HC Deb 23 July 1974 vol 877 cc1286-8
Q1. Mr. Ashton

asked the Prime Minister whether he will seek to pay an official visit to Norway.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

I have at present no plans to visit Norway but I was able to have useful talks with the Norwegian Prime Minister at the anniversary meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Brussels on 26th June and when he came to the meeting of the Socialist International at Chequers on 29th and 30th June.

Mr. Ashton

Will my right hon. Friend have further talks with the Norwegian Prime Minister about Statoil? Is he aware that the Norwegians are getting very much tougher with private enterprise than anything proposed in our White Paper? Is he further aware that some of us feel that any incoming Tory Government in years to come could reverse the Labour Government's proposal with only one Budget? Why does not my right hon. Friend insist on taking over the whole of the industry instead of only 51 per cent.? Would it not have been disastrous if we had taken up only 51 per cent. of the coal and electricity industries?

The Prime Minister

I am not concerned, and I do not think anyone else is, with the very remote hypothetical possibility mentioned by my hon. Friend. As for the question about Statoil, we are well aware of the practices developed with great success by the Norwegian Government. We have largely followed them. My hon. Friend will have seen the suggested provision in the White Paper of a hydrocarbons organisation which can develop its activities.

Mr. Grylls

If the Prime Minister goes to Norway, will he consider travelling on to Sweden where he would soon discover that the pharmaceutical industry has been partially nationalised and that costs and prices have risen? Will he consider the effect in Britain if he were to nationalise our pharmaceutical industry, when we would have fewer new medicines and fewer innovations?

The Prime Minister

The Question is about Norway and not Sweden. Since, however, the hon. Gentleman has suggested that I extend the visit I was not proposing to make I will say that the extent of the rapacious behaviour of the pharmaceutical industry was demonstrated by a report of the Monopolies Commission made to the previous Government.

Mr. Douglas Henderson

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman, when eventually he visits Norway, to find out why the rate of unemployment there is 0.4 per cent., one-tenth of the rate in Scotland? Is he aware that he may find out that the answer lies in the fact that Norway is not controlled from London whereas Scotland is?

The Prime Minister

I am prepared to look at that interesting reasoning. There is another reason of course: Norway has had a Labour Government for several years. The thing on which we can perhaps all agree is that Norway has got further and faster ahead with the exploitation of North Sea oil resources than we have. When we catch up—I am sure the hon. Gentleman will appreciate what we are doing—particularly in the affected areas of Scotland the unemployment rate, which is already falling will be comparable with that of Norway.

Mr. Mayhew

Would not the suggested visit enable the Prime Minister to meet some of those great Socialist leaders who have been members of coalition Governments—distinguished Socialist leaders who not only preach power-sharing to other people but actually practise it themselves?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. They practise it with unfortunate results, as those Socialist leaders will inform me and have informed me. I should also be able, with the enthusiasm of the hon. Gentleman, to inquire of the Democratic Socialist leader of Norway what happened to his referendum.