Motion made, and Question proposed,
That this House at its rising on Wednesday do adjourn till Tuesday 15th October.—[Mr. Edward Short.]
I have not selected the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton).
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Mr. John Farr (Harborough)
I wish to put before the House one or two suggestions in relation to the proposal to adjourn on Wednesday for the Summer Recess. We have not discussed an important development which occurred towards the end of last week when the Secretary of State for Industry on Thursday and Saturday announced massive public subsidies for two projects which are being carried on by groups of workers. The first is a subsidy of £1.75 million for the old Beaverbrook Scottish Daily Express, to produce a newspaper which, if it gets off the ground, is to be called the Scottish Daily News. Secondly, a subsidy has been announced of £4.95 million, nearly all of which is for the old Triumph motor cycle factory. These sizeable sums of money should not be advanced for those projects without proper discussion in Parliament. Whether or not one is in favour of public money being spent in this way, there are questions which should be put to and answered by the Secretary of State for Industry on the Floor of the House.
I wrote to the Secretary of State for Industry on Friday and told him that I should be raising these two matters on the motion for the Adjournment should I be fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker. The Secretary of State was here until about 20 minutes ago but unfortunately he has left. In the hope that the OFFICIAL REPORT will eventually be published, I will put some questions about these two proposed loans in the hope that the Government will bring their mind to bear on them.
First, what is the interest rate on the loan money and what are the terms of repayment of the proposed loan of £1.75 million to the former Scottish Daily Express? No statement has been made by the Government in this respect. The Department published a Press release giving details of the loan, but complete 51 silence was maintained about the repayment terms and the rate of interest. Why have not the House and the country been informed of these details?
Secondly, why has the advice of the Industrial Development Advisory Board—which was set up to advise the Government on loans of this type—been entirely ignored? The board, which consists of skilled and knowledgeable people, was set up to advise the Government specifically on instances like this. Is the risk a sound one? Is the loan a good investment from the taxpayer's point of view? Both in respect of the Scottish Daily News and the Triumph motor cycle company, the board said that the developments were not viable and the loans were not sound, and advised the Government against them. If the right hon. Gentleman were here I should ask him why he has lent taxpayers' money to both these projects in defiance of the advice he received from this statutory board which was set up for this very purpose. I feel strongly that it is wrong that taxpayers' money should be spent in this way.
In both cases considerable expenditure is involved. How can it be said that there is a reasonable chance of making the new Scottish Daily News pay when the advice of the IDAB is disregarded and when Beaverbrook Newspapers themselves could not make it pay? We must remember that Beaverbrook Newspapers had access to an international staff, international wire services and all the other facilities needed by a great daily newspaper. If the Scottish Daily News ever gets off the ground it will have to buy those services; it will not have them provided by the skilled staff in the Express. Surely a project such as this is extremely dicey.
Another aspect that worries me very much on the proposed Scottish Daily News relates to the politics of the new newspaper. Let us suppose that it gets off the ground. Let us also suppose that the Government loan of £1.75 million, representing about half of the money needed, enables the group to publish a daily newspaper. Is it not right that if public money is to be spent the newspaper must at least be impartial, that at the very least it must present its politics and news in an unbiased manner, and that at the least the committee that is to 52 run it—a committee composed of 16 people—should consist of all shades of political opinion? It is surely better that they should be not extremists to the Left or the Right, but preferably moderates and at any rate covering the full spectrum of opinion.
Yet when we examine the committee that is to run the proposed newspaper we find that, far from representing moderate or centre opinion, many of the 16-strong committee are very far to the Left in politics. Its chairman is Mr. Alistair Mackie, who is a Bathgate Labour councillor. In addition, the spokesman for the committee is Mr. Nathan Goldberg, who describes himself as of international Socialist sympathies.
Five or six of the other committee members are very Left-wing Socialists and in addition there is at least one paid-up member of the Communist Party. If taxpayers' money is to be put into a project of this nature, and if Parliament is not to have a chance to debate it, surely at least the committee set up to run the project should be of moderate and centre-of-the-road appearance.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
Since Mr. Mackie is my constituent may I say that had the hon. Gentleman taken the trouble to find out he would have discovered that Mr. Mackie is a fairly moderate man and is no further to the Left than Lord Thomson is to the Right.
§ Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)
My hon. Friend will appreciate that the Secretary of State for Industry is anxious to be consistent and we know that he likes Government nominees on any company which receives Government money. My hon. Friend read out the list of Government nominees. We should like to know who is to represent the public.
§ Mr. Farr
Following those two helpful contributions I shall pass to another point. Apart from the Scottish Daily News and the £1.75 million earmarked for that project, there is an even bigger loan which we must consider. I refer to the figure of £4.95 million of public money to what is left of the old Triumph Motor Cycle Company. The first question I would have put to the Secretary of State for Industry if he were present would be as follows: why has he arrived at the strange figure of £4.95 million? 53 Since I did not think he would be here, I took the trouble to look up the answer. The answer is that current legislation permits him to lend only up to £5 million on any one project without coming to Parliament to obtain approval. Why is he so anxious that Parliament should not discuss the matter? Why is he so intent on the exact figure of £4.95 million—namely £750,000 by way of grant and £4.2 million by way of loan, making just under £5 million? Why does he fasten upon that figure, unless it is chosen and designed to avoid parliamentary debate and parliamentary discussion on the propriety of the loan?
§ Mr. Leslie Huckfield (Nuneaton)
I admire the hon. Gentleman for his logical reasoning. I hope he will extend his reasoning to the sum of £4.8 million which the previous Minister, the right hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Chataway), advanced for exactly the same reasons to Norton Villiers Triumph on 19th March last year. Will he extend the same criticism in respect of that loan?
§ Mr. Peter Walker (Worcester)
My hon. Friend may be interested to know that when we decided that matter, we felt that in respect of a sum as large as £5 million it should be put before Parliament—and that is what we did.
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
This is an occasion when hon. Members make a number of points briefly to enable the Leader of the House to answer them. I have about 20 Members on my list who want to address the House and this debate must be limited in time. It is wrong for an hon. Member and other hon. Members who disagree with him to take the whole of the time on one subject. Mr. Farr.
§ Mr. Farr
I shall be very quick, Mr. Speaker, and I shall not give way again.
I would remind the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Huckfield) that it would be in the Labour Party's interest if he did not interrupt me again. In addition, the Industrial Development Advisory Board approved the previous loan but the present loan approved by the Secretary of State for Industry has been condemned as not being viable. The right hon. Gentleman had no right to risk taxpayers' money in that way. I am not against these experiments in principle, 54 but I believe it is totally wrong for public money to be risked in such a way. The terms of the Act under which the Secretary of State for Industry is proposing to make the loans require that they must be made in the national interest. I do not see how he can show that it is in the national interest that a loan of almost £5 million should be made to what is left of the Triumph motor-cycle industry when only 300 or so of the original work force of 1,700 are left to work in the factory, or what remains of it.
It cannot be in the national interest for any Government to subsidise workers who take over factories in the illicit manner in which the Triumph motor-cycle workers took over their factory. They prevented the owners of the factory from possessing their own goods. They did that persistently for a considerable time at great loss to the company. Surely the indiscriminate subsidising of wildcat projects of this nature can only encourage illicit action by other militant groups of workers. Do the Government think it right that militant groups of workers should be subsidised by State money in this way? If other companies and private individuals could obtain from the Government loans probably at favoured rates—as apparently has been the case with these two groups—on the same basis they could make a real contribution to Britain's future and to our exports.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, Central)
The hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) has made a case for this House taking a shorter recess. I agree with that entirely. I have always been opposed to these long recesses, especially the long Summer Recess, because invariably they are to the great advantage of whichever Government happen to be in power at the time. Irrespective of their political complexions, I dislike all Governments. I suspect them and I want to keep them firmly under control and accountable to this House.
In the course of the next three months, in view of the economic situation, the British public would be astounded to know that this House would not be sitting, during which time the Government could say and do what they liked without being accountable to us or to anyone else. We had statements last week and again today 55 by the Leader of the House indicating that various very important negotiations of one kind or another will take place in our absence, with no chance for us to debate them. We all know that every Thursday there are demands from all parts of the House for debates on various different topics. The repeated answer is "There is no time".
Either the public choose not to understand or simply do not understand that when we go away for three months it is not for three months' holiday. Nevertheless, I suspect that most hon. Members have more holiday than most of their constituents. Certainly that is the impression outside this House.
My amendment, which has not been selected, was not a frivolous amendment. I wanted an additional few days to debate matters which are often controversial but which cut across party politics and are important. If my proposition had been accepted, we would have had another 10 sitting days, still leaving about nine weeks away from this House, which in all conscience seems to me to be enough, whether it be that we engage in electioneering, holidaying or whatever.
I chose 15th August deliberately because it would involve some sacrifice. I would miss my grouse shooting on the 12th, as would my constituents in Central Fife. But, like Sir Denys Lowson, we all have to make sacrifices in the national interest. I think that the public would understand and appreciate the kind of gesture that we were making.
We could devote one of those days to debating the evil and greedy machinations of that arch-Tory villain whose activities were uncovered by the inspectors of the Department of Trade and revealed by the Sunday newspapers this weekend. He is the very epitome of the economic system which the Tory Party extols and espouses with such understandable avidity.
On another day and in juxtaposition to that debate on Sir Denys Lowson and his kind, we could debate the state of the National Health Service and compare the activities of an arch-capitalist and his unbelievable greed and avarice with the devotion and dedication of our nurses and all the others who work in what is still one of the greatest social services in the world.
56 I sought to get a debate on this subject on the Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill. I have been drawn No. 35 or 37, so my chances are fairly dim. Therefore, I take this opportunity to say that we should not rise for the Summer Recess unless and until we have had a chance to debate the state of the National Health Service. The Halsbury Report could be available to the Government before 15th August or within a very short time, and we know that the Prime Minister himself is having talks with representatives from all branches of the National Health Service. We shall not have a chance to debate what transpires at that meeting.
Another subject which will be debated tonight is that which occupies the fifth position in the list. It is initiated by Liberal hon. Members and others, and it is on the Kilbrandon Report. However that may be, it will be unsatisfactory from the point of view of all parties. We ought to have had a chance of one day's or even two days' debate on that very important report on the Floor of the House at a civilised hour before rising for the Summer Recess.
There is turmoil within all parties—the Liberal Party, the Scottish National Party, the Tory Party and even my own party. All are in great turmoil and confusion about how to devolve decision-making or even the legislative process as between this House and any other assemblies which might be set up in other parts of the United Kingdom. I think that it is highly unsatisfactory that this House has not been given an opportunity to debate this extremely important subject.
The fourth debate would arise directly out of the statement by the Leader of the House today on the pay and conditions of Members of Parliament and in answer to a Question of mine earlier today about how this House works. That would include the recesses, of course.
I have always taken the view that the House might do well to return to the experiment initiated by the late Dick Crossman of having morning sittings not primarily for Government legislation or Government-initiated debates but for Private Members' business.
I take one example. The Adjournment debate is a great inconvenience, coming as it does at the end of the day, to the 57 Member himself, to the Minister and the civil servants concerned, and to the Press. If we had a renamed debate or two each morning, there would be involved only the Members and Minister concerned. No one else need bother to attend. In present circumstances no one else ever bothers to attend. It would be to the great convenience of the Members, of the Ministers concerned and of the Press to take the now so-called Adjournment debates on the Floor of the House in morning sittings. It seems to me that this is a matter which should be gone into much more carefully and which should not be thrust aside with the degree of ridicule and contempt that befell the Crossman experiment.
Another matter which we could discuss in a debate at this time and which hardly ever gets discussed is our Select Committee procedure. As hon. Members know, there are a number of extremely valuable Select Committee reports containing a lot of fundamental information not otherwise available to hon. Members which are never debated on the Floor of the House.
I happen to serve on the Expenditure Committee. One of its Sub-Committees reported recently on the private sector of the National Health Service. All the evidence submitted to the Committee suggested gross abuses of the health service by the private sector. However, the Tory majority membership of that Committee deliberately used their majority to fly in the face of all the evidence and to give a vote of thanks to the private sector, when there was specific evidence that consultants in private practice were actually thieving very expensive equipment from the health service for their private use and charging their private patients for it as if it were their own. That is the kind of subject which this House should debate and which it never debates.
I should like to mention another matter which need not involve either votes or Members.
§ Mr. Hamilton
I hope that I am not as hysterical as the hon. Lady.
I should like to refer to Private Members' Bills which fall by the wayside time and again because an anonymous hon. Member gets up on a Friday and shouts "Object" when it is well known that many of those Bills have widespread support.
I mention specifically my own Scottish Divorce Bill which has the support of the Church of Scotland, the Law Commission in Scotland and a whole lot of respectable bodies and non-party, non-political organisations. Yet it is denied a Second Reading.
My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) has a Bill on the tied cottage. I remind him and others of my hon. Friends that as long ago as 1947 a unanimous resolution of the Labour Party Conference recommended the total abolition of the tied cottage. It was Nye Bevan who said "This conference can pass what decisions it likes, but the Government of the day will decide what they do in the House." The tied cottage is still with us. When hon. Members on this side of the House talk about the importance of obeying conference decisions, they had better understand that, whatever conference decides, the Government of the day, particularly a Labour Government, will decide what legislation is introduced. That principle started with Keir Hardie and carried on right through to Nye Bevan.
I now turn to a very important problem which should be under continual review by the House. There is a good argument for not having a holiday at all—indeed, we do not deserve one—if we are judged by results in the economy. The economy has steadily worsened over the years, not only in the last four months, and the likelihood is that it will go on worsening. The present Government's record in dealing with the economy is nothing of which to be ashamed. On the contrary, we shall fight the election in large measure on what we have done to remedy the great deficiencies that were created by the previous Government. But over the next few years the only honest call to our people can be fair shares of misery with the biggest burdens being carried on the broadest backs. That is the only message that we can convey to the people of this country. The longer 59 and the louder we shout that message both inside and outside this House, the better it will be for our democracy.
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ Mr. Hamilton
I have made several perorations, but I have not yet made the last. I want the House and the people of this country to understand that large numbers of hon. Members do not want this House to go into recess for three months. It is well known that we shall have a General Election before we come back. I think that is well recognised. It is just a question of the timing. That will no doubt be exclusively in the national interest, and I have no doubt about the result. But it will mean that we are away for three months, and that will be three months too long.
§ 4.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)
There are moments when I find myself beginning to agree with the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton). When he said that the recess was going to be too long, I thought he might carry me with him, but his back is not broad enough.
I think the House should sit longer. It is a mistake to go away and leave the Government to get on without our invigilation. However, I understand why we are going away for so long. In part, it is due to the exhaustion of the Government, and particularly of the Whips Office, as we had only too evident testimony in our midst just now.
I share the desire at least of the hon. Member for Fife, Central that we should have a debate on the National Health Service and the immense strains to which it is being subjected. There is no monopoly of political interest in this matter. There is no monopoly of concern about the dangers in the service with militants who work in a way which can scarcely do the morale of those who work within and are served by the NHS any good. The underlying situation must cause grave concern to all in this House who care about the National Health Service and respect the efforts and dedication of those who work within it. That is a subject on which we should have an extensive debate and on which we should hear from the Secretary of State for Social Services.
60 Concorde, to move rapidly to another area, is a subject on which we should undoubtedly have been given more information. Unhappily, the Secretary of State for Industry just escaped having to answer a Question on that subject from my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley) this afternoon. It seems a highly paradoxical situation when this great apostle of open government, as he made himself known amongst us, is content that the House should have to scratch about amongst the transcripts of the Prime Minister's Press conference in Paris to find out what the situation is. If he is so proud of the project and cares so much about open government, may I ask what stopped him coming to the House to give us the facts about what is going on, what has been decided and what it all means? Why cannot we stay one more day and have a debate on that subject?
Why must we wait until goodness knows when to have a debate on the Defence White Paper which everybody knows is gathering dust in some pigeonhole in the Secretary of State's office? Is he so afraid to bring it out and reveal its contents to us? That in itself is sufficient for us to insist on hearing something on so vital a matter.
§ Mr. Antony Buck (Colchester)
Does my hon. Friend agree that the situation is even more serious, because it appears that the Government are consulting our NATO allies about the matter and are refusing to consult this House or to tell the country what is happening?
§ Mr. Onslow
Many people in NATO and in this country fear that the effect of the proposals in the White Paper will be such as to make us a useless member of that alliance. They fear that the proposals in the White Paper will not merely affect British influence in the Indian Ocean and elsewhere, but will gravely damage this country's capacity to defend itself as a member of Europe. Why cannot we have a debate on that matter?
The Chancellor of the Exchequer recently told us that there was a certainty of rising unemployment. Why cannot we have some indication from the Ministry of Defence of the extent to which it could hive off to industry at large some of the jobs at present undertaken by Service men who are just 61 uniformed fitters? There is an enormous amount of work in support of the teeth arms of our industry being done by a very long tail. If there is room for economy—there may be in the defence arms of this country—at least let us have an opportunity now, when unemployment threatens many industries, to consider whether defence work could be put in to fill up the empty shops.
Another White Paper which is missing —it may be a green, pink or another colour paper—concerns the proposals by the Secretary of State for Industry for the great excess of nationalisation, the great rush of blood to the head which he has been nursing for so long. Why cannot we have a debate on those proposals before the House rises? Most of us would be prepared to give up an extra day to hear the right hon. Gentleman's plans and to learn, incidentally, how far they are supported by his hon. Friends. I think that this is perhaps the most important and overriding reason why the House should not rise and leave the Government uninvigilated in the hands of that minority opposite. We know that they are divided amongst themselves. We have seen the curious evidence of their standard of behaviour in the Clay Cross correspondence. I suspect that some of my hon. Friends will touch on that matter if they catch your eye later, Mr. Speaker.
The motto of Transport House these days seems to be "Do not put anything in writing". I suppose it is dangerous for so divided a party to put anything in writing or to tie itself down to any fixed point of view. The Leader of the House, most of all, is aware of the dangers of getting out of his political depth. But that is no reason why we should tolerate that state of affairs. It is no reason why the country should be content to see Parliament rise and have the business, the crises and the decisions that have to be taken left to a divided and mutually hostile Cabinet. That seems to be the greatest reason of all for us to be prepared to make some sacrifice and for the House to remain in session.
§ 4.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (Newham, North-West)
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) and go one step further. I cannot see why discussions could not take place through the usual channels with a view 62 to off-season Adjournment debates being arranged throughout August, during which time the House could be run by a skeleton staff. The only people who would object would be civil servants. Every Department has more than one Minister. The hours could be reasonable—say, from 10 a.m. till 5 p.m. Hon. Members would then be enabled to raise the 101 subjects which accumulate. There would be no need for votes or for Ministers to be tied to their desks or to the House. Members who wished to be here could be here. Those with constituency engagements or with other work to attend to could attend to that. [Laughter.] This is no laughing matter; it is a serious proposition. I cannot see why the House needs to go into recess as such when all it need do is to go into a period of temporary adjournment as to Bills.
I oppose this Adjournment motion on almost identical grounds to those on which I opposed the Adjournment at Easter, when I detailed to my right hon. Friend the difficulties which my constituents and I were suffering because we had not enough teachers and schools. Six hundred children per day had to be sent home because there were no schools for them and no teachers to teach them. Even though that contravened the Education Act, and even though the Secretary of State for Education and Science and the Government were breaking the law, nothing was done about it.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House said that he had sympathy because he was a former head teacher. Sympathy is all very well, but when we are thinking of going into the long Summer Recess I still have that problem. The report on London weighting, which is a farce, has made the situation even more difficult. Areas such as the East End. Newham and West Ham which are gravely short of teachers, of schools and of housing accommodation for the teachers they cannot get will have the teachers that they have got attracted from them to Inner London areas.
Another issue which I shall not be able to debate unless we adjourn for a shorter period is the NALGO officers' refusal to carry out their full duties. I do not blame them. In Tower Hamlets, Newham and the East End generally, the law is being broken. Acts of Parliament are not being complied with. The 63 Government are breaking the law, and no action is being taken. Refuse is being piled in the streets for weeks on end. Sites near housing are being opened up as refuse dumps because no facilities are being made available for the collection of refuse.
My local council claims—rightly—that the NALGO officers are entitled to their increase but the council is not allowed to pay it because the Government will not help them to pay the extra. I cannot agree to the House going into recess when I know that the health of my constituents —women and children—is being threatened and when there is a grave possibility of an epidemic unless the Government take action.
The last time I mentioned this my right hon. Friend said that he could do nothing about it and that it was a matter for Burnham in regard to the teachers and it was a question of negotiation as to London weighting. I raised the matter with the Secretary of State for Education and Science, who said that negotiations must proceed.
It is amazing. When the Government, irrespective of party, want to act, they act overnight. But they say that they cannot agree to give the local government officers a rise because the rise was originally outside the Pay Code, which is now abolished.
The Government can increase the Patronage Secretary's salary by 39 per cent., from £9,500 to £13,000. Did the Pay Board investigate that increase? Did Lord Boyle investigate it? My right hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary may be worthy of the increase. In the same way, there are statutes which provide that the refuse of my constituents should be collected, but the Government take no action to ensure that it is collected. I repeat that when the Government want to do something they can; and when the Opposition want to work something to suit themselves they run with the Government.
It might be said that this matter can be raised in writing. Has any hon. Member opposite had my experience about corresponding with Government Departments? It takes three months to get an answer. This applies not just to one Department but to several Departments. 64 I have here chapter and verse in a dozen cases, but I will not quote them in detail.
To mention one example, one of my constituents alleged that a wrong operation had been performed on him and that he had suffered. I raised this matter with the Department of Health in April. I received a letter in July from the Minister apologising for the delay and saying that the doctor was on holiday. That took from April to July. Either the Minister knew that the doctor was not on holiday for four months, or he should have known. He should have been able to say that it was not good enough to keep a Member waiting from April to July for a reply which should have taken only a few weeks. However, this Minister is not kicked in the pants; he is promoted.
Then I wrote to a chap at the Home Department—I do not know his name; I have never met him.
§ Mr. Lewis
No, I will deal with him later. This was a chap called Harris, I think, who did not even know how to send off letters, who did not know that Members had to have copies, and who did not know the procedure. I then discovered that this was one of the brilliant back-room boys who had been brought into another place to deal with the matter.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned the Home Secretary. He is even worse; it is impossible to get a letter from him. He has a crowd of underlings. It takes months for the underlings to reply. On principle, the Secretary of State never replies to anything. He can make speeches attacking other people. I suggest that I should be permitted to do a bit of work in his Department and then we shall see that Members of Parliament then get replies to correspondence within a reasonable period.
I started at the bottom and now I go higher. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister replies expeditiously to letters—I give him full marks for that—but when I see him to complain about Ministers I do not get any helpful support. He tells me to take it up with the Ministers. This is similar to the situation regarding complaints against the police. One is told that the police will investigate 65 the police. The police investigate and find that their fellow policemen have done nothing wrong, and it seems that whoever has complained in the first place is in the wrong. It is not good enough that Ministers should be in a position of not being able to, or refusing to, reply to letters. If the House is not in session we cannot raise issues such as those I wish to raise.
I read in a newspaper yesterday about a scandalous situation. The right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker), who has left the Chamber, has mentioned my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, The headline in the newspaper stated "Storm over angel face", not "Storm over Jenkins". The man referred to has a dangerous criminal record. He has allegedly shot several policemen. I am told that no Member of the House knew that this man had been let out on parole and was running a home for battered mothers. [Laughter.] This is a serious matter, not a laughing matter. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary who is responsible for such matters is not here and so we cannot question him.
§ Mr Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)
With regard to the hon. Gentleman's comments before he referred to the newspaper article, is he trying to establish a case that the Left-wing Ministers in the Labour Government reply promptly and that moderate Ministers are dilatory in replying?
§ Mr. Lewis
No; the hon. Gentleman should know that I have made complaints involving Governments, Ministers and Prime Ministers of both parties. The previous Prime Minister got a long list of complaints from me. The list of complaints received from me by my right hon. Friend the present Prime Minister is not as great, but it is catching up. There has been dilatoriness and neglect on the part of almost all Ministers. There have been only one or two honourable exceptions. I am making a general attack on Ministers because it is not possible to single out civil servants and, after all, Ministers have responsibility for their Departments. I raise this matter in the interests of Parliament and the electorate, and particularly the taxpayer. The taxpayer pays my salary and the salaries of other hon. Members, as well as Ministers' salaries.
66 If a taxpayer finds that because of bureaucracy and neglect he cannot get a problem solved, it is only in exasperation that at the last moment he takes it up with his Member of Parliament. It is wrong for a Member of Parliament to be kept waiting three or four months for replies to matters which constituents have raised, particularly when we have a whole batch of Ministers whose job it is, or should be, to ensure that replies are given reasonbly quickly. I do not care whether the Ministers are Left-wing or Right-wing. If the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) chooses to talk about Left-wing Ministers, I can talk about trade and industry matters. I have complaints regarding these matters now and I have had them in the past. The right hon. Member for Worcester will recall that on many occasions I gave him full chapter and verse about companies which were fiddling—though legally—day in, day out, long before the Lowson and Lonrho affairs. I make complaints about such matters, yet no action is taken—I beg the House' pardon. In the case of Lonrho one person who was concerned was elevated to the Upper House. But often nothing is done. There have been many cases—another example was the V & G case. The hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) will recall that I kept him posted with details of many cases.
§ Mr. Nicholas Ridley (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)
The hon. Gentleman is always choosing the wrong companies as examples of his complaints. If he would refer to the correct companies there would be more in what he says. Perhaps in future he will take care to pick the right companies, rather than proceed to accuse innocent people of serious offences.
§ Mr. Lewis
I thought that the facts of the Lowson affair were known. A report has been made and I can only go by what it says. If the hon. Gentleman says that the report was wrong and that the man concerned did not make £5 million by means of somewhat reprehensible conduct, and if that man has paid back the money which he promised to pay back 18 months ago, I withdraw what I said. I can only go by what is reported in the Press—which he has not denied—that he made over £5 million and promised to pay back the money 18 months 67 ago. The Lonrho affair was also published and one person who was concerned in it went to another place.
All the cases which I have referred to Government Departments, both in the time of the previous Government and now, relate to companies which have not been carrying out the law as they should have been. These matters should be considered irrespective of party politics. All hon. Members, regardless of where they sit in the House and regardless of whether they are Ministers, ex-Ministers, aspiring Ministers or back benchers, should support me on this. We have all had experience of being kept waiting for three or four months for replies from Government Departments which is wrong. If I and most other hon. Members with only part-time secretarial assistance can deal, as we do, with our correspondence often by return of post, and certainly within a few days, surely it is not too much to hope that Ministers, with all the paraphernalia of the Civil Service can ensure that Members get prompt replies. We are entitled to this, and so is the taxpayer. We should have replies within a reasonable time, even if they are unsatisfactory.
I turn now to matters relating to the Post Office, which has given shocking service during the past few years. I am not making party political points on this. I opposed the setting up of the Post Office Corporation. I prophesied to the last Labour Government that what has been happening would happen. It has taken 10 days for a letter to go from one borough to another. I swear that that is true. I had to wait seven working days for a letter to reach me at the House of Commons from County Hall. I told the Chairman of the Post Office that if the letter had been dropped in the gutter at County Hall it would have got here more quickly. It contained an urgent message from County Hall and by the time I got it, it was outdated.
If we were not to adjourn shortly for the recess I could raise some of these cases in the House. I would probably have to do some manœuvring to raise matters about the Post Office because we are told that we cannot be given replies on day-to-day matters affecting the Post Office.
68 There are cases of shocking neglect. The taxpayer is entitled to complain and we ought to have the right to put forward here complaints on his behalf.
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Oscar Murton)
Before I call the next hon. Gentleman, may I remind the House of Mr. Speaker' request that speeches should be brief in view of the fact that a large number of right hon. and hon. Members wish to speak.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Julian Ridsdale (Harwich)
Before we rise for the Summer Recess, I would point out that it is disturbing that the Government have not allowed time for a debate on the extension of the dock labour scheme. What is more disturbing is that the Government introduced the proposal hurriedly, without even consulting the port employers.
I believe that the reason that time has not been found for a debate is that the Government know that the case for the extension of the scheme is weak, that it is part of the election programme of the Left wing of the Labour Party, part of the Foot and Benn disease of the Labour Party, to bring in further nationalisation to the detriment of the smaller ports. It is opposed by all the smaller ports and can bring no benefits either to the employees or to the port users. It will mean duplication of staff and facilities and will be detrimental to the country' interests.
We should find time for a debate on this subject very soon. This proposal affects not just the private ports but the British Railways ports. It was the British Railways ports and particularly the National Union of Railwaymen who stood their ground at the time of the last docks strike. To introduce this scheme will lead only to internecine strife in the unions. An extension of the scheme will mean the closing down of many smaller ports and unemployment.
I am delighted that the Home Secretary has spoken up against further nationalisation and the Left-wing policies of the Government. At present, the Labour Party is facing not just Foot and Benn disease but a "War of Jenkins' Ear"—
§ Mr. Ridsdale
As my hon. Friend says—not just the Home Secretary's ear.
I hope that the country will be aware of this attempt to bring in nationalisation of our ports by the back door, without a debate in the House.
§ 5.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)
The hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) began this debate by arguing that before the House adjourns we should discuss the expenditure of public money in subsidies and loans to various firms which had got into difficulties. I should like briefly to ask the Government whether we can have some information before we rise about other subsidies of greater amounts of the taxpayer's money.
It was announced only on Friday night, in the Press and not in this House, that the EEC authorities in Brussels had sold 50,000 tons of subsidised beef to the Soviet Union. Because it is only outside the Common Market ring that Common Market food can be sold cheap, that beef had to be subsidised so that the Russians could buy it, as we are not allowed to do, at a much lower price than would have to charged within the EEC.
The subsidies which enable the fortunate Russians to get 50,000 tons of beef—a third of the whole EEC beef mountain—cheap come out of the agricultural funds of the EEC, which are partly sustained by the British taxpayer from the budget payments that we make.
§ Mr. Marcus Lipton (Lambeth, Central)
May I remind my right hon. Friend that at the same time as they are selling this beef to the Russians, we are paying import levies on food coming into this country?
§ Mr. Jay
I was going to make that point, which I am sure is fully in order.
The extraordinary situation—I am raising the matter because taxpayers' money is involved—is that the unfortunate British consumer who is also a taxpayer has to pay twice over. First, he pays a great deal more for his beef than if we could import it freely from countries such as Australia which can sell it much more cheaply than the Common Market price. Second, as a taxpayer through VAT and other taxes he has to put up the money which enables the Russian consumer to get the 70 beef more cheaply than I do. That is an extraordinary arrangement. This has happened with butter, now it is beef and heaven knows what will be next.
Within only the last two weeks the Minister of Agriculture made a statement about the beef decision in Brussels but said nothing about this sale. I am sure that my right hon. Friend would not conceal from the House an important transaction of this kind, involving the expenditure of British public money. Are we then to understand that the Minister of Agriculture was unaware of this transaction, involving tens of millions of pounds and directly affecting his discussions only about 10 days ago in Brussels? If that is so, it is a remarkable comment on the way in which business is conducted in the EEC. If he had been told about what was going on, I cannot doubt that he would have informed the House.
So that is my first question: can my right hon. Friend tell us whether the Minister of Agriculture was aware of this and how much money is involved in subsidising the sale of this 50,000 tons of beef?
There is one other important question. Does the decision to carry out this transaction amount to a formal decision, regulation or directive of the Council of Ministers? If it does, it is a legislative act which should have come before the Scrutiny Committee of this House. I am a member of that committee. Although the amount of paper that descends upon us is almost impossible to digest in the time available, as my hon. Friends will agree, I have no knowledge of any draft directive of regulation of this kind.
Is this something which the Commission has done without any authority from the Council of Ministers? On the other hand, if it is a decision of the Council of Ministers, can we know why it has never been reported to the Scrutiny Committee and this House?
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)
The hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) gave an exhortation to be loud and long and certainly followed his own advice. I prefer, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to heed your injunction and that 71 of Mr. Speaker and to be very brief. Unfortunately, although the subject to which I wish to address myself in the context of this motion is one on which I can be short, it is not of itself sweet.
I wish to refer to the recent sad events in Cyprus and particularly to those British citizens resident in Cyprus whose lives are attended with difficulty and danger and for whom of course the Government and Parliament have responsibility.
I am well aware that foreign affairs are notoriously unmindful of our parliamentary timetable and that many of the most critical and unwelcome events in the international sphere happen when Parliament either is in recess or wants to be. Nor would I suggest that the House should not go into recess until we reach a definitive constitutional settlement of the Cyprus problem. But that is something which even if it be not postponed to the Greek kalends—and I am not as pessimistic as that—is, I am well aware, likely to be something of a long haul. But in that long haul I am sure that the Foreign Secretary is doing his best in the tripartite talks in which he is at present engaged.
I wish to deal with a narrower but more immediate aspect of the problems of the British citizens there and of their safety and well-being. Only this morning there were further disturbing reports in several newspapers of the plight of our fellow citizens in Cyprus. They drew an unwelcome and ominous picture of the position of these British residents, particularly in the Kyrenia area, so far from the sovereign bases, and the area where fighting has been heaviest and most prolonged. We see there a picture of shortage of supplies, food running down, a breakdown of services and communications and now trespass and looting in the homes.
I hope we shall have a statement from the Foreign Secretary, perhaps tomorrow, that he will give the House all the information he can before we go into recess. I ask the Leader of the House to urge his right hon. Friends to approach this as a matter of extreme urgency and importance. I hope they will do that in particular in two ways. First, I hope that the Foreign Secretary will make strong representation not only to the 72 Cypriot authorities but to the Greek and Turkish Governments, and particularly at the present time to the Turkish Government since the Turkish Army is in control of the Kyrenia area. I hope that these representations will make clear that Britain expects a safeguarding of the interests, the lives and the property of British citizens there and that those citizens will be treated with due forbearance and respect.
I hope that when the Foreign Secretary makes a statement to the House he will be able to give us an assurance that all practical help needed by British citizens and residents in Cyprus generally, and in the Kyrenia area in particular, whether from the High Commissioner's department at Nicosia or from the sovereign bases, will be speedily and effectively forthcoming. I hope that we may be assured before the House rises that all practical and effective steps open to Her Majesty's Government will be taken to safeguard the lives and property of our fellow citizens in Cyprus, caught up through no fault of their own, and often in the twilight of their lives, in these tragic and intractable events.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, Central)
I am certain that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will be able to meet the request of the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith Concern on this issue is not the prerogative of one side but is shared by us all in our anxiety for our former constituents who may be resident in Cyprus or married to Cypriot, Greek or Turkish nationals and who have gone to live in the area. Our hearts go out to them in their tremendous problems and I join with the right hon. and learned Gentleman in hoping that we shall have a statement from the Foreign Secretary.
In urging that the House should not adjourn immediately, I had expected to be asking my right hon. Friend to allow us to take the remaining proceedings of my Hare Coursing Bill. Fortunately further wisdom has descended upon the Government, as it did in 1970, and they have agreed to accept a Bill to abolish hare coursing as a Government measure after the House returns, In those circumstances I congratulate my right hon. Friend on 73 the Government's wisdom, and, because this measure has a large amount of popular support across all parties in the House and all classes of people in the country, I hope that we shall hear undertakings from the other party leaders who hope to form the Government after the recess that, should they be successful, they will introduce a similar Government Bill.
I am confident, however, that the Labour Party will form that Government and that one of my right hon. Friends will introduce that measure. For that reason I turn to another matter which leads me to suggest that the House should not rise early. In the credit control order of the last Government in 1973 restrictions were for the first time placed upon a particular industry which is important throughout the country, but particularly in my constituency. That order placed great difficulties upon its development. It is threatening employment and is seriously hampering the Government's plans to modernise homes. The restrictions have been placed upon the purchase of central heating installations by finance from sources other than building societies.
Central heating installations are tremendously important not only to the comfort of individuals but in modernising homes and in the amount of energy they are capable of saving. They have been subjected for the first time to the most severe of credit restrictions. Anyone seeking to install central heating must put down a third of the cost of the installation and repay the balance over two years. Since these installations cost upwards of £500, that represents a hefty sum for an ordinary working-class family to find in these difficult times.
This is having a severe effect upon the industry, and over the last few years my hon. Friends the Members for Belper (Mr. MacFarquhar) and Deane Valley (Mr. Wainwright) and myself have been lobbying Ministers, hoping to raise the matter on the Adjournment and writing letters to try to get some change in the order, which can only have been a mistake in the first place. One cannot help feeling somehow that the matter has become bogged down in Treasury bureaucracy with civil servants anxious not to alter decisions and putting up all sorts of false excuses to Ministers.
74 In my constituency is located the important firm of Ideal Standard. In the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) is located the firm of Myson. Just to make this a happy trio the General and Municipal Workers' Union of my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Johnson) organises the workers at Ideal Standard. These factories are threatened with redundancies, short time and a severe cutback in expansion. The employment prospects of the people in the area are being jeopardised by the effects of the credit control order.
Seventy per cent. of central heating installations are in home modernisation schemes. Of those only 10 per cent. are financed by extensions to mortgages. So the overall effect of the last Government's action, which the present Government have not sought to rectify, has been that the modernisation of houses, which is such an important plank in our party's programme, as it was in the programme of the last Government, is suffering a setback by this severe restriction. It affects not only the manufacturers of appliances but builders' merchants and plumbers who are faced with redundancies. I do not want the House to rise without receiving a clear indication from the Leader of the House that he will look carefully at the way the order has affected the industry for the first time.
In every other credit restriction, under Labour or Conservative Government, in freeze or squeeze, central heating installations have been exempted because of their importance in the building programme and in energy conservation. It is wrong that the industry should now have this problem, coupled with the problems of redundancy throughout the industry and the setback in housing though we are trying to get the building industry back on its feet. The central heating industry has never been affected before, and it is a unique case. The House should not rise without my right hon. Friend's having said that he will try speedily to make arrangements to meet this urgent need.
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Harry West (Fermanagh and South Tyrone)
I want to examine the advisability of the House rising for a long 75 Summer Recess, in view of the great tragedies that are occurring in Northern Ireland. I listened with great interest to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) speak of the tragedy of Cyprus, but nearer home there is the dreadful tragedy of Northern Ireland. Although it has been going on for almost five years, there is no reason why the matter should not be aired once more.
The real cause of the tragedy is the total ineffectiveness of the security effort in Northern Ireland. We have the greatest respect and gratitude for the work being done on the ground by the security forces generally, but unfortunately it is not containing the situation or getting on top of the problem.
We have repeatedly made certain overtures to responsible Ministers in Northern Ireland and on this side of the water about what more needs to be done and should be done to save human life in Northern Ireland. People are still being murdered. Within the past two or three days people have been disappearing without trace. A neighbour of mine disappeared without trace two days ago. A search has been going on for him ever since. Such incidents cause tremendous hardship to wives and relatives. Yesterday another man disappeared and cannot be traced.
These matters tend to build up. There is always a danger of retaliation from one side or the other. The whole problem needs a complete review, and the security effort needs a complete overhaul.
I have been advocating for some time that we should cut off the supply of arms, ammunition and explosives at the source—that is, at the border between Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland. Hon. Members who visit that country will know that the border is wide open for the free movement of explosives, arms, ammunition and terrorists from Eire into Northern Ireland. It seems to me and to many people who live there that it is a waste of effort having troops chasing round Belfast and other cities trying to collect explosives, arms and ammunition when they could be engaged in curtailing their entry on the land frontier between Northern Ireland and Eire.
76 For some time I have urged the need to close many of the minor roads completely and block off the traffic on them, leaving probably only half-a-dozen main crossing areas between Northern Ireland and Eire. I would have those crossing points manned by troops 24 hours a day to search vehicles and interrogate pedestrians. I think that that is sensible and sound, but for some peculiar reason nobody on the political or security side has given the matter serious consideration.
There will be those who say that the people on the ground and the military know best, but we should not neglect the advice of the people who have lived there all their lives, who know what is going on and who have seen similar campaigns defeated. Four months ago a group of professional men and businessmen asked me to obtain an interview with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. They come from seven villages and towns along the border between my constituency and the Irish Republic. For some reason the Secretary of State will not meet them to hear their point of view on what should be done to curtail the movement of illegal arms and ammunition across the border.
Since I made the request a young lady in the UDR has been shot. I believe that it happened through great neglect. The advice of the people who live there should be listened to. It is a shame that in these tragic circumstances the Secretary of State will not listen to the advice of responsible citizens who live in these dangerous areas. He has put the deputation off to a lesser member of his team. One member of the team in Northern Ireland does not enjoy the full confidence of the Northern Ireland community because of his activities some years before he took up office. That is why they do not want to discuss these matters with him. On these important issues, the Secretary of State should have a discussion with them.
I should also like to raise another item of great importance to the whole nation. I believe that the House is not fully alerted to the dangers to this country's food supply of the crisis in agriculture. There is a serious crisis throughout the United Kingdom which will endanger the nation's food supply in the coming years and substantially raise the cost of living.
Agriculture is not an industry that can be revived overnight. The policy should 77 be to prevent deterioration in the industry and keep the confidence of the farmers at a high level. We have in almost all aspects of the industry in Northern Ireland a great crisis. The milk industry, which gets a very sympathetic ear in the Community, will run into serious problems at the end of the year or in the autumn. The cost of producing milk is rising steeply, and the farmers' unions will require a special price review at the end of the autumn to sustain producers' confidence.
Towards the end of the year producers in Britain will not be able to meet the total requirements of the people of Britain for milk and milk products from their own resources. In addition, there is no butter in intervention now, and cheese is scarce in the EEC. There is a need for an urgent review of the United Kingdom milk industry.
The beef industry in the United Kingdom is in tremendous difficulties. I congratulate the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on what he has done in his discussions in the Common Market. He obtained a degree of flexibility from within the Community structure that we were led to believe was not possible. The fatstock producers of the United Kingdom are grateful to him for what he has done so far, but he has not succeeded in arranging that a bottom be put under the beef market in the United Kingdom. This is of tremendous importance to fatstock producers in Britain but is more important in Northern Ireland.
The pig industry in the United Kingdom is living on a hand-to-mouth basis and is likely to run into serious trouble once more with the impending rise in the price of cereals.
The eggs and poultry industry is also in a serious position. The cost of producing eggs is now 25p a dozen. Farmers and, producers are receiving 17p a dozen, and are losing a substantial amount of money. All this adds up to lack of confidence, a lowering rate of production, and scarcity of the commodity which will undoubtedly cause prices to rise in the not-too-distant future. I hope that tonight or even tomorrow when the responsible Minister comes to the Dispatch Box he will have something to say about his policy for the future well-being of the agricultural industry throughout the United Kingdom.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Roderick MacFarquhar (Belper)
I associate myself with the sentiments expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara). By doing so I wish to bring to the attention of my right hon. Friend, and through him the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the urgent situation facing the gas central heating industry. This is not a one-party affair because on occasions I have been associated with the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King) in joint deputations to Treasury Ministers.
The impact of the new hire-purchase restrictions on the gas central heating industry in my constituency is particularly serious in that it employs 1,000 people in two important firms. In April, May and June of this year orders to one of those firms were down to 61 per cent., 43 per cent. and 41 per cent. respectively, compared with orders in April, May and June of 1973. As a result, discussions will take place with the unions on possible redundancies. Already people have been laid off in both firms.
Last year, as a result of the poor housing start situation, business was extremely bad. That was the situation in December last year before the industry received the body blow of the new hire-purchase restrictions. The argument that was used to justify that decision was that the industry was an infant industry and that by December of last year it was thought able to take care of itself. I accept that industries cannot be protected for ever and perhaps there could have been some ground earlier in 1973 for thinking that the gas central heating industry was on its feet. However, the economic argument was applied mechanically and bureaucratically.
In the month before the new hire-purchase restrictions were introduced, hire-purchase and credit sales agreements in the industry were down by 26 per cent. compared with the previous year. In December, the months in which the restrictions were introduced, hire-purchase and credit sales agreements for the first time were down by 31 per cent. compared with the previous year. Even if the industry was no longer an infant it was certainly a sick adolescent. Treasury officials who were alive to the situation should have taken account of that.
Since then construction has not picked up nearly as fast as one would have 79 hoped. The declining order situation has continued. I had hoped that the representations made by myself, my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central and the hon. Member for Bridgwater to the Department of Prices and Consumer Protection would have led to a rescinding or some amelioration of the hire-purchase restrictions in the so-called mini-Budget that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer introduced last Monday. However, that did not occur and the industry was not helped in any way. It is not subject to VAT and so it was not helped by the lowering of the VAT rate.
As I have said, in my constituency there are 1,000 people employed in the industry by two firms. Most of them are concentrated in the one town of Belper. That is a small town containing approximately 20,000 people. Therefore, the two firms are major employers in the town. Any further deterioration will deal a devastating blow to employment in Belper. I hope that my right hon. Friend will pass on these urgent representations to the Chancellor.
Finally, I make one point about the unhappy wider social implications of the Chancellor's failure to cut the hire-purchase restrictions which were hinted at by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central. Most better-off people—this is what I am told by the managing directors of the two firms in my constituency—who have been interested in installing central heating have already managed to do so. The industry is now penetrating a new market among less-well-off people. Many people whose housing conditions are often damp, cold and cheerless and who want an uplifting of their social conditions through the introduction of central heating must now, because of the Chancellor's failure to give any alleviation in his mini-Budget to the gas central heating industry, once again look forward to a winter of discontent. I ask my right hon. Friend urgently to pass on the representations made by myself and by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)
Before we rise for the Summer Recess will be right hon. Gentleman the Leader 80 of the House arrange for the Secretary of State for Scotland to make a number of statements? This afternoon we had a statement on off-peak electricity. We understand that the Scottish situation, which is quite different, will be dealt with by way of a Written Answer. Similarly, a Bill has been published this afternoon, and is in the Vote Office, dealing with rents in England and Wales. We understand that the Scottish situation relating to that Bill will be dealt with by way of a Written Answer. At a time when we have printing troubles in the House and in instances where the Scottish situation is quite different from the English situation, there should be separate statements. Scottish Members should have the same opportunity to question Ministers as Members who represent other parts of the country.
I believe that we should not adjourn until we have a clear statement from the Government about their pay policy in the event of the social contract breaking down, and particularly during the recess. We have had indications of the most alarming pay claims being submitted in recent days. We have abolished the Pay Board and the Government's precise policy is not clear in the event of a breakdown of the contract. More important, what signs are available to the Government that the TUC is willing to operate a social contract?
My third question—it is vital—is concerned with the EEC referendum. I have a suspicion that a grave fraud is being perpetrated on the electorate in the terms of the pledge that has been given to the British people that they will be able to consider the EEC referendum. The only thing which matters to those who are interested one way or the other is whether the referendum will offer the people an opportunity to express the view that they wish to leave the Common Market.
All the indications that we have had suggest that if there is a referendum it will be one that will offer the people only the choice of whether they approve or disapprove of the renegotiation. If they say "Yes", it can be presumed that the Government will say "All right, we stay in." If they say "No", we can presume that the Government will say "We will go back to the Commission 81 and try harder next year." Irrespective of the views that we may hold on the Common Market, we are entitled to know whether there will be the genuine offer of a referendum and whether the people will be offered the choice of saying, "Yes" or "No" to membership, as was clearly indicated by the Labour Party in the course of the last election.
Fourth, is the right hon. Gentleman arranging, before we rise for the recess, for the Secretary of State for Scotland to make a statement on oil platform policy and his policy for oil refineries in Scotland? Many applications for platforms are being submitted and a number of public inquiries are going ahead. Many firms are spending a great deal of money and are considering building oil refineries in various parts of Scotland, yet we have no indication from the Secretary of State or from the Government of their general view on these matters. These are complex issues in which a number of interests have to be considered. It would be helpful to developers and local authorities in Scotland to have some indication of the Government's general policy.
Will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for a clear statement on shipbuilding policy? I worked for five years in the industry before coming here, so I have an interest. The situation is virtually impossible at present. The industry is almost unique in Britain in having had to face world competition without tariff protection, and because of labour and other problems it has had more reorganisation, more Government reports and more committee considerations than any other industry. Far too often it has had to face all the problems of reorganisation without getting on with the job of building ships.
Appalling uncertainty again hangs over the industry. The employers are wondering how they can get finance in such conditions, and in Scotland, at least, those who work in the industry, who have seen how nationalisation has led to centralisation, rationalisation, widespread redundancies and large-scale closures, have no idea whether it is being considered for their industry. They do not know whether nationalisation would again end up in centralisation of purchasing or in closure of parts of the industry, just as was done in the steel industry.
82 I believe that it would be bad for the industry to be nationalised at all, but we should at least be given a Government statement about their future policy for the industry—with which there has been no clear consultation—so that those who work in it can know whether they are able to look forward with confidence to future employment prospects.
§ 5.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
This may not be the occasion for party points, but I must say that it is fairly cool of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) to criticise the Government's oil policy when one reflects that for some years we had nothing but indecision on this vital issue from the last Government and that the present Government have given already in most sectors of oil policy a series of rational and easily-defensible decisions. This kind of argument has its place, but as the hon. Gentleman had at least the grace to welcome the decision of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to double the regional employment premium at a time when my right hon. Friend was being attacked for it by the Leader of the Opposition, perhaps he can be forgiven and acquitted.
I want to raise only one subject—the fact that this is the fifth melancholy anniversary of the British Army in Northern Ireland. I wonder how many of us who sat here on that August afternoon in 1969 thought that we were making a decision to send in troops for anything more than a few months, perhaps a year at the most? Yet here we are, five years later, with a situation which I need hardly describe to the House.
During the Irish debate, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland made great play that at last he would start to phase out internment without trial, and that a number of people now in Long Kesh would be let out on a phased basis. This was greatly welcomed by a number of my hon. Friends and we voted for the Government on that occasion feeling that at least a start had been made.
My understanding is that this policy has allowed only 14 of some 1,600 people out of Long Kesh. The latest information is that, due to recent events, the 83 policy has been cancelled or at least postponed. Therefore, there should be, before we break up, a statement, perhaps on Tuesday or Wednesday, from the Secretary of State to explain exactly what has happened, because if it so be that the chiefs of staff have had their way—heaven knows, understandably from the point of view of the British Army—and persuaded the Government that it is putting British soldiers under an intolerable strain to find that people are let out of Long Kesh when lives have been risked and an enormous amount of work done to get them there in the first place, then at least the House of Commons deserves a statement and explanation because—and I do not hide it—I would regard this as one other reason why we should look extremely critically and with great scepticism at the whole policy of maintaining, after five long years, the British Army in Ireland.
Finally, for the next inevitable Irish crisis, what is the position about recall? We had a recall in the Whitsun Recess and undoubtedly, in the opinion of some of us, if the present policy continues we shall have the same situation and the same dismal heartbreaks. What is the policy for recall of Parliament to discuss the inevitable difficulties of Northern Ireland?
§ 5.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom Boardman (Leicester, South)
Many of the nation's energy problems are completely unresolved, and this is why I believe that we should not rise for the Summer Recess until we get a statement of Government policy about them. Not only that, but the issues themselves have not been debated. For example, a few days ago a Committee upstairs discussed the increased borrowing powers for the National Coal Board, although the board's accounts were not being published until the following day. Coal stocks are at a level which are unlikely to see us through the winter, quite regardless of any industrial action which may be taken.
Again, there is complete lack of information about the pricing policy to be adopted for gas. The comparatively low price of gas and the terms on which it therefore goes to customers gives it an attraction that could place the supplies at risk before we hear the Government's 84 statement on the Norwegian section of the Frigg field.
Thirdly, the Government seem to believe that oil supplies will continue to flow uninterrupted from the Middle East. Can we be sure? We understand that the Secretary of State for Trade has, by striking an obstructive note in the EEC, set back or destroyed the chances of sensible co-operation within the Community in drawing up contingency plans for the group of 12 nations.
§ Mr. Neil Marten (Banbury) rose—
§ Mr. Boardman
I am sorry, but I promised to be brief. We have had a Government White Paper about the North Sea explorations. Yet it discloses a quarter-thought-out plan for participation, leaving vast questions unanswered without debate. The future of this great natural resource is left to be speculated about for months while we are in recess.
Fourth, whilst I acknowledge that a decision has been made by the Government about nuclear reactors, that decision has been contested by the industry itself, by the Central Electricity Generating Board as a customer and by the Chairman of the National Nuclear Corporation. The decision was taken in the light of the Nuclear Power Advisory Board's report. But the House has not seen that report and we are to go into recess without seeing it.
Finally, we have the sad story of the unresolved problems and lack of debate on electricity supply itself. We read in the Press about the differences between the Government and the industry, differences between forecasts of demand and about the timing and fuelling of the stations required to supply our energy.
These are vitally important decisions which affect the future well-being of the country. To adjourn without fuller statements and fuller debates on these subjects is highly regrettable.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie Huckfield (Nuneaton)
Although I should like to concur in some of the sentiments that have been expressed, particularly from the Government side of the House, I believe that the House ought not to go into recess not so much because I want to complain but because I want to congratulate. I am particularly concerned that my right hon. 85 Friend the Secretary of State for Industry should earn the proper congratulations for the decision that he has made in agreeing to a grant of £750,000 and a loan of £4.2 million to the workers at the proposed Meriden co-operative to run the Triumph motor cycle works.
I declare an interest in that I was one of the co-architects of the original scheme. I certainly spent a great deal of time on the scheme in this parliamentary year. I am very glad to see the scheme go forward. I personally believe that it will succeed. I would have wished to congratulate my right hon. Friend upon, first, the form in which he has made the loan available. Reference has been made this afternoon to this matter. The way in which my Written Question was answered this afternoon by my right hon. Friend shows that the conditions and terms attached to that loan underline the fact that he intends to take a very close interest in the progress of the co-operative. This is something to which I wish that we could have had time to refer.
It is also relevant to mention that this is a loan which will make a very substantial contribution to British motor cycle exports. Indeed, it is estimated in the statement made this afternoon that we could have an increase in motor cycle exports to the value of about £10 million a year because of my right hon. Friend's decision. I should have liked to refer to this matter had the House been given more time. But if the House is not to be given more time to discuss this grant, perhaps it is because my right hon. Friend has followed the precedent set by the Minister for Industrial Development in the previous Government, when he gave a grant of £4.8 million to Norton Villiers Triumph in March 1973. Despite the answer given by the right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker), the fact was that though the right hon. Gentleman, who was then the Minister, made a statement, we never had a debate in the House. In making the statement this afternoon my right hon. Friend was merely following the precedent set by his predecessor.
I should have liked to refer to the skilled work force that we have at Meriden and to pay tribute to the men who have stayed on the picket line for 24 hours a day since last September, when so 86 many of them could easily have gone down the road to Coventry and found skilled jobs elsewhere. I should have liked to pay tribute to them this afternoon.
I should have liked to refer also to the guaranteed market which exists for the Triumph motor cycle in the United States. I went to talk to dealers in America last October, and I returned with orders for a substantial number of bikes produced at Meriden. I can make personal testimony to the guaranteed market which exists and will exist for the Triumph co-operative at Meriden. I should also have liked to refer at much greater length to the validity and international reputation and standing of the name "Triumph". This is quite a legend in British motor cycling circles, as it is in world motor cycling circles. That is something else which my right hon. Friend, in coming to his decision, has agreed to perpetuate.
In a much longer debate I should have liked to refer to the example of worker participation which the Meriden project sets out to be. If, when the project is studied in retrospect and when it has been operating for a considerable time, we gain valuable experience of workers having a role in the management of their industries, that again will be as a result of my right hon. Friend's decisions. Because we shall not have the time, as the House will adjourn, I am afraid that the House will be less rich in the experience for which my right hon. Friend has provided in making his grant and loan.
If the House were sitting longer, I should have liked to refer to one or two of the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for life, Central (Mr. Hamilton) about the National Health Service. Having once been a member of the Birmingham Regional Hospital Board for two years, I too can testify to the near disintegration faced throughout the service. We could have wished for a debate on that matter.
Similarly, we could have wished for a debate on some of the problems now facing the installation and manufacturing side of the gas central heating industry.
I said that I would be brief. I believe that the House ought not to go into recess before these subjects are discussed, because the House will be that much less rich for not having discussed them.
§ 6.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Mark Carlisle (Runcorn)
I agree with many of the reasons being put forward by hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House as to why we should not go into recess. I agree with one of the reasons given by the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Huckfield). It is, indeed, unfortunate that we cannot at this stage in the Session discuss the decisions taken by the Secretary of State for Industry to pour out substantial sums of taxpayers' money apparently in pursuit of Socialist dogma and apparently against the regard of his own advisory board. It is a pity that there is no time for a debate on that matter.
There is one other matter on which we ought to have a statement before the House adjourns for the recess—a statement which most appropriately would come from the Leader of the House. Therefore, perhaps it is a statement that he can give in answer to the debate. We need a clear explanation from the Government as to the present position in the continuing saga between the Government and the councillors at Clay Cross. We all know full well the unhappy history. We know the clear decision taken by the councillors of Clay Cross deliberately to refuse to implement laws democratically passed by the previous Government. We know the position o the right hon. Gentleman, who, at the Labour Party conference, chose to accept on behalf of the national executive a motion which called upon the Labour Party, after the return of a Labour Government, to refund all the penalties incurred by those councillors. If that were not an encouragement to break the law, it is hard to know what is encouragement to break the law. Indeed, the whole tone of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was very surprising, coming from a person who is the deputy leader of a party which believes in democratic elections.
We are told that the present Government believe in respect for the law, but it is an odd way to show that respect by giving encouragement to those who have deliberately rejected and refused the laws of a democratically elected Parliament.
§ Mr. Carlisle
That is particularly so when that encouragement is given to those who are themselves democratically elected members of local authorities. I was very careful throughout the whole rates argument always to advise people that they should continue to pay their rates and to rely on democratic means to change Government policy.
On 4th April the Prime Minister said that no public money was to be spent in recouping the charges against the councillors of Clay Cross, but he said that it was the Government's intention to remove the civil disqualification. That seems an extraordinary way for the present Government to uphold respect for the law, particularly when the councillors had been described as being both determined and wilful in their disobedience of the law.
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain the present position? We have all read, over the weekend, of a meeting of the Labour Party's Home Affairs Committee attended by several senior Cabinet Ministers. I should like to know whether the recommendation said to have been accepted at that meeting is the policy of the Government and just what it amounts to. Does it amount, as is suggested, to a proposal that if a Labour Government are returned after the forthcoming election they would rescind the penalties imposed on the Clay Cross councillors, without telling the country now that this is their intention? Surely the Labour Party must realise that that would be a complete abuse of their political power. If that is their intention they have a duty to tell the country before the election.
In particular may I be told what was the purpose of passing a resolution saying that the district auditor's solicitor should be informed that the Labour Party did not immediately propose to pay the £7,000 to discharge the indebtedness of the Clay Cross councillors yet recommending that that should not be put into writing? What was the devious purpose behind that, and if that is the intention of the Labour Government, ought that not to be put into writing? 89 What was meant by saying that this was not their immediate intention?
Is this a proposal merely to play for time so that the Government will be able to sweep the issue under the carpet until after the election and then rescind the penalties imposed? Last Friday the Home Secretary said:What the law says, even if we don't like it, is what we have to accept until we can change it by constitutional means. No one is entitled to be above the law. If we weaken on that principle, we can say goodbye to democratic Socialism.Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with those views and, if so, what is the Government's position with regard to Clay Cross?
§ 6.12 p.m.
Mr. Ioan Evans (Aberdare)
I have no intention of following the hon. and learned Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) on the issue of law and order. 1 would say, however, that it would be a good thing if Conservative Members, as well as condemning certain actions with which we are all familiar, condemned people such as Sir Denys Lowson, someone who obtained £5 million and is apparently "thinking" about returning it. As the hon. and learned Gentleman knows, if a widow goes to Woolworth's and takes something worth 6p from the counter she is dealt with by the magistrates. We hear of the activities of Lonrho and of someone who was particularly in the public eye in this country paying money into the Cayman Islands. Nothing was said about that by the Conservative Party. Indeed, that person was elevated to the Lords as a consequence. The Conservative Party approved of the illegal régime in Rhodesia.
I do not want to deal with these issues. This has been a short Parliament and I believe that it should be followed by a short recess. My hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Huckfield) has said that we should extend the Session to congratulate the Government. I will put the minds of Conservative Members at rest. I do not intend to congratulate the Government because then I would have to make a very long speech. I intend to make only a brief intervention. The achievements of this Government are measured only by the shadow of their deficiencies. I want to deal with some of their deficiences.
90 The Government have a splendid record. It is rumoured that we are going into an election campaign and may not be returning on 15th October to this Parliament. We are still guessing about the date but it is said that we shall be coming back to a new Parliament with a new Government. I believe that that new Government will be a majority Labour Government.
I have a few words to say about the defence review. As a party we said that we would look at the nation's defence expenditure. It is a burden which we cannot afford to carry. When we came into power in March we inherited a £4,000 million deficit. There are some European countries with an embarrassing financial surplus. Yet they are not spending as much on defence as we are. There is something fundamentally wrong with that. [Interruption.] I think it can be proved that Britain is making a contribution—bearing in mind her GNP—higher than that of other European countries. I know that the Government are working on the defence review. My right hon. Friend is answering defence Questions tomorrow. He may be able to tell us something.
I hope that in the very near future we can have a statement from the Government saying that they are cutting back on some of our commitments and that we are to allocate to defence only what we can afford. I hope it will be said that as long as there are crying needs in other areas we shall not give defence the sort of priority given to it by the Conservative Party.
I come to foreign policy. I know that the Foreign Secretary has been working hard and long with renegotiations in the Common Market. We have heard about the absurdities there—the butter mountain, followed by the meat iceberg. I realise that the Cyprus issue has meant more work for my right hon. Friend in seeking to bring about a settlement. There has been the hope on this side of the House that we would have a review of Southern Africa because developments in that part of the world are moving rapidly.
The new President of Portugal, General Spinola, said this weekend that the territories of Mozambique, Angola and Guinea-Bissau are soon to have independence. There is no doubt that this will have a major effect on Namibia and 91 Rhodesia. As a party we have put forward a progressive and clear-sighted view on these issues, bringing us into line with the rest of the world. The former Prime Minister was out on a limb when he went to the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference at Singapore, because of the rôle of the Conservative Party in these matters. The rest of the Commonwealth disagreed with what he said.
As a party we can follow the line taken at the United Nations. The Commonwealth countries have asked us to pursue our policies on Namibia, Rhodesia and South Africa. The International Court of Justice has said that the Namibian régime is illegal. We have said this as a party and we should say it as a Government.
A farce of an election is taking place in Rhodesia tomorrow. Those who are allowed to vote are almost exclusively white people. Very few of the African people will be able to participate in that election. There should be a statement about our attitude.
The Chancellor has issued his mini-Budget and we welcome what he has done, as far as it goes. We in Wales particularly welcome his announcement about the regional employment premium. That will help to maintain full employment. We welcome the action taken to ease the rating burden and to reduce VAT. We congratulate the Chancellor on what he has done and realise that he had a terrible economic inheritance. The enormous surplus which the Labour Government handed to the last Conservative Government was transformed into an enormous deficit.
What we want from my right hon. Friend are some proposals to restore the public expenditure cuts made by the last Government. We have not dealt with the problem of parents with large families. The Government can help these people through the family allowance system.
I turn to a point which concerns us in Wales very much. We have had the Kilbrandon Report and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will be responsible for gathering information on it and reactions to it from Wales and Scotland. We are very disturbed about the proposals on separatism. We recognise that Kilbrandon rejected those pro- 92 posals. We realise that there is a need to devolve certain powers from Westminster to Wales and Scotland, but we should maintain the unity of the British Isles and I hope that recommendations will be made which will be accepted by the people of Wales and Scotland as well as by the people of England.
I hope that we shall soon have a majority Labour Government.
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ Mrs. Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)
I consider that the House should not adjourn until it has debated the Strategic Plan for the North-West. As the Leader of the House knows very well, I have been trying since early May to persuade him to provide time for a debate on it, but though he promised me on 23rd May that he would see what he could do later this summer he has, I regret to say, done precisely nothing. That is a great pity, because the plan is of vital significance to the North-West and could, if adopted, have very damaging effects on the areas of the North-West outside the Mersey belt which it favours. This enormous tome, which contains 328 pages, 49 graphs and maps and 53 tables and weighs nearly 3 lb., does well in calling attention to the needs of our region, but it dismisses Lancaster in a few brief lines. Yet there are implications for my area on every one of its pages.
In his Press conference on the document on 6th May, Sir William Mather, Chairman of the North-West Economic Planning Council—admittedly a tireless worker for the region—stated:The North-West 2000 makes a powerful case for a dramatic redistribution of national resources in favour of the North-West.So it does, and I am fully in favour of it, but with respect to Sir William this is only part of the story. It certainly makes a case for a greater share of the national wealth to be redistributed in the North-West, which is long overdue, although since 1970 our share of the national cake has been improving steadily. But we still have a long way to go, particularly in replacing our old schools.
The plan goes on—and this is a great mistake in the plan, in my view—to preempt virtually the whole of the improvement asked for in the Mersey belt area, which would include Greater Manchester and Oldham, with what are described as 93 "finger developments" stretching east from Merseyside and north from Manchester.
In a brief reference to the prospects for Lancaster, the plan states on page 284:Future growth will depend largely upon jobs but it is not only future growth but present well-being which depends on the availability of a wide variety of job opportunities for men and women of all ages and interests.In the past we have suffered from a steady migration of our young people precisely because such variety was not available. They have left us to seek a future elsewhere.
Recently, largely by our own efforts but aided by the granting of intermediate area status and by the Industry Act—which the Director of the North-West Industrial Development Association recently described as the best package deal the North-West had ever had—we have managed to attract to the area a wide variety of firms, many of them small and highly specialised but capable of steady growth, and also some larger firms. For this we thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker), who did a great deal to assist us in our efforts.
However, while a great deal of our success has depended on our own efforts to put across to industry generally the highly attractive environmental and educational conditions we can offer, it has also depended on the absence of bias against us which the grant of intermediate status conferred. The strategic plan would not only restore the bias from which we suffered but would intensify it. Moreover it would be aggravated by recent Government measures, the cumulative effect of which would make our future very hazardous indeed.
We in Lancaster have bitter memories of what can happen when other parts of the country are made financially more attractive to industry than our part. We have only recently recovered from the blow which employment prospects suffered when part of one of our most important factories was attracted to a development area by the actions of the previous Labour Government. We can certainly hold our own and attract and retain industry if we are treated equally with other areas, but we cannot do so if 94 the scales are being constantly weighted against us.
That is why we greeted with delight the Conservative Government's pledge to phase out the regional employment premium, which gives help only to development areas and special development areas and not to intermediate areas such as ours. That is why I have fought so hard to try to persuade the present Government not to reintroduce this wholly unfair premium. Alas, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has doubled it. A number of firms are considering whether to come to our area. I sincerely hope that the attractions we can offer and the help and co-operation we give to our existing firms and will give to those thinking of coming to our area will persuade them to come.
However, even more serious for us is the Government's attitude to the granting of industrial development certificates. Under the Conservative Government the granting of certificates to intermediate areas was merely a formality, but on 18th July the Department of Industry announced significant changes in the operation of IDC control. I wrote immediately to the Minister to protest and in a letter dated 23rd July—and I objected to this letter at Question Time today—the Minister of State confirmed that in future incoming firms might have to show that they could not reasonably be expected to go to a special development area or to a development area. That is a serious blow to the intermediate areas, including mine.
Moreover, other Government Departments are being less than fair to us. The new Lancashire County Council, of which we are part, has received a disastrously small allocation from the Department of Education and Science—a mere £900,000, half the amount for comparable areas—despite the fact that our education expenditure is already below the national average. All this makes more difficult our task of making and keeping our part of Lancashire attractive.
British Rail announced only last Wednesday that it is to withdraw the Heysham-Belfast passenger and car ferry services, with consequent redundancies affecting both seafaring and shore-based staff. This is a decision which we shall oppose. My hon. Friend the Member for 95 Morecambe and Lonsdale (Mr. Hall-Davis) and myself are seeing the Minister about this matter on Thursday.
All this is happening at a time when unemployment in our area is again on an upward trend. It is no less than 25 per cent. up on July of last year, having taken a leap over the June figures, which is most unusual in an area with a strong holiday trade. The figure is now 3.6 per cent. We in Lancashire appreciate the environmental problems of Merseyside but we do not believe that, although it should have help with the environment, it should scoop the industrial pool.
I therefore say to the Minister that we should not adjourn until we have had the chance thoroughly to debate these matters.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Paul Tyler (Bodmin)
I agree with hon. Members who have referred to major issues on which we have not had debates. It is the greatest pity that we have not debated family allowances and their greater effectiveness in dealing with poverty than direct consumer food subsidies. Similarly we should have had a debate on devolution. I remind fellow Celts in the Chamber that there is another Celtic part of the country which has an interest in devolution, and that is Cornwall.
I wish to refer to some matters which have been dealt with in the fag end of the Session but which have been dealt with inadequately. Last Wednesday evening we were faced with about 100 Lords amendments which we had not seen before. We had no guidance as to which were and which were not Government amendments and what consideration had been given to them in the other place, because no OFFICIAL REPORT was available. The shambles that resulted on Wednesday were such that Mr. Speaker had to suspend the sitting. After the suspension the Leader of the House openly and honestly admitted that mistakes had been made. We were all grateful to him for suggesting that the debate should be resumed next day.
Hon. Members who attended next day, having waded through a pile of Lords amendments one and a half inches thick, were greeted with an equally confused situation when they attempted with inade- 96 quate assistance from the Order Paper to deal with the complicated provisions of the Housing Bill. According to an authoritative letter in The Times this morning from a noble Lord, at least some of the amendments which we passed on Thursday—and might have passed "on the nod" on Wednesday—are totally inadequate in law and have no legal substance.
On Friday of last week such was the pressure of time that we had to take the Committee stage of the Road Traffic Bill followed by Report stage and Third Reading, with the result that the debate went on into the evening. There were some Divisions in the afternoon in which the grand total of hon. Members who voted on the vital issue of safety belts in cars was 68. We are giving ourselves an extra day's holiday, yet we are cantering through legislation and leaving it in a considerable mess.
I do not wish only to look backward. Looking forward, tomorrow we are to be given the opportunity of taking the Report stage and Third Reading of the Rent Bill. As a member of the Standing Committee on the Rent Bill, I assure hon. Members who may not have studied it that it is a complicated and enormously important piece of legislation. Consideration of that Bill is to follow a long debate on a different measure, with the result that the debate will be crammed into the tail end of an evening at the fag end of Parliament. If we could have one more day to deal properly with the Rent Bill and proceed with a little less haste, we should do ourselves more justice in considering this important legislation. The Adjournment motion before us gives us one more day for the recess than we had dared to hope for. I believe that most hon. Members would willingly sacrifice that extra day to do justice to legislation that affects landlords and tenants throughout the land.
We have all been conscious with the late sittings of the last few weeks of the considerable strain that has been put on the Chair and on Ministers. We may possibly have made some slips. If there is a vote on the motion, I shall certainly vote against it. It would be totally improper for the House to adjourn before the major issues referred to by hon. Members have been dealt with and leaving three major pieces of household 97 legislation in a state of which none of us can be proud.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)
Unlike the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Tyler) I do not necessarily hope that the motion will be defeated, but I ask my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House for a statement on negotiations with the EEC before the House rises.
The hon. Member for Lancaster (Mrs. Kellett-Bowman) made an eloquent plea for the industry of Lancaster. She perhaps does not realise that there are parts of London from which industry has been rapidly disappearing during the last few years, particularly the Thames-side area which I represent. In that area 3,000 workers are involved in the sugar industry. One reason for the current difficulties of the sugar industry is the change from the British system of support and market management of sugar to the EEC system. The EEC system causes large quantities of European beet sugar to be dumped on world markets and causes difficulties for the very world producers that the EEC wishes to help. This mismanaged European sugar market provides plenty of loopholes for the use of public money. On the other hand we are seeing the end of our own properlymanaged sugar market which benefits both the British consumer and the Commonwealth producer.
The Guardian, which last Friday berated the Commonwealth producers for not providing under the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement the amount of sugar we expected, failed to mention that the agreement will be terminated at the end of this year. One reason for the shortage of sugar is that Commonwealth producers are not providing what they were expected to provide because their guaranteed market will be terminated at the end of this year.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade announced last Thursday that he had been unable to gain in Brussels a guarantee from the Common Market Ministers that 1.4 million tons of sugar would be imported into the EEC. It has been reported in the Press that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Overseas Development has secured such a guarantee at the Kingston, 98 Jamaica, conference. However, I under stand that that is not so. The matter is still to be discussed. Whereas my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade had no guarantee from the EEC that the matter would be discussed, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Overseas Development had an indication that the matter would not be swept away entirely.
There is not guarantee as yet. Without adequate imports of sugar from the Commonwealth or some other source, the 3,000 persons in my constituency whose jobs depend upon the refining of sugar are under threat. Their jobs may also be in peril because if the alternative is adopted of growing more beet sugar here, that sugar will be refined not in my constituency but elsewhere. It is ridiculous that the existing refining machinery should not be used to help Commonwealth producers, to provide employment in an area which has suffered a draining away of job opportunities and to maintain a good supply of sugar at a reasonable price for the British housewife. All that is under jeopardy because of our EEC connections.
If the Leader of the House cannot guarantee a debate between now and the end of the Session, will he arrange for a statement to be made by one of the Ministers involved before the rising of the House on Wednesday?
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Morrison (Devizes)
I shall not take up the point made about sugar by the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing), much as I should like to do so, since time does not allow me to deal with that matter. I should, however, like to turn to two other points.
We have heard many requests today for statements and debates, and if they were all met they would undoubtedly occupy the whole of the period of the recess. However, I wish to add to the list by making a request for two more statements. First, I should like the Government to make a statement on rates in local government, and secondly I should like to have a statement on the beef situation.
On 27th June the House took the advice of the Opposition and passed a 99 resolution which, among other things, insisted that the Government should introduce an interim form of rate relief. In consequence of that resolution, last Monday the Chancellor announced in the mini-Budget his intention to introduce rate relief. However, we read in this morning's newspaper that the country has been dismayed to learn that the Department of the Environment has been told by local government that it is extremely unlikely that it will be able to operate the Chancellor's rate relief system by 1st October. This throws up an extremely serious situation. Apparently the sums involved in the Chancellor's statement are so complex that they cannot be worked out by computer but will have to be done by hand. This will involve a considerable amount of time. Furthermore, it is thought that in some areas the relief announced by the Chancellor might not match the administrative cost.
It is an incredible situation if the Government, having announced rate reliefs, produce a system which is so complicated that in the first instance will be difficult to calculate and secondly will be extremely costly. If the Government cannot clarify the situation, it is likely that some local authorities will add considerably to their total expenditure. The burden will have to be borne by the ratepayers in the current year or be carried forward to next year. Already great alarm is being expressed about the total of local government expenditure for next year, given the current rate of inflation, It is important that a statement should be made giving the Government's view.
Last week the Secretary of State for the Environment was reported as telling the Associations of County Councils that next year local authorities would have to cut their spending. If a greater burden is to be placed on them this year and there are to be cuts next year, where is the money to come from to enable them to carry out the services expected of them? The chairman of the ACC's finance committee said that unless the Exchequer bore a greater burden of local government expenditure, next year there would be either a large increase in rates or a reduction in services. I hope we shall hear something constructive from the Leader of the House when he replies to the debate or, alternatively, that we 100 shall have a statement by the Secretary of State for the Environment within the next two days.
I turn to the second matter which I wish to put to the Leader of the House. It is well known that the livestock sector is in considerable disarray. On 26th June the Minister gave an undertaking that beef producers were to receive a minimum return of £18 per cwt. It now transpires that that figure will not necessarily be reached.
Last week I tabled a Question to the Minister asking how he…intends to ensure that beef producers receive a minimum return of £18 per cwt., and why the return is not made up to that figure after the addition of the premia announced on 17th July.The reply given by the Parliamentary Secretary was that the Governmentare satisfied that the scheme which was announced then should ensure returns of about £18 per cwt. for clean cattle over the period of its operation. If producers respond to the assurance which these premia provide, average returns over the period until March should substantially exceed this figure.That may or not be wishful thinking.
Contrary to the belief expressed by the right hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. West), there is no bottom in the beef market and there is no guarantee that farmers will receive £18 a cwt. We must have clarification of this from the Minister of Agriculture before the House rises for the recess. I hope that we shall be given replies on these points.
§ 6.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Walker (Worcester)
I have sympathy for the Leader of the House in this debate. I have some past experience of these debates since I was once PPS to a distinguished former Leader of the House and on two occasions I had to sit behind him during an Adjournment debate and take note of the many problems and queries raised.
This has been a unique and interesting debate. First, it is good to see the Liberal Party stating that it is against the House adjourning. Having taken up the position they did last Friday, when they voted in both Lobbies, it is reasonable to conclude that the Liberals are in greater need of the recess than other hon. Members and are showing mental if not physical fatigue.
101 Certainly for the Leader of the House this must have been a uniquely difficult House of Commons when one bears in mind the problems of a minority Government in piloting legislation. Therefore, although we may disagree with much that has been achieved—and we may also take the view that there are many issues still to be dealt with—I am sure we would not disagree that the right hon. Gentleman needs a holiday. It will be our intention to see that that holiday is much longer than he anticipates.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, quite apart from the political overtones of the use of the Industry Act and the recent moves over the Triumph factory at Meriden, will carefully consider the importance of making a parliamentary statement on this topic. I appreciate that under the Act—an Act for which I was partly responsible—there is no need for parliamentary approval for a loan of less than £5 million. However, when advice given by experts appointed by Parliament runs contrary to the Minister's advice, when the loan concerned is almost at the figure of £5 million but not quite, and when the Act of Parliament is used in a different way from that originally intended, it is vital that a statement should be made to the House of Commons. This is most relevant on the question of the relationship between Government and Members of Parliament, and it must be right for these matters to be debated. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will at least convey this strong view to his colleagues in the Government.
I should like to make one other remark which is directed at the Secretary of State for Industry. I refer to the way in which the Concorde announcement was made in Paris and not in London and the fact that the House of Commons has been told nothing of the details. We well remember that it was the Secretary of State for Industry who claimed that he would bring Concorde into open government and would see that all the facts and figures were known—in contrast, he said, to the way in which these matters were dealt with by his predecessor. What has happened, however, is that the Secretary of State has looked at the facts and figures and has given none of them to the House of Commons. Therefore, far from the right hon. Gentleman following up his idea of open government, his 102 actions have led to a system in which government has become firmly closed. We hope that this will be remedied in the fading days of this Session.
What is also of immense importance before we adjourn are the points made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) about the anxiety on both sides of the House over Cyprus. We recognise that the Foreign Secretary is working extremely hard under difficult conditions, and both sides wish him success in his discussions and negotiations. But naturally we expect that someone from the Government benches will make a full statement dealing with the matters raised by my right hon. and learned Friend about the safety of the many British subjects still on that island.
We listened with alarm to the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Boardman) about our present energy supplies. My hon. Friend has considerable ministerial experience of these matters. For him to warn the House and, through the House, the country about the condition of our coal stocks and the potential dangers to our oil stocks in this period prior to the winter will cause general concern, and it would be appropriate if the Secretary of State for Energy made the exact position far more clear.
As for the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Morrison), I hope that the Leader of the House will recognise the very real concern that today's announcement that rate relief may not be paid on time will bring to many people up and down the country. Speaking as one whose constituents have had their rates increased by 87 per cent., quite a large part of the increase being due to the decision by the new Secretary of State for the Environment to change the domestic rate subsidy, I recognise the real hardship that this is causing.
It was bad enough that when we debated rates the Secretary of State told us that he intended to do nothing about them this year and proposed merely to set up an inquiry. It was not until three weeks later after a defeat in the House of Commons that he decided to take action. Many people will think that the action was too little. Certainly it was too late. But now to hear that, due to administrative difficulties, it may be even 103 later than expected will cause real anxiety. I hope that before we go into recess the Secretary of State will be able to make an announcement reassuring the public about this matter.
There are a number of subjects which must cause the country and this House considerable concern if this week we are to go into recess. I ask the Leader of the House especially to give us some indication of how the Government view the likely trend and success of the social compact and the wages policy in the months during which we shall be in recess.
The whole country will have been a little alarmed—certainly that part which reads the Sun—at the manner in which today it published a special supplement on the current situation following the end of the Pay Board. It listed some 10 major unions, all of which currently have claims. The lowest of them is 14 per cent., the next lowest is 25 per cent. and the highest is 75 per ecnt. When 10 major unions are concerned to demand increases of the type set out in that report, they must raise real questions for the Government. Are these the levels which they anticipated when they entered the social compact with the unions? Are they the sort of increases which they think reasonable in the general fight against inflation? If increases of this sort come to fruition, what action will they take and how quickly will they take it?
In the 14 years that I have had the privilege of being a Member of this House, I cannot remember the House going into the Summer Recess with so much total uncertainty. It is unique that there is the suggestion that we shall go into recess and then straight into a General Election. It is unique because Cabinet Ministers have been responsible for giving us views about how quickly the election will take place. I cannot remember that happening before. Normally that is the prerogative of the Prime Minister. We have had all sorts of suggestions from different Cabinet Ministers generally creating an impending electioneering atmosphere. As a result we may undergo the unique experience of going into recess with every anticipation that there will be a General Election.
104 What makes the Opposition very suspicious is the number of major Government policies which are to be announced during the recess. We must ask ourselves why a Government so proud of their policies and anxious to defend them do not want the forum of Parliament in which to debate them. What concerns me even more is that after a meeting last week of the Labour Party Manifesto Committee, consisting of the Cabinet and the Labour Party Executive, the Prime Minister said that a great deal of the basis of the Labour manifesto would be the White Papers which the Government intended to publish in the coming weeks. This is almost using the Government machine as a Transport House publication department for electioneering purposes.
I ask right hon. and hon. Members to consider the White Papers which the Government have decided to leave to the recess. Obviously there is the White Paper on industry. That is a matter of great controversy about which the battle rages both in the Labour Party and outside it. I have no doubt that the Home Secretary's speech at the weekend was addressed to it. The Government have decided that this major White Paper, which is to be the basis of their futute industrial policy, will not be published now, although the Secretary of State for Industry announced in May that he was nearly ready with his plans. Here we are entering August, and still not a word is being published. We suspect that it is being kept for the recess because the Labour Government do not want this White Paper debated in Parliament.
§ Mr. Tom King (Bridgwater)
Is my right hon. Friend aware of the latest rumour—that not only is the matter being kept for the recess but that the Government are now not likely to publish a White Paper at all?
§ Mr. Walker
Doubtless the Leader of the House will comment on that. But to leave it to the recess so that Parliament has no opportunity to debate it is a thoroughly bad decision.
Added to that, we have the massive uncertainty that it causes in industry. Today the Secretary of State for Industry, in his characteristic anti-free enterprise manner, published in reply to a Question from one of his hon. Friends his analysis 105 of how 10 of the biggest free enterprise companies had received £165 million from the Government during the past four years. The right hon. Gentleman's reply is written in terms which in no way spell out that the great bulk of that money came because the Labour Government had investment grants instead of investment allowances. It does not spell out how much of the money was in terms of regional development. Instead the right hon. Gentleman continues to give the impression that the firms concerned received that £165 million as some form of handout. That is totally bad for the confidence and the investment prospects of those firms.
What is interesting is that one of my hon. Friends who asked a Question, fortunately also today, about the nationalised industries discovered that in the same four years they received not £165 million but £1,186 million—seven times as much—not as a handout but as investment grants for productive capacity which the Government and the nation require. All this is bad for industry. It causes great uncertainty. As my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) pointed out, the total uncertainty in the shipbuilding industry is an illustration of the adverse effects of this.
We still do not have the consultative paper on the wealth tax that we were promised. Here again there is total uncertainty for investment and the possible inflow of money from other nations. The Government claim their success in borrowing a substantial sum from Iran. I was at one time involved in many talks which took place with that country. Countries like Iran could invest substantial sums for the benefit of jobs and employment in this country, but they are unlikely to do so when there is the dual menace of nationalisation and of a potential wealth tax of which the Government have not yet published details.
The position about Europe is uncertain. We are no longer certain where the Government's views on Europe lie. We know that there was a period when they were strongly against our admission to the European Economic Community. We know that certain right hon. and hon. Gentlemen are still strongly against it and that a lot of the Cabinet are still 106 strongly against it. The position is not clear.
I believe that the Government should make some of these fundamental issues clear before the House goes into recess, They could do it quite easily. They could have a statement on Europe. If they were in favour of Europe, they could get the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection to make it. If they were against, they could get the Secretary of State for Trade to make it.
The Government could have a state anent on the future of free enterprise. If they were for free enterprise, they could get the Home Secretary to make the statement. If they were against free enterprise, they could get the Secretary of State for Industry to make it.
Perhaps we could have a statement on Clay Cross and the rule of law. If the Government were for the rule of law, no doubt the Secretary of State for Education and Science could make the statement. If they were in favour of the law being made subordinate to unions, the Secretary of State for Employment could make it.
The Government have a choice. The country wants to know on which side the Government stand on these issues instead of being presented with terrible uncertainties. The reality is that on some of the most fundamental issues Parliament is going into recess with the Government's attitude on major questions—industry, Europe, taxation—totally uncertain.
The hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) said he hoped that in the next few days there would be a statement on the defence review. I agree with him, though for different reasons. The hon. Gentleman is right in suggesting that we have had uncertainty for a considerable period. When the present Government came in they immediately announced that they were to undertake a defence review. Now, six months later, we have no indication about it at all. We have certain hopeful indications. We had the nuclear tests. But we have had suggestions, particularly by back-bench Members on the Government side, urging the implementation of the motion put down by the Parliamentary Labour Party in January, signed by over 100 Members, including 26 Ministers, recommending immediate cuts 107 of over £1,000 million in defence spending.
It staggers me that with the events that have taken place recently in Cyprus the Government should be so complacent about defence. We have a situation in which, doubtless on the instructions of the Government, our ambassador at the United Nations has made clear his immense hostility to the way the Soviet Union is acting regarding Cyprus. British lives have been saved by the presence in the Mediterranean of the Royal Navy with the type of vessel which would certainly be endangered if we had a review which brought about the cuts that Labour Members have in mind. Irrespective of the rights and wrongs, when the Soviet Union is increasing its armaments at a fast pace this is not the time for slashing our insurance premium for the future.
There is no doubt that the last five months have created considerable uncertainty in the Services and in the many industries which provide for our defence and the procurement programmes of our defence forces. This must be bad for both industry and the forces. Again, the Government should make a clear statement before the House goes into recess.
Parliament is going into recess at a time when, on the basic issues, the Government have not made clear what is to happen. In the fight against inflation we do not know what will happen if the predicted claims outlined in the Sun materialise. The position on Europe is uncertain. The position about defence is unknown. The position about nationalisation or free enterprise is totally uncertain with seemingly the left wing of the Labour Party predominating. This is an unhappy moment for Parliament to go into recess. The only advantage that can be seen is that this might be the last occasion we go into recess with the Labour Party occupying the Government side of the House.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Edward Short)
I agree with the right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker) that this has been an extremely interesting and wide-ranging debate. I will try to reply to all the major points that have been put to me.
108 The hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) referred to Meriden and the new Scottish newspaper. Other hon. Members also referred to those two matters. The hon. Gentleman suggested that the Government had ignored the advice of the Industrial Development Advisory Board. The facts are that the board considered the proposed assistance for the Scottish Daily Express and concluded that the scheme was not commercially viable. The Government have taken this point into account in the conditions attaching to the offer, the details of which I want to give to the House, but they have decided that the special skills of the work force and the employment created for them through the offer of assistance justified the offer.
The terms attaching to the Government's offer take account of the views of the board. The Government have attached terms and conditions to the offer which I wish to place on record: first, that 50 per cent. of the project's total funds must come from non-Government sources and that the advice of the board should be made known to those sources—the board's advice will therefore be taken into account not only by the Government but by all concerned; secondly, that before commitment by the Government there should have been subscription of £475,000 or equivalent; thirdly, that £500,000 should be subscribed in the form of equity for longterm unsecured debt from the public; fourthly, that any secured loan should rank pari passu with any Government loan; fifthly, that the Government's position as a secured lender should be recognised by all involved, including the work force; and, finally, that it should be made clear to all concerned that no further Government finance would be forthcoming.
The board also considered the Meriden co-operative. It welcomed the project as constructive and meriting sympathy and encouragement as a means of dealing with the deadlock. Although the majority of the board concluded that the proposition would not be commercially viable, nevertheless the Government believe that this view must be weighed against the positive national benefits that may accrue. A buoyant world market and a very small British share give the co-operative a national importance. Therefore, the 109 Government are prepared in principle to make an offer not exceeding £4.95 million to enable the co-operative to be formed.
The right hon. Member for Worcester and other hon. Members raised the question of discussion of this matter in the House or of its being reported to the House. He said, quite rightly, that the law does not require anything under £5 million to be brought to the House. Nevertheless, I will certainly convey to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry the points that he and other hon. Members have made on this matter.
§ Mr. Short
I cannot tell the hon. Gentleman that.
My hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) put down an amendment which you, Mr. Speaker, did not call. He wanted the House not to rise until 15th August. He expressed yet again his concern about the health service, devolution, the working hours of Parliament and our procedures. These are extremely important issues.
The important point about the length of recesses is that a Member of Parliament has two jobs. He has a job here at Westminster and a very important job in his constituency. I believe, after 23 years here, that the recesses give Members of Parliament opportunities to keep up to date with their constituencies.
My hon. Friend raised once more, as he did at Question Time, the matter of the working hours of Parliament. I believe that this is a matter which should be considered in the autumn. He raised also, finally, the question of agricultural tied cottages. I saw that my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) was trying to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, but did not succeed. I feel sure that, if he had done so, he would have wished to talk about that question. My hon. Friends the Minister for Housing and Construction and the Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food met representatives of the National Union of Agricultural and Allied Workers and the Transport and General Worker's Union last month to discuss this topic, and the Ministers will be contacting union representatives as soon as possible with broad 110 details of the Government's proposals for legislation.
The hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) raised the questions of the health service and of Concorde. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry will be making a statement on Concorde this week. I think it is right that he should do so. I have asked him to do so and he has agreed.
The hon. Member also raised the question of the defence review and said that the proposals in the White Paper will reduce our influence in the world. I do not know how he knows that. The White Paper has not yet been published. It will not be published until the autumn. Certainly the Labour Government would never introduce defence proposals which reduced our influence in the world or our defence capability in the world.
§ Mr. Peter Walker
I raised previously with the Secretary of State for Defence the question whether, if during August he is to negotiate with our NATO allies as to his current findings, he will perhaps publish some form of White Paper to show the country. Has that question been considered?
§ Mr. Short
I do not think that has been considered. The White Paper will not be published until the autumn, but obviously there must be some discussions with NATO countries before it is published. I will certainly pass on to my right hon. Friend what the right hon. Gentleman has said.
My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Lewis), who is not here now—he sent me a note apologising; he said that he probably would be absent—raised the question of education in his constituency. There is a shortage of teachers in London. There is not an overall shortage in the country—indeed, the number of teachers is just about right. This September the teacher force will increase by 20,000 so the situation should be very much easier.
In the face of this we have tried to attract teachers to London and other areas of this kind by greatly increasing the educational priority area allowance. We have set up an inquiry into teachers' pay in addition to granting an increase of 8 111 per cent. on 1st April, and negotiations are proceeding on the London weighting.
My hon. Friend also raised the question of answering letters. I deeply regret and am always angered by ministerial delay in answering letters. If any hon. Member experiences difficulty over this matter, perhaps he will let me know.
The hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale) raised the question of the National Dock Labour Scheme. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment made a statement on 15th July and promised consultations with the industry on the draft of the order to extend the dock labour scheme. I think that the hon. Gentleman was in the House on that occasion. Any objection to the draft order will, as required by the Act, be considered by a statutory inquiry. The order is subject to negative resolution and Parliament will then have an opportunity to debate its merits or otherwise. I therefore do not see the need for a debate at this stage, but I will certainly consider the possibility when the necessary consultations, including consultation with the smaller ports, have been carried out and the statutory inquiry has reported.
The Government's policy on nationalisation of the ports is quite clear. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Transport said on 6th May to the hon. Member for Southgate (Mr. Berry):It is the Government's intention to bring all commercial ports and cargo handling activities into public ownership and control, and I propose to consult those concerned about the form and scope of the necessary legislation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th May 1974; Vol. 873 c. 383.]Since this is already Government policy, I am rather surprised that the hon. Member should think that back-door nationalisation was necessary.
§ Mr. Ridsdale
Can the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that there will be no action by the Government on the extension of the dock labour scheme before we have a full-scale debate in the House?
§ Mr. McNamara
My right hon. Friend has made an important statement of policy. Will he confirm that there is no intention that trust ports and municipally-owned ports will be left out of the overall scheme of nationalisation of the ports?
§ Mr. Short
I should not like to go any further than what I have said. The statement on 15th July laid down the policy. I am not making a policy statement today. I am simply repeating what my hon. right Friend said on that occasion.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) raised the question of social beef. There have been reports in the Press about substantial sales of beef from intervention stores in France to Eastern European countries including Russia. My right hon. Friend asked whether my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food was aware of this. Of course my right hon. Friend was aware of it.
I should like to make it quite clear that there are no special Community deals to sell frozen poor-quality beef to Russia at exceptionally low prices. We are not dealing with a repetition of the frozen butter situation which hon. Members opposite allowed to develop when they were in government. What appears to have happened is that large-scale commercial transactions to sell beef from intervention stores have been arranged, taking advantage of the normal Community subsidies for export of stock surplus to Community requirements. My right hon. Friend asked specifically about this.
No special directive or regulation is needed, nor is a decision of the Council of Ministers called for. Much of the beef currently in intervention stores is of poor quality, I am told, and very difficult to sell in Community markets. It is not the kind of beef that would be wanted by British consumers. There is no evidence that the sales that have taken place are anything other than normal commercial trading.
§ Mr. Jay
Although we can understand that when this beef has spent several months in storage it may be of rather poorer quality than when it went in, nevertheless does my right hon. Friend confirm that so much of it as has found 113 its way to Soviet Russia is sold at the normal subsidised export price, which is a good deal lower than the price charged within the EEC.
§ Mr. Short
I have already answered that point.
The right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) talked about Cyprus and the problem of British citizens, especially in the Kyrenia area. I cannot give any information about that this evening, but I will certainly pass this on to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he returns.
§ Mr. Short
I am not sure about tomorrow, but I will certainly ensure that a statement is made before the House rises. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs is still in Geneva. I am sure that he will wish to make a statement to the House on the progress made during the talks and on the kind of matter raised by the right hon. and learned Member.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
I appreciate the difficulties and preoccupations of the Secretary of State himself on the wider aspect of the tripartite talks which are going on. On this somewhat narrower and more immediate aspect with which I am concerned, which is the safety and well-being of the British citizens resident in Cyprus, if we cannot have a statement from the Secretary of State himself, perhaps the Minister of State, who I am glad to see on the Treasury Bench, will be able to make one on this aspect in any event.
§ Mr. Short
I will certainly see that a statement of some kind is made. I could of course have got some information for the House tonight, but on a matter of this kind which involves families in this country I thought it much better not to do so. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, as I have said, is still in Geneva.
The immediate objective of the talks was to devise effective measures to reinforce the cease-fire and to consider how the wider problems raised by this tragic 114 dispute will be tackled. All sides there have conducted the talks in a statesmanlike and responsible way, and I am sure that the whole House will wish to recognise the major contribution my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs has made.
On the cease-fire the latest information we have is that the fighting on the land has virtually ceased. The newly reinforced United Nations Command is watching the situation very closely.
My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) mentioned hare coursing. I confirm what I said in the House on Thursday—that the Government have adopted this matter as a Government measure and it will be introduced in the next Session of Parliament. My hon. Friend also raised, as did my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Belper (Mr. MacFarquhar), the credit control order passed by the previous Government restricting purchase of central heating equipment. The Government carefully considered the points raised by my hon. Friend prior to the statement by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 22nd July. My right hon. Friend the Paymaster-General wrote to my hon. Friend on 22nd July assuring him that his representations had been taken into account, but stating that there was a limit to the action which the Chancellor could take.
In the circumstances the Chancellor did not feel it would be right to relax consumer credit restrictions. He particularly wanted to avoid action that would be an overstimulus to consumer demand, but actions that the Chancellor has taken will be of some assistance to industry generally. Help for house building includes the £500 million loan to the building societies, and this should help the central heating industry. The difference between now and 1968, when central heating was exempted from hire-purchase control, is that it was then an infant industry and it is now a well-established industry—
§ Mr. McNamara
Will my right hon Friend take on board the concern about unemployment and short-time working in this industry? This credit restriction does not help the Government's policy of modernising houses. I ask my right hon. Friend to have another word with my 115 right hon. Friends the Paymaster-General and the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ Mr. Short
I will pass on to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor what my hon. Friend says, but, as I have pointed out, there is a difference between the state of the industry in 1968 and its present state.
The right hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. West) spoke about the continuing tragedy of Northern Ireland, which we all regret. The Government have taken a new initiative and we hope that in the longer term it will result in a much more peaceful Ireland.
The right hon. Gentleman raised a question about beef, as did the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Morrison). The Government recognise the current problems of beef producers and substantial assistance is to be given to them. With the calf subsidy grant doubled from 1st July, direct aid to producers has now been increased to about £100 million a year. A number of other measures have recently been taken to strengthen the beef market, including a new system of head-age payments on cattle ready for slaughter to apply over the autumn and winter. This will sustain producer returns and provide incentives for orderly marketing without increasing prices to the consumer. The scheme will mean an additional injection of up to £40 million in the next few months.
The figure of £18 per cwt. has also been mentioned and it has been said that a number of farmers have not received this. I have been able to make only a hurried inquiry and I understand that this is not the case—that there is nothing in the allegation. However, I will look into the matter and ask my right hon. Friend the Minister to write to those hon. Gentlemen who are concerned with this matter.
The hon. Member for Belper spoke about two factories in his constituency and I will pass on his points to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry.
§ Mr. Tom King
A point raised by the hon. Member for Belper is similar to a point which concerns me and the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara). We have been promised a definitive statement by the Secretary of State. Are we to take it that the an- 116 nouncement he has made is in place of the definitive statement, or will there be a statement or a Written Answer before the House rises?
§ Mr. Short
I did not know that the hon. Gentleman had been promised a definitive statement, but I will inquire into this and let him know the position before the House rises.
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) raised a number of matters which he would like my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland to look into before the recess. All I can do is to pass on these matters to my right hon. Friend.
The hon. Gentleman also spoke about the substantial question of the social contract, as did the right hon. Member for Worcester. He asked what will be our policy if the social contract breaks down. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment has frequently referred to the vital importance of avoiding a wages explosion when statutory controls are removed. He has referred to this over and over again both in the House and outside. This can be achieved only if all those concerned recognise that, as the TUC has said, the scope for real increases is limited and that the main objective is the maintenance of real incomes. All negotiators should strive to settle on terms which are clearly within the TUC guidelines. Ideally we would want all to succeed, but—let us face it—it would be unrealistic to suppose that there could be success in every case. The transition to a voluntary system is bound to involve some exceptionally difficult cases. That is inevitable when a statutory system ends.
Bearing in mind the anomalies and unfairnesses which are inseparable from a statutory system, it is inevitable that in some cases in which there are strong feelings corrective action may be unavoidable, but such cases must be kept to an absolute minimum.
The Government cannot condone settlements beyond the TUC guidelines and they will certainly continue to encourage negotiators to reach settlements which genuinely fall within the guidelines. I repeat that this will be the policy of the Government in negotiations for 117 which they themselves are directly responsible. I repeat what I said in the House the other day: the social contract is not simply a deal between the Government and the TUC, but a deal between the Government and the people of this country. There is no other way to work in this country.
§ Mr. Michael Grylls (Surrey, North-West)
Can the right hon. Gentleman help the House and tell us how he defines the word "explosion" in this context? Is a 70 per cent. increase an explosion?
§ Mr. Walker
This is an important matter. At the moment I know of no pay claim of less than 14 per cent., with the majority between 25 and 40 per cent. If such claims were to proceed, does the right hon. Gentleman consider that the Government would take further action, or would they condone the claims?
§ Mr. Short
We will encourage wage settlements within the TUC guidelines, and so will the TUC. We have the full co-operation of the TUC in this matter. But during the transition from the extremely difficult situation left by the Opposition there will be difficulties and I hope that the Opposition will not add to those difficulties.
§ Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne)
The right hon. Gentleman said that the Government could not condone any wage settlements outside the guidelines set down by the TUC. What exactly does the right hon. Gentleman mean by the Government not condoning such wage settlements and what will the Government do if wage settlements are made outside those guidelines?
§ Mr. Short
We are moving to a voluntary system which will involve negotiation. The TUC is co-operating. It has laid down guidelines along which it believes settlements should be made. We will co-operate, the TUC will co-operate and I hope that the Opposition will co-operate too.
118 My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) raised the question of releases from Long Kesh. It has always been the policy of the British Government to phase out detention, consistent with security. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State told the House on 9th July, he was on that date starting a carefully phased programme of releases linked to a resettlement scheme. A number of detainees have already been released in accordance with this policy and more will be released. There has been no change of policy regarding releasing of detainees. My hon. Friend also asked about recall of the House. Of course, if it is necessary the House will be recalled.
The hon. Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Boardman) mentioned energy policy. I should have thought that, in the very short time that this Government have been in office, we have made massive strides towards a comprehensive energy policy—much more in five months than the previous Government did in two and a half years. In addition, we participated in the Washington energy conference and we shall continue to develop our energy policy.
My hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Huckfield), I am glad to say, devoted the whole of his speech to congratulating the Government, particularly on helping the Meriden factory.
The hon. and learned Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle), as one would expect, made a speech which was a mishmash of half-truths and innuendo. He quoted my speech on Clay Cross to the Labour Party Conference. Let me quote two other parts of that speech which I have quoted before in the House. I said:But even a moment's thought will show you that the National Executive Committee cannot possibly advise Labour councillors to act unlawfully. We cannot. There are three reasons for this.I then gave the reasons. Later I said:Finally, I have got to say that the acceptance of this motion must not be taken by anybody to be an encouragement to Labour councillors anywhere to act unlawfully.I should have thought that it could not be much clearer.
The hon. and learned Gentleman asked what we were going to do about this matter. We have said over and over again that when the full picture emerges—it involves many more people up and 119 down the country than just Clay Cross, as a result of the Conservative Government's iniquitous Act—we shall announce what we will do. Let us remember what I said in that speech, talking about the Act:It presents every Labour councillor on housing authorities throughout the country with the dreadful dilemma of being forced by the law to do what is utterly repugnant to him, to do something which will depress the living standards of the people he represents.That is the context in which this has to be seen.
The hon. and learned Member's niggling about Clay Cross was put into perspective by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans), who talked about much bigger things such as Lonrho and Lowson.
§ Mr. Carlisle
Since the right hon. Gentleman criticises my speech I would point out that I never quoted from his speech at Blackpool. I merely said that the tone of it encouraged those who were breaking the law. Would he now answer the question? Was there, as has been reported in the newspapers, a meeting over the weekend with the national executive, attended by senior Cabinet Ministers, and did they pass the resolution referred to in the Press?
§ Mr. Short
I cannot answer for what meetings were held over the weekend. I certainly did not attend any meeting over the weekend about Clay Cross.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare spoke about the defence statement, which I am afraid will not come until the autumn. I agree that it is taking quite a while, but it is the most radical defence review ever carried out in this country. When it comes, I am sure that the House and the country will feel that the time taken on it has been well worth while.
My hon. Friend also mentioned once more the subject of Kilbrandon. I can assure him that this Government will never put forward any proposal for complete separatism. We intend to maintain the unity of the United Kingdom in whatever arrangements we may propose.
§ Mr. Gordon Wilson (Dundee, East)
If the Scottish people or the Welsh people decided that they wanted complete selfgovernment, would the right hon. Gentleman not think it the bounden democratic 120 duty of a British Government to give way on that matter?
§ Mr. Short
They have not done so, but this is a matter for the whole United Kingdom, for the cohesion and unity of the whole United Kingdom, on which we English Members have a say as well. This is a matter for Scotland, Wales and England, but we are absolutely opposed to separatism. I know that the Conservative Party is as well, and I hope that that all applies to all hon. Members. We certainly believe that a great deal of major decision-making should be devolved to the people of Scotland and Wales and we shall bring forward our proposals for this early in September. But they will not go anywhere near the point of separatism.
The hon. Member for Lancaster (Mrs. Kellett-Bowman) mentioned once more the North-West report. I am sorry that it has not been possible to debate it in Government time. I did not specifically promise a debate. I said that I would do my best to try to find time for one, as she accurately quoted me as saying. I should have thought that it was an ideal subject for half a Supply Day. The hon. Lady will remember that, in the last Parliament, the Labour Opposition devoted a number of Supply Days to half-days on regional matters. When we return, if we cannot find any Government time for this subject, I think that she should persuade her own Front Bench to devote half of one of their days to it.
§ Mrs. Kellett-Bowman
I agree that the right hon. Gentleman simply said that he would see what he could do later, otherwise I might have pressed the matter. Having had that assurance, I went by another route.
§ Mr. Short
That was not a specific undertaking to have a debate before the recess. I did what I could, but it did not satisfy the hon. Lady. I am sorry that she is opposed to the regional employment premium—an opposition which she expressed with her customary vehemence. The REP is the most economical way of providing employment. Regional imbalance is one of our greatest economic weaknesses. It is in the interests of the whole country, including Lancaster, that that regional imbalance should be corrected.
121 The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Tyler) talked about the difficulties at the end of the Session. I agree that there are problems and that they were heightened this year by the parliamentary situation and the printing difficulties. I know that this has been inconvenient and I apologise to the House.
Finally, the right hon. Member for Worcester mentioned the number of major policy statements which are to be announced during the recess. We have been in office for five months and we had a terrible legacy from the Conservative Party. There was an enormous deficit, both internally and externally, and a three-day week. Has the right hon. Gentleman forgotten our legacy and the fact that Britain was working a three-day week? But in five months we have brought out massive new policies on issues on which the Conservatives did nothing.
If the House accepts the motion, Parliament will go into recess, but the Government's work in evolving policy will go on over August and September—[Interruption.]The right hon. Member for Worcester has asked for them today and I will tell him, if he listens. There will be a succession of policies over the next seven or eight weeks. As I promised, there will be a White Paper on industry. There will certainly be a Green Paper on the wealth tax, on which we want a continuing debate. There will certainly be a White Paper on capital transfer, on a gifts tax. There will certainly be a White Paper on the public ownership of 122 development land. There will be a White Paper on the Government's comprehensive policy scheme and a White Paper on Kilbrandon. Tomorrow I shall be making one of the most comprehensive dispersal statements ever made, implementing the Hardman Report.
So over the next few weeks there will be many policy statements, and after the General Election all these policies will be implemented by the Labour Government.
§ Several Hon. Members rose —
§ The Treasurer of Her Majesty's Household (Mr. Walter Harrison) rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Question put, That the Question be now put:—
§ Mr. Tom King
On a point of order. Without wishing to question your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should have thought that it was within the hearing of the Chair that that motion was distinctly opposed.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That this House at its rising on Wednesday do adjourn till Tuesday 15th October.