Andrew Rowe – 1986 Speech on Social Work Training

Below is the text of the speech made by Andrew Rowe, the then Conservative MP for Mid Kent, in the House of Commons on 28 February 1986.

I beg to move,

That this House takes note of the fact that some 70 per cent. of workers in residential social service establishments have no formal social work qualification; observes that the inquiry into the Beckford case criticised the lack of clarity and specialisation in the training of social workers concerned with children; sees that the Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work has put forward radical proposals for changing courses leading to the Certificate of Qualification in Social Work; questions the priorities and objectives of current and proposed social work training; and seeks an assurance that a further opportunity will be given to debate the subject before any major changes are introduced.

I speak partly as an individual and partly as the chairman of the parliamentary panel for the personal social services, which is taking an interest in this important matter. The matter is not trivial in numbers—there are about 181,257 staff employed by social services—or powers. As the report on the Beckford inquiry put it:

“After only two years’ training, and scant acquaintance with child abuse in practice, a social worker has the power—judicially sanctioned—to remove a child from its parents for a long time, perhaps irrevocably”.

It is not a trivial matter of public anxiety.

There have been more than 20 inquiries into child abuse over the past 13 years. That is partly the result of greater provision, and it should be compared with the increasing number of inquiries into hospitals for the mentally handicapped. It is an indication of a growing understanding of the problems. It is not a trivial matter in terms of public interest, because, as the population ages and more and more people end up in residential care, the biggest factor in determining whether our mothers and fathers and aunts will enjoy a dignified and properly stimulating old age is the quality of the residential care staff.

All is not well. As an example, let us look at the Beckford case. My motion is slightly inaccurate, because in fact over 80 per cent. of the staff in residential and day care settings are unqualified. If anyone bright enters that vital field, he is urged not to stay too long lest he should blight his career prospects. I wish not to be pejorative, but to be constructively exploratory.

The public perception of the social worker is confused. He is looked upon as a do-gooder, a frightening authority figure, a mediator with other services, an ally or an opponent. That perception, of course, depends partly on where the public are standing at the time and partly on the role of the social worker at the time. Those perceptions arise partly because society as a whole cannot make up its mind whether it wants social workers to help police society for bad families, to relieve it of personal neighbourly responsibilities to the unfortunate, to dispense public charity, or to ensure that public charity is not misused. All those attitudes exist.

Many people have two consecutive views, and all social workers know how vital it is to be trained to understand that the people they are helping today will feel hostile to them tomorrow. That is because when people have got through a crisis they feel acutely embarrassed and ashamed for having told the social worker so much about their personal anxiety. That comes out as hostility. Social workers are trained to perform on behalf of society an astonishing diversity of complex and demanding tasks, often at personal risk of physical or psychological injury.

The history of social work development is one of gradual progress from a handmaiden role to other professions to one of a fully-fledged profession with control of its own entry qualifications, training and certification. If I had more time I would quote the minorities report to the reports of the Committee on Medical Auxiliaries, because it put that case well. That professional status is once again under attack and the reasons for that are, first, the ambivalence in the public attitude to social workers— an attitude that has been fuelled by rare cases of disaster—and, secondly, the persistence of the extraordinary belief that medicine is somehow a uniquely superior profession. I do not know whether that is because social workers deal mainly with those most in need, while doctors deal with everyone in the population, whether it is a consequence of the length of training of doctors, or because doctors have better developed disciplinary procedures.

A striking example is contained in paragraph 2:2 of the Minister’s consultation letter on the Disabled Persons Consultation and Representation Bill, where he explains:

“There would be considerable difficulties in defining a statutory provision for the scope of a representative role in the National Health Service in the context of the professional relationship between the doctor and his patient.”

The implication is quite clear, that the professional relationship between a social worker and a client is a totally different animal. I do not understand the reason for that view.

There is confusion about training and now a demand for professional decisions to be second guessed by courts, as exemplified, for example, in the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Mr. Walters). The Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work has been debating training since 1982 and has now proposed radical changes. First, it proposes a minimum period of three years. Secondly, it proposes one qualifying award in social work, not only to merge the certificate of qualification in social work and the certificate of social services, but to cover all staff. Thirdly, it proposes Iwo routes—one employment based and one college based, both with fieldwork placements—and the new award is to be separate from awards given by universities and colleges.

There is a frightening amount of confusion surrounding these proposals. The central council seems to believe that it has wide support, and it is true that, by and large, the professional organisations support it. One would expect that—longer training helps to boost professional status, control entry and enhance the negotiating position, as well as to improve the quality of service.

However, there is much evidence that the universities are opposed to the proposals. Because of my unexpected success in the ballot, I have not had time to collect all the replies to the letters that I wrote on behalf of the parliamentary group to every university school of social work. Some of the replies have come in. It is fair to say that the central council is already deeply concerned about its relationship with the universities. Leeds, London and Brunel have now taken their last social work students, Chelsea college went out of production in 1981 and the courses at Surrey and Glasgow are under threat.

The head of the largest school in social work, in Scotland, has just written to me. His letter says:

“You are indeed right in supposing that if the proposals currently being put forward by the Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work were to be implemented, it would ​ cause the greatest difficulties for universities. Indeed, I have to say that these proposals have been opposed by almost all of those teaching social work in academic institutions and by their organisations.

As I am sure you know, the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals has repeatedly stressed the importance and value of universities continuing to provide social workers with vocational training and the present proposals will hardly assist this.”

Make no mistake—social work without university entry and research would cease to be a profession, and the public would suffer as a result.

There are other elements in this anxiety. The trade unions are not entirely satisfied. The Association of University Teachers is deeply worried, and not only about resources. The National and Local Government Officers thinks that the proposals are positive in general, but claims that the service unions are so strongly opposed to internship that the proposal made for that needs to be reexamined. The proposal for three-year training is welcomed by some, but passionately opposed in its present form by others.

The Beckford inquiry was unequivocal. It said that three-year training is indispensable and:

“We are convinced that nothing short of a period of three years is required for the professional training of social workers, of which a larger proportion than at the present should be devoted to specialist areas of knowledge.”

The present state of social work training is worth a comment. Social workers have to cope with more than 30 main Acts, with subsidiary legislation, plus guidance from the DHSS and local policy guidelines. At the moment they spend some 20 weeks in college over their two years. This means that they will have perhaps one day on welfare benefits, four and a half hours on academic work on disability, and perhaps as much as 12 hours on mental disorder. That is hardly an impressive catalogue of the time available.
Such confusion plays into the hands of those with other axes to grind. At a recent meeting, Her Majesty’s inspectorate of schools claimed that it saw no clear case for a third year of training, and unless and until the profession is clear about its priorities the huge expansion of resources that the central council’s proposals will require will not be found.

There is also the question whether we agree with the Seebohm recommendations, properly applied. Seebohm argued that a basic grade worker should be able to work with a whole family, on the sensible ground that if there are several social workers visiting one family the opportunity for confusion and manipulation either by the family or the social worker is enormous. However, it insisted that basic grade workers should be able to call on more specialist help.

On the other hand, do we agree with the Beckford inquiry, which suggested that training should be turned on its head so that it starts with specialist training and, if people want to widen their interest, they can have a bolt-on module after qualification? We would be barmy to lengthen the training course until we know what we want it to produce. Two things are clear. First, as our population ages and as we press on with care in the community programmes and emptying our ancient institutions, and as pressures in inner cities grow and the rate of change in our society accelerates, leaving more people behind, the demand for social workers who know what they are doing and in whom we can have confidence will grow. Every one ​ of us has an interest in this. Secondly, more resources will be needed. The House has a proper and jealously-guarded interest in the allocation of resources.

I hope that in the short time available to me I have said enough to justify the terms of my motion and to persuade the Government that not only do we need better training for social workers, but that it would be appropriate to allow Government time to debate any changes that may be made in a matter so close to all of us here and in the constituencies.

Ken Hargreaves – 1986 Speech on Housing in Hyndburn

Below is the text of the speech made by Ken Hargreaves, the then Conservative MP for Hyndburn, in the House of Commons on 28 February 1986.

I thought for some considerable time before I decided to bring the housing problems of Hyndburn before the House once again. I should hate to be responsible for the borough council being thought of as whingeing or complaining. However, because the constituency is and always has been my home I receive daily reminders of the problems that we face. As I hope to live in Hyndburn long after I have ceased to be a Member of Parliament, I should be distressed if failure to deal with those problems were to be a memorial to a lack of effort on my part.

The twin aims of the Government’s housing policy are to make Britain the best housed country in Europe and to increase owner-occupation. Both are laudable aims, and, though we are a long way from achieving the first aim, impressive progress has been made. If the Government were to announce before the next general election that they had achieved 80 per cent. owner-occupation, it would be regarded as a major triumph. In Hyndburn we already have that remarkable percentage. The problem for those of us concerned with housing in Hyndburn is to ensure that we maintain it at that level and do not allow it to go into reverse.

I do not need to rehearse before the Minister the statistics of which he is well aware—Hyndburn’s 80 per cent. owner-occupation, per capita resources below the national average, despite having the 28th highest per capita general needs index score, and the borough’s inability to generate capital receipts. These facts have been set out previously in discussions, debates and documents.

I want to draw the Minister’s attention to the increased difficulties which we now face as a result of the reduction in the housing investment programme allocation for 1986–87. In previous housing debates, I have paid tribute to the Government for their interest in and help with the problems which Hyndburn faces. The extra resources, visits and meetings with the Minister did much to reassure the anxious local authority that the problems it faced were understood by the Government. Therefore, it came as a shock when the HIP figures for 1986–87 were announced. Hyndburn’s allocation had been reduced from £0·410 million in 1985–86 to £2·572 million for next year. That reduction is serious in itself, but is aggravated by the fact that the Government expect local authorities to make up 42 per cent. of total spending by using capital receipts compared with 25 per cent. in the current year.

Hyndburn’s inability to generate capital receipts means that available receipts are unlikely to increase total spending by more than 14 per cent. I regret that arguments which Hyndburn put forward on previous occasions and which had the support of the Department of the Environment at regional level have apparently been ignored at the national level. I accept that there is no possibility of an increase in Hyndburn’s HIP allocation for the coming year. I am therefore anxious to explore other ways to ensure that the borough can attract more resources. I also wish to seek assurance for the future.

The authority has never believed in using Government restrictions as an excuse for inaction and it has tried virtually all the new opportunities presented over the last ​ few years. Many have not proved of any great help in an area where market forces reduce the potential for private investment. I believe that the borough council has been progressive and is worthy of encouragement. The council introduced the volume sale of its relatively few council houses prior to the Housing Act 1980. Improvement for sale and homesteading have been used to sell local authority housing for owner-occupation. Both proved useful in specific circumstances but had comparatively little potential. Partnership housing developments were undertaken with significant private investment, but, after almost three years, some of the houses remain unsold. The private sector shows great reluctance to build on redevelopment sites.

The authority believes in a block renovation approach and is now initiating block repair schemes. The need for more responsive estate management has been accepted and a priority estate project is about to start on the largest problem estate and is to be followed by similar projects elsewhere.

The special needs of the elderly have been recognised and the council has taken up with enthusiasm the recommendations made by Dr. Anthea Tinker in “Staying at Home” and has just inaugurated its first warden call scheme in council houses. This will be extended shortly to the private sector. The council has also developed extra care provision in sheltered housing to ensure that the frail elderly are able to remain there rather than have to move into residential homes at a greater cost to public funds.

It remains the authority’s policy to encourage housing association activity as an integral part of its housing strategy. The council’s initiatives show that it is willing to try anything to help to alleviate the problems and to prevent the even greater difficulties that we foresee arising in the future unless action is taken now. The council has proved that it uses its limited resources effectively and imaginatively. It is worthy of support. Whatever form the support may take this year, it will only limit the damage done as a result of the reduced HIP allocation, but it could, if coupled with some reassurances about the future, do much to reduce anxiety felt by councillors, officials and householders.

The council responded quickly and positively to the announcement of the establishment of the urban housing renewal unit and it has worked closely with its officials and advisers to prepare a package of measures which would improve an estate and bring in private finance to redevelop part of it. A reasonable response to the council’s bid for funds would be an immense help to the problem estate involved, a great support for the priority estate project initiative and release much needed funds for use elsewhere in the private sector.

A favourable response to the council’s approach for Community refurbishment scheme funding for Huncoat would improve houses and encourage people in the area, which has the highest unemployment in the borough. Although help with urban housing renewal unit schemes and CRS would remove to some extent the immediate financial worries, the council is anxious about possible changes in Housing Corporation funding and the rumoured moves away from the HIP system.

The criteria for Housing Corporation investment have recently been changed to priority areas only — it is priority based on arbitrary criteria which result in authorities with similar GNI scores having scores that vary from 22 to 88. Hyndburn scored 22 which, for 1986–87, ​ is a cut-off point. We are worried that Government pressure for a higher cut-off point could lead to a loss of Housing Corporation investment in the borough, which would be a most bitter blow. May we be assured that less arbitrary criteria will be used in future and that the council can anticipate Housing Corporation investment?

Rumours of moves away from the HIP system are worrying. The principle of HIP — allocation in accordance with needs—is sound, and the GNI system, while flawed, is a good basis to work on and reasonably comprehensible. Can my hon. Friend assure the council that HIP allocations will continue, that they will be based on a reasonably sophisticated index of needs and that they will include some means of weighting to take account of potential for private funding to replace public funding needs?

My constituents are suffering from poor housing conditions, which are prevalent in many parts of Hyndburn. They know from experience that only a Conservative Government is likely to help them. They are aware that, during the last year of the Labour Government, only £223,000 was spent on improvement grants, whereas we spent £1·8 million last year. The people of the borough were shocked and amazed by the recent episode in the council chamber, which showed the lack of concern of Labour and SDP members. The two parties voted that the director of housing and the chairman of the housing services committee should not be allowed to accept an invitation from my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing, Urban Affairs and Construction to meet him to discuss Hyndburn’s undoubted housing problems. The decision was made because Labour and SDP councillors were not included in the invitation.

Do they really believe that the people who desperately need home improvement grants, for example, are interested in who talks to the Minister as long as he gets the message and Hyndburn gets the money? Fortunately, because of the courage and determination of the chairman of the housing services committee, Councillor Mrs. Elizabeth Court, who, like me, is willing to go anywhere and talk to anyone if it will help in any way to reduce our housing problem, the meeting with the Minister went ahead, as Mrs. Court attended in a personal capacity and not as housing chairman. Although we were denied the contribution which would have been made by the director of housing, Mr. Edgar Bignell, the meeting proved most useful and I hope that, as a result, Hyndburn’s case for UHRU and CRS was reinforced.

Because of the reduction in the HIP allocation, it is vital that we find other sources of funding. I accept that the progress towards making this country the best housed in Europe depends largely upon the provision of a sound economic base and the creation of real productive jobs, and not just the making of artificial jobs. I look to the Government to provide a balanced programme for housing, to provide the public finance necessary to pump-prime housing strategy, and to do it in a way that attracts additional private investment. Time is short. Local authorities are increasingly dependent upon capital receipts. The amount of those capital receipts will steadily diminish over the years and the Government must take account of that.

I support the Government’s policy of reducing public spending, but their housing policy runs contrary to that aim, as it does not reduce public spending, but simply postpones it. Such a postponement will lead only to the need for far greater spending in the not too distant future. ​ The Government should switch more resources into housing and must ensure that the money is used to greatest effect.

I commend to the Minister the neighbourhood revitalisation service. At present there are four pilot schemes in operation in Sheffield, Oldham, Bedford and Gloucester. Their purpose is to demonstrate that a properly co-ordinated partnership between public and private sectors, with a small amount of public sector investment, can generate a gearing ratio of private sector investment in the housing stock. That concept can be developed to include business investment in the area.

It is too early to say what the gearing ratio should be, but it is expected to be in the ratio of 1:3 over a period of time. Such schemes are an effective use of scarce resources and additional money allocated to similar schemes would be well spent—not least in Hyndburn, which would be one of the areas to benefit from an expansion of NRS.

I urge the Government to look closely and urgently at the whole question of improvement grants. I hope that they will seriously consider declaring housing stress areas into which additional capital from revenue resources could be invested to concentrate spending on areas with the highest levels of owner-occupied properties that are substandard and in need of repair.

Such concentration of resources would be justified, as it would protect individuals who have invested their limited resources in their own homes. It would be cost-effective and would create much needed jobs because improvement grants are labour-intensive. Given that investment in improvement areas has all those advantages, it is disappointing and hard to understand why the Government have not moved more resolutely in that direction.

Lent is a time for repentance and a time to examine exactly where we stand. It would be a good time for the Government to do just that in relation to their housing policy.

David Owen – 1986 Speech on Johnson Matthey Bankers

Below is the text of the speech made by David Owen, the then SDP MP for Plymouth Devonport, in the House of Commons on 27 February 1986.

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 10, to discuss a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,

“Johnson Matthey Bankers’ gold bullion transactions and the refusal of the Prime Minister to establish a public tribunal of inquiry.”

The House has been attempting to discuss the problem of Johnson Matthey Bankers since October 1984 and there has never been a specific debate on that issue. It has many ramifications. It involves the Prime Minister because of her refusal to establish a public tribunal of inquiry on 2 August 1985. It involves the Chancellor of the Exchequer because of his repeated assurances over the Governor of the Bank of England’s claim that the bullion trading of JMB was sound and, of course, it involves the judgment of the Governor of the Bank of England.

The matter is specific because there is £175 million of public money at risk because of the decision of the Governor of the Bank of England to rescue JMB and because of the Government’s acceptance, on a number of occasions, that that money should not only be maintained but increased. It is therefore a matter that will have to come before the House.

It is my submission that it is urgent because today we have seen JMB’s headquarters raided by Customs and Excise under a warrant, to look at the transactions in the gold bullion market. We know that around 30 other premises in the country have also been similarly raided to see what has been happening. I understand that there have been 12 arrests, none of them involving personnel of Johnson Matthey Bankers. Customs and Excise believes that about £7·25 million worth of gold bullion may have been smuggled into the country from April last year until 11 days ago.

It goes much wider and deeper than that. There is reason to believe that the smuggling and purchase of gold at a below market price by JMB has been continuing for a considerable time. It is on the issue of the bullion market of JMB that I have been probing the Government, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Prime Minister for a long time. [Laughter.] The correspondence on this matter is substantial and if any right hon. or hon. Member wishes to see the correspondence I would be happy to show it.

The matter is urgent because not only is £175 million at stake, but the reputation of the City of London, in particular the reputation of the Governor of the Bank of England, is considerably at stake. Solemn assurances were given. The Governor of the Bank of England gave me an assurance on 21 December. He wrote:

“Your assertions, and attempts to demonstrate that the bullion operations of JMB are basically unsound, would, I believe, diminish the confidence of its customers and counterparties and their willingness to do business with it, making it more difficult for JMB to trade profitably in the future.”

The letter also said: ​

“The advice which you have received is ill-informed and the conclusions you draw ill-founded.”

There is no doubt that JMB’s bullion market transactions have been operating under a considerable cloud and the concerns that I expressed were both well informed and well founded. I submit that when the reputation of the Governor of the Bank of England, as well as the judgment of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Prime Minister, is at stake, that is a matter of considerable urgency.

I wrote to the Prime Minister specifically, urgently and privately on 1 August last year to ask her to establish a public tribunal of inquiry. That was not done lightly. It was done in the knowledge that two members of Johnson Matthey Bankers had just been dismissed. It was clear that there was more behind it than the explanation that was given. We have had constant difficulty in getting at what is really happening. The Price Waterhouse report has not been revealed. The hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore) has been vigilant on one other aspect, relating to the industrial and marketing context. On the bullion market, we have not had proper bank accounts published by the Bank of England and we have not had the results of the investigations. I submit that it is now time that the issue was discussed in the House as an urgent and specific matter. I hope, Mr. Speaker, that you will accede to my request for a debate on the Adjournment.

David Waddington – 1986 Speech on Kevin Capenhurst

Below is the text of the speech made by David Waddington, the then Minister of State at the Home Office, in the House of Commons on 27 February 1986.

It is sad that tonight we should be debating the case of a young man who was only 17 when he died last October. Unfortunately, people sometimes die of illness when in prison, and, although there are arrangements for the early release of prisoners or detainees who are terminally ill, there are bound to be cases where people die suddenly before such arrangements are put into effect.

The hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) asks what is being done to prevent others from dying in prison. The answer has to be that no steps can be taken to prevent entirely the possibility of people dying in prison. Before a convicted person can be released early on grounds of illness, the Home Secretary has to recommend to Her Majesty that action be taken through exercise of the royal prerogative of mercy to relieve him of the effects, or part of the effects, of his conviction: and it was under the power that on 21 August 1985 Kevin Capenhurst was released early from his sentence of three and half years’ detention, which had been imposed on him as recently as 25 January last year.

The prison standing orders set out the circumstances under which the medical officer of a prison should present the case for consideration for early release; and when he is of the opinion that the illness of a prisoner is likely to result in his death within a brief period, or that he is likely to be bedridden or incapacitated until his earliest date of release, he is required to submit a report to the directorate of prison medical services and to officials in the criminal department of the Home Office. The medical officer should also be of the opinion that the prisoner’s illness or ​ physical condition means that risk of further offending is past, and he must be sure that he is in a fit state to be moved.

In deciding whether to make a recommendation to Her Majesty, the Home Secretary must also take account of such matters as the nature of the offence or offences, the criminal record of the prisoner, the length of the sentence and the time left to serve.

When a prisoner benefits from this exercise of the royal prerogative, he is free from all the consequences of his offence, and free from the control of the prison authorities. But there is no question of terminally ill prisoners being released to fend for themselves. In all cases, every effort is made to ensure that there are proper arrangements for a person’s care. We make sure that he has relatives or friends who will be able and willing to take care of him on release, or we ensure that he is discharged to the care of a hospital or other suitable place such as a hostel or hospice.

It is true that Capenhurst was not released until after the hon. and learned Gentleman had taken an interest in the case, but I must make it absolutely plain that the question whether Capenhurst should be granted early release was already under consideration in the last week of July, before the hon. and learned Gentleman came on the scene. Inquiries were in hand to establish what arrangements could be made for Capenhurst’s care in the event of his release. They included inquiries as to his home circumstances, but it was always envisaged that he might have to return to Leicester royal infirmary, which is what happened, before he went to the hospice.

Of course, a decision on whether a person should be released may be difficult to make. Even if someone is fatally ill, it may be very difficult for doctors to make a firm prognosis until death is fairly close. The hon. and learned Gentleman made a sweeping statement, which ignored entirely the obvious difficulty, when he said that it lacked common sense to keep someone in prison who was likely to die.

However, that does not mean that, as a matter of policy, people are not released early until they have but a few days or weeks to live. Cases are considered and prisoners released early even where the life expectancy may be many months. Each case is considered on its merits. All the criteria I have listed must be considered together. In different cases, different factors may be of significance. Thus it may be necessary to pay special attention to the nature of the offences and the risk of further offending.

Although cases where a dying prisoner is released early are not frequent, they are not especially rare or unusual. There are about five or six a year. So our practices are well tested and seem to have worked well in the past, with deserving cases not being ignored or passed over. They also seem to have worked properly and been applied sympathetically in the case of Kevin Capenhurst, in that when a firm prognosis as to his life expectancy was given, his release was immediately authorised. Of course, the future looked bleak from the time of the young man’s operation, but it was a rare form of cancer—especially rare for such a young man. His life expectancy was clearly extremely difficult to judge. All that Dr. Phipps at the infirmary could say at the end of July was that Capenhurst was unlikely to live for more than two years. Even so, by that time, the case was under consideration with a view to his early release. ​ I ought to say something about the hon. and learned Member’s dealings with the senior medical officer at Glen Parva. There was a misunderstanding between the hospital and the medical officer, who understood a letter from the consultant radiotherapist to mean that further operation was not possible because of difficulty in persuading Kevin Capenhurst to accept treatment. I am sorry that that resulted in the hon. and learned Gentleman suggesting to Capenhurst that he should undergo an operation which was not medically possible at that time. I do not believe, however, that that misunderstanding, although unfortunate and distressing, shows a general problem with communication between medical professions in the prison service and the National Health Service. Nor do I think that it shows that, in this case, there was a complete failure of communication. There was a misunderstanding about what was meant in the letter from the hospital.

As to our procedures and practices, they were last reviewed as recently as 1979. Even so, we have taken the opportunity to re-examine them. Although I do not believe that this case has shown up any serious deficiencies, we will make some small modifications to improve and speed up consultation and consideration. For example, we will ensure that Home Office cases which are clearly urgent are marked as such. We will emphasise the need to exercise judgments as quickly and humanely as possible. We are also considering whether advice to the prison authorities may be clarified and improved and whether there might be a need to remind medical officers from time to time of the existence of guidance.

Bearing in mind the number of these cases, prison authorities and their medical officers do not always have frequent experience of them. Their first concern as medical practitioners is the care and treatment of a patient. We will also conduct a review of potential cases by examining a sample, which will include all prisoners who are identified as seriously rather than terminally ill, to confirm that merit-worthy cases for early release are not inadvertently overlooked.

I am confident that our practices are not deficient, but I am glad to have had the opportunity to listen to the hon. and learned Member’s views in the light of his experience with this case.

Mr. Janner

I thank the Minister for giving way and for what I regard as potentially substantial modifications ​ in procedure. Do the changes include notification of the Minister about those who are diagnosed as suffering from a terminal illness?

The Minister has said throughout that consideration was given and will be given, but he has not said by whom. When a person is dying while effectively in the protection of the Home Office, the Minister should be informed. The matter should not be left to a prison medical officer or even to the prison medical service. It should go to those who are elected and who are answerable to the House.

Mr. Waddington

As the hon. and learned Gentleman knows, I do not have the day-to-day handling of these cases. This much at least is clear in my mind. There must be rules and instructions as to when the medical officer in a prison recommends that a person be released.

I have summarised the sort of criteria that have to be applied by the prison medical officer. That is the first stage. There have to be rules telling the medical officer when he should refer. When he refers, he is referring the case out of the prison to the Home Office. As to whether a case when referred to the Home Office comes straight on to the Minister’s desk, I am not qualified to say. The hon. and learned Gentleman will realise my difficulty. I will check with my noble Friend and ask him to reply by letter to the hon. and learned Gentleman. I do not want to find that I have been in error, although I think I know what happens in these cases. I have had the opportunity of looking at the instructions and practices which are carried out. I do not think there is any evidence that they are deficient.

This has been an interesting debate. It has given me the opportunity of pointing out that certain changes have taken place, although they are not of a major sort. It gives me the opportunity to thank the hon. and learned Gentleman not only for having raised the case but also for having taken a close interest in the welfare of this young man and for having gone to a great deal of trouble to ensure that he could go into a hospice when he was moved from a hospital in Leicester.

It is appropriate that I should end my remarks by voicing my thanks to the learned and hon. Gentleman, but I think that I have also, in a friendly and co-operative spirit, rebutted some of the rather exaggerated criticisms that he made.

Greville Janner – 1986 Speech on Kevin Capenhurst

Below is the text of the speech made by Greville Janner, the then Labour MP for Leicester West, in the House of Commons on 27 February 1986.

I am happy to have the opportunity to raise on the adjournment the tragic case of my constituent, Kevin Capenhurst, aged 17. Kevin Capenhurst was suffering from terminal cancer while imprisoned in the Glen Parva young offenders’ centre. He was released only after I had made a series of representations to the Government. Were it not for the intervention in particular of the Leicester Mercury, which informed me of Kevin’s case, Kevin would no doubt have died in prison, as the system does not ensure that the Ministers responsible for prisons and young offenders are informed in good time when inmates are suffering from terminal illness. The result is that Ministers do not take steps to obtain the release of such people.

The system’s lack of compassion and its inhumanity applies whether the House and the Government are dealing with a 17-year-old youngster or a much older person. I submit that, where it is known that someone in detention will shortly die, to keep that person away from the dignity and decency of a death in freedom lacks kindness, compassion and common sense.

Kevin Capenhurst was the victim of the kind of life with which society has not learnt to cope. He came from a frequently broken home which lacked the stability enjoyed by most people. Kevin spent much of his childhood and youth in a series of institutions where good people tried to care for him, without great success. He emerged into adolescence as a young criminal who was sentenced for a series of crimes, some of which involved violence. Kevin ended up at Glen Parva convicted of mugging. He was a tough, difficult young offender.

After Kevin had been in Glen Parva for some months he complained that he was ill. His mother told me that she received letters from Kevin in which he complained that his symptoms were treated as if he was skiving and that he did not receive prompt attention. In due course, his illness was diagnosed as a rare form of terminal cancer. Instead of being referred at once to the Minister in charge of prisons, his case was not dealt with adequately or at all and only reached the attention of the Minister through me.

I pay tribute, as I have done before, to the speed with which Lord Glenarthur, the Minister then concerned, stepped in. Lord Glenarthur telephoned and gave instructions while on holiday, saw me at short notice and assessed whether it would be safe for this young man to be out of prison. When he was satisfied that it would be safe and that Kevin had somewhere to go, he ensured his release.

Once the Minister took note, he also took steps. My complaint is that there is apparently no efficient system to deal with such cases; there was no system; and nothing so far as I know has been done since Kevin’s death to ensure that a system will be created. What are Her Majesty’s Government proposing to do to prevent others from dying in prison when they should be released, whatever their age may be? What lessons, if any, have been learnt from the death of this young man?

As a result of Kevin’s release, he was able to spend several months in freedom. He was treated in the Leicester royal infirmary with great kindness and care. He went to ​ Lourdes by ambulance and told me how thrilled he had been to be wheeled around in his bed to the grotto. He said, “I have at least achieved something in my life.”

Before he died, Kevin was admitted by the Leicester Organisation for the Relief of Suffering, known locally as LOROS, into the new hospice, which had not existed when Kevin was first diagnosed as terminally ill. I pay my public tribute to the people whose devotion has created this hospice, and to those who work in it. It has made a vast difference to the dignity of the life of Leicester people. I also pay tribute to the nuns who run St. Joseph’s hospice in London, who were prepared to take, look after and love Kevin in his last days. There are not enough of such institutions.

Unfortunately, the matter does not end there. I wish to use this opportunity to bring to the Government’s attention what happens and what happened in the medical section of Glen Parva. I went to see Kevin on Thursday 8 August last year. I was accompanied by two of my assistants, Martin Hutchings and David Metzgero. I say that because of their corroboration of what occurred. We were to see the forensic psychiatrist who was in attendance and who said that chemotherapy was essential but Kevin was refusing to continue with it and that he had a major obstruction—a primary tumour—which needed removal, but he would not agree to the operation. I asked why, and the doctor said that he thought that it was because, perhaps, he thought that if his condition deteriorated his prospects of release would be greater. I asked whether, in those circumstances the doctor would wish me to speak to the boy about it, and he said, “Yes, that would be a good idea.”

I went upstairs, where I was shown into a lounge. Kevin was brought in looking very thin, but bright and uncomplaining. A prison officer in the corridor stared at us through the glass throughout the entire interview. That was not for our protection, because the boy could not have knocked down a nine pin, never mind us, but an act of discourtesy that we very much resented.

I told Kevin about the operation and he asked about it. I convinced him that he should accept the advice that he had been given. He told me of the awful side effects of chemotherapy but denied having refused it. He told me that he had never refused an operation, but, in the circumstances that I have described, he would welcome it if it would extend his life. I then had a similar conversation with his mother outside, explaining the need for the operation.

The House will be shocked as I was to learn, as I did from the doctor to whom I spoke at the Leicester royal infirmary, that at the date when I was requested to speak to the boy and ask him to undergo, by agreement, an operation, he was inoperable, and the prison authorities had been informed that he was inoperable. This is one of the most callous and unkind events that I have come across in my public life. It also did much to remove some of the confidence that this lad ought to have had in his Member of Parliament. I was asked to persuade him to have an operation when he was inoperable, although in any event he said he had been and was prepared to have it.

Eventually, the head of the prison medical service attended a meeting with the Minister and Mr. Hutchings in the Minister’s office and various excuses were made, none of which I accept. There is no excuse. There ought ​ to have been an apology and the Minister should provide one, along with an explanation and the assurance that such things will not be permitted to recur.

I wish that this House did not have to deal with cases like Kevin’s, but this place in its glory looks after individuals and their families and hon. Members who care are enabled through Adjournment debates to raise cases that concern individuals. Kevin’s case goes much further than his individual problem, because it reflects on the failure of society to cope, and because it throws into sharp relief a system that is wicked and ought to be changed. It is a system in which dying people, however much harm they have caused, are not permitted out of prison when it is safe for them to be out. Kevin was released only after the intervention of his Member of Parliament. I thank again the Leicester Mercury and Mr. Laurie Simpkin for his help in the campaign to have Kevin released.

After three months, Kevin died. I visited him often in the LOROS hospice and it was amazing to see that he almost a skeleton, was capable of living. This boy whose life had been a misery and who had caused unhappiness to many other people never complained during his last three months. He never argued but accepted what he knew was to come and nothing became him more in life than his way of passing from it. I salute the courage with which he faced the end of his life and with which he bore his pain and his tragedy. I hope that his life and his death will be used as an example, and that the Minister and his colleagues will be encouraged, for the sake of all of us who cared about him, to take to heart at least some of the lessons to be learnt from that life and death.

Norman Lamont – 1986 Statement on the Royal Air Force

Below is the text of the speech made by Norman Lamont, the then Minister of State for Defence Procurement, in the House of Commons on 26 February 1986.

I am delighted to have the opportunity to open this debate on the Royal Air Force, a service which occupies a key place in British defence policy. Its role in United Kingdom air defence is central not only to this country, but to NATO’s ability to withstand any Warsaw pact attack on western Europe. The crucial place of United Kingdom air forces is illustrated by the fact that the Commander-in-Chief of RAF Strike Command occupies an important senior post in the NATO command structure.

In the central region, too, Royal Air Force Germany plays a vital role in support of our ground forces in the land battle —strike-attack, close air support and reconnaissance. The RAF is also vital for out-of-area commitments. The defence of the Falklands and the airbridge to the islands is only the best known of a range of activities which require men and machines of great diversity and first-rate quality.

Perhaps I could briefly remind the House of the great improvements in Soviet capability which are currently taking place. The Fulcrum agile, all-weather fighter-interceptor is coming into service. It is similar to the F-18, a very advanced and formidable aircraft. The Flanker air superiority fighter, which is similar to the F-15, is also nearing deployment. They are supported, and their effectiveness increased, by the new Soviet airborne early warning aircraft. A cruise missile carrying variant of the Bear bomber is now in production.

This list is by no means exhaustive but it illustrates the considerable improvements in quality which the Soviet forces are steadily achieving. These improvements are to forces which substantially outnumber those of the NATO Alliance. The Warsaw pact deploys some 2,700 fixed wing tactical aircraft on the central front to NATO’s 1,300. The Warsaw pact production rate of aircraft is at a ratio of 1·4:1 against that of NATO. Against that background it has been this Government’s policy to carry through a major re-equipment programme for the RAF, making it one of the most sophisticated air forces in NATO.

The RAF share of the defence equipment budget is some 36 per cent, in the current year. That is a share of a defence equipment budget which has grown from 39 to 46 per cent. of the entire defence budget since 1979. That defence budget is about one fifth larger in real terms than when we entered office.

These figures are the measure of the extra resources that we have been able to devote to the re-equipment of the RAF. It is a capital-intensive service and takes a large part of the equipment budget, and for that reason the majority of my speech will be about equipment.

By any standards, a major milestone in the continued progress of this re-equipment programme occurred last year when the national armament directors of the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Spain signed the Turin agreement to proceed collaboratively with the new European fighter aircraft.

Following on from the success of Tornado, EFA was in fact the logical next step in terms of European collaboration. The United Kingdom will need a new agile combat aircraft to replace its Phantom and Jaguar aircraft from the mid-1990s. Other European ​ countries have a similar need in the same timescale. It is one thing to perceive a need and an opportunity, another to turn that into a collaborative programme. By his initiative and energy my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) gave impetus to this project and, despite great difficulty in reaching a consensus on requirements, secured its launch: a tremendous political achievement.

Work on the project is proceeding well. The industries of the four countries started on the project definition stage last September shortly after the national armament directors reached agreement on the technical and organisational basis of the project definition study. One of the major technical characteristics relates to aircraft weight, about which there has recently been considerable press comment. I confirm that it has always been, and remains, our firm intention that aircraft design shall respect the characteristics which were agreed last summer in Turin. I welcome this opportunity to make that position clear.

It would be wrong to imply that the task that has been set for EFA is easy. The definition and design of such an aircraft, incorporating state-of-the-art technology, is inevitably a challenging process. There is clearly much to be done during the coming months before the industrial reports are submitted to the four Governments for appraisal later this year. But we are fortunate to have the firm technical foundation of the Tornado partnership to work on. Moreover, we have the political and industrial resolve to follow up the success of that programme with an even more ambitious and exciting one.

Ian Lang – 1986 Speech on Employment in Nuneaton

Below is the text of the speech made by Ian Lang, the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment, in the House of Commons on 26 February 1986.

My hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Stevens) has described in great detail the problems which his constituency faces and how they will be exacerbated if Sterling Metals, one of Nuneaton’s major employers, closes its iron foundry. I fully accept the seriousness of Nuneaton’s unemployment problem and I sympathise with my hon. Friend’s genuine concern. I have listened carefully to the points that he has made and I shall try to answer as many of them as possible. I, too, welcome the presence of my hon. Friend the Member for Warwickshire, North (Mr. Maude) in view of the close interest that he also has been taking in this matter.

My hon. Friends’ concern about Sterling Metals is entirely understandable. The Sterling Metals iron foundry employs 700 of their constituents and near neighbours and is the only independent United Kingdom foundry producing cylinder blocks for high-speed diesel engines. I understand that Birmid Qualcast has re-appraised its operations and has decided that the market outlook does not justify the investment needed to enable the foundry to survive and meet the requirements of new diesel engine designs.

Demand for castings has fallen sharply over recent years and the diesel engine sector has been particularly hard hit. The downturn in demand for castings reflects the general downturn in the principal customers, especially automobiles and construction, and is being felt by other component producers such as the drop forging companies. I understand that Birmid Qualcast expects demand for the Sterling foundry’s cylinder blocks to fall by 5,000 tonnes to 30,000 tonnes a year by the end of 1986.

My hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton mentioned competition from Spain and Brazil. I do not dispute that imports from countries such as Spain and Brazil have had a detrimental effect on Sterling Metals, but they are not solely to blame. My hon. Friend will doubtless be aware ​ that we cannot prevent the Brazilian Government from subsidising their foundry industry as they wish.

However, foundries, like any other industrial sector, have recourse to the anti-dumping procedures, where imports from non-EC countries are concerned. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry can provide guidance on how complaints might be made to the Commission. My hon. Friend might like to raise that with him.

As far as Spain is concerned, it is now an EC member state and from 1 January 1986 became subject to new disciplines regarding state aids to industry. The state aids provisions of the Treaty of Rome give the Commission powers to investigate and, if appropriate, require the withdrawal of state aids which distort competition in intra-Community trade.

Spain has now altered her turnover tax system to remove the element of export subsidy. If there are other forms of subsidy involved the industry will need to present some evidence of them in order to give the Commission grounds to investigate. We have pressed the Commission to ensure that Spain complies with the state aid rules from the outset. If the United Kingdom foundry industry produces evidence of state aids being granted since 1 January 1986, we shall consider pursuing the question with the Commission. The loss of 700 jobs at Sterling Metals is very regrettable, but I have to say that that decision is a matter for the commercial judgment of the company based on its view of the market outlook.

As I think my hon. Friend knows from his recent meeting with my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry, we made an offer of £600,000 assistance under the Industrial Development Act towards the modernisation of the foundry. However, Birmid Qualcast decided not to proceed with the investment.

Further discussions could be held if a way could be found of maintaining the operation—for example, by way of a buy-out. Again, this is, of course, a matter for the Department of Trade and Industry, but I understand that it would be willing to consider providing assistance for a buy-out providing a commercially viable plan were put forward.

If the management and/or the work force at Sterling Metals are considering a buy-out, I would urge them to consult the West Midlands regional office of DTI—which would be willing to help and advise—at the earliest opportunity.

I realise that in the event of redundancy, some of the work force may have difficulty in finding new jobs, and I can assure them through my hon. Friend that all the facilities of the Manpower Services Commission will be available to help them in their search for work or retraining. When I refer to work, I include self-employment.

But apart from the immediate effects on the work force, I acknowledge that the closure will represent a further reduction of job opportunities in Nuneaton, and I know the area already has high unemployment. I was in the West Midlands myself earlier this week. The problem of unemployment is one of the most serious facing not only this country, but the whole industrialised world.

Unemployment in Britain has been rising for 20 years and the west midlands—our industrial heartland—has been especially hard hit by the recent recession and by market shifts. ​ The historical reasons are well known. Our industries were overmanned, our work force was undertrained. We were slow to adapt to market changes and to new production methods. We became steadily less competitive, with the result that firms throughout the country which could not sell their goods had to close down or shed jobs. We have had to undergo a change from the old industrial pattern to new technologies and advanced manufacturing.

In the case of Nuneaton, the traditional manufacturing industries of textiles and metal bashing have declined, and the town has had to adapt to a more service-orientated economy. Nuneaton enjoys a good location at the centre of the Midlands motorway network, and its position has aready been exploited by several distribution companies. The M42 link road which has recently opened on the outskirts of Nuneaton could generate further interest.

I am not suggesting that my hon. Friend is overstating Nuneaton’s problems. It is not easy to adjust to major changes in market conditions. However, we must not constantly look on the black side. Companies in Nuneaton are winning contracts and new jobs are being created there.

The Galliford group, a local construction company, won contracts worth £35 million throughout the country during the latter half of 1985. Sainsburys intends to replace its existing supermarket with a superstore next year. Creating 200 new jobs, and ASDA is also planning a superstore in Nuneaton which could bring over 300 jobs.

Despite the difficult times. People are finding work: 3,000 people have been placed in jobs through Nuneaton jobcentre alone since April last year, and many more will have found jobs by other means. Unemployment in my hon. Friend’s constituency fell between January 1985 and January 1986. These are welcome and encouraging signs which go some way to offset the bad news.

Clearly, much more needs to be done, and the Government have a role in encouraging positive change. One of the ways in which we can help is by providing incentives to attract investment to areas with severe economic problems. Nuneaton is part of the Coventry travel-to-work area which received assisted area status in November 1984. Since then, companies moving into Nuneaton or expanding their existing operations have received offers of over £1 million in regional aid. This money has helped to create some 200 new jobs and safeguard 500 existing ones.

This is a sizeable amount of Government assistance, which is focused directly on job creation. The review of regional policy in 1984 led to a new system of regional aid focused on job creation rather than encouraging capital-intensive investment, and some service sector activities became eligible for regional aid for the first time. We cannot create the jobs that are needed in Nuneaton. But through regional aid we can, and do, help those areas worst affected by unemployment to attract the investment that does.

I mentioned self-employment earlier. I hope that my hon. Friend will agree that it is important that we do all that we can to encourage people to think beyond “who will employ me?” We set up the enterprise allowance scheme to help unemployed people who wished to start their own businesses by providing a weekly allowance in the difficult initial period. The scheme has been expanded by 15,000 places nationally this year, and the qualifying period of unemployment is to be reduced from 13 to eight weeks.

As a result of the expansion, the MSC will he able to provide support to nearly 1,000 people in Coventry and Warwickshire in 1985–86–8 per cent. more than last year. Some 70 people are currently receiving the allowance in Nuneaton, and ample funds are available to meet demand. One small engineering company in Nuneaton, which my hon. Friend might know, which began with help from the scheme now employs 17 people and has a £500,000 turnover. The Manpower Services Commission would welcome increased participation in the scheme throughout Coventry and Warwickshire.

We are deeply conscious of the potential of the small firms sector in creating employment opportunities, and we have done a great deal to encourage the growth of small firms by reducing the burden of form filling and simplifying planning procedures. We announced further measures to help small firms last November, including £2·5 million next year in support of local enterprise agencies. We run small firms centres, which provide the advice of experienced businessmen to potential and established small firms, and the centres have close links with local enterprise agencies and small business clubs.

I understand that Warwickshire county council is building starter units at the Hammond business centre in Nuneaton, and that some private sector firms are also building and refurbishing units for small businesses. These, and the presence of the Warwickshire enterprise agency, are encouraging signs of new initiatives in the local economy with significant job creation potential.
Enthusiasm and effort are essential if enterprise is to succeed, but advice and training are also vital. My hon. Friend was right to emphasise that. The Manpower Services Commission is funding a wide range of courses designed to meet the needs of small businesses through the training for enterprise programme.

The adult training strategy, on which we are spending £260 million this year, is intended to make training more widespread, more flexible, and more relevant to labour market needs. We are living in a time of change—indeed, another industrial revolution—and people at all levels need access to training and retraining. We are helping more than 3,000 people in Coventry and Warwickshire through our locally delivered training programmes this year, compared with under 2,000 last year.

Training is particularly important for young people. They, and the long-term unemployed, have been hard hit by the recession. Young people straight from school or college have no proven work skills or experience to help them find jobs and it is this problem which YTS—one of our most successful measures—addresses. The £835 million that we are spending on YTS this year represents a massive investment in young people’s future.

The extension of YTS to two years from April is a major step towards ensuring that all young people under 18 are either in jobs, in full-time education, or receiving high-quality training. In other words, unemployment need not be an option for them. There is a good deal of enthusiasm for the two-year scheme, in Nuneaton and throughout the west midlands, and the MSC does not envisage any major difficulties in providing enough places.

Another of my Department’s priorities is helping the long-term unemployed. The unemployment rate in the Coventry travel-to-work area is too high—although, as my hon. Friend knows, it is lower than the average for the ​ west midlands region, and it will take time for it to come down. Steps need to be taken now to deal with the worrying problem of long-term unemployment, however.

The community programme, our major scheme to help the long-term unemployed, has been expanded by 100,000 places nationally this year, and the MSC is providing 3,400 places in Coventry and Warwickshire this year—over 1,000 more than last year. The Nuneaton and Bedworth borough council and North Warwickshire Projects (1985) Ltd. are only two of the managing agents providing quality places in Nuneaton and the surrounding area. My hon. Friend will recall that projects funded by the community programme benefit local communities as well as the people employed on them.

Nuneaton, like many communities in the midlands and elsewhere, is indeed facing problems arising from the decline of its traditional industries. The Government have shown their concern in many practical ways, and I have talked briefly about regional aid and our employment and training measures. This all represents a significant commitment to the regeneration of this part of the country.

Adapting to change is never easy but, with the Government’s support, the efforts of the people of Nuneaton are beginning to pay off. We have done a great deal to help Nuneaton, and we shall continue to do all that we can.

Lewis Stevens – 1986 Speech on Employment in Nuneaton

Below is the text of the speech made by Lewis Stevens, the then Conservative MP for Nuneaton, in the House of Commons on 26 February 1986.

I am grateful for the opportunity to discuss the unemployment level in my constituency which could be worsened by the proposed closure of an iron foundry at Sterling Metals, with the potential loss of 700 jobs. I am grateful for the fact that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment is here to reply. This is my first opportunity to speak with him on the Front Bench.

The proposed closure of the iron foundry with the subsequent loss of 700 jobs raises several issues. I shall deal with the origins of the closure and the effects it will have in my area. The impact of the redundancies must be taken in the context of the travel to work area of Coventry and Hinckley and not just in my constituency. I am pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Warwickshire, North (Mr. Maude) is in the Chamber, and I know that, if his office did not prevent him, he would share my concern and support me in the debate.

The unemployment rate is 15·7 per cent., and male unemployment is about 50 per cent. higher than female unemployment. That is similar to the west midlands average of 15 to 16 per cent. All 700 redundancies would not be in my constituency, but they would have a significant impact on an already high unemployment rate. Recently the general position has to some extent improved. In my constituency we had a 12 per cent. improvement between December 1984 and December 1985 which amounts to about 600 jobs. They will be virtually wiped out by the closure, if it occurs.

The foundry industry has obvious peculiarities. It is an old industry and mainly male dominated. Therefore, most of the redundancies would he among male workers with a skill which is not easily translated to other industries. Certainly, the retraining facilities available would help people to find new jobs, but as there will be so many of them, their needs must be considered specifically.
As the foundry industry has declined, those people cannot expect to find jobs within the industry either locally or further afield. That puts them in a special position. The magnitude of the disaster locally would be more than one might initially imagine. There are only a few companies of that size in the immediate area, and the company would be reduced to 400 people.

The foundry industry faces fierce competition from abroad. A few months ago we expected an investment of £5 million in the foundry which would have been welcome and given it a future. The bombshell out of the blue was to find that, instead of that substantial investment, we were to face closure. It has been put down to the fierce competition from abroad, including so-called subsidised competition from Spain, Brazil and elsewhere. My hon. Friend the Minister has agreed to investigate the matter again. It is not a new problem because it was raised with the Government in May 1983 by the Association of Major Casting Manufacturers, but no action appeared to come from that.

The company makes the decision on its commercial viability. The foundry lost £500,000 last year, and because of price difficulties it is not thought to be viable in future. That is extremely worrying. It bears out the association’s ​ point that many automotive foundries have been closed, but continuing contraction will result, not in the rationalisation of duplicated facilities, but in the elimination of specialised plants. The plant is largely concerned with the tractor industry. It is the last independent casting unit for selling blocks in the United Kingdom. There will inevitably be a transfer of more work abroad, which will raise our imports. The penetration of imports is considerable.

In answer to a parliamentary question recently my hon. Friend the Minister for Trade gave me figures which showed that between 1978 and 1984 the imports from Spain increased 5·5 times, and from West Germany 2·5 times. There are now imports from Brazil and that means another competitor.
The foundry faces fierce competition, but it is a high quality foundry and its customers are prepared to continue taking supplies from the company, admittedly at the correct price—a price that they think they can afford. As a consequence, we are not talking about a lack of work, skill or facilities. Although investment is needed we are dealing with the viability of the foundry.

I ask my hon. Friend to pass on to his colleagues and Ministers in the Department of Trade and Industry the hope that they will make every effort, and perhaps a special effort, to help the company to consider possible restructuring of the facilities. That could save, if not all, at least a lot of the jobs. It is also reported that there is a possibility of interest in a takeover for the foundry, and I ask the Ministers at the Department of Trade and Industry to give serious and careful consideration to the possibility of help by way of advice and financial support to anyone who keep the foundry open.

A considerable amount of restructuring may be necessary and that may involve help over an interim period to restructure and try to make the foundry viable again. I am not asking for unlimited and indefinite resources for the industry, because it is largely for commercial interests to take a decision, but help from Government sources could avert the closure and give an opportunity for the foundry to be reorganised or restructured financially. That would save some of those jobs and leave a viable iron foundry in the area. It is a worthwhile cause because our foundry industry has gradually been eroded by foreign competition, and more and more of our foundry work goes overseas. The jobs lost are never replaced, although the work is still needed.

My request is for any possible help that the Government can give, especially from the Department of Trade and Industry, to save the foundry or at least to provide an opportunity to discuss the possibility of saving the jobs of the people at the foundry. If that does not happen, 700 jobs will go and in many cases it will be difficult for people to transfer to other work. That will put a serious load on the budgets for unemployment and possibly on the budgets for social security as well. That must be balanced against the money which could be used to support the foundry for a short time.

It is necessary in this case for the Department of Employment to consider giving some special attention to the needs of people affected by this sort of redundancy. The people who may be made redundant have good skills and are retrainable, but many of them have been in that type of manual industry for many years and there are few comparable industries in my area, in neighbouring areas or elsewhere in the west midlands. The benefits we have ​ had in recent years have come from small companies setting up and taking advantage of Government schemes and local help. We have had some considerable success, but those are largely small companies who employ a few people and only gradually get bigger. The substantial effect of such numbers as these wipes out that advantage.

People need advice on what is available to them by way of retraining and new careers. It will be helpful if my hon. Friend can say that some special help will be available. Certainly my local department could not cope easily with that number of people coming to it so quickly.

We have an iron foundry which produces for the tractor industry. It is successful in the quality of its production and the satisfaction that it gives to customers. It has competed successfully in the market, particularly in West Germany, and so it must have some future, either by takeover or in some other way, perhaps restructured and losing some jobs.

I hope that my right hon. and learned Friends at the Department of Trade and Industry will do everything that they possibly can to explore the possibilities that exist and to give the foundry any support that they can. If the foundry cannot be saved I ask that every effort will be made to give the best help and advice to those who would suffer from redundancy.

Donald Anderson – 1986 Speech on the Philippines

Below is the text of the speech made by Donald Anderson, the then Shadow Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs, in the House of Commons on 26 February 1986.

We unreservedly join the Minister in welcoming the triumph of democracy under President Aquino. We hail the victory of people’s power over a corrupt dictatorship as a model for the peaceful transition of power in other troubled lands about which we differ from this Government’s policies, such as Chile and South Africa. We praise the role of the Church in the Philippines and the constructive role played, ultimately, by the United States Administration, who acted swiftly, decisively and to good effect to end the conflict.

Will the Minister confirm that in the circumstances no formal act of recognition of President Aquino is necessary from our Government? Does he also agree that those events pose a series of challenges for President Aquino —to cast aside the oligarchies of the past, to repeal the draconian laws and to meet the popular expectations of the radical restructuring which is vital if the insurgency is not to start again?

There is a challenge to the United States Administration, who must avoid a narrow, strategic and military view and come to terms with the fundamentally different relationship which must result from the new nationalism in the Philippines. Finally, there is a challenge to us in Europe, as the new Government may well look to Europe, especially since the accession of Spain to the European Community, as a counter to United States ​ influence. To that end, will the Minister tell the House what efforts he will make to consult our EEC partners on the development of joint policies in that area?

Tim Renton – 1986 Statement on the Philippines

Below is the text of the statement made by Tim Renton, the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, in the House of Commons on 26 February 1986.

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a statement on the position in the Philippines.

The House will be aware of the dramatic development yesterday in the Philippines which led to Mrs. Aquino taking up office as President. I am sure that the House will wish to join me in warmly welcoming this development, the more so because it has come about with the minimum of bloodshed and violence.

The Government wish President Aquino and her colleagues well in the fulfilment of their new and heavy responsibilities. The task of restoring the Philippines to peace, stability and economic regeneration will, indeed, be challenging.

We have been greatly impressed by the courage President Aquino, her colleagues and the Filipino people have shown in defence of democracy. This, and the evident wish of the Government and people of the Philippines for reconciliation, bodes well for the future.

The Government look forward to a close and positive working relationship with Mrs. Aquino and her colleagues. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is sending the President a congratulatory message. I also pay tribute to our ambassador in Manila, Mr. Robin McLaren, and to his staff. The information and advice which they have provided, and their protective role in relation to the British community, has been an excellent example of our missions abroad at work.

President Aquino said last night:

“A new life starts for our country tomorrow.”

The House will, I know, wish to send her and the people of the Philippines its warmest good wishes on this new start.