HC Deb 03 April 1973 vol 854 cc232-357

3.39 p.m.

Mr. Peter Shore (Stepney)

I beg to move, That this House, believing that food prices under the Common Agricultural Policy are already too high, calls upon Her Majesty's Government, as a matter of vital national interest, not to accept any further general increase in EEC prices.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I have to inform the House that I have selected the Government's amendment, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Motion and to add instead thereof. endorses the determination of Her Majesty's Government to give the highest priority to combating inflation in the European Economic Community's overall interest; and welcomes Her Majesty's Government's initiative in pressing for means of support other than raising end prices in the development of the Common Agricultural Policy.

Mr. Shore

This is a careful and modest motion designed not to cause controversy here but to unite behind the Minister the overwhelming sentiment of Parliament and the people on two basic principles about the common agricultural policy— first, that food prices in the Common Market are already too high and, second, that they must not be allowed to rise further in the year ahead.

We do not seek to tie the Minister down in any unreasonable way. If, as I had very much hoped, he had accepted our motion and thus opposed any large increases in prices, he would still have been able to agree, if the evidence had been sufficiently convincing, to adjustments upwards and downwards according to sensible criteria of supply and demand for individual products. In other words, it would have been open to him to agree to cuts in the price of butter and to consider on their merits proposals for increases.

All that we are seeking to rule out is any across-the-board increase affecting butter, cereals, sugar and other main agricultural commodities. We were emboldened because we knew that we were doing no more than the Minister had allowed us to believe that he would wish to do. In the statement which he made last Wednesday he said that he was opposed to any across-the-board price increase in Europe this year.

We think it right to debate the matter on a formal motion because the issue of food prices is the most important single issue of the day. It is our view that the matter should be decided in the House by the elected representatives of the British people. It should not be decided by Eurocrats and by Ministers meeting in Brussels.

I do not think that anyone will doubt that it is crucial to our standard of living and, above all, to the living standards of the less prosperous part of the nation, to keep our food prices stable and, if possible to reduce them. I shall not burden the House with any unnecessary figures, but the extent to which our living standard is being threatened by rising food prices is not yet sufficiently understood and known, even in this House.

When we last debated food prices on 3rd November during the Queen's Speech I drew attention to the fact that the rise in food prices was accelerating, and that during the last two years prices had risen on average by 10 per cent. a year. I said that in the previous three months— that is May to August 1972, which was the latest available figure—the rate had risen to 14.5 per cent. per annum. That debate took place on the eve of the Government's so-called prices and incomes freeze.

Since the freeze, far from slowing down, the rate of food price increases has further accelerated. In the three months between mid-November and mid-February, prices have risen by a full 5 per cent., or at an annual rate of 20 per cent. Some prices have increased, of course, far beyond that average figure. I regret to say that there is no sign that the upward march has been significantly checked. Only today we had fresh evidence from the Food Manufacturers' Federation of what is in store for us during this year. On the Federation's estimates, if I have them correctly, butter prices are to rise by 24 per cent., sugar prices by 18 per cent., meat prices by 12 per cent., fish prices by 10 per cent. and dried egg prices by 20 per cent. That is its own estimate.

Not only is it essential to reduce price increases for social reasons, or to ease the strain on older people, on families and on the lower paid, but it is crucial to the success of any sort of counter-inflation policy.

A thought which must pray on the Minister's mind as we enter phase 2 of the Government's so-called counter-inflation policy—this applies not only to the Minister but to all his Front Bench colleagues—is that the great mass of our people do not begin to understand how it is that when their incomes are frozen or severely restrained by Government action, the same Government should do nothing to prevent prices rising in foodstuffs, in rents and mortgages, and in house and land values. Worse, in many cases—witness VAT this week—the Government make things worse by directly increasing prices through their own actions.

Part of the Government's direct responsibility for putting up prices is their acceptance of the Common Market's regulation of our food prices. Of course, the Minister does not like to be reminded of that. He would like the nation to believe that rising food prices have nothing to do with what we regard—and I think correctly—as the incompetence and folly of his right hon. Friends who negotiated the Treaty of Accession.

The Minister has been sedulously spreading the myth that all our misfortunes are due to movements in world prices, over which we have no control. That is only part of the story. On 1st March, the Minister made his first increase in sugar prices. We had a debate on further increases only last night. The first increase was a direct consequence of the Common Market rule that we have to phase out our present sugar subsidy. The second sugar increase will take place on 1st May and the third on 1st July.

We have had to abandon the bacon stabilisation scheme under which, as with sugar, bacon had been previously subsidised. The first price increase due to Common Market bacon policy took place on 1st March, and we shall have two further increases by the summer. They cannot be less than 3p a 1b. I think that I am being modest in giving that figure.

Unhappily that is not all. Butter is to be increased on 1st May—and we have the Minister's authority for this—by the incredible figure of £86 a ton or 4p a lb. As the Minister knows full well, that is the first of six increases over the next five years, at the end of which our butter prices will be almost 150 per cent. more than they are today. That is a direct consequence of the Common Market's food policy.

Can the Minister confirm what we read in the papers about the reported sale of Common Market butter at cut prices to the Soviet Union? I am all for helping developing countries. I should not wish to be unfriendly in any way to a great country with which I hope we shall have ever more friendly relations in the future. However, to sell to the Soviet Union, if the reports are correct, 200,000 tons of butter at the price of £150 a ton—that is one-quarter or one-fifth of the real price not only in Europe but, as it will become, in Britain, the cost in subsidies to those who produce the surplus being over £120 million—is sheer madness. Let us hope that we have a denial from the Minister.

The last foodstuff which I shall mention is beef. As the British housewife knows, prices rose in five days in December by as much as they were supposed to rise in five years of Common Market membership. Do not let the Minister say that that had nothing to do with the Common Market. In fact, it had. Of course, there were many factors at work. One was that last year 10 per cent. of the total production of British beef went out of Britain into Europe. That was because the prices in Europe had gone up owing to its premature policy of slaughtering beef in 1970 in order to help reduce the butter mountain. The result was a shortage of beef. Meat was sucked out of this country at the high prices then on offer, and the Minister did nothing to seek to arrest that movement.

There is a threat of a further increase of over 10 per cent. under the Community's proposals which are now before the Council of Ministers, and which were again referred to yesterday in the Food Manufacturers' Federation forecast of increased prices this year. No wonder the Minister said last night: … the food prices peak has not yet been reached. I now turn not to the rise in British food prices up to existing Common Market levels but to the proposals for a further across-the-board increase in CAP prices which are before the Council of Ministers this week. From what the Minister told the House last Wednesday it seems that that is precisely the point to which he has the most vehement objections. Resistance to further price increases is wholly consistent with the passage in his own amendment which refers to means of support other than rising end prices in the development of the Common Agricultural Policy.", an interesting and significant phrase which I hope he will elaborate.

Here we have, or should have, a substantial measure of agreement, as will become clear when we consider those central features of the CAP that we on this side, and, I hope the Government, will seek to change. Let me say what is wrong with the CAP, and what are the central features we seek to change.

First, it is grossly protectionist. In the EEC's making Europe substantially self-sufficient in the main foodstuffs, regardless of Europe's competitiveness with countries outside, food is produced inside the Common Market at a far higher price than would otherwise be necessary, and the standard of living of the European people is correspondingly lower.

Secondly, the method of support and production for European farmers used in the CAP—basically a guaranteed price for an open-ended quantity of production—leads inevitably to a continuing and chronic problem of over-production. The butter mountain of 400,000 tons that has built up is not the first butter mountain we have had. Only two or three years ago a similar mountain existed. Other commodities are constantly in surplus production. The ingenuity and resource of the engineering industry in the Community is constantly fashioning new machines to denature and destroy that which the earth of Europe grows each year.

As for the Intervention Board set up in this country, if my information is correct, all over Britain empty storage capacity is being bought up and leased by the board to take food out of the British market, to take it away from the British consumer, who might otherwise have what is available at a lower price, and to put it in the stores so that prices can be maintained at an artificially high level.

The third objection to the CAP is that the chronic tendency to over-produce is a major disrupting influence in world trade. The disruption occurs not only because low-cost producers like New Zealand are denied access to the European market but because European surpluses are dumped on world markets at ludicrous prices. I should like to illustrate that and to drive it home as strongly as I can. Over half the annual cost of FEOGA, over £500 million a year, year in and year out, goes to pay the difference between the dumped prices of European surplus products in third markets and the price inside the Common Market.

The fourth objection is that in spite of the defects I have described the CAP gives only a partial stability to farmers generally, and fails to secure a reasonable standard of living for the poorer peasant farmer. That is acknowledged by virtually everyone. It has led to what is by Continental standards a considerable exodus from the land. That is what the Mansholt Plan for farm restructuring and pensioning-off older farmers is partially designed to meet.

The fifth objection is the way in which the CAP is financed. It is unacceptably unfair and unacceptably expensive. Contributions made to it are unrelated to the capacity to pay of individual countries or the benefits they receive in return. The contributions system the EEC introduced, which the Government in their treaty negotiations accepted, amounts to a tax on those Community members with the strongest links in both industrial and agricultural trade with the other continents of the world. In short, those— above all, Britain—that import the most food from outside the Continent of Europe will pay the bulk of the food levies. Those that trade extensively with other continents—again, Britain above all —pay by far the larger part of the Customs duties to Brussels. That is the second part of the triple tax system employed in the financing of the CAP.

My last fundamental objection is that all those defects are reinforced by the decision to relate common agricultural prices not to the exchange rates of the individual countries, which over time inevitably change, as we have all seen, but to a permanent and irrevocable unit of account which must not be departed from, even though countries revalue, devalue or float. Thus, we have an extraordinary picture, after the last two convulsions of the dollar, in which the Germans revalued upwards, Holland and Belgium revalued as well, but not to the same extent, the Danes and French remained at par, and the Italians and British are floating at a substantially devalued level in relation to their previous parities and to the unit of account.

Instead of a single price for agricultural products, the nine nations concerned, through currency changes, have established five different price levels. To bring them into line again, the Brussels Commissioners are solemnly at work on the most elaborate system of levies and subsidies the world has ever seen. I do not believe that the system can work for much longer. It is too complicated, too susceptible to evasion, too expensive, and entirely vulnerable to a new breach in the next currency squall.

Nor am I convinced that a common agricultural policy, nor even a common price policy, requires acceptance of a fixed unit of account. During the past 14 years the countries of the EEC have gone through many exchange rate alterations as their relative competitiveness has changed. The resulting revaluations and devaluations have not, in the case of industrial goods, prevented a common market from emerging, with prices disciplined by competitive forces. That has been the experience of the steel industry and of other commodities in intra-Community trade.

Why should agriculture be different? If the relative prices of industrial goods can be changed by currency movements, why should agricultural prices be irreversibly and irrevocably fixed? Is the answer to be found in the absurd quest for a common currency in an economic and monetary union towards which the immutable unit of account for agricultural prices is seen as the first major step? I should like the Minister's comment on that. If it is so, our determination to unmoor national prices from the unit of account will be all the stronger.

I noted with pleasure what Mr. Ertl, the German agricultural minister, said only a few days ago about not worshipping and dancing around a calf of gold, referring to the unit of account. I also noted with some interest what the right hon. Gentleman himself said on Wednesday: I said yesterday in Brussels that I thought it a mistake to involve agriculture and monetary matters in one proposal".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th March 1973; Vol. 853, c. 1310.] That is the beginning of sense. I shall strongly support the Minister in any move he takes to unmoor national agricultural prices from the absurd restraint of the unit of account.

I do not claim that all the defects in the CAP that I have mentioned can be cured by our motion. But the House will not have failed to note the central relevance of our demand that there should be no further increase of CAP prices. If prices can be held—better still, if they can be reduced—we shall: first, diminish the protectionism of the CAP; secondly, reduce the tendency to over-produce; thirdly, lift from world food markets the threat of European dumping; fourthly, encourage new methods of support and income for the poorer farmers, hinted at in the Government's amendment; fifthy, reduce the cost and the burden to us of the CAP budget; and sixthly, prevent the proposed across-the-board 2.76 per cent. price increase, whose sole rationale is to simplify the levy-subsidy system now at work in the Nine by bringing the prices of the Benelux countries into line with those of France and Denmark. That is the sole aim. Thus at a stroke the national objectives of short-term and long-term policy can be served by the emphatic endorsement of the motion we have on the Order Paper.

I would add as a final point that the criticisms I have made are not simply British criticisms. They have been voiced in whole or in part by all serious students of the continental food system, by Dr. Mansholt, by M. Vedel in the famous report of M. Pisani, the former French Minister of Agriculture, and most recently in the Commission discussions last month when M. Spinelli outlined an entirely new agricultural support system One of the ironies and tragedies of the 1970–72 British negotiations is that if those negotiations had either been deferred or had been pressed more toughly, the common agricultural policy would almost certainly have been abandoned by the Six.

As it is, we have given it a new lease of life. There has now been added to the Community of Six with its chronic surpluses of agricultural production, the one great food deficit market in the world, the British food market—and, as I have sometimes said before, Britairn has become the second stomach of France. But it is one which will be filled, and filled rapidly, given the capicity of Western European to grow food, in a very few years' time. Then the same tendencies of a chronic over-production will re-emerge. To prevent this we must begin now by calling a halt to food prices.

Finally, I turn to the key words in the motion that we have moved opposing food price increases: as a matter of vital national interest. No one will doubt from what I have said that our national interest is vitally involved. But as those who have followed our debates have recognised, or will recognise, the words carry a special meaning within the EEC. For those are the words that express what has been accepted as the veto power of the individual member State in decision-making in the Council of Ministers. It is the form of words which was used in order to embody the French demand for a veto for their own national purposes in the great disagreement which took place and which was resolved, or partially resolved, in the summer of 1965.

So unless we have been deceived in this past year, that power lies within the power of the Minister of Agriculture to act on our behalf next week, if he wishes. It is a power which he himself claims to have. It is a power which, while he himself does not wish unnecessarily to brandish it, is essential in his dealings with the Eight. I say "essential". Of course he will need it. There is not one strong ally for the British position on food and agriculture among the nation States of the Community today. That is the situation we are in and we would be very foolish if we did not recognise it. Hence, it is essential that we should have, and be seen to have, and be ready to use, this veto power.

Our willingness to use it is a test not just of the Minister's personal courage —that is not the point—but of the sincerity and determination of the Government to deal with this crisis of hyper-inflation and uncontrolled food prices that we are facing in Britain today.

It is his deliberate omission of these words from his own amendment to our motion that not only gives the game away about his own intensions or the intentions of the Government, but gives an unanswerable reason why this House should unite in rejecting the Government's amendment and affirming the motion that I have moved.

4.5 p.m.

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Joseph Godber)

I beg to move to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof, endorses the determination of Her Majesty's Government to give the highest priority to combating inflation in the European Economic Community's overall interest; and welcomes Her Majesty's Government's initiative in pressing for means of support other than raising end prices in the development of the Common Agricultural Policy. I listened to the right hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore) with care, but I found it difficult at times to understand whether he was speaking in principle against our position in Europe altogether or against this specific question of the present debate on the common agricultural policy. We all know the attitude that he has always taken in this respect and we understand his feelings in relation to it. But this Government, like its predecessors, have always accepted that if we accepted membership of the Community we accepted the common agricultural policy. This was a matter which was made abundantly clear by the present Leader of the Opposition in a speech which has been many times quoted in this House.

It is the firm conviction of this Government, which has been supported over and over again by votes in the House, that our membership of the Community is in the national interest, that it is essential for the future prosperity of this country, and that we must participate in the enlarged Common Market and join in the benefits that co-operation on a European scale can bring. That is our policy. We intend to pursue it to the full. The CAP is a part of the Community's organisation and, like our predecessors in office, we have accepted that and we do not propose to undermine it by direct or indirect means.

No one pretends that it is perfect or that it ought not to be modified in the light of developments. But it was an achievement on the part of the original Six member States to agree a joint policy of agricultural support and that policy was hammered out by them in long discussions. We should remember that it is a matter to which they attach great importance. They are concerned that it should not founder because of current monetary difficulties which, one has to accept, have created real problems.

The aim of CAP is to devise means of giving farmers a reasonable income—

Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)

In France.

Mr. Godber

—in a community which is to a great extent self-sufficient in temperate foodstuffs and yet has a serious problem in connection with the size and structure of agricultural holdings. That is the burning problem of European agriculture.

Almost all developed countries use some kind of system to support their farmers. A deficiency payments, free market system such as that which we have been operating since the end of the war would put a prodigious open-ended commitment on the Community's funds in years of world surplus, and to rely merely on direct income supplements to farmers would simply exacerbate the structural problem. I must therefore make it clear that we accept CAP as a reasonable method of supporting farm incomes in a society which is so largely self-sufficient as is the enlarged Community, and it is not our purpose to destroy it.

Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall the statement by his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 14th July 1971 when he said that our entry into the Common Market would not increase the cost of living in this country by more than half of a new penny in the pound in each of the transitional years. Is that the right hon. Gentleman's view now?

Mr. Godber

The figure which has been given many times in this House is an estimate of around 2½ per cent. a year. That is the figure in relation to the cost of food, and food is, of course, one quarter of the total retail price index. Therefore, if it is around that order it is around the figure which my right hon. Friend gave.

In order to get things in the right perspective after the speech by the right hon. Member for Stepney it is as well to consider what would be the effect for this country if we were without question to accept the whole of the proposals put forward by the Commission. The effect from 1st May this year would be to add 0.2 per cent. to the retail food prices index, or 005 per cent. to the whole of the retail price index. That is the extent of the effect of the proposals, and in view of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman it is as well to get those figures on the record.

Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)

Will the right hon. Gentleman explain to the House, in view of those figures, if that is the case and if the danger of a food price increase from this source is as small as he is now suggesting, why he should have said in Brussels that the whole of the Government's counter-inflation policy might be threatened if the proposed increases were to proceed?

Mr. Godber

I hope the hon. Member will allow me to develop my argument on this matter. I have had to bring things back into perspective in view of the speech of the right hon. Member for Stepney. In Brussels I was referring not merely to the immediate impact but to the long-term effect and that is why I said that we would wish to restrain the price increases.

All different forms of developed economies have a system of support for farmers. Merely to rely on direct income supplements to farmers would merely exacerbate the structural problems which are at the root of Europe's difficulties in this matter. We accept the CAP as a reasonable method of supporting farm incomes in a society which is so largely self-sufficient as the enlarged Community. It is not our purpose to destroy it but on the other hand everyone must recognise the needs of the present situation. The most urgent task is the battle against inflation and the need to keep food prices in check.

Most people in the Community agree that there is an imbalance in the support between livestock and cereals which has to be put right over a time. We attach great importance to that. It is no derogation from the CAP to shift a sizeable section of support from the subsidisation of end prices to various forms of direct production subsidies. I therefore have no hestitation in emphasising to my colleagues in the Council of Ministers in Brussels the need to combat inflation to avoid, where possible, rises in retail food prices, and to consider the development of production subsidies.

I recognise, as I emphasised in my statement on our annual farm review, that in a situation of food shortage farmers will not have the confidence to produce more and to increase supplies unless they have reasonable confidence in the future and in their ability to meet rising costs and to maintain their incomes. In the battle to conquer inflation that must be in the interests of everyone, including producers. If the confidence of producers is not to be lost, as I said in Brussels, we must strive to eliminate both shortage and surplus. We can see both of these in the Community at the present time.

Labour Members frequently refer to the shortage of beef, as did the right hon. Member for Stepney. We want to see increased production in the Community as a whole, just as we want to eliminate surpluses. The right hon. Gentleman also spoke about obtaining a balance in production, which we believe is important.

The other great problems we face are connected with the monetary situation. The right hon. Gentleman was correct to emphasise this, and I agree that it is a difficult problem. I do not believe anyone would deny that the CAP was originally designed to operate on a system of fixed exchange rates and that as long as these are absent the policy will be more difficult to operate. I therefore sympathise with the Commission's desire to take even a relatively small step in order to ease the complicated situation. But in my opinion the monetary situation remains too uncertain for a speedy solution to the problem to be possible—and a solution is to be found in a monetary context rather than in an agricultural context.

As I stated in Brussels, I cannot welcome any solution which demands price rises across the board when they bear no relation to the needs and situation of the commodities concerned, when they press most heavily on those member States most beset by inflation and also help least those countries where farm incomes are most under pressure. The right hon. Gentleman referred to Herr Ertl. It is interesting to note that he and I were at different poles in our discussions in the council last week. We both agreed that the introduction of the monetary compensatory amounts in regard to the overall proposal complicated the issue. For Germany it complicates the issue because it reduces the reward from their farms. For us it gives an overall addition which we found embarrassing. We were at different ends of the spectrum but we both thought that the proposal was wrong.

At the discussions in Brussels last week each country put forward its general views on the proposal to the Commission and these varied very widely from ourselves at one end of the scale, arguing against any general rise, to the Irish at the other end, who were saying that the rises proposed by the Commission were quite inadequate. The proposals embraced two quite separate aspects. There was the 2.76 per cent. increase across the board designed by the Commission to eliminate some of the existing currency implications and, on the other hand, there were specific additional increases for certain commodities.

The highest rise proposed was for beef at 8 per cent. followed by pig meat and rye at 4 per cent. and a smaller increase of 2 per cent. for milk. All of these would be in addition to the 2.76 per cent. general rise. At the same time the proposals called for a reduction of 11 per cent. in the price of butter—and that is significant in view of what the right hon. Gentleman said—but with a compensating rise in the price of skimmed milk, and a consumer subsidy on butter which would work out in our currency at around 2p a lb. This is an important aspect of the proposals. On the one hand there are the across-the-board proposals linked to monetary ideas, and on the other there are specific incentives which could have advantages if they brought increased supplies of such commodities as beef.

The right hon. Member for Stepney concentrated on beef and said that prices rose as much in five days as they had risen previously in five years. That is a slight exaggeration, but they certainly rose sharply at the end of the year. He suggested that what was proposed by the Commission would represent a further increase of 10 per cent. That is not correct, as he will appreciate, because it is not a further increase over the market price level, which is substantially in excess of the community guide price level at this time. Therefore, the market price and the price in the shop would not be affected at this time if the proposals were accepted.

Mr. Fernyhough

May I take it that the 2p reduction in the price of butter will mean that butter will come down 2p a lb., or does it mean that in May it will go up 2p less than it would have done if we had paid the additional CAP charge?

Mr. Godber

What it means is that no decisions have yet been taken on the matter. If, however, the proposals put forward by the Commission were accepted in total, the second of the right hon. Gentleman's propositions would apply, namely that the increase originally expected would be less by 2p a lb. [Interruption.] That is the position. Hon. Members may laugh, but I would have thought that they were glad that the price had been reduced in this way, whatever the implications of the subsidy system.

In the context of the present level of market prices the Commission is arguing that there are reasons throughout the Community for some increase in beef prices and to a lesser extent in prices for pig meat and rye. We shall be considering these aspects in more detail in Luxembourg next week. None of these would raise consumer prices. Apart from milk, what disturbs us so much is the across-the-board addition of 2.76 per cent. This would add to the eventual prices in Britain although the immediate impact is minimal. Because of the currency adjustment proposed it would not raise prices in Benelux or Germany.

Since Germany is the country which claims most strongly the need for higher prices for her farmers, she would get as little satisfaction at that end of the scale as we would at the other. It is clear that an agreed solution will be difficult to achieve. I made clear in my statement of 28th March the general line I have taken at the meeting of the Council of Ministers in Brussels. I said then that it was from the sort of position I had outlined that consideration of these proposals should begin.

We have to seek to avoid surplus production, increasing support costs and consumer prices. We have to change the balance of incentives between commodities and we have to look at the problem of each commodity on its merits, not as part of some generalised policy. Other countries have differing views on such problems. Between us we have to reach a European solution. It will be a long and difficult debate, but that will be nothing new. We must ultimately reach an agreement to which we can all subscribe and which will take account of the essential needs of European producers and consumers.

It must clearly be a solution which recognises to the full the problems of inflation and the overriding need to get to grips with it. This is the problem. It is a difficult one and we shall have to consider carefully the arguments put forward by others, just as we would expect them to look at our arguments.

Mr. Shore

We have heard the right hon. Gentleman say that he finds these across-the-board increases of prices disturbing and unworkable. What the whole House and the nation wants him to say is that they are unacceptable. There can be plenty of give and take on the other matters of individual price negotiation, but what is unacceptable to us, certainly in the context of the second stage of the prices and incomes legislation, is any across-the-board price increases, unjustified by agricultural merit.

Mr. Godber

I understand the right hon. Gentleman's point. I have chosen my words with care. We have taken a position strongly critical of this and shall be having further discussions. It is certainly not helpful for me at this stage to spell out my position more precisely than I have done.

The right hon. Gentleman referred to various aspects of food prices. It is necessary to get the position in perspective in the light of what he said. Well over half the food we eat is manufactured food which has been subject to the standstill arrangements. There has been only a 1 per cent. rise in the price of manufactured food since last November.

This has meant real difficulties for food manufacturers. Between November and February the cost of their raw materials and fuel went up by 15 per cent. I pay tribute to them for what they have done to help moderate the rate of inflation during a period when, whatever hon. Members opposite say, a world shortage has pushed up prices. We have made it clear from the start that it is impossible to exercise a similar control over the prices of fresh and imported foods which are subject to fluctuation from seasonal or external causes without allocating supplies or putting a heavy additional burden on the taxpayer.

During the winter months the supply problems are greatest and the prices of seasonal foods invariably rise. In taking a figure and extrapolating it, the right hon. Gentleman has reached a misleading conclusion. Food prices always rise during winter but the rise last winter was little more than the rise in the corresponding period in the last two years of the Labour Government. During those winter months the increase was over 11 per cent. a year.

Mr. Eric Deakins (Walthamstow West)

There was not a freeze then.

Mr. Godber

The hon. Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Deakins) says that there was not a freeze during the period of the Labour Government. I can only say that his memory is not very clear.

This year the situation has been made doubly difficult by the adverse trend of world markets. Not only has there been a failure of world grain harvests, particularly in Russia and China, but there has also been drought in Australia and New Zealand and there have been shortages of fish in the North Atlantic and near Peru. This is quite apart from the problems of Iceland. There has also been a rising world demand for beef which no one can deny. All of this has meant large increases in the price of cereals, meat and fish throughout the world.

This has not only affected the United Kingdom. These price rises have been reflected not only in Europe but in the United States. They have had nothing whatever to do with Britain's entry into Europe. Some commodities, particularly meat, are now well above the price level which would result from the full adoption of the common agricultural policy. This in turn means that the percentage price proposals put forward by the Commission would not have a similar proportional effect on retail food prices.

Following President Nixon's announcement last Thursday that he was imposing a ceiling on the price of meat, there were suggestions by hon. Members opposite that we should follow suit. There are, however, major differences between our situation and that of the United States, which I am sure that they do not take fully into account. Imports play a much more important part in the United Kingdom meat supply situation than they do in the United States. In the United States they amount to only 5 per cent. for beef and 11 per cent. for lamb. In the United Kingdom we import 20 per cent. of our beef as well as store cattle from the Irish Republic. In addition we import 60 per cent. of our lamb supplies.

We therefore cannot divorce ourselves from world conditions. This is a fact which hon. Gentlemen opposite either will not or cannot recognise. This is why it would be wholly inappropriate for us to follow that policy. A freeze on meat prices would not be appropriate in this situation. It is true that both fat cattle and retail beef prices have been falling recently. If the Government had imposed a ceiling in January, as was proposed, I am certain that housewives would not have got the benefit—which they have been getting in the past few weeks—from the somewhat lower meat prices. There is this factor which has been seen to operate in the past, namely that if one imposes a ceiling on prices it automatically becomes the floor price, too. That would not have been helpful here.

The Government recognise the seriousness of the situation. Wherever we can we have taken effective action. The abolition of SET and purchase tax— [Laughter.] It is easy to laugh. Hon. Members opposite who began some of these taxes may think it funny when we take them off. I do not think that the housewife shares that view. There is also the zero-rating of food. These measures are expected to take 1½ per cent. off the food index. This is a £120 million project in that respect alone. This gives some indication of the size of the problem. If we adopted the policy put forward by the Opposition from time to time, namely that of subsidising food prices, there would be a very high figure involved. This one section, which has removed £120 million from the housewives' costs has taken 1½ per cent. off the food index.

We have acted in other areas. Our food prices unit has been working during the standstill and has secured over 1,000 reductions in prices following consumer complaints. We have banned exports of potatoes and freed imports. We have sustained the tariff on beef and food imports. We have frozen any price increase on breakfast cereal in the light of the Monopolies Commission Report. All these things have a cumulative effect. The right hon. Gentleman refers specifically to what was said by the President of the Food Manufacturers' Association yesterday, recorded in today's Press. The House might be interested in what I understand Mr. Beresford said today when commenting on what he said yesterday: I spoke not only of some price increases which have yet to go through the pipeline but of decreases which have recently been made. I have seen quoted 400 to 500 decreases as-a result of Government action in removing VAT from certain food products.

Mr. Thomas Torney (Bradford, South)

Such as ice-cream.

Mr. Godber

Why not ice-cream? There are many mothers who are very glad there has been a reduction in the cost of ice-cream.

He ended in this way: To summarise, what I and the Minister have been saying is that the period up to the autumn—namely, Phase 2—will have its difficulties in food prices, but as far as the future— that is, the end of this year and onward—is concerned, it is relevant to note that the rate of inflation, as a result of Government policy, is decreasing and there is no reason to believe that it will not be further stabilised in Phase 2 on a broad economic front. That is what I understand Mr. Beresford has said since lunch today. This puts in balance what has appeared previously, and I hope that hon. Gentlemen who seized so avidly on those remarks yesterday will seize just as avidly on what the same gentleman said today.

We do not regard our policy in the Community and our national policy as two separate things. In all our policies we are aiming to control the rate of inflation, but in all spheres we must act in the way most likely to achieve our goals in the best interests of all concerned. We have a total commitment to this policy, but equally we have a total commitment to the European Community and we propose to work fully through its institutions in a spirit of co-operation, with a recognition of the way it has developed and with the aim of promoting the well-being of its citizens.

Mr. Neil Marten (Banbury)

I have listened with great interest to my right hon. Friend's speech. Can he say, therefore, why he cannot accept the Opposition motion? It seems odd.

Mr. Godber

I am sorry that my hon. Friend feels it odd. I have explained precisely the position in regard to it and in regard to a matter which is still subject to discussion in Brussels, and I am not prepared to go further in this regard. I have explained the position precisely, and I think the House fully understands that position.

4.32 p.m.

Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)

I noticed that when the right hon. Gentleman referred to the speech made by Mr. Beresford today he did not attempt to contradict the figures that were given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore) as to the price increases that were forecast by Mr. Beresford yesterday. I wonder whether the Minister could tell us whether he accepts the forecasts of the increases in the prices of butter, sugar, dried egg, meat and fish to which my right hon. Friend referred. If he does not contradict them, it can only be assumed that the Minister accepts that these increases in price will take place.

It is a ludicrous situation for a Minister of this Government to come to the House and repeat the argument that there will be ½p in the pound increase in the cost of living as the result of our entry into the Common Market. What has been happening in the past six months? Prices have gone up. I am convinced that it has been the deliberate policy of this Government to ensure that prices have been allowed to rise to soften the impact of our entry into the Common Market before we really get into it. I cannot see from the statement made this afternoon by the Minister how we could possibly begin to imagine that there would be a reduction in the cost of living in consequence of our going into the Common Market, a lessening of the increase in the cost of foodstuffs, because he made it clear that this Government accept in toto the common agricultural policy of the Common Market.

It is no good the Minister or any other right hon. or hon. Member of this House talking about how the cost of living has been stabilised. I wonder where they shop. All I know is that in my constituency, which is a fair cross-section of the community, wherever I go I find the housewife in particular complaining constantly of the ever-escalating prices of food. I go shopping with my wife and I know that the cost of foodstuffs goes up weekly. It is no good talking about the decrease in the price of ice-cream and chocolate. It would have been far better to give the £103 million which that cost to sections of the community which do not get the chance of eating ice-cream and chocolate. If one tries to say to old-age pensioners and lower-paid workers—for instance, the people in industrial dispute at the moment, the ancillary workers in the hospital service—that they benefit in consequence of the cheapening of ice-cream and chocolate, the whole thing seems absolutely ridiculous to them with their take-home pay of £15 a week.

Apart from the increase in food prices, taking the increases that have taken place so far and coupling them with the increase in the cost of housing, which represents 50 per cent. of the total income of the lower-paid workers of this country, how can the Government think it offers any hope at all by saying that they accept in toto the common agricultural policy of the Common Market? Everyone knows that it is the craziest decision ever taken by a British Government, recognising that we are a major importer of food, to sacrifice all our traditional suppliers, the people in the Commonwealth, and our system of subsidy to our farming community, the two factors by virtue of which we were able to ensure that our people could get cheap food, to an agricultural policy which means in effect the supplying to Britain of dear food. It is crazy in the extreme. It is almost impossible to imagine that any Government could sacrifice our whole cheap food policy, which has stood us in good stead since the end of the last war in particular, in favour of a dear food policy, by accepting the common agricultural policy.

All I want to say in conclusion is that it is no good this Government or any Government imagining that they can impose on shopworkers who are low paid, ancillary hospital workers who are low paid, agricultural workers who are low paid, and all the other low-paid workers of this country a freeze in the first instance, a miserable increase in the second instance and no hope in the third instance, and at the same time pursue a policy as a partner within the EEC which means imposing on those people additional burdens because of the increase in the cost of living.

We have argued that the Government should subsidise basic foodstuffs, although that might be a contravention of the CAP. But the Government have refused to do that. At the same time as the Government say that it is impossible to subsidise basic foodstuffs for the British people, they are prepared substantially to subsidise the 400,000 tons of butter that is being sold to Russia at a reduced price. The Government's policy seems to be that the British people cannot have food subsidies for themselves but will have to bear the cost of food subsidies for the people of Russia.

4.41 p.m.

Mr. Charles Morrison (Devizes)

The hon. Member for the Forest of Dean—

Mr. Loughlin

Not the Forest of Dean; get the facts right.

Mr. Morrison

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will correct me?

Mr. Loughlin

Gloucestershire, West.

Mr. Morrison

The hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) asked what had been happening in the last six months. He said that prices had been rising and claimed that they had done so as a result of a deliberate policy of the Government. Clearly, what the hon. Gentleman said is demon-strably rubbish. My right hon. Friend told the House what the Government had been doing to control prices in recent months, and I shall refer to this later in my speech.

My right hon. Friend was right to remind the House that in joining the Common Market we had accepted the common agricultural policy in principle, just as the previous Labour Government did when they entered into negotiations for joining the Common Market. In consequence, my right hon. Friend was right to state that it is our policy not to undermine the CAP but rather to evolve it. I believe that a great deal of evolution is necessary.

The troubles of the CAP stem from two sources. First, it has too many objectives, and, secondly, it was designed for a Community of Six and not for a Community of Nine. So far as its objectives are concerned it may be called a common agricultural policy, but in reality it is a policy aimed at the production of food, a regional development policy and a policy for social purposes. It is that last aspect that makes the CAP so expensive, that is the cause of calls within Europe for a far higher price level and that produces surpluses of some commodities and shortages of others.

It is this social purpose aspect that ensures that prices must be set at a level which will provide a reasonable standard of living for the most inefficient and the smallest farmers in Europe. This means that a high proportion of the CAP expenditure goes in what amounts to direct or indirect guarantee payments, and that the marrying of the supply of individual commodities with demand is decidedly haphazard. This means in turn that inadequate money is available for a successful regional agricultural development policy to improve the structure of European agriculture, whilst ensuring that a much greater proportion of the money available for agriculture is spent on the encouragement of the production of commodities in short supply—for example, mutton and lamb.

The Commission has recently published a long report on sheep production which stated that the 1970 deficit in the Six was 56,000 tons and that that would rise in 1980 in the Nine to 140,000 tons and by 1985 to 160,000 tons. What has happened in the Six is that since 1962 production has remained fairly stable whereas consumption has increased considerably. That one example emphasises the need to make the CAP a more precise instrument for ensuring that supply and demand are kept level.

It is necessary for a greater proportion of the money available for agriculture to be spent, secondly, to the benefit of farmers who are already operating on holdings that are economically viable or could be made economically viable with a greater capital injection. In my right hon. Friend's efforts to stabilise European prices, I hope that he will press the Commission to speed up the development of regional and social policies which are complementary to the evolution of the CAP.

I come back to my second point, that the CAP is designed for the Six and not for the Nine. That being so, now that there are three new members there is no time like the present to get on with a major reappraisal of the CAP both in the light of what I have just said and because it seems likely that the trend will be for efficient farmers to develop their production according to the demands of the Common Market countries as a whole and not just according to their national needs. This will tend to lead to a more regionalised production pattern, and it is important that the consequences and effects of this regionalisation of production should be studied.

Therefore, I hope that when my right hon. Friend returns to Brussels he will bear in mind in his negotiations the last sentence of the first leader in The Times of last Saturday: The answer to current problems lies not in unworkable policies to 'freeze' prices, but in radical revisions of the processes by which unrealistic support prices are established, contrary to the interests of the consumer and the Government's fight against inflation. In considering the all-important and daily topic of food prices at home it is important to look at the realities. No one wants or likes food price increases, but Lord Walston—who I think, was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture in the previous Labour Government—reminded us in a letter to The Times on Friday of last week that the cost of farm inputs increased by £162 million in the past 12 months. Secondly, he stated: "The farm gate price of food accounts for less than half the price the housewife pays."

Therefore, in relation to farm inputs and to consumer prices, the Opposition's words today might carry a little more weight if they gave the Government more help with their anti-inflation policies instead of supporting such incredible events as the proposed May Day strike.

The Government have already made it crystal-clear they wish to hold prices down. By their actions the Opposition are doing all they can to frustrate the Government's intentions.

What is true of the Government is to some extent true of the EEC in relation to food prices within the limitations of the CAP. The EEC has shown reluctance to increase food prices, and there has, therefore, been a considerable record of increased productivity within Europe and of cost absorption. Furthermore, as my right hon. Friend has already reminded the House, the EEC cannot take the blame for present United Kingdom food prices because the bulk of the current increase in prices occurred before we joined Europe and was due largely to the world price situation coupled with inflation.

No one will deny that food price increases cause problems, but, equally, no one can deny that the Government are doing their best to alleviate those problems for those who are hardest hit. Reference has already been made to the removal of the remaining food items from VAT. I believe no reference has yet been made to the introduction of the Family Income Supplement, which did not exist under the last Labour Government. Come next October, pensions will have increased by 55 per cent. since June 1970. In addition, earnings and pensions have already increased ahead of food prices and retail prices in general. Furthermore, if the pessimistic forecasts made yesterday by Mr. Beresford, which I was glad he partially contradicted today —that was repeated by my right hon. Friend—shouldy prove partially correct, we are now at the end of the standstill period, and, therefore, there will be an opportunity for wages increases which will help housewives to cope.

Finally, the action of the Government in stimulating home agricultural production, an action of which the home farmers have made good use, has helped to produce a better supply of home-grown food. This is demonstrated by the marked improvement in the index of agricultural production between 1969–70 and 1972–73, when it went up from 105 to 117. May this trend continue.

I believe that if the Government wish to stabilise food prices, as I know they do, they should continue to aim towards three objectives: firstly, the expansion of home agricultural production; secondly, containing inflation, as they are beginning to do; and thirdly, working for the revision of the common agricultural policy. Because the Government are pursuing those three objectives, they should receive the full support of the House in the Lobby tonight.

4.54 p.m.

Mr. Thomas Torney (Bradford, South)

I wish to talk for a few moments about the orange which I am holding in my hand, a very common product available on all our stalls and in our supermarkets today, packed full of very necessary vitamin C which in itself is a defence against the common cold and many other ills, particularly for the children. As I have said, it is common and very reasonably priced today, but because of entry into the Common Market it will become far less common on the fruit dishes of the nation and will cost a great deal more. In the short time at my disposal, I propose to tell the House why.

Almost all the oranges we eat in this country and, indeed, almost all the oranges eaten in all the Common Market countries are imported from outside the Common Market. Four out of every ten oranges sold in Britain come from Israel. The remainder come from Spain, South Africa, Cyprus and Morocco. Less than one quarter of 1 per cent. of the oranges imported in 1971 came from Italy. This is the crux of the argument I will advance to show that our plentiful and cheap supply of oranges, particularly in the winter months, will be stopped because of entry into the Common Market.

The Common Market is operating a protection racket for the Mafia-controlled orange industry of Italy. The House should know that the only place where oranges are produced within the Common Market is Sicily—in Palermo, Catania and Syracuse. The industry in Italy is inefficient and backward. Indeed the water so vitally needed to make the oranges grow is sold to the small farmers by the Mafia who, as everyone surely knows, are very much in control in that country.

The prices of the vast majority of imports are governed by the prices of a tiny majority of imports from Italy. Before entry, only 3 per cent. of the oranges in the Common Market countries other than Britain came from Italy. Hon. Members can surely understand the situation that will prevail if the Government do not take some action to stop this racket.

I hope the Minister has had an opportunity to read the Sunday Times from which I propose to make one or two quotations. If the Minister has not seen that paper, no doubt he can hasten to read it. The Sunday Times said of this racket: But the discovery is unlikely to lead to any outraged cries in Whitehall. Among the partners in the Common Agricultural Policy are a series of elaborate alliances, and Britain's closest allies are the Italians. It is not a collaboration the Government will want to upset by appearing churlish about the unusual relationship between the Mafia and Britain's consumption of vitamin C. The story is not without value, however, for it shows how the system that now controls the prices of food in Britain really works, and it illustrates just how ludicrous the more obscure reaches of the Common Agricultural Policy can be. I quote further from the same newspaper which I hope the Minister will read and about which I hope he will give some explanation when replying: …the EEC's policy has its origins in the vital negotiations of 1964 when the French especially were carving up the Common Agricultural Policy to their own advantage. The way it was done offered few advantages to the Italians, so when they asked for particularly rigorous protection for Sicilian oranges the five readily agreed. The result was a unique combination of protective barriers which is remarkable even by the standards of the Common Agricultural Policy. I hope that what the Minister said about the Government's total commitment to the CAP—and in fact to all the EEC policies—will not commit us completely to this Mafia-backed Italian orange industry, because that will mean that the prices of oranges which we must import and sell here will rise. It will mean that far fewer oranges will be available, and possibly it will also mean that the present suppliers of our oranges will find new markets for their products. Therefore, quite apart from the fact that oranges will be more expensive for the consumer to buy, it is likely that oranges will be in much shorter supply.

The story which appears in the Sunday Times on this subject is a story of exploitation. The Mafia's exploitation of Sicilian farmers has led to the exploitation of Common Market countries. And the British people will now be exploited, unless the Government are prepared to take some resolute action to ensure that this commodity will still appear on the fruit dishes of the nation in good and plentiful supply and at a price which people can afford to pay.

5.2 p.m.

Mr. Neil Marten (Banbury)

I hope that the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Torney) will forgive me if I do not take up his line or argument on the Mafia, because it is a subject about which I know very little. It makes me wonder, though, whether the Sicilian Mafia have a godfather in Brussels.

Mr. Torney

They have certainly got one in Bradford.

Mr. Marten

I do not want to speak for long and I wish to take up two points made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture in his speech today. He said one thing which disturbed me. He said that it was essential to this country to belong to the Common Market. If we look back at the debates which led up to our entry into the Community, we see that we were told that we were joining the Common Market because it was essential that we should reach a wider market, that this would increase our growth rate and raise our standard of living. It was emphasised during those debates that it was necessary to join the EEC otherwise we should fall far behind the standards in the Common Market.

What has happened now that we are able to look at the facts? Last year, before we entered the Common Market, our growth rate was running at 5 per cent.—higher than that in most of the Common Market countries. That was when we were on our own. We pulled ourselves up by our boot straps, and that is what we should have continued to do. We were told that our standard of living had fallen grossly behind that of the Common Market countries. But quite recently my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that in 1972—again before we got into the Common Market— Britain's standard of living rose by 8 per cent.

Therefore, the two main economic reasons for Britain's going into the Common Market have disappeared— indeed, they never existed. We have known this for a long time, but the Government would not accept it when we pursued the point during the Common Market debates.

I was also disappointed by the Minister's mild attitude towards reforming the common agricultural policy. Looking back at what has been said over the past two or three years, the impression we were given during many debates and discussions—I am not saying that this was said by the present Minister of Agriculture because he was not then in that office—was that the Government would take a much tougher line and would seek to reorganise, and even to scrap the CAP. We were assured that if we voted to go in, then after we got into the Community CAP would not last very much longer. That was my firm impression—and I say that subject to correction because I cannot produce the quotations as I have not come into the Chamber with them.

Mr. Shore

Perhaps I may help the hon. Gentleman. During the recent exchanges in 28th March, I asked the Minister about changing the CAP from within and he replied: If we had not gone inside the EEC we would have had no opportunity to influence the price structure within the EEC."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th March 1973; Vol. 853, c. 1309.] Clearly, the Minister was giving the impression that one of the great advantages of our being inside the Community was that we would be able to change the CAP.

Mr. Marten

The right hon. Gentleman may recollect that I then intervened and said that if we had not gone in we would have had no need to change it anyhow. I am grateful for that intervention.

Returning to the debate, I must say to my right hon. Friend that the Government's amendment on which we shall have to vote a little late avoids the whole issue with which this debate is concerned. I find the Opposition motion—and this is a rare thing for me—totally acceptable, and I am surprised, indeed deeply distressed, that the Government cannot accept it as it stands.

On 15th February the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Carter) asked my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Is not the Minister aware that until the Government take measures to control food prices their efforts to control inflation will come to naught? Whether one agrees with that point or not, the Minister's reply was, I recognise that there is a substantial and serious rise"— that is, in food prices— and I have never sought to deny that. But these rises, as the hon. Gentleman knows, arc due to conditions outside the control of the Government."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th February, 1973; Vol. 850, c. 1419.] I accept that a large part of the rise is due to conditions outside the Government's control; but in these EEC discussions—and that is what this debate is all about—the Government have a wonderful opportunity within the Common Market to exercise control of prices of food from overseas. If they fail to do so, they must recognise that their credibility to use that argument again will have totally disappeared. I hope that they will take that as a warning.

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture when making his statement on 28th March said: In putting the British point of view, I stressed the importance of avoiding anything that could lead to higher food prices for consumers …". But surely that is virtually what the Opposition motion says. Therefore, I cannot understand why the Government did not gracefully accept it. We know that prices will rise if the Common Market gets its way.

My right hon. Friend also said in that statement: Although the immediate effect of these proposals on United Kingdom consumer prices will be very limited, the longer-term effect on our prices could be more serious."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th March 1973; Vol. 853, c. 1307.] My right hon. Friend reaffirmed that statement this afternoon.

We know that prices will rise—for we have already experienced price rises in both sugar and bacon due exclusively to the Common Market. We also know that butter will increase in price from £377 a ton to £837 a ton simply because of the Common Market. If only we were Russians, we would get it at half the price. I only wish that the Government would make a bid for us to be treated just like the Russians.

We have just heard about the oranges. That was new to me. I took the Sunday Times but did not have an opportunity to read that article. Then there are the absurdities of the Intervention Board. If there is in this country or on the market a glut of cauliflowers, the price of cauliflowers drops. This would be pleasant for our housewives. But then the Intervention Board does its job by going on to the market and buying, say, 20,000 tons of cauliflowers in order to force the prices up again for the housewife. The board then says that the cauliflowers can be given away to hospitals. But hospitals, in the meantime, will have bought a lot of cauliflowers when prices were low and will not want those cauliflowers which have been bought up by the board. So the cauliflowers are then sprayed with purple oil, or whatever it may be, and dumped to rot away. Thus the housewife will have to pay more for cauliflowers. This is the idiocy of accepting the common agricultural policy on going into the Common Market.

My Early Day Motion No. 265, which was put down several days before this debate had even been thought of, was intended to support the Minister of Agriculture. I hope that those who joined me in signing the motion will consider it right to abstain from voting in the Division tonight. The Government amendment does not deal with the issue which we are discussing.

If we can reduce the Government majority tonight, perhaps even to single figures, it will be a great help, because the Minister of Agriculture, when he goes to Brussels, will be able to say that he cannot agree to any increases in prices because his majority here has been so small. He can also say that, if he has to go back with an increase, his majority might be even smaller, and he might have to resign.

We should support the Minister prior to his next visit to Brussels. This is precisely what this sovereign Parliament of ours should do. We have already taken action in this way on heavy lorries and we should do it again and again and so assert the sovereignty of this Parliament. Ministers should be given instructions on how far we wish them to go on certain matters in the Common Market. If they want to go further they should come back and beg for our permission, and we can agree or not depending on the circumstances.

This amendment by the Government virtually side-tracks the issue. It shows that the Government do not wish Parliament to exercise control or, alternatively, that the Government are prepared to compromise on the negotiations on food prices. It is either one or the other—or, perhaps, both. The Minister of Agriculture cannot compromise on food prices, after what he has already said, without compromising himself. That is the personal difficulty in which he finds himself. It comes back to the question of sovereignty. The Opposition motion asserts the sovereignty which we ought to assert, while the Government amendment avoids asserting that sovereignty. This is the issue in which I am most interested.

I will not repeat the quotation from the right hon. and learned Gentleman who is now the Secretary of State for the Environment, about how we could treat something as a matter of national interest and use the veto. This is clearly one occasion when we could, should and must use the veto. If Common Market food prices are allowed to rise and the veto is not used by Britain, there can be only one conclusion, and it is a harsh conclusion. The conclusion will be that the Government have put their Common Market policy not only above the need of their counter-inflation policy but also above the needs and interests of the British people. I sincerely hope that we have not reached that tragic stage. Unless I can get a satisfactory assurance by the end of the debate, I cannot support the amendment for, in my view, it avoids the fundamental issue at stake—the national well-being of the citizens of this country.

5.15 p.m.

Mr. E. Femyhough (Jarrow)

The hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) intervened when the Minister was speaking and he has subsequently made more penetrating observations. I want to point out to him that he will not get the answers he is seeking. He has demonstrated quite clearly that the Government, in their pledge to fight inflation, speak to the workers of this country with one voice but, in discussions in the Common Market, speak with another voice. When the European Communities Bill was going through this House, we were told that the Government would have the right of veto and that, whenever they thought the interests of this country were in peril, they would not hesitate to use that veto.

However, it seems that they have not used it in the EEC discussions as often as another veto has been used by the Minister responsible for intervening in wage negotiations with the workers in this country. It seems fantastic that a Government should say, as this Government said last November, that if 100,000 workers get an increase of £1 a week the effect on this country will be disastrous and thus the Government will use a veto, yet, at the same time, one Minister after another returns from Brussels, having taken part in discussions and arrived at decisions which inevitably raise the cost of living in this country.

Let us look at the position we have got into as a result of our membership of the Common Market. We heard the gramophone record again from the Minister this afternoon about how the price of meat was due to world shortages. We were told that there was a drought in one place and floods in another. There is always the explanation that world conditions have put the price up. Does that apply to butter? Are world conditions to blame for putting up the price of butter in this country?

Everyone knows what the French did last year. They paid £100 per head above the normal price for the French farmers to destroy their cattle. This was because there was a surplus of 400,000 tons of butter. The only answer to that problem was to turn the butter into cattle food to feed to the cows so that they would then again produce more milk which would then be turned into butter to be turned again into cattle food. That was the stupid situation which obtained in France last year.

We have these 400,000 tons of butter, but the price is going up. Can anyone explain to me how, if the Government have a concrete argument in relation to the meat situation, the reverse does not apply in relation to butter? The Government say that, beause there is a shortage of meat, the price inevitably goes up. But there is a terrific surplus of butter and prices are still going up. The Minister tried to be clever this afternoon when I intervened. I asked whether what he said would mean that the price of butter would come down by 2p or go up by 2p less than it would have done. The Minister had to admit that it only meant that the price would go up 2p less than it would otherwise have done. By how many pence will it rise? We know that the price in the EEC is more than double our price. If we are to have harmonisation, some day we shall have to reach that price and the British people will have to pay it.

On the basis of the rough figure of £400 a ton difference between the CAP price and our price, will the Minister say how long it will be before the British housewife is paying what is being paid in the Continental EEC countries? The right hon. Gentleman knows the price of their butter, and he knows the price of their meat. I hope that he will tell me how long it will be before our people, unless he and his colleagues use the veto as they said they would, are paying the same prices as consumers and housewives in the rest of the EEC.

There is no purpose in having this power of veto unless one uses it. I want the Minister of Agriculture to use his powers of veto in relation to the common agricultural policy with the same courage and determination as the Secretary of State for Employment used his power against the low-paid workers when he stopped them getting even Wages Council rates. I want the Minister of Agriculture to exercise the same courage and determination.

It is impossible for the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues to ask workers to exercise restraint when at the same time they are deliberately subscribing to policies which not only defeat their counter-inflationary measures but add to the burdens and the problems of the workers whom they are asking to exercise restraint.

These increases will not be necessary if the Minister is prepared to use his powers. But if he wants to be a very-much-loved man on the Continent and acknowledged there as a statesman but detested by ordinary workers here, that is what will happen.

As the hon. Member for Banbury said, we were sold a lot of pups when the legislation was going through the House. I can remember how we were told that EEC capital would rush to Britain. One would have thought that the capitalists of Europe were lining up to break into Britain but that there was a wall between us which only the EEC and our membership could smash. The wall is not there now. Far from them rushing to invest here, the contrary has occurred. Our people have rushed to invest there.

I asked for the figures on this matter last week. The EEC has invested £100 million in Britain—excluding oil. From a population of 200 million has come £100 million. But the investors of Britain, a country with a population of just over 50 million, have invested £300 million in the EEC. In other words, we are sending our money to them for investment purposes three times faster than they are sending theirs here. This is in complete contradiction to what we were led to believe. It is an entirely different story.

When shall we see those beautiful pictures which were painted when the legislation was going through Parliament? When will they become reality? When shall we get this investment? When shall we start to make inroads concerning our exports as distinct from the inroads which the EEC is making into our markets?

I have heard the Minister of Agriculture on many occasions, but I do not remember an occasion when he has seemed more uncomfortable and less enthusiastic than this afternoon. He knows full well that his heart is not in the case that he was making. Things are not working out as the Government expected. Unless the Minister is prepared to assert the authority of this House by saying that, at a time when we are imposing on our people hardships that they dislike to counter inflation, he will not endorse any policy which aggravates the position of our people, he is asking for and will deserve all the trouble that he will get from both the British housewife and workers in general.

5.26 p.m.

Mr. Wyn Roberts (Conway)

There is a tendency on the part of those who opposed our entry into Europe, on both sides of the House, to blame the present rise in food prices on Europe. I dare say that this is natural on their part because they want to tell those of us who voted for British entry into Europe "We told you so." But if they raise their eyes above the horizon of Britain and of the EEC, they will see that there is a food price crisis in many other parts of the world which have nothing to do with the EEC.

Mr. Marten

My hon. Friend has made an aspersion against me, as I am the only anti-Marketeer, a person who opposed Britain's entry, on the Government side of the House to have spoken in this debate. I have never said what he suggested I had said. I admitted and agreed with the Minister that the rise in prices was very largely international. I went on to say that now the Minister has to use his influence to stop any further rises in prices in the Common Market area of food prices. That is very different from what my hon. Friend said.

Mr. Roberts

I accept my hon. Friend's statement. I am sure that I have learned that generalisations do not always cover everyone.

I was about to refer to the general furore in the United States at present, where food prices rose by no less than 2.4 per cent. in February alone. That figure is comparable with our February increase of 1.8 per cent. The American 2.4 per cent. increase accounted for two-thirds of the month's rise of 8 per cent. in the consumer price index, the highest monthly rise for 22 years. Perhaps there is a warning for us here. The increase in the United States has obviously come at the end of their phase 2 period, when there was possibly too much relaxation of the reins. There may be a warning for us as we approach phase 3.

The causes of the food price rises in the United States appear to be much the same as those operative here. The American Cost of Living Council Committee on Food, which is chaired by the American Secretary to the Treasury, Mr. George Shultz, published its White Paper on 20th March. It put as the first cause the increase in consumer demand as a result of advancing consumer purchasing power. The same cause is bound to operate in Britain. As wages rise, as unemployment falls and as pensions and benefits are increased, part of the general upsurge in demand must direct itself towards food purchasing. That primary reason, which was given in the United States for their food price increases, must also apply to this country.

The second cause of food price increases given by the Americans was the increased demand of other industrial countries, such as ourselves, which led in turn to expanded American exports of foodstuffs which went up by nearly 40 per cent. in value from the previous fiscal year to 1972. Much of this increase in exports was undoubtedly attributable to the grain needs of Eastern Europe, Russia, India, China, Australia and Argentina as a result of their poor harvests last year. That meant that the world crop of cereals fell by no less than 4 per cent. compared with 1971. We cannot imagine, if the world crop of cereals falls by 4 per cent., that that will not have an effect upon grain prices in this country. Grain prices the world over doubled within six months. It is as well to remember that we imported just over 11 per cent. in value of our foodstuffs from North America last year. If we import from an area of rising prices, it is clear that we import the rising prices as well.

The third reason given for the food price rise in America is last year's general decline in domestic food production. As a result, the Americans suspended meat import quotas in June last year and their meat imports increased by 15 per cent. This year their meat imports are already up 20 per cent. on the similar period last year. We know what effect this has had on the Australian meat market, because the Americans are now their biggest importers and take in about 250,000 tons of Australian meat per annum.

I understand that the Americans are also considering raising their cheese quotas. They have already raised their quota of non-fat dried milk. All this is bound to have an effect on world prices and on the prices of foodstuffs that we import.

The American answer to the problem is expansion of food supplies. It is expected, as a result of their measures, that farm prices will fall and be no higher at the end of 1973 than they were at the beginning. The consumer, because of the lag, is expected to benefit early in 1974.

My major point is that our answer, too, must be to expand production as much as possible. I believe that the Government are doing this inside the United Kingdom.

We have been importing about 30 per cent. in value of our food from Western Europe compared with about 46 per cent. from the sterling area. Between December 1971 and December 1972 food prices in EEC countries rose rather higher than here: France 8.7 per cent., Germany 8 per cent., and Italy 8.4 per cent., compared with our 7.9 per cent. Admittedly, the figure for the United Kingdom, for lack of a better, is between November 1971 and November 1972, whereas the other figures are between December 1971 and December 1972. Food prices in Canada rose by 7.7 per cent.—only .2 per cent. below our figure.

We have heard and read about pressure in the EEC for further increases in prices. This has not been agreed. I understand that my right hon. Friend has been arguing for some form of subsidy for farmers on similar lines to our deficiency payments system. But in Europe, as elsewhere, the answer must lie in expanded production without greatly increasing surpluses. We must expect that as real wages increase the demand for food will increase as well as the demand for other products.

We must also be prepared to spend a greater proportion of our household income on food. It appears that the percentage of household income spent on food between 1968 and 1971 has fallen from 26.4 per cent. to 25.9 per cent. I do not know whether this is a continuing trend. However, I believe that we should expect to spend more on food.

Finally, when we give increases in wages we do not necessarily give more money to the housewife. Yet the pressure is really falling upon her. We would be well advised to be aware that money given in wage increases does not necessarily find its way into the housewife's purse, and she is the one who is under pressure.

I appreciate the position of and statement by my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury.

The motion urges Her Majesty's Government not to accept any further general increase in EEC prices. This is not a constitutional matter; it is a matter of negotiation. If the motion urged the Government to resist, I might be able to support it; but "not to accept", I cannot accept.

5.38 p.m.

Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)

The hon. Member for Con-way (Mr. Wyn Roberts) is in for a considerable disappointment if he expects the problem of agricultural surpluses in Europe to be dealt with by a greater elasticity of demand for food than there has been in the past. The problem goes a great deal deeper than that.

I should like to express my satisfaction that the Opposition have initiated this important debate prior to the meeting which is to take place in Luxembourg on 9th and 10th of this month. I express mild surprise only that the Government left this initiative to my right hon. Friends. I think that there would have been some advantage to the Government in having their negotiating position strengthened by a resolution of this House on a matter on which frankly there is a surprising degree of unanimity about not only objectives but methods.

The Minister's speech revealed a number of extremely disquieting aspects of the Government's approach to these negotiations. First, the Minister reasserted with great strength what he has said before, that the Government accepted the common agricultural policy. That will come as no surprise to anyone in the House. But what must have come as a surprise, even to those of us who recognised that there was an inevitability about accepting the CAP in principle, was the extremely static view of the policy to which the Minister gave support. It is remarkable how the right hon. Gentleman's approach to the problem of prices and the development of the CAP appears to be that of a man sitting on a kettle of steam. His approach appears to be that the only way to deal with the situation is to try by whatever means he can put forward—of hectoring or persuading —to prevent prices rising. By taking this wholly negative approach to the CAP the right hon. Gentleman almost seeing to be unaware of the underlying reasons for the resistance to the policy of Her Majesty's Government of the other members of the Community with whom he has to negotiate.

The problem is not one solely of prices. It is one of farm incomes in the Community. It was strange that the Minister gave so little attention to it. In many ways the Community has been considerably more flexible in its approach to the problem than the Minister. He said in one passage of his speech to which I listened with some care that he thought it would be wrong to seek to rely upon an incomes supplement for farmers as an alternative to a continual boosting of farm gate prices because it would have some effect in undermining the structural changes which are required in the Community.

If that is the right hon. Gentleman's approach, one must be profoundly pessimistic about the prospects for changing the CAP not only to our advantage but to that of the Community itself. I suggest that the Minister's emphasis in this is considerably more conservative than that of the Commission which, in its proposals put forward for the Ministers to discuss last week, referred specifically to this as a means of moderating the problem of increased prices.

I refer to paragraph 15 of the Commission's document which says: The Commission is still convinced that the problem of low incomes in agriculture must be resolved principally by effective measures of structural policy and by specific measures for supporting incomes in the most underprivileged areas. We had not a word of this from the Minister in his announcement to the House last week or in his speech today. We have had nothing about draft proposals for mountainous and other difficult areas of agriculture which seem to mark a new departure of significance in the thinking of the Commission, not unrelated to the fact that there are new commissioners dealing with these matters and to the fact that the Community itself is now much more flexible on this matter than Her Majesty's Government appear to be.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore) drew attention, quite rightly in my view, to the chronic tendency of the Community to over-production. Again it is remarkable how little attention the Minister gave to this problem in his speech. It is one which has enormously exercised other members of the Community. However the right hon. Gentleman felt it unnecessary to refer to it save briefly and in passing.

No solution to the problem which depends upon managing prices will be wholly adequate, and it is time that the Minister stopped repeating the speeches made by his right hon. Friends during the passage through this House of the European Communities Bill about the sacrosanct nature of the CAP. It is not sacrosanct. It is not regarded as sacrosanct by other members of the Community.

I support that general proposition by reference to a number of proposals made by the Commission to the Ministers themselves to which again the right hon. Gentleman made very little reference. I have referred already to their proposals on income support and to the draft proposals for the directive on farming and modernisation. But there is also the encouraging recognition that the biggest problem of surpluses for the Community has been the over-production of milk and milk products and the interesting and very welcome suggestion that special beef premia should be paid which, I understand, would not affect the price of beef to the housewife but which would secure the income of the fanner and encourage a switch out of milk into fatstock production. That is an example of the kind of flexibility which the Community is showing but which Her Majesty's Government seem much less ready to demonstrate.

The most remarkable omission of all from the right hon. Gentleman's speech —and it is one which should not go unnoticed in this House—was his failure to refer to the fact that the Commission itself has proposed a fundamental review of the common agricultural policy and that there should be discussion on the Commission's proposals in meetings to take place in October.

Why have not we heard from the Minister about it? Why did he make no reference to it in his announcement to the House last week? Why have not we been given any indication today of the Government's thinking about the techniques for adjusting the CAP in our interests and in those of the Community? It deserves to be put on record that paragraph 24 of the document which the Commission put forward for the Council's consideration last week says: In drawing up these proposals for the 1973– 74 marketing year, the Commission has noted that the agricultural price policy is being increasingly conditioned through the limits imposed by the requirements of the genera] economic policy. It has also found that the agricultural price policy, though helping to raise agricultural incomes generally, cannot settle all the problems that arise as a result of disparities within the agricultural sector itself. The Commission is therefore making known to the Council its intention to carry out an in-depth examination of the problems to decide whether it is expedient to introduce supplementary measures which would allow a reasonable and appropriate increase in agricultural incomes without causing the market situation to deteriorate. That is a call for a fundamental review of the CAP. We have not had a single reference to it from the Government.

What does this mean? As I see it, it means that the Government are quite unprepared to contribute their own new thinking on this matter and are simply playing the old gramophone record about the sacrosanct nature of the CAP. The Government have some quick thinking to do if they are to make any significant contribution to the discussions in October which will be so vital to the country at large, especially to the farming community and to the housewife.

I conclude on a more immediate note. Plainly in the discussions next week there can be little major departure from the general outlines of the CAP. But there is one matter on which there must be the firmest possible stand by the Government. It is on the question of the across-the-board price increase of 2.76 per cent. The Government have indicated that they are strongly opposed to it, and I believe that this House will regard it as wholly unacceptable if right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite do not stand firm on this one. That is a nonsense. It is bringing together what clearly should be disjoined. It cannot solve the Community's problems, or the CAP's difficulties. That is because the monetary problems which the Community now faces are by no means solved, and the continuing float in this country and in Italy will create further strains for the existing agricultural policy.

It is entirely rational, both from the point of view of our domestic interests and from the point of view of the Community's development of its policies, to make known our position. I am sure that the Minister will be pleased to know that he has our support at least on this matter. In the concluding speeches I hope that a Government spokesman will give some indication of their forward thinking. It is a disgrace that we have not yet had such an indication.

5.51 p.m.

Mr. J. R. Kinsey (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

By now there is almost no need to comment on Socialist Common Market hypocrisy. That was most firmly and definitely stated when the hon. and learned Member for Lincoln (Mr. Taverne) took his stand. It is remarkble that under the circumstances the Opposition keep coming back in this direction.

Their hypocrisy has now transferred itself to their attitude on prices which are affected by Common Market policy. We all know that the Socialist Government, in their pre-election negotiation for entry into the Common Market, accepted the common agricultural policy. All the criticism which has been made since then in the House by the Opposition, in the light of their pre-election attitude, is directly misleading to the British housewife.

The trouble is that the major sector of the Opposition suffer from anti-Common Market blindness. That blinds them to the true position of the world situation. It is something of a surprise to me to hear the laissez-faire arguments that the Opposition put forward. An attempt is being made to plan production. That is exactly what Common Mrket policy is all about.

Mr. Deakins

It is unplanned.

Mr. Kinsey

The aim of Common Market policy is to take away the element of chance, as much as man can take away that element, from food production. It is an attempt to achieve an ordered supply.

Mr. Deakins indicated dissent.

Mr. Kinsey

The hon. Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Deakins) may well laugh, but that is the plan. I am rather surprised that Socialists should decry that attempt. It makes a nonsense of their attitude to life. The policy of the Common Market will not and cannot be entirely successful because nature will always take a hand in all circumstances. The other incontrovertible law is that of supply and demand, which takes over with its consequent effect.

I am a city man and I represent city dwellers. Nevertheless I recognise the right of the agricultural producers to get an adequate return both from capital and labour. However, I do not intend to see the farmer feather-bedded. It is in the interests of the consumer that the farming community should get an adequate return otherwise that community will turn away from its productive efforts. That would create a shortage of commodities and would have consequent effect on prices, militating against the consumer, the shopper and the housewife.

The right hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore) recognised that factor and commented on it. He referred to the butter situation and the great rush away from production which took place. It was not only in the Common Market that that happened. The reduction of herds went worldwide. However, there was no real encouragement, not even from the Labour Government of the day, to increase production. That is one of the factors from which we are now suffering.

The House is in danger if it looks only at the Common Market's effect on prices. The situation applies throughout the world. The Minister has put that point to us, but he need not have done so. We read about the situation in the papers. We know about the position in Russia. We know the position in America, and in Japan, as well as in the Common Market. Diverse economies have been affected. Financially successful countries and those experiencing financial difficulties have been affected.

The circumstances that apply in the United States are similar to those applying in the Community. They have a wages policy and yet the cost of food still rises. That is perhaps contradictory and is not understood by the public, particularly the housewife. When the housewife marches into a shop and stands at the counter she sees immediately in front of her that prices are rising, and she cannot understand it.

An interesting statistic appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, which is circulated in this country, and which is independent. In the issue of 21st March it said, The American housewife spends less on food than housewives in France and West Germany. Last year consumer food prices rose 87 per cent. in France and 8 per cent. in Germany, against 4.8 per cent. in the United States. The interesting fact is that in France and West Germany there are rising prices and yet their people are consuming more than American families. Is there not a lesson? I believe that reveals the prosperity of the Community. Does it not mean that prosperous people can better afford rising food costs? Is that not a thought to take forward with us?

What is the effect of such prosperity on the world market? The editorial of the Christian Science Monitor of 31st March talks about the demand for meat. It also mentions that the United States' negotiators, in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, are bidding for better access for American farm products to Common Market countries. The editorial reads, In 1973 alone the United States expects to sell 3.5 billion dollars more in farm products abroad than it will import. The common agricultural policy that is being condemned today is something that the world is looking to.

We must consider meat prices throughout the world. The Christian Science Monitor refers to the fact that in Japan one cannot buy any beef or pork for less than 5 American dollars for a 1b. I cannot translate that immediately into English pounds. Consumers in Japan pay 7 dollars to 10 dollars a 1b. for beef.

That shows that world prices are met by nations that can afford them. Of course, those are the prosperous nations, and that has a bearing on world prices.

If we had acted on meat price rises in this country in the same way as America, by trying to impose a ceiling, we should be experiencing the fear felt by American producers that the policy will create a shortage which will mean continuing high prices for the American housewife. For that reason, and for other reasons, I asked my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister the other day that a world conference on food should be convened to examine the problem. The matter must be examined. I still believe that the need is for an expanding production of food. If we can utilise the agricultural potential of developing nations we shall be doing a useful service to the whole world.

The Government have done their job in keeping down food prices by reducing taxes. That is the only sector in which they can work effectively. We must acknowledge the inflationary effect of taxation. The Government have reduced personal taxes, abolished SET and reduced taxation on purchases. The Socialist taxation of food has been removed. If those pressures had not been taken away by the Government, prices would have been higher.

The Opposition have scoffed at the removal of tax on ice-cream and chocolates, which are an essential element of family food costs. I wish that we could have removed the other Socialist food tax on pet foods—

Mr. Deakins

Who eats pet foods?

Mr. Kinsey

The tax hit pensioners in particular. The old people make an important point of looking after their pets.

I reject the Opposition's motion, because the Common Market has an effect on world food prices, and now we are in a position to influence its decisions. I am pleased that my right hon. Friend has taken a stand in Brussels on these important issues.

6.1 p.m.

Mr. Eric Deakins (Walthamstow, West)

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Bar (Mr. Kinsey) has more confidence in the Minister's intentions than I or my right hon. Friends have.

I want to begin by taking up the hon. Gentleman's point about hypocrisy. If there has been any hypocrisy in the debate, it has come from the Government Front Bench—the hypocrisy of opposing further price rises under the common agricultural policy yet saying almost in the same breath, "We fully accept the common agricultural policy, and rising prices are an element in it". It is almost as if the Minister has been telling us that he is in favour of sin, but on this occasion is against adultery, at least in the first few months of marriage. I do not think that we shall hear the same story next year.

The Government accept all the mechanisms of the common agricultural policy for keeping up prices—levies, intervention buying and export subsidies, which cost a great deal. They must also accept—this is what they are reluctant to admit—that under the present common agricultural policy if agricultural incomes are to keep pace with incomes in the non-agricultural sector they must rise each year. Otherwise, as has been happening since 1962 in the Common Market under the common agricultural policy, the gap between those incomes grows wider and wider.

There is no point in the Minister's telling us that he does not like what is happening, as it was inevitable in acceptance of the common agricultural policy as it is now. Those higher food prices year by year must inevitably mean higher prices for the British housewife.

The Minister has been telling us in particular that he will resist higher food prices, but he will not resist so strongly that he will dare use the veto. The situation reminds me of the passage in an 18th century French court drama where a young courtesan, a lady of easy virtue, is being carried off by a nobleman to his bedroom. As she is carried, screaming and kicking, she cries, "Rape! Rape!", loud enough to satisfy the demands of honour but not so loud as to attract attention from anyone who might help her.

Mr. Marten

In defence of my right hon. Friend, may I say that he has not exactly said that he will not use the veto. He has said that he might or might not.

Mr. Deakins

The Minister cried for help last week and this week, and the Opposition have come to his assistance. Having cried for help merely to satisfy the demands of honour, the Minister is now reluctant to accept the motion, because he knows jolly well that he does not really need our help. He is reluctant to use the veto, and will not do so. I confidently predict that if our motion is rejected the Minister will next week submit to the pressures of his agricultural colleagues and accept higher prices for many commodities if not necessarily across the board.

What can be done to help the housewife if the Government should give in next week? The dread word "subsidies" has been mentioned. Why not? The Government's attitude is that we cannot have subsidies without rationing. That is a load of rubbish. We have bacon and sugar subsidies. Can anyone put his hand on his heart and say that there is rationing of bacon or sugar, except by price, a form of rationing that applies to many other commodities? It is a nonsense to link subsidies and rationing.

Perhaps the Government will claim that those subsidies are not subsidies That raises the question, "When is a subsidy not a subsidy?" Perhaps the answer is, "When it is a distribution payment on sugar or a stabilisation payment on bacon". But, to misquote the Bard, that which we a call a subsidy would be equally welcome to the British housewife if the Government did not choose to call it a subsidy. It does not matter as long as we have some price stabilisation and support for the housewife.

My party accepts the need for consumer subsidies. The Government oppose them because their use would mean a transfer of resources from rich to poor, and that would never do from the present Government. They could have subsidised food since the start of the freeze on 6th November. It would have cost money, but they have saved over £100 million on the agricultural support system in the current year—1972–73. The Government's refusal to subsidise food was a failure of political will, and was not a result of the complexities of the operation. They would have been as nothing compared with the complexities of value added tax.

Several Conservative Members have made a point about world shortages. Is there any world shortage of bacon, sugar, butter, cheese or milk? There are to be increases in the prices of all those commodities in the next 12 months as a direct result of the common agricultural policy of the Common Market. It is nothing to do with world shortages. Butter is certain to go up in May, as are sugar and bacon, and milk will probably go up later this year.

What excuse will the Government offer then? They do not like accepting the responsibility. What will they tell the House and the housewife when the Intervention Board operates to keep up the price of butter and meat? What will they say to the housewife when world cereal prices fall later this year and she cannot receive the benefit? They will have to tell her and the House that in accepting the common agricultural policy they have willingly accepted a dear food policy.

The fact is that the common agricultural policy needs to be scrapped. There is no point in tinkering with it. If the Minister will accept that message from the House tonight, he will go forewarned and forearmed into his battle in Brussels or Luxembourg next week, and will be encouraged to take the first steps in that direction. That is what the debate is all about. Therefore, I hope the House will accept the motion.

6.9 p.m.

Mr. Marcus Kimball (Gainsborough)

I followed the start of the argument of the hon. Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Deakins), when he said that agricultural incomes will have to rise every year within the Community, but I thought that his conclusion was entirely wrong. The only way to increase agricultural incomes is to reduce the number of people in agriculture, and that has already started on the Continent. In 1952, 25 per cent. of the population in the Six— the original members of the Common Market—were in agriculture. Over the past few years great steps have been taken in reducing the number in agriculture and thus increasing the farm income of those who remain in the industry.

In 1972 the proportion of the total population employed in agriculture was 15 per cent. It really ought to be as low as 7 per cent. As the hon. Member for Walthamstow, West knows, agriculture in the United Kingdom is really prosperous and flourishing at the moment—a situation in which 3 per cent. of the United Kingdom population produces 3 per cent. of our gross national product which comes from agriculture. On the Continent, 7 per cent. to 8 per cent. of the gross national product attributable to agriculture is produced by 14 per cent. of the population. The hon. Gentleman was not very honest with himself—and he is very knowledgeable on agricultural subjects—when he argued that the only way to increase farm incomes in Europe is to go on increasing farm gate prices. The way to increase farm incomes is to reduce the number of people in agriculture; and that is not happening in Europe. I am sure that when my right hon. Friend goes to Brussels he will be telling himself that it is in the interest of everybody in the United Kingdom to try to reduce farm gate prices on the Continent.

I could not follow all the arguments of the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan). He said we must look for ways of making continental farmers more efficient, and that he did not think the Government had any new thoughts. He went on to explain the special scheme on the Continent to encourage beef breeds against dairy breeds. Surely, he was there telling my right hon. Friend what my right hon. Friend was saying in this House last week—that the proper way for CAP to go was just with schemes such as the calf-rearing scheme and the calf subsidies that we have in this country and which they have not got in Europe. In this way, with production grants, we can increase farm incomes, as the hon. Member for Walthamstow, West wants, enabling us at the same time to negotiate sincerely for lower farm gate prices.

On the Continent we are really facing not an agricultural but a social problem. We have solved our agricultural problem in this country. We are able to reduce the taxpayers' liability to the agriculture industry, and the agriculture industry becomes more and more profitable each year. As the House knows, we are the largest food importers in the world, and even if we were outside the European Community we should be paying a great deal more for many of the commodities we now import, simply because they are in such short supply. So we have the problem of expanding home production, and there are already very encouraging signs of success in this sphere.

The most encouraging sign in our countryside this winter has been the heavy stocking to be seen on all our farms. How the farmers have managed to do it with the price of livestock I do not know. The cereal acreage remains the same, but the amount of livestock to be seen in the fields throughout the winter months seems greater than ever before. I hope this will show up in the half-yearly agricultural returns. There are concrete signs, for anyone to see, of a major increase in agricultural production, particularly in livestock and cereal yield. On prices, the problem is surely the price of fresh meat, especially beef. We know that there is a world shortage of beef and an increased demand from the United States which, for the first time, is importing from Australia. Years ago we used to argue that Japan should take more old ewe mutton from Australia and New Zealand. Japan is now doing that, but the Japanese taste for mutton has increased so much that they are now taking New Zealand lamb, which I do not welcome. The very trends that we have wanted and for which we have argued for years are now going ahead.

The hon. Member for Walthamstow, West did not live up to his normal knowledge of agriculture when, yesterday, he predicted a good harvest and falling cereal prices. He is a very brave man. I know that everyone is well on with cultivation, but the acreage is not up and we do not know what the climatic conditions will be. Are we really to see falling grain prices in the coming year? I believe the hon. Gentleman is quite unrealistic. I know that the Americans are bringing many acres into production and getting rid of the fertility bank. That will help, but it will take some time before it gets through to the rest of the world.

As the hon. Gentleman knows, this year Russia has bought 80 million tons of grain and China has come into the market, buying 6 million tons. These are not signs of falling cereal prices. For the first time in history, all the people of China are adequately fed and they are going to have to continue to buy if they are to keep up their standard of living. So, again the hon. Gentleman is being unrealistic.

One of the great problems that we have to face over the next few years is very high world cereal prices—a problem which is bound to be reflected, through no fault of the Government, in the price of bread in this country. This debate has had a slightly unrealistic air about it. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have argued that CAP is causing higher prices in this country. That simply is not true. Higher prices in this country have been caused by prices in the world, which are far higher than the farm gate prices already agreed under CAP.

6.16 p.m.

Mr. Donald Stewart (Western Isles)

Some Government speakers believe it is sufficient answer to the motion to say that a Labour Government would have accepted the common agricultural policy. That may well have been the case; I understand it is arguable. But even if it is accepted it simply proves to me that there are deluded hon. Members on both sides of the House. The abandonment of a cheap food policy on entry into the Common Market was a self-inflicted wound of appalling magnitude, which may eventually prove fatal to this country. Because of the population of the United Kingdom, principally that of England, we have a heavy bill for imports, due to our farming production being insufficient to feed our people. As a result, we have always to look for food imports. With the adoption of CAP this situation has been aggravated.

In the Common Market the bills will be astronomical. Forecasts made confidently from the Government Front Bench during the EEC debates have already been exposed as wishful thinking, if not outright deception. The fact that the fishery resources of this country were sold out in negotiations will aggravate the food position in due course and—an important point made by the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Torney)—oranges will become a rare and expensive fruit, which will have a deleterious effect on our children.

Hon. Members whom I support have referred to the destruction of food which takes place within the EEC—a practice which is sinful and will bring retribution. The President of the Food Manufacturers Federation has had a very quick conversion—within 24 hours. It was almost as fast as that which happened to St. Paul on the road to Damascus. Yesterday he was definite that on five main foods there would be price increases of between 10 per cent. and 24 per cent. by the end of the year. I do not think it is possible to read that forecast out of context, no matter what the Minister of Agriculture may have expressed today as that man's present views.

The Minister is in default in not accepting this motion, for he would go to the EEC with a much stiffer spine if he did so. It is unbelievable that the motion should be seen as in any way exceptionable, and I shall support it in the Lobby tonight.

6.19 p.m.

Mr. Edward Milne (Blyth)

This debate has been remarkable for two or three things, particularly the absence of the Liberal Party which claims to have campaigned so actively for our entry into Europe and also for the fact that we are dealing with a Government amendment which speaks of giving the highest priority to combating inflation in the European Economic Community. If, as the debate has shown, the Government are really keen on doing this, the obvious thing is for them to accept the motion and resist food price increases within the framework of the CAP.

The vital factor is that the CAP, despite what was said earlier by my hon. Friend about the re-examination of that policy which is supposedly taking place in Europe, is the linch-pin of our entry into Europe and of the Community's policy on agriculture and food prices.

We should consider the question of prices more realistically than we have been prepared to do thus far. It is not just a question of cheap food prices being demanded from Europe; by our entry into the Common Market we turned our backs on the opportunity of world trade and the advantages that we had in terms of the price of foodstuffs. It is not simply an element of bargaining that is at stake in this debate; it is the whole policy of our entry into Europe.

It is no use talking about renegotiating the common agricultural policy when we deserted the Commonwealth on 28th October 1971. The people who should have been dominating the debate are those who told us, in the heady days prior to our entry, that the solution of our economic, industrial and agricultural problems lay in membership of the Community.

That is the kernel not only of our discussion today but of all the policies that have flowed from that decision to enter. The Government would never have been able to impose on the British people the price increases and the policies that they have imposed in the last three or four months if we had not handed over to them the instrument by which they could do it, namely, entry into the Community.

Therefore, we demand satisfaction from the Minister on two or three key issues. In some ways we cannot really demand it from him, because he is not capable of giving it. The main answer that we want is to the question: how far are we prepared, as a Parliament and a Government, to withdraw from Europe if the demands of the House and the demands of the nation are not met? Some might argue that this is now impossible, but whether the people who voted for entry or not are prepared to accept it, the Labour Party is committed to the renegotiation of our entry into Europe, within not only the limited framework and confines of this debate but the wider issues and aspects of our membership.

The Opposition are demanding from the Government, week after week and month after month in the period that lies ahead, a wide debate on regional policy, industrial policy, fuel and power and steel. This is not a debate solely on agriculture. It is the start of a wide, searching examination of the folly committed by the House in allowing the Government to enter the Community on 28th October 1971.

6.24 p.m.

Mr. William Molloy (Ealing, North)

The excuses we have heard from the Government side for the increases in food prices have tended to show that everybody is responsible for the increases except the Government. The excuses would have made Machiavelli look like a fifth-rate performer and an amateur. The hon. Member for Conway (Mr. Wyn Roberts) added a new dimension to the debate by concentrating on dividing the nation. His contribution was to try to divide families. He said the real problem was that the working man was not giving his wife a sufficient proportion of his wages. That is a new and remarkable dimension in the excuses which have been put forward.

We were told that a special Minister had been appointed to keep an eye on prices. She was to be the watchdog to ensure that they did not rise. If nothing can be done to control prices, when is she to be given the sack? That would be the logical consequence of the situation.

All this need not have happened if we had not been so silly as to go into the Common Market. If we had shown a little more faith and confidence in those who expressed their faith and confidence in us in trying times—the Australians, New Zealanders and people of the other countries of the Commonwealth—we could still be purchasing cheaper food from them than anything we could get from the Common Market. The situation is probably best outlined in the Government amendment, which says that the Government are: to give the highest priority to combating inflation"— not in the interest of Great Britain but in the European Economic Community's overall interest". If any Conservative Member believes that Britain's interests should be put first he will come with the Opposition into the Lobby tonight against the Government who are selling the nation down the drain.

6.27 p.m.

Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)

Everyone in the House, and certainly millions of people throughout the country, will think it right that we should now have a debate on a matter of such supreme importance as food prices. I would have thought that whatever views people took about the Common Market everyone would agree about that.

I must make an exception, however, in the case of the Liberal Party, which has been most notable for its complete absence from the Chamber on the first occasion that the House has discussed the increase in food prices resulting from British entry into the Common Market. The country should take note that the Liberal Party is so little interested in rocketing food prices that it cannot even take the trouble to attend the debate. Heaven alone knows how it will vote. I suppose that it will line up with the Government, and that we should attempt to draw as slight a distinction between the Government and the Liberals on this matter as we should attempt to draw between, say, Sutton and Cheam.

I first recall to the House what the Minister of Agriculture said in his famous speech in Brussels. This should have been superfluous but, unfortunately, it has proved necessary because, in the House, the right hon. Gentleman did not repeat his strong words. Hon. Members who had heard him speak only here, this afternoon, might completely misapprehend what he said in Brussels. I should like to put his words there on the record. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not object if I quote him. The headline in the Daily Telegraph of 28th March 1973, following the right hon. Gentleman's protest in Brussels, was: Food Price Revolt by Britain Godber leads fight against inflation Then it went on: Mr. Godber, Minister of Agriculture, said that a general freeze of EEC farm prices was vitally needed to prove that member states really meant to fight inflation. A little later it said 'This is a matter of crucial importance to us in Britain,' he declared. Later still it said: Mr. Godber said: 'The cost of the present system is already high and all the signs are that it will increase on the basis of present price levels'". and, later still, that 'some increases in food prices are due to world conditions and will occur whatever decisions we take in the Council'". True enough.

He went on: We must not endanger our …battle against inflation by adding to food prices unnecessarily. Those are very strong words.

Mr. Godber indicated assent.

Mr. Foot

I am glad to see the right hon. Gentleman nodding his head. I can- not understand why he does not nod his head to our motion, because it uses several of the words which he used in Brussels. Our motion refers to a general increase in EEC prices. That is a direct quotation from what the right hon. Gentleman said in Brussels. The motion also refers to a matter of vital national interest which are the words that he used in Brussels, although he may not have used the term "vital national interest" in the technical sense that we are employing.

We put down the motion in the hope of assisting the Government. If they had been prepared to let it go through, I agree with hon. Members on both sides of the House and on both sides of the argument—including my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan), who takes a different view from some of us on the general question of the EEC—that the Government could then have gone back to Brussels with the backing of the motion and would therefore have been in a stronger position.

The debate is of some importance, in the sense that it may set a precedent for future debates. As my hon. Friend the Member for Blyth (Mr. Milne) has said, we shall have debate after debate initiated by those right hon. and hon. Members who wish to assert the authority of the House of Commons. If the House abandons its authority at this first test—that is the meaning of the Government's amendment—it will be all the more difficult to assert it in future.

One of the things we must extract from the debate is exactly what is the position of the Minister of Agriculture now. No one listening to his speech today could doubt that he had greatly weakened the force of the words which he used in Brussels. We do not know in which character he was appearing. When he was in Brussels he gave the impression that he was Horatius holding the bridge. Today, in the House, he looked more like Sextus selling the pass—Sextus, who wrought the dead of shame.

This is a matter of great importance, because the right hon. Gentleman, on the contrary, could have gone back to Europe reinforced by a decision of the House of Commons against this further general increase in prices, which he himself deplores, denounces and says is unnecessary, even to the maintenance of this contraption, the common agricultural policy. Instead, he will go back to Europe gravely weakened.

What has brought this about? The Prime Minister may have brought pressure to bear. After all, at the most critical moments in our lengthy debates on this subject he sought to persuade the country that there was no question of great food price increases threatening us if we entered the EEC. The right hon. Gentleman did not say that it was a great question. He did not say that the food price level in the Common Market might threaten the whole of the Government's counter-inflation policy—which is what the Minister of Agriculture said in Brussels. On the contrary, what the Prime Minister said to the Tory Central Council at Central Hall, Westminster, on 14th July—and this is the basis on which we went into the EEC—was: Joining the European Community will have only a marginal effect on prices. In the first six years of our membership, while we change over to the new system of food prices, the increase in the cost of living as a result of entry will be half a new penny in the £ each year.

Mr. Godber indicated assent.

Mr. Foot

If the right hon. Gentleman nods his head, let him go to Brussels and quote that passage. But what force will his argument have? They will laugh at him over there. They will say to him, "But if the margin is so narrow as that, why are you so worried? Why are you engaged in revolt by Britain?"

Is the Prime Minister so insistent in this matter because of the undertakings he gave to President Pompidou on the question of the Common Market? We have heard some statements made about the agreements or understandings of my right hon. and hon. Friends on the question of the common agricultural policy. What about the Prime Minister's position? After all, he is the man who is answerable. Apparently, it is the view of the Prime Minister that it is impossible for us to depart, in essentials, from the common agricultural policy because that was the agreement made with President Pompidou. But why should the Prime Minister be such a stickler about his promises to Pompidou when he breaks them to everyone else?

Why should the Prime Minister say, "I must stick to the absolute letter of what I agreed with the French President on the subject of the common agricultural policy even though I abandon all my views on a compulsory wages policy, price controls, 'lame ducks' and everything else"? Of course, he may say that there was no such detailed agreement between the two men. That may be the defence. Very well! If they did not get down to such details, and if our rights over these matters were not signed away, what is the objection to our motion? What is the objection to the Government's exerting their power to the very limit to ensure that we are not bound by the food price increases which our own Minister of Agriculture says are superfluous and unnecessary even to the common agricultural policy itself.

There is no reason for the Government's objection to the motion, except an abject surrender. But why should the Minister of Agriculture want to go to Brussels so disarmed? We thought that he was going to fight for the housewives of Britain. That is what was said on the radio. Now we discover that he is going into the ring with all the ferocity of Ferdinand the bull.

The right hon. Gentleman may say that the motion is carrying things too far —that it is making things too difficult for him. It is not. He can remedy the matter perfectly well. He can, first, call on the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to tell us why the Government object to the motion. Is it because they consider that the British House of Commons has no right to insist, in advance, when the veto should be invoked? If the Government say that, they are also claiming that the decision when the veto is to be employed—when this essential instrument is to be drawn from its scabbard—must rest solely with the Government and not with the House of Commons. That is not what we were told in the lengthy debates on entry into the EEC.

The responsibility in this debate rests not only on members of the Government and not only on the absent Liberal Party; it rests on every Member of the House of Commons, because we shall all be answerable to the British housewives who are, as it happens, very much concerned about the question of food prices.

So I say that every Member of the House who wishes to send the Minister to Brussels to fight against food price increases, which the right hon. Gentleman says are unnecessary, has the power to do it in the Lobby at about 7 o'clock. But every Member who refuses to go into the Lobby and fight against price increases in this way should not prate around the country that he is fighting rising food prices and inflation. Let those hon. Members be silent from now on. This is the test whether the British House of Commons is to assert its right, dignity and claims on the supreme question of the food of the British people.

6.42 p.m.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Davies)

The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) asks me to explain why the Opposition motion is unacceptable. I will explain it in this way. It stems from an ignorance of the processes of the Common Market to which the Opposition have quite willingly condemned themselves by standing clear during the whole of the time when they could have made themselves heard. If they understood for a moment how things can be influenced in the Common Market they would have not have tabled such a motion.

They do not understand because they will not participate—because they fear to show the weaknesses of their own divisions. The motion deliberately seeks to pinion the Minister—to prick him on a pin so that he cannot move, and his wings are clipped. One realises perfectly well that it suits hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to do this. But it does not suit the interests of the country, through its membership of the Community. Far from it.

Mr. Shore rose

Mr. Davies

I will give way in a moment. The motion seeks to pinion the Minister because it suits the Opposition so to do. In defending the interests of the country to the best of his ability in the councils of the Community the Minister needs to be in a flexible position to negotiate. Flexibility for negotiat- ing is essential. Far from supporting the Minister, the motion would compress his capacity to attempt to obtain those things which many hon. Gentlemen opposite have been seeking. It requires him to state now ultimata which would effectively debar him from taking part in negotiations thereafter.

Mr. Shore

When the right hon. Gentleman thinks about it he may realise that he has made a statement of great constitutional importance. He is telling the House that if it seeks to intervene— to express a point of view on behalf of the British people—in the process of policy-making or law-making in the Community between the time of the formulation of a proposal by the bureaucrats in Brussels and the final enforcement by the Council of Ministers, that inevitably limits the Minister and is contrary to the interests of the country. We cannot accept such a view.

Mr. Davies

The right hon. Gentleman is making a travesty of what I said. My point was that to enable the Minister to take account of the many representations that have been made during the debate it is essential that he should get into a negotiating posture. The terms of the motion are designed to prevent that from happening. I went on to say that that would be clear to hon. Gentlemen opposite were they more deeply involved in the considerations affecting the Community.

Mr. Molloy

Get on with your clipping.

Mr. Davies

The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale is seeking to play on both sides of this instrument. He says that the effect of the common agricultural policy on food prices in this country is too small, according to the Minister, to warrant my right hon. Friend being active in the defence of the British housewife. On the other hand he says that the common agricultural policy is the biggest single menace to this country's food costs. He must decide on which side of the instrument he proposes to play.

My right hon. Friend made it abundantly clear that if he were to accept the total package now proposed by the Commission, against which he has most vigorously and vehemently argued in negotiations, it would have an extraordinarily small effect on our food costs. He gave the figures, and I will requote them because they seemed to be striking. If the total package were accepted it would have the effect in the year beginning 1st May of adding 0.2 per cent. on food costs which, looked at in terms of the retail price index, would be of the order of 0.05 per cent.

Why despite that—and here I answer the question put to me by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale—does my right hon. Friend give vent to expressions of great concern, which he repeated clearly today, about the crucial importance of the battle against inflation, on which I know him to feel strongly? It is because within this framework there are many things which need to be adjusted. Even if the effect on food prices at the moment is small, and it is, the policy as it stands needs adjustment in the way which has been so fully discussed today. He, there-force considers, quite rightly, that when he is in Brussels discussing these matters with his colleagues he is dealing with something that is of critical importance not only to consumers but to our farmers and the farming community generally.

It would be wrong to try to say that because the effect of the proposed increase is small, from our point of view, which it is, it has no real importance and he should not pursue it in his negotiations in Brussels. Quite the contrary; it is of extreme importance.

Mr. Gwynoro Jones (Carmarthen)

Why not accept our motion then?

Mr Davies

I have already described the extraordinary limiting effect of the motion and the need to allow the Minister to discuss these things flexibly and to reach the conclusions which the whole House seems to want.

Mr. Marten

If a conclusion is reached, that is that. Can this House reverse that conclusion?

Mr. Davies

If at the end of my right hon. Friend's negotiations there is a conclusion in Brussels it will be a conclusion of the Council of Ministers and it is, at that point, not reversible although by that time it will have taken careful account of the many representations that have been made.

I think it only right to point out to the hon. Gentlemen who have called upon my right hon. Friend to defend innumerable different points of view during the course of this debate that in order to do so he must get into the negotiations and negotiate. To try to stop him doing that at the outset is to frustrate the attainment of the objectives to which so many hon. Gentlemen have declared their support.

There has been constant reference— indeed the right hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) made reference to it— to the need to impose the veto. I have heard this expression frequently in the House and I know it has been very fully discussed, but in the light of my experience of the Community I would say that it is an expression which does not correctly represent the actual performance of the Community. The actual performance of the Community is to strive, through great discussion and argument, to reach a point of consensus. That consensus is reached at times with the utmost difficulty, and at times not at all. There are issues which have been outstanding in the Community literally for years for want of a consensus. But it is wrong to imagine that this starts by an individual country lodging at the outset an objection which it will in no circumstances discuss. This is not the manner of working in the Community. Were it so the Community would find it virtually impossible to conduct the enormously wide range of business it does.

Mr. Fernyhough

The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that this was the one power that, when the Bill was being pushed through, we were told we had. We were told that if we did not like something we should be able to veto it. In all the arguments and the debates I have heard, that has always been the strong argument—that in the last analysis we could say "No".

Mr. Davies

I am still saying that that precise position obtains today as it did when the right hon. Gentleman had that assurance. The difference lies in the attitude that is explicit in the motion —that a veto is lodged at the outset before discussion. This is not the manner of performance in the Community. Were it so, the Community would become entirely incompetent to discharge all the business that in fact it does, business much of which is of undoubted benefit to us. I want to assure hon. and right hon. Members on both sides of the House that the provisions for the absolutely major national interest of any country being protected to the final point of agreement—

Mr. Molloy

What about our country? Talk about Britain. The right hon. Gentleman is not an EEC Minister.

Mr. Davies

I am talking about Britain. This country is a member of the Community, and I referred to it as such.

To revert to the question which the right hon. Gentleman put, let there be no doubt that in the last resort the vital interests of this country can be defended by the refusal to agree to something which is passing through the Council. But to assume that such action should be taken before discussion, before negotiation, is to assume something which seems to me to be basically unsound. This was the precise position that the right hon. Gentleman's motion sought to put to my right hon. Friend.

I will deal now with another matter to which a great deal of reference was made in the course of the debate, and that is the future of the common agricultural policy. This matter was raised constantly in the course of the discussion, and it is of vital interest. The truth is that the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) did my right hon. Friend less than justice. My right hon. Friend referred to many of the points to which the hon. Gentleman said subsequently that no reference had been made.

Mr. Maclennan

The Minister made absolutely no reference at all either in his statement last week or today to the fact that the Commission had proposed a fundamental review of agricultural policy, and that was the major burden of my criticism.

Mr. Davies

The hon. Gentleman in fact referred to several items to which he complained that the Minister had made no reference, and that was not correct. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture freely agrees that he did not make reference to this today because the survey is directed at the longer-term working of the common agricultural policy and not the price determinations with which we are currently concerned. But neither my right hon. Friend nor I consider the survey as anything other than of the utmost importance. It is vitally important that the Commission should—and will now—review in depth the working of the common agricultural policy, having regard to the very evolutionary nature of that policy. Nobody can doubt that in the years that have already gone by the common agricultural policy has not been static. It has been evolving, and its basis has been moving. The numbers of people employed in the industry, the size of farms, the number of farms, the nature of farms, the technology of the industry—all have been in a constant state of evolution.

It is only right that, as the Community —and I think this is very evident at the moment—becomes more and more preoccupied with the effect of food prices on the living standards and the cost of living of its people and its own inflationary problems, it, too, should consider this to be a moment at which it needs to look in depth at the nature of the agricultural policy. I detect among those I meet in the Community and the Council a universal feeling of anxiety about the impact of inflation on food prices, and I have absolutely no doubt that this feeling will continue to be one which will strengthen and not weaken. Let me say that the intention of the Commission to conduct this survey now is one which we certainly applaud and which I think will prove to be of the greatest value.

It is also important to point out that there has been a great deal of comment about butter. I realise perfectly well that it is a particular case, but it is certainly equally true that, basing oneself upon the inevitable results of pursuing the motion which has been put forward, my right hon. Friend would be debarred from conducting just that kind of discussion which is necessary.

My right hon. Friend would undoubtedly be able now to take part in a major discussion about the whole shift of the balance of structure within milk production and livestock production.

The fact of the matter is that the amendment which the Government have put down to this motion allows the Minister to have the means of achieving this purpose. I would stress that there has already been a quite positive suggestion put forward about butter by the Commission. It is suggested that a reduction in price of the order of £100 a ton should be envisaged for butter. It is also suggested that there should be a consumer subsidy of the level of 2p per pound. So it would be quite wrong

to assume that the Commission is not constructive.

Let there be no doubt that the terms of the motion would be a means of stopping the Minister achieving the very purpose which the House has in mind. The terms of the amendment give him that liberty of action. I hope the House will support him most strongly in the action he now takes.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 286, Noes 261.

Division No. 96.] AYES [7.0 p.m.
Adley, Robert d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Heseltine, Michael
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen. Jack Hicks, Robert
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Dean, Paul Higgins, Terence L.
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. Hiley, Joseph
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Digby, Simon Wlngfield Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.)
Astor, John Dixon, Piers Holland, Philip
Atkins, Humphrey Dodds-Parker, Sir Douglas Hott, Miss Mary
Awdry, Daniel Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec Hordern, Peter
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Drayson, G. B. Hornby, Richard
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Dykes, Hugh. Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia
Balniel, Rt. Hn. Lord Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir John Howe, Rt. Hn. sir Geoffery
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Howell, David (Guildford)
Batsford, Brian Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)
Bell, Ronald Emery, peter Hunt, John
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay) Eyre, Reginald Iremonger, T. L.
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport) Farr, John Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)
Benyon, W. Fell, Anthony James, David
Biffen, John Fenner, Mrs. Peggy Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)
Biggs-Davison, John Fidler, Michael Jessel, Toby
Blaker, Peter Finsberg Geoffrey (Hampstead) Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton) Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)
Boscawen, Hn. Robert Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Joplling, Micheal
Bossom, Sir Clive Fookes, Miss Janet Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith
Bowden, Andrew Fortescue, Tim Kaberry, Sir Doanld
Braine, Sir Bernard Foster, Sir John Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine
Bray, Ronald Fowler, Norman Kershaw, Anthony
Brewis, John Fox, Marcus Kimball, Marcus
Brlnton, Sir Tatton Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh(St'fford & Stone) King, Evelyn (Dorse, S.)
Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Fry, Peter King, Tom (Bridgwater)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Galbraith, Hn. T. G. D. Kinsey, J. R.
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Gardner, Edward Kirk, Peter
Bryan, Sir Paul Gibson-Watt, David Kitson, Timothy
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M) Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) Knight, Mrs.Jill
Buck, Antony Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) Knox, David
Bullus, Sir Eric Glyn, Dr. Alan Lambton, Lord
Burden, F. A. Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. Lamont. Norman
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Goodhart, Philip Lane, David
Campbell, Rt. Hn. G. (Moray & Nairn) Gorst, John Langford-Holt, Sir John
Carlisle, Mark Gower, Raymond Le Merchant, Spencer
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Grant, Anthony(Harrow, C.) Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Cary, Sir Robert Gray, Hamish Lloyd, Ian (p'tsm'th, Langstone)
Channon, Paul Green, Alan Longden, Sir Gilbert
Chapman, Sydney Grieve, Percy Loveridge, John
Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Luce, R. N.
Chichester-Clark, R. Grylls, Michael McAdden, Sir Stephen
Churchill, W. S. Gummer, J. Selwyn MacArthur, Ian
Gurden, Harold McCrindle, R. A.
Clark, William (Surrey, E.) Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley) McLaren, Martin
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Hall, John (wycombe) McMaster, Stanley
Clegg, Walter Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Maurice(Farnham)
Cockeram, Eric Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)
Cooke, Robert Hannam, John (Exeter) Maddan, Martin
Coombs, Derek Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Madel, David
Cooper, A. E. Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Maginnis, John E.
Cormack, Patrick Haselhurst, Alan Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest
Costain, A. P. Hastings, Stephen Mather, Carol
Crouch, David Havers, Sir Michael Maude, Angus
Crowder, F. P. Hawkins, Paul Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald
Dalkeith, Earl of Hay, John Mawby, Ray
Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford) Hayhoe, Barney Maxwell-Hyslo[...], R. J.
Meyer, Sir Anthony Redmond, Robert Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Mills, Peter (Torrington) Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.) Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)
Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.) Rees, Peter (Dover) Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Miscampbell, Norman Rees-Davies, W. R. Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.)
MitchelI, Lt.-Col.C.(Aberdeenshire, W) Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Tebbit, Norman
Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Ridley, Hn. Nicholas Temple, John M.
Moate, Roger Ridsdale, Julian Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)
Molyneaux, James Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)
Money, Ernle Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.) Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Monks, Mrs. Connie Roberts, Wyn (Conway) Tilney, John
Monro, Hector Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Trafford, Dr. Anthony
Montgomery, Fergus Rost, Peter Trew, Peter
More, Jasper Royle, Anthony Tugendhat, Christopher
Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm. Russell, Sir Ronald Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin
Morrison, Charles St. John-Stevas, Norman Vaughan, Dr. Gerard
Mudd, David Sandys, Rt. Hn D. Vickers, Dame Joan
Nabarro, Sir Gerald Scott, Nicholas Waddington, David
Neave, Airey Scott-Hopkins, James Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Nicholls, Sir Harmar Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby) Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Nott, John Shersby, Michael Wall, Patrick
Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally Simeons, Charles Ward, Dame lrene
Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Sinclair, Sir George Wells, John (Maidstone)
Owen, Idris (Stockpart, N.) Skeet, T. H. H. White, Roger (Gravesend)
Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby) Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington) Wiggin, Jerry
Page, John (Harrow, W.) Soref, Harold Wilkinson John
Parkinson, Cecil Speed, Keith Winterton, Nicholas
Percival, Ian Spence, John Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Pike, Miss Mervyn Sproat, Iain Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Pink, R. Bonner Stainton, Keith Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher
Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch Stanbrook, Ivor Woodnutt, Mark
Price, David (Eastleigh) Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper) Worsley, Marcus
Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L. Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.) Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.
Proudfoot, Wilfred Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. Younger, Hn. George
Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis Stokes, John TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Raison, Timothy Stuttaford, Dr. Tom Mr. Victor Goodhew and
Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James Sutcliffe, John Mr. Oscar Murton.
Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter Tapsell, Peter
Abse, Leo Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven) Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Dalyell, Tam Griffiths, Will (Exchange)
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis) Davidson, Arthur Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.
Ashley, Jack Davies, Denzil (Llanelly) Hamilton, James (Bothwell)
Ashton, Joe Davies, G. Eifed (Rhondda, E.) Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)
Atkinson, Norman Davies, lfor (Gower) Hamling, William
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.) Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill)
Barnes, Michael Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove) Hardy, Peter
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Deakins, Eric Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)
Barnett, Joel (Heywood and Royton) Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Dempsey, James Hattersley, Roy
Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Doig, Peter Heffer, Eric S.
Bidwell, Sydney Dormand, J. D. Hilton, W. S.
Bishop, E.S. Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.) Hooson, Emlyn
Horam, John
Blenkinsop, Arthur Douglas-Mann, Bruce Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Driberg, Tom Howell, Denis (Small Heath)
Booth, Albert Duffy, A. E. P. Huckfield, Leslie
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Dunn, James A. Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)
Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland) Dunnett, Jack Hughes, Mark (Durham)
Bradley, Tom Eadie, Alex Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.)
Broughton, Sir Alfred Edelman, Maurice Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Brown, Robert C. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne, W.) Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Hunter, Adam
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Edwards, William (Merioneth) Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)
Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury) Ellies, Tom Janner, Greville
Buchan, Norman English, Michael Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Evans, Fred Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Ewing, Harry Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)
Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.) Faulds, Andrew John, Brynmor
Cant, R. B. Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E. Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)
Carmichael, Neil Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.)
Clark, David (Colne Valley) Foot, Michael Jones, Barry (Flint, E.)
Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.) Ford, Ben Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Cohen, Stanley Forrester, John Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W.Ham, S.)
Coleman, Donald Fraser, John (Norwood) Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)
Concannon, J. D. Freeson, Reginald Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.)
Conian, Bernard Galpern, Sir Myer Judd, Frank
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Garrett, W. E. Kaufman, Gerald
Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.) Gilbert, Dr. John Kelley, Richard
Crawshaw, Richard Ginsburg, David (Dewsbury) Kerr, Russell
Cronin, John Golding, John Kinnock, Neil
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Gourlay, Harry Lambie, David
Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Grant, George (Morpeth) Lamborn, Harry
Cunningham, G. (Islington, S.W.) Grant, John D. (Islington, E.) Lamond, James
Latham, Arthur Oakes, Gordon Sillars, James
Lawson, George Ogden, Eric Siiverman, Julius
Leadbitter, Ted O'Halloran, Michael Skinner, Dennis
Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick O'Malley, Brian Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)
Leonard, Dick Oram, Bert Spearing, Nigel
Lestor, Miss Joan Orbach, Maurice Spriggs, Leslie
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Orme, Stanley Stallard, A. W.
Lipton, Marcus Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton) Steel, David
Lomas, Kenneth Padley, Walter Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)
Loughlin Charles Paget, R. T. Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)
Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Palmer, Arthur Stoddart, David (Swindon)
Lyons Edward (Bradford, E.) Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles Strang, Gavin
Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Pardoe, John Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
McBride, Nei[...] Parker, John (Dagenham) Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
McCartney Hugh Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange) Thomas, Rt.Hn.George (Cardiff, W.)
McElhone, Frank Pavltt, Laurie Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
McGuire, Michael Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred Tinn, James
Machin, George Pendry, Tom Torney, Tom
Mackenzie, Gregor Perry, Ernest G. Tuck, Raphael
Mackie, John Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg. Urwin, T. W.
Maclennan, Robert Prescott, John Varley, Eric G
McNamara, J. Kevin Price, William (Rugby) Wainwnght, Edwin
Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Probert, Arthur Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Salnts)
Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Radice, Giles Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Marks, Kenneth Rankin, John Wallace, George
Marquand, David Reed, D. (Sedgefield) Watkins, David
Marsden F. Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.) Weitzman, David
Marshall, Dr. Edmund Rhodes, Geoffrey Wellbeloved, James
Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Richard, Ivor Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Meacher, Michael Roberts, Albert (Normanton) White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Roberts, Rt.Hn.Goronwy(Caernarvon) Whitehead, Phillip
Mendelson, John Robertson, John (Paisley) Whitlock, William
Mikardo, Ian Roderick, Caerwyn E.(Brc'n&R'dnor) Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Millan, Bruce Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees) Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Milne, Edward Roper, John Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen) Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock) Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Molloy, William Rowlands, Ted Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Sondelson, Neville Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne) Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Morris, Charies R. (Openshaw) Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney) Woof, Robert
Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon) Short, Rt.Hn.Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Moyle, Roland Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N.E.) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford) Mr. Joseph Harper and
Murray, Ronald King Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich) Mr. Ernest Armstrong

Question accordingly agreed to.

Main Question, as amended, put:

The House divided: Ayes 285, Noes 261.

Division No. 97.] AYES [7.12 p.m.
Adley, Robert Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Crowder, F. P.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Dalkeith, Earl of
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Bruce-Gardyne, J. Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford)
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Bryan, Sir Paul d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M) d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj. Gen. Jack
Astor, John Buck, Antony Dean, Paul
Atkins, Humphrey Bullus, Sir Eric Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.
Awdry, Daniel Burden, F. A. Digby, Simon Wingfield
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Dixon, Piers
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Campbell, Rt.Hn. G. (Moray & Nairn) Dodds-Parker, Sir Douglas
Balniel, Rt. Hn. Lord Carlisle, Mark Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Drayson, G. B.
Batsford, Brian Cary, Sir Robert Dykes, Hugh
Bell, Ronald Channon, Paul Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay) Chapman, Sydney Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport) Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)
Benyon, W. Chichester-Clark, R. Emery, Peter
Biffen, John Churchill, W. S. Eyre, Reginald
Biggs-Davison, John Clark, William (Surrey, E.) Farr, John
Blaker, Peter Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Fell, Anthony
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Clegg, Walter Fenner, Mrs. Peggy
Boscawen, Hn. Robert Cockeram, Eric Fidler, Michael
Bossom, Sir Clive Cooke, Robert Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead)
Bowden, Andrew Coombs, Derek Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)
Braine, Sir Bernard Cooper, A. E. Fletcher-Cooke, Charles
Bray, Ronald Cormack, Patrick Fookes, Miss Janet
Brewis, John Costain, A. P. Fortescue, Tim
Brinton, Sir Tatton Crouch, David Foster, Sir John
Fowler, Norman Lambton, Lord Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Fox, Marcus Lamont, Norman Ridsdale, Julian
Fraser, Rt.Hn.Hugh(St'fford & Stone) Lane, David Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey
Fry, Peter Langford-Holt, Sir John Roberts, Michael (Cardiff. N.)
Galbraith, Hn. T. G D. Le Marchant, Spencer Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Gardner, Edward Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Gibson-Watt, David Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone) Rost, Peter
Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) Longden, Sir Gilbert Royle Anthony
Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) Loveridge, John Russell, Sir Ronald
Glyn, Dr. Alan Luce, R. N. St. John-Steves, Norman
Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. McAdden, Sir Stephen Spndys, Rt. Hn. D.
Goodhart, Philip MacArthur, lap Scott, Nicholas
Gorst, John McCrindle, R. A Scott-Hopkins, James
Gower, Raymond McLaren, Martin Shaw, Michael (Sc'bgh & Whitby)
Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.) McMaster, Stanley Shersby, Michael
Gray, Hamish Macmillan, Rt.Hn.Maurice(Farnham) Simeons, Charles
Green, Alan McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest) Sinclair, Sir George
Grieve, Percy Maddan Martin Skeet, T. H. H.
Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Madel, David Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)
Grylls, Michael Maginnis, John E. Soref, Harold
Gummer, J. Selwyn Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest Speed, Keith
Gurden, Harold Mather Caro, Spence, John
Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley) Maude Angus Sproat, Iain
Hall John (Wycombe) Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald stainton, Keith
Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Mawby Ray Stanbrook, Ivor
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper,
Hannam, John (Exeter) Meyer, Sir Anthony stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)
Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Stoddart-Scott Col. Sir M.
Harrison Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Mills Peter (Torrington) Stokes, John
Haselhurst Alan Mlscampbell, Norman Stuttaford, Dr. Tom
Hasting, Stephen Mltchell, Lt.-Co,.C.(Aberdeenshire,W) Sutcliffe, John
Havers, Sir Micheal Mitchell, David (Basinstoke) Tapsell, Peter
Hawkings, Paul Moate, Roger Taylor, sir charles (Eastbourne)
Hay, John Molyneaux, James Charles (Eastbourne,
Hayhoe Barney Money, Ernie Taylor, Frank (moss side)
Heseltine, Michael Monks, Mrs. Connie Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.,
Hicks, Robert Monro, Hector Tebbit, Norman
Higgins, Terence L. Montgomery, Fernus Temple, John M.
Hiley, Joseph Montgomery, Fergus Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth,
Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.) More, Jasper Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)
Holland, Philip Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Holt, Miss Mary Morrison, Charles Tilney, John
Hordern, Peter Mudd, David Trafford, Dr. Anthony
Hornby, Richard Nabarro Sir Gerald Trew, Peter
Hornsby-Smith, Rt.Hn.Dame Patricia Neave, Airey Tugendhat, Christopher
Howe, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Nicholls, Sir Harmar Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin
Howell, David (Guildford) Nott, Jonn Vaughan, Dr. Gerard
Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.) Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally Vickers, Dame Joan
Hunt, John Orr, CaPt. L. p. S. Waddington, David
Iremonger, T. L. Owen, ldris (Stockport, N.) Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Pa9e, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby) Walker-Smith Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
James, David Pa9e. John (Harrow, W.) wall, Patrick
Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Parkinson, Cecil Ward, Dame Irene
Jessel, Toby Percival, Ian Wells, John (Maldstone,
Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) pike. Miss Mervyn White, Roger (Gravesend,
Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) pink. R. Bonner Wiggin, Jerry
Jopling, Michael Powell, Rt. Hn J. Enoch Wilkinson, John
Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Price, David (Eastleigh) Wfnterton, Nicholas
Kaberry, Sir Donald Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L. Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine Proudfoot, Wilfred Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Kershaw, Anthony Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis Woodnutt, Mark
Kimball, Marcus Raison, Timothy Worsley, Marcus
King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.
King, Tom (Bridgwater) Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter Younger, Hn. George
Kinsey, J. R. Redmond, Robert
Kirk, Peter Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)
Kitson, Timothy Rees, Peter (Dover) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Knight, Mrs. Jill Rees-Davies, W. R. Mr. Victor Goodhew and
Knox, David Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Mr. Oscar Murton.
Abse, Leo Bishop, E. S. Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Blenkinsop, Arthur Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire. W.)
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis) Boardman, H. (Leigh) Cant, R. B.
Ashley, Jack Booth, Albert Carmichael, Nell
Ashton, Joe Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara
Atkinson, Norman Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland) Clark, David (Colne Valley)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Bradley, Tom Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)
Barnes, Michael Broughton, Sir Alfred Cohen, Stanley
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Brown, Robert C. (N'ctle-u-Tyne, W.) Coleman, Donald
Barnett, Joel (Heywood and Royton) Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Concannon, J. D.
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury) Conlan, Bernard
Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Buchan, Norman Corbet, Mrs. Freda
Bidwell, Sydney Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.)
Crawshaw, Richard Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Parker, John (Dagenham)
Cronin, John Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony John, Brynmor Pavitt, Laurie
Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Cunningham, G. (Islington, S.W.) Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Pendry, Tom
Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whltehaven) Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.) Perry, Ernest G.
Dalyell, Tam Jones, Barry (Flint, E.) Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.
Davidson. Arthur Jones, Dan (Burnley) Prescott, John
Davies, Denzil (Llanelly) Jones, Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn(W.Ham, S.) Price, William (Rugby)
Davies G Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen) Probert, Arthur
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.) Radlce, Giles
Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.) Judd, Frank Rankin, John
Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove) Kaufman Gerald Reed, D. (Sedgefield)
Deakins Eric Kelley, Richard Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)
Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund Kerr, Russell Rhodes, Geoffrey
Dempsey, James Kinnock, Neil Richard, Ivor
Doig Peter Lamborn, Harry Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Dormand J. D Lamborn, Harry Roberts, Rt.Hn.Goronwy(Caernarvon)
Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.) Lamond, James Robertson, John (Paisley)
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Latham, Arthure Roderick, Caerwyn E. (Brc'n&R'dnor)
Driber, Tom Lwason, George Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)
Dnberg Tom Leadbltter, Ted Roper John
Duffy, A. E. P. Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick Ross, Rt. Hn. william (Kilmarnock)
Dunn, James A. Leonard, Dick Rowlands, Ted
Dunnett Jack Lestor, Miss Joan Sandelson, Neville
Eadie, Alex Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Edelman, Maurice Lipton, Marcus Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Lomas, Kenneth Short.Rt.Hn.Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Edwards, William (Merioneth) Loughlin, Charles Short, Mrs. Renee (Whampton.N.E.)
Ellis Tom Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
English, Michael Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Evans, Fred Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Sillars, James
Ewing, Harry McBrlde, Neil Silverman, Julius
Faulds, Andrew McCartney, Hugh Skinner, Dennis
Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E. McElhone, Frank Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) McGuIre, Michael Spearing Nigel
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Machin, George Spriggs, Leslie
Foot, Michael Mackenzie, Gregor Stallard A. W.
Ford, Ben Mackie, John Steel, David
Forrester, John Maclennan, Robert Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)
Fraser, John (Norwood) McNamara, J. Kevin Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)
Freeson, Reginald Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Stoddart, David (Swindon)
Galpern, Sir Myer Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Strang, Gaving
Garret!, W. E. Marks, Kenneth Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Gilbert, Dr. John Marquand, David Summersklll, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Ginsburg, David (Dewsbury) Marsden, F. Thomas.Rt.Hn.George (Cardiff.W.)
Golding, John Marshall, Dr. Edmund Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Gourlay, Harry Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Tinn, James
Grant, George (Morpeth) Meacher, Michael Torney Tom
Grant, John D. (Islington, E.) Melllsh, Rt. Hn. Robert Tuck, Rapheal
Griffiths, Eddie (Brlghtside) Mendelson, John Urwin, T. W.
Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Mikardo, Ian Varley Eric G
Grimond, Rt. Hn. J. Mllian, Bruce Walnwrlght, Edwin
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Milne, Edward Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)
Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, ltchen) Walker Harold (Doncaster)
Hamling, William Molloy, William Wallace George
Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill) Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Watklns, David
Hardy, Peter Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Weitzman, David
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Wellbeloved, James
Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon) Wells William (Walsall N.)
Hattersley, Roy Moyle, Roland White, James (Glasgow, pollok)
Heifer, Eric S. Mulley, Rt. Hn Frederick Whitehead, Phillip
Hilton, W. S. Murray Ronald King Whitlock, William
Hooson, Emlyn Oakos, Gordon Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Horam, John Ogden, Eric Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Houghton, Rt. Hn. Doughlas O' Halloran, Michael Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Howell, Denis (Small Health) O'Malley, Brain Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Huckfield, Leslie
Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Orbach, Maurice Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Hughes, Mark (Durham) Orme, Stanley Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.) Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton) Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Hughes, Roy (Newport) Padley, Walter Woof, Robert
Hunter, Adam Paget, R. T.
Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge Hill) Palmer, Arthur TELLER FOR THE NOES:
Janner, Greville Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles Mr. Joseph Haper and
Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Pardoe, John Mr. Ernest Armstrong.

Question accordingly agreed to.


That this House endorses the determination of Her Majesty's Government to give the highest priority to combating inflation in the European Economic Community's overall interest; and welcomes Her Majesty's Government's initiative in pressing for means of support other than raising end prices in the development of the Common Agricultural Policy.


Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [6th March], That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Question again proposed.

7.22 p.m.

Mr. Clinton Davis (Hackney, Central)

I am sure the House will recall what I was saying 668½ hours ago about some of the things which affect London. I wish to revert to one point I made at the commencement of my speech about Clause 12. I must advise the sponsors of the Bill, through the hon. Member for the Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Tudgendhat) that a number of my hon. Friends have such grave misgivings and anxieties about the clause as it stands that, unless we obtain from him a satisfactory assurance this evening that he will agree so to emasculate the clause that it does not resemble its present shape when it reaches Committee—or, much more preferably, if given an assurance to withdraw the clause altogether in its present form—we must consider dividing against the Bill.

Mr. Christopher Tugendhat (Cities of London and Westminster)

Since the hon. Gentleman has asked me for an assurance, this might be an appropriate time for me to say that my hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea (Mr. Worsley) will be replying on behalf of the sponsors.

Mr. Davis

I am not concerned about the identity of the person who gives the assurance, as long as I receive an assurance. Therefore, I shall look to the hon. Member for Chelsea (Mr. Worsley) later in the debate to answer the point.

Clause 12 confers on the GLC wide powers of arrest without warrant pursuant to byelaws which they can enact under Clause 6. It is true that the ambit of Clause 6 is not particularly wide but it relates to landing places controlled by the GLC and to works carried on at those landing places and to a variety of other things. In my view it is an unconscionable interference with the liberty of the subject for the GLC to seek powers of this kind.

When the hon. Member for the Cities of London and Westminster made a somewhat notable and lengthy intervention in my speech, his argument was based primarily on the precedent of the Thames River Steamboat Act 1904. I have no doubt that all hon. Members are familiar with the provisions of that charter of human rights. I prefer to rely on Magna Carta and habeas corpus, but each Member is entitled to his own choice.

I looked up the curious debate in 1904 on the Thames River Steamboat Act and I discovered that nothing was said—not a word—about the Draconian powers of arrest without warrant which that Act conferred on the then London County Council. It was of interest that during the Second Reading debate John Burns, the then Member for Battersea, said that there had been a vulgar and impudent attempt to influence hon. Members by asking them to lunch and giving them a trip on the river, and parading a half-dozen of these steamboats, with an extra coat of paint, up and down in front of the terrace. It is true that we have had nothing of that kind as a result of our debate today, but I do not regard that as a plausible or worthy precedent on which to base an argument of that kind in relation to this Bill.

The hon. Member for the Cities of London and Westminster then said that he had taken the advice of the Home Office. I find that to be the least attractive of all his arguments. I have not always found the Home Office meticulous about such matters as the liberty of the subject. This is a serious issue. If powers of arrest without warrant are to be given to the Greater London Council in circumstances such as those in envisaged in the Bill, why should not they be given to other local authorities? Why should not private individuals who run building sites, or even landing stages at Clissold Park, seek similar powers against vandalism? It is not a satisfactory argument to say that the GLC would want only a limited power of this kind. The mere fact that the hon. Member for the Cities of London and Westminster went on to say that individuals will have the protection of the police and the courts is not sufficient protection against excessive powers being granted to private persons.

Let us look at some of the subjects on which arrest without warrant can take place. They include: prohibiting the bringing on to or the leaving at or near any council landing place of any explosive or other dangerous material or any thing which may, in the opinion of the council"— that is to say, in the opinion of whatever council official happens to be there on the spot— be injurious to, or prejudicially affect the use of, or cause or be likely to cause danger to any person, council landing place, vessel, work, appliance, equipment, building, facility or service … Knowing the hon. Gentleman's belief in the liberty of the individual, I should be extremely surprised if he is satisfied to assume those powers on behalf of the Greater London Council. I am sorry that, when he intervened last time, he was not able to give a more categorical assurance.

It has to be remembered that the powers of arrest are conferred on ordinary private individuals—officials of the GLC. Some officials of the GLC have a misguided belief that they are constables, but they are not. They do not have the power of constables, apart from that power which this Bill would give them. These powers should not be conferred. Delegated functions are given to members of Securicor. A number of hon. Members—and I see they are in their places this evening-have had something to say in the past about Securicor. It troubles me that these private police forces should constantly be given increasing powers, and not simply under the terms of this Bill.

Mr. Ronald Brown (Shoreditch and Finsbury)

Am I to understand that, under this clause, the words "or servant" could mean anyone whom the council agrees to nominate but who may have nothing to do with the everyday work of the council at all?

Mr. Davis

I think that is right. That is my understanding of the clause, but it is not for me to define a particular clause which we are discussing. That is how I would determine it, and my hon. Friend, by implication, also seems to adopt that interpretation. These Draconian powers are totally without justification. We are entitled to demand an undertaking regarding the withdrawal of the clause. I hope that hon. Members opposite will share this view, as this is not a party point.

We should be vigilant about the liberty of the subject particularly over Private Bills. When we were dealing with a Bill concerning the Isle of Wight a number of hon. Members took great offence to some of the legislation which was then being prescribed. There was then a long debate —or, if I remember correctly, two debates —because of the anxiety expressed. Hon. Members are entitled similarly to express anxiety this evening.

Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg (Hampstead)

I am trying to follow the hon. Member's argument. As I read this clause once any constable, officer or servant has seized the person, if that person can provide a name or address that is accepted, that is the end of it. I am not a lawyer, but if I am correct does this not go some way—I take the point the hon. Gentleman is making, and perhaps the power should not be as wide as is suggested in Clause 12—to mitigating the position? If a person gives a name and address, that would be the end of the matter and the person could not be taken before a justice or to a police station by a constable, officer or servant.

Mr. Davis

I take the hon. Gentleman's point but I cannot agree with his interpretation of the clause. The question of the provision of the name and address is an integral part of the clause. Nevertheless, we should define what is stated in this clause. The clause states: … any constable or any officer or servant may without other warrant than this Act seize and detain any person committing or having committed any offence against any of such byelaws and whose name or residence is unknown to and cannot conveniently be ascertained by such constable, officer or servant and take him to a police station or before a justice of the peace…". and so on. This means that, first of all, there is the question of this seizing and detention, which could go much wider than the ordinary power of arrest which is conferred on ordinary citizens by the common law. I am worried that the GLC are seeking to assume powers which are wider than the common law. It will be for the hon. Member for Chelsea to define the terms which we are considering here.

Mr. Ronald Brown

Does the hon. Member agree that the real burden of the argument should be on the previous clause, Clause 11? It is in the situation which is referred to under that clause that trouble will be caused. If an officer or servant of the council, acting under Clause 11, purports to examine a person's clothing, bags or personal effects, would this not be likely to cause a fracas possibly resulting in the person finding himself in prison, purely as a result of the action of the council's servant?

Mr. Marcus Lipton (Brixton)

Could my hon. Friend also give the House an indication how many officers or servants of the council are likely to be authorised to carry out these serious duties?

Mr. Davis

I cannot reply to that point No doubt the hon. Member for Chelsea will take note of this and answer the point later. I appreciate the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Shore-ditch and Finsbury (Mr. Ronald Brown) about Clause 11. I should have noticed that myself and referred to it specifically. He is absolutely right in what he says. Prior to an arrest, there could be searching. I imagine that many people in my constituency and in my hon. Friend's constituency may not take very kindly to being searched in this way. I will not dwell on this point any further.

I wish to turn to one or two matters which were mentioned last time. I will deal with these briefly before I develop another theme relating to housing management which I think is most important. When this matter was last debated, my hon. Friend the Member for Acton (Mr. Spearing) referred at considerable length to the question of the proposed motorway box. Since then there has been a debate on that issue, which is of grave concern to Londoners as well as being one of the most significant issues in the GLC election.

Another interesting aspect of this argument arises from an article in The Guardian on Monday. I believe the item was also reported in the Sunday Times. The article in The Guardian stated: The London Motorway Action Group last night demanded that Mr. Rippon, Secretary for the Environment, publish the report of his Department into the proposed west cross route of the inner London motorway box. The inspector's report was said yesterday to have rejected the building of the route. The report was said to provide such an impressive argument that Mr. Rippon would have to accept its recommendation. But Mr. Rippon was alleged to be delaying publication of the report and his Department's decision until after the GLC's election on April 12. Rejection of the west cross route would be extremely embarrassing from the Conservative controlled GLC, which has advocated its importance as part of the motorway box. The report goes on to quote Miss Helene Middleweek, director of the London Motorway Action Group, as saying: Mr. Rippon must either publish the report or stand condemned of the most cynical and shabby electoral manoeuvring ". I understand that the report has been in the Minister's hands for some time. This House—and London—are entitled to know whether the allegations in The Guardian article are true or false. We are also entitled to know whether there is any delay in the publication of the report and, if so, for what reason. One must also ask whether there is any question of suppression.

Mr. Reginald Freeson (Willesden, East)

My hon. Friend stated that this report is alleged to have been in the hands of the Minister for some considerable time. Is he aware that it is alleged that the report has been in the Minister's hands since some time last November? That means that it was in the Minister's hands well before the Minister for Transport Industries answered questions on this precise issue in the House last week, when he said that he would be publishing the report "as soon as possible". My hon. Friends will agree, I think, that tonight or some time this week would be a good opportunity for the matter to be cleared up so that the truth can be established on the record about the "cynical and incorrect" behaviour which is being alleged against the Government.

Mr. Davis

"Shabby" was the word used by Miss Middleweek, but "incorrect" may be more appropriate. Certainly, if elections are to mean anything, the people should be informed of the facts. Too many people in this country take a cynical view of our democratic process. Perhaps when situations such as this emerge there may be some justification for that.

There is a great burden upon not only the hon. Member for Chelsea. A much greater burden rests upon the Government, to clarify the situation and to indicate whether there has been any suppression. They should give very good reasons why this publication has been delayed and, in particular, what reason there can be for not publicising it before 12th April.

My hon. Friend the Member for Acton and my hon. Friend the Member for Wandsworth, Central (Mr. Thomas Cox) referred in the previous debate to unemployment and declining industries. I mention this in passing because the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) made a very interesting observation during his speech on 20th March. I gave the hon. Gentleman notice that I should be referring to this. My hon. Friend the Member for Acton intervened in the hon. Gentleman's speech and said, I apologise for intervening but I think the record ought to be put right. In that debate I did not say that jobs should be increased. I advocated that the departure of manufacturing industries should be slowed down so that we might maintain the right balance of employment in London. I should like to get that clear. The hon. Gentleman's response was very interesting. He said, I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, but the consequences are the same. If the number of jobs were allowed to slow down rather than an attempt being made to curb that effect, it would be easier to deal more quickly with the housing shortage in London."—[Official Report, 20th March 1973; Vol. 853, c. 354.] I think that I speak for all my hon. Friends when I say that we repudiate that prescription for a cure for the housing shortage in London. I hope that the people of London will note the hon. Gentleman's prescription.

We then went on to talk about the problem of land hunger in the inner London boroughs. We talked in particular about the attitude displayed by Conservative outer London boroughs which are refusing to co-operate with the stress areas of London to take effective action to provide land for those areas, land that is simply not available in places such as Hackney. My hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Freeson) and I have referred to this matter on a number of occasions in the House. We have referred to the squalid deals that have gone on between the GLC and Bromley, Barnet, Kingston and Richmond. The effects of those deals has been to deny any real possibility, apart from a handful of people being moved into these areas through the transfer system, for inner London not to solve its housing problems but at least to take some reasonable steps to mitigate the hardship that is the daily life of people in areas such as mine.

It is also interesting that the GLC has colluded with the present Government to provide no remedy for the increasing problems of homelessmess which are affecting the stress areas of London. These problems have to be witnessed to be understood. It is not just a matter of talking in statistical terms but a matter of seeing people who are deprived of their accommodation, due often to the wantonness of private landlords who want to do well on the housing market at the expense of their tenants. All sorts of problems arise. It is not simply a problem of the man deprived of his accommodation.

Within the term "homelessness" one is entitled to include about a million Londoners who are living in the most squalid and horrible conditions. The GLC provides no regional housing strategy to deal with this situation. It provides no effective leadership. Fewer than 4,000 houses were built by the GLC in 1972 in a situation which demands that at least 12,000 houses a year be built. The GLC proclaims loudly and proudly that it has sold 15,000 houses in London and has recouped £50 million as a result. But it would take £125 million, plus the cost of the land, in order to replace that housing stock.

Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Ardwick)

Is my hon. Friend saying that the GLC built only 4,000 houses in 1972? I am astonished by that, because my area, with one-sixteenth of the population, also built 4,000 houses—under Labour control.

Mr. Davis

It was less than 4,000. I think it was 3,700. That shows the degree of neglect of those in charge of the GLC housing programme.

Mr. William Hamling (Woolwich West)


Mr. Davis

There is absolutely no understanding of the fact that as a result of this situation about 50,000 people on the transfer list of the GLC find that their hopes of finding other accommodation are constantly diminishing.

Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in recent years the Greater London Council has been able to increase its annual number of lettings from 22,000 to 24,000? Is not it the number of lettings which matters to families who are in need of rehousing?

Mr. Davis

I do not regard that as a very remarkable increase. It is not the number of lettings which matters. It is the amount of new accommodation which is being provided. The hon. Gentleman ought to see some of the lettings being provided in constituencies such as mine and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton), and in many others. The hon. Gentleman has got it wrong again.

I refer specifically to Hackney because I know more about Hackney than I know about other constituencies. But this matter affects the stress areas of inner London generally. In Hackney we are faced with a declining population. There is a racket in house prices. Even the most appalling accommodation is selling nowadays at between £11,000 and £15,000 —even in Hackney. There has been a forecast of a drop in population from 217,000 to 160,000 in the next 10 years. It is forecast that they will be mostly elderly and sick people. The young people are moving out of areas such as this, and there is no balance in the community.

What we have to do, in which we need the help of the GLC—perhaps we shall get it after 12th April with a change of administration—is to get good housing for young couples. We must ensure that more schools and hospitals are built so that we can attract and not reject the young in areas such as mine. It is quite clear that there is a need for more rented accommodation. Whatever one may think about the system of private landlordism in areas such as Hackney, the fact is that private rented accommodation cannot be provided. We need a massive increase in local authority developments, with substantially increased Government aid. We need also a massive extension of municipal action.

On my last important point, one would have hoped that the GLC might have thought it necessary to take additional powers to deal with this matter. It is grotesque maladministration in housing management and an insensitivity to the needs of people, particularly in the older GLC blocks. I noticed, as an example of the insensitivity of GLC management, that the Lambeth Housing Committee alleged that the Greater London Council had set fair rent assessments on average 30 per cent. above Lambeth's fair rent assessment. I notice that my hon. Friend the Member for Brixton indicates assent to the factual nature of that proposition. It is a scandalous state of affairs which certainly requires investigation.

People wait ages for things, even the most simple things, to be done in these old blocks of flats. Months pass before minor repairs are undertaken. Letters take weeks, if not months, to be answered. Indeed, unless the Member of Parliament intervenes or the Greater London councillor has certain problems referred to him, the private citizen is placed in an impossible position. It is no small wonder that people on the Kingsmead Estate in Hackney feel deprived, forgotten and unwanted.

Indeed, in Haggerston, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury, the local authority was asked to call in the public health inspector to deal with neglect by the Greater London Council. That has happened in my constituency. It happened in 1970 in Paragon Road. The GLC had so neglected the affairs of a terrace of 12 houses that a number of summonses were issued and there were a number of court hearings. It is intolerable that one local authority should be obliged to take this kind of action against another.

I am sometimes asked: is the Tory GLC responsible? The trouble is that it is completely irresponsible. A situation which leads to summonses being issued cannot be tolerated in a civilised society. These are not supposed to be Rachman-type landlords; they are local authority scrutineers of what the public needs. This is a function that is sadly being forgotten.

One of the troubles with so many GLC estates is the lack of adequate care-taking. I read a report in a local newspaper that the leader of the tenants association in Hackney had said that GLC tenants are handing over their flats for "key" money and moving out without the council knowing. As rents are paid through a rent office, rather than handed to a rent collector, illegal tenants can use the names of the previous tenants without detection. The association was complaining about the cessation of the resident caretaker system. It said that the mobile caretakers were remiss in their maintenance and cleaning tasks and that the absence of resident caretakers led to vandalism. I am sure that is right and that it is repeated all over London.

So it is an urgent matter, particularly for third-rate accommodation, such as that on the Kingsmead Estate, that adequate caretaking should be provided. This means the recruitment of more caretakers and giving them better conditions of work. They can hardly be attracted with the present conditions. I hope that in that way some degree of comfort can be given to those unfortunate enough to be required to live in this standard of accommodation.

Mr. Ronald Brown

I hope that my hon. Friend will bear in mind the worsening situation that the GLC now accepts as a practical attitude that every ground-floor flat on its estates should have corrugated sheeting over all the windows and doors.

Mr. Davis

I am sure one could go through the whole chronicle of examples. However, I do not propose to do that tonight. Suffice to say that I hope I have given some prima facie evidence that the GLC in this important sphere of housing management needs to do something drastic and needs to do it soon. There is no indication from the Conservative-controlled GLC that it is cognisant of this dramatic and important need.

I believe that the Bill is deficient. It is not worthy of our support. We ought not to give it our support unless the hon. Member for Chelsea provides us with a reasoned understanding.

Mr. Tugendhat

The hon. Gentleman cannot end on that note. He must go one stage further. Will he explain whether he regards only those clauses which are the responsibility of the GLC as being deficient or the clauses which are the responsibility of the boroughs?

Mr. Davis

My attack has been launched primarily, as the hon. Gentleman will be aware, on the Greater London Council. Yes, I think that the Bill is monstrously deficient. None the less, I shall not divide against Second Reading if the hon. Member for Chelsea deals adequately—I know he will try to deal reasonably—with the points that I have raised on Clause 12. However, we want more than a display of forensic ability tonight. We want a real assurance that the effect of this clause will be eliminated. I hope that that assurance will be forthcoming.

7.56 p.m.

Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)

I hope that I speak for my hon. Friends in saying that I had some difficulty in following the tenor and themes of the speech of the hon. Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. Clinton Davis). He began, if I may put it this way without being discourteous, with a kind of—how shall I express it?—barrack-room lawyer's type of expose of some of the more esoteric bits and pieces, mainly in Clause 12 but also in other parts of the Bill. He then went on to make some kind of local constituency speech for the Hackney Gazette, or whatever is the name of the well-known Right-wing journal in that borough. He then made a feeble clarion call expounding, indirectly—which may be the best way of doing it—Labour's cause to be considered on 12th April. It was a very feeble effort. He finished by asking for assurances about some of the legal aspects of the Bill—making points which were as esoteric as those he made at the beginning of his speech.

Be that as it may, in due course there may be a chance to glean enlightenment on some of the mysteries of the hon. Gentleman's speech, so there is no need to dwell on it at length now.

Equally predictably, besides the comments made by the hon. Gentleman we had the traditional obeisance to some kind of electoral speech. After all, the GLC election is now only a week away, and the hon. Member was clearly extremely imbued with his obligations. I suppose that I may take some comfort from the gloomy, lugubrious countenances of his hon. Friends while he was doing it. In what the hon. Gentleman said when he left the legal points there was no magic about Labour's message to Londoners for next week's election. That is understandable. It is easy to see that the Opposition on the Greater London Council are entirely deficient in any attraction to the electorate of Greater London.

I understand the acute difficulties in which the hon. Member for Hackney, Central and his colleagues find themselves. There is little for them to grumble about, in a fundamental sense, after six years of successful Conservative administration in Greater London. We can all think of the things that we would like the next Conservative-controlled GLC administration—after 12th April—to do. We all have our minor criticisms and subsidiary arguments about things that the Conservative-controlled GLC has not had time to do in the last six years. That is understandable. But their attempt to construct anything more fundamental has failed abysmally and dropped like the classic lead balloon not only in this House but outside it in this campaign.

Again that is understandable because one of the evidential facts which the public in London will be weighing up carefully, in an election which may not have some of the strident manifestations of a parliamentary election but which none the less will be a serious and considered campaign for the public, is what has been achieved since 1967. Having previously gone through the glottal stop of three years of abortive Labour administration when nothing happened in London, substantial progress has been made since in all the key areas—

Mr. Freeson

My intervention really relates to the hon. Gentleman's last remark and to an earlier point that he made. Does he describe as a point of unimportant detail a cutback in housing starts annually from about 7,000 a year, rising on a programme to 12,000 a year, to fewer than 4,000 a year? In that connection, does the hon. Gentleman suggest that nothing was done prior to the election of the present administration, when there was twice the programme of house building in London than that operating at present? Is that a detail or an important matter, and ought not whoever is responsible at County Hall to increase drastically the house building programme in London on land which is available?

Mr. Dykes

The length of the hon. Gentleman's intervention was not justified by what he said. It was very predictable. I regard the future of the housing programme in London as one of the key areas, together with transportation and education. But that does not mean that the hon. Gentleman was correct in what he said about the future strategy of London's housing. I may have an opportunity to develop that theme later in my remarks.

We were all intrigued by the description of the hon. Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. Ronald Brown) of how the boarding up of windows was characteristic of the present Greater London Council's policy. That is typical of the tone of remarks which we expect from Opposition Members in debates of this kind.

In this debate we have to consider not only the important aspects of the Bill and the fact that it is a technical measure with a number of valid legal points to be made, but that it is a mechanistic and functional piece of legislation which is essential to the existence of the Greater London Council and its relationships with the boroughs in certain specialist areas. But that does not gainsay the real success of the contribution made by the Conservative administration in making Greater London as a whole—the most important capital city in the world—a city which I believe will improve in the long term if the present administration is allowed to continue in office.

I pay tribute to the achievements of the present Conservative administration of the Greater London Council. It has achieved a relationship with the boroughs on housing which in the long term can only lead to a successful housing programme. It is in the early stages, and I agree that there is still a great deal of inadequate housing. But that is above all a local responsibility. The present housing conditions will be solved only by those who are at the centre points in their localities.

Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite insist on saying what a terrible state some GLC flats and estates are in, as if this was a unique state of affairs. They only have to visit Socialist-controlled boroughs like Islington to see the grotesque conditions in which a Socialist local authority maintains its housing. I know, because Islington is where I reside, so that in that sense I have an interest in the borough. It is but one example, and there are plenty of others.

Mr. Ronald Brown

To which housing estate is the hon. Gentleman referring?

Mr. Dykes

I move on from housing to consider other areas of responsibility of the GLC. Right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House are extremely preoccupied with the future of transportation and traffic movement in London. Under its Conservative administrators the GLC has made an imaginative start. It has got things moving to improve traffic flows and to balance the legitimate role of the private motor car, none the less saying that the private car and the heavy lorry especially will have to be balanced sensibly in the future with public transport. Again the development of policies of this kind will mean that we shall have a city of which we can be proud.

Those are the realities of next week's contest, which will be an important choice. Even if, as often happens in local elections, the number of people who turn out to vote next week is modest in terms of nationwide elections, it will be a vitally important choice for those who vote and for those who say that they are making a certain decision by not voting. Whatever our party views, we all hope that there will be a wide expression of opinion.

The next four years in Greater London —not three this time—are critical. It is in that sense that we have to ensure that this Bill and the powers that it accords the GLC on a continuing basis are adequate, and I say that not only in a non-political way because I believe that the political choices are vital in support of a Conservative administration which has already made a successful start in running London.

8.9 p.m.

Mr. William Hamling (Woolwich, West)

I do not propose to pursue the vague generalisations and repeated congratulations to County Hall which we heard from the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes). I am sure that most town planners recognise that the GLC has failed signally to overcome some of London's basic problems.

I return to the Bill and the Under-Secretary's speech. I noted that the hon. Gentleman, whom we all like and who comes from Birmingham, was wise to stick very closely to his script.

We last discussed the Greater London Council and its Bill without knowledge of the recently published report on the docks. Since then we have all seen that report, and in this debate it is well worth considering some of the fundamental and long-term planning problems of London and discussing some of the considerations which ought to apply.

One of the questions which I should like to put to the promoters of the Bill and to the Government concerns the future that they see for development in the dockland areas, especially what they see as being the chief agents of development in those areas. Do they envisage that development as being largely in the hands of publicly-elected local authorities, such as the GLC, or private developers who are hungry for profits?

For how long are these plans expected to be discussed? For how long will decisions about the character of the development be delayed? While opinions are being canvassed and discussions proceed, and while private plans multiply, the sale of land continues, partial redevelopment continues, and dereliction persists.

I live in South-East London and I travel through the docks area of the South Bank regularly, day after day. I have lived in that area for a long time. There is no doubt that there is a great deal of dereliction in the area, and that there is great scope for redevelopment. My hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Cray-ford (Mr. Wellbeloved) knows that very well. That is particularly the situation on the South Bank, which is the bank that I and my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford know.

There are great opportunities. With vision, South-East London could be rebuilt in such a way as to permit people not only to work and provide industry, but to live with dignity. My hon. Friend the Member for Southwark (Mr. Lamborn) knows that, too. It is astonishing that the history of the last 25 years is one of failure to achieve any real plan for the redevelopment of London. I hope that the plans for the dock area of London will not suffer the same fate as the plans—or at least the vision—that we had way back at the end of the last war for the future of London. That hope applies particularly to those who live and have to endure the prevailing conditions in inner London.

It is important to consider the opportunity that we have been given for the development of the river, the river banks and the dock areas, and to ensure that the plans which are made are good and comprehensive—plans which will improve the quality of life of the people who live in the area now and who will live there in future.

Hon. Members who live in and represent South-East London constituencies have received representations about the use of hydrofoils and hovercraft on the river. Those representations have been made by river users who are faced with the conditions brought about by the increase in the use of hydrofoils and hovercraft, and especially by members of rowing clubs. I am a member of a rowing club in Greenwich—the Curlew—and members of my club and other rowing clubs down the river are concerned about this development.

What steps are the promoters of the Bill taking to ensure that people— including young people and children— using the river for pleasure can continue to use it with safety? What is the effect on river banks, piers and landing places of the increasing use of fast-moving craft? The banks and piers were not designed for them.

It is nearly 30 years since we first talked of a plan for London. Against the background of the Layfield Report we can think in general terms. Those of us who are social historians will remember the picture of London in William Booth's time. It was a picture of unemployment and great poverty, particularly in East and South-East London. Many people thought that William Booth's London was gone for ever, together with the black spots which he talked about in parts of the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. Ronald Brown), parts of the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Southwark and parts of my borough.

When I consider the reduction of available jobs which has already taken place in London I wonder whether the Government, or at least the GLC, have not been deliberately reducing the population in order to fit a situation which provides fewer jobs. I see that my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. Clinton Davis) has retired from the Chamber, no doubt exhausted by his speech. He suggested that that has been the GLC's policy.

Mr. Ronald Brown

Not only are we losing jobs in our part of London; the tailoring and garments industry is going back to the sweat shops. Only recently a deputation of workers was complaining bitterly—my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) and I were present—that those who have a job in that industry in the area of London to which my hon. Friend refers have to operate in pokey little holes, and that the GLC have done nothing to prevent that situation developing.

Mr. Hamling

That reminds me of the work not only of William Booth but of Beatrice Webb, Edith Hogg, and so on.

I am reminded of the fur-pullers of London, the tailoring trade and other trades. These are real and important questions that I hope not only the promoters of the Bill but the people of London will be concerned about.

Mr. Jessel

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not mind if I redirect what he is saying about William Booth and Beatrice Webb to the second half of the twentieth century. Is he aware that all through the 1950s and early 1960s the London County Council, which was continually under Labour control in that period, systematically made it part of its policy to persuade industry to move out of London, with the avowed objective of relieving the housing shortage?

Mr. Hamling

I am well aware of the history. I do not want a penny lecture from the hon. Gentleman. I have lived in the borough of Greenwich, and I have consistently put forward over the last 20 years the view that I am now putting forward. I have been consistent, despite what may have been done by those who have governed in County Hall. I hope that the House will not be diverted from a consideration of the real problems of the people of London by petty party considerations. I have never allowed myself to be diverted by such considerations.

If the hon. Gentleman looks at my history and my record, particularly that on motorways and on unemployment in Greenwich, I hope that he will get away from the petty party point of view. I am putting forward important considerations for the people of London. Over the years I have seen the loss of 20,000 or 30,000 jobs—

Mr. James Wellbeloved (Erith and Crayford)

More than that.

Mr. Hamling

Yes, more than that. I am not thinking of neighbouring boroughs but particularly about my own borough. It is something we have been raising year in and year out. We have now persuaded the London Labour Party of the magnitude of the whole question. It concerns thousands of men and women, particularly those who live in inner London and in the constituencies that my hon. Friends and I have the honour to represent. Our constituents are not worried about petty, partisan issues. They are worried about the real issues of jobs, housing and rents. They are the issues with which we should be concerned in the debate. So far, I have not made a political attack on anyone. I am concerned about the considerations the House should have in mind when it thinks about the future of London.

Many of the people who have lost jobs in our part of the world find employment elsewhere, but only at the expense of travelling great distances to work—not just up to town but across London to places like Croydon, Carshalton and Beckenham, and even across the river.

Mr. Lipton

North-West London.

Mr. Hamling

Yes, indeed. Some of my constituents who live in the part of London in which I live—Abbey Wood— are getting up at 4 or 5 o'clock in the morning to go to work and not returning home until 10 o'clock at night.

The changing pattern of employment in London is a matter of concern to the GLC as well as to the Government. The pattern of public transport in London has not been built up on travel across London in various directions. It has been built up rather like a spiders' web. That is why so many of us have been concerned about developing a new ring route for railways, to try to persuade people to use public transport by making it easier for them to do so. There is a need for the GLC to have further powers to improve public transport, especially the railways. The railway authorities are well aware of that. Are the people who rule London aware of its importance?

There is a new concept, of travelling across London and not simply to the centre. People in my part of the world are concerned that there should be opportunities for employment for skilled workers, and that we should not become simply an area for service industries. Those are important considerations against the background of the Bill.

I hope that from the debate will come a general view of how London should look in a generation or so—the population distribution, a positive picture of industry and commerce, and a positive view on the future of the Port of London. Certainly for those who live in riverside areas like Greenwich, Deptford, South-wark, Poplar or Limehouse, it seems that the Port of London has little or no future. Looking at the state of the Roya Group today and comparing it with what it looked like 20 or 30 years ago, we realise that there has been a vast change.

We have talked about replanning river banks. In doing so there is a great need to remove the industrial slums and to provide new industries to cut down travel. I know that in the past both major parties in the House have tended to take the view that we need to think of job opportunities in parts of the country other than the South-East. I spoke earlier of Charles Booth's London. I have often said that there is no guarantee that we shall not return to the situation that then existed, unless we have an increase of employment opportunities in London and the South-East.

Is there a general picture of the development of housing and the location of schools? When we talked about the London Plan 25 or 30 years ago we had that sort of thing in mind. I remember the London school plan, and I know that my hon. Friends the Members for South-wark (Mr. Lamborn) and Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. Ronald Brown) remember it well. What has happened to it? What has happened to the overall picture of social capital in London? Is it to be swallowed up? Is it to disappear beneath the burden of the private development which is going on piecemeal even now?

The great obstacle to the creation of a reasonable life and the development of a coherent plan for London is the inflated value of land. That inflated value can provide for private development and office development, but will it provide for the development of housing for the ordinary person, or for the young couple who cannot afford to pay much more than £10,000 for a house which is modest enough in all conscience?

We know from experience in other parts of the country what great disparities there are in the value of land and the price of houses. In London today the value of land is rising at such a pace that I forecast that in 10 years' time it will be impossible to carry on any projects at all for council housing—either GLC or borough council. Already there are in my borough council flats of which the rent is £16 per week. That is in Thamesmead, which my hon. Friend knows well. It is something about which he is always complaining. What is it to be like in 10 years' time if land values go on rising at the present rate? There must be some answer from this House and from the GLC to the problem of the homeless people of London. A moment ago people were bandying figures about. All I can say is that in a borough like Southwark there are 8,000 on the housing list.

Mr. Ronald Brown

There are 8,000 families.

Mr. Hamling

Yes, 8,000 families. How many are there in Tower Hamlets, Shoreditch, Finsbury and Hackney?— thousands upon thousands. They cannot afford £16 a week. They cannot afford the inflated rents we already see. We have private development going on piecemeal on the river front, with town houses at Wapping at £27,000. There are plans for private development all along the river. There must be some stop to this, because increasing land values will defeat any comprehensive plans we may have for the future of London.

I want to speak briefly on something referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Wandsworth, Central (Mr. Thomas Cox) some time ago, The London Properly Letter, a publication sent to businessmen interested in making fortunes, or a lot of money, out of development. To quote from the Letter: Since the Tories returned to power house prices have boomed as never before, giving dealers a rising market to profit from. What's more, loans for once are readily forthcoming "— that, I think, is now a little out of date. Office development restrictions have been shot away. … Landlords have started to cash in on the new bedsitter boom. Converting properties of every type to flats for sale has become a big business. The Government is exceedingly generous with improvement grants, which makes this operation very profitable. We know what is happening with regard to the improvement of housing in my hon. Friend's constituency of Brixton. People on low incomes are having to get out of the borough, and to get out of Lambeth and Islington, because they cannot afford these inflated prices. I understand it is called the "gentry-fication" of London. That is what is happening now and if ordinary people cannot live in London, the ordinary people who are expected to do the jobs in London boroughs, looking after hospitals on the meagre wages they have, to run London Transport and do all the other jobs, where are they to live? Not in £16, £25 or £30 per week flats. Pick up any copy of the Evening Standard or the Evening News and look at the advertisements. Is that the future of London that the Government or the GLC contemplate? It is not one which we on these benches contemplate and it is about time we had a real look at some of these London problems of housing and redevelopment.

I want to refer very briefly to transport. In my borough of Greenwich we are very concerned with the transport aspects of the GLC Development Plan, particularly the motorway complex. This has been going on for a very long time and we have not had any real answer to many of the questions that we would like to put. We on these benches have said repeatedly there is a need for London to look at transport as a whole, at the importance of transport and the need for a great deal of capital to be sunk into public transport. The whole of south east London is becoming a vast lorry park. If lorries are excluded from central London all that will happen is that they will concentrate at Shoreditch, Southwark, Rotherhithe and Lambeth. There must be a halt to this development.

There must be tremendous improvements quickly in public transport. In The Cut there is double parking every day of the week except Sundays. One finds double parking there at any time and the police are quite powerless to stop it. The main link road in London, down Tower Bridge Road, goes through a street market. There is parking throughout its length every day of the week. Yellow lines and double yellow lines are useless. That is the kind of picture we have of the part of London we represent. It is one that we do not accept and are not prepared to tolerate for much longer. Yet we are to face even greater invasions by road traffic through the building of a complex of motorways. I wish to refer briefly to the Dover radial road. One of the troubles about building motorways partially is that gaps are left. I am thinking particularly of the three-mile stretch of the Dover radial road from Falconwood onwards that goes through the middle of my constituency. A motorway brings the traffic, the motorway stops and what happens to that traffic? It stands still in the Rochester Way. All I ask the Government is to finish that three-mile stretch and then leave us alone. Take the M20 somewhere else. Take the Ringway away. Four motorways have been driven through the heart of my constituency and we are not prepared to accept any more. I hope that the Government will bear that in mind. Let them tell us what they propose to do with the rest. I hope that we shall have an answer to these important questions soon.

8.37 p.m.

Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)

I was interested in the remarks of the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) about the River Thames. Like him, I represent a Thames-side constituency, although I believe that there is a considerably longer length of river bank in mine. It is longer than that in any other constituency in Greater London. I share his views about the way these river bank areas have been affected. It is necessary to maintain an attractive environment for the whole length of the river in London so that people can enjoy the surroundings in which they live and not have the view ruined by too many large blocks.

I wish to reply to the hon. Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. Davis) and the hon. Member for Woolwich, West about a point they raised on which the hon. Member for Hackney, Central criticised me personally. That dealt with the matter of employment in London and referred to something I said in a previous debate. I do not withdraw one word of what I said then. I fully appreciate the concern of the Labour Members— it is shared equally by Conservative Members—concerning the housing and employment problems in London generally. I would suggest that Labour hon. Members who are perturbed about these matters do not always face up intellectually to the interaction between housing and employment problems. Any attempt artificially to boost employment in the Greater London area whether it is to increase employment or to arrest a decline in employment, will inevitably make worse the housing shortage. I believe that Labour Members should face up to that position. London, like other capital cities, is a magnet for people looking for jobs. Perhaps all capital cities have their Dick Whittingtons who want to come to the capital to seek their fortunes, and there is no sign of that not being the case today. People are moving into London to look for better jobs, and they come not only from the provinces but from Ireland and even overseas.

The population of Greater London has fallen from about 8 million a generation ago to just over 7 million now. The Greater London Council has had misgivings about whether such a fall in population was to be welcomed but the Layfield Panel in its report, which was published a few weeks ago, said categorically that these misgivings were unfounded and that there was nothing to fear in the population of London falling to 5½ million or 6 million by the end of the century. The Layfield Panel saw no reason to worry about this and I see no reason artificially to boost employment in London. There is already virtually a state of full employment. The hon. Member for Woolwich, West referred to bus drivers. I was told recently by London Transport, to whom I complained about bus services in my constituency, that it had the utmost difficulty in finding enough bus drivers, certainly in West London, where the economy is affected by the boom at Heathrow Airport. There is full employment. The number of people looking for jobs is far outweighed by the number of vacancies.

The hon. Member for Hackney, Central and the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Spearing) argued at an earlier stage in the debate that the decline in the number of manufacturing jobs was to be regretted. I think the hon. Member for Acton said that the number had fallen by 170,000 from a total of 1,400,000 between 1966 and 1970—a fall of about 12 or 13 per cent. That is not something to be regretted. It is a situation which is to be expected for two reasons.

Mr. Hamling

Thousands of jobs have been lost in South-East London. Workers such as tool makers possess skills which are needed by this nation. If these people become hospital porters, go into service industries and have to travel from Woolwich or Charlton 15 or 20 miles to work which does not demand that skill, is that not an indication that something is wrong?

Mr. Jessel

Of course there is something wrong in a situation in which people cannot use the skills they have acquired, but we are living in an age in which the tendency has been for industry to move out of London. As the population of London has dropped from about 8 million to about 7 million, so people have "jumped across" the Green Belt to towns 30 or 40 miles from the city centre—to towns such as Maidstone, Guildford, Reading and St. Albans. These towns have seen a great increase in population. Many people are much happier and more comfortable living out there than they were in the congested conditions of London. That movement of population is one reason why the number of jobs in London has fallen.

The other reason is the growth in the demand for services. As the economy of the country has grown over the last generation, people have been spending a larger proportion of their growing real income on services and a smaller proportion upon goods. As their real incomes increase more and more people are requiring the services of banks, insurance companies, building societies, restaurants, women's hairdressers and so on. Their expenditure on manufactured goods is concentrated on items for which productivity has increased and it is therefore no longer necessary to have such a large proportion of people employed in manufacturing compared with service industries. There is nothing intrinsically bad or evil about that. There is a demand for services and people are being employed in order to provide those services. Meanwhile productivity in manufacturing industries is increasing with a declining work force. The Layfield Panel saw nothing to worry about in this and I cannot understand why hon. Members opposite seem to deplore it so much.

Another accusation made by the hon. Member for Hackney, Central was that the Richmond Borough Council, which covers the area of my constituency, had taken part in what he described as a squalid deal. He named it as one of four London boroughs which had done so in connection with GLC housing. He is not in the Chamber at present but I should like him to know that the Richmond Borough Council has recently doubled the number of nominations which it accepts from the GLC to 100 a year.

This may not sound a very large number but I would remind hon. Members that Richmond is one of 20 outer London boroughs. It has a population of two-thirds of the average borough so that if every outer London borough adopted a similar policy there would be an additional 3,000 nominations per year available to the Greater London Council. That is a substantial number.

It is the very number mentioned by an hon. Member opposite when he said that production of houses by the GLC had fallen from 7,000 a year to 4,000 a year. He did not mention that this drop in production last year was entirely due to a prolonged building strike. Everyone knows, if he bothers to inquire into it, that this strike had an adverse effect on production. Despite this the GLC has managed to increase its total number of new lettings from 22,000 a year to 24,000 a year. This is a considerable increase and one which should be strongly commended.

8.47 p.m.

Mr. Marcus Lipton (Brixton)

The opportunities that we have in this House for discussing the problems of London are few and far between. This is despite the fact that the population of London is almost equal to the combined populations of Scotland and Wales. We all know how much time is allocated to Scottish and Welsh problems—far in excess of what is allowed to the Metropolis.

The Greater London Council has become one of the most bureaucratic and inefficient institutions in this country, if not in the world. Let me quote one simple example. I wonder how many of my hon. Friends have been faced with this problem. An old couple whose children have grown up, married and moved away, want to move from their three-bedroom flat into a one-bedroom flat. The amount of work imposed upon an hon. Member trying to effect this one transfer is quite inconceivable.

The GLC has produced a new kind of creature. I can only compare them with primeval mastodons floundering around in vast seas of paper, unable to know what is going on outside the confines of County Hall. They make plans which they are unable to carry out. Then they find themselves having to bring in outside managment consultants and all kind of other outside bodies, costing thousands of pounds, to tell them how to run their organisation.

On the question of simply transferring a tenancy from one council tenant to another, the machine has completely broken down and it is almost impossible to do this. If I were given the power, I could effect all the transfers I want to arrange without consulting County Hall just by going into one street and telling a tenant that there is somebody in the next street who has more accommodation than he needs and they can swap. But heaven help anybody who tries to organise that through the official channels of County Hall. It just cannot be done.

I want to refer also to the kind of mania which now besets the planners of County Hall in favour of motorways. So far as the Borough of Lambeth is concerned, many thousands of houses are to be demolished or adversely affected by the construction of Ringway One. It is a very curious thing that the Government have finally decided on the construction of Ringway One, which goes through some of the poorest areas of London, and have abandoned Ringways Two and Three, which go through Conservative areas. I wonder whether that is accident or part of a carefully designed plan. I do not know. All I know is that many thousands of people are living in suspense because they do not know what will happen to their homes in the next few years. Any attempt to get precise information from anybody as to exactly where Ringway One is to be constructed is fruitless. It is impossible to get any definite information.

I can see that it is necessary to have ringways round London, but the traffic problem of London could probably be better dealt with if the Greater London Council adhered to its original idea of having Ringway Two or Ringway Three.

On top of all that, the Greater London Council now has a hair-brained idea, a £1 million scheme to widen Brixton Hill into a six-lane highway. Just imagine what will happen in that £1 million scheme if the Greater London Council ever gets it off the ground. On one side of Brixton Hill, governed by an ancient Act called the Rush Common Act, we have houses with large gardens, which cannot be built upon. The original idea of the council was to have a woodland walk through this Rush Common land on the east side of Brixton Hill. This would have provided a very pleasant woodland walk for the benefit of people living in an area which is very short of open space. What does the Greater London Council do? It produces a plan for a six-lane highway which will kill any possibility of having what would have been a charming woodland walk along the length of Brixton Hill.

Most hon. Members know that Brixton Hill starts somewhere near Streatham and slopes down towards Brixton itself. The traffic already proceeds down the hill, at a very unreasonable speed. Imagine what will happen when all those six lanes of traffic eventually converge in the heart of Brixton, which cannot be widened. There will be a kind of whirlpool of traffic, which will make life quite impossible for shoppers or anyone else who has any legitimate business to carry out in that neighbourhood.

The Greater London Council has a good plan to deal with the juggernauts. It intends to ban large lorries within central London.

Mr. Deakins

Will my hon. Friend tell us, before he leaves the point about the £1 million and the six-lane motorway, whether the people of Brixton could not use that £1 million more beneficially in rather different ways?

Mr. Lipton

Yes. With 14,000 people on the Lambeth Council housing waiting list, there are many other uses to which £1 million could be put.

The G.L.C. has not worked out what will be the effect of banning large lorries from central London, but the effect will be that the adjoining areas will be inundated with lorries and there will be a substantial increase in heavy traffic at the northern end of the London Borough of Lambeth.

Lambeth Borough Council is concerned about the proposal because it has not been able to obtain from the GLC detailed information about the traffic study upon which the proposal to ban juggernauts from central London is based, nor is there any indication that the effect of the ban on surrounding areas has been considered. That is a further example of how the GLC operates under its present management. It tries to deal with a small section of the problem without regard to the consequences in the immediate vicinity.

Reference has been made to the GLC's housing record. In the London boroughs the result has been disastrous. A long time ago the GLC decided to transfer a large part of its housing accommodation to the London boroughs. For several years before that transfer was effected the GLC deliberately ran down its repairs programme for those old GLC estates. As a result the London boroughs were suddenly landed with a lot of semi-slum property which it became their duty to put right.

Reference has also been made to the curious way in which the GLC under its present management has arrived at provisional fair rent assessments. The rent levels proposed by the GLC are outrageous. Officers of the Lambeth Borough Council were asked to take a random sample of these GLC so-called fair rents. I will take one instance from my own constituency of an old block of GLC flats which is now called Renton Close. The GLC gave it a fashionable name so that people would forget that it used to be known as Briscoe Buildings. A four-roomed flat at Renton Close is supposed to bear a rental of £315 per annum—more than £6 a week—compared with a similar property owned by the Lambeth Borough Council which would bear a rent of £231. There is a difference of almost £100 a year in the rents of those two properties. For a three-roomed flat in Renton Close the GLC assessment is £5.94 a week, whereas the Lambeth assessment for a similar property would be £4.03—a difference of £1.91 a week. There is something radically wrong with the way in which the GLC is calculating its so-called fair rents.

Reference has been made to the contribution that could be made by outer London boroughs towards a solution of the housing problem in the inner London boroughs. Let me quote one example. Lambeth happens to own some land in Croydon. When Lambeth proposed to build houses on that land, the Croydon Borough Council objected. An appeal is pending and the Ministry will decide in due course to what use that land should be put. That is merely an example of the difficulties that face an inner London borough owning land in an outer London borough where the Conservative-controlled outer London borough objects to the building of houses for working-class people.

From every point of view the record of the GLC during the past few years has been most reprehensible. Several hon. Members have reminded us of the GLC elections on 12th April. Had they not done so, I would not have mentioned the matter. The hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) made what could be regarded as a good party political speech on behalf of the Conservative Party relating to the Greater London Council. As he has mentioned the GLC elections on 12th April, I take the opportunity to express the hope that the people of London will make sure that after 12th April the GLC will be under different management.

It is very unfortunate we have not had a fuller attendance at the debate tonight. It is also very unfortunate that much of what has been said in the course of the debate will receive no mention in most of tomorrow morning's newspapers. But the people of London know what is going on, and they will know what to do on 12th April.

9.2 p.m.

Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg (Hampstead)

The last occasion on which we listened to the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) he put a ball through his own goal by talking about building in the green belt, and the embarrassment he caused his Chief Whip had to be seen to be believed. He has done it again tonight.

Taking first his rent comparisons, before I accepted his figures I would want to know, as I am sure he, too, would if he gave some more thought to the matter, the exact square footage of each of these properties. I would like to know their precise location in relation to each other and the age of each property. All these factors have to be weighed up. Each of us could make a comparison between two things where in fact no true relationship existed.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned motorways and I am glad that he did. To draw off traffic from the residential areas and make them quieter and safer Labour is planning a motorway box round inner London and work is already going on to build sections of the east and west sides of it. These new roads are essential to the well being of us all. That is a quotation from the Labour Party's GLC election campaign on 13th April 1967.

Listening tonight to what has been said about motorways by some hon. Members, one would never have thought that the whole concept of motorways was spawned by the Opposition when they controlled County Hall. I have always opposed the concept, but let it not be forgotten that they started it. Because there are cheap votes in it, they are now trying to say, "We've changed our minds", but I do not propose to let them get away with that one.

Mr. Lipton

Is not the hon. Gentleman pleased that the Labour Party in London now agrees with him?

Mr. Finsberg

I am delighted when sinners repent. However, I do not have to believe in the sincerity of these particular sinners in their repentance.

I should like to return to the North Cross route which is a part of the possible addition to Ringway 1. I was anxious to find out the facts and I tabled a Question on this subject which was answered today. I am glad that the GLC has now made it clear that it is not discussing the North Cross route until Ringway I has been in operation. The council intends to let off on long leases properties which it already owns on the line of the North Cross route. I hope that that information will give the lie once and for all to those who say that, irrespective of need, the GLC intends to build the North Cross route. If the council intended to do so, it would not be letting its own properties on long leases on the route.

I come to the remarks made by the hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) who had the temerity to intervene in this debate. If he had understood anything about London he would not have tried to compare the figure of 4,000 GLC dwellings with many more which he said Manchester had built, because even the slightest intelligence would have told him that there are 32 other housing authorities in Greater London all engaged in building operations. I warned the hon. Gentleman that I intended to comment on his speech. The hon. Gentleman's own authority should be careful when it next presents a private Bill in this House. It must expect interventions which it does not like and can blame its Member of Parliament for starting it.

I return to the realities which most hon. Members who have taken part in this debate have had in mind. The hon. Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. Clinton Davis) talked about poor housing in London and I do not think anybody would disagree with him on that point. It is an inheritance in which we all have a share. It is not right continually to harp on the fact that it is the GLC that must bear all the responsibility. It was no use hon. Members laughing when my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) said that 13 weeks of the best building weather was lost last year throughout the country because of the building strike. That argument was a very fair one and it should not be jeered at.

We must not forget that for 30 years or more the housing destinies of inner London were in the control of the Labour-controlled London County Council. Labour left a legacy with which they could not cope. I am not saying that it was possible for Labour to have coped with the problem, but I am saying that there is no purpose in trying to say that all the responsibility lies with the present GLC. One cannot solve that sort of problem in a decade.

Both the hon. Member for Brixton and the hon. Member for Hackney, Central criticised the management of GLC housing estates, and I join with them in that criticism. The management of the GLC housing estates is appalling, as was the management of the Labour-controlled Labour County Council and the management of the GLC when it was under Labour. The bodies involved have been too large. Equally, the management of the Tory-controlled Camden when I was its leader and also Labour-controlled Camden has been bad. None of these bodies seems able to understand how to deal with its tenants.

My criticism on this score goes right across the board. No local authority has yet found the secret of how to deal promptly with the management problem and tenants' complaints. This perhaps is criticism of local government in general. With respect to the hon. Member for Brixton, who thinks that he can solve the problem, I should like to hazard a guess that many of his hon. Friends who have had more experience of local government than he has will join me in telling him that the solution is not as easy as that. With the best will in the world, it is not easy. It is not merely a case of saying to Mrs. Bloggs, "You are a widow now. You do not want three rooms. I will find you a one-room flat". Nor can one say to Mr. Buggins in another street, "You have a one-room flat and would like three rooms, so we can arrange a swap." The situation may be entirely different. Mr. Buggins' one room may be on the fourth floor with no lift. The problem cannot be solved as easily as that. We are deceiving people if we accept the argument put forward by the hon. Member for Brixton.

There is no purpose in confining criticism, in the way in which the hon. Members for Brixton and Hackney, Central did and putting the blame for bad management of housing on the Tory GLC. If both these hon. Members were fair and said that they were blaming the Greater London Council, whether Labour- or Tory-controlled, they would carry more credence, because the tenants know it. I speak as someone who served three years as a co-opted member on the Greater London Council Housing Committee some years ago. I was shocked at the lack of communication between that body and the tenant. This was not the fault of the councillors. The trouble was that the machine was so vast. It is run by officials and no-one, irrespective of party, has been able to get a grip on these officials.

The hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) made a 35-minute speech which I enjoyed. I found it thought-provoking and I was not bored for a moment. What he said about dockland was fascinating. As another true Londoner I hope to see something coming to that area which will be a credit to London, but I do not think the solution for dockland is a programme which is either all municipal or all private. It has to be a mixture, with industry, commerce and housing of all kinds developed together to make it a living community. I made this comment during a debate on a London problem shortly before Christmas.

There is only one matter with which I disagree slightly with the hon. Member. I am sorry that he is not present, since I think that he would have admitted to having been slightly misleading, when he spoke of council rents in the area in which he lives being between £16 and £25 a week. The hon. Member would, I am sure, wish to be reasonable and would admit that these may be the rents which are assessed by local authorities but they are not necessarily the rents which tenants have to pay. Rent rebates and the needs allowances have to be taken into account, after which the figures are very different. We can all quote rental figures fixed by local authorities but one has to work out the actual rent which the tenant pays.

This is a fascinating Bill. It runs to 24 printed pages, and I have looked at them all carefully. The hon. Member for Hackney, Central raised a very fair and valid point relating to Clause 12 and to the series of powers in Clauses 3-18. I wish to hear what my hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea (Mr. Worsley) will say on the matter raised by the hon. Member for Hackney, Central regarding the power to arrest without warrant. This seems somewhat unusual, but there may be a good answer, and I would like to hear it. Clauses 19 and 20 deal with flood defence. Clause 21 deals with allowances to members of the Greater London Council.

The rest of the Bill has been promoted at the behest of the boroughs. I would like to see the face of Alderman Lou Sherman, chairman of the London Boroughs Association, if his friends in the House do not allow the Bill to pass. I can evisage the faces of hon. Members of the Opposition. How embarrassed they would be if the Bill containing legislation required by the Labour-controlled London Boroughs Association were not allowed through because of the annual fun-making exercise at the expense of the Greater London Council because it is Tory controlled. If I were in a different mood, I might be tempted to say, "Go ahead and defeat it." Many hon. Members of the Opposition would be taken to task by their management committees for doing that. They would find themselves in very hot water.

There is possibly only one hon. Member who should be acquitted of this charge. That is the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved). He always criticises the General Powers Bill or the Money Bill, but he always confines himself strictly to Thamesmead and a particular problem, so far as I have heard him on more than one occasion. He does this irrespective of which party controls the GLC.

Mr. James Wellbeloved (Erith and Crayford)

One of the reasons why it is so vital to have the opportunity of debating the Greater London Council (General Powers) Bill is that both sides of the House refuse to allow proper parliamentary time for debates about London. Therefore, it is a duty, which will not be criticised by our constituents, that we seize all the opportunities which present themselves to ensure that the activities and welfare of the people of this great metropolis get at least some examination in the House.

Mr. Finsbcrg

That is a view which I warmly endorse. I have supported it in the past, as the hon. Gentleman knows.

I think that there are more non-Scottish and non-Welsh hon. Members than there are Scottish and Welsh hon. Members. Therefore, it ought not to be impossible, bearing in mind the fact that most of them have to live in London for three or four nights a week, to ensure that on both sides of the House there is a ration of time to discuss London properly. We should not have to deal with it on a General Powers Bill or a money Bill. On this issue there is no division between us.

None the less, it is unfortunate, perhaps, that because of the timetable we have to debate the Bill a month or so before the GLC election and the London borough elections. The real purpose behind the debates is often obscured by some of the arguments I read when the debate started some 660 hours ago, before it was interrupted. It would be much better if we could find an alternative way of dealing with the matter. But we are stuck with it until enough pressure can be exerted.

The Bill contains many pet schemes which the London boroughs want. They want to improve the consumer advisory and protection service. Reference has not been made to Clause 34, but, very interestingly, they want to establish a development fund. This is, as it were, an extension of the old idea of a capital fund to be applied for different purposes. I like this idea. It is a good idea. I am certain that the London boroughs want this, as they want to protect users of self-service laundries and as they want to have further control of food premises and stalls.

This has been a useful opportunity of debating London problems, but it could be that in the excess of zeal of hon. Members of the Opposition to discuss the Bill they may lose the Bill. They would be the people who would be in hot water, and not those of us on the Government side of the House.

9.19 p.m.

Mr. Harry Lamborn (Southwark)

I start by taking up two of the points mentioned by the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg). I mention particularly his reference to motorways in London and the suggestion that the Labour Party at County Hall, in changing its mind from its position in 1967, was taking an unprecedented decision. I take my stand as one who was a member in 1967. In the light of developments, it was necessary to have a reappraisal of the needs for motorways.

I find it surprising that hon. Gentlemen opposite should object to anybody reconsidering the situation, seeing that the present Government have reconsidered practically every policy on which they based their programme at the General Election and reversed it.

My view in 1967 was—it still is—that of Ringway 1, 2 and 3 the least acceptable is Ringway 1—the proposed motorway box. I have heard talk of Ringway 3, or part of Ringway 2, destroying the amenities of the outer London boroughs. I know that over the last 20 years South-wark's amenities have been destroyed by traffic which should never have been permitted to go through the centre of the capital, winding its way through side turnings which now lead to major roundabouts. Many quiet residential roads have lost all amenity value. If there is a case for a motorway system in London it is for a motorway which will divert that traffic before it finds its way through the centre of our city.

I cannot see any justification for proceeding with Ringway 1. The motorway box should have been the last alternative. If we were committed to ringways, we should first have considered the possibilities of Ringsways 3 and 2, to see if they could avoid the tremendous destruction of the inner area which will take place with the construction of the motorway box. The inner area has already had many of its amenities destroyed.

I should like to take up the remarks of the hon. Member for Hampstead on the question of housing. Having served on the Labour-controlled London County Council and the present Greater London Council, I cannot agree that there is no difference in the administration. Over the past six years at County Hall we have witnessed a disgraceful reduction in maintenance standards on GLC estates. The older types of estates, which should have been gutted and refurbished ages ago, have been allowed to run down at a faster rate because the GLC, under Conservative control, has deliberately cut the maintenance standards on its estates, and has failed to provide transfer opportunities for people living on these estates.

The caretaking and portering services are vital, and have always been maintained with a resident staff—at least, under the former London County Council and for the first three years under the Greater London Council. A great deal of deterioration has taken place not because of any deficiencies in the people who are employed in caretaking services but because they merely pay fleeting visits to estates. The damage from vandalism which has occurred as a result has certainly meant a tremendous deterioration in housing standards on GLC estates.

A former Conservative chairman of the Greater London Council boasted of his aim to relieve the council of housing responsibilities. A situation has now been created in which most tenants want to get out of GLC-controlled housing.

The hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) referred to the progress which had been made at County Hall since 1967. When I look at parts of my area for which the Greater London Council has had a special responsibility, I wonder what the hon. Gentleman means by "progress". If I look, for example, at the area between Blackfriars Bridge and London Bridge—which, unlike other areas in the borough, is not under the control of the Southwark council but which, because it is a comprehensive development area, is under the planning control of the Greater London Council—I see an area which, since the middle 1950s has been ready for redevelopment and which, as a result of the leases which have fallen in, has been over-ripe for redevelopment during the past six years. If the Greater London Council cannot get on with its task under the comprehensive development plan to see that this vital area of London's riverside is refurbished it is time responsibility was passed back to Southwark, which is the planning authority.

Another area in which the hon. Member for Harrow, East may consider that there has been progress but which I consider to have reached an alarming state of affairs is the area designated for open space in North Camberwell. It was designated to provide 130 acres in the middle of 1950. Progress has been piecemeal, with a few houses being demolished and a little green area created. At the same time, all round the area the Southwark council has built three massive housing estates—the Heygate estate, the Ayles-bury estate and the North Peckham estate. The area in the centre of those three housing developments has become derelict. It requires some initiative and drive at County Hall to remedy the situation, and I was astounded to note the GLC's recent statement that it would take 30 years before the open space provision was fulfilled. It is a deplorable state of affairs, not only because the surrounding area needs an open space but because of the rundown of the housing in it. If it had been an ordinary clearance area, that housing would have been dealt with in the way in which the area all round it was—because the housing was all of the same vintage. Merely because it is designated as open space under the control of the GLC, instead of coming within the purview of the Southwark Council the area will continue with derelict housing in it and with people having to live in it for the next 30 years.

I want now to refer to those clauses which deal with piers and landing stages. I share with my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) concern about the use to which these piers and landing stages will be put. I have in mind especially the proposals to provide hovercraft and hydrofoil services, in the first place between Greenwich and Central London and ultimately between Erith and central London. I know that users of the river, especially sailing clubs and rowing clubs, feel considerable concern about the proposals, having seen the experiments which took place last year with the hydrofoil and the hovercraft. Their fear is that if a regular service is established hazards will be created which will considerably prejudice the existing usage of the river, quite apart from the amenities and the environment.

There is great concern among many river users, and I trust that if we agree to the control of the piers passing to the GLC, the GLC will have discussions with river users to satisfy itself and the yachtsmen and rowing men that the hydrofoil and hovercraft services can be operated without prejudice to those using the river.

It is most important that we should take the opportunity which we have for opening up the river amenities and encourage far greater use of the river in future. I hope that we can be certain that the introduction of hovercraft and hydrofoil services on a regular commercial basis will not destroy the river amenities for other users.

9.31 p.m.

Mr. Eric Deakins (Walthamstow, West)

I shall confine my remarks to the topics which most interest those who live and work in London—namely, homes, transport and jobs. It is useful to have this opportunity to examine some of these problems in perhaps greater detail than we normally have time to do during Question Time.

Housing is and will remain, at least until the end of the century, the biggest social problem facing London and Londoners. Unfortunately on this important subject the GLC appears to be contracting out of its responsibilities to the people of London. Admittedly the 32 London boroughs have responsibilities themselves, but unless there is an overall authority—and the only elected authority covering the whole of London is the GLC—which can work with the London boroughs and get them to co-operate with each other, we shall never begin to tackle the very serious problems of homelessness and bad homes in London.

The Borough Council of Waltham Forest has a waiting list of 6,500 people. It is unlikely that many of those people will be rehoused this century. That is not because the borough council is unwilling to help them but because there is a severe shortage of land. That problem is not confined to the inner London boroughs because Waltham Forest is one of the stress areas in the outer London boroughs.

The GLC could help if it wanted to do so not only by building more homes but by bringing the borough councils together and insisting that the outer London boroughs which have land which could be developed should make that land available for the London boroughs with large housing waiting lists. That would be a speedy way in which the London housing problem could be tackled.

The problem of homelessness in Greater London is increasing. At the moment that is basically a problem for the London boroughs to tackle separately. As the recent Shelter report showed graphically and conclusively, many homeless people are being shoved from one local authority to another. The GLC could help by taking upon itself the responsibility of ensuring that the London boroughs do not evade their responsibilities for homeless-ness.

We have an organisation called the London Housing Group. That was set up by the Government. That group, by and large, is merely a window dressing exercise. It is not having very much effect on making more land available for housing homeless people and those families on waiting lists.

I turn to the problem of transport. The emphasis in the debate has been on motorways, but there is another side to transport in London that affects far more people than are likely to be affected by motorways. I refer to the problem of public transport. We have the absurd situation that there are two authorities for public transport in London—the London Transport Executive, controlled by the GLC. and British Rail.

The liaison between the two is pretty awful. For example, in North London there are two lines, the North London line and the Barking-Kentish Town line. The lines are subsidised and are under threat of closure because not many people use them. They could serve a useful purpose if their services were more widely known to the people of North London, but because they come under British Rail their existence is not made known to the people of London on all the maps showing the underground system, for example. If we had a co-ordinated transport authority under the GLC, whatever its political complexion, we should be able to make much greater use of the railway lines, linking them with the underground system at various points.

But public transport will never pay in a large conurbation such as London. It will always need some form of public subsidy. We think, certainly on the Labour side, that the GLC should adopt that policy towards London Transport, but it is reluctant to do so. I do not go as far as to say at this stage that we should go all out for a free public transport system. But I think that ultimately it will be the only way to achieve a rational transport system in Greater London as between private and public transport, though we have not got there yet.

At least we could improve the quality and level of the services of public transport by spending a little more money on them. I refer particularly to bus routes. Some of the services are very poor during the rush hour, and constituents of mine and, I am sure, of many other hon. Members on both sides, are extremely inconvenienced by them. But our constituents do not want to go to the lengths of using their cars or buying cars, because that adds to the congestion on the roads.

Mr. Ronald Brown

My hon. Friend will agree that the GLC's edict to the London Transport Executive that it had to make a £2 million operating profit each year made it inevitable that bus routes in his area would be cut.

Mr. Deakins

I entirely agree. I hope that after 12th April we shall have a new GLC committed to the principle that public transport cannot always be run at a profit, and that the first priority must be to improve the quality of the service and get passengers back on to it. Everything follows from that.

My third point concerns jobs, a matter in which the GLC does not have direct responsibility. It is very much a matter for the Government. Many of us on both sides of the House have shown in recent months our increasing concern about the decline of manufacturing employment in the Greater London area—North, South, East and West. The decline over the past 10 years is well documented. We have lost several hundred thousands of jobs.

It is all very well for the Government to say that we are still the biggest manufacturing centre in the country. We cannot go on with the declining trend ofmanufacturing employment. The creation of new jobs in the regions should not be at the expense of jobs in London. They should be genuinely additional new jobs, because London needs a balanced employment situation.

It is horrifying to look forward perhaps 10 or 20 years to a time when manufacturing industry in London will have shrunk to such an extent that the bulk of our people will be employed in offices, hotels, or warehouses—the service industries. We have the skills in London. We have many skilled people and in many cases are not making good use of them. That is a drain on the national economy. Therefore, the GLC, preferably under new management, should take a much firmer line in London on the loss of jobs and take its responsibilities in this respect more seriously. If it does not have appropriate powers it should come forward at some point in the near future with another Bill which would give it powers—which I am sure it needs—to improve the job situation in London.

That is why I hope we are to get a change on 12th April—for three very good reasons. We need a GLC which will take seriously the problem of providing houses, will take seriously the problem of providing better transport and will take seriously the absurd and dreadful decline in manufacturing employment in Greater London.

9.41 p.m.

Mr. Marcus Worsley (Chelsea)

As my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Christopher Tugendhat) has said, I have been asked to say a few words on behalf of the promoters of the Bill. It is difficult to know quite what words to say, since we have covered so much ground. I take up the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg) who talked of the form of the debate. I, like many others, hope—I am not saying this in any way as a spokesman; it is my own personal view —that we will have an annual London debate. The device of using this Bill is profoundly unsatisfactory. We do not get good debates in this way. Hon. Mem- bers on both sides of the House should tell the Government, "We will stop using the GLC (General Powers) Bill"—and I suppose the money Bill would have to come in, too—"in exchange for a debate in Government time." We can reasonably ask for this as a completely non-party affair, and I hope we will do so.

The hon. Member for Erith and Cray-ford (Mr. Wellbeloved) did not speak in the debate, but he intervened to good effect. He asked about proposals for the barrier and for flood defences. The design work is proceeding according to programme. It is hoped to invite tenders for certain works on the barrier in June of this year, and the contractors will start work in February 1974, which I think is good progress. The council believes that its existing powers are adequate. The interim defences upstream of the barrier are complete. Of those downstream, tenders for one mile of river were met last October, and tenders for the remaining 13½ miles of river will go ahead soon and should be finished before the barrier is built. I hope it will be felt that those are very satisfactory replies.

The hon. Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Freeson) asked why the GLC was not included in the proposals for a development fund. The proposal for development funds for boroughs was widely welcomed by both sides of the House. The answer is very simple. The GLC believes it has the financial resources which individual boroughs have not to carry out the kind of activities which would be carried out by boroughs under a development fund. The GLC simply does not feel that it needs additional powers, because of its very much greater financial resources. The hon. Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. Clinton Davis) raised the matter of Clause 12 and asked me for a display of forensic ability.

Mr. Clinton Davis

I wanted the hon. Gentleman to enter into a self-denying ordinance in that regard, and not to display his forensic ability but to give me an assurance.

Mr. Worsley

I am delighted to hear that, because the hon. Gentleman would not get a display of forensic ability from me. I have taken advice and, rather than attempt to follow him in the details of what he said—he is a solicitor and I am not a lawyer of any kind—I tell him that the promoters accept that issues of human rights are overriding. They give the undertaking that they will re-examine Clause 12 in the light of criticisms made in the debate and will take further advice in the matter in order to consider whether the principles of English justice require any amendment to the clause. Should that prove to be the case they will move the necessary amendment in Committee. They cannot commit themselves to making any particular change or, indeed, any change at this stage, since that would obviously prejudice the re-examination. I hope that that meets the wishes of the House in that matter.

Mr. Clinton Davis

I am bound to say that I am disappointed in that reply, because the promoters have had since 6th March, when I first raised this point, to consider the matter, and to take advice. Evidently they have not taken it sufficiently seriously to do so. I am not happy with that assurance because it can mean everything and nothing. I asked the hon. Member to reconsider his undertaking to withdraw the clause altogether.

Mr. Worsley

The hon. Member asked me in his speech earlier either to emasculate or to withdraw the clause. I cannot give him that assurance. I do not think it is reasonable to ask me to do so. He is not the only hon. Member who expressed doubt about the clause. I believe that I have made a reasonable statement that the matter will be looked at carefully. These matters are complicated and the hon. Member, being a solicitor, knows that better than I. For me to make a wider statement would be extremely unwise. I hope he will accept what I have said in the spirit in which it is meant and I hope that the House will do so, too.

The hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) made an interesting speech and, like some of the most effective partisan speeches, it was totally non-partisan. He spoke principally about the docks. I am not as familiar with the dockland area but I was impressed by what he said. He will know that some months ago the Department of the Environment and the Greater London Council jointly sponsored a study into the docks. That has now been published and those two bodies, and the five London boroughs involved in the area, wish to promote a public debate into the matter.

For instance a free pamphlet will be issued describing the suggestions and the ideas that have been produced by the study. An information office will be set up in each of the London boroughs concerned. The intention is that rather than the GLC, the Government or both issuing a diktat about what should be done to meet the tremendous opportunity which the hon. Member rightly described, there should be a free-ranging and wide public debate based on the ideas put forward. That is exactly the right way to approach the issue and I support the view of those who believe that there is an opportunity here which has not been vouched safe to us in London since, perhaps, the Great Fire.

The hon. Members who talked about the problems of the river were quite right. The barrier will enable us to use the river as it should be used. I never tire of telling people that a fish has been caught off Chelsea, because when this happens there must be hope for the Thames. [Interruption.] It was not that big.

Mr. Hamling

A red herring?

Mr. Worsley

I suspect that it was a coarse fish. The point is that the river is London's greatest wasted asset and we must learn to use it better.

The hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Lamborn) asked whether the GLC would consult before using its new powers. The answer is "Yes." My only criticism of the remarks of the hon. Member for Woolwich, West was that he succeeded —and I thought that was an achievement—in talking about the level of rents without mentioning rent allowances or rebates. If the hon. Member had been considering the matter in a totally non-partisan way, as he claimed he was, he would have given the Government credit for the fact that in so many of these stress areas, where the problem affects privately-rented houses, the Government's rent allowances are proving enormously helpful. I merely add that little gloss to the hon. Member's speech.

The hon. Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Deakins) referred to three principal themes—employment, transport and housing. I do not want to say anything about employment, which is wide of the Bill. It is a problem which goes far wider than the area of responsibility of the GLC, but in taking that view I do not mean to imply that it is unimportant.

The hon. Member for Woolwich, West referred to the length of journeys to work, which is a relevant point. I consider the point as a central London Member, and one of my great desires is to ensure that people can continue to live and work in central London. This relates to service industries, but it is important both from the point of view of transport and the quality of life that people should be able to live in central London. The rent allowance system has done more to help in that direction than any other Government action in recent years.

Mr. Handing

Does the hon. Member not realise that the rent increases that have taken place and are contemplated far outweigh any benefit which might be derived from rent allowances?

Mr. Worsley

My simple answer to the hon. Member is "No". I leave it at that.

On transport, I made it clear in the debate we had that I was pro-GLC. I underline once more that the GLC believes in the vital necessity of improved public transport in London. There is no dispute about that. At present it is spending three times as much on public transport as on roads. That illustrates its order of priorities. It is giving substantial grants—matched by the Department of the Environment—to public transport. It is not true to say that the GLC does not put transport at the top of its priorities. There are signs of an improvement following from its policy.

The hon. Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. Ronald Brown) spoke a lot about the GLC selling off council housing. He appeared to think that by selling houses it has somehow failed to help solve the housing problem. We could argue all night whether or not council houses should be sold. The hon. Member believes that the council house element in a community should be considerably increased. We believe that a large part of it should move back into private ownership. We have public opinion on our side in that respect. The hon. Member must realise that the GLC sells houses only to GLC tenants, to borough tenants or to people whom they have a statutory duty to rehouse. These are people displaced as a result of road or school developments. Irrespective of whether the individual is buying his own house there is no housing loss for the GLC or any borough.

Mr. Hamling

Does the hon. Gentleman not accept that the GLC, in so far as it is selling houses and not flats, is considerably reducing the stock of houses it has to let, as against flats?

Mr. Worsley

I do not believe that to be true. Given the facts about the people to whom these houses are going, it follows that as they move out of present accommodation into other accommodation the initial accommodation is then available. The hon. Gentleman will be happy to know that his constituent has been offered a house.

Many hon. Members have tried to build up a great bogy about the GLC being unwilling to build in the outer boroughs. The hon. Member for Hackney, Central even said that a dirty deal—he did not use that phrase—had been done at Kingston. He said that it had been agreed that there should be no GLC building in exchange for 1 per cent. nominations. I make it clear that there is no deal with Kingston. There have been discussions but there is no agreement and there is no question of the GLC agreeing to nominations at anything like so low a figure.

In Hillingdon, under successive parties, the GLC nomination has been 25 per cent., and that has worked extremely well. Bromley has been mentioned. It was said that no GLC building was going on there. Tenders are in for 230 dwellings, with 250 more to follow. The Bromley council has promised 1,000 nominations over five years. It is important that these facts should be known, to show that the GLC is co-operating with the outer London boroughs in solving London's housing problem. Unless there is that co-operation there can be no solution.

When the Opposition scratches around like this for arguments they are showing just how arid they can be. I hope that the Bill will have the support of the House. It is promoted not only by the GLC but by the London boroughs With a few exceptions there has been little real disagreement about the details.

Mr. Tugendhat rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

Question put accordingly and agreed to.

Bill read a Second time, and committed.


As amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.

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