§ Mr. Speaker
Before I call the Leader of the House to move his motion, I wish to make a brief statement to the House.
At the conclusion of the Division during the Supply Day on Wednesday, the right hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury raised a point of order which Hansard reports as concluding with the words:… I should like it to be recorded that the Government do not accept the decision which has been recorded"—[Official Report, 11th February 1976; Vol. 905, c. 525.]At the time, I made the comment that what the Government accepted was not my responsibility.
After serious reflection, I am satisfied that my reply needs further explanation. In so far as the right hon. Gentleman's words could be taken to mean that the Government intended to disregard a vote of the House and to proceed as if it had 1134 never been taken, those would not be proper expressions of opinion either for a Minister to make or for a Speaker to overlook without deprecation.
I must make it plain that proper regard should be held at all times for resolutions and orders of the House and, so far as lies within the power of the Chair, it is the duty of the Speaker to uphold them. Those proceedings on last Wednesday's Division were in order; the result is a matter of record and will remain on record in the Journals.
It is of course open to the House to modify the effect of a decision after it has been taken or, indeed, in effect to nullify the decision, provided that the same Question is not again proposed in identical terms, but until such a course is taken, the decision stands.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Robert Mellish)
Following what you have just said, Mr. Speaker, may I make it abundantly clear to the House that I willingly withdraw the remarks that I made last week and apologise to you and to the House for having made them? The House will know something of the heat of the moment at the time, when a second Division had been called when about 140 or 150 Members who had voted in the First Division were absent. I made my remarks in the context of the absence of those hon. Members.
However, I have been a Member of this House for 30 years and I claim to be as good a House of Commons man as most. I would therefore say to the House that I recognise and put it on record that any decisions of this House must be binding on the Government of the day, and I so state. I therefore apologise and ask to be allowed to withdraw the statement.
§ Mr. John Peyton (Yeovil)
I should like briefly to acknowledge with gratitude, Mr. Speaker, what you have just said. If I may say so respectfully, your words were very well chosen and very welcome. I should like to thank you on behalf of the whole House. I should also like to say to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury that we recognise that the heat of the moment is of fairly frequent occurrence in this place. We very much appreciate what he has just said.
§ 3.44 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Edward Short)
I beg to move,That this House, notwithstanding the opinion expressed on 11th February in the Motion relating to the salary of the Secretary of State for Industry, affirms that the provisions of the relevant Statutes shall continue to apply.I should like to make it clear that in the Government's view we are today debating a procedural oddity, which is perhaps unprecedented, in that a miscount in the Lobby almost certainly converted a Government majority into a paper defeat. That is why we cannot agree that any question of confidence is involved in the second vote last Wednesday. As to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry, I have no doubt that a majority of hon. Members have every confidence in him, but that is not the issue in this debate.
What happened last week was a quirk of the kind which occurs in the House from time to time. This could, of course, be proved by instructing the authorities of the House to produce a list of those who participated in the lapsed Division. However, we have not done that and we are not proposing to do it in the motion. We have preferred to follow precedent and to deal with the only point involved, which is my right hon. Friend's salary.
We are doing this despite the fact that, strictly, no action is necessary because the Opposition motion last Wednesday was simply an expression of opinion which could not be given effect without further action. Nevertheless, as my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury has just said, we accept the technical validity of the second vote and, therefore, think it right to give the House this opportunity to change its expressed opinion, which was reached in such unusual circumstances.
The fact of the Government's ability to attract the support of a majority of the House surely cannot be in doubt. For instance, on Tuesday of last week, against all the predictions of the Press and the Opposition, and against the combined maximum efforts of the opposition parties, the Government had a majority of quite unexpected size in all the Divisions, although of course at considerable cost to sick Members, to our European delegations and to ministerial duties.
1136 However, in politics, I believe, one should never get too elated or too deflated about anything. In the event, Wednesday saw an apparent turnabout, but I am afraid that it was a turnabout purely by accident and not by the efforts of the Opposition.
When it became clear to my right hon. Friend the Government Chief Whip that there had been a miscount on the first vote, he took the proper and honourable course. He brought the matter to your notice, Mr. Speaker, and the Tellers from both sides confirmed the mishap. It would of course be fascinating to know precisely what was the outcome of the first vote, but we are forgoing that satisfaction and instead are handling the matter in the traditional way.
§ Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)
Am I not right in saying that it is not open to the right hon. Gentleman to reopen the question of whose names were recorded in that first Division, so that he is not forgoing any right but merely facing the facts, as he has to face them? He is doing nothing generous in this and I am sure that he would not wish wrongly to claim credit for it. He is surely not entitled to reopen the question of whose names were recorded in a lapsed Division.
§ Mr. Short
I am not claiming any credit or claiming to be generous. I am saying only that we are forgoing putting in this motion an instruction to the Clerks to publish the names in the first Division. If we did so, that would show that the Government had won that Division quite handsomely.
I find it interesting to consider the comments last Wednesday of the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton).
§ Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South-West)
On a point of order. Are the comments which the Leader of the House has just made in order, Mr. Speaker, in view of what you said earlier about the validity of the first Division and the second one?
§ Mr. Speaker
But the House is its own master. If the House decided by resolution on a certain course, it would not be in my power to overrule the House.
§ Mr. Short
I think that I am in order, as is any hon. Member, in speculating on the result of that Division had it been 1137 announced. I am simply speculating on what the Division lists would have shown if they had been published.
I was talking about the right hon. Member for Yeovil. He questioned whether it was right to take another vote. He said to you, Mr. Speaker:The point I wish to put to you is whether this is the moment at which the Question should be put again.You, Mr. Speaker said that it was the right moment and he went on to say:I wonder whether this is correct"—[Official Report, 11th February 1976; Vol. 905, c. 520.]My right hon. Friend supported the inference in what the right hon. Gentleman had said—that the new vote should be put on a different occasion—but, understandably, you, Mr. Speaker, following precedent, ruled that the Question should be put immediately. The second vote revealed, as my right hon. Friend had predicted, an "untrue picture". Many hon. Members from both sides had left the House, including myself. The fact that fewer Government than Opposition supporters were in the Lobby on the second occasion was not, I am sure, because my right hon. and hon. Friends are more nimble-footed in getting away from this place than are hon. Members opposite. The fact is that Private Business was to follow and, whereas the Government were following the normal procedure in Private Business of not intervening, the Opposition were, quite exceptionally, whipped.
The fluke result which this produced moved my right hon. Friend to give notice of the present proceedings. It was a matter not of being a bad loser but of preferring—with justification—the prospects of being a good winner. To repeat, we could not in the circumstances treat the matter as one of confidence in either the Government or my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. However, nor, quite seriously, could we think of ignoring the expressed view of this House, even in the circumstances which I have described. We have, therefore, simply given the House an opportunity to reconsider the issue. I am sure that hon. Members will wish to use this chance to record their views on the issue.
§ Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Ealing, Southall)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will you clear the matter up for the House? 1138 Will you say what we are restricted to talk about during this debate? The Leader of the House said in his statement that we were virtually confined to talking about the salary of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry. At the moment I do not even know what his salary is. Can we resume the debate on the motor industry which gave rise to the decision of the House at that time?
§ Mr. Speaker
I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman. It is always dangerous to ask the Speaker how far one can go because, by the nature of things, he likes to limit remarks. However, it is possible, within the terms of this motion, to discuss the duties of the Secretary of State. Hon. Members should bear in mind how long the debate is expected to continue.
§ 3.53 p.m.
§ Mr. John Peyton (Yeovil)
A certain love of understatement causes me to describe the speech of the Leader of the House as rather disappointing. He said that he might have called for the figures, and, as he spoke as if he knew what the figures were, we can only be surprised that he did not do so. However, the right hon. Gentleman did not make that clear.
I should like to make it clear myself that on this side of the House there is no ill will whatever towards the right hon. Gentleman——
§ Mr. Peyton
The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Industry.
We shall be a great deal less disturbed if at the end of the day he gets his full money than we are by his policies and by what he does. Indeed, we have frequently noted—and this is to be said in his favour—that there are times when his own enthusiasm seems to be absent from the speeches that he makes in support of those policies.
We are also greatly concerned today about the Government's general attitude to Parliament. Last Wednesday was just one occurrence which fanned those anxieties. There can be no doubt in anyone's mind that the motion last week was intensely critical of an important aspect of Government policy. It is worth mentioning that the last time such a motion was carried was in 1895, and then the Government, well-advised and very 1139 properly prompted, with good motives, resigned.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King)—reported at column 461 of Hansard for that date—made it absolutely clear that it was the Opposition's intention to censure both the Minister and the Government on grounds of incompetence, delay and failure to practise what they preached. There was never any dispute—nor is there now—as to the weight of criticism behind the motion. Both sides had three-line Whips. There is also no dispute as to what happened. A Government Teller miscounted, quite possibly to his own party's disadvantage. I wish to be absolutely fair. My hon. Friend the Member for High Peak (Mr. Le Marchant) very properly called attention to the fact and as a result the Tellers declared themselves unable to report reliable figures.
I suppose that by this time the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House had disappeared. We are grateful to him for his acknowledgment. It must be difficult for him to take part in this debate not having had the advantage of being present to witness what occurred on that occasion. Nevertheless, in the right hon. Gentleman's absence a brief argument took place under cover of that ghastly hat.
§ Mr. Peyton
I agree with the hon. Gentleman. It is a grotesque hat and I very much hope that when the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House has had time to set up the Procedure Committee it will make arrangements for the final disposal of that hat.
You then said, Mr. Speaker, that you had no alternative but to put the Question again and to do so at once. This ruling, if I may respectfully say so, was very disturbing to the usual channels, in whose mind there dawned an apprehension and suspicion that some hon. Members, zealous as always in the pursuit of their public duties, might have prematurely left the precincts. The Division which followed proved that that was so. The Government lost by five votes, but with neither side commanding quite the full support which efficient and cruel 1140 whipping could have led them to have expected.
§ Mr. Peyton
No, I should be obliged if the hon. Gentleman would intervene a little later.
Neither your calling of the Division, Mr. Speaker, nor the result which you duly declared provoked any demonstration of wrath or anger from the "terraces opposite". It was only from the "Director's Box", if I may so call it, that there came a fairly sharp reaction.
I have had to limit severely what I intended to say in view of what the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Whip said just now. However, the Chief Whip did rise, with a great deal of gnashing of teeth, and asked—as you have reminded the House, Mr. Speaker—that it should be recordedthat the Government do not accept the decision which has been recorded."—[Official Report, 11th February 1976; Vol. 905. c. 525.]The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Whip has very rightly and properly withdrawn that remark, and I accept that withdrawal. However, I think it is important that we should take note that that decision, whatever miscalculations or mishaps may have laid behind it, was a decision taken in accordance with the rules and properly and duly declared by you, Mr. Speaker.
It behoves us in this place to take note of the fact that rules are quite important. They are the sinews of our British constitution, which at one time placed effective limitations upon the power of the majority. It is one of the problems of our time that the limitations and restrictions upon the majority are no longer effective.
The Government today invite the House to rescind a decision. I have reminded the House that the last time that sort of thing happened, in 1895, the Government very properly resigned. However, it would make a great nonsense of our proceedings, which are already receiving their full share of public criticism, if such an invitation were to be issued whenever things went just a bit wrong, even when the errors crept into the machinery of the Whips' Office. It would be tantamount to the Government saying, with 1141 only a gossamer-thin disguise, "The House of Commons must decide things our way".
If that is not the intention of Ministers, I must say this to them: they have clumsily adopted, without prior thought or subsequent explanation, an attitude of something near to contempt for the rules, which I have described as the very sinews of our constitution.
The appearance of this motion on the Order Paper means in fact that you, Mr. Speaker, are satisfied that it is in order. However, before we pass it, if pass it we do, the House should surely pause to ask the question, "Are we not turning our backs rather abruptly on the rule to which "Erskine May" refers, on page 377?" That rule is thatno question shall be offered which is substantially the same as one on which judgment has been expressed during the current sessionIt is true that the "Good Book", as you term it, Mr. Speaker—if I may respectfully say so, I should like to describe it in very different ways—goes on to say that this rule is very strictly interpreted so as not to preclude rescission. However, the Question today—we have to notice this—is virtually the same, save for a negative, as that on Wednesday: should the right hon. Gentleman have his money? We were saying and are saying that, for reasons wholly without malice towards himself, we think that he should not have it, or should have to make do with less.
To go on from that point, we reach a stage—I am sorry to have to say this, Mr. Speaker, because it seems to run contrary to your endorsement of this great work—at which the "Good Book" immerses itself in detail. As I have observed in my limited incursions into the work, it has a preference for detailover clarity. On page 377, the same page, these words are used:The power of rescission has only been exercised in the case of a resolution resulting from a substantive motion, and even in such a case sparingly. It cannot be exercised merely to override a vote of the House, such as a negative vote.It then gives a reminder of the requirement that there should be sufficient variation in the subsequent motion. Perhaps I may quote the words of the book:Sufficient variation would have to be made not only from the form but also from the 1142 substance of the rejected question to constitute the second question a new question.Perhaps I may again respectfully quote, for the last time, from this book. There is a more refreshing and rather clearer summing up on page 379, where it is said:With regard to the whole matter it may be stated generally that the reason why motions for open rescission are so rare and why the rules of procedure carefully guard against the indirect rescission of votes, is that both Houses instinctively realise, as a precedent referred to above shows"—and here are the words that really count—that parliamentary government requires the majority to abide by a decision regularly come to, however unexpected, and that it is unfair to resort to methods, whether direct or indirect, to reverse such a decision.I believe that those words, and particularly that last quotation, deserve the very careful attention and consideration of us all.
I do not want to make a long speech today, but I should like to sum up by saying that the debate today at least touches upon things of very great importance, in particular the question whether there are any remaining effective checks upon the power of the Executive and the—for the time being—majority in this House. I choose my words with care. The present Government are not particularly respectful of views other than their own—so much so that their beliefs in liberty seem from time to time to have been wholly evap0orated by their arrogant determination to get their own way.
It is for those reasons that my right hon. and hon. Friends will vote against the motion this evening.
§ Mr. Peyton
To have the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House just comment from a sedentary position to say that that is nonsense——
§ Mr. Peyton
If the right hon. Gentleman likes to use some other term, I shall gladly listen to it, but he goes on saying "Rubbish", "Nonsense", and the rest, and in so doing from a sedentary position he once again shows how justified my words today have been.
§ 4.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)
I am most grateful for the opportunity to make a few comments in this important debate. It is important because, among other things, it shows up some of the glaring inadequacies of our Parliament. It seems to me extraordinary that our decisions should depend on whether hon. Members stay on for 10 minutes or so to see whether the count has taken place correctly, or whether they have gone to an important meeting or, perhaps, for some sort of relaxation. This is an indication that the House really ought to have a look at some electronic method of voting which could be recorded by the individual Member and done much more rapidly. In addition to the confusion that going through the Lobbies causes on these, happily, rare occasions, it also wastes a great deal of time.
§ Mr. Goodhew
Is the hon. Gentleman saying that the buttons for electronic voting should be in places such as the Russian Embassy, for the convenience of those who dash out, as happened the other evening.
§ Mr. Cryer
I know of the hon. Member's total obsession with the red menace and how, like his companions on the Opposition Benches, he longs to spend public money in huge swathes on anything connected with armaments, but when it comes to spending public money on the kind of things that matter, like housing, the National Health Service and schools, he takes a different view. Then he starts bringing up the ridiculous smear tactics in which, I am sorry to say, his companions consistently indulge.
I am suggesting that the House could well have a look at some kind of device for improving the speed at which we take our votes. It is rather ridiculous that we should have a system in which we have occasionally to bring people from hospitals and sick beds into the precincts to register their vote by entering the Lobby.
I am very pleased that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House is present, because it is due to the Labour Government that we are to have a look at our procedures and establish a Committee so that we can, perhaps, improve the whole system, so that an error of this kind will 1144 not occur again. If we have three or four votes taking roughly 20 minutes each, that involves an hour or more. Frankly, we are paid to do something rather different from simply marching through the Lobbies.
The motion is also concerned with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry. I know that he would not miss the £1,000 and would probably relish the gesture of giving up that £1,000 to demonstrate that the Labour Government are not merely seeking to enhance salaries for themselves and are prepared to recognise that they represent the working class of the country who will never see the same very large salaries as Cabinet Ministers and other members of the Government receive.
The difficulty is that the Opposition, on the other hand, are seeking merely to play politics in this situation and are using this opportunity to criticise my right hon. Friend for his valiant efforts in assisting in the rescue of Chrysler, on which he has spent the bulk of his time. It seems to me that while the Opposition pour out their criticism, all that Opposition Members have been doing with their voices and votes is to speak and vote against retaining the existing levels of employment.
Only an hour or so ago we had a Conservative Front Bench speaker and others of those hon. Gentlemen opposite getting up and condemning us, asking what the Government were going to do about decreasing the present level of unemployment. What did they do when it came to rescuing the 40,000 or 50,000 jobs in Chrysler? They opposed it, just as they opposed the rescue of Alfred Herbert, because they see any act of the Labour Government as a kind of creeping Socialism which must therefore be opposed on political dogma, the dogma of the market place, allowing people to go to the wall, although hon. Gentlemen opposite are careful not to place themselves in the position of adding voluntarily to the dole queue.
If some Opposition Members gave up their triple and quadruple jobs on boards of directors, which is an area in which they should be concerned with overmanning, or the directorships with which they are busily lining their pockets, and if they had a look at their own circumstances, they might very well feel a little 1145 more humble when they turn and criticise ordinary working people on such matters as overmanning.
There is nothing whatsoever positive to add to this debate. The Opposition are simply carping critics. They had no solution whatever to the Chrysler problem except to let it go to the wall and let the 25,000 workers in Chrysler line up in the dole queue, because that is the kind of competition which they consider dynamic, the kind of competition that will lead to change and revitalise the economy. That is absolute rubbish, because the diminution in demand would have repercussive effects throughout the whole of our economy. Some parts are made for Chrysler in my constituency, though only a small amount. But the ripples from the closing of Chrysler would spread throughout the length and breadth of the country, and there is hardly an hon. Member here who would not feel the effects.
Already today Opposition Members have been moaning about self-employed small business men. Some small businesses are involved in the Chrysler situation, producing parts for that firm. Therefore, we are not talking only about a basic 25,000 people who are employed in Chrysler.
§ Mr. Nicholas Ridley (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)
The hon. Gentleman started his speech by inveighing against defence expenditure. Is he aware that his own Government have cut 68,000 jobs out of defence industry in the Armed Services? Why is it so laudable to save civilian jobs where motor cars are not required for civilian or military purposes whereas it is quite wrong to employ people in defence in the public sector, and unemployment produced by cuts in defence is apparently good? Can the hon. Gentleman explain this paradox?
§ Mr. Cryer
I shall be delighted to do so. First of all, the Government's figures for the reduction in manpower in the Services have a suspicious approximation to annual wastage. It may well be that the reduction in the Services is not all that much greater than wastage. It is not only a question of saving civil jobs and getting rid of defence jobs. Many of us on these Benches have always been advocating that there has to be some kind of planned change-over, that it cannot simply be left 1146 to the dole queues to effect a change-over. Of course, the Labour Party actually believes in a planned economy. It does not believe in the effects of the market-place, and it is legitimate for Labour to argue that the Government should be producing a plan for the change-over from swords to ploughshares.
Of course there will be difficulties, but let me remind the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) that in 1945 we had exactly the same difficulty but we managed to effect the change-over from a war-based to a civilian-based economy in a remarkably short space of time. The reason was that the Government had a very large measure of control over the economy, and it was not left to private enterprise entrepreneurs to do what they wanted to people and throw some of them on the scrap heap.
§ Mr. James Lamond (Oldham, East)
No doubt my hon. Friend will also recall that workers in the armaments industry take a great interest in this matter. For example, recently we had a visit in one of the Committee Rooms of this building from the chairman of the Lucas combined shop stewards' committee, a Mr. Michael Cooley; and I am very proud to be able to tell my hon. Friend that he is an ex-president of my union. He had with him documents which outlined a great many practical alternatives to arms production which the workers had themselves worked out, designed and priced, and made available to management throughout the industry. When we have co-operation of that kind—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Oscar Murton)
Order. The hon. Gentleman is moving from an intervention into a speech.
§ Mr. Lamond
Does not that indicate that there is great scope for changing workers from arms production to other production?
§ Mr. Cryer
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for what he has said. I was not present at that meeting. It sounds as if it were a most important one. Members of the Opposition, giggling as usual in schoolgirl manner, do not realise that 1147 there is within the trade union and Labour movement a huge, untapped reservoir of talent. Here my hon. Friend is pointing out that workers whose jobs are to be affected are prepared to look at the whole situation, because these workers are, by and large, descendants of the people who formed the Labour Party in the first place and sent it into office, so that we could establish the right kind of priorities, low on defence and high on social service projects to which we are all so much committed.
That brings me to my next point, which is very important. If criticism can be leveled at my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry, it is that within the framework of consultation there is insufficient means for the Minister and the rank-and-file trade unionists involved to have face-to-face contact so that ideas can be exchanged and developments made.
Far from being the wreckers that the newspapers and the disgraceful cartoon which appeared in the Daily Mail made out, the workers of Chrysler produced a very comprehensive plan which they brought to this House and handed to my right hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary and which eventually reached my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry. That document recognised a factor which the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) also pointed out in his abject intervention. It recognised that we cannot depend on saturation of car production for ever and that there will come a time when car production will be diminished.
In their document, the car workers themselves recognised the need to develop products which would be of benefit especially to the Third World. They went into great detail. They considered, for example, the facilities at the Ryton car paint shop, the fact that there is a huge demand for vehicles of the Land Rover type and a long waiting list, and that we can export virtually as many as we can make. They felt that it would be a good idea to transfer some of the production from British Leyland to the Chrysler line at Ryton. However, they pointed out that their paint shop would not paint aluminium because it was based on an electrostatic technique. That was the kind of detail they went into in their docu- 1148 ment. They gathered information from the various plants in the country and they came to this House because they wanted to show that they were thinking not purely in negative terms but positively.
If there is any criticism, it is that there was not enough face-to-face contact between members of the Government and the people in the factories, although there were contacts between my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and national union officials. That is the importance of this situation. I hope that Chrysler will ensure that it uses the talent which is endemic in that report and that the people who compiled the report will not simply be cast to one side.
I move to another aspect of vague criticism. I feel that, before the Government make judgments about a strike situation, they should investigate both sides. They can give the impression that they are bolstering up what the capitalist Press, which is opposed to them, is trying to fob off—the suggestion that the strikers at Linwood, for example, were merely antagonistic for good purpose.
There was a very complicated situation. It was a difficult transfer. It was difficult for the trade union movement to accept the number of redundancies involved. Therefore, it behoves the Government to tread warily in such an instance. As my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew-shire, West (Mr. Buchan) pointed out, the convener at Linwood, Mr. John Carty, gained a great deal of respect from those hon. Members who met him in one of our Committee Rooms.
It looks sometimes as though we have dual standards. We say to people where public money is going, "You are wrong to withdraw your labour." At the same time, however, we have passed the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Amendment) Bill, which is designed to enable people to maintain their function as a trade union and to withdraw their labour. If the Government are doing this but saying that on no account must strike action be taken, the two seem incompatible. That is a degree of criticism which I advance.
On the other hand, having looked at the Chrysler deal, no matter how complicated it is, the fact is that the Government have saved a number of jobs. They 1149 have also saved an important export contract in terms of 70,000 or 80,000 vehicles a year exported to Iran. That represents an important asset to our balance of payments, and we would have lost it if the deal had fallen through. The Government have also ensured that the Chrysler Alpine will be assembled at Ryton—[Interruption.].
§ Mr. J. W. Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Your hearing may be better than mine, but I have the greatest difficulty in hearing my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) because of the chitchat going on between Opposition Members.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The Chair was not aware that there was any conversation going on. If it was, I deprecate it.
§ Mr. Cryer
I am afraid that on the Opposition Benches there are some Right-wing extremists who are attempting to break up the solemn nature of Parliament. It occurs from time to time. It is very much to be deprecated when moderate people like me are attempting to put forward from the Government Benches an earnest discussion about a matter which, after all, involves some 50,000 jobs. I know that the Opposition are not too interested, because they have their salaries here and, in addition, they may well have the odd directorship or parliamentary advisership. They do not need to worry too much about 50,000 jobs and about the man on £40 a week who has to go home to tell his family that he is redundant. The Opposition have never been bothered before. Why should they start now?
We have here a classic situation which also contains some warnings for the Government. One of the difficulties is that this was a multinational company and that the Iran contract was with the parent company and not with Chrysler United Kingdom Ltd. Therefore, the parent company could wield a certain amount of leverage against the Government.
We have to be prepared to fight these multinational companies and be willing at some stage to say "No. We are not prepared to accept this kind of black-mail." I have in mind an international company with a distribution network throughout Europe. It can say to the 1150 Government "Unless you are prepared to make a contribution of £X million to this factory, it will close, and if you keep it going yourselves you will have to contribute £X million to avail yourselves of the dealerships." It took Datsun five years to achieve a 1 per cent. penetration of the United Kingdom market. Any British car manufacturing firm which was established by the State taking over the tatters of private enterprise remnants might well face the same problem in attempting to penetrate the European market.
Then, again, the Government will have to do some sort of investigating into the preparation that is needed in a situation where a multinational company says "It is true that we are manufacturing these cars here, but mostly they are assembled from parts brought in from West Germany." I understand that the Vauxhall Chevette has body panels manufactured in West Germany. A multinational company could argue "By all means take over the factory, establish a production line and make these cars under licence. But unless you are prepared to give us a substantial contribution of £X million, the cost of producing the additional body panels in our West German or French factory will be too high." This is one of the enormous problems facing any Labour Government in what is basically a capitalist economy, and our Government have to make sure that we are not held to ransom.
Having said that, one matter that remains to be explained is the function of the two directors on the board of Chrysler. I know that my right hon. Friend will be able to explain their rôle in promoting industrial democracy because he is enthusiastic about it. One difficulty about public ownership in the past has been that the man on the broom-handle has not felt the effect of any change.
It is true that Chrysler remains a privately-owned company in a peculiar amalgam with the State. We do not have to wait for the promotion of industrial democracy in the private sector because we are to have two directors on the Board of Chrysler. Chrysler cannot object to them and cannot throw them off. We have two powerful figures. I hope that they will not disappear into limbo but that we shall have regular reports from 1151 them. I hope that these people will be the means by which industrial democracy will be brought to Chrysler.
The talented people in Chrysler should be utilised. I am sorry that no other way could be found to enable workers to control Chrysler, to enable those who produced the report I have mentioned to run the business. That would have been the finest solution of all. Our support for the Government was given on the basis that the action would save 50,000 jobs. In such a situation the Government can rest on our determined support. But we are not solely in the business of propping up capitalism, although on some occasions that may be necessary to preserve jobs. We are in Government to change society.
Many people go to the polls in the hope and expectation that this change will take place. If, ultimately, people find that the same management is doing the same job, over-ordering the same parts, failing to carry out orders, maintaining poor industrial relations and not consulting work-people as in the past, they will become disillusioned. People will say that the Labour Government have not fundamentally changed things. It is true that jobs will have been saved, but the system of society which allows a small group of people to exploit the rest will not have been altered. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be able to produce some comprehensive explanation of how industrial democracy will be introduced into Chrysler. I can tell him that his £1,000 will not depend on his explanation, but it would be nice to have it all the same.
Comparisons have been made between the output of British car workers—Chrysler has been mentioned—and the output of workers in West Germany and France. We need to increase productivity. That is not in dispute. The workers want to do so. Through increased productivity we increase the wealth that maintains what is generally termed a social wage. But the workpeople want to know that that wealth will be shared fairly and that the system of exploitation by which a few get the goodies and the majority make the sacrifies will not be perpetuated.
At the same time, it has to be pointed out that the workpeople will not increase productivity if it means sacrificing their health and even their lives. The figures 1152 for deaths in industry are appalling. In 1973, for example, 896 people died as a result of industrial injury in British manufacturing industry. In France the figure was 2,246, while in Italy it was 3,527. In West Germany—that economic paradise, the place where there is apparently much higher productivity—a country with roughly the same sort of manufacturing population as our, there were 4,011 deaths.
It may be worth pointing out to Tory Members, and to some of my hon. Friends, that although they may talk about days lost through strikes we lose many more times that number of days through industrial injury. I never notice any concentration by the Press on loss of life and limb and the consequent loss of working days. If, however, some people come out on strike in an awkward industrial situation, it makes headlines.
I want an assurance from my right hon. Friend that any measure to increase productivity will not be at the expense of the good health of working people. I confidently expect that assurance since it was this Government who introduced the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act—although it is true that the legislation was drafted by the previous Conservative Government. Therein lie a few faults. One of the criticisms of the Act is that it is not strong enough. I hope that, as experience is gained, the Government will take over my Private Member's Bill aimed at toughening it up. It would certainly benefit a great deal from that action.
I want to conclude—[Interruption.] I am overwhelmed by the enthusiasm shown for my speech. It is generally reflected outside the House on many occasions. I conclude by saying that the vast majority of people outside wanted a straight-forward public ownership deal for Chrysler. Certainly the workpeople, the people at Chrysler, wanted that solution. All their elected representatives were here asking the Government for that solution. The difficulty lies in the complexity of the multinational organisations we face. Although this deal is complicated and not the most ideal situation for us, it has nevertheless saved a number of jobs.
I hope that Chrysler will move to success. I hope that the design team at Chrysler, which has produced so many 1153 excellent models and which designed the Alpine—it was voted the car of the year—will prosper. I trust that the level of investment will increase, because in the past it has been appallingly low. Further, I hope that the two directors will keep a sharp eye open for any transfer of machinery outside the United Kingdom. This has been going on. There is no doubt that Chrysler International has been shifting resources, machinery and design talent from the United Kingdom. I want to see Chrysler become a success.[Interruption.] The difficulty is that we operate against a background of interjections from hon. Members in a sedentary position.
§ Mr. Alan Clark (Plymouth, Sutton)
I was simply adding to the hon. Gentleman's argument by asking whether he did not think that was there a danger of Chrysler International not only shifting its own resources but shifting its grant money from this country.
§ Mr. Cryer
That was characteristically churlish of the hon. Member. He has only just come into the Chamber. He will not have heard that the Government have placed two directors on the board of Chrysler. When I was outlining their functions, or what I thought their functions would be, I was happy to see my right hon. Friend nod in strong agreement when I suggested that they should make regular reports.
The directors will be in a strong position within Chrysler. Chrysler cannot dismiss them. I dare say the hon. Member did not know that. Chrysler cannot object to them. They are overriding directors from the British Government with a duty to report to the Government and make sure that any money which the British taxpayer puts into Chrysler is used in this country and is not shifted abroad.
The point I was making before I was interrupted was that we operate against a sad background of churlishness on the part of the Opposition. I wish that they would play a more constructive rôle. All that the Opposition do is to plead at Question Time for more jobs. Their mentors and the daily Press are saying that we have a satisfactory level of employment, but when we put forward a plan to rescue Chrysler and save 50,000 jobs we get the strong impression that the Opposition would be happy if the 1154 operation failed. I regret that. It is a negative, destructive attitude but that is the Opposition's rôle. They are bound by political dogma. They desperately want to see the economics of the market place operating. Their Front Bench team has recently been strengthened by those who believe in the economics of the market place. Their Front Bench was very weak to begin with.
§ Mr. Cryer
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House suggests that strength is a relative term, but it is a weak strength.
We want Chrysler and everyone else to succeed, but success is judged not only in cash terms but by translating our ideas on industrial democracy into reality. If he needs inspiration, my right hon. Friend should read a document written in 1909 by A. J. Cook on the democratisation of the coal industry—"The Miners—the Next Step". Perhaps by taking out that document and discussing with the trade union movement the ideas involved in that situation we will be led down the road of industrial democracy. If we are to have industrial democracy, the workers must have a share in the direction and decision-making of their company and control over their own destinies within industry. That is the important element of democracy. Perhaps the cash position will follow because workers' talent and ability will for once be brought to bear on industry.
For many years the Opposition have talked in elitist terms about how only they and their own class have the ability to manage and lead. But our supporters are anxiously waiting for the opportunity to reform industry. I hope that Chrysler will be a success. It deserves to be.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ Mr. John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)
Having listened to the exuberance and verbosity of the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer), I promise the House that my words will be shorter and my speech plainer.
I represent a constituency which has in it thousands of car workers. They are people whom I greatly admire, like and respect. They are sensible, down-to-earth and non-doctrinaire in their approach to these matters. If the hon. 1155 Gentleman found himself by some mischance in my constituency I doubt that anyone would remain to hear the end of his speech. His words bore no resemblance to what the ordinary working man, the ordinary car worker, thinks about things today.
The hon. Gentleman started by preferring automation in the handling of our voting to the time-honoured method, but if the matter were put to a free vote today it would have only one or two supporters here and would receive no support outside. The least that can be expected of an hon. Member, if he cannot listen to all the debate, is that he should be present to vote in person.
We are debating the salary of the Secretary of State for Industry. I have always believed that, in general, Ministers are substantially underpaid for their responsibilities and in comparison with their civil servants and many others with fewer responsibilities. I believe, however, that the House was right to suggest that there should be a reduction in the Minister's salary. After all, he was the man who was supposed to resign, so we are reliably informed, if massive aid was given to Chrysler. He did not resign—but nobody resigns these days.
Before discussing Chrysler I shall consider British Leyland. I have some knowledge of the Corporation's management and of one of its large plants. I personally know many scores of British Leyland workers. I know their wives and families through meeting them in their homes and in clubs and pubs. They are not rebellious. I am struck by their decency and moderation. The few subversive workers are always pointed out to me by the work force, not by the management. The workers can identify the bad apples. Most of the workers are decent, honest, hardworking and patriotic Englishmen. I am reminded of Napoleon's maxim that there are no bad troops, only bad officers. Has there been any improvement in the officers and NCOs—the managers and foremen in the large British Leyland plants? If there has, I have not heard about it, and neither have many workers on the shop floor.
I have always believed that the Leyland group was too big and that it would have survived better if it had been kept in its constituent parts with the Leyland 1156 bus and truck division producing vehicles which enjoy a reputation throughout the world, with those great car makers Daimler, Rover and Triumph producing their vehicles and with Morris producing the Mini. The Cowley works needs a careful examination if it is to survive as a viable unit. I hope that the Minister does not think that bigness always makes for best. In my constituency, labour relations on the whole are good, partly because units are small and the workpeople know the boss well.
I have always found the Chrysler saga quite extraordinary. The old military maxim of reinforcing success has been turned upside down. It seems that we are now reinforcing failure. It is incredible that we are pouring millions of pounds of taxpayers' money into the making of motor cars that apparently no one wants to buy. Not even the workers who make them want to buy them. It is an astonishing state of affairs.
If it is unsound to make unwanted motor cars, surely the plant can be adapted either to make products which customers will buy or to make, for example, tanks and the other armaments which we shall undoubtedly need as the months go by, bearing in mind the increasing Soviet threat that lies not least in Southern Africa. I believe that the work force would willingly adapt itself to that important task. I do not know why Labour Members laugh. I do not know why they should despise working men who make defensive equipment for this country. Their attitude seems to be beyond understanding.
The handout to Chrysler of not less than £162½ million is astonishing, having taken place when many small businesses are going bankrupt. They are often going bankrupt for want, for example, of £10,000. The handout took place when many thousands of self-employed are trying to keep their heads above water without any help from the Government. It seems that there has to be a colossal failure before the Government come to one's rescue. That seems to be the economics of Bedlam.
It is also curious that a Labour Government should support an American multinational company. Could it be that they were attempting to buy votes in Scotland? If so, I am afraid that the money will be 1157 wasted as the Labour Party in Scotland is bound to be decimated by the Scottish National Party.
I do not wish to be unduly harsh towards the Secretary of State for Industry as he has listened to part of my speech. I believe him to be a distinct improvement on his predecessor. I believe that at bottom he is sensible and intelligent, and quite a realist. However, either he has been got at by his colleagues or he has been swayed, as has happened to many a politician, by an overwhelming ambition to become top of the pops in his own party.
In the end, I have always believed that the best rule for public or private life is to stick to one's principles. I feel, with regret, that the right hon. Gentleman's salary should be reduced, and I hope that the House will endorse its earlier decision.
§ 4.54 p.m.
Mr. Eric Heller (Liverpool, Walton)
I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) has left the Chamber because I shall address some remarks to some of the points that he made in very brief speech.
As so often happens, Conservative Members have tried to suggest that the Labour Party and the Labour Government are not respectful of the views of others. The implication to be drawn is that the Labour Party and the Government representing that party are opposed to democratic concepts. It is suggested that we wish to introduce some form of bureaucratic society in which the democratic principles are destroyed. We hear these suggestions increasingly from the Leader of the Opposition and from the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph). They have been implied this afternoon.
Those who make such suggestions know that they are travesties of the truth. The Labour Party is more dedicated to the principles of democracy than almost any other political party in this country. Conservative Members have tried to equate the principles of private enterprise with democracy. They suggest that we cannot have democracy if we get rid of the private enterprise system. I note that the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) nods his head. I say quite bluntly that that suggestion is a lie. The system that now exists in Chile is based upon the concepts of Milton Friedman of 1158 the Chicago School of Economists. It is a military dictatorship where there is no freedom of thought, where there is a controlled Press and where there are no political parties able to participate in political dialogue.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Some sentences back the hon. Gentleman used the word "lie". That is an unparliamentary expression. I hope that the hon. Gentleman was not referring to a right hon. or hon. Member.
§ Mr. Heffer
I did not refer to any statement made by any individual. I said it was a lie that the removal of private enterprise—
§ Mr Heffer
—would mean the end of democracy. I did not mean to cast any reflection on any individual in the House. I shall briefly pursue that point.
Private enterprise exists in Spain. Is there democracy and freedom in Spain? The private enterprise system existed in Portugal. Was there total democratic freedom in Portugal? Is there such freedom in Portugal now? The private enterprise system existed throughout the Greek colonels' régime. Was there democracy and freedom during that régime? We have only to consider the realities to know that the argument being put forward by Conservative Members is totally false. It is wrong to equate Labour Members with the destruction of democratic principles.
The argument that is used by some Conservative Members is a revival of the argument that was used by the great Winston Churchill at the end of the Second World War when he tried to equate the Labour Party with the establishment of Nazism. What I fear in this country is not the destruction of democracy from any forces on the Left but its destruction by forces on the Right, which in the name of defending democracy will destroy it.
§ Mr. Peter Hordern (Horsham and Crawley)
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the forces on the Right to which he refers have not made themselves very apparent so far? In addressing himself to a serious argument, which I know he is, will he comment on the view of the Secretary of State for the Home Department that a proportion of the national 1159 income taken by the State which exceeds 60 per cent. is not good for a plural society and is ultimately a threat to democracy?
§ Mr. Heffer
I read the statement by the Home Secretary referred to in the article written by Lord Chalfont and also mentioned by David Wood in The Times yesterday. It is an interesting point, and I personally missed that statement. If the Home Secretary said it, I say bluntly that the Home Secretary was wrong. I do not mind saying that openly without any hesitation.
The right hon. Member for Yeovil based his argument on "Erskine May". He said that this House should accept the vote no matter how unexpected it was. We all agree with that, but we also appreciate the peculiar circumstances of events the other evening. After the vote hon. Members rushed out to attend to other duties—just as the right hon. Member for Yeovil rushed out to look after his duties, having delivered himself of his speech today. Surely the right hon. Gentleman's duty, after he had spoken today, was to stay to listen to the rest of us. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman has other duties, and I do not condemn him for that, but it is easy enough to make condemnatory statements of that kind.
I repeat that the circumstances the other evening were peculiar. I happened to be here on that occasion. However, I could have been absent while attending a function. Therefore, it was not an unexpected result of the kind dealt with in "Erskine May".
I turn to the serious matters which should be discussed on the subject of the salary of the Secretary of State for Industry and the functions of the Department of Industry. My view is that it might have been a good thing had the Government tabled a motion laying down that the salaries of all Cabinet Ministers should be reduced. I should support such a motion enthusiastically, but I do not think the Secretary of State for Industry should be single out for any reduction in salary.
I am extremely critical about certain aspects of Government policy, and particularly of the policies pursued by the 1160 Department of Industry. However, I do not blame the Secretary of State for Industry for those departures from our policies—policies on which the Labour Party fought the election. Having been in Government, I know that no individual Minister can accept any responsibility for all Government policies, and that applies to departmental heads as well as to others. There are such things as Cabinet committees and Cabinet meetings where matters are worked out. There is also such a thing as collective responsibility. Therefore, whatever decisions are taken they are, in the last analysis, taken because they are Government decisions accepted by the Cabinet. That is a very important point to bear in mind.
I have to say, sadly, that over past months there has been a change in the attitudes, if not in the direction, of the Department of Industry. It did not begin with my right hon. Friend the present Secretary of State for Industry. It began before he ever came into the job. We as a Government have retreated from our manifesto commitments. We argued that the National Enterprise Board must be used as a positive instrument for the extension of public ownership into profit-making sectors of industry. I ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry to say which sectors of industry are earmarked, not for analysis but for the extension of public ownership on the lines laid down in the Labour Party programme on which we fought two elections. How much money will be made available to carry out that programme on which we were elected?
The retreat began when pressure was applied because some Conservatives suggested that we intended to nationalise 100 leading companies. If I have a criticism at all, it is that we did not specifically state the areas to which we wished to extend public ownership. Because we were not specific, that led to an unnecessary lack of confidence and fear on the part of some industrialists who believed the nonsense that was put out by the hon. Member for Henley—namely, that every leading company would be taken over immediately.
Personally, I would not be averse to extending public ownership much faster than was intended, but it was not intended along the lines suggested by the hon. Gentleman. That led to a difficulty. 1161 Because of pressure from the CBI, the City and bankers, my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Government retreated from our manifesto commitments to the present situation involving the Chequers statement.
It has been said by the Conservative Party that the Government have now abandoned the Chequers statement. That is true. It has been abandoned in the sense that the Government moved in to rescue Chrysler from complete collapse by putting up public money. But one aspect of the Chequers statement was maintained—namely that, although public money was put into Chrysler, there was no public responsibility, no take-over, no public control. That was in line with the Chequers statement and it was happily accepted and welcomed by the City and Conservative Members.
My criticism of the Department of Industry is that we have retreated from the basic ideas on which we were elected. Of course the NEB will continue, of course there will be planning agreements, but the NEB and the planning agreements will not have the teeth originally intended for them by the Labour Party before the election, and indeed before the White Paper. The arguments that took place were lost in the period up to the White Paper, not entirely after my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry came into his present office. But I am afraid that he has also undoubtedly been pressured by other Members of the Government to retreat slightly further. That is what we should be concerned about.
§ Mr. Michael Heseltine (Henley)
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) has a unique contribution to make on this subject. If the arguments were lost in the period running up to the publication of the White Paper, why did he go on serving in the Government who published that White Paper?
§ Mr. Heffer
Because, as the hon. Gentleman knows, sooner or later one has to decide when one has had enough. If the time had not come on the issue of the Common Market, it might have come when the Industry Bill was going through the House. The hon. Gentleman served on the Committee dealing with 1162 the Industry Bill and he knows that there was nobody more unhappy than I on that Committee in having to argue against my hon. Friends who were tabling amendments with which I basically agreed.
One is either in the Government or one is out of the Government. Opposition Members who have been in the Government must know that. I am certain that when the hon. Member for Henley was a member of the Government he did not accept everything that went on in the name of that Government. However, one cannot resign every five minutes. Anyway, I do not necessarily believe that resignation is the right way to do things. I think that one should fight for one's ideas at an appropriate moment and make a stand on a basic issue. But that is enough about my personal position.
I conclude my modest contribution by drawing attention to an immediate problem in the solution of which the Department can offer considerable assistance. I am referring to the Weston Shiprepairers on Merseyside where 33 per cent. of the workforce is threatened with redundancy this weekend and where five of the 10 docks are likely to be closed, adding a few more hundred to the nearly 90,000 already unemployed on Merseyside. We cannot afford to have this continual reduction of work forces on Merseyside. I appeal to the Department to meet the representatives of the confederation and the employers. I believe that my hon. Friend the Minister of State is to go to Liverpool or Birkenhead on Saturday. I hope that when he is there he will take the opportunity to meet these people to see what can be done and what assistance the Government can possibly give to stave off or help to alleviate the problem.
This is a serious debate which should concentrate on the real problems of the Department and the issues which we face. We should try to work out a sensible solution rather than talk about reducing my hon. Friend's salary by £1,000.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Hal Miller (Bromsgrove and Redditch)
Following the example of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), I shall try to concentrate on the serious aspects of the Department's work. Last week we discussed the reduction of 1163 the Minister's salary largely in the context of the motor industry. On the motion to restore his salary, I should like to set that motor industry in the larger context of industry in the West Midlands. I do so because the situation there is serious and the present Government have done nothing to remedy it, despite a very valuable contribution by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Carter) who raised the matter at the end of May last year in an Adjournment debate to which the Minister of State replied.
I shall recap the brief discussion which took place on that occasion. The hon. Member for Northfield referred to the low investment, the low productivity, the high unit wage costs and the low profits in West Midlands industry. The Secretary of State assumed his office not long afterwards. Looking at his record, I have to ask what the Department has done to assist industry in the West Midlands. What notice has been taken of the representations by the West Midlands planning authorities' conference and by the West Midlands County Council, which have drawn attention for over a year to the serious structural weaknesses in the West Midlands economy and to its heavy dependence on the motor industry? That dependence has been increasing in the past few years despite the decline in the motor industry.
It is against that background that I wish to consider the Secretary of State's decision to move the Avenger production line from Ryton to Linwood. Before coming to that I should like to refresh the right hon. Gentleman's memory about the representations by the West Midlands planning authorities' conference and the current developments in the economy of the West Midlands. The crisis in the motor industry has coincided with a number of fundamental weaknesses. There is a need not merely for retraining, but for the restructuring of industry in the West Midlands so as to provide the centres of growth now so sadly lacking. Policy must surely recognise the need to concentrate our industrial resources and undertakings where the infrastructure and the skills exist. We must not persist in the policy of dispersion which has so gravely weakened the West Midlands.
1164 The West Midlands area has been described as the heart of the British economy. It is, in the words of the Observer of just a year ago, "the workshop of Britain". The Observer went on to say that that workshop was "bleeding to death". The area accounts for 33 per cent. of this country's exports and for 53 per cent. of the manufacturing industry. However, unemployment in West Midlands manufacturing industry has doubled in the past three years alone and total unemployment in the past years has trebled. At the same time the number of vacancies has been cut by a factor of eight.
This is the largest percentage increase in unemployment in the country. It represents the largest reduction in the number of vacancies in the country. Unemployment in the West Midlands as a result of the actions of this Labour Government and of the Department of Industry, which the Secretary of State heads, is now numerically worse than that in the North-East or Wales.
Against this background the Secretary of State has diverted from the production of the Avenger from Coventry to Linwood. Is he aware that manufacturing wages in Scotland are higher than those in the West Midlands? Is he also aware that the percentage of unemployed in manufacturing industry is higher in the West Midlands than that in Scotland? Is he also aware that people are unemployed for longer in the West Midlands than in Scotland? It is against that background that I have asked him to reconsider the policy of industrial development certificates as applying to the West Midlands and called his attention to the need to promote industrial growth in the West Midlands.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
We must be fair about this. The hon. Gentleman may know that I am critical of the proposal to establish a Scottish Assembly and so on. Nevertheless, he must bear in mind that the Linwood and Clydeside areas, unlike the rest of Scotland, are in a serious situation. I do not want to exaggerate, but the hon. Gentleman should view the matter in perspective.
§ Mr. Miller
I am grateful to the hon Gentleman. However, I hope that he will accept the figures that I have just given, 1165 because they were substantiated in parliamentary answers to me last week. The matter needs to be viewed in the round. I accept that there are several difficulties, but I do not see how it can be justified to move a production centre from the West Midlands in its present situation to Scotland, except for purely political purposes. I believe that it was on those grounds that the Secretary of State voiced his doubts about the deal and it was on those grounds that he should have stood rather than giving in to the solution eventually evolved.
It is against that background and on those grounds that I decline to support the motion. I ask the Secretary of State once again what he proposes to do about the situation in the West Midlands. The Industry Act has done nothing to help, and the same will be true of the Bill to nationalise the aircraft and shipbuilding industries. I noted the right hon. Gentleman's total failure to object to the West Midlands County Council Bill, which contains a number of proposals that can bring only further damage to the region, although it is a measure supported by Labour Members.
§ 5.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Moonman (Basildon)
Although this re-run of the debate is no doubt somewhat embarrassing to the Secretary of State and perhaps to the Patronage Secretary, I am glad of it because it gives those of us who were not able to speak on the last occasion an opportunity to do so tonight. Furthermore, it has enabled some of us to examine rather closely the Government's statements in the record of that debate.
It is extremely important to convey to the Secretary of State that there are still some nagging questions about the Chrysler deal which need answering. That is what I wish to discuss. There are still elements of confusion about the original declaration of intent which caused some of us to want to probe it further in December and last week. Although many hon. Members have mentioned the worries and anxieties of unemployment arising from Chrysler, it is those with constituency interests who are most entitled to make that point. Others who do not have that direct interest have the responsibility of looking not only at the 1166 use of resources being put into the Chrysler deal, but at the alternatives to it, if there are alternatives.
My anxiety about the declaration of intent which was submitted by Chrysler on 16th December is that it is so ambiguous. This tatty piece of paper was the basis upon which the Government decided to undertake an arrangement with Chrysler which involved them in giving funds and a major commitment. It is, therefore, no surprise that we should have expressed considerable doubt about the validity of the statements in the declaration of intent, and that we express and will continue to express those doubts. The reason is that I recall that the original declaration of intent by Chrysler was that it was a guarantee given to my right hon. Friend's predecessor that it would not take any action to disadvantage the British company in favour of other Chrysler subsidiaries.
What troubles me about Chrysler and the way it operates is that while we get these very doubtful declarations of intent, its actions, practices and procedures as a very hard-hitting company in the United States as well as here, tell a somewhat different story. This is surely the central point of the debate. It is not whether the Government were right to go ahead in the way that they did to protect groups of people from unemployment. That is undeniably a serious matter, but hon. Members who see it only in those terms are making a great mistake. I cannot believe that we as a nation can afford to bail out a backward company in a contracting industry. This question cannot be left only to the politicians. It requires a cool examination by all of our people in Britain.
This dilemma reminds me that we are talking about £160 million. The £160 million question is how to keep Chrysler afloat. I think that the Government have got it wrong. They were wrong because of the way in which Chrysler's American management exploited its advantage as a multinational company. The Government have got it wrong because of their inability to get adequate safeguards to prevent us from becoming just an assembly operation for French parts. They have got it wrong also because we have no real control over how the £160 million is being spent.
1167 My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) introduced a thoughtful approach and mentioned the structure in which the Government take decisions. This is a critical aspect. It is, perhaps, a pity that we must conduct this debate against the background of a procedural error and in what is becoming a very short debate. Getting the Government-industry relationship right has eluded Governments of both major parties, whether their basic stance has been interventionism or laissez-faire. The reason has been straightforward. In the past the tasks of the Civil Service were basically different from those of industry. The civil servant had little or no understanding of the principles of good industrial management. Evidence given to the Select Committee on Science and Technology 10 years ago showed that repeatedly. The two sides in giving evidence were miles apart in their understanding of industrial decision-making. They both used the same words, but their meanings and the implications of what they said were totally different.
The procedures necessary to safeguard the principles of public accountability and to avoid mistakes, even minimal ones, conflict time and time again with the need for dynamism and speed in developing advanced technology. Nowhere is the contrast of attitudes more apparent than in financial procedures. In industry budgeting has to relate to prices and marketability. No firm would last very long if it exceeded its budget as regularly as Government Departments exceed theirs. In Government the prime factor has been to account for every halfpenny of the money spent rather than to concentrate on keeping within the agreed expenditure. As the recent Report of the Select Committee on Technology demonstrated, this has led to annual expenditure of over £5 billion in excess of what was originally budgeted for. Overspending on this scale inevitably distorts the allotted priorities between Departments and must ultimately reduce the control exercised by Parliament.
As Government's rôle as the main source of industrial investment, either as a customer or a sponsor, has evolved, the effect of this passive accounting has shown itself in the need to raise more money through borrowing or taxation and 1168 in the way that industry has handled public money. Successive Governments of both political parties have poured money into industry without requiring industry to use it in accordance with good management practice and without any specific knowledge or understanding of how the investment would affect the economy.
However, over the past 18 months it appeared that the Government were beginning to get their strategy right. They were beginning their various structural changes by concentrating on growth industries and by using the mechanics of the NEB and planning agreements. They were beginning to command the respect of management and to offer a secure future to the nation's work force.
That is why the Chrysler agreement was such a pity. It does not provide the answer to some of the questions we have been asking. Once again money is to be put into an industry without guarantees, and certainly not within the terms of reference that some of us argued for and which were accepted in last November's industrial strategy statement.
We may have saved most of the Chrysler jobs, but the nagging question still is, for how long? Of course, they will have been saved at the cost of our whole industrial strategy. Above all, this was a lesson in how not to deal with a multinational company. Throughout, Chrysler seems to have called the tune. It has been given security in its United Kingdom operations without its parent company having to give a binding commitment. I appeal to my hon. Friends who might take a different view on this matter to pay some attention to these questions, because the issue cannot be seen only in terms of immediate employment opportunities.
Are we as a Government prepared to take Chrysler over after the so-called make or break period in two or three years' time if it does not work out? If we were not prepared to take it over until now was that because we had no faith in British management? Then there is a critical operational point. There are those of us who represent constituencies which have different interests in the motor car industry and who are equally concerned about developments in the total manufacturing strategy and market. What percentage of the total 1169 manufacture of parts will be performed in Great Britain? There has been the occasional vague reference and the Select Committee in the car industry has pursued this matter, but we still have no percentage allocation.
The profitable sector of motor car manufacturing is certainly not in assembly. I am reminded of the fact that we now know that from August, Ryton will be assembling Alpines from French-made components, using only one-third of the plant's installed capacity. This is another advantage of having a second debate within the week. We did not have that important piece of evidence a week ago.
Reference was made in the debate last week to the interest and concern of trade unions in Chrysler. That was both fair and accurate. Unions were not consulted on the details of the rescue operation, nor asked to contribute to a solution. This deal was made over their heads. Chrysler and the Government were only worried about their reaction to redundancies. The unions were shunned in the discussion on guarantees.
There are many lessons to be learned from what has happened. We must begin to set out guidelines for the way multinational companies operate in Great Britain. In the last 25 years we have shambled through our relationship with industry. If industry has felt that it has not been able to engage in a dialogue we must bear some of the responsibility. The new formulae and structures being devised, including discussions with the TUC and CBI, are very useful at one level of such debate, but that does not preclude the Government from meeting management within individual sectors of industry. There are many managers who like to have even an indication of the Government's intentions.
When dealing with a multinational company like Chrysler, which, to put it mildly, has a rather spotty record in this country, we have the right to say, that an intelligent monitoring of its plans and forecasts should take place on a regular monthly basis with the Government.
We shall not be able to decide in two or three years' time that we have reached a make or break situation. That is the view of the people in the City. It is not the view of a senior executive in industry. Industrial decision-making is not so 1170 dramatic. What is likely to happen is that after two years or so we shall be confronted with an awful dilemma, probably requiring us to put in more funds and resources to keep the firm going. That is the whole story of high technology and of the motor car manufacturing industry.
I wish my right hon. Friend lots of luck in his dealings with the company. He will need not only luck, but a great deal of skill. He must ensure that the civil servants who advise him have some understanding of the problems which, outlined in these two debates, reflect the deep concern and competence of management and the trade unions.
There must be a new set of guidelines for the way in which our country, which is not all that big, negotiates with a company which is rather important in its world-wide rôle and can shift resources from one part of the world to another. Chrysler will make its decisions according to its own profit and loss account which is rooted in the United States. I am not being anti-American when I say that. I understand their criteria and their motivation. The question I have to ask myself is whether I can honestly say that I understand the criteria and motivation of the Government in their industrial strategy.
§ 5.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Marshall (Arundel)
It is always a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Basildon (Mr. Moonman). He raised a number of questions which the Secretary of State failed to answer in the debate last week. I shall not seek to re-hash those questions. The hon. Member for Basildon posed them with considerable force and clarity. I agree with much of what he said and I look to the Secretary of State for detailed answers.
It is the burden of my charge in considering whether the Secretary of State should have his full allowance restored that we have to consider his recent performance in these matters. The best evidence is what he said in the debate last week. I am sorry the Secretary of State is not here at the moment, because I wish to address a number of points to him. I hope that the Minister of State will ensure that in winding up the Secretary of State gives us some further assurances in the light of the contradictory and misleading thinking now prevailing 1171 in the Government's policy towards industry.
The whole basis of the Secretary of State's speech last week was to fall back on that tired old defence mechanism of attacking the Opposition. He implied that the Conservative Government, through their operation of the Industry Act 1972, did not measure up to the ideal criteria that we are now advocating. If it helps the Secretary of State, I am quite willing to admit that no Conservative Government have been perfect and that they have all made mistakes. I only wish the Secretary of State and his colleagues would be equally frank in admitting that this Government have made some major mistakes. It would be helpful if from time to time they were prepared to come clean and admit it.
The Secretary of State's rôle in the Chrysler affair has been a powerful and well-documented one. We found it intolerable that he should try in last week's debate to brush aside his known attitude and adopt the rôle of attacking the Opposition. He seemed more concerned with making references to possible unemployment in Coventry. He was more concerned about by-election points than about the Government's industrial strategy. It was his refusal even to consider this matter, a refusal which was perfectly plain to all hon. Member's who took part, that was so objectionable. In a moment of breathtaking candour, he admitted precisely what he was going to do. He said:I do not wish to go into sterile arguments about criteria for British industry."—[Official Report, 11th February 1976; Vol. 905, c. 474.]It is breathtaking that the Secretary of State should come here and say that he does not wish to talk about the criteria governing the Government's activities in British industry.
Leaving aside the imperial pomp of his preamble, how could he possibly refuse to address himself to a motion which he knew was a censure upon himself and his colleagues? There was some fiddling and fussing over the terms of the motion, but my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King) made clear that the original motion was on the Government's failure to observe their guidelines in respect of State investment in the 1172 motor industry. The Secretary of State tried to argue on a technicality because the title on the Order Paper was:State Intervention in the Motor IndustryI do not see how he could expect us to accept that he was not prepared to argue about that Government's own criteria. I am glad to see the Secretary of State has now returned to the Chamber. I wish to ask why he was so unwilling to discuss these criteria.
Evidence was provided from a somewhat unusual source in the "World in Action" television programme last week. The Secretary of State was somewhat shy and made no reference to the programme, in which leading journalists had obviously got together to put forward their view of what happened at the Cabinet and Cabinet Committee meetings at which the Chrysler situation was discussed. The Secretary of State is too modest. He is failing to give himself the backing he should have if he wishes the motion to be accepted. The whole tenor of that "World in Action" programme was that the Secretary of State was the "good guy", fending off the "baddies" and showing more zeal in defence of long-term employment prospect in industry and of the taxpayers' money than were many of his right hon. Friends who argued from a more politically motivated basis.
Nothing has been said by any of the right hon. Gentlemen portrayed in that television programme to suggest that the general basis of the arguments then put forward was unfair. I shall refer to three basic arguments presented in that programme, and I invite the Secretary of State, if he feels that they are an unfair representation of the Government's view and his attitude, to say so.
The first was that the Secretary of State had made clear his view that acceptance of the Chrysler deal would make a nonsense of the Government's industrial strategy, the Chequers strategy and the criteria to which the motion was addressed. The peculiar absurdity of trying to subsidise two parts of a declining industry is evident to all. Government supporters—with whom I do not necessarily agree—who seek a public stake in the money which went into Chrysler at least have some logic in their argument. 1173 But the notion of putting money into two parts of a declining industry is nonsense, and the right hon. Gentleman was right to make that argument.
Secondly, it is clear that the Secretary of State's argument was that there would be no guarantee that Chrysler would ever make money, that, indeed, the likelihood was that the company would be back for more, as the hon. Member for Basildon said. In the debate last week the Secretary of State reiterated his view that there was no guarantee that Chrysler would ever make money.
Thirdly, the argument with which we are left as peculiar to the Secretary of State's stand is that if he had to accept the Cabinet decision, he must be allowed to carry that decision to the House.
I take the last argument first. The Secretary of State came to the House, took a good deal of the opprobrium upon himself and showed a broad back to the set of weights put upon him. Equally, he confirmed to the House, as reported in column 473 of Hansard, that he did not see Chrysler reaching a position of profitability. So the right hon. Gentleman was consistent in his basic argument when he came to the House last week. He failed signally to reaffirm his argument that the subsidisation of Chrysler was a nonsense in the context of the Government's overall strategy.
The failure of the Secretary of State last week to make his position abundantly plain was a great tragedy. It would have been possible for him to have used a form of words which gave some indication of the truth. His evasion of that basic argument makes it difficult for us to consider the motion as sympathetically as some of us might wish.
I shall end on the more charitable note initiated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton). We are all conscious that the Secretary of State for Industry is the "fall guy". He is the "front man" in this exercise in which the real villains are the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and other right hon. Gentlemen in the Cabinet who failed to uphold the logic or to accept the sense of the arguments put forward by the Secretary of State.
It is, therefore, with a sense of regret that I feel that we have to stick to the 1174 motion which we passed last week and, therefore, to reject the Government motion tonight. If the Secretary of State is unable to speak loud and clear tonight, we can perhaps take his silence to be appreciative of the way in which we are backing up the basic arguments which he has been attempting to carry. The motion of censure which I believe we shall deliver once more will be not so much upon the Secretary of State as upon his right hon. Friends. We shall be censuring the whole shabby, shoddy and thoroughly disgraceful way in which Government, by leakage and a colander Cabinet, bring the House and the country into disrepute.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom Litterick (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
We are addressing ourselves to the Government's conduct of industrial policy against an extraordinary background. We should remind ourselves briefly of that background, for otherwise we might fall into the trap, which the Opposition would like the whole country to fall into, of believing that Britain is peculiarly affected by all the economic calamities with which we are familiar.
We are, I suppose, at the climax of a a dreary series of collapses in the private sector throughout the northern hemisphere, sparked off by the collapse of banks and insurance companies and followed inevitably by the collapse of manufacturing organisations. We, the British, have had to endure our part of that general calamity which befell the capitalist private sector in the northern hemisphere. There was a general contraction of trade followed by bankruptcies of hitherto "blue chip" companies, and organisations to which the gamblers opposite happily passed their money in the full expectation of getting something for nothing turned out to be bad bets, so that everyone got red in the face and started hollering for Government help.
Not just the Pennsylvania Railway Company but big multinational capitalist organisations were whining to the State and spitting in the face of their traditional philosophy of "Stand on your own two feet; do it on your own, lad, and be independent". That meant being independent until it suited their game to dip their spoons into the public trough, which they all proceeded vigorously to do. They told each and every developed nation of the northern hemisphere that if 1175 the taxpayers did not fork out, they, the taxpayers would suffer. In America, which is ruled by Tories, in France, which is ruled by Tories, in Italy, which is ruled by Tories and in Germany, which is ruled by Tories, again and again the taxpayer was asked to bail out capitalism—or else.
That brings me to the specific case of Chrysler and the British car industry. That was a specific example of a tatty bit of capitalism that sent out its Indian scouts and said to the British public "If you do not give us a lorryload of money, we shall do you a great mischief". It was against that bleak background that the Government were obliged to negotiate with emissaries of the Chrysler Corporation, already having had to bail out the gigantic Leyland Corporation.
Exercises in public intervention are spontaneously and generally welcomed by the people who work in the industries concerned, because by the time the State intervenes the people who own and control the companies have already made clear their intentions—namely, "We shall make you unemployed". Despite the carping remarks of Tory Members in constituencies round the Longbridge area, they dare not openly oppose the Government's intervention in British Leyland.
However, they want it both ways. They want to talk out of both sides of their mouths at the same time and convince us that the fate of the country—indeed, the fabric of christian civilisation, for some of them go that far—depends on their being able to put their money into a blue chip company in the hope of getting something for nothing. That is the essence of their argument. Of course, it is entirely bogus.
The Longbridge workers knew that if the public did not intervene in the affairs of British Leyland, their fate was well and truly settled to their disadvantage. The same is true of Chrysler. In other words, one would have to be extremely bigoted to have a basic aversion to intervention in either British Leyland or Chrysler.
The argument should centre round not whether we should intervene, but the manner in which we should intervene, bearing in mind that the Tory Governments I have mentioned, in France, 1176 Germany, Italy and the United States, have intervened on a huge scale to bail out companies with international reputations. They each did it in their own way. In my view, some of them did it stupidly in terms of the public interest. However, that is their affair. I am speaking about the behaviour of Her Majesty's Government towards the British car industry.
We must ask ourselves first whether we are getting a reasonable return for the money which is going in. At once I state my difference of view from hon. Gentlemen opposite in posing that question. Many years ago I should have put that question in balance sheet terms. However, I do not put it in balance sheet terms today. I put it in social terms.
Last week it was clearly stated, and it is beyond dispute, that the approximately £70 million of public money which is likely to be expended as an investment in Chrysler cannot match the certain expense to the Exchequer if 50,000 workers were unemployed. If hon. Gentlemen opposite want to talk in terms of simple things like payback periods, I assure them that the payback period on that investment is less than two years, based on a fairly conventional mode of calculation in the private sector.
We are seeking to be convinced that there is public control over the investment in and organisation of Chrysler and that it will continue for a long period as a place at which people can work and make a living. We cannot yet have total confidence that that is so. I suppose that hon. Gentlemen opposite will be at pains to assure us that we could never have total confidence in the permanence of a commercial or industrial organisation because, after all, their justification of profit—I trust that they know this—is based on the existence of that uncertainty. Therefore, they cannot have it both ways here. I do not think that any of my hon. Friends will argue in terms of certainty. By the same token, I do not think that hon. Gentlemen opposite should mount criticism on the basis of lack of certainty. The absence of uncertainty would totally destroy their argument for their system.
I am concerned about public accountability, which has a lot to do with a manner in which the deal was made. It was made in haste and in panic. My 1177 impression is that the Secretary of State was not entirely satisfied with the deal which emerged.
There is little evidence, as yet, that the will, the attitudes, opinions, knowledge and skills of the workers concerned are considered to be a serious part of the Chrysler organisation and its future. There may be other matters about which we shall learn from the Secretary of State, but the evidence is not encouraging. In fact, it is to the contrary.
My information is that the management of the Chrysler organisation is using this unusual transitional period as an occasion for trampling on long-standing industrial agreements. The workers are being pressed to ignore practices which have been established by agreement. The company is still operating on a hand-to-mouth basis. It is under growing pressure from suppliers who are still refusing to meet Chrysler's requirements for components. I have been advised that components manufacturers are apparently meeting only half of Chrysler's current requirements. This is happening at a time when people are being made redundant in the components industry. Most of the famous names in motor car components manufacture are involved.
I know that during the period of great uncertainty leading to the deal with the State many components suppliers deliberately choked off supplies to Chrysler. In a sense, one can understand, because they did not know whether they would be paid. But, notwithstanding the deal with the Government, this situation is still going on.
One cannot help but arrive at the tentative conclusion that these components suppliers, who are themselves multinationals, are concerned to use the Chrysler deal as an occasion to benefit their subsidiaries abroad by forcing Chrysler into a desperate situation in which it will be crying out for components from wherever—Italy, Germany, France—at the expense of our balance of payments. This is one aspect of the deal on which there is virtually no hard information.
We have always known that Chrysler's policy was to use a large proportion of bought-in components in all its manufacturing activities in this country. We have heard nothing so far from the 1178 Government to indicate whether that strategy will change. Incidentally, many aspects of British Leyland's policy in this respect need close scrutiny. British workers are being made to suffer unemployment because British Leyland is allowed—I use that word carefully—to buy abroad what could easily be made here by unemployed but very skilful workers. I should appreciate the Secretary of State's response to that point, which I made to him some time ago when he may have needed time to obtain the information.
I am aware that intervening in one part of a multinational company's acivities is not the most comfortable exercise. It is akin to trying to tame a tiger by pulling out one claw at a time: one might just get eaten alive in the process. The Government decided on this course of action. Therefore, we are entitled to mount the most rigorous critique of every development, knowing full well that Chrysler's commitment is not to the British economy and certainly not to the British people, but to itself. I doubt whether it even regards itself as American.
It seems a characteristic of multinational boards to see themselves as global citizens. They might be more fittingly accommodated in a satellite going around the earth than located at any point on the earth's surface. At least that would have a certain poetic accuracy. But these people do not wish to attach themselves to any nation at all, or to be held accountable in any significant degree, because they want to retain the freedom to shift resources anywhere on the world's surface. They may rationalise it, but the British people live nowhere but in Britain. They have to look to their own interests and if that means colliding with the interests of Chrysler, so be it: we must do so.
I doubt whether Chrysler United Kingdom will last much longer in that form, either because we shall quickly discover that Chrysler is robbing the British taxpayer by using this deal to finance its European operations, or we shall pre-empt any action by the corporation by integrating Chrysler United Kingdom with the rest of the publicly-owned part of the motor industry.
Since we are talking about accountability and responsibility, we should be 1179 talking about democracy. So far, we have heard little about the Chrysler business which involves democracy. But one notable fact has emerged—that the workers are not to be charmed or seduced by rhetorical flourishes, by the use of words and phrases like "participation" and "industrial democracy". They know too much. They know, in the words of a failed French banker, or a multinational company manipulator, that these phrases and words are simply another way for him to get away with the workers' consent or apparent consent.
As hon. Members should know, there has already been an attempt to foist a spurious form of industrial democracy on the Chrysler workers, which they quickly repudiated. I am sure that hon. Members know that there are difficulties at Leyland. The workers are not impressed by the kind of phraseology used by public people who will never be involved in the transformation of an authoritarian system or who, if they are involved, are at the top of the system and have a vested interest in its not being transformed.
Therefore, given the fact that the Secretary of State—I believe that he was gravely mistaken—could not seriously consider the Chrysler workers' own proposals for the restructuring of the organisation, he should soon show evidence that there is a dynamic in Chrysler which is moving towards the creation of a new type of industrial community, underpinned by public intervention, which is being given a guarantee that never again will a Minister of the Crown intervene, as the Secretary of State recently did, in an irresponsible way in a dispute between workers and the management of Chrysler with a judgment based on faulty information. That intervention betokened a failure to understand not only what was going on in Chrysler, but his rôle and that of the State in relation to Chrysler.
The behaviour of the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) was wildly irresponsible. He betrayed an abysmal ignorance of the true situation at Linwood at the time. That kind of intervention by remote public people does no good at all. Brandishing rhetorical remarks about good order and discipline never helps in an industrial dis- 1180 pute. It is time that we got rid of this mentality towards industrial relations, which is really based on the old "good order and regimental discipline" mentality, that the other ranks are there to do as they are told or to be conned by a sweet-talking officer. We are moving quickly into a new industrial society in which workers are rightly inclined to say not just "Why?" but "Who says so?" and not to be deferential.
The most important thing that I want to hear from my right hon. Friend is news that the method of government within Chrysler is changing. Then I might have more confidence in the future of the Chrysler deal and this party's industrial policy.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Nicholas Ridley (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)
I hope that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Litterick) will forgive me if I refer to some of his remarks not at this stage but towards the end of my short speech.
I regret that the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) is not here. Indeed, at the time that he graced this debate with his presence more was spent on his feet than on his bottom. He made the most partisan and callous speech I have ever heard. His bogus compassion for those made unemployed in the course of the decline of manufacturing industry was revolting to one who feels that unemployment is a tragedy whether one is in the Armed Forces or civilian support of the Armed Forces, the small business sector, the professions or manufacturing industry.
The idea that workers would find it attractive to be told as they join the dole queue that this is part of Socialist planning to move resources out of the pits and into industry is something of which the hon. Member should be deeply and abjectly ashamed. I hope that in pursuit of a full employment policy the hon. Member will not impart political prejudice against the defence of this country to the extent that he showed today.
Five hundred people in my constituency are being made redundant as a result of the closure of an Army depot. I shall not plead this case in the emotive terms that the hon. Gentleman used. I shall merely say that perhaps those people would be better employed maintaining the vehicles of the Army so that, if there were 1181 an emergency, if our democracy were threatened, from whatever quarter, they would be available to help in the defence of these islands. Perhaps that is marginally a better use of those people than that they should make smart saloon motor cars which no one at present wants to buy and which consumer far more raw materials than does the maintenance of Army vehicles. So I reject utterly what the hon. Member said.
This debate should be about the reduction of the Secretary of State's salary. I endorse the statement that nothing personal is intended. I remember telling him when he first became Secretary of State that his present post was the modern graveyard of politicians, as the Ministry of Agriculture used to be.
Since last Wednesday, has his salary been reduced? It was the will of the House that it should be. If the Division tonight is won by the Government, he can go back to his full salary, but for four days his salary should have been reduced by £1,000 a year. It will have cost him only a few pounds and after tax it will be no more than the price of a couple of whiskies and sodas, but just as a token of obeisance to this House his salary should be cut. Otherwise, he will be lacking in respect for the sovereign institution in our constitution.
The Government's attitude in this whole matter has been obnoxious. The Government Chief Whip, who said that the Government did not accept the decision of the House, portrayed a mood which has run throughout this Government since they came to office. I am delighted that that remark has been withdrawn, but I cannot help referring to it because it is symptomatic of the way in which this Government regard Parliament.
Parliament is a strange institution and it has that quality of supremacy over the Executive which has preserved us from tyrants over the years. It was because the monarch, Charles I, said the same thing that he got into trouble. Like the Patronage Secretary, he said "I do not accept the decision". As a result, he had a certain amount of trouble. It is the desire of the Government to use this place as a rubber stamp, or as a sort of sausage machine through which their Bills, mostly containing offal, are churned out.
1182 The hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Ryman), who is unfortunately not present, was summoned by the right hon. Gentleman the Patronage Secretary on the radio to come here and vote. I happened to be listening to my car radio and heard him. The Patronage Secretary said "Where are you, John? If you are listening, I want your vote", as if he were a sergeant-major. The hon. Member for Selly Oak spoke of good order and military discipline in industry. The good order and military discipline among Labour Members is far more autocratic and arrogant than anything that has ever existed in any of our industrial companies.
A further example is the £915,000 which the right hon. Lady the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection has spent upon little bits of sticky paper to be affixed to various goods in the shops, showing goods which are supposed not to be going up by more than 5 per cent. in the next few months. The prices of most of those goods will go down anyway, so the right hon. Lady's action has only added to the cost of living. However, that subject is out of order, Mr. Speaker, and I shall not pursue it.
Who came to the House and asked us for £915,000 to spend on that? Where is the legislative authority for this little extravaganza—this little spending spree by the right hon. Lady? When shall we be allowed to defeat the Government and be asked to give approval to all of these little follies?
People in the country want us to defeat the Government sometimes, not because we are in opposition, for when the Labour Party is in opposition, the public want it to win sometimes. We work very hard. We come here four and sometimes five days a week. Sometimes we sit up and vote all through the night and go through hair-raising drives to get here in time. Hon Members have to come in ambulances to vote, as the Leader of the House pointed out, so that one side may win. That is why we come. We do not come because the sergeant-major on the other side tells us that we have to come. We come because we feel strongly about something and want to beat the proposals before the House.
Millions of people in this country pin their faith on our winning. Therefore, it was immensely depressing to be told when we won "Oh, we shall wipe the 1183 slate clean by putting that right next week. You are not allowed to win. The rules of the game are that we always win". That is what the Leader of the House says. That makes a mockery of democracy. Labour Members have referred to democracy in relation to this debate, but the purpose of the debate is to overturn a democratically-reached decision of this sovereign Parliament. I have never heard such a travesty of reality.
Parliament is not held in high repute. If we are to fail to beat the Government on anything, democracy has no point. The virtue of this debate is not whether the salary of the Secretary of State for Industry should be reduced by £1,000. The debate gives us an opportunity to point out that unless at some time the Government listen to what people say, take note of the strong expressions of opinion in the country and allow the House to beat them, whether by giving way or by accepting the majority when sometimes it comes up against them—as it did, by accident I know—Parliament will no longer be respected.
The ability to rescind decisions, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) said, is something to be carefully guarded against. Let us suppose that the moderate members of the Government decide to leave the Government and fail to support them and let us suppose that the vast build up of discontent and unhappiness in many people's minds finds vent in a defeat for the Government on a motion of censure. Should we be told that the Government did not accept the verdict of the House, or that there would be an opportunity to put it right on a censure motion? Cannot the Government understand that they have to be defeated sooner or later because that is what Parliament is for—to defeat them when they are wrong?
Lastly, I turn to the issues of industrial policy about which we have spoken. Right hon. and hon. Members opposite must look at the figures and the facts. This country's industrial performance is steadily worsening. Unemployment is the highest in living memory. The volume of industrial production has dropped 10 per cent. since the peak three years ago. The average industrial wage in real terms—that is, what it will buy 1184 —is now falling for the first time. Last year's wages bought less than those the year before. We have a dwindling industrial sector. It is palpable rubbish to say that this is a crisis of capitalism. It cannot be so, because the Government have done things to industry—and, to be fair, I should say that when my right hon. Friends were in office they did some pretty silly things—which could be responsible only for the relative decline of British industry compared with that of Japan, West Germany, or any other free enterprise society.
Are we ever told how marvellous Russian industry or Bulgarian industry are or how marvellous the East German tailoring industry is? Why are we not told about the marvels of the Communist society which the Government try to emulate? No, this is a crisis of Socialism. The evidence is everywhere. Whatever part of society we look at we see that the theories, the airy-fairy ideas that hon. Gentlemen and others have put forward and on which they came into office with such bright-eyed excitement and naivety, have proved to be disastrous failures.
It is all the more important for the Government to listen to what people are saying and to what is being said in the House. They must realise that with a majority of one and with only 38 per cent. of the popular vote behind them they cannot go on steam-rollering through these strange ideas which motivate them and which are based partly on bitterness and partly on inexperience. The Government go on steamrollering these ideas through, because sooner or later the system will crack and the only way that these cracks can be prevented is by accepting not only the decisions of the House but the emotion, feeling and political will which are abroad in the country. Any Government who ignore public opinion do so at their peril.
The really tragic thing about last week's events was that the Government did not understand that there are times when one has to give way. There are times when one may even be wrong. The way that the Leader of the House comes to that Box, hatchet-faced, severe and unbending, week after week, to tell us that the Government cannot give an inch on this or on that, and cannot possibly accommodate the Opposition on this or the 1185 Scottish National Party on that, and the way that we are being told what we have to do, is intolerable to people who believe in a free Parliament, the free expression of will in the country.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. First, the hon. Gentleman's expression was unparliamentary. I hope that he will withdraw it. Secondly, it was made from a sedentary position. The hon. Gentleman may like to withdraw the remark.
§ Mr. Litterick
I apologise for any offence to yourself, Mr. Speaker. Perhaps I should rephrase it. The hon. Gentleman is a bad loser. That is what I was moaning about.
§ Mr. Ridley
I had not understood that I had lost or that we had lost. I have not become aware of what we have lost, when we have lost it, or why we have lost it. I only say to the hon. Gentleman that he has had his chance. He has had the first two years of the present Government, and they are driving this country into the sand. He, if anyone, has lost, because it is almost impossible to retrieve the fortunes of a Government if they get into the position of the present Government.
Our turn will come. We may get it wrong again. However, the lesson to be learned, which is perhaps the hardest of all for people who believe as strongly in ideals as do Labour Members, is that when things start to go wrong, it is usually because one has not listened, one has not been prepared to see and to understand. Indeed, it is a failure of democracy, a failure of worker-participation on the Government side of the House and of the very virtues which Labour Members have been extolling for others to pursue but which they have not pursued themselves. That is the symbolism behind this debate.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Ealing, Southall)
In honouring the request to speak for only a short time, to enable the Front Benches to have a full half-hour, I am left with very little time to say what I wished to say in a debate of this kind when I sought your ruling, Mr. Speaker, at the beginning of the debate about what range of events the debate could cover.
1186 As regards the speech of the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), the House is always entertained by what he has to say. He is something of a not-too-oldish, old-fashioned Tory, especially if he thinks that what the present Government are doing has much relationship with what we deem to call old-fashioned Socialism. It is because of that that I want to make a couple of comments, which will have to be very swift. I want to use this occasion to ventilate a considerable constituency grievance concerning Leyland and affecting the AEC factory at Southall, which is the largest of the factories in my constituency.
I also want to say why, on the question of the unprecedented event in which we are taking part—a second bite at the cherry as to whether a Minister's salary should remain as it is now or should be restored to what it was a few days ago—I cannot bring myself to the view that this particular Minister should be singled out. I do not find the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury to be obnoxious personally, but I find the Opposition's attitude obnoxious in seeking to use this means of attacking the Government on a very important front of their policy domain—industry—by using firstly the device of seeking a reduction of the Minister's salary. I would not single out the Secretary of State for Industry for particular attention in this regard, because the Opposition's attack should be, if the Government are faltering—as I believe they are—a measured attack upon the Government as a whole.
Although I cannot bring myself to vote against the motion, I have a very open mind about whether I shall vote at all, because I am very unhappy about whole aspects of the Government's policies. I am particularly unhappy about the continued imprisonment of Des Warren under unprecedented usage of the conspiracy law, and I am unhappy about the usage of Lord Ryder as Chairman of the National Enterprise Board. I do not know what particular body of the Labour Party——
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I do not want to make the hon. Gentleman more unhappy, but I do not think that they fall within the responsibility of the Secretary of State.
§ Mr. Bidwell
Well, they do in a sense, Mr. Speaker, with great respect. However, in view of the time factor, perhaps I should try to explain that to you later.
I find the whole idea of bailing out a multinational company—taxation without representation, in the case of Chrysler—completely abhorrent. I find that in many ways the report on Leyland, as far as it affects the workers, is totally unsatisfactory. The amount of participation by workers in the running of the motor industry will be raised, inevitably, time and again, because fortunately the workers in the industry are very well organised indeed.
What I particularly want to discuss now is the situation as it affects the AEC factory, part of the Leyland group, in my constituency. Its staff has recently been reduced, under a voluntary redundancy scheme, from 2,600 manufacturing workers and 700 on the staff to 2,000 manufacturing workers and 600 on the staff. That is a considerable percentage reduction in personnel. At the same time we still have the old slogan "AEC—the proud builders of London's buses" alongside the Western Region of British Rail.
Perhaps I could put the matter best by quoting from a recent communication from the Ealing Trades Council embodying a resolution carried this week by the draftsmen's union, part of the AUEW. The resolution states that the union's divisional council wishesto remind the Government that it cannot properly discharge its responsibility to the British taxpayer in respect of the public investment in British Leyland unless there is Government involvement in the management of the company.That is what makes the remarks of the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury such old-fashioned remarks. He thinks that mere State intervention is Socialism. That is not necessarily so at all. We think that in earlier history the great State intervention in affairs, in Germany under Hitler, was not Socialism as the Labour Party ever conceived it. It was called National Socialism, but it was Fascism on behalf of German capitalism.
The resolution to which I have referred says:This publicly discredited management"—1188 it means, of course, the previous, pre-nationalisation management, and it means substantially the present management, because the present management is the management which ran Leyland on to the rocks—is currently operating a phased closure of Leyland's AEC plant by decimating the production facility and adopting sales policies which promote vehicles from other Leyland plants at the expense of those built at AEC, a practice which has caused many AEC customers to buy foreign vehicles.The AEC had a very proud name and position in the export market.
The resolution also says:It is the belief of this Divisional Council that as a producer for over 50 years of top quality trucks and buses and a major export earner, AEC, situated in a high unemployment area, qualifies as one of Britain's winners.The feeling of the union is that gradually the plant will go out of existence altogether. It is nonsense when one considers the shortage of buses in London and the fact that the Greater London Council has to go overseas for component parts. It is nonsense for the local Labour movement and for the GLC, which has been making many overtures on this question.
I led a deputation of local people to see Ministers at the Department, and I am glad to be able to take this opportunity to say a word or two briefly to the Secretary of State himself. This matter was also raised at the last Labour Party conference, when it was emphasised that we have a ridiculous situation of under-usage of a truck and bus factory which, to be sure, needs a great deal of modernisation but which ought to be kept. We now have a situation in which there is a run-down of manufacturing industry in London as a whole and in particular the disappearance of light engineering jobs which could mean job opportunities for the whole new coming generation of young people, apprentices and so on. I ask the Minister to pay rapt attention to this grievance of the people of West London.
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Heseltine (Henley)
This debate has covered a very wide range of matters. May I say at the outset that I would like to associate myself very much with the remarks of my hon. Friends the Members for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) and for Bromsgrove and 1189 Redditch (Mr. Miller) on the plight of the West Midlands, to which they drew attention. No part of the country is suffering more from the present industrial malaise than that area, which has been widely regarded over a long time as the heartland of British manufacturing industry. Their pleas on behalf of their constituents brought a sense of reality and urgency to the British industrial manufacturing decline, as it is seen in the West Midlands, which was sadly lacking in the observations of Labour Members, who seemed particularly concerned to involve themselves in the rhetoric of old-fashioned polemics.
The contribution as a whole of the hon. Member for Basildon (Mr. Moonman) was, I thought, relevant to a subject we should have been discussing at greater length in this and earlier industrial debates. I disagreed with him when he sought to place on the shoulders of the Civil Service the blame for many of the decisions that had been taken about industrial strategy. That is to add just one more alibi to the appalling record of the failure of the political system in this country to get the right kind of industrial decisions taken and to listen carefully to industrial voices in reaching those decisions. It is a political failure, not a failure of civil servants, which has led this country's industrial investment record to such an appalling level over the past 20 years, and it does not serve this House any good at all to expect civil servants to act independently of their political masters. If we have got it wrong, let us understand that it is our responsibility and accept that the change, if it is to come, will start here and not in Whitehall.
While I agreed with much that the hon. Member for Basildon was seeking to achieve, I totally reject the idea that there can be a renaissance in the Civil Service which will bring a new sense of purpose to British industrial policy-making.
The hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) spoke for a very considerable time at the beginning of the debate discussing the problems of Chrysler. His words could have come as nothing but a shock to the Secretary of State for Industry, who listened to what he said, because the message that the hon. Member had for us was that the rescue of Chrysler was 1190 really to be desired, that the Government had worked out a strategy for the motor industry, that the arguments had been well rehearsed and deployed, and that in the better interests of British manufacturing industry the Chrysler rescue was right in terms of employment and of the balance of payments. Had he gone on longer, he would no doubt have pointed to the strengthening of the multinational corporation system as a beneficiary of the Chrysler rescue.
The difficulty that the hon. Member for Keighley faced was that the Secretary of State for Industry does not believe a word of it; and every time the hon. Gentleman argued in favour of the Chrysler rescue he was arguing against the case deployed with such persistence but to such little avail by the Secretary of State, who knows that the arguments brought forward by the hon. Member for Keighley had no validity whatsoever. It was extraordinary, therefore, that he should be seeking to defend the Secretary of State for Industry today for arguing a case in which, it is well known, the right hon. Gentleman himself has no faith whatsoever.
The House has always had recourse to a traditional weapon where it wishes to show displeasure about the record of a particular Minister—that is, a motion to reduce the Minister's salary by a nominal amount. Inflation has taken the amount higher and higher. The level of £1,000 behind the particular motion we are discussing today is a reflection of changing money standards rather than any personal reflection of the failings of the Secretary of State when compared with earlier motions for lesser sums. My right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) dealt clearly with the constitutional background which has brought us to this debate, and I would not wish to add a word to the admirable case he deployed in his speech. The constitutional case is perfectly clear, and on that alone the motion which we are debating would deserve to be rejected.
The issue, however, is not just a question of the propriety of a Government seeking to change a decision of the House in less than one week. The issue, as one hon. Member after another has said, is whether the industrial policies of this Government justify the censure passed last week, which we would seek to uphold 1191 today. It was particularly interesting to listen to the speech of the hon. Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Bidwell) and to note that the case he deployed for the Secretary of State for Industry was not that the right hon. Gentleman should not have a reduction in salary of £1,000; that was not his case. His case was that the remainder of the Secretary of State for Industry's colleagues were at least as bad as him, if not a great deal worse, and that, therefore, it was unfair to single out that right hon. Gentleman, whose crime could in no way be said to be greater than that of any of his colleagues.
§ Mr. Heseltine
The one conclusion which all of us who have listened to this debate today must draw from the arguments deployed is that, had the motion put down last week not singled out the Secretary of State for Industry but sought to reduce the remuneration of the entire Cabinet by £1,000, the Opposition would have won not by 10 votes but by a landslide.
§ Mr. Bidwell
Can the hon. Gentleman say what particular Secretary of State for Industry he has actually liked?
§ Mr. Heseltine
We could all agree on that. We all like the Secretary of State for Industry. That has never been an issue. Indeed, he is one of the nicest Secretary's of State for Industry anyone can remember. But that has absolutely nothing to do with his record as an administrator in his public position. The question is not whether we like the Secretary of State for Industry but whether we approve of a record which has taken British manufacturing investment down to the levels of the early 1960s, which has left 1.4 million people in the dole queues and created the greatest collapse of confidence in British industry in the living memory of anyone in this House. The question is not whether the Secretary of State is a nice chap. That has nothing at all to do with the motion.
The argument is not only a constitutional one but is an argument of no confidence in the industrial strategy which this Minister represents when he comes to the House. It was because the industrial strategy had failed that the vote of censure was carried in this House last week.
1192 I recall the background, of which the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) was fair in reminding us and which brought this Government to power, and the difference between the performance and what we were promised less than two years ago. We were promised a new era of State initiative in the encapsulation of the dynamism of the National Enterprise Board. We were told that the aircraft and shipbuilding industries would receive a new sense of purpose and destiny if they were nationalised. We were told that planning agreements would bring about a new sense of partnership between industry and the Government. Those were the fine phrases which made up the background against which the Government's industrial strategy should bejudged.
No one accepting the standards laid down by the Government's own doctrine can now believe anything other than that the dogma failed and that the promises never developed into the performance upon which the Government's assumptions were based. That is the reality, so it is reasonable that this House should uphold the assumptions which led to the Division last week.
Not only has the NEB not taken into ownership any shares of the companies upon which it was based. It is actually arguing with the Government that there should be a capital write-off in the value of those companies before those shares are transferred to the ownership of the NEB at all. That is a new development. We have had many industries taken into public ownership, and most of them led to capital write-offs, but never before have we had a publicly-owned enterpries refusing to take shares into its own name because it thought that the Government had paid too much for the shares.
That is the position that the NEB is now arguing with the Government. The objectives under which the Board is to operate and the clear decisions without which it is impossible to know what its purpose is have not been published because the Board has not been able to reach agreement with the subsidiary companies to be transferred to it about the relationship between them.
Anyone who has watched the agony of recruitment to the public sector, now compounded by the continuing saga of 1193 relationships between Lord Ryder and Sir Kenneth Keith, must realise the difficulties that the Board has already even before it has become effective in any form. I do not think that those difficulties are capable of easy resolution.
Sir Kenneth Keith was recruited to the public sector—and he has been a conspicuous success therein—on certain terms about the basis on which he would operate. It is wholly the Government's responsibility that they have sought to change the basis upon which Sir Kenneth Keith and a significant number of the board of Rolls-Royce were recruited by making it into a subsidiary company of the NEB. Men of the stature of Sir Kenneth Keith will not work in the relationship of a normal subsidiary to a holding company situation under Lord Ryder. This is a simple human problem, and it is because the Government have failed to understand the nature of the relationship between these two men that they now have the situation where the national Press reveals saga after saga of inside disputes between the two.
This must have untold consequences for recruitment to the public sector. It must have done great damage in areas up and down the country where people are being asked to join the managements of nationalised industries for them to read in the Press every day of the problems with which they are likely to be confronted. It is a situation in which maladministration and a badly designed scheme are already running into difficulties before the NEB has effectively got under way.
The second area in which the Government are gravely responsible is the harm done by their decision to go ahead with the nationalisation of the aircraft and shipbuilding industries at a time when both industries have a range of different problems, all of them daily growing more serious. The Government have injected an element of uncertainty for two years in the future of those industries where those managing the industries were precluded from taking any decisions about the future of their industries and where there was no Government policy to fill the void. There is still no strategy for those industries after they come into public ownership. Therefore, the gap of two years has widened and the future of those industries has become more 1194 uncertain. That is a major charge against the Government for which they should accept responsibility in the Division Lobbies.
I make only one final comment. It is that the greatest single charge against the Government is that, although they claim to be a Government who believe in strategic planning, they have no plans for the future of British industry. They have slogans. They have the document produced at Chequers. They have a long list of objectives to which they are said to be committed. Those objectives are all concerned with seeking profits. Hon. Members who have read the Chequers strategy will understand that all that it talks about is the desirability of getting the maximum rate of return on investment in the public and the private sectors and of giving British free enterprise systems the best opportunity to maximise their returns.
The Opposition criticise it because, if ever the chance comes, the Government remove themselves from the guidelines that they have set down. That is why Chrysler is so serious. In itself it is a situation which an economy of our size could survive, but as an example of how the Government abdicated from their guidelines it will have ripple effects, the cost of which is incalculable.
If the Government want to back winners, to seek profit and to give a new sense of enthusiasm and confidence to private sector industry, they should pursue a strategy which would return to British private sector industrial companies some part of the excess taxes which have been removed from them over a recent period of time. That is the only way in which there is any possibility of getting investment in British industry to move in advance of the cyclical upturn which will be caused by world trade conditions. If we wait until then, in my judgment we shall be left with the bottlenecks which have beset us in past economic situations equivalent to what could come.
If we want to get things moving faster, the only way is to back winners in British industry, and those are the companies which have made the profits in the first place. It is no use the Government thinking that they can single out individual companies on a piecemeal basis and get a sufficiently large-scale increase in 1195 investment in advance of the general upturn, because they do not have the apparatus or the time to do it. The only way is to take an across-the-board spectrum and to return taxes in return for increased investment, which would be a condition of the return of those taxes in the first place. This could bring about a resurgence of the British investment situation, and it is the only way to do it.
If the Government believed their strategy and the language of the Chequers document, they would get on and do it. Until they take such action, which will involve public expenditure cuts to compensate, we shall see British industrial investment jogging along at its present levels, which are now back to about those of the early 1960s. If that is not a basis for the censure of a Government who claimed that they would regenerate British industry, I do not know what is.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Industry (Mr. Eric G. Varley)
This debate is a live-action replay of the debate last week on a motion which nominally was asking for a reduction in my salary. There has been some good humoured comment about it today, and I make no complaint on that score. For the public, however, our debates should be about subjects a lot more important than one man's pay.
As I have not got very much time before the vote, perhaps I might mention the thoughtful speeches of my hon. Friends the Members for Keighley (Mr. Cryer), Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), Basildon (Mr. Moonman) and Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Litterick). No doubt I shall come to the speeches of Opposition Members later in what I say.
My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley was right. The Opposition talk constantly about unemployment but regularly vote for unemployment. I shall demonstrate that in a moment.
My hon. Friend the Member for Basildon is very concerned, as we all are, with strengthening management and getting a proper relationship between the Government and industry. That is what we are striving to do, and my hon. Friend's points are well taken.
My hon. Friend the Member for Walton spoke of the serious situation in 1196 his constituency concerning Western Shiprepairers. I can tell him that my hon. Friend the Minister of State will be visiting Merseyside at the weekend to look at the position.
What the debate has demonstrated is that the Tory Opposition are absolutely bankrupt of ideas about what they should do with industry. While the basic political, economic and social arguments are being debated in every home, factory and office in the country, the Tory Opposition decide, in some cases, to reduce the debate to trivial side issues. For them a victory by fluke is worth having. For them it is a question of procedural nit-picking. On the majority of issues no one knows where they stand.
For example, when Parliament debates inflation, where do the Opposition stand? They abstain. When Parliament debates unemployment, the right hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior)—I saw him in the House a moment or two ago—tells us that we should do something about it and at the same time calls for instant and massive public expenditure cuts. It is no wonder that the right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker) gets anxious about this at weekends and makes speeches criticising his own Front Bench. No wonder he is in total despair at the performance of the Opposition Front Bench. However, even the right hon. Gentleman's record is not absolutely clean. When we debate unemployment he, too, plays Jekyll and Hyde.
The Tory Party does not always abstain on unemployment issues. Again and again over the past two years Tory Members have trooped into the Division Lobby to vote in favour of unemployment. They voted in favour of throwing thousands of men out of work. They voted——
§ Mr. Peyton
I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman will bear in mind that he is here to talk about his performance.
§ Mr. Varley
I will, of course, do that—if I do not get many more interruptions. It is pertinent to point out that the Opposition, although they criticise me, have no ideas of their own to put forward. They have consistently voted for putting thousands of workers on the dole. This was so with the Alfred 1197 Herbert workers. The Opposition voted for unemployment for thousands on the Chrysler issue. There were thousands whose livings depended on the continuation of Chrysler. The Opposition voted for unemployment for thousands of British Leyland workers. They voted for more unemployment in Scotland, Oxford and Birmingham, and they even voted for more unemployment in Coventry.
I understand that there is to be a by-election in Coventry within the next few weeks. I hope that when Tory canvassers knock on the doors in Coventry they will ask whether they are addressing workers from British Leyland, Alfred Herbert or Chrysler. If so, they will be facing not abstract statistics but individuals whom the Tory Party has consistently voted to put into the dole queue.
Individuals are not interested in the niceties of parliamentary debates or of procedure. They do not care about the nit-picking that has taken place here. Individuals have the right to know where the Tory Party stands on the job issue. It is an abuse to suggest that we should play this ritualistic game. I do not think that the people outside whom the Tories have voted to throw on the scrap-heap will be impressed by it.
The hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) is not shy. He does not hide his light beneath a bushel when it comes to publicity. We are all pleased that he has recovered from the illness which caused his absence from last week's debate. He would have done himself and the House a great service if he had dealt with the issues in a more serious fashion instead of trivialising them. We are supposed to be having a re-run of last week's debate. Instead, however, of talking about the motor car industry, the hon. Gentleman talked about the National Enterprise Board and the transfer of companies to the Board.
For the hon. Gentleman it is always the easy headline. No one can accuse him of being remote. I have a bunch of Conservative Central Office handouts here——
§ Mr. Varley
This one, from the hon. Member, says "Release immediate." The next one says: 1198Mr. Heseltine can be contacted after 8.30 p.m. on Friday. Phone Nettlebed 206.That is the way he looks at these issues.
§ Mr. Michael Marshall
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I ask for your guidance? Is it in order, after we have sat through the entire debate, for the Secretary of State not once to refer to Government policy?
§ Mr. Speaker
That is not a point of order. May I appeal to the House? The hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) was heard in reasonable silence. I hope that we are shortly to come to a decision.
§ Mr. Varley
It is about time that the Opposition stopped playing silly games. They know that the whole basis of this debate is bogus. It is time they realised that there are no easy answers to our industrial problems. Instead of trying to put forward constructive suggestions, all that they do is to obstruct the Government and try to prevent us from solving the problems.
Exactly two years ago we were in the middle of an unnecessary General Election campaign brought about by panic decisions taken by the then Conservative Government. Rather than face up to the industrial troubles of the country, they cut and run. They did that 16 months before it was necesseary. In the Department of Industry I am still uncovering some of the skeletons that were left in the cupboard by them.
§ Mr. Varley
The hon. Gentleman is the last person to intervene, because some of those skeletons go back to his time when he was concerned with shipbuilding.
§ Mr. Varley
I am not giving way. The Opposition ought to stop pretending that the powers they took under the 1972 Industry Act are powers which we cannot use and that they are powers which can be used only by a Conservative Government. The people will rightly lose patience with this House if we do not 1199 debate issues seriously—[Interruption]—instead of the ceaseless nit-picking which the Opposition go in for.
The Opposition are completely barren of ideas for industrial policy. If their vote had been carried in this House the motor car industry would now be in a state of total disintegration, with hundreds of thousands on the scrap-heap. That is
§ why we should dispose of this motion. There is a routine but worthwhile item to follow on today's Order Paper. We ought to vote on this motion and ensure that the House can proceed to more serious issues.
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 296, Noes 280.1203
|Division No. 65.]||AYES||7.0 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Dunnett, Jack||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Allaun, Frank||Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth||Judd, Frank|
|Anderson, Donald||Eadie, Alex||Kaufman, Gerald|
|Archer, Peter||Edge, Geoff||Kelley, Richard|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)||Kerr, Russell|
|Ashley, Jack||English, Michael||Kilroy-Silk, Robert|
|Ashton, Joe||Ennals, David||Kinnock, Neil|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Lambie, David|
|Atkinson, Norman||Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||Lamborn, Harry|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||Lamond, James|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)||Faulds, Andrew||Latham, Arthur (Paddington)|
|Bates, Alf||Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Bean, R. E.||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Lee, John|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Flannery, Martin||Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton and Slough)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Lever, Rt Hon Harold|
|Bishop, E. S.||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Lewis, Arthur (Newham N)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Foot[...], Rt Hon Michael||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)|
|Boardman, H.||Ford, Ben||Lipton, Marcus|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Forrester[...], John||Litterick, Tom|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur||Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)||Loyden, Eddie|
|Boyden, James (Bish Auck)||Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)||Luard, Evan|
|Bradley, Tom||Freeson, Reginald||Lyon, Alexander (York)|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Garrett, John (Norwich S)||Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)||Mabon, Dr J. Dickson|
|Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)||George, Bruce||McCartney, Hugh|
|Brown, Ronald (Hackney S)||Gilbert, Dr John||McElhone, Frank|
|Buchan, Norman||Ginsburg, David||MacFarquhar, Roderick|
|Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green)||Golding, John||McGuire, Michael (Ince)|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE)||Gould, Bryan||Mackenzie, Gregor|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Gourlay, Harry||Mackintosh, John P.|
|Campbell, Ian||Graham, Ted||Maclennan, Robert|
|Canavan, Dennis||Grant, George (Morpeth)||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)|
|Cant, R. B.||Grant, John (Islington C)||McNamara, Kevin|
|Carmichael, Neil||Grocott, Bruce||Madden, Max|
|Carter, Ray||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Magee, Bryan|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Hardy, Peter||Mahon, Simon|
|Cartwright, John||Harper, Joseph||Mallalieu, J. P. W.|
|Castle, Rt Hon Barbara||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Marks, Kenneth|
|Clemitson, Ivor||Hart, Rt Hon Judith||Marquand, David|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)|
|Cohen, Stanley||Hatton, Frank||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)|
|Coleman, Donald||Hayman, Mrs Helene||Mason, Rt Hon Roy|
|Colquhoun, Ms Maureen||Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Maynard, Miss Joan|
|Concannon, J. D.||Heffer, Eric S.||Meacher, Michael|
|Conlan, Bernard||Hooley, Frank||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert|
|Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||Horam, John||Mendelson, John|
|Corbett, Robin||Howell, Rt Hon Denis||Mikardo, Ian|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)||Millan, Bruce|
|Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill)||Huckfield, Les||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)||Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)|
|Cronin, John||Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Molloy, William|
|Crosland, Rt Hon Anthony||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Moonman, Eric|
|Cryer, Bob||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington S)||Hunter, Adam||Morris, Charles R. (Openshawe)|
|Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)||Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill)||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)||Moyle, Roland|
|Davidson, Arthur||Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)||Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King|
|Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)||Janner, Greville||Newens, Stanley|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Noble, Mike|
|Deakins, Eric||Jeger, Mrs Lena||Oakes, Gordon|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Ogden, Eric|
|Delargy, Hugh||Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Stechford)||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Dell, Rt Hon Edmund||John, Brynmor||O'Malley, Rt Hon Brian|
|Dempsey, James||Johnson, James (Hull West)||Orbach, Maurice|
|Dolg, Peter||Johnson, Walter (Derby S)||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Jones, Alec (Rhondda)||Ovenden, John|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Jones, Barry (East Flint)||Owen, Dr David|
|Dunn, James A.|
|Padley, Walter||Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C)||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Palmer, Arthur||Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)|
|Park, George||Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)||Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)|
|Parker, John||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Parry, Robert||Sillars, James||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Pavitt, Laurie||Silverman, Julius||Ward, Michael|
|Pendry, Tom||Skinner, Dennis||Watkins, David|
|Perry, Ernest||Small, William||Watkinson, John|
|Phipps, Dr Colin||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)||Weetch, Ken|
|Prentice, Rt Hon Reg||Snape, Peter||Weitzman, David|
|Price, C. (Lewisham W)||Spearing, Nigel||Wellbeloved, James|
|Price, William (Rugby)||Spriggs, Leslie||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Radice, Giles||Stallard, A. W.||White, James (Pollock)|
|Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)||Stoddart, David||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Richardson, Miss Jo||Stonehouse, Rt Hon John||Whitlock, William|
|Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Stott, Roger||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Roberts, Gwilym(Cannock)||Strang, Gavin||Williams, Alan (Swansea W)|
|Robertson, John (Paisley)||Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)|
|Roderick, Caerwyn||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley||Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)|
|Rodgers, George (Chorley)||Swain, Thomas||Williams, Sir Thomas|
|Rodgers, William (Stockton)||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Rooker, J. W.||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)|
|Roper, John||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Rose, Paul B.||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)||Woodall, Alec|
|Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)||Woof, Robert|
|Rowlands, Ted||Tierney, Sydney||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Sandelson, Neville||Tinn, James||Young, David (Botton E)|
|Sedgemore, Brian||Tomlinson, John|
|Selby, Harry||Tomney, Frank||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)||Torney, Tom||Mr. J.D. Dormand and|
|Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)||Tuck, Raphael||Mr. John Ellis|
|Shore, Rt Hon Peter||Urwin, T. W.|
|Altken, Jonathan||Crouch, David||Hannam, John|
|Alison, Michael||Crowder, F. P.||Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye)|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Davies, Rt Hon, J. (Knutsford)||Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss|
|Arnold, Tom||Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Hastings, Stephen|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Dean, Paul (N Somerset)||Havers, Sir Michael|
|Awdry, Daniel||Dodsworth, Geoffrey||Hawkins, Paul|
|Bain, Mrs Margaret||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Hayhoe, Barney|
|Baker, Kenneth||Drayson, Burnaby||Heath, Rt Hon Edward|
|Banks, Robert||du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Henderson, Douglas|
|Beith, A. J.||Durant, Tony||Heseltine, Michael|
|Bell, Ronald||Eden, Rt Hon Sir John||Hicks, Robert|
|Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)||Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Higgins, Terence L.|
|Benyon, W.||Elliott, Sir William||Holland, Philip|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Emery, Peter||Hooson, Emlyn|
|Biffen, John||Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)||Hordern, Peter|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Eyre, Reginald||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Blaker, Peter||Fairbairn, Nicholas||Howell, David (Guildford)|
|Body, Richard||Fairgrieve. Russell||Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Farr, John||Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)|
|Bottomley, Peter||Fell, Anthony||Hunt, John|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown)||Finsberg, Geoffrey||Hurd, Douglas|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)||Fisher, Sir Nigel||Hutchison, Michael Clark|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)|
|Britian, Leon||Fookes, Miss Janet||James, David|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, C.||Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd)||Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd & W'df'd)|
|Brotherton, Michael||Fox, Marcus||Jessel, Toby|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)||Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Freud, Clement||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Fry, Peter||Jones, Arthur (Daventry)|
|Buck, Antony||Galbraith, Hon T. G. D.||Jopling, Michael|
|Budgen, Nick||Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Burden, F. A.||Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham)||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Kilfedder, James|
|Carlisle, Mark||Glyn, Dr Alan||Kimball, Marcus|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Goodhart, Philip||King, Evelyn (South Dorset)|
|Channon, Paul||Goodhew, Victor||King, Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Churchill, W. S.||Goodlad. Alastair||Kirk, Sir Peter|
|Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Gorst, John||Kitson, Sir Timothy|
|Clark, William (Croydon S)||Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||Knight, Mrs Jill|
|Clegg, Walter||Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)||Knox, David|
|Cockcroft, John||Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)||Lamont, Norman|
|Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||Gray, Hamish||Lane, David|
|Cope, John||Griffiths, Eldon||Langford-Holt, Sir John|
|Cordle, John H.||Grimond, Rt Hon J.||Latham, Michael (Melton)|
|Cormack, Patrick||Grist, Ian||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Corrie, John||Grylls, Michael||Lawson, Nigel|
|Costain, A. P.||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Lester, Jim (Beeston)|
|Crawford, Douglas||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Critchley, Julian||Hampson, Dr Keith||Lloyd, Ian|
|Loveridge, John||Pattie, Geoffrey||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Luce, Richard||Penhaligon, David||Stanley, John|
|McAdden, Sir Stephen||Percival, Ian||Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)|
|MacCormick, Iain||Peyton, Rt Hon John||Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)|
|McCrindle, Robert||Pink, R. Bonner||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|Macfarlane, Neil||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Stokes, John|
|MacGregor, John||Prior, Rt Hon James||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)||Pym, Rt Hon Francis||Tapsell, Peter|
|McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)||Raison, Timothy||Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)|
|McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)||Rathbone, Tim||Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)|
|Madel, David||Rawlinson, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Tebbit, Norman|
|Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Marten, Neil||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret|
|Mates, Michael||Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)||Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)|
|Mather, Carol||Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)||Thompson, George|
|Maude, Angus||Ridley, Hon Nicholas||Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)|
|Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald||Ridsdale, Julian||Townsend, Cyril D|
|Mawby, Ray||Rifkind, Malcolm||Trotter, Neville|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|Mayhew, Patrick||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)||Viggers, Peter|
|Mills, Peter||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)||Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)||Wakeham, John|
|Mitchell, Davild (Basingstoke)||Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)||Welder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Moate, Roger||Royle, Sir, Anthony||Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)|
|Monro, Hector||Sainsbury, Tim||Wall, Patrick|
|Montgomery, Fergus||St. John-Stevas, Norman||Walters, Dennis|
|Moore, John (Croydon C)||Scott, Nicholas||Warren, Kenneth|
|More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)||Watt, Hamish|
|Morgan, Geraint||Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Morris, Michael (Northampton S)||Shelton, William (Streatham)||Wells, John|
|Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Shepherd, Colin||Welsh, Andrew|
|Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)||Shersby, Michael||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Mudd, David||Silvester, Fred||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Neave, Airey||Sims, Roger||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Nelson, Anthony||Sinclair, Sir George||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)|
|Neubert, Michael||Skeet, T. H. H.||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Newton, Tony||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)||Wood, Rt Hon Richard|
|Nott, John||Smith, Dudley (Warwick)||Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)|
|Onslow, Cranley||Speed, Keith||Younger, Hon George|
|Oppenheim, Mrs Sally||Spence, John|
|Page, John (Harrow W)||Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)||Sproat, Iain||Mr. Cecil Perkinson and|
|Pardoe, John||Stainton, Keith||Mr. Spencer Le Marchant|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ That this House, notwithstanding the opinion expressed on 11th February in the Motion relating to the salary of the Secretary of State for Industry, affirms that the provisions of the relevant Statutes shall continue to apply.