Motion made, and Question proposed,
That this House at its rising to-morrow do adjourn till Monday 11th October.—[Mr. Shape.]
§ 4.19 p.m.
§ Mr. James Molyneaux (Antrim, South)
Those who represent constituencies in Great Britain can perhaps be forgiven for feeling on occasions that we on the Northern Ireland Bench observe some sort of ritual on these occasions when we have debates on the recess. It may seem that we indulge in a mood of despondency when we list the misfortunes that may befall us and our constituents during a recess.
However, today the position is very different. It was transformed at an earlier stage in our proceedings—namely, at a very early hour this morning. It was when the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland gave a grave forecast of what was likely to be in store for the people of Northern Ireland for the next two or three weeks. It is for this reason, not because we hold any particular private opinions, that I wish to draw the attention of the House and the Government to the situation likely to develop when the House is in recess.
Ministers of the Crown are not usually given to forecasting increased difficulties in the areas for which their Departments are responsible. Therefore, without being in any way alarmist, I suggest that the House must pay heed to the advice and the views of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland expressed in the House this morning, because he will have formed his judgment on the basis of information of necessity not available to the rest of us.
We are not encouraged by such information as we have in our possession—information which consists, for example, of the record of events and current observations. From the Government's own statements we learn that in practically every aspect of the campaign —the shootings, the bombings, the weight of explosive used, and the amount of fire damage—has been on just about twice the scale of the equivalent period in 1975.
2145 It will be noted with very great regret by the House that the number of deaths is already running at twice the 1975 figure, and unfortunately looks like heading for something like the record figure of 1972.
The official information gives the death rate for the first six months of this year and confirms the fears of the Secretary of State. The official figures state that in January, 47 people died, in February, 27, in March, 18, in April, 20, in May, 26, and in June, 37. It is that upward trend that gives cause for understandable concern.
It will not have escaped the notice of the Secretary of State that the weight of the attack has now shifted from South Armagh to the area known as South Londonderry. That is the area west of Lough Neagh and running north to the Atlantic. At least it would appear that the terrorist base has shifted. Just as really determined action by the Government early this year in South Armagh led to improvement, so I believe that determined action now in central Ulster and west Ulster would produce the same effect.
The new Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary has set a very good example by appearing in person in the danger areas, sometimes immediately after an attack and often when an element of danger still existed. I am quite sure that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland himself will take advantage of the lull in our verbal battles here in the House to sec for himself what requires to be done in that area of Northern Ireland and, what may be more important, to give confidence to the security forces and to the population in what has virtually now become a front line sector.
Listening earlier today to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, I detected a contradiction which is worrying us all. He appeared to say that the security forces needed and required the co-operation of the entire community if they were to succeed in obtaining the information that would enable them to identify the terrorists. But a little later he said that the security forces were well aware of the identity of the terrorists but lacked the evidence required to ensure effective prosecution in the courts.
It is this latter aspect that must concern the Government and, indeed, all of 2146 us, because we must ask whether there is substance in the widely held belief—it is held on this side of the water as well as in Northern Ireland—that the law as it stands is somewhat inadequate. Does the law, therefore, require to be strengthened and, if so, what steps will be taken in the near future in that connection?
Certainly it is very difficult for people who day after day meet terrorist attacks to understand why more severe sentences should be awarded to people who have, for example, received stolen goods than are awarded to and imposed upon people who commit terrorist actions. Quite clearly, the Secretary of State and his right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General must give that question serious consideration. It is fair to face up to what one would do and how one would answer the question if one were placed in the position of the Secretary of State.
In recent days I have been criticised for suggesting that we ought to go over from the defence to the attack. I envisaged not the unleashing of armoured divisions but rather a change in mental attitudes, because that is the really important thing. We have seen in recent days—the seaside resort of Portrush was an example—how the terrorists can very quickly adapt and switch their tactics to meet practically any defensive measures that can be devised.
I said earlier that the Secretary of State had admitted that many of the master minds were known to the authorities. It surely makes sense that they should somehow or other be eliminated at source and that we should not depend for success on, for example, sealing off town centres and making life a virtual hell for the unfortunate town or city, or that we should sit and wait for the terrorists to take some action and then try to devise a counter action. To all of us it makes sense, now that we have been assured in the House that the security forces know the identity of these evil men, that it is the task of Her Majesty's Government to round them up and put them safely away where they cannot carry out their evil work any longer.
To do this the security forces must be convinced that they have the backing of Parliament and, what is more important, 2147 they need to be convinced that they will be loyally supported by Her Majesty's Government and by all parties here in this House if on occasion they make mistakes. As we know, mistakes are always made when people engage in warlike operations. I am convinced, however, that such a positive approach would do much to transform completely the entire security situation in Northern Ireland.
Finally, in case the Leader of the House and his colleagues are in any doubt, let me assure Her Majesty's Government that they in turn will, unless I am very much mistaken, have the support of all parts of this House, even when, through excessive zeal, they make occasional mistakes and as a result are faced with criticisms from ill-disposed persons. The Leader of the House will, I think, concede that we on this Bench have not been backward in supporting Her Majesty's Government's actions and policies, which we regarded as being in the national interest and in the interests of the citizens of the United Kingdom who live in Northern Ireland.
§ 4.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, Central)
It is not my intention to detain the House long, and I apologise to the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) if I do not follow the tenor of his speech. It is not that I thought the speech was unimportant, but, just as he spoke for his constituency and area interests, I must speak for mine and suggest that there is at least one reason why the House should not immediately adjourn. But perhaps when I have finished my speech that reason will have disappeared.
The House will be aware that Her Majesty's Government are at the present moment conducting negotiations for British fishing limits, zones and areas and that this has been necessitated as a result of our membership of the Common Market and the general policy of nations to extend their fishing limits to 200 miles. —I am not at the moment quarrelling about what the Government have to negotiate.
I want to deal with some misleading, dishonest and hypocritical advertising that is being put out by the fishing industry, its representatives and its organisations about the Government's 2148 present negotiating stance. For example. in Fishing News of 23rd July the headline isFish: The big British give-away",and the article says:Inshore and deep sea fishing organisations have dug deep into their pockets to launch a £35,000 national newspaper advertising campaign this week. The basis of the campaign is built around the fact that our Government is about to give away our right to catch our own fish'Involved in this last desperate bid to alert the public to the dangers of the weak line being taken by the Government in their negotiations with the EEC are the British and Scottish Trawlers Federations, the Scottish Fishermen's Association and the Fisheries Organisation Society.
The leader in that issue of the paper said:The expensive advertising campaign being mounted by sections of the fishing industry in the national press might be dismissed by some as a gimmick. But the point being made is an important one: ALL OUR VAST FISH RESOURCES ARE BEING HANDED OVER TO EUROPE ON A PLATE.The truth is that all our vast resources were given away when we joined the Common Market.
The implication is that the Government are arguing from a position of strength and giving away our fish. The fact is that the Government are negotiating from a position of supreme weakness and that any concession we can get is a bonus. The fishing authorities and organisations know the real position. They were told it, and they raised not one voice in protest when we signed the treaty to join the Common Market. They did not complain then. The terms were there setting out the right to fish up to our shores after the period of derogation early in 1981. The Tory spokesman who negotiated those proposals told me that the derogation lasted only until 1981.
We are in the situation that the fishing industry is putting out a big lie because it failed completely to acknowledge the difficulties with which it was faced as a result of our joining the Common Market and refused to take part in any sort of educative campaign either at the time of the Treaty of Accession or the referendum to alert its members to the real implications. The real implications are that anything we can get is a bonus.
I make one exception to that statement and it is that the inshore men, 2149 particularly in Scotland, were aware of this problem but the big men, the trawlers' federation and its spokesmen, did nothing about it. They were complacent, and now that the Common Market chickens are coming home to roost with fish in their mouths—if I may mix my metaphors a bit more—they are screaming, or shouting, or cackling about what has happened to them, and they are giving the lie to their own members and, more importantly, to my constituents that there is something that the Government can do other than what they are doing now, and that is trying to fight for the rights of our fishermen. It does not come well from representatives of the trawler owners and others to spend this sum of £35,000 at a time of public expenditure cuts. They would do better to donate the money to the widows of fishermen rather than use it to tell this lie.
However, that does not deal completely with the picture, because we have a situation in which the Tory Party and its representatives are joining in this campaign and making all sorts of claims for what the Government should be able to achieve. Yet they were the people who negotiated the treaty, and my constituents should be made aware of that. They should be made aware, too, of the fact that the chairman of the Conservative fisheries committee at that time, after a bit of huffing and puffing, said he was satisfied with all the arrangements that were made for the fishing industry under the original Treaty of Accession. Therefore, we are in the situation that it little behoves Conservative Members to attack the Government.
However, I am entitled to attack the Government, because I voted against the Treaty of Accession. I did not think that fishing was originaly covered or protected. I worked against the referendum for joining the Common Market, and I am sorry that it is my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House who has to reply to this debate because he, too, voted against it.
The Government have before them the example of the Faroes, which yesterday introduced into their Parliament a Bill to extend their limits to 200 miles. Incidentally, there will be some overlapping 2150 in Icelandic waters from which we have been pushed out. The interesting thing about the Faroes is that they are subjects of Denmark. Denmark, too, is a Common Market country, but it has general suzerainty over the islands.
If the Faroes and Denmark, which has a special relationship with the EEC, can extend their limits as they have chosen to do, I suggest that when the Foreign Secretary and the Minister of State next go to see their counterparts in the EEC they should say to them not that if we cannot come to a joint agreement we shall extend our limits, but that we shall extend or limits anyway and pass the legislation, and then negotiate the situation with the other members of the EEC. It is true that we have to agree our swapping arrangements with Iceland, Norway and the Russians in terms of our fishing fleets and we cannot do it until we have firm limits.
Had I not been fortunate enough to catch your eye in this debate, Mr. Speaker, I should have had to vote against the Adjournment motion, because I should not have been able to explain to my constituents how they were being hoodwinked by the trawler owners about the Government's position. I should not have been able to tell my constituents how I think the Government ought to deal with the present situation. But, having taken part in the debate, and knowing that my right hon. Friend, with his fresh approach to this problem, will accept what I have said and support my strictures upon the trawler owners, I shall withdraw my opposition to the motion, and I know that that at least will please my wife.
§ 4.39 p.m.
§ Mrs. Lynda Chalker (Wallasey)
I am grateful for the opportunity to take part in this debate, because what I have to explain is the serious state of staffing in our already crumbling National Health Service. Perhaps the House should not adjourn until the Secretary of State for Social Services has managed to resolve the dispute that is causing grave problems and serious worry in hospitals all over the country. This industrial action need never have occurred, and I shall explain why. I do not believe that industrial action is the way in which to resolve disputes between employer and employee, but I cannot be surprised, 2151 after the last eight months of duality and vacillation that has gone on, that this has occurred.
I should, perhaps, spell out the situation that exists in our hospitals today. First, there are no fewer than seven regions where junior doctors are working a 40-hour flexible week, taking in emergencies only and dealing only with patients who are already there. Those regions are Mersey, the North-West, East Anglia, North-West Thames, Yorkshire, South-East Thames and the West Midlands. The Oxford region is taking emergencies only. The South-West Thames and the South-Western regions are refusing to cover for colleagues who are on study or annual leave, or who are sick.
That means that two-thirds of the regions in England and Wales are not carrying out medical care as we understand it. The West Midlands region is pressing hard for lightning walk-outs without warning. Junior doctors are now talking openly about mass resignations. Before we adjourn we have a responsibility to do all that we can to ensure that the problem is resolved.
I must remind the House how we have arrived at this state of affairs. The junior doctors are in angry despair to know how to resolve the Government'svolte face over their contracts of employment. There have been three years of negotiation to change the basis of junior doctors' remuneration. In years gone by junior doctors worked long hours for paltry sums in the belief that patients' needs were paramount and that they would be fairly rewarded once they became consultants. But they no longer have any faith in the system. They no longer believe that they will be rewarded as consultants and they have every reason to doubt the present Government in the battle to achieve a just salary for the work to which they are dedicated.
The basis of that deep-seated doubt is that the Department of Health and Social Security now denies agreements established in negotiation meetings between the Department and the Junior Hospital Staffs Committee of the British Medical Association. The Department denies that there was ever any agreement that the full salary should be paid throughout the year. That is very worrying, because since July 1975, when the Government's 2152 White Paper "The Attack on Inflation" was published, discussions have taken place between officials in the full knowledge of the Remuneration, Charges and Grants Act which we passed last July and in full knowledge of the Pay Code. Yet in all the negotiations there was never a hint that the actual agreements being reached were later to be said to be outside the Pay Code
The whole basis of the new contract was that junior doctors would agree on contract to work an average total number of hours each week. In return, the doctors would be paid salaries based on that figure. The salary would be payable throughout the year, and, like any other salary, would include the period of annual leave. The other bases of the new contract were to establish job descriptions, proper contracts of employment and a sensible system for standing in for colleagues on leave or who were otherwise inacapacitated. 'That was the full understanding of the 13th December meeting between the Department of Health and Social Security and the Junior Hospital Staffs Committee of the BMA.
From that time, up to and including the meeting of 22nd April this year, every meeting was on the understanding that the new contract would he calculated over 52 weeks on the basis of average hours worked. It was the system which would be fairly comparable to the old system of paying extra duty allowances to doctors working very long hours. The units of medical time—the new calculating method—would be apportioned over the year to calculate the annual salary.
The Government have denied this. After that meeting on 22nd April they said that for doctors the pay policy would not permit the payment of an annual salary based on average hours worked over the year but that holiday and discretionary study leave would be paid only at basic rates. That was the early May intimation that the Government had turned round on the agreement which they had made.
I contrast that with the statement by the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) when she told me during Question Time:I assure the hon. Lady that we have finalised our discussions with the Hospital junior staffs committee about the implementation circular, and there is no difficulty about 2153 that. It went out immediately the hospital juniors had approved it. It is a matter now of getting contracts offered locally within the context of the policy we have agreed with them."—[Official Report, 23rd March 1976; Vol. 908. c. 181–2.]The Minister of State said in reply to the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon):the completion of individual contracts depends on agreement locally between the junior doctors and their employing authority. … Health authorities were asked to make every effort to institute payments by the end of April, but I appreciate that there may be cases where this has not been possible."— [Official Report, 30th April 1976; Vol. 910, c. 204.]It is little wonder that the JHSC believed that everything was in order and that they were proceeding hand in hand with the Government towards a successful new contract.
Until the beginning of May, the Department and the JHSC always intended that the contract should be based on a basic salary plus the contractual overtime—the A and B units of UMT.
It is strange that in May the Government could turn to the staffs committee and say "No—these units of medical time—the contractual overtime—do not form part of your annual salary" when in that month agreements were drawn up with NUPE ancillary workers in West Midlands that their overtime on an annual basis would be included in their annual salary.
There is a host of evidence to support what I say. In the fifth report of the Review Body on Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration published in September, paragraph 21, dealing with the future salary scales, says:As the basic salary scales will be the same as the current salary scales, they must therefore be regarded in future as taking into account part of the long hours spent by junior hospital doctors and dentists on duty beyond the normal weekly hours, and the supplements as recognising the remainder. … We consider it important that the salary scales should be at an appropriate level for those doctors and dentists whose working week is limited to between 40 and 44 hours on duty and their ship to the remuneration of those whose weekly hours of duty are very much longer".The same matter was recognised in the letter agreed between the Department and the junior hospital doctors at the time of the October 1975 ballot because that covering letter stated: 2154The new contract contains contractual payments for additional work; these continue during holidays and study leave and can easily be used to get a mortgage".There are other documents including DS 378/75 of 30th December 1975, which made it clear that this was the basis of remuneration which had been agreed. Document HC (PC) 76/4, which was the pay circular sent out in March this year by the Department to the employing authorities, said in paragraph 3:it is clear that the salary is calculated from the average pre-contracted weekly hours and paid throughout the year without deductions for leave.On the Department's own admission, we also know that 60 per cent. of the health authorities employing 80 per cent. of the doctors have already contracted with their junior doctors on the basis of a full annual salary. This was in response to many telephone calls which the Department received, later denied receiving and then agreed that it had received.
Indeed, the administrators have said to many of us that between March and May of this year the advice by telephone from the Department over the clarification of that HC (PC) 76/4 confirmed that full UMTs were to be paid throughout the year. I can also call in evidence paragraph 4 of Appendix 1 of the Fifth Report from the Expenditure Committee for the 1975–76 Session. That made it clear that the monthly payments are to be paid based on a pre-contracted average number of UMTs each week. No mention is made of deduction for leave. If the Department always intended those deductions to be made, it seems a quite extraordinary omission from its written evidence to the Expenditure Committee.
We are practically at the beginning of the recess. Throughout the past eight months we have had document after document leading the two sides further along the path to agreement. Suddenly there has been this complete overturning of all that has been agreed. It is more particularly worrying because at this moment, the day before we are due to go into recess, there have still been no minutes published of the meeting of negotiation on 22nd April between the Hospital Junior Staffs Committee and the officials of the DHSS.
2155 Three months later, as the House adjourns for the Summer Recess, the Department has at no time put on paper what has happened. During April of this year the Secretary of State remarked in the House that the cost of additional work over 40 hours would be about £28 million but that the junior doctors were opting for the more onerous pattern of working and being available for work. These junior doctors are not afraid to work. They are not afraid of long hours. They ask one thing, and that is that they should be fairly remunerated for their work. All of the discussions, all of the meetings that have been held, make it clear that there was good faith right up until 22nd April, and even two days later, when suddenly the Government reneged on what they had agreed.
There is a great irony in this, because it is necessary that junior hospital doctors, should have study leave in the same way as we have, in recent weeks, been trying to introduce a Bill to provide for vocational training for general practitioners. It is necessary to keep them up to the mark in the service that they give to the patients in our hospitals. Yet the Government are saying that if the junior doctors go to study so as to provide a better service, they will not be paid on their regular basis of payment. Believe me, if this were a trade union in the TUC sense it would never have stood for that action.
You might ask, Mr. Deputy Speaker, with the recess coming up, what steps I took to do something about the obvious difficulties that were arising. Let me tell you that in mid-May the junior doctors first asked for a meeting with the Secretary of State. In some desperation, towards the end of May I was asked what I might do to assist. Various notes were passed between myself and the Secretary of State and eventually, on 2nd July, a meeting of one hour was arranged between the negotiators for the Junior Hospital Staffs Committee and the Secretary of State. We had another meeting lasting three-and-a-half hours on 5th July.
Eventually, the problem was recognised as being most serious and the Prime Minister spent over an hour and a half meeting the committee, together with the Secretary of State. That was on 26th July. Despite all of these efforts, we now have a serious state of affairs. Those 2156 who suffer are not Members of this House but patients who require hospital treatment. That is a crazy situation and I submit that we should not be adjourning until the Leader of the House has used his influence to resolve this unholy muddle and crazy situation which the Secretary of State has allowed to go on over the last four months, to the detriment of hospital care and the patients who need that care in our country.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Brian Sedgemore (Luton, West)
I am sure that we all want to go on holiday, but it seems important that we should not adjourn until we have had an opportunity to discuss whether this Parliament is the surpreme inquest of the nation and whether it is a debating forum where debates can be held, statutes proposed, discussed and enacted without fear or favour. You might say, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the answer is obvious. It is not obvious to Mr. Rowland of Lonrho.
My wife, for her sins, is a barrister. She is used to dealing with unsavoury characters and unpleasant people—
§ Mr. Sedgemore
I am a barrister, too.
She has also worked as a secretary and assistant to a number of directors of large companies in this country, so she is not taken aback by the business ethic. Even so, she was shaken when, last Friday evening, she received a telephone call from Mr. "Tiny" Rowland of Lonrho in which he threatened to do all he could to "get" or "do" me because of what I had said about Lonrho the previous day in Parliament in the Standing Committee considering the Companies (No. 2) Bill [Lords] during which I moved New Clause 17, which was designed to tighten up the law on the disclosure of financial and beneficial interests by directors to their workers, shareholders and other board members.
Yes, I will repeat that, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Mr. Rowland threatened that he would do all he could to "get" me or "do" me because he objected to what I said in Parliament. The sequence of events is that on Thursday 29th July I moved New Clause 17 in Standing Committee C considering the Companies (No. 2157 2) Bill [Lords]. At 10 o'clock the following evening the telephone rang at my home at Studley Road when I was out. Within two hours of that telephone call my wife made extensive notes, which I now use for the purpose of this debate, concerning the contents of that telephone call.
The speaker first refused to give his name and said that it was urgent that he speak to me because he was going to Ghana or Pakistan very quickly. My wife said that I would not be back until 12 o'clock or 1 o'clock. The speaker still refused to give his name and my wife asked him whether he was a member of the National Front—we have been receiving anonymous telephone calls. To that inquiry the speaker replied "Indeed, no, I abhor them". Then my wife asked, "What is it you want to say?" Eventually the person said that he was "Rowland of Lonrho"—just like that. He did not say that he was Mr. Rowland of Lonrho, but just "Rowland of Lonrho", in the way one might say "I am the Empress of India". He then said that he would seek to change the law of privilege —and that is his right if he wishes to do so—because of what I had said in Committee the previous day.
The caller went on to say that he would also sue me because of what I had said in Committee the previous day. Not content with that, he went on to say that he would do all he could to "get" me or "do" me, because of what I had said the previous day. So that there should be no mistake about what he was saying during the course of the conversation he repeated that phrase about "getting" or "doing" me.
I asked my wife whether there was any question of this remark about "getting" or "doing" me relating to what he had said earlier about seeking to take legal action and suing me in the courts. She said unequivocally "No". She understood the way in which Mr. Rowland was using language and that what he was saying was that he would do all in his power to seek to ruin me and he would not be very fussy about the methods he used. In fact she went on to say that even as he spoke on the telephone she wondered whether he meant that he would seek to "get" or "do" me politically or whether she, personally, 2158 and my 10-year-old son, Richard, would be involved. She stressed that Mr. Rowland was perfectly polite throughout the whole conversation, but his meaning was very clear.
§ Mr. Sedgemore
It could only have been tape-recorded by Mr. Rowland himself. My wife is not in the habit of tape-recording telephone conversations.
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)
In the debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill this morning, this very question arose in the presence of the right hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann), who is a director of Lonrho. He responded to the outline of my hon. Friend's experiences, which I gave, not by saying that in the circumstances he would investigate the matter, but by simply saying that he did not think that Tiny was that sort of chap. The Lonhro report clearly demonstrates that Tiny is very much that sort of chap.
§ Mr. Sedgemore
I was coming to that point. I take this matter fairly seriously, because on Monday 2nd August I telephoned the office of Lonrho. I said who I was, and referred to the conversations of the previous Friday evening. I was told that Mr. Rowland was not in because he had gone to Ghana and would not be back until some time today.
I discussed this matter with the Clerk of the Committee of Privileges. I do not like resorting to the Committee of Privileges because it seems to me that it is a cumbersome mechanism that should not be used lightly. It is also a mechanism that does not always operate according to the laws of natural justice, and even Mr. Rowland deserves those laws. I did write him a letter dated Monday 2nd August, a copy of which I have here with me. I shall not disclose all its contents, but at the end of it I said that I would reserve my position and would not raise the matter as an issue of privilege unless Mr. Rowland carried out his threats. Then I was free to make it a matter of privilege.
The right hon. Member for Taunton said in the House this morning that he did not think that Mr. Rowland was the 2159 sort of man who could make this kind of statement. It is surprising that he should seek to comment on an issue without trying to check the facts first. According to the Lonrho Report, on 5th May 1973 Mr. Angus Ogilvy records a telephone conversation he had with Mr. Rowland in which he said that Mr. Rowland said:You have let me down. I will absolutely crucify you.Then he put the phone down. Threats also were uttered by Mr. Heyman, QC, a Department of Trade inspector. On page 655 of the Lonrho Report Mr. Rowland is reported as saying to Mr. Heyman:But, by God, it has got one thing, and that is it has got a protector, and that is me. In other words, anybody who wants to kill that company has got to have a sub-machine gun, mortars, guns, all sorts of ammunition, because I am going to protect it to the bitter end. Believe me, Mr. Heyman, in me you have got somebody you have got to fight when it comes to Lonrho.The threats have continued subsequent to the publication of that report. The inspectors have been threatened and villified in a number of ways. The House should consider whether attempts to block free speech should be allowed before we rise for the Summer Recess.
There are some people who believe that with money comes power, and with a combination of money and power they can do anything. They believe that they stand above and beyond the law, and above and beyond Parliament and free speech. I do not believe that the House believes that this is right. I have no objection to eccentrics. The whole world loves an eccentric. But I must object most strongly to eccentrics who use other people's money and other people's wives for their immoral purposes.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)
Despite the massive temptation I will refrain from following the hon. Member down the paths which he has trodden. I am not clear whether he is insisting that the House should not adjourn because of the discomfiture caused to himself, or because of the incident involving his wife, which is quite a different matter.
I wish to raise a different issue. The Leader of the House will be relieved to know that I intend to be brief. That is the good news. Now he must brace himself for the bad news. The right hon. 2160 Member has been a very disappointing Leader of the House, as the entire House knows. He has let the House down with far too much unsatisfactory legislation—
§ Mr. Dykes
I think that before the House adjourns there is a particular subject which should be considered, As I said, the Leader of the House has been thoroughly unsatisfactory because he has been a rather over-ruthless manager of the Government's business, instead of being a Leader of the House in the fullest sense, as other Leaders have been, irrespective of party.
The right hon. Gentleman could make amends to a certain extent at the end of this elongated and exhausting Session by agreeing to consider a particular Act of Parliament. I realise that this is rather unusual. It is more usual for Leaders of the House to be asked to consider Bills, but from time to time Acts of Parliament, having been passed and having received Royal Assent, should be reconsidered and reappraised.
I refer to the Heavy Commercial Vehicles Act 1973. I attempted to raise this matter last night on the Consolidated Fund Bill but I was prevented from doing so by a procedural quirk—a change in the enumeration of speakers in the early hours of this morning. Despite the fact that I was here all night, I was unable to raise the issue. The Heavy Commercial Vehicles Act received the Royal Assent in July 1973, and it is very important that we should have a reappraisal of it before we adjourn for the Summer Recess. If the Leader of the House will not agree to doing this he must give a good reason to justify his refusal. Other Acts of Parliament have been reappraised after the legislation was enacted—notably the Abortion Act.
The Heavy Commercial Vehicles Act has a particularly unusual characteristic. Although it was enacted in the summer of 1973 it does have a preparatory stage to it leading up to 1st January 1977 when 2161 the draft traffic orders under the Act are to be laid by the local authorities acting as traffic management authorities up and down the country.
This matter should be considered by the House before we adjourn for the recess. I hope that the Leader of the House will bear in mind the continuing pressure which comes not only from what are often called in a semi-cynical fashion the environmental lobbies in general but from any other interests and ordinary citizens that this matter should be considered now.
Let me turn to the preparatory steps now being taken by the local authorities. Clearly there is ample scope in the ways in which individual authorities handle these matters and determine how to introduce the new zones and the street controls for heavy commercial vehicles for there to be enormous variations of approach. Successive Ministers have produced a variety of reports about how things are going. This has caused confusion. At one stage the Road Haulage Association was depressed because it thought that the Government would enjoin the local authorities to be very radical. That emotion was replaced by a resurgence of optimism by road hauliers that perhaps the proposals would be mild and that it would be necessary for them to conform only to a moderate set of restrictions on individual roads.
There have been variations in the impressions received by the trade associations, own-account operators, the environmental protection societies, the National Council for the Preservation of Rural England and individual citizens, of what Ministers have said. I refrain from quoting some of the Questions and Answers from both sides of the House. The Act received all-party support, and the support of the Government of the day. We have tried to get more information from the Government. They have not tried deliberately to obscure the situation but they have not been explicit enough about what is going on.
The last detailed information received was as far back as May 1975 shortly after the conference of interested parties. The Government then gave a fairly lukewarm report about how the preparations were proceeding for limiting the movement and parking of heavy lorries in 2162 different parts of the country, including Greater London, which has slightly different management powers.
There is an overwhelming case for having this subject considered before the House adjourns. Through various Ministers the Government have referred to the economic difficulties and the financial pressures facing the central Exchequer and local authorities. But none of that can be any excuse for the Executive saying that the sensible control of lorries embodied in proposals originally submitted by the local authorities must now be turned down. It is no good the Government saying that the money is not available or that the extra restrictions are unacceptable because they will add to distribution costs.
There is extensive knowledge among drivers, the private road haulage firms. British Road Services and the National Freight Corporation about the roads. It is therefore possible to build up rationally by 1977 the draft orders imposing positive restrictions without exacerbating our economic difficulties. The amount of money needed for road signs is far less than many people think, provided we do not go in for the elaborate electrically-lit signs. The larger local authorities, which are traffic controllers, have a stock of interdiction or limitation signs for lorries. Many local authorities have acted in advance of the Act and have brought in their own local restriction schemes. The hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) might acknowledge that in respect of one local authority in London.
A great deal could be done, and the economic crisis cannot be used as an excuse for fighting off the justifiable pressures imposed by the Act to secure a better and more civilised environment for the British people in respect of these juggernauts which remain a problem to be dealt with by Executive action. The Government must make sure that the reserve powers of the Secretary of State are used where necessary, and that the local authorities know that they will be used if they do not get on with the work. Some authorities are undoubtedly backsliding. I will not name them. There must be proper co-ordination between local authorities to avoid inconsistency in the controls.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, Central)
I am sorry that Mr. Speaker did not select the amendments tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) and myself. My hon. Friend was seeking to delay the Adjournment for a week until next Friday, and I was seeking to knock three weeks off the recess so that we should come back on 20th September. Of course, my hon. Friend's amendment would have meant that we missed the grouse shooting on the 12th, but we all have to make sacrifices.
I have always opposed long Summer Recesses because they give an enormous advantage to the executive branch of Government, and I am against all executive branches of Government, whichever Government happen to be in power. Therefore, the shorter the recess the better for the health of parliamentary democracy.
I was glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, West (Mr. Sedgemore) managed to speak before I did because he touched on a very relevant point which we must debate repeatedly in this House in the run-up to the next General Election, because that is what elections are all about. If there is one thing which will let our people understand British politics. it is the Lonrho report. My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley initiated a debate this morning immediately after my debate on alleged social security abuses.
In the course of the last few weeks there has been a mounting crescendo of charges about the abuse of unemployment benefit, of supplementary benefit and of the social service benefits. These charges have been levelled principally by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) who did not come to the House this morning for my debate even though he knew that it was to take place. The hon. Gentleman, who is in the Chamber now, chooses to make his allegations outside the House.
§ Mr. Iain Sproat (Aberdeen, South)
I had my own Adjournment debate for later in the night and I scratched it in order to take part in the hon. Gentleman's debate. Owing to various misunderstandings and chopping and changing, I understood at about 6 o'clock this morning that we were not going to have his debate. I take the blame, but other hon. Members know that there was 2164 a great deal of misunderstanding. I am deeply sorry that I did not have the chance to refute the charges made by the hon. Gentleman. He may be assured that I will do so.
§ Mr. Hamilton
It will not be before time. The hon. Gentleman has been making allegations about abuses in the social services but has not given one word of evidence or proof. The Minister wrote to him on 14th July, but there has not been a single letter from the hon. Gentleman to the Ministry to substantiate the charges that he has been making outside.
That campaign contrasts strangely with the complete lack of activity of hon. Members opposite on the cesspit of Lonrho. The position was made much worse this morning when we had taking part in the debate one of the well-paid directors of Lonrho, the right hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann), who is also Chairman of the Tory Party 1922 Committee—the head boy of the Tory Party in this House, the fellow they all look up to for high moral standards.
The right hon. Gentleman sought to deck out this cesspit with roses and perfume. There was not a word of contrition or apology. On the contrary, he said that it was a damn good company and that he was proud to be associated with it. The right hon. Gentleman was put in charge of a committee set up by the company to look into the behaviour of Mr. Duncan Sandys. The Leader of the House knows who he is. He was elevated to the House of Lords, so he must be a good 'un.
§ Mr. Hamilton
He was not appointed by the same guy, nor was Brayley tarred with the same brush. I invite the hon. Member for Thanet, East (Mr. Aitken) to read the record of Duncan Sandys and then try to defend the system which creates that kind of jungle.
Duncan Sandys sought to salt away £330,000 in tax havens, some in Jersey and some in the Cayman Islands. The right hon. Member for Taunton said of him:There has been absolutely no impropriety of any sort on the part of Mr. Sandys. It is clear that he has acted in a straightforward manner throughout.2165 They are a bunch of crooks who run Lonrho and every one of them ought to be in Brixton Prison. Yet here they are saying what a wonderful contribution the company has made to our export record. Lonrho has been breaking sanctions against Rhodesia for years and is in cahoots with the South African Government. Virtually all its business is done in that part of the world.
It is the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House—and I know that he will not shirk it—to see that we come back early, if only in order to have a series of debates in depth and at length on this report and how it compares with the evidence that, by that time, the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South will have presented to the DHSS on the folks who are unemployed having holidays in Spain. The hon. Member will be able to give us names and addresses and chapter and verse in the same way that names and addresses and facts and figures are given in the Lonrho Report at the other end of the social scale. Then we shall be able to adjust the justness of our society.
It would be appropriate to link the debates on the Lonrho report with the Houghton Report on public funds for political parties which should be issued by September. The Conservatives say that they are against the provision of public funds for political parties, but, by heavens, if a scheme is introduced they will take every penny they can get. I have seen it before. The Conservatives object in principle but when a plan is implemented they take every penny they can get.
I understand their taking their present view, particularly in the light of an article that I read by chance in today'sWestern Morning News. Under the heading "Firms Fund the Tories", the City Editor, Mr. Michael Smith, writes:Despite last year's severe economic recession, big business in the United Kingdom dipped into its pocket to donate over £1.2 million to the Tory Party and its allies. The bulk of the f12 million classified as political donations under company disclosure regulations, went direct to the Conservative Party which collected £591,000.This is a surprisingly high figure for a non-election year though in 1974 when two general elections were held, companies donated a colossal £1.6 million to Tory Party funds alone. Biggest subscribers to the Conservatives last year were bread giant Rank Hovis McDougall 2166 and electrical combine GEC, who both gave £25,000.Gifts of £20,000 were given by well-known names like Beecham, Rank Organisation, GKN and sugar giant Tate and Lyle.There is no mention of Lonrho yet. Maybe its money gets there by other means, perhaps through the Cayman Islands or the Channel Islands or maybe through the House of Lords.
§ Mr. Hamilton
The article goes on:Sums totalling almost £112,000 were also donated to the Economic League which operates a 'black list' of trades union activists. Biggest donations were provided by the 'big four' banks, oil giant Shell and the State-owned British Leyland.I want the Leader of the House to take up this matter with British Leyland. We are not prepared to provide hundreds of millions of pounds for a company which ladles out cash to the Tory Party. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) hopes to mention this.
In view of the short article on the front page of theSunday Times Business Review calledA tangled tale of Scottish oildealing with the Cromarty Petroleum Order Confirmation Bill, which is now being blocked by some of my hon. Friends, including my hon. Friend the Member for Perry Barr, because they have certain suspicions that something funny is going on, I need not enlarge on that matter. However, no one should be surprised that the eyebrows of my hon. Friends are raised a little when they try to work out the connection between North Sea oil off Scotland, an unknown cancer research outfit in Switzerland registered as a charity which owns tankers flying the Liberian flag, and an English absentee landowner living in Kent who owns this land in Cromarty Firth, and wants to make a quick bob or two by selling to the cancer research fellow who wishes to build an oil refinery. It is an interesting story and we want to know the facts. They are not available in the Library. My hon. Friend has been searching all night for them and the report is not there.
§ Mr. Fairbairn
If the hon. Gentleman had been here during the debate he would have appreciated that the gentleman to whom he refers as the absentee landlord in England is resisting the acquisition by the company, not aiding it.
§ Mr. Hamilton
He is resisting it because he wants a damn sight bigger figure. The figure offered is £77,000 and the fellow wants £1 million. That is what the absentee philanthropist wants. He wants not only to sell the land, but to have a share in the spoils.
§ Mr. Lawrence
Whilst the hon. Gentleman is dilating on the role of philanthropy and attacking the Conservative Party for receiving £1.6 million from industry, will he explain to the House what justification there was for giving £10 million of the taxpayers' money back to the trade unions in 1974?
§ Mr. Hamilton
It was their own money which had been taken away from them by the legislation passed by the Tory Government. That is the simple answer.
My right hon. Friend has stated that we are to have a Bill on something called devolution in the next Session and that he is anxious not to use the guillotine. I am sorry that he is engaged in other matters, but he can give himself a 50–50 chance of avoiding the use of the guillotine on that Bill by allowing a bit of extra time. That is why I suggest that we start with it on 20th September or some such date.
I give my right hon. Friend a friendly warning. We are all comrades together. I suggest that he may just scrape through with a Second Reading debate on that Bill but his troubles will only then begin. There is no conceivable chance of passing any form of guillotine motion. My friendly warning is that if he tries to introduce it, I for one will vote against it. I shall not abstain. It just needs three or four of his hon. Friends, quite apart from his enemies, to ensure that he will get no guillotine motion. It has been mooted around by some evil-minded people that the Prime Minister is threatening a dissolution and an election in that event. My political career is sufficiently 2168 far advanced for me not to care too much about that.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Michael Foot)
I do not want to abbreviate my hon. Friend's speech in any way, because that would be a disadvantage to the rest of us. I assure him that the Prime Minister is not proposing to call a General Election before the recess. I hope that that assurance will curtail that part of my hon. Friend's speech.
§ Mr. Hamilton
I was on a different point. I had gone beyond that point. I was on the point where the guillotine motion, having been defeated, or maybe the Second Reading having been defeated, the Prime Minister comes along and says "Sorry, fellows. If that happens, we shall have a General Election". That would have no influence whatever on me because it does not matter very much to me whether I win or lose the next election. I speak only for myself in saying that that threat will have no influence whatever on me.
That is a powerful reason why my right hon. Friend should reconsider the date of recall. If he gave us an extra few days, he might conceivably avoid introducing the guillotine, although I do not suppose that he will get the Bill through anyhow.
§ 5.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Reginald Eyre (Birmingham, Hall Green)
In addition to the important points which have been made by my hon. Friends the Members for Wallasey (Mrs. Chalker) and Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes), before the House adjourns there is urgent need for a full Government statement and for time to be allocated for questioning on a subject of tremendous consequence to many of our towns and cities which have large immigrant populations.
Before I refer to a Government-inspired newspaper report which appeared this morning. I should explain to the House that I raised these matters with the Prime Minister in a letter dated 11th June. In the letter I pointed out:In addition to a limited number of London Metropolitan Boroughs which have substantial immigrant populations, almost the whole of the post-1950 immigrant population is living in the West Midlands, Lancashire, Yorkshire and the East Midlands. Immigrant settlements of over 20,000 or more than 10 per cent, of the total population are to be 2169 found in Birmingham, Leicester, Bradford, Manchester, Wolverhampton, Coventry, Leeds, Nottingham, Sandwell, Walsall, Huddersfield, Luton, Sheffield, Derby and Bolton.The immigrant populations are settled mainly in the inner, crowded areas of these industrial towns and cities. Many recent reports have illustrated the appalling difficulty of problems affecting these run-down inner areas, including those of education, housing, social stress and unemployment. In these same areas the Government is now actually limiting resources available to local government to provide the basic essential services.In my letter I pointed out:The Home Secretary's speech of 24th May setting out Government policy on immigration makes clear that about 60,000 immigrants will be admitted into Britain during the next 12 months and further that about this number of immigrants will be admitted in each of the following two years.This means that the country will be receiving a population equivalent to a city the size of Worcester every year. We can all imagine the strains and stresses which are bound to follow from arrivals in that range of numbers.
I went on to emphasise a vital point to the Prime Minister:It is clear that nearly every one of these immigrants will settle permanently in these already established and crowded immigrant reception areas to which I have referred. Furthermore, in the same speech, the Home Secretary declared that no more resources would be made available to the local authorities bearing these responsibilities. As one example of the problems in these areas"—which I quoted—it must be borne in mind that Birmingham is now receiving more than 1,200 new immigrant schoolchildren every year and this is evidence of only a part of the extra immigrant demand which is made upon resources in the city with regard to education, housing and social services.I emphasised to the Prime Minister:Good race relations in these immigrant reception areas require confidence on the part of all the people living there that decent conditions will be established and maintained. That is going to need a lot of work and a lot of money.Every Member in this House who is acquainted with these areas knows that is true. We face enormous problems, and to deal with them harmoniously and successfully a lot of work is outstanding and a lot of resources must be allocated to this purpose.Fears of growing unemployment, especially amongst the young, must be sensitively taken into account in these industrial areas… 2170 Confidence in the future and in the country's ability to succeed in overcoming the problems in the reception areas is being severely questioned. That is one of the causes of tensions. The Government cannot stand aside from these anxieties which are shared by responsible elements in all the families living in these crowded areas.I urged upon the Prime Minister:The Government should at once begin a process of urgent consultation with local authorities in these major immigrant reception areas to identify the range of stresses in housing, education and other essential services. The local people in each area—including, of course, all immigrant communities—should be consulted with regard to these problems and the resources required for successfully coping with them.I ended by saying that, in my view,the Government faces a stark choice. It must either properly determine and make available increased resources to match the growing needs in the immigrant reception areas directly resulting from the Government's immigration policy. Or the Government must forthwith drastically review its immigration policy.I received a reply from the Prime Minister on 19th July. In this letter he made it quite clearthat there can be no going back on the Government's commitment to admit into this country the limited categories of further immigrants which were described by the Home Secretary in his speech … in the House on 24th May.The Prime Minister went on to say that he wasfully aware of the local problems"—to which I had referred—and I certainly did not underestimate their severity.The right hon. Gentleman also referred to the Government's White Paper on Racial Discrimination, which was published last September and said:the present strengthening of the law on discrimination will need to be supplemented by a more comprehensive strategy for dealing with the related problems of disadvantage. But the White Paper recognised that such a strategy had major public expenditure implications, and that remains the situation.I do not think that at that stage anybody could say that was particularly helpful with regard to the problems in these crowded areas. The Prime Minister went on:In the meantime, it is of course open to local authorites to discuss with the Government Departments mainly concerned with the provision of specific services ways in which the main programmes of Government might need to be adapted from time to time to meet the particular needs of Commonwealth immi- 2171 grants. It is also open to local authorities. under Section 11 of the Local Government Act 1966, to claim reimbursement of 75 per cent. of expenditure incurred in meeting the cost of additional staff—such as teachers—recruited specifically to meet these needs; and the total amount of local authority expendture currently being grant-aided in this way is about £20 million a year.Before I speak in too contemptuous terms of the meanness of that figure of £20 million a year devoted by the Government to what are probably the most serious social problems facing them, I point out that the Government's overseas aid alone amounts to more than £280 million a year—more than 14 times as much as the sum referred to by the Prime Minister.
It should also be noted that Government expenditure on, for example, education and libraries, to choose but one of the major items, is running at a rate of more than £5,292 million for 1975–76. Hon. Members get some idea of the tiny scale of the financial obligation assumed by the Government to the immigrant reception areas when they compare the £20 million to which the Prime Minister referred with the £5,292 million on one of the major items of Government expenditure.
Since the Prime Minister's letter, what has happened to affect the situation? First, the Government have tightened their grip on local authority spending by may of cash limits. They have also announced a whole list of expenditure cuts affecting with special severity the industrial towns and cities where immigrants have settled. I refer particularly to hospital programmes and to cuts in housing programmes which have severe consequences by way of limitation on the availability of mortgages through local authorities to people seeking to buy houses in the inner and older areas of our large towns and cities.
Sadly, we all know that unemployment figures have worsened in these areas. What causes particular concern in immigrant reception areas is the rise in the numbers of young people who have no jobs and little hope of jobs for some time to come.
The Government's further imposition of increased national insurance charges has undoubtedly made the unemployment situation in these industrial areas worse. Yesterday. the Secretary of State for the 2172 Environment made it clear that further substantial cuts in local authority expenditure will have to be made.
Can it be right or fair in these circumstances for the arrival of large numbers of extra immigrants in these areas and, as a direct consequence, to extend the area of deprivation in our towns and cities? We already have enormous responsibilities in these areas and terrible problems to face. It cannot be right or fair to anybody living in those areas, from whatever family they may come, to have them living in areas where there is a continued worsening of the situation.
When the Home Secretary set out his immigration policy on 24th May he said that it could be achieved "given sensible planning". I suggest that no one could possibly say that there is evidence of sensible planning in what is going on in these areas which have such serious problems.
This morning there was what I take to be a Government-inspired leak reported in theDaily Telegraph. Briefly, it said:As a variant on this approach he—the Prime Minister—is likely soon to set up, under a senior Cabinet Minister, a committee of Junior Ministers to look at the problem of the inner cities. But any extra funds for helping with these areas, which usually contain concentrations of immigrants. will have to be found from other departmental programmes rather than being an addition to public spending.If we are to avoid the impression that that leak is entirely cosmetic and are to assume that there is anything genuine about it, surely the Leader of the House will confirm that a statement will be made tomorrow and that details of the committee will be supplied. Which senior Cabinet Minister will be the chairman? Who are the Ministers concerned and what is the range of responsibilities? Who will be considering these matters? What consultations with local authorities will take place? What consultations will take place with all the people living in these densely crowded inner areas of cities, whose lives are so seriously affected by this situation? These very important questions will have to be answered.
If these Ministers begin to see the development of unanswerable problems, will they be entitled, in the interests of every family that now makes its home 2173 in these crowded areas, to review the immigration laws? It cannot be right that the Government should go on in this way. It cannot be right for the Government to impose extra burdens upon these areas and to create extra problems when decent standards cannot now be maintained under the present allocation of Government resources.
I ask the Leader of the House to take this matter very seriously. It is of great concern to people in these areas. I hope that he will confirm that a full statement will be made by the Government before the House rises for the recess.
§ 5.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Ioan Evans (Aberdare)
This has been a strenuous Session. In some senses, most hon. Members will be anxiously looking forward to the recess. I have considerable sympathy with the desire of my hon. Friends the Members for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) and for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) to shorten the recess. As I have said in a previous debate about an adjournment, I cannot see why a modern parliamentary system should continue on the basis of meeting at 2.30 p.m. and going on until perhaps 2.30 a.m. the following day. That is a parliamentary system for another age. The House of Commons should no longer cater for those Members who are of the legal profession or those in the City who are otherwise occupied in the mornings, and we should not go on until the early hours, as we did this morning.
§ Mr. Max Madden (Sowerby)
Does my hon. Friend agree that while our hours are determined largely by part-time Members, the recesses are organised around the farming year and that it is decided that we should go into a long recess for harvesting reasons? Now that farming interests are not represented in the House to the extent that they once were, does my hon. Friend agree that there is an excellent case for revising the recesses and their duration to fit modern circumstances and the requirements of the majority of Members?
§ Mr. Evans
My hon. Friend very often says "Nonsense".
However, we should be looking at the question of the times at which Parliament meets. We had an important subject debated at eight o'clock this morning—Lonrho. That is a vital subject, yet it was debated at the twentieth hour of the House meeting. We met for 21 hours yesterday. We should bring a bit of sanity into this matter.
I believe that my right hon. Friend on the Front Bench will be a good Leader of the House. He might accidentally find that he has a little more time on his hands in the next Session than he expects. If that proves to be so, I hope that we shall concern ourselves not only with reforming the House of Lords but, before that, reforming the House of Commons, because a great deal of reform is required.
Before going into the recess one of the topics that we should be discussing is the decision made yesterday by the National Economic Development Council, which endorsed a growth projection by the Chancellor of the Exchequer involving an average output growth rate of 8 per cent. between 1975 and 1979. There has been agreement between the CBI, the TUC and the Government on a major policy. That could well have been the basis of a debate here—rather than the artificial debate that we had with the Opposition earlier this week, which was an absolute non-event. Here we have a dramatic development. We should be looking at the Government's industrial strategy, which could well be toughened up a little.
I should like to refer particularly to the question of selective import controls. If the TUC, the CBI and the Government are to achieve an output growth rate of 8 per cent., we must look at some of our industries. Earlier this week I tabled a series of Questions to the Secretaries of State for Trade, Industry and Employment. I have not been able to formulate the action required, but I take as an example the electronics industry.
In recent years, under Governments of both major parties, there have been very small imports of electronic goods. However, now 93 per cent. of radios in Britain 2175 are imported, and 100 per cent. of cassette radios are imported. It is estimated that over 60 per cent. of the unit audio equipment in this country is imported. This is causing me deep anxiety.
My constituency has a coal-mining industry that is passing through a prosperous phase, which may well continue, but because there has been a cutback in that industry in past years, there are two important electronics industries there. One of them is involved in manufacturing colour television sets, and the other is providing components for the colour television industry. At present, imports of colour television sets have penetrated only to about 13 per cent. of the market, but we see external forces operating to kill these industries here. Fair competition is not operating.
I know that the Government are anxious to try to maintain free trade. However, we cannot approach this problem as though it were a game of cricket or tiddly-winks. In a world economic recession, we are in an all-in wrestling match with other countries. We must take action about the problems facing us.
Earlier in the Session I sought to raise, under Standing Order No. 9, the problem of Southern Africa, which was highlighted by the tragedy at Soweto, where children and students were attacked. It is sad that we have not had time to debate Southern Africa. The United Nations has debated it. Yesterday there was a repetition of the tragedy, when black children of Soweto, whose crime was that they wanted to be taught in English and not in Afrikaans, which is the language of the apartheid system, were again shot down in the street.
On a major issue such as that it is important that the voice of this House should be heard with the voices of the assemblies of the world. We have not had a real opportunity to discuss that issue, although there has been, unfortunately, a close affinity between this country and South Africa, which continues in some ways even to this day. But the voice of this House on that issue is not heard. I am sure that there are hon. Members on both sides of the House who would condemn the apartheid system in South Africa and condemn this latest expression of it. It is important that we should debate that subject.
2176 I was pleased with the Leader of the House when earlier today he held out the hope that, as a House, we might return to the Lonrho Report. It is not so very far away from the question of Southern Africa. It is certainly close to the question of Rhodesia. "Lonrho" is an abbreviation of the London Rhodesia Company. The leader of the House said that we might have a debate on that subject in the overspill period. In the short debate on Lonrho this morning a request was made for more time for a debate, and I hope that that request will be acceded to. I would welcome the opportunity to come back a few days earlier to take part in a debate on that subject. On the first day of our return we are to talk about the Highway Code. The Lonrho Report is surely of greater importance.
At various times books have been published which have had a major effect on people's thinking. In the Labour movement there was Nye Bevan's book "In Place of Fear". George Orwell's book "The Road to Wigan Pier" and others of his books had a big impact on our thinking. There was also Professor Galbraith's "The Affluent Society". But this tremendous publication, the Lonrho Report, is not available to the general public because it costs more than £13. Perhaps the Leader of the House will suggest to the Department of Trade the publication of a popular, paper-back edition. The Lonrho Report reads like an Agatha Christie novel; it is good reading.
The former Conservative Prime Minister was justified in talking about "the unacceptable face of capitalism". My hon. Friend the Member for Luton, West (Mr. Sedgemore) said that the Lonrho organisation was getting in touch with him to try to prevent him from participating in the House in discussion of the Lonrho Report. The former Leader of the Opposition used the expression "the unacceptable face of capitalism", yet the Chairman of the 1922 Committee is a Lonrho director. Perhaps such expressions are no longer acceptable to the Conservative Party and that is why there has been a change of leadership. That might be one of the ramifications of the Lonrho Report.
In recent days there has been an attack on the Welfare State. We hear that the Government have taken action against retired field marshals, company directors 2177 and bank managers who, under the previous Conservative Government, could register for and receive unemployment benefit. Nothing was said by the Conservative Party about that. But now there is tremendous anxiety about people who are on holiday in Spain drawing unemployment benefit. That is the allegation, although no proof has been produced.
We should have a major debate on the future of the Welfare State. It would give the Leader of the Opposition the opportunity to address the House. She goes off to America and Bonn making speeches about the Soviet Union and saying that it is a land-locked country—whereas it has the largest coastline of any country—but she seldom addresses the House. We have not heard the Leader of the Opposition in the House since 9th June. She is supposed to be a prospective Prime Minister. If an accident happened and the Tories won the next election she could become Prime Minister. It is imperative that the Leader of the Opposition should make speeches in the House, not in New York and Bonn, or in Australia and New Zealand. It is impossible to get further away than that from the House.
We may have earned the recess, but I believe that the procedures of the House should be changed. It would be better to have an occasional short recess to enable us to meet our constituents, recharge our batteries and discover what our constituents are worried about, rather than for us to be confined to this monastic existence, often until the early hours of the morning, and then to have a long recess. I hope that the Leader of the House will bring forward proposals for organising our recesses more effectively and more efficiently.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Hicks (Bodmin)
Before the House rises for the Summer Recess, we should give further consideration to the problem of unemployment, especially in the light of the recent statements made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Employment. Since the Chancellor's statement, in which he announced the projected cuts in the level of public expenditure envisaged for 1977–78, the House has given insufficient attention to the real implications those cuts can have on certain sectors of indus- 2178 try and commerce and within certain regions.
There are now almost 1½ million people unemployed—6.3 per cent. of the total registered work force, All of us in the House, on whichever side we sit and whichever party we reflect, will agree that this is a waste of national resources. The position will probably get worse before it gets better. I say that in spite of the report earlier this week which suggested that there would be increased activity in the economy.
In his statement the Chancellor acknowledge that, as a direct consequence of his actions, a further 60,000 people are likely to be out of work, of which 10,000 might be directly attributed to his decision to increase the employers' national insurance contribution.
Contained within this national unemployment figure is the tragic sector of youth unemployment. That aspect is most worrying because nothing can be more depressing for the school leaver at the age of 16, or the person leaving technical college at 18 or 19, than to have to face the prospect of having no job and no career structure before him. The 16 to 28 range is a crucial age group. Nothing could be worse for the future productive output of the country and the whole fabric of our social structure than for these young people to be allowed to remain out of work for too long.
I was interested in the remarks made by the Secretary of State for Employment on the subject of encouraging early retirement. I wish that the opportunity had existed then for further questioning and subsequent debate. The feasibility of a scheme which enables employees approaching pensionable age voluntarily to step down to make way for unemployed young people is worthy of further consideration.
Last weekend a young trained schoolteacher came to see me. The irony of his situation was that he completed his three-year teacher training course last July, and fixed himself up with his first teaching appointment, but because he did better in his exams than even he expected he was invited to stay on to undertake a Bachelor of Education year. That man now has a further qualification but, regrettably, no job Therefore, I hope that at an early stage we shall see some 2179 indication of the Government proposals for voluntary retirement, particularly for teachers.
The third point I wish to raise concerns the unemployment situation in the various regions. About five-sixths of the constituency of Bodmin is within a development area and the remaining one-sixth falls within the Plymouth intermediate area, which is also an assisted area. Almost 10 per cent. of the work force in the South-West assisted area is currently unemployed. I remember the outburst of horror and derision from the Labour Benches in 1972 when the national unemployment figure exceeded a million—for the first time, I think I am right in saying, since the war. The situation is now worse in the South-West assisted area, not only in absolute terms but relative to the country as a whole. Whereas in earlier years the unemployment rate was 4 per cent., it is now much higher. It is an umbrella figure with significant local variations, and indeed in parts of my constituency the unemployment figure exceeds 14 per cent.
I wish to impress on the Leader of the House, who has first-hand knowledge of the area to which I refer because his family home is within my constituency, that our area differs from all other development areas in that it is not a long-established industrial region, or a region in which traditional industries have run down and need to be rejuvenated or replaced. Our economy is based on the primary activities such as agriculture, horticulture, fishing, mining and quarrying, and tourism in the area is also important. There are also scattered and diversified light industries based in our numerous market towns.
The great majority of the region's economic activities are operated by small business units. They are very much the key to the success or failure of the level of economic activity in the South-West region. There is no doubt that in the past two years or so they have taken a hammering in many ways. In part, this reflects the external economic circumstances, but part of the responsibility must be laid at the door of the Labour Government.
Whatever the reasons, the present position is far from satisfactory. We have a high level of unemployment, and also the self-employed person has suffered. When 2180 I remind the House that 20 per cent. of the work force of the Bodmin constituency is self-employed, the House will realise the extent of the dependence of the local economy on such people. Therefore, I believe that further consideration should be given to the effects of the public expenditure package recently announced and the recent statement by the Secretary of State for Employment as it affects the assisted areas of the South-West.
Unfortunately, the precedents are not very encouraging. Repeatedly, public expenditure policies are outlined by the Government, but no sooner have they been presented to the House by the Chancellor of the Exchequer than the Secretary of State for Employment issues a circular or makes a further statement instructing local authorities to spend money on schemes such as job creation. In other words, on the one hand local authorities are told to cut priority projects, such as schools and health centres or housing programmes, which means a further contraction of the building and construction industry, and yet at the same time to undertake projects of a lower priority as part of a job creation programme.
I wish particularly to mention the subject of housing because the South-West, owing to its lack of a wide industrial base, relies heavily on the building and construction industries. In response to the Chancellor's recent statement, local authorities in my constituency have already received instructions from the Department of the Environment to reduce their housing programmes. The impact of these decisions will have an adverse effect on the economy of the area which I represent and, furthermore, the implications in social terms in further reducing opportunities for people to be satisfactorily housed are considerable.
Rural areas will suffer as a consequence of the Chancellor's statement. In making that statement the right hon. Gentleman said that areas of housing stress in large conurbations would receive preferential treatment. That situation has already occurred in respect of capital expenditure on new sewerage schemes in rural areas but I suggest that we have an equally serious housing problem in terms of numbers and standards of existing premises. When seen on paper by officials in Whitehall, the numbers may look far smaller than those in urban areas but expressed as a percentage and in terms of absolute need 2181 I believe that our requirements are no less important. That is why I believe that further consideration should be given to these matters before we rise.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)
I believe that the House should not adjourn before we have discussed some urgent matters. I am sorry that my amendment was not called, because it would have kept the House here until Friday 13th August, the day after grouse shooting begins. We might have had the opportunity of passing some legislation while the Tories were out on the grouse moors.
I put forward the serious suggestion that we need more time because, for example, in the past few months we have not discussed the subject of health and safety at work. We discuss such subjects only when major disasters such as Flixborough occur. We should pay due regard to the recent Italian experience. Constant scrutiny of health and safety matters is necessary, and this should not happen only when disasters occur.
I should like to question and debate the annual report of the Chief Inspector of Factories and the work of the Health and Safety Commission. I should like to know what has happened to the regulations on trade union representation which have been promised to us for many months. Representations on the consultative document had to be in by 13th March, yet we still have not had regulations laid before Parliament providing for the appointment of trade union safety representatives to assist in the important matter of maintaining health and safety at work.
On the other hand, the Health and Safety Commission has produced the Operations at Unfenced Machinery (Amendment) Regulations 1976 which have the effect of allowing women access to dangerous machinery. I should have thought that we were concerned about men, too, having access to dangerous machinery and would not deal with the matter on some spurious basis of sex equality or lower standards to allow both sexes to have access to it.
I wonder what priorities the Health and Safety Commission follows. What is it doing about the question of the lifting of heavy weights? A Bill which I brought 2182 forward has been blocked. Every year 50,000 people are injured in this way, involving three or more days off work.
The law on the subject is extremely confusing. Agricultural labourers are allowed to lift up to 180 lbs. Some of us might try in a few days to see how able we are to lift that sort of weight. If an agricultural labourer is injured, he cannot claim breach of statutory duty because the statute lays down an upper limit. There is an upper limit for textile workers of 150 lbs and a lower limit of 125 lbs if the weight is not compact.
The ILO standard is 120 lbs and my Bill suggested 112 lbs. Therefore, the situation is very confusing and it should be clarified.
The other matter that I want to raise concerns asbestos. My hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Madden) is present. His record in this respect is excellent; he has done first-rate work. But what has the committee which was set up done? When the Secretary of State for Employment first referred to the matter, we were promised a statement. It has not been made. We want to know what the committee is doing.
We also wish to examine the question of the effect of working conditions. There is a very good pneumoconiosis scheme for miners, but it has not been extended to foundry workers. Many months ago the branch in my constituency of the foundry workers' union passed a resolution that the pneumoconiosis scheme should be extended to foundry workers. That is the sort of question which should be considered in Parliament.
Another matter which needs to be continually scrutinised concerns the people who consider whether machinery in factories is dangerous, namely, the factory inspectorate. Many months ago there was debate and consultation about the reorganisation of the factory inspectorate. What has happened since? Are local offices being closed?
It was said that about 80 or 90 local offices would be considered for closure. Is it wise to consider reorganisation of that sort when one of the best safeguards of health and safety at work in a factory, office, shop or railway premise is to be able to telephone the factory inspector and know that he will be present in an hour?
2183 That is the sort of important matter which we should discuss. We cannot go blithely along until a disaster occurs. Because of the Italian experience in a high technological nation, where a lethal vapour has been released, questions are being asked in this country. Do not let us wait until there is a recurrence here More Parliament considers the matter. There should be continual scrutiny. Let us not go into recess until we have considered urgent matters of this sort.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Nicholas Fairbairn (Kinross and West Perthshire)
Before the House rises, I should like a representative of the Department of the Environment to make a statement on a matter which seems to raise considerable constitutional issues, although it may appear to be of minor importance, namely, the refusal of members of two Civil Service unions at the Swansea licensing centre to transfer certain motor car numbers.
Let us be clear about the constitutional considerations that this matter raises. If public servants employed for a purpose are to be permitted to say which bits of their work they fancy and approve of and will undertake and which bits they will not undertake, the situation is very serious. During the debates on the Finance Bill the Minister for Transport said:I may say that patriotic civil servants down at Swansea thoroughly resent having to spend their time on this type of work at all and regard it as thoroughly frivolous use of their time."—[Official Report, Standing Committee E, 18th May 1976; c. 106.]One hundred of them are employed to do 50,000 transfers a year, which works out at 250 working days each with two transfers a day. If they do not wish to do the work, they can resign from their employment.
There is a large number of other implications. Hon. Members opposite below the Gangway who no doubt think that this involves a privilege which Tory squires enjoy and nobody else enjoys should consider the figures. Nearly 500,000 people in this country have numbers of their choice. Many of them are Labour voters. Fortunately, I have been given a book which lists them and I looked at it to see how many Socialists were among them.
2184 Hon. Members opposite are interested in the subject of employment in the motor industry. A large number of people have contracted to buy motor cars but cannot obtain them as a result of the action taken in Swansea. I do not think that that is understood.
Moreover, a serious criminal law matter is involved. A considerable number of people are committing a criminal offence by travelling about without a car registration number, because the people at Swansea have failed to send them a log book and a registration number.
A serious matter of principle is involved. It does not affect me because I do not have one of these numbers, so do not let hon. Members opposite imagine that I have an interest in it. I do not want one of these numbers: I do not wish people to know where I am all the time.
Let us be clear about the reasons given—[Interruption.] I heard thesotto voce comment of the Leader of the House. He always makes such comments loud enough for those not meant to hear them. The two reasons advanced for the refusal to do the work are, first, that the procedure subjects those involved to abuse, and, secondly, that it subjects them to corruption. Let me first deal with the question of abuse. This is a typical complaint against someone who has waited four months for his log book and licensing disc:My staff and my customers are increasingly voicing their anger at the discourteous, arrogant and rude manner in which they are treated by those who call themselves servants in this matter.It is utterly wrong for those persons to complain about members of the public and to subject them to abuse when they cause so much inconvenience to members of the public. If, for instance, they do not send a licensing disc before the expiry of the last one, the motorist commits an offence under the Road Traffic Act. In such a case, I should have thought that that was a reasonable basis for which to be abused.
The second reason given is bribery. No doubt all of us can be offered bribes. Members of Parliament could be offered bribes. Policemen could be offered bribes not to breathalyse motorists suspected of infringing the drink and driving laws. However, all that a person offered a bribe 2185 need do is refuse it, unless of course he is so corrupt as to accept it. It is easy enough to refuse a bribe and to report it to the appropriate authorities.
So the purported excuses are a very poor justification for establishing what seems to me to be a dangerous constitutional precedent, and I hope sincerely that the Minister for Transport will be able to resolve the matter. He said that he had the intention of ending the practice. Therefore, we must have a situation where those who are perfectly entitled to obtain certain numbers will have entered into transactions which are partly through. I know, for instance, that Stirling Moss sold his car and kept his number plates three months ago. He still has not obtained the transfer of the registration number. Now he has no number plates on his car because the transfer of the number has been refused. It is important to remember that the present state of affairs either deprives people of their cars or causes them to commit motoring offences.
Government supporters may think that this is a trivial matter, but when public servants refuse to do those parts of their work which they personally or politically find odious, it is a very dangerous precedent. Government supporters would not like it if it was in the reverse direction.
I hope that the Minister of Transport will be able to issue a statement saying that this extremely unsatisfactory matter has been resolved satisfactorily and quickly.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Neil Kinnock (Bedwellty)
Of all the ceremonial hypocrisies in which we engage in this House, this debate is probably the nicest. The part which I like especially is the stage when my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House rises, after we have been appealing to him not to let us go home, to tell us "Sorry, lads, you must go home. You have no other choice." I must admit that I am relying on my right hon. Friend to say exactly the same today, because I have not got it in my heart to turn down such a request from him—at least, not until we get the Second Reading of the devolution Bill.
The reason why I hope that we shall forbear to rise for some while longer is 2186 that to which the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Hicks) drew our attention just now, although, since it came before the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Fairbairn) it seems a long time ago. I refer, of course, to the whole problem of unemployment, although the part which concerns me on this occasion is that of youth unemployment, especially in the context of the statement on Tuesday by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment and specifically the part of his statement in which he mentioned the possibility of the introduction of a job swap scheme, making provision for older workers to be retired on Government allowances in order to make way for unemployed of a younger age.
We have record youth unemployment despite the two-year old raising of the school leaving age, which has probably reduced youth unemployment figures considerably. Nearly 250,000 of our youngsters are unemployed. In Wales the figure is again a record one of more than 11,000, and in my own county of Gwent it is an incredible 3,000—that, in the county which ostensibly has been the most prosperous part of Wales for some decades past. What is more nearly a third of those unemployed youngsters come from my constituency. My right hon. Friend's constituency in Ebbw Vale is similarly afflicted. Obviously, therefore, we need to undertake not just the immediate attempts to remedy the situation announced by my right hon. and hon. Friends successively over the past few years of job creation programmes as welcome as they are, but a structural and much more fundamental change in our approach to youth unemployment.
Last Tuesday my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment said:The Government are urgently considering whether a scheme can be devised to enable older workers who are very close to pensionable age to leave employment and so release jobs for younger unemployed people.When he said that, it appeared to me that we were moving towards the kind of structural change that was required.
Characteristic of the kind of unemployment that we have now is not only its size but its structure. We are in danger of moving to a position where, if we leave the resolution of our problem of 2187 unemployment to the gamble of the great upturn—the great improvement in the world economy—we shall still, after that fortunate event, have to adjust our national economy to the idea that 1 million or 750,000 unemployed are an acceptable base which will approximate in future to the idea of full employment.
If we do not make changes in the demographic structure of our work force by reducing the retirement age, it is certain that, because of advances in technology, changes in taste and changes in the location of industry, we shall be left with fewer people producing more things, and a consequent surplus in the very large number of those who want to work but who cannot find work.
The idea put forward by my right hon. Friend is not coming too soon. However, in discussing that my right hon. Friend said that older workers who volunteered to take early retirement would receive an allowance from the Government until they reached normal pensionable age. I fully endorse that, but I add that the figure should not be less than the average manufacturing wage. The one fact standing between vast numbers of workers aged between 55 and 65 taking early retirement is the deplorably low level of benefit and national insurance pension that they would receive if they did.
If we entertain a realistic figure to compensate people for leaving work early of not less than £60 a week, we shall be talking sensibly about advancing the idea of voluntary early retirement. That figure will make many minds boggle. But a young man with two children of school age who has worked 20 years for the same employer will this year be receiving about £3,200 in benefits and allowances. It is much cheaper and altogether more acceptable to pay £60 a week to a 55year-old man who wants to retire than well over £60 a week to a young man who is desperate for work to provide for his wife and children. That is the mathematics of the kind of unemployment that we have now.
In his statement, my right hon. Friend went on to impose very reasonable and sensible conditions. He said that the arrangement would be made and that the money would be paidon the condition that the employer undertook to recruit a replacement from the unemploy- 2188 ment register and that the worker released did not enter further employment or claim unemployment benefit while in receipt of the allowance.That is very sensible. But the idea that the scheme should last only for six months is not sensible. In my view we should be discussing a permanent provision for the gradual reduction of the retirement age first by voluntary means and then compulsorily. Putting a bracket of six months round such a scheme undermines its credibility from the outset.
There is also the idea that the scheme should apply mainly to the assisted areas. Generally speaking, I suppose that there is more unemployment in the assisted areas. However, the demand for a lower retirement age is universal throughout the whole country. That is borne out by the post bags of hon. Members.
Then my right hon. Friend said:The Government will be consulting the TUC and CBI on the matter and will report to the House in due course."—[Official Report, 3rd August 1976; Vol. 916, c. 1442–3.]I wish that such a report could be made before we rise for the Summer Recess so that we had the prospect of an elementary change in the way in which we go about employing people, paying them for their work and providing for their leisure and old age.
There are 3 million people in work in this country between the ages of 55 and 64. It is no exaggeration to say that hundreds of thousands of them, some in various stages of chronic illness and dragging themselves to work, would truly like to be able to retire. We should save large numbers of lives by allowing them to do so. We should make a reasonable provision for such people to have a longer retirement by doing it and we should reduce industrial accidents.
Although in other respects the absentee rate for the 55 to 64-year-olds bears comparison with any other age group, the accident rate and sickness rate among that group are substantially higher than for any other group in employment.
For the sake of humanity and the sensible financial provision for the kind of reductions in the work force that we must make if we are to avoid an economy in which 1 million people are permanently unemployed, I hope that my 2189 hon. Friends will give serious consideration to making permanent provision for gradual reductions in the compulsory retirement age and an immediate and generous provision for compensating people for taking voluntary retirement at ages over 55.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Jonathan Aitken (Thanet, East)
I believe that the House should not adjourn until it has given further consideration to the Prime Minister's answer to a series of questions relating to immigration policy which he gave to the House on Tuesday.
I was the hon. Member who initiated the first Question on Tuesday afternoon on this subject. At the end of the somewhat heated exchange, I said on a point of order that, in view of the Prime Minister's unsatisfactory answer, I would seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment. Normally that is a somewhat empty threat, but, by the good fortune of the imminence of the summer Adjournment debate, I am able to explain why I belive the Prime Minister was showing an unacceptable degree of complacency on the subject of immigration and why I fully support the Leader of the Opposition in her remark that there is nothing party political about asking the Government to give the facts on the number of Commonwealth dependants entitled to come into this country.
On readingHansard of last Tuesday, I believe that it seems that the phrase which somehow got under the Prime Minister's skin was my suggestion that the Government's attitude to immigration figures was "a shambles". The Prime Minister—wily old bird that he is—immediately replied that the immigration figures should somehow be above politics. The way he resorted so speedily to that time-honoured device immediately confirmed to my sceptical mind that political pressure was necessary in order to get at the facts.
I believe that the immigration figures are a statistical shambles because of the alarming lack of knowledge and lack of desire to give us any idea whatever about the size of the dependants' queue. That is clearly demonstrated by the conflicting information that is now being published by three Government Departments. There is a serious contradiction between the 2190 figures being issued by the Home Office, the Foreign Office and the Treasury. I should like to illustrate the discrepancies.
The headquarters of the Home Office Immigration Department is in Croydon, at Lunar House. That is a most aptly named building because of the statistical moonshine which it publishes in respect of dependants. The Home Office view, which has been expressed on many occasions by Home Office Ministers and which is still held by them today, is that the queue of dependants entitled to come into this country is a finite figure of about 100,000.
Indeed, the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon)—incidentally, we all wish him well for a speedy recovery from his serious illness—always gave as his reason for increasing the inflow of immigrants the justification that there was an end in sight. He said that it would be reached as soon as 100,000, or thereabouts, Commonwealth immigrants had been admitted. But that reason has been proved to be complete and utter nonsense and the proof has come from the two other Government Departments—the Foreign Office and the Treasury.
The Home Office figures were published somewhat inadvertently by the publication of the Hawley Report. Paragraph 21 of that report said:The present position is unsatisfactory because current procedures and instructions are based on a Home Office assumption that the immigration problem in the sub-continent is finite and that we are in the last stages of clearing up a backlog of 'entitled' dependants. All the Heads of Missions and Posts are convinced that this assumption is wrong and I share their view.Elsewhere in the report Mr. Hawley quotes figures suggesting that some 240,000 immigrant dependants are entitled to come to Britain from Bangladesh and some 70,000 from Delhi, to name but two posts. He also makes the point that the new concessions to admit male fiancés, and presumably their dependants also, is producing a multiplier effect and that this gives the lie to the Home Office claim that the dependant queue is finite.
It clearly cannot be finite because if we are to admit male fiancés, we are in a situation where we shall have to admit their dependants as well. The Foreign Office view utterly contradicts the Home Office view. There have been those who 2191 say that the Foreign Office view is quite wrong and that Mr. Hawley is an alarmist, but that is not so, because support for Mr. Hawley's findings has now come from the Treasury.
That view appeared, again perhaps somewhat inadvertently, in an answer given by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart). In that answer the Financial Secretary revealed that income tax child allowances are given for some 500,000 children who are not resident in the United Kingdom. That figure includes some Irish children and the children of British civil servants living abroad. But the Inland Revenue has since calculated and suggested that of this total approximately 300 thousand coloured children from the New Commonwealth are the intended beneficiaries of these allowances. It is therefore clear from the Treasury evidence that 300,000 children from the New Commonwealth are entitled to come into this country. That, again, contradicts the Home Office view.
The Home Office is still sticking to its view that there is a finite pool of about 100,000 dependants entitled to come here. But a senior civil servant, Mr. Philip Woodfield, went out to all the posts and heads of missions and he has sent a secret report to the Home Secretary on this matter. That secret document has not yet been published byNew Society but I gather from reliable sources that the Woodfield Report confirms the Hawley Report and, indeed, that is confirmed by the Treasury figures.
It is relevant to ask when are we to be told the truth about the size of the dependants' queue. The Leader of the House is perhaps not the best person to give us the answers. I say that on account of his own extraordinary remark in the House about immigration on 20th July. During the middle of the debate on the guillotine in respect of the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill at one point my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) suddenly asked the Leader of the House:Would the Minister say today that he and his right hon. Friends wished that their efforts to stop the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill in 1962 had been successful?2192 The Leader of the House replied:I do. I have never changed my mind about the matter. I took the same view then. This is a different question, but I have given the answer for which the right hon. Gentleman asked."—[Official Report, 20th July 1976; Vol. 915, c. 1535.]The right hon. Gentleman gave a most interesting answer and I would ask him whether it means that he is in favour of unlimited immigration. If he is still in favour of unlimited immigration into this country, I must tell him that it is a recipe for disaster no less misguided than the National Front's desire for compulsory repatriation.
If we are to have good race relations in this country, we must seek to steer a middle course but we cannot begin to get our bearings unless we have the map giving the figures of the size of the problem. We cannot have either a sensible immigration policy, or good race relations, until we know what the numbers are in the dependants' queue. We do not know those numbers from any Government Department today.
I continue to be somewhat saddened, although in no way deterred from what I believe to be right, by the way in which one or two Labour Members seek to smear anyone who asks questions or makes speeches about immigration with allegations of being a racialist. I am in no way referring to the Prime Minister or the Leader of the House, who have done no such thing, but some of their hon. Friends are much less fair in this matter. They have launched unscrupulous attacks on almost everyone who has asked for clarity and control of immigration, from the Archbishop of Canterbury downwards.
Those few hon. Members should realise that strict immigration control is the friend and not the enemy of good race relations in this country. If they are interested in good race relations the sooner we get clarity and truth on the immigration figures the better.
§ 6.51 p.m.
§ Mr. George Cunningham (Islington, South and Finsbury)
I shall be very brief, because I am taking part in this debate for only one purpose—to invite the Leader of the House on behalf of the Foreign Secretary to give me some assurances about the manner in which the Government during the Summer 2193 Recess will handle the affair of the two British nationals, Mr. and Mrs. Rabkin, who are at the moment in prison in South Africa without charge, although Mrs. Rabkin is six months pregnant.
The embassy in Johannesburg has had access to Mrs. Rabkin but so far access has been denied to the embassy in respect of Mr. Rabkin. My information is that Mrs. Rabkin is a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies and that Mr. Rabkin is also a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies, but may also be a citizen of the Republic of South Africa. Even if he is a dual national, what ought to matter is that he is a national of this country with a prolonged period of residence in this country. That fact should give to our embassy and consular officers the right of access to him.
I do not think that the Government of South Africa has signed or ratified the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. In fact, to be truthful, I am not sure that this country has signed and ratified it. I asked the Foreign Office the last question an hour or two back and it seems to have been unable to get the answer to me before now.
The provisions of the convention set out a kind of statement of good international practice on this matter. It is worth referring to. I hope that our embassy in South Africa is making use of it, whether or not we have been able fully to ratify the convention yet.
The relevant article appears to be Article 36, which states:With a view to facilitating the exercise of consular functions relating to nationals of the sending State…consular officers shall have the right to visit a national of the sending State who is in prison, custody or detention, to converse and correspond with him and to arrange for his legal representation.The following paragraph is a kind of qualification:The rights referred to in paragraph I of this Article shall be exercised in conformity with the laws and regulations of the receiving State, subject to the proviso, however, that the said laws and regulations must enable full effect to be given to the purposes for which the rights accorded under this Article are intended.That seems to me to make it clear that, under good international practice, the British embassy in South Africa ought to have access not only to Mrs. Rabkin, who is a United Kingdom citizen and 2194 only that so far as I know, but to Mr. Rabkin, even if he is a dual national. But of course it would be easier for the embassy to decide whether he is a dual national if the embassy had access to him.
I hope that in dealing with this matter—one recognises that it is always a difficult matter of judgment, which can only be made by the embassy on the spot, to decide how to play such a case—the embassy is not letting slip any weapon or any argument or any pressure upon the South Africans initially to give access to both of these British nationals, secondly to tell the South Africans that, if they are not bringing charges, these people should be released forthwith, whatever the South African Prevention of Terrorism Act says, and to press the South Africans to allow Mr. and Mrs. Rabkin to leave South Africa and come back to this country.
The South Africans ought to be told that the conditions which they enjoy in this country with regard to diplomatic immunity stem from the same practices in international law which give us the right of access to our nationals in prison in South Africa and that we should have to review our treatment of the South African staff in the embassy here—that we should have to review, for example, the numbers of staff in the South African Embassy here—if we are to be faced with this kind of treatment of British nationals in South African prisons.
I hope that the Lord President can say on behalf of the Foreign Secretary that every effort will be used to protect these two nationals and that we shall not mince words with the South Africans at all where that seems to be the best way to get a good solution, and that we shall go beyond words and say that if the South Africans are going to treat our nationals in this way, we shall have to look closely at the treatment of the South African diplomats in London.
§ 6.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton)
Since all of us really want to go home and some of us need to go home, I seek to delay the Adjournment of the House for perhaps only the 30 seconds necessary for a statement by the Lord President. I ask that the House should not adjourn before 2195 an announcement is made about the subject of tape recording police interviews, especially since we have on numerous occasions been promised that an annoucement would be made in the summer.
To bring the matter to the forefront of hon. Members' minds, I would explain that the statement which an accused person is alleged to have made frequently forms a very important part of a criminal trial and usually that statement, which is usually an admission of guilt, is alleged to be false. If the jury think that it is false, they will be likely to acquit the defendant, even though that defendant may be guilty. If the jury do not think that the statement of admission of guilt is false, they will be likely to convict, even though on occasions injustice results.
My own experience, for what it is worth, is that the acquittal of guilty people in this country is far more attributable to the belief by juries that the police have not been thoroughly honest than to any other single cause. We must remember that 52 per cent. of those who pleaded not guilty to serious crimes in trials before juries are acquitted. That was more than 9,000 people last year.
Therefore, the allegation of dishonesty which is so frequently made in our courts against police officers, and which results mainly from the evidence of an alleged interview, is a substantial factor in any lack of respect for the police. It is a national disgrace that we should sit back and allow that to be so.
Tape recordings have been suggested as likely to improve the situation. One judge in Canada has said:…tape recording…is better evidence and more capable of correct interpretation by a jury thanviva voce evidence or a written statement, since it reproduces not only the exact words of the accused but the inflection and tone of the voice as well, without the necessity of substituting another's interpretation".Three years ago, the Criminal Law Revision Committee recommended an experiment. In February of 1974, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) committed the Conservative Party, then in office, to having an inquiry. Of course that opportunity was denied us by the election which followed shortly after.
Two years ago this October the Government set up a committee and that committee has still not reported. The 2196 committee consists of a number of distinguished police officers, lawyers, civil servants, and a representative of the Probation Service. For nearly two years it has had nothing to say, although it has had, as I understand, more than 12 meetings.
What great and weighty issue has delayed this committee of very intelligent and experienced people? What sort of detailed and complicated things has the committee had to consider, to weigh and to analyse for all this length of time? What mass of evidence has it had to read, to sift and to hear? The answer is hardly any, because the committee was not set up to decide whether we should have tape recorded interviews. but to decide whether an experiment to see whether we should have tape recorded interviews was feasible.
The decision whether we should have an experiment into the feasibility of tape recorded interviews could have been made at one sitting, after one week. Everyone with a ha'porth of common sense can see that it is feasible. Tape recorders exist: they do not have to be invented. They are cheap: little argument can be put against the experiment on the question of cost.
They can have sophisticated sealed cartridges. They are safes in police stations. Police officers are usually honest.
The purpose of a feasibility test is to see what effect it would have on confessions—whether they would be as easily challengeable as some of the critics have said, and how the technicalities would work out. Of course, there would be difficulties: the tapes could be altered; the accused could play the fool when being questioned. But no amount of theoretical difficulties should be a reason for not having a pilot scheme. That is the best way to find out whether the idea is bad or good.
The astonishing thing is that somewhere in the committee there is or has been some resistance. What the committee has in brains it seems to lack in will. My guess is that the police have been providing the stumbling block, because they have never been too sympathetic to this particular recommendation in the report of the Criminal Law Revision Committee.
2197 I appeal to the Government to consider one aspect to which the police do not seem to be giving enough consideration. That is the substantial benefit to the image of the police themselves and also to law and order by having a feasibility scheme.
I should like to make two particular points. First, tape recordings are, on the face of it, an aid to truth. It looks bad if the police are seen to be opposing, without even a pilot scheme, an aid to truth. Secondly, as long as notebooks can be made up afterwards with no check on whether what is written in them is accurate or honest, and as long as the accused is not required by our law to sign as to the accuracy of the notebook record which the police officers have made, so long will juries too often doubt the integrity of the report and the honesty of mostly honest police officers.
The result of removing all argument about the verbals would be very considerable, and greatly add to the reputation of the police, because they would be less often challenged for dishonesty, and even less frequently found to be dishonest. If the circumstances in which confessions were made were less open to criticism, more of those who were guilty would plead guilty, cases would be shorter to try, trials would take place earlier after arrest, the memory of witnesses would have less time to fail, and their evidence would be more reliable. Occasionally the innocent would not be wrongly convicted.—[Interruption.] It is interesting to see that the hon. Member for Feltham and Heston (Mr. Kerr) is now with us, but I wish he would be quiet a little longer so that I may finish what I wish to say.
Occasionally a person who was guilty would not feel that the system was being bent against him merely because he was convicted as a result of oral evidence alleged against him which he did not consider to be the truth. The whole standing of the police force would rise, and with it its morale, and crime would therefore be easier to fight. Can the Government and the police not see the harm being done by refusing even an experiment?
I ask the Lord President to let us have some sense on this matter. If the police want the right to silence dropped, as a 2198 quid pro quo, that is a matter which can be discussed later. But for the improvemen of respect for the police, for the decrease in the number of guilty persons who are acquitted, and to justify the high regard in which our legal system and our criminal law are held, let us have some action, and let us have it now. I call upon the Lord President to make an announcement.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ Mr. J. W. Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)
I will say one thing for the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence): he certainly has a lawyer's way with words. We thought that his speech was to last 30 seconds. He must have been referring to my right hon. Friend turning him down in 30 seconds.
I shall not delay the House as long as I intended, because of the pressures being exerted on me at the moment. I suggest that the House should not adjourn until the end of next week so that we can have a Government statement, from whichever Minister is responsible—whether it be my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or, for that matter, the Secretary of State for Scotland—on the Government's view of the Cromarty Petroleum Order Confirmation Bill, which was debated in the House last Monday night.
The Bill has subsequently been blocked and will not be proceeded with until the blocking is withdrawn, or until you, Mr. Speaker, arrange time for us to debate the Report stage. The Bill ought not to be continued until the Government have come forward with a statement of their view.
There appears to be a commitment of £40 million of public expenditure involved in this private enterprise oil refinery. I do not object to the Bill in principle. I had not even heard of the place until I listened to the debate on Monday evening, when hon. Members on both sides of the House discussed the issue.
The refinery is apparently owned by a cancer research institute in Switzerland, which also controls a fleet of Liberian tankers. There is also some connection with Panama. It is hoped to build an oil refinery which, by common consent, is not required because of existing overcapacity.
2199 We were told that the matter had been exhaustively investigated by Parliamentary Commissioners earlier this month in Edinburgh. We were told two nights ago that two full days had been spent by those Parliamentary Commissioners on the matter. Since then I have been to the Library and looked at the commissioners' brief report. On the first day they sat from 11 a.m. until 4.50 p.m. Allowing an hour for lunch, that is some five hours. On the second day they sat from 10.30 a.m. until 1 p.m. That is a total of seven and a half hours.
For some hon. Members, that may well be two full days' work, but certainly that is not what my constituents who work in industry in the West Midlands would consider to be two full days' work. There needs to be, therefore, a full report on what happened in Edinburgh on 3rd and 4th May this year. There needs to be a statement from the Treasury concerning its policy on the gathering of the corporation tax which may be generated from this oil refinery.
There is the point, of course, that if the oil refinery is owned by a cancer research institute in Switzerland which has charitable status, no profits from the oil refinery will ever reach the coffers of the Treasury to pay for the schools, roads and hospitals in this country. The profits will be diverted abroad.
The whole enterprise is owned by Dr. Ludwig, who has become the richest man in America, and the Americans have only just found this out. The long article in theNew York Tittles on 2nd May on this silent tycoon is evidence of the shock that the Americans have suffered at the discovery of this man. He is said to own the largest private estate in the Western hemisphere. It consists of 4 millon acres in the Amazon jungle, and 20,000 workers who are considered to be slave labour are employed to farm that jungle. They have no civil rights, and Brazilian Members of Parliament cannot visit their constituents who work on this vast estate. It is that sort of character and company—a £100 company called Cromarty Petroleum Company Ltd., an out and out bucket-shop operation of the first order—that is seeking the approval of £40 million of taxpayers' money to build a refinery.
2200 I make no comment on the efficacy of the absentee landlord because I do not wish to be associated with advocating action in respect of Mr. Nightingale, who part owns the 47 acres to which the Bill refers. He appears to be not so much opposed to the purchase of his land as being after a piece of the action—a piece of the development.
There are others who are involved in this murky area in Scotland. I am thinking of Mr. John Robertson, who, in the late 1960s was sacked by the former Secretary of State for Scotland from the Highlands and Islands Development Board together with Mr. Thompson for disbursing public funds to companies over which they had control and in which they had an interest. Mr. Robertson is chairman of the finance committee and convener in Scotland of the local authority concerned. He owns land in the area surrounding the proposed refinery.
All those things, and many others that have come to light, call for a Government statement on the matter. It is no good my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland saying that he has to present the Bill because the 1936 Act governing private Scottish legislation requires that he present it and then refusing to say whether he supports the Bill and whether the Government have a commitment to it. That is not good enough.
The other night my right hon. Friend made two or three comments about making decisions in public. He said that it is well known to all what is at issue and that the decision letter of March 1976 is a public document. It was not in the Library two days after my right hon. Friend made his statement, and that is sufficient cause for concern.
What did or did not happen at Edinburgh is also cause for concern. The spending of public money is cause for concern. I represent a Birmingham consituency and I am receiving representations asking why I am trying to stop this project. This is the British House of Commons. I am a British Member of Parliament, not an English one. My constituents pay their taxes, as does everyone else. Disbursements from public funds, by whichever Department, be it the Scottish Office, the Welsh Office, or the Treasury, are a matter for concern.
2201 My constituents contribute directly—not indirectly—to all public funds, and they therefore have a right to know how the Government stand on this issue. The Treasury is seeking to avoid the issue by saying that it will consider carefully the application for grant when it is received. As hon. Members know, in Scotland, as in other parts of the country, industrial investment automatically attracts Government funds. There is no right on the part of the Treasury to say "Yea" or "Nay" for the greater part of the funds: they come automatically.
For that reason, and others, we need a full Government statement next week so that the matter can be thought over during the recess by those outside the House who have a direct as well as indirect interest in whether the Cromarty Petroleum Order Confirmation Bill ever sees the light of day.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Neubert (Romford)
As the only other person present who served with the hon. Member for Luton, West (Mr. Sedgemore) on the Standing Committee considering the Companies (No. 2) Bill [Lords] perhaps I may be excused for making a brief reference to the hon. Gentleman's earlier contribution. I am sorry that he is not here now.
Without seeking in any way to defend Mr. Tiny Rowland—on the evidence, he is pre-eminently a man who can look after himself—I am not surprised that he made an abusive telephone call to the hon. Gentleman, because on the occasion of the hon. Gentleman's attack on Mr. Rowland in Committee I thought—and on second hearing I think now—that, while the hon. Gentleman talks about the privilege of the House, his attacks was an abuse of parliamentary privilege.
§ Mr. Neubert
It was a set-piece, deliberate, calculated, sensation-seeking, headline-snatching exercise in synthetic demagogy, co-ordinated with the Minister and the representative of the Press Association. And again tonight, on cue, as soon the hon. Gentleman's name flashed on the screeen, members of the Press Gallery fluttered out of their dovecote and when the eruption had subsided 2202 fluttered back again to leave the Gallery empty for the rest of the debate.
The hon. Gentleman on this occasion, as he did two years ago when he attacked the directors of Court Line, has cast himself as the self-appointed scourge of society's black sheep—a not very attractive or appealing rôle for the rest of us. If he is concerned with upholding the processes of the law, perhaps he will allow those processes to take their due course.
§ Mr. Russell Kerr
On a point of order. Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Neubert), who is normally extremely courteous, but surely it cannot be right for an hon. Member to question the motives of another hon. Member in exercising, properly and to the full, his right as a Member of this House to have total privilege in respect of his speech. I do not think that is right. I think it was wrong that my hon. Friend could not be present to hear this attack upon him. I take it that the hon. Member for Romford did not give my hon. Friend warning of the attack that he was about to make on him. I protest most strongly, and I call upon you to declare the hon. Gentleman out of order.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Oscar Murton)
The answer to the hon. Gentleman's point of order is that each and every hon. Member is responsible for what he says in this place. The only other comment that I might make is that it is the normal convention, if it is possible to do so, for an hon. Member to warn another hon. Member that his name might be mentioned in the course of the debate.
§ Mr. Neubert
As you may know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I have been sitting on this Bench for just over four hours. For the greater part of that time I have been seeking to catch your eye. I am sure you will understand if I say that I did not wish my concentration to lapse by making a personal communication to the hon. Member for Luton, West. I should have thought that, having made such a provocative speech, he might have expected some reaction from other speakers and would have stayed, as I have done, to hear the outcome of his intemperate contribution.
§ Mr. Neubert
I must not be diverted from the argument.
The hon. Member for Luton, West would do better to allow the Director of Public Prosecutions to consider the cases of the directors of Court Line and Lonrho to come to his conclusions. Until then the hon. Gentleman will remain under suspicion of being highly unselective by not reserving any of his considerable venom for the black sheep of his own political persuasion.
§ Mr. Cryer
The hon. Gentleman is usually extremely courteous. I suggest to him that he should look at the Department of Trade's report—a report which his Government, under his Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Sid-cup (Mr. Heath), instituted. It makes a clear statement that Mr. Rowland threatened Angus Ogilvy and the Department of Trade inspector, carrying out a job which the hon. Gentleman's Government entrusted to him. Mr. Rowland used the most violent language. As Mr. Rowland has admitted making the telephone conversation in question, there is no doubt that there is a strong strand of evidence that he has behaved in a thuggish sort of way.
§ Mr. Neubert
The hon. Gentleman may hold that opinion and I do not challenge his right to do so. I shall spend part of the recess reading word for word the 660 pages of that report. But that does not mean that I go against the view that under the constitution of this country we have provided for the courts to consider such matters and that it is not for individual hon. Members to rush to judgment in the House.
§ Mr. Russell Kerr
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was trying to make the point that the hon. Gentleman is attempting to circumscribe the importantrôle of hon. Members in terms of their freedom of interrogation. It does no service to Parliament—and it is important to Parliament itself to defend this—for these types of attack to be made. I therefore suggest, with respect, that the hon. Gentleman is out of order.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Any hon. Member—and I underline this—is responsible for what he says in this place provided that he is within the rules of order. I 2204 consider that the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Neubert) was in order.
§ Mr. Neubert
It is with a mixture of anger and sorrow that I rise to resist the adjournment for the Summer Recess. In the last parliamentary Session we passed no fewer than 73 Acts of Parliament and we passed a further 67 in the current Session, making 140 Bills enacted in all. We may all have our different opinions about the character of those Acts but Parliament has daily demonstrated that quantity is not always quality.
Why was time not found for a 10-clause, four-schedule Bill that would bring definite financial benefit to the United Kingdom? I refer to a Bill to permit the ratification of the European Patent Convention. That matter has suffered more than most from dilatoriness and delay in recent years. A Commit, tee was set up under Sir Maurice Banks in 1970 which reported in 1971, but we are still awaiting the results. That represents a breach of a Government commitment because in the White Paper "Patent Law Reform" published in April last year they promised that the appropriate measure would be brought forward in the current Session. But there is no sign of it.
An Early-Day Motion has been in existence for some time which calls on the Government to ratify the convention. That must be done by the end of this calendar year. I made the same point in a recent Adjournment debate. Time is the quintessence in this matter because if the convention is not ratified, serious consequences will follow for this country. The Government have brought forward much controversial and contentious legislation but here is a measure which would not cost money but make money. It would make money because patent agents in this country make considerable foreign earnings. Their invisible earnings are thought to be about £10 million a year.
If such a measure is not introduced we shall lose foreign currency. That is because if we do not become members of the convention patent agents will have to seek assistance from local agents in Germany. That will mean that money will flow out of the country in payment to those agents. British officials will not be able to play a prominent part in the 2205 patent profession and we shall lose our leadership and influence in patent law.
For those reasons it is regrettable that the Government have not yet found time for such a measure. Hon. Members will imagine my chagrin when I found that it was not included in the business for the first week after the recess. Perhaps it will be announced for the first week of Lords business, and if that is so I shall be delighted. But if that is not so, I call upon the Leader of the House to reconsider. It is uncontroversial and uncontentious except to those hon. Members to whom the mention of the word Europe brings on a seizure.
Unless we are able to ratify the convention this year, the opportunity may be lost to us for all time to play our full part. Our ratification is not indispensable to the implementation of the convention by other countries who will be able to go ahead and to take advantage of our delay. I hope that that will not be so. Although it is not the most exciting of subjects to many hon. Members—and although it might not fire political blood or bring people to the barricades—if the Government want to encourage invention and innovation and if they believe in giving freedom to those who can earn prosperity for this country, this is a chance for them to act in a small way by bringing forward legislation as soon as possible.
§ 7.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Robin F. Cook (Edinburgh, Central)
The amendments which have not been selected and which were tabled by my hon. Friends the Members for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) and Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) call for the recess to be extended by one week and three weeks. My own request is for the Leader of the House to withdraw his motion and, in my characteristically modest way, to seek only one further day. I require that extra day for a full day's debate on the consultative document on transport policy which was produced four months ago. We should discuss the threat that that document poses to the rail network in Britain.
This is an appropriate time to consider the issue because only last week we completed the formal stage of consultations on the document. Two matters should cause anxiety about that period 2206 of consultation. The four months have gone by without any debate in the House on the Green Paper. Secondly—and it is perhaps as well—many other organisations outside the House have taken the opportunity of the consultation period to put forward their own views in forceful and overriding terms because there was little consultation before the Green Paper was published.
Neither the unions nor the British Railways Board had the opportunity of either making comments on the Green Paper or seeing a draft before they read the Press accounts 24 hours before the publication of the document. It is an irony that the British Railways Board, through its subsidiary Transmark, is increasingly involved in other countries in development and design whilst at home it is impossible for it to get its own suggestions accepted by the British Government. I doubt that there is another country in the Western world where one would find a policy statement covering a major industry which was produced entirely internally by a Government without any consultation with either side of the industries affected by it.
The consequence of a White Paper being produced—which I fear might be done in the recess—would be disastrous for many hon. Members' constituents. That is because the document proposes that the future of certain passenger services will have to be reviewed.
The document says that the cuts suggested refer to only 6 per cent. of the passenger mileage. But when my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Bagier) asked the Secretary of State for the Environment to list those services which would be affected, we found that although they accounted for only 6 per cent. of passenger mileage, they comprised 45 per cent. of all the services at present run by British Rail. It took nine columns ofHansard simply to list the services facing closure.
If those services are closed it will mean that there will be no rail system north of Glasgow or Edinburgh, that the only service to Wales will be to Swansea and Holyhead, that there will be no rail system in Cornwall, that the only service left in East Anglia will be that to Norwich and that the only one left in the North-East will be to Newcastle. Such 2207 closures would have a dramatic effect on many people and it is right for the House to insist on a further day's sitting to consider whether we are prepared to accept the social, environmental and economic consequences of such a decision.
Moreover, we have to say that it is a delusion to imagine that by cutting out the services which fail to show a profit we shall end up with a more profitable rail network. It is a delusion because all that will happen is that we shall lose the traffic at present fed into the main routes and the inter-city routes. It is also a delusion which obtains only in Britain. Britain is not unique in making a loss on its rail system. Every rail system in the world is making a loss at present. What makes us different is that we are the only country which is currently cutting back on investment in and expansion of a modern rail system.
We now have the ludicrous position that Britain, with five times the track mileage of Belgium and five times the population of Belgium, will be investing only the same amount as Belgium over the next decade.
§ Mr. Cook
The consequence of this scandalous cut in investment—as my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley so rightly calls it—will be that we shall have a less attractive service.
The major paradox of this consultative document is that, on the one hand, it proposes a cut in investment in services and, on the other, it exhorts the railways to achieve greater productivity. There is no way in which greater productivity can be achieved if the attempt to do so is accompanied by a reduction in investment.
There no longer is any great army of labour to be shed from the railway system. The manning of that system in Britain is at present at less than one-third of the level when the industry was nationalised. Over 400,000 jobs have been shaken out of the system over these three decades. There is no more room for a shake-out of spare labour, because every man is required.
The only way in which greater productivity can be achieved is through further investment. On the investment levels proposed, and endorsed by the consulta- 2208 tive document, there would be a severe cutback in British Rail's investment in its future programme and equipment. It would mean, for instance, that over the next three or four years investment in locomotives would drop by a third. It would mean that investment for passenger rolling stock would drop by a third. It would mean that expenditure on modernising railway terminals would drop by half.
What would come out of this set of proposals would be a less attractive, less reliable and therefore less competitive railway system, which would in turn produce a drop in passenger mileage and passenger use which would, indeed, then justify precisely the kinds of closure proposed in this consultative document, which would become self-fulfilling. We should be left with a railway network that was no longer viable and competitive—a situation for which the Government have no mandate.
I am aware that my right hon. Friend may well feel that much of what I have said is applicable in particular to the Secretary of State for the Environment. I feel that I am carrying my right hon. Friend with me in some of my comments. I am sure that he shares my anxiety and will bear in mind these comments when the Government collectively consider issues in those committees of the Cabinet about which we are not supposed to know and which we cannot mention in this House. I should be grateful if my right hon. Friend would convey my remarks to the Secretary of State for the Environment.
I should also be grateful if my right hon. Friend would consider one point which will clearly fall within his jurisdiction. As I said, the House has not yet had a debate on the Green Paper. It will be very odd if the consultation about this consultative document does not extend to the House of Commons. I find it perfectly understandable that my right hon. Friend has been unable to provide any time for a debate during the past 12 months, which have been extremely busy months for this House. Nevertheless, it appears that we are to have a fairly lengthy spillover period on the other side of the recess.
I shall have spoken to some purpose if my right hon. Friend at least pencils in this suggestion of a day during the 2209 spillover period when the House will have the opportunity to express a view on the follies of the Green Paper before it is reproduced in a White Paper.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Sir Anthony Meyer (Flint, West)
The Lord President must be beginning to feel that even if this debate will not achieve the three-week curtailment of the recess asked for by one of his hon. Friends, or the one-week curtailment asked for by another, it might at least by its length achieve the 24-hour postponement which has been asked for by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook).
Like a great many hon. Members, during the recess I shall be coming under a good deal of pressure from my constituent who will be asking me what I am doing to press the Government on this issue of unemployment which has already been touched on by a number of hon. Members. In particular, I shall be asked whether I am tabling Questions and so on. This is, therefore, my pretext for saying that this is an awkward moment for the House to be going away on recess.
The rate of unemployment in my part of the world, in North-East Wales, is now over 7½ per cent. In the Rhyl area it is rather more than double that. The Chancellor's cuts, however necessary—and I freely acknowledge that they are necessary—will make matters worse. The increase in regional employment premium for women, which sounds nice on paper, will not be much help to us in North-East Wales or in Wales as a whole because there are so few women in employment. On the other hand, the reduction in REP for men will have a directly adverse effect on employment in Wales. So also, to an extent which is hard to quantify, will the big increase in the employers' insurance stamp.
The job problem in North-East Wales is not just a result of the present slump and it is not something that will go away when the slump ceases. It goes deeper than that. The whole area, as the Leader of the House knows from his previous job, is far too dependent on three big employers, each of which has a major problem. There are 6,000 jobs at the British Steel Corporation plant at Shotton which are dependent on the long-post- 2210 poned decision whether to keep steelmaking there. These 6,000 workers will be on tenderhooks while Parliament is on holiday. The outlook for Courtaulds, with its three plants in North Wales, is highly uncertain, and there is a crying need for much closer and more harmonious relations between management, unions and Government if these factories are not to drift into disaster with appalling consequences for the thousands working in them.
Workers at Hawker Siddeley at Broughton seem to imagine that their jobs will be safe after nationalisation. But the experience of steel and coal workers nearby, if they were to be consulted, would hardly bear that out. Moreover, there appears to be a risk that if the British aircraft manufacturing industry is nationalised it will concentrate production away from Broughton. It should not be forgotten that work on the Airbus wings, which is providing a great many jobs at Broughton, would never have gone there if the decision had been left to the British Government at the time. I do not believe that nationalisation will be good for jobs at Hawker Siddeley, any more than the new dock labour scheme will be good for jobs at Mostyn in my constituency.
There are limits to what a Government can do to help, even if Parliament were to sit through the whole of the summer. Empty, or nearly empty, advance factories in my constituency and in many others throughout the country bear grim witness to that. At least the Government ought to be under continuous pressure in Parliament to do what they can to help.
We must press that essential road communications go ahead, notably the dual-ling of the A55, running through my constituency. The Minister for Transport has today, in a rather cumbersome Written Reply, given full details of the impact of the cuts on the road programme throughout England. We still do not know what the effects of the cuts will be in Wales. I have been attempting today to find out from the Welsh Office what those cuts would amount to. It cannot tell me what they will be other than that the programme on the M4 is not to be interrupted in any way.
In the Rhyl area the tourist industry is the main provider of jobs. But the 2211 tourist industry there gets no help at all since Rhyl is not in a development area. There are no grants for the hotel industry. When Rhyl takes steps to re-equip its principal industry by building an all-weather entertainments centre, the Government, far from helping, do their best to sabotage the scheme by stamping heavily on the fingers of those merchant bankers who came to help.
Things have now reached the point where, if North-East Wales is to get any more jobs, it must be given at least the same assisted status as the areas surrounding it. Because these other areas have full development area status they are sucking away jobs which might go to North-East Wales. I have long been, and I remain, sceptical of the positive benefits which come from development area status and suchlike.
I do not believe that North-East Wales can suffer any longer the handicaps resulting from not having the benefits which all the surrounding areas have, I do not believe that a decision on this can wait until October.
§ 7.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Terry Walker (Kingswood)
The subject I wish to raise, and the reason why I believe that the House should not adjourn tomorrow, is that of the aircraft workers at Bristol. It may well be that by the time we return to Parliament thousands of these workers will have become redundant.
The Filton aircraft workers are very reliant on the Concorde project. On the Consolidated Fund Bill some hon. Members opposite had given notice that they intended to raise the Concorde situation with the Government, and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Industry was there to answer the debate at 10.30 a.m. today, but unfortunately Opposition Members were not here when the time came. Obviously, they were more concerned with being in their beds than with talking about Concorde and the problems of my constituents. This is a problem which has affected the Filton workers for many long days—since the 1960s, in fact. Had we had that statement this morning, there would have been some hope for those of my constituents who might well find themselves declared redundant before the House returns on 11th October.
2212 My hon. Friends the Members for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Thomas) and for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Palmer), and my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) and I met the BAC Filton shop stewards' committee last weekend to discuss the great problems facing them. Because of the attitude of the British Aircraft Corporation at Filton, it now looks as though 1,000 workers will be made redundant if further orders for Concorde are not given very soon. The company has given notice that this will happen.
I realise the Government's problem because the Filton works is far too reliant on Government money, given to prop up the Concorde project. BAC seems to be more interested in building Ills than in fighting for more money for Concorde. Everyone knows that the problem with Concorde is that we are prevented by the New York airport authority from landing in New York. Until this is resolved, there is little hope of Concorde sales being made throughout the world. This has been a problem with the two Concorde aircraft which the Shah of Iran was going to buy. He wants a categorical assurance that these aircraft will be allowed to land in New York. As the sellers of the aircraft, we cannot give that guarantee.
Most airlines have a surplus carrying capacity with their jumbos and they are waiting to see how British Airways and Air France make out with the traffic with the Concorde aircraft which are already in service. There is a need obviously for us to consider the problems of the world's airlines. This must be a matter of urgency in the Government's thinking.
Last Saturday when I met shop stewards at Filton we sought assurances that BAC would not be allowed to take any kind of action before the industry came into public ownership. We have already seen Lord Beswick about this, because it is important that the new corporation should come in at a time when it can consider the future of supersonic travel, which, I believe, is here to stay. The corporation will have to decide the size and future of the industry. Any action to jeopardise the size of the industry in the interim period, before we can name a vesting day, is to be deplored.
2213 We have had problems with hybridity in getting the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill through. We have had the Report stage and the Third Reading and the Bill will now be discussed in anther place. I hope that it will not be too long before the vesting day is announced.
My purpose in raising this matter tonight is to impress on the Leader of the House the need for utmost consultation between the Department of Industry, the Department of Trade and the British Aircraft Corporation to ensure that my workers and those in Bristol as a whole are not faced with overwhelming redundancies. We are seeking to build a new corporation. I hope that this matter will be treated as one of great urgency by the Government.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Keith Speed (Ashford)
I intervene at this stage, although I do not wish to curtail the debate in any way. The hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock got it right when he said that this debate was a regular ritual. If the Leader of the House accepted the general tenor of the remarks of Back Benchers in this debate, many of us, and our wives, would be very annoyed indeed. Most of us need some sort of a break. However, I quarrel with the members of the Press who suggest that, come tomorrow afternoon, we shall all go away for two and a half months' holiday. Many of us have a great deal of constituency work to catch up on and if we get as much as two weeks' holiday we shall be very fortunate indeed.
My hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) opened this debate by drawing attention to the vexed problems of Northern Ireland, which are still with us. He reminded us of the massive numbers of shootings and bombings which are still going on, and particularly the events in the seaside resort of Portrush the other night. He called for determined action, and he mentioned the fact that there is a new Chief Constable in Northern Ireland, whom we all wish well.
My hon. Friend said he thought that the law needed to be strengthened and that at times one despaired of the sentences passed and the compensation given to the widows and dependants of mem- 2214 bers of the Armed Forces compared with that given to members of the Provisional IRA as a result of actions by our Armed Forces. I know that the Secretary of State is considering this matter very seriously, but it would be helpful if the Leader of the House would refer to it. We shall be away for two and a half months. That is a long time, in which anything might happen in the unhappy Province.
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) had his fun at the expense of the trawler owners and the Opposition. He said the Government were negotiating from a position of supreme weakness. After the events with Iceland, I think that he is right, but before that occurred I believe that things were not as he said.
We had an interesting speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mrs. Chalker). She had an important engagement which she had to attend, and I do not think she appreciated that the debate could go on as long as it has. She has asked me to make her apologies. She gave me a detailed chapter and verse of the dispute involving the junior hospital doctors. If her statements are accurate—and there is no reason to think that they are not—we need a full explanation from the Government about the situation before the House goes into recess.
There has been a catalogue of serious misunderstandings in recent weeks in which clearly the junior hospital doctors feel that they have been gravely misled by the Department and its Ministers. If my hon. Friend is right, as I think she is, we need action at a high level as quickly as possible to resolve this unfortunate dispute. I agree with her that industrial action in these circumstances is extremely unfortunate.
Hon. Members know how the waiting lists for operations and other hospital treatment are growing. I have a case, which I am pursuing with the Minister at the moment, concerning one of my constituents who has been waiting for an operation for seven years. I can get no information from the area health authority that she will not have to wait another seven years. That cannot be right.
2215 We had some interesting speeches from the hon. Members for Luton, West (Mr. Sedgemore) and Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton). They are not in their places at the moment. I did not give them notice that I would raise this matter, because they have sat through the debate and I therefore presumed that they would be here.
The hon. Member for Luton, West gave details of what appeared to be a serious telephone call to his wife. I have a particular sympathy with him on one score. Our wives have to put up with a great deal, with all sorts of people, telephoning at all times of the day and night. That is particularly unfortunate. I cannot in any way condone that sort of thing. Our wives act generally as paid or unpaid secretaries, assistants, receptionists and everything else, particularly if one lives in or near one's constituency.
The hon. Member for Luton, West gave examples, which are on public record, of various conversations of Mr. Rowland with various eminent people, and I was struck by two points. First, the hon. Member is apparently joining a fairly select but important band of people who have been attacked by Mr. Rowland. Secondly, it is clear that Mr. Rowland is one of those people who tend to use rather extravagant language.
I was much more concerned about the speech by the hon. Member for Fife, Central. I presume, in view of the exchanges which took place with my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Mr. Neubert), that my right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) was given notice by the hon. Member for Fife, Central that the matter would be raised in the way that he raised it this evening. My right hon. Friend has been in this House this afternoon, and certainly in view of the language used by the hon. Member he should have given my right hon. Friend notice, although I have reason to believe that perhaps he did not.
The hon. Member referred—I noted his words—to the directors of Lonrho as being "a bunch of crooks". The directors of Lonrho include my right hon. Friend, and it would be interesting to see whether the hon. Member was prepared to repeat those remarks outside the House. I believe that my right hon. Friend and others might take a fairly 2216 serious view of the allegation. The third thing which needs to be said—it was not mentioned this afternoon—is that Lonrho in recent weeks has saved 1,800 jobs in Newcastle. That is an area of high unemployment, and Lonrho's action there must go on the credit side.
Finally, I hope that the lion. Member felt better after he had made his speech in which, in a metaphysical sense, he sprayed bile around the Chamber. The speech showed that at least one hon. Member needs a holiday—and I suspect that the rest of us do as well. I think that it was a speech of which he will not be proud in years to come.
My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) made certain points about the control of heavy commercial vehicles. This is an important subject for local authorities and for many people living in various parts of the country. A campaign is being conducted in parts of East London, particularly in Hackney, concerning a road that I frequently use when travelling from the Blackwall Tunnel up to the Ml. It passes through residential side streets and I see from the Press that the local people are getting excited and are talking about blocking it.
That is precisely the sort of situation that my hon. Friend had in mind when he introduced his Bill. I was Under-Secretary at the time and I gave him a deal of help in getting it through the House. On 1st January 1977 the local authorities must submit their proposals to the Secretary of State for the Environment. Time is therefore not on their side.
We must get out of the fashion of not daring to raise the question of immigration in this House in a straightforward way. People are not Fascists or National Front supporters just because they are concerned about the lack of information. They are worried about the pressures on a few important areas in this country by what appears to the people living in those areas to be uncontrolled immigration. It is no good the Home Secretary or anybody else saying that there will be only 60,000 immigrants per year for the next three years and that after that we can sit back and relax. The point is that those 180,000 will be concentrated in a very few centres and will be putting 2217 growing pressures upon such places as Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Bradford and Nottingham.
It is all right for those of us in the rest of the country who see this problem passing us by. Just look at the terrible row which broke out in Sussex when immigrants were put into a hotel after having arrived at Gatwick Airport! The people in Leicester, Wolverhampton and Birmingham had a wry smile. They told me that people had been complaining about this problem for a long time, yet hon. Members of all parties have not been prepared to take it seriously.
My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Eyre) was quite right to point out the problems caused by the Government's cutback in local authority expenditure. That highlights the urgency of the matter. Further cuts were announced only yesterday by the Secretary of State for the Environment at Question Time. The right hon. Gentleman is with us now. I hope that he is taking note of what is being said. Yesterday he told us about the money which would be cut from the rate support grant.
He will know of areas like Leicester, Wolverhampton and Birmingham which are having to cope with extra strains on social services, housing, education and the other facilities required to make life sensible and civilised. If thousands of additional people constantly come into these limited areas while the resources available to local authorities are cut back, surely it follows that the people living in those areas, whether black, white, khaki or in between, will have their standards cut.
My hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, East (Mr. Aitken) was on to a very sound point. Even all this would be bearable if the people in those areas believed that there was a finity to the problem, but they do not trust any politicians. We have all been telling them that the problem will finish, but it never does. We do not do this House or ourselves any good by pretending either that the problem will go away or that in three years' time we can review it, when all the time conflicting figures are issued from different Government Departments.
We must get ourselves clear on this. We shall not secure harmonious race re- 2218 lations in this country until we remove the fear of apparently untold masses who can still come in. I hope and believe that there are not untold masses still wishing to come here. Certainly it would not be in the interests of the immigrants already here, many of whom are in their second, third, fourth, or even fifth generations, that this fear should continue. It makes their lives totally impossible. A man may be as black as the ace of spades, but have a good West Midlands, West Riding or Cardiff accent, and be as much a part of Britain as anybody else.
But we shall not calm the fears of our fellow citizens until we accept that the country has its problems, that it is a densely-populated country and that there must be a finity to the problem. I hope that this matter will not explode during the recess, and it will help if the right hon. Gentleman will say something about it. I was in Leicester a fortnight ago and I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that there are serious fears that are being latched upon and exploited by extremist political parties with which no one here would wish to have anything to do.
§ Mr. Cryer
I know that the hon. Gentleman would not wish to mislead the House by extravagant use of language when he talks about masses of people coming into this country. Will he acknowledge that as a result of a debate in this House a three-man tribunal—a Conservative MP, a Labour MP and a peer—is examining the possibility of drawing up a register of dependants. Should that not also be taken into account?
§ Mr. Speed
Such a register might be helpful. I suggested that one should be drawn up shortly after entering this House in 1968, but that alone will not solve the problem.
I do not wish to overstate the position, but on the Home Secretary's own figures we are talking about a population equivalent to that of Worcester or Bedford coming to this country every year. The Hawley Report and others show that we have an open-ended commitment, particularly because of the mathematical progression involved in the finance problem. If, as it seems, there is no finity to the numbers, many people will regard the number of immigrants as masses.
2219 We are talking about thousands of immigrants going to a comparatively few areas that are already under great pressure. If the 60,000 immigrants could be dispersed throughout the country, say 1,000 to each county, things would be very much easier, but no one in this House would go along with that solution.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Hicks) raised the subject of unemployment, as he did in this debate last year. He was powerfully supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West (Sir A. Meyer) and the hon. Member for Bedwellty. Replying to the debate last year, the previous Leader of the House said:The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Hicks) called attention to unemployment, particularly in his constituency. I share his concern. As I pointed out recently, two factors are responsible. One is world recession and the other is the level of inflation in this country, and there is the uncertainty which flows from them. The best way of combating unemployment is to combat inflation. If we achieve the objectives in our anti-inflation policy and if the upturn in world trade which we expect next year takes place, we can look forward to a deceleration in the rise in unemployment. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be making a statement next week during the Report stage of the Employment Protection Bill on the temporary employment subsidy and will give details of how it will work. I hope that that will be of assistance to the hon. Gentleman and others. In the autumn, if necessary, my right hon. Friend will be announcing more comprehensive measures to assist in the fight against unemployment."—[Official Report, 31st July 1975; Vol. 896, c. 2122–3.]Unemployment is now up by 50 per cent. and there is a particular problem with young people. I can think of nothing worse than leaving school or technical college and starting adult life—which should be a time of looking forward to the first job and the first pay packet and exercising one's skills—as part of the dole queue. This is a serious problem that has clearly got substantially worse since last year, and we look forward to hearing what the Leader of the House has to say about it.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Fairbairn) made some interesting comments on the vehicle licensing centre at Swansea and on cherished number plates. The centre has not been the great success for which we had all hoped. This is a topical subject because there have been a number of Press reports that the Chan- 2220 cellor of the Exchequer intends to replace the vehicle excise duty with a fuel tax, which will result in a reduction in the number of Civil Service jobs. I do not know whether these reports are accurate, but they must be extremely unsettling for these employees at Swansea and for those trying to plan in this country's motor industry.
Such a move will undoubtedly have a considerable influence on motor design. This country is fairly strong on cars in the medium and high petrol consumption range and not so strong in the low petrol consumption range. We shall have to wait two or three years for the Mini replacement while the Imp is being phased out, and the Ford Fiesta is a multinational car. The addition of 20p a gallon on petrol in place of the excise duty would hit the British car industry hard.
My hon. Friend the Member for Romford referred to the ratification of the European Patent Convention, and on the time scale that he mentioned this is an urgent matter. My hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence), with his great legal experience, spoke about the need for an experiment of tape-recording police interviews with suspects. It seems extraordinary that we should have been waiting years for such an experiment. The sooner it gets under way, the better for all concerned.
The House has again sat late into August, despite the fact that a year ago the previous Leader of the House said that he hoped we should be able to finish early. There is a widespread feeling in the House and throughout the country that Parliament is trying to pass far too much legislation. Much of it is ill-digested and is not improved by guillotines, particularly on five contentious and complicated Bills.
I have read reports that the Law Society is extremely concerned about this situation. Lawyers and accountants are in the front line and have to advise clients and customers on how the law is to work. If there is no time for proper debate, it is difficult for them to see what Parliament is even trying to get at, let alone for them to suggest sensible amendments.
Things have gone wrong even on Bills that have not geen guillotined. The Water Bill passed by my party two or three 2221 years ago is one example. If it can happen on a Bill like that, how much more danger is there of land mines in guillotined Bills?
The one argument in favour of the devolution Bill in the next Session is that we shall get bogged down in such a morass that there will be little time for other Bills. I can see no other advantage and I agree with those hon. Members who say that if there is any attempt to introduce a guillotine it will not get through. I suspect that by the middle of next year we shall be climbing up the wall at the mention of devolution.
The grave problems that we face cannot be solved by passing an increasing number of Bills, as some people seem to believe. Those who consider that Parliament is an enormous sausage machine that should turn out legislation and that the productivity of Governments should be measured by the number of Bills they produce are wrong. The country needs less legislation. Let the people get on and thrive and prosper. The more we try to intervene, the worse we make things. I am impressed by the fact that Germany thrives and prospers with far fewer Bills.
If that message gets through to the Government and we have a large reduction in the number of Bills next Session, this long hot parliamentary summer will not have been in vain.
§ 8.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Max Madden (Sowerby)
The hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Speed) indicated that he did not want to curtail the debate and I hope that the Leader of the House and my hon. Friend the Member for Lambeth, Central (Mr. Lipton), who is waiting to speak, will forgive me if I take just a moment to add my voice to those who say that we should not adjourn tomorrow. The Lord President is, I suppose, the most sought after and most despised Minister of the Government. He is badgered and pilloried by Members pressing him for time to discuss all sorts of issues.
If nothing else, he and we can do ourselves a good turn if we do something about reforming the recesses and their timing in the parliamentary year. I hope that the Lord President will address himself to the possibility of trying to reform the Summer Recess in the interests of 2222 those with families who find the present arrangements highly unsatisfactory, and to rearranging the year to accommodate the views of the majority of Members who see no reason for the way in which we organise our affairs.
I should like to say a few words about the severe difficulties and uncertainties still shrouding the industry which plays an important part in my area of West Yorkshire—the textile industry. Those difficulties are severe. There is a continuing climate of anxiety and uncertainty that only the Government can dispel. I hope that we shall have early indications from the Government of their attitude to a number of important issues causing great anxiety to the textile industry.
We should like clear information on the negotiating posture of the Government to the renegotiation of the GATT Multi-Fibre Arrangement. In particular, we should like to know whether the Government will adopt a tough attitude in the talks to secure the safeguards that the textile industry needs.
Secondly, there is great uncertainty about dumping and the legalisation affecting it. We are also concerned about what will happen to the ability urgently to pursue complaints about dumping when the responsibility for these matters is passed to Brussels and the EEC Commission. Those powers pass to Brussels next July. We want information about the machinery that the EEC Commission proposes to establish to investigate dumping complaints.
Thirdly, there is great anxiety and uncertainty about the extension of the wool textile scheme. An announcement has been eagerly awaited for some little while now. We have been told that a statement will be made soon. But that will not clear away the uncertainty and doubts which this unresolved matter creates in the minds of those responsible for planning investment and for planning the future of the textile industry.
We want to know how much more money will be made available to the wool textile industry by way of the scheme. We want to know what effect investment will have on capacity. We are concerned lest there will be a distinct lack of investment in the industry when the improvement in trade arrives. We are also worried 2223 about the possible shortage of skilled workers when the improvement in trade arrives.
While I am commenting on the amount of public investment within the textile industry, I think that it is also apposite to raise an important matter of considerable concern to many of us with an interest in the textile industry—the Government's highly preferential loan of £5 million to a subsidiary of Lonrho to acquire Brentford Nylons. The hon. Member for Ashford cited this example as something to the credit of Lonrho. We must all be worried about employment and maintaining employment, but a number of highly topical questions surrounding the advance of this public money to a subsidiary of Lonrho ought to have been carefully scrutinised by Parliament. We should have had an opportunity—an opportunity which has been denied—to discuss that matter.
Many of us believe that such advances ought not to have been made to this subsidiary at a time when Lonrho was still the subject of detailed investigation. We are gravely concerned that the Department of Trade does not have a stake or did not seek wholly to acquire Brentford Nylons, which many would have favoured, rather than to make a £5 million loan to a subsidiary of Lonrho. That would have been a way of demonstrating that public money and public investment have a rôle within the textile industry I am sure those of my hon. Friends who represent textile constituencies are auxiously awaiting injections to public funds via the National Enterprise Board into the textile industry. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) has always advocated that the NEB should be able to acquire specialist firms in the textile industry as a way of maintaining employment and creating a situation by which we can combat the effects of the handful of powerful companies that dominate the textile industry.
Many of us find it incredible that the Government should have found it possible to advance public money to this Lonrho subsidiary almost simultaneously with the publication of the Department of Trade's report on Lonrho, which revealed many grave matters.
2224 This House has heard a most extraordinary indictment of this company and its directors and has heard even more extraordinary revelations about the activities of Mr. Rowland from my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, West (Mr. Sedgmore). The report exposes the sanctions-busting against Rhodesia, massive retrospective expenses, senior ex-Tory politicians exploiting tax havens, and many other extremely serious matters.
We must reflect that this matter came to light only as a result of a boardroom battle—an accident of circumstance—which, if it had not occurred, we should have known nothing about. Therefore we must reflect that these matters often come about by accident—for example, by someone going into bankruptcy, as happened recently, when another startling revelation came to public view.
The report on Lonrho from the Department of Trade reads like a Hollywood film script. It has been described as the unpleasant and unacceptable face of capitalism. Anyone who takes the trouble to read this enormous volume on Lonrho will view it as an unbelievable record of what is wrong with far too much of British business.
It raises important issues that we should be discussing in the House as a matter of urgency. It raises important issues about the reform of company law—issues that ought to be tackled immediately before the House goes into recess.
I conclude by expressing my sympathy with the Lord President, who has once again laid himself open to our appeals, pillories, moans and groans. It is not the first time that he has sat patiently listening to debates of this sort.
I shall end with my original appeal to him. I believe that he can do us all a good turn by addressing himself to the ways in which we can do away with what my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) described as this exercise in hypocrisy, which is outdated and which can be abolished to help not only Parliament but our constituents in pursuing important matters in England in a more intelligent and reasonable way.
§ 8.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Marcus Lipton (Lambeth, Central)
I am not going to follow the 2225 example of the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Speed) by going over all the speeches made by all the hon. Members who have taken part in this debate. On the other hand, I am not seeking any preferment in the unlikely event of any Conservative Government coming to power. I shall confine myself to one sentence regarding Lonrho.
Whenever Lonrho is mentioned it always surprises me that Opposition Members are willing to leap to its defence and to pretend that all is well. I am content to leave the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions to conduct the investigation and to bring the fellows concerned to book.
I shall mention only two matters of domestic interest. The first concerns the plight of Big Ben. I am sorry that all we have to rely on so far are Press statements. We know that Press statements cannot always be relied upon. Between now and the time when we come back I should like an official statement about what has happened and when Big Ben is likely to resume its activities.
At the moment it is on strike because it is not striking. We hope that it will be in full bloom before we are very much older. I want the Lord President to promise that an official statement will be made, because Ben is the most loved object in London. The chimes of Big Ben go all round the world. They were a source of inspiration during the last war, just as they are at present.
The second point concerns New Palace Yard. For a day or two the fountain in New Palace Yard was in full spate and then it went out of action. I am informed that it went out of action because the pump installed for the purpose of making the fountain work was found to be not only inadequate but too small. A hole was dug and a lot of men stood round the hole and looked down. That is all that happened. The hole was filled up again.
I should like to know when the new pump will be installed so that the fountain can be put into full operation. It is ridiculous that money should have been spent and the fountain should not be working at a time when there are many tourists in Westminster. Both the fountain and Big Ben, in full working order, are useful additions to the amenities of the Houses of Parliament.
§ 8.22 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Michael Foot)
The House has had an extensive debate on this motion—probably longer than we have had on similar occasions. I hope that the House will excuse me if I try to reply fairly briefly to what has been said and if, in doing so, I do not go into all the merits and demerits of the various arguments. How ever, that is not my obligation. After all, although some hon. Members have developed the merits or the demerits of their arguments, it does not alter the fact that we are discussing whether we should depart for the Summer Recess. Therefore, I shall try to relate all my replies to that specific matter. I shall try to keep to the order of those who spoke in the debate but I may stray in some particulars.
The hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) raised matters that we all recognise are of great importance for the people concerned and for the constituency that he represents. Recent events there have underlined the significance of what he said. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland told the House, threats have been made of increased violence in Northern Ireland both in the prisons and on the streets with the aim of deflecting Her Majesty's Government from their policy of ending new admissions to special category status in the prisons.
The Provisional IRA has carried out a number of attacks, including the killing of a soldier and the bombing of the main street in Portrush. More troubles must be expected in the period leading up to 9th August, which is the anniversary of the day that internment was introduced in Northern Ireland. Internment or detention is no longer an issue in Northern Ireland, but the Provisionals and others are bent on making use of that day as an excuse for stirring up trouble. They hope thereby to persuade the Government to change their mind over special category status. They will not succeed in their purpose. The security forces are ready to deal with any eventuality that may arise. The Government, for their part, intend to stand firm on their policy of phasing out special category status for convicted 2227 prisoners, just as they stood firm on ending detention.
The hon. Gentleman also referred to the adequacy of the law as it stands. I have nothing to add to what was said by the Attorney-General at the end of a debate on that subject a few weeks ago. However, I assure the hon. Gentleman, as I have assured him on previous occasions, that the Government are determined to sustain their policy in Northern Ireland. I hope that what I have said will be of some assistance to the hon. Gentleman and to those on whose behalf he has properly raised this matter.
I turn now to the speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) who, like some other hon. Members, has had to depart. I make no complaint. Perhaps I might comprehensively acknowledge those who have apologised for having had to leave the debate, though they say that they will read inHansard what I have to say.
I fully acknowledge what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central about fishing policy. If his advice and that of others had been taken long ago, we might not have had to face quite the same difficulties. But the difficulties must be faced. The decisions were made by others and we must deal with the difficulties that arise in consequence. I agree with my hon. Friend's repudiation of the attacks made by the British Trawlers Federation.
The hon. Member for Wallasey (Mrs. Chalker) referred to the negotiations which are still taking place between the junior hospital doctors and the Department of Health and Social Security. I cannot accept any of her statements about the Government having departed from the undertakings that were given and the agreements that were made. I repeat, the negotiations are still proceeding. It would not be sensible for me to make comments on the negotiations. I am grateful to the hon. Lady for appealing to the junior doctors not to resort to any industrial action and not to continue industrial action in areas where that is taking place. I hope that that advice will be followed. We do not believe that there is any excuse for their resorting to that kind of action to press their claims.
2228 The hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) referred to the Heavy Commercial Vehicles Act. I commiserate with him on missing the debate at 5 o'clock this morning because of a technical procedural point. But the Under-Secretary of State was present and, on a point of order, told the hon. Gentleman that if he submitted to the Department the points that he intended to make, he would get a detailed reply. I am sure that is the best course for him to follow.
The hon. Members for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Eyre) and Thanet, East (Mr. Aitken) asked for further statements on immigration. I do not think that it would be sensible or wise for any further Government statement on immigration to be made in this kind of debate. There was a debate on immigration on 24th May and again for a full day on 5th July, when the House did not divide on the matter. I appreciate the importance that everyone naturally attaches to immigration, but we have had two recent very full debates, and a parliamentary group, under the distinguished chairmanship of Lord Franks, as was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer), has been set up to look at the idea of establishing a register of dependants. I think that it is much better that we should await the group's reply rather than make comments in general terms which might be misleading.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) asked that we should look afresh at the whole question of the way in which the procedures of the House are organised. I shall come later to the question that he and others raised about the Lonrho affair. Others have referred to the procedures of the House, including my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Madden).
We have set up a Procedure Committee, representative of Members of the House who have had experience and including Members who are extremely eager to see drastic reforms made in our procedures. That Committee will report. It may take some time to do so. If it has to deal with the whole question of reorganising the timetable of the House—I am not talking about guillotine motions or anything of that fashionable nature, but about the whole timetable generally—that will take 2229 a considerable time to examine. However, I am sure that that will be one of the matters that will enter into all its discussions.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare said that he greatly regretted that we have not had a debate on South Africa and the appalling events taking place there, particularly in the light, perhaps, of news that we have had in the last day or so, or even this morning. I fully accept that it would have been advantageous if we could have had such a debate on the subject. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House are eager to make it quite clear with what horror they view many of these developments. We must seek a chance of raising this matter at a fairly early date when we return.
My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) raised the question of Mr. and Mrs. Rabkin. The Foreign Office has made repeated representations at the highest level, both here and in Pretoria, demanding that the normal civilised right of consular access be granted to Mr. and Mrs. Rabkin. We have told the South Africans of the deep concern felt in Parliament and in the country generally. An embassy official was able to visit Mrs. Rabkin on 3rd August and confirmed that she had no complaints about the material conditions of her detention, but we continue to press for consular access to Mr. Rabkin—and to Mr. Patrick Weach, who, we have recently learned, is also detained in South Africa. I shall see that my hon. Friend's comments on the matter are conveyed to the Foreign Office. We shall certainly not relax any efforts to do whatever we can to assist in the situation.
The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Hicks) referred particularly to the unemployment situation. I shall return to that matter shortly. He referred especially to the unemployment of school leavers. The hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Speed) referred back to what was said a year ago on this subject.
We took steps a year ago to assist in the situation. If those steps had not been taken then, the position would have been even worse. I remember very well the debates that we had a year ago on the subject. When we announced the 2230 temporary employment subsidy, for example, some sceptical questions were raised whether it would have much effect. However, I think that most people would agree that it was a measure well worth introducing. The same was true of the school leaver subsidy that we had last year, which has been improved this year. That is also well worth having. The job creation schemes are well worth having.
But, of course, we acknowledge that all these measures together, and the further measures we are proposing—the work experience proposals and the extension of training schemes—although we have done this on a bigger scale than ever before, are not sufficient to deal with the full scale of the unemployment problem. Our solutions must depend very much more on how the whole economic policy of the country can be developed.
I come now to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley and the matters that he raised about the Health and Safety Commission and its operations. I hope that he will excuse me if I do not go into great detail about those matters. I assure him that we, and the whole House, are most grateful to him for the vigilance that he shows on this subject. It helps to ensure that the Department of Employment and the Health and Safety Commission are kept constantly on the watch how they can improve the way in which they are operating.
My hon. Friend has raised the question of his Weights Bill on a number of occasions, but I cannot give him any better answer, from his point of view, from that which he has received previously. That is that to allow the Bill to go forward would be an encroachment on the responsibilities of the Health and Safety Commission and would be contrary to our objectives of bringing a co-ordinated approach to the problems of health and safety and the review of existing legislation.
I think that my hon. Friend will agree that, along with the development of the inspectorate and the assurance that we shall try to sustain that despite all the difficulties of economies, and so on, one of the most important developments that we must carry forward is the establishment of the safety committees, through 2231 the trade unions. That is one of the ways in which we shall be able to try to ensure that the improved regulations and the improved propositions under the health and safety legislation are properly translated into effect.
The Home Secretary appointed a committee in 1975 to look into the feasibility of using tape recorders in interviews with the police. It is true, as the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) said, that there has been considerable delay. The committee is chaired by an Under-Secretary in the Home Office and its membership is representative of a broad spectrum of the police and the Bar. It has had 12 meetings and at its meeting on 12th December it approved a draft report which will shortly be submitted to the Home Secretary. He has undertaken that it will be published as soon as possible. The hon. Gentleman should be gratified by that answer. Had he wished to elicit that answer earlier, he might have done so by a Question or a Private Notice Question during the last few weeks or months, but I well understand that he thinks he gets better answers from me than from any other member of the Government.
As for my hon. Friends who raised the subject of the Cromarty Petroleum Order Confirmation Bill, I cannot add to what was said by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland in the debate on Monday. I recognise the concern which has been expressed in many quarters and I shall see that the suggestions made by my hon. Friends are passed to the Ministers concerned. It may be that there is nothing further we can add to what has been said and anything further will have to be said when a fresh debate is arranged soon after the House returns.
The hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Neubert) asked that we should proceed speedily with legislation on patents. At the same time as hon. Members are saying that we should not have too much legislation, they put forward their own propositions for legislation. I do not wish to depreciate the importance of the measure for which the hon. Gentleman asks. Unfortunately, it has not proved possible to find a place for the Patents Bill in the programme for this Session. I hope that we shall be able to find room for a comprehensive Patents Bill in the 2232 programme early in the next Session. I shall do all I can to ensure that the Bill reaches the statute book as soon as possible and that it will fulfil the requirements to which the hon. Gentleman referred.
My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook) has had to depart for Edinburgh. I fully understand why he stressed the importance of a full debate on transport policy before we proceed to the further development of the Government's policy. He expressed his anxieties in strong terms. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment will take full account of what he said. We understand that there must be a major debate on transport and the extremely important issues affecting the jobs of railwaymen and others employed in the industry. We recognise the importance of ensuring that we debate the matter properly before proceeding to action.
My hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Mr. Walker) spoke of the anxieties of aircraft workers about what might happen before the provisions of the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill are put into effect. I have done my best to get the Bill through the House of Commons, and the sooner we get it on to the statute book the better. Of course, I believe that those concerned must take account of the desire of the House to ensure that no decisions are taken which might prejudice the future.
As on previous occasions, my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby referred to the textile industry, about which he expressed anxiety. The Government recognise the concern expressed by him and others about low-cost clothing and textile imports. I wish to remind my hon. Friend that we have now more extensive restraints on imports than ever before. The most recent measure involved restraints on some imports from South Korea.
We are always prepared to consider further measures where these can be justified under the terms of the multifibre arrangement and to consider action against imports under the anti-dumping legislation where there is evidence of dumping. I appreciate that there are sometimes difficulties in applying those tests, but I am sure that my hon. Friend will continue to press this matter. I 2233 am also sure that we shall deal with the situation satisfactorily. However, that does not remove the likelihood of more general discussion of those questions, and I believe that we shall have to have those discussions.
I turn to the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, West (Mr. Sedgemore). He was entitled to make those remarks. Far from rushing into claims about privilege, he was saying the opposite. If his allegations are justified and correct—as I would expect them to be if they come from my hon. Friend—they would appear to raise questions of privilege in one form or another. It is true to say that my hon. Friend did not seek to raise them in that way, but threats to Members of this House in an effort to persuade them from carrying out their parliamentary duties are the clearest kind of breach of privilege there can be.
Many of us think that we should be chary in applying privilege claims because we do not want to use that procedure in a way that interferes with the rights of people to exercise free speech. However, if such a campaign as my hon. Friend suggests were to be continued, there is no doubt that it would trespass on the privilege of the House. My hon. Friend warned the House that he was not prepared to accept such things lying down, and he was entitled to speak as he did.
On the Lonrho affair generally, there has been a recent debate in the House, and I understand that it was an extremely good one and raised matters of considerable importance for the House and the country generally. It may be that at some stage—and I understand that there are still some legal proceedings involved—we shall conduct a much fuller debate on the subject. I would not exclude that possibility.
I turn to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton), who also has had to depart from the Chamber—and I do not blame him. I shall not go into the subject of devolution, even though the hon. Member for Ashford invited me to comment on that matter. Once we have carried through the full devolution measure, it 2234 will relieve the House of many matters, which will then be debated elsewhere. That is one of the purposes of devolution.
The Houghton Report to which my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central referred, will soon be published and the House will then have to decide what to do about it. My hon. Friend drew a sharp contrast between the attitude of some people in regard to their support of political parties, and he made various quotations from theWestern Morning News. I shall not comment further on my hon. Friend's references to devolution. We shall have a chance to return to that subject at a fairly early date—although not, I trust, immediately.
§ Mr. Foot
I should not give way. It would greatly lengthen the debate if I were to give way too frequently.
I have tried to cover pretty well all the speeches. I have not referred to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock), who raised the extremely important question—in some respects, it is the most important question which faces the country—of the menace of unemployment and how we can overcome it. I do not propose to comment in detail on what my hon. Friend said about the proposed job swap scheme. It has been put forward only in a tentative fashion. It is not intended to deal with the full range structural problems referred to by my hon. Friend. However, it is an important experiment which could assist us in dealing with similar problems in future. Hon. Members will wish to deal with questions of unemployment as soon as the House resumes after the recess. Unemployment must be the major preoccupation of the country until we have succeeded in greatly reducing the numbers.
I conclude with a word or two about those who imagine that some of the difficulties we have experienced in this Session have been uniquely due to the Government introducing legislation or even to a Leader of the House who occasionally, in the last extremity, has been forced to introduce guillotine motions. That is not the case. The House of Commons has had this experience on many 2235 occasions. The other day I read a sentence in Disraeli's "Lothair":It was August, and town was thinning fast. Parliament still lingered, but only for technical purposes; the political struggle of the session having terminated at the end of July.I conclude by congratulating all right hon. and hon. Members who have not merely participated in the struggles which have ended in July but have survived the "technical purposes" of this debate.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That this House at its rising tomorrow do adjourn till Monday 11th October.