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Column 286and a free trade area in Europe and still have parliamentary government, just as the Canadians do in the north American free trade area. We cannot, however, go many more steps down the road so clearly signposted by Mr. Delors, and by Mr. Mitterrand yesterday without a major revision of the treaty of Rome and a major change in our parliamentary constitutional system.
For richer or for poorer, I believe that this proudly independent parliamentary nation of ours wants to continue its present constitutional arrangements and does not want the changes envisaged by Mr. Mitterrand. That is the best reason of all for supporting the Gracious Speech and our Prime Minister.
Mr. John D. Taylor (Strangford) : When the hon. Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken) referred to horsemen, I was reminded of the headstone on William Butler Yeats's grave in County Sligo. It is surely in the interests of the Conservative party that its members do not have their arguments in public. William Butler Yeats's headstone reads, "Horseman, pass by!"
We are talking about rights, freedoms and responsibilities. In Northern Ireland, we do not have the same rights in this Parliament as those which are enjoyed by the rest of the citizens of the United Kingdom. Because of terrorism, we do not have the same freedoms in Northern Ireland as most people in Great Britain have. As for responsibilities, it is regrettable that there are those who are not prepared to share in the responsibility of improving society within Northern Ireland.
I commend the comments made by the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) on the Anglo-Irish Agreement. He firmly expressed his concerns about its success and questioned whether it should continue. His remarks mean that I do not have to spend time on that subject.
When we think about rights, our minds are directed immediately to what is happening in eastern Europe. I had the opportunity last year to spend about seven weeks in Czechoslovakia, the USSR, Poland, East Germany and Hungary. I could not have imagined that one year later I would be seeing so much reform and liberalisation taking place in those countries. Who could have imagined a year ago that we would have a non-Communist Prime Minister in Poland, that Hungary would be preparing for its first free elections and that in East Germany, and especially in Czechoslovakia, there would be talk of free elections? Over the past few months, the role of the Churches has been paramount in these developments. I refer to the Roman Catholic Church in Poland and Czechoslovakia, the Reform Protestant Church in Hungary and the Evangelical Lutheran Church giving leadership in East Germany. I hope that everyone in Northern Ireland has recognised that, whether we talk of the Roman Catholic Church or the Protestant Church, each Church is working for the same objectives, those of freedom, rights and responsibilities. That is something that we can apply in Northern Ireland.
The Ulster Unionist party is the only political party in the United Kingdom which is linked to the Christian Democrat movement throughout western Europe. Our Member of the European Parliament in Strasbourg is a member of that group, and we have contacts throughout
Column 287the 12 nations of the EEC. We also have rapidly developing contacts with Christian Democrat movements in eastern European countries. Coinciding with the meeting of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, at the beginning of December, the Christian Democrat movement will be hosting a conference which will be attended by those who are leading the campaign for freedom and reform in the five eastern European countries to which I have referred. The conference will be led by some of the Prime Ministers in western Europe who are members of the Christian Democratic group, such as Chancellor Kohl and the Prime Minister of Belgium, Mr. Martens. We shall have also the leaders of the reform movement of eastern Europe, such as Lech Walesa. I shall be representing the Ulster Unionist party at the conference. It will be a matter of regret to me that as I speak at the conference and welcome the reforms that are taking place in eastern European countries, including the fact that they will have parliamentary rights, I shall have to place on record the fact that, within the United Kingdom, there is one part of the nation where the rights which they are about to achieve still do not exist. I refer, of course, to Northern Ireland.
The Ulster Unionist party has tabled an amendment to the Queen's Speech and I ask all right hon. and hon. Members to read it. It summarises the problems in Northern Ireland and the constitutional reforms that are required if we are to have the same rights, freedoms and responsibilities that will soon exist in eastern Europe. The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) made some interesting comments yesterday. He talked about the need for parties in Northern Ireland to start talking to one another. That is what the art of politics is about. It involves talks and getting things moving. That is often described in Northern Ireland as political progress, but the term is never really defined. We must get things moving.
The right hon. Member for Devonport has mentioned the stalemate of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. We are not asking for the abolition of the agreement, but we are suggesting that it should be suspended so that political parties can get moving in Northern Ireland. We want legislation for Northern Ireland to be introduced in accordance with the parliamentary procedures of this sovereign Parliament of the United Kingdom, as it is enacted for England, Scotland and Wales. We want the right to table amendments. We want also a Select Committee for Northern Ireland. We heard earlier today Members representing Scottish constituencies asking for the re-establishment of a Select Committee on Scottish Affairs. Standing Order No. 130 clearly recognises the need for a Select Committee to deal with Northern Ireland legislation.
There was a by-election in Northern Ireland recently and one of the candidates, the Conservative party candidate, was supported by the right hon. Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker), the chairman of the Conservative party and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. It was the first time since 1921 that a Conservative candidate had stood in an election in Northern Ireland. He supported the things that Ulster Unionists have been asking for over the years. He said that
Column 288he wanted an end to the Order in Council procedure. He said also that he wanted more powers given to the 26 district councils in Northern Ireland. I am glad that the chairman of the Conservative party supports those objectives. I hope that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will follow suit in the not-too-distant future. We have a chance, perhaps, to move forward to parliamentary rights in this place.
Secondly, there is the Ulster dimension. We must get Roman Catholics, Protestants, Nationalists and Unionists involved together in the devolved administration of the state. All those who are involved in constitutional parties should be sharing in their responsibilities.
Thirdly, there is the Irish dimension. We shall never solve the Northern Ireland question merely by having talks between Dublin and London and excluding the Northern Ireland people, as the Government did. We shall solve the problem in Northern Ireland only by improving relations between Belfast and Dublin, and at the same time improving relations between Dublin and London. The priority must be talks between Belfast and Dublin.
The Republic of Ireland takes over the presidency of the Council of Ministers on 1 January. When I was a Member of the European Parliament, I worked closely with the two other Northern Ireland Members and with the Members representing Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Irish Labour party in Strasbourg. I hope that the six months from January to July will, first, provide Her Majesty's Government and the Dublin Government with the opportunity to suspend the operation of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, so that talks can take place. I am not asking for its abolition. The Irish Ministers will be tied up full time with their responsibilities to Europe. For the six months of the Irish presidency, they will have little or no time to participate in ministerial meetings of the Anglo-Irish Council-- that is, if they intend to give their proper efforts to Europe.
For the duration of the presidency, those Irish Ministers will not be Irish Ministers as such in Brussels and Strasbourg ; they will be European Ministers presiding over the Council of Ministers. Just as it was possible on the Floor of the House in Strasbourg for Members from the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland to co-operate, when the Irish Ministers are European Ministers it will be possible for the first time since the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement to have some contact between Northern Ireland and Irish Ministers. After July, that opportunity will disappear : we will be back to the Anglo-Irish Agreement if the opportunity presented by Europe from January to July is not accepted by Dublin and London.
Mr. Michael Shersby (Uxbridge) : I am pleased to follow the right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor). I know that he will forgive me if I do not comment on the very difficult problems in Northern Ireland, although I have a great deal of sympathy with what he said. I want to use the opportunity provided by this debate to talk about the rights of the citizens of our country and to consider how those responsible for protecting them are discharging their obligations. There are several freedoms, rights and responsibilities to which I wish to draw the attention of the House. The first is the right of the citizen to have a good police force.
Column 289It is a fundamental right of every citizen to expect the protection of the police. In saying that, I must declare my interest as parliamentary adviser to the Police Federation.
The citizen's right depends on a properly manned, properly paid police force, whose standards of conduct are beyond reproach. I very much welcome the statement by my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary this afternoon that the force is to be increased by 1, 160 officers, of whom 950 will serve in provincial police forces and the remainder in the Metropolitan police. That brings the total strength of the police, at the end of September, to a record 126,127, an increase of more than 14,000 since May 1979. Expenditure on the police during that period has risen by 55 per cent. in real terms. That is good news for everyone who believes, as I do, that the police badly need extra man and woman power, not just in London but in the provinces.
The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) spoke about crimes of violence, and I made the point, quite fairly, in an intervention that more crimes of violence are reported today because of the policy of the police to encourage those who are unfortunate enough to be the victims of violent crime to report it. In the Metropolitan police area, in which my constituency of Uxbridge is situated, 55 per cent. of violent crime occurs off the streets. The reason that the figures are higher is because many of those crimes are now reported whereas previously they were not. The same applies to sexual offences, and I am glad to see the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook nodding his agreement. More and more women are now prepared to report assaults because they know that they will receive sympathetic and efficient treatment from the police in apprehending the person responsible.
It is also a fact that many streets of London are safe for people to go about their normal business, both day and night. That applies to my borough of Hillingdon, which is one of the safest boroughs in London. However, it is an unfortunate fact of life today that because, understandably, the media tend to cover some of the more horrendous assaults, many elderly people--and, indeed, some of the not so elderly--and young women are afraid to go out at night. All of us have encountered that phenomenon when we have visited our constituents or while canvassing during an election campaign. It is important to put the problem of violent crime into perspective and to realise why there has been an increase in the number of reported cases. The police have to deal with difficult problems. A number of new phenomena tax them greatly. For example, there is the relatively new phenomenon of the acid house party--or the pay party, as it would be more correctly described. There were 318 such parties in the Metropolitan police area, which includes parts of Essex and Hertfordshire, by the end of October. Seventy per cent. of them had already started by the time the police arrived. At five of them, more than 1,000 people were present. They are difficult events for the police to handle. They require the deployment of a large number of officers who have to consider the right of the ordinary resident to a decent night's sleep. The parties could disturb, for example, a shift worker. All those matters must be considered in the handling of that difficult problem. I therefore welcome the measures that will be included in the green Bill to give additional powers to increase fines for excessive noise and the right to confiscate equipment at illegal parties.
Column 290There is another important freedom that all citizens should enjoy--that of being able to attend a football match, together with their youngsters or friends, without the fear that they may suffer serious injury or violent death. Once again, the police have the primary responsibility for safeguarding the citizens wishing to attend a football match, and a substantial number of police have to be deployed to ensure that right.
Again I quote as an example the Metropolitan police area, where, every Saturday during the football season 800 police officers are deployed at matches to ensure that people are not injured, that they do not die and that they can watch the match peacefully. That is an enormous drain on police resources, and all hon. Members recognise that that is a problem. I hope that the Football Association and the Football League will measure up to their responsibilities in backing those who are seeking to remove the scourge of football violence from the terrace of football grounds throughout the country.
It is the responsibility of the police
"to uphold the law fairly and firmly ; to prevent crime ; to pursue and bring to justice those who break the law ; to keep The Queen's Peace ; to protect, help and reassure people and to be seen to do all this with integrity, common sense and sound judgement." That quotation is from the statement of the Metropolitan police about its objectives, and it is widely shared by other forces throughout the country. They and similar purposes are at the heart of the determination of the police to protect the rights of the citizen and they should be welcomed by every fair-minded citizen. In return, it is the right of the police to expect support from the public, but that right must always be earned. In saying that the police have the right to expect support, I include Members of this honourable House, not only when they are speaking here, but when they are speaking outside this place, on television or wherever. I emphasise that the right must be earned, and I am confident that it is earned by the vast majority of police at every level--not least by the members of the federated ranks who belong to the Police Federation. Why is it, then, that in recent months posters have been claiming that public confidence in the police has slipped? A MORI poll in The Sunday Times in September 1989 showed that the police had the respect of 55 per cent. of those interviewed. Only doctors were ahead of them. Then there was another poll for the BBC "Newsnight" programme only a week or so ago, about which I was interviewed. I have since been able to obtain the details of that poll and they give a rather different impression from the one conveyed by the media when I was interviewed.
I see that there is considerable confidence in the police. The respondents were asked to what extent they were confident that the police would be absolutely fair in the way in which they treated an individual. Twenty-one per cent. were "very confident" and 52 per cent. were "fairly confident". That is encouraging.
But one figure rightly troubled the media. It certainly troubles me and I am sure that it troubles other hon. Members. In reply to a question which started as a statement--
"Sometimes the police bend the rules in order to get a conviction"--
40 per cent. of those interviewed tended to agree. That is a serious state of affairs and we must consider why it should be so. The probable explanation is the difficult events that have occurred recently in connection with the
Column 291Guildford Four. Hon. Members and all police officers have a duty to ensure that the high standards of the police are upheld, so that the difficult events of that one incident will not occur again and the image and the morale of the police can be restored, for the benefit of every citizen.
Mr. Eric S.. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton) : I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) is not here because I want to refer to one point in his speech. In reply to a challenge from my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes) about his role in relation to the Labour party, he said :
"Some of us have not changed our minds".
I have to tell him that some Labour Members have not changed their minds either. We fought the last election on the very policies that he rejected when he left the Labour party. I must also tell him that I gained 9,000 votes. I now have a majority of 23,000 compared with 14,000 previously, so my constituents do not support the idea that the Labour party lost the election because of its policies. I listened carefully to what the Home Secretary said about freedom within the law. We have had to fight for every one of our freedoms. They were not handed to us on a plate. Our religious freedoms, too, had to be fought for. People were transported and others were hanged for daring to be members of trade unions. The laws at the time were oppressive. Laws are not always good ; they can be very bad. They can be class laws.
The laws that the Government have introduced against trade unionists are class laws, and they are in the interests of capital against labour. The Government talk about freedom and the idea that we have new rights, but I must explain to Conservative Members--it may not have crossed their minds-- that we have always had the right to go to the Savoy hotel. The only trouble is that most working people in Britain would not dare to put their feet inside, except as workers. They could never buy a meal there. We have always had the right to live in a mansion. Most of those working-class people who have lived in mansions have looked after those who owned them. We have always had the right to attend public school. I never wanted to go to one, although I did deliver meat to one on Saturday mornings. But I could never have been a pupil at a public school. Freedom does not apply to everybody. It is relative. When we talk about the new freedoms that have been achieved, we must ask, freedom for whom? Who has gained the freedoms under the Government? Not the working people, nor the trade unionists.
I get a little tired when I listen to some people say how much they support the rights of workers in Poland and the Soviet Union. I can claim to be one of those who, as a fellow trade unionist, supported the rights of Solidarity from the word go. At the very moment that the Prime Minister is saying how wonderful it is that they have a right to organise, the Government are destroying the right to organise in Britain.
The Queen's Speech says :
Column 292"Legislation will be introduced to make further reforms in industrial relations and trade union law."
Will those reforms be in the interests of the workers in the trade union movement? They are based on two Green Papers, one entitled "Removing Barriers to Employment" and the other "Unofficial Action and the Law". I used to be a senior shop steward in one of the biggest shipyards in the north-west--Cammell Laird. On different occasions I was a senior shop steward on some of the biggest construction sites. Sometimes we had to take unofficial action, not because we wanted to, or because we were seeking to walk out of the gates, but because of the employer's actions. We either took action there and then to defend our rights or we discovered that another right had been lost. The only way was to take unofficial action. But now the Government propose that shop stewards or anyone involved in the leadership of an unofficial strike may be sacked unceremoniously. I know that Conservative Members will not agree with me, but that is industrial slavery. Our people are gradually being reduced to a position where they can no longer take action and say, "We are not working in this rotten, miserable engineering shop which is filling our lungs with dust. We are walking out unofficially. We have gone through the machinery but have got nowhere and we are not having it." Under the proposed legislation, anyone who can be pinpointed as a leader of such action will be sacked.
Why did working people work for and create the closed shop? Were they a bunch of wild loonies who wanted to impose their power on everybody else? No. They did it to defend their right to decent wages and conditions. They did it to defend their interests as working people. That is why the closed shop came into existence.
Mr. Heffer : No, I have only 10 minutes. It is bad enough trying to make all one's points in 10 minutes without being interrupted. I have been a little disappointed by members of my party's Front Bench over the past two days. I did not hear the leader of my party make one reference to the Government's industrial relations proposals. I am sorry about that. I am sorry, too, that in debating freedom, no member of my party's Front Bench discussed the freedom of workers to belong to trade unions in the sense that we have understood and fought for that freedom in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. I feel very strongly about that, and I want all that legislation repealed under the next Labour Government. I want new legislation that will give workers more rights than ever before, because no right hon. or hon. Member would have anything were it not for the workers who produce this country's wealth. It is high time that they enjoyed the benefits of their productivity.
Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington) : I am sorry that I do not have time to give an adequate reply to the speech of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) or to follow his points. However, I join other right hon. and hon. Members in congratulating my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary on his appointment. By qualification, experience and natural disposition, he is an excellent choice for the job.
Column 293I do not welcome the large volume of legislation promised in the Queen's Speech. I am sorry that we have not yet rid ourselves of the condition of legislative indigestion that has overcome us in recent years. One way of reducing new legislation would be not to approve any motion that authorises war crimes trials in this country. Almost all retrospective legislation is bad, and it is doubly wrong when it includes special amendments to criminal law that are designed to condemn three elderly men, who will not themselves be able to obtain evidence in their own defence. I hope that the House will not pass any such proposal.
We have drawn several lessons from the Guildford Four case. The defect that invalidated the convictions was uncovered by Somerset and Avon police. The flaw in the legal system that was revealed in that instance was the inability of the Court of Appeal, whether on first appeal or on referral from the Home Secretary, to institute its own inquiry into all the evidence --both that in the hands of the police and that in the hands of the defence --at the time of the trial, as well as any evidence that had come to light since the trial. Another lesson to be learned is that the Court of Appeal's powers should include that to order a retrial as well as to quash a conviction. However, the Court of Appeal should also have the right to apply a proviso that, despite any defect of law or procedure, justice was done and the conviction may be affirmed.
One unsatisfactory aspect of the Guildford Four case is the impression given by reports of the Court of Appeal's hearing that the police officers concerned in the taking of the confessions were guilty of fabricating them. Careful reading of the judgment shows that that is not true. The prosecution decided that its evidence was unreliable because of other matters. A grave injustice is being done to the police officers concerned in assuming, as everyone seems to do, that they are guilty of some misconduct. I wonder whether they will get a fair trial.
The time has come to consider implementing two radical reforms in our criminal procedures. I am not in favour of putting in place yet another level of appeal to which alleged miscarriages of justice could be referred, but there should be available to the Home Secretary a form of executive inquiry to assist him when he is asked to refer a case to the Court of Appeal, or to assist the Court of Appeal itself on a first hearing. Such an inquiry would work in total privacy so as not to prejudice subsequent proceedings in open court. It would have powers to send for all the papers in a case and to interview witnesses and others having relevant evidence. The inquiry should come under a judicial figure of the highest standing-- similar to the chairman of the Security Commission--and its staff should be totally independent.
In selected cases--such as those relating to alleged terrorism and where political considerations arise--legislative powers should be available to enable a criminal investigation to be conducted by an examining magistrate from the very beginning. The police would act only as
Column 294agents of the magistrate and not as prosecutors, and the questioning of suspects would all be done by the magistrate, not the police.
Under such an inquisitorial system, it is probable that the kind of errors made in recent cases, leading to alleged miscarriages of justice, would not have arisen. At present, there is no option to pursue prosecutions in that way, and we ought to turn our attention to the provision of such an option in our criminal system. Unfortunately, in such cases it is often true that the adversarial system does not always serve the interests of justice. I hope that my suggestions will receive favourable consideration.
Mr. Tom Cox (Tooting) : Wandsworth prison is in my constituency, and the report recently published by the chief inspector of prisons made the most damning indictment of conditions there. His comments in respect of Wandsworth could be repeated, and often are, in relation to many other prisons throughout the country. A few days ago, the new Home Secretary spoke at a prison governors conference, when he expressed the view, "Things are not so bad. Indeed, they are starting to improve." If his comments were reported correctly, they go to show how much the new Home Secretary has to learn about prison conditions.
I suggest that the right hon. and learned Gentleman reads the reports published by chief inspectors of prisons on their visits throughout the country, together with a selection of reports from the boards of visitors that all prisons have. I suggest also that he visits some of the country's major prisons early in the morning, with none of the publicity surrounding a formal visit. If he walks around, he will see the filth that has been thrown from cell windows during the night. If he visits the wings, he will see hundreds of men walking to slop out. He should also tour the kitchens and inquire about the number of men who will be working in the prison during the day. The Home Secretary should ask how many of the inmates are locked up for as long as 20 hours per day. That is the daily scene in many of our prisons and he should see it.
The sad fact is that we now send far more people to prison than any other European country. That point was amply made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley). I am convinced that, until we start to reduce those numbers, we shall see no major improvement in prison conditions.
Home Secretaries in the present Government have told us repeatedly that, once we embark on a major prison programme, conditions generally will improve, and there is much common sense in that philosophy. Before that can happen, however, the courts must stop sending so many people to prison. According to the September figures, well over 48,000 were imprisoned, at an average cost of £288 per inmate per week. Many prisoners could be safely released into some other kind of care. We need only read the annual report of the National Association of Probation Officers, which bases its views on the work that it does with those who appear in court. Undoubtedly, society contains dangerous, vicious people who should be in prison. Sadly, however, they do not constitute the majority of the prison population.
In answer to questions that I put down, the Home Office often cites the vast sums being spent on our prisons, and I do not dispute that information. I suggest, however,
Column 295that a great deal of that money is wasted. Some of the most incompetent building contractors to be found are employed to modernise our prisons. Home Office officials repeatedly change proposals for new developments. I could give many examples, but I suggest that the Minister read the report by this year's board of visitors at Wormwood Scrubs. The modernisation of one of that prison's wings has been virtually completed, at a vast cost. Why did the modernisation proposals not include the installation of modern toilet facilities in each cell? The board of visitors wanted such facilities to be introduced, and was led to believe that they would be.
Drugs are now a major problem in many of our prisons. The Prison Officers Association has produced report after report for the Home Office ; just what does the Home Office propose to do to stem the problem? What, moreover, is its policy on inmates who are suffering from AIDS, whose numbers are also on the increase? What is its policy on prisoners on rule 43? Some 500 inmates of Wandsworth prison alone are in that position. What are the Government doing to introduce proper education facilities, which are not provided in the majority of prisons?
We were led to believe that the introduction of the fresh start programme would bring new hope to our prisons ; sadly, however, it has merely created many problems. The programme has been in operation for some time, and I should like to know when the Home Office intends to review it. Many of our major prisons, certainly those in London, are suffering from an enormous staff shortage thanks to the conditions imposed by it.
We should give urgent consideration to the conditions of our prisons and prisoners. I do not believe that the millions contributed each year by the taxpayer are being spent wisely, or that organisations with an intimate knowledge of the workings of prisons and how they should be run-- organisations such as the Prison Officers Association and the boards of visitors--are being consulted or listened to. Until that changes, we shall not see the significant improvements in our penal institutions that many hon. Members wish to see.
Mr. Lewis Stevens (Nuneaton) : The Gracious Speech continues the pattern of recent years in its proposals for a vigorous attack on crime. Let me begin, however, by mentioning two matters with which it does not deal. One is the problem of computer hacking, and the allied problems of computer viruses and the general confidentiality of computer systems. I hope that a private Member's Bill will deal with that in the near future, for I consider the criminal act of computer hacking to be an attack on the freedom of the individual. The other matter is excessive delays in bringing remand prisoners to court. Such delays, for those remanded both on bail and in custody, are to the detriment of our legal system. None of the people concerned is guilty at the time, and many are proved to be not guilty at the end of the proceedings. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary will produce legislation to deal with that--in a future Session if necessary--for action taken in recent years does not seem to have solved the problem.
Column 296The hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) mentioned drugs, which remain one of our greatest worries. The Gracious Speech referred to international co-operation in the investigation of crime. Although that is, of course, necessary in the case of drugs, many problems occur at a more local level. Drug pushers who approach school children may push gently at first, but it always becomes a hard sell, leading to the drug-instigated crimes of which we all know. All too frequently we hear young people say that they know how to get hold of drugs. It is said by 14 and 15-year-old children, not just in the inner cities but in towns and villages throughout the country. That is a matter of great concern.
I congratulate the Birmingham Evening Mail on introducing a drug information pack aimed specifically at children which I understand has been given to all secondary schoolchildren in Birmingham. I hope that the Minister will think about introducing it throughout the country. Children of secondary school age must be taught how dangerous it is to use drugs.
My right hon. and learned Friend said that if new evidence came to light about the Birmingham Six he would seriously reconsider their cases. The Court of Appeal reached its decision on the evidence that was available at that time. However, the door of British justice is always open, and if fresh evidence comes to light it should be considered seriously. Some of the events surrounding the West Midlands police force have given rise to doubt. One admires the speedy action that the chief constable took against certain units in an attempt to improve public confidence. We need to have confidence in the police, and the public must co-operate with them. Neighbourhood Watch, which involves such co-operation, has been very successful. Public confidence in the police is critical when schoolchildren are becoming involved in drug-taking and minor offences.
Today my right hon. and learned Friend announced that we would have an additional 1,000 police officers, 15 of whom will be appointed in my county, Warwickshire. We have been pushing hard for them and we are grateful that they will be made available. More resources are needed to fight crime on the streets. It is the policeman on the beat who has to take action when both minor and serious crimes are committed. Certain recent events have weakened confidence in the police, and they must take action to restore public confidence. Hon. Members must not talk down the police. However, their actions must be investigated and appropriate punishment meted out if they are found guilty of crimes against members of the public, who depend on the police in many ways. All police forces must carry out an effective public relations job to regain public confidence.
I welcome the proposed changes to the legal profession that were outlined in the Gracious Speech. My only reservation is about the changes that will affect conveyancing solicitors. I hope that there will be genuinely fair competition between solicitors and banks and building societies. Solicitors will then have no reason to complain. The proposals will break down the barriers of what at the moment is almost a closed shop. If we have done away with it in one area, it is only right that we should do away with it in another.
A heavy legislative programme lies ahead of us. Some hon. Members would have preferred it to be lighter. But
Column 297the proposals, particularly those on law and order, will improve the lot of ordinary men and women throughout the country.
Dr. Dafydd Elis Thomas (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy) : I am grateful to the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Stevens) for his final point. He referred to ordinary men and women throughout "the country". I prefer to say, "these countries". The rights, freedoms and responsibilities of individuals have to be put into context. There are the rights and freedoms of the different genders--for instance, the rights of women against domination by men for so many years, including their domination in this Chamber. One also has to consider the geographic location of power in the United Kingdom.
The Gracious Speech refers to the Queen's state visit to Iceland, but there is no mention of the nation of Wales, which is still a constituent part of the United Kingdom. That is because Wales is governed by the Welsh Office, which is completely incapable of initiating any legislation. Throughout my 15 years as a Member of Parliament I can remember only two or three Bills which could be described as having been put forward by the Welsh Office. Even such a major Bill as that which set up the Welsh Development Agency was first dreamt up by the Department of Trade and Industry and the Scottish Office and then a Welsh equivalent suddenly appeared. The Welsh Office is capable of drafting clauses--for example, on language policy--but there is no mention in the Gracious Speech of a review of linguistic rights, although it is well over 25 years since the legal status of the Welsh language was reviewed by the House.
The Welsh Office cannot draft legislation, but it is very good at establishing quangos. A body which was established by the Secretary of State recently published the draft of a Welsh language Bill. Its aim is to improve the status of both the Welsh and the English languages in Wales and thereby to create a tolerant bilingual community. Should either of my hon. Friends or I be successful in the ballot for private Members' Bills, we should introduce a Bill which mirrored the one drafted by the Government's own quango, the Welsh Language Board.
Other major rights are omitted from the Gracious Speech and will thus be denied to the people of Wales. Those rights are not just individual or cultural rights. In an important sense they are social rights such as the right to a decent income and the right to employment--what used to be called the right to work, although that phrase is no longer in fashion among Labour Members, according to the Labour party's policy review which I have read avidly.
Other rights include the right to social services and to health. There are major Government proposals for the Health Service. Clearly, Opposition Members will be opposing all aspects of those proposals.There is a long tradition of community care in the voluntary sector, pre-dating the growth of the National Health Service, and then alongside it in communities in Wales, Scotland and the north of England which points to the need for effectively maintained state provision of health care and a unified Health Service, as the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) pointed out.
The Government's legislation for diversity in the Health Service will result in certain regions, localities and
Column 298districts not being able to have the same standard of service as others. That is an unfreedom for the patients who will be affected. The Government's policies for alleged diversity in broadcasting will create another unfreedom. In Wales we have a diversity and a duopoly of co-operation between the BBC devolved in Wales to what the BBC in classic compromise-speak describes as a "national region". We have the BBC system, the independent contractor, HTV, and the statutory body established by the House in previous broadcasting legislation--the Welsh Fourth Channel Authority. It is extremely important that that diversity is maintained in the broadcasting changes.
The growth of the Welsh language culture industry in Wales has created some 2,000 or 3,000 jobs--I declare an interest as I have gained a slight addition to my salary from that sector. The growth of the Welsh language television industry must be matched by a growth in the English language culture in Wales. There is a serious danger that that possibility will be denied if the broadcasting Bill does not deal sensitively with the role of the regional contractor of ITV in Wales. I warn the Government that we shall be looking carefully at that when the broadcasting Bill appears.
My final point relates the rights, freedoms and responsibilities that we discuss in the Chamber to the rights, freedoms and responsibilities of people outside the United Kingdom. Today yet again we heard from the hon. Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken) the classic English nationalist speech. The days of the United Kingdom as a nation state are coming to an end. We have to see ourselves as nations on these islands relating to the nations of the European Community, taking up the challenges that President Mitterrand has put before us again this week and realising that the issues of diversity and of serious divergence within the United Kingdom can be resolved, within a European federation, as we have heard from our colleagues from Northern Ireland.
We should also look to the freedoms being established in central and eastern Europe, many of them in the Soviet Union, based on the national question. For me, the final irony is that so many Conservative Members understand the national question when it is raised in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania but are incapable of understanding it in Scotland and Wales.
Mr. Alan Haselhurst (Saffron Walden) : Hon. Members always find it difficult to fit their reactions to the Gracious Speech precisely into the segmentation of the debate. Today's debate has certainly ranged far and wide. I begin with a fairly general point about which I do not feel abashed in view of the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken), but I shall steer back to a subject with which my hon. Friend the Minister of State will be familiar.
Freedom, rights and responsibilities are not altogether removed from Britain's relationship with our European Community partners, as my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South observed, especially if it is argued that the freedom of our country and the sovereignty of our Parliament are imperilled by our continued membership of the European Community and co- operation with our European partners. The relevant paragraph in the Gracious Speech states that we will
Column 299"work with our European Community partners to complete the Single Market ; to enhance economic and monetary co- operation ; to reinforce budgetary discipline ; and to carry forward the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy."
That is fine, but it is not enough. Nor will it be considered enough by many other observers, not least the countries with which we are working.
Events are moving whether we like it or not, and Britain must not be left behind. We stand in danger of being sidelined or marginalised if our commitment to the European Community is not wholehearted. We must also understand what is happening in large sections of our industry and commerce. Control of many companies that are vital to our economy does not rest in this country alone, and decisions can be taken outwith the reach of the United Kingdom Parliament. We must recognise that to achieve effective, democratic control over decisions in international boardrooms we shall have to develop our institutions to co-operate, one country with another, to achieve our aims and to determine what is happening in various countries. We must be ready to talk about how we may alter our institutions as that is one way to retain the control that is slipping away from us because no decisions are being taken by our Parliament. I hope that this year we shall show increasing signs of wanting to move forward rather than hang back. If we hang back we shall diminish the rights of our citizens because we shall surrender the power to have any real say in some of the things that are happening.
Let me somewhat selfishly turn the theme of freedom, rights and responsibilities to a matter that is much closer to home--a constituency matter which I suspect will occupy some parliamentary time this year. It will not surprise me if one of the "other measures" to be brought before us in the coming year will be an order to increase the limit on air transport movements at Stansted airport. That is the device by which the Government, in allowing the expansion of Stansted airport, kept it to a limit of 8 million passengers per annum, despite there being planning permission for 15 million passengers per annum.
At present, BAA plc is building a fine terminal at Stansted, as will be acknowledged locally and further afield. There is good co-operation between BAA and the local authorities. The legal planning permission for 15 million passengers per annum cannot be denied, so it rests upon the decision of the House when the advance may be made from 8 million to 15 million passengers. I hope that no one will think that it is an open and shut case in the eyes of many of my constituents who experience noise disturbance in a highly rural area. Of course, I accept that many people living around Heathrow, Gatwick and other major airports are well experienced in such disturbance, but in a country area it can be a shattering experience.
At present, Stansted handles only 1.3 million passengers per annum. As usual, the infrastructure improvements that are promised in the wake of any major public works development are lagging behind, and people experience the disadvantages before the commensurate advantages. There is always the haunting fear that any further expansion is merely a prelude to even more in the future--a second terminal or a second runway. I hope that some consideration will be given to the downside risks of expanding an airport for the people who live around it. If one of the advantages is meant to be an improved rail
Column 300service, I hope that we will pay much more attention to it. If we are to have a successful rail link to Stansted airport and at the same time not put a further burden upon my commuters, we will have to look at the capacity of that line.
It is ironic that I was prevented from being here in time for the Gracious Speech because a diesel locomotive broke down on a line which I have argued --successfully--should be electrified. However, British Rail is still operating diesel locomotives on it. My constituents will need to be persuaded that their rights are not being diminished unless, at the least, supportive and protective measures are applied if there is further expansion at the airport. When my hon. Friend the Minister replies to the debate he may be able to focus on that part of the Gracious Speech which says : "My Government will work with business, local government, the voluntary sector and local people to regenerate our cities." I make a plea to the Government to give an enhanced role to the voluntary sector and to acknowledge more affirmatively what community development can do to assist local people to participate in the process of improvement.
In this country, the voluntary sector has a great capacity to help, but it needs effective backing if it is to do so. If our cities and rural areas are to be truly regenerated, the quality of life is important. I echo many of the sentiments expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Speed). Active citizenship--on which we are trying to place greater emphasis--means more than people simply volunteering to help others. We need to encourage people to be more active in their own interests whether in community health, crime prevention, running estates or setting up new enterprises. But not all people can be self-starters, and that is where community development is relevant. It can guide people to show them what they are capable of doing and it can channel in help from business which has shown a welcome tendency to want to contribute more to the life of the community around it.
My hon. Friend the Minister of State knows of my interest in the matter as chairman of the Community Projects Foundation. I was appointed to that post by the Home Secretary a few years ago. The Community Projects Foundation is the leading community development agency in Britain, and is one of a number of bodies supported by the voluntary services unit at the Home Office. I cannot see the sense of having organisations such as the Community Projects Foundation unless they are fully exploited by a Government who have helped to set them up. Financial control is too narrow and too onerous. They should be run in a lighter way and on a longer rein so that they can get on with the job without feeling that they are being inspected minutely at every turn. We could spoil things for the veritable ha'porth of tar. We will not do so if we recognise that there is a true role for that type of function in our community.
If community development and the voluntary sector can be given greater encouragement, they will help the Government to realise their objectives in not only the regeneration of our cities but in the other purposes set out so reasonably in the Gracious Speech.