§ Motion made, and Question proposed, that this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Humphrey Atkins.]
§ 3.7 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. William Whitelaw)
The debate this afternoon is about the three-day week. What I hope to do first is to say a few words about the effects of that and what is happening, and then follow that, as the House will expect, by explaining what is being done and what we are seeking to do to remove the reasons for it, namely, the industrial disputes in the country.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister yesterday set out again the facts about coal stocks at power stations and the consequent necessity for the Government to introduce the three-day week and other measures to conserve electricity supplies. I need only repeat that this was the only reason for introducing these measures. It had nothing to do with putting pressure on anyone, nothing to do with confrontation, and certainly nothing to do with a deliberate attempt to cut people's living standards, and that is the end of the story.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
It is too early to give way. Very well, then. The right hon. Gentleman has gone far enough on this course already. He can have another go.
§ Mr. Benn
If the right hon. Gentleman asks the House to believe that these were 179 the reasons, why was there no consultation with the management and unions after the announcement was made and before it came into effect? Why have the Government issued a ban on the publication of all figures by public authorities directly responsible to this House?
§ Mr. Whitelaw
We have had those hares. They have all run round the course. [Interruption.] The answers to these questions have been given constantly. Indeed, a good many Opposition Members who are now shouting know perfectly well that what I have said before is the fact. They know it, and they do not need to shout any more.
I now wish to turn to some of the effects of the three-day week. No one can be under any illusion about the serious effect which the introduction of the three-day week and the associated measures is having on employment, on workers' earnings and on the finances of many companies. Equally, of course—despite the great ingenuity which is always characteristic of our people in time of crisis—there will be the immediate effect on output, particularly of manufactured products, as well as components and essential supplies. Eventually this affects us all, through the effect on the national economy, but the immediate effect bears more on some than on others.
Allowing for those who are exempted from the restrictions and those who, despite the restrictions, will be able to continue to work a five- or six-day week, though perhaps with shorter hours, we reckon that around a third of all employees are in jobs which could be restricted to three-day working. But many of these are still working four or five days—for example, where firms have their own electricity supplies or can undertake maintenance on non-electricity days.
The number currently registering with my Department's local offices as temporarily stopped is close to a million each day—that in itself is a most disturbing figure—and the number registering for one or more days in the course of the week would be about twice as many ; that is, nearly 2 million people. Many are not registering, because they are covered by guaranteed week arrangements 180 agreed with their employer. These arrangements vary considerably. Some at least will apply for only a limited period, and the number registering for benefit with my Department is therefore likely to rise the longer it is necessary to continue the restrictions on working. The effects on output will also become still more serious through increasing disruption of supplies of components and other materials.
The House and the country will rightly ask what is being done to resolve the disputes which give rise to such damage and hardship. This is a question with which I shall now deal.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
I have just started my speech, and many other hon. Members wish to speak in the debate. However, if the hon. Gentleman's question is short I shall, of course, do my best to answer it.
§ Mr. Heffer
The right hon. Gentleman knows that if workers are allocated the first three days of the week they do not receive benefit for the last three days because Saturday is not normally a working day. This is a matter of great importance and it has been raised by both workers and management. Are we to have an answer from the Government on this very important question?
§ Mr. Whitelaw
What the hon. Gentleman has said is certainly a fact. I cannot give an answer to that point today, although I recognise that it is very important.
When I last reported to the House on 19th December there were three disputes threatening energy supplies. Since then the Electrical Power Engineers' Association has lifted its ban on out-of-hours working. This is welcome, and will have two beneficial consequences. It will enable fuller use of nuclear power stations, with some consequent saving of coal, and it will now be possible to give limited protection to some essential services if actual cuts in electricity supply become necessary. Equally importantly, it demonstrates once again that it is perfectly possible for groups of workers to reach reasonable settlements within the flexible provisions of stage 3. As the House was 181 told yesterday, settlements covering millions of people have already been made.
I now turn to the serious and unresolved disputes in the mines and on the railways. As the House will know, yesterday I met the full Executive Committee of the National Union of Mine-workers, before the executive's meeting today, in order to make the Government's position absolutely clear, so that there was no possibility of any misunderstanding, and to hear how the executive now sees the situation. I believe I should report in detail to the House about this meeting. I told the National Union of Mineworkers' executive that I would do so and that I would be factual. I hope the House will listen to what I am about to say. I also hope that it will be seen that I have honoured the undertaking which I gave to the National Union of Mineworkers.
For my part, I told the executive quite categorically, as I have told the House, that the electricity restrictions and the three-day week were not directed at the miners or introduced as a means of putting pressure on anyone. I assured them that the Government were not seeking a confrontation with the miners. This had never been the Government's position, and it certainly was not in the Government's mind. I pointed out the manifest advantages to the miners of the £44 million offer available to them under stage 3. This would give substantially more to the miners than most others could get under the policy and that millions of others were in fact already settling for. The flexibility built into the policy afforded the miners a relative advantage which clearly recognised their claim for special consideration. It would restore their relative position post-Wilberforce, and this time, unlike 1972, they could be assured, through maintenance of the policy, that this position would not be rapidly eroded by the advancement of many other claims.
I also repeated the suggestion put forward by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister when he, too, had met the full executive committee on 28th November. This was that if the National Union of Mineworkers was prepared to accept the settlement available to it under stage 3, the Government would be ready, immediately after normal coal supplies were resumed, to discuss with both sides of the 182 industry the future of the coal industry, the manpower requirements and so the pay arrangements appropriate to a modernised industry in the longer term.
The members of the executive then put to me their points of view, and many of them spoke. They urged that the greater importance of coal for the economy in the changed world energy situation required that mining should be recognised as a special case. They saw this as necessary to retain and attract the men required to develop the industry. They referred to problems of pay structure, pensions and the particular health hazards of the industry. As they saw it, what was needed was an immediate improvement in basic rates beyond the limits of stage 3 to the extent, in the view of a number of them, of conceding the full National Union of Mineworkers' claim.
In reply to questions put to me, I explained that, while interpretation of the code was a matter for the Pay Board, the Government saw no room in stage 3 for any improvement in substance in the offer already available to the miners. I said that I nevertheless believed that stage 3 offered them the possibility of a very reasonable settlement—and, indeed, generous in relation to others—and that the existence of the counter-inflation policy gave them the only effective assurance I could see that their relative advantage would be preserved.
I assured them, further, that the discussions of the longer term which the Government were offering could certainly include the problems of pay structure, pensions and, indeed whether the Government should make any further contribution to compensate for the health hazards in the industry. In conclusion, I asked them to consider very seriously what I had put to them, and they undertook to do so at their executive meeting today.
As the House knows, at its meeting this morning the executive decided that the overtime ban should continue. I deeply regret this decision, which means that the three-day week, with all its hardship and damaging effect on the economy, will have to continue.
I now turn to the railway dispute before coming to the suggestion made by the TUC at NEDC yesterday.
§ Mr. John Morris (Aberavon)
If the Secretary of State made the position absolutely clear to the miners yesterday and if the Chancellor rejected the TUC's proposals, what is the purpose of tonight's meeting?
§ Mr. Whitelaw
I am coming on to this point. Perhaps this proves that I should not have given way to the right hon. Gentleman, because I was about to come to the suggestion which the TUC made at the NEDC yesterday and about which there has already been an exchange in the House.
I turn now to the railway dispute. Since 12th December ASLEF has been taking industrial action which is causing considerable hardship to the travelling public, particularly to London commuters, many of whose services are totally disrupted. The action also poses a continuing threat to freight services, including the movement of coal and oil.
ASLEF has made clear that its action is not directed against the counter-inflation policy. It arises from complex negotiations between British Rail and the three railway unions on the restructuring of pay arrangements for the railway industry as a whole. It has always been accepted that any agreement reached would need to be notified to the Pay Board for approval.
The position is that both the NUR and the TSSA are working normally and are continuing to negotiate with British Rail within the industry's agreed procedure on the outstanding features of the restructuring proposals concerning their members. I understand that they are close to agreement.
ASLEF, on the other hand, has taken industrial action in pursuit of its own objectives, despite the fact that the agreed negotiation procedure has not been exhausted. In particular, that procedure provides for arbitration under an independent chairman on any issue which cannot be resolved before industrial action is taken. ASLEF only recently agreed to the appointment of a new chairman, who clearly must be acceptable to it. But attempts from a number of quarters to persuade ASLEF to end its action and either refer the outstanding issues to arbitration or resume negotiations 184 with the other unions have all so far been unsuccessful.
British Rail has had to recognise the difficulty of negotiating with ASLEF alone, which represents only one out of every 10 of its employees, whilst industrial action continues and the other railway unions continue to negotiate within the procedure on the very same issue.
Given this position I still believe it is right that ASLEF should be urged to cease its action and return to put its case either in resumed negotiations or within the arbitration procedure available to it.
The board of British Rail decided earlier this week to send home for the remainder of the shift any driver who refused to carry out reasonable instructions. Any driver so disciplined would have the right of appeal and would be free to report for work again at the beginning of his next shift. This is the board's decision, and the Government have not sought to influence it in any way. I do not believe, however, that such action which began this morning can be held to be provocative or amount to confrontation.
It appears that there are some drivers who have not driven a train, on one pretence or another, since the action began four weeks ago, but who have continued to draw their full basic wage of £33 each week. I do not think anyone could be surprised that management found it intolerable to continue with the situation of that sort. It is, of course, too early to assess the full effects of this development.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
No. I have given way twice. Many hon. Members wish to speak. I have some important things to say and I shall not give way.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
I can only repeat what you, Mr. Speaker, have said about a great many hon. Members wishing to address this House. I notice that the Leader of the Opposition took this view in his speech yesterday. It is therefore right that I should take the same point today and give as many hon. Members as possible the opportunity of speaking in the debate.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Unless the right hon. Gentleman gives way the hon. Member must not remain standing.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. It really will save time if the hon. Gentleman is allowed to put his point in silence.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
I really believe that I am acting in the interests of the House in trying to continue with my speech. If the hon. Gentleman has a particular point that he wishes to put to me, I am available to hear it from him in the House, but not during this debate.
There are those who argue that the cost of these disputes and the consequent disruption to industry and commerce——
§ Mr. Whitelaw
—is so great, in both economic and social terms, that it would be better to settle them at any price. That is a view which the Government—indeed, any Government—cannot possibly share.
The cost is very great, as we all recognise. But what is the price of settlement? It is not just the cost of meeting all the demands of one particular group which decides to press its case by industrial action, even if one were sure exactly what that final bill might be. In such circumstances would other groups be prepared, as so many have up till now, to accept settlements at the reasonable levels represented by stage 3? Or is the price of settling one dispute the acceptance by the whole of the community of the terrible economic and social costs of wage inflation which is out of hand?
At the meeting of the National Economic Development Council yesterday the TUC representatives put forward a suggestion in this respect. They said that if the Government are prepared to give an assurance that they will make possible a settlement between the miners and the National Coal Board other unions will not use that as an argument in negotiations for their own settlements. Earlier my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that the Government have given careful and immediate consideration to this statement, and he has invited the TUC to discuss it with him this evening. Our aim will be to discover whether the TUC suggestion offers any prospect of effective help in resolving the present problem.
Let us be clear, however, about the very real and substantial difficulties in the TUC approach which I pointed out to the House on 19th December and which, for once—as I have been quoted by the Leader of the Opposition—I should like to read. I do not normally like reading my own words, but I shall read these—[Interruption.] If it is out of order, I shall not quote myself. However, perhaps I may be allowed to quote something that I said that I consider to be extremely important:If the present arrangements were to be further changed—because of the new energy situation and current shortages—to the miners' advantage, even more than under the current policies, let us be perfectly clear that other trade union leaders would have to underwrite that position. They would have to accept substantially less for their members. They would have to declare that they would accept 187 leaving the miners as a special case compared to their own members, thereby making sure that the miners' relative position in the wage scale was effectively maintained. They would have to make it clear that in negotiations they would not seek to follow the miners' lead. We are all aware of the difficulties which would face any trade union leader in giving an assurance of that sort."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th December 1973 ; Vol. 866, c. 1366.]That, if I may say so, was exactly what I said then and it was exactly the burden of what my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer said yesterday—[Interruption.] I am coming to some of the questions which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister very properly put forward in the exchanges earlier today and which have to be asked and considered in discussions. I do not think that anyone can doubt that.
The community—the miners included—cannot afford a solution which adds to inflation and which risks an acceleration of inflationary wage demands across the board. As I have told the House before, we must never forget that we protect the interests of many people who have no organisations to speak for them and who suffer particularly from the effects of serious wage inflation.
Stage 3 of the counter-inflation policy was designed to be and is fair to the community as a whole, and I profoundly believe that it offers already a thoroughly fair and reasonable settlement to the miners.
In considering the TUC proposals, therefore, it is necessary to ask not merely whether it would afford a means of settling the present dispute but whether, in doing so, it would also secure the maintenance of an effective counter-inflation policy. If one group is treated as a special case, can other union leaders undertake not to press their claims for their members outside the limits of stage 3, and can the TUC secure the support and consent of its member unions to act in this way? Without an effective counter-inflation policy we should, on the clear evidence of 1972, be back on the road to rapid and uncontrolled wage and cost inflation, which would undoubtedly claim as one of its inevitable victims the real advantages which are available to miners under stage 3.
These are very real and difficult questions, which have to be considered 188 and answered in discussion, but I must repeat that my colleagues and I hold strongly to the view that stage 3 as it stands today provides a fair and flexible counter-inflation policy and must be upheld. This is not the same as saying that there can never be special cases. But what constitutes a special case ought not to be decided by sheer trials of strength. That would be a mediaeval conception of justice. What is needed is a procedure for considering such claims objectively.
The Government recognised this as long ago as last March when they asked the Pay Board not only to advise on the treatment of anomalies arising from the standstill but thereafter to report on other problems of pay relativities which may arise both within and between groups of employees.
I now expect to receive the Pay Board's report on this wider problem towards the end of this month. It has taken a little longer than expected because the board received a great volume of evidence from various quarters about many different types of pay relativity problems. The chairman of the board has already made clear that the report will not deal with specific cases. The evidence put to the board will serve rather to help in trying to establish principles by which relativity problems can be handled.
As Sir Frank Figgures has also made plain, this is an enormous subject, and the board can do no more initially than suggest ways in which, as a society, we can begin to tackle some of the problems which are fundamental to any pay policy. I confirm that these earlier intimations of the likely nature of the report that the Government will be producing remain correct. The report will therefore go right to the heart of the problems of pay determination which we have been discussing with the CBI and the TUC over the past 18 months.
Her Majesty's Government very much hope and expect that the Pay Board's report will indicate a significant way towards finding a more acceptable way of settling these problems in the future.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
The report will form the basis of further consultations with the 189 TUC and the CBI, and the Government will wish to press ahead with those consultations as quickly as possible.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. If the Secretary of State does not give way, the hon. Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. George Cunningham) must not remain standing.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
I have made it clear already why I am not giving way. The Leader of the Opposition and others did not give way yesterday, and I shall not give way today.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
I am not giving way. As I was saying, Her Majesty's Government very much hope that the Pay Board's report will indicate a significant way towards finding a more acceptable way of settling these problems in the future.
There is no point in pretending that relativity questions are other than fundamental and far-reaching, and it may well take time to reach the agreement for which we shall aim with both sides of industry in developing procedures for handling relativity claims effectively and fairly within a counter-inflation policy.
§ Mrs. Castle
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way to one of his predecessors who had to handle 190 a prices and incomes policy. Is not it a fact that the Government always foresaw the relativity struggle as part of phase 3? That is why the Government asked the board to make the report available to them by the end of December. If that report had been made available in time and was in the hands of the Secretary of State now, can he deny that the whole country would have demanded that he should act on it? Therefore, will not he act on it by the end of January?
§ Mr. Whitelaw
I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for making clear herself the reason why I gave way to her and not to other right hon. and hon. Members. As for the matter which she raises, I understand the position perfectly clearly. The relativities report was asked for and was to be published as soon as possible. The reasons why it was not published by the end of December have been made clear. It was never said that it would be implemented within phase 3, but it was called for within phase 3. That is the position.
I have one further point which I am entitled to put to the House. In view of what the Leader of the Opposition persists in saying about me and the responsibilities of my job, I wish to make a reply to him.
Of course, any Minister in my job has the task of seeking to resolve industrial disputes in the best interests of the nation. Certainly he must pursue the course of conciliation. But if conciliation is meant to imply plain weakness or lack of resolution, then I reject that view as decisively as did all my predecessors, including those in the right hon. Gentleman's own Government.
All Governments and all my predecessors have on occasion found it necessary to point out that conceding some claim pursued through industrial action would, in the view of the Government of the day, damage the national interest. It always has been easy to buy industrial peace in the short term at a considerable price. If that price is so high as to cause real damage to the rest of the country in the long run, through a severe twist to the inflationary spiral, then quiet firmness and determination backed by reason must, be right and should be supported on all sides in this House. It has been in the past. It 191 should be now. If democracy as we know it is to continue, it will have to be in the future.
§ Mr. Michael McGuire (Ince)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will you impress, particularly on Government Front Bench speakers, the tradition of the House that this is a debating Chamber and that on occasion right hon. Members should give way to what I would describe as the PBI of the House—the back benchers—as we, too, perhaps have something to contribute in the debate? The Prime Minister was grossly guilty of discourtesy to me and others yesterday in that he did not give way to us.
§ 3.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Reg Prentice (East Ham, North)
The Secretary of State for Employment is always engaging in his manner. He treats the House to a mixture of seriousness and joviality and he utters a series of clichés in a parade-ground manner in such a way as to disguise the fact that he has nothing whatever to say to the House. One is bound to start from the position that his was the third speech from the Government Dispatch Box in this debate to have contained not one constructive new proposal for resolving the crisis which is facing Britain.
I think that everyone in this debate, on both sides of the House, has a duty to be constructive, and in the course of being constructive it is vital that we avoid the trap that some commentators in the newspapers are trying to set for us, of equating a constructive attitude with a lack of criticism. It is not only the right but the duty of the Opposition to criticise the Government, and it is absolutely vital at this time that in the debate in the House we all attempt frankly to recognise what is the nature of the crisis facing the country. I do not believe that we can begin to have an intelligent dialogue on the matters that we are supposed to be discussing in this debate until there is the beginning of a recognition on the Government Front Bench of the extent of the growing crisis over which the Government are presiding.
The Prime Minister's speech yesterday was the most lamentable failure of a 192 Prime Minister to measure up to events since the days of Neville Chamberlain—and I can tell him that I wrote this page of my notes before I read the letter from Lord Coleraine to a newspaper. The facts are that since 1970 we have seen develop the fastest rate of inflation that we have ever known in peacetime, the highest rate of unemployment since the 1930s—indeed, we are now overtaking the 1930s—the worst state of industrial relations since the General Strike of 1926, the highest balance-of-payments deficit on record, five states of emergency in three and a half years, and now a three-day week with incalculable loss to the country in both material and human terms.
When every allowance has been made for external events, when every benefit of the doubt has been given to Ministers for the failures of others in the community, trade unionists, management, or whoever else they may be, the fact is that it is basically a record of the Government's failure ; and an element of candour and humility in the speeches of Ministers would at least be a healthy beginning to a realistic assessment of the situation that we now face. It is a matter of urgency to find answers and particularly it is a matter of urgency to settle the miners' dispute.
In his speech at the end of yesterday's debate, the Lord President put to the Opposition a challenge which is becoming a bit of a bore because we have heard it so often. The suggestion is made that we should advise the miners to go back on existing terms or we stand condemned of being half-hearted about efforts to fight inflation. This is a gross distortion of the facts. It should not be necessary to sketch in the background—I do so only briefly—of the attitudes that we have taken from the Opposition Front Bench in recent years.
First, in all stages of the counter-inflation policy when we have voted against the Government, as we have, we have done so on the basis of a reasoned amendment calling for stronger and more effective measures against inflation. Secondly, we have not uncritically supported every trade union and every wage demand. Indeed, in the current ASLEF dispute my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and other members of the Opposition Front Bench, including myself, have said, as Ministers have said, 193 that ASLEF should have gone to arbitration rather than take industrial action as it did.
I go on from that to say that of course most of us would dissociate ourselves from the statements of a minority of the miners' leaders who interpret this wage demand in a class-war setting and in a setting which is unacceptable to us as Social Democrats. My right hon. Friend made the statement yesterday that we wanted to see a settlement, not a surrender, and that phrase implied a degree of compromise by both sides.
Certainly we would urge the NUM executive, given the chance, to propose to its members the cessation of industrial action in favour of a settlement. The plea that we are making is that the moderate majority of that executive be given that chance, and that is what it is being denied at the moment by the intransigence of Ministers.
One need not give every reason why the miners are a special case. There are two clear reasons, and they were both conceded by the Lord President last night. One is the nature of the job itself, the arduous, dirty, dangerous, unhealthy work that most of us would not be prepared to undertake for hundreds of pounds a week. The second element of the special case is the desperate manpower shortage in the industry.
Here let me remind the House of the facts that were put before us in a most moving and eloquent speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) on 19th December, when he reminded us that hundreds of miners were leaving the pits every week and that new seams in Durham and in South Wales and several other coalfields were not being worked for lack of manpower. He reminded us of the prospects for the new coal face as Selby and of the inability of the industry to exploit them because of lack of manpower. He reminded us that development work was being held up because of the need to keep the coal face itself manned, so that, as he put it, the industry was devouring its own seed corn. This was an urgent national crisis in a basic industry before the oil situation affected the country, but it is made all the more urgent by the oil situation.
It is said by Ministers that one cannot have a special case and operate an effective 194 counter-inflation policy. I believe that the correct answer is that one cannot operate a counter-inflation policy without special cases. To admit special cases is difficult, for the reasons that Ministers have repeated ad nauseam, but to do without special cases is to wreck the whole delicate manpower structure in the complicated arrangements in the industry.
It was just possible in phase 1 and in phase 2, lasting as they did for a year, to accept the distortions of manpower policy that were imposed by a rigid code. Now, however, more than a year after the beginning of that policy, the manpower effects of that rigidity are damaging our economy to a far greater extent than any benefit which may be assumed to result from the counter-inflation policy itself. That cannot continue. There has been discussion about the report on relativities. The main difficulty here is that it was commissioned too late. I assume for the sake of my argument that we have a statutory incomes policy of the sort now in force—I do not like it but I assume that it is there. In those circumstances the relativities report should have been commissioned earlier and implemented by now so as to provide some way of recognising urgent and exceptional manpower needs in vital industries and of responding to them.
Of course, embarking upon that course of action would mean that others would stand in the queue and would claim to be a special case, and the Government would have to resist most of those demands. However, if they resist all such demands they bring us to the chaos we are now experiencing and they cannot avoid the responsibility for doing that.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Edward Heath)
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman wishes to give a fair description of the position. The anomalies report was commissioned directly the Pay Board was set up in order that it could come into effect under stage 2. It reported, and a considerable number of the anomalies which arose in stages 1 and 2 have been settled by agreement. That was the approach that we told the TUC and the employers we wished to adopt at once.
When the Pay Board was set up, it was commissioned to carry out the relativities report. The House will recognise that, because of the complexity and importance 195 of the evidence which it received and which has been referred to it, it is difficult to produce a worthwhile report dealing with the principles of relativities in less time than has been taken. But surely, in dealing with this matter, we can take credit for having adopted a process for removing the rigidities created by the anomalies, and we hope to be able to remove other rigidities through the relativities report.
§ Mr. Prentice
The point I am making and which I claim is being proved by experience is that, in spite of the apparent extra flexibility of phase 3, it is still much too rigid to cope with the problems of an extreme manpower shortage. Therefore, we needed a policy of relativities at an earlier stage. If we concede to the Prime Minister the point that the Pay Board has rightly taken a long time in preparing the report, the answer to him is that Ministers should have acted anyway. They have the power under the Counter-Inflation Act to award a settlement over and above a settlement approved by the Pay Board under the code. Ministers can use that power at any time for recognised and exceptional cases.
During his answers to questions earlier today the Prime Minister kept confusing two phrases—a "phase 3 policy" and a "counter-inflation policy". I put it to him that his own counter-inflation policy—I do not argue whether it is right—is wider than phase 3 or any phase, because the Act which covers all the phases gives Ministers the power if they so choose to deal with a special case for reasons which appear good to them. They can do it at any time and they could have done it already in the miners' dispute. They will have to do it sooner or later.
The TUC statement should have been welcomed by Ministers as a very great help to them by their own stated criteria. Let me quote from the letter which Mr. Murray has sent to the Prime Minister today and which summarises in excellent fashion the longer statement that was made:We indicated that the General Council accept that there is a distinctive and exceptional situation in the mining industry. If the Government are prepared to give an assurance that they will make possible a settlement between the miners and the National Coal Board other unions will not use that as an argument in negotiations for their own settlements.196 This is a remarkable commitment and a most difficult one. It is a statesmanlike commitment and it arose——
§ Mr. Robert Redmond (Bolton, West): Did Hughie Scanlon sign it?
§ Mr. Prentice
I am glad that question was asked. The statement arose from a unanimous decision of the Economic Committee of the TUC General Council, including the leaders of the biggest unions. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Prentice
The Secretary of State quoted his own statement in the December debate. If that statement has any meaning at all, what we have had today is a response to what it was asking. If the right hon. Gentleman is saying, as he seemed to be hinting just now and as the Chancellor appeared to be saying yesterday in his reactions at the "Neddy" meeting—that somehow they want the whole constitution of the trade union movement changed overnight so that the TUC can give written orders to unions which will automatically be followed—they know that they are asking for the impossible and that the statement by the Secretary of State before Christmas was meaningless. I want to give the right hon. Gentleman the credit for meaning what he said before Christmas. If he meant what he said, I beg of Ministers when they meet the TUC, either tonight or in the near future, to reverse the policy announced by the Chancellor yesterday.
In the half-hour of questioning earlier this afternoon the Prime Minister had a very uncomfortable time. The Chancellor was unable to be here for it, and I accept that. The Prime Minister had to say to the House, first, that the Chancellor turned down the initiative without any consultation with his colleagues and, secondly, that he did so after two hours of debate but before he had seen the statement in writing. In other words, in a moment of great national crisis, one Minister——
§ The Prime Minister
I did not say that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor had not seen the statement in writing. I said that the statement in writing was circulated by the TUC only at the end of the meeting.
§ Mr. Prentice
I thought the Prime Minister said that the Chancellor had reacted during the meeting and before seeing the statement in writing.
I have only one thing further to say about the Chancellor. In the whole history of industrial relations in the last year or two, all his interventions have been counter-productive. I advise the Secretary of State to use any influence he might have to tell the Chancellor to keep clear of any industrial disputes.
The important thing, however, is what happens now. This remarkable initiative by the TUC gives Ministers the chance, if they want it—that is the key question—to take a new initiative in trying to solve the miners' dispute without repercussions on other wage claims. That is what they have said they wanted in the past and that is the opportunity they now have. If they do not take that opportunity, the country will know who is to blame for the current situation and for all our troubles.
A number of suggestions have been made for ways in which the offer to the miners could be improved without a fundamental breach of the Government's counter-inflation policy. In his speech in December my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley made five suggestions and, incidentally, he made further suggestions in an excellent letter to The Times which was published on 7th January. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition made three basic suggestions yesterday, and other suggestions have been made.
I simply wish to enlarge on two of these suggestions, as examples, although there are many others which could be used. I do not wish to detain the House too long. First, I urge the Secretary of State to look personally at the question of waiting and winding time. This proposal was allowed to run into the sands too easily last week. The question whether extra hours spent in the pit are, by custom and practice, part of the working week is one which deserves more examination by all parties involved than 198 seems at this stage to have been given to it.
I hope that the National Union of Mineworkers will push this matter rather harder than it has been doing, and that the National Coal Board will respond. I put the question directly, and I shall be glad to give way now to an intervention. Alternatively, I invite the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to reply to the point later. If the National Coal Board wishes to respond to an extra demand under this heading, which would substantially increase the offer, can we be guaranteed that Ministers will not lean on the board to prevent its taking that course? I should like an answer to this either now or at the end of the debate. [Interruption.] I do not insist on an answer now, but I shall certainly expect the Secretary of State to refer to the matter at the end of the debate.
My second point concerns the Secretary of State's reference, a few minutes ago, to a Government contribution in relation to health hazards in the industry. This could mean several things—higher supplementary benefits, more money for medical services, and so on. One suggestion in the letter from my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley to The Times was that there should be what he called a danger and industrial disease award—in other words, an addition to the pay offer to all miners on account of the risks they run in the industry. If this were done it would, I believe, be regarded as fair and reasonable by the public as a whole.
Let me repeat the basic facts that have been previously stated in debates of this kind. In 1972, part of the price that we paid for our coal was that 64 men died in the pits, 454 men were seriously injured, 58,000 were injured to the extent that they needed more than three days off work, and 626 new cases of pneumoconiosis were contracted. In an industry which demands that kind of price from those working in it there is a case for recognising in the pay structure not merely generous treatment of victims of injury and disease, but a payment to the men for the risk they are running. I hope that this can again be considered.
I do not want to go on making these suggestions—many have been made by others—but I put this simple point to 199 Ministers. By one of these methods, or a combination of two or three of them, a new package could be offered to the miners which would not be a fundamental breach of the counter-inflation policy and which would not lead to repercussions in other wage claims. The one thing which seems to be missing is the will to get a settlement.
I do not wish to spend any time on the ASLEF dispute, other than to mention one matter. In agreeing with the right hon. Gentleman that arbitration is the right answer in this case I am bound to make the point to him that he is referring to one of the rare cases where arbitration is readily available. We should note in passing that one of the worse results of Government policy in industrial relations has been effectively to kill arbitration in this country in recent years. Arbitration as an effective force for industrial peace has been destroyed.
In the miners' case we are reduced in the House to bandying our own amateur proposals back and forth when settlement of the matter should be in the hands of experienced arbitrators. They should now be undertaking this task.
Tomorrow, members of the parliamentary committee and the National Executive of the Labour Party will meet to discuss a draft policy statement. I think that I can with confidence anticipate the decision on one point, namely, that a major proposal in that statement will be for the establishment of a new conciliation and arbitration service, to be available to both sides of industry, at national and local level, to provide a new initiative for the settlement of industrial problems peacefully and reasonably, to the satisfaction of all parties.
In this debate, we are at least to some extent discussing the operation of the three-day week. The earlier part of my speech has been rather longer than I intended, so the reference that I shall make to it will be brief, but I wish to put it in this context. A great deal more needs to be said by Ministers about the way they see it, about the effects of it, and about what they are doing in regard to those effects. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides will want a lot more information from Ministers than they have been given so far. Indeed, the Secretary of State will have a rather difficult 200 job tonight because, three Ministers having said nothing, he will have to make four speeches in one.
For the effects of the three-day week at present we are indebted, I think, to the National Economic Development Office for the clearest picture so far of the impact nationally. I wonder whether we could have confirmation from Ministers, or perhaps a different view from Ministers, on the effect of its operation now and its likely operation in the next few weeks.
There appears to be a total of about 4 million people, or perhaps more, who are, in effect, unemployed every day. In the first place, there are the 500,000 who were unemployed to start with. Then there are those laid off and registered. In addition, there are the married women who are laid off but who are not registered because they are not fully insured, and on top of that there are those who are covered by guaranteed week agreements but who are not actually at work. Thus, there are, as I say, about 4 million involved, with the number increasing all the time—and that is the daily figure, so that the number affected during the week will be much larger.
Output, we are told by the NEDC office, is expected to be about 20 per cent. less this month if the three-day week goes on for the rest of the month. Steel production is down 50 per cent. already and is likely to be down to a third of full capacity by the end of the month. We are talking here of the cumulative effects, and these effects will obviously get worse as time goes on.
We are talking of the effects of the three-day week which are hardest felt by those least able to bear them. In business—we should hear more about this——
§ Mr. J. R. Kinsey (Birmingham, Perry Barr)
Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting, in the light of all these effects, that we should give in to what amounts to blackmail, on top of the 16½ per cent. already offered?
§ Mr. Prentice
That intervention was a waste of time. I have already, at some length, made clear my own attitude to the dispute. The facts which I am mentioning now simply underline the urgency of achieving a settlement.
201 I was about to refer to the situation in commerce and industry. Clearly, it is the small firms which are suffering most. When the CBI gives formal and, I think, reluctant quasi-approval to the Government's three-day week, someone should put to the CBI the challenge which is often put to the trade unions. If the CBI took a ballot of its membership at this moment, it would, I believe, evince a very different verdict on the Government's policy. During the last year or two we have heard a good deal from hon. Members on the Government benches about small businesses and the need to preserve and protect their position. Some recognition should be given to what is happening to small businesses under the present policy.
It is not only a matter of the shortage of steel or the shortage of fuel ; there is the sudden interruption of cash flow for businesses which depend upon the quick settlement of accounts for their survival. The consequences of this are devastating, and will be shown in the bankruptcy figures very soon.
As regards the effects on employment, again it is those least able to defend themselves who suffer first, as in any period of short-time working or unemployment—the disabled, those in indifferent health, those who have recently returned to work after a period of illness and who are the last to sign on and the first to go. Those are the first victims of the present policy. [Interruption.] I believe that all hon. Members on both sides can confirm this from experience in their own constituencies during the past few weeks. The situation is as I have described it, and it is becoming worse all the time.
I now turn to the question of the social effects. In the next week or two, we ought to have debates on this matter. We ought to consider the effect on the social services, on supplementary benefits, on the rules for unemployment benefit, and the rest. Among the matters which have reached me in the past week or so, it has been clear that special attention should be given to the rapid payment of supplementary benefit, if necessary cutting out some of the normal inquiries, in order to cope with the problems of people in urgent and unexpected need.
For example, married women with dependent children who are separated 202 from their husbands and who normally receive a maintenance allowance but who now find that allowance cut off because of the short working week have an urgent need, in a matter of days, for supplementary benefit. There are also the problems of people who are unemployed after an uneven work record, leaving them under-insured. These also have an urgent need for supplementary benefit. There are many such cases, and they should be kept under constant review. Ministers should explain to the House the steps which are being taken by the Government centrally to deal with all these human problems.
Another example—to take the matter across Departments—is the whole question of school meals and the regulations governing payment. It is provided that local education authorities may make short-term remission of charges for families whose incomes fall temporarily. All local education authorities should be reminded by the Department—if they have not been reminded already—of the need to implement that provision generously in the present situation.
Those are merely random examples of matters which we shall have to return to again and again, and at greater length, if the present situation continues.
Inevitably, in this debate, we have concentrated our attention on the immediate aspects of the problem facing us. I have done so today, and most of those who spoke yesterday did the same, concentrating on the miners' dispute, the effect of the three-day week, and so on. I suggest that this country is facing a series of interlocking crises. We faced severe trouble even before the Middle East war sparked off the oil crisis—certainly before the current industrial disputes.
It seems to me that in 1974 we face the need for drastic adjustments, some of which we are only beginning dimly to recognise. We are, I believe, at the end of an era—an era of cheap energy, cheap food and cheap raw materials. It is a crisis which affects the whole world, and especially the developed economies of the West. Britain is less able to resist this new challenge because of the weaknesses which we face already—the weakness of our balance of payments and internal weaknesses such as the low rate of investment, poor industrial relations and the effects of Government policy in 203 many respects. We are thus more vulnerable and less able to withstand the challenge.
There are no simple solutions to the problems confronting us. There are no easy answers. There is certainly no scope for "at a stroke" promises from any direction. The situation will demand efforts and sacrifices and radical changes of attitude from all sections of society—from trade unionists, from management, from professional people, from everyone. I believe that more and more people are coming to realise this, and there is a latent patriotism in the British people. People are wanting to respond to the national interest if they are given a clearer lead as to what the national interest is.
It is against that background that two basic things should be recognised by the Government. The first is that their policies have aggravated our national malaise beyond all recognition. One policy after another—the Industrial Relations Act, the Housing Finance Act and the tax concessions to the rich—has had a devastating effect on national morale by dividing people at a time when we most need national unity.
But the other thing is that, whatever the content of Government policies, the people of this country are entitled to be treated as intelligent adults. Time after time Ministers have been covering up the facts. Time after time they have been engaging in facile optimism. Right up to the middle of December we were being told by Ministers that we were going through a boom and that the boom would probably continue for ever. People are entitled to be told all the facts, the good facts as well as the bad. They are entitled to a clear indication of policy and a clear appeal to their sense of purpose.
I conclude by reminding the House—perhaps I am quoting what I have said previously ; I apologise for that—of something said by a person greatly respected by everyone in the House, the late John F. Kennedy, in his presidential address in 1960. He asked the American people to stop asking what the Government of their country would do for them and to start asking what they could do for America. It is that kind of lead which has been lacking in Britain in the last three and a half years. If that kind 204 of lead were given by the Government, by a Government who had the moral authority to give it, everyone—miners, trade unionists and people in all classes of society—would be willing and ready to respond.
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Acton)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I want to raise a matter which concerns the information available to the House for the debate today. Yesterday, the Lord President of the Council assured us that nothing would be concealed and that all information would be available. He said that there would be a weekly report of coal stocks. That was in relation to the electricity restrictions.
I went to the Library today and asked for the latest of these weekly reports. I was handed a report dated 1st January. I was also told that the report that would come out next would come tomorrow, although it would come in future on Thursdays, as it was expected that the Ministers concerned would make a statement in the House today.
I have not yet heard any statement of the latest coal stocks. As we do not have this weekly report, I hope that we shall get it before the wind-up speeches. I should have thought, Mr. Speaker, that if the Government wished to show that they were giving facts, we would get a report at the beginning of the debate and not at the end of it.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. James Prior)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The reason that the figures have not been published in the form suggested by the hon. Gentleman in his point of order is simply that it was thought that the House might like to hear these figures from Ministers during the debate and that this would be a courtesy to Members, and that the report would be published tomorrow in the ordinary way.
But if hon. Members feel that there are certain figures contained in this report which they would like to have, they can either be given by me—I cannot do that on a point of order, but they can be given by me now for the benefit of the House—or I will arrange for them to be published as soon as we can make them available for the House this afternoon. There is absolutely no problem on this matter.
§ 4.19 p.m.
§ Sir Paul Bryan (Howden)
I start by saying one thing to the right hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) regarding the TUC offer. The right hon. Gentleman must know that, after the last miners' strike, the Wilberforce settlement itself was not necessarily used as an argument by other trade unions for higher settlements, but he is surely not naive enough to imagine that its existence did not set a pattern for higher settlements.
§ Mr. Benn
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I apologise for interrupting the hon. Gentleman at the beginning of his speech but I have just had the opportunity to consider what the Leader of the House said—that he would be ready to make a statement during the debate giving hon. Members figures which otherwise would not be available until a few minutes before the Division. As the Leader of the House has offered to make this statement, I wonder whether we may ask, through you, Mr. Speaker, that the statement be now made, so that hon. Members will have more information than the Government have so far been ready to make public.
§ Sir P. Bryan
Perhaps I had better start again, Mr. Speaker. I want to make a comment to the right hon. Member for East Ham, North about what he said regarding the TUC offer. He must know that after the last miners' strike the Wilberforce settlement was not necessarily used as an argument for higher settlements by other unions, but he is surely not so naive as to imagine that those settlements were not influenced by the miners' settlement. The miners' settlement set 206 a pattern for the settlements which followed. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is absolutely right to discuss this TUC offer with the trade unions tonight, but I find it hard to see what can come out of it.
§ Mr. Prentice
The assertion that the miners' settlement was followed by comparable settlements has been disproved by the statistics. Those are set out very well in an article by David Wilson in The Observer of last Sunday. I commend that article. It shows that most of the settlements reached between the time of the Wilberforce Inquiry and the beginning of the pay freeze were at a very much lower level than that awarded to the miners.
§ Sir P. Bryan
I am not claiming that they all followed 20 per cent. or 23 per cent. rates, or whatever the Wilberforce rate was. I am claiming that they were higher than they would have been had there been no Wilberforce settlement.
On the question of the three-day working week, my impression is that both management and employees are making the best of a very trying situation. I visited Dewhurst's clothing factory in my constituency on New Year's Day. There was very little absenteeism, even on this very special statutory holiday. Everyone was cheerful and was getting down to it, and this seems to be the general pattern. Management is showing great ingenuity, and, in well-run concerns, there is a spirit of co-operation. The reports given in the Financial Times of today show that in general production is much higher than was expected. But with 1 million or more people signing on at the employment exchanges and with reduced pay packets, this is a very grim situation. I find that most people, rightly or wrongly, cannot imagine how it can continue for very long.
I make two practical points for my right hon. Friend's consideration. I am continually asked whether Saturday working is essential. It is highly unpopular with the work force, for obvious family and social reasons, and with management, which in many cases has to pay overtime rates. Would it be possible for all industry to work on Wednesdays and for all shops to be shut on that day to compensate for the extra electricity used? That would make an enormous difference 207 to everyone and at the same time it would dispose of the unemployment benefit anomaly which was raised by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) in an intervention.
Secondly, on a rather less serious note, will the Minister tell us whether the early closing down of television is saving a significant amount of electricity? I declare an interest here as a director of a television company, but I am voicing the interests of thousands who resent being put to bed by an apparently kill-joy Government, especially those who are laid off work, are not tired and are in no hurry to go to bed.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on resisting the pressure from many sides for petrol rationing. The retiring Minister for Industry said over the weekend that there would be no rationing in January but that he could give no guarantee beyond that point. I impress on the Secretary of State what a blow petrol rationing would be, superimposed on a three-day week. He knows what a high percentage of workers go to work by car, frequently over long distances which are served by a minimum of public transport. Even with more sharing of cars, petrol rationing would greatly add to the present dislocation.
However well industry is tackling the three-day week, let us not be deceived into thinking that it can continue at the present level of activity. Things are bound to get worse. Modern industry is so interdependent that the failure of a small number of firms supplying key parts can slow down or close down a disproportionately large number of other firms. Even before the three-day week, supply and labour bottlenecks were already slowing down industry. The 50 per cent. cut in steel production will shortly have its effect on firms which have come to the end of their stocks and on some who may have come to the end of their financial resources as well. If these fears are fulfilled, an appreciable number of firms might not be able to work even for three days. What will the Government do with the electricity that is saved in this way? Will plans be prepared to turn additional firms back to full-time working?
The debate is about the three-day week, but we should also be thinking of 208 how to clear up the mess which will be left after the three-day week. The switch back to full-time working will not be an easy or rapid process if by then industry has run down its steel and other important stocks. More important in my view will be the difficult task of maintaining good industrial relations in particularly frustrating circumstances. This is no time for Dunkirk speeches, but it is the time for people to be told the stark truth from which they can make their own judgment and their own plans.
Government spokesmen have sounded too euphoric over the last months. To give an example, my right hon. Friend reported on television during his Midlands tour in the first days of the three-day week. It was a good report, but the impression he gave me was that if it were not for the coal miners everything would be fine, with industry loaded with export orders and so on. That was, in a way, an accurate report, but, I think unintentionally, he gave the impression that all would be well once we were over this particular hurdle.
I find that people are expecting soon a relaxation of stage 3. The truth is that the next few years will see the first actual drop in the standard of living since the war—whoever is in power. The huge rise in our bill for essential raw materials, with oil costing four times what it cost last summer, makes this absolutely certain. The present industrial and fuel troubles have put paid to the 3½ per cent. growth target. The three-day week will have put up unit costs by an unknown factor. All this must add up to an increased inflation rate and, consequently, in due course a stage 4 that is more and not less severe than stage 3.
These are truths that should be made plain to the country now. It might be said to be a tale of woe, but these truths need not daunt a resilient community if the people understand why these misfortunes have befallen them and can see that sensible steps are being taken which are likely to lead to a more hopeful future. The Opposition can have their fun blaming the Government for all our discontents. I am content to leave the country to judge where the blame lies. The people are not too blind to be unable to see that every industrial country has parallel if not exactly similar troubles. Even Japan, embarrassed by its surplus a short time ago, is 209 running into deficit and a 30 per cent. inflation.
The energy crisis is, of course, the most outstanding of our troubles and most immediately affects the work and daily lives of our people, but, paradoxically, energy is also our hope for years to come. In a few years' time we can be better placed in this respect than any other industrial country except America. It is, therefore, essential that our policies for power should be—and be seen by all to be—vigorous. The first task of the new Secretary of State for Energy is to convince the country that this is so. Here he has quite a task on his hands.
The Selby coalfield spans my constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison). Indications that a thick seam existed in the area appeared about 10 years ago. Today I read in the National Coal Board's Selby Newsletter the following paragraph:It is on the basis of this sort of detailed information that a decision can be made as to where a new mine could be driven once the question of if there is to be a mine is settled. Detailed planning could take anything up to two years ; sinking and equipping the mine might take another five or six and it could be a total of ten years from the ' go ahead ' to the pit reaching full production.This delay may or may not be essential, but the period between the discovery and the implementation is something like 20 years and that does not give one a great impression of urgency. I should be glad if, in his wind-up speech, the Secretary of State would give the House and my constituents the latest timetable for development of this important project. I should like at the same time to pay tribute to the National Coal Board for the trouble that its officials have taken to inform and reassure my constituents who live in this beautiful area on the environmental aspects of the scheme.
Nuclear energy is a mystery to most people, including myself. It just seems that we are taking an astonishingly long time to get to the promised land, despite being first in that race.
The main reassurance required is on North Sea oil. So much depends on that. Our experiences this year and the burden of the oil bill until we have our own supplies put a supreme responsibility on the Government to make the very best 210 of this national asset. I believe that the creation of the new Department of Energy under one of our most able Ministers is a very good start in this direction.
§ 4.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Coleman (Neath)
Most right hon. and hon. Members will have had brought to their attention examples of how crazily the introduction of the three-day week has affected industry and commerce. Although I intend to speak mainly about the steel industry, perhaps I may be permitted to draw to the attention of Ministers some of the ridiculous anomalies in my constituency.
I have had representations from the dental profession and from dental technicians about a crazy anomaly that has arisen as a result of the regulations brought in by the Government.
It would appear that if a dental technician is engaged in his practice under the same roof as a dental surgeon or dentist he is exempted from the regulations and works normally. However, if he were to move and work in one of the commercial dental laboratories, which carry out 95 per cent. of the work of all dental practices, he would find himself caught up with the three-day working week. This is a stupid anomaly, particularly when it occurs in places where the work done is, so I am told, wholly for the National Health Service. This, of course, means that there is a discrimination against the NHS patient, as opposed to the private patient.
Another anomaly referred to me affects those who are engaged in small businesses, and in shops such as ladies' hairdressers. I am glad that some help, although rather meagre, has been given to them by the Government, but what is the position in respect of rates? These people are not able to operate then-business full time. Is there any possibility of their being given some amelioration in rating? If that is so, can the local authorities also have an understanding that the loss of revenue in that respect will be met from Government sources?
The main burden of what I want to say concerns the steel industry. The problems confronting it have always been threefold—international, structural and 211 economic. The present dispute concerning the availability and utilisation of energy, and the Government's handling of the economic situation in general, are likely to do irreparable damage and greatly aggravate any future solution to the steel industry's problems.
The steel industry is in no position to relax its investment drive. Not only is finance required to increase capacity ; it is required for new production techniques, to meet consumer demand for an increasingly diversified range of products, for social requirements and for better environmental protection.
Financing in the industry had to meet two criteria—volume and continuity. Any investment programme must have a financial plan extending over several years and be capable of guaranteeing its completion. In February 1973, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry issued his White Paper on the 10-year development strategy for steel. This report, although belated and inadequate, recognised the need for the developing strategy with investmentto enable the British Steel Corporation to make a vital contribution to economic growth and at the same time, to assure Britain's place among the major steel producers of Europe and the World.On 17th December 1973, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his crisis measures, announced that the BSC—the only nationalised industry to be affected—would have to slash £70 million from its 1973 capital programme. The reaction of the chairman of the corporation, Dr. Finniston, was to say:We have to invest capital if we are going to produce for the future. If you really believe you have long term prospects, the thing not to do is slash capital investment. And one thing you certainly do not do is to cut one of the essential components of the economy, which is steel. The steel industry is one of the few industries with a positive balance of payments.These capital investment cuts and the broader energy crisis brought about by the Arab oil output reduction will certainly have to bring about a basic reassessment of the corporation's investment strategy. Of course, should the overtime ban in the coal mining industry be really prolonged and result in the cooling and collapse of coke ovens, the sum needed to rebuild them would be 212 twice the cuts suffered in the Government's capital cut-backs. If damage to blast furnaces, and so on, is calculated, a phenomenal sum would be required even to get the steel industry back to the present level of production.
The effect of the increased oil prices on high density oil-using plant, such as open hearth furnaces, is likely to make them even more inefficient in comparison with the blast furnace/BOS route than previously, and it would certainly speed up the closure of the plants at present operating that kind of furnace.
It is one thing for steel workers to come to terms with rationalisation and closures on an overall development strategy, but it is quite another for them to accept them without consequent development and capital investment. The relationship between the steel industry-one of the commanding heights of the economy—and the economy itself works both ways. A basic industry like steel is so tied up with the level of economic activity that it is hypersensitive to the periodic stop-go pattern which has been imposed upon the economy.
Foreign competition is not only simply a question of structure and efficiency: it extends into pricing, imports and exports, and is now exaggerated by the world shortage of steel-making capacity to meet demand. Without international agreement during the world energy and resources crises regarding the availability and utilisation of commodities, the situation as a whole will deteriorate.
Not only is international trade in a bad way ; the domestic economy is plummeting into the worst period we have seen since before the war. Without soundly-based economic growth and international agreement on energy and basic materials such as iron and steel, long-term stability in financial investment in the steel industry is bound to be seriously damaged. If the steel industry is, as it is said to be, the economic barometer of the economy, the position we find it in today means that we in this country could well be doomed.
The corporation, as has been said, has reduced steel output to the level of 50 per cent. of normal operations in order to conserve its dwindling coal stocks. It will not be possible to sustain this level for more than a few weeks unless there is a 213 speedy settlement of the coal and railway disputes. Let everyone understand clearly that the cry to the Government is, "Put aside your pride and see to the resolving of these disputes, which are destroying the industrial capacity of the country."
The remaining stocks of coal in the steel industry would have to be used largely to prevent blast furnaces and coke ovens from going cold. Rolling mills at present will be able to keep going a little longer only if supplies of ingots and semi stocks can be obtained, which it is clearly difficult to do as there is a world shortage and the transport difficulties arising from the railway dispute are also holding up the dispatch of finished steel. Electric arc steel making is seriously affected by a 35 per cent. cut in electricity usage. This type of steel making accounts for 20 per cent. of the corporation's output, and production will be substantially reduced by the cut in electricity supplies.
The corporation has decided to keep all its 226,000 employees on a guaranteed week—for the time being. This decision, however, can only aggravate the situation that the corporation finds itself in. It is at present losing £13 million a week, and with the cutback of 50 per cent. that figure will be inflated. The weekly wage and salary bill amounts to another £10 million, and when it is coupled with the massive increase which the corporation will have to pay for energy supplies, such as oil, the seriousness of the financial implications becomes even clearer.
Members of the TUC Steel Advisory Committee have had to fight hard for the continuance of the guaranteed weekly wage in discussions about the energy problem facing the BSC and the corporation's forward plans. In the immediate short term the jobs of at least 100,000 BSC employees are at risk. In the long term, if closures are forced, the plants might not re-open and jobs will not be available for the men involved.
Yesterday, in what was recognised by both sides of the House to have been a great and responsible speech, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition urged the Prime Minister to consider the need for a more flexible approach towards the dispute in the mining industry. I have tried to show that it is vital to the steel 214 industry that a settlement comes sooner rather than later. We cannot afford to have the Prime Minister rigidly regarding phase 3 as the Hatter regarded his castle. The Prime Minister said that it is not too late yet to come to a settlement. Let his own words penetrate his own thinking.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South West)
The hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Coleman) has forcibly reminded the House how far reaching and comprehensive is the impact of the crisis which has resulted in the premature resumption of our sittings. He has reminded us that in coming days we are likely to hear the word steel even more frequently than the word coal. He reminded us, too, that when regulations must be introduced which affect the working habits and operations of the whole of our industry, they penetrate in a most remarkable fashion into all the recesses and interstices of the life of every family and person in the country.
I agree with the point from which the right hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) began—namely, that the debate is much more concerned with the future than with the past. It is more important to know where we are to go from here than how it was precisely that we got here. Nevertheless, there are practical reasons for spending a little time in recalling the earlier part of the story.
I make no apology for once again reminding the House, and particularly my right hon. and hon. Friends, of what was our view not so long ago on the policies which have led us to this stage. I do so in no spirit of criticism or of recrimination, but because I believe that there are practical and important deductions to be drawn from recalling the fact that when the Conservative Party was elected by a majority we told the country that we utterly rejected the philosophy of compulsory control of wages. We said that we had seen the Labour Government's statutory control of wages fail and that we did not intend to repeat it.
We did not make those statements as a matter of mere theory. We did not make them, as it were, in the margin or idly. They arose not only from theory but from the observation, both in this country and elsewhere, that the attempt to combine Government policies which in 215 themselves are inflationary with the endeavour to regulate and control prices and wages has invariably and inevitably led to an impasse and to irresolvable conflict between the demands of Government on the one hand and the realities, as the private citizen sees and knows them, on the other. We were speaking not merely from theory but from experience.
It is not a matter of recrimination but of practical utility that we should remind ourselves today of that fact. By remembering it, we understand that we are not the victims of unforeseen and unforeseeable accidents. Our present experience and our present predicament was foreseen and forecast in principle. It was exactly what we had seen happen before. It was exactly what had led us to renounce the very course of action upon which we subsequently entered. We are, therefore, obliged not to seek an escape by accusing external events, such as the movement of forces and prices in the outside world, for the crisis with which we have to deal.
More important still, we are freed from the danger of supposing that either we or the country at large are the victims of the perversity of a group of our fellow citizens. It is all too easy and all too usual to invoke the human frailities which are common to us all. The words "greed", "selfishness" and "folly" are too often on the pens of journalists and on the tongues of politicians to explain the impasse in which the Government and the country find themselves. It is salutary to be reminded that it is an impasse which was always implicit in the course of statutory control of prices and wages upon which we engaged.
When we renounced that course we did not do so merely as a contrast to a voluntary prices and wages policy. The accent was not specially upon the word statutory or compulsory. We renounced it because our whole conception of the cause and, therefore, the cure of the scourge of inflation was such that the attempt to regulate individual prices and wages, either by compulsion or by agreement, was irrelevant. In a sense, we have the grim satisfaction of seeing the realisation and verification of what we ourselves predicted.
216 However, I turn from the past, from how we got here, to where we are to go from here. Everyone knows that a way forward must be found. The country knows that a way must be found. That is why the House is sitting today. However popular and common it may be to ridicule or to abuse Parliament, yet, when the nation finds itself confronted with a perplexity, with a threat, with a peril, there is a kind of sense, a strange sort of instinct, from one end of the country to the other, that debate in this House must be an ingredient in the solution.
In the debate which now enters upon its second day, there has been a new note—or at any rate, if it is not an entirely new note, a new emphasis. This new note or emphasis is summed up in the word ''relativities". Never in so few hours in this Chamber has the word "relativities" been used so often. In one speech after another, from one side of the House or the other, hon. Members have dilated upon the unique nature of the job of the mineworker and upon the self-evident necessity that, if an industry is to be adequately manned, the remuneration of that industry—not its absolute remuneration but its remuneration relative to other occupations—must somehow reflect the special characteristics of that occupation.
But then, of course, other hon. Members have immediately and equally rightly drawn attention—one of my hon. Friends a few minutes ago called out, "What about the trawlermen?"—to the fact that the work of the mineworker is unique only in the sense that every job is unique. The more one reflects, the more one will realise that, in every calling, in every trade, in every industry, there are characteristics of health, of danger, of hours of working, of length of training, of prospects, of demands upon the family or upon mobility and so on, which render that calling unique as against all the others. We all know that, for an economy to survive—if an economy is not to seize up altogether—the pattern of remuneration has somehow to correspond with that immense complexity of all the jobs and all the functions which have to be performed within it.
Very recent events have driven home another lesson—that these relativities are not static. One cannot just assess the relative value of a miner and then walk 217 away and leave it, in the hope that that will stay in exactly the same place. Why, almost overnight, with the oil crisis, all the relativities were changed again: the relative importance of various occupations, various forms of production, were shifted, and shifted unpredictably—shifted not once and for all but in a way which went on progressively. So, when we recognise, as the House has been recognising in this debate, that the basic essential of any economy is to get as near as possible to the right relativities—the relativities which produce as nearly as possible the right pattern as between all the jobs and functions which have to be performed in society—we are talking about something which is not static but about something which is dynamic.
There are those—this has been once or twice suggested in this debate—who imagine, but they imagine fondly, that there is some mechanism which can be devised, some formula, some computer, from which it would be possible to read off on the tape what should be, at any given moment presumably, the precise relative remuneration of a mineworker, a trawlerman, and all the rest. It is a delusion. No such mechanism exists or can possibly be contrived. It is beyond human imagination.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment referred to the report which is to be forthcoming from the Pay Board upon relativities. I was fascinated to observe in his reference to it the word "principles": the report will tell us about the "principles" on which relativities are to be determined. I am sure it will—because that is all that it can tell us. Any hon. Member can jot down on the back of an envelope the factors "in principle" which affect the relativities between the remuneration of one occupation and another. They have appeared in one White Paper after another: every time that we have had a prices and incomes policy—which is four or five times at least since the war—there has been a White Paper where, sure enough, one can find the principles of relativity.
But how to get from the principles to the practice? Having admitted that we need more miners relative to other occupations, is it 5 per cent., 15 per cent., 16½ per cent., 18 per cent. or 20 per cent. increase on 218 their present remuneration which will be just right to do the trick? No White Paper, no pay board, can give the answer to that. If Sir Frank Figgures were not just a devoted and able public servant but the Archangel Michael himself, it would be beyond his capabilities to assign the correct relative remunerations to all those whose pay is supposed to be controlled by law or to be teased out of the interstices of stage 3 of the Price and Pay Code by that august agency.
We had better admit it: there is only one way, at any rate in any free country—I use the term in a sense which would be equally accepted by hon. Members opposite as by those on this side—in which this job can be done. It is, alas, an imperfect way, but human methods are imperfect. It is by bargaining ; it is by negotiation ; it is by trying it and seeing ; it is, to use a more pompous word, empirically—by the process, whether it be between great unions and monolithic employers or in the tiniest firms, of finding the point at which the interests of those concerned most closely meet, the point at which both of them can manage to get on with what they have to do.
I say, therefore, that the first necessity, the first key which must be turned in the lock for us to escape our present prison, is to return to negotiation, to free negotiation, in the sense that my right hon. Friends must say to the National Coal Board, "You are the management in this industry, you have to man up this industry, you know better than we and you probably know very well the point at which, with the National Union of Mineworkers, you can secure the manning up of your industry to the point required for your operations. It is your job to do that, and you are free to do it untrammelled by the theory and the theology either of stage 3 or of the Price and Pay Code or"—I mean no offence by saying so—" the Counter-Inflation Act itself. "That is a necessity. I doubt whether there is an hon. Member in the House who does not know that that is a necessity.
But, though it is one of the keys, it is not the only one necessary to turn the lock. There is another. Everyone says" Yes, we recognise there must be negotiation, we must find the meeting point. But 219 what about the whole mythology, the whole demonology of leapfrogging, of inflationary wage claims and all the rest? In short what about inflation?"
On 17th December my right hon. Friend the Chancellor began to supply the second half of the solution. Why did my right hon. Friend come before the House with drastic proposals for, at any rate, the reduction of the rate of increase of public expenditure over the next 12 months? He did not do it because he thought it would be specially popular. He did not do it because he was urged to it by his colleagues, the spending Ministers in the Cabinet—at least I doubt whether they urged him to it. He did it because he and they were convinced that inflation, to use the old jargon, was being fuelled, or would be fuelled, by a wide gap between the total of public expenditure and the total of public revenue.
He accepted, what he has often accepted in the past and what is not seriously denied in any quarter, that whether or not it be the sole cause, at any rate the overwhelmingly most important cause of inflation is the manner in which Government manage the relationship between their outgoings and incomings. Labour Members know that just as well as my hon. Friends, for in the last years of their tenure of office the Labour Party put that into practice. Indeed, I will go so far as to say that they put it into practice with more thoroughness and determination than any administration had previously done since the war.
We cannot at one and the same time so manage the national finances that we constantly increase the total volume of monetary demand and then turn round upon one section after another of our fellow-countrymen, when they endeavour by the only practical method available so to settle their relative remuneration as to enable the economy to work, and accuse them of being the villains of the act and the cause of the very inflation of which they are the victims or on the tide of which they are being carried.
So the second key which must be inserted and turned in the lock is that the finances of Government in the coming months must be so regulated and controlled that they do not add to the inflationary pressure which exists already 220 and which I fear has some time yet to work itself fully through the economy. Those two together—free negotiation and bargaining, industry by industry or firm by firm, and a non-inflationary conduct of the finances of this country—provide the only way in which we can extricate ourselves from an impasse over which the country is in danger of tearing itself to pieces, which is perhaps even worse than temporarily impoverishing itself.
§ Mr. Frank Tomney (Hammersmith, North)
Has the right hon. Gentleman learned nothing from history? Has he learned nothing from 1931? How many millions of unemployed does he want in this philosophy he is now advocating of a free-for-all, when the weakest go to the wall in defence of this principle and only profits matter? How much does he want?
§ Mr. Powell
What I have learned and what I fervently believe is that neither high and stable levels of employment nor prosperity nor anything that a nation can desire is to be obtained by debauching its currency ; that the mere manufacture of additional money, the mere process of inflation, though it may create temporary euphoria, is no basis upon which, for any class in the community, security or prosperity can be built. It is in that belief and in the belief that it is demonstrated by history that I speak as I do.
Over and over in this debate until it has become almost a refrain——
§ Mr. Tomney
This is a different world from the world about which the right hon. Gentleman is philosophising. Since 1931 we have had a period of relatively full employment in which standards have risen gradually throughout the whole working population. People look forward to a progressive raising of the standard of living. What the right hon. Gentleman is advocating is a return to a free-for-all which will punish the weaker sections of our community, irrespective of whether they have been punished before.
§ Mr. Powell
The community in which we have lived since the war is one in which hon. Members on both sides, Governments of both parties, have designated inflation as the greatest threat, not only to the prosperity of the country, but to employment itself. I am not speaking with the voice of only one side of the House. Both sides have agreed upon that.
221 Over and over in this debate hon. Members have said—and I am sure that in saying it they have spoken in the sense of their constituents—that from this conflict we want to emerge with no decisive victors because we want to emerge with no decisive losers. We shall do that only if all the elements in the conflict will return to their own responsibilities and discharge them.
It is only if the Government will discharge the responsibility, which they alone can carry, of so managing the national finances that they do not fuel inflation, that employers in turn can discharge their responsibility, which is to ensure that they man up their industries and firms to the best advantage and production of which they are capable ; and it is then that the trade unions can discharge their responsibility, which is to get the best possible real return, real remuneration, for their members without exposing them to the risk of being priced out of the market. The healthiest community is one in which all are acting upon their own responsibility. My plea to my right hon. Friends tonight is that Government should do what lies in the hands of the Government: if they will do that, they will find there will be no ground to complain either of unions or of employers.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn)
The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) attracted a good deal of applause from some of my hon. Friends——
§ Mr. Tomney
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am not on your list but may I ask whether it is possible for you to call me later to deal with the argument of the right hon. Gentleman?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu)
Order. I am afraid that is not a point of order and is hardly worthy of this debate.
§ Mrs. Castle
I am perfectly sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney) would have been able to discharge that task admirably. I merely wish to say a few words in reply to the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West. As I was saying, he attracted a good deal of support from some of my hon. Friends until he referred with approval to the 222 deflationary policies of the last Labour Government. That only goes to show that the right hon. Gentleman has the unique quality of attracting support from different parts of the House at different times according to which side of his economic coin he is showing. The first side he showed us won some applause from us. The second side was rejected vigorously.
In substituting for my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith, North, I should like to tell the right hon. Gentleman that the Opposition reject both the mechanistic extremes which have been offered to us—the mechanistic extreme of the Government's prices and incomes rigidity and the mechanistic extreme of allowing these problems to be solved purely by monetary means. We believe that politics—psychology, if you like, or human relations—are now inextricably interwoven with the solution of our economic problems. Therefore, while keeping free collective bargaining, we have to find a way of winning the understanding, co-operation and consent of the collective bargainers to make sure that their sectional demands do not wreck the wider interest.
I do not pretend that this is easy. As the right hon. Gentleman said, no policy is perfect and no solution is easy—we are living in a very human world—but that is the policy to which we are committed and to which we shall return, because his alternative is incompatible with full employment.
One point on which I agree with the right hon. Gentleman is that under the present Government we have managed to get a rigid prices and incomes policy and, at present, 3 million unemployed—an achievement which must be unique in our political history. It is that situation which we have met to discuss this afternoon. I believe that this debate will have done some good if, in the light of the evidence that is produced from all quarters of the House, the Government are made to realise the damage—possibly irretrievable damage—done to our economy by the three-day week.
I came into this Chamber, as no doubt many others did, with a pocketful of examples of the anomalies and absurdities of the three-day week. If he were here I would tell the Secretary of State for Employment that when he acted in 223 so self-righteous a fashion at the beginning of his speech, saying that the three-day week was introduced for no reasons other than economic reasons, all I can say is that the anomalies are so great that one must conclude that this policy was either rushed through for political rather than economic reasons, or was introduced with sheer incompetence.
I know that many other hon. Members wish to speak. Therefore, I shall concentrate on one point, because I am kinder to the Government than the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, Southwest was. I am going to mention a solution which lies to the Government's hands under their own policy. In doing so I am obliged to forgo giving the details, which have been pouring into me from my constituents, of the anomalies, hardships, threatened bankruptcies, inequalities, muddles and confusions which have been operating under the three-day week.
It seems incredible to be told that this was a planned economic operation brought forward only for the most high-minded of motives. How is it that the Secretary of State this afternoon could not even give an answer to one of the many questions about anomalies? I refer to one which was raised earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer)—the question of the disparity of entitlement to unemployment benefit. That is just one of many examples which have come streaming in to me. The Blackburn Weavers' Association telephoned me, and I was told, "Our members in Blackburn are working on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, with two days' entitlement to unemployment benefit. Our members in Accrington and Great Harwood are working on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and are entitled to three days' unemployment benefit. "Those workers are losing £10 per week, on average, from their wage packets. Every pound, therefore, is vital to them. How dare the Government so frivolously push this country compulsorily on to short time without having found a solution to basic questions like that?
It is true, as we all know, that people have responded well. The response of the workers has been marvellous, say the employers. The employers say that the 224 CBI is showing ingenuity. The customers are proving very understanding. That is because up till now people have been led to believe that this is an unavoidable emergency. Once the realisation dawns on them that there is a way out which the Government refuse to take, I warn the Government that the mood in this country will be so ugly that it will be uncontainable.
I conclude with one other example which come to the House of Commons on my "hot line", which has been buzzing with information from my constituency during the past few days. A small family firm in Clitheroe telephoned me. This firm employs 50 men. Normally it runs 17 shifts working efficiently every day—three shifts a day and two extra night shifts at the weekend. Those shifts have been reduced to nine. The earnings of the men who were manning the night shifts have dropped from £55 per week to £19£50. Then they hear the Prime Minister telling the New York Times that he intends to carry on the three-day week until the spring rather than yield to the miners' demands.
I tell the House advisedly that the Government cannot get away with this. Very soon the machinery of industry will grind almost to a standstill. The question we must ask this afternoon therefore is whether this emergency is unavoidable. I fully appreciate the Government's dilemma. They think they are cornered, but, as someone who has had to operate a statutory prices and incomes policy, I agree with the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West that this is the great disadvantage of a rigid statutory prices and incomes policy. It widens every issue. It turns every deviation from the norm into a cardinal sin. That is what we learned. It escalates confrontation. We were wise. We were learning from constructive experience when we said "This is absurd ; we must de-escalate confrontation and move towards a system of co-operation by consent—the best that one can hope for in an imperfect world."
I say sincerely to the Government that this situation is far too serious for any of us to sleep peacefully at night on a diet of party political points.
But do the Government realise what they have already conceded? They have conceded that the miners are a special 225 case. On the one hand, they have been saying, "If anything, stage 3 is too generous. In the light of our economic situation it ought to be less generous". Then, almost in the next breath, the Secretary of State for Employment only yesterday assured the NUM that if it called off the dispute he would sit down and discuss with it what he called "the long-term rôle of coal " with a promise of higher pay. Therefore, he is telling the miners that the country's desperate economic situation means that they will get not less but more pay.
The Government have conceded the miners' de facto case. What they are choking on is the de jure expression of it. In the process the Government are martyring themselves and the country totally unnecessarily because there is a de jure answer within the confines of their own policy.
Whatever fun the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West may have had with us about relativities, the fact is that we are trying to survive in the context of a rigid prices and incomes policy imposed on us by a stubborn Government. I want to be a kind of proxy Houdini helping the Prime Minister to escape. I suggest that it can be done.
The irony is that the Government foresaw this very situation in their own document, "The Programme for Controlling Inflation: The Second Stage", as long ago as January last year. That contains three paragraphs, headed "Subsequent Stage of the Policy", to which I want the House to listen very carefully. If the Government feel that they must find such a legalistic way out, here it is.31. The policy set out in the White Paper will operate under the Prices and Pay Code until the autumn.That is autumn 1973.During this stage the Government will undertake full consultation on the policy for the subsequent period, so that the attack on price inflation can be carried further.33. As an integral part of these consultations, the Government will seek the help of the Pay Board in its advisory capacity on problems of relativities and anomalies both within and between groups of employees. Resolution of these problems must occupy an important place in any policy to deal with inflation in the longer term which is to be effective and seen to be fair.That was a year ago. The White Paper on stage 2 talked about what the 226 Government wanted to happen in stage 3. Indeed, they acted on their own programme. The Government referred these matters to the Pay Board. First and foremost, they referred certain pay anomalies and said that they wanted the board to report by September, particularly dealing with the anomalies created by the standstill. The board did report. Having done so, the Prime Minister was wrong in the comment that he made in reply to my intervention yesterday. I can well understand that even he has got lost in the complex tortuous corridors of his own policy. However, he was saying that it was implemented under stage 2.
Not a bit of it. Sir Frank Figgures, Chairman of the Pay Board, only a few weeks ago, said:Our report was published in September and the recommendations we made were embodied by the Government, after consultation, into the Stage 3 Code".In that Anomalies Report hon. Members will find set out and reprinted at the beginning the terms of the Government's reference. When they make a reference they put it very carefully in language that they mean to have observed. The report sets out the Government's terms of reference, which refer to the work to be done on the Anomalies Report, and go on:In addition to the anomalies resulting from the standstill, the processes of pay determination themselves throw up questions of wider pay relativities. Within any system for the determination of pay, groups from time to time feel that they deserve special treatment in order, for example, to improve their relative position within the community or in relation to other parts of the same industry. If a policy for controlling inflation is to be effective and fair, it must have procedures for considering such claims objectively. The Government would therefore welcome a further report by the end of the year"—this was written in March 1973—on other problems of pay relativities which may arise both within and between groups of employees. The Government would intend to pursue further consultations on the basis of that report.That was part of the Government's vision of the continuing development of a flexible policy on pay and they asked for it in December 1973. At that time none of us foresaw the miners' crisis or the world fuel crisis. The very fact that we did not is all the more reason, some people say, why stage 3 is already out of date. We desperately need some legalistic way of amending it.
227 For reasons for which I do not blame either the Government or the Pay Board, the report was not available by the end of December. But it is now half in draft. The evidence has been assembled and the drafting is almost complete. That report will be in the hands of the Secretary of State within a matter of days.
Having acted on the Anomalies Report, are the Government now going to say that they cannot proceed on the Relativities Report? I do not know what is in the report, but according to John Elliott in today's Financial Times—journalists always seem to get to know more than we do—the Pay Board's Relativities Report "could bring peace to the pits" because it would suggest machinery whereby those groups who feel that they have a special case, whom the Pay Board, the Government and the House accept have a special case, can be dealt with within the prices and incomes policy.
We have heard a lot of talk today whether the TUC meant what it said—namely, that if the miners were accepted as a special case other unions would not press similar claims. With respect to everybody engaged in that argument, I humbly suggest that within the confines of a statutory prices and incomes policy that is irrelevant. That is the whole point of having a statutory prices and incomes policy. Sir Frank Figgures, in his speech on 13th December at an associated business programmes conference, said that the Government thought the policy offered a wonderful opportunity of getting more rational relativities. That is the advantage of a prices and incomes policy. The Pay Board is a body that can draw up the criteria that will enable us to identify special cases. What are we spending our money, time and energy on if we are not to get that?
I repeat, the Relativities Report will be in the hands of the Secretary of State within a matter of days. It will, in the words of the Financial Times, show a way to "bring peace to the pits ". In that situation will the Government now tell the country to sweat it out until the spring? If so, this country will know who the guilty men really are.
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Acton)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. At 4.20 this afternoon I raised a point of order in this House about information. The Lord President of the Council promised to provide information in the Vote Office immediately concerning coal stocks. Yesterday the Lord President said that there was nothing to hide and that the less that was hidden from the public the more the public would realise just how serious the position was. I went to the Vote Office at 5.20 p.m. That information had not then arrived. Through you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, may I ask the Lord President, if he believes what he says, to provide these figures to the House of Commons?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I am sure that that remark will come to the notice of the Lord President of the Council.
§ The Minister of Energy (Mr. Patrick Jenkin)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My right hon. and learned Friend the Lord President asked me immediately after sitting down to make arrangements with my Department to advance the publication of this schedule of figures as rapidly as possible. I have given the necessary instructions. I have asked my Department to let me know the minute that the papers are in the Vote Office. They were due to be published later tonight, and there are just sheer practical problems in getting them out. But I assure the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Spearing) that there is no desire to withhold these figures.
§ Mr. Spearing
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The information that I have from the Library is that the last official announcement of the figures was on 1st January, which is nine days ago. As I said at 4.20 p.m.—and it was not disputed by the Lord President—I understood from the Library that the figures would be published tomorrow and subsequently on Thursdays but that they would not be published this Thursday because they would be mentioned by Government spokesmen in the course of this debate.
I raised this as a matter of order because I felt it right that this House should have the information before the debate began. We have not had that 229 information. The Minister for Energy is asking for it to be expedited. However, I am informed that it was available for hon. Members in time perhaps for the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to provide it tonight. May we please have it now?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Without going into the question of how serious it is that the House should have these figures—that is a matter for everyone to decide for himself—I am sure that the Minister will do all that he can. In any event, it is not for me to order him to do anything.
§ Mr. Benn
With respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, this is a matter for the Chair. The Leader of the House assured us that he would make a statement if the House wished to have it. When I rose on behalf of the Opposition to ask that that statement be made, the right hon. and learned Gentleman said that in preference to making the statement he would make the figures available immediately in the Vote Office. There are photo-copying machines available which would have allowed every hon. Member to have had the figures between the time that the Lord President made the statement and the moment that my hon. Friend the Member for Acton (Mr. Spearing) raised his point of order. This is a matter of substance——
§ Mr. Benn
I hope that the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) will allow me to conclude my submission to the Chair. The point is that this is a matter for the House since the Lord President made a statement that Parliament was recalled to debate the situation and the figures have been kept back deliberately until the two-day debate is over.
§ Mr. Burden
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Everyone present in the Chamber, with the exception perhaps of the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) whose memory often fails him, will recall that my right hon. Friend said that he would make the figures available as soon as possible——
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I have no doubt that this is a matter of substance. However, it is for the Government——
§ Mr. Spearing
Then, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on another point of order. Is it not a convention of this House that before any matter is debated, even on the Adjournment, the subject proposed for debate is backed with sufficient documentation which is customarily available to hon. Members? In any debate, if such documentation is found not to be available, is it not in order for any hon. Member either to move the Adjournment of the House or to move that the debate be suspended by the Chair until it is available?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. We are already on the Adjournment. We cannot have the Adjournment moved again.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I refer to your remark earlier when you said that my hon. Friend the Member for Acton (Mr. Spearing) had not raised a point of order? Apparently you are not aware that earlier in the day one of my right hon. Friends raised exactly the same point with Mr. Speaker and that Mr. Speaker accepted that it was a point of order and called upon the Lord President to make a statement. If it was a point of order originally, and if my hon. Friend the Member for Acton wants to raise a further point to that point of order, with respect it is not correct for you to say that it is not a point of order since Mr. Speaker has already told the House that my right hon. Friend raised a point of order. If any hon. Member wishes to raise a further point to that point of order, I suggest, with respect, that he should have an opportunity to do so.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I am quite sure that the failure to have the figures here is not a point of order. It is a matter for the Government. Mr. Green.
§ 5.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Alan Green (Preston, South)
After listening to those exchanges, I find it a little difficult to remember all that the right hon. Member for Blackburn, (Mrs. Castle) said. I hope that she will forgive me if some of it has gone out of my mind. I will do my best to do justice to what she said.
The right hon. Lady began by doubting in very strong terms the necessity for a three-day working week.
§ Mrs. Castle
Perhaps I might refresh the hon. Gentleman's memory. I said that I did not believe that the emergency was unavoidable since the solution must lie through the miners' dispute.
§ Mr. Green
Then I misunderstood the right hon. Lady, as did a number of my right hon. and hon. Friends.
In the present state of electricity supply I do not seen how a three-day working week can be avoided. Of course, it is damaging to the lives and prospects of pretty well everyone in the country. However, my personal experience so far is that the necessity for it has been accepted.
I am an industrialist. I do not want to push my own needs in my own industry. However, we have the problem of meeting export targets on time and within the budget set for them. Exports account for 80 per cent. of the total order book of this one company. Obviously, the outlook for us is very bleak. But I repeat that I do not see how in the present state of the electricity supply industry a three-day working week can be avoided.
§ Mr. Green
I am obliged to the hon. Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. George Cunningham). But others have not said that. Others have said that we should go flat out until stocks are exhausted.
There is a need for a great deal of ingenuity and co-operation to be applied in order to get the most out of each hour which can be worked. It may be that lessons of continuing value are being learned. In saying that I am under no illusion about the cumulative nature of the difficulties facing us. But meantime, we have to live through this period as best we may with the minimum damage to our relationships here at home and to our marketing capacity overseas.
232 I agree with the right hon. Member for Blackburn that there are many anomalies and apparent injustices within our earning arrangements. Every hon. Member must be getting information about them. Those of us who work in industry or close to the trade unions get even more information of that kind.
The DTI, especially in the regions, is working hard to help in these situations, particularly in those affecting not one firm but the generality of concerns. One such area has quickly become apparent. It is among those companies on a three-day week and with a double responsibility—to maintain export deliveries and to keep supply to those of their home customers who are on a five-day week. Here is a genuine difficulty, I quite accept, and I must tell my right hon. Friend that I am not now about to release him from his dilemma by giving him the solution, for I cannot pretend to do that. However, I suggest that this is a genuine and fairly general problem and I hope that it will be looked at. It is a matter of continuing identification of priorities. As supply lines empty, priorities will certainly change.
What I am therefore asking of my right hon. Friends in this difficult situation is flexibility of mind as the situation develops. I venture also to suggest—it is a small suggestion to those outside the House who may bother to read what I say today—that the reporting of individual difficulties to the DTI is better done in these circumstances by Telex than by telephone. That is a small but practical suggestion for trying to identify the difficulties quickly.
It is not for me to guess how long this situation will last, but, obviously, if we were to get full power tomorrow, it would take time to get back to normal while emptying supply lines were replenished. The longer it takes to increase the supply of energy, the more protracted must be the resumption of normal working in the factories, in the distribution system, and, let us not forget it, in the mines themselves. Like any other major undertaking, the mines require a large volume of supply for their safety and for their efficient working, so the mines themselves are caught in this vicious circle, and I hope that that will be understood.
233 My personal belief is that the escalation of oil prices should be coming to an end. Unless the developed countries, in separate states of panic, seek huge and costly contracts for their long-term supply, that escalation will stop. I want to reinforce the advice given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser) yesterday—although he and I may not be in close accord about the matter of coffins. Oil in substantial quantities continues to be discovered, with a considerable and very helpful geographical spread, and it is being found increasingly in parts of the world remote from the present main reserves. Each discoverery has its own influence on world prices.
But there is another feature of this situation that is of the utmost importance: the major existing producers see that they have no interest in beggaring their major customers, and I think that they are increasingly concerned about the consequences of famine prices to the undeveloped countries ; what is belt-tightening for us, means starvation for them.
We are all the poorer in real terms for what has happened and for what is happening. The beginning of wisdom in this matter is surely to understand that. It means, if it means anything, that individual and collective expectations will have to be moderated. If they are moderated—and it does not seem to me to be an impossible "if"—out of this tribulation may actually come some good.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Mr. John Pardoe (Cornwall, North)
I begin with a few questions about the workings of the three-day week itself and especially some constituency questions, which inevitably arise. I should like to know whether there was any kind of contingency plan. After all, this is not the first time that the nation has gone on a three-day week—it happened in 1947. It would not have been provocative to have planned, because a three-day week could have been the result of many different factors, not only industrial action.
To anyone surveying the way in which the three-day week is being administered by the Government it must seem that the planning started at a very late stage and that there was no contingency plan. This afternoon we heard an extraordinary admission 234 from the Secretary of State for Employment. He was asked specifically about unemployment benefit for those working the Thursday, Friday and Saturday three-day week. Incredibly, although this matter must have been raised with him on dozens of occasions over the past two or three weeks and although the Department should have known even longer ago that the problem would arise, the right hon. Gentleman said that he could not give the answer this afternoon. Why not? May we have the answer to that specific question this evening? There seems no reason why we should not.
Earlier this week, another hon. Member for Cornwall and I met the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Traders' Associations. Some questions arose at that meeting and have occurred in correspondence that I have had with industrialists in Cornwall. At the meeting there was a general feeling that better communications were needed, and many speakers pleaded the need for more information within the county. There is natural resentment in Cornwall anyway about having to get the information from Bristol, as the Secretary of State will be well aware. However, it would help if there were some people able to answer specific queries at a more local level and with Cornish connections, information and experience.
The National Farmers' Union is extremely concerned about the supply of heating oils for glasshouses and for fuel for the carriage of produce from the county to national markets.
The Government have made a concession to hairdressers and my information is that it is welcome but nothing like enough. There is still the problem that although hairdressers' businesses have been regarded as shops and allowed an extra hour, employees can work only as long as electricity is available, fn other kinds of retail businesses shop workers can work at a much lower level than normal without electricity—by candle light and other means—but once electricity is switched off, there is no way in which a hairdresser can earn money. For that reason, hairdressers, even outside London, face serious problems. I hope that the Government will be able to respond by allowing hairdressers to opt for a three-day week 235 rather than five half-days plus extra hours.
What consideration are the Government giving to areas heavily dependent on tourism? Before Christmas, I raised with the Prime Minister the subject of areas which had been widely advertised, but which found that would-be visitors were far too doubtful about the future of oil supplies and the economy generally to respond to the advertising. The trouble is that all that advertising will have to be repeated. The Government should enter into negotiations with the tourist boards about how to help to overcome the problem of this double expenditure.
The general feeling about the three-day week is that there is a certain amount of the Dunkirk spirit, which is natural in the early weeks, but one wonders how long that will last. There is a feeling that there must be a limit to what any group in the economy is paid, to what any industrialist is able to get by reason of his monopoly power—or any trade union group. With some natural exceptions, that view is accepted throughout the country. Nevertheless there is a feeling among industrialists that enough must at some time be enough. The Prime Minister's interview in the New York Times where he talked of going on with the three-day week until the spring makes total nonsense to any industrialist in this country. How many bankruptcies do the Government think there will be by the spring, whenever that season is defined, if this goes on?
§ Mr. Burden
I should like the hon. Member to clear up certain points. His right hon. Friend the Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) this afternoon stated that he thought the present terms to the miners were too high. If that is the case and if the miners refuse to settle on the offer made, what is the alternative but to carry on as we are?
§ Mr. Pardoe
As usual the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) has it entirely wrong. What my right hon. Friend said, not this afternoon but yesterday afternoon, was that we had voted against stage 3 because we regarded it as generally inflationary. I shall come to the question of the miners as I develop my speech.
236 May I read to the Secretary of State an extract from a telegram from a major American company which in the last two years has established a factory in my constituency? The American president of the company sent the telegram which saysUnable to comprehend limiting this operation to three-day week where power consumption per unit sale is extremely small.He goes onirrational action suggests locating our European base in Britain a mistake.Surely there must be some exemption for those companies where the consumption of electricity per unit of sale is small and there is a sophisticated method of rationing fuel. This should surely be possible and if the Government had done their forward planning and had provided a contingency plan it would have been possible.
Certain general questions inevitably arise. The first is whether the three-day week is necessary in the present situation. I do not dispute the latest figures from the Government on coal stocks and coal supply. Of course there is a coal shortage and there was intended to be. What else was the miners' dispute intended to create? Mr. Gormley made it clear before the overtime ban that this was his intention and he actually said disruption would follow within a matter of a few weeks. I do not argue on that.
There is, of course, as the Government keep telling us—but not too publicly—an oil shortage, and as a result of these two troubles there is an electricity shortage. I do not wish to hear any more from the Government about coal stocks because I accept what they say on that, but will they tell us when they expect oil supply to the electricity generating industry to rise to 87 per cent. of last year's allocation? I understand that it is now at approximately 75 per cent.
The consequential question which therefore arises is when do the Government expect to have widespread and indiscriminate blackouts for the domestic consumer? Is it next week or the week after? It cannot be much longer if things go on as they are. The Government got into this extraordinary mess because it was inherent in stage 3. I disagree with the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West, (Mr. Powell) when he said this afternoon this situation is inherent in any incomes 237 policy. However, it is inherent in this policy, and we pointed this out when stage 3 was being introduced.
The stage 3 formula was designed to include the miners at all costs and for that reason it was made more inflationary than was necessary for the rest of the country. At the time we told the Government that it was too inflationary for everybody else and that the way to deal with the matter was to tighten up stage 3 for the rest and to have a process for special cases. We said that the Government would not succeed in getting the miners to agree to an offer within that formula. We have been proved right. Stage 3 is vastly inflationary and the miners' dispute has not been settled.
The only thing which can be said for stage 3, even by its supporters, is that it is Government policy. It is on that that they stick. It has no intrinsic merits, it is outdated and it is inflationary. It has failed to civilise the methods by which we settle our pay disputes. Yet it is there, it is the rock upon which the Government must stand. It is a pretty useless rock for which we are to be asked to pay this enormous price.
The Secretary of State challenged opponents of the policy to say what price we would be prepared to pay the miners. He asked whether we would pay any price, and of course we would not. Surely, however, there must be some flexibility in the matter. The stage 3 offer was made on the first day of bargaining and no bargaining therefore took place because the 13 per cent. was laid on the table and it was rejected. Trade union leaders are elected to bargain yet no bargaining was possible for them. It is therefore hardly surprising that we have got into this mess with the three-day week. That followed the rejection as night follows day.
Yesterday's debate took place before the appearance of the "Neddy" report and perhaps there was an air of unreality in some of the speeches about the real nature of the crisis and its importance. We now know that the crisis is as bad sis it sounded and this time the crunch is for real because on top of the roaring inflation, which is as nothing compared to what will happen when the effects of the oil price rise work through the economy, we have the appalling problem 238 of the balance of payments. Although that is not an impossible problem to solve, and I have never taken an over-gloomy view about it, there has been no suggestion from the Government in the last week or so as to exactly how they see their way to solving it.
The continuation of the three-day week beyond a week or two will bring unutterable disaster on top of the moderate disaster we have had so far. Therefore, who is to blame? The Government say it is the miners and the miners undoubtedly must share some responsibility for the situation. Of course, we all accept that it would be foolish to deny the importance of having Communists and Marxists on the executives of our big trade unions. Then the question arises, how did they get there? It was not by ballot rigging but by the free play of an extremely democratic union. What do we say of a Government who succeed after three and a half years in persuading decent, moderate Social Democrats—which is what the vast majority of the miners are—to vote for Communists to look after their affairs? That is the state of play we have reached. Some members of the NUM executive clearly do not want a settlement, but the question then arises, do the Government want a settlement? Mr. McGahey has stated that what they want is to bring the Government down and therefore they are engaging in a political battle. It would be foolish to deny that this has been said or to ignore the importance of the philosophy behind those words.
But there is a good deal of politics attached to the Government's position. Before yesterday's debate I was prepared to suspend judgment on whether the Government really wanted a settlement, but it is now difficult to think that they do. They have been offered a whole range of possibilities as to how they could settle, if not exactly within stage 3 at least in a manner in which they could persuade their back benchers that it was, and that is what matters. They have been offered by the Leader of the Opposition, by Mr. Gormley and by the NUM executive the whole possibility of winding and waiting time. I was never very hopeful that this would produce a great deal of money but the Government, together with the Pay Board, seem to have slammed the door completely.
239 I shall deal briefly with the suggestion which I put to the Secretary of State for Employment last week. Clearly, one does not make an offer for nothing. I recognise that there is no direct connection between how much is offered to the miners and how much coal comes out of the pits, but it was always possible for the Government to say how much coal would have been mined in 1974, in normal conditions, and then to tell the House that it would be X million tons. The consumer would have been satisfied with that, his interest in the amount of coal produced being that he should get it for more or less the same price as last year. The 13 per cent. increase to the miners could have been for that. But the consumer has a much bigger interest—an interest in increased coal production, for he will have to pay Arab sheikhs the equivalent of a good deal more than 10 dollars a barrel. Even at that rate it means we could afford £20 a ton for coal, so that an extra 2 million tons production in 1974 could have provided the same amount of money as the Government have already offered at the 13 per cent. level.
I realise that it may be difficult to square that with the exact letter of the code, but it could have been a perfectly feasible way out. I put this to the Secretary of State in that way but again he has slammed the door and turned it down out of hand.
The TUC proposal to which my right hon. Friend referred this afternoon in questions to the Prime Minister seems to be extraordinarily reasonable. Can the miners be a special case? The Government say "No", and constantly quote the Wilberforce settlement and their myth of what happened afterwards to prove their point. But the TUC has responded to the question reasonably and has gone as far as any reasonable person could expect.
The question which again arises is: do the Government want a settlement? There have been many other suggestions, but there has been no response by the Government—only a dead bat and total refusal. I do not believe that the Government want a settlement of the dispute. They want an election on this issue. All right, let us stop the sabre rattling and have one. If the Government are not 240 going to have an election, they should scrap stage 3 and get on with an entirely new prices and incomes policy, so that we can solve the problem.
No one in the House—no one but a fool—would deny that inflation is now of enormous importance, that it has reached crisis proportions, and that it will be well over 10 per cent. during 1974, but I believe that there has to be some control by the Government over the total amount of money that can be paid out in wages and salaries. I do not accept the analysis of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) that it is impossible to do anything other than by a total squeeze on the money supply and by total deflation. There must be a Government policy for prices and incomes, for any Government are loaded with responsibilities for full employment, raising living standards, the balance of trade, and stable prices. The Government cannot achieve all this unless they are able to exercise some overall control over the total amount which the nation pays itself. The question is, therefore, how do the Government exercise control?
The Liberals believe that Government controls over incomes can be achieved only by a selective tax on those who cause the inflation through excessive wage increases. The Government must not get involved in the day-to-day bargaining between employer and employee and still less should they get into the position, as inevitably they have in stage 3, of seeming to take sides between employer and employee, but they must take a view on the question what we can afford to pay ourselves. The Government, after due consultation with the TUC, CBI and any other relevant interest group, should declare each year a national pay dividend—the amount by which the nation's pay can increase over 12 months without giving rise to intolerable price rises.
I shall not go into detail now about the way in which this can be calculated—[Interruption.] All right. Since I have been challenged, I will——
§ Mr. Pardoe
I was endeavouring to speed the process along, Mr. Speaker, but I have been interrupted.
The Government should exercise their control by means of a levy on the national 241 insurance contributions of those firms which increase their pay above the national pay dividend. This is an inflation tax. The right hon. Gentleman wants to tax everybody and take the money back that way, but taxes of that kind would fall on the just and unjust alike. In our view, it is possible to be selective in this matter and to ensure that the burden of paying for inflation falls on those who cause it. This is by far the best way of enforcing a prices and incomes policy, and it is one which would take the Government out of the detailed bargaining between employer and employee.
§ 6.11 p.m.
§ Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)
I listened to the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) with great interest. At first, I thought that he would offer us no solution, but then I realised that he proposed to give us a great many solutions to a great many of the problems which face us. I had the impression that he might be reading from some notes prepared for a future Liberal Party manifesto. I do not criticise him for that, because in our debates over these two days it is essential that the contributions made by hon. Members of all parties should be constructive as well as critical, and I thought that the hon. Gentleman had something to say in that vein. His proposed way out of the present impasse can be described by the one word "flexible".
The right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) offered something in the same direction, in that she at least opened the door a chink to allow us to see that there might be some way by which the country—not just the Government—could overcome the difficulties into which we are moving at such a pace. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) did more than anyone, perhaps, because he opened the door not just a chink but very wide, though his door, I suggest, was a swing door or revolving door. I should not criticise him too strongly for that, since he has consistently—more consistently than anyone—stuck to his guns, maintaining his view on the question whether a prices and incomes policy is a manageable policy which can be successfully pursued in our present economic situation.
§ Mr. Crouch
I am not surprised that my right hon. Friend should seek to trip me up when I venture to criticise him.
It is my purpose today to report to the House some of the views which have been put to me by my constituents—and by that I do not mean my active Conservative supporters. In my opinion, we are in the midst of a grave crisis, the size and shape of which is not yet appreciated by the British people—trade unionists, workers, and everybody else. We have had but one week and a few days of the three-day week, and already I am filled with gloom at the prospects ahead. If we stopped the three-day week at the end of this week—if Parliament were so successful in its function today as to bring an end to the impasse and an end to the three-day week situation—it would be many weeks before we could recover what we have already lost.
The views put to me were the views of ordinary people who are already suffering. I went to my local Department of Employment office—the labour exchange—to ascertain the effect of the three-day week in increasing unemployment and temporary unemployment in my area of east Kent. The figures are not large because it is not an area of high industrial activity, but I found that they had already risen to double what they were for wholly unemployed, from 500 to 1,000, in the first week of three-day working.
I asked what the average cut-back was in a person's take-home pay and was told that it varied between £5 and £10 a week, the benefits paid to compensate for that depending on the individual's family circumstances. I looked into these figures, too, and saw that it was obvious that at the end of the day the take-home pay of the average worker would be greatly reduced even after payment of the dole for two or three days of the week.
I found an anomaly within a company in my constituency which has two factories, one of them in one area working Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and the other, a few miles away, is working Thursday, Friday and Saturday but is none the less tied to the production of the first. This means that employees, all on the same payroll, have different entitlements, 243 some being able to get three days' benefit while others can have only two.
I spoke to the Department of Employment official about this and he told me that he regarded it as an incongruous state of affairs which should be put right. I must say that I share that opinion.
The view of my constituents was that the Government were right to stand firm. I realise that that is a somewhat emotive phrase, but that was the view which they put to me in the half-light of the shops and other places where I spoke to them. In passing, one should add that it is dark at four o'clock ; people have gone home, and there is little or no shopping until half-past five. The sales were on, but there was hardly anyone on the streets. The streets were deserted after half-past four. The tendency has been for one-and-a-half hours of shopping to be lost.
In that gloomy atmosphere, I was told to say—if I had the opportunity to speak in the House—that we must stand firm. Above all, we must protect the ordinary people—trade unionists, housewives, pensioners, shopkeepers or whoever they may be—from the terrifying dangers of runaway inflation, and we must protect our democratic institutions and the Government's right to govern.
I heard the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) debating with the Home Secretary on "Panorama" last Monday. I noted that the right hon. Gentleman rightly conceded that we must retain for the Government the right to govern, and he added. "with consent". I do not disagree with that addition, but I was asked by my constituents to stress that the time had come for Parliament to say that we cannot continue to tolerate the activities of small but powerful groups of people who are able, if they think about it, to take action which can only have the result of holding the country to ransom.
§ Mr. Crouch
The hon. Gentleman need not tell me about the mining industry. Neither do I have to be reminded—we have heard about it again and again—of the importance of those who work in the mines today. Apparently, because I used an emotive phrase, I have disturbed the attention of some hon. Members. I am sorry for that, but these phrases are being used to us and I am sure that they must have been put to Members of the Opposition as well.
§ Mr. William Molloy (Ealing, North)
The hon. Gentleman was rightly saying that people feel that there is a need for defence against inflation, but is he now trying to say that the increases in the price of land and food, increases in council house rents and in all forms of housing costs, and the general increase in the cost of clothing and of practically everything has been caused by the awful miners?
§ Mr. Crouch
No, not at all. The House knows that it is not in my character to try to generalise in that way.
I was about to say that my constituents also said that they did not feel that the miners should be clobbered. No one told me that we should clobber the miners. There is a schizophrenia in the public mind at present that we must defend our institutions and our protection against run-away inflation but, at the same time, that the miners have a good case. During the debates on the miners' strike two years ago and again before Christmas on the debates about the present industrial disputes, I said that I felt that the miners were always a special case and that they should always have a special place in our consideration.
I am not seeking a fight with the miners or with anyone else at present. I do not classify myself as a "dove" for having said that. It is not a weak attitude to take. The fact that I do not want to clobber the miners but want to be conciliatory, and the fact that I want to consult, does not mean that. Surely that is really the function of those who represent their constituents in this place. I represent many miners.
The Government have conceded that the miners are an exceptional case. In phase 3, as we know, the Government have already provided this special arrangement to meet the miners' demands, of 13 per cent. plus 3½ per cent. Furthermore, it
245 was said in the House yesterday afternoon by right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that the Government are prepared to tell the miners that if they accept that offer now the Government are prepared to meet them immediately to talk about the future.
That is a generous offer. To consider the future before we even have an agreement to the present offer is a remarkable suggestion. Nevertheless, there is a feeling that we must stand absolutely firm against the insistent demand of the miners. The miners are not moving. There is an impasse. There is a feeling—it cannot be denied—that in certain instances there are ulterior motives in some elements of the NUM. This is not imagination. We are told of this by some leaders of the NUM and members of its national executive. I am not seeking reds under every bed, but I tell any of those extreme militants, in the NUM or any other organisation, that they will not obtain any results that they will find satisfactory if they now seek to frighten the British public by any suggestion of weakening our democratic institutions. On that score I am certain that they will not succeed.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I am very anxious to call a great many hon. Members who have been present for most of the debate. If hon. Members will confine their speeches to about 10 minutes and not give way too much, that will help.
§ Mr. Crouch
No, I am taking the instruction of Mr. Speaker, with which the whole House is probably in sympathy.
§ Mr. Crouch
The question that the House and the country must consider is not whether we should be paying miners £30, £40, £50 or £70 a week, but how much the nation can afford to pay the miners now, and what we should pay 246 them in the future. We must reach a solution to the problem as soon as possible.
I am very glad that the Prime Minister has said that he is prepared to receive a delegation from the TUC to talk about the letter that he received yesterday from the TUC. I am very glad that my right hon. Friend has opened the door to this possible solution and a way out of the present impasse.
I am concerned, however, about the power of the Pay Board in its operations under the prices and incomes policy. It seems as though we have watched almost a takeover by the Pay Board of employers' responsibilities to manage. In the present dispute the Pay Board has advised the NCB that extra winding time would not be allowed under phase 3 because the current arrangements would probably be considered to be adequate. Are they adequate? What is the view of the NCB on that question? Does the NCB feel silenced by the voice of authority of the Pay Board, which is above it and out of its reach? What is the view of the Department of Employment? What about the conciliators in the Department, who have hitherto played such an important part in reaching solutions behind the scenes and without the great glare of publicity? They surely have a view.
I want briefly to touch on the question of the respective positions of management and Government in the sort of disputes between management and labour that arise today. It seems that where a nationalised industry is involved we immediately find Government playing the leading rôle rather than coming in in the background, as has hitherto been the case. It is a great pity that with nationalised industries it seems to be the Government who have to play a leading rôle right at the start. The three-day working week, which may escalate, or turn into—perhaps that is a better phrase—a two-day working week, is a very fateful answer to the awful situation in which we have found ourselves.
I understand the Government's reasons for having had to decide to conserve coal stocks in this way wholly in the national interest, but it is a tragedy that we should be digging in, as it were, when we should be trying to advance. I am talking about 247 advancing in regard to industrial relations. Confrontation is the antithesis of what I understand to be good industrial relations. I am concerned about the way in which we shall recover the ground that we are losing economically. Above all, I am very concerned how we shall recover the good will that we must have with trade unionists and dispel the bitterness and distrust which must build up if this situation continues for much longer.
We have to live with trade unions. It is no good saying that we are finding it difficult to live with them and assuming that we shall find another solution. Today they are a national institution and we have to find our way around the problem of living with them. We may have to say today that it is too difficult to live with them and that we are forced inevitably into a slogging match. Why is that so? It is because the unions seem to choose that way. If that is so, it is the Government's duty to find out why this is the inevitable outcome of a dispute in industry.
Why do the unions feel that they must resort to such a slogging match? There is much that should be done in the way of studying what is happening on the shop floor. Much study is necessary, on both sides, to see why moderate trade unionists are feeling that they are being driven into an alliance of absolute loyalty with their union executives, right or wrong. What is it that is drawing the moderates—the good men and the good workers in industry—who are in the majority, into the arms of men whose interests are not moderate and are even evil? These are the answers which we must find.
I shall now conclude my speech. [Interruption.] I have waited for one and a half days to speak in the debate and I have not spoken in the House for over two months. I believe that Parliament has a duty, in these two days, to debate this crisis properly. It was well expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, Southwest, who spoke of debate as an ingredient in the solution to the problem of the great crisis facing our country. We must debate it, as we have, coolly, critically and constructively, not just agreeing with our own side or necessarily disagreeing with the other side.
248 I should like to see the Secretary of State for Employment given some cards to play. I felt this afternoon that his hand was empty of cards. I should like him to have a chance to negotiate and to keep on talking. If that meant more power to his elbow, if it gave expression to our feelings and perhaps achieved a reduction in the power and inflexibility of the Pay Board, I should be pleased.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Denis Howell (Birmingham, Small Heath)
I am the living personification of all the questions asked by the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch). I am a moderate trade unionist and the president of a moderate trade union that is involved in the coal industry dispute. The Association of Professional and Executive Workers—APEX—has had an overtime ban in the coal industry going back several months. I want to tell the House about the dilemmas that face moderate leaders of trade unions. What advice have the Government Front Bench to give me as president of my union in our dilemma?
The hon. Member for Canterbury put his finger on the problem when he spoke of the Government's right to govern and asked questions about the Pay Board. It seems to moderate trade unionists, faced with rising rents and a fantastic increase in mortgage interest rates, that there is no way out of their dilemma. They are therefore forced to demand increased wages which in other circumstances would be regarded as excessive. That dilemma is attributable to the Government.
The Government have set up a statutory board answerable to no one—the Pay Board. The other horn of the Government's dilemma is that the Pay Board is taking action that is frustrating settlement and aggravating the situation.
My union, with COSA—the Colliery Officials and Staffs Association, a group of the NUM—has national negotiating machinery for dealing with staff salaries. The union submitted a claim for an increase in salaries on 14th August 1973. We have not yet had a reply. No wonder my members are up in arms. The moderates are up in arms because the National Coal Board has not answered this reasonable claim. The NCB said that it must first deal with the miners because my members' claim was related to the miners' claim.
249 In mid-October the NCB reached a settlement with the NUM about travelling time from the place of work to the actual pit. My union said that as miners come from mining communities and husbands and sons go down the mines and daughters go into the office it was reasonable that that settlement should apply also to the staff. The NCB refused to apply to the staff the agreement that was reached with the NUM. That created a dispute. It started with an overtime ban—perhaps that is where the miners got their idea from. We have had to say, for example, that our computer staff cannot work, and this has created an enormous amount of disruption within the industry. It was the only way to get round the impasse.
Shortly after, both sides agreed to go to arbitration. As a moderate trade unionist, I believe that arbitration is the civilised way of reaching agreement. In December, after two months, the arbitrators awarded in our favour and said that the deal between the NCB and the NUM should apply also to the staff in the industry. We were then asked by the NCB to remove the overtime ban. We said, "Not likely. We know that you will refer the arbitration award to the Pay Board. We cannot remove the ban until the money is in the pockets of our members." I am sorry to say that I have heard today that the Pay Board has vetoed the arbitration award which we won.
The veto is on the ground that there is, according to the Pay Board, no relativity between wages and conditions of staff in collieries and those of miners who go down the mines. That takes us back to August. The NCB could not answer our initial pay claim because of the question of relativity between miners and staff.
Where am I in that situation? What advice does the Secretary of State give me? We have gone to arbitration and we have won, but the award has been vetoed by the Pay Board on grounds totally opposite to those put forward by the NCB in replying to our original claim. That shows the ludicrous nature of the activities of the Pay Board. We all want to get a settlement and we all want arbitration, but there must be a sensible basis on which our affairs can operate. This is not an imaginary problem. It is not allied to Marxism. It concerns ordinary people who are trying to pay their rents and their 250 mortgages and who realise that they cannot. When they agree to go to arbitration they are frustrated.
I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) said that the most important thing is to re-establish the authority of conciliation and arbitration courts in which both sides of industry once had so much confidence. I hope that the Minister, in the spirit in which my union accepted arbitration, will ask the Pay Board not to act in this way. The Pay Board is not answerable to the House for its outrageous decision.
I hope, too, that the Government will take up the TUC initiative, whatever may be included in the small print. The people want conciliation and agreement. All members of the TUC know that what the TUC has said is a fantastic stride forward. The biggest single weakness in the trade union movement is the lack of authority which the TUC has had to relate the claims of one member union to those of another. If the TUC comes forward with the agreement of all its member unions for the first time to give an undertaking about the relationship of one claim—that is, the miners' claim—to other claims, it should be grasped by the Government.
I am glad to read the news about ASLEF, but the Chairman of the Railways Board seems to be as reluctant to accept this offer as were the Government to accept the TUC offer. When ASLEF says, as I understand it has, that it will call off its industrial action in the Southern Region from midnight if the Railways Board will enter into immediate negotiations——
Mr. Leslie Hackfield (Nuneaton)
ASLEF has not said that.
§ Mr. Howell
That is what I understand from my reading of the newspaper. If I am wrong, I am sorry, and my hon. Friend can correct it later. That seems to be a sensible interpretation of what has been said.
I come now to a constituency matter which affects thousands of small businesses. I cannot underline too much what my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North said about the plight of thousands of small companies. I spent three days going round such companies in 251 Birmingham. Their position is desperate, and some are in great difficulties with the cash flow. Ideas are being canvassed. For example, the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce has appealed to the Government to cancel the collection of VAT. Even that marginal sum of money might be vital to small businesses. I understand that other ideas have been canvassed within industry at high level. For example, if this ridiculous crisis goes on it may be necessary to suspend the bankruptcy laws of the country in order to save many small firms. Let us not forget that small firms employ almost half our working population.
My final illustration is the situation of a firm called Barmatic in my constituency. It employs 40 people and is engaged on manufacturing brass nipples for the conversion programme to North Sea gas, which is vital to the national interest. Production will now be reduced to half, which will obviously seriously affect the conversion programme.
The firm is also engaged in providing parts for manufacturers of mining equipment. Only yesterday it received a letter from a customer saying, "We are dissatisfied with your output of essential parts for the manufacture of mining machinery." The firm can do nothing about it, because it is on a three-day working week. Yet another customer, which has an American parent company, has told Barmatic, "If you cannot give us the production we want we regret that our order will be cancelled and we shall have to buy the parts in America, even at double the price."
In this case the Government's action frustrates not only the gas conversion programme and the manufacture of mining machinery ; it also helps to worsen the balance of payments. This is only one illustration of the dichotomy of frustration facing small businesses. I hope that the Government will show the same sense of conciliation and urgency that the trade union movement is anxious to show. My own union is as anxious to show that sense as is the rest of the trade union movement, but it is being frustrated because of the rigidity of the Government's attitude.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Mr. A. E. Cooper (Ilford, South)
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Small 252 Heath (Mr. Denis Howell) has put forward a case for his own union and he will not expect me to deal with that, but will accept that I mean no discourtesy.
On the question of moderates in the trade unions, the hon. Gentleman got the situation wrong when he dealt with our normal thinking on the matter. In every trade union, big or small, there is a very strong Marxist and Communist element. What happens in a lot of trade unions is that at branch meetings attendances are relatively small. The activists are the Communists, who generally manage to outvote the moderates and in this way get themselves into positions of power.
I have the greatest admiration for the miners. They are very powerful, patriotic men and have proved this over many years. No one is going to tell me that these honest men deliberately want Communists in powerful positions in their unions, but they have got them. How did they get them? They did not vote for them.
§ Mr. Cooper
I am not going to give way to the hon. Member, who has, of course, coalfields in Ealing.
§ Mr. Molloy
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I had not said a word to the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Coper), but he made a direct and, in the context of his interest in Israel and other things, which was an obscene remark to me about my interest in British workmen in my constituency.
§ Mr. Cooper
We are talking about the three-day week as though everyone was on it. We are not all on a three-day week. Some people, particularly in large engineering firms, have great difficulty in working outside the three-day week, but many smaller industries—and we should congratulate both managements and unions in them—are showing considerable inventiveness and ingenuity in managing to keep their factories going
§ Mr. Cooper
I am talking about Britain. The speech which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made yesterday was statesmanlike, and was delivered in the most difficult circumstances. What I regretted was that the Leader of the Opposition could not rise to the occasion. Instead, he made petty party political points which were quite unnecessary in this very serious situation.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) in his, I have spent a lot of time in my constituency this last week or so. It is an astonishing fact—and hon. Members opposite would do well to recognise it—that there is a bitterness against the miners and the railwaymen such as I have never known before. Ordinary people are saying, "Do not give way. We cannot give way to the sort of blackmail we are suffering".
§ Mr. Cooper
Very low. I think that the executive of the National Union of Mineworkers and the ASLEF executive will not break this country. Hitler could not do it, and I am damned sure that these two bodies will not do it, either.
§ Mr. Cooper
The hon. Gentleman says that they are not trying to. He should read the speeches of Mr. McGahey, Mr. Cargill and one or two others, who first want to see the Government broken and then the society in which we live crushed. That is the objective of the Communist Party in this country. We delude ourselves if we think that the Communist Party is concerned simply with getting an extra £2 or £3 a week for workers. It is trying to destroy existing society, and I am sure that as soon as the ordinary miners recognise that fact we shall see some changes at the top level of the union. Selfishness, arrogance and greed seem to be the necessary ingredients to become a top-level official in the the NUM and ASLEF. What sort of people are the leaders of these unions?
§ Mr. Cooper
They are taking this action to put millions of fellow workers out of work, and they do not feel the slightest shame in doing it. My constituents are, perhaps, suffering worse than 254 many people because the diesel railway runs through the southern part of the town to Southend. No trains are running through there at all, but my constituents get to work. They know their duties and obligations to their families, and they get to work.
I have the unemployment figures for Redbridge as a whole. They do not make good reading, but they are a lot better than those for many other places, because people there have made provision to get to work. Shops are making provision to keep going and are doing a splendid job. I think that the London travelling public owe a great debt to the tube workers and the bus drivers in this great city of ours who have kept things flowing pretty well.
We must recognise and understand that the real menace facing this country——
§ Mr. Cooper
—is the Communist Party, and that is so not only here but in other countries. We may, as Parliament and people, have to take some steps to proscribe the party—which I personally would not like to see—or to exclude Communists from membership of trade union executives. I believe that the Electrical Trades Union at one time barred Communists from being members of its executive. It may be that we shall have to try to persuade other unions to take similar action.
§ Mr. Cooper
We have a so-called offer from the TUC which Labour Members think is wonderful. If they believe that they will believe anything. The only powers which the TUC has are those that are given to it by individual unions. The right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) knows that perfectly well. With the best will in the world, Mr. Murray can make such an offer but he knows that he has no power to enforce it. Labour Members know that if the miners get more money and are regarded as a special case Mr. Scanlon will be rushing to get more money. Of course he will. It is in the nature of the man to do such a thing.
§ Mr. Cooper
I am not dodging anything. Labour Members are making it difficult for me to make my speech.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I am trying to get as many hon. Members called as possible. These interventions are lengthening proceedings.
§ Mr. Cooper
Labour Members might not recognise that there is such a thing as a Communist menace in Britain. We can regard some of the current leaders of the Communist Party, based on their own utterances and not the expressed opinions of others, as traitors.
§ Mr. Speaker
It would be unparliamentary to apply the word to an hon. Member. It is not out of order to apply it to people outside the House.
§ Mr. Cooper
I have been asked by my constituents to ask one or two questions. The first is about North Sea oil. Having regard to the measures which are now being taken, when do we expect to be on stream? It would be a wonderful acquisition if we could have oil from the North Sea two years before the expected date. Second, when do we expect to be able to increase the volume of our atomic power? Are we taking special steps to speed up that process? The House must recognise that we must never again be in a position to be blackmailed as we have been over the past few weeks and months.
Finally, I refer to a minor matter that has been urged upon me in correspondence, namely, the closure of television services at 10.30 p.m. There are many people who work late at night during the week and have little relaxation. Is it possible to relax the ban so that television broadcasts may continue until midnight on a Saturday? Is such a concession possible?
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Giles Radice (Chester-le-Street)
I shall not take up the points made by the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper), except to say that he does not appear to have a great knowledge of trade unionism. The hon. Gentleman seems to suffer from one or two deep fixations. The debate is meant to be about the three-day week. Obviously it is impossible to discuss the matter in isolation. We must consider it against the background of the general economic situation, the energy crisis and the miners' dispute.
It is common ground between both sides of the House and between management and trade unions that the three-day week is desperately harmful. It is inevitable that there will be a drastic cut in living standards. It is inevitable that there will be many anomalies, and unfairness between different industries. It is true that various categories do not always fit industrial realities. That is a problem not just for the large industries but, as many hon. Members have said, for the smaller industries, including the hairdressers, whose hours the Government have now marginally increased.
It is more serious in that the longer the three-day working week continues the greater will be the damage to the economy in terms of price increases and the balance of payments. Goodness knows, the Government's record on both those issues is bad enough. Above all, it is certain that any prospect of growth will disappear into the distant future. The Government have been less than candid about the seriousness of the position. Even without the three-day week we would be in a difficult situation.
The recent rise in prices has been the fastest since the war. Our balance of payments situation is devastatingly weak. It is now at its worst since the war. The Government either do not understand or they have not told the House that because of the rise in oil prices we face potentially the worst recession since the war. The increase in oil prices is equivalent to a £2,000 million increase in taxation. That is a massive deflationary dose to be swallowed by any economy, and particularly an economy as weakened as ours.
257 For all those reasons it is essential that we return immediately to full-time work. That means that the mining dispute must be solved now. The point must be made that it appears from everything that we have heard that the miners are solidly behind their leaders. That is the position in my constituency. That is significant because the Durham miners are well known for their levelheaded approach. The Government must realise that the miners are solid. Unless the Government's attitude changes towards the dispute it is likely to continue, with devastating results for the country.
It is our contention that the Government's policies must change, for two main reasons. The first reason is that the cost to the country of the three day week is that it has gravely weakened our economic position. We cannot afford any more obstinancy. The Government must abandon confrontation and adopt conciliation. Secondly, the Government's policy must change because, as we have been told so often during the debate, the miners are a special case.
On Tuesday I went down a mine to refresh my memory of the conditions that prevail. As a non-miner I went to see for myself die conditions in which miners have to work. As in most pits in Northwest Durham, the conditions were very bad. I do not pretend that the pit which I visited is typical of some of today's modern pits. However, it is always exhausting to work underground in any pit. It is unhealthy and it is often dangerous.
§ Mr. Radice
The miners are special, and they need to be rewarded accordingly. There is a further over-riding reason for their being a special case. It is because the country now needs coal more desperately than at any other time since the war. The opportunity for the coal industry is understood well by both sides of the industry. I have been told by both sides during the past few weeks that unless the industry is prepared to pay higher wages it will be increasingly difficult to get miners.
I visited Poland last summer. There the miners are paid as much as company directors. I am not advocating that that should happen here overnight. However, 258 we need to pay the miners much higher wages if we are to have a flourishing coal industry. The Government's argument is that if the miners are allowed anything more than the letter of stage three the floodgates will open, through which all other workers will go.
Of course, there is a problem, as much for the Government as for the unions. I speak as one who was research officer of a major union and worked under the incomes policies of successive Governments. Despite that cruel experience, I believe that any Government must have an incomes side to their anti-inflation policy. However, my firm conclusion is that no policy has the remotest chance of success in the long term unless it is seen against the background of a much fairer society than we have now.
The Government's problem is that over the last three years they have created some formidable obstacles to this kind of acceptability. Under this Government it is the better-off who have done well and the workers and their families who have borne the burden of any sacrifice. Conservative Budgets have been characterised by their concern for the wealthy.
Government policies—in particular the Housing Finance Act—have fallen on the least well-off, and the Government have refused to make any attempt to subsidise food prices, which of course have hit the less well-off much more severely than the better-off. Last, the irrelevant, divisive and harmful Industrial Relations Act has directly embittered relations with the unions, as all of us who knew anything about it told the Government at the time.
Despite all this, the TUC yesterday made a major conciliatory gesture to the Government, which, despite the Government's fumbling, the Prime Minister has now agreed to discusss. I hope that the Government realise the seriousness and exceptional nature of the TUC's commitment. However, the Government must understand that alienation is widespread among unionists and that only if they recognise this will there be any chance of success. The Government, and particularly the Prime Minister, must learn to listen to other people. They must have the imagination to understand other people's points of view.
In this debate, which I hope he will read tomorrow in HANSARD, the Prime 259 Minister has been given many suggestions for solving the mining dispute. I hope that he will adopt one or two. But looking ahead, we do not need just to settle the miners' dispute, although that is the first priority: we need a broader settlement, a better relationship between this Government and the trade unions. If the Government told the TUC that they were prepared to subsidise some foods, put the Housing Finance Act in cold storage, repeal the Industrial Relations Act and introduce a wealth tax as a symbol of their desire for national unity, they would get a positive response. If Conservative Members said that this would mean abandoning all Conservative policies, I would simply point out that nothing else would create, or recreate, the basics of social consensus on which the running of our society depends.
I hope that Conservative Members also realise that the election slogan coined by the Conservative Central Office—"Who runs the country?"—is very dangerous and divisive. Heaven knows, we cannot afford any more division. It will also rebound on those who release it. The idea that trade unions have any wish to run the country or overturn the constitution is of course absurd, as anyone knows who has had anything to do with them. This would be increasingly realised during an election campaign. In fact, the British people would want to know how the Government they elected in 1970 are now apparently so convinced of the bankruptcy of their policies that they do not know who runs the country. I suspect that the British people would draw the appropriate conclusion.
The job of Government is to solve problems, not to sit in bunkers or to run away. The Government must abandon confrontation once and for all and adopt a new policy, a new attitude, of co-operation and conciliation. That is what this country wants ; it provides the only possible framework within which it will be possible to solve our country's difficult economic problems.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ Miss Joan Hall (Keighley)
I was particularly interested when the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Radice) said that he felt that the miners should be paid a much higher wage. What I am interested lo know is how much that would be and 260 how much it would cost the industry. He also mentioned that the Prime Minister had said that the 16 per cent. offer would cost £44 million. Our constituents want to know how much that would raise the price of coal and coal products that they buy——
§ Miss Hall
That figure of 2p a ton is one that I have heard, but I have heard much higher ones. I was interested to note that, during the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch), the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Swain) said, in a derogatory tone, "Talk." I do not want to fight ; I far prefer to talk. I am reminded of the saying, "Jaw-jaw is better than war-war." I am sorry that my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) has gone. I am always interested in his arguments, particularly about bargaining. No doubt he will repeat them and one will be able to follow him on another occasion.
Some important points have already been mentioned, but, to avoid repetition, I want to deal with some new ones. While the right hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) was speaking today, I received a telegram from a constituent raising a point that has been raised with me before. I telephoned him and he told me that the telegram had been put together by a number of people who felt that the point was important. It has been mentioned before but it bears repetition. I hope that the Minister will answer it specifically.
The telegram says:Suggest Mr. Heath tells the Trades Union Council that he will negotiate with the miners if all their member unions"—that is, all the TUC member unions—will guarantee not to ask for more than phase 3 permits. If they refuse"—that is, if the TUC refuses to give that guarantee—the country will know that continued inflation is definitely the alternative. If they agree then he"—the Prime Minister—has succeeded in putting the brake on inflation.261 I should like an answer to that question. My hon. Friends on the Front Bench are welcome to have this telegram. This telegram has come from some of my constituents. They are more important than some of the silly things that hon. Members opposite have been saying.
My other two points concern petrol—one generally and the other in a particular constituency context. First, I was interested in the Lord President's reference yesterday tothe splendid way in which motorists have been keeping to the 50 mph speed limit."—[OFFICIAL RLPORT, 9th January, 1974; Vol. cS67, c. 144.]My experience is that it has not been well observed on motorways. Driving to my constituency on the day the House rose—up the Ml virtually to Leeds, turning off on to the M62 and then taking the M606 to Bradford—and when I came back yesterday, I kept careful count of the vehicles which passed me.
I should say that in normal circumstances I find it difficult to keep to the 70 mph limit.
I refer to something said by the right hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) who quoted John F. Kennedy:It is not what my country can do for me but what I can do for my country.In the present situation that is important. I want to give some figures because it seems that the situation with regard to the 50 mph limit is not improving. When I went to my constituency on 21st December the number of cars on the road was approximately the same as the number when I came back yesterday. On the way there I was overtaken by 117 cars. Coming down yesterday the number of cars that overtook me was 337.
§ Miss Hall
No. I will not give way to the hon. Gentleman. Everyone agrees that travelling at 50 mph saves petrol. That is the object of the exercise. But people seem to be forgetting that this limit is still in operation. Driving on a motorway requires a lot of self-control. Is it still necessary for this 50 mph limit to be observed? If so, will the Government emphasise this in newspapers, on television and radio because it is being forgotten by an increasing number of motorists.
§ Mr. Stephen Hastings (Mid-Bedfordshire)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We on this side are just as interested in the speech of my hon. Friend as in any other that has been made today. She is making a serious point. May I ask you to prevail on hon. Members opposite to accord her the same courtesy which they have accorded to others?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)
I am obliged to the hon. Member. I think perhaps there is rather more noise than there ought to be. The hon. Lady ought to be given a careful hearing and I hope that we shall all do so with a clear conscience.
§ Miss Hall
My next point concerns my constituency and the new Post Office rule whereby deliveries and collections to and from rural post offices are being reduced to save an estimated 10 per cent. of Post Office petrol consumption. In the rural Pennine areas many of the villages which are termed rural are in fact industrial villages. This was the cradle of the Industrial Revolution. It started up in the hills and the wool was brought down to the mouths of the rivers.
In my constituency there is a village called Oxenhope. It is termed a rural area by the Post Office but it has over 40 firms in it. The people of the village work in the factories there and others come in from outside. A number of firms are small. The largest factory employs 120 people. Each afternoon the mail is taken to the post office. There are about four or five bags of mail and parcels a day being taken down to Keighley. Under present regulations there cannot be a collection after mid-day. This means that a number of my small but very important firms are severely restricted. Although this is termed a rural area, it is not. The Post Office is being to rigid in its definition 263 of rural areas. As in a good deal of life, it is not all black and white. There is a lot of grey in the middle. I ask the Minister to get the Post Office to be more flexible in its rulings.
What is happening now is that instead of one Post Office van coming from Keighley on a 12-mile run, a number of cars are going to Keighley and back again, thus using more petrol than would one Post Office van. The object of the exercise is to save petrol nationally and not just petrol used by the Post Office. I ask my right hon. Friends to look at these points.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)
The hon. Member for Keighley (Miss Joan Hall) should appreciate that we were interested in her constituency points. We all have many such points arising from the present crisis with which we could deal ad infinitum. What we have to address ourselves to is the question how to get off this roundabout, which is creating the sort of problems about which the hon. Lady spoke.
The anomalies that have been created through the three-day week are legion. Hon. Members speak euphemistically about the ingenuity of workpeople and employers in getting round the three-day week problem. Such tales are legendary. We know that, and we know that whereas many employers have not co-operated with trade unions during phases 1, 2 and 3, they are co-operating in the interests of keeping their business going. Some of the arrangements reached are in the best traditions of British ingenuity.
We know that the three-day week is disastrous, and impinges severely on certain firms. I have some in my constituency. Saturday working, in particular, involves problems for women and children. Nevertheless, many have overcome the difficulties on a temporary basis. Serious as the three-day week is now, and disruptive as it has been in many parts of industry, it is nothing compared to what will happen unless this dispute is resolved.
I draw particular attention to the crucial issue of coking coal for the steel industry. I was discussing the arrangements made for the three-day week with employers and trade unionists in the 264 engineering industry in the Greater Manchester area this weekend. What was worrying them was not the immediate interim arrangements which have been concluded but the fact that the supply of steel to some key industries is beginning to dry up. We are short of coking coal at the moment, leaving aside the question of moving stocks from the pits to the steel plants. I wonder what will happen if the lockout—that is what it is—on British Railways, carried out by the chairman, develops in such a way that it is impossible to move this coal, not only to the power stations but to the steel plants.
If that happens we shall be not on a three-day week but on a one- or two-day week in many key industries—not all, but certainly those which depend upon steel. It will not be just employment and wages which will be affected but our exports and everything that goes with that.
I want to address myself to the central issue of the industrial dispute, particularly in the mining industry. If there is one thing that we have learned in the last two days it is that we shall not be able to negotiate a settlement for the mining industry across the Floor of the House. I am a trade unionist, and have been all my life. I think I know a little about the industry in which I worked since I was a boy of 14. Matters such as winding time are peculiar to the industry. However ingenious we may be m this House in suggesting how we may resolve the problem, it can be resolved only by direct and free negotiations between the National Coal Board and the National Union of Mineworkers. The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) put his finger firmly on the answer to this question.
The coal board and the union understand the issues and the problems involved. When intelligent and skilled people on the employers' and the union sides approach the Pay Board and receive in reply a letter giving the Pay Board's interpretation which neither side can understand, it shows how ludicrous the situation is. It also proves the fallacy of a statutory incomes policy. Here I agree with the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West, although I certainly disagree with his economic conclusions.
265 I think we have all learned a lesson. I agree that it is attractive to talk about creating an incomes policy by having what appears to be a nice liberal policy with a scale, everybody being put into a pigeon hole, and resolving the matter in a nice tidy way. But industry is not a nice, tidy set-up. In fact, we live and work under a basic market economy, where many factors come into play. This question of relativity takes into account not only the dirty, dangerous job that the miners do but the productivity and the profitability of the industry. It takes into account the social consequences of the industry in our society.
I remember how eloquent the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry used to be in opposition to an incomes policy, but today he supports such a policy. He is supporting a policy which has brought the country to a three-day week—a policy which he is proudly administering on behalf of the Government. I have been trying to find some of those posters which said, "Life is better under the Conservatives" but I have had no success. I think the Tories must have burned them all.
We have got to return to free collective bargaining, particularly in connection with the mining industry. We might as well face the fact that nobody is going to beat the miners. They hold all the cards. They are working five days a week. Many miners are working longer hours than those people who criticise the miners. Many of those people are on a 35-hour week, whereas the miners are already doing 40 hours, which is normal working. The miners have all the cards. They have the economic strength and the ability to reach a negotiated settlement. If they were to be absolutely irresponsible they could ask for astronomical amounts, such as are obtained by certain people who are being paid privately in the mining industry to get the coal out.
We all know that the miners would have resolved this matter for quite a smallish sum in comparison with what people have been talking about. The miners have not been allowed to negotiate because the Government have been tied to this idiotic phase 3 and their counter-inflation policy. We know that phase 3 is being broken all over the place. The electrical powers workers got what they asked for because they were deemed not to be strictly within the terms of phase 3. 266 We know that the agreement was a generous and deserved agreement, and the electrical power workers got it. The Glasgow fire workers reached an agreement with Glasgow Corporation, and I do not believe that that agreement has yet been submitted to the Pay Board. I should like to know why it has not been submitted and, if it is submitted, whether the board will reject it as it rejected the claim by APEX. If the Pay Board were to reject it and ask for the money back from the Glasgow firemen, would they get it, and would another fire engine go out in Glasgow?
These problems are created by a statutory incomes policy. In the context of the present policy, the TUC has leaned over backwards in an unprecedented manner to try to get the mining dispute settled, not to get the Government down but to get the people back to work and to stop the disastrous trend to which I have referred and the conditions which could be created by a steel shortage.
The Prime Minister this afternoon asked whether the rest of industry would accept phase 3. Everybody knows that the trade unions are opposed to phase 3. The Prime Minister will have to throw that out of the window and start again if he wants a settlement. The trade unions have said that they would not use a settlement with the miners as an argument in any further negotiations. We have on record the words of Mr. Scanlon, the President of the Amalgamated Engineering Workers' Union, who, referring to the TUC's proposal that the Government should make a settlement with the miners' said that his union's claim had been in for some time. He said, "Whatever happens to the miners' claim, we will not use that as a lever for our own." He said that this afternoon. It does not mean that the engineers are going to settle within phase 3. They are not called upon to settle within the terms of phase 3. We want a return to free collective bargaining, and if the miners' settlement is allowed to work its way through rapidly the unions will not use that as a stalking horse for the claims that they put in. They will allow their claim to be judged on their merits. Nothing could be fairer than that.
We are aware of the contempt of the Government, including the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for the trade union 267 movement. There have been contradictory statements from the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Employment. I believe that the party opposite are in disarray on this issue. Its members come back from their constituencies telling us that people want to see the miners and the trade unions defeated. I have talked to many of my constituents, and in almost every case—I admit not in every case—people have told me that the Government ought to settle with the miners, that the miners have a justifiable case, and that if people have to pay through the nose for oil as they are having to do, surely they should be prepared to pay our own workers who produce our indigenous fuel.
This debate has been useful. I hope it has done some good with the Government. I hope that in tonight's discussions the Prime Minister v/ill listen, for a change. I hope he will open his ears and listen to what is said to him and to the Government.
There has been talk of moderates, militants, and so on, but the NUM executive this morning was unanimous in its decision to maintain the overtime ban and not to meet again for another month.
The Government are directly responsible for this situation. They have taken on the responsibility for all wage negotiations. That is what happens with a statutory incomes policy. It finishes here. We have ideas thrown about across the Floor of the House, but they do not help to resolve the dispute. In some cases they widen the difficulties.
This country is facing a serious situation, and workers are aware of it. I suggest, in no glib manner, that at the beginning of this dispute people were confused and apportioned blame partly to the miners, partly to the trade unions, and partly to the Government. If the situation continues for another two or three weeks, the steel shortage increases, and the three-day week develops into a two-day week, the anger of the British people will be firmly directed against the Government and all that they stand for.
We have heard the argument that some people are ungovernable. We live in a democratic society. People will allow themselves to be governed in a democracy only when they are prepared to 268 accept that what is being done is fair. People do not expect to get all that they ask for, but they want justice.
If the dispute is allowed to go on—I believe that the situation is deteriorating—we shall have confrontation and we shall be forced into a divisive industrial and political situation. I warn the House that the British people, who are being extremely patient and tolerant at the moment, will turn very nasty if this situation continues. That will not be good for Britain or for democracy, but I assure the House that the British trade union movement and Labour Party will not run away from such a situation.
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)
There has been a lot of angry talk. We have been told on many occasions of the anger of the miners, of the ASLEF workers, and of hon. Members opposite about this dispute. But all those people are receiving full pay. I believe that the anger should come from people who are on a three-day week, drawing three days' pay. and travelling to and from work in intolerable conditions. They are the people who should be angry at this time.
One of the most angry men on the benches opposite is the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn). I do not think that anyone in this House or in the country, as a result of what we have seen and heard on television and read in the newspapers, would disagree with the fact that the Communist Party and its followers are very strong on the NUM executive and are using their influence and power to maintain industrial action to deny this country the vital supplies of coal that it needs, and that those on the ASLEF executive are using their influence to slow down the railways. Whatever may happen about oil, there is no doubt that the present situation would not have arisen had it not been for industrial action in the mines.
Much blame has been levelled at my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, but does anyone in this House or in the country disagree with these words:… so far, the damage has been far less than was hoped by some of those who saw in the strike a means of crippling the economy and securing a reversal of essential Government policies.Secondly, we have made it clear that, while we have done everything in our power to secure a satisfactory and honourable settlement, if the 269 strike continues the Government must react to it with every measure necessary to protect the interests of the nation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th June 1966; Vol. 730, c. 41.]Surely hon. Gentlemen opposite will not quarrel with a single, solitary word of that statement. If so, I must remind them that they were not the words of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister but those of the Leader of the Opposition, the then Prime Minister, during the seamen's strike in 1966. Surely that indicates the problems then confronting the right hon. Gentleman.
On 28th June he added:The House will be aware that the Communist Party, unlike the major political parties, has at its disposal an efficient and disciplined industrial apparatus controlled from Communist Party headquarters. No major strike occurs anywhere in this country in any sector of industry in which that apparatus fails to concern itself. In special cases it has been seen at work, for example, in the Electrical Trades Union, where it made a successful take-over bid if not for the share capital at any rate for the management of the union, lasting for some years. No other political party is organised on these lines."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th June 1966; Vol. 730, c. 1613.]Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite talk about confrontation. The Labour Government were talking about and engaging in confrontation with the Communists in the unions. There can be no confrontation unless two people are parties to it. There can be no conciliation unless both parties agree to it.
The Electrical Trades Union purged itself of Communist domination. As a result of experience, Frank Chapple, the present general secretary, had the authority and courage on Sunday, 23rd December 1973, to write in the Sunday Express. Part of what he wrote is worth repeating to this House and the country:I believe that there is a group of men whose purpose is not pay settlement—any kind of settlement—for trades unionists. It is to topple the Government, and not just the Tory Government, but the whole democratic system.He further stated that a spate of pay deals, coming on a refusal by the TUC to give an official assurance that if stage 3 was broken for the miners it would not be followed by massive demands from other unions,would mean inflation on a scale we have never known before. It would destroy the value of even the biggest pay settlements.Does anyone doubt that? What would be the plight of those who could not 270 defend themselves—old-age pensioners and people in the lower income groups? They would suffer most.
Above all, Frank Chapple, a fortnight ago, was doing no more than reiterate exactly what the Leader of the Opposition, then Prime Minister, said in 1966, which was followed absolutely and agreed by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. It would be more honest if, in the interests of the nation, and certainly in the long-term interests of the party that he leads, the right hon. Gentleman had the integrity and the courage to condemn the subversive elements in our national life as he so roundly did in 1966.
§ Mr. Denis Howell indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Burden
The hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but there has been a complete change-around in his attitude today. The devious attitude of the Leader of the Opposition today is discreditable in view of what he stated about Communist domination of the unions in 1966. There has been no change in their intention.
§ Mr. Burden
Those men are still Communists. If it were the aim of the Communists in 1966, which he so roundly blamed then, why should their aim be any different today? If the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition is devious and discreditable on this——
§ Mr. Prentice
Will the hon. Gentleman at least promise to read the speech yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition? Clearly he did not listen to it. Will the hon. Gentleman also study carefully the analysis given by my right hon. Friend of the ways in which the policies of this Government are encouraging extremism and Communism in the unions and discouraging the moderates?
§ Mr. Burden
I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman cannot wriggle out of that one. If the Communist element in the unions was so damaging in 1966 that the then Prime Minister said that the aim of Communists was to force the Government to reverse their policy and to bring down the Government, there is no change in their attitude today. It is a question of Government or Communism. The right hon. Gentleman cannot wriggle out of it.
271 If the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition was discreditable, I believe that that of the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East is even worse. During the 1960s he tried to establish himself as the whiz-kid of the Government. I am afraid that there was very little whiz about his activities. However there was an awful lot of kid, and he still tries to indulge in it today. I believe that he sees himself not merely as Leader of the Opposition but as a future Prime Minister. He is such a careerist that he will do everything, no matter how irresponsible, to try to attain that aim. In my view the right hon. Gentleman has neither loyalty to his party, loyalty to his Leader nor loyalty to the country if it serves his personal interest not to have those loyalties.
The right hon. Gentleman has had an awful lot to say recently. He has been campaigning——
§ Mr. Ray Carter (Birmingham, Northfield)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Earlier in this debate an hon. Member referred to someone outside this Chamber as being traitorous. The expression was questioned on a point of order. Mr. Speaker said that it was not out of order but that if it had been directed towards another right hon. or hon. Member it would have been contempt. Perhaps you would care to consider what the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) has just said and rule upon it.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I have been listening very carefully to what the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) has been saying. Curiously enough, the word referred to by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Carter) crossed my mind. But of course it was not used in this context. I do not think that the hon. Member for Gillingham has transgressed the rules of order in what he has said. However, in all our debates it is as well to keep personalities, if not guarded completely, at any rate in some form of restraint. Hon. Members should be a little careful about how they talk about each other, no matter what their feelings may be.
§ Mr. Denis Howell
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. 272 Although of course I accept your ruling, I am sure that you will agree that it is the custom of the House for an hon. Member intending to make a personal attack upon another hon. Member to give that hon. Member notice of his intention before the debate commences. May we inquire whether the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) has done my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) the courtesy of telling him that this attack was to be made?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I think that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Denis Howell) will appreciate that perhaps the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) realised that some sort of attack was likely to be made upon him. I do not think that this is quite of the nature which would require a personal notice to be given.
§ Mr. Burden
Of course I did not advise the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East. However, as he is winding up today's debate, I should have expected him to be here during the debate. He has been missing most of the time.
The fact is that the right hon. Gentleman has been projecting himself as the champion of the workers and demanding that the wildest claims of the miners and others should be supported and met without care of the consequences. But these are the same workers of whom the right hon. Gentleman admitted in this House on 2nd August 1971 that he had told Upper Clyde Shipbuilders to slim their labour force by several thousands of men. In other words, he told UCS to sack several thousand workers. I challenged the right hon. Gentleman with this on several occasions in this House. It is reported in HANSARD and cannot be denied. It is sheer hypocrisy for the right hon. Gentleman now to set himself up as the champion of the workers who wants to ensure that everyone keeps his job.
The right hon. Gentleman did not show much love or concern for the miners during the six years in which he was a Minister. In that time 200,000 miners were sacked and coal production fell from 195 million tons to 165 million tons due to pit closures. The miners should also remember the paltry wage increases they got when the Labour Party 273 were in power. At no stage did they receive more than 3 per cent.
The miners should also be reminded of what the right hon. Gentleman said on 6th May 1970. He pointed to Conservative hon. Members and said:… they come to us and say, ' Why have you allowed the coal mining industry to run down? Why do you not deal with this …?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th May, 1970; Vol. 801, c. 532.]That quotation demonstrates the great concern which the right hon. Gentleman had in those days for the coal mining industry. They are not my words. They are convictions out of the right hon. Gentleman's own mouth of how little he cared for the coal miners.
As if that were not enough to show how little faith the right hon. Gentleman has in the coal mines, I remind the House that on 3rd February in a debate on the manpower rundown he said:The real problem of the North is that of older industries, notably coal, running down in the face of oncoming fuel industries, gas and nuclear power … ".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd February 1970 ; Vol. 795, c. 278.]I consider the right hon. Gentleman's attitude towards the present dispute to be brazen effrontery which should be exposed to the whole nation. I know that many of his right hon. and hon. Friends also consider it to be brazen effrontery.
I hope that the country will soon be out of this shocking situation. I believe that right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House should join in——
§ Mr. Michael English(Nottingham, West)—in getting rid of the incomes policy.
§ Mr. Burden
It is all very well for the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Varley) to say, "Oh, my God !" I have read what his own Leader said in 1966 when he was Prime Minister.
§ Mr. Burden
The people have shown their repugnance to Communism by refusing to elect one member of that party to this House in the past 20 years. The 274 Leader of the Opposition made it perfectly clear when he was Prime Minister that he recognised that the Communist Party was trying to control the nation by dominating the big unions which themselves could bring the country's industry to a halt.
It is in the interests of this country for hon. Members whether Conservative, Labour or Liberal, to do their duty and to join together to ensure that the Communist Party, which has been unable to send even one Member to Parliament, does not dominate our country through exploiting the trade unions.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
I do not believe that the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) has done himself, the House or the nation any great service in the contribution that he has just made. Let me deal with his charge about Communists. I think that I am the only hon. Member who arrived here by defeating a Communist who had been a Member of Parliament for 15 years. I know very well that just as there are Communists in the trade union movement so there are Fascists in the Tory Party. I do not condemn the Tory Party because it has a few Fascists—one or two of them sitting here tonight. I do not condemn the Tory Party because it is a cross-section of the Right wing and the upper classes of Britain.
We represent a cross-section of the Left-wing working people and we collect to us either fellow travellers or, occasionally, in the unions, through apathy but sometimes by deliberate intent of the members, Communist leaders. That is essentially what democracy is about. We should be proud that Communists are allowed to reach positions in the House and in the trade unions by democratic processes which do not exist in the countries to which they owe allegiance. That is the strength of this country.
When I have gone round and talked to moderate miners—I represent one of the most militant constituencies in the country and I could not get away with some of the things I say about other matters if it were not—I have not heard anybody among the most responsible miners in my constituency say other than that the offer, far from being generous, does not measure up to the challenge of death that faces every miner every time 275 he goes down the pit. My father was a miner, and he was compelled to work in a seam 17 in. high. Just visualise working a 17 in. seam for eight hours a day, five days a week. As a schoolboy I used to draw his pay, and if there were two pound notes in his pay packet he was very lucky. Of course, it is that tradition that has made the miners the militants and at the same time the moderates that they are.
I was appalled by the transformation of the Secretary of State for Employment between the first speech he made in his present capacity and his first television appearance, when he referred 50 or more times to this "generous" offer. My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) is present, and I am glad that he is. As far as I know, there has been no reference in the debate to the article which he produced in The Guardian, which showed that far from the offer being 16 per cent., for a typical miner who is married with two children, taking account of his deductions in income tax, national insurance and with inflation running at the current rate, he gets not £4, £5 or £6 a week, but 61p net. The Government had better either refute these figures or confirm them. I do not know whether my hon. Friend has taken the matter up with the Government, but we deserve a reply.
I regret the fact that the hon. Member for Gillingham disappeared almost before resuming his seat. When he spoke about the Prime Minister's making an imaginative speech I could not think what he had been listening to. He had not been at the same match as I had. The Prime Minister, as is recognised increasingly by his supporters, yesterday bore all the characteristics of a cold, stubborn, rigid, inhuman and unimaginative man who is hell-bent on driving the country to ruin rather than admit any error of judgment anywhere in his policies of the last three and a half years. He has never once admitted that he has made a fundamental or even minor mistake. He said that there had been no confrontation. The whole country believes that this is confrontation, deliberately engineered by the Government for their party political purposes.
The Prime Minister made an election speech yesterday. He said that in the 276 last 18 months no one had spoken to the trade unions more than he had. But what about the previous 18 months? I remember the Tories waving their Order Papers aloft when the Chancellor produced his October 1970 White Paper on new patterns of public expenditure, under which the Government were to cut social services, school milk, school meals, housing subsidies, and the rest. They produced the Industrial Relations Act. Ireland is not the only country to have its IRA. We have our IRA—the Industrial Relations Act—which is doing as much damage here as the IRA is doing in Belfast. There is also the Housing Finance Act, which was a deliberate attempt to take £200 million in subsidies out of the pockets of ordinary people.
Every Budget, without exception, has been designed to take from those who have least and to give to those who have most. This was confrontation and Tory Party politics, and the Tories were elected to do some of these things. When they said that they would reduce taxation the ordinary people believed them. They did not know that the idea was to reduce taxation on the wealthy. When the Conservatives said that they would cut expenditure the ordinary voter did not know that the cut would fall on the social services—in other words, that the Government were planning to destroy the standard of living of those already on a low standard and to give more to those who already had most. Now, of course, the Government are in desperate need of scapegoats and fall guys. The Arab sheikhs were blamed, then the miners, droughts in Russia, Watergate in the United States, and Pompidou in France. Everyone was blamed except the Government.
I want to say a word about the miners because I know a little about them. There was a debate in the House of Lords before Christmas, when Lord Boothby, a former Tory and an independent-minded man, condemned the Prime Minister for attacking at the strongest point. He said that he hoped it would not be followed by a Passchendaele. He was attacking the miners, but of course the miners cannot lose. The Government cannot afford to let them lose because they are our homegrown sheikhs, our home-grown Arabs. The Government are compelled to pay the price the Arabs are asking and they will 277 be compelled to pay the price the miners are asking. The miners are far too moderate in their claim. I should like to take down a pit any Tory Member who cares to go. I will arrange it. I will find the lowest seam I can and I shall say "Climb up that bloody thing." Just going down a pit is worth £50 a week.
When previously the Tory Party was in power—and the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) was a member of that Government—there was not a statutory policy, but there was an incomes policy. The people whom the right hon. Gentleman attacked when he was a member of Mr. Macmillan's Government were the nurses. The right hon. Gentleman is on record as saying that the nurses could not have more than 2½ per cent.—and the then Chancellor of the Exchequer was the present Speaker.
I am sorry that Mr. Speaker is not here. I raised this matter when he was elected Speaker and I said that I would hurl it at him if he became Speaker. He is a good Speaker—I had better say that—but he was in the Government at the time.
That Government knew whom to attack. They attacked at the weakest point, for they knew that the nurses would not strike. Now they are sour, because they know that the miners have economic power, that they can use it and are using it, and the Government can do nothing about it. The longer this state of affairs goes on, the heavier the price the Government and the nation will have to pay.
In his idiocy, in his stupidity, in his rigidity, the Prime Minister says, "I, God Almighty, living in No. 10 for the moment, say that if the miners will not settle within phase 3 I will keep the country on a three-day week until the spring." I had a telegram handed to me only half an hour ago ; it was sent by a firm in Glenrothes. It says:172 employees will be made redundant at Cessna Fluid Power. Glenrothes, Fife. Further information telephone Glenrothes … AUEW.Mr. Catherwood said on television the other night that by the end of this month we would have more than 3 million out of work, and that many of them would be permanently out of work because many firms would be going out of business permanently because of the stupidity and rigidity of the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. Hamilton
I understood that the Tory Party believed in market forces. The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West said that the law of the market would solve everything. The miners are obeying the laws of the market. They are pursuing Tory Party dogma. They are saying, "We have something to sell. You, Mr. Heath, have something to buy and you cannot get it anywhere else, only from us." Who is the more patriotic, Mr. Harry Hyams, or Mr. Joe Gormley?
§ Mr. Hamilton
I shall not give way to the hon. Lady, who has only just entered the Chamber.
Who is more patriotic, Mr. Harry Hyams, who can make millions out of an empty Centre Point block, or Joe Gormley, who is leading 300,000 coal miners?
Whatever the history of this matter, the fact is that we need as much coal as quickly as we can get it. I am glad that at last we have a Minister for Energy. On the other hand, I greatly doubt whether we have the right man. Much has been said about the noble Lord who sits in the other place and not in this Chamber. He is the Chairman of the Tory Party. What will be his top priority—winning the next election for the Tory Party or winning the coal and the other energy supplies that the country needs? If the two conflict, which will come first?
The noble Lord gives moral lectures, as did the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) in the Sunday Express last week—and he had better keep a discreet silence and not give moral lectures to anybody. The same applies to Lord Carrington. He has been one of the most squalid property speculators under the present Government's legislation for the past two or three years. He now talks about my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition not giving a moral lead, but Lord Carrington is the last to talk like that.
Let them not talk to us about patriotism. Let them not talk about the national interest, and the rest of it. We know what the national interest is. We 279 do not need any lessons in patriotism. But we know when we are on a winner, and we are on one on this occasion.
The people of this country will understand how they have been led to this—the "in" word is "impasse" ; it was first used by the right hon. Gentleman and it means that we are in a rut and do not know how to get out of it. The Prime Minister is determined to keep us in it until he gets his own way, but he will not get his own way, and the sooner he goes, the better.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Stephen Hastings (Mid-Bedfordshire)
The hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) always spoils such case as he has by the bitterness and aggression with which he speaks—I do not know how else to describe it. He would have made a good friend to John Knox in his day. His speech, so far as it went, was simply to the effect that we must give in to the miners as they are more powerful and we have no alternative. We understand his point of view.
I thought it unjust, if I may say so sincerely, that he should attack my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) as he did for posing what my hon. Friend believes to be a real danger facing the country because of the actions of the Communist Party. I shall have something to say about that myself. The hon. Member was disingenuous about this. He said that it was a good thing that we should have all extremes represented within the democratic process in this country and should congratulate ourselves on it, and that that was the end of the matter. I agree with him that all extremists have the right of access to the House, if they can get elected, but there is more to it than that, and many of the hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends know it perfectly well.
If, in this country, there were a faction on the Right so powerful as to represent the sort of threat that my hon. Friend and many of the rest of us believe to be represented by the Communist Party—and which many of the hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends believe to be represented by the Communist Party—I would earnestly trust and hope that the hon. Gentleman and many of his hon. 280 Friends would be talking about it every day. I do not believe that he has the right to criticise my hon. Friend's speech in those terms. Although the hon. Gentleman may disagree with my hon. Friend he has the right and even the duty to speak as he did.
In many respects this is the most dangerous situation that I remember since coming to the House. In all sincerity, I find it difficult to know what to say to be useful in the debate, particularly at this stage, and so I ask hon. Members to forgive me if my remarks tend to be a little disjointed, for so many of the arguments have gone by already.
Of course, there are many anomalies in the three-day week, as many hon. Members have said. I hope that my right hon. Friend will pay particular attention to one worry which affects my own area and which was expressed by the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) on behalf of glasshouse growers. A real threat is posed to an important industry here, and my right hon. Friend must bear it in mind.
Some have claimed that women's hair-dressing is a luxury, but it would be a brave man who defended that view very widely. Although something has been done, there is a case for more attention and there are other examples.
It is an extremely serious situation—it must be when we are suddenly approaching 1 million unemployed—but nevertheless I should like to interpose one note which may be different from what has been heard so far. It is a mistake to overdo the doom and gloom, for reasons that I shall mention. There may be a tendency to do this. This situation is manifestly difficult for small companies, although some are managing remarkably well and have discovered many economies in management. I know of at least one big industrial group which is now on 90 per cent. output while operating on 65 per cent. power. There are numerous examples of management and work force getting together in a way that they have not done for a long time. Perhaps it takes a crisis of this magnitude to make them realise that their interests are not so far apart after all.
The danger of overdoing the doom can be represented in an example I heard of the day before yesterday. It concerned a 281 British firm trying to win a most important contract abroad. The firm's American competitors, backed up, I am sorry to say, by an institution of the American Government—if my information is correct—have been saying to the customer, "Do not pay any attention to the British. They will never deliver. This is what they are saying about themselves"—and quoting newspapers and statements by politicians in this country. Steel is available abroad. It is expensive and of course bears down on the pound, but it can be imported. Let us not overdo this attitude of gloom or we may talk ourselves out of successes which we might otherwise achieve.
I turn briefly to the miners' and train drivers' disputes, for the solution to these is the solution to all our ills. The miners' appeal has for me always been a moving one, particularly when it comes from the pits and the villages. I have, alas, little experience of these areas, but there have been speeches from a number of hon. Members, particularly from Opposition Members who really know the miners' life—such, for instance, as the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. Albert Roberts), who spoke yesterday, and, as was apparent, also from some of the remarks of the hon. Member for Fife, West. Conditions in the mining industry clearly are arduous and hazardous. I have never worked at the coal face and I would be the last to belittle this aspect of the miners' work or the hardships which they have to put up with.
I suspect that, given the danger to life and limb and the possibility of dangerous disease, our miners may be paid too little in comparison with other workers, for instance, car workers, printing machine operators, and possibly a number of others. It is, I know, difficult to use this argument in view of the example of the deep-sea fishermen, who were referred to earlier, but it remains in my mind a probability.
I am less impressed by the argument put forward yesterday and again today by the hon. Member for Fife, West and others, which might be called the "sheikhs" argument. It is claimed that the Government pay the sheikhs what they ask for the oil and that therefore the miners should be paid what they ask for the coal, and that this is the only way to get it. But that is precisely the 282 position of the property speculator who is allegedly hoarding land. It is exactly the position which the Labour Party is always seeking to identify in business and stridently to condemn. This is an extraordinary position for the Labour Party to take. Here we see them using the hard-nosed laissez faire arguments of 50 years ago to defend the miners' position, while the Conservative Government are saying, "This is bad Socialism. It is unfair to millions of people and you must not do it."
§ Mr. Hastings
I stand with the Government on this matter. If the hon. Gentleman stands with the hard-nosed argument perhaps he had better say so.
§ Mr. Hastings
I shall not give way ; time is short. I am not being discourteous to the hon. Gentleman. I do not reject the claim that there is, or may be, a special case for the miners—this also appears to be the view of the TUC—but I was not very impressed with the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition when he brandished the latest document from the TUC at the Dispatch Box yesterday. Memories are not that short. I recall that in 1969 a solemn and binding agreement was made with the Labour Government—perhaps with the best will in the world—but it was not worth the paper it was written on and it made fools of those right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who were in Government at the time.
It is well known that the TUC, for all it may wish to do so, cannot deliver the goods. On the other hand, if Mr. Scanlon or Mr. Jones came forward and said they were ready for a contract, on behalf of their unions, which recognised that the miners' claims were special, that would be a different matter. I have seen in the evening paper tonight—I have not had time to study it—that Mr. Scanlon has made a statement. I shall be interested to hear from my right hon. Friend whether there is substance in that suggestion.
§ Mr. James Hamilton (Bothwell)
If the hon. Member had listened to Hugh Scanlon on "The World at One" today, and had listened to Clive Jenkins also, a member of a very militant trade union, 283 he would realise that both gave a categorical assurance that they would not in any circumstances use the miners' case to further their members' ends.
§ Mr. Hastings
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for confirmation of what I said. I dare say that it would have to be considered in the light of any claims which are being made, but to my mind it seems to be a constructive step.
I turn now to the miners' claim. I quite appreciate what my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) meant when, with his usual impeccable logic, he said that relativity was impossible to define. I am sure that he is right to the extent that the result of any efforts in that direction would be imperfect, but in the present situation, for reasons which I have no time to go into now, I think that the attempt should be made, at least with regard to the nationalised industries, in which—let us face it—trade unions exercise monopoly power and Governments have up to now generally used the taxpayers' money to buy them off. They present a rather particular case.
I hope that the review to which my right hon. Friend referred earlier today—the comprehensive review of the mining industry—will contain as much precision as possible. Can my right hon. Friends not say that it will be ready for discussion by a definite date? Perhaps the end of September would not be unreasonable. Can they not say that it will take full account of the special circumstances of the industry—which would mean a greater relative advantage—and also a system of two-year contracts, such as, I believe, is worked in the United States, to maintain that position in future. I do not know what my right hon. Friend said to the miners' leaders yesterday, but I should have thought that more public precision on these proposals would be useful.
I believe that the National Union of Mineworkers should accept the position, having heard what my right hon. Friend had to say to them on the future. I believe this not only because of the need to maintain the counter-inflation policy, which I regard as vital, but for constitutional reasons which, in my view, go even deeper. They were expressed in the leading 284 article in The Times yesterday in these terms:Defeat for this Government now"—that is, by the mineworkers—would involve damage to the constitutional principle on which the authority of all governments in Britain is based".That is a view which I share, and I regard it as a serious comment which all of us, especially in this place, should take into account.
In the few minutes remaining to me I shall turn to a subject which, if it did not raise the roof, at least raised the tempers of Opposition Members, though I cannot really accept that it should. If we feel it our duty to mention certain things, if we see danger to our country from the activities of anyone within it, this is the place in which to speak out. I hope that all hon. Members will take what I have to say in the sincere spirit in which it is meant. I refer to the militants.
This is a difficult subject to discuss. If one sets out to make a speech or statement about the activities of the Communist Party or its allies and friends, one is immediately told, "This is ' Reds under the bed ' talk. You must not do that. You will be laughed at." Well, I recognise that there are not very many reds under the bed—they are mostly in the bed—but there remains a lot to be said about them.
The Leader of the Opposition commented yesterday that the Government's policies were a gift to the militants. It seems to me that that is another way of saying that we must pay the moderates whatever they ask because if we do not we shall have to pay the militants more. That does not seem to me to be what Mr. Frank Smith was saying the other day, if he was accurately reported. I understood Mr. Smith to be saying, "We should not have broken our contract. We should not be throwing our fellow workers out of a job. We should accept the offer." If that be true—I am not saying that it is true, but that is how I read it—we are hardly helping him, as a moderate, by advocating surrender all over the place.
I am instructed that the NUM executive comprises 27 people with the chairman, six Communists and five Marxist 285 fellow travellers who support them politically—I think that the chairman has no vote. That means a margin of one vote for moderation. Given the history of solidarity within the miners' union, it must be, and must have been continuously throughout this story, very difficult for the moderates. We cannot afford not to take account of that position. It is one vote, and that is all. I dare question whether they would have ever broken their agreement or thrown out the latest offer out of hand if it had not been for those 11 men. What do they want? They make no secret of it. Their Bible—the Communists', anyway—is the Morning Star. I quote:The power of the trade union movement is strong enough to help the miners and drivers to win. defeat Heath's vicious cutback, smash phase 3 and compel his Government to resign. Strong enough also to commit a Labour Government to carry out Left policies, opening the road to Socialism."—we know what that means—That power must be used to the full without delay.Those words are perfectly plain in their meaning.
Two things have impelled the Communists, who have been relatively cautious previously, in like circumstances, into an all-out attack. The first is the energy crisis, which they saw as a real opportunity to embarrass the country. The second is pressure from the new Left groups who are taking support from them, particularly from young people ; and some of these groups are particularly sinister on their own account, especially the International Socialists.
Of course I know that the moderates in the trade union movement—and that is the vast majority—are as worried about this as are the rest of us, particularly the moderates near the top. I accept what was said earlier in the debate, that the majority of the miners are not interested in playing politics. I am not talking about the majority ; I am talking about the few. One does not need many to disrupt and destroy, if one has them in the right places. I quote one trade union leader:I have never known a militant progressive Socialist with an original constructive idea in his head. At all times destructive policies flow from them. One idea permeates their thinking—destroy. Where militant progressives take over, the destruction of the Labour Movement follows as night follows day. The time has 286 come when to serve the Labour Party we must challenge the arrogance and hysteria of this minority.That was said by Mr. Jim Conway, the General Secretary of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers, in December 1973. If he does not know what he is talking about, I doubt whether any Labour hon. Member does—[Interruption.]—including the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), who makes more noise on his backside than he does when on his feet, and that is saying something.
Let it never be forgotten that the reason these people have wormed their way into positions of such power in the trade union movement is that for decades they have been consistently and summarily rejected by the electorate. All Communists in this country must know that their ideas, their methods and their Soviet masters are not wanted here. Having failed to use the democratic process they have decided to abuse it, in accordance with their doctrine.
§ Mr. Hastings
We face a situation of crisis which in all probability would never have arisen without the activities of these people. Their real aims have about as much to do with the welfare of miners as they have to do with space research. They have helped, to say the least, to bring our economy grinding towards a halt. They threaten the integrity of one of the two great parliamentary parties represented in the House. It is time that the truth was told about them. It is time that the Government divulged the facts which they know so well. It is time that hon. Members of the Opposition spoke up for their beliefs in this respect, for we know very well that they hold them. Indeed, it is time for all hon. Members who are willing to practise what they preach about parliamentary democracy to stand together on this issue, for the day may come when—even here—it is too late.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Ray Carter (Birmingham, Northfield)
When any Government of any part of the Western world gets into trouble, all the old fears are dragged out and paraded before the electorate in the hope that the minds of the electorate will be diverted from the basic problems. I cannot accuse the hon. Member for 287 Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) of that because he has been on this theme probably for most of his political life and certainly for as long as I have known him and since he has been in the House.
There are times when this Communist bogy is forgotten. For example, the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden), in defence of the moderates, mentioned an article written by Mr. Frank Chapple, the Secretary of the EETPU, which was critical of Communist elements within his and other trade unions. But I remember a dispute in 1971 which involved the Electrical Trades Union. Who was the General Secretary of the ETU at that time? None other than Mr. Frank Chapple. That man, who is now apparently the scourge of the Communist Party, was then, according to the Government—as we heard from Ministers day in and day out—trying to bring the country to a grinding halt and to sabotage the electrical industry and hence all industry in this country. [An hon. Member: "He grew up."] He grew up in a remarkably short space of time. I guarantee that in a few months the hon. Member for Gillingham may find it possible to criticise Mr. Chapple once again.
What about the miners? Until 1972 they had not had an official strike for 26 years. Yet Communists had been on the executive of the NUM and occupied key positions within the union, and in all that time there had been no industrial disputes. I do not recall Conservatives during that time criticising the mine-workers for being led by wild, militant, anti-British people. The Conservatives are selective in their arguments. That is typical of the Conservative Party, but it is probably equally typical of any Government. When Governments get into a corner they parade bogys such as the Communist Party to divert attention from the heart of the matter and the basic problems that have to be faced in time of crisis.
The Prime Minister yesterday dwelt upon the large amount of consultation between the Government and the trade union movement. Not many of us accept that there has been over-much consultation, or that when consultations took place they were sincere. There was no discussion about the introduction of 288 the three-day week. That is an unprecedented move for any Government at any time, particularly in peace time. We have all been asking ourselves why there was no consultation. Some people said that it was because it was a gigantic political manoeuvre on the part of the Government leading to a General Election. Others said that the Government could not enter into consultation because the policy was not clearly thought out. I think that it is probably a mixture of the two.
It is a political but certainly not a clearly thought-out scheme. But that is only to be expected. After all, the Government have made a mess of everything to which they have put their hands. They have enjoyed no successes at all, whether in economic or social policies or in foreign affairs. One looks in vain for success. One looks for one single chink of light in the darkness, but there is nothing.
§ Mr. Carter
Yes, the rich taxpayers. The Government have certainly stood by them. We do not hear very much about that from the Government, however.
We are now paying the price for the Government's manoeuvring with the three-day week. In the West Midlands, the introduction of the three-day week has already been a disaster. It needs only the three-day week to go on, not for another month but for another fortnight, for the mass of industry in the West Midlands to be brought not to a two-day or even one-day week but to a complete and grinding halt. I remind the House that 60 per cent. of people employed in the West Midlands are employed in industry. It is not a service-based area. It is the heart of the country's industrial life, and if it comes to a stop the economic life of the country comes to a halt as well.
The Prime Minister has said that the planning was done in order that we could go on with the three-day week even until the spring. If we go on for another fortnight or three weeks with that kind of policy, we shall have a complete disaster on our hands. How anyone can think that we could possibly go on to the spring and yet maintain a balanced 289 orderly economy is beyond comprehension. Where the Government get their advice from, I do not know.
Already, in the West Midlands, one-third of a million people are on short time, and that figure includes only those who are either paid by results, are on hourly pay, or are on some non-weekly wage rate. We could double that figure if we added to it those employed on guaranteed weeks or on a staff basis. These people are working a three-day week, just as the industrial workers are. Forty per cent. of the nation's workers who are currently on short time or a three-day week are employed in the Midlands, and in a fortnight's time the present policy could mean 75 to 80 per cent. of the workers in the Midlands on short time.
The reason for this is that we have virtually no exemptions. We have not masses of hairdressers in the West Midlands. We have not masses of food-processing industries. We have not energy-based industries. We have overwhelmingly manufacturing industries. There are very few exemptions. I appeal to the Government to look at this question of exemptions in order to save the economy of the West Midlands, because the West Midlands has almost no exemptions at all. We all know that employment and the income derived from it promotes business and economic activity in a variety of other ways, and we in the West Midlands will suffer disproportionately compared with the rest of the country.
I have a car factory in my constituency employing 25,000 workers. In the West Midlands, one in four workers is bound up in the car industry. The industry is Britain's biggest export earner. So far during the three-day week period, output has not dropped to what one might expect—to 60 or 65 per cent.—but has fallen to less than 50 per cent. There has not been a straightforward proportional reduction.
I met the directors of the company on Monday, when they told me that, given a fortnight or three weeks more of the present policy, it would mean absolute ruin for the industry. If we get anything like the cutback in steel production and deliveries which my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) referred to on top of the restrictions of 290 the three-day week, the British car industry could be completely brought to a halt.
§ Mrs. Sally Oppenheim
The hon. Gentleman has given us some interesting figures. Will he also give the loss of car production figures as the result of strikes in the past year and the consequential loss of export revenue?
§ Mr. Carter
I should not have given way. British Leyland at Longbridge has been producing a record number of cars. The loss of revenue has been virtually none. Ministers have praised the car industry for the high level of its output. It has been performing over the past 18 months in a way which makes it all the more tragic that we should be in our present position. The car industry has been performing in a way in which it has not performed before.
The three-day week will spell ruin if it gees on for any time. British Ley-land has just turned the corner in terms of viability. It is looking forward to a future which five or six years ago nobody thought it had. If the three-day week persists, I am afraid that British Leyland may well go the way of many other British car companies. Indeed, it may go further than that and we may cease to have a viable car industry in the West Midlands.
That is a savage price to pay for a little flexibility on the part of the Government. That is particularly so when we come to realise, as most people do, that in the final analysis there will be some kind of compromise. The alternative is that the miners will give in. I do not think any hon. Member believes that that will happen. I do not believe that even the Minister for Energy believes that. They will not give in. The Prime Minister knows that and so do all his Ministers. That leaves us only with a compromise. Surely that will happen. But look at the tragic price which we shall have to pay in the intervening period.
British industry is in an appalling state. It is ill equipped, there is low investment and appalling industrial relations. In the years which lie ahead it must try to cope with the massive problem of the balance of payments. On top of the industry's problems there is the three-day week. It 291 may well be that the Government, knowing of that, have introduced such a policy for purely political reasons. When things do not start coming right in the months which lie ahead the Government may refer to the miners' dispute and lay the blame at the door of the miners.
I do not think that the Government will be able to do that. The British electorate is far more sophisticated and knowledgeable than this Government or most Governments since the war have ever given it credit for being. It is extremely sophisticated. I can assure Conservative hon. Members that there are not many people in my constituency, be they Tory, Labour, Liberal or the dreaded Communists to whom reference has been made, who believe that the Government have control of the situation.
I do not believe that the three-day week was completely political in conception. There may have been a hastily drawn up scheme which the Government thought could cope with the imaginary problems which the Government considered they had before them. But they did not get their sums right. It is because of that that the three-day week is already working havoc in British industry. I make an appeal to the Government. I have almost given up doing so because they never listen. That applies particularly to the Prime Minister. The Government must get to grips with the miners' problem at the earliest opportunity. If they do not do so, British industry, and especially industry in the West Midlands, could be destroyed. It could be damaged in such a way that it might never recover.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Sir John Rodgers (Sevenoaks)
None of us, in whatever part of the House we sit, can be anything but worried about the economic situation. I have not the time, nor perhaps the ability, to analyse the reasons or to discuss how far it has been caused by international reasons over which we have no control, how much it is our own fault or the fault of management or unions and how much responsibility politicians must bear.
I have some sympathy with the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Carter). The three-day working week is causing havoc. I believe that it is pressing 292 very hard on the smaller firms, particularly those which depend largely on female labour and particularly on married women. Just before the recess I tried in the debate about the rising of the House to ask the Leader of the House whether the Government had thought of creating some machinery, some "court of appeal", to which small firms in particular but all firms up to a point could put their problems from which they could seek assistance.
I could not, unfortunately, wait for my right hon. Friend's reply, since I had two engagements in my constituency, but when I read HANSARD two days later, I was sorry to see that he made no reference to the matter, possibly because I was not there to hear him. So I will repeat what I said, because it is important.
I do not query the Government's decision to restrict working days and hours in order to economise on electricity consumption. It was a decision of the Government as a whole, I am sure. I do not query, given all the facts that they had then and the request by the CEGB to make such economies in order to avoid a complete breakdown, that their overall decision was amply justified. Nor do I query that the area boards were best qualified to assess the situation and to make arrangements which they thought would be in the best interests of the people of this country.
What I do query, however, is why the Government, having felt that this was the right thing to do, have not established any machinery to look into individual cases or even to consider the operation of the three-day week.
A letter from a firm in my constituency highlights what I am trying to say. It employs over 400 people right in the heart of rural Kent, most of them married women. Normally, they work three shifts on most of the business and in one operation they have a night shift as well.
The letter says that the company is in area T2, and goes on:The Company and its employees understand the nature of the Government's problem and have responded, if not willingly at least with some sympathy, to the disruption of private life involved in working Thursday to Saturday. It is a major disruption because the majority of our employees are women and Saturdays pose very special problems for housewives and mothers with school age children. In this sense we feel that the burden is 293 being unfairly shared between those Companies selected for Monday/Wednesday working and those selected for Thursday/ Saturday working.The final bitter twist of the knife came with the announcement that the working day was to be construed as 6 a.m. to 6 a.m. This means that the nightshift are now expected to work from 10 p.m. on Saturday night to 6 a.m. on Sunday morning. It is the view of this Company and of its employees … that it is wholly unreasonable for anybody to be asked to work from 10 p.m. Saturday to 6 a.m. Sunday. I cannot blame any employee who refuses to work such hours. If they do so, however, their weekly income will be cut to two days per week without the option of obtaining unemployment benefit for the shift which they have declined to work.It seems to us that the burden of three-day working could have been more equitably shared if the working day was defined as being from 10 p.m. to 10 p.m. This would mean that those firms lucky enough to be selected for Monday to Wednesday working would on a shift basis commence working at 10 p.m. on Sunday night and finish at 10 p.m. on Wednesday night. It is our belief that this is nationally a more acceptable arrangement than to ask the Thursday to Saturday people to work their last shift from Saturday night to Sunday morning.That is one example. It would be worth looking into such a point. It may well be a good one.
My hon. Friend the Member for Howden (Sir P. Bryan) put forward something which ought to be looked into. There is no Government machinery to take up such points as whether it would be fair to rotate the three-day working system so that firms were not always working Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, Friday, Saturday. There is also the possibility of closing shops for one day and having one or two full days' working by industry.
There is a genuine need for some body to be set up, perhaps within the Department of Trade and Industry. The job should not be given to the area electricity boards. They are all right for telling people how to control the amount of electricity to be used but they should not adjudicate on which systems should be used by the workers. We have a new Department of Energy. Maybe it is thinking of setting up such a body. It should have been done two or three weeks ago. It is difficult to know to which Department one should go.
I welcome the creation of the Department of Energy and am particularly delighted at the appointment of the 294 Minister for Energy who is to be the Department's spokesman in this House. I think that at last we shall get some action. The Government are a little bit to blame for the way in which the three-day week is working.
§ 8.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael English (Nottingham, West)
There have been two sorts of speech in this debate coming from Conservative Members. One sort has been relatively serious and constructive, such as the speech by the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Sir J. Rodgers) or the brilliant speech from the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). The other sort has smacked of paranoia. All Governments and governing parties tend to get a little paranoiac when in a mess. I have heard it on my own side of the House. I have heard eminent men on my side of the House blame the "Gnomes of Zurich" for the fact that they had not devalued the pound when they should have done. Now I hear individuals opposite blaming members of the Communist Party for all the problems from which we are now suffering.
This paranoia started with the speech of the Prime Minister yesterday. We have all mentioned the word "relativities," as the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West said. The Prime Minister's speech was, I think, the first in which it was mentioned. He said:We immediately entered into discussions with the CBI and TUC about the anomalies report"—He is talking about the Government—and will do the same about the report on relativities when it reaches us from the Pay Board. We asked for it to come to us by 31st December. It is no fault of the Government's that it has not reached us."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th January 1974 ; Vol. 867, c. 21.]When I was in industry if I had a committee responsible to me and if I had gone to my director saying, "I am sorry, I asked the committee for a report but I have not got it yet, it is not my fault," I know what my director would have said. He would have been correct. Who set up the Pay Board? Who appointed it? Who can dismiss it, destroy it? To whom is it responsible? The Government.
If the Government asked for a report by 31st December and did not get it, then I am sorry, but the Government must, as must all Governments, bear the 295 responsibility. The ultimate responsibility in governing the country is the Government's. They cannot say, "It is not our fault, we did not get it in time."
There are other things for which people in this country will blame the Government. I am getting so near to the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West these days that when I spoke to my Young Conservatives last Monday I said that I might fall out with them because I was a Labour-Powellite. It turned out that half of them agreed with me anyway. The right hon. Gentleman has frequently mentioned inflation and what he believes to be its cause—the increase in the money supply. It is highly significant that when the money supply declined the increase in property values suddenly came to an end. There is no obvious lack of connection there.
The Government attribute the cause to rising import prices. The September before last the Bank of England Quarterly said that the import content of prices was 20 per cent. Therefore, if import prices go up by 10 per cent. internal prices go up by 2 per cent. I am sure that everybody in this country wishes that they had gone up by that sort of figure.
There are other aspects of the Government's policy which the Government have admitted were inflationary. They have said that they were adopting inflationary policies in order to secure growth. But they cannot say that they were not warned, and not only by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West. They were warned by the Expenditure Committee of this House last July. The General Sub-Committee of the Expenditure Committee reported upon the last lot of expenditure cuts of 21st May and said:The figures suggest that provided that productive potential is sufficient to enable the economy to go on expanding at around 5 per cent. per annum, and provided the terms of trade (which have been deteriorating) return to the level of the first quarter of 1973, there will be room for a continuing expansion of personal consumption. On the other hand, should the economy only be able to expand at a rate of 3–4 per cent. and should the terms of trade deteriorate further—as they did—there may well be little if any scope for the further expansion of consumption.296 The Government were propagating inflation for the sake of growth, knowing that there would be no increase in personal consumption even if there were a 4 per cent. growth rate. What the average trade unionist—he does not have to be a Communist—and indeed what the average Conservative housewife need if there is inflation and prices go up is for their personal incomes to go up. They are not concerned with the growth of the economy. Perhaps they should be in the abstract. Perhaps they should think, "It is for the benefit of the country if we have a 4 per cent. growth rate and no increase in personal consumption." But they do not think in that way.
Nevertheless that is the reason why the Government were deliberately causing inflation. It has now turned out that they cannot even achieve that. They were causing inflation in an attempt to secure growth, even knowing, as the House of Commons Expenditure Committee warned, that it could not have any effect on the personal consumption of individuals.
In order to counter the inflation which they generated, they introduced a rigid statutory incomes policy. This is where I slightly part company with the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West. Like him, I do not believe in it. He said that no man could operate an incomes policy. I am afraid that there are men who can. If he had said that no man can operate such a policy justly, I would agree. But I am afraid there is an area in the world where there is a statutory incomes policy which is enforced, and that is Russia and its satellite States. I find it incredible when certain hon. Members opposite—the paranoiacs—refer to reds under the bed. What they are fighting are the moderates in the National Union of Mine-workers——
§ Mr. Heffer
Does my hon. Friend not also agree that there is a statutory incomes policy in Spain, and that it is in the extreme Left and Right dictatorships that we get these statutory policies?
§ Mr. English
I chose the example of Russia because it is among the larger of the world's economies and also because it is a Communist State, and Communists have been mentioned. We know that the 297 Communist Party is hypocritical, but Communists are not the only hypocrites. Last night the leader of the Liberal Party, which is conspicuous now at the end of this debate by its absence, said:My colleagues and I believe in the necessity for a statutory prices and incomes policy".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th January 1974 ; Vol. 867, c. 66.]He then led his troops into our Lobby. They are hypocritical. Some members of the Communist Party in the NUM are hypocritical.
The basic point is that an incomes policy can work only in an authoritarian State. It is a Socialist policy only in the sense that people use the word "socialist" in the USSR. It is a Liberal policy only in the sense that Liberals like Martell—who left the Liberal Party to join the Fascists—mean.
The adoption of an incomes policy means deliberately interfering between and determining the whole process of management and negotiation in industry. Directors of engineering companies have been coming to me, and no doubt to hon. Gentlemen opposite, and saying, "The number of assistant managers has increased. All the foremen have become assistant managers and their immediate underlings have become foremen." To stop that, to get away from an incomes policy in that way, we then have to determine the processes of promotion and demotion in industry.
The National Coal Board is unable to run the coal industry. It might or might not reach agreement with the mine-workers—I believe that it could do so—but it is not allowed to do so, because the Government are interfering in the responsibilities of the NCB to run the industry.
There is another reason why an in-incomes policy can work only in an authoritarian State. Because we live in a democracy we have free speech. In a democracy people cannot be stopped from noticing anomalies whereas in a dictatorship they can. Salaries and wages do not have to be published in a dictatorship. Only those which are convenient are published.
We cannot prevent mineworkers from noticing property developers. But it need not only be property developers ; it 298 could be footballers, pop singers, or, with respect to the hon. Member for Sevenoaks, members of the advertising industry on whom we spend almost as much as on education. Would the country come to a halt if pop singers, footballers or even members of the advertising industry stopped working overtime? It certainly would not come to this grinding semi-halt to which it has come at the moment.
People in this country are not paid on their essential nature to the community, and they know it. So long as the Government do not make themselves responsible for what they are paid, the system works, as it has for generations. If the Government introduce a rigid statutory incomes policy, make no mistake they will be held responsible for the remuneration of pop singers, footballers, advertisers and anybody else of whom there is any criticism. Relativities are far more important and deeper than they ever thought. Every criticism against the nature of society in terms of income will be levelled at those who make themselves responsible for it. I warn the Government that if that is what they want, they are heading for a situation where they have to accept that responsibility, ghastly as it will be for them in political terms, or decide to convert this country into an authoritarian State.
We do not need to take the extreme examples that I have mentioned. I wonder how many people in the mining industry have noticed or been told what appeared in the Financial Times—namely, that the profits of companies declaring in October were 42 per cent. up on the previous 12 months and that in September they were even higher. Those who suggested to a miner, "Do you not think that a 16 per cent. settlement is fair?", should not be surprised in a democracy if he says, rightly, "Why cannot I have a 42 per cent. increase like the companies referred to in the Financial Times".
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Wedgwood Benn (Bristol, South-East)
I am sure that the House, including, I hope, the Treasury Bench, will agree that it was right on the part of the Opposition parties to demand the recall of Parliament and right of the Government to assent to its recall. To this extent, I agree with what was said by 299 the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell)—that parliamentary debate is an ingredient in a solution to our problems.
Having said that, I think that the House will also accept that the situation today is graver than it was when the House met yesterday and that the reason for the deterioration since yesterday is, first, that the Prime Minister intervened too hastily to write down the value of the TUC offer and, secondly, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, without Cabinet consultation, apparently rejected it out of hand. At any rate, I understand that the talks at No. 10 have now concluded, that further talks are to be held on Monday and therefore that we are in a position at the end of this debate on behalf of the Opposition to ask the Government to respond to what the TUC has put forward.
The Opposition's view may be summarised briefly. It is to invite the Government to take the TUC proposal very seriously ; to allow the National Coal Board and the National Union of Mineworkers the right to negotiate freely and to reach a settlement at which normal working could be resumed ; to set aside the Pay Board—which has been a major complication in the situation—entirely from the mining dispute ; to let the Secretary of State himself decide, as Parliament intended he should in any case where the national interest required Ministers to take responsibility ; and finally to call off the three-day week.
One of the subjects for special emphasis today has been the three-day week. I think that many of my hon. Friends, and most people outside who have experienced it, will agree that anyone who had doubts about the Government's real motives for the three-day week will have had those doubts wholly dispelled after hearing the Prime Minister yesterday.
The Prime Minister's attempt to justify the three-day week was not concerned, as one would expect, were it a genuine proposal, with husbanding the nation's fuel resources and protecting the people at a moment of shortage. It was an act of mobilisation for a long war against the miners.
We in this House have a duty on behalf of our constituents and on behalf of the country—and right hon. and hon. Members 300 on both sides have tried to discharge it—to draw attention to the very high cost of the three-day week. I have asked the Prime Minister for the Government's estimate of the cost of the three-day week. No estimate is forthcoming officially from the Government. Some indication has been given by the National Economic Development Office, but in practice there is no one here tonight who disputes that the three-day week will have a grave effect on production, on exports and on investment.
For those working in industry it means a savage and direct cut in their wages. There will be inevitable bankruptcies among small businessmen—and we bear in mind that the Conservative Party has so often boasted to be their special friends in Government and in Parliament. It will mean higher unemployment in terms not only of lay-offs in the short run but of higher unemployment for a longer period if the bankruptcies mount to the level to which they may mount and, if the grave damage to the steel industry about which many of my hon. Friends spoke in the debate has the effect that we fear. It will also have a very serious effect upon the morale of the nation when people realise, as they are now coming to realise, that this was part of the mobilisation of psychological warfare against the miners by the Government. That is what the people believe, and I will give the House the reasons why they believe it.
First they believe it because the Government have throughout suppressed key figures—no one more than the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry now, thank goodness, stripped of the responsibilities which he discharged so poorly for the nation's energy resources. The Government have suppressed the coal figures. The Government have suppressed the oil figures. The Government have ordered public authorities set up by Parliament not to answer questions put to them by Members of Parliament, which is a complete denial of the duty of a public authority to tell the public how it is discharging its statutory responsibilities.
The Government have implied that 7 million tons is the minimum stock, without telling the public that in the past four years stocks have been below 7 million tons for no fewer than 16 weeks, thus implying that we were on the point of 301 crisis. The Government have pretended that the CEGB ordered the three-day week when the CEGB was operating on the basis of oil supplies that had been cut to 75 per cent. of what they were last winter, an understandable policy following the Rothschild Think Tank's analysis of the need for a stronger coal industry, but not making sense when the Government were faced either with the restoration of 100 per cent. oil supplies or putting the nation on a three-day week.
In his pre-Christmas speech the Prime Minister made great play with the effect of the ASLEF dispute upon coal deliveries from the coal mines to the power stations, although the British Railways Board has made it clear that there has not been the slightest delay in the delivery of coal from the pits to the power stations. Were there time, I could give the House the information that is pouring in from power stations and pits all over the country, giving the lie to the scares that the Cabinet has systematically tried to use to justify its policy.
The fact is that the Government cut oil to the power stations and then ordered the restoration of some of that oil. Because they did not control the multinational oil companies, or have any real power over them, they were unable to get the restoration of the oil to see us through the winter. There was no consultation with the CBI or the TUC. Could anyone seriously believe that management or labour would have opted for a three-day week on this basis, which gives entertainment priority over exports, domestic use of all kinds priority over production, and pleasure motoring priority over oil for power stations? It does not make sense as a management decision.
The right hon. Member the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry said in the new year that the oil problem did not exist, that our only problem was the coal crisis. At that time, he was trying characteristically to get cheap political popularity by saying there would be no petrol rationing. The right hon. Gentleman knows better than most that the three-day week will bankrupt Britain long before the coal runs out.
The Government have done nothing to protect the housewives working a seven-day week on a three-day pay packet. They have done nothing to lift the three-day 302 waiting rule. They have done nothing about family allowances during the crisis. They have given no special help to industry. They have done nothing whatever that one would expect both the CBI and the TUC to require of them to try to see us through this difficulty with the minimum damage to our fundamental strength.
The people do not believe the reasons that the Prime Minister has given. They see this as part of the Prime Minister's obsessive campaign against the miners. They see now the explanation of why the mini-Budget before Christmas contained no tax increases—because the Chancellor of the Exchequer found a way of getting more money out of the pockets of working people by the wage cut than he did and should have done by some redistribution of wealth.
I would only say that watching the Prime Minister I am reminded of his predecessor, Sir Anthony Eden, at the time of Suez obsessively pursuing a policy which would lead to the destruction of a basic national interest and backed up by a group of party supporters hypnotised by his strength into neglecting their duty to defend the country they were elected to represent. It would have taken this Prime Minister to get a ban on overtime by Spitfire pilots during the Battle of Britain—and I believe he could have done that given half a chance.
Perhaps the Prime Minister should think of what Harold Macmillan or Churchill would have done. He might indeed at least use the phrase which equally applies to the miners—"never has so much been owed by so many to so few". There have been 15,000 deaths from pneumoconiosis in the mining industry in the last 15 years, and if the Conservative Party had recognised in its public speeches the debt this country owes to the miners one quarter of their problems would be solved.
Now we come to the Government's reasons for rejecting the miners' claim. First, stage 3 must be upheld. Stage 3 was destroyed by the escalation of oil prices. The outdated calculations upon which it was based are known to all. The Government have themselves directly violated stage 3 by announcing through the Chancellor that there would be substantial increases in coal and electricity prices which were not provided for in the Pay and 303 Prices Code. Ministers have said, which is not true, that stage 3 has the force of law. Stage 3 never had the force of law. It was an advisory document to the Pay Board. And it was for the Pay Board to consider it. The law came in only if there were a settlement on which the Pay Board imposed an order to desist and then there would be a prosecution only under the fiat of the Attorney-General. The law has never been a part of this situation. Ministers have sought to imply that we are upholding our constitution against a lot of law breakers. The Secretary of State for Employment knows full well that Parliament has given him the power to set aside any Pay Board ruling, and that is what he should do.
Another argument is that the settlement is unfair to other workers. That is a most interesting argument. We have heard tonight from many people who have described how private industry has got round stage 3 by regrading, fiddling, sacking and re-engaging, and by reorganising its structure. It is the public sector, with higher standards of management morality, which has observed stage 3, and if anybody thinks that the ordinary workers who have not the organised strength of the miners have a friend in the Government they do not understand what is going on now among the shop workers, the hospital workers or those who lack the muscle of the miners.
We are also told that the offer is generous. The figure of 163½ per cent. has been quoted. Now 16½ per cent. is a good offer for someone on £10,000 a year and the man who reads his Daily Telegraph and hears the figure of 16½ per cent. might well calculate that he would do well. The plain truth is—and it has never been denied—that after taxation, national insurance and the rise in prices the Government offer is worth 60p a week for the miners, compared to what they were earning a year ago. When I hear talk about ransom and blackmail, I must say that I have never heard of a blackmailer being prepared to settle for 60p a week.
These arguments are getting through to the public. The fact is that people understand the miners' case. It will not do to pretend that it is all due to the Communists because, candidly, if the Government believed that, they would have used their own legislation to have 304 a ballot of the miners to establish straight away whether the miners support their executive members or not. I should like to meet the Conservative who inquires whether the coal he burns in his hearth has been dug by a Communist, or whether the train in which he travels as a commuter is driven by a Communist, before we listen to the sort of talk we have had today, which is a warning to the nation what it must expect when the General Election comes.
It is also slightly odd that the Communist Party shared with the Prime Minister in 1970 one thing in common—opposition to a statutory wages policy—and, when the Prime Minister has abandoned his manifesto and the Communist Party still believes in it, that is said to be an undermining of the British constitution. Ministers must find a rather better argument than that.
People in this country now know, even more than they did before the oil price increase, that we need the coal. They see the miners fighting the same battles as they fight, because the miners have to face higher prices and higher rents and have all the difficulties that have been intensified in the past 12 months.
My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) is good and accurate with a slide rule and he has produced figures—which have never been challenged—to show that real living standards fell last year while trading profits went up by 16 per cent., dividend and interest payments by 28 per cent., and net asset value of property companies by 20 per cent. There has been massive redistribution of wealth and income but it has been in the wrong direction.
I wish to say a word to Ministers as well as to editors and television interviewers about the way in which they treat the miners on television and in the Press. It sickens many people—I am one of them—that when there is a mining disaster and a man is lying trapped in water in a dark underground roadway for days, and newspapers show photographs of grief-stricken widows in a mining village, the miners are the heroes of Britain, but when they put in a wage claim which not a single hon. Member of the House would accept as a basis for his own living wage, they are described as Communists and blackmailers holding the country to ransom.
305 Ministers, editors and television interviewers get incomes far in excess of those which the miners could ever dream of getting. Ministers, editors and television interviewers get incomes which are secretly arrived at. Their incomes are never discussed on television as to whether they are justified, or whether the person concerned should get the sum proposed. These people are the last who should misrepresent the miners of this country and try to hold them up to public abuse.
If there is a new element entering into the whole argument of incomes policy it is simply this: we have come to the end of the road when the rich and the powerful can expect to get a hearing from working people as they ask them to restrain their incomes in order to preserve the pattern of wealth and property which the rich and powerful use so much to their own advantage.
It is time that we had a new look at the incomes policy question. I put this to the Secretary of State because his mind is bent mainly on this problem. Successive Governments have tried and failed with policies which bore some resemblance to the one which the present Government first thought of introducing. But we must now try to look at this problem from the point of view of those whose consent is essential if any such policy is to work.
I have a word to say here to those commentators and editors who look through every speech and every manifesto for a sentence containing a reference to a tough incomes policy as somehow a test of credibility or of statesmanship. In effect, all that these pompous editorialists and commentators are saying is that they want us here, across the Floor of the House, to agree to tight wage control as the basis for future policy, whichever Government be in power. When we are told that this is the time for straight talking, for plain speaking, for doses of reality and for moments of truth, let us perform our representative function and say to those who put that to us that they must now learn the hard truth, listen to some straight talking and have a dose of reality.
For tight wage control by law will not work, and by consent will never be achieved unless we are able to make a change in our whole approach to the sort of society we have. [HON. MEMBERS: 306 "Ah."] Obviously, what those hon. Member who shouted "Ah" meant was that this House is inextricably linked in its existence and its democratic practice with one form of distribution of wealth and income, and that the people cannot use Parliament democratically to change the distribution of wealth and income. But of course it is just that change that we must have.
Unless and until there is a major social reform to make our society fairer and more nearly equal, workers will not cooperate in wage control where they have bargaining power and if they have the strength to resist. And they are right. They remember what the Prime Minister did to the postmen when he had the big stick, and they know what he has done to the lower-paid workers. When the Government have the power, they use it to keep living standards down.
It is time that the Government, all right hon. and hon. Members and people in Press and television listened more to what the trade union movement is trying to say to us about the problems of an incomes policy. It is no use saying that, unless the trade union movement can overnight convert itself into a corporation which can be accountable for the behaviour of all its members, nothing it says is a bankable guarantee or is worth examining.
The trade union leader, with less backing than a Minister—for he does not have the statute book at his disposal—has to operate by consent. He has to listen to his members. It is not too much to ask that Ministers should listen to what the trade unions say. The Secretary of State had the reputation, no doubt justly, in Ireland of being one to listen. If he has listened, he will have learned that during his Government's period in power the trade union movement has put forward highly constructive proposals about how, given that most trade unionists do not share the present Government's political philosophy, something could be done to create an atmosphere in which co-operation would be possible.
What have the trade unions asked for? They have asked for fairer Budgets so that an incomes policy did not just mean wage control without some re-examination of the distribution of wealth and income at the top. They have asked for food 307 subsidies, which would make a great difference to many millions of families. They have asked for a rent freeze. They have asked for higher pensions—which gives the lie to the argument that the trade union movement is concerned only with its own members' wage claims, for it was the TUC which played a notable part in triggering off and continuing the campaign for a higher pension. They have asked for an end to property speculation. They have asked for the repeal of the Industrial Relations Act, for it to be put on ice, as Stormont was put on ice by the right hon. Gentleman when he assumed his earlier responsibilities.
All these proposals that the trade union movement has put forward represent the beginnings of a basis of cooperation on which something might be achieved. They are all embodied in the programme which the Labour Party will put before the public at the General Election, but they have all also come forward to the present Government in proposals from the TUC. No one thinks that he will get 100 per cent. acceptance of anything in a voluntary society, but if the Government and Fleet Street expect TUC leaders to sign on the dotted line to prop up an unfair society, let me tell them that it will not happen. If they did sign on the dotted line, it would mean nothing whatsoever ; if it did mean something, it would not be just to use the trade union movement to underpin a society so fundamentally unfair in its distribution of rewards.
The basic democratic proposition that the Opposition have put to the House in the last two days is very simple to state. It is that the only policy that will work in our society is a policy that is accepted. The only policy that will be accepted is one that is fair, and a fair policy requires programmes of social reform extending widely over the field of domestic policies. Working people now want that reform to be carried through by Parliament and not by revolution.
What is the alternative to doing it this way? If we reject voluntarism—which has, as a matter of fact, an even older history than democracy—and social justice, we are driven inevitably to authoritarian solutions. The Industrial Relations Act took away the power of the unions, because trade union democracy 308 was not compatible with Government policy. The Housing Finance Act took away the democratic responsibilities of local Labour councillors, because they would not raise the rents of the people they represented. The Pay Board, which is not accountable to the electors—its members have never been elected and are not accountable to Parliament—is another part of this authoritarian structure.
Now the emergency powers, then the three-day working week, then compulsory overtime—for that is what the Government wish the miners to accept—then tonight some speakers, a little ahead of their time, calling for the proscription of political parties that challenge this view. The Prime Minister is moving to 1984 10 years ahead of schedule, and he is doing it with a nightmare of centralised control, under the control not of the Left but of the Right.
I do not believe for a moment that the problems confronting this country are insoluble within the framework of the parliamentary system for which our forefathers fought and won. We do not want a British Stalin or a tinpot Mussolini lecturing us from Lancaster House. The paradox that confronts the House is that in this country today moderate people want radical change. Moderate people want a fair society, when our society is now not fair. They want justice in areas where injustice has been preserved. They want more democracy and not less democracy. They want a sharing of power and an enfranchisement of the community, of industrial workers, of tenants, and of the regions, and not the corporate ideas which are being put before us by the Government.
We cannot hope that a coalition of Ministers and editors, and all those in society who enjoy the power, can any longer expect to lecture working people to make the sacrifices that are required.
To this extent this is the end of an era, as my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) said. It is not just about the balance of payments, inflation, energy or growth. What are now being questioned are the values of a society which have, in a sense, been tested and found wanting, and whether we can any longer have the House of Commons being told that miners earning £30 a week, or a little more, can be 309 described as selfish, greedy blackmailers, and expect the public to believe that.
At this moment the affairs of the country are in the hands of a man who knows so little about those he was elected to serve, and has so little faith in their capacity, save under the pressure of punishment, to rise to the occasion that he misses three important and what should be non-controversial points.
We cannot expect responsibility unless as a House we are prepared to share power. We cannot expect social justice unless as a House we legislate to dispense justice. We cannot save democracy unless we practise democracy. We cannot win the trust of the people of this country unless we show to the people, and those who create its wealth, the trust and respect that they deserve.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Peter Walker)
There was a sharp contrast between the speeches made by the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn), who closed for the Opposition, and the right hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice), who opened for the Opposition. This was only to be expected, because when the Leader of the Opposition yesterday stressed the importance of appealing to the moderates doubtless he recalled that only a short time ago he called a special meeting of the Shadow Cabinet to try to settle the dispute that had arisen between the moderates and the extremists in his Shadow Cabinet.
It is significant that the right hon. Member for East Ham, North—whose speech I primarily wish to deal with tonight—appealed for moderation. His speech was therefore much more important than was the speech made by the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East.
The Opposition's view throughout the debate may be fairly summarised by saying that they feel that the price of the three-day week, with all its adverse consequences, is too high a price to pay for a failure to compromise with the miners. In fairness, the Leader of the Opposition said that he was not in favour of giving the miners all they asked for. He did not ask for a complete surrender to the miners, but in none of 310 the dozens of speeches that have been made by the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East has he implied anything other than that he is totally behind the miners in their claim.
I wish to deal particularly with the allegation made by the right hon. Gentleman about the reasons for the three-day week. It is significant that neither the Leader of the Opposition nor the right hon. Member for East Ham, North argued that a three-day week was not necessary. [Interruption.] If the Opposition do not wish to listen to the reasons for the introduction of the three-day week and are not interested in the prospects thereafter they can do what they are obviously being encouraged to do and try to end the debate in an irresponsible way.
The suggestion has been made that the reason for imposing the three-day week was purely political and was not concerned with the question of the potential breakdown of our whole energy system. I wish to make it clear that it was the view of the Central Electricity Generating Board, the Electricity Council and the Scottish electricity boards that, unless the action was taken of imposing the three-day week and obtaining the 20 per cent. reduction in electricity consumption which this would provide, by the end of January or the beginning of February there would be a total breakdown of our electricity power supply.
To argue, as the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East argued, that the Government should have allowed a situation in which the country was faced by an immediate total breakdown of our basic services, is totally irresponsible. The right hon. Gentleman now produces a totally phoney case concerning oil. He knows full well that the original decision to cut the oil supply was at the behest of those, including most mining Members of this House, who argued that there should be a substantial increase in coal burn. Therefore, the whole basis of the strategy was very much to the interest of the miners. Yet, when I decide to increase the oil burn, the right hon. Gentleman suggests that the oil has not been provided. It has been provided. In December, the delivery of oil to the CEGB and the electricity boards was 91 per cent. of last year's figure. The CEGB could not accept it all. It is a phoney argument to suggest that there 311 has been a shortage of oil which has aggravated the situation. In January, the required reduction will take place.
The Government had no desire to introduce the three-day week, it was totally against all the economic policies we had been pursuing. It will have a serious adverse affect upon the potential of our export drive. It came at a time when our policies had resulted in a massive increase in exports and in a very substantial increase in investment. The right hon. Gentleman should know. for example, that the figures published today show that the machine tool orders placed by British industry in the last month for which figures are available reached an all-time record.
§ Mr. Harold Wilson
What the House knows is that even before the crisis investment had not got up to the figures of 1970 or 1971. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to quote figures, will he arrange to have published the figures of oil stocks in the country, especially at power stations? If he will not, let him say why he cannot, because he is publishing the coal stock figures.
§ Mr. Walker
The oil stock figures at power stations were published this afternoon. Copies are available in the Vote Office. The right hon. Gentleman should get himself a copy. They will show how bogus were the arguments of the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East.
I now turn to the question of future oil supplies. The present situation is that apart from fuel oil, which is basic to the needs of industry, there is a situation——
§ Mr. Walker
It is interesting that every figure which has been published exposes the utter faliacy of the argument of Labour Members. The result of the ineffective and inaccurate exercise of the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East on the coal stock figures was that when the figures were published in detail, giving the comparisons year by year, every commentator except the Morning Star accepted that the right hon. Gentleman was wrong. He has created a unique position. He is the one man on the Labour side of British politics who has recently had all his arguments rejected by the 312 Daily Mirror and approved by the Morning Star. Perhaps that indicates the degree to which every word he has uttered has encouraged the extremists in the National Union of Mineworkers. In that sphere he has done immense damage.
The right hon. Gentleman quoted me as saying that coal was a major problem regarding the three-day week. The majority of the fuel which power stations must burn is coal. The steel industry is 85 per cent. dependent on coking coal. These are the factors that bring about the unfortunate necessity of a three-day week.
The imports of crude oil for January and February are expected to be about 8 per cent. and 5 per cent. lower than would have been anticipated had there not been an oil crisis. Industry showed quite clearly, with the imposition of overall cuts of 10 per cent. compared with last year's figures, that it was able to cope with the situation and to keep up production to a high level.
§ Mr. Walker
It is the loss of our electricity power that creates the serious situation. It has been mentioned by a number of Labour Members, including the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Varley) last night, that North Sea oil is an important national asset. It seems that the Opposition would nationalise North Sea oil. I believe that that is official Opposition policy. I cannot imagine anything that would slow down the extraction of oil from the North Sea more than nationalisation. That is the Opposition's policy at a time when there is a worldwide shortage of skilled engineers, machinery and oil rigs. I suggest that the creation of a nationalised North Sea oil industry would do nothing other than handicap the possibilities of obtaining relief from that source. It seems that once more the Opposition would aggravate the situation rather than improve it.
Labour Members have constantly talked of the special position of the miners because of the conditions in which they work. The right hon. Member for East Ham, North has sensibly and reasonably argued the special problems and difficulties of the miners. The Labour Party has always been closely associated with the miners, and the majority of miners for most of this century have supported that 313 party. But, as the person who has had the responsibility for this industry during the last 12 months, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider the genuine transformation of the industry and of the miner during the recent period.
When the Coal Industry Act was introduced—which no one can deny is, by any measure, the most important and significant Act for the industry since the nationalisation of coal—it was a positive decision. There was no pressure upon me or my Department from the Labour Party to introduce that Act. That Act made the fundamental decision of reversing the policy advocated in the energy White Paper of 1967—a policy which, in fairness, the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East has now stated he considers was totally wrong. He now states that he considers that he was badly advised.
The only thing that one can say about the right hon. Gentleman is that—[Interruption.] He now says that the dozens of pit closures and the tens of thousands of miners who were unemployed during the period of the Labour Party were the results of a mistake and that, on reflection, he regrets having pursued that policy. I accept that—but we are the Government who reversed the policy.
The Act not only reversed the policy of running down the industry. The NUM, as members of it will know, only last April, when it was passed, generously described it as a beneficial Act for the mining industry, and one of which they thoroughly approved. It also provided, for example, an extra £100 million for the redundant miners' scheme, increased the contribution to miners' pensions by £40 million and provided regional grants of up to £210 million. It was a reforming Act of immense importance to the industry's future.
But this is only part of the story. What I find total humbug on the Opposition side of the House is that the right hon. Gentleman now passionately argues how underpaid the miners are compared with other sections of the community. When we took office, the earnings and allowances of face workers amounted to £25 per week, and of surface workers to less than £21.50.
The improvement in six years of Labour Government, having taken 314 account of the cost of living, was far less than it has been in three and a half years of Conservative Government. In the six years of Labour Government the earnings of a face worker rose by £4 a week. I trust that when the right hon. Gentleman makes his speeches about the terrible conditions of the miners, the difficulties they experience and the injuries they suffer, he reflects that he imposed on the miners an incomes policy fare more stringent than anything that we are imposing.
At the time he was doing that, miners were still dying in the pits and still suffering from lung diseases. We heard none of this emotion from the right hon. Gentleman then. Whereas in six years he increased their earnings by £4, we have already increased their earnings in three and a half years by £13. The present offer would take this up to £17.
§ Mr. Heffer
Is the right hon. Gentleman denying the fact that the miners only got their last increase on the basis of industrial action and the Wilberforce arrangements? Would he not agree that the policy of the last Government was fully supported by Conservative Members and the present Prime Minister, who said that pits were not being closed fast enough?
§ Mr. Walker
The last wage increase given to the miners was done without any industrial dispute at all. It was made last year and agreed immediately. The hon. Gentleman argues that miners do much better and get bigger increases if they resort to industrial action. Presumably what he is saying is that during the period his Government were imposing a statutory incomes policy they should have gone for industrial action against it and he would have welcomed it. What I say to hon. Members opposite is that had a Labour Government been in power when the Coal Industry Act was passed, reversing the decline in the industry, and which had in three and a half years increased the earnings and allowances of face workers by £18 a week and of surface workers by £21 a week, there is not one member from a mining constituency who would not have proclaimed this as a great achievement of a Labour Government.
I was asked about the developments in places such as the Selby seam. When the first encouraging tests in that area were 315 made we discussed with the National Coal Board the manner in which that seam could be quickly developed. Further tests have been more encouraging. At the first representations I was told that it would probably be 10 years before such a mine could be in full production. I am pleased to say that since then the proposed methods of extraction have been re-examined and my latest information is that when using drift mining techniques substantial production could be obtained within four or five years.
For the first time for a decade the mining industry has a Government which is willing to support it with major investment. It is a Government that has treated it better over earnings than any of their predecessors. It has a Government who have introduced a major reform in the mining industry.
The essence of the debate of the last two days has been this question of the degree to which one provides an increase for an industry such as this. The Leader of the Opposition has said categorically in this debate that he would not give in to the claim made by the National Union of Mineworkers. What he has said—and I do not criticise him for this—is that he does not consider that it is the duty of the Government to give in to the demand made by the National Union of Mineworkers. [Interruption.] If the right hon. Gentleman wishes to confirm that he would be in favour of giving a 31 per cent. increase to the miners I shall be very surprised. Any responsible Opposition Member knows that it is not possible to give a 31 per cent. increase to the miners. Once one does that, one is led to the question of the degree to which
§ one should increase the earnings of other workers.
§ Where it is possible to argue that the Government have perhaps made a mistake is that they were honest enough to arrange phase 3 on the basis of clearly giving the miners a special position. The miners have had the most generous offer that they have ever had. The Labour Party, instead of recognising that fact and recognising that our whole future economic prospect depends upon successfully countering inflation, has endeavoured to exploit this position in a totally irresponsible way. It failed the miner, and it failed him badly. It pursued a policy of running down the mining industry. It now produces all the emotion it can to suggest that nothing is too good for the mining industry.
§ Opposition Members must recognise that the responsibility of Government is to see that all sections succeed. Indeed, it was the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East who said that trade unionists are all consumers, too. It was the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East who said that they have suffered from the wage-price spiral like everyone else. Advocating an incomes policy, he said that accepting the idea that the public have a legitimate interest to uphold all price changes and wage settlements involves a break with tradition.
§ We intend to continue our policies against inflation. We intend to continue to treat the miners decently and honourably, and not to have the humbug that predominates on the benches opposite.
§ Question put. That this House do now adjourn:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 280, Noes 301.319
|Division No. 28.]||AYES||19.59p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Bishop, E. S.||Clark, David (Colne Valley)|
|Albu, Austen||Blenkinsop, Arthur||Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Cohen, Stanley|
|Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis)||Booth, Albert||Concannon, J. D.|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland)||Conlan, Bernard|
|Ashley, Jack||Bradley, Tom||Corbet, Mrs. Freda|
|Ashton, Joe||Broughton, Sir Alfred||Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.)|
|Atkinson, Norman||Brown, Robert C.(N'c'tle-u-Tyne, W.)||Crawshaw, Richard|
|Austick, David||Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Cronin, John|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Buchan, Norman||Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony|
|Barnes, Michael||Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Cunningham, G. (Islington, S. W.)|
|Barnett, Joel (Heywood and Royton)||Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven)|
|Baxter, William||Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.)||Dalyell, Tarn|
|Beaney, Alan||Cant, R. B.||Darling, Rt. Hn. George|
|Beith, A. J.||Carmichael, Nell||Davidson, Arthur|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield)||Davies, Denzil (Llanelly)|
|Bennett, James (Glasgow, Brldgeton)||Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles)||Davies, G. Elted (Rhondda, E.)|
|Bldwell, Sydney||Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Davies, Ifor (Gower)|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove)||Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Deakins, Eric||Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)||Pendry, Tom|
|de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.)||Perry, Ernest G.|
|Delargy, Hugh||Judd, Frank||Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.|
|Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund||Kaufman, Gerald||Prescott, John|
|Dempsey, James||Kelley, Richard||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Doig, Peter||Kerr, Russell||Probert, Arthur|
|Dormand, J. D.||Kinnock, Neil||Radice, Giles|
|Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.)||Lambie, David||Reed, D. (Sedgefield)|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Lamborn, Harry||Rhodes, Geoffrey|
|Driberg, Tom||Lamond, James||Richard, Ivor|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Latham, Arthur||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Dunn, James A.||Lawson, George||Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Dunnett, Jack||Leadbitter, Ted||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Eadie, Alex||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Roderick, Caerwyn E.(Brc'n&R'dnor)|
|Edelman, Maurice||Leonard, Dick||Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Lestor, Miss Joan||Roper, John|
|Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)||Rose, Paul b.|
|Ellis, Tom||Lipton, Marcus||Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)|
|English, Michael||Lomas, Kenneth||Rowlands Ted|
|Evans, Fred||Loughlin, Charles||Sandelson, Neville|
|Ewing, Harry||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)|
|Faulds, Andrew||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E.||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Fisher, Mrs. Dorls (B'ham, Ladywood)||McBride, Neil||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Ueptford)|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||McCartney, Hugh||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||MacDonald, Mrs. Margo||Sillars, James|
|Foot, Michael||McElhone, Frank||Silverman, Julius|
|Ford, Ben||McGuire, Michael||Skinner, Dennis|
|Forrester, John||Machin, George||Small, William|
|Fraser, John (Norwood)||Mackenzie, Gregor||Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)|
|Freeson, Reginald||Mackie, John||Spearing, Nigel|
|Freud, Clement||Mackintosh, John P.||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Maclennan, Robert||Stallard, A. W.|
|Garrett, W. E.||Steel, David|
|Gilbert Dr. John||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow. C.)||Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)|
|Ginsburg, David (Dewsbury)||McNamara, J. Kevin||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn John|
|Golding, John||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Stewart Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)|
|Gourlay, Harry||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield. E.)||Stoddart, David (Swindon)|
|Grant, George (Morpeth)||Marks, Kenneth|
|Grant, John D. (Islington, E.)||Marquand, David||Stott, Roger|
|Griffiths, Eddie (Brightslde)||Marsden, F.||Strang, Gavin|
|Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Marshall, Dr. Edmund||Strauss, Rt. Hn G. R.|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Meacher, Michael||Swain, Thomas|
|Hamling, William||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert||Thomas, Rt. Hn. George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill)||Mendelson, John||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Hardy, Peter||Mikardo, Ian||Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Millan, Bruce||Tomney, Frank|
|Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||Miller, Dr. M. S.||Tope, Graham|
|Hattersley, Roy||Milne, Edward||Torney, Tom|
|Hatton, F.||Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Iichen)||Urwin, T. W.|
|Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis||Molloy, William||Varley, Eric G.|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Hilton, W. S.||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Waiden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)|
|Horam, John||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)||Wallace, George|
|Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Moyle, Roland||Watkins, David|
|Huckfield, Leslie||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Weitzman, David|
|Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Murray, Ronald King||Wellbeloved, James|
|Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Oakes, Gordon||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.)||Ogden, Eric||White, James (Glasgow. Pollok)|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport)||O'Halloran, Michael||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Hunter, Adam||O'Malley, Brian||Whitlock, William|
|Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)||Oram, Bert||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Janner, Greville||Orbach, Maurice||Williams, Alan (Swansea)|
|Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Orme, Stanley||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Jeger, Mrs. Lena||Oswald, Thomas||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Oswald, Thomas||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton)||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|John, Brynmor||Padley, Walter||Woof, Robert|
|Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Paget, R. T.|
|Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull. W.)||Palmer, Arthur||TELLERS FOR THE AYES|
|Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Mr. Donald Coleman and|
|Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Pardoe, John||Mr. Joseph Harper.|
|Jones. Barry (Flint. E.)||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Adley, Robert||Atkins, Humphrey||Bell, Ronald|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Awdry, Daniel||Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)|
|Aliason. James (Hemel Hempstead)||Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)||Benyon, W.|
|Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian||Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Berry, Hn. Anthony|
|Archer, Jeffrey (Louth)||Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Bitten, John|
|Astor. John||Batsford, Brian||Biggs-Davison, John|
|Blaker, Peter||Gray, Hamish||Money, Ernie|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.)||Green, Alan||Monks, Mrs. Connie|
|Body, Richard||Grieve, Percy||Monro, Hector|
|Boscawen, Hn. Robert||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Grylis, Michael||More, Jasper|
|Bowden, Andrew||Gummer, J. Selwyn||Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Gurden, Harold||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.|
|Bray, Ronald||Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley)||Morrison, Charles|
|Brewis, John||Hall, Sir John (Wycombe)||Mudd, David|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Neave, Airey|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Nicholls, Sir Harmar|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Hannam, John (Exeter)||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Harison, Brian (Maldon)||Normanton, Tom|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Nott, John|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M)||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Onslow, Cranley|
|Buck, Antony||Haselhurst, Alan||Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Hastings, Stephen||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Burden, F. A.||Havers, Sir Michael||Osborn, John|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Hay, John||Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)|
|Campbell, Rt. Hn. G.(Moray & Nairn)||Hayhoe, Barney||Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby)|
|Carlisle, Mark||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Page, John (Harrow, W.)|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Heseltine, Michael||Parkinson, Cecil|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Hicks, Robert||Peel, Sir John|
|Channon, Paul||Higgins, Terence L.||Perclval, Ian|
|Chapman, Sydney||Hiley, Joseph|
|Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher||Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.)||Peyton, Rt. Hn. John|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Hill, S. James A. (Southampton, Test)||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Churchill, W. S.||Holland, Philip||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Clark, William (Surrey, E.)||Holt, Miss Mary||Pounder, Rafton|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Hordern, Peter||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Cockeram, Eric||Hornby, Richard||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Cooke, Robert||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia||Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L.|
|Coombs, Derek||Howe, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate)||Proudfoot, Wilfred|
|Cooper, A. E.||Howell, David (Guildford)||Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis|
|Cordle, John||Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Corfield, Rt. Hn. Sir Frederick||Hunt, John||Raison, Timothy|
|Cormack, Patrick||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Costain, A, P.||Iremonger, T. L.||Rawllnson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Critchley, Julian||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Redmond, Robert|
|Crouch, David||James, David||Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)|
|Crowder, F. P.||Jenkin, Rt. Hn. Patrick (Woodford)||Rees, Peter (Dover)|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford)||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Jessel, Toby||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid. Maj.-Gen. Jack||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Dean, Paul||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||Jopling, Michael||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)|
|Dixon, Piers||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Dodds-Parker, Sir Douglas||Kershaw, Anthony||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec||Kimball, Marcus||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Drayson, Burnaby||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Rost, Peter|
|du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Royle Anthony|
|Dykes, Hugh||Kinsey, J. R.||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir John||Kitson, Timothy||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Sainsbury, Timothy|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Knox, David||Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.|
|Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Lamont, Norman||Scott, Nicholas|
|Emery, Peter||Le Marchant, Spencer||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Eyre, Reginald||Lloyd. Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'fleld)||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Farr, John||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||Shelton, William (Clapham)|
|Fell, Anthony||Longden, Sir Gilbert||Shersby, Michael|
|Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||Loveridge, John||Simeons, Charles|
|Fidler, Michael||Luce, R. N.||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead)||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)||MacArthur, Ian||Smith, Dudley (W'wlck & L'mington)|
|Fletcher, Alexander (Edinburgh, N.)||McCrindle, R. A.||Soref, Harold|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||McLaren, Martin||Speed, Keith|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Spence, John|
|Fortescue, Tim||Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Maurice (Farnham)||Sproat, lain|
|Foster, Sir John||McNair-Wilson, Michael||Stainton, Keith|
|Fowler, Norman||McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Fox, Marcus||Madel, David||Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)|
|Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'flord & stone)||Maginnis, John E.||Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)|
|Fry, Peter||Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest||Stokes, John|
|Galbraith, Hn. T. G. D.||Mather, Carol||Stuttaford, Dr. Tom|
|Gardner, Edward||Maude, Angus||Sutcliffe, John|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald||Tapsell, Peter|
|Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Mawby, Ray||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow. Cathcart)|
|Glyn, Dr. Alan||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Goodhart, Philip||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N. W.)|
|Goodhew, Victor||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Tebbit, Norman|
|Gorst, John||Mlscampbell, Norman||Temple, John M.|
|Gower, Raymond||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret|
|Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.)||Moate, Roger||Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)|
|Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)||Wall, Patrick||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Trafford, Dr. Anthony||Walters, Dennis||Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher|
|Trew, Peter||Ward, Dame Irene||Worsley, Marcus|
|Tugendhat, Christopher||Warren, Kenneth||Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.|
|Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin||Weatherill, Bernard||Younger, Hn. George|
|Vaughan, Dr. Gerard||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Vickers, Dame Joan||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Waddington, David||Wiggin, Jerry||Mr. Walter Clegg and|
|Walder, David (Clitheroe)||Wilkinson, John||Mr. Paul Hawkins.|
|Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)||Winterton, Nicholas|
§ Question accordingly negatived,