healthy, expanding economy. The Prime Minister's handling of this sensitive situation is right.
Mr. Eddie Loyden (Liverpool, Garston) : Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there is a great danger in Mr. Gorbachev's initiatives in that, in addition to the good things that have happened, he has opened a Pandora's box? Rampant nationalism is emerging in the Soviet Union and other places, spelling great danger not only for future Governments there but for the rest of the world.
Mr. Winterton : I fully accept that point. I hope that people will listen to what the hon. Gentleman has said. This is why we must handle the situation carefully. We must not undermine the security of the Soviet Union. If we do, the tanks will roll back into eastern European countries just as they rolled into Tiananmen square in the People's Republic of China.
What happened in China is a great sadness to me. The country was advancing rapidly. Unfortunately, as I said in an intervention, the students did not follow the example of Poland and Solidarity. They went one step too far, crossed one bridge too many, and, as a result, the hardliners are now back in power. This will result in problems not only for the people of China, in terms of their freedom and their desire for justice and democracy, but for this country and others in respect of Hong Kong.
I am 100 per cent. with the Government in what they seek to do within the European Community. It is interesting that the European Economic Community is now called the European Community. I wonder who took the decision to change the title. I was always in favour of an economic community, but I have considerable reservations about a political community and the federation which people such as Jacques Delors are seeking to foist on all the independent countries that comprise the European Community.
It is appropriate that I should support my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in her stance on the exchange rate mechanism. At the weekend, the president of the Bundesbank fully supported her attitude, saying that it was out of the question that we should join the exchange rate mechanism at this time, with our present inflation rate and balance of trade deficit. Our Prime Minister has been vindicated by one of the most powerful people in Europe.
I am deeply worried about one matter in the Gracious Speech--the Bill to improve the National Health Service and the management of community care. Of course, all hon. Members and a majority of people outside the House want a more efficient, more patient-sensitive Health Service. We want better management of the substantial