Amendment made: No. 120, in page 20, line 13 after 'means', insert:
'subject to subsection (1A) below'.—[Mr. Kaufman.]
Amendment proposed: No. 121, in page 20, line 38, at end insert:
'(1A) In determining the extent to which an undertaking is engaged in manufacturing industry, the following activities shall be treated as manufacuring industry so far as they relate to products manufactured or to be manufactured by the undertaking—
§ Question put, That the amendment be made:—1766
§ The House divided: Ayes 288 Noes 269.1769
|Division No. 272.]||AYES||[7.30 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||McGuire, Michael (Ince)|
|Allaun, Frank||Evans, John (Newton)||Mackenzie, Gregor|
|Anderson, Donald||Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||Mackintosh, John P.|
|Archer, Peter||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Flannery, Martin||McNamara, Kevin|
|Ashley, Jack||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Madden, Max|
|Ashton, Joe||Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Magee, Bryan|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Ford, Ben||Mahon, Simon|
|Atkinson, Norman||Forrester, John||Mallalieu, J. P. W.|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)||Marks, Kenneth|
|Bain, Mrs Margaret||Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)||Marquand, David|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Garrett, John (Norwich S)||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)||Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)|
|Bates, Alf||George, Bruce||Mason, Rt Hon Roy|
|Bean, R. E.||Gilbert, Dr John||Maynard, Miss Joan|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Ginsburg, David||Meacher, Michael|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Golding, John||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Gould, Bryan||Mikardo, Ian|
|Bishop, E. S.||Gourlay, Harry||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Graham, Ted||Mitchell, R. C. (Solon, Itchen)|
|Boardman, H.||Grant, George (Morpeth)||Molloy, William|
|Booth, Albert||Grant, John (Islington C)||Moonman, Eric|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur||Grocott, Bruce||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
|Boyden, James (Bish Auck)||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Bradley, Tom||Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Hardy, Peter||Moyle, Roland|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Harper, Joseph||Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Newens, Stanley|
|Brown, Ronald (Hackney S)||Hart, Rt Hon Judith||Noble, Mike|
|Buchan, Norman||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Oakes, Gordon|
|Buchanan, Richard||Hatton, Frank||Ogden, Eric|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Hayman, Mrs Helene||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Campbell, Ian||Healey, Rt Hon Denis||O'Malley, Rt Hon Brian|
|Canavan, Dennis||Heffer, Eric S.||Orbach, Maurice|
|Cant, R. B.||Henderson, Douglas||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Carter, Ray||Hooley, Frank||Ovenden, John|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Horam, John||Owen, Dr David|
|Cartwright, John||Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)||Padley, Walter|
|Castle, Rt Hon Barbara||Huckfield, Les||Palmer, Arthur|
|Clemitson, Ivor||Hughes, Rt Hon C (Anglesey)||Park, George|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)||Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Parker, John|
|Cohen, Stanley||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Parry, Robert|
|Concannon, J. D.||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Conlan, Bernard||Hunter, Adam||Phipps, Dr Colin|
|Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill)||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|Corbett, Robin||Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)||Prescott, John|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)||Price C. (Lewisham W)|
|Cralgen, J. M. (Maryhill)||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Crawford, Douglas||Janner, Greville||Radice, Giles|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Reid, George|
|Crosland, Rt Hon Anthony||Jeger, Mrs Lena||Richardson Miss Jo|
|Cryer, Bob||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington S)||John, Brynmor||Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)|
|Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)||Johnson, James (Hull West)||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Jones, Alec (Rhondda)||Roderick, Caerwyn|
|Davidson, Arthur||Jones, Barry (East Flint)||Rodgers, George (Chorley)|
|Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)||Judd, Frank||Rooker, J. W.|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Kaufman, Gerald||Roper, John|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Kelley, Richard||Rose, Paul B.|
|Deakins, Eric||Kerr, Russell||Rowlands, Ted|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Ryman, John|
|de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Kinnock, Neil||Sandelson, Neville|
|Delargy, Hugh||Lambie, David||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Dell, Rt Hon Edmund||Lamborn, Harry||Selby, Harry|
|Dempsey, James||Lamond, James||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)|
|Dolg, Peter||Leadbitter, Ted||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)|
|Dormand, J. D.||Lee, John||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)||Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C)|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Lever, Rt Hon Harold||Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)|
|Dunn, James A.||Lewis, Arthur (Newham N)||Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)|
|Dunnett, Jack||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth||Lipton, Marcus||Sillars, James|
|Eadie, Alex||Litterick, Tom||Silverman, Julius|
|Edge, Geoff||Lomas, Kenneth||Skinner, Dennis|
|Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)||Loyden, Eddie||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)|
|Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)||Luard, Evan||Snape, Peter|
|English, Michael||Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)||Spearing, Nigel|
|Ennals, David||McCartney, Hugh||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)||MacFarquhar, Roderick||Stallard, A. W.|
|Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)||Tuck, Raphael||Whitlock, William|
|Stoddart, David||Urwin, T. W.||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Stott, Roger||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.||Williams, Alan (Swansea W)|
|Strang, Gavin||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)|
|Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.||Waiden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)||Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)|
|Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Swain, Thomas||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)||Ward, Michael||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)|
|Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)||Watkins, David||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)||Watkinson, John||Woodall, Alec|
|Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)||Watt, Hamish||Woof, Robert|
|Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)||Weetch, Ken||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Thorne, Stan (Preston South)||Weitzman, David||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Tierney, Sydney||Wellbeloved, James|
|Tinn, James||Welsh, Andrew||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Tomlinson, John||White, Frank R. (Bury)||Mr. Donald Coleman and|
|Tomney, Frank||White, James (Pollok)||Miss Betty Boothroyd.|
|Adley, Robert||Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N)||Knight, Mrs Jill|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Knox, David|
|Alison, Michael||Fookes, Miss Janet||Lamont, Norman|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd)||Lane, David|
|Arnold, Tom||Fox, Marcus||Langford-Holt, Sir John|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)||Latham, Michael (Melton)|
|Awdry, Daniel||Freud, Clement||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Baker, Kenneth||Fry, Peter||Lawson, Nigel|
|Banks, Robert||Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Lester, Jim (Beeston)|
|Beith, A. J.||Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Bell, Ronald||Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)||Lloyd, Ian|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay)||Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham)||Loveridge, John|
|Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)||Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Luce, Richard|
|Benyon, W.||Glyn, Dr Alan||McAdden, Sir Stephen|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Godber, Rt Hon Joseph||McCrindle, Robert|
|Biffen, John||Goodhart, Philip||McCusker, H.|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Goodhew, Victor||Macfarlane, Neil|
|Blaker, Peter||Goodlad, Alastair||MacGregor, John|
|Body, Richard||Gorst, John||Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)|
|Bottomley, Peter||Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)||McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown)||Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)||Madel, David|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)||Griffiths, Eldon||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)|
|Bradford, Rev Robert||Grimond, Rt Hon J.||Marten, Neil|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Grist, Ian||Mates, Michael|
|Brittan, Leon||Grylls, Michael||Mather, Caroi|
|Brotherton, Michael||Hall, Sir John||Maude, Angus|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Mawby, Ray|
|Buck, Antony||Hampson, Dr Keith||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Budgen, Nick||Hannam, John||Mayhew, Patrick|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye)||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Burden, F. A.||Hastings, Stephen||Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)|
|Butier, Adam (Bosworth)||Havers, Sir Michael||Mills, Peter|
|Carlisle, Mark||Hawkins, Paul||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Hayhoe, Barney||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)|
|Churchill, W. S.||Heath, Rt Hon Edward||Moate, Roger|
|Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Heseltine, Michael||Molyneaux, James|
|Clark, William (Croydon S)||Hicks, Robert||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Higgins, Terence L.||Moore, John (Croydon C)|
|Clegg, Walter||Holland, Philip||More, Jasper (Ludlow)|
|Cockcroft, John||Hooson, Emlyn||Morgan, Geraint|
|Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||Hordern, Peter||Morris, Michael (Northampton S)|
|Cope, John||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)|
|Cordle, John H.||Howell, David (Guildford)||Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)|
|Cormack, Patrick||Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)||Mudd, David|
|Crouch, David||Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)||Neave, Airey|
|Crowder, F. P.||Hurd, Douglas||Nelson, Anthony|
|Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford)||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Neubert, Michael|
|Dean, Paul (N Somerset)||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Newton, Tony|
|Dodsworth, Geoffrey||Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)||Normanton, Tom|
|Drayson, Burnaby||James, David||Nott, John|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd & W'df'd)|
|Durant, Tony||Jessel, Toby||Oppenheim, Mrs Sally|
|Dykes, Hugh||Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)||Osborn, John|
|Eden, Rt Hon Sir John||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Page, John (Harrow West)|
|Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Jones, Arthur (Daventry)||Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)|
|Elliott, Sir William||Jopling, Michael||Pardoe, John|
|Emery, Peter||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Parkinson, Cecil|
|Eyre, Reginald||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Fairbairn, Nicholas||Kershaw, Anthony||Penhaligon, David|
|Farr, John||Kimball, Marcus||Percival, Ian|
|Fell, Anthony||King, Evelyn (South Dorset)||Peyton, Rt Hon John|
|Finsberg, Geoffrey||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Fisher, Sir Nigel||Kitson, Sir Timothy||Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch|
|Price, David (Eastleigh)||Shepherd, Colin||Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret|
|Prior, Rt Hon James||Shersby, Michael||Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)|
|Pym, Rt Hon Francis||Silvester, Fred||Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)|
|Raison, Timothy||Sims, Roger||Townsend, Cyril D.|
|Rathbone, Tim||Sinclair, Sir George||Trotter, Neville|
|Rawlinson, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Skeet, T. H. H.||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Rees-Davies, W. R.||Smith, Dudley (Warwick)||Vaughan, Dr. Gerard|
|Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)||Speed, Keith||Viggers, Peter|
|Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)||Spence, John||Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)|
|Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)||Wakeham, John|
|Ridley, Hon Nicholas||Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)||Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)|
|Ridsdale, Julian||Sproat, Iain||Walters, Dennis|
|Rifkind, Malcolm||Stainton, Keith||Warren, Kenneth|
|Roberts, Wyn (Conway)||Stanbrook, Ivor||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)||Stanley, John||Wells, John|
|Ross, William (Londonderry)||Steel, David (Roxburgh)||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)||Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Royle, Sir Anthony||Stokes, John||Wood, Rt Hen Richard|
|Sainsbury, Tim||Stradling Thomas, J.||Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)|
|St. John-Stevas, Norman||Tapsell, Peter||Younger, Hon George|
|Scott, Nicholas||Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)|
|Scott-Hopkins, James||Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)||Tebbit, Norman||Mr. Spencer Le Marchant|
|Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)||Temple-Morris, Peter||and Mr. Michael Roberts.|
|Shelton, William (Streatham)|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ Amendment made: No. 123—new Schedule—Advisory Committees—
§ 1. The Secretary of State, with the consent of the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, shall draw up and from time to time revise—
- (a) a panel of persons who have experience in industrial affairs as employers or managers;
- (b) a panel of persons who have experience in industrial affairs as representatives of workers;
- (c) a panel of persons who are barristers or solicitors; and
- (d) a panel of persons who are advocates or solicitors who have practised in Scotland.
§ 2. Of the panels—
- (a) that mentioned in paragraph 1(c) above shall be appointed with the consent of the Lord Chancellor, and
- (b) that mentioned in paragraph 1(d) above shall be appointed with the consent of Lord President of the Court of Session.
§ 3. When either of the Ministers is required to make a reference under section 23 above or makes such a reference himself, he shall constitute, for the purpose of advising him, a committee consisting of three persons, namely—
- (a) one from the panel mentioned in paragraph 1(a) above,
- (b) one from the panel mentioned in paragraph 1(b) above, and
- (c) one from the relevant panel of lawyers;
- (i) the panel mentioned in paragraph 1(d) above, if the Minister constituting the committee considers, having regard to any representations made by the company or companies concerned or by a relevant trade union, that this is appropriate, and
- (ii) in any other case, the panel mentioned in paragraph 1(c) above.
§ 4. The Minister constituting a committee shall appoint as the committee's chairman the member of the committee appointed to it from the relevant panel of lawyers.
§ 5. A committee may, at the discretion of the chairman, where it appears expedient to do so, call in the aid of one or more persons who appear to the committee to be specially qualified for the purpose, and may settle its advice wholly or partly with the assistance of that person or persons.
§ 6. A committee shall sit in private.
§ 7. The Minister appointing a committee shall pay its expenses, including such (if any) fees for its members and for any person called in under paragraph 5 above as he may, with the approval of the Minister for the Civil Service, determine.
§ 8. Any such Minister may make arrangements for securing that such of his officers as he considers are required are available to assist a committee.'.—[Mr. Kaufman.]
§ 7.43 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Industry (Mr. Eric G. Varley)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
During the past three days we have been debating this Bill in very great detail as is appropriate, necessary and right.
The Bill has been changed partly by amendments inserted by the Government, partly by amendments accepted by the Government, and, of course, some amendments made in Committee have remained in the Bill, perhaps even against the wishes of the Government on one or two occasions. These include a requirement to develop economic policy as a branch 1771 of mathematical economics. I think it would be helpful to discuss these further in another place and to have discussions with my hon. Friends about them. But all the details of amendments, and of amendments to amendments, should not obscure the main purpose and provisions of this Bill.
This Bill is one of the most important to be presented to this House in recent times, since its aim is no less than to help bring about a solution to the problems that have held back the regeneration of British industry to which Government after Government have sought in vain for a solution for 20 years or more.
As a nation, we have fallen industrially further and further behind our main competitors. As we have done so, we have had one balance of payments crisis after another. Each crisis has meant yet another check to the economy and further weakened our competitiveness.
No responsible Government can claim to be serving the nation unless they are prepared to face not the symptoms of our problems, but their fundamental causes. It is with these that the Bill is concerned.
As a Government and nation we have to face the fact that our investment per worker has been well below the rate of our competitors. It might not matter if this was a short-term phenomenon, but anyone who looks over the record of the last 20 years will see that throughout this period we have had a problem that has been getting progressively worse. We must therefore tackle the issue of investment in industry. But that itself will not provide the answer. Even more important, we must also match the skill of our competitors in making effective use of manufacturing equipment, and here our record must be a matter of very great concern. We simply are not getting the results.
We need to make a new and major attempt to advance industrial democracy since attitudes, pretty well as much as management and lack of investment and out-of-date structuring, have been responsible for the difficulties which have so relentlessly afflicted us.
Apart from some minor or less controversial provisions, together with the important provisions for dealing with undesirable foreign takeovers by prohibition 1772 or vesting orders, this Bill covers three main areas. The one which has taken up most of our time, on Report at least, and also occupied a great amount of the time of Standing Committee on which I did not have the pleasure of serving is that of disclosure of information.
We have had our differences on this side of the House, just as there have been at least four different and distinct points of view put forward on the benches opposite by the various Opposition parties.
For my own part, I believe that we have got the balance about right. I look forward to the keen wind of free flowing information blowing through industry, improving relationships between management and workers and giving workers access to the information which will help them to become truly an integral part of their own industry.
I shall not hesitate to use the powers this Bill gives me to compel disclosure of information if need be. But, as I have said before, and said yesterday, I very much hope that satisfactory voluntary arrangements will mean that I do not have to exercise these powers.
For me the greatest success of this part of the Bill would be if it were to bring about voluntary arrangements for information sharing throughout industry. I say to managements who might be reluctant or dubious that nothing could transform the atmosphere more than this sharing of information with their work forces through their union representatives.
But if this free flow of information can change the atmosphere of industry, planning agreements can change its direction. How to plan an economy within a genuine democratic framework is the key to orderly and fruitful industrial progress.
Planning agreements, on which the Labour Party made proposals during its period in Opposition, are the means of creating a new partnership between workers through their trade unions, companies through their managers, and the Government—a partnership in which the three sides will come together to discuss and pool their wisdom and resources in order to increase the effectiveness of the major companies upon which our prosperity so much depends. We shall seek to do this through this real voluntary system.
1773 The Government intend to make available shortly a consultative document which we will discuss with the Confederation of British Industry and the Trades Union Congress. This document will, of course, be made available to Parliament.
But for me the real heart of this Bill is its provisions to set up a National Enterprise Board. One of the clearest signs of the frivolous and irrelevant Tory Opposition tactics that we faced was that, during this Report stage they chose—for it was their choice—to devote two of the three days of Report stage to the disclosure provisions of this Bill and less than a day to the section dealing with the NEB.
Under its prospective Chairman, Sir Don Ryder, the Board will have a crucial task and a number of rôles. It will, as directed by the Secretary of State in any particular case, exercise the selective powers in the Industry Act 1972, assisting industry in trouble and not necessarily just making handouts. It will ensure that the British people will obtain a return in terms of finance and control for the finance which they inject into an ailing industry.
§ Mr. Tim Renton
The Secretary of State said that he would ensure that the British people received a satisfactory return for the finance which they injected into industry. Will he tell us how he expects to achieve that, and what he would regard as a satisfactory return?
§ Mr. Varley
This matter was debated in Committee and on Report. I had correspondence with the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Wainwright) as to how we would determine an adequate return. That is not an easy definition. It can be made over a period of time. I recently made an announcement about the financing of the RB 211 engine. When that is vested in the National Enterprise Board it will be some time, perhaps much longer than three years, before a return on capital is shown there. We cannot be precise but we are utterly determined that there should be an adequate return.
But, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Thomas) so rightly pointed out in a speech last Tuesday, it is no longer acceptable that public ownership should simply be used as a 1774 device for propping up unprofitable concerns. It is time that the public sector was extended into profitable private industry and this will be the most important and one of the first rôles for the NEB.
§ Mr. Heseltine
The Secretary of State says that it is necessary for nationalisation to be extended into profitable manufacturing industry. Why?
§ Mr. Varley
Because it is essential. When we trace the record of hand outs of Conservative and Labour Governments to private industry over the years, we see that in some cases there has been a return but that the British taxpayers have not had a stake. We shall not allow that situation to occur again.
§ Mr. Heseltine
As private industry contributes £8,000 million a year in taxes, and at most gets back £2,000 million a year, why is the Secretary of State so worried at the prospect of industry continuing as it now is?
§ Mr. Varley
Because there are certain projects and activities in which private industry will not become involved. It wants the Government to take the risk in the first instance to put concerns on their feet, after which it wants the State and the taxpayers to leave the scene. That is not good enough for the Labour Party. We shall not have that situation in the future.
The NEB can provide a framework within which the public and private sectors—which in the past have operated largely in self-contained areas—will come together and should be very surprised if, within a fairly short time we do not find, just as we did with the Industrial Re-organisation Corporation, that industry's initial reservations about public enterprise progressively change. We shall find that this change will bring about an honest recognition of the value of the contribution public enterprise can make, certainly when it is directed in the public interest.
As we have repeatedly made clear, the Board is to have no special powers of compulsory acquisition. It will be on all fours with other companies in private ownership. Its success will therefore depend in substantial measure upon the quality of the contribution it can make to industry.
The NEB will be an agent, too, for the restructuring of industry. Too much of 1775 British industry is outdated, inefficient, ill-equipped and unsuited to meet the challenges we face. It has rightly been said that the best of British industry can stand comparison with the best that can be found anywhere else in the world. But go much below that level and we are faced all too often with penny-farthing industry in a supersonic world. We must put that right. We intend to put that right.
The NEB must act as a channel for the investment, which has been so very sadly lacking for far too long. This is the underlying cause of our problems as the Ryder Report on British Leyland made clear. For too long in the locust years British industry ate up its own seed corn instead of preparing for future harvests. The NEB must make sure that the lean years of under-investment come to an end quickly.
We shall look to the NEB to make an important contribution to the solution of the problems of high unemployment in those parts of the country which have suffered for so long from the effects of the decline of the traditional industries. In this its work will be strongly complemented by the Scottish and Welsh development agencies, which are the subject of separate legislation, which will be subject to public debate and debate in the House and which will be major public bodies in their own right with fully separate status and answerable to the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales.
This Bill is based on a new partnership between management, workers and Government. We need to harness the whole of our resources if we are to solve our problems, because we must find new and more constructive methods of reconciling the purposes of industry with our national priorities.
We shall not succeed in changing old ways overnight. Old habits of thought are too deep for that. We all recognise that. This is essentially a long-term policy but one in which we are determined to provide a framework in which there is an opportunity for workers to have a much more constructive role in industry.
It is also central to our purpose that the Government should be brought into closer day-to-day touch with the heads of 1776 industry so that it is better equipped to do its job of formulating national policies and to respond to particular problems. Our purpose is to provide the backing industry needs to prosper and expand, through offering the possibility of creative participation by the Government in the decisions of our major companies, through public enterprise, often in partnership with private enterprise, through the National Enterprise Board; and by enabling those who work in industry to play a proper part in the major decisions that mould their lives.
This Bill is a start, but only a start. As my hon. Friends have pointed out throughout these debates, the real worth of this Bill will be tested by the way it is implemented. It can simply be an interesting curiosity on the statute book, or it can be a dynamic instrument for the regeneration of British industry. We intend it to be a dynamic instrument for the regeneration of British industry. And that is why I commend this Industry Bill to the House.
§ 7.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Heseltine
It is customary at the beginning of a Third Reading debate, after a long Committee stage and Report stage, to thank the Ministers who have steered the Bill through the parliamentary processes. I feel at some disadvantage, because although the new Secretary of State for Industry brought charm and grace to his contribution, it was relatively short. The reality is that the three earlier Ministers, who all made speeches of the kind which the right hon. Gentleman made tonight, were sacked by the Prime Minister for doing so. I feel as though I am making the funeral speech and toast to absent friends to the other three Ministers in this Government who tried so nobly to carry through the purpose which has now landed in the hands of the Secretary of State for Industry.
In thanking the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues, I also pay tribute to my own colleagues who have soldiered through 40 sittings of the Industry Committee with hon. Members on the Government side. Despite the guillotine, which I greatly regret because it has foreshortened our deliberations, the Bill has been thoroughly examined, in so far as it has been allowed to us to do so, and there has been a constructive dialogue.
1777 Without wishing to be invidious, I single out my hon. Friends the Members for Bridgwater (Mr. King), Canterbury (Mr. Crouch), Chertsey and Walton (Mr. Pattie) and Tonbridge and Mailing (Mr. Stanley) for the particularly hard work load they have carried in Committee. In doing so I am sure that I shall reflect the general view of all of us who have watched what has gone on over the last few months.
The fine phrases of the Secretary of State for Industry, who so eloquently moved the Third Reading of the Bill, showed a lack of contact with what is actually going on in the country and ignorance of the way in which Government intervention by the Department of Industry during the last 16 months has begun to reach to the point when the birds are coming home to roost.
To take the first newspaper I happened to pick up this morning, in the Business News section of The Times, there is a headline:Norton facing end of cash supportabove an article which suggests that the bizarre experiment at Meriden is about to bring down Norton Villiers, the co-operative and the jobs of the people in those two companies. A little further down the page there is the headline:Govan Shipbuilders want £25 million moreacross the page, there is a reference to the Imperial Typewriter rescue—which was to be the fourth venture in co-operation by the late departed Secretary of State for Industry—being abandoned in the new spirit of reality which the difficulties of the Government abroad have created.
I have to tell the Secretary of State for Energy that the glowing talk of partnership and regeneration may sound fine at the Dispatch Box, but it does not have much ring for the 1 million people who are out of work and the further half-a-million people who will be out of work before the next year is out.
§ Mr. Heffer
Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that one of the problems in relation to NVT is that the Meriden Co-operative is producing a bike that is £700 cheaper than the NVT bike, and that it is about to sell on the American market from a better position than the 1778 bike which was produced by the original NVT company? To suggest that the workers' co-operative has failed is contrary to the truth. IPD in Kirkby is now breaking even. If I remember rightly, Govan Shipbuilders was developed under the previous Tory Government.
§ Mr. Heseltine
If the hon. Gentleman is as careful with his figures as he is with his theories, he will know that the bikes produced by Meriden are the tail-end of the bikes paid for by the taxpayer and that there is no commercial price on the bikes. He will also know that the prototype of the new bike on which the future depends has not yet been produced for NVT and that no selling price has been agreed for it. The reality is different from the situation which the hon. Gentleman tries to present.
The Bill, broadly, has two objectives, first, setting up of the National Enterprise Board with £700 million of taxpayers' money at its disposal and, secondly, the compulsory disclosure of information to trade union representatives.
I will deal first with the NEB which broadly, has two objectives. The first objective is to carry out the process of aiding industry largely for the purposes of regional policy, and that could be said to be exactly the purpose for which the previous Conservative Government enacted the Industry Act. The NEB has virtually no functions which could not have been carried out under the Industry Act which is already on the statute book, with one exception, and that is the function of deliberately taking over into nationalised hands profitable private companies.
So the only argument about the NEB outside the specific one of nationalisation is whether it is better to do what the Conservative Party did in Government, which was to handle all these regional problems within a Government Department, or to have a body called a National Enterprise Board as an agency of Government to act on the Government's behalf. That is a very fine distinction on which the arguments are evenly balanced and I do not wish to detain the House with the niceties of those arguments. Those arguments are so easily resolved between the two sides of the House that they would not have taken a day and a half in Committee.
1779 The Committee's time has been absorbed because, underlying the first half of the Bill, is the determination that industrial power, which is now spread widely throughout Britain, should be gradually eroded and transferred to the State. The NEB has as one of its principal purposes that transfer of power from the ordinary people of this country to Government, Whitehall and the State. If ever there were a moment of time in our history when we cannot afford to spend £700 million on nationalising profitable companies it is today.
At any time nationalisation is unpopular, as is shown by opinion surveys. Every nationalised industry is losing money. The responsivness of nationalised industries to the market is insensitive because they are guaranteed a monopoly position, and virtually all of them feature among the most over-manned areas of the British economy. If that is the standard we are now to apply to those industries which are profitable and able to stand on their own two feet, it is little wonder that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was forced to the Dispatch Box in a panic at the beginning of this week to try to explain why the follies of the Government were about to come to an end.
Every time Ministers have stood at the Dispatch Box in the name of the Labour Party and argued in favour of nationalisation, the eloquence of their words has always carried the same message—a new beginning, a new partnership, a different relationship in industry and a real and adequate return for the taxpayer. I have heard all Labour Ministers do that ever since I have been in the House. I have watched the Bills go through, I have watched the industries being transferred from private to public ownership and, as night follows day, I have watched the losses escalate as politicians of all parties began to intervene in the way that they always will. I say "of all parties" because the moment the management of industry is entrusted to the politicians, the priority ceases to be the economic interests of the country and becomes the political interests of the Government.
There are some good reasons for intervening in the public sector and there are some bad reasons, but what is incontrovertible is that the moment intervention occurs the losses mount. We all know 1780 that it is almost impossible to see a way in which the losses of those industries can be eliminated.
What are we saying? We are saying to the people who work in free enterprise companies that their tax rates shall be maintained at an artificially high level so that their taxes shall help to subsidise the jobs of people whose industries in the nationalised sector are not able to pay their way. That is what we are saying, and I do not believe that that is the way to maximise the use of the nation's scarce resources. So I find it incomprehensible that the Government should now bring before the House a Bill to nationalise without restraint profitable private sector companies for no other reason than that they exist and represent a centre of power independent of Government.
§ Mr. Varley
The hon. Gentleman is saying that nationalised industries have shown enormous losses and have had to be bailed out by the taxpayer. That is the burden of his case. He was a member of an administration that deliberately altered the prices charged by nationalised industries during the period of the counter-inflationary policy and he introduced to the House the Statutory Corporations Bill which provide for the payment of subsidies. It was at that time freely admitted by Treasury Ministers that that is what had happened. What is the hon. Gentleman's attitude today? He is not misleading the House, is he? What was his attitude at that time?
§ Mr. Heseltine
If the Secretary of State for Industry had been listening he would have heard me say—perhaps with unaccustomed frankness in a political debate—that all parties had intervened. My party intervened and his party has intervened. We have all intervened, and all parties will go on intervening. But the question I would put to the Secretary of State for Industry is this: in what year, under the Labour Government from 1964 to 1970, did any nationalised industry earn what he would describe as an adequate rate of return?
I am not surprised that he sits in his place, because there are no examples, except, I think, the two years in which one airline earned an adequate rate of return. As for the rest, throughout the whole period of Labour Government when the 1781 State was intervening, the nationalised industries failed to show an adequate return on the nation's assets that were tied up in them.
I accept that all Governments and all parties will intervene. If power is given to politicians they will use it. The issue to be faced is this: will politicians use power for the more effective use of the nation's resources, or will they seek so to fudge the issues, for good or bad reasons, that the short-term opportunism of Government is made supreme, and the long-term economic interests of the country are subjected to it?
A good example is the steel industry. Let us look at what has been done over 20 years to the key manufacturing industry of this country. First, the Labour Party said that they would nationalise it, and by doing so the Labour Government destroyed the incentive of the private sector to invest in it. Having taken over the industry, they could not make up their mind what to do with it. They conducted a review, during which time there was no investment. The Conservative Government then denationalised the steel industry. The Labour Party then said that it would renationalise the industry. There was no opportunity again for the British steel industry to do what the German, the French and the Japanese steel industries, under private ownership, were doing—to expand and invest.
Having reached this situation, the Conservative administration in 1972 said that it was time to stop and to agree to a long-term investment programme in the public sector, which would mean rationalisation, closing down some uneconomic plants, and facing the consequences of change. What did the Labour Party then do? For narrow party reasons, because there were marginal seats involved, they said, "We will will not go on with the programme of rationalisation worked out by the Conservative Government when we come to power."
The situation now is that, after a further 16 months, the steel industry of this country does not know what its investment plans are to be, because these plans have been held up by this Government. There is no need to ask the Minister responsible. Ask the Chairman of the British Steel Corpora- 1782 tion, Sir Monty Finniston, and he will confirm that this is the position.
§ Mr. Varley
This is a very important issue between the two sides. It is the fundamental issue. I understand the hon. Gentleman's conversion, in that he now believes that the interference by past Conservative Governments was wrong. Is he saying that, if ever this situation should arise again, an incoming Conservative Government would never take a public stake in or take into public ownership, for example, another Rolls-Royce case, another Alfred Herbert case or another British Leyland? Is he saying now, as the responsible spokesman for the Opposition—perhaps doing my job in a few years' time—that he would never intervene in circumstances like that.
§ Mr. Heseltine rose—
§ Hon. Members: Answer.
§ Mr. Heseltine
Of course I will answer. I always answer. Perhaps hon. Members opposite will be good enough to listen to the answer, as opposed to prejudging it, which is their familiar trick. Then they might learn something.
The Secretary of State for Industry has only relatively recently come to his office, therefore he cannot be expected to know that time and time again I have said that the Conservative Government introduced the Industry Act, which had powers of the sort he is talking about, so there is no great doctrinal divide between what the Conservative Government did in 1972 and the practical help to industry, which I personally support, in 1975. But there is a world of difference between that and what he is saying—that he wishes to pursue nationalisation as an end in itself, regardless of its purpose in society.
I regard the National Enterprise Board, in its doctrinal application, as a totally irrelevant act of Government at this time. But before I leave the National Enterprise Board I should like to deal with the underlying policy on which it is based. The argument is that British industry will now be put in a position where there is to be a great regeneration, and the spearhead of this is to be the National Enterprise Board, which has £700 million at its disposal. Let us assume 1783 that this is all invested. That is extremely unlikely, because much of it will be used for other purposes, but let us assume that all that money is invested. In consequence of this Government coming to power, there has been a reduction of 15 per cent. in the investment intentions of British industry at large over the next year. The investment figures are £6,000 million or thereabouts. A 15 per cent. reduction is about £900 million. Therefore, if the entire funds available to the National Enterprise Board were all invested in this year—which they will not be—they would not be sufficient to undo the damage to British industrial investment resulting from 16 months of Labour Government.
Anyone who talks of the regeneration of British industry without looking at the figures—the scale of which is totally dwarfed by the reality of our economic and industrial problem—is talking in political platitudes and totally divorced from industrial reality.
That is the charge that I place before this Government. They have sacrificed the opportunity to galvanise British industry with a new sense of opportunity and partnership on the altar of their doctrinal pursuit of nationalisation. That is an unforgivable thing to do to this country at this time.
I should like to move to the second key aspect of the Bill—the disclosure of information. Let us be quite clear where we all stand. This is not, in the main, an issue. There is no political party that is not in favour of disclosure. I do not believe that there is any political party that would not be prepared to legislate for disclosure or to have disclosure of information backed by legal enforcement. Certainly the Conservative Party is committed to it. [HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] As hon. Members have asked me, I can tell them that we did it precisely in the Indusrtial Relations Act Bill, which the Labour Government has repealed.
§ Mr. Ron Thomas (Bristol, North-West)
It was mentioned in the Industrial Relations Act. As I recall, the Conservative Government then asked the CIR to look into it, it produced a report and then the Conservative Government forgot about it altogether.
§ Mr. Heseltine
If the hon. Member had read the Companies Act he would have seen that there was a great deal of advance made in regard to this situation, therefore it is clearly on the record that the Conservative Party would legislate in this field. It is not an issue. The only issue is as to the way in which we set about doing it. Our view is clear—that it is right that there should be disclosure but not disclosure of a sort that is likely to damage investment prospects and employment levels in this country. We believe that the Bill as originally drafted went exactly in the direction in which it was likely to have an adverse effect on the possibility of creating new jobs in Britain.
I think that the House of Commons last night, in its wisdom, improved the Bill in a remarkable way, because the planning agreements under the Bill are now to be conditional upon the Government providing a very substantial amount of information before those agreements are entered into. There is to be a two-way give and take, and it at least enables industrial concerns to know what are the economic parameters in the mind of the Treasury for the next few years, before they have to give their own figures. The House was quite right to make that stand last night.
The second improvement that the House made last night was to Clause 20, which deals with the disclosure of information. Before companies can be expected to give information about their forward intentions, the Government are to provide companies, for the period that is relevant to their forward plans, with detailed forecast information about the economic parameters. That is a very important step forward, in co-operation between the Government and private industry.
I welcome the fact that so many hon. Members on both sides supported this proposal, and I am only sad that the Government resisted this new opportunity for a genuine partnership. It was wise of the House to resist the Government's attempt to renege on what I believe to be the part of the bargain that they ought to have been prepared to offer. So I praise the hon. Member for Motherwell and Wishaw (Dr. Bray) for his work—
§ Mr. Heseltine
Everyone knows that the hon. Gentleman is a member of the Labour Party. Everyone knows also that there were Conservative amendments on the Notice Paper doing very much the same thing in Committee. So there was all-party agreement. although 170 Conservatives went through the Division Lobby and only 50 Labour Members. So the credit is almost evenly divided.
Let us bury the differences which Government supporters below the Gangway seek to exaggerate. Let us agree on the consensus that we have reached. I do not see why members of the Tribune Group should seek to undermine their good work last night. We have achieved something together. Let me stretch the hand of friendship across the great sea which divides us. Who knows what we may be able to build upon in the future if we see this as the base for further cooperation and partnership?
But whereas we may have improved the Bill in this respect, there is still the element of compulsion about the disclosure powers which I and my party resent deeply. It was in flagrant contradiction to what the Government said before the General Election. They said that they would be voluntary. It was only after the election, when they thought that they had the power, that they went back on their word.
I give only one example to the House of why I believe Government supporters have failed totally to understand the damage which the compulsory nature of these disclosure powers may have. I give only one example because many hon. Members have heard the argument before.
I ask the House to consider the situation of a major international company trying to decide whether to create jobs in Britain or somewhere else in Europe because it is looking for a European manufacturing base for its products. In every other European manufacturing country, it will be welcomed by the Government of the day. It will be given every facility to set up its manufacturing there, to create jobs there, to create exports from that country, and to add to the real standards of living of the German, French or Italian people.
If that company has to decide whether to come to Britain, the first matter that it 1786 must consider is that legislation is about to hit the statute book which will compel it to disclose to the Government virtually all its innermost secrets.
Next, the company will find that it has to hand over almost all that information to trade union representatives who do not work for the company but who represent the people working for the company. No such sanction will be imposed on the company if it goes elsewhere. How many companies do members of the Tribune Group think will come to this country?
§ Mr. Rooker
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I seek your assistance, in view of the very brief speech made by my right hon. Friend compared with the very long one to which we are now being subjected? Many hon. Members wish to take part in this very short but important debate.
§ Mr. Heseltine
I knew that I should not have given way so often, because I realised that I had a great deal to say. However, I am about to bring my remarks to a conclusion.
If the company which I was describing decided to invest here but did not want to reveal its secrets and went through the appeal procedure which is now included in this legislation, it would know that the ultimate sanction was that there could be a debate on the Floor of the House, when the trade unions would not know what information they had not been given, and hon. Members would not know what information had been withheld. However, there would be a wide debate in which no doubt the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) would explain the evils of multinational companies and the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) would explain how we ought to have more cooperatives, but in which the climate of our industrial outlook would be exposed to the company which was considering creating jobs here. If anyone imagines that the company would not be deterred and that jobs would not be lost to the country, he can have no concept of what is meant by industrial confidence.
I summarise the Bill by quoting an advertisement which appeared in the 1787 house journal of the Department of Industry this very week. Presumably it was aimed at the audience to which that journal circulates. It says:Goodbye Britain. Plan your escape now with the 1975 guide to emigration, 'Living and working abroad'. Send £1.10, including p. & p.In our view, that advertisement typifies the attitude that this Bill engenders. It is an irrelevant and expensive Bill at a time when unemployment is rising, investment is slumping and Britain is immersed in one of its worst economic crises since the war. The Opposition will vote against the Bill decisively.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Mr Heffer
We have just listened to a typical Oxford Union debating speech by the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine). I remember debating with him at the Oxford Union about two years ago. He has not improved one little bit on the debating capability that he showed on that occasion.
Before making any comments on the Bill, I want to pay tribute to one or two hon. Members who are not present this evening, for the obvious reason that they are no longer Front Bench spokesmen dealing with the Bill. I pay tribute first to my hon. Friend who was Under-Secretary of State in the Department, the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher). After my rather sudden departure from the Department of Industry, my hon. Friend carried the main burden of the Bill in Committee. No one who saw my hon. Friend in operation can fail to admire his tenacity and his serious work in dealing with the vast number of Opposition amendments which were moved extremely ably by hon. Members opposite. I think that the whole Committee admired him tremendously for the job he did. It would be remiss of the House not to pay him a compliment.
It is true that my right hon. Friend the previous Secretary of State for Industry did not put in his time in Committee as we did, but we all know that the sittings took place when Cabinet meetings were going on. The same position would have applied if my right hon. Friend the present Secretary of State had had responsibility for the Bill throughout our proceedings in Committee. It is clear that he would not have been able 1788 to put in the same amount of time in Committee.
The work that my right hon. Friend the previous Secretary of State carried out in helping to formulate and develop industrial strategy for the Government should not be underestimated. I think he made a tremendous contribution in his capacity of Secretary of State. When they recognise and understand the contribution that my right hon. Friend made over the year, not only the Labour movement but the entire country will pay a compliment to the activities of my right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Joseph Harper (Comptroller of Her Majesty's Household)
What about the Whips?
§ Mr. Heffer
Yes, the Whips did a most remarkable job in Committee. I agree that they are right in asking for a compliment. They justly deserve one.
The Bill has been portrayed in two ways. First, many hon. Members have said that the Bill will do more than it was ever intended to do. Unfortunately the impression was given that the Bill would introduce the Socialist millennium. It was never so. It could never happen as a result of the Industry Bill. There were people in the CBI and among the employers' organisations who believed that the Bill would transform Britain into a total Socialist State. They reacted accordingly, and on that basis we heard the most exaggerated claims for the Bill coming from the CBI. That is understandable because the CBI is opposed to any extension of public ownership in any direction. In particular, it is opposed to the extension of public ownership as regards profitable manufacturing industry.
The hon. Member for Henley asked the fundamental question. He asked why we want to extend public ownership. Let me explain. The extension of public ownership is part and parcel of the philosophy of the Labour Party. That is because the existing private enterprise system has let the British people down over the years. The hon. Gentleman referred to investment as though there had been a fall in investment only in the past 16 months. The hon. Gentleman knows that in the private enterprise system there has been a fall in investment of a greater scale than in any great industrial country in the world—[HON. 1789 MEMBERS: "Socialism!"] That is the most fantastic nonsense. We have had a private enterprise system. We have had a mixed economy with most of our industries being controlled by private enterprise.
§ Mr. Ian Lloyd (Havant and Waterloo) rose—
§ Mr. Heffer
No, I shall not give way. I am not being discourteous. I do not want to speak for too long as I know that many other hon. Members wish to speak.
We want to extend public ownership to get, apart from anything else, the necessary investment in productive industry. That is the first point. The second point is that it has been said that the previous Industry Act could have done the job. I think of my experience as Minister of State, Department of Industry. There were almost queues of private enterprise companies waiting to get subsidies from the Government under the Industry Act, but when the Government said that they wanted something in return we were told that that represented Government interference.
It was said that we were daring to enter into the management of industry. That is said when taxpayers' money to the tune of some £2 million a day has been going into public industry. That is what is said when the Government say that they want something in return—namely, some control. No Government have ever said that they should interfere with the management of industry on a day-to-day basis. The publicly-owned industries are not run by Ministers, and it would be an exaggeration to say that they were.
It is important to remember that we need to extend public ownership because the whole structure of our class-ridden society—we are one of the most class-ridden societies in the world—is based on private ownership of the means of production, distribution and all the rest. If we want to end the class system and the power of privilege which goes with the ownership of a vast industry, we need to extend public ownership much more than is suggested in the Bill. The Bill is only a tiny step towards the type of public ownership I want to see. If full employment is to return and we are to guarantee our people a constant rising 1790 standard of living, we need to extend public ownership on a much greater scale than is happening at present.
Private enterprise is constantly attacking the Labour Party for its policy of extending public ownership. It does so because its power and privileges are tied up with the private enterprise system. My right hon. and hon. Friends are not pushing forward an octopus and taking over every industry. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] The reason is that it does not happen to be in the Bill. Conservative Members would like it to be said that such a concept was contained in the Bill. They would like it to go out on the radio that the enactment of the Industry Bill will mean the taking over of every industry. They know that to be untrue. This is the kind of exaggeration which we have experienced over the years.
I wish to deal with the disclosure of information. My complaint about the Bill is that it has been weakened in a number of directions. It is not the Bill that we envisaged originally in the Labour Party. The proposals in the party programme have not been carried out to the full. Unfortunately it is an emasculated Bill, but it can still be a useful instrument. The disclosure of information to trade unionists can be one of the most important methods of involving the work force in the running of an industry in regard to industrial development and also in securing the extension of the system of planning agreements. Such a move is vital if we are to see a regeneration of British industry, since that is what is required to put our economy in order. Although I do not support the whole of the Bill as it stands, because I believe that we weakened the Bill last night, the clauses which now exist on the matter of disclosure of information are important and vital for the future of our country and our industry.
I believe that the Bill can do a great deal to help regional development. I come from Merseyside, and in that area 59,000 workers are unemployed at the present time. We need to attract industry to that area. Indeed, we have never had enough industry since the end of the Second World War. It is true to say that industry has come to the area, but we have never solved the problem of unemployment on Merseyside. This is also 1791 true of other areas such as the North-East Coast, the West of Scotland, South Wales, Cornwall and so on. Those areas require industry. The National Enterprise Board through its policy of extending industry, if necessary on a Government basis, in the regions could be the most important instrument in the Bill.
In spite of my reservations and criticisms, plus the fact that it is not the Bill I had originally hoped for, I shall support it tonight because it is a step in the right direction. I want to go a step towards building the type of egalitarian society in which the working people, through continuity of employment, will come into their own and in which they benefit from the labour they put into industry.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Wainwright (Colne Valley)
I hope and I dare to believe that hon. Members in whose constituencies there are mills and factories which are closing down or struggling desperately against imminent closure will appreciate that there is a need for Government measures to deal with the restructuring of industry.
Certainly the Liberal Members do not share the complacency, which I am sorry to say has already been aired from the Conservative benches, that the Industry Act 1972 was quite sufficient and that there is no need for Government action on this front. That is not the case at all. The need is there. We need much more disclosure to workers of the purposes of the work that they are being asked to do. We need much more co-operation on a practical basis between Government and industry, both public and private. We need to develop a strategy for dealing with major industries which get into difficulties.
Therefore, the Liberal Party does not in any sense dispute the need for strong measures. But one of the difficulties is that tonight we are confronted with a Bill which is really three major Bills dressed up as one. This makes it difficult for parliamentarians and even more difficult for the public in our democracy to follow what the Government are asking Parliament to do. On the other hand, some of the proceedings in Committee 1792 showed that Parliament is capable of overcoming an obstacle—a vast swollen Bill which is extremely difficult to discuss.
It is our view that some of the 40 sittings of the Committee represent a watershed in British Parliamentary politics. At the unofficial end of the Committee room there was the old, dreary, two-party confrontation—the last relics of something which the British electorate did its best to get rid of last year. There these dismal final scenes were being enacted. At the official end of the room official obscurity on the part of the official Government representatives was matched by arrogance, and almost unbelievable long-windedness, from the official Opposition—a long-windedness which has survived the most strenuous criticisms of it and which has been exhibited in this debate again tonight.
§ Mr. Max Madden (Sowerby)
Would the hon. Gentleman agree that one of the characteristics of the Committee was the often empty seats on the Liberal benches?
§ Mr. Wainwright
The Liberals have many tasks to perform in this House and are not represented by one-tenth of the number to which the votes at the last General Election entitled them. I am glad to say that the Committee survived even the occasional absence of the Liberal Member, because there was a splendid unofficial cohort of independently-minded Members from all parties, including Plaid Cymru, various sections of the Labour Party and some unofficial Conservatives who made distinctive and independent contributions to the Committee's proceedings.
If the unofficial end of the Committee room is to be taken as a token of the future, the proceedings in Committee, although patchy, indicate that there is a future, on a very much revised basis, for our customary parliamentary procedures in this country.
I have said that the Bill is really three Bills in one, and the score for the Liberals on these three is 21 against and one for. The aspect of the Bill which we have broadly welcomed is that dealing with the National Enterprise Board. Unlike the Conservative Opposition, we do not believe that public bodies should be confined to the rescue and preservation of lame ducks. We have no objection, so 1793 long as the commercial proprieties are respected, to the NEB moving with due care into some profitable areas of British industry. We would have liked to have seen the National Enterprise Board built upon a more regionalised structure because there are great dangers in having yet one more State-dominated corporation inevitably based on London.
We hope that in time, and as soon as possible, the NEB will have a distinctive regional structure. We also hope that before long it will regard employees' shareholdings and other forms of worker participation, in ownership as well as in policy making, to be part of its mandate. In the hope that these improvements might come with time, we would have been prepared, if this had been a National Enterprise Board Bill, to give it a cautious welcome.
The second part of the Bill which was loudly trumpeted in the White Paper "The Regeneration of British Industry" concerned planning agreements. Liberals welcomed moves to get the Government properly into a relationship with specific industries and to get rid of the blanket approach to the CBI or some other body which makes the ludicrous claim to represent the vast spread of British industry.
We hoped that the concept of planning agreements might be well developed in the Bill. When the Bill appeared, however, the planning agreements part of it came as a great disappointment to the Liberal Party. The planning agreement provisions are half-hearted. They have few teeth. Above all there is little provision for the medium and small-sized business, the dynamic sort of business which is often in the lead and which is so necessary to prod the sleeping giants of industry into enterprising action.
We see great danger in that the privileges which will go with planning agreements may reinforce the dominance which large and not necessarily very efficient businesses already hold to the detriment of the small up-and-coming firms and medium-sized concerns. Above all, we regret that there is no provision for adapting the machinery of government to proper co-operation with industry. The great flaw in all the attempts to get Government and industry together lies in the fact that the machinery of British 1794 government is so hopelessly ill-adapted to meshing in with the industrial processes, with shop floor and management responsibilities. The two worlds are still so different that mere legislation of a rather superficial kind will not bring about the necessary partnership.
The third concept, which ought to have been the subject of a separate Bill, is the question of disclosure by industry, first of all to the Government and secondly to employees. This could have been a measure of major importance and constructive value to everyone in British industry. But, alas, the way the Bill has turned out this is not the case. Some improvements have been made as a result of our deliberations while others have come about as a result of public pressure. Nevertheless, regrettably the provision of industrial information is being used as a source of privilege for trade union organisations. As we tried to make clear during the earlier debates, it seems to us a great loss of an opportunity to install a form of disclosure which would treat the whole mass of British workers, whether unionised or not, as the intelligent people they are.
Therefore, we regret the Bill as, on balance, a great opportunity lost at a time when there is an overriding need to assist British industry in its appalling difficulties, a need which the Government have recognised to their credit but, in our view, have not carried through in a statesmanlike manner, and we shall be obliged to vote against this measure tonight.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Crawford (Perth and East Perthshire)
Right hon. and hon. Members will not be surprised if my party, the Scottish National Party, returns to the theme of centralisation, to which the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Wainwright) has alluded, a theme which haunts us in general terms and haunts us especially with regard to this Bill. We in the Scottish National Party are not concerned whether the Bill is doctrinaire, we would not have been concerned had it even been laissez faire, but we are concerned that it is centralist.
In 1969 the Scottish Council (Development and Industry) produced a document called "Centralisation" which was headed "Scotland's Twentieth Century Nine Diamonds"—which I believe was 1795 the card played to James IV on the eve of Flodden. This document states:As the positions of authority within industry diminish in number, so also does the total vigour of the community run down.That is what is happening in Scotland, and that is what the Bill will accentuate and perpetuate.
As the House will know, we sought to ensure that the National Enterprise Board should:exercise no power, jurisdiction or control whatsoever over companies, institutions, partnerships, nationalised industries and all other industrial and commercial bodies operating in Scotland ".We lost that amendment on a Division.
We also sought to nail down the intentions of the Government in this situation vis-à-vis the development of the Scottish Development Agency and the National Enterprise Board. We succeeded in nailing down the intentions of the Government, but we did not get the answer we wanted. We congratulate the Under-Secretary on his extremely frank remarks when he said that he could not give me the assurancethat the National Enterprise Board would not operate in the areas north of the border and west of the border".—[Official Report, 1st July 1975; Vol. 894, c. 1229.]The Government failed to accept the group of amendments that we tabled for discussion on Tuesday last. We consider that they were reasonable amendments because they would have allowed a nation to look after its own industrial affairs. I was glad to hear the remarks of the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) when he said that the arguments he was hearing from all sides were clearly to the effect that the people of Scotland were well content to manage their own affairs in Scotland. Our amendments were reasonable. They would have stopped the dead hand of centralisation and enabled the Scottish Development Agency to look after the economy of Scotland, an economy much more manageable than the London-based NEB. But the Government did not accede to what we considered reasonable demands.
Our opposition to the Bill is not the opposition of the Conservative Party. As the House knows, we have supported—and we shall continue to support—the Government in their aim to create a Scot- 1796 tish Development Association. As the House also knows, the Conservatives opposed this in this House last week, stating that the 1972 Industry Act would be good enough. If it is good enough, why have we over 100,000 unemployed in Scotland today? The irony was that it was the Conservatives' own amendment to the Scottish Development Agency Bill, which their colleagues in another place had amended and which was brought before this House, which Conservative Members in this House voted against last week.
Our opposition to the Bill is not like the Conservatives' opposition. We believe that the National Enterprise Board will not work in Scotland because it is remote and centralist. There may or may not be much good in the Bill for England, but my hon. Friends and my party are not here to speak for England. We are here to speak for Scotland and we believe that the NEB will do Scotland no good whatever.
At least the Government have been honest. The Under-Secretary said that he could give no assurance that the NEB would not operate in Scotland. I hope that his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has noted his remarks that the NEB will operate in Scotland and that the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends will not claim, in the House or outside, powers for the Scottish Development Agency which we now see that it does not have. The claims made by the Secretary of State for Scotland about the SDA have been exposed for the sham that they are. If the debate of the past three days has done anything, it has made that plain.
My party, the SNP, is the party which puts Scotland first. The Bill does not put Scotland first. That is why we shall vote against it.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Palmer
I did not have the privilege of serving on the Standing Committee. Therefore, I do not qualify for mention in the dispatches of my hon Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer).
I start with what is, I think, an independent observation in welcoming the Bill. The nationalisation versus free enterprise controversy, which excites us so 1797 much in this country, does not seem to excite the same interest across the Channel. I do not think that that is because the political Left across the Channel particularly likes capitalism. That could hardly be the case in, say, France and Italy, where, apart from the long tradition of social democracy, there are two mass Communist Parties. I think that the difference is that the typical continental industrialist and manager, unlike his British counterpart all too often, is both truly professional in relation to his job and a political realist about public affairs. State intervention has few terrors for him, because to a great extent it has always been part of the system. That is certainly so in France.
Therefore, it has always been a puzzle to me to decide just why here in the United Kingdom a relatively mild measure such as this Bill should arouse such terror in the vocal section of British industry. With other Bristol Labour Members, I recently met the local leaders of the Confederation of British Industry in the West of England. They seemed to regard the Bill—it was hardly believable—as proof positive that the Government would eliminate the mixed economy and possibly in the not-too-distant future eliminate private enterprise as well.
I should have thought just the opposite, because in many ways the National Enterprise Board is the very antithesis of Soviet national planning. There is no touch of the Gosplan about this legislation. In the Soviet Union they start with the raw materials and allocate resources downwards under the direction of political functionaries. Lord Ryder has no doubts about avoiding that approach. He intends to stand no nonsense from Ministers, according to what he said recently.
The Evening Standard reported on 30th June that Lord Ryder, the appointed chairman of the National Enterprise Board, had said:If we do not think a company is viable we will say so. There is no intention for the NEB to become the biggest hospital in the country.The report continued:He claimed that if the Government insisted on a lame duck being rescued, the NEB would dissociate itself from the project.1798He said 'if the Government comes back and says for one reason or another it wants the company sustained, we will do what we can and charge a management fee to the appropriate Ministry'.Sir Monty Finniston could hardly have done better than that for independence.
In a sense that quotation points my nagging fear about the Bill. It is that in the quite correct attempt, from a Socialist point of view, to provide more public control and accountability, we may end up with a new expensive outside bureaucracy that will stand between this House and the industry by which we live.
I trust that future Select Committees of this House that look at public enterprises will be vigilant on this score. As for using the NEB as an instrument for nationalisation, I feel that, despite what the new Secretary of State has said, many of my hon. Friends will be disappointed and disheartened. There are no compulsory powers. This does not surprise me. I believe that the only way to nationalise an industry in a constitutionally governed country is by an Act of Parliament for that purpose. There are no short cuts to nationalisation.
Much hope has been held out and many pages of Hansard have been filled by debates on the Floor of the House and in Standing Committee about getting more trade union and worker involvement through planning agreements and the disclosure of industrial information. Some of this information will be of considerable value in negotiations and collective bargaining. Much of it should assist towards a better sense of unity and understanding between managements and the managed, but it is doubtful whether it will lead to more industrial democracy, despite the high hopes of the former Secretary of State for Industry, the present Secretary of State for Energy. I prefer the more formal methods of the nationalised industries to ensure employee influence.
I tried to intervene in the speech of the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), who opened for the Opposition, not to lessen the velocity of his observations—that would have been almost impossible—but to put him right on a matter of fact. He was inaccurate in saying that no nationalised industry had made a proper return on capital at any time. It was not true of the electricity supply industry until 1799 the Conservatives took over in 1970—they put it wrong quite successfully—and it was not true of the gas industry or the airways.
In spite of its limitations, this Bill has provided an intellectual turning over of the soil about industry, by the public debate. An inquest into the capital starvation of British industry has been stimulated and perhaps there will be action. As I say, I welcome the Bill, but I do not think that we on this side of the House should expect too much from it.
§ 9.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Fairbairn
I have promised the Chair to take only half the time taken to deliver the Gettysburg Address, and I trust that what I have to say will be twice as important and more widely noted and remembered by hon. Members below the Gangway and others.
There is a saying in Russia that every river eventually finds its way to the sea. This dribbling, stagnating water of the Industry Bill is about to leave the British people and British industry at sea. It is supposed to be about the regeneration of British industry, profitability, competitiveness, vitality and all those things which provide wealth in the community.
The Bill is not about that at all. It is about the degeneration of British industry, not the regeneration. It is about industrial bureaucracy. Its inexperience of any form of life would say that to regenerate something or make it democratic it must be handed over to a new creature of the State. Who would ever regard that as a reasonable concept? I believe the answer is nobody. Industry is to be placed gradually in the hands of a new bureaucracy some way under the Secretary of State for Industry, nominally answerable to this House, but in fact not at all so.
The Bill has nothing to do with the urge of human beings to have dignified employment, to be represented and to be informed, as Labour Members have pretended. This is one half of the pledge of the social contract to put eventually into the hands of the small cabal at the top of the biggest unions the power of this country. It is about that and nothing else. I should be glad to hear how it will regenerate even the smallest of industries, far less the biggest. No Minister or Labour Member has explained that yet.
1800 It is a bad law, it is verbose, it is meaningless and it adds an enormous number of drones to society who will be running industry but giving nothing to regeneration, profitability, or competitiveness. It is just another Socialist measure based on the theory that if industry can be put into the hands of the plaster cast of bureaucracy it can be controlled and so much the better.
Poor old Scotland will have not just one of these carnivorous slouches of bureaucracy; it will have two—the NEB and the Scottish Development Agency.
§ Mr. Fairbairn
I do not want either of them, but we are to be forced to have two. One thing I do not understand about the Scottish National Party is that it believes that centralisation is rotten in London. Manchester, Birmingham or Bristol, but that it is splendid in Glasgow and Edinburgh.
The Bill is born of a suspicion, mistrust and dislike of everything that moves in industry, emotions which inspire such passionate people as the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer). The Bill will be yet another dead hand on British industry which is already being so wounded, handicapped and fettered by more State intervention, more bad legislation, more powers and more executives than the industry of any other nation. That is why the country is in such a dreadful pass, and the Labour Party is anxious to fasten a few more of these organisations of the State upon industry because it believes that eventually if its wisdom, through State control, can prevail, everything will be well. Will it never learn that the more it interferes the less the animal is able to move? This Bill will be a curse on British industry and I trust that it will be quickly removed from the statute book.
§ 9.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian Mikardo (Bethnal Green and Bow)
I am always careful to avoid making prophecies if only because people always remember when you are wrong and forget when you are right. However, I am prepared to make a reasonable forecast that the expectation of the hon. and learned Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Fairbairn) that 1801 his remarks that he has just made will endure and ring around the world and resound about the ears of men long after the Gettysburg Address has been forgotten is not, on the whole, likely to be fulfilled.
We have now reached, unless some noble gentleman in another place seek to muck about with it further, the last stage of this Bill in its course through the House. We are all familiar with the extent to which the processes of getting the Bill through the House—some believe them a bit too long drawn out, a bit too etoliated—have enabled us to have a close examination of the Bill.
We always finish up with a Bill which is different from the one with which we started. It is right that the examination we give to a Bill should result in changes. However, nearly always, with the exception of this Bill, the differences are what may be described as differences of degree. We do not use Committee and Report stages to alter the principle of a Bill. We argue the principle on Second Reading and in Committee. On Report we polish, refine, make more sophisticated, sharpen or weaken the provisions.
What we are experiencing tonight is something which I cannot recall happening in the not inconsiderable number of years I have been in the House. We are discussing on Third Reading a Bill which is different not in degree but in kind from the Bill with which we began Second Reading. Those fundamental changes were not made at any time during the months of the progress of the Bill through the House, except in the last week or two.
I believe that hon. Members from both sides of the House who sat through the one hundred hours in Committee will join me when I protest that the Government have put down amendments on Report which totally change the character of the Bill. They have made nonsense of the assiduous and hard work that we all did throughout the one hundred hours in Committee. The Government, by their behaviour have insulted the Members of the Committee.
In Committee we talked and argued about many matters, but we clashed hard and fairly and in an informal way after having given the matters considerable 1802 thought and study. The items that we discussed do not exist any more. We tried to work out and improve various provisions, but then along came the Government and they rubbed it all out like somebody shoving a wet duster across the surface of a blackboard. This is an abuse of our procedures.
If the Government were in the end to defer to an authority outside the House, and alter the Bill, not in the terms that the House demanded through its work in Committee but in the terms demanded by somebody outside—and it is bad enough that they did so—at least they should have had the grace and good sense to do so weeks, indeed months, before and thus to save us all the wasted weeks in Committee.
What is the good of talking about increasing productivity in industry if we do not set an example and increase the productivity of the House? I have estimated that in Committee, because we were discussing something that has disappeared off the face of the earth—we were talking about nothing but we did not know it at the time—we have wasted between 3,000 and 4,000 man-hours worked by highly skilled people who have very considerable responsibilities. In my view that is not good enough.
I wish to make two further points. First, I should like to say something about the speech of the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), although I regret that I shall have to do so in his absence. Throughout the years that I have been in the House I have indulged in a little game. I sit here and listen to a lot of speeches and think to myself, "How would this speech sound to a chap who, five minutes ago, descended from Mars and came into the Public Gallery, not knowing anything about Great Britain at all, to try to get an impression of what this country was like and what goes on?" I often listen to speeches with my Martian ear to try to figure out what he would make of it.
If my Martian friend listened to the hon. Member for Henley he would probably say, "This Government must be composed of terrible fellows. That chap is saying that they are interfering with something which works perfectly. It is terrible of them to interfere with the private enterprise sector of the British 1803 economy. Why should they want to interfere with something that works perfectly?"
I have news for the hon. Member for Henley. The private sector of British industry does not work perfectly. It has let us down. It has made a great contribution to getting us into the mess we are in.
I must tell my friend from Mars who has just decended on us—I thought that he would be sitting in the Gallery, but he is over there. This is the first time that I have seen him. Is he a Member? I must tell my friend from Mars that it is not true, as he might have thought from the speech by the hon. Member for Henley, that the private sector of British industry invests in new equipment and modernises itself more than any of its competitors. It is not true, as he might have thought from that speech, that our private enterprises are great go-getters in the export markets, leaving standing the export salemen of such countries as Germany, Sweden and Japan.
I must tell my friend from Mars, contrary to what he might have gathered from that speech, that standards of management in the private sector or British industry are pretty low compared with some of our competitors.
I must tell my friend from Mars that in the private sector of British industry a man is not allowed to grind a tool without giving some evidence of competence but that he can become a managing director without any qualifications at all. That has been known to happen. We do not have the objective criteria of management which, to an increasing extent, other countries have.
§ Mr. Mikardo
There is not time in this short debate.
When the hon. Member for Henley says, "Hands off; leave well alone", I just gasp in amazement. There is a case for leaving well alone, but who on earth can make a case for leaving ill alone?
Finally, I turn to the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry. We agree with the objectives which he said the Bill is seek- 1804 ing—the regeneration of British industry. The whole point of the planning agreements is to try to stimulate not only more investment but better use of the machinery as a result of the investment and to stimulate better standards of management.
The whole idea of the National Enterprise Board, as with other holding companies, is to cross-fertilise the best management techniques from one company under its umbrella to another. We want value for the money that the State puts into the private sector by doing it on a micro instead of a macro basis, by doing it selectively, and putting the money where it can be of most use.
Above all, we want to use this machinery to correct what may perhaps be the worst failure of the private sector of the British economy—namely, its failure to equalise the disparities between the regions of this country. Of course we want all that.
I believe that the policy put out by the Labour Party, on which many of us worked for many years, if enacted and implemented, would have done that. I believe that all the opportunities provided in the Bill, as originally drafted, if used intelligently and vigorously by the Secretary of State, would have gone a long way towards doing just that.
The changes which were made to the Bill—and above all the changes which were made in the past three days—lessened to a great extent, the possibility that the Bill could be used to achieve what my right hon. Friend has described as its purpose, to which he rightly attached great importance.
We began by fashioning a tool which would mend the cracks in the structure of the private sector of the British economy. In these past few days we have blunted the tool which we fashioned. I am deeply disappointed at the outcome. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) that it is better than nothing. If the Secretary of State is willing to use it to the full, it will do a bit. But I am bound to say that since an undertaking by the Government to take effective action in this area was part of their commitment under the social contract they must not be surprised if the other party to the social contract says "You have not done your whack, brothers. Why should you expect us to do ours?"
§ 9.22 p.m.
§ Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)
The hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) is probably right. This Bill has perhaps been blunted in the past few days. It is wrong to say that in the one hundred hours in which we debated the Bill in Committee we refined, sharpened and corrected it, or that the Government listened to one word uttered by Government supporters or the Opposition. All that happened in Committee was that Ministers listened, but they did not change much in the Bill. The Bill went through at drafted and was hardly altered. I accept that a word here or there was changed. However, its fundamental strength was retained and was not changed. It is only in the past few days that changes have occurred.
Let us be honest and say what happened. The Ministers who were initially responsible for the Bill were swept aside. The former Secretary of State for Industry is now the Secretary of State for Energy. The Minister of State wished himself out of office and has been sitting on the back benches ever since. Only the Under-Secretary remained to hold the Government banner in those one hundred hours. I take my hat off to him. He did a good job. He did not deviate. He was not to be pushed from behind or from the front. That was a tough assignment.
In the past few days a new direction has been given to the Bill. It has been changed. There has been a great debate which lasted many months. I wonder whether that debate extended to people outside Parliament. Great anxiety was created in industry. I accept what the hon. Member for Bristol North-East (Mr. Palmer) said about that matter. Industry expressed great concern about what the Bill would achieve if it were implemented. It is an enabling Bill and concerns the functioning of the private sector of British industry.
The Bill was preceded nearly a year ago by a White Paper, "The Regeneration of British Industry". The White Paper expressed an aim which I do not think could be criticised by the Opposition as it promiseda vigorous, alert responsible and profitable private sector.That was the object.
1806 But the Bill completely departed from the White Paper. It is a different animal altogether. Even so, I maintain that industrial leaders were prepared to accept the concept of the Bill if only the Government had been prepared to listen to representations and to recognise that some parts of the Bill, in the opinion of industrial leaders, other thinking persons, oppostion Members and even some Government supporters, were wrong and would not produce the results that the Government wanted.
I seek to speak briefly about one part of the Bill on which the Government were wrong not to recognise the sensible, serious representations made to them by industry. I shall talk about the requirements in the Bill for the disclosure of information. I agree with what was said by the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Wainwright). The Bill is a series of Bills, and the part which deals with the disclosure of information should be in a separate Bill.
The trouble with the Government is that they have introduced an Industry Bill which ignores all that is good in industry. I am not saying that everything is good, but there are some good parts where industry has developed and progressed. Nowhere does the Bill recognise the existing achievements. For example, in the little Neddies there has been established a valuable planning dialogue between companies and the Government, between companies and their employees, and between companies and trade unions. That is an achievement. It is a pity that the Bill has not developed from achievements.
Industry needs Government help and the Government need help from industry. What a pity it is that the Bill has not been allowed to evolve from the existing best practices in industry. Instead, it has apparently been drafted to deal with poor performances in industry and bad practice. That is hardly the best way to build confidence between Government and industry, hardly the best way to establish a harmonious relationship, hardly the best way to produce an alert, vigorous and profitable private sector which we know is essential for the progress of the nation and essential if we are to achieve the regeneration of the whole concept of industry.
1807 I accept that the Bill's appearance on the scene has prompted many companies to look to their laurels. Many have had to examine the whole question of what they tell their employees. That at least is an achievement for the Bill. But the Government are wrong if they assume that Britain's industrial leaders are against industrial democracy. They are not, I am not, and nor are any of my colleagues.
Industrial democracy should have been the subject of another Bill. I see that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) is smiling. He is the sponsor of such a Bill but, with the greatest respect, I suggest that it should come from the Government Front Bench and be given priority. I am sure that the Conservative Front Bench would agree to that. Industrial democracy is a vast project which deserves a special Bill. The Government should not have attempted to fit it into the Industry Bill in an ill-conceived, piecemeal way. It requires a more comprehensive, unified and consistent approach. We have to work out the whole complex structure of the involvement of employees in the affairs of their companies.
The trouble with the Bill is that it attempts too much. It is a very wordy Bill which tries to spell out every detailed action required of a company and of the management of that company. Nothing is left to doubt. Everything is set down by statute. It is a Bill without spirit, a harsh Bill and an uncompromising one. A company can be ordered to disclose, in great and vast detail, its plans, its costs, its successes, its failures, its past and its future.
The Government have refused all along to listen to the real and sensible protests that have been made to them about this advance warning of a company's intentions, its warning to its competitors, both at home and abroad. We have been saying this in Committee for a hundred hours, but the Government have never taken that point. They have never accepted the simple commercial advice that has been given to them: "Do not tell your competitors everything. For goodness' sake remember that in industry there is some commercial reality which has to be retained."
The Government appear not to want to listen to commercial arguments. They 1808 seem to want to stand aloof from such mundane matters. They seem to want to put themselves in the hands of the bureaucrats and assume that that is a better way of life, and that these mundane commercial requirements should not feature in their thoughts.
Do they not recognise the danger that they may be creating for the continued flow of foreign capital into this country? I hope they are not against foreign companies investing in this country and increasing their investments, but such companies may well fear to expand their investment in this country and may seek other places where there are not these requirements which limit a company's commercial opportunity and commercial good sense.
The Government must think again on this question of disclosure without safeguards of confidentiality. It is only this point that I would seek to make to the Minister. It will prejudice commercial competitiveness and harm companies, and in the end it will hurt their employees as well. There must be safeguards. This Bill offers not safeguards but committees of appeal, and it is wrong to have this approach. If we are to have disclosure, let us do it properly and sensibly, accepting that there must be safeguards and that there is a reason for having such safeguards.
The automatic passing of information to trade unions will do great harm to the existing relationships between an employer and his employee and between an employer and the Government. Already there is a dialogue established between many companies and the Government, and on a voluntary basis it is far better than on a statutorily required basis, as suggested in this Bill.
If we proceed without any of these safeguards, I can only say what has been said so many times in Committee—that there will be less information coming to the Government without these confidential safeguards, and the Government and the nation will be the losers. As I have said, I am not against disclosure provided that it is sensible and provided that there is a recognition that some of it must be on a confidential basis.
We shall have to get used in this country to open plan living in industry, but it will work only if each side shows respect 1809 for each other's territory and understands that sometimes there is a need for a little privacy.
The Secretary of State tonight, in his opening speech on Third Reading, said that he thinks that the Government have got the Bill "about right" at last and that he hopes to obtain all he wants by voluntary means. That is at least a hopeful sign to me. It is a change of tune. It may be a change of tune that many Labour Members do not like, but it is a change of tune, though not a change of the Bill by the Government.
But there has been another change affecting this Bill, since the Prime Minister recognised the reality of industry's concern about it. The Bill started off fiercely as a wolf ready to devour any prey, huffing and puffing and ready to blow the house down. What the Prime Minister has done is to dress it up. In a way typical of the Prime Minister, he has now put it into sheep's clothing, but it is still the same wolf underneath, and it deceives no one. The Bill has been debated for months, and it has not changed in any significant way. The Government have ignored advice all along the line. All that has happened is that the Bill is now under new management.
It is a great enabling Bill. It gives the Government immense powers to intervene in the management of industry. It gives the Government power to strengthen the hold which trade unions already have in industry. It gives the Government further powers to introduce politics into business decisions. It gives the Government power to take over great chunks of the private sector of British industry. These are frightening powers for any democratic Government to assume.
We can only hope that the Government will not try to use those powers. I hope, from what I heard the Secretary of State say tonight, that he will rely on voluntary means and not push this Bill to its utter limits, because, if he does the latter, he will go a long way to destroy confidence in British industry and he will not produce the regeneration of British industry that we all want to see.
§ 9.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert J. Bradford (Belfast, South)
As an hon. Member who represents a Northern Ireland constituency, I 1810 am conscious of a certain dilemma in trying to assess the merits of this Bill, and I know that that dilemma is shared by quite a number of my colleagues. Many of the arguments from both sides of the House are appealing, but I think that it must be said that the votes of Ulster Members will come down on the side of opposing the Bill.
We have many apprehensions about the clauses dealing with the disclosure of information. We are apprehensive about the lack of parliamentary supervision in respect of the wide powers which are assumed by the Secretary of State for Industry. We are also apprehensive about the share of the national cake which the public sector is receiving and will continue to receive at a time when the nationalised industries are not revealing encouraging returns on investment.
Having said all that and having aired those apprehensions, it must be said that Northern Ireland could not remain for very long unaware of the importance of Government involvement in industry. It must be said, and I say it readily, that this Government have met the peculiar and exacting demands of the Ulster situation in a very benevolent way. Indeed, successive Governments have kept industry alive in Northern Ireland by their direct involvement and their regional development policies.
However, there is one fact of human nature which, unfortunately, compels me to oppose this legislation. It is the unfortunate, apathetic dependence on apparently endless Government resources. There is not much evidence on either side of the channel that the nationalised industries and the workers involved in them are motivated by some patriotic dynamism. Instead, there is something psychologically depressing which tends to make workers involved in the nationalised industries lapse into a sense of utter dependence on another, namely, the Government.
Let a man accept that quality, integrity and volume of production will ensure a prosperous future. Let a man accept his share in investment and in the imaginative policy of worker participation, worker investment and the sharing of profits as a basic premise, and I believe that we have the beginning of a true formula for prosperity.