Previous Section Home Page

Mr. Gummer : I thank the hon. Gentleman for his first comments. Obviously, we would not want to exclude people from European Community grant, because there is no matching grant from the United Kingdom. That is the reason for that decision. On the rest of what the hon. Gentleman said, he will have to watch major changes both in conservation terms and in other proposals that will come forward. A decommissioning scheme would not achieve the ends that he desires. A whole series of different things will achieve those ends. As we discuss matters in the coming months, no doubt we will decide, first in prospect, who is right and then, in retrospect, who was right.

Mr. James Hill (Southampton, Test) : May I be the second hon. Member to congratulate my right hon. Friend on a very worthwhile task? The figures that he has achieved were almost unbelievable only a few days ago. As my right hon. Friend knows, there are two other points to conservation. First, there are rumours from the South Coast Fishermen's Association that French trawlers are still using a boom trawl which scoops up almost any size fish. Secondly, my right hon. Friend's Ministry issues licences from South West Water for the dumping of sludge. That can have harmful effects not only on oyster beds in the Solent but on the coarse fishing around the island.

Mr. Gummer : I assure my hon. Friend that I will take up any information that he gives me about the illegal use

Column 382

of equipment, particularly as I want the Community to have further and tougher measures on these matters, and we must make sure that they are enforced. Sludge is 95 per cent. water. Wherever there is any danger of it having any kind of deleterious effect, my Ministry does not issue a licence. If my hon. Friend has any particular cases in mind, I shall be happy to look at them. I take a close personal interest in the matter and I am determined that fishing grounds shall not be invaded.

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North) : Does the Minister accept that Opposition Members believe that he has done the best he could, given the very bad hand that he was dealt by the Commission at the outset? Does he accept also that that implies that he is still gambling with the industry? Is he aware that, instead of centralised planning and subsidy, he is offering the restructuring of the fleet by the attrition of bankruptcy, without any regard to the people whose livelihoods depend on the sea, whether on the catching side or on the processing side? Why does the right hon. Gentleman have such a principled objection to subsidy? He is quite prepared to pay farmers under the set-aside scheme, but he is unwilling to help fishermen, people on land and crews by introducing a decommissioning scheme that would take account of their fears and responsibilities?

Mr. Gummer : After his kind comments, I must promise the hon. Gentleman that I would be happy to spend the money if I thought that it was a good way of spending money. But I do not think that it will achieve that end. There are better ways of dealing with this matter. I remind the hon. Gentleman that, apart from this year, in every previous year, although fishing opportunities declined, fishermen have received significantly more from the sale of fish. Therefore, the actual return to fishermen has increased in real terms every year until the present, when the 11 per cent. cut in opportunity was matched by only a 9 per cent. increase in price.

Mr. Donald Thompson (Calder Valley) : My right hon. Friend will realise that I ask my question with some reluctance. I congratulate him on what he has achieved this year. I congratulate the Government also on the £50 million of taxpayers' money that they have put into the fishing industry every year, regardless. On central planning, I congratulate my right hon. Friend also on beating off the European Community's insistence of the disturbance of relative stability. That is the most important factor. Does he agree that we must keep relative stability?

Mr. Gummer : I thank my hon. Friend. I also pay tribute to the Fisheries Ministers in Scotland and England, who, over the past few months, have been preparing for this negotiation. It is only through their work that we have achieved what we did.

Mr. John D. Taylor (Strangford) : It would be churlish not to congratulate the Secretary of State on the general success of the talks in Brussels. He said that there were four members in the United Kingdom ministerial team. Which Minister represented the interests of the Northern Ireland fishing industry in the discussions? The matter of decommissioning is for another day, but I should like answers to one or two questions relating to the Irish sea. The Minister said that the herring quota has been increased. Is that an increase over the Commission's

Column 383

proposal or an increase over last year's quota? On whiting in the Irish sea, there was a Commission proposal for a reduction of more than 58 per cent., to 8,300 tonnes. Will the Minister assure us that that has been overcome? He said that there has been an increase in whiting, but does that increase apply to the Irish sea? Until we are provided with actual figures, we will be discussing the matter in the dark. When will we have the actual figures that were decided at the Council meeting?

Mr. Gummer : The actual figures will not be available from the Commission for a couple of weeks. Therefore, I will place in the Library in the next 24 hours, I hope, the figures that will be the provisional figures which we ourselves have worked out in detail in a form that is acceptable to the House. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the Commission proposal on whiting in the Irish sea was for a total allowable catch of only 8,300 tonnes as against 18,170 tonnes last year. We got that proposal of 8,000 tonnes increased to 15,000 tonnes. It is not as good as last year's, but it is within scientific advice, and that seemed to us to be the right answer. I am sure that it will help the hon. Gentleman's constituents.

I represented the whole of the United Kingdom in the discussions, and, on every occasion on television and radio, I mentioned the importance to Northern Irish fishermen of this matter.

Mr. David Harris (St. Ives) : I add my congratulations to all members of the ministerial team on putting up a tremendous and successful fight on behalf of fishermen in all parts of the United Kingdom. Will my right hon. Friend say something about the impact of the deal on the south- west? Am I right in thinking that, although there has been an increase in the channel cod quota, which we welcome, there has been a minuscule reduction in the sole quota in western waters and that there has been or could be a decrease in the plaice quota? How could that possibly be offset?

Mr. Gummer : I thank my hon. Friend. I am using figures that include the swaps that have taken place as a adjunct to these discussions, as they always do. Out of the 24 United Kingdom quotas in the south and south-west for 1990, four have been increased, 13 have been retained at the same level, and seven have been reduced. That is a better outcome than we had feared.

In addition, there has been some increase in Channel cod and sole has been subject to some swaps. I shall give my hon. Friend some details so that he can see exactly how it affects his constituents. The Channel cod TAC is particularly important because we have about 2 per cent. more in the quota although there is a lower TAC. I am sure that that will be a relief to my hon. Friend's fishermen.

Mr. Calum Macdonald (Western Isles) : Does the Minister recall what was said in last week's debate about the knock-on effects of the quota cuts on the other fishing fleets in other parts of Scotland and the United Kingdom that are not directly involved? Bearing that in mind, will he consider directing a serious research effort into the prawn stocks in the Minch to make absolutely sure that in a couple of years we shall not be discussing quota cuts to deal with those stocks in the way that we are discussing cod and haddock today?

On his statement about the diminishing grant for the construction of new vessels, was the right hon. Gentleman

Column 384

speaking for his right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland? If so, will he remember that some of the fleets are not over-capacity but under-capacity and deal with stocks that could bear some more fishing, which means that it would not be wise universally to end all grants for new vessels?

Mr. Gummer : Yes, I am speaking for my right hon. and learned Friend, who is present and will have heard the hon. Gentleman's point. I shall certainly look into his point about prawns. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will help me in saying to many other fishermen that any improvement that benefits, for example, the Scottish fisheries is important for English fishermen also because it relieves some of the pressure that would otherwise have arisen on the stocks that have not changed.

Mr. Barry Field (Isle of Wight) : Following the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Hill), will my right hon. Friend tell the House whether he made any progress on the subjective regulations that were proposed on the judgment of oyster meat quality, which many south coast fishermen believe to be unenforceable? Did my right hon. Friend take up my point about the disparity between the French regulations for the taking of bass and the nursery stocks that he has proposed for the larger size of bass which the south coast fishermen are required to fish? Will he bear in mind the fact that the French are still plundering the nursery stocks in the Channel?

Mr. Gummer : I did not believe that it was the right moment to take up those issues, which might have divided me from putative friends when I was in the business of trying to gather together as much support as possible for the British position. I am pleased to be able to tell my hon. Friend that the French have suggested that they are prepared to take up on bass parallel rules which would be similar to our own. We are seeking to press the Commission to ensure that its package will bring into line a whole series of conservation measures so that our fishermen realise that, when they are asked to take tough measures, they are taking them in common with other fishermen and that other fishermen will not be allowed to have an advantage.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan) : Does the Minister accept that the deal that he has struck will cause enormous difficulties for the fishing industry? On the specific question of haddock, which is almost exclusively a United Kingdom stock and largely a Scottish stock, will the Minister explain why we have to wait another six months for the possibility of conservation measures designed to allow the young fish to escape, which might work, and why we are pursuing the policy of low quotas, which has failed before and will fail again? Why was action on industrial fishing not included on the agenda? Is he aware that his dismissive attitude towards providing assistance for the industry in this its hour of need will not be forgotten by the fishing communities?

Mr. Gummer : I am surprised that, having listened to a statement in which a Minister has brought back all the things that the hon. Gentleman said we would not be tough enough to fight for, he has not had the courtesy to give thanks for those things that have arrived. The industry will notice that, once again, the Scottish National party is carping about such matters, that it never ever gives

Column 385

credit where credit is due, and that it always proposes a simple answer in which there is no pain. That is why the fishing industry takes no notice of what the hon. Gentleman says.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke) : Having known my right hon. Friend for about 20 years, I am not surprised that he has once again proved to be a doughty fighter on behalf of our fishermen. I should like to ask him a specific question that concerns fishermen in Wales and the south-west and especially my fishermen in Milford Haven whom my right hon. Friend came to see last year. I refer to the European Court ruling of 13 December, which overturned parts of the Merchant Shipping Act 1988. Did the negotiations take into account the fact that that would have a serious effect on our quota? Did we get more as a result of the hearing?

Mr. Gummer : I thank my hon. Friend for his comments, but I do not believe that the European Court hearing should concern us overmuch. We should have liked to win on every count, but we won on the majority of counts and we can use that hearing to do a great deal to exclude from our quotas those people who have no business to be fishing them. Therefore, I hope that we shall be able to do what my hon. Friend wants, but in relation to those things that are found to be legal. I hope that the fishermen in my hon. Friend's constituency will recognise that the size of the British fleet should be measured with British boats, and that it should not include those who have nothing to do with Britain. I shall not go firm on any figures about the British fleet until I have managed to remove from the list those who should have never been on it.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) : Will the Minister consider giving a friendly and efficacious answer to a friendly and efficacious question? On the July marine conservation measures, will the Minister consider sending some of his most experienced inspectors, who on no account should live near the north of Scotland and should preferably come from the south of England, to find out what is really happening in the area of Ullapool, Aultbea and Wester Ross in relation to two things--first, the sand eels which provide so much food for fish, and, secondly, what some fish farmers are doing in letting out effluent, taking cheap corner cuts and sometimes opening the gates when the prices are not right and letting loose fish farm salmon with heaven knows what genetic effect on the Atlantic stocks? Does he accept that this is a serious question and agree that it is something that MAFF should find out about?

Mr. Gummer : I take seriously what the hon. Gentleman has said. If there were truth in either of the points that he has made--I have to say "if", because I have not done the research to which he draws my attention-- it would be a serious matter and something on which we should take immediate action. I promise the hon. Gentleman that I shall look into the matter to see how best to attest what he has put to me.

Mr. Ian Bruce (Dorset, South) : Will my right hon. Friend accept my congratulations, not only on the outcome of the negotiations but on the answer that he gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr.

Column 386

Field), which will be extremely welcome to my fishermen in Swanage, Weymouth and Portland, when he said that the French will follow our lead on physical conservation measures? Can he say more about how he will press the rest of our partners in the EEC to take such conservation measures as setting up nursery areas, increasing mesh sizes and reducing the size of the fish that are landed? Has my right hon. Friend had any success with other nations during this round of talks?

Mr. Gummer : The French have already agreed to take action in relation to the Channel, and we are working closely with them? One thing that is noticeable as a result of the agreement is the degree to which Fisheries Ministers throughout Europe have come to be able to work closely together. Therefore, I believe that the common conservation measures that will be proposed will cover most of the things that my hon. Friend wants to cover and that they will receive support throughout the Community. I also hope that they will receive real support in the House from hon. Members of all parties, because they will not be easy measures. It is no good proposing conservation measures as if they were a simple answer that would cause no hurt. They will mean real changes in fishing practice.

Mr. Brian Wilson (Cunninghame, North) : Does the Minister accept that the great majority of Scottish Members recognise that the settlement had to be within the terms of the scientific recommendations, and that to urge otherwise in the interests of local populism is irresponsible and would repeat the errors of the past that have cost us dear down to the present time? Will he reconsider his comments in last week's debate about the knock-on effects to which my hon. Friend the Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald) referred, when he said that the effects on other areas of over-fishing by one section of the fleet were not a matter on which the European lead should be accepted, and recognised that there was a need to do something about that? Will he now look closely at the case for establishing regional managemet schemes around the coast? Will the Minister say something about the need to increase mesh sizes and nets? Should that not be at the top of the conservation priority list, not least because I have a net manufacturing interest in my constituency?

Mr. Gummer : The hon. Gentleman is right. Conservation measures, mesh sizes and gear and the problems of discards are absolutely top priority. I think that the Commission will reach that conclusion in the urgent report that is to be made by a high level group. I agree with the hon. Gentleman's comments about keeping to the scientific advice. It is not that we need to discard the TACs and quotas, but that we need to underpin them with conservation measures. It is a serious matter that there are still one or two hon. Members--although only one or two--who propose conservation as an easy alternative to TACs and quotas, when both are very difficult and need to be held together. The hon. Gentleman has a good record of not being populist in these matters.

On the hon. Gentleman's point about regional management of quotas, I have already said that we must entirely reconsider the way in which we manage them. I am not satisfied with the present system, and we must find better ways to do it. Anybody who cares about the

Column 387

industry would agree with that. I have no doubt that there will be a large number of arguments about how best to do it.

Mr. Matthew Taylor (Truro) : The Minister has repeatedly referred to the scientific advice, but I am sure that he will understand that fishermen in my part of the world, and no doubt in other parts, sometimes wonder about the quality of that advice. Will he be exploring any measures to increase the advice available and the work that goes into forming that advice?

My fishermen feel strongly about the question of regional quotas. Can he tell us about the direction in which he thinks matters may move?

Mr. Gummer : I do not want to elaborate, as I should not like to give credence to the unfortunate view of some fishermen that, if there is any alternative, it means that they will get more fish. The only way for some fishermen to get more fish is for others to catch less. That is the nature of the present shortage of stock. I do not want to give any credence to the belief that some rearrangements will mean that vast stocks of untapped fish will be provided--if that is not mixing about five metaphors.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the problems faced by his area. I hope that he will accept my invitation to visit Lowestoft, when he will appreciate that the resources necessary for the purpose are provided. Britain plays a very important part in the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas. If there are any specific areas where he thinks we are not doing these things as we should, I am happy to consider them and to judge whether we should be adding to the resources.

Column 388

Points of Order

5.23 pm

Mr. Jack Straw (Blackburn) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to raise a matter concerning the Education (Student Loans) Bill. Earlier this afternoon, it was announced that all the clearing banks were to withdraw from the operation of the Government's deeply unpopular Education (Student Loans) Bill. As the participation of the banks has been absolutely central to the administration of the Government's loans scheme, the withdrawal leaves the scheme in total ruin. In the light of the announcement, the Bill must be abandoned. In view of the gravity of today's announcement, Mr. Speaker, do you agree that there must be an immediate oral statement by the Secretary of State?

Mr. Speaker : It is not a matter for me.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. John MacGregor) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Gentleman grossly exaggerates the position. The Bill is not affected one little bit in any respect. Neither the principles, the framework nor the objectives of the scheme are affected, and they will continue as before. The only change is that one area of the mechanics of the scheme we intended to operate cannot now go ahead. That means that we will lose something that was to the benefit of the students--access to branch networks. I regret that.

I thought it right to inform the House immediately I was informed of the decision of the banks. I would have been happy to make an oral statement, but that was not possible because of the congested nature of today's business. However, I am happy to consider, through the usual channels, what else might be done.

Mr. Straw : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The question whether the abandonment of the Government by the banks is central to the administration of the scheme, as we believe could be argued if there was an oral statement. If there cannot be one this afternoon, for reasons that I understand, will the right hon. Gentleman or the Leader of the House, who is in his place, give a clear undertaking to make an oral statement at 11 o'clock tomorrow morning?

Mr. MacGregor : I shall be happy to consider that request through the usual channels.

BALLOT FOR NOTICES OF MOTIONS FOR FRIDAY 19 JANUARY Members successful in the ballot were :

Mr. Ian Gow

Mr. James Couchman

Mr. Roy Beggs

Mr. Jeremy Hanley (Richmond and Barnes) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I fully understand your difficulties in choosing hon. Members to speak on statements. I also understand the privileges afforded to Privy Councillors and, indeed, the practices of the House. On the last three occasions that we have discussed Hong Kong and the Vietnamese refugees and migrants, very much the same list of personnel have been called. While I recognise that there is an element of precedence, I wonder whether just once, for an experiment, you could start at the bottom of the heap--with me?

Column 389

Mr. Speaker : What the hon. Gentleman has said is not entirely accurate. If he were to see some of the letters and visits that I receive from Privy Councillors and other distinguished Members after statements, alleging that they are the world's greatest experts and should have been called, I think that the hon. Gentleman would accept that they are not always called.

I say sincerely to the whole House that I do my best to ensure that the limited time of the House is spread as fairly as possible. It is not easy.


Pensions (Miscellaneous Provisions)

Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, supported by Mr. Norman Lamont, Mr. Peter Lilley, Mr. Richard Ryder, Mr. Michael Forsyth, Mr. Roger Freeman and Mr. Alan Howarth, presented a Bill to amend the law relating to certain public service pension schemes : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow and to be printed. [Bill 13.]


Mr. Secretary Fowler, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Secretary Hurd, Mr. Secretary Waddington, Mr. Secretary Walker, Mr. Secretary MacGregor, Mr. Secretary Rifkind, Mr. Secretary Newton, Mr. Secretary Brooke, Mr. Tim Eggar and Mr. Patrick Nicholls, presented a Bill to make it unlawful to refuse employment, or any service of an employment agency, on grounds related to trade union membership ; to amend the law relating to industrial action ; to make further provision with respect to the Commissioner for the Rights of Trade Union Members ; to confer a power to revise or revoke Codes of Practice ; to provide for the merger of the Redundancy Fund with the National Insurance Fund ; to amend the Education (Work Experience) Act 1973 ; and for connected purposes : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow and to be printed. [Bill 15.]

Environmental Protection

Mr. Secretary Patten, supported by Mr. Secretary Walker, Mr. Secretary Rifkind, Mr. Secretary Parkinson, Mr. Secretary Brooke, Mr. John Selwyn Gummer, Mr. Norman Lamont, Mr. David Trippier and Mr. David Heathcoat- Amory, presented a Bill to make provision for the improved control of pollution arising from certain industrial and other processes ; to re-enact the provisions of the Control of Pollution Act 1974 relating to waste on land with modifications as respects the functions of the regulatory and other authorities concerned in the collection and disposal of waste and to make further provision in relation to such waste ; to restate the law defining statutory nuisances and improve the summary procedures for dealing with them, to provide for the termination of the existing controls over offensive trades or businesses and to provide for the extension of the Clean Air Acts to prescribed gases ; to amend the law relating to litter and make further provision imposing duties to keep public places clear of litter and clean ; to amend the Radioactive Substances Act 1960 ; to make provision for the control of genetically modified organisms ; to make provision for the abolition of the Nature Conservancy Council and for the creation of councils to replace it and discharge the functions of that Council and, as respects Wales, of the Countryside Commission ; to make further

Column 390

provision for the control of the importation, exportation, use, supply or storage of prescribed substances and articles and the importation or exportation of prescribed descriptions of waste ; to amend the provisions of the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985 as regards the dumping of waste at sea ; to make provision in relation to financial or other assistance for purposes connected with the environment ; to make provision as respects superannuation of employees of the Groundwork Foundation and for remunerating the chairman of the Inland Waterways Amenity Advisory Council ; and for purposes connected with those purposes : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow and to be printed. [Bill 14.]

Consumer Guarantees

Mr. Martyn Jones, supported by Mr. Ron Davies, Mr. David Porter, Mr. Michael Shersby, Mr. Robert N. Wareing, Mr. Jimmy Dunnachie, Mr. Roger Gale, Mr. David Martin, Mr. Paddy Ashdown, Mr. Alex Carlile, Mr. Richard Alexander and Mr. Douglas French, presented a Bill to provide for consumer guarantees ; to amend the law relating to the sale and supply of goods ; and for connected purposes : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 26 January and to be printed. [Bill 16.]

Interest on Debts

Mr. Michael Mates, supported by Sir Anthony Grant, Mr. Neil Hamilton, Mr. Michael Latham, Sir David Mitchell, Mr. Anthony Nelson, Mr. Bowen Wells and Sir George Young, presented a Bill to amend the law by making provision for certain debts to carry interest ; and for connected purposes : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 2 February and to be printed. [Bill 17.]

Computer Misuse

Mr. Michael Colvin, supported by Sir Geoffrey Pattie, Mr. John Butcher, Mr. Kenneth Warren, Mr. Michael Grylls, Miss Emma Nicholson, Mr. William Powell, Mr. Tam Dalyell, Mr. Norman Hogg, Mr. Terry Davis, Mr. Doug Hoyle and Mr. Matthew Taylor, presented a Bill to make provision for securing computer material against unauthorised access or modification ; and for connected purposes : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 9 February and to be printed. [Bill 18.]

Sexual Offences

Sir William Shelton, supported by Dame Janet Fookes, Mr. Anthony Beaumont- Dark, Mr. Graham Bright, Mr. Simon Coombs, Mr. Tom Cox, Sir Geoffrey Finsberg, Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman, Mr. Charles Irving, Mr. Robert Parry and Mr. Hugo Summerson, presented a Bill to amend the law relating to the soliciting of women for the purpose of prostitution and to abolish the presumption that a boy under the age of fourteen is incapable of sexual intercourse : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 16 February and to be printed. [Bill 19.]

Rights of Way (Agricultural Land)

Mr. Edward Leigh, supported by Mr. Henry Bellingham, Mr. Andrew F. Bennett, Mr. Harry Greenway, Mr. Alan Haselhurst, Mr. Denis Howell, Mr. Richard Livsey, Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop, Mr. Andrew

Column 391

Mitchell, Mr. David Nicholson, Dr. Mike Woodcock and Miss Ann Widdecombe, presented a Bill to amend the law concerning rights of way, relating to the disturbance and restoration of the surface of footpaths and bridleways for the cultivation of agricultural land ; to keep the line of rights of way clear of crops ; to enable local authorities to act in connection therewith ; and for connected purposes : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 23 February and to be printed. [Bill 20.]

Planning Permission (Demolition of Houses)

Mr. John Wilkinson, supported by Mr. Hugh Dykes, Sir Rhodes Boyson, Mr. Michael Shersby, Mr. Robert G. Hughes, Mr. John Gorst, Mr. Jeremy Hanley, Mr. Cyril Townsend and Mr. Robert Adley, presented a Bill to make it obligatory to apply for planning permission before demolishing a dwelling-house : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 2 March and to be printed. [Bill 21.]

Entertainments (Increased Penalties)

Mr. Graham Bright, supported by Mr. Steve Norris, Dr. John Marek, Mr. Charles Kennedy, Mr. David Madel, Mr. John Carlisle, Mr. Jimmy Hood, Mr. David Atkinson, Mr. Gareth Wardell, Mr. Kenneth Hind, Mr. Eric Illsley and Mr. James Cran, presented a Bill to increase the penalties for certain offences under enactments relating to the licensing of premises or places used for dancing, music or other entertainments of a like kind : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 9 March and to be printed. [Bill 22.]

Radiation Exposed Crown Employees (Benefits)

Mr. Bob Clay, supported by Mr. Jack Ashley, Mr. Andrew F. Bennett, Mr. Churchill, Mr. Harry Cohen, Mr. Frank Cook, Mr. John Hannam, Mr. David Hinchliffe, Mr. Archy Kirkwood, Mrs. Alice Mahon, Ms. Joan Ruddock and Mr. Gavin Strang, presented a Bill to provide a presumption of service connection to any person who, whilst in Crown service, participated in the British nuclear weapons testing programme and who suffers from certain diseases that may be attributable to exposure to ionising radiation ; to make provision for benefits payable from the National Insurance Fund to such persons and their dependants ; and for connected purposes : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 2 March and to be printed. [Bill 23.]

Road Traffic (Temporary Restrictions)

Mr. Martin Brandon-Bravo, supported by Mr. Richard Alexander, presented a Bill to make new provision in place of sections 14 and 15 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 ; and for connected purposes : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 2 February and to be printed. [Bill 24.]

Abolition of Warrant Sales (Scotland)

Mrs. Margaret Ewing, supported by Mr. Alex Salmond, Mr. Jim Sillars, Mr. Andrew Welsh, Mr. Dennis Canavan, and Mr. Dick Douglas, presented a Bill to amend the law relating to poinding and warrant sales : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 9 February and to be printed. [Bill 25.]

Column 392

Representation of the People

Mr. Anthony Beaumont-Dark, supported by Mr. Kenneth Warren, Mr. Barry Porter and Mr. Roger King, presented a Bill to provide for a person no longer resident at his qualifying address or at any other address in the same area to be eligible for an absent vote for an indefinite period at Parliamentary elections in the United Kingdom and local government elections in Great Britain : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 9 March and to be printed. [Bill 27.]

Access to Health Records

Mr. Doug Henderson, supported by Ms. Hilary Armstrong, Mr. Andrew F. Bennett, Mr. Jerry Hayes, Mr. Archy Kirkwood, Mr. Steve Norris, Miss Emma Nicholson, Mr. Jeff Rooker, Ms. Joan Ruddock, Sir Giles Shaw, Mr. Chris Smith and Mr. Kenneth Warren, presented a Bill to establish a right of access, subject to certain exemptions, by individuals to health records relating to themselves and, in certain circumstances, to their children ; to allow applications for access to be made by representatives or dependants ; to allow individuals to obtain copies of, and require amendments to, such records ; to make provision in respect of right of access and certain contractual obligations ; and for connected purposes : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 23 February and to be printed. [Bill 28.]

Entitlement to Employment and Training

Mr. Giles Radice, supported by Mr. Ted Garrett, Mr. James Wallace, Mr. Don Dixon, Mr. Derek Fatchett, Mr. Doug Henderson, Mr. Calum Macdonald, Mr. George Robertson, Ms. Hilary Armstrong, Mr. Jack Thompson, Mr. Andrew F. Bennett and Mr. David Clelland, presented a Bill to make provision for employment and training for persons unemployed for a period of time ; and for connected purposes : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 9 March and to be printed. [Bill 29.]

Car Telephones (Safety)

Mr. Douglas French, supported by Mr. Alan Amos, Mr. Jacques Arnold, Mr. John Bowis, Mr. James Cran, Mr. Timothy Kirkhope, Mr. Roger Knapman, Mr. Keith Mans, Mr. Malcolm Moss, Mr. David Nicholson, Mr. David Porter and Miss Ann Widdecombe, presented a Bill to prescribe standards for car telephones intended for use by drivers ; to make it an offence to use equipment which does not conform to these standards while driving a motor vehicle ; and for connected purposes : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 2 March and to be printed. [Bill 30.]

Licensing (Low Alcohol Drinks)

Sir Peter Emery, supported by Mr. Merlyn Rees, Mr. A. J. Beith, Mr. John Wheeler, Sir Bernard Braine, Dr. Lewis Moonie, Mr. A. E. P. Duffy, Mr. Bob Dunn, Mr. Bill Walker, Sir Fergus Montgomery, Mr. Michael J. Martin and Mr. Richard Page, presented a Bill to amend the definition of intoxicating liquor' in the Licensing Act 1964 and alcoholic liquor' in the Licensing (Scotland) Act 1976 with respect to alcohol in low alcohol drinks : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 26 January and to be printed. [Bill 31.]

Column 393

Misuse of Drugs

Mr. Menzies Campbell presented a Bill to extend the coverage of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 to include certain drugs which have been misused for the purpose of improving performance in sport : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 2 March and to be printed. [Bill 32.]

Agricultural Holdings (Amendment)

Mr. Alex Carlile, supported by Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop, Mr. Martyn Jones, Mr. Geraint Howells, Mr. Nicholas Winterton, Mr. Calum Macdonald, Mr. Richard Livsey, Mr. Richard Alexander, Mr. Peter Hardy, Mr. Robert Hicks, Mr. Alan Amos and Mr. John Greenway, presented a Bill to amend Schedule 3 to the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 so as to remove the right to serve an incontestable notice to quit for non-agricultural uses except where planning permission has been given or is not required by reason of Crown immunity : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 16 February and to be printed. [Bill 33.]

Marriage (Registration of Buildings)

Mr. George Walden presented a Bill to allow a building to be registered for the solemnization of marriage under Section 41 of the Marriage Act 1949 notwithstanding that it forms part of another building : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 9 March and to be printed. [Bill 34.]

Northern Ireland Act 1974 (Amendment)

Mr. William Ross, supported by Mr. James Molyneaux, Mr. Cecil Walker, Mr. Roy Beggs, Rev. Martin Smyth, Mr. John D. Taylor, Mr. Harold McCusker, Mr. Clifford Forsythe and Mr. Ken Maginnis, presented a Bill to amend the Northern Ireland Act 1974 so as to provide that laws for Northern Ireland may not be made by Order in Council but by Bill introduced into the Parliament of the United Kingdom : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 9 March and to be printed. [Bill 35.]



That the draft Health and Personal Social Services (Special Agencies) (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.-- [Mr. Greg Knight.]



That the matter of the Future Economy and Environment of North Wales, being a matter relating exclusively to Wales, be referred to the Welsh Grand Committee for its consideration.-- [Mr. Greg Knight.]

Column 394

Adjournment (Christmas)

Motion made and Question proposed,

That this House at its rising on Thursday 21st December do adjourn until Monday 8th January.-- [Mr. Greg Knight.]

5.32 pm

Mr. Jeremy Hanley (Richmond and Barnes) : I am pleased that you have called me first, Mr. Speaker. I believe that the House should not adjourn for Christmas until it has dealt with the extremely important issue of the imprisonment in Iraq of my constituent Mr. Ian Richter.

This case first came to the notice of the British public when in the Financial Times of 24 July 1986, an article appeared headed "British businessman detained in Iraq."

It stated :

"A British businessman has been arrested in Iraq in connection with alleged corruption. Mr. Ian Richter, local manager of the British water engineers Paterson Candy International was detained as he was leaving Baghdad airport."

No one who knew Ian Richter could believe that he could be the subject of such accusations. He is an honourable and kind man with a loving family. He was serving not only the interests of his company and of his country in Iraq but, over a long period, had tried to improve conditions for the Iraqis. He was involved in trying to create a new water system on the south bank of the River Tigris as it passes through Baghdad.

As soon as Mr. Richter was arrested, on 17 June 1986, the Foreign Office was informed and diplomats in Baghdad speculated that there was a connection with the dismissal from office on 22 June of that year of the mayor of Baghdad, Mr. Al-Mufti, for, in the words of a presidential decree,

"unfaithfulness in his responsibility in preserving the Government's money."

After Mr. Richter was arrested, Foreign Office officials were allowed to see him on only one occasion. There was a five-minute meeting on 7 July 1986 and even at that meeting Ian Richter was not allowed to speak to the ambassador.

By 24 September 1986 the issue had become so worrying--because of Ian Richter's almost certain innocence and the paucity of evidence brought against him--that the then Foreign Secretary, my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House, met Mr. Tariq Aziz at the United Nations General Assembly. Happily, that meeting enabled Ian Richter to receive certain consular access. There was no doubt that the access previously granted to him was against the terms of the Vienna convention on consular relations. The Foreign Office consistently tried to improve conditions for Ian Richter and at that stage sought permission on humanitarian grounds for Mrs. Shirley Richter to rejoin her children in the United Kingdom.

I am pleased that throughout that time the Foreign Office had constant contact with both the Baghdad office and certain Iraqi officials. The Minister of State, Home Office, my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid- Sussex (Mr. Renton), saw members of Ian Richter's family on 14 August 1986. From that time onwards serious accusations were made about the Iraqis' handling of the case.

By November 1986 access to Mr. Richter, which started after Mr. Aziz intervened at one visit per week, was reduced to one visit per fortnight and later to one per month. As Mr. Richter was technically on remand, the

Column 395

conditions in which he was held were disgraceful by any international standard. In November 1986 my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Clark), the former Minister for Trade, met Mrs. Shirley Richter and then went to Iraq. Throughout the following months regular discussions were held on Ian Richter and hardly any evidence was produced against him.

When Mr. Richter was brought to trial in Baghdad on 7 February 1987, the court case lasted less than one hour and what little evidence was presented was in Arabic. During the build-up to the trial, Mr. Richter was asked to sign statements in Arabic which contained no translation. Unfortunately, during his trial he was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment under the articles of the Iraqi penal code relating to bribery and the forging of official documents. As I have stated, many believe that this case had little to do with Ian Richter and more to do with internal politics in Iraq. The mayor of Baghdad was subsequently tried and executed. In the years since Ian was sentenced, the Foreign Office has tried as hard as it could to secure his release. It is difficult for Ian's many friends to believe that the Foreign Office is doing anything at all because Ian is still in prison in Baghdad and there has been little press comment on his case other than the article in the Financial Times at the beginning of this episode and another in the London Daily News --which exists no more--on25 February 1987.

There was little press comment because it was felt that the Iraqis would not respond to the sort of pressure that the press might bring to bear and that it might be counter-productive. It is clear from the various meetings between British Foreign Office officials and Iraqi officials that trying to do things the decent way has not worked. Ian has now been in prison for three and a half years on a charge that we do not believe. I cannot pay enough tribute to successive Ministers and officials at the Foreign Office for what they have tried to do. I have spoken to them many times and they have always been extremely helpful in keeping me briefed.

In September 1987 my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House met Mr. Tariq Aziz, the Iraqi Foreign Secretary, yet again. His successor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major), met the Iraqi Foreign Minister in September 1989. The Minister of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Waldegrave), travelled to Iraq on 13 February 1989 and spoke to officials. Whenever the British Government have dealt with Iraqi officials, Ian Richter has been at the top of the agenda. From time to time I have been in contact with Julian Sheffield, the chairman of Portals Holdings plc, the holding company of Ian's company. Portals Holdings has continued to pay Ian the full overseas rate and it has provided certain assistance to his family. I believe that the company might have exerted more commercial pressure in Iraq, but I thank it for what it has done, as does Ian.

On 23 November 1987 I received a letter from Ian, set out in typically courageous terms. He thanked everyone for their interest, assistance and "refreshing attitude". He said : "It means an awful lot to me living somewhat afar, but close to you all in spirit. My family have been quite magnificent through the ordeal and consequently it is my duty to be equally strong and buoyant here."

Next Section

  Home Page