Will my right hon. Friend be able to consider further today the question of the maintenance of law and order? Does she accept thet, with the bandwagon effect of violence that has continued to spread during this week, it might be necessary for the Government to recognise that the use of water cannon in addition to CS gas might be necessary to prevent the arson, looting and unprecedented attacks on the police recently?
I am wholeheartedly with my hon. Friend and his desire fully to support the police and to see that they have every facility available that they need.
Will the Prime Minister find time to tell us today what is the logic in spending £5,000 million on Trident missiles to protect us against the Russians, who have not as yet smashed one shop window, while our cities are being flattened by gangs of marauding unemployed youths and she is not spending an extra tuppence ha'penny to find work for them?
That is an absurd question for a person who has sat behind a Government who put in hand Chevaline and who, during all of their period of office, believed in an independent nuclear deterrent.
May I ask my right hon. Friend whether there has been any indication from the Opposition about the level of pay settlements that they regard as compatible with reducing unemployment during the next 12 months, or are they just willing to say that unemployment is bad but they will encourage pay settlements to make it worse?
I have seen no evidence from the Opposition that they wish people to reduce pay settlements as a means of getting more jobs. There is a direct relationship. Higher pay settlements mean fewer jobs and fewer opportunities for the young.
Will the Prime Minister consider today that, however bad they may be, prison conditions in Northern Ireland are considerably superior to those in England and Wales where there is now a record number of prisoners and record overcrowding, with 17,000 prisoners—two and three to a cell which was built for one in Victorian times—who are often locked up for 23 hours a day? Will she now take steps to reduce the prison population and improve conditions, or would she suggest that prisoners in England and Wales should involve themselves in a hunger strike so that they can negotiate with the Government?
The shortage of prison accommodation in Britain has not suddenly come about. The hon. Gentleman's Government were as much responsible for the present state of prison accommodation as are this Government. I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman that the conditions in the Maze are among the best in the whole of the United Kingdom. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has taken every possible prudent step to reduce the prison population.
Since, as every hon. Member who has recently visited a country in which there is real and grinding poverty will attest, there is no necessary or convincing correlation between poverty and the rioting and looting that we have had in the last week, should we not seek an explanation for those deplorable events in some of the seditious, sociological claptrap that is passed on in our schools as education?
I very much agree with my hon. Friend. There are many poor societies that are scrupulously honourable in everything they do and would not sink to some of the things that we have seen in Merseyside in recent days. I agree with the leader in the Daily Mirror headlined:
A spree of naked greed".
The leader went on:
The latest night of mob violence in Liverpool had nothing to do with the city's problems of bad housing and unemployment.
It was a spree of naked greed.
I believe that the reasons go very much deeper and that such occurrences are not merely caused by poverty, as some people suggest.
I am sure that the right hon. Lady is fully aware that all of us in the House condemn looting and violence in the way in which it has occurred, and we do so in the strongest possible terms. Has she had the chance to study last night's debate on higher education and its relevance to these matters? In the light of this situation, is it the intention of the right hon. Lady and her colleagues to proceed with the proposed reduction in the number of university places, which is an act of barbarism? Will she not at least tell the House and the country that she will put that policy into reverse?
I must take issue with the right hon. Gentleman when he suggests that the latest reductions in provision for university education—which total about 3 per cent.—have any relevance to the present situation. Just a few moments ago, my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State, Home Office said that crime had increased by about 500 per cent. since 1960. But, equally, university places have increased enormously since that time. We have had the whole of the Robbins expansion. There is just no connection between the two.
Is not the right hon. Lady aware that there are more than 10 engineering places in Japanese universities for every one in Britain? Does she not think that that has some relevance to economic performance? Do the Government really intend to cut 20,000 further places, which will happen under their proposals for dealing with the higher education programme?
The latest programme of the UGC, decided by the UGC, provides for an overall increase in science and technology places. In that respect, the right hon. Gentleman's point is fully met. In addition, there are a considerable number of places in polytechnics, and the polytechnics were meant to take charge of vocational training to a very much greater extent than the universities.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that many people outside the House of Commons feel that we are not paying sufficient attention to the immediate problem of law and order? Some Opposition Members seem to be condoning violence—[Interruption]. To suggest that people are rioting in Liverpool because there are more places for higher students in Japan is quite ridiculous. Will my right hon. Friend also bear in mind that many people feel that we are not taking seriously enough the question of support for the police? The fact is that once the State loses the monopoly of violence, other people will take it. That is the issue today, and it is felt that the Government are not exhibiting sufficient will to ensure that law and order are maintained.
I hope that no hon. Member, certainly no Conservative Member, either condones or excuses violence on the scale that we have recently seen. It is totally inexcusable and unjustifiable, and I am sure that the vast majority of right hon. and hon. Members agree.
The Government, especially my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, have given every support to the police—I reiterate that—as well as our thanks for the way they carry out their arduous and dangerous duties. We have also increased the numbers in the police force in England and Wales by about 6,000, and thank goodness we did. Morale is good and the police are carrying out their duties superbly. I agree with my right hon. Friend that we must support them to the hilt. In addition, we must discover the causes of this violence and try to bring home to each and every citizen his duty to obey the law.
Does the right hon. Lady accept that it was entirely predictable, and predicted, that if society sent half our younger generation straight from school to the dole queue it would cause grave damage to our social fabric? Does she also agree that if society rejects those young people and says that it has no use for them, they are likely to reject society and act in an anti-social way? Unless the Government provide our young people with employment, they will create a situation in which the police will be asked to contain the impossible.
It is because our young people are unemployed that we give priority to the youth opportunities programme. As the hon. Gentleman is aware, in the area where violence and rioting has occurred a good deal of it has been carried out by children of school age, some of them aged between 9 and 16. That has nothing whatever to do with the dole queue.—[Interruption.] Of course we try to provide as many jobs as possible, but the history of labour relations in that area does not encourage firms to go there—[Interruption.] I am sorry, but it does not. That is why we must put so much emphasis on the provision of, and increase in, small businesses.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that the recent breakdown of law and order in some of our cities calls for a more positive reaction than the supply of helmets to the police? Will she consider the reintroduction of corporal punishment for under-18-year-olds for a trial period of three years?
We have no plans to do that. However, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is looking at all possible means of assistance to the police by way of equipment. We are also looking at any changes in the law that may be necessary. We are also looking at ways of getting compensation as quickly as possible to those whose properties have been gutted and whose businesses have been destroyed.
We shall also consider everything we can to try to improve the general environment in the area. The irony is that this has occurred in an area where a great deal of money has been poured in through urban programmes. A lot of money has also gone into housing, housing which many of us would like to live in. We must use the money better and in a much more humane way than it has been used in the past.
Does not the right hon. Lady accept that the policies that she is pursuing are ripping away the fabric of our society? Is she aware that she has been protrayed as the biggest vandal in the country in that the Government are regularly mugging the British taxpayer? There was another example of that yesterday in respect of the gas industry. Does not the right hon. Lady see any connection between that and her portrayal of Top Cat—people do watch television?
That is a ridiculous and absurd question. No one is more anxious to get genuine jobs than I am, but nothing is more irritating than people who have jobs striking for more pay—[Interruption.]—knowing full well—[Interruption.]
I shall finish the sentence that I started. Those who are frequently on strike for more pay know full well that, in the absence of increased production, more pay can be given only at the expense of someone else. They are actually pre-empting for themselves the money which could otherwise be used to provide jobs for others. It is Labour Members who do not always wish, in practice, to increase jobs in this country.
May I repeat what I said? Does my right hon. Friend agree that many of the contributions made to her during this question session have been more closely related to the Warrington by-election than to any desire on the part of those who have made them to make a positive contribution to a serious and grave problem?
I agree with my right hon. Friend. The questions have certainly not been directed towards providing new genuine jobs. That can be done only by providing goods and services at a price that people in this country and overseas will pay. No amount of yowling and scowling will get over that fact.
Order. I will tell the hon. Gentleman why. It is because a point of order to me cannot possibly include criticism of another right hon. or hon. Member. The hon. Gentleman's point of order to me must be a point of order and not an attack on anyone else.
The hon. Member knows as well as I do that there are several hon. Members for Liverpool seats. It so happens that I did not call them this afternoon. They had been called earlier when the Liverpool issue had been very much to the fore during questions to the Home Secretary.
On a genuine point of order, Mr. Speaker. I have always understood that a certifiable condition was a debarment from membership of the House. Is there not a case for the House collectively to examine the lunatic utterances of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) both inside and outside the House?