Following the recent agreement with the Irish Government on new extradition rules, does my right hon. Friend agree that yesterday's extraordinary decision by an Irish court to refuse to extradite Patrick McVeigh, the suspected terrorist, is bound to raise considerable suspicions in this country about the Irish commitment to stamp out terrorism? Will she agree to see the Irish Prime Minister to ensure that this kind of extraordinary and capricious legal decision is not repeated, and ensure that in future suspected terrorists are not protected from being brought to justice?
As my hon. Friend is aware, my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General will be making a full statement later. I agree with my hon. Friend that the judgment of the district court is deeply dismaying, because we had thought that effective extradition arrangements now existed. The Crown Prosecution Service expressly asked whether further evidence from the United Kingdom on identification was needed, and was told that it was not. We are holding urgent consultations with the Irish authorities to deal with the implications of the decision. I understand that the Irish Minister of Justice will be making a statement in the Dail this afternoon. I believe that we shall defeat terrorism only when the overwhelming majority of people on both sides of the border are actively committed to doing so.
May I first share the Prime Minister's sense of dismay at the confusion that arose and her hope for an outcome that will ensure that there is an even more effective set of measures against terrorism or suspected terrorism?
Following the judgment of the Social Security Appeals Tribunal last Friday that the Government have acted illegally in depriving over 400,000 low-income pensioners of housing benefit supplement, will the Prime Minister give an undertaking that she will not appeal against the judgment and that she will not introduce legislation to reverse the effects of that judgment? The Government have fouled up. Will they pay up?
No. We have not seen the tribunal's written decision, which may not be available for some weeks, but it will be for the chief adjudication officer to decide whether to appeal once the decision is available. It is worth remembering that an appeals tribunal decision is only the first step, and I am advised that, contrary to what the right hon. Gentleman said, it applies only to the individual cases decided—[Interruption]—yes, indeed—and does not constitute a precedent. It is a matter for the chief adjudication officer to decide whether to appeal to a court of law.
When we are talking about low-income pensioners, that attitude in that answer manifests the mentality of a persecutor. It also manifests, if the right hon. Lady insists on confining the judgment to just four people, a very extraordinary sense of justice and of precedent. These people are by definition already on very low incomes. Why does the Prime Minister not simply obey the law of the land as it stands and the law of common humanity and ensure that these people lose absolutely nothing, even in the wake of the loss of housing benefit supplement?
Having for years handled some of these things as a junior Minister in that Department, may I point out that these are the statutory independent adjudicating authorities, not the High Court? The independent adjudicating authorities give verdicts on individual cases. That is why at present the verdict applies only to those cases. It is for the top of those independent adjudicating authorities, the chief adjudicating officer, to decide whether to take it to a court of law. That is the law.
We know that the word "independence" has different meanings for the Government in different sets of circumstances. Sometimes the Government treat the law in the same way as children treat Ludo: if they win that is the end of the matter; if others win it is the best of three. Will the Prime Minister realise the circumstances, the anxieties and the low incomes of these people and ensure that none of them will be losers?
It remains as I said earlier. It is the law that—[Interruption.] Yes, it is for the law, and we on this side obey the law. That is what the rule of law is all about. It will be for the chief adjudicating officer to decide whether to appeal once the decision is available. The right hon. Gentleman jumps to his conclusion before we have even seen the tribunal's recommendation.
My hon. Friend makes the point more effectively than I could. Relations between my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence and No. 10 are excellent, as is the defence of the country under a Conservative Government.
In view of the weekend reports concerning likely Government legislation on official secrets, can the Prime Minister give both sides of the House an assurance that in cases such as the Clive Ponting trial, for example, trial by jury will remain the norm, and that the Government will not seek to legislate in such a way as to make it impossible for a defence based on the concept of the public good to be mounted, as there are many on both sides of the House who believe that the political interest of a Government and the overriding public interest of the state must never be regarded as synonomous?
As the hon. Gentleman is aware, the Government are considering a revised Bill. Before that is published, a White Paper will of course, be published for debate in the House.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the scenes of football hooliganism that we have seen recently at home and in Europe will lead to the destruction of football as a sport as we know it? If there is no improvement, will she consider advising the Football Association not to allow English clubs to compete in European competitions?
I agree with my hon. Friend that the scenes we have seen on our television screens again are a disgrace to civilised society and made us all feel thoroughly ashamed if any of our people were involved in them. I looked back this morning over the Popplewell report to see whether all the steps which were then recommended had been taken at home and in connection with international competitions, and to see whether we were getting—[Interruption.]This is a matter that greatly concerns the Government and we want to see whether all the proposed steps towards international co-operation are taken. I shall be having a meeting with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and my hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for sport on Thursday morning. Of course, it is easier to pose the question than it is to find a sure way of stopping what is happening, catching and convicting the criminals, and having them strictly sentenced. I agree with my hon. Friend that the survival of football as a spectator sport is in question.
No, I see little point in convening that intergovernmental council. As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, one is much more likely to be convened under the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Before deciding on any further steps we should hear what my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General has to say today and what is said in the Dail later.
Will the Prime Minister assure the House that the outcome in the Dublin court yesterday was not the result of confusion on this side of the water, that the papers were in order, and that everything was done under the recent agreement, but that the judge still refused to give the proper sentence that should have been passed? Will she assure the House also that it will be the policy of her Government to have the same extradition treaty with the Republic of Ireland as has been operated between the United Kingdom and every other part of the European Community?
We had thought that effective extradition arrangements existed, which is why we were deeply dismayed at the decision of that particular court. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the Crown Prosecution Service did everything that it could. It expressly asked whether further evidence on identification was needed from the United Kingdom and was specifically told that it was not. There was no fault on this side of the water or on this side of that border. That the extradition did not go through was not our fault.
Has the Prime Minister noticed that, after eight years of her government of Britain, where private greed is now the official religion, and where we are told that society no longer exists but only the individual, the result has been a rising flood of crime, violence, City fraud, family breakdown, homelessness, drug addiction and football hooliganism? When the Prime Minister surveys that social sickness arid disorder, of which is she most proud?
If the hon. Gentleman will read the Popplewell report on football hooliganism he will see that the problem originated very much earlier this century, and it has been the subject of a number of previous reports. The hon. Gentleman will see also in the sections relating to violence that there has always been, and always will he, violence. The question is how to contain that violence, catch those who are guilty, convict them, and give them stiff sentences. We are very much better off with more, better-paid and properly equipped police in Britain than we would have been had the Opposition been in power and we had fewer police.
My hon. Friend makes his own point. There is no use whatsoever in following what was proposed at one stage and having a kind of multilateral disarmament agreement with the other side. That would involve giving up 100 per cent. of our Trident missiles in return for the Soviet Union giving up 3 per cent. of her strategic weapons.
May I tell the right hon. Lady that I have a constituent, John Callaghan, who, as a young man, served this country with distinction? In 1939 he served in the desert, in Italy, and from Normandy right through to Germany. After retiring recently, until two months ago he enjoyed a rent rebate, but because of Government measures he now has to find another £30 per month. Is that not a shameful way to treat a man who has served this country so well?
I do not know the case to which the hon. Gentleman is referring. I do know that there is a case, which may or may not be the same, which has received a great deal of publicity recently, which was not to do with the reforms, merely with the change from invalidity benefit to retirement pension, which always takes place at 65. I am not certain whether that is the particular case to which the hon. Gentleman is referring, but, as the hon. Gentleman is aware, if he has a case to raise he should take it up with my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Department of Health and Social Security.