Motion made, and Question proposed,
That this House at its rising on Wednesday, 22nd December do adjourn till Monday, 17th January.—[Mr. Whitelaw.]
§ 3.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
I oppose the Motion because there are three issues of the greatest importance on which the House should have answers before it rises for the Christmas Recess.
First, during the course of the exchanges on the business announcement last week I asked the Leader of the House whether the Secretary of State for Social Services was to make a statement about heating allowances for pensioners, which had been requested by hon. Members on this side during the debate on pensions. I wanted to know whether the Government would agree to paying additional allowances during the coming months. The Leader of the House said that he would ask his right hon. Friend whether a statement was to be made.
No such statement has been made. Yet everyone knows that old-age pensioners will have a very bleak Christmas unless they receive additional support by way of financial allowances from the Government, either in the form of a heating allowance or in the form of an immediate Christmas bonus.
The Trades Union Congress has rightly urged that there should be an immediate increase in the old-age pension and has argued that this would assist with the reflation of the economy, would create employment, and would also be very beneficial to retirement pensioners, who are undoubtedly suffering greatly, because the increase which they have had has been gobbled up in the space of a few weeks.
Second, the House is about to rise for the Christmas Recess just at a time when Britain is heading towards a figure of 1 million unemployed. It would be a disgrace if the House were to agree to adjourn before getting clear assurances from the Government that they intend to take further measures to help solve the unemployment problem.
Yesterday the Chancellor of the Exchequer told the House that as from next April £130 million of post-war credits 466 will be repaid. The Chancellor did not say until I pressed him that this was one of the proposals made by the Trades Union Congress when it met the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer two weeks ago to discuss the whole question of unemployment and the economy.
The House and the country have a right to know what answers the Government gave to the proposals of the Trades Union Congress and what steps the Government are taking to deal with the unemployment problem.
We heard today from the Minister for Housing and Construction that there has been an increase in building. Marginally, that is correct, but in my area over 8,000 building operatives are unemployed, and over 3,000 of them are in the City of Liverpool. We also have skilled carpenters, joiners, plumbers, bricklayers and other highly-skilled workers unemployed when there are people in Liverpool and in the area surrounding it who are crying out for houses, people who want work and at the same time need accommodation. It would be a disgrace for the House to rise before having clear statements from the Government as to what they intend to do about the housing programme and the problem of unemployed building workers.
We have had two statements from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who deals with the Common Market negotiations. He said in the House that Britain would not accept conditions that were not acceptable to the other applicants; but the Government have now told us that they are prepared to accept less than the Norwegian Government were prepared to accept on fishing rights and the fishing agreement. It would be disgraceful if the House agreed to rise without having the right to vote on the fishing agreement. I am sure that none of my hon. Friends, whether they are in favour of entering the E.E.C. in principle or are opposed to it, could agree to allow the House to rise before it had pronounced on the fishing agreement. I think that there has been a sell-out in that agreement; the Government have given away far too much. There is a need for us to debate the agreement and take a decision in the House.
Certainly the Government should not sign the Treaty of Accession on 12th 467 January—which happens to be my birthday; many strange things happen on 12th January. I should hate to see the Government signing the Treaty then without the House having had an opportunity to discuss the agreement and matters connected with it.
For the three basic reasons that I have given, I oppose the Motion. Unless we get clear and definite answers from the Leader of the House we should divide. So often when we say these things we are given a half-hearted statement and then do not vote, but I am not joking.
§ 3.53 p.m.
§ Mr. John Biffen (Oswestry)
First, I should like to say a word of appreciation to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House because the debate is taking place in genuinely unimpeded circumstances. The corresponding debate in July became something of a travesty, certainly in regard to Northern Ireland. We were then obliged so to arrange our affairs that we treated the affairs of Northern Ireland as though they were a left-over that had to be squeezed in by one dodge or another. We have been spared that indignity today, and I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend.
Although my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) was unable to gain his Standing Order No. 9 debate, I hope very much that my right hon. Friend is seized of the anxiety, which is not confined to this side of the House, that when my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary returns from his talks in Northern Ireland the House is given every opportunity before it rises to subject his statement to sustained examination.
It is not the affairs of Northern Ireland that have persuaded me to take part in the debate but a subject that is thought to be somewhat esoteric but is of considerable immediate relevance and longer-term consequence—whether this country is to return to a system of fixed exchange rates. The reason why I believe it is particularly legitimate to raise the matter on the Motion is that I suspect that the vital discussions that will determine whether we are to continue with the present floating exchange rate will take place during the recess. My grounds for so believing are to be found in yesterday's HANSARD, where my right hon. Friend the Chan- 468 cellor of the Exchequer is reported as saying in reply to Questions by several hon. Members:I leave tomorrow for a further meeting in Washington…while I hope for a settlement at Washington"—if that happens, my right hon. Friend can share the limelight here with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on the important issues with which they are dealing—I should not be unduly surprised if there had to be a further meeting."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th December, 1971; Vol.828, c. 252.]My right hon. Friend is not travelling too hopefully. My anxiety is that a further meeting will take place and that decisions will be formulated before 17th January, before the House has had an opportunity to give its considered judgment on the matter.
It would be inappropriate to take the time of the House to argue the merits of the case, and I do not propose to do so. But the House is entitled to ask for time to consider, for example, the following statement recently made by the C.B.I. in evidence which it submitted to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor. It said:The uncertainties for trade and investment arising from the policy of 'floating' sterling are not such as to make it necessary to return to fixed parities.I make no comment upon that interesting evidence.
The House should also have time to debate the interesting evidence submitted through the correspondence columns of the Financial Times by Mr. W. F. J. Batt, manager of the International Money Desk of the National Westminster Bank. He wrote:With the occasional minor exception of Japanese Yen, my department has been able to meet every demand from our customers who wish to obtain cover in the major specified currencies at very reasonable rates. No bank which runs an adequate forward book should have difficulty in providing cover to exporters or importers; we shall continue so to do.I have read that because it is possible to quote evidence from Sir Leslie O'Brien and the banking fraternity throughout the Western world to suggest that trade and industry would grind to a halt if we were not obliged to return to the disciplines of a fixed exchange rate. Men who have to deal with these matters in the real world, rather than in the 469 fantasies of the international bankers, are submitting contrary and more compelling evidence, and the House should have time to consider it.
Perhaps the most interesting evidence the House should have time to consider and discuss before this vital decision is taken is that submitted by Mr. Maxwell Stamp in his publication the Moorgate and Wall street Review, a highly esteemed magazine. I have not the faintest idea what Mr. Stamp's politics are—[Interruption.]—I do not normally expect to find myself quoting him to suit my book. He has always argued in most temperate terms, and he has stated, in the latest Review:If we go back to fixed parities we shall be lucky if we avoid a world slump".Any hon. Member conscious of the nearly 1 million unemployed will properly pay regard to words of such solemnity. He goes on to say:but certainly we shall not avoid a series of currency crises at various times in the future.That is the situation as he sees it if we return to a system of fixed parities.
Hon. Members have had other occasions to consider, in the context of British membership of the E.E.C., what fixed parities can do in the context of the common agricultural policy and the regional policy of the E.E.C. Hon. Members have had the opportunity to consider the contradictions and the quite unacceptable losses of national manœuvre, if not national sovereignty, contained in the Werner Plan, which must rest upon fixed parities. No one can doubt, whatever may be the technicalities of this subject, that the longer-term social, economic and political consequences make it one of the most important decisions that could be undertaken by this Government. My anxiety is that the House shall take part in the policy formulation and, above all, that it shall have a chance to make its voice heard before whatever final decision is taken at these international gatherings which may determine the subject.
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
I had always thought that the hon. Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen) was a man of considerable imagination, but his powers must be failing if he cannot divine the politics of Mr. Maxwell Stamp.
470 The subjects which I have given notice to the Leader of the House that I wish to raise are of less immediate importance than the matters raised by the hon. Member for Oswestry and by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) on unemployment, which must be at the forefront of the minds of any of us from the North.
First, what are the right hon. Gentleman's plans for debating, and will he give an assurance about, the report of Lord Rothschild and his Committee? As my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Palmer) has already said at Question Time, this report, whatever one thinks of it, is in its subject the most controversial of modern times and the future of many individuals is raised in question in it. Worried people are coming to all Members of Parliament to ask, "What is my future?"
The immediate situation is that the views of the learned societies have to be sent in by 14th January. But the report was published only in November, although, of course, it may have been prepared back in May. This situation makes consultation very difficult. I understand that there is to be a debate in another place on 26th January, after which decisions may be made. I ask for an assurance that we in the House of Commons are to have an opportunity to express our views on a highly controversial report.
Indeed, the notion that somehow we can shuttle a whole lot of over-40 scientists into the administrative Civil Service after their best days of research are finished—which is the idea that Lord Rothschild seemed to be putting forward to the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee last night—is so absurd as to raise questions about the judgment of a man who has a key position in the Government machinery.
The right hon. Gentleman also has some explaining to do about our being regaled by a public fight between the Secretary of the Cabinet, Sir Burke Trend, and the Chairman of the Capability Unit of the Cabinet, Lord Rothschild. It is almost without parallel that two of the key figures in the Downing Street machine seem to be squabbling with each other in the pages of The Times. The time has 471 come for an explanation for this. I find it unedifying and take no joy in it.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. William Whitelaw)
I will tell the hon. Gentleman now. He says that there is squabbling in the pages of The Times. The truth is that an article was written in The Times which, I must tell the hon. Gentleman from my personal knowledge, has no foundation in fact. I ought to know and I do know, and I hope that he will take that from me.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Yes, I do take it from the right hon. Gentleman since he is a truthful man. I was going to say—and perhaps I should not have done so—that an article like that can only be leaked by some party; someone must have an interest in an article like that. The right hon. Gentleman is a truthful man and I accept what he says. I think that there should be some explanation by The Times, then, as to how this sort of thing appeared.
Secondly, there is the question of the Vintner Committee, which is a committee consisting of Mr. Vintner himself, Sir John Hill, the head of the Atomic Energy Authority, and Sir Stanley Brown, of the Central Electricity Generating Board, to consider the future of the nuclear power industry. I have sent the right hon. Gentleman an article which bears out rumours that some of us have been hearing for some time. Again, I can only use the word "leaked", because either they are with foundation or they are not. I do not think that these things appear by themselves. The rumours and the article were to the effect that there is to be a central decision that in future this nation will go American in nuclear equipment and installations, and that the decision is to be taken quickly. I would be greatly relieved if these stories were denied, but this article appeared in the serious Press; indeed, not only there, because there is a "grapevine" in these affairs.
There is talk that we are to give up our advanced gas-cooled reactor and go American. Some of us hope that there will be discussion in this House on the merits of the steam generating heavy water reactor and hope that consideration will be given to the installation 472 of these reactors at Skateness by the Moray Firth. The essential point is that, with our history in nuclear development, we must not go American without discussion of the whole issue in the House of Commons.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I hope that the Leader of the House agrees as well and will say something about it today and whether there are inaccuracies in Mr. Keith Richardson's article in the Sunday Times.
The Prime Minister told us yesterday that discussions were going on with, as he put it, the Government of Mr. Chou En-Lai on our future relations with the People's Republic of China and particularly over the question of Taiwan. Any hon. Member who comes back from travels should not give a travelogue, but I have had the good fortune to have been in China for three weeks, along with people of varying domestic political complexions, many of whom do not agree with my views of domestic politics. I refer to the trade delegation of the Scottish Council for Development and Industry. All 20 of us agreed that serious, sustained business between Britain and the People's Republic of China will not get off the ground to the extent that all of us would wish, unless we come off the fence on the issue of Taiwan and recognise it for what it is. I speak as a person who argued toughly with the Chinese on many things, but on this issue we have to recognise that the island of Taiwan—or, as we know it, Formosa—has been part of the Chinese empire for 3,000 years and until 1895 was part of China. The present régime in Formosa or Taiwan is the most oppressive police régime in all Asia.
It is puzzling why, seemingly against the interests of Britain, we continue to say that Taiwan has indeterminate status. The sooner we recognise that Taiwan is part of the People's Republic of China the better it will be for the native Taiwanese. They will be better off as part of the People's Republic rather than being under the Chiang Kai-shek mainland rump. The sooner this happens the sooner will our relations with the People's Republic get on a firm footing, and this is something to which we ought to give attention, over the next few weeks.
§ 4.11 p.m.
§ Mr. David Lane (Cambridge)
Apart from Northern Ireland, nothing lies more heavily on the minds of many of my constituents today than the tragic situation between India and Pakistan. Plainly, there will be developments during the recess, indeed before it, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to give us assurances on two points before we pass this Motion.
The first point has to do with peacemaking. I entirely support the posture which the Government have taken over the last few months, inside and outside the United Nations, and as between India and Pakistan, in what is a very delicate situation. There is news on the tape that apparently a cease-fire in East Pakistan has been asked for by the Pakistan commander and may be imminent. That is good news. In any case, we hope there will be progress as a result of the latest Anglo-French initiative in the Security Council.
I am concerned, in case these developments do not work out as we hope and in case there is continued deadlock in the United Nations over a total ceasefire, that the time will soon come for some Commonwealth initiative. Many of us have felt during these tragic months that one of the worst features of the situation was that it has developed between two major Commonwealth countries with whom this country has had long historic ties, and yet apparently Commonwealth members, individually and collectively, have not succeeded in preventing war or, up to now, in bringing it to an end. Depending on developments at the United Nations and elsewhere between the two contestant countries, will my right hon. Friend say that at some opportune moment in the near future the whole weight of the Commonwealth will, if necessary, be thrown behind peacemaking efforts to see that the fighting is brought to a halt once and for all?
The second point on which I hope we shall have some reassurance is the question of relief and reconstruction. Here again, I am raising this not in any spirit of criticism but rather in the hope that the Government will carry on the good work they have been doing. We recognise that this country has been one of the leaders in organising relief and aid in 474 the last few months since the trouble developed in East Pakistan. We have nothing to be ashamed of; we wish other countries had done more. Equally, we recognise that even worse problems may arise after the fighting stops, and that the needs may be more urgent still.
Here again, I hope my right hon. Friend can tell us that once an end to the fighting is in sight the Government will be ready to take whatever further initiatives they may find opportune to organise within the international community another massive operation of relief and help to the affected areas on an even greater scale than has been maintained in the last few months.
I look forward to hearing something from my right hon. Friend about the Government's intentions during the next four or five weeks.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
Every hon. Member has listened with interest and sympathy as well as understanding to the points raised by the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane), and I hope that he will not think it discourteous of me or that I do not have the same feelings about this terrible tragedy if I do not comment further on his speech, because it is not my intention to talk about the great problems that will follow a settlement of this tragic war. Instead, I want to talk about a more domestic matter. As the hon. Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen) mentioned, there are nearly 1 million people unemployed. It is likely that when the figures are announced tomorrow there may be over 1 million and my constituency has, unfortunately, more than its fair share of that number.
If, 12 months ago, the Government had listened to the advice they were being given then, many hundreds of thousands of people who will spend a very unhappy Christmas because they have been denied the dignity and self-respect which comes from work would not have been unemployed. It is ironic that Jarrow—known best for its pre-war sufferings, the town which aroused the social conscience of this nation—should have become the first victim of the Government's "No help for lame ducks" policy. Palmers Yard at Hebburn, which we took steps to save when in Government, was one of the first 475 to suffer. Almost within hours of the Government being elected they had decided that Palmers should receive no blood transfusion, no help. It was a lame duck and therefore nearly 1,000 men who had given their lives to one of the most famous yards in the world were cast upon the scrap heap.
From that day, with one exception, in each month the unemployment figures in my constituency have risen. I learned this morning that there are now over 2,500 unemployed, and that is not the total because people living on that part of the coastline in my constituency lying between South Shields and Sunderland will register either at the South Shields or the Sunderland exchange. Therefore, the unemployment figures in my constituency must be well over 3,000, and I say that this is indefensible. I know that the Government, having found that they could not persuade their friends whom they love—the private investors—to invest money and step up economic activity, have had to turn to those whom they detest, the nationalised industries, to get the investment programme going.
Although the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry refused to listen to my pleas in respect of Palmers, I have no doubt that my pleas, and the pleas of my right hon. and hon. Friends, plus the pressure of the trade unions, have induced him to bring forward the Ince power station programme, and I know that my constituency will reap some benefit from getting part of that contract. But all that it will do is stave of redundancies which would have taken place in the next two or three months.
It has been put about in the Press this week that Reyrolle-Parsons, the biggest single employer in my constituency, is about to declare several hundred more redundancies. I do not know whether this is true. I believe that today the management and unions are meeting and presumably, therefore, there is some truth in the rumour that several hundred more workers in the heavy electrical engineering industry are to be paid off. That would be intolerable because everybody knows that there is work to be done and which should be done, and if it is done now it will be cheaper than doing it in two or three years' time.
476 We are thankful for the Ince power station programme, but I should like the Government to bring forward the construction of the Sizewell B power station which they put back 12 months ago. If this power station is delayed for a year or two or three years it will cost the Central Electricity Generating Board more than it would have cost had it been built now, because the rate of inflation is such that it will probably cost 10, 20 or 30 per cent. more with each year's delay. In view of the unemployment situation and the pending unemployment of people working in the heavy electrical engineering industry, if the Government gave the go-ahead for Sizewell B it would be a godsend.
I therefore hope that the Government will seriously consider bringing forward the construction of the Sizewell B power station, which would give hope to a few thousand people who are living in despair because they do not know whether, next week or next month, they will still be in a job.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the decision on the Sizewell B power station is a matter not only of interest to his constituents but of national importance and is very much related to the exporting capacity of the nuclear power industry, which is one of the things at stake in the Vintner Committee's report?
§ Mr. Fernyhough
I appreciate that. But my hon. Friend will understand that those of us who have lived with the problem of unemployment for all our political lives—and as a consequence of the mistake which the electorate made in 1970 we now have the worst unemployment figures we have ever had even in Jarrow—will welcome anything which will help to reduce unemployment and which will give to the men and women concerned the dignity and self-respect which comes from earning their own living.
I am very concerned not only about the people who have become redundant but about those who have left school and who month after month walk the streets seeking jobs which do not exist. It is one thing for an adult, mature person to accept that it is part and parcel of working class experience to be put out of a job from time to time, but when 477 boys and girls, some of them with high educational qualifications, find that there is no place in society for them, I wonder whether we know what we are doing.
It is no good anybody saying that children and young adults are irresponsible if they go wrong; it is society which is irresponsible. It is society which condemns young people on the threshhold of life if it says, "There is no place for you". It does not matter which party is in power. Unless positions are found for these young people, then, as sure as night follows day, we shall subsequently have to build prisons for them. We cannot expect young people to act responsibly when, on taking their first step in the adult world, they find every door closed to them.
I therefore hope that the Leader of the House will tell me that the Government will take special steps to find work for the large number of young men and women under 18 years of age who are still unemployed in my constituency. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that even during the period of office of the 1959–64 Administration I had need to take a deputation to the Minister to discuss this problem. It is still with us. The trouble is that today it is worse than it has ever been.
Later tonight my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop) will raise the question of the Jarrow Slake. He will ask for all possible Government financial aid for the reclamation of about 100 acres of land which, we hope, once the reclamation has been completed, will be an attraction to outside industrialists and will enable a big industrial complex to be erected there, which would be a boon to my constituency. I know that the Government are increasing public expenditure on housing, hospitals—
§ Mr. Fernyhough
Yes. We have had a 50 per cent. increase in my constituency in the grant towards modernisation, and so has every other development area. If a grant goes up from 50 to 75 per cent., that is a 50 per cent. increase.
There is still much work to be done, and the Government could do much to help, particularly in areas like the one I represent. The Government are the single 478 biggest customer of industry. If anybody wields real power, the Government do. It is they who give out the orders for almost everything one can think of—boots and shoes and clothing and furniture and guns and tanks and ships and bombs. One could go on, but the Government give the orders for all of them.
Why in the name of fortune the Government do not use their great spending capacity to twist the arms of the manufacturers to make them go to the development areas, or to say to them, that they will not otherwise have orders, I do not know, because this in the long term will be the only solution to the problems of the development areas. Either by this means the Government provide work in the development areas, or they will have to erect factories and decide what is to be produced, and man the factories themselves.
I have talked about the, roughly, 3,000 people unemployed in my constituency. There are 1 million unemployed in the country. The tragedy of tragedies is this —and it is a remarkable thing. If war were declared tomorrow, assuming it were conventional and on the pattern of previous wars, very few of those people would be unemployed in a matter of weeks from now. We would find them work. We would almost direct them.
What kind of society is it, again, which can find employment for its citizens for destructive purposes only, but can never find work for all of them for constructive purposes? It is ironical. Everybody says, "We cannot do it, because of the figures in the book". Figures in the book do not matter that much when there is a war on. Nobody worries about the figures in the book when there is a war on. Nobody says, "We cannot produce planes and tanks and guns and bombs and bullets because the figures in the book will not let us".
In wartime the only things which stop us from producing things which I have enumerated are lack of manpower or lack of material. If we have the manpower and the materials we marry them so as to produce the articles which the nation needs. And the goods which we produce we give away. We give them to other nations. It is true that other nations do not want to receive them. They would be glad to do without them. 479 Nevertheless, we give them away. With every blockbuster which we dropped on Germany we were giving the Germans our wealth, and giving them it for nothing. It is true they did not want to receive it, but the more we gave them the happier we were. Likewise, when they sent us their doodlebugs we did not want to receive them. But they were giving us their wealth, and the more they could give us the happier they were. What in the name of fortune prevents societies from organising production to meet the needs of people so that they may live rather than die when we give stuff away as we do in war? There must be an answer to this problem.
A lot of people say there is an age gap, that those of us who are older cannot talk to the young. I have never found this age gap. I understand what young people are thinking and I know what their feelings are. I make it perfectly clear that the present young generation are not going to be as tolerant as were their fathers and grandfathers. Unless we build a society which gives them an opportunity to live a useful and practical life they will turn against that society, and if enough of them turned that would be not only the end of this House but the end of democracy as we know it.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)
I think that it is not a bad thing that we have had such an exposition of the social problems of unemployment from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) before we break up for the Christmas Recess. What he has said has been listened to with great care and sympathy by both sides of the House. A month does seem a very long time for the Christmas Recess, but I think that as we look forward to the legislative programme which we shall have after January perhaps all of us may feel that we should be well advised to take some sleep when the opportunity arises. On the other hand, I think that the Leader of the House would not wish to have his Motion without consideration of some of the points which we feel should be looked into before we pass it.
The first and obvious one was the one which my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) 480 raised. I am sure that the whole House would wish that, despite the long recess, the Government will press on to make sure that law and order are restored completely in Northern Ireland and also that pressure is brought to bear where appropriate on the Government of the Republic.
The specific matter which I wish to impress on the Leader of the House is the question of the uncertainty which does exist at the present time in the shipyards of the Upper Clyde. This is a crisis which has been with us so very long as to bring most members of the public and the House to think that any new development is just one small part of an unending Scottish tale which will not have a conclusion at any time. We have at present many decisions which are imminent, and these are matters on which I hope we shall obtain some clarification before we break up for the recess, and I should be grateful for an assurance that no decisions which will be irreversible will be taken during the recess.
The position is that there are 7,500 men in the shipyards at the present time and many thousands of others whose employment indirectly is dependent on the shipbuilding industry. In a time when we have more than 100,000 unemployed in Scotland that matter, which affects their security, is of real concern in the Glasgow area.
I do not want in any way to discount the fact that since the July White Paper, in which was indicated that only, perhaps, 2,500 jobs would be saved, with the possibility of two yards surviving, there has been considerable progress. I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry for the part he has played in the progress which has been made.
However, there are four uncertainties which exist at present—major ones which stern from the tragic loss to Scotland of Mr. Hugh Stenhouse, who was Chairman of Govan Shipbuilders, and whose tragic death has made the situation rather more depressing from the Clydeside's point of view. He will be greatly missed by the men in the shipyards and, therefore, throughout Scotland.
The first uncertainty is this. We had an indication in the White Paper that round about 2,500 jobs would eventually 481 be saved on the Upper Clyde. On 20th October my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, replying to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), said that he was now hopeful that there would be rather fewer redundancies than seemed likely at the time of the publication of the White Paper. The fact is that we are going into recess when the men on the Clydeside have no indication directly or indirectly as to what their future will be.
The second uncertainty is over Clydebank itself. The White Paper indicated that Clydebank could not be included in the new company which was to emerge. On the other hand, the Secretary of State indicated that the Government had not closed their mind to helping Clydebank, particularly if a private purchaser came along. Since then we have had many newspaper reports and other indications of outside interest, and in particular that an American firm is interested in Clydebank, but we have no definite news. I am not complaining about this because, obviously, such negotiations would be private, but the men in Clydebank are, of course, filled with uncertainty as to what will be their future.
The third matter is the position of the company itself, which the Secretary of State described as a vehicle of special Government support. The company's board is not complete. We have the absence of a chairman due to the death of Mr. Stenhouse. We have a company without a chairman, a company which has not been completed.
The fourth uncertainty is over the future of the Scotstoun division, and particularly the question that Connell's would not be included in the new company. The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry said on 20th October that he was prepared to extend the inquiry taking place to ensure that consideration would be given to the possible inclusion of Connell's but no guarantees were given. It was indicated then that the report should be available by the end of the year. Unfortunately, it seems that this may now not be possible.
There is urgency in all these problems. Just taking the Clydebank yard, work on the six vessels which are being completed there will finish in about June of next year. Big decisions on all these matters 482 are imminent, and I hope that the Leader of the House will give us an assurance that before the recess there will be a statement on what can be said at this stage, or, alternatively, that no irreversible decisions affecting the employment of the Clydeside workers will be made before the House resumes.
Finally, I suggest to the Leader of the House that he should propose to his colleagues in the Cabinet that perhaps the time is now appropriate for a visit to the Upper Clyde yard by a senior Cabinet Minister, perhaps the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry or one of his colleagues. At the time of crisis a visit would not have been appropriate because feelings were strong and it was clear that such a visit might not necessarily achieve a great deal. [Interruption.] I know the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) could perhaps walk into a difficult situation and create order out of chaos. This is something of which he has experience and I pay tribute to him, but if we are looking for real progress and not simply seeking to get people to sit around having a cup of tea with photographers present, it is important that visits should be made at a time which is appropriate for achieving something worth while.
I think the hon. Member for West Lothian would agree, irrespective of our views about a visit in the past, that the general feeling and morale in the Upper Clyde is considerably better than it was at the time of the publication of the White Paper. This is to be seen from the negotiations the unions have had and from the public statements made by the shop stewards. All the indications are that feelings are much better now and it would be appropriate during the recess for the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry or one of his colleagues to make a visit to the Upper Clyde yards. I am sure that they would be well received, and any indications that they could give as to the future of this enterprise would be welcomed. I hope that the Leader of the House will be able to give me some assurances on these matters, which are of importance to Glasgow, the West of Scotland and my constituency.
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ Mr. David Steel (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)
In this type of debate the 483 Leader of the House is apt to appear before us like Santa Claus with a sack of goodies, listening to requests which are placed before him. To take the analogy a little further, I suspect that the chance of success for our varying requests will vary with the size of our demands. Those who ask for more extragant items are likely to find their requests going up in smoke, and those who ask for modest items akin to a matchbox toy might be more successful.
My request is a modest but important one. Before we rise for the recess we should have a clearer statement on the working of the Pearce Commission in Rhodesia Before 17th January, when the House resumes, presumably the Commission will be at work, and both the Leader of the House and the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs said that they would have something further to say on this matter.
During the debate on Rhodesia the Government's basic argument was that while the settlement arranged with Mr. Smith may not be perfect, the House, the country and Rhodesia should accept it because it was preferable for the African population to be left with a settlement of that kind than to be left with the uncertainty of continuing the status quo. I do not accept that argument, but I recognise that it is a tenable point of view.
If that is the argument which the Government are expecting this country and Rhodesia to accept, the fifth principle, the test of acceptability, becomes all-important. It is not for us to say which choice the people of Rhodesia should make; it is for them to do so. For this reason there has been grave disquiet about the limited composition of the Pearce Commission so far announced. I do not in any way question the quality or ability of the men concerned, but there remains some doubt about the fairness of that test of acceptability.
The Commission is headed by a distinguished judge who is on record as giving a minority legal opinion helpful to the Smith régime. Lord Harlech, again a man of great distinction, is nevertheless closely connected with the present Government. The third member is a 484 distinguished diplomat. This does not amount to a broad enough based Commission to be regarded as a fair body to carry out the test of acceptability. The Government still have to announce a further member or members of the Commission, and that should be done before the House rises for the recess.
The Government should also say something further about the conditions tinder which the Commission will work. Will the Commission, for example, be enabled to take evidence of opinion among the African majority, not just in Rhodesia itself, but in other countries such as this country and the United States of America? A considerable number of Rhodesians have left Rhodesia because of the present emergency. There are a considerable number in this country who fear under present circumstances to go back to Rhodesia and whose opinions should be sounded. They should be entitled to appear before the Commission. We do not know whether the Commission will hold meetings in this country and, say, in Zambia, as well as in Rhodesia.
There must also be some doubt as to whether the terms of reference of the Commission and its instructions are entirely right. I am puzzled that the Commission might have a dual role, both to commend the settlement and to assess its acceptability among the population. I should like clearer guidance as to what commendation the Commission will be expected to give and its role in this respect.
It is extremely important that we should know to what extent there will be political freedom and freedom of expression of opinion during the test of acceptability. According to the White Paper, access to broadcasting is, for example, to be limited to those parties which are already represented in the Rhodesian Parliament. That surely cannot be right. If there is to be a broad test of acceptability and the broadcasting of various points of view on the settlement, every point of view must be represented and not just that of those at present represented in the Rhodesian Parliament.
It is essential that we should be clear that there will be a complete lifting of censorship and that people will be allowed to distribute leaflets and points 485 of view on acceptability before the Commission starts its work.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
I do not want to anticipate what the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) might be about to say, but has he seen the report which appears in today's newspaper, that when Mr. Smith was asked whether Mr. Nkomo would or might be released he said he was not interested in Mr. Nkomo at all? This is a shameful and shocking answer. I am sorry to have interrupted the hon. Gentleman, but that is an additional comment on what he was saying.
§ Mr. Steel
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I had not seen that report, and the intervention was a welcome one. That is another matter, the question whether leaders of African opinion are to be free to distribute their views, hold meetings and have access to broadcasting. All this is of the highest importance if the Government's own standards of the test of acceptability are to be fulfilled. At the time of the Rhodesian debate we could not go into such detail in discussing the settlement, but the fifth principle has now become a matter of importance, and the House is entitled to have a statement from the Foreign Secretary on these matters before the recess and before the Pearce Commission starts its work.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Stratton Mills (Belfast, North)
My hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) sought to move the Adjournment of the House earlier this afternoon to focus attention on the need for new and stronger diplomatic initiatives to be undertaken with the Southern Ireland Government. My hon. Friend is sorry that he cannot be here to pursue this matter, but I feel that this issue should be discussed as a matter of urgency before we adjourn for the Christmas Recess.
I know there is a breadth of views in this House on the subject of Northern Ireland, but equally I know there is a single view in this House as to the means and determination to root out violence and to deal with the men who use violence for political ends. On that matter I am sure the House speaks as one.
486 My hon. Friend referred briefly to a number of incidents which are particularly worrying to all of us. I propose to outline these incidents further at slightly greater length.
First, the newspapers today carry reports of the Press conference in Dublin held by the I.R.A. at which were present Mr. Martin Meehan, Mr. Tony Doherty and Mr. McCann, men who escaped from Belfast prison on 2nd December. Furthermore, the Chief of Staff of the Provisional I.R.A., Mr. John Stephenson, spoke at the conference. This is the latest of a long series of Press conferences organised and conducted by the I.R.A. which has been operating in a supposedly friendly country; it appears to operate openly and publicly in the Republic of Ireland.
Secondly, at the latest count, some 94 persons suspected of terrorist activities were believed to be in the Republic of Ireland. Extradition orders have been sought against a number of these men, but a number of the orders have not been executed. Therefore, these men are still operating freely.
Thirdly, there have been about 22 incidents on the Border in which the British Army has been involved, in which soldiers have been under gunfire from I.R.A. units in the South and in which Southern Irish police and army have stood idly by taking no action at all to stop the operation of gunmen.
Fourthly, there have been widely publicised meetings, notably in Drogheda and Letterkeeny at which members of the I.R.A. are being recruited and organised to take part in armed terrorist activities.
Fifthly, there are clear reports in many responsible parts of the Press and television pinpointing I.R.A. training camps in the South of Ireland where men have been training for armed aggression against a part of the United Kingdom.
Sixthly, there have also been many well-substantiated reports on television and in the Press of money being freely and openly colelcted in the streets for the purchase of arms to be used in I.R.A. activities.
Seventhly, figures have been given in this House that some 60 per cent. of the gelignite used in Northern Ireland has come from Southern Ireland, and the security authorities believe that the figure might well be higher than that because of 487 the difficulty of definite identification in all cases. In Northern Ireland steps are taken to control the use and distribution of gelignite. Certain steps have been taken recently in the South, but there is a great need for much tighter measures.
The burden of my remarks today is that Southern Ireland is being used as an I.R.A. holiday camp to launch attacks and aggression against a part of the United Kingdom. It is clear from the evidence that I have given to the House and from the remarks of Mr. T. E. Uttley in an excellent article in the Sunday Telegraph that the I.R.A. activities in Southern Ireland are fast geting entirely beyond the law. One can almost draw a comparison between Jack Lynch's Eire and King Hussein's Jordan. If the terrorist is permitted to operate beyond the law in a democratic society, that society's days are numbered unless the Government act firmly.
I am seeking firm action to impress on the Southern Irish Government that they have a responsibility to deal with the situation within their own borders. I feel certain that they can do very much more than they have done to date. I call for the maximum pressure to be exerted upon them. I hope that the Leader of the House in his reply will be able to give details of the diplomatic steps taken in the last 24 hours, which I greatly welcome; but I feel that new and stronger diplomatic pressures are constantly required to be exerted on the Southern Irish Government to get them to face their responsibilities. This is what I am calling for this afternoon.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)
I wish to raise two points. First, I should like to take up the remarks of the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) on Northern Ireland. The campaign which is developing on the part of certain Unionist Members against the Republic of Ireland Government is an extremely dangerous one. If hon. Members opposite are not careful, they may create a situation in Southern Ireland which is far worse than they are painting at the moment—and which could be far more dangerous than the present situation.
488 I am not here as an apologist for Mr. Lynch and his Government. In fact, I have many criticisms of that Government, as I have of the constitution of the Republic of Ireland. At the same time I believe that when the Government of the Republic of Ireland are trying to seek some form of political initiative which will go some way to meet the points made in the recent speech by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition—and those who heard the speech by Mr. Lynch to the Parliamentary Press Gallery will have noted his conciliatory tone—it would be dangerous to develop a campaign which, although it appears to attack the I.R.A., is really aimed at attacking the Republic of Ireland. Therefore, I repeat that there are dangers in the situation.
I should also like to refer to the internal situation in Northern Ireland. I hope that when the Home Secretary returns from his visit to Northern Ireland—and it was essential that he should make such a visit—we shall hear some positive political initiative from our Government in regard to Northern Ireland. It is not sufficient to keep saying "We must solve the problem but nothing can be done until the Government are defeated". The failure of internment and also the fact that since the imposition of internment some 130 people have died in the six counties are indications of failure. This has also been reflected in the complete alienation between the two communities, and, unfortunately, the alienation between the public and British troops.
I was in the Bogside in August, 1969, and saw the expressions of relief on the faces of the Bogside people when the British troops first went in. However, we have all seen the deterioration which has now taken place. The whole House will condemn the vile assassination of a Northern Ireland senator. Unless the Government are prepared to take independent political initiatives, I feel that we shall not see any de-escalation of the situation.
Reference has been made already to the effect that the present situation is having on children. I have a report from the Association of Legal Justice of the arrest on the morning of 3rd December of nine boys from St. Thomas's Secondary School, Whiterock Road, Belfast. Nine 489 boys aged between 13 and 15 were arrested in their homes. They were held incommunicado for 12 hours, and were interrogated. That kind of incident does nothing to help; on the contrary, in my opinion, it damages and leads to the continuing deterioration of the situation.
I am second to none in my support for the elected representatives of the minority. I want to see those whom I believe to be the real representatives, the members of the Social Democratic Labour Party, brought into consultation with the Government to try to find some political solution. However, their credibility would be destroyed completely if they accepted such negotiations without some basic alteration in the policy of this Government, and that must centre round internment and the Government's attitude to it. A change in the control of security should be exercised from this Parliament. Unless it is done, I believe that we shall see a worsening of the situation. We are constantly told that we are getting on top of it and that it is getting better. In fact, the record shows that it is getting worse all the time.
§ Mr. Timothy Raison (Aylesbury)
Will the hon. Gentleman say the political initiatives that he has in mind which would not be regarded by the I.R.A. as a sign that its tactics of violence were paying off and which would not be concessions that advanced its cause?
§ Mr. Orme
The hon. Gentleman's argument is that if one takes any form of initiative it will have been taken because of the threat of the I.R.A. The situation is worsening all the time. However, I remind the hon. Gentleman that it was not the I.R.A. which took the first steps in the escalation that we have seen. That happened when 600 Roman Catholic homes in Belfast were burned. It happened when the R.U.C. fired C.S. gas into Derry. It was those incidents which led to the gunmen gaining authority and getting the support of part of the population which turned to the I.R.A. in the deteriorating situation.
To say that one must not take any political initiative which would appear to be a sign of weakness is a recipe for disaster. If we do nothing, we may be left, after perhaps 12 years, with no one to negotiate with other than the I.R.A. There are elected representatives who 490 have the support of the minority, and they should be brought into the Northern Ireland Government so that negotiations can begin. However, that will not be done while internment is the barrier that it is at present.
My other point concerns a matter much nearer home. It is the problem of unemployment, which has been referred to already by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer). I live in and represent a constituency which is part of the Greater Manchester travel to work area. That area has a population of about 2½million people. The unemployment situation is rapidly approaching the proportions of the problem in many of the development areas. Week after week, more and more people are losing their jobs.
Last Saturday I attended a conference called by the local authorities in the South-East Lancashire conurbation area to discuss the possibility of keeping open the Irlam steel works. The conference was attended by representatives of the Greater Manchester area, including local authorities, trade unionists and six Members of Parliament, one of whom was the hon. Member forStretford (Mr. Churchill). An appeal was made to the Government not to ask but to tell the British Steel Corporation that the Irlam works should be kept open.
At that conference reference was made to what had happened at the River Don works at Sheffield. I support the magnificent fight which has been put up by trade unionists and Members of Parliament in that area. It was urged that similar tactics should be adopted at Irlam. However, representatives of the Irlam District Council and of the workers at Irlam said that they had tried every means to impress upon the Government and upon the British Steel Corporation that if that works were allowed to close the unemployment rate in the town would rise to between 9 and 10 per cent. They felt that perhaps what they had done had not been sufficiently spectacular and that they might have to take more positive action—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)
Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman. I do so very reluctantly, especially as most hon. Members have kept their remarks extremely brief. 491 It is strictly within the meaning of order that speeches to this Motion should be related to reasons why it is inexpedient for the House to remain in recess for as long as the time proposed. I feel sure that the hon. Gentleman does not wish to overstep the bounds of order. He will realise that there are several other hon. Members who wish to speak to the Motion and that we have a programme before us which will last right through the night. Hon. Members should avoid prolonging their speeches on this Motion and should relate their remarks to the terms of the Motion. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman. It may be argued that I should have pulled up others before him. However, as they kept their remarks short, I was prepared to show some tolerance at the time.
§ Mr. Orme
I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I did not preface my remarks by saying that this House should not adjourn until the matters which I have raised had been dealt with because I was trying to keep down the length of my speech. I am trying not to make a long political speech. I am dealing with specific issues which are pertinent to the House and the country at the present time.
I think that I have made clear the anxiety and urgency expressed at the conference to which I have referred. It was attended by more than 200 representatives. It must be taken in the context of an area which is suffering great hardship. The Hawker Siddeley aircraft firm is also under pressure and faces the possibility of large-scale redundancies. Firms are closing down at regular intervals, affecting the whole structure of an industrial area which many hon. Members present today have the honour to represent in this House.
I am arguing that this House should not adjourn until we have undertakings on Northern Ireland and on unemployment, in addition to answers to some of the specific aspects of the unemployment situation which others of my hon. Friends have raised.
§ 5.9 p.m.
§ Mr. John Wilkinson (Bradford, West)
I apologise for having missed the earlier part of the debate on this Motion. If I do not pursue the points raised by hon. Members who have spoken before me, I 492 hope that I shall be forgiven. I shall try not to be repetitious, and I shall do my best to be brief.
According to present plans, we are due to rise on Wednesday of next week. I remind the Leader of the House of the undertaking given by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on Monday, 6th December, to consult, through the usual channels, for a debate at a suitable moment on the tragic Indo-Pakistan war. With one day to be devoted to Adjournment topics we are left with only four potential days, and events are moving fast in the sub-continent. If we do not have a statement or a debate on these matters before we rise for the recess, force may have decided the issues before crucial matters which affect British interests can be debated in the House. The invocation by one Commonwealth country of a formal defence treaty with the Soviet Union in pursuit of its military objectives against another Commonwealth country with which we are allied has serious implications which we should discuss. The continued sale of British arms to India while she is engaged in offensive military operations, with Soviet material and political support, against Britain's C.E.N.T.O. and S.E.A.T.O. partner, Pakistan, which is also a Commonwealth member and which has received no weapons from Britain for many years, must cause widespread concern.
The Foreign Secretary said that the question of arms export licences to India was under constant review. I should welcome a statement on this issue before we rise for the recess, because the withholding of arms might be a factor in bringing pressure on India and her mentors, Poland and the Soviet Union, to accede to a United Nations resolution calling for a cease-fire and a political solution in accordance with the principles of self-determination in the disputed areas before wanton destruction and needless bloodshed, including communal vengeance, occur.
Furthermore, we would expect at least a statement before we rise on the progress to date on a cease-fire resolution in the United Nations and on actions by Her Majesty's Government on this. No one would want to prejudice delicate negotiations for a cease-fire or make them more difficult by anything we say in the House, but some of would wish, before the 493 recess, to dissociate ourselves from unhelpful statements such as that of the Leader of the Opposition, who criticised the Americans for their condemnation of India's attack on Pakistan, saying that he himself had been misled in doing so on 6th September, 1965, which is something which his chief official, Sir Algernon Rumbold, repudiated in The Times on 5th August, 1971. We now know why he did so. We should have the opportunity to debate this if we are to rise on Wednesday of next week, because it would seem that now, as then, the Indians and their friends will be content to accept a cease-fire only when they have obtained their military and political objectives.
If so, and if in the course of the next few days West Pakistan itself were jeopardised, surely such piecemeal self-aggrandisement by India would resemble the absorption of Czechoslovakia by Germany before the war, and the House would want to debate the matter urgently. A contingency of that sort must be seen to be publicly met by the Government.
A power which has openly avowed the intention of the unification of the subcontinent should not do so at the expense of another country which was itself a creature of this Parliament and the British Government.
These events are so urgent as to demand debate in the next few days. They affect the stability of Southern Asia and our interests there and those of our friends. They will also influence the ultimate security of our sea lanes in the Indian Ocean. Big Power operations by proxy are a major threat to peace, and the threat of big Power intervention also is still present. This is again something which we should wish to debate before Christmas.
Finally, superimposed most-importantly on all this, is a humanitarian problem of stupendous proportions. In the wreckage of East Pakistan the cries of the needy and destitute millions have been drowned by the thunder of the guns, but when the shooting stops and when the final bloody retribution has taken its tragic course, then the cry for help will be heard and doubtless this Parliament will be asked to vote more funds for rehabilitation and relief. I hope that before we rise for the Christmas Recess this plea for a debate too will be taken into consideration.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Kingston upon Hull, West)
For the last 21 years I have never spoken in a debate of this nature. If I do not speak in such a debate for another 21 years, I hope, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you will allow me a few minutes to raise a most serious matter —that is, as my interests are in fishing, the subject of the European Economic Community and fishing limits.
It is quite scandalous that at present the Government have not thought fit to inform the House of when they will hold a debate upon this subject before we sign the Treaty of Accession. I speak in the interests not merely of Yorkshire fishermen and those of the deep sea port of Hull I represent, but of all fishermen in the United Kingdom. Whatever the merits or demerits of the Government's case, I mention one small item in the proposals made by the Chancellor of the Duchy. My home is at the mouth of the Coquet, at Amble, in Northumberland. Of all of this stretch of coast, from Cape Wrath to the mouth of the Humber, 20 or 30 miles from the mouth of the Coquet to the mouth of the Tweed, has been handed over for open access to continental fishermen between the 6 and 12 mile limit. I do not know why that is so. That is only one of many other facts of which we have been denied true knowledge, because of only the most scanty and desultory bouts of exchanges at Question Time between the two Front Benches and back benchers.
It is quite iniquitous. The Chancellor has spoken of safeguarding about 95 per cent. or 98 per cent. That is what he thinks. But we want to know how much, and many of us disagree with what he has so far said. The Chancellor of the Duchy stated on Monday what his proposals are. They do not stand up in the light of past statements or pledges—if I can call them pledges—made either by himself or by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.
I found one statement most difficult to equate, and that is the matter of standing firm with Norway, meaning getting no less or no worse terms than the Norwegians. I know that Scandinavians, when negotiating, say, "I do not" or "I will not "—period. They can be very difficult. But nevertheless, the Norwegians have stuck hard at 12 miles. I thought 495 that there was an understanding whereby we should get no worse terms than the Norwegians. I may not use terms like "over a barrel", but at least we have not stood faithfully by them, in the sense that we have now foresaken the position that we had some weeks ago; whatever Denmark or Eire may have done alongside us in this matter.
We need a statement about why, how and when we have changed in this way, vis-à-vis our partners; in this case, Norway, one partner of a team of four that wished to enter the team of Six.
There are many legitimate and deep anxieties felt, as I said at Question Time on Monday, about conditions at the end of the ten-year transition period. Whatever may be thought by Yorkshire and Devonshire fishermen about 12 miles, six miles, in or out, there is no doubt, at least from listening to the statement on Monday, that nothing has been achieved in the sense of ensuring that at the end of the 10 years we shall have or use a veto, or be able in any way to safeguard our position. It may be said, after 10 years, if we are in a certain position, after two changes of the status quo, "Why change?"
On the other hand, it may be said by our partners that there will be a change. What we want before the treaty is signed is a solid, factual statement that that will be our position, if and when, after the ten-year period, we are called upon to defend it. It may be that a Labour Government will be in power when that happens. We know what we shall do, but we want to know what this Government intend to do if that situation arises.
What is meant when the Chancellor of the Duchy speaks of "a general review"? Do we intend to enlist the support of the Danes, the Irish and the Norwegians? Do the Government have something more definite in mind? It is no good the Government talking about democracy if, before they sign the Treaty, they have no intention of allowing the House to consider the matter, to check, to examine and if possible to chisel away some of the proposals. Unless the Government provide that opportunity before the recess, they will be condemned in the eyes of not only those on this side of the House but those on the benches opposite.
§ 5.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Timothy Raison (Aylesbury)
I rise to comment briefly on the question of Anglo-American relations. As the House knows, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is shortly to meet President Nixon. I do not think that anybody would dispute the importance of the meeting, or would not want to wish my right hon. Friend every success. It seems reasonable that this subject should be aired as a background to this important meeting.
The point I essentially wish to make is that we should pay rather more attention to the nature of Anglo-American relations than we have done in recent months. It is important to rebuild as close and as strong a working relationship as is possible with the United States. I believe that in the sensible enthusiasm to join the Common Market there have been signs that that important ingredient in our traditional policy has been somewhat neglected.
Let me instance three ways in which that has been so. First, the important arguments about the international financial situation have attracted a great deal of attention in recent months. I should not argue that in the arguments that have taken place all right is on the American side, but I believe that we have at times shown a lack of understanding of the true nature of the American problems. I instance specifically our approach to the question of American devaluation. We now know roughly what is going to happen, but there has been some failure on our part to understand the simple constitutional point of just how difficult it is for the Americans to devalue.
We assume that under their constitution the Americans are able to do as we can. In this country the Chancellor of the Exchequer can announce to the House that we have devalued, and that is final. That is not possible under American law. They do not have the same freedom of action, and the way in which that has been repeatedly overlooked by commentators exemplifies our failure to understand what is going on in the United States. In this whole international debate there needs to be a great deal of give and take on both sides. I believe that we have moved to a more reasonable situation than existed 497 a few weeks ago, but it is important to understand that the Americans, as well as Europe, have real problems.
Second, and somewhat akin to that, is the degree of protectionism entailed in the Common Market. The Americans, ever since President Kennedy was in office have been keen that Britain should join the Common Market. I think that they have been inspired by altruistic motives of the kind which have characterised their post-war policy as a whole. They believe that it would be for the good of world order, and I think that they have been right—
§ Mr. Raison
American official policy has taken that line, and I think that the reasons for it have been good and justified. On the other hand, I think they have been insufficiently aware that in the European policy, and especially the agricultural policy, there is a degree of protectionism which was going to rebound against them, but they have now woken up to that danger.
I believe that it is right that this country should join the Common Market, and I have voted in favour of doing so. On the other hand, I believe that as a long-term policy we should work to diminish the protectionism which exists in the common agricultural policy. I recognise that the C.A.P. is an important part of the Community, but we should try to diminish its effect. We should be prepared to work in sympathy with the Americans in their approach to it, and I hope that that matter will be considered by the Government.
The third area is defence. There is a degree of complacency afoot in the political world, and especially perhaps in Europe, about the overall defence situation. On visiting Brussels one hears a lot of talk about détente, about how the great threat from the Communist world is perhaps not what it was. I believe that that is nonsense. There may be a temporary lull, and I am not against any moves to reduce tension, but the fact remains that there are two camps. There is a camp made up of the free world, 498 and a camp made up of the Communist world, and any temptation or tendency on our part to overlook that would be disastrous.
It is essential for the defence of a free Western Europe that the Americans should remain involved, and any idea that we can build up a self-contained, self-sufficient European defence force—nuclear, non-nuclear or anything else—is a fallacy, and policies which are calculated to encourage the Americans to withdraw their troops from Europe can only be disastrous. I again strongly urge on the House the importance of making it clear that that is our view, because the nature of the Anglo-American alliance, and of the European American alliance, is of tremendous importance.
I raise those matters against the background of the Prime Minister's forthcoming discussions with President Nixon, and I hope the House will feel that there is something of importance in them.
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Ardwick)
I think that it would be wrong for the House to go away for the recess and not return until the middle of January. Before the House returns we shall have had the next unemployment count, and if tomorrow's figure does not do so, that figure will certainly top the 1 million mark.
What action will be taken before the House rises to assure my constituents that their employment prospects will be safeguarded? Hanging over Manchester in general, and over my constituency in particular, there is a shadow of unemployment which has not been known for a third of a century. Travelling around the wards of the Ardwick constituency, I hear from priests and from pub landlords the difficulties about unemployment. This topic is in the minds of more of my constituents than any others, and when one realises that my constituency is one of the worse housing black spots in the country, that is saying a great deal. On visiting people in clubs, or at their homes, and asking how they are, all too often the reply is, "I have been declared redundant since you last saw me".
The December unemployment figures show an increasingly tragic picture for the greater Manchester area. The figures to be announced for this week show that 499 between November and December the number of unemployed in Manchester has risen by 517 to the appalling total of 27,326. The number of wholly unemployed has risen even more, from 26,216 to 26,901, an increase of 685. The number of male unemployed, the breadwinners of the families, has risen from 22,945 to 23,733, an increase of 788 in one month.
The situation in the City of Manchester is appalling. In the period since I was elected—in the period since this Government came to power—unemployment has risen by 82 per cent. and the percentage of the working population unemployed has risen from 2.1 per cent. in June, 1970, to 4 per cent. this month. This situation is intolerable. It is part also of a wider North-Western situation which is increasingly intolerable. Measures must be taken by the Government to alleviate this situation before the House rises—measures which I suggest should be announced to the House.
The number of unemployed in the North-West region has risen since this Government came into power, up to November—we do not have the December figures for the region—from 73,494 to 136,440. The number of redundancies there between the Government coming to power and this October is 70,400—more than any other region in Great Britain, including even Scotland.
There are two announcements which the Government should make before the House rises which may alleviate the situation in the Greater Manchester conurbation. First, they should now announce the withdrawal of the rule contained in the guidelines for industrial development certificate control in the issue of the Trade and Industry Journal dated 8th July this year, which laid down that I.D.C.s would not generally be granted for new projects, entirely new lines of production or substantial expansion which could be taken elsewhere than in the City of Manchester.
The second matter is one which I have taken up repeatedly with Ministers at the Department of the Environment, who have proved arrogant and recalcitrant in this matter. I have written to the Minister for Housing and Construction about it and have not had a reply yet. Perhaps he is too busy devising Questions for his 500 hon. Friends to ask him. The House should not rise until I have had a reply and a commitment from him that the provisions of the Housing Act, 1971, about housing improvement grants will be extended to the Greater Manchester area.
That Act extends the development areas and intermediate areas. On the latest unemployment figures, Manchester qualifies at least for intermediate Status, but the situation there, with regard to housing and the vast derelict blocks of flats—Brook House, Greenwood House and Heywood House—which the Tory council in Manchester allow to fall into decay, requires action under the Housing Act.
If the increased grants were given to my constituency which are available to development areas and intermediate areas, Manchester Corporation could deal with these terrible living barracks which thousands of my constituents have to live in. It would also be a major contribution to helping with unemployment in my constituency and in Manchester as a whole. The latest available figures, broken down by industries show that more construction workers are unemployed in Greater Manchester than workers in any other field.
Therefore, I hope that the Leader of the House will give us a specific commitment, that, before the House rises, I shall get a reply to my letter to the Minister, which he has had for nearly two weeks, about improvement grants, and that he will announce that the Government will consider improvement grants and I.D.C. control in greater Manchester.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
I do not want to follow the points made by some of my hon. Friends about unemployment, fisheries and housing, although they are all very important. I would generally agree with most of the views expressed, except the suggestion by my right hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) about the injection of public money into housing. He qualified this by saying that he was only referring to the 1969 Housing Act, in which a 50 per cent. increase was made in Government assistance for intermediate and development areas. I should remind my 501 right hon. Friend that, according to our debate on public expenditure last week, there has been a drop in the money spent on housing compared with the expenditure of other Departments, so this aspect is only a very small part of the matter.
We have not had a coal industry debate since the Coal Industry Bill about nine or 10 months ago. Before that Bill, last year, we had a specific debate on coal mining. It is important to have a coal debate before we rise, for four very good reasons. First, there is the impending pay claim of the miners. Second, there are the negotiations proceeding with the Coal Board and all that flows from that. Third, there is the more important—to some people—question of imported coal and its cost to the country. Fourth, there is the question of redundancy pay for the over-55s who have been thrown on the scrap heap by successive Governments—a matter which I raised at Question Time.
The miners' pay claim is being dealt with by the union executive after meetings on Monday with the National Coal Board, when, if we are to believe any of the kite-flying in the Press, there might have been a slightly improved offer by the Board on the 7 per cent. initially offered after the Government had stuck their dirty little noses into the negotiations.
That offer of 7 per cent., taking into account the 11.86 per cent. increase in the cost of living since the last pay award, represents a real cut of 5 per cent. in their average living standards. So one does not wonder why the miners are so disturbed and why, as a result of their ballot three weeks ago, they decided, by a fairly overwhelming majority of 58.8 per cent. to 41.2 per cent., to take strike action if and when necessary on 9th January—before the House resumes.
Therefore, we could, and almost certainly will, have a major strike on our hands while the House is in recess. At no time since the Coal Industry Bill debate 10 months ago has the House debated this question, so we should debate the pay claim and the fact that we are in a Government-sponsored strike situation. According to those to whom I have spoken on the national executive of the N.U.M., the Coal Board was pressurised into offering only a 7.1 per cent. increase in wages.
§ Mr. J. D. Concannon (Mansfield)
It is worth pointing out that if this 7 per cent. rise is accepted by the miners, the highest paid miners will still basically be on only £31.70.
§ Mr. Skinner
I am pleased that my hon. Friend has raised that point. It leads me to another point which I should have made earlier. It is true that that is the maximum wage. We are not talking about production bonuses over and above that £31; we are talking about the maximum. Unlike Ministers and Members of Parliament, miners are not paid increases which are calculated in thousands of pounds; their increases are calculated in the main in shillings. Unlike the Royal Family, about whom we had a debate yesterday, redundant miners' increments are different from those which will be obtained by the Duke of Gloucester with his £40,000 when the Civil List is presumably passed next week.
Imported coal is closely allied to the present strike-bound situation. The Government have been meddling in the industry to reach this situation, not merely by telling the Coal Board to offer not more than 7 per cent., but by lifting the ban on imported coal, as they did on 3rd December last year. The result of lifting that ban was to increase stocks, not merely to provide more coal for the customer—we have already reached the alarming situation of having more coal stocks now than in the last five or six years and we are rapidly reaching the situation which existed in the late 1950s when the pit closure programme started—but to frustrate the bargaining position of the miners we are importing coal at double the cost to the consumer. The average price of imported coal between January and October was £10.10 per ton compared with the pithead price of British mined coal is £5.84 per ton.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)
Order. I think that the hon. Gentleman is going into a little too much detail. His argument has to relate in general terms to why we should sit longer.
§ Mr. Skinner
This is not the first time that I have strayed, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I shall undoubtedly do it again. I shall be doing it in the morning on the Housing Finance Bill, but I shall be more 503 deliberate about it. However, I shall attempt to stick to your guidelines.
The point has been established that coal has been deliberately imported to frustrate the bargaining position of the miners in current wage negotiations. That is a matter, therefore, which should be debated before the House rises.
Finally, there have been consultations between the N.U.M. and the Department of Trade and Industry about payments to the over-55 redundant miners. Of the 17 proposals put forward by officials of the N.U.M., only about three, the least important, appear to have been accepted by the Minister for Industry if what he told me in answer to a Question the other day is correct. The whole question whether these miners over 55, who obviously will not get other jobs because of the unemployment situation, should be paid redundancy pay until they reach 65 years of age should be argued before the House rises.
Those are the three points which, in my view, would become part of a much wider debate if the House were to debate the coal industry and the present strikebound situation. The Government have not only anticipated it, but all their actions were premeditated towards that end. They are determined to have a clash with the miners because they can hide behind a 33 million-ton mountain of coal.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrew, West)
It seems extraordinary, looking at the Government's record, that we should want to extend their time even longer, but there have been one or two signs of grace. There are glimmerings of understanding on how to deal with the problems into which they have plunged the country. I refer, for example, to public expenditure. I should be loath that the House should go into recess when the beginnings of understanding are percolating across the Government benches.
I want to comment on four important aspects, which I will link to why we should continue sitting and not adjourn next week. First, many people will be facing a long, hard, black winter. In Scotland there are 141,000 people unemployed. It is the most difficult situation 504 since the war. We do not know how much more we shall be told about tomorrow, but we know that the situation will be worse before the winter is over.
Apart from the human problems which have been described, this House does not always recognise the real cost to this country. We have talked about public accounts and public expenditure over the last two weeks. However, we do not always recognise the economic cost which human suffering also has upon the country.
We spent the early part of this year pushing through legislation designed to deal with strikes and disputes. We had six months of solid slog.
§ Mr. Buchan
My hon. Friend says that it was longer than six months. The legislation earlier this year was designed to deal with a situation in which 10 million to 11 million working days a year were lost to industry. Because of this loss, we were told that we had to have that legislation. But those 10 million to 11 million working days are a fraction compared with the number of days we lose through unemployment. With the present level of unemployment we are losing 250 million working days every year—exactly 25 times the number lost through strikes and disputes. But we apparently cannot keep Parliament sitting another week to deal with that problem. Let us have no more nonsense about the malaise facing us in industry due to strikes and disputes. We are concerned with a serious unemployment situation.
I should like to refer specifically to two matters as extra reasons to continue sitting. There are two focal points in Scotland on which decisions should be made. The Government have not yet acted. I refer to Upper Clyde Shipbuilders and Plessey. In both cases the workers decided that they would no longer tolerate a situation where others would decide their future for them. They took their future into their own hands and acted. They are justified. They have preserved the plant at Plessey by their direct action. They have also preserved jobs in Scotland and at Upper Clyde Shipbuilders by their action.
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward Taylor), with whom 505 I rarely agree, was right when he said that the Government should now take action about Upper Clyde Shipbuilders. A week ago, because of the Government's panic about unemployment, we saw an injection of about £150 million of fresh public expenditure. If only a proportion of that money were sent to Upper Clyde Shipbuilders to keep the four yards open, it would do a great deal to restore confidence in Scotland. The cost of financing a private company to take over only half the yards is already running at about £10 million to £12 million in addition to the private investment involved. So there is no reason why the public investment to keep the four yards going should not be made.
Similarly, the workers at Plessey are saying that the plant and machinery will not leave the yard. The workers have pushed industry, particularly the Plessey company, into a situation where they are willing to discuss matters. The workers' action has brought together two companies—Lyons, the development company, and Plessey, the parent company—to see what solution can be found in the way of new private tenants for the factory,
The only people who have not acted are the Government, and they owned the factory in the first place. It would be intolerable for us to adjourn next week before we make the Government face up to their responsibilities to assist the workers at Plessey to find a solution.
There has been a great deal of discussion in the last few weeks on the question of fisheries. Some of those who have taken part in the discussion did not know much about the issue before. I want to deal not only with the effects of the Government's recent negotiations upon Britain. I want to deal also with the effects of the Government's action in making what is virtually a sellout on the fisheries question.
The Government's action is shameful, not only because they have ignored the interests of British fishermen, but because of the effects upon our ancient ally, Norway. This sell-out has helped to put the Norwegians over a barrel. Norway, a small country with a population of only a few million, would not he joining the Common Market or proceeding with the negotations were it not for the fact that Britain is moving towards the Common Market.
506 Norway depends upon fish. Fishing is the mainstay of Norway's economy. Fishing is central, not peripheral, to the economy of Norway. Yet Norway's major ally, which is about to enter the Common Market with Norway, has sold Norway short on the one question that is vital to Norway. We have placed Norway in the position where it must choose whether to defend its fishing interests by trying to go it alone and secure a better deal, or not to join the Common Market, whilst Britain, Norway's major ally, intends to join the Common Market, in which case all our interests will be directed towards the Common Market. It is shameful and intolerable that Britain should have placed this choice before the people of Norway.
In a very moderate speech on this matter, a Norwegian Minister said, "After all, Britain is a big country. In 10 years' time it may be able to guarantee better continuing things. We are a small country. We have no power to do that". Britain had the power to do it; it could have held out, but it did not. We have sold Norway, an important ally, down the river. I, for one, am thoroughly ashamed of this action, quite apart from its effect upon Britain.
My final point is a small one, but it causes me a great deal of personal disappointment. It is the Government's conduct on the question of school milk. The House is asked to agree to this Motion in a situation in which at least one local council—Merthyr Tydvil—is trying its best to safeguard the health of its children, and when the whole juggernaut of the governmental apparatus is to be brought in to crush this small local council.
Parliament should be sitting so that it can condemn the Government's conduct if and when that happens. The action of the councillors of Merthyr Tydvil, which is backed by the Labour movement and by the people of Merthyr Tydvil, is a sufficient reason for us to stay here so that we can tell the Government what we think of their conduct.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Mr. James Hamilton (Bothwell)
I make no apology for suggesting that the House should continue to sit instead of rising for the Christmas Recess next week. Many points of view have already been aired on the question of unemployment, 507 but, without being repetitious, it is essential for me to refer to the last debate we had on unemployment, when the Leader of the House replied for the Government.
§ Mr. Hamilton
I am not attacking the right hon. Gentleman for the reply that he gave to that debate; because I liken the performance of the House on that occasion to a pantomime, and the House did not give the unemployment situation the attention which it should have done. I was grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for coming to see me and discussing the matter with me afterwards.
Since then, representations have been made about the unemployment situation in Scotland by the Scottish Development Council, the Scottish Trades Union Congress, the Lanarkshire Development Council and, on inumerable occasions, by Scottish Labour Members to the various Ministers, but we have not been able to extract from Ministers any details about what they intend to do to solve the unemployment problem throughout Britain.
I shall deal specifically with the situation in Scotland, particularly the situation in Lanarkshire. Scotland now has 141,454 unemployed. We could be told tomorrow that the figure is 145,000. In my constituency one factory will make 350 workers redundant at the beginning of next year. Another factory will close next February and a further 130 jobs will be lost. We cannot in any circumstances carry this extra burden, because 8.9 per cent. of the insurable population of Lanarkshire is signing on at the Labour Exchanges.
The steel industry is rapidly contracting. I understand that early in the New Year a statement will be made by the British Steel Corporation about further redundancies in the Lanarkshire area. I therefore ask the Leader of the House to extract from the appropriate Minister an assurance that before the House rises for the recess we shall be informed what the corporation's investment policy is to be, because this is of vital importance to Lanarkshire in particular and to Scotland as a whole. I am not talking about Hunterston, because I appreciate that the 508 Government cannot give an immediate answer on that.
Next, we were assured that a statement would be made shortly on the question of a heating allowance for old-age pensioners. This is a favourite hobby horse for many of us. I press this matter now, not because it is popular, but because I am one of those Members who live in their constituencies. I am very close to my constituents and I see the trying circumstances and the misery in which they live. I hope that the Leader of the House will be able to tell us what the Government's intentions are in this matter. Are the Government prepared to give the old-age pensioners a Christmas bonus? Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that we shall have a full-scale debate on this question after the recess, and an assurance from the Government that they will give a substantial sum to the old-age pensioners. I hope particularly that they will tell us that we shall have an annual review of pensions. These are very important questions.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Raphael Tuck (Watford)
I oppose both the Adjournment of the House and on the assumption that there is an Adjournment, its proposed length. The Government have given time for a nice debate on unemployment and a nice debate on pensions. Now they think that they have done their duty, and that hon. Members can go on their ski-ing or cruising holidays and treat with studious unconcern the plight of the unemployed and the pensioners. I admit that the unemployment cannot be solved at a stroke, but some plans should be before the House before it rises.
We have proposed extra money for Her Majesty the Queen, members of the Government and Members of Parliament. Before doing that, we should have seen that the old-age pensioners had what was due to them. For many of them it will be a cheerless and cold Christmas because they cannot afford the food or heat they need. Before we adjourn something should be done about that. At a stroke, they could have been given more than the extra pound. That pound is not worth more than 60p, because their supplementary pension is taken back, and the 60p is swallowed up in the increased cost of 509 living. We could give the pensioners an increase before giving the Queen and Members of Parliament their increases, but we are treating them with studious unconcern. How callously indifferent can we get? Does it need a war to arouse our better instincts?
I believe that there are about 120,000 people in this country dependent on fisheries. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is throwing them gaily into the ravening jaws of the E.E.C. countries. We could stand firm, as Norway has, but we are not doing so. I am sure that the vast majority of hon. Members feel, as I do, that we should stand firm on fisheries before contemplating joining the E.E.C., and we should have time for a debate before the recess.
We are to have nearly four weeks' recess now, and normally we have only a week at Easter and about two weeks at Whit-sun. I told the Leader of the House last year that it would be far better to take something off our Christmas holiday, because we are not very tired at this time of the year. We are not far from our last summer holiday, we have not had the gruelling experience that we shall probably have in February and March of tramping through the House at all hours of the night on the E.E.C. legislation. An extra week at Easter or Whitsun would be far more acceptable than it is now, as we should then be much more tired, and particularly as now, unless we go on ski-ing holidays, we cannot use the time to be out of doors because the evenings draw in early.
The Leader of the House said last year that he would consider my suggestion. He took a week off Christmas, but he did not put it on Easter, and at Whitsun not only did we not have an extra week, but he stole the other week. So he has stolen two weeks from our holiday during the year. I ask him to shorten the Christmas Recess and lengthen the Easter and Whit-sun Recesses.
If my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) calls a Division, I will if necessary go into the Lobby in opposition to the Motion.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Fred Peart (Workington)
We have had a fascinating debate in which 17 Members have spoken. We have heard a variety of speeches, covering a great range 510 of subjects, but most hon. Members have concentrated on what is perhaps the most serious of all the problems we have to face—unemployment.
My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) was right to stress the positive aspects, that we need certain assurances before we adjourned. Perhaps the Leader of the House will tell us that he will inform Ministers about the debate and that they will explain next week how they will counter rising unemployment. It was also right of my hon. Friends to stress the question of heating allowances, a matter raised by the T.U.C. when it met the Prime Minister.
I should also like assurances on many other matters, some of which we have debated. The other week we had a major debate on the development areas, which I had the honour and privilege to open. But we still need assurances. Will there be a statement before the recess on heating allowances for the aged? Will it be part of the general approach to reflating the economy to meet the need to get production going? Are we to have a change in policy towards the development areas? My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) asked for a statement on I.D.C. policy. Have the Government made up their mind on regional employment premiums, which are very important for the development areas? Is there to be a return to investment grants?
The Government's policy has failed. They must accept responsibility for the very high unemployment figures. We hear talk about reaching 1 million unemployed, and more, but we must remember that there are more than 1 million unemployed now, because it has been estimated that nearly 400,000 people are not registered for various reasons. So we face a very serious problem.
Hon. Members were right to seek assurances about the various public boards and the investment policies to be pursued. Several hon. Members spoke about the problem of Clydebank, the need for a Minister to go there, and the need for a major announcement before the recess.
I will not labour the point. It would be wrong for me to go into the merits of the argument about unemployment. The simple fact is that we want to know from the Leader of the House whether 511 the Government will make major announcements of policy to deal seriously with the unemployment problem which face many areas, not just the old development areas. We have heard about the North-West, and particularly the Manchester area, and my Scottish colleagues have rightly pointed to the tragedies of the past. But unemployment has now been created in areas where it was not such a problem as we had in the old distressed areas. I was glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Salford West (Mr. Orme) and others raised this matter.
Hon. Members have also raised the question of the fishery negotiations with the E.E.C. I am glad that they did so. There is a danger that certain sections of our fishing industry will be seriously affected. No continuing agreement has been reached at Brussels. I believe that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will sell sections of the industry down the river. He and the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food always gave the impression that they would not sign the Treaty of Accession unless they had solved the fisheries problem. But it has not been solved. The Community has had its way. Norway, one of our traditional allies, has been sold down the river. We have let down a small country which depends upon fishing to a much greater extent than we do.
Among those most affected are our inshore fishermen. These are men who not only catch fish for the country but who man the voluntary services like the lifeboats, and in wartime join the Royal Navy. Their skill in wartime has been invaluable. It is wrong that we should not have a major debate on the fisheries issue. I know that discussions are going on about it and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will, if not tonight, then before the recess, announce a debate before we sign the Treaty. It would be very wrong not to have a major debate on this matter. I shall not go into the merits of the case, but tonight is an opportunity for the right hon. Gentleman to indicate whether we shall have that debate.
Many other matters have been mentioned. The hon. Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen) emphasised the importance of the Home Secretary making a state- 512 ment about Northern Ireland before the recess. Many hon. Members on both sides have stressed the importance of Northern Ireland and the need to have certain matters clarified before the recess.
There has been interesting argument about the visit of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to Washington and on the whole question of this country's return to fixed exchange rates. I agree with the hon. Member for Oswestry that this is a very important matter. What emerges from the Washington talks will affect this country. The hon. Gentleman went on to examine the common agricultural policy and regional policy, which affect world trade. This viewpoint was also taken up in an interesting speech by the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison). I could not fault his speech, and I hope he is not embarrassed by my saying that.
We need Anglo-American co-operation and we tend to under-estimate the American position. The United States has had to suffer from restrictive policies pursued by the E.E.C. I do not want now to debate the merits or demerits of our joining the Community, but it is a simple fact, as the hon. Member for Aylesbury, who is a supporter of entry, agreed, that the Community has been pursuing restrictionist policies. The common agricultural policy is a policy of restrictionism from behind a tariff wall. This is why the Americans are so sensitive on the matter.
I recall hearing Senator Humphrey not long ago at a very responsible gathering in London outlining some of the American difficulties. There is a danger that we shall drift into more restrictionism. All the promises of the G.A.T.T., the Kennedy Round and other policies which sought to liberalise trade have gone, and we now see what difficulties the United States is facing. I think that the Americans have reason to criticise actions which have been taken by people in Europe who owe their liberty to the American presence there. I hope that we shall have a statement on these matters as well.
We also had an interesting speech by my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), who rightly raised the question of the report by Lord Rothschild dealing with the framework of 513 Government research and development. This is a very important matter and there is to be a debate in another place in January. Are we to have a debate about it? I know that the right hon. Gentleman has a special responsibility and interest in the matter. It is of vital importance and I should like to know what the Government's attitude is.
§ Mr. Dalyell
No doubt my right hon. Friend heard the intervention in my speech by the Leader of the House which, I am sure, was made in good faith. Some of us have become extremely curious as to exactly what is happening about the briefing of the Press by very senior people in the Government machine. Therefore, I asked the Government to make some kind of inquiry, which the right hon. Gentleman will not have had an opportunity to do yet, into precisely what some very senior people in Downing Street are up to.
§ Mr. Peart
My hon. Friend has made another speech. The right hon. Gentleman will no doubt have noted what he has said and perhaps will reply to it. I think my hon. Friend has made his point.
I also welcomed my hon. Friend's suggestion that we should discuss nuclear power policies, the Vintner Committee and our whole emphasis in nuclear engineering, including the question of whether we should give up the advanced gas-cooled reactor. I still take an interest in the matter myself, and I believe that it is important that we should have a statement. My hon. Friend also talked effectively about trade with China. I did not know that he had been in China. I hope that his visit was during the last recess. He stressed the fact that we want trade with China, and we all agree with that.
Other hon. Members referred to the war between India and Pakistan. It is not for me to enter into the arguments about the war. My only wish at the moment is that we should get peace. It is a tragedy that two countries which have relied so much on aid in the past should now be using up their resources trying to blow each other out of existence. A Commonwealth initiative has been suggested, and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will be able to tell us that the 514 Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs will keep us informed and that we shall probably have a major statement before the recess.
The hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) referred to the Pearce Commission, its work in Rhodesia and the test of acceptability. I hope that a statement indicating the Government's attitude to the broadening of the Commission will be made before the recess. It is an important matter and I support what was said by the hon. Gentleman.
My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Ardwick raised the question of improvement grants, and perhaps the Lord President will convey to the Minister for Housing and Construction that we should like some information on this before the recess.
A matter which is separate from the question of unemployment, but related to it, is that of the need for a debate on the coal industry, suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner). There is a danger that there will be a major dispute and a strike in the industry before the House meets again. I do not disagree with anything my hon. Friend has said. There is only one pit in my constituency, but I am well aware of the importance of the coal industry and of the concern among miners over coal imports.
All Governments have had a measure of responsibility for running down the industry so that we are now in a position when we have to import coal. My hon. Friend was stressing the importance of taking action although he deplored Government intervention in the pay dispute. We hope that we can avoid a dispute and that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give us a satisfactory reply to all the points that have been raised.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. William Whitelaw)
The right hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) has rightly pointed out that the majority of speeches have understandably been concerned with the serious unemployment situation. He mentioned all those hon. Members who have spoken and I will not repeat their names but will try to deal with the points that have been raised.
515 It would be wrong in this debate to give a catalogue of the measures already taken and it would be equally wrong to discuss what this House discusses, sometimes more in private than in public—the baffling change in the nature and character of unemployment, the problems concerned with changes in the labour force and the way in which firms use labour. These are problems about which we are deeply worried. A considerable number of measures have been taken and the Government believe that they will have effect. In a continuing situation of this sort I cannot promise particular statements, I can only say that any measures which are thought to be right by the Government will be announced and taken.
The right hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) raised the topic of a nuclear power station and spoke of various kinds of nationalised industry expenditure which should be brought forward. As he knows, both in the defence programme and the nationalised industry programme, various measures have been put forward. I agree with what he said about the importance of decisions concerning nuclear power stations. This is a matter for review and I will see that his remarks are brought to the attention of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.
The hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) raised the question of the Irlam steelworks. I appreciate all that he said and will see that it is brought to the attention of my right hon. Friend. I appreciated the reasonable way in which he raised this matter, which is of great importance to the Manchester area. While dealing with Manchester, I will also investigate the possibility of a reply to the hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) who dealt with the question of housing grants. I will see that his remarks about I.D.C.s are brought to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. The hon. Member for Bothwell (Mr. James Hamilton) raised the question of the proposals of the British Steel Corporation. I did not know the possibilities he mentioned but I will see that this matter is investigated.
The hon. Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Buchan) dealt with the question of Plessey, and I know that my right hon. 516 Friend will look into this. I will deal later with the important question of the Upper Clyde Shipyard.
Perhaps I may now turn to another matter raised by the hon. Members for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), Watford (Mr. Raphael Tuck), Bothwell and the right hon. Member for Workington, namely the question of a statement from the Secretary of State for Social Services dealing with heating allowances. I cannot make any commitment about such a statement but I am bound to point out one fact. I do not do it in a controversial sense; I state it as a fact. As was pointed out by my right hon. Friend recently, pensioners today, as a result of the increase which I would remind the hon. Member for Watford was given in September—before the various other increases he has discussed were brought forward—will be able to buy more this Christmas in terms of real purchasing power than ever before, certainly more than at Christmases when hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite were in power. If that be true it is right to put the discussion in that context.
The right hon. Member for Workington, the hon. Member for Walton, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson), the hon. Member for Renfrew, West and others raised the question of the fishing agreement with the E.E.C. As they will appreciate, there is to be a debate on this on the Consolidated Fund in which my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will take part. That will provide an opportunity for hon. Gentlemen to put particular points.
§ Mr. Peart
I do not believe that a debate on the Consolidated Fund is a satisfactory solution. I know that there are the usual channels and I understand that approaches are to be made—I do not know whether the Leader of the House has had any approaches. A day or a half a day at a suitable time is needed. Probing on the Consolidated Fund is no answer to a request for a major debate.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
I note what the right hon. Gentleman said but various hon. Gentlemen were putting certain points for clarification relating to the fishing agreement and I was pointing out that 517 the opportunity to obtain this clarification will arise on the Consolidated Fund.
§ Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)
I have been listening carefully to this debate. The right hon. Gentleman is replying as Leader of the House of Commons and it is surely incumbent upon him to tell the House whether there is to be a major debate soon on the fishing agreement—about which hon Members did not know when they voted on 28th October—before the Treaty of Accession is signed. If there is not to be a debate will the Government postpone the date of signing until the House has returned and had the opportunity for a debate?
§ Mr. Whitelaw
I can certainly give no such assurance. All I am saying is that an opportunity will arise on the Consolidated Fund tonight.
§ Mr. James Johnson
Does the right hon. Gentleman not accept that this is a unique issue and that we are faced with a fait accompli? This has come so late that it has never been debated on the Floor of the House, whereas all the other issues have been debated. Does he not feel that the House should be allowed to debate this and that it should not be tucked away in a general discussion on Consolidated Fund?
§ Mr. Whitelaw
If I went into the arguments on the subject I should be preempting what is to be said in the debate. The debate will certainly provide an opportunity for raising such matters.
May I turn to the issue of the war between India and Pakistan raised by my hon. Friends the Members for Cambridge (Mr. Lane) and Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson) and the right hon. Member for Workington. I can give the assurance that the Foreign Secretary will make a statement on this situation whenever it seems helpful to the House. I cannot say definitely that there will be one before the Recess but I can say that if the occasion arises and there is something of importance which should be put before the House, a statement will be made. I am grateful to my hon. Friends the Members for Cambridge and Brad-for, West for the way in which they put their points. The Government have been encouraged by the support they have received from the House in respect of 518 their attitude in this very difficult and tragic situation. Relief and reconstruction plans are in hand, and these matters will be most carefully considered.
I turn to the question of Northern Ireland, raised by my hon. Friends the Members for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen) and Cathcart (Mr. Edward Taylor) and, from his particular knowledge, my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills). My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is returning from Northern Ireland today and, naturally, I am not in a position to make any promises about what he may wish to tell the House. I cannot even say that he will necessarily make a statement. But, as with India and Pakistan, this is a continuing situation and I know that my right hon. Friend will wish to keep the House informed.
My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North, asked particularly about any representations which may have been made to the Government of Eire. The most recent representations were made yesterday afternoon to Mr. Lynch by our Ambassador in Eire.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
I must apologise to the hon. Member for not saying that he, too, raised this subject. He put forward a perfectly fair point of view. I cannot tell him the exact terms of the representations, but they were on the subject of action being taken. Mr. Lynch has declared himself to be against violence, and that is very important. The representations were made on the basis of what has been happening in some of the serious incidents to which my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North referred.
The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) raised the question of the Rothschild and the Dainton Report. I appreciate the importance of this subject. It is being debated in another place. I cannot give a commitment to a debate, but I realise that this House should debate it and I will see whether, and when, I can fit it in for a debate.
§ Mr. Dalyell
When I was speaking on this subject, the Lord President interrupted me to imply that, when I referred to a debate between Sir Burke Trend and Lord Rothschild, reported in The Times today, it was a fabrication of the true position. May I ask the right hon. Gentleman, who did not have prior knowledge of this particular point, to reconsider the matter? It is a matter, not of tittle-tattle, but of central argument in the Government machine on a very important policy issue.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
The hon. Gentleman has broadened the issue. He referred to an article in The Times, and I confined myself, as I think it was perfectly proper to do, to the reply that from my own personal knowledge—and I am in a particular position to know—the suggestions in that article about the relationship between Lord Rothschild and Sir Burke Trend were not correct. They are not correct, and I can give that absolute assurance. The hon. Gentleman interrupted the right hon. Member for Workington, and said that this had emanated from a high source. I know nothing of these matters. All I have said is that what the article said about the relationship was not true.
Turning to the hon. Gentleman's other points, I realise the great importance of the nuclear programme, which is under review at the moment. As soon as any decisions are made they will be announced to the House. I know of the hon. Gentleman's particular knowledge of China and Formosa as a result of the visit which he made to that area. I note what he said. This will be among the subjects to be discussed by my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary in their talks with the President of the United States in the next few days.
My hon. Friend the Member for Oswestry raised the question of fixed exchange rates and the international monetary situation. He has apologised to me for not being present. I will ensure that what he said is conveyed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who will have the opportunity of discussing these matters with members of the American Administration in the next few days.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart and the hon. Member for Renfrew, 520 West referred to the question of the Upper Clyde shipyards and asked for assurances. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart that the tragic death of Mr. Hugh Stenhouse struck a very serious blow at the progress being made towards a solution of this problem. I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry is very anxious to be able to announce the name of the new chairman as soon as possible. I cannot say when that will be, but I know that if my right hon. Friend can make a statement before the Recess he will do so. I know the importance which my hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart attaches to a visit by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to the Upper Clyde yards. I shall be very pleased to pass that proposal to my right hon. Friend.
The hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) raised the question of the Pearce Commission on Rhodesia. I can assure him that the further names of the members of the Commission will be announced very soon, certainly before the Recess.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
Yes, to the House. I have noted the hon. Gentleman's remarks about the membership of the Commission and its methods of working, and I shall ensure that they are passed to the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) raised various questions about relations between this country and the United States. This matter was also mentioned by the right hon. Member for Workington. These are properly matters to be raised before my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has his meeting with the President of the United States in the next few days.
The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) raised the question of a debate on the coal industry. He made various assertions, which I do not accept, about the coal negotiations. As to the subject of a coal debate, I can fairly point out to the hon. Gentleman—and this is a tactic which my predecessors have used; it is quite fair to use it, and I propose to do so now—that this would have been a perfectly suitable subject for debate on a Supply Day. This is frequently a 521 subject that is raised on Supply Days. I have not made a point of that kind for a very long time, but it is a reasonable point to make on this occasion.
The Recess which I am proposing—and whether this is a merit in the proposal I do not know—is certainly shorter than the normal Christmas Recess. My hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart said that we shall need a rest before we embark on other matters. I know my hon. Friend's staying power. He has some experience of my staying power, which is not inconsiderable. I think that it is reasonable to have a slightly shorter Recess than usual. I commend the Motion to the House.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That this House at its rising on Wednesday 22nd December do adjourn till Monday 17th January.