§ 4.8 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Industry (Mr. Eric Varley)
I beg to move Amendment No. 1, in page 74, line 29, leave out 'include rotary-wing aircraft' and insert'include—
- (a) hovercraft;
- (b) lighter than air aircraft;
- (c) rotary-wing aircraft;
- (d) non-motorised and motorised gliders;
- (e) aircraft designed to fly unmanned; and
- (f) replicas of aircraft of historic interest.'.
§ Mr. Varley
I do not think that I need to spend much time on this group of amendments as the principal reasons for tabling them have already been debated at some length on previous occasions.
On 26th May, Mr. Speaker ruled that the Bill was prima facie hybrid because of a point of doubt whether the mobile offshore drilling rig, the "Key Victoria", was a ship for the purposes of the Bill and whether Marathon Shipbuilding (UK) Ltd. was wrongly excluded from Part I of the Bill. Amendments Nos. 3 and 4 are designed to put the point beyond doubt by defining "ship" in such a way as to exclude without question mobile rigs such as the "Key Victoria".
266 Paragraph 2 of Part II of Schedule 2 defines a shipbuilding company. One part of that definition is that it had, on 31st July 1974, an interest in possession in a shipyard which on that date was being used for the construction of ships. By excluding the "Key Victoria" from the definition of "ship" in paragraph 6 of Part II, these amendments define the class of shipbuilding companies in a way that excludes companies making only mobile offshore drilling rigs at that date. The amendment is precise, though general in effect. It removes the point of doubt which Mr. Speaker ruled existed.
It is not for me to enter again into the question whether the Bill was hybrid. The House has determined that, however that may be, it is to proceed as a Public Bill. These amendments, which, during the debate on 27th May, we promised we would table, clarify this point, confirm that the Bill deals with genuine classes of companies as defined in the schedule, and will allow the House, and in due course another place, to consider the Bill on its merits and on the crucial issues with which it seeks to deal.
Amendments Nos. 1 and 3 also deal with other technical points of definition. Amendment No. 1 aims simply to exclude remote and minute doubts that those who may seek to delay the Bill further might raise on the definition of "aircraft" and companies making them.
In the normal course of events perhaps it would not be necessary to move these amendments. But if doubts can exist whether the "Key Victoria" is a ship then people may think that hovercrafts are aircraft, ships or a hybrid of the two, or that lighter-than-air aircraft such as hot air balloons are aircraft, or that model aircraft should qualify. For instance, my clear and categorical legal advice is that a hovercraft is not an aircraft or a ship. But the point has been raised, in the course of an exhaustive re-examination of the Bill for points of possible hybridity, and rather than risk further damaging delay, we propose to lay it to rest now.
Removing the word "converting" in Amendment No. 2 is another example. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that, having told us that Marathon produced ships, some hon. Members will perhaps claim that Marathon is in the business of ship repairing. I can assure hon. Members, if they need assurance on 267 such a point, that this is not so. For instance, there is no question of Marathon meeting the criteria in Subsection (3)(1)(b) of Schedule 2. However, during 1974, it did undertake a conversion, a one-off job, taken on solely to avoid redundancies. As the removal of the word "converting" does not affect the repairers named in the schedule we felt it only charitable to make this amendment and to remove any possible confusion that hon. Members opposite might have about Marathon being a ship repairing company.
These amendments seek to establish the position not just beyond reasonable doubt but beyond all doubt—without being all-seeing and all-knowing, which we are not. But we have done our best to cover even the most far-fetched eventualities. I apologise to hon. Members who may feel that I have taken too much time in stating the obvious. We have, at least, tried to learn from the fact that similar points have lost us a lot of time in the past and we want to avoid the danger of any such delays in the future.
§ Mr. Michael Heseltine (Henley)
The Secretary of State is undoubtedly correct in suggesting that he has done his best in redrafting the hybridity provisions of this legislation. I do not think that any hon. Member has any doubts that the underlying issues that we are discussing today arise from the deal that was done in 1973, which, in spirit, if not in practice, inevitably made this a hybrid Bill.
I do not know whether the amendments that the Secretary of State has moved have succeeded in making the position as clear as he would want. That is not the purpose of the speech that I want to make. Doubtless we shall consider that with care, and doubtless it will be considered with care in another place. The important question is why the Secretary of State is moving these amendments at all. That is the point to which I wish to devote my remarks.
The fact is that in 1973, as the House knows, the Marathon Company of America was considering whether or not to invest on the Clyde, with the obviously desirable consequence that jobs would be saved and an ongoing business created. The major obstacle to its coming was the fact that the shipbuilding industry was threatened with nationalisation. The com- 268 pany knew that, not because the Government of the day intended to nationalise the shipbuilding industry but because the Labour Party, in its traditional and irresponsible posture in Opposition, was making threats not only about the shipbuilding industry but in respect of a whole range of other industries within the British economy. That is precisely what parts of the Labour movement are now doing, in and out of government. It is a well-worn phenomenon in terms of the debilitation of British industry.
It is perfectly understandable that the American company asked for assurances that in the event of its coming to Britain its enterprise and initiative would not consequentially lead to nationalisation. It was easy for the then Conservative Government to give the assurance that there would be no nationalisation, but the Labour Party in Opposition, faced with a simple choice whether or not they were overtly prepared to put their own party dogma above the interests of the workers on Clydeside, gave the same assurance. They would have given that assurance whether Marathon had been the producer of rigs or of any other form of vessel, or of ships, because, at that time, it was quite unacceptable, in popular terms, to argue that the threat of nationalisation would be a deterrent to the maintenance of jobs on Clydeside. A very firm commitment was given.
From the moment that commitment was given, in spirit this was going to be a hybrid Bill. There was no way round that position. The draftsmen in the Department of Industry were given the clearest instructions, when they had to draft the legislation, that Marathon should be excluded. In other words, a very precise instruction was given to leave out a company which otherwise, in the normal way of business, might easily have been included. It was, intentionally, a hybrid situation. It would have been perfectly easy for the Secretary of State for Industry, if this issue had been put to him at Second Reading, to have given exactly the same assurance as he is now giving to the House. He would have said "We have done our best to ensure that this is not a hybrid Bill. We have drafted legislation to put beyond all reasonable doubt that this Bill, as we understand it, is now non-hybrid."
269 That was the situation. But, of course, the Government got it all wrong. This is the upshot of what we now all too clearly understand. As a consequence of the diligence of my hop. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) and, frankly, the carelessness of ministerial instructions, the Bill turned out to be a hybrid Bill. The first reaction was to pretend that this was not the case, but Mr. Speaker's ruling was that it was prima facie a hybrid Bill. [An HON. MEMBER: "Yes, prima facie."] If the hon. Member wishes to rest on the words "prima facie", I would not dispute that. I merely make a factual observation that following Mr. Speaker's ruling that it was, prima facie, a hybrid Bill, there was no longer any possibility of the Government moving forward in any way without either redrafting the legislation or suspending the Standing Orders of the House of Commons. They did both, because they believed that the dogma of nationalisation was more important than either the rights of the individuals concerned or the rights of the House of Commons. That was the decision they took a couple of months ago. Then having taken that decision, the one point that I wish to place beyond peradventure is that the Bill remains a hybrid Bill. In intention it is hybrid.
A party political deal, for party political reasons, was done to give special privileges to Marathon. It was done by the Labour Party in opposition and it is the intention of the Labour Government to honour that special deal between an American multinational company and the Government. That is what this debate is all about. The argument that the Secretary of State is putting to us is that, notwithstanding the fact that this was, prima facie, a hybrid Bill, and is still, it should nevertheless proceed along the traditional constitutional course.
In order to ensure that the issue is not raised again amendments are necessary, not to cope with the problems in this House, because they have already been coped with by suspending the Standing Orders but because the Secretary of State fears that when the Bill reaches another place the issues of hybridity will be governed not by the Standing Orders of this House but by the Standing Orders of another place, and it will be perfectly within its right 270 to decide whether or not it should treat the Bill as hybrid. It is necessary, not in any way to put right omissions in this House but to anticipate the dangers that may still face the legislation in another place. That is why the Secretary of State is moving these amendments today.
We resist these amendments, and I would not wish there to be any lingering doubt about why we do so. We think that it would be to the positive advantage of all concerned that the Select Committee procedure should come into play, so as to give people with a major interest in the legislation the opportunity to have their case heard. I think that this House would generally pursue its debates better, particularly its industrial policy debates, if there were much greater scrutiny of the Government than is possible at the moment.
On looking into the motor industry a Select Committee provided the House with a significant constitutional advance. It is no longer possible, faced with the questioning of a Select Committee, for Ministers to run to cover or to provide half-answers and evasive generalisations. They are pinned down, and can be kept pinned down for hour after hour, until the facts have emerged.
But under the procedures for examining public Bills of this sort, no such possibility exists. Certainly on Second Reading or in Standing Committee—as anyone knows who has read the proceedings on this Bill or any other—Ministers, in the end, can simply remain seated and rely on the votes behind them. They cannot do that under the Select Committee procedure. Consequently, the facts emerge, the debate is real, the judgments are informed. That is why, not only on this legislation—although this is a classic example of the improvements which can be obtained—we should serve the interests of this country much better if there were a Select Committee procedure.
I do not intend to pursue at great length the sort of argument that might emerge from a Select Committee inquiry, but I am at a loss to understand why, for example, Bristol Channel Ship Repairers should be denied for months, despite repeated requests, even an interview with Ministers at which it could put its 271 case. Under a Select Committee procedure, that right would be available to it.
Why Bristol Channel Ship Repairers should be denied that right when Marathon is given special privileges under the Bill, I am totally at a loss to understand.
§ The Minister of State, Department of Industry (Mr. Gerald Kaufman)
The hon. Gentleman may care to know that this morning, within an hour of a request reaching me, I saw Mr. John Sorotos of C. H. Bailey and, once again, put to him my very strong wish to go to Cardiff, to Bristol Channel Ship Repairers, to meet the work force and to discuss with it the Government's proposal for the company. Mr. Sorotos did not accede to my request.
§ Mr. Heseltine
It is fascinating that what the Minister of State has said should produce that Pavlovian reaction from Labour Members. What he has said has confirmed totally what I said to the Committee—that, for months, BCSR asked for an interview so that its case could be heard, and it was refused. Now, today, the Minister suggests that a meeting should take place.
§ Mr. Heseltine
I should be grateful for the opportunity to finish the argument. I shall be happy to give way to Red Ron when the time comes.
The House must ask why it is that today a phone call should go from the Minister of State to BCSR. The reason that month after month after month went by without such a response is that the Minister of State is trying to bamboozle the Welsh National Members into behaving in the way in which he succeeded in conning them into behaving a short time ago—
§ Mr. Heseltine
I shall give way in a moment; the Minister must be more patient.
We all know what the Minister of State has been doing; he has been moving from group to group on the Opposition Benches, telling one story to one of them 272 and another story to another, in the hope that he can salvage the Government's vote in each succeeding Division.
The Scottish National Party Members, who have now seen the wisdom of their ways, were persuaded by some subterfuge from the Government Dispatch Box to abstain a couple of weeks ago. We knew that it was a trick, and they have now come around to understanding—
§ Mr. Heseltine
I realise that this is a Committee stage, but three Members at one time is a little excessive. I have promised that I shall give way to the Minister of State.
That is the reason why Bristol Channel Ship Repairers has become significant. Like Marathon, it has suddenly become important to the Labour Party, so suddenly the red carpet—what an appropriate colour—is wheeled out—
§ Mr. Kaufman
The hon. Gentleman refers to the Welsh Nationals. I do not know what the Welsh is fortimeo Danaos et dona ferentes—I shall leave it for them to work out—but the hon. Member should listen when statements are made. I did not say that I telephoned BCSR; I said that Mr. Sorotos telephoned me. That is the first point. Secondly, it is well known that many months ago my noble Friend my predecessor as Minister of State saw BCSR. As hon. Members will know very well, I have been trying for about four weeks now to get agreement from BCSR for a visit to its yards on the same basis as I am visiting Vosper Thornycroft on Friday.
§ Mr. Heseltine
The Minister of State knows that that in no way deals with the issue. BCSR has been treated totally differently from Marathon. So that we might agree on one thing, let us assume that there is a disagreement between the two sides of the House. Let us assume that there are areas in which facts should be ascertained and the voice of the company heard. The question is whether that should be done by a Select Committee which could listen to all the arguments, not of the Minister of State and myself—after all, it would be fair to predict that we might not agree on many of these issues—but of BCSR, which should have the opportunity to put its side of the story just as Marathon was given the right to put its side.
§ Mr. Ron Thomas
The hon. Gentleman is clearly trying to paint a picture that is quite contrary to what happened in Committee. Apart from the fact that Bristol Channel Ship Repairers spent hundreds of thousands of pounds wining and dining hon. Members in this House, I recall that the representatives of the company were at every meeting of the Committee. Continually, Opposition Members went out to meet them and their point of view was put continually during those proceedings.
§ Mr. Heseltine
I cannot speak for the amount of food and wine that was enjoyed by Labour Members through the hospitality of BCSR—that is entirely a matter for those hon. Members—but there is a fundamental difference, which is what hybridity is all about, between the voice of a company being represented in Standing Committee by one Member of Parliament—
§ Mr. Heseltine
—or by a team of Members of Parliament, and that company itself having direct access, so that the whole story can be put fairly and questioned in public. That is what Marathon effectively achieved by the undertaking given by the Labour Party in opposition.
§ Mr. Michael Grylls (Surrey, North-West)
Is my hon. Friend aware that my information is that, although the Minister of State has said that he will go down to Cardiff to give a speech, there is something that he has not said? He 274 has said that he will not go down to have meaningful consultations with the shop stewards and all those in that industry, and hear their points of view. He wants only to make a speech, to make party points, to tell them why the Government are going to nationalise the company, and not to listen to the points that they want to put to him.
§ Mr. Heseltine
The Minister of State should be able to help here. All we need from him is an undertaking that if the representatives of the company come to London at an appointed hour he will meet them. That is all he has to do. It is a simple undertaking; it is precisely what the company has been asking for. Why should exactly that not happen?
§ Mr. Kaufman
The situation is this: I have now visited about 20 aircraft factories, shipyards and ship repair yards. All the approaches that my office has made for such visits have been on the basis that I would hold meetings with management, middle management, and workers' representatives, in order to discuss with them the Government's proposals in the Bill. I say "discuss", which means not making a speech but engaging in meaningful discussions. I have had about 20 visits of that kind in which meaningful discussions have taken place, in such companies as Austin & Pickersgill, Swan Hunter and Western Shiprepairers. I am going to Vosper Thorneycroft as well. This is in addition to a number of aircraft companies.
Every company that I have approached has, without any precondition, agreed that I should make my visit on the basis that I proposed. I have proposed and have been proposing it for four weeks to Bristol Channel Ship Repairers, but it has not accepted. That company laid down preconditions for my visit which no other company laid down.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Heseltine
The Minister of State wishes to go on repeating something that is quite meaningless. We know that on these visits the hon. Gentleman has made speeches. Many of my hon. Friends were present when he made his visits. I have spoken to many people. The Minister merely seeks the opportunity of putting forward the Government's determination to bring about nationalisation.
§ Mr. Heseltine
Exactly. That is what he is paid for. The hon. Gentleman did not make those visits to discuss, negotiate or investigate in the way that the Labour Party went to Marathon to consider the facts. The hon. Gentleman said "I will tell you what the Government have decided to do."
I have a copy of a letter that Labour Members will see as setting the scene in context of how Bristol Channel Ship Repairers replied to the Minister of State's observations. The letter, which is dated 19th July, reads:On 13th January 1976 youthe Minister of State—told Standing Committee D that you had made arrangements to visit us. However, seven months passed before we heard from you".That does not sound like a man who is totally confident that he will get the kind of reception that he wants or who cares whether he has any consultation. I ask the House to consider whether the juxtaposition of events is more in line with the interpretation that I have produced, namely, that the Minister is trying to buy off the Welsh nationalist votes for Thursday night, just as he did a few weeks ago. That is what the argument is about. The Government, exactly as they did with Marathon, will give in only when the pressure on them is overwhelming. Otherwise, it is their own dogma above all else.
§ Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarvon)
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the only condition that Bristol Channel Ship Repairers put on any visit was that there should be an agreed agenda? It was on the basis of an agreed agenda that the arrangements fell down. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will ask the Minister what formal letters were sent asking for a meeting with Bristol Channel Ship Repairers and the dates of those letters, if any were sent.
§ Mr. Heseltine
I am delighted to welcome the Welsh nationalists back to the fold in opposition to the Bill. There is no point in asking the Minister of State such questions, because we shall not get answers. There is no way in which the House can get answers from Minis- 276 ters in this Government. That is why there should be a Select Committee procedure. The Minister would then have no choice but to produce the evidence—the letters and documents and, indeed, the draft agenda that Bristol Channel Ship Repairers sent to him as a basis for discussion. That would make the position clear. That would then put the treatment of Bristol Channel Ship Repairers precisely on all fours with the treatment that Marathon received from the Labour Party when in opportunist opposition.
§ Mr. Richard Wainwright (Colne Valley)
On the question of the visit to Bristol Channel Ship Repairers, does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is typical of the arrogant mood into which the Government have moved, as they have found themselves thwarted, that the Minister should lay down to a company, which is really a collection of many small ship repair depots, the same type of straitjacket procedure for visits as he has apparently got away with in relation to huge shipyards on the North-East Coast, when the two are not analagous?
§ Mr. Heseltine
The hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Wainwright) makes an important point, with which I agree, but it is bad news for the Government that the Scottish and Welsh nationalists, the Liberals and the Conservatives are opposed to the Bill. All we want now is for the Ulster Unionists to rise to their feet in hostility to the Bill and the Minister of State will be offering all kinds of deals to try to buy his way back into power on Thursday night. With this kind of pressure, who knows what concessions will be offered? The more that the voice of opposition is raised from the Opposition Benches, the more the Minister will have to review his position. [Interruption.] If the hon. Gentleman wants to start singing that song, he should join his colleagues below the Gangway, because we know what is in their minds.
§ Mr. Gordon Wilson (Dundee, East)
As the hon. Gentleman has mentioned so many names and taken them in vain, and as the Minister of State has moved from Bench to Bench, will he tell us what blandishments were offered to the Conservative Party to resume pairing arrangements several weeks ago, and what subsequently caused that arrangement to be changed and to revert to square one?
§ Mr. Heseltine
The Minister of State knows that there is no way in which he can buy off the Conservative Party. It is the one party that has consistently fought the Government from the day that they were first elected.
I leave that point, I realise that it is uncomfortable for Government supporters. The fact is that many of my hon. Friends wish to speak in this debate and I wish to give them an opportunity to do so. I leave that matter, merely saying that I can see no justification for treating Bristol Channel Ship Repairers, Vospers, Vickers, Yarrows, or even the aircraft companies, in any way differently from the privileged negotiations that the Labour Party, in opposition, was prepared to conduct and to make arbitrary arrangements for narrow party purposes. That is the only point that the Government have to answer.
The Government will not accept the concept of a Select Committee investigation into one of their Bills, because questions would have to be answered. All who served on this Bill in Committee and those who have served on other committees are fully aware that this proposal to nationalise two industries is based on dogma. There is not one rational argument behind the Government's proposal. Every time that Members who served on the Committee or any commentators in the wider media outside asked for information, facts and forward plans, there was a deafening silence. The Government are appalled at the prospect that someone might demand answers to questions before progress is made on the Bill. For example, which yards will be run down under nationalisation?
§ Mr. Heseltine
The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point. There were 58 sittings. I wish that there had been more. However, we still did not get the answers, and we would not have got them had there been 158 sittings. That is the difference between the Standing Committee and the Select Committee procedures.
We have not found out which yards are scheduled to be run down in the Government's proposals, although the steering committee must know. We have no idea which projects will be intro- 278 duced or where the work will come from under nationalisation, although somebody in the Department of Industry must have a fairly shrewd idea of what the score is likely to be. We have no idea how much direction of orders will take place from the successful to the unsuccessful yards, although somebody must have made the calculations.
In the aircraft industry, we have no idea where the work load and the projects for the next five years will come from, yet that is the only question that matters when dealing with job prospects and investment in those industries.
All those questions would have been answered compulsorily under the Select Committee procedure. If they were answered, the Government Benches would be filled with apprehensive Members of Parliament, because they would have to care about the answers. But, because they can go on mouthing platitudes, such as "We will look after the jobs, boys, once we have these industries in public ownership", without coming to grips with the economic crisis which is facing us—a trauma that will intensify within the next few months—they are able to hide behind the generalities without facing the practical realities.
The Bill is an alibi to try to persuade people that we can go on behaving in a way in which everyone increasingly understands we cannot. The Government have enabled unpalatable questions to be delayed a little longer. Labour Members are content to see £300 million of the taxpayers' money pushed down that drain because it suits the convenience of the Government at this time.
We shall oppose this group of amendments. We shall oppose them deliberately, in order to keep this a hybrid Bill, because if it remains a hybrid Bill it is possible that some questions will be answered and that the truth will come out, and if that happens the Bill will have even less chance of reaching the statute book.
§ Mr. William Small (Glasgow, Garscadden)
Having served on the Standing Committee, perhaps I may make a short contribution on the subject of hybridity.
If one does research into hybridity in history, one finds that the first case known to man was that of Heiron II, who examined his crown, and sent it to the goldsmith, who said "We had better give 279 this job to Archimedes." Archimedes then discovered the degree of gold and silver by weighing the crown in water. Then we heard "Eureka, Eureka"—the great discovery from the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop), who suddenly met a man from Yarrows. The man's name is Ian Dewar Mann. We sat for 58 sittings without a whisper of hybridity, but suddenly a director of Yarrows does not want it to be included in the Bill. It was in the schedule and Marathon was not. Therefore, on a technicality, a political apostrophe, we went through the drama of that evening when the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) lifted the Mace.
For those biblically inclined, if they look at the Revised Version of the Holy Bible, of 1611, they will find that they have been living with a mistake all their lives. They have talked of straining at a gnat, and swallowing a camel, but in the free Greek translation a mistake was made. The phrase is not "straining at a gnat." It is "straining out a gnat." In the Mediterranean basin, in straining olives to get rid of insects people use a net which strains out the oil. It would strain out gnats and not strain at a gnat. We have lived with that mistake all our lives. I can live with many mistakes here.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)
I am sure that SNP Members were very appreciative of the fact that they were mentioned in the King James' Bible. Straining at the gnat is something that the Minister has been doing ever since we have been discussing these affairs. I am sure that SNP Members will agree that it is desperately important that we get the right decision in relation to Scotland, with its tragic unemployment.
My hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) has rightly said that we are here making a simple decision whether the Bill should go through to the House of Lords now or whether it should be considered in detail—
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Roger Stott (Westhoughton)
On a point of order, Mr. Murton. Perhaps you would guide the House whether it is in order for an hon. Member who has a pecuniary interest in the matter that we are discussing not to declare that 280 interest when he starts to speak. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) is entered in the Register of Members' Interests as having an office of employment in the Shipbuilders and Repairers National Association. Ought not the hon. Member to have informed the House of that fact when he rose to speak in this debate?
§ The Chairman
It is customary and a courtesy to the Committee for hon. Members to do that if they have an interest.
§ Mr. Taylor
As the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Scott) is well aware, I have made it clear from the beginning of our proceedings in Committee and have declared it in the Register that I am a parliamentary adviser to the Shipbuilders and Repairers National Association, and I spent most of my working life in the shipyards of the Clyde. However, the Minister of State has taken every opportunity not only to advise hon. Members of this but also to put the most grave misinterpretation on my relationship with the association. As adviser to the association it is an honourable job that I do. It is very strange that it has been alleged that I have been in some way the spokesman for the industry in the House of Commons. It is very strange that we have had the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Lambie), the Minister and others saying that the industry is desperate to be nationalised and that the employers are just dying to be nationalised because they will crumble unless they are nationalised.
§ Mr. Taylor
If I were acting as a spokesman, according to the Minister I would be supporting this Bill. However, I wonder whether it is being suggested by the hon. Gentleman that if I were not a parliamentary adviser to the association I would be supporting the Bill.
I have deplored this Bill from the moment it started because I believe that it will mean a very considerable loss of jobs in Scotland. All the evidence is there. It would be considered if we defeated these amendments and allowed the Bill to be considered in detail.
§ Mr. Heseltine
On a point of order, Mr. Murton. The Register of Members' 281 Interests was deliberately prepared in order that there should be clarity about the interests of hon. Members. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) has repeatedly declared the interest concerned. I believe that it would be against the best interests of the House if the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State sought to raise this issue not because he is seeking clarification but in order that a party point should be put across the House, by the form of a technique of repetition which I am not aware of having heard from the many Labour Members who are paid by trade unions in order to put their particular points of view.
§ The Chairman
The Committee is well seized of the point, and I think that it should not be pursued.
§ Mr. Taylor
It is very important from Scotland's point of view that there should be a very careful look at what nationalisation will do to jobs in Scotland, for a number of reasons. First, we have had many recent experiences of the effect of nationalisation on jobs in Scotland. One of the reasons why we shall be denied the presence of the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire and many of his hon. Friends after the next General Election, and one reason why he will find great difficulty in saving his deposit, is the effect of nationalisation on jobs in Central Ayrshire. Only this week we had yet another indication that the salvation of jobs in Central Ayrshire and the vicinity—the building of the integrated steelworks at Hunterston—will almost certainly be delayed simply because a nationalised board does not have the money to go ahead. We have our experience of the nationalised steel industry in Scotland, which has meant not only redundancies but reorganisations and people being put out of work and moved from one place to another.
The nationalisation of steel has been misunderstood as being the salvation and security of jobs in Scotland, but it has been a disaster for Scotland. We have the appalling situation that the pipes for North Sea oil, instead of being produced by our State-owned industry, are being imported from Japan. For one reason only, the effect of steel nationalisation on jobs in Ayrshire and Lanarkshire, we should reject these amendments and 282 ensure that the case for shipbuilding must be made in detail.
Secondly, on the question of the oil industry, it would take a genius to make a financial disaster out of North Sea oil, but that is precisely what the Government have done because of their threats of nationalisation of the oil industry in the North Sea. The House will be aware of the tragic situation in Scotland where the Government have pumped a massive amount of money into oil platform yards and we have these yards at present with nothing to do—men being put out of work, men not being employed, men threatened with redundancy. Why is this so? It is simply because of Socialist planning and nationalisation.
§ Mr. Taylor
The hon. Gentleman will accept that North Sea oil is a potential boon. However, the Government estimated that once we got North Sea oil going we would have plenty of orders for platforms and, therefore, plenty of jobs for Scots. It has not happened. Why not? The oil industry has made clear time and again that one of the main reasons why development has slowed is simply the threat of nationalisation and State participation in oil.
In Scotland 165,000 people are unemployed and there will be more. Nationalisation is one of the main reasons for that. Hon. Members may say that that is not the case, but I ask them why it is that there are no oil platform orders, why have steel workers been put out of work and why has the Hunterston plan been delayed? The reason is that Government and industry cannot work together and that Governments always have a horrible habit of running out of money in a way that private industry does not. That is one of the main reasons for the jobs crisis in Scotland.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
Will the hon. Gentleman explain, if private industry does not run out of money, what happened to Leyland, Rolls-Royce, Alfred Herbert, Norton Villiers and the long list of companies that used almost to sit on my doorstep begging for money when I was Minister? They encountered trouble at the beginning of the period of Labour Goverment and at the end of the Tory Administration.
§ Mr. Taylor
A number of firms in the private sector do not succeed and run out of money because they stop making profits and have labour problems. If Governments did not prop them up, they would have to be reorganised or closed down. But where there is a potential for profit and growth, private industry can obtain the cash whereas governments cannot. The Hunterston steelworks and oil development are examples of that.
§ Mr. Heseltine
The firms on the list provided by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) had one thing in common. They had listened to the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) who had given them advice on how to make their companies successful. Consequently, they went bankrupt.
§ Mr. Taylor
I was putting forward the facts upon which I hope that hon. Members opposite will reflect. In Scotland our experience is that nationalisation makes things worse.
The third reason for rejecting the amendments and for a study on the effects of nationalisation is that nationalisation means centralised decision making. Decisions will be made not in Scotland but elsewhere. When we see the ludicrous proposals for decentralisation we should not be surprised if the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Mabon) had a finger in it.
With the help of the late Mr. Brian O'Malley, on the iron and steel nationalisation Bill, we managed to get through an amendment to provide that regard should be paid to the regions when the headquarters of the steel board was located. That was a victory because it should have meant that there would be no London set-up. Despite what the Minister may think—and I am prepared to accept that he is a decent and straight chap—there will be a colossus in London. He believes that the amendment will result in no such thing and he is expected to make an announcement about the siting of the headquarters this week. I am certain that the little branch office in London will grow and grow.
When the Oil Corporation was set up in Glasgow we thought that that was a good thing. But there is nothing in Glasgow except a load of crockery and 284 one or two typists. All the action and meetings are in London. I am sure that the Minister will confirm that that is what has happened. There is nothing in Glasgow except rent being paid to a property company, a large number of cups and saucers and plates and one or two people who open doors and organise lunches.
Another reason for rejecting the amendments is that we cannot afford nationalisation at present. We are cutting back on essential services. In my area home helps are being reduced by 5 per cent. and school crossing wardens are being cut, creating a threat to old people and children. We cannot afford those essential services if we spend all our money on nationalisation.
The final reason for rejecting the amendments—and the pro-nationalisers such as the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) and others should bear this in mind—is the Healey cuts which have just been announced. One of the items is a reduction of £147 million for investment in the nationalised industries. We do not know where those cuts will fall. We do not know whether they will affect steel, the railways or British Airways. All we know is that, despite cuts which have already been made in investment in nationalised industries, there is to be a further cut of £147 million.
Do hon. Members opposite believe that if the Bill goes ahead there will be enough cash for development? They must know that there will not be that cash because existing nationalised industries are already being starved of investment. British Rail and the steel board are being starved and shipbuilding will also be starved of investment. The industry will become more archaic and will make larger and larger losses which will have to be financed by the taxpayer. The Secretary of State knows that he will have to pay a fortune to the Treasury for those losses because he has not got the money. If he has, will it come out of the £147 million that he is to take out of the other nationalised industries?
Let us take another look at the nationalisation proposals and justify them yard by yard. I am afraid that the Bill will create the same problems as 285 occurred in the steel industry in Scotland. Jobs will be lost instead of gained, profits will be lost instead of made. That will be bad for the consumer, bad for the taxpayer and will certainly be bad for Scotland.
At a time when unemployment in Scotland is at a post-war high, and rising fast, the Secretary of State should look carefully at spending more money on nationalisation. Local government spending is being cut, there is a three-month delay in the payment of regional aid premiums. The Government are operating crazy economics and the proposals will be bad for jobs and for Scotland. I hope that the amendments will be rejected.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Wainwright
It is a notable and welcome occasion when the Conservative Party acknowledge, as they have done today, that the debating procedures in the Chamber and the adversarial procedures in the Chamber and in Standing Committee are wholly unsuited to the discussion of legislation dealing with nationalisation or denationalisation of the complicated entities such as we have in industry today. I regret that the Government—exceptionally in the case of the Secretary of State, who usually has a generous, large-minded attitude—seem to treat the necessity for the amendments as an irritating detail to placate some meticulous hon. Members on the Opposition side. That is a short-sighted attitude.
It should be understood that any future ventures—and I hope that there will be few—into the State takeover of modern industry are bound to be hybrid in spirit and are almost certain to be hybrid in the letter. The Government are lucky to have picked two industries where they might get away with dismissing hybridity by the absurd formula which is before us.
Everybody knows that industry today is so ramified that it is impossible, without abusing draftsmanship, to categorise industries in legislative form. At random, I did an exercise on the supposition that some misguided government might want to take over the concrete industry or the wire industry.
§ Mr. Wainwright
A glance at a trade directory shows that if that were to happen in the concrete industry it would be necessary to refer to at least 59 different categories. In regard to the wire industry it would be necessary at the very least to refer in detail to at least 106 different products in that industry.
The Government are lucky if they get away with categorising the shipbuilding, ships repairing and aircraft industries in the formulae which have been devised. It would have been better to face the matter and to realise that matters of this highly technical nature should be dealt with by an inquisitorial and interrogative procedure such as that adopted in Select Committee. That would have been achieved if the Government had opted for the hybrid procedure—a procedure which undoubtedly haunts this Bill and which I hope will be fully explored in another place. They should have met that difficulty head on and gone back to a Select Committee. The Liberal Party has for many years made the point that the adversarial procedure in this House is outdated. Therefore, we shall oppose these amendments.
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Wainwright) has already concluded.
I call Mr. Ron Thomas.
§ Mr. Ron Thomas
I should like to ask the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Wainwright) about a matter that no doubt was in the mind of my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Mitchell), who tried to intervene. I wish to make the point that during the 58 sittings of the Committee I did not once hear the hon. Member for Colne Valley say that he felt that we had not discussed the Bill in sufficient detail. He certainly did not suggest that we had not given enough time to any particular yard.
§ Mr. Richard Wainwright
I was cavilling not at the amount of time taken, but at the use made of that time. I believe 287 that time spent in an inquisitorial question and answer procedure in a Select Committee would have been much more fruitful than the seeming eternity that we spent in Standing Committee.
§ Mr. Thomas
If the hon. Gentleman has any comment about the wasting of time in Committee, he should address it to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor), who gave a long detailed account of the development of jurisprudence in Scotland, going back before the days of William the Conqueror. If any hon. Member likes to read the Hansard of the Standing Committee and to undertake a statistical exercise, he will find that the bulk of the time spent in that Committee was taken up by Opposition Members arguing about the level of compensation to the owners. They tried to extract the last penny for the kind of people they represent.
§ Mr. Heseltine
As the hon. Gentleman has now delivered himself, no doubt for constituency consumption, of that particular load of rubbish, will he tell us in the context of the 58 sittings of the Committee the proportion of time devoted to the subject of compensation?
§ Mr. Thomas
I have not worked out the matter statistically. I was pointing out that one has only to read through the reports of the proceedings in the Standing Committee to realise that, having dealt with the duties and responsibilities of the corporations and with questions of industrial democracy and diversification, we went almost immediately to the subject of compensation.
§ Mr. Kaufman
Does not my hon. Friend recollect that the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) at the final sitting of the Committee said that the filibustering began when we reached the compensation clauses and that progress then came to a grinding halt? The hon. Gentleman repeated that remark during the timetable debate only last week.
§ Mr. Thomas
I agree that that was said by the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson), and no doubt the hon. Gentleman will take up that matter if he has the opportunity to speak in this debate.
I was concerned when, following the 58 sittings of the Standing Committee, 288 we were suddenly faced with the situation involving the prima facie situation of hybridity. It seems strange to many hon. Members that we could have got to that advanced stage in the Bill before anybody discovered the issue of hybridity when that point had not been raised throughout many detailed arguments.
I see no justification for the argument that the Bristol Channel Ship Repairers or any other company has been unable to put its point of view on this legislation. That company, so far as I can judge, has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on a massive publicity campaign involving the wining and dining of hon. Members. Furthermore, week after week its representatives were present in the Standing Committee and were constantly available to give advice to Opposition Members.
One implication in the remarks of the hon. Member for Cathcart was that up to this point we had taken into public ownership only bankrupt industries. In other words, we took over only those industries which had already been exploited, industries which the so-called entrepreneurs were no longer willing to capitalise. Therefore, having taken them over, we have had to go through a system of rationalisation, sackings, redundancies and all the rest of it.
If it is said that private industry is the only means of providing jobs, sales, markets and so on, why have we 1½million unemployed? It has happened because private industry has failed. One has only to look at the level of unemployment in other Western industrialised companies. They have fared no better than industry in the United Kingdom. One has only to take as an example the situation in West Germany—a nation held un by the Opposition as adopting the kind of policies we should be pursuing with our own trade unions. It also applies to the United States. It lies in a failure of the private enterprise system.
Perhaps the hon. Member for Cathcart will give examples of what he regards as Socialist planning. I am waiting to go into the Division Lobby in order to register my "Yes" vote for a bit of Socialist planning.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor
I give just one example—namely, the situation in regard 289 to the supply of oil platforms. The Government are putting many millions of pounds into North Sea activities, but there are no platforms because the investment programmes of the oil companies are being held up by the Socialist threat of nationalisation.
§ Mr. Thomas
I do not regard that as Socialist planning. Indeed, the situation would be no different under a Conservative Government.
We have heard a good deal about the unemployment that might be created in the aircraft and shipbuilding industries. I shall not comment on shipbuilding because I do not know enough about that subject, but the Government have never even hinted that the mere act of nationalisation of the aircraft industry will save jobs nor do we expect that to happen. What the Government have rightly said—and we support them on this—is that for years now none of the private owners, none of the Lord Robenses who own Vickers and therefore ipso facto BAC, has been prepared to put his private money into any venture. The private owners are prepared to go ahead only if they can get my right hon. Friend to give them public money. That is the heart of the problem.
We believe that public ownership will bring about the kind of co-ordination and planning that will give much better security to workers in the aircraft industry than they have ever had under the private system. The Conservatives' record shows a considerable rundown in numbers of employees in the aerospace industry under a Tory Government.
I am sure that the House will support the Government's amendments and will reject the many Conservative amendments aimed basically at stopping public ownership of the aircraft and shipbuilding industries.
§ Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)
The Secretary of State left us rather in the dark. He told us that the reason for trying to eliminate hybridity is to speed the passage of this Bill. Clearly this is not the case. If the Secretary of State had wanted to speed the passage of the Bill, he would not have acted as he did on 27th May—more than six sitting weeks ago. He would have tabled a motion that the Bill be sent to a Joint Committee of the two Houses of Parliament, which is 290 an alternative to a Select Committee in both Houses. That would have cut out the Committee stage in the House of Lords. The Bill would have been on the statute book by now had he followed that course.
Alternatively, the Secretary of State could have sent the Bill to a Select Committee. In six sitting weeks the Bill would have been out of the Select Committee and back on to the Floor of the House for Report stage, when there would have been no need for a guillotine. Whatever is passing through the mind of the Secretary of State—and it would seem that is not a very arduous process—it is not the speedy passage of this Bill.
What then is the object of these amendments? The Secretary of State has not told us. The only reason he has given is transparently untrue, The real reason is of course, his dread of the petitioners. He is determined that ordinary working-class employees of the firms concerned, who belong to trade unions which sponsor Labour Members and who do not wish to be nationalised, must not be allowed to appear before a Committee and to give evidence or assert why they do not wish to have their livelihood jeopardised by the Bill. That is what the Secretary of State has avoided by the serpentine procedures which the Government have followed.
Far from saving time, these procedures have consumed time, and they have delayed and hazarded the passage of the Bill. Is there a more sinister reason for this? It is possible that the Secretary of State wants some shipyards to collapse and to go out of business before the Bill reaches the statute book. Is that the reason for his delaying tactics? Does he want to ensure that the collapse of these yards will not be laid at the door of Lord Beeswax or Admiral Griffin? There may be other reasons, but if there are, they have not been given to the House.
Why is the Secretary of State deliberately adopting procedures week after week which have slowed down the passage of the Bill? He does not seem to be very well harmonised—to use an EEC expression—with his Minister of State who rushes around the country saying that unless the Bill is passed into law rapidly, people's jobs will be at stake. 291 Yet the Secretary of State is doing all he can to delay the Bill. He and the Minister of State should have a conference before the Minister of State is allowed to visit any more firms. They should reach an agreement and decide whether they are trying to speed up the passage of the Bill or delay it.
§ Mr. Loyden
Is the hon. Member aware that on Merseyside a massive amount of Government money has been poured into private enterprise shipbuilding and repairing yards? This has been happening for the last five years—long before there was any question of nationalisation. The situation in these yards has now reached the point where they are employing less than 3,000 people compared with 20,000 many years ago. If he is applauding private enterprise, perhaps he could explain why this situation has been reached.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
I do not see what bearing that intervention has on the point I was making that the Secretary of State is delaying the Bill while the Minister of State is asserting that its speedy passage is desirable.
§ Mr. Tom King (Bridgwater)
Has my hon. Friend noticed that that strange intervention was critical of the management of the shipbuilding industry on Merseyside, yet the Government have appointed as the chief executive of the new shipbuilding corporation one of the managing directors from Merseyside?
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
Yes, indeed. Doubtless he is drawing a salary for a job which is not being done. When we have the winding-up on this debate I hope that someone will speak with authority on behalf of the Government and say which of these two things—mutually incompatible as they are—they are trying to do. The House is entitled to know which of the two Ministers has been declaring Government policy, as it is not possible for both to be doing so. Indeed, the only interpretation we can place on their conflicting attitudes is the one with which I started—namely, that the Government want massive collapses inside the aircraft and shipbuilding industries before the Bill receives Royal Assent.
292 If that happens they can say, "Look, this is the result of not being nationalised." They have deprived these firms of adequate credit by threatening to nationalise them, they have driven away foreign customers who do not want to place orders without knowing who is going to execute them, then when the firms totter they say that this is the result of not being nationalised.
§ Mr. John Evans (Newton)
Is the hon. Member aware that shipyard workers in the North and North-East of England are very concerned about these matters, and if he is suggesting that shipyards will collapse if they are not nationalised, his party will bear the primary responsibility for that?
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
It is not the Conservative Party which is driving customers away from the North, North-East, the South or anywhere else. What is driving them away is that they do not know whether the orders they place will be executed by the yard with which they are placed. They do not know which yards the Government will keep going or which yards they will close. They know perfectly well that the Government intend to create more unemployment by closing down shipbuilding and ship repair yards. The customers abroad know that perfectly well, but the Government, by refusing to say which they will close, are depriving those to be kept open of business which they could otherwise take. It is the Government, not the Conservative Party, who are doing that.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
If the hon. Gentleman had been here a few moments ago he would have heard how the Bill could aready have been on the statute book by now. The decision to do nothing week after week was taken by the Secretary of State, the Leader of the House, the Prime Minister and the rest of the Cabinet. The Opposition do not decide what shall be the Government Orders of the Day. It was not the Opposition who drafted the Bill so incompetently. It was not the Opposition who tried to circumvent Mr. Speaker's ruling. All that was the responsibility of 293 the Government. At each step the Government have taken decisions which are either foolish or incompetent or are both.
It is not to be expected that their actions would be either consistent or successful because they cannot agree among themselves what they are trying to do. If the Secretary of State is trying to delay the Bill while the Minister of State is trying to hustle it, it is not surprising that nothing happens. That is why week after week has gone by with nothing happening. If Labour Members had been in touch with trade unionists in the industry, they would have known of the extreme anxiety of these people at the Government refusing to declare which projects they will back. There is nothing to stop the Government from doing that. Their decision to back projects is in no way dependent on whether the industry is nationalised. They have the power to back projects under existing legislation, and they do not need one word of this Bill to enable them to back projects to enable the aircraft industry to survive, and without which it will not survive.
Certainly, unscrupulous Socialist politicians from both the Treasury Bench and the Back Benches have been rushing around the country deliberately deceiving the workers in those industries. They have told them that unless the Bill is passed their jobs are in danger. There is no word of truth in that. They have also told them that if the Bill is passed, their jobs will be safe. There is no truth in that either. They have told them that the projects in the aircraft industry upon which their livelihoods depend cannot be undertaken unless the Bill is passed. There is no truth in that whatever.
All this is a grossly immoral thing to do to people whom the Government intend to throw on the scrap heap, and they intend to do that to a large number of people who are currently employed in these industries. Back Benchers know that that is the Government's intention, and they are participating in the deceit by concealing the fact from their constituents, from their fellow trade unionists, and from the firms which fall within the ambit of the Bill. Let us therefore have no more humbug about that. The Government intend to create still more unemployment.
294 We have not seen the worst of the unemployment. Last week there was the announcement of the payroll tax. The Government intend to close shipbuilding firms. Why will the Secretary of State not say which he intends to shut down? The reason is that it would lose some votes. Once people know which firms will be shut, the Members who represent them will have a very rough ride. The Secretary of State will not tell the employees, the managers or even the directors in the aircraft industry which projects the Government will back.
§ Mr. Ian Lloyd (Havant and Waterloo)
My hon. Friend has touched on a most important point about the reduction in capacity which is bound to follow enactment of the Bill. Is he aware that the EEC Commission has published a report in which it makes clear that the first requirement of Community action is that the Community must undertake to bear its share in the reduction of capacities in order to establish equilibrium between supply and demand in shipbuilding?
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. One wonders whether the Secretary of State, who is not very good at reading, has read that. I say that he is not very good at reading because neither he nor his officials gave any sign that they had read the Select Committee Report on the motor industry. Instead, they allowed the waves of the Chrysler episode to break over them. It is therefore possible that the right hon. Gentleman has not bothered to read the EEC document either, and that also may take him by surprise.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
Yes, and it is the taxpayer who has to pick up the bill. The right hon. Gentleman came down to the House to ask for large subventions of taxpayers' money because he had not done his job as Secretary of State as he was paid to do it. He was in charge of an incompetently drafted Bill, and he knows so little of procedure that he has allowed weeks to pass without the Bill making any progress. On the one hand, the Minister of State was rushing around the country saying that the Bill was desperately needed, while, on the other 295 hand, the Secretary of State was holding it up. The right hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. His incompetence is self-confessed as well as obvious.
Perhaps at some stage the Secretary of State will come clean with the Committee. He must tell us today whether he wants the Bill passed quickly into law. If Government policy has been reversed and if the Minister of State now holds sway, we are entitled to be informed of that fact. It might be as well to make sure that the other place knows what Government policy is, because their Lordships might be entitled to infer that the Government want the Bill delayed as much as possible, since the right hon. Gentleman has taken every step within his power to delay it.
We now come to the amendments with which the right hon. Gentleman is endeavouring to remove hybridity from the Bill. He must have our sympathy. It must have been very embarrassing for the Secretary of State, if he is capable of being embarrassed, when on 27th May, the very day of the cheated vote, out came the Financial Times with an article on Marathon saying that the company was now going into business making what even the Secretary of State would recognise as ships. That must have been very embarrassing for him. The truth of the matter is that if Marathon is not to collapse, it cannot remain in business making only vessels like "Key Victoria". It will have to make things that even the Secretary of State would recognise as ships. Why, then, all these convolutions to leave Marathon out of the Bill? If nationalisation is a healthy process for the whole industry, why is it not healthy for Marathon? If it is a necessary process for the shipbuilding industry, why is it an unnecessary process for Marathon? If it is in the national interests, for no very obvious reason, that all firms that are converting, constructing or repairing ships above a certain size should be nationalised, why is it not in the national interest that Marathon should be nationalised?
How did Marathon come here in the first place? As a matter of interest, it came here largely through the intervention of Mr. McGarvey—excellent—and the owner of Bristol Channel Ship Repairers Limited, who went to America 296 at his own expense and stayed there for several weeks to assist in the negotiations, for which he has never received a penny. Indeed, he did not expect to receive anything from the beginning.
How do the Government explain this inconsistency? They promise not to nationalise Marathon and proceed to try to nationalise Bristol Channel Ship Repairers Limited against the overwhelming wishes of its own employees. That is Socialism in action.
If the Bill goes through and we look back in three or four years time at what is left of the aircraft and shipbuilding industries, how many will recognise what is left as the pattern that Labour Members told their constituents would follow the passage of this miserable Bill, whether or not it is dehybridised?
§ Mr. Hoyle
I shall speak quite differently from the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop)—namely, about the people who work in these ton must take the credit—he cannot interest in that I am a member of the National Executive of ASTMS. Its members in the shipbuilding and ship repairing industries, and in the aircraft industry, desire the Bill as soon as possible.
Of course, the hon. Member for Tiverton must take the credit—he cannot move it anywhere else—for holding up the Bill. That is his responsibility. Why does he now try to hide away from it? Why is he trying to put the responsibility on the shoulders of my right hon. and hon. Friends? I thought he was proud of what he had done. After all, he does not need to be troubled by angry constituents in the aircraft and shipbuilding industries in Tiverton. There are not too many shipyards knocking about in Tiverton. The hon. Gentleman is in no danger. Why does he not admit that he delayed the Bill and take the responsibility for doing so?
There are many angry people in the aircraft and shipbuilding industries. They are demanding to know what the Opposition are playing at. After 58 sittings in Committee they continued to delay the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Thomas) referred to the compensation clauses and said that the Opposition were interested only in those clauses. He is usually 100 per 297 cent. correct, but in this case he was not quite correct because much of the time was taken up by discussion on the arbitration clauses, in which the Opposition also have a vital interest. Examination of the proceedings in Committee will reveal the inordinate amount of time that was taken up by references to arbitration. Compensation and arbitration were their main interests.
§ Mr. Norman Tebbit (Chingford)
I think that the hon. Gentleman is being a little unfair to his colleagues in giving all the praise to my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) for delaying the Bill. If the hon. Gentleman examines the record he will find that the Bill was given a First Reading on 30th April 1975, but it did not receive a Second Reading until 2nd December—namely, a seven-month delay. Whatever my hon. Friend has done, he has not delayed it that much yet.
§ Mr. Hoyle
It might not be seven months, but he is turning it into a pregnancy in the way that he is going about it. The point that I am making is that the people in the industries want to get on with the successful running of them.
I am pleased that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) has joined in our discussions. He was always interesting to listen to in Committee, and he was entertaining this afternoon when taking us across the broad spectrum of what happens to industries when they are nationalised. However, I am rather surprised that he did not tell us what has been happening to the shipbuilding and ship repairing industries under private enterprise. He might have told us how they have lacked investment and how they are almost in the throes of collapse. They are not facing collapse because the Government are to take the industries into public ownership but because of the mismanagement that has occurred over many years.
298 It appears that most of the Opposition's case is based on the Press of the Chairman of the Bristol Channel Ship Repairers Limited. It has been said that my hon. Friend the Minister of State did not meet him, that he telephoned the company or that the company telephoned him. I do not understand all this concern about Bristol Channel Ship Repairers Limited. If ever a company spent money putting forward its case, it is the Bristol Channel Ship Repairers Limited.
Surely my hon. Friend the Minister of State does not need to meet the company to know the case that it is trying to mount. He has been able to see it in the national Press. Almost every paper that we have picked up has been putting forward the case at great length. The company has had its own representatives in this place. They have assiduously lobbied Members. In Committee we were pressed to go to this or that luncheon to hear the case put again. I do not see any need for my hon. Friend further to consult the firm.
I should like to know where all the money has been coming from. Surely it might have been spent to better effect, if only in higher salaries and wages for the company's employees.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Government's pay policy prevents firms that make large profits from paying out more in wages?
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor
Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that the Government's pay policy, that he supported and voted for, prevents successful firms from paying their workers more money?
§ Mr. Hoyle
I understand the point that the hon. Gentleman is making, but he knows that I am opposed to the pay policy. Why is the hon. Gentleman looking so surprised? If the company could not pay the employees more money, it could have given them the lunches and dinners instead of giving them to Members of Parliament. That might have been one way in which it could have overcome the trivial difficulty that the hon. Gentleman presents to us. There are ways and means. I want to make a serious point—
§ Mr. Tebbit
We are all grateful to the hon. Gentleman for telling us that there are ways of circumventing the pay policy. We know that the General Secretary of ASTMS, Mr. Clive Jenkins, has been assiduous in torpedoing the Government's policy. But surely a Back Bencher who supports his Government should not be advocating the breaching of the Government's pay policy.
As the hon. Gentleman is so anxious for further positive points, why does he think that the largest order to be placed recently in the British aerospace industry, an order for $100 million worth of work, has gone to a firm that has been left out of the Bill—namely, Fairey Aviation Limited? It has gone to its factory in Belgium. If he understands the answer to that question, he will understand why the industry will perish once it is nationalised.
§ Mr. Hoyle
The answer is very simple and elementary. The fact is that the multinational companies are involved, and it is very difficult in many instances to follow what is happening and to know where the contracts go. This is one of the reasons that we need to take into public ownership industries which are vital to the wellbeing of our economy. That is the only way to exercise control over them, and to make sure that the orders stay in this country for the benefit of the people who work in the industry.
§ Mr. Wigley
The hon. Member mentioned the need to take into public ownership companies which are vital to the economy. Does he believe that Bristol Channel Ship Repairers, employing 300 people, is a company which is dominating the economy and needs to be taken over? Being a passionate advocate of workers' control and of industrial democracy, would he accept that if a referendum of the employees of that company showed that they did not want to be nationalised, they should not be?
§ Mr. Hoyle
The hon. Member has made a very interesting point in relation to Bristol Channel Ship Repairers. It is part of the ship repairing industry, and as such I think it should be taken into public ownership.
I am particularly interested in the hon. Member's second point concerning the referendum that took place. I recall that in Committee I said that I had never seen such a high percentage vote outside the Soviet Union or the Eastern bloc.
§ Mr. Hoyle
I was reproached by the Chairman of Bristol Channel Ship Repairers, who explained how it was done. He said "We have not too many employees but I gave them time off to vote, and that was a material incentive for them to vote". I think we know, therefore, why there was a high percentage vote.
I should be more interested in knowing why the white-collar employees of Bristol Channel Ship Repairers are not in trade unions. I was told by one of them that if he joined a trade union he would be likely to be dismissed by the company. I do not think that is a good example of how to aspire to democracy.
We can imagine how the ballot figures were arrived at. The hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley) is not so naive as to raise that kind of question. I wonder how far this disease of support for Bristol Channel Ship Repairers is spreading on the Opposition Benches. It is not only the Conservatives and the Liberals who are involved. It has now spread to the nationalists.
§ Mr. Hoyle
My hon. Friends have decided that they were perhaps a little mistaken. We had a vote—a kind of referendum—on the Government side, and they have now reconsidered their position. I think they have done a very statesmanlike thing.
The delay caused by the Opposition—I have given the hon. Member for Tiverton due credit for it—has caused great dismay and frustration to the trade unionists in both industries. They want 301 the two corporations to get on with the job of producing public plans that will result in viable industries. They are also very interested in the proposals in the Bill for industrial democracy.
This is the first time that the workers within the industries will have not only a say in them but also a chance to evolve their own thoughts on industrial democracy. This is bound to make for a new spirit within the industries. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] I tell hon. Members who say "Rubbish" that this is not the view of the trade unionists to whom I have spoken in both the aircraft and shipbuilding industries.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Loyden
Will my hon. Friend not agree that the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions, which represents the bulk of the workers in the industries, has had a policy over many years concerning nationalisation? Will he not agree that, if there were a referendum among them on public ownership, the results would be massively in support of public ownership?
§ Mr. Hoyle
I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention. What he says is perfectly correct. What the confederation wants to do—and it speaks for the trade unions within the two industries—is to get on with the job of planning those industries.
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart was quite right in one thing he said. That was when he was talking about the run-down in the shipbuilding industry itself. The run-down has occurred—as my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Loyden) knows, with his knowledge of Merseyside—because of the lack of investment in that industry, and because of the very bad industrial relations in it.
§ Mr. Hoyle
I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing to my attention the fact that the hon. and learned Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Fairbairn) has just entered the Chamber. But I do not think that the hon. Gentleman is a shipyard worker. What I know is that the bulk of the Opposition Members are supporting the efforts of 302 the company in trying to escape public ownership.
What we are really interested in—it has been explained very many times—is decentralised industry. The taking over of the industries does not mean that there will be a very powerful central office. The hon. Member for Cathcart has painted a very gloomy picture indeed in talking about huge palatial offices in London that will house both corporations. The head office for the shipbuilding corporation might be on the Tyne or it might be in Scotland. Who knows? It might even be down in Wales. But wherever it is put, it is said that the power will still reside in London. I suggest to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart that we have taken care of this to some degree by our introduction of industrial democracy into the Bill. This will mean that the workers within the industry will have a say in where the headquarters is situated and in what is done at the headquarters.
I know that this is very difficult for Opposition Members to comprehend, but it will mean a new direction in the management of the corporations. There will be a new dimension added to them. For the first time the people within the industries will be able to participate in the decisions that matter.
§ Mr. Hoyle
The hon. Member tells me to come off it. I suggest to him that it will not only be possible but that it will be the result of these two corporations being set up.
The real tragedy is the delay that has occurred because of the activities of the hon. Member for Tiverton. This has resulted in delay in the formulation of the plans of these two corporations. The frustration that is felt among the people working in the industries will be visited on the Conservative Party whenever there is a General Election.
Indeed I recall what was said to me by one of the trade unionists in Cheadle in Cheshire. I was about to describe it as a safe Tory haven, but I know that it had a Liberal Member for a short period. The trade unionist told me that there will be 1,000 aircraft workers on the streets in Cheadle challenging the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Normanton) 303 on his activities in delaying the implementation of the Bill. They will be right to do that. If it had not been for the Opposition we should have been far nearer our goal.
We shall be able to put forward a plan. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West said that the two airframe corporations in the country had never put forward plans without asking for Government aid. They have always asked for help from the Government in the past.
§ Mr. Ron Thomas
Does my hon. Friend realise that public support to the aircraft industry amounts to about £5 million a week?
§ Mr. Tom King
If the quality and depth of reasoning behind the speech made by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Hoyle) is part of the contribution of the Labour Party towards devising the plans for the nationalisation of the industries involved, God help those industries.
The hon. Gentleman referred to delay. The point was put clearly by my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit). This Bill could have been introduced in November 1974. The Government delayed its introduction until April 1975. First Reading took place in April 1975, Second Reading in December 1975. The selection of amendments for the Report stage was made on 25th May. I used a copy of that document in preparing for this stage. We find ourselves dealing with this Bill on 27th July 1976. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne has the nerve to say that the Bill has been delayed for two months and that the Conservative Party are responsible for that delay. When we remember the damage done by the Minister of State, who was involved in the Department that delayed this measure, there is no reason for the hon. Gentleman to sneer. Damage has been done to national assets in the shipbuilding, ship repairing and aircraft industries as a result of the threat of nationalisation from the dreadful process 304 of national Labour Party conferences and NEC resolutions. The damage done to those industries by the nationalisation proposal will soon begin to be appreciated.
The Government are bulldozing this measure. We shall shortly come to the guillotine procedure and the time for closure. This is an unprecedented situation. The Bill has been recommitted to a Committee of the whole House before the Report stage so that the Government may pass these sordid little amendments to cover a political deal which was concluded when they were in opposition. At that time they realised in a blinding flash of realism that we could not attract inward investment if there were a threat of nationalisation hanging over the companies that might invest here. One union leader had sufficient wit to realise that fact, and as he had sufficient "clout" over the Labour Party when in Opposition, that deal was done. That deal caused all the problems with which the Government are faced with this Hybrid Bill. These wretched little amendments put forward by the Secretary of State are the sordid way in which the hybridity must be covered up.
We have made our position abundantly clear. We believe that morally and practically this is a Hybrid Bill. We support that finding, on prima facie evidence, by Mr. Speaker. We shall comment no further on the unfortunate way in which the Government have chosen to proceed in the past two months.
That brings us to the outcome of these paltry amendments. We shall certainly vote against them and treat them with the contempt they deserve.
§ Mr. Varley
Ministers in charge of Bills in Committee on the Floor of the House and upstairs take much abuse. They ought not to complain about that. There are occasions when guillotines are introduced. There are equal opportunities for Ministers and their Back-Bench supporters to use that time. I hope that in the remaining stages my hon. Friends the Members for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Hoyle), for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Loyden) and for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Thomas) will at least make sure that they take an equal share of the time and perhaps repay some of the abuse that they have taken from the Opposition in 305 58 sittings. I am sure that they will take that time.
There was a hilarious and bizarre contribution from the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop), who claimed that he wanted to speed up the Bill when we know that his efforts were directed at preventing the Bill from getting on to the statute book. I make no complaint. He should have told the House that his good fortune, as he would no doubt describe it, came to him by chance. The hybridity point was taken in the first instance not to a member of the Conservative Party but to a member of the Liberal Party, who was not greatly involved. I understand that the point was taken to the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) who thought that it was too hot to handle. He decided that there was a good crank in his party called Maxwell-Hyslop and thought "Let us hand it over to him". That is exactly what happened. That is how the matter came to the light of day.
§ Mr. Varley
It was a spoke in the wheel. Therefore on 27th May we said that we would table amendments. That was the reason why we took steps.
§ Mr. Edward Gardner (South Fylde)
On a point of order, Mr. Murton. Is it right that a Minister should be allowed to mention an hon. Member by name?
§ Mr. Varley
That is how it happened.
I thought that I moved the amendments in a non-controversial way. The matter developed into a procedural debate. There were discussions about the British Steel Corporation, the British National Oil Corporation and oil platforms. I make no complaint. However, as I have only two minutes left I do not think that I may answer those matters.
I found the speech by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) schizophrenic. He claimed that nationalisation was terrible and would do great damage to industry in Scotland. We all know that the hon. Gentleman was one of the keenest supporters of the national. isation of the Govan shipyard. As a 306 result of Scottish interest in Rolls-Royce, he was one of the keenest Members of the Conservative Party in favour of the nationalisation of Rolls-Royce. I find it hard to take from the hon. Gentleman, who tries to give the impression—
§ Mr. Varley
I usually give way, but there is only about one minute to go. Bristol Channel Ship Repairers is another story. I have heard many unseemly stories about the Bristol Channel gravy train and all kinds of irregular practices that have been induced—
§ It being Six O'clock, The CHAIRMAN proceeded, pursuant to Orders [20th July and this day], to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.
§ Question put, That the amendment be made:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 300, Noes 287.
§ [For Division List No. 282 see col. 597]
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ The CHAIRMAN then proceeded to put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the Business to be concluded at Six o'clock.