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Mr. Brooke : The hon. Gentleman would, I think, be the first to acknowledge that this does not naturally fall within the purview of the main question. However, to be helpful to the House, if Mr. Wallace has evidence that he wishes to submit in relation to the Kincora affair, he should give that evidence to the RUC and if it is classified information he should first consult the director of Army security. As to forensic evidence, I owe the hon. Gentleman a letter.
Mr. Ashdown : Following on that answer, will the Secretary of State at least give the House an unequivocal assurance that no Clockwork Orange- type of operation is now taking place in Northern Ireland or in any part of the United Kingdom on matters relating to Northern Ireland?
Mr. Needham : At September 1989, there were an estimated 514,000 employees in employment. This showed a slight increase from the level a year earlier and was some 13,700 higher than five years earlier.
Mr. Marshall : Does my hon. Friend agree that that record is somewhat superior to that of the Republic, where there has been a 40, 000 reduction in the number of people in industrial employment since 1982? Do not these differences underline the fact that the social market economy rather than the social charter is the best engine of economic progress?
Mr. Needham : I agree with my hon. Friend. I do not believe that the social charter will have much benefit for the Northern Ireland economy. However, in the 1990s it is crucial for us to be able to sell ourselves on our merits, which are very substantial. We have a bright, young, well- educated work force, low labour costs and an attractive grants package, and there is no conceivable reason why we should not do better in the 1990s than we have been able to do in the 1980s.
Column 427GEC-Alsthom at Larne in my constituency where 200 redundancies have been announced because of Government policy not to order new nuclear and, indeed, coal-fired stations? Will the Secretary of State therefore endeavour to seek Government approval to proceed with the Kilroot phase II project, which might help save some jobs there?
Mr. Needham : I am not responsible for the purchasing policy of the nuclear power industry or of National Power and PowerGen. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the Industrial Development Board for Northern Ireland is working as closely as it can with GEC to find alternative orders.
11. Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what was the cost of construction of the average public sector dwelling in Northern Ireland in each of the past three years ; and if he will make a statement.
Our goals are to meet urgent housing need and to improve housing conditions in Northern Ireland in rural as well as urban areas.
Mr. Greenway : Will my hon. Friend congratulate the Housing Executive on the effective way in which it has added to housing stock? Will he assure the House that he is pushing the right to buy, which is the most effective way of involving people in communities and home ownership? What is he doing to add to the resources of the Housing Executive?
Mr. Bottomley : All who work for the executive and its members will be grateful for that tribute--which I know will be paid by the whole House- -regarding the non-sectarian way in which housing is administered in Northern Ireland. The promotion of the right to buy has been assisted by the arrangements that we have made to add to the executive's resources. Gross resources available in Northern Ireland will be increased by £17 million compared with the previous plans for 1990-91, and spending on housing in the current year has increased by £12 million because of an increase in receipts from house sales and additional resources provided by the Government.
Mr. Hume : Does the Minister agree that the major housing problem in Northern Ireland is rural housing, to which the urban development grant system did not apply? Is the Department reviewing its approach to housing in rural areas?
Mr. Bottomley : That is an important point. Half of all unfit houses are now in rural areas. It is important to continue the attack on bad conditions in towns and in the countryside. It is becoming clearer that we need a policy of rural improvement to improve housing and, where possible, to use the skills of local people in rural areas rather than outside contractors. We have not yet found a way forward, but we are certainly considering the problem.
Mr. Cecil A. Walker : The Minister must be aware of the swingeing cuts in the Housing Executive's budget over the past three years, which has resulted in a 30 per cent. decrease in new house building. I am sure that he is also aware that repairs in the rehabilitation sector have been drastically reduced and that enveloping schemes are now being discontinued. We welcome extra resources, but will the Minister please consider using the Belfast action teams on the necessary environmental works that are urgently required in vandalised areas?
Mr. Bottomley : With the exception of saying that there should be a large new-build programme, which is not necessarily what Northern Ireland needs, the House will agree with what the hon. Gentleman said. It is important to ensure environmental improvement so that housing areas are good inside and outside their front doors to create an uplift in Northern Ireland.
Mr. Cope : We attach great importance to encouraging widespread public support for, and confidence in, the police and Army in Northern Ireland as they perform their difficult and dangerous tasks. Careful and constant attention is given to ways of improving relations between them and all parts of the community.
Mr. McAvoy : The Minister will be aware that in the past both communities in Northern Ireland have complained about the activities of some RUC officers. Does he accept that Sir John Hermon, by failing to resign, successfully blackmailed the previous Secretary of State for Northern Ireland into not prosecuting RUC officers after the shoot-to-kill investigations? Will the Minister give an assurance that no one in Northern Ireland is above the law and that he will not give in to similar blackmail?
Rev. Ian Paisley : Does the Minister agree that confidence in the security forces would be helped forward if certain unsolved murders were solved? Will he assure me that instead of leaving the Enniskillen massacre in the hands of the local police he will ensure that a special branch unit will work in Enniskillen until that terrible massacre is solved and the people responsible for it are brought to justice?
Mr. Cope : I absolutely agree about the necessity to solve as many of these terrible unsolved murders in Northern Ireland as we possibly can. The hon. Gentleman's particular request is an operational matter for the Chief Constable, but I will certainly pass it on to him. Both the Chief Constable and I would like nothing better than to see that murder in particular solved.
Mr. Mallon : Does the Minister agree that the surest way of increasing confidence in the security forces is for the community to see that they act within the law at all times? Does he further agree that that applies not just to the behaviour of the security forces but to all involved in
Column 429Government in the north of Ireland, who should remember the Lord Denning dictat that be you ever so high, the law is above you?
Mr. Cope : It is, of course, important that all members of the security forces and, indeed, everybody else concerned with government and so on, and the public, should remain within the rule of law, and that is what we support entirely.
The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher) : This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet and had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall be having further meetings later today.
Mr. Blunkett : Does the Prime Minister agree that in her speech to the National Childrens Home regarding the responsibility of fathers for the physical and financial well-being of their children living in a separate household, she understood that she would strike a chord with many people who normally do not agree with her policies? Will she tell the House why, among other policies that discriminate against fathers who try to take that responsibility, the Government in 1988 introduced a Budget which imposed income tax on payments made by fathers to their children in a way that helps to sustain them in a fashion that hon. Members in all parts of the House would wish to see?
The Prime Minister : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his comments about that speech--that fathers should take responsibility for children, particularly for illegitimate children, because they need the support. As he will be aware, there will be changes in taxation for married couples coming into force in the new financial year, and I shall put the particular point he raises to the Chancellor.
Sir Michael McNair-Wilson : After so many years of acrimonious dissent, does my right hon. Friend not think it rather optimistic to expect the Northern Ireland party political leaders to reach some agreement over a devolved administration for their Province? Instead, perhaps the Government should set up a review into the shape and structure of regional and local government in Northern Ireland. I remind her that it is exactly 20 years since Sir Patrick McCrory produced his report on the structure of local government in Northern Ireland. Is my right hon. Friend aware that a new review would be a timely contribution ahead of any talks that may take place between the party political leaders?
The Prime Minister : We would all wish to see greater involvement in local government in Northern Ireland of local government people. We have considered that on many occasions and put it to the several parties. I do not think that we could bring it in unless we had the agreement of the different parties to proper devolved local government, and we have not yet succeeded in that. My right hon. Friend has asked the parties to come in and talk, and I am sure that that would be one of the first matters that he would wish to put to them.
Mr. Kinnock : The Prime Minister has made it clear this week that she was given seriously inaccurate information about the case of Mr. Colin Wallace and that that incorrect information caused her to mislead the House. Will she therefore, as head of the Security Services, make a full statement to the House? Will she also commission a form of inquiry that has the power to ensure that the full truth is told about the alleged efforts to discredit public figures and Members of Parliament of several parties, including her party, and to subvert elected Governments?
The Prime Minister : First, my statement to the House on 6 May 1987 stands. It is not affected by the new information. Secondly, Mr. Wallace was a civil servant employed by the Ministry of Defence at the Army headquarters in Northern Ireland as an information officer. It seems right, therefore, that a statement was made by a Minister at the Ministry of Defence on Tuesday and will be made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence today. The statement made by my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces indicated that there is an inquiry into Mr. Wallace's case before the Civil Service appeal board, to be conducted by Mr. Calcutt QC and there is also an inquiry in the Ministry of Defence on how certain documents came to be overlooked.
Mr. Kinnock : I am sorry, but that answer does not begin to address the very basic questions. I put it to the Prime Minister that the information which, in her words, has "now come to light" somewhat offsets the credibility of her statement in May 1987 that there was "no evidence" of misuse of information by any members of the security services. Surely, that fact alone justifies a full inquiry. As the Wallace case raises serious issues of civil liberties and serious allegations of efforts to discredit Members of Parliament and to undermine elected Governments, it would be intolerable if the Prime Minister proposed to do absolutely nothing other than to hide behind anonymous civil servants.
The Prime Minister : I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman's assertions are correct. In so far as new information came forth, and in so far as that has affected earlier statements, the details were given by my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces and set out in very considerable detail in his statement to the House. My own statement on 6 May 1987 was not affected by the new information and the new information provides no evidence of attempts to undermine or discredit Ministers. This is a matter of the presentation of Mr. Wallace's case to the Civil Service appeal board. That has been put correct. In so far as the new information affected anything that Ministers have said during this Administration, we came straight to the House, a statement was made and letters were written to people who might otherwise have had incorrect information. The
Column 431statement was, in accordance with tradition, shown to the former Ministers with responsibility for defence and for Northern Ireland in the previous Labour Administration and their comments were invited.
Mr. Kinnock : Is not the Prime Minister aware that throughout the House and among wider interested parties, there is a strong opinion that neither the Calcutt inquiry, for all its worth, nor the internal inquiry by the Ministry of Defence is broad enough or open enough to satisfy the public interest? Can she explain how she made a statement in May 1987, based honestly on the evidence that then existed, and how, by her own reckoning, new evidence, new details and new facts have "now come to light"? How can she claim, in the light of all those circumstances, that her statement then still stands and should not be liable to any form of reconsideration or revision?
The Prime Minister : Because, for the third time of asking, the new information does not provide any evidence to undermine my statement to the House on 6 May 1987. It is of a much narrower kind than that, as was set out by my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces in his very detailed statement, which I commend to the right hon. Gentleman for detailed reading.
Mr. Heseltine : Will my right hon. Friend recognise the seriousness of the description of the Leader of the Opposition about the events that are alleged to have taken place? Which Government were in power when those events took place?
The Prime Minister : The documents that have been mentioned refer to events in 1974-75, a very long time ago, which is why the statement made by my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces was, of course, shown to the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees), and to Lord Mason, Lord Carrington and Lord Whitelaw. Comments were invited. These are matters which occurred in 1975 or earlier.
Mr. Rees : The fact that Lord Carrington and Lord Whitelaw were brought into the consultations--and most of the documents--proves that what happened against many of us took place in 1971, 1972 and 1973. It is no good saying that it was just under a Labour Government. The right hon. Lady was a loyal member of the Cabinet at that time. Surely it is not just a matter of a Labour Government. It went on under both Governments. Indeed, there is evidence that the Prime Minister of the day was maligned as well. Surely what the right hon. Lady said about the dirty tricks of Wright cannot possibly cover what has now been revealed.
The Prime Minister : Once again I refer the right hon. Gentleman to the statement which he saw and which was made in very full detail. These events took place about 15 years ago. There is nothing in the new information which was the cause of the statement to the House which casts doubt on my own statement of 6 May 1987, which was about very much wider matters.
Mr. Butterfill : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the recruitment of more paramedically qualified staff to the ambulance service is needed to improve the service? Will she confirm that an offer has been made that will enhance that recruitment? Does she share my puzzlement that the union leaders seem to be opposed to it?
The Prime Minister : In the ambulance service, particularly the accident and emergency part of the service, we need more people with higher medical qualifications. At the moment there are very few--too few in our view--for the topmost efficiency of the service. That is why those people have been offered a 16.3 per cent. increase in pay over an 18-month period. It is to attract those people into the service which we wish to improve.
Mr. Beith : I thank the Prime Minister for the fact that at least in her letter to the Treasury Select Committee, by way of its Chairman, she expressed regret that in letters she had previously sent there were errors as a result of the false information which she had been given. Now that she has expressed this personal regret, and yet again has had to give account for things that happened before she took office as Prime Minister, and for the fact that she had to relay to the House information that has proved to be incorrect, will she not think again both about the need for a wider inquiry into the implications of this matter and about the accountability of the security services? Is it not the case that when Ministers are not directly answerable to Parliament for things, those things are less adequately covered by civil servants' accountability to them?
The Prime Minister : In so far as there have been statements made that were incorrect or needed clarification, we came to the House and corrected those statements immediately. I think that that is greatly to the Government's credit. As soon as there was a need for a statement, we made it. With regard to the Security Service, as the hon. Gentleman is aware, there was legislation that set up both a commissioner and a tribunal. That was a great advance, and I do not think we need any further inquiries now.
Rev. Ian Paisley : Does not the right hon. Lady agree that this issue is far wider than the mere dismissal of Colin Wallace? Does not she know that at the Northern Ireland Assembly all the parties called for a public sworn inquiry into the Kincora scandal? These things will not go away, and the time has come for a full, open and honest uncovering of these matters so that people in Northern Ireland may know that the dirty tricks that were carried on have come to an end. Surely those at the receiving end have a right to have their say and put their case.
The Prime Minister : The new information in the papers does not in any way substantiate Mr. Wallace's allegations in respect of the Kincora boys home. As the hon. Gentleman knows, there has already been an inquiry into the matter, and the new information does not affect that ; nor does it provide any evidence of attempts to undermine or discredit Ministers. My statement of 6 May 1987 therefore stands.
Column 433and with the Government, and the Prime Minister is becoming more and more isolated in her stance. Even more concern is being expressed over the harder line being taken by management and some police authorities. After an accident in my constituency on Sunday night, crews were turned away by the police in favour of the Red Cross. [ Hon. Members :-- "Ask a question."] I cannot obtain an answer. I need an assurance from the Prime Minister
Column 434the police or management to frustrate the work that the ambulance crews are trying to do in dealing with incidents of this nature? We need that assurance now.
The Prime Minister : The police have had to step in where the accident and emergency services were not operating properly--and we all wish that they had been operating properly. As for the pay claim and the offer that has been made, many people would consider that an amount varying between 9 and 16.3 per cent.--for the more highly qualified--is reasonable. We expect those who deal with sick people, and on whom those sick people rely, to return to their first duty.
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