§ Mr. Speaker
I should inform the House that I have selected the amendment tabled by the official Opposition.
Before I call the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Varley), I should tell the House that more than 50 right hon. and hon. Members have already indicated to me that they hope to speak in this debate. There are 25 hon. Members who seek to make their maiden speeches. I have to indicate to them that I fear that there will be many disappointed hon. Members at the end of the day. However, those hon. Members who are called can help by being brief.
§ 3.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric G. Varley (Chesterfield)
I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add:But humbly regret that the Gracious Speech contains damaging proposals to restrict the work of the National Enterprise Board and sell off parts of nationally owned industries, which represent a doctrinaire assault on vital industries whose progress and stability are essential to the nation's future and to employment prospects, and express grave concern at the absence of any reference to the maintenance and development of the special employment measures which have played a crucial role in preventing and reducing unemployment over the last eighteen months.The Secretary of State for Industry has been in office for a little more than a couple of weeks, but, even in that short time, strange rumblings have emanated 696 from his Department's headquarters in Victoria Street. Some of them have to do with the right hon. Gentleman's unusual choice of colleagues. In common with pretty well every other departmental Minister, the right hon. Gentleman has had to find room for a peer. In this case, it is the Viscount Trenchard, who has been made a Minister of State. No one seems to know very much about the nable Lord, apart from the fact that he is a former chairman of the Sausage and Meat Pie Manufacturers Association. Fortunately, however, he himself has been filling in some of the gaps. He was frank enough to say the other day to the Financial Times:I wouldn't say I was interested in politics".But he has been trying to rectify that. He told the same interviewer:I have been spending a bit of time in politics over the past two years.So, whatever else we may find to say about the noble Lord, he is fortunate in not having a past to live down, and he enters the Government with a completely clean sheet.
It is quite the reverse with the Secretary of State for Industry. Far from having a clean sheet, he seems to be obsessed with old scrap paper. The Daily Express told us that the right hon. Gentlemanis refusing to use Departmental notepaper for anything but official letters. His sums, notes, comments and philosophical doodling are written on scrap paper or backs of old news handouts.If the right hon. Gentleman runs short of scrap paper, I advise him to send to his old Department, the Department of Health and Social Security, for the documents involved in the reorganisation of the National Health Service, the most monstrous bureaucracy ever created in this country. There is a load of old rubbish there which could be put to better use.
If we wish to know more about the right hon. Gentleman's zeal for thrift, we have only to turn again to that news item in the Daily Express. It said:A colour television, kept for the exclusive use of the Secretary of State, has had to be shipped out, as an unnecessary expense".I find that extremely interesting, because during the three years and 10 months that I was there I never had a colour television set. Where was it all that time? 697 Had it been brought in by the previous Secretary of State, who is now Minister of Agriculture, was it being kept in a cellar for his possible return, or did the present Secretary of State for Industry himself have it shipped in so that he could have it shipped out again?
Then we are regaled with stories of the reading list which the right hon. Gentleman has circulated to senior civil servants. We are told that it includes works by the right hon. Gentleman himself. There are also profound volumes from a range of learned international economists. I would read the list to the House if I did not have some difficulty in pronouncing some of the names. I see someone called J. A. Schumpeter. The sight of hordes of senior civil servants on their way home at night, standing on the station with their Schumpeters under their arms, must frighten other commuters almost to death.
The right hon. Gentleman has adopted a very distinctive style in Government. I read in the Financial Times:Sir Keith himself has kept well out of the limelight since he arrived at the Department. He does not want to expose himself to questioning on how he will handle the multiude of detailed industrial problems needing a decision till he has had time to absorb the issues involved and persuade civil servants and others that he wants a new approach adopted.That is all very well, but the right hon. Gentleman cannot operate like a mole in its burrow. He is answerable to this House, and in this debate we shall be putting to him some precise questions, and we shall expect some very precise answers from him. He is no longer conducting cosy little seminars in the Centre for Political Studies. He is a Minister of the Crown, responsible to this House.
I shall put all the easy questions to the right hon. Gentleman first. The first one concerns what he intends to do about the industrial strategy which the Labour Government pursued for three and a half years and conducted within the frame-work of the National Economic Development Council—[HON. MEMBERS: "Kill it."] His hon. Friends say that he intends to kill it. Is that the right hon. Gentleman's view? Reading what he had to say about the approach to industrial strategy when he was in opposition, we see that he said that he did not believe in it.
698 Will the right hon. Gentleman attend the meetings of the National Economic Development Council? He could tell us now, but apparently he does not intend to do so. Will he keep the sector working parties operating? Many distinguished industrialists and trade unionists have put time and hard work into that part of the industrial strategy. Will the right hon. Gentleman ask them to stay, or will he send them packing?
The right hon. Gentleman has told the House flatly that he does not believe in grants or subsidies for industry. How will he put this into practice? The Secretary of State for Scotland gave a contrary view when he met a deputation from Monsanto last week. He said that the Government would have to take action very soon on a number of companies facing closure. The Secretary of State for Scotland was reported in The Daily Telegraph as saying:The Government will have to take action and this will, of course, be seen as a test of the policies we intend to follow.The same approach seems to go for of Secretary of State for Wales, who, I understand, is making a final attempt to save the Triang company. Is it only in England that there are to be no grants or subsidies for industry?
Does the right hon. Gentleman intend to do away with the regional development grants, reintroduced, the House will recall, by Mr John Davies in 1972? Will the right hon. Gentleman make use of that same Industry Act to fund the industry schemes under which the Labour Government triggered off billions of pounds worth of investment, mainly in private industry, which has saved or or created hundreds of thousands of jobs, or is all that to be sacrificed to the right hon. Gentleman's doctrinaire obsessions?
There are vital questions affecting the Post Office. Will the right hon. Gentleman continue the industrial democracy experiment, under which seven elected workers' representatives now sit on the Post Office Board? That experiment will come to an end in seven months' time unless the right hon. Gentleman brings an order before Parliament to renew the enabling legislation. Does he intend to renew that legislation? Perhaps he will let us know when he addresses the House. I warn him that if he does not renew 699 the legislation, the effect on industrial relations within the Post Office will be disastrous. As the House will recall, I gave an undertaking that the Government would report to Parliament on the progress of the experiment. Will the right hon. Gentleman do the same?
There are a number of industries whose very existence depends upon decisions that the right hon. Gentleman has to make in the near future. The Secretary of State will have to make early decisions about the steel industry. What attitude will he take to the European Commission's draft directive on aid for steel? The Labour Government regarded that directive as an unacceptable interference with the right of sovereign Governments to finance and assist their steel industries. Even more important, we regard this as an unacceptable attempt by the Commission to assume powers to which it is not entitled under the Treaties of Paris and Rome. The directive required the unanimous acceptance of the Council of Foreign Ministers. Our representatives prevented that directive from going through. Will the right hon. Gentleman and the new Conservative Government do the same?
Only a few weeks ago, before the Dissolution of Parliament, this House passed a motion resisting the claims of the Commission. Will the right hon. Gentleman act in accordance with the wishes of the House at that time and, I am sure, the wishes of the House today? This is a profoundly important constitutional issue. We have a right to know what the Government intend to do about it.
What will the Secretary of State do about any proposed closures in the British Steel Corporation? The hon. Member for Flint, West (Sir A. Meyer)—I have given him notice that I wanted to mention this matter in the debate—paraded around North Wales during the general election claiming that there was a letter on my desk approving the closure of iron and steel making at Shotton and awaiting my signature. There was no such letter. The hon. Gentleman had no evidence for it. I do not know whether he was deliberately propagating this for vote-catching purposes, but it comes particularly ill from him. During the previous Conservative Government of 1970 to 1974, the hon. Gentleman voted for the closure of 700 Shotton. If he had had his way, it would by now be closed.
§ Sir Anthony Meyer (Flint, West)
I had hoped that the right hon. Gentleman had grown out of that one. It would be just as true to say that his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) voted against the expansion of Port Talbot. It is a very silly point. To revert to what he said previously, I made that accusation during the campaign, and I was astonished that there was no denial from any Labour Party spokesman.
§ Mr. Varley
I will give the hon. Gentleman that denial. I want to refer to what the hon. Gentleman said during that campaign, as reported in his local paper. That paper does not get as far as London or the constituency where I was campaigning. However, the hon. Gentleman said that there was a nasty suspicion that an undated but signed statement was already in the possession of the Secretary of State for Industry announcing the closing of steelmaking at Shotton. The hon. Gentleman knows that that is not true, and that it was not true [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."]
I would like to point out to the Secretary of State for Industry that whether iron and steel making should be ended at Shotton is a question that may come before him. I remind him of the pledge made by Sir Charles Villiers, of the British Steel Corporation, to the Shotton work force on 17 March 1977:In view of our commercial objectives and of our proposal for the development of Port Talbot on the above basis, we have decided to remove any proposal or date for closure of iron and steel making at Shotton. This decision will not be reviewed during BSC's current five-year plan beginning 1977.In the same general election, the Tory candidate for Flint, East, Mr. Peter Jones, also regarded it as important that steet making at Shotton should be saved until 1982. He was reported in the press on 26 April as saying:I am sure that if the Conservatives come to power, they will give that pledge.Well, the Conservatives have come to power. Will the Secretary of State now give the pledge that his Conservative candidate promised to the workers of Shotton? We always made clear to Sir Charles Villiers the importance that we attached to that undertaking. Will the 701 right hon. Gentleman hold the British Steel Corporation to that pledge, as we did?
The right hon. Gentleman has urgent decisions to make about shipbuilding. Those decisions can wait least of all. One decision must be made within the next six weeks. The shipbuilding redundancy payments scheme will expire at the end of June unless an order is brought before this House to renew it. Last month, on behalf of the Government, I announced that we would bring forward such an order. Will the right hon. Gentleman, when he addresses the House, give that same commitment?
In that same statement, I announced that we would raise the level of benefits in line with the Employment Protection Act level. Will the right hon. Gentleman, or the Secretary of State for Employment, if it falls to him, do the same? In the statement I also set out the Labour Government's reaction to the corporate plan of British Shipbuilders. Instead of accepting proposed reductions in capacity and manpower, I said that in view of the uncertainty of the market we thought it better to proceed on a step-by-step basis. In view of the riots in France which followed the announcement of targets for redundancies in the French steel industry, I regard the step-by-step approach as the best guarantee of industrial peace in shipbuilding. Does the right hon. Gentleman endorse our approach, or does he intend to take his axe to the shipbuilding industry?
In my statement to the House before the general election, I announced our intention to proceed with an intervention fund of £85 million to win shipbuilding orders. Will the right hon. Gentleman do the same? If not, how will he get orders for the shipbuilding industry? Will he bring forward public sector orders to which we were committed? Will he use overseas aid to win orders, as we did? Will he cover the £100 million loss, as we said we would? Will he provide interest-free and dividend-free finance for British Shipbuilders, as we said we would?
The answers to those questions will not wait. I warn the Secretary of State that unless he takes action to assist the shipbuilding industry, as we did so successfully, that industry will not survive. 702 Perhaps he does not want it to survive. That would be the only logical outcome of his demented plan to sell off parts of the industry. There is no certainty at all that the merchant shipping side of the shipbuilding industry could survive on its own.
That even includes mixed shipyards such as Brooke Marine Ltd. in Lowestoft. The Secretary of State for Employment—the right hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior)—certainly knows that. That is why he sensibly asked us to help that yard, as we did—and as we were about to do again when the election came.
I give the Secretary of State for Industry another piece of advice. He should not believe that it would be feasible, even if he were malevolent enough to try it, to let the merchant shipyards sink and sell off the warship yards. Even warship yards could not survive on their own in the present climate. One reason why my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) was returned with such an enormously increased majority was that the workers of Yarrow, in his constituency, know that all their jobs have been saved and protected by nationalisation against such disasters as the cancellation of the order from Iran.
The Tory plan to carve up and sell off the profitable parts of nationalised industries is an act of wanton industrial may-hem. New corporations like British Aerospace, which have found new stability and hope, are suddenly threatened by the chopping block. Companies like Cable and Wireless, which have prospered for decades under public ownership, are to become the victims of cynical exercises of asset stripping of the worst kind this country has ever seen.
The chief sacrificial victim is to be the National Enterprise Board. Last Tuesday, the Prime Minister proudly proclaimed that the Government would "require" the NEBto dispose of certain holdings in profitable companies."—[Official Report, 15 May 1979; Vol. 967, c. 79.]But why are they profitable? Because the State stepped in to save them from the receiver or the liquidator to whom the follies and inadequacies of sections of private enterprise had consigned them, pumped huge sums of taxpayers' money 703 into them, and slowly but surely turned them around to profitability and success.
ICL, for example, was rescued by the State and is now a major international computer manufacturer, paying huge dividends to the NEB. Fairey Holdings was bankrupt under private ownership, was taken over by the NEB at the request of management and workers, and is now secure and increasingly profitable. Ferranti, which capsized under private owners, was rescued by the Labour Government four years ago and is now buoyant and profitable.
Now we are told that the same City vultures who would have left those companies as carrion are waiting to swoop on those tasty morsels which have been fattened by the taxpayer. The improvidence is matched only by the immorality.
What is to happen also to the new projects? What is to happen to Inmos, which is the most exciting new industrial venture launched in British industry for many years? Before the general election, Tory MPs jostled to have it placed in their constituency. Letters came into the Department of Industry at that time by the bucketful. Even during the election campaign, Tory MPs got in touch with me. One of the new Under-Secretaries of State for Scotland—the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind)—wrote to me putting in his claim. No doubt that was suitably publicised in Edinburgh. Now what has happened to it? Will it be allowed to proceed, or will it also be the victim of some corporate asset stripping?
Last Tuesday, the Prime Minister offered her usual glib sloganising analyses of complicated and deep-seated problems. She summed up our industrial problems in this way:The problem is not one of creating new artificial jobs but of creating genuine new jobs."—[Official Report, 15 May 1979; Vol. 967, c. 77.][HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I thought that would get a cheer. I can tell the right hon. Lady and the Secretary of State that the problem they face in a changing industrial society is how to create any new jobs at all, regardless of what glib or silly labels one gives them.
If the right hon. Lady will not listen to me, perhaps she will pay heed to her right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. 704 Heath). I know that she could not find room for him in her Government, but we now know that she is anxious to find suitable employment for him and to make proper use of his acknowledged talents. In fact, she has made it clear that her right hon. Friend has a promising political future—anywhere except in Britain, that is.
I therefore know that the Prime Minister will pay proper heed to these words which the right hon. Member spoke in an industrial debate in the House a year ago:There are those hon. Members who wish to be tough about our nationalised industries and some private industries as well. They tend to say that if a company is making a loss it should go to the wall. But we have seen in the past decade a decline in British industrial power. I find this absolutely terrifying … To those who say, 'Let them go to the wall,' I ask what will happen to our balance of trade as a result …. The same people claim that other companies will spring up in place of those that do go to the wall. Where has this happened?… All those concerned in industry know that to build a firm of any size takes a decade or two. Anyone who has had anything to do with regional policy knows the appalling number of firms employing 250 to 300 people needed in a region".—[Official Report, 9 March 1978; Vol. 945, c. 1656–57.]The right hon. Gentleman was telling us, from his experience not only as Prime Minister but as a former Minister in charge of regional policy, that it is very easy to stand by and let jobs collapse, but it is much more difficult to create new jobs to replace them. Now this Government say "Cut taxes. That will release energies which will unfetter investment." But it was tried. The right hon. Member for Sidcup tried it in the immediate post-Selsdon period; the result was an investment famine and the remedy was the Industry Act of 1972.
§ Mr. J. W. Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)
My right hon. Friend has asked the Government to back the position of an hon. Member who did not get a job in the Cabinet. Will he ask them about the position taken by a member of the Government who did get a job in the Cabinet—Lord Carrington? The noble Lord wrote to one of my constituents to say:Conservative Governments have accepted there are no overriding reasons why industries such as the railways and coal should be brought out of the public sector. The Conservative Party has always made it clear that it is in no way opposed to the existence of 705 nationalised enterprises where for economic reasons the existence of such enterprises is justified".Those are the words of a man who is now in the Cabinet. Will those words be listened to by the Government?
§ Mr. Varley
I do not know whether they will be listened to, but I know that the right hon. Member for Sidcup used some wise words in that debate on 9th March 1978. He was speaking in a very serious industrial debate. I believe that the Secretary of State for Employment wound up on that occasion, so he will know to what his right hon. Friend was referring. The Conservatives now say that they will cut taxes. They believe that if they do that all the energies and, entrepreneurial flair will be released and the economy will become buoyant. We know that that is not so.
The result of the post-Selsdon period was the introduction of the Industry Act 1972. At that time it was the most interventionist piece of legislation ever enacted. When we came to office not only did we use that Act but we built upon it by putting on to the Statute Book the Industry Act 1975, which the present Government say they will amend in an unspecified way.
§ Mr. Varley
I shall not give way. About 50 right hon. and hon. Members wish to speak and I am determined to give them a chance by not taking too long.
When faced with these problems, we created the National Enterprise Board and the Scottish and Welsh Development Agencies, against which the Conservatives voted. As a result, despite the worst world recession since the 1930s, we saved or created hundreds of thousands of jobs and prevented social devastation in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the regions of England. Where we built, the Tories want to pull down and destroy. That is why we shall divide the House tonight.
§ 4.1 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Industry (Sir Keith Joseph)
I do not blame the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Varley) for making his speech without any reference to the record of the Government 706 of which he was a member. I do not blame him for composing his speech almost entirely of rather cheap personal references and a catalogue of questions. That was the easiest way for him to avoid reminding the House of what actually happened under a Labour Government.
I count myself particularly fortunate to have been allotted by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister the set of Ministers who are working with me—my hon. Friends the Members for Arundel (Mr. Marshall), Basingstoke (Mr. Mitchell) and Bosworth (Mr. Butler). I am also fortunate to have Lord Trenchard working with me. He has had more years of successful industrial experience than is normally available for the full-time service of any Government. We are lucky to have him working with us.
The right hon. Gentleman failed to talk about the industrial record under a Labour Government. It can be summed up easily. After five years, manufacturing production is stagnant, living standards are stagnant and productivity is stagnant. The balance of trade is disastrous, but for North Sea oil. Does anyboy deny that?
Inflation is rising again after a fall. Unemployment is up sharply, despite huge overmanning and all the claims made by the former Government about job creation. Despite the high unemployment level, there are large numbers of unfilled vacancies and a widespread shortage of skills.
The only great economic growth under the Labour Government was in moonlighting—which at least shows the economic response of the people of Britain. The Labour Government have a far worse record, in spite of North Sea oil, than the Government of any comparable country.
The right hon. Gentleman chided us for not undertaking to continue precisely the policies which led to that failure. All his questions flowed from the assumption that present policies should be continued for the benefit of the country. The record shows that those policies were thoroughly bad for the economy and our people.
The new Government bring with them a different analysis and a different set of policies. The analysis takes into account the lessons that we have learn from the past during periods of Conservative 707 Governments and, certainly, Labour Governments. A fresh set of policies will arise out of that analysis.
The House will not expect me to announce today how these general policies of ours are to be applied in detail. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] It is foolish of hon. Members to think that one can assess all the factors in two weeks. It will take us time to assess the facts. There is bound to be a transitional period.
We at the Department of Industry shall be reviewing the assistance available to industry generally and in the regions, with the general aim of reducing the role of Government and taking account of the need to avoid sudden, disruptive changes of the context within which industry takes its decisions. Certainly there is scope for such changes. But I must tell my hon. Friends that much of this year's provision has already been committed, legally or morally, and the scope for this year will be considerably less than the scope in my Department in future years.
Today I wish to discuss the analysis which will underlie our policies.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
are areas such as Merseyside, which is a special development area, to be considered? I know that it will take time, but are they to continue as special development areas, or will they lose their special support? If they are not to be regarded as special development areas, what will the Secretary of State and his colleagues do instead?
§ Sir K. Joseph
With his usual charm, the hon. Member is trying to get answers from me for which I am not yet ready. I am studying the whole context of regional policy. My right hon. and hon. Friends and I will be making known our conclusions as soon as we are ready. In the meantime, I propose to visit as many regions as possible where there is high unemployment, to learn by listening so that I am fully aware of the arguments.
The question that the House must answer before it can discuss the amendment is. what is the source of jobs? There is a total difference between the analyses of the two main parties. We believe that the main source of jobs is the customer at home and abroad. The trading sector which seeks to satisfy the customer at home and abroad supports 708 the jobs inside the trading sector and also all the jobs in the non-trading sector.[HON. MEMBERS: "Get on with it".] Hon. Members could learn by listening. They criticised their own Government vigorously for the hash that they made of jobs and standards of living. Let them now listen to an analysis which most of our more successful rivals have accepted and see whether what we suggest makes more sense.
If the source of new jobs is the customer, the source of rising standards of living, which we all wish to see, is rising productivity and the supply of goods and services which customers want. Jobs and rising standards of living do not come from Governments. The function of Governments is to create the conditions which encourage the satisfaction of customers and rising levels of productivity. [Interruption.] Hon. Gentlemen must recognise that not even the TUC can compel overseas customers to buy British goods and services if they prefer foreign goods and services. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I remind the House that the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Varley) was heard in silence. It is unfair for anyone to have a running commentary of interruptions, as is taking place.
§ Sir K. Joseph
The key agent that links people as workers with people as consumers is the entrepreneur, to whom the right hon. Gentleman made a passing reference. The entrepreneur and entrepreneurial businesses of all sizes provide the source of jobs in our economy and society. Not much reference is ever made in White Papers to the entrepreneur, yet the skill of the entrepreneur is not available to everyone. There is a skill in being a doctor, an engineer or a craftsman. There is also a skill in being an entrepreneur. There are risks in being one. Entrepreneurs are not always successful. Not all business men are entrepreneurs. Being an entrepreneur is not the same as being a manager. He does not take risks and responsibilities only for money, yet money is often the motive. Entrepreneurs take risks. If their efforts are made more difficult and their rewards are slashed, there will be fewer entrepreneurs. As a result there will be fewer jobs and a lower standard of living. That is what happened under the Labour Government.
709 The efforts of entrepreneurs were made harder by over-government or over-regulation, by controls, and, in many cases, by increased trade union powers and Luddism. Their rewards were slashed by high direct and capital taxation. Instead of discouraging entrepreneurs, we propose to encourage them. We do not assume for one moment that every business man, every entrepreneur, will be galvanised. But some will be. Government policy operates at the margin.
It is madness not to encourage entrepreneurs at a time when unemployment is high, over-manning is huge, and the standard of living is stagnant instead of rising.
We do not mean by our changes to make the lives of entrepreneurs easy. The policy decisions already announced show that we intend to be watchful about competition, which must be fair—not just dumping. Our policies mean risk-taking and real job creation.
§ Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
Does the Minister recall that the last time we had this so-called entrepreneurial policy—in 1972–73—the entrepreneurs took massive risks, or so they said, allied with the boom at that time, mainly in property? The result was that the entrepreneurs ran to the Bank of England and Mother State, saying "We do not want to be entrepreneurs any more. We want Mother State and the Bank of England to bail us out." That resulted in the scandal about which we read only last week and for which there were 1,922 reasons why no action was taken.
§ Sir K. Joseph
The hon. Gentleman knows that in our enthusiasm to try to get unemployment down in the early 1970s we created credit conditions which led business men to expect that the boom would not last for ever. We have now learnt that lesson. I explained especially that we learnt the lessons of the past. We shall not recreate conditions such as those.
The vitality of an economy depends upon businesses of all sizes, not least upon the multitude, variety and birth rate, as compared with the death rate, of new and small businesses. We do not underestimate the huge importance of medium and large businesses. However, ownermanaged, small businesses are bastions of freedom, the seed-bed of the 710 growth companies, the source of much innovation—and generally they have excellent industrial relations.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister gave me special responsibility for small businesses. I am glad to have working with me my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke as Under-Secretary of State. However, it is not enough for a Government to encourage entrepreneurs in large or small units. It is also necessary to encourage managers and workers so that we shall achieve the rising productivity and the competitiveness which—by serving the customer at home and abroad—provide more jobs and a rising standard of living. That we also intend to do.
We need to encourage enterprise, innovation, adaptability and competitiveness so as to increase this country's market share and thus support more jobs and a higher standard of living. If we do not do so, while our rivals do, our chance of holding, let alone increasing, our share of our own and world markets will be slim. Alas, our rivals provide a more encouraging framework. That is why their people are much more prosperous than ours.
I instance the six main obstacles to full employment and prosperty. First—although there is no special order—high State spending crowds out enterprise and threatens freedom. Two of these six obstacles go together—high direct taxation coupled with egalitarianism. Those two together discourage enterprise and effort; drive our skilled workers from doing skilled jobs; leave a far too small gap between take-home pay for earning and take-home pay from not earning; and create in general the "not worth-while" society, which Labour founded.
I instance direct taxation under Labour. We were taxed when our earnings were under supplementary benefit level. The threshold of the standard rate of taxation under a Labour Government started at £50 a week, whereas comparable thresholds were £300 a week in Germany, £500 a week in Canada and £800 in France. The treatment of the wage earner under Labour for tax purposes would astonish any previous supporter of the Labour Party. It should humiliate and shame the supporters of the previous Labour Government. The 711 combination of high direct taxation and egalitarianism does all that damage. I refer to that egalitarianism which Labour politicians tend to recommend for every-one but themselves, and which encourages the lazy and the passive at the expense of the dedicated and diligent.
The fourth obstacle to full employment and prosperity is nationalisation. It is not the fault of those who work in the nationalised industries, who are just as good as anyone else in their management and work. It is the effect on them of the immunity from the fear of bankruptcy which protects them from the necessity to adapt their performance constantly, to serve the public—the customer—profitably.
The fifth obstacle that stands between a society and full employment and rising standards of living is politicised to a great extent by a Luddite trade union movement, which is indifferent, if not hostile, to the consumer on whom jobs depend; and which often—not always—obstructs competitiveness and higher productitviy and defends overmanning, thus pricing firms and jobs out of existence or aborting them in advance.
The sixth obstacle is an anti-enterprise culture, which we certainly have in this country, which goes back generations, and which pervades the establishment in education and discourages many of the brightest from going into business.
Those are six poisons, six obstacles, that prevent society from having full employment and a rising standard of living. I could list others, such as over-government and perverse housing policies, that create shortage by encouraging demand and discouraging supply, but I shall confine myself to the six to which I have referred.
Most of our rivals, most of our competitor countries, have two or three of the six obstacles but we have all six. Each one has been made much worse by Labour during the past five years. That is why the people in our competitor countries are so much better off than the British people.
That is why we are in relative economic decline. That is why if we continue with present policies we shall run into the danger of moving, as the Governor of the Bank of England said recently, 712 from relative economic decline into absolute economic decline. There is the danger that we shall fall not merely behind our competitors but fall each year behind the standard of living of the immediately past year.
We shall not continue as at present. Some of the obstacles and poisons we can and will diminish if not remove. The cumulative result of these and other factors has been a hostile climate for entrepreneurs, managers and workers. British managers are highly valued abroad. Many are brilliantly successful in Britain and many are not. Similarly, many groups of workers co-operate admirably with management, but many do not. Many of the most brilliant managers would find it hard to cope with some union attitudes.
In general our bane is overmanning, which makes us uncompetitive except at relatively low real earnings. Labour's answer to our problems is still more of the same poisons. Its answer is more egalitarianism, more State spending, more direct taxes, more power to the unions and more discouragement to the entrepreneur.
Why is it that Labour, faced with high unemployment and obviously wanting to reduce it, ignores entrepreneurs and continues to discourage them? Perhaps it is because Labour, with a greater or lesser degree of humbug, dislikes individual wealth. If the entrepreneur is encouraged, more people will become rich. In general that will happen only if jobs are created. However, Labour will not take that route. Perhaps Labour ignores the entrepreneur because Labour hates wealth more than it hates unemployment. Labour's analysis focuses on investment, which is important, but that is not justified if there is overmanning. It also focuses on public spending, especially, as the right hon. Gentleman and the amendment make clear, the National Enterprise Board and job subsidies.
§ Sir K. Joseph
No, I shall not give way. I have given way twice, which is as often as the right hon. Member for Chester-field did.
Far more important than the NEB are the millions of working decisions made daily by millions of decision-makers such 713 as workers and potential workers, managers and potential managers and entrepreneurs and potential entrepreneurs. They are deciding, in the light of the economic context and in the light of taxes and rewards for efforts, whether to take risks, whether to raise output, whether to increase effort and whether to be more or less co-operative. That is what is important in creating jobs and a rising standard of living. However, Labour ignores all that and focuses on the NEB.
As for the NEB, we are considering ways to achieve our declared intentions to reduce sharply the merchant banking function, to secure the disposal at the right time and on the right terms of many of the holdings and to secure the participation of the private sector in the NEB initiatives of the recent past, such as those to which the right hon. Gentleman referred.
My right hon. Friend is considering job subsidies, each on its merits, as I am considering each type of industrial subsidy. We are also studying the scope for increasing competition in some areas now served by monopoly nationalised industries.
The economic scene—I am coming to-wards the end of what I want to say—as we inherit responsibility from the failed Government appears depressing. However, concealed within it are opportunities over five to 10 years.
§ Mr. Varley
Before the right hon. Gentleman concludes, will he answer at least one of the questions that I put to him?
§ Sir K. Joseph
Yes, I am sure that I shall be attending meetings of the National Economic Development Council.
It is because we are so overmanned—and not only on the shop floor—and have so discouraging a climate for enterprise and effort that we have great scope. If we wish, we can create conditions in which, given time, new jobs come into existence in greater abundance than jobs vanish. That is what has been happening in other countries. It may be that a far greater quantity and range of goods will be produced by a smaller percentage of the population. That is what happened in agriculture 100 years ago. Provided that the goods are produced competitively and with high productivity and profit, there will be an abundance of jobs 714 in trading and non-trading services. If productivity so justifies, no doubt in due course there will be longer and longer holidays.
We can hope to try to reshape our declining industries so that they may turn themselves into growth industries again by becoming competitive. Labour started a process of slimming steel, admittedly after raising false hopes by halting the closure of the Beswick plants. Labour started the process of slimming shipbuilding. It also started the process of slimming British Leyland.
There are exciting growth industries, such as telecommunications, where the Post Office has a great service to offer the nation. We need to shift from a climate of laws, taxes and attitudes cumulatively hostile to enterprise, competitiveness, adaptability and rising productivity to a climate that is encouraging to them all. The transition will take time.
Laws can be amended and taxes can be cut, but attitudes can be changed only with great difficulty. I hope that right hon. and hon. Members on the Opposition Benches will help us to change attitudes. I hope that the House will recognise a new analysis and new policies and will reject the amendment that is based on an analysis and policies that failed and will be bound to fail again.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Tony Benn (Bristol, South-East)
I rise to support the amendment moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Varley). I congratulate the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) on his first speech as Secretary of State for Industry and on being the architect of the Conservative philosophy and its most articulate exponent. I hope that his speech is widely read and studied throughout industry. At least we are agreed that Britain's prosperity depends upon manufacturing industry. Now that we have had the general statement in the Conservative manifesto, it is the work of Parliament to examine the detail. I understand that not every detail could be announced today. It is for Parliament to ascertain the implications that the details will have, in practice, for those whom we represent.
The Conservative manifesto referred to workingwith the grain of human nature".715 In nearly 30 years in Parliament I have heard nine Prime Ministers speak from the Dispatch Box. But I have never heard a speech of such passion and commitment around an idea contained in a single phrase as that made by the present Prime Minister. That phrase was this:How is society to be improved? By millions of people resolving that they will give their own children a better life than they had themselves? That is the true driving force of society—the desire of the individual to do better for himself and his family".—[Official Report, 15 May 1979; Vol. 967, c. 77.]I have never heard a Prime Minister use language like that before. No doubt it was the language that ultimately drove Christ out of the Temple in Jerusalem when he tried to get rid of the money changers. Its philosophy runs absolutely contrary to a long tradition of thinking in this country, and about the purpose and role of Parliament and its Members.
The right hon. Gentleman has analysed very carefully what was in the manifesto and given us further analytical and academic detail. It is against that background that we must now look at what he is proposing. It reverses the Labour Government policy of 1974–79. That would be expected. It repudiates the policy of 1970–74, as has also become clear. It rejects the philosophy of Harold Macmillan, who, moved by the experience of unemployment when he was Member of Parliament for Stockton-on-Tees, wrote a book called "The Middle Way" in which he espoused many of the ideas that have become common ground on both sides of the House.
It even challenges the early Churchill, because when Churchill was President of the Board of Trade, with the responsibilities that the right hon. Gentleman now has, he introduced labour exchanges and trade boards. Indeed, in a notable speech from that very seat he brought the Anglo-Persian oil company into public ownership on the grounds that private ownership could not meet the needs of this nation. We are being asked to overturn a great deal of our past that has been developed throughout the whole of this century.
Before we accept the arguments for this new policy, I invite the House to consider why these rejected policies came to be adopted, particularly by the right 716 hon. Gentleman, who I know thinks deeply about these matters. They were all introduced because British capitalism had failed to meet some important national need. The right hon. Gentleman is quite wrong to suppose that the motive force of Socialism is a hatred of success. It is a refusal to accept the failure of an economic system simply because that system has a logic which does not apply to real circumstances. He forgets that if he is going to take us back five years he might as well take us back over the whole nineteenth century, when the very doctrines which he adumbrated today were tried. We have had some experience of them.
What was the actual experience of that period? It was that profits were not recycled back into re-equipment on the scale necessary to sustain our industry against international competition. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) said more recently, they went into secondary banking, into land and even overseas to equip our competitors. Our experience has been that competition does not restrain prices when monopolies, many of them international, are able by their size and power to repeal the laws of supply and demand in respect of their own prices.
Our experience has shown that market forces cannot provide steady growth and can certainly not cope with rapid technological or political change. The difficulty that the right hon. Gentleman faces—it does not lie only on the Opposition side of the House—is that the experience of 80 years or more is that the voters of this country have consistently voted for the policies of intervention and for Governments, until this one, who undertook to undertake it.
If the right hon. Gentleman will allow me, we can begin with Joe Chamberlain and protection. We could go to 1900, when the National Physical Laboratory was set up by a Conservative Government because industry would not do its own research. Later the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research was set up—in 1916—because British capitalism had not done adequate research in chemicals, and we were being defeated by German industry that had. We could go back to Lloyd George's insurance scheme and the "distressed area" policy introduced by his party, not ours. We can look at all 717 the post-war measures, and there is a formidable list which it is easy to mock. They include grants, loans and subsidies, to invest, to re-equip, to relocate, to train and retrain, for research and development, to pay for export promotion, to halt closures, to finance expansion, to restrain prices, to sustain jobs, to create jobs, to promote mergers and to help small businesses. A mass of money has gone in and, of course, it has created millions—
§ Mrs. Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the prosperity of this country has fallen well behind that of all our rivals in the EEC and that this country is ready for a change?
§ Mr. Benn
This is the analysis that the right hon. Gentleman has given. I am asking the House, before it reverses the experience of 50 years, to consider why these policies were developed, and I hope that the hon. Lady, whom I know to be fair, will allow me to do so. In addition to all this, there have been endless tax reliefs for industry, even to the point of financing the business man's London flat, his suit, his car and his dinner in the West End of London. The Honours List has been used, liberally, to assist in these matters, and so has the Queen's Award for Industry.
The truth is that this great apparatus of intervention is not as pretty to look at as the magic hand of the market that inspires the right hon. Gentleman. Even under his Government it was costing £2 million per day, and under the late Government it probably was costing five times as much as that.
On top of that there is the Common Market. Do not let anyone suppose that this Government have come to power with complete control over their own affairs. There is the Commission to consult and the Council to be taken into account. There is Commissioner Davignon, more interventionist than ever the Labour Government were, restructuring steel. There is Commissioner Brunner, controlling our nuclear policy and aiming to control our oil. There is Commissioner Gundelach, the biggest interventionist of all, to see that we cannot get cheap food and have to buy more expensive food.
718 All this Common Market system is complete with taxation, levies, subsidies and grants and costs the country £1,000 million a year. This huge apparatus of intervention, complete with its public relations officers and its press releases and its sponsored trips to Brussels for journalists, is the life support system for capitalism. The right hon. Gentleman mistakes the disease for the cure. He reminds me of a man who rushes into a hospital and sees a man in an iron lung and says "Cannot you see he is in trouble? Take him out." This is the basic fault of the right hon. Gentleman's analysis.
§ Sir Keith Joseph
The right hon. Gentleman seems to ignore the fact that in every one of our rival countries the apparatus of intervention to which he refers has always allowed in enough air to the patient. The entrepreneur, the manager and the worker in other countries have been allowed enough rewards for their risks and their efforts, by their Governments, to make their performance for the benefit of their people, their pensioners and their disabled, very much better than it has been in this country.
There is no question of sweeping away the inheritance of the past. What we must do is adjust the balance between public and private resources and between public and private decision making. The right hon. Gentleman makes a mockery of his case by pretending that anybody on the Government side intends to sweep everything away.
§ Mr. Benn
I have got the first clear answer from the right hon. Gentleman. My right hon. Friend did not get one to his question. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to look at what happens abroad. Does he imagine that the Americans, the Japanese, the Germans and the French allow free enterprise to flourish on his basis? However productive shipbuilding is on the Clyde, there is an Act of legislation in America called the Jones Act, which makes it illegal to sell that ship there. The German privately owned mining industry is subsidised to the tune of nearly £3 billion a year. The German Government have given instructions to Deminex, their publicly owned refinery, that they must refine all the North Sea oil there. The French will not allow oil to enter France save in French ships.
719 In Japan there is an apparatus of intervention that makes my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield seem like the mildest of men. Neither the right hon. Gentleman nor the House should believe that the American space programme and the defence programme are not really a massive subsidy for those parts of American industry upon which their competitiveness depends.
Who benefits from the system? We would all suffer if collapsed, but the House knows that the people who pressed for it most were the industrialists. I have sat many times beside my television set and watched City bankers at big dinners denouncing public intervention. I have seen the very same men in my office the following morning, when I was Minister of Technology or Secretary of State for Industry or for Energy, pleading for cash.
Reference has been made to the secondary bankers. The City of London, denouncing State intervention, got £2,000 million from the Bank of England, organised as a lifeboat operation, to protect them from the folly, if not the crime, of their own speculation. I tell the House that if every hon. Member on the Government side who had ever been to me to ask for help in his constituency, with public money, were to vote in our Lobbies tonight, our amendment would be carried.
What the right hon. Gentleman is doing is trying to switch off the life support system. That is the truth of it, and I invite him and the Prime Minister to consider whether it is sensible to switch off the life support system when there is a deep world recession, with 17 million people out of work, 16 million of them in countries which have not had a wicked Labour Government.
This is all happening in a world in which the energy shortage is now so serious that prices will rise and tip the world economy back into real slump quite possibly by the end of the year. It is happening on the eve of the biggest acceleration of technical change the world has seen for many years, with the microchip which will cut a swathe through administrative work, as well as factories as change comes by moderinsation. Moreover, it is happening when we have an expanding labour force. Yet 720 against that background the right hon. Gentleman proposes to switch off the life support system.
There will be more redundancies. There will be lost production and lost trade. There will be greater costs. There will be reduced public provision. There will be lower productivity as men seek to protect themselves by work sharing. There will be emigration of our skilled people. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, others are already beginning to recruit, if they can, from this country. Of course, that is so. That is the problem, and to accelerate the process of decline will do immeasurable damage because it will lead to a dramatic erosion of our manufacturing base upon which we must depend in this world when the oil has run out in 25 years.
I must tell the right hon. Gentleman that what he has set his hand to will lead to a collapse of confidence even among business men. This will not happen only in the North, where Labour is strong, because they have seen the workings of the system in which he believes. It will come also in the rich heartlands of Conservative southern England, where these policies will bite deeply and at great political cost to himself.
The Government have two choices. First, they can carry on, braced for confrontation, protesting that everything will come right after a transition period. But I beg those on their Front Bench not to think that it is confrontation that they are up against. The problem they are up against is that as this policy is unveiled and applied, there will be growing support for policies designed to reduce the hardship and the suffering and to bring people back into productive employment. The many who will suffer under the right hon. Gentleman's policy far exceed the few who will get rich from the sale of public assets. That is his problem.
The Government's second option is to try to go into reverse and seek political security in consensus, as the Cabinet of which the right hon. Gentleman was last a member did in the famous U-turn. But I do not think that that will work, because the damage done will have been too great to be undone by a reversion to the policies of the past.
721 The right hon. Gentleman faces another more fundamental problem to which, I believe, he has never addressed his mind. He begins by defending capitalism on the ground that it underpins parliamentary democracy. He then discovers that parliamentary democracy, with the exercise of the vote, steadily erodes capitalism by demanding policies of intervention. The right hon. Gentleman will find that if he wishes to stick to capitalism he will have to challenge the desires of our people expressed through parliamentary democracy. That is the problem which confronts him.
Three times a Labour Government have come in at a time when there was great economic difficulty. In 1945 we reconstructed this country after the war, by re-equipping our basic industries under men whose claim to be entrepreneurs was at least as great as that of those speculators who have been arguing so strongly for the return of a Conservative Government. No one should forget the public entrepreneur, the man who devotes his life to harnessing skill and talent to meet need within a public sector, the salaried man—like the doctor or midwife in their own fields—or the mines rescue team who go to struggle to rescue an injured miner with no thought of the "true driving force" of society being the search for their own and their families' interests.
Despite all this, I accept, and the House must accept, that these common measures or consensus measures have not succeeded in releasing the full productive capacity which lies within the British people.
§ Mr. Benn
I ask the hon. Gentleman to allow me to proceed. We were told by Mr. Speaker that many hon. Members wish to speak. I am trying to be analytical 722 and not provocative, as I hope the House will accept.
I believe that the House must set itself clear objectives: to restore full employment and to take the necessary measures so to do; to plan our growth to meet need without built-in waste or the irresponsible depletion of the world's scarce mineral resources; to share the wealth which we create more fairly, not only here but worldwide; to restore democratic control over the non-accountable sectors of power which competition never touches and would—in any case—be the wrong instrument to control it; and to try to build upon human dignity and compassion as the bedrock of our policy instead of some nostrum from a distinguished, and in his time progressive, economist of 200 years ago.
Our argument on the Labour Benches is a simple one, and I wish to summarise it before I finish. If private investment will not do the job, there must be public investment, and where there is public money on public account there must be public accountability and public ownership. I believe that that is the way by which we shall solve this slump, lest we drift into the only means by which the slump of the 1930s was solved—by rearmament and war. The challenge to this generation is how to secure full employment without rearmament and war, how to expand public provision—
§ Mr. Benn
I am trying to hurry forward an argument that I have waited some 22 years to deliver here and I hope that the House will allow me to develop it in a spirit of good will in this place.
We must expand public provision to meet human need by harnessing money to need to convert that need into demand, for that is the only way we shall deal with these underlying problems. We must develop democracy so that those who invest their lives in industry have as much say as do those who invest their money. We must plan our trade and economic relations with the rest of the world to make all that possible.
In my view, the situation is so serious that import ceilings are now inescapable because of the state of our industry. If we do not set them, we shall see our industries decline more rapidly behind the temporary shield of oil revenues, which may 723 last for 25 years, but as a result we shall lose the base upon which we must build our recovery.
There are problems, of course, about import controls. We have never discussed this very fully in the House. Would it mean higher prices and involve protecting inefficiency? What would be the effect on the developing world? What about our relations with the EEC? Would it mean a siege economy? These are real issues to be discussed. But unemployment is a form of import control, and if we can negotiate our money supply with the IMF, why should we not negotiate our trade with our trading partners? There is more than one sort of siege economy, besides the one commonly described, as we saw in the winter of 1973–74, and of a kind which could lie ahead.
I make one last point. Industrial and economic policies are about human beings and how they relate to one another. Our economic system was man-made, and what men made men and women can change if it does not meet their needs. That is what Parliament is for. That is why the Labour movement came into being—to use the ballot box and the House of Commons to persuade people of the possibilities and the need for change, to create an open, humane, pluralistic, liberal democratic Socialism which really enlarges opportunities by liberating people from the very forces to which the right hon. Gentleman made obeisance today.
The strength of the Labour movement, quite contrary to what I know the Government Front Bench think, lies not in the picket lines or the block vote but in the strength of the ideas which have brought our movement into being and which we advocate today, ideas which would still be there whether we had any Labour Party Members of Parliament or not.
The views expressed by the Prime Minister are fundamentally hostile to everything that is best and true in our society. Lest the right hon. Gentleman may think that this is a Left-wing view, I shall quote the words of Hugh Gaitskell as a Back Bencher in 1945, in a debate on a motion of censure:We believe … that the present capitalist system is inefficient, that it produces insecurity and that it is unjust. Can anyone deny those 724 things?"—[Official Report. 5 December 1945; Vol. 416, c. 2364.]Again, I quote Clement Attlee, 10 years earlier:The dominant issue of the twentieth century is Socialism. Socialism is not the invention of an individual. It is essentially the outcome of economic and social conditions. The evils that capitalism brings differ in intensity in different countries, but the root cause of the trouble once discerned, the remedy is seen to be the same by thoughtful men and women. The cause is the private ownership of the means of life; the remedy is public ownership.
§ Sir Keith Joseph
It is only right that the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) should explain how it is that whatever Socialism and public ownership have put into practice the result is evil, totalitarianism, cruelty, and poverty.
§ Mr. Benn
I had hoped that the right hon. Gentleman had listened to my argument, which is that three times the Labour Party has saved capitalism in this country. It has done that at the same time as transforming, where it can, relationships. Let me give an example of how a Labour person would defend Socialism, not by reference to a book, or by experience in other countries, but by the fact that in the Health Service, which he administered and into which, in fairness, he poured a lot of money, we have transformed the right to treatment from cash to need. That is a transformation in the mind and reflects a wholly different attitude to that which the Prime Minister put forward. Whatever the majority tonight, these ideas will prevail, because they embody the finest inheritance of our people and their highest aspirations for the future.
§ 4.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Grant (Harrow, Central)
At least the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) has given us the authentic voice of the alternative Socialist solution. I suspect that if Lord Attlee and Mr. Hugh Gaitskell were alive, they would not be sitting with him but would be writing articles in the Sunday Express. I accept his reasons for going on the Back Benches, but the society that he advocates is, as he freely admitted, a siege economy. Within that siege economy there is no doubt that the problem of unemployment would entirely disappear, but there would be precious little freedom 725 for the people in it. It will be interesting to see which of the two alternative oppositions ultimately prevails.
I make this preliminary observation on the Queen's Speech to my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench. Last week my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Page) gave sound and sage advice to Ministers, and I hope that they will heed it. I interpret it as being that they should pay a great deal of attention to Parliament and that one hour spent in Westminster with colleagues is worth eight hours beavering away in the corridors of Whitehall.
I shall confine my remarks to unemployment, with which I have had dealings in the past. The record of the previous Government is absolutely and totally disgraceful. When I was in Government and unemployment had reached 600,000, the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot)—and I am sorry that he is not here—said that his party would complain of it loudly day after day and week after week. When he took office and had his fingers in the gravy and his feet under the table, we did not hear a single peep, and unemployment has more than doubled since I left office. That is shameful, and we can disregard any remarks that the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale may make on unemployment. He is totally discredited, as is the rest of his party.
The problem has not gone away. We urgently need investment if we are to compete, and that is also an important consideration. In the years ahead we shall probably see even more dramatic innovations than the micro-chip revolution, and these all involve doing away with old jobs. In the modern world we cannot have four men doing a job that can be done by one man or, perhaps in the future, by one machine.
We have the paradox of over-employment in some industries and great demand for labour in certain parts of Britain. In my constituency week after week there are pages of advertisements in the Harrow Observer for jobs in manufacturing and service industries and for skilled and semi-skilled men. Yet in other parts of the country there is great unemployment, which is a social and economic scandal. It will continue to be not only a structural problem but a regional problem. My right hon. Friend said that the 726 regional aspect was being considered, but I hope that it will be examined more deeply than outlined in the Queen's Speech or in our manifesto. As I interpret it, the present policy is to maintain the existing regional policy but administer it more strictly.
It is not much comfort to a decent workman in a declining industry in the North or North-East to be told that help for the unemployed is temporary and tape-ridden. He will not know what that means. It will not deter the young school leaver from vandalism, crime or smashing up the Manchester United football ground when he is told that there is no prospect of work in the foreseeable future. No Government can ignore the fundamental social aspect.
I agree with the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East that this problem will get worse in the future, and we must seriously consider our regional policy. I urged the previous Government to consider it, but they merely patched up the existing system. Some of the areas will have to be reconsidered. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) mentioned Liverpool, and the Government should carefully examine the existing areas. Some of them are totally absurd. Why do the prosperous North Sea oil regions in Scotland need to be development areas? Alternatively, why should parts of Scotland primarily inhabited by sheep be development areas? There has been a disease of creeping regionalisation, spreading the jam of Government regional assistance too thinly.
Mobility of labour is also an important consideration. We may have to consider bringing the man to the job rather than the conventional thinking of bringing the job to the man. If we are to do that, we need greater mobility of labour. Two impediments to that have been housing and to a lesser degree education. Rigidity in housing over many years has been ludicrous. People have stayed in council houses from which they would not dream of moving with job prospects only 10, 20 or 50 miles away. I am delighted with the proposals in the Gracious Speech to bring back sanity in council housing and in the private rented sector. It will enable landlords and tenants to enter into short-term letting arrangements rather than leaving these houses empty. Higher 727 and more uniform educational standards will also assist mobility of labour. That is another reason why people will not move.
The final remedy in this Government's approach, which I believe is admirable, is that proposed for small firms. Speaking as a former Minister in that post, I am delighted that my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Mitchell) is taking on that task. He is an admirable choice, as he believes passionately in the cause of small firms. He has my total support. He and my other hon. Friends must remove the shackles and the burdens that have been on the shoulders of small businesses for far too long.
I only hope that the stultifying effects of years of Socialism and hostility to small firms have not completely drained the entrepreneurial spirit from our people. It was suggested that this had happened in an article in the Sunday Telegraph yesterday by Mr. Graham Turner. If that is so, I suggest that people should look at the Ugandan Asian shopkeepers in my constituency. They are better practisers of private enterprise than anyone I can think of, and most of them have started from nothing. There is a vast amount of work to be done, especiaally in the services sector, and there is plenty of scope for small firms and individuals. This will be done once the Government back away the clammy cobwebs of bureaucracy and oppressive taxation.
Unemployment is a major problem here and in the free world as a whole. My right hon. Friends are right not to fly in the face of reality by believing that they can prop up unprofitable firms and keep them in a state of rigor mortis as the previous Government did. This is no future for industry unless it is profitable. This involves vast changes and serious social consequences. I beg my right hon. Friends to lubricate the wheels of change with the oil of humanity in the difficult changes that they will have to make.
I address one last question to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment, who will wind up the debate tonight. Freedom of the press is essential in a free society. When on earth will The Times come back? What 728 steps will he take to try to resolve the dispute? I believe that the continued absence of The Times newspaper is an appalling gap in our lives, and it is damaging to the concept of a free press. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will tell us whether there is any hope that this great journal will once again adorn our doorsteps and provide us with reading matter.
Finally, I pay tribute to the Prime Minister. I want her to know that I believe that this is the best Queen's Speech for many years. I wish my right hon. and hon. Friends every success in implementing it.
§ 5.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Stewart (Western Isles)
I enjoyed the obvious attempt of the hon. Member for Harrow, Central (Mr. Grant) to place himself on the labour market, and I wish him every success. Before coming to the subject of today's debate, I shall comment on one or two items from the Gracious Speech.
The opening speech by the Prime Minister was surprising in the circumstances. Of course she is jubilant at her party's win, but I believe that it may give us a new dimension in British politics. We have always been concerned about East-West relations, but as a result of the distribution of seats in this election we may well be concerned in future with North-South relations. The whole tone of the Prime Minister's speech was disappointing. One of Churchill's great watchwords was "In victory, magnanimity". I failed to detect that quality in the right hon. Lady's speech. Her attitude was "We have won and we intend to steamroller our policies through".
The sale of council houses is promised in the Gracious Speech. There is some sense in that policy if it is carefully administered. But there are problems in individual areas, and a blanket permission to sell council houses would be disastrous. It could lead to the creation of council house ghettos, with only the poorest housing stocks being available for letting. Such a result would be a recipe for future trouble. A balance must be maintained in the areas and in the types of houses affected.
There is one aspect of this policy to which I take exception. We have heard a lot in the speeches so far about mobility of labour, as if the people who live in 729 council houses should be rootless nomads who can be shifted around the United Kingdom wherever industry might put them. The encouragement of short-term private letting is welcome. Well-meant but fatuous restrictions in this area in the past have had a severe effect on the number of homes available.
In education policy, the Scottish context is quite different because Scotland is almost fully comprehensive and the system is working well.
I welcome the reference to pensions and the payment of the Christmas bonus to pensioners. I believe that this is an area in which the Chancellor can wield his new broom. It would be far better for him to abolish tax on pensions, particularly those of war widows, than to give relief to persons in the upper tax brackets.
The Government also propose to repeal the Scotland Act 1978 and to follow up with all-party discussions on devolution of power. Surely the talks should precede the repeal of the Act. The Act should remain on the statute book and then the talks could ascertain how it could be improved. When Lord Home intervened in the referendum, he promised a better Act. Therefore, he is under an imperative obligation to produce such an Act. I urge the Goverenment to consider a stay of execution until we have heard Lord Home's views.
According to the Gracious Speech, the Government intend to play a full and constructive part in developing the EEC and to work foran agreement on a Common Fisheries Policy which takes account of the need to conserve stocks and the interests of our fishermen".If the previous Tory Government in their original negotiation, and the Labour Government in their renegotiation, had done their duty by our fishermen, the present dangerous situation need not have existed. There have been some critical references from Government Benches in the past week to British Ministers obstructing the EEC, aimed in part at the previous Ministers of Agriculture. However, right hon. and hon. Members from fishing constituencies fully supported the stand of the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin), and that was reflected across party divisions. Whatever criticisms may come from the EEC, success in these negotiations is dependent on maintaining the 730 right hon. Member's robust stand to protect our fishermen.
I am glad to note that the Scottish Development Agency appears to be safe for the moment. It is not mentioned in the carving-up of the National Enterprise Board. With the revenues now accruing from Scottish oil, we in Scotland will not accept any reduction in the SDA's role. In fact, its role should be extended and the Government should expand it into the service industries on which many areas of Scotland are wholly dependent. The agency should be decentralised. There has been very little equity investment in the growth areas of Scotland. Therefore, instead of reducing taxes in South-East England, the Government should encourage investment in areas that are suffering from industrial malnutrition. There is much talk at present about petrol scarcity. I hope that the Government realise that any rationing at filling stations would be totally unacceptable in Scotland.
I shall make one constituency point. I urge the introduction of the road equivalent tariff for the Scottish islands. This would mean the establishment of an economical freight system for them. It would enable the entrepreneurs to come forward and give us some reasonable system of transport.
The speeches of the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Industry will do more damage to the unity of the United Kingdom than any alleged damage that would have come from the Scottish Assembly had it been established.
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Malcolm Thornton (Liverpool, Garston)
I should like to thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to address the House today and also to add my thanks to those of other new Members who have warmly appreciated your kindness to us. Perhaps it would also be appropriate to mention the helpfulness and courtesy of the staff who have made these first few days easier for all new Members.
I have the honour to represent the Liverpool division of Garston, which has been described by our local paper as the constituency of princes and paupers. It is the largest division in Liverpool and has both advantages and disadvantages correspondingly large.
731 I should like to mention my predecessor, Mr. Eddie Loyden, who was certainly a hard-working constituency Member and a man of decidedly strong views. Having equally strong—although in most cases diametrically opposing—views, I hope that I can at any rate follow his example of hard work for my constituents.
From the pleasant, highly sought-after and highly rated properties in Gateacre to the high-rise monstrosities in Netherley, and with every type of development between these extremes, Garston is indeed the country in microcosm. It is, therefore, gratifying that Garston responded so positively and decisively to the new opportunities afforded by the Conservative manifesto in the general election—opportunities which I am delighted to see so quickly introduced in the Gracious Speech and which, I believe, will benefit all members of the community.
But the most important problem facing us in Garston and on Merseyside is that of unemployment. It is for this reason that I have chosen to speak at this stage in the debate on the Gracious Speech.
As hon. Members will know, unemployment on Merseyside is considerably in excess of the national average, and in the Speke area of my division it is over 35 per cent.—a truly staggering figure. Recent major factory closures have caused this inflated figure, and on my arrival in this House for the first time I was greeted by a telegram from yet another factory facing problems.
I therefore welcome the Government's stated intention, with their fiscal, economic and industrial strategies, to create a climate for growth—for investment and reinvestment. It is particularly heartening to see that events of the past few days, arising from Honda's arrangement with British Leyland, have resulted in a share of the work being given to the Speke factory. That means more jobs.
We cannot, however, ignore the fact that there have been difficulties in the past which have not been solely due to outside factors. Recent events in factories in the division have shown that in some cases wounds have been self-inflicted. It serves little purpose to dwell on such matters at this stage, save to say that we must learn from these mistakes, management as well as trade unions, and recognise 732 that so much of our future prosperity in Merseyside lies within our own hands.
I feel certain that the Government's proposals for sensible trade union reforms—supported overwhelmingly by trade unionists in my division—will dramatically improve Merseyside's chances of success. From his recent visit to the area, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment knows that to be so, and I hope that he will lose no time in pursuing these policies.
I particularly urge my right hon. Friend to make all speed to amend the law on picketing. It may well be perfectly proper for workers at a particular factory or plant to take such action on their own premises. It cannot be right for them to place even more jobs at risk by preventing other firms, not directly involved in the dispute, from operating. I am glad to see that recent examples of such action on Merseyside ended this past weekend.
As I said, I appreciate the fact that the future prosperity of Merseyside lies largely within our own hands. Nobody owes us a living. It must, however, be recognised that, if we play our part, the Government must play their part, too. A change in the overall climate must help, but the change and its effects will not occur overnight.
In the short term, therefore, I hope that the Government will recognise the need for selective regional aid—not to prop up "lame ducks" but rather to help firms with a viable future which are going through a temporary difficulty. Additionally, I hope that the Government will ensure that such grants as are needed to allow firms either to establish or reestablish themselves will be forthcoming, I have in mind particularly an approach that will be made this week on behalf of a major company with factories in my division for a commitment by the Government—a commitment for the future that will be matched by both management and by the work force. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry will agree with me that this sort of joint approach can play a big part in the industrial and economic regeneration of areas such as Merseyside.
I hope, too, that in their industrial strategy the Government will try to ensure that companies and business men in 733 this country are not being made to face unfair competition from abroad.
May I illustrate the point? At a recent promotion by the port of Rotterdam, mounted in Manchester, to extol its own virtues and to endeavour to woo trade away from ports such as Liverpool, the following questions were asked by the chairman of the Liverpool Port Users' Association. "Who pays for dredging?" Answer: "The Government." "Who pays for the cost of the dykes?" Answer: "The Government." "Who provides lights, buoys, radar facilities, and so on?" Answer: "The Government." The final question was "And you say you are not subsidised?" Answer: "I prefer not to answer that question".
In Liverpool, costs of conservancy, and so on, are high, are borne by the harbour authority and are thus reflected in the port's costs. At a meeting of Liverpool business men which I attended on Friday, the point was very forcefully made that, where costs are involved, like must be compared with like. I hope that my right hon. Friends will take due note when discussing such matters with our EEC partners.
Two success stories are worthy of mention—at Garston docks and Liverpool airport, both within my division. First, the docks, fortunately not having the major problems of conservancy costs which I have mentioned, are enjoying steady success. Freedom from disputes and an improvement in container-handling facilities have contributed to a steady trading profit in the past few years.
Secondly, since the taking over of the services by British Midland, a new vitality has come to Speke airport. Plans for more services and the establishment of a major engineering works offer even more opportunities for the future. When one considers, too, that we have runway facilities capable of handling jumbo jets with full payloads, expansion is clearly possible. An upgrading of the airport's category will be one of my earliest priorities.
I conclude on a note of optimism. I believe that Merseyside has learnt much from mistakes of the past and that we have not only the skills but the commitment in abundance to take advantage of the change of climate promised by the 734 Government and to move forward into a new era of prosperity and hope.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ Mr. William McKelvey (Kilmarnock)
I wish to thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker for calling me to make my maiden speech in this debate. It is something of an ordeal to follow the hon. Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Thornton), who made such an eloquent maiden speech. The hon. Gentleman is, in common with me, a young man, with considerable experience in local government. Indeed, we have many things in common. One matter we certainly have in common is a concern about unemployment. However, although we share that concern, we may not necessarily share the same view as to how to deal with it.
I wish to pay tribute to my famous predecessor, the formidable Willie Ross, who retired undefeated, having held Kilmarnock for Labour for 33 years. As a forceful and determined character, he was destined to make history, and when chosen to be Secretary of State for Scotland in 1964 he went on to complete the longest, and perhaps the toughest ever, term of office in the highest of Scotland's ministerial offices. It was a truly remarkable record, and I am sure the House agrees that Willie is a truly remarkable man, whose absence from the House will be felt by us all.
My constituency has close connections with Scotland's international poet, Robert Burns, and Willie Ross was an accomplished speaker at Burns suppers and was much sought after, both at home and abroad, for his classical renderings. I had considered that I should quote Burns in my maiden speech, but having considered the matter further and after practising diligently at home for some time, I decided, out of respect for Robert Burns and, indeed, for Willie Ross, that I would decline the opportunity until I have had more practice. I can see some relieved faces as a result of that decision.
I heard a story that typifies Willie Ross's character. He was asked by a pollster if he would give his opinion on a certain matter and he declined to do so. The pollster said "In that case, Mr. Ross, I shall put you down as a 'Don't know'." Willie grabbed his arm and said "Laddie, you'll put me down as a Winna tell'." That typifies the difference between being stubborn and thrawn.
735 I should like briefly to describe the constituency that I am proud to represent. The town of Kilmarnock contains three-quarters of the total electorate. Although predominantly industrial in character, with the emphasis on heavy and light engineering, it has other industries including weaving, knitwear and whisky distilling. Although not all hon. Members may be familiar with the contents of a Johnnie Walker bottle, they will certainly know the name because it has been carried to all corners of the world. It started as a small family industry and is one of the few success stories among firms that have been taken over by multinational companies.
I spent some years as a convener of shop stewards in an engineering factory and I am sponsored by the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers. I am sure that my experiences in industry will stand me in good stead when we discuss industrial problems.
I know that maiden speeches are, by tradition, non-controversial and I shall therefore attempt to be brief and to the point, though some of the speeches that I have heard today almost had me on my feet, with the hair rising on the back of my neck.
Kilmarnock is also a market town and a market for the surrounding rural farming areas and the numerous outlying villages, from Stewarton in the north of the landward area stretching westwards along the extent of the Irvine Valley. If I may have your indulgence, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should like quickly to reel off the names of those villages because I have mentioned Stewarton and I realise that if I do not mention the rest there could be severe trouble for me because each village is proud of itself. Let me rattle them off. They are Kilmaurs, Dunlop, Stewarton, Fenwick, Kilwinning, Waterside, Moscow—the pronunciation is different in Scotland, presumably to protect the innocent—Galston, Newhouse, Hurlford, Newmilns, Darvel, Crookedholm, Gatehead, and Knockentiber. God help me if I have missed out any village. I mention them all because there is tremendous rivalry between them and it would be suicidal to miss one out.
I am sure that the farming areas in my constituency will continue to prosper 736 because farmers work hard, and, as they are more than adequately represented at Government level, I am sure that when the farming community lobbies the Government on any problems that may arise, it will do so successfully.
The industrial district in the constituency has undergone vast changes over the past two decades and we have seen the exclusion and disappearance of a wide variety of family concerns which have been replaced by the all-powerful multinationals. This is a trend which presents Kilmarnock with its biggest and saddest worry.
Because of the economic recession throughout the Western world, we have experienced recent cutbacks in production and a subsequent loss of jobs. One in 10 men in Kilmarnock is without work and that is a catastrophe. The Ayrshire jobless total is nearer the intolerable level of 14 per cent.
Some years ago, a local company, Glenfield Kennedy, which had been in business for 120 years, was taken over by the Americans. Last year it went bankrupt and we lost 1,000 jobs. Thanks to the help of the Scottish Office, we saved about 400 jobs when yet another American firm. Neptune, took over. It is doing well and building up slowly. At least through the efforts of the Scottish Office we had a partial success in alleviating that large-scale programme of redundancies. We saved those 400 jobs.
Only months ago, we lost 600 jobs in Irvine when Skefco folded. Many Kilmarnock men worked there and are now without a job. Last week I attended a meeting with other Ayrshire Members to attempt to avert the announced closure of Monsanto, another American multinational company, which will involve the loss of 900 jobs, plus all the ancillary service jobs which are lost when such a firm goes under.
The latest blow to Kilmarnock is that Massey-Ferguson is apparently determined to transfer the only combine harvester production unit in Britain to France. The whole case was lucidly spelt out by Willie Ross in the House on 12 December and the report in Hansard in col. 960 is well worth reading. I advise all hon. Members who are interested in industry to read that speech by Willie Ross. I have studied the Massey-Ferguson case and I am bound to agree 737 with the findings of the STUC research team which concluded that there was no logical, social or economic reason why the production of combine harvesters should be removed from Kilmarnock to Marquette in France. That action would entail the ending of all combine harvester production in the United Kingdom and would wreak havoc and bring distress to the local community.
About 40 per cent. of the production at Kilmarnock has been destined for the home market and about 60 per cent. for export. If the move takes place, it will mean that the United Kingdom will have to import from France combine harvesters which we could be building in Kilmarnock. That course, added to the loss in exports, will cost this country about £30 million a year.
The work force in Massey-Ferguson initiated a series of responsible and imaginative moves, which culminated some months ago in about 300 people from the town—from all walks of life and all political parties—hiring a train to come to London to lobby hon. Members and to tell the story and show the effects that this movement of jobs would have on the economy of an area that has already suffered disasters.
I hope that the Government will not stand idly by. We await the unveiling of some of their industrial policies, but we hope that they will not allow an already depressed area to be robbed of 1200 desperately needed jobs.
The shop stewards of the factory wrote to the European Commission, but the answer that they received was extremely disappointing. Although it appears that the complicated and elaborate rules of the EEC permit such blatant robbery, I urge the Government to enter into immediate negotiations with a view to resisting such a move from an already depressed area to an area in France which does not need the jobs as badly as we do.
The Massey-Ferguson case is unique. The trade union force is not Luddite in its views. The Massey-Ferguson complex in Kilmarnock has shown itself to be a profitable enterprise. The workers there make a better combine harvester than do the French. Why, then, should we allow the transfer of this commodity to France at a time when we desperately need jobs?
738 The shop stewards' movement has joined forces with the political movement in Kilmarnock—with all the political parties. The local district council, which is controlled by Tories, has joined them in their fight to bring their plight to the attention of the Government.
There has been plenty of talk in the House today about investment, but it is strange that no one mentions the investment of the human resource. There are men in Kilmarnock who have invested their lives in Massey-Ferguson. They have given their prime years to the firm and have worked there for 30 years or more. Because some faceless bureaucrat in North America decides that there should be a company policy of rationalisation so that the combine harvesters are lifted out of Kilmarnock and put down in France, those men who have given so much to Massey-Ferguson are to be cast on the industrial scrapheap.
Can any hon. Member tell me where in Kilmarnock, or, for that matter, in the whole industrial belt of Scotland, a man who has given 30 years' service to a firm and who may be aged between 45 and 50 is to get another job? It does not matter how many entrepreneurs we recruit in Kilmarnock. Who will want a 50-year-old man who has given service in another area and who would have to be retrained?
These people are destined to be stuck on the industrial scrap heap, not by any militant action on their part and not by any restrictions concerning their production, but simply because with market forces and free enterprise we allow a situation in the Common Market in which we can deprive an already deprived area of 1,200 jobs. It is an absolute scandal.
I earnestly hope that my brief mention of the subject will sufficiently interest the Government. I know that the Secretary of State for Scotland is currently having discussions, possibly today, about this very severe and difficult question concerning Kilmarnock. But at the end of the day, if Massey-Ferguson decides to take its combine harvesters out of a factory that we gave the firm, a factory that belongs to the people of Kilmarnock and the people of Britain because it was built for Massey-Ferguson by the Scottish Development Agency, who could blame the workers then for having responsibly taken all of this type of action? If at the 739 end of the day common sense does not prevail, I would expect Massey-Ferguson workers throughout the whole of Great Britain to unite and to tell Massey-Ferguson that not one lick of machinery will be moved from Kilmarnock and not one lick of Massey-Ferguson machinery will be built in this country until this problem is solved to the satisfaction of all concerned.
I earnestly hope that the Government will support me in these demands.
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ Mr. D. A. Trippier (Rossendale)
My first task is the very pleasant one of congratulating the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. McKelvey) on a speech which was both fluent and articulate—indeed, amusing—and I thought that it was quite profound. I have with him, on this occasion, a fellow feeling, as this is the first occasion on which we have both spoken in this House, and I think that it may well be the last occasion on which we shall have this in common. None the less, I congratulate him on a very successful speech.
As many hon. Members are aware, my constituency of Rossendale has for some time been regarded as a barometer of political opinion, as it has been represented by no fewer than four different Members of Parliament over the last nine years. That is not only an indication of the importance of the seat to the two major political parties, but it is also an indication that my constituents are well aware of the importance which is attached to their opinions. In short, the seat is not only marginal or critical, but "intensive care".
The Rossendale valley is important for two other reasons. First, it is an attractive valley, and, although the area would be classed as primarily industrial, its industry does not detract from many of its aesthetic features, most notable of which are the hills and moorlands common to north-east Lancashire.
Secondly, the industrial welfare of my constituents depends to a large extent on the success of two major industries—textiles and footwear. In the past, these industries have been responsible for the employment of a significant majority. Even today, they are responsible for the 740 employment of 45 per cent. of the work force.
All the Members of Parliament for Rossendale have represented the interests and concern of those industries in this House to the best of their ability. But I wish to pay a warm tribute to my immediate predecessor, Mr. Mike Noble, who made a significant contribution in this respect. His concern for the welfare of those industries could not have been more clearly demonstrated. I should like to assure the House that I intend to carry on the campaign which he and his predecessors so ably fought.
Whereas these two industries experience quite different problems in certain areas, they have common difficulties in others. Both are subjected to unfair import competition and both are recipients of Government largesse through the medium of subsidies. 1 April this year was the final date for applications for temporary employment subsidy. That was replaced by the compensation for short-time working. This latter subsidy is by no means as effective as TES and has been claimed by comparatively few firms because it is so inappropriate to the present needs of industry in the valley. Only 16 per cent. of those who benefited from TES are in receipt of the compensation for short-time working.
I am convinced, however, especially after my experiences over the last few weeks, and particularly during the election campaign, that until the economic climate improves and until these industries can enjoy stricter control of unfair import competition, existing or alternative subsidies must be maintained to preserve these essential British industries.
I compliment the trade unions which represent the workers in these industries, which have acted in a very responsible way during a period of great transition for these industries since the last war.
Whilst emphasising the need for employment subsidies, it is equally important for me to draw the attention of the House to the system of Government grants which have been made available to industry to encourage expansion. The vast majority of the money made available for this purpose is offered to those companies which wish to expand their existing premises, whereas little or no money is available for new plant and equipment.
741 Although the idea is sound in principle, it rarely works in practice. In order to increase efficiency and thereby increase production in a very competitive world, it is vital that modern methods and modern machinery are used if we are not to fall further behind in the industrial league.
To replace old and outdated machinery does not necessarily require more space, just as extensions to existing premises do not guarantee increased productivity. That is why I believe that in this complex chicken-and-egg situation it is much more important to ensure that what Government moneys are available for grants are used in the replacement of plant and machinery rather than in the expansion of premises. Nowhere is this so true as in Rossendale, where one frequently finds comparatively small textile and footwear firms operating in very large Victorian mills whose size was more appropriate to the labour-intensive firms of that era than to the more modern firms of today.
On the other hand, modern machinery and methods improve output and productivity, and increased productivity means an increase in jobs. Only with a higher demand for a company's products and a resultant increase in jobs does the company begin to think of extending existing premises.
I spoke earlier of the unfair import competition which faces the textile and footwear industries. To a certain extent, the multi-fibre arrangement protects the textile industry, but, even so, I believe that the current restrictions imposed should be tightened when the MFA is renegotiated in 1981 and the bilaterals are renegotiated the following year.
Already we have seen that certain countries have broken their quota levels, and I ask that the present Government give a firm undertaking that quota levels will not be exceeded in the future. At the same time, the present anti-dumping procedures are cumbersome and time-consuming, and they should be made much more effective.
In the footwear industry, there is no binding international agreement to protect the industry. As a consequence, footwear manufacturers have to face increasing competition from South Korea, the Philippines, Brazil, India and the COMECON countries. I believe that 742 it is essential that a new form of international agreement is introduced for the footwear industry—a multi-footwear arrangement, very much on the same lines as the MFA. It is essential to establish this agreement through the European Parliament as soon as possible, and certainly before Greece, Portugal and Spain are eventually admitted to the Community.
I refer, finally, to a major problem which came to a head in my constituency during the recent election campaign. This concerns the sad plight of the working widows who are employed mainly in textiles and footwear in Rossendale but also in other industries. My right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Industry and for Employment are aware that the widow's pension is grossly inadequate, and that many widows find it essential to supplement their pensions by going out to work. Their contribution to productivity is greatly appreciated by the industries which employ them, but the State chooses to penalise them by taxing them on every penny they earn. As the widow's pension is £974 a year and is classed as earned income and as they are entitled to only a single person's tax allowance of £985 a year, it naturally follows that all money earned by the widow in employment is subject to tax, which I think is unfair.
I therefore appeal to my right hon. Friends seriously to consider the introduction of a widow's tax allowance set at a higher level than the single person's allowance although lower than the married man's. The introduction of such an allowance would take account of the fact that a working widow has practically the same overheads as a married man, especially if she has a family at home, but is without the benefit of two incomes coming into that home. It would also be a clear indication on the part of this Government that our objective of restoring the incentive to work applies to widows as it does to everyone else in the land.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Ernie Ross (Dundee, West)
I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to catch your eye so early in my career in this House.
I begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Trippier) 743 on his excellent maiden speech. It was obviously far more effective than the speeches of the hon. Member when he contested the Rochdale by-election in 1972. I congratulate him.
My predecessor, Mr. Peter Doig, represented the constituency of Dundee, West for more than 15 years and earned a much-deserved reputation as a hard-working constituency Member of Parliament. My majority in the general election was due in no small part to the hard work which people attributed to Peter Doig in the constituency. I hope that I can serve the constituency as well as Peter Doig did in his 15 years here. Hon. Members will know that Peter added to the social life of the House with his expertise in the Chess Room. He also had the distinction of being one of the few hon. Members who were able successfully to steer a Private Member's Bill through to the statute book.
Dundee is a famous stronghold of radical politics. It was the first place in Scotland to elect a Labour Member of Parliament. That was in the 1906 general election. Since 1832, a period of almost 150 years, it has had only one Tory Member of Parliament. That is an enviable record which I recommend to other parts of Britain.
The people of Dundee are amongst the finest in the country. They have a strong sense of social justice. They will judge this Government on their policies towards improving the quality of life in Britain.
Dealing with unemployment and the fear of unemployment should be the number one priority of any Government. Unemployment is a scar upon the personality of each unemployed man and woman. It leads to a drastic change in life style. Ambitions are scaled down dramatically. Expectations for themselves and their families are scrapped. A re-evaluation of the worth and esteem of the unemployed person takes place, usually for the worse. We hear too often from Government supporters about social security scroungers when in fact they are referring to men, women and young people who are denied work because of the decisions taken by private industry.
Quite often, working people transfer the aspirations which they once had for 744 themselves to their children. Many fiveyear-old children in my constituency will begin their primary schooling in August I ask Government supporters to imagine what must be the thoughts of an unemployed man as he takes his child to school for its first day's education knowing that, as a so-called social security scrounger, neither he nor his child will benefit from proposals contained in the Gracious Speech. Until we assert our belief in the potential that each person possesses and that it will be developed most fully in an atmosphere of equality of opportunity, such personal tragedies will continue every day for years.
Poverty and unemployment are great forces of demoralisation. I remember most vividly some of the results of a survey of one-parent families in Dundee which was published by the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys in 1973. It found examples of children who had never had new coats, who had never had new shoes and who had to sleep in the same beds as adults. Such deprivation is contrary to most people's views on social justice in my constituency, especially when, according to the Royal Commission on the distribution of wealth and income, the top 1 per cent. of people in Britain own 25 per cent. of the personal wealth of Britain. We looked to the Gracious Speech for assistance in the transfer of that wealth. Unfortunately, we found none.
I had hoped to see some reference in the Gracious Speech to changes that are required in the structure of local government in Scotland. For Dundee, a community with a strong local identity, the creation of a two-tier system of local government has been a disaster. It has frustrated the political wishes of the people of Dundee. In what the people of Dundee regard as Dundee—namely, the city of Dundee—consistently they have elected Labour to be the party with the biggest number of district councillors.
However, because of the rural and suburban communities that were formerly in Angus and Perthshire being pitchforked into the area of Dundee district council on its creation, at the moment Labour is deprived of the control of Dundee district council. Similarly, the majority of councillors from the city of Dundee elected 745 to the Tayside region are Labour, but they are swamped by a permanent inbuilt Tory majority from the rural backwoods of Tayside. In other words, the agricultural tail of Tayside wags the industrial dog of Dundee.
The people of Dundee have never been happy with the creation of this dinosaur region. On their behalf, I hope to have the opportunity to bring forward proposals whereby the powers that Tayside region has over transport, education and social work provision in Dundee are transferred to Dundee district council.
One of the most unfortunate aspects of Dundee being submerged in Tayside region is that the distinctive voice of Dundee has been suppressed. The results of the referendum on the Scottish Assembly showed a very slim majority for the "No" campaign in Tayside region. The myth has grown up that Dundee, the second industrial city in Scotland, voted against a Scottish Assembly. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
From all the available evidence from representatives of all political parties present at the counting of the votes in Tayside region, it is clear that Dundee recorded a solid majority in favour of a Scottish Assembly. This is a further example of how the creation of a large artificial unit of local government can distort the express wishes of local communities. The Government seem intent on repealing the Scotland Act. That will not go down well in Dundee. We believe that an extension of democracy in the government of Scotland is long overdue.
Although the policies of the Conservative Party were rejected by the people of Dundee on a massive scale in the general election, that does not mean that the Government should allow the needs of the city to go unheeded. As the Member of Parliament for Dundee, West, I shall campaign for the industrial regeneration of Dundee. The economic security and social well-being of its people must be regarded as a right and not a privilege.
Dundee has one of the most successful and competitive direct-labour work forces, and there is evidence throughout the country to support the argument that nationally direct-labour organisations produce work cheaper, faster and to higher standards than private practice. They have also had a beneficial effect on keeping 746 down costs. What is more, they have a record second to none in the industry for providing decent employment conditions such as holiday pay, sick pay, superannuation, long-service payments, welfare facilities and continuity of employment.
I can understand the attitude of Government supporters, shaped as it is by the desire to protect the substantial profits of the larger companies in the industry. However, it is an attitude with which I have no sympathy. The full employment of all building trade workers, the provision of safe working conditions and decent terms of employment, the fulfilment of our social ambitions in health, education and housing and the control and ownership of unaccountable, highly profitable conglomerates are goals too precious to be sacrificed on the altar of the god of capitalism. We in Dundee will oppose any attempts to run down or restrict our direct-labour organisation.
In January 1966, the National Plan for Scotland was published. It outlined how the economy and social infrastructure of Scotland would grow over the next four years. The prospects for Dundee's future were optimistic. The plan said:Dundee itself has an impressive record of post-war successes in modern fast-growing industries and now has a substantial labour force skilled in the requirements of precision engineering.Dundee was regarded as a focal point of growth. The plan noted thatthe general condition and prospects of the Dundee Area, and particularly of the City itself, offer the most promising feature of the whole North-East.However, that is not the Dundee of 1979. The success of economic planning depends very much upon the degree of control which the Government exercise upon the forces operating within the economy, and the future prosperity of Dundee will depend upon the role that the Government choose in economic management.
On behalf of the people of Dundee, I ask the Government to create a general expansion in the economy and to regard public expenditure as a vital part of creating that expansion. I also ask for more money and power for the Scottish Development Agency in its role of dynamic intervention and initiation, particularly relating to multinational companies.
747 I would not like this House to feel that we in Dundee are solely concerned with ourselves. Through our trade unions and our educational establishments we have forged links with many countries, not least countries in Africa.
Our credibility as a nation is on the line with the whole of Africa and the Third world, which are waiting to see how we respond to the elections in Zimbabwe. It would be a grave error to recognise those elections or to consider lifting economic sanctions because of them. We cannot have it both ways. We cannot pay lip service to the movements of liberation while continuing to prop up Fascism in Southern Africa. The good name of Britain as a country depends on how we handle the matter. I hope that the Government will not act precipitately for slight economic advantage.
§ 5.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Shaw (Scarborough)
In the past it has been my privilege to be called immediately after maiden speeches in the House. Never before have I been called after four maiden speeches. We can all agree that the quality and thoroughness of the debate to which we can look forward in the future has been much enhanced by those four speeches. The hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross), like his colleague the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. McKelvey), rightly referred to their predecessors. We knew them well. They were friends of all in the House. The conjecture of the hon. Member for Dundee, West is right. The work of the Chess Room will be the poorer for the absence of his predecessor, whom we all liked greatly.
I would say one word to the hon. Member for Kilmarnock. I have an indelible memory of his predecessor, at the time when I first became a Member of this House many years ago, when we were in power, keeping us up night after night on the affairs of Scotland. While there are many traits in Willie Ross's character that I hope will be emulated and followed by the hon. Gentleman, I hope that this will not be one of them.
Coming from across the Pennines to those hon. Friends who have spoken, I welcome their addition to this House. I well know the problems that they have set out in their maiden speeches. There 748 are the problems of unemployment. Having practised in the West Riding as an accountant, with many textile firms among my clients, I also know the problems in that industry. They are real problems. Industries are suffering great change and, at the same time, contending with the problems of imports. I welcome my hon. Friends to our deliberations. Let me assure them that however non controversial they may consider their speeches, they will find that others will regard them as controversial in some measure in the future.
I would like to refer to that part of the Gracious Speech promising an opportunity to discuss and amend our procedures, particularly as they relate to our scrutiny of the work of Government. Having been sent by this House to the European Parliament nearly five years ago, I have been fortunate to see some of the problems that faced that new institution in creating a form of satisfactory control over the Executive.
Already, in Europe, there exists a system for the examination of legislation at a far earlier stage than is the case here. We might well examine that system to our advantage. Largely due to the pressure of my own group, the European Conservative Group, there is now a rudimentary form of public accounts committee. This, however, is still in its infancy and cannot hope to begin to find its proper role until the Court of Auditors has established its own pattern of control. Afterwards, the necessary complementary link between them can be built up. For ourselves and our own procedures, we should be in no doubt that changes are urgently needed in the way that we scrutinise the work of Government.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)
Order. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we are today debating an Opposition amendment. We are not engaged in general debate. Passing references only to these matters are in order.
§ Mr. Shaw
I am obliged, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I had intended to make a passing reference, but I fear that it became extended.
The right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) mentioned the question of fishing. I accept the need for changes, but I also accept the need, finally, for agreement. I believe that such 749 agreement is urgently needed by all fishing interests at the present time.
I would like to turn to two aspects of the Gracious Speech directly covered by the topics chosen today. The first is industrial relations and the Government's intention to achieve a fair balance between the rights and duties of the trade union movement. There are three big centres of interest and power. I have held this view for a long time. It is as relevant today as ever.
The centres of interest and power are the unions, representing the organised work force; the employers, representing firms and shareholders, among others; and the Government, who should represent the interests of the country as a whole, particularly the interests of consumers and taxpayers. Economic stability and progress in this country must depend on these three centres of power not pursuing their own interests to the extreme. They must seek to establish, by one means or another, the economic and social boundaries within which they must restrict their demands. Pressed to the extreme, the demands of any one of them could seriously harm the interests of the nation as a whole.
We have to build up the concept of agreement between these great forces so that they can agree among themselves our economic climate and our economic prospects. They can then undertake voluntarily and freely, but also responsibly, the task of tailoring their demands in accordance with the situation agreed between themselves.
If our democratic system is to continue to develop in the way that we would wish, we must recognise that freedom to negotiate carries with it the responsibility to achieve fair and reasonable agreements. That is why I welcome the appointment of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment. He is fair: he is firm: he has a deep understanding of the problem and he is trusted. He has a difficult task. We should make clear—that is why I am saying it here and now—that he has our wholehearted support.
Whatever happens, the Government must have the major role in this matter, since they represent the interests of the nation as a whole. None the less, the power of the unions cannot be overstated. 750 We were so often told during the election that a Conservative Government would be out to "bash the unions" Nothing could be further from the truth. The trade union movement is a vital part of our democratic system but, like any other part, it must be subject to change to meet the evolving conditions of our society and the evolving rights and duties of its members.
It is the essential basis of our democratic system that no part of our society shall be above the law. Thus, if we seek to change in certain respects the law and practice of unions, that does not mean that we are against them. Rather, it means that we recognise their importance and the need to bring their law and practice into line with current needs.
For the same reasons, the Gracious Speech recognises the need to amend company law and other aspects of our life. It is right to keep all those matters, not just some of them, under review. Of course, such changes should be brought about only gradually and after full consultations. That is why, again, I fully support my right hon. Friend's approach.
The area of the law relating to industrial relations which seems to have received the least discussion—perhaps because it is the most difficult—relates to the responsibility of unions and their members to carry out obligations fully and fairly entered into, just as a similar responsibility must rest on employers. It is in everyone's interests, for example, that new investment is committed in industry, yet such investment is inevitably deterred through lack of assurances about future manning and production levels. Sooner or later, ways must be found for each party to an industrial agreement to be assured that its terms will be honoured.
I end with a general comment on Government help to industries, through the National Enterprise Board or in some other way. Occasional help of this sort is needed, either to preserve a national interest or to overcome difficulties which have arisen in what should be profitable and valuable enterprises. However, the need for change has to be accepted. Indeed, our policies with regard to unemployment and redundancy benefits and to retraining schemes generally all recognise the need for change and for alleviating the consequences of change.
751 Any policy of propping up firms which have no prospects by more and more injections of taxpayers' money is unacceptable. The efforts and the resources should rather be deployed in encouraging, the creation of jobs with a future. That means that from time to time decisions will have to be taken which in the short term can appear harsh and even heartless.
That some decisions of that sort will have to be made is beyond doubt. What I want to stress as strongly as I can is that such decisions must be spelt out in human terms which justify them to the ordinary man in the street. That does not mean that no such decisions can ever be taken; sometimes they must be taken. It means that care must also be taken to show that such a decision is necessary and why it is necessary—to show, for example, that further money spent on a project would only delay that decision rather than remove the future need for it.
Furthermore, whenever such a decision has to be taken which may bring difficulty and hardship to an area, not only must the necessity for it be spelt out: wherever possible, the actions to be taken for that future should be spelt out—for example, with regard to new jobs and enterprises in the area. In other words, we must present our actions and their implications as fully and sympathetically as possible to the man in the street.
The more difficult a decision, the more essential is is to spell out the reasons for it. Only then can we expect or deserve continued public support. I ask the Ministers responsible to bear always in mind the need to examine their actions so that the general public understand why matters are being dealt with as they are and the long-term interest that is involved for those concerned.
§ 6.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)
The announcements that have emanated from the Tory Government so far are suitably depressing to most ordinary workers and their families. The decision to sell off council houses irrespective of need will come as a great encouragement to families living in multi-storey blocks of flats who are seeking a transfer to houses.
§ Mr. Cryer
They did not vote for it in the North of England. As one moved north, the result of the elections became better and better for Labour, because that is where housing problems are important and people recognise that the doctrinaire policies of selling off all council houses irrespective of need would be most harmful.
Of course, Conservatives are only too eager to start nibbling away at the comprehensive education system that has been built up with so much care and patience by successive Labour Governments, and to replace it with an elitist system which the Tory Cabinet so well represents and from which so many comfortable looking gents on the Government Benches stem.
It is a matter of some concern that the only decisions that have been taken so far by the incoming Government have concerned more money for the police and the Army—
§ Mr. Cryer
They may have been promised, but it is interesting that the first promises carried out are to strengthen the hand of the State and the apparatus of potential repression. Coupled with the imposition and development of an elitist education system, these policies mark a poor day for democracy.
It was no surprise that the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph), who is now the Secretary of State for Industry, should today have gone back on virtually everything said during the election and over the past five years. Over those years, as he stood at the Opposition Dispatch Box with his veins bristling in mock anger and concern about what was going on, one would have thought that plans were being prepared in the Conservative Party.
A think tank was set up separately from the Conservative Party, financed by big business, to develop plans and ideas. But at the Dispatch Box there is a vacuum. The Secretary of State says that he is reviewing the situation and that a decision will be made at some stage. For the past five years and throughout the election campaign the Conservatives 753 mounted a false prospectus. That is not unfamiliar to them. After the Keyser Ullmann report, some Conservatives are familiar with false prospectuses. I could refer also to the Lonrho report and similar ones.
§ Mr. Cryer
I have said it all outside.
The Government have come to office on the basis of freeing entrepreneurs. We have seen it all before. The same view was held in 1970–1974. The idea then was to reduce taxation and release these magical people to burgeon forth with new jobs. However, the hon. Member for Scarborough (Mr. Shaw) stressed that we should be careful to create new jobs before destroying existing jobs. That is not the Government Front Bench view. Their view is that entrepreneurs will, somehow, pull jobs out of thin air.
During the Heath Government a reduction in taxation did not produce more money for manufacturing industry. It produced more money for the property boom. The entrepreneurs talked about standing on their own sturdy feet, but when the bubble burst they did not say "We have made a number of wrong decisions and we shall stand on our own feet and take the rap." They ran to the Bank of England and asked for the lifeboat to bail them out. They wanted support for themselves.
To embark upon those policies again will create severe industrial damage. They did not produce jobs. Fewer people were employed in private manufacturing industry in 1974 than in 1970. Funds were diverted to property and there was a reduction in jobs in manufacturing. The friends of the Conservative Front Bench are out to make a fast buck wherever they can, whether by shovelling funds abroad or into property. Their last priority is to invest money in manufacturing industry.
The Conservatives are talking about reducing the minimal protection introduced by the last Government for ordinary workers. There is to be one standard for people with money in property and another for the ordinary worker. William Stern, with a record bankruptcy of £100 million, has negotiated a £22,000 per annum income with the receiver, but ordinary workers will 754 find that their protection is reduced, because the Government intend to modify the Employment Protection Act.
There are to be two classes of workers—those who work for the smaller firms and those who work for the larger ones. It is extraordinary that the Conservative Government should keep referring to France and West Germany. Let us adopt the standards of protection that apply in France, where the Minister has to approve dismissals made for economic reasons. That system applies to both small and large firms.
If the Conservatives are so keen on the French experience, why do they not introduce similar legislation? Instead, they take the opposite view. They are to introduce legislation that will reflect unfairly on small firms. Most small firms are capable of coping with the employment protection legislation. It would be wrong to say that they adopt unfair standards of employment. There will be a backlash on small firms. There will be less protection for those employed by small firms than for those employed by large ones.
I am always baffled by those who claim that humans should accept a lower standard of care and maintenance than is given to machinery. Employers go to enormous lengths to check the quality of their machinery in order to ensure that it is suitable. They are not prepared to do the same for the mainspring of their enterprise and attend to the ability and co-operation of their employees. Our amendment demonstrates that we shall not stand idly by and watch some of the Labour Government's best legislation destroyed.
The Conservatives are also talking about attacking the trade union movement. Their experience has given them neither sense nor sensibility. In 1970–74, when they followed the same policies and produced a network of legislation, we experienced a record number of days lost because of strike action. Over 50 million days were lost through strikes when the Conservatives were last in power. By comparison, during the first four years of the Labour Administration 29 million days were lost. Of course, that is too many. We should like to see fewer days lost through strikes. But I know which figure most people prefer.
755 The realities of the trade union movement bear no relation to the major clashes which make the headlines. People often become members of a trade union in spite of the difficulties of joining.
I shall give two examples from my constituency. There has been a dispute about a productivity bonus. About 50 women employed by a firm employing fewer than 200 people wanted to join a trade union. They invited the trade union organiser to the works but the manager would not allow the organiser into the canteen. The union concerned is quiescent and co-operative but the manager would not allow the organiser even to shelter under the canopy of the loading bay. He was required to stand outside the curtilage of the factory when presenting the case to the workers during their lunch hour. That was hardly fair and democratic behaviour.
Another small firm in my constituency, part of a huge conglomerate about which the Conservatives intend to do nothing, recently announced 80 redundancies. The management was told that the Labour Government had introduced a short-time working scheme, but it insisted that it did not apply. The management insisted that the source of that information—myself—could not enter the premises to discuss the scheme as an alternative to the redundancies. Those redundancies were announced without consultation.
Finally, the work force walked out and held a meeting outside the premises. They were driven to that. The trade union representatives are now pressing the management to consider the short-time working scheme. That is the reality for most trade union members.
To suppose, as the Conservatives do, that the trade unions are burgeoning forth with power is to defy reality. The only way that labour can equal the power of capital, even today, is by organising in a trade union. We have given trade unions some protection, but that is to be eroded by the new Government. The only strength that a trade union has is the withdrawal of labour. The record under the Labour Government was better because there was no intervention by the courts.
The only people who gain as a result of court action are banisters and solicitors. We should have learnt that. 756 The Government have not learnt it. They are talking about attacking strikers' families. The Tories made an extra-ordinary gaffe during the election campaign. The then Shadow Employment Secretary made a statement. It was reported in the Yorkshire Post, which is not a hotbed of Marxism; it is a sycophantic supporter of the Conservative Party. On 18 April it said:The Shadow Employment Secretary, Mr. Jim Prior, stepped into some very deep waters last week with his outlined comments on the thinking behind his party's manifesto proposals to 'ensure that unions bear their fair share of the cost of supporting those of their members who are on strike'.It went on to say how it was explained that in Europe trade unionists were not featherbedded like those in this country when on strike. The Yorkshire Post said:Now, however, evidence has come from a European survey that makes two points.
- 1. Contrary to popular belief, British strikers are no more feather-bedded by the State than workers in most other Western European countries.
- 2. One of the consequences of forcing unions to pay their own strikers has been a rash of short, but highly disruptive one-hour or one-day strikes, where maximum damage can be inflicted to management at a minimum cost to the trade unions.The survey conducted by the magazine European Industrial Relations Review, covers 10 countries—eight of the Common Market countries … plus Spain and Sweden.The general conclusion of the review was:However in some instances strikers themselves can claim assistance from central government or local authority funds which are set up to give general support to the needy.This is the position in most countries apart from the UK and Ireland.The message it spelt out was this:The message for Mr. Prior is clear—unless he is very careful in the timing of his new scheme (should his party be elected) and the unions carefully handled, his changes could turn out to be a recipe for even more industrial trouble.That is a Conservative newspaper, avidly and uncritically supporting the Conservative Party. It is telling the future Conservative Government that what they said was not true and that any attempt to introduce legislation of the kind they proposed was fraught with industrial relations difficulties.
The other Conservative Party proposal is for secret ballots. It does not propose 757 secret ballots because it is interested in democracy. Some trade unions use secret ballots if they so choose. It should be a matter of choice for the trade unions. Why do the Government want secret ballots? They have been hoist with their own petard of producing an instant solution for every cause of concern, whether it be hanging for violence or secret ballots for industrial unrest. On industrial unrest they have forgotten the experience of a previous Conservative Government. When the Secretary of State and Cabinet were in conflict with the railwaymen, out came the legislation, the apparatus and the imposition of a secret ballot.
What happened? Those involved could have got round a table. However, the then Secretary of State chose to insist on a ballot, when 87 per cent. of the railway-men turned out. That was a high percentage—which was not quite what the Tory Government had in mind. But 81 per cent. voted for strike action. Recently several unions used the ballot and voted against the pay settlement proposals. There is no instant solution in a secret ballot—a solution which the Government envisage, aided by their allies in the press, who use it as though they were the English version of Pravda. I refer to the Daily Mail, the Daily Express and The Sun, with virtually direct connection with the Conservative Central Office. Indeed, in the election campaign the Daily Mail in a disgusting and deplorable front-page article, reproduced, virtually verbatim, a Conservative Central Office handout as though it was a scoop. Those are the depths to which our press has sunk.
The Government hope that the secret ballot will be used by the press to vilify and condemn the people they do not like—generally those people who have fought hardest and longest for workers' rights. Those will be shown up in a ballot as though they are the most evil men it is possible to find. The people they support will be depicted as saints. That is what they want to do by means of the secret ballot.
If the Government are serious about this matter, they should produce proposals for control of the press in an election in just the same way as the BBC and the ITV are controlled. An election in a trade union is just as important a piece of democratic apparatus in the union as the general election is for the country.
Mr. David Made (Bedfordshire, South)
The hon. Gentleman suggests that we shall make postal ballots compulsory. That is not so. Where did he read that financial aid for postal ballots would be made compulsory?
§ Mr. Cryer
I never said that postal ballots would be made compulsory; I said that during the election campaign they were produced as an instant solution. We must see what the legislation provides before we can say whether there is an element of compulsion. That is another illustration of where there was a total lack of balance in the election campaign, about the record of the Labour Government and the solutions that the Conservative Party proposed.
The New Statesman made an interesting survey of press coverage in the recent election campaign. It pointed out that of the total column inches of The Sun, the Daily Express, the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror, 848 total column inches were pro-Tory, 325 were anti-Tory, 285 were pro-Labour and a massive 1,245 anti-Labour. The mass of comment in support of Labour policies came in only one paper. Three newspapers continually dripped their evil distortions on the electorate, with some degree of effect. We must bear those factors in mind when the instant solution of secret ballots is proposed.
The Queen's Speech offered no solution to the problem of multinationals, which walk over the Tory Government because they have them in their pockets. What will the Government do when hon. Members complain? There are already signs bubbling forth about jobs being lost. What will they do when a multinational company says that it will close down a facory in a region, perhaps in Merseyside? Thorn, a massive, profitable multinational, closed a factory in Bradford, with the loss of 2,300 jobs. What will the Government do when the question of import substitution arises and a multinational, or any size of company, decides to close down a factory and import products and add its 15 per cent. or 20 per cent.? Their policies are totally negative and subordinate to the power of capitalism.
That means only one thing for our people. We shall see an increase in unemployment. If, as a nation, we do not master the multinationals and require 759 them to work in the national interest, with the full consequences of their decisions being understood and debated with the Government, the multinationals will control us. I cannot think of a more likely Government than the present one to be controlled by a multinational organisation.
Front Bench Members have talked about unemployment. Labour's record on unemployment was an improving one. The Government will eat their words over the next few months and years. We shall see unemployment deteriorate.
I refer to tax concessions. The previous Labour Government gave massive tax concessions and grant aid to assist both public and private enterprise to provide jobs. That policy worked. The unemployment figures improved. The amendment to the Queen's Speech suggests that that improvement should he allowed to continue. I fear that it will not be the case.
We have an extreme Right-wing Government. There are some moderates on the Government Back Benches and one or two token moderates in the Government, but they are not in a position of power and they are a minority. The doctrinaire policies of the Government Front Bench will carry Britain into grave industrial trouble and difficulty. The only way in which they will be able to rescue themselves will be to make a U-turn as in 1972.
In the longer term there is only one way in which we shall be able to rescue the country. It will be for the Labour Party to do that, as it has traditionally done it. We must ensure that at the next election a Labour Government are returned and that they rescue Britain from the problems brought about by the Conservative Government. We must then ensure that the Labour Government regain office by committing ourselves to Labour policies and putting them into operation.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Beaumont-Dark (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
I join other maiden speakers in thanking you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, together with your staff and all the servants in the House, for the tremendous help given to new Members. If that help were not forthcoming it would 760 be difficult even to find the Chamber. We are all obliged.
Traditionally, a maiden speech should not be controversial. However, I thought that the Member for Dundee West (Mr. Ross) gave a robust example of what a non-controversial speech is all about. I was interested when the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) was taken to task and he said that he was being not controversial but analytical. I listened carefully to the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) and it seemed that we were still on the hustings. I wish that we were. Is it non-controversial to suggest that paying the police and Armed Forces more is a Conservative plot to take over the State against revolting workers? That is stretching one's imagination and credulity too far.
I am in the Chamber today because the Conservatives won the election. That happened only a short time ago. The election was won by a plurality of the votes, and the biggest that there has been in my lifetime. Is that such a bad thing? Is that wrong? I would rather put my trust in the voters than in Opposition Members.
I come here from the great city of Birmingham, where I served for 23 years on the city council. When serving on the council my colleagues and I found this august Chamber often out of touch with the realities in Birmingham. Those in other parts of our great country automatically assumed that because Edmund Burke said in the House that Birmingham was the great workshop of England, that is still so 100 years on. Much has happened since then.
Since 1945 only 77 firms have moved into Birmingham, employing 9,600 people. In that same period over 337 firms moved out, employing 109,000 people. That is the result of the deliberate acts and policies of one Government after another. I hope that at long last we have a Government who understand that Governments basically create very little but chaos, disorder and upset for the very people who have to build things with their hands and with their brains and that the politicians seem to think that they should be allowed to spend the money.
Firms in my area have been pillaged, bullied and bribed to go elsewhere, whether it be the North-East, Wales or 761 Scotland. Having gone there, what has happened? Have we created any extra wealth? The answer, quite frankly, is "No". If we discourage people from bringing about a natural growth in an area where they wish to be, they will not necessarily move elsewhere in spite of bribes or the gold that is offered to them. That is because they do not wish to have a production line 200 miles long. The upshot is that because of IDC policies, which were brought in with the best of good intentions, Birmingham has suffered. That may be a pleasure to some. Birmingham has at least joined a slow-moving convoy system, which some people seem to like. It seems that as long as everybody moves at the same slow pace it does not matter whether the end product is misery or success. No one has gained. Overall, the economy has lost.
Birmingham grew because industrialists who became great names came to the city as it was an area in which they could trade and do business. Joe Lucas came to Birmingham and built a great company. It employs tens of thousands in Birmingham and in other areas. Then Cadbury's came to Birmingham. The company is in my constituency. It employs about 27,000 in Birmingham. It grew naturally. It employs about 46,000 in other parts of the country. The same applies to John Keen, of Guest Keen and Nettlefolds, and Herbert Austin, of the great Austin Motor Company as it then was. They came to Birmingham because they thought the people were right, the area was right and that the training that the people could have would be right. Having started in Birmingham, they built there and they expanded elsewhere. They did so without bribes, loans or gifts. That is how it should be, and that is how it can be again.
Even in more recent times, since the war a man called Dr. McDonald came to Brierley Hill. He built a great company known as BSR. The company now employs 11,000 in its local area. It expanded—again without bribes—and it now employs about 7,000 in Scotland. That happened because the company needed to expand. Surely that is what industry is all about. Firms could not do that now. They do not have the freedom. If we are to get anywhere again, freedom for firms to expand and to employ people where they most and 762 best need to employ them must be restored.
That is not a selfish philosophy, designed to help only Birmingham. However, if Birmingham and the West Midlands are impoverished we shall not be helping any other part of our great country. My area is dependent upon the motor vehicle industry, which employs about 153,000 directly and another 170,000 indirectly in component supplies. That is why British Leyland is vital in the Midlands and the Birmingham area. If management and workers have the will to make BL succeed, I hope that the Government will keep their word, as it was pledged during the election, and that backing will be given to see the job through. There is no doubt that the economy of the Midlands weighs heavily in the balance of BL's success. We should all work for it and be willing to support it.
There is an unemployment problem. Everyone keeps saying that Birmingham is a great and prosperous city. It is a great city and it is prosperous by some standards, but there is a problem in terms of long-term unemployment in toto over one year. The figures reveal that 28 per cent. of our unemployed have been unemployed for a year whereas the national average is 24 per cent. Unemployment among the coloured population is a grave problem in the Birmingham area. Over 17 per cent. of coloured people are unemployed in Birmingham, against 3.4 per cent. nationally. Twenty-two per cent. of unemployed coloured people in this country are resident in the West Midlands.
If one takes the Birmingham inner city partnership, where we have lost 52,000 jobs, there is something like 10 per cent. unemployed there. When we say that we need some relief from one Government regulation after another and one Government fishing trip after another designed to make our industry go elsewhere, one will see that it is backed up by the facts. I hope that we are not going to hear the weary argument trotted out that no IDCs have been refused for 18 months. That may well be a fact, but it is a fact only because firms know that it is not worth asking for IDCs of any real size. They know that if they ask they will once again be bribed, bullied and pushed to areas of the country where they do not want to go. I hope that those days are now behind 763 us and that that kind of thing will not be allowed by a Conservative Government.
Medium-sized and larger firms are discouraged from coming to Birmingham. They are discouraged from growing. We want that restriction removed so that people can go where they believe that they can best do their business and make their investment and their profit.
I have two other points concerning current follies. I believe that, possibly, the NEB does have a part to play. Certainly a mixed economy has a part to play, whether in Birmingham, the North, or Scotland. But is it really necessary for the NEB, with unseemly haste on election day, to sign a contract to give £750,000 aid to Thermax of Bishop Auckland to exploit a new process for curved windscreen manufacture. The NEB says that the aid will create another 100 skilled jobs and more money is promised if that is not enough.
At whose expense is this aid given? It is at the expense of jobs in my constituency at Triplex Safety Glass, which has put millions of pounds of its own money into this process. That was the right thing to do. Is it really right that then the NEB, or any other Government Department, should shovel elsewhere national money—part of which is tax paid by the people at Triplex? Why should their money, their jobs and their future be put at risk? Is that not a classic example of rearranging the deck chairs on the "Titanic"?
Let us consider BL. It is building, of all things in this world, and bearing in mind its own internal problems in running the car industry—and we hope it is successful—a £25 million aluminium foundry at Leeds. God knows why. The building of that foundry will directly threaten jobs in the foundry industry in the Midlands, where such jobs are most at risk. It will create further excess capacity. This is why foundries are being closed in Birmingham and is why Birmid Qualcast has, in the last few weeks, laid off 700 workers. Is not that the economics of Bedlam?
I hope that both those cases can be examined. The foundry project surely should be able to be stopped, and can we stop the folly of spending other people's money to take other people's jobs? Such action does not create prosperity. It 764 moves it about like so many bits on a chess board. We need to create new jobs.
In the United States it has been proved, on recent figures, that billions of dollars of aid given to encourage employment in the South has created a great paradox. That paradox also occurs in this country, at this very time. It is that when one gives large sums of money to large firms, a few jobs may be protected in the short term but it costs a lot of jobs in the long term. The only way to create prosperity and jobs—the Americans discovered this on their own figures—is to encourage firms employing between 20 and 50 people. The Americans found that where aid was given to firms of that size, jobs were created.
In all conscience, if we are to reduce unemployment in this country the paradox is that the modern processes which we need to make us competitive will cost us jobs. Therefore, the people whom we must encourage are the genuine entrepreneurs who wish to build something, whether from the garage at their home or from small factory units in Birmingham. I hope, if nothing else, that I have put it into the minds of hon. Members that the great city of Birmingham has a part to play and wishes to play it. Birmingham does not wish to hog all the country's resources but Birmingham believes that what was done there in the past, in the industrial workshop of England, can be done again.
We cannot do it, however, while people are being discouraged. If industry is to thrive, let it be because people go where they think they can best carry on their business. It is better for people to follow the jobs than for there to be no jobs at all.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ Mr. J. D. Dormand (Easington)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark) on a most effective maiden speech. He has shown considerable knowledge of industry and, what is perhaps more important, he has shown a considerable knowledge of his constituency. He delivered his speech with considerable passion.
The hon. Gentleman began by saying that he was sad about the tradition of making a non-controversial maiden speech in this House. If his was a non-controversial speech, I can hardly wait for 765 him to make a controversial one, though I assure him that he will not get the same gentle treatment next time. That gentle treatment for a maiden speech is also part of the tradition of the House. I speak, I know, for the whole of the House when I say that we look forward to his further contributions, for he certainly has a contribution to make to our deliberations.
I would have liked to speak on regional policy, not only because of what is said in the Gracious Speech but also because of the implications of what the Secretary of State for Industry said to-day. I am sorry that he is not in his place, but even I realise that a Secretary of State has to eat sometimes.
I have been secretary of the Northern group of Labour MPs for a number of years, and when I think of the momentous benefits which have accrued from the efforts of my right hon. Friend the former Secretary of State for Employment, and my right hon. Friend the former Secretary of State for Industry and their Ministers, it fills me with horror when I hear the Secretary of State lecturing us, like a university don, about what is likely to happen. One could say much on this aspect about one's own constituency. In my constituency, I have the new town of Peterlee, which has made a notable contribution to the North-East. That contribution has been made almost entirely as a result of the incentives provided by the Government. I restrain myself from continuing on that line because I know that a number of Members wish to speak, including some of my colleagues from the Northern constituencies.
I rise to speak on one specific point which is a matter of great constituency concern and also one of great concern to the whole of the North-East. It is, indeed, a matter of basic principle concerning the running of the nationalised industries, to which frequent reference is made in the Gracious Speech. I refer to the reported decision of the British Steel Corporation to import 2½ million tons of Australian coking coal.
The Durham miners—indeed, I speak for all the miners of the North-East—are the most reasonable, moderate and diligent of men, but they are bewildered by that decision of the British Steel Corporation. They are bewildered because, 766 even in my own constituency, for example, we see mountains of good coking coal being piled up to such an extent that we cannot even find stocking space for it.
When the BSC's decision was first reported, the then Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Varley), met a delegation from the Durham miners—a delegation which I accompanied—to discuss the matter, and he immediately decided that licence import controls ought to be instituted. That decision was welcomed with open arms, and we felt that it was a solution to the problem. Now, however, my worries are renewed.
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Thames (Mr. Lamont) is now a Minister at the Department of Energy and obviously he is likely to make his presence felt there. On 2 April, as recently as the week in which Parliament was dissolved, he put this question to my right hon. Friend who was then Secretary of State:Will the Secretary of State confirm—or deny—press reports that he and his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy are seeking to interfere with BSC's choice of coking coal for Redcar? Does he agree that, given the precarious state of BSC's finances, it should be given complete commercial freedom to place its orders where it wants?"—[Official Report, 2 April 1979; Vol. 965, c. 927.]I want an answer from the present Government. Will they adhere to my right hon. Friend's decision? It seems from the evidence that I have just produced that that may not be their intention.
I am sure that the present Secretary of State for Industry was not in the least surprised that one of the first letters to arrive on his desk was one from me on this matter. In his reply, the right hon. Gentleman says:… we will be looking at it carefully against the need for the British Steel Corporation to operate efficiently and commercially.I do not grumble at that, but it is only one factor in several which ought to be taken into consideration. The House should know that, in the pits of the North-East coast, and in my constituency in particular, investment has been about £40 million, a move which has been welcomed wholeheartedly by the mining fraternity in our part of the country. The House should recognise also that only a few miles down the coast at Redcar a 767 great steel complex is now being built at a present cost of £400 million.
What are ordinary human beings to think, after that scale of investment and when coal is piled high, of a decision to import 2½ million tons of coal from half-way round the world? The British Steel Corporation says that it can get it £10 a ton cheaper. Frankly, I must say to the BSC and to the Minister that I do not believe it. I do not believe that coal can be imported and be broght half-way round the world at £10 a ton cheaper than it can be got in this country.
If the Secretary of State were here, he would say, I know—I acknowledge the point—that the coal available in this country is not of the right blend or quality. But if we have had investment to that extent, and if we have produced this coal and used it for steel production for decades, why the change now? That is a perfectly reasonable question for not only my constituents but all the mining communities of the North-East to ask.
I have just quoted the Secretary of State's reply about the British Steel Corporation having to operate commercially, and I take that point, but has he taken into consideration that the National Coal Board has to operate successfully? Surely that is the other side of the coin. Has he considered the impact on our balance of payments? Finally, and most important, has he taken into account the social effect not only on thousands of miners and their families but on everyone who depends on them, in whatever way that may be?
§ Mr. George Grant (Morpeth)
My hon. Friend has spoken of the enormous amount of coal stocked in the North-East—there is an estimated total of 3 million tons—and I put this question to him. Quite apart from the decision to which he has referred, will he confirm that this Durham coal is a quality coal, often produced in lower and sometimes difficult seams? If the proceeds for this quality coal are not forthcoming, the jobs at many collieries will be in jeopardy, will they not, because the collieries will find great difficulty in remaining viable?
§ Mr. Dormand
I welcome my hon. Friend's intervention, since he reinforces my main point. Moreover, as the House 768 knows, he is a former miner and is chairman of the miners' group in the House. My hon. Friend speaks, therefore, with considerable authority, and I hope that the Secretary of State will take due note of what he says.
I have referred to the criticism from the BSC that the quality of the coal is not right for the steel-making process. I am a layman in these matters, but what puzzles me is that the chairman of the National Coal Board is on record—I have the papers here—as saying that it is. So we have the experts from the BSC, on the one hand, saying that the quality is not right and we have the experts from the National Coal Board, on the other, saying that it is right. Earlier, I used the word "bewildered". Again, I say that many of us must be bewildered when we see contradictory statements of that kind being made.
I am glad to see my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield now back in his place on our Front Bench and I welcome his return to the Chamber. His standing on this matter could not be higher in the North-East. He made a very full and proper decision on it which is still talked about and certainly was talked about during the election campaign. We welcomed his prompt and, in my view, proper decision.
§ Mr. Ted Leadbitter (Hartlepool)
We are told that coal of the required quality cannot be got from this country and that it has to come from Australia, and we are told also that it will be £10 a ton cheaper. Is it not pertinent for us to demand, both in the House and through other channels which we have, that the quality of the coal be tested to check the truth of the statement made by the BSC about it? Secondly, ought we not to have figures which show that the coal coming from Australia will indeed be £10 a ton cheaper?
Finally, will my hon. Friend agree that, if the British Steel Corporation and the National Coal Board are both acknowledged to be responsible bodies—responsible to the Government and the country—it would have been logical and reasonable for the BSC to give the order to the National Coal Board and then, if the NCB could not produce it from its own resources, it could have marketed the same coal from wherever it wished? Why, 769 therefore, does not the British Steel Corporation put the order through the NCB? If we have the quality of coal, we can produce it. Why not use the channels available?
§ Mr. Dormand
My hon. Friend has made his usual perceptive observation and, going further than I have, has very properly made one of the most important points on this issue. I hope that it will be fully considered by the Secretary of State.
The Secretary of State spoke about visiting areas of high unemployment. I challenge him to come first to the North-East, not only to see the general unemployment situation there but to hear what is being said on the matters I have raised. I implore him—I say this most sincerely—not to spend his time with his civil servants, though I have the highest regard for them. I ask the right hon. Gentleman not to spend his time with the Tory bureaucrats up there but to come to Easington and chat to some of the miners in my constituency and in the village where I live to hear what is being said.
As a good democrat, I acknowledge that there is now a Conservative majority in the House, but I think that it would be a foolish Secretary of State who did not take cognisance of the fact that not just in Scotland but in the North of England, too, the Tories did not win the election. Indeed, we gained a seat in the Northern region. I suggest that any major decision of the kind which I have raised should be borne in mind in the background against which the right hon. Gentleman and his Government will be judged.
§ 6.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Iain Sproat (Aberdeen, South)
I hope that the hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Dormand) will forgive me if I do not follow him down the industrial paths that he pursued today. I shall concentrate on an industry and its employment prospects that are of particular importance in my constituency. I refer to the fishing industry. It was referred to in passing by my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough (Mr. Shaw) and by the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart), the Leader of the Scottish National Party.
The fishing industry was extremely glad to hear almost the first official words 770 of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister when she was talking to the German Chancellor. She told him, and through him the European Community and the rest of this country, that we would not be a soft touch. I hope that that will prove to be so. The battle fought by the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin), the previous Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, was greatly appreciated beyond party bounds. It was a strong fight and, although he did not win all that he wanted for the industry, he prevented anything more from being given away. For that we are grateful. Many people in the fishing constituencies around Aberdeen were nervous that the Conservative Party would be a soft touch. My right hon. Friend's words were a considerable relief and reassurance. Following those initial words, the first public speech that she made was to the Scottish Conservatives in Perth. Once again she said that the renegotiation of the common fisheries policy would be a top priority with the Conservative Government. That again reassured the industry. It needs all the reassurance that it can get.
It has been a tradition in this House that the fishing industry is accorded a bipartisan approach. Once or twice during the general election there was a slight fraying of that approach when the right hon. Member for Deptford came to Aberdeen, but all is fair at the hustings and we do not object. By and large when we were in Opposition we completely supported what the right hon. Gentleman was doing on behalf of the fishing industry. I hope that he will support us when we do battle.
It is necessary to emphasise to the House the seriousness of the situation in the fishing industry. Earlier this afternoon one of my hon. Friends asked why such places as Aberdeen should get regional help when they are benefiting so much from North Sea oil. Aberdeen may benefit from North Sea oil, and certainly we have been cushioned against the worst effects of unemployment that has struck widely in Scotland, but in certain areas there are grave problems, and the worst hit has perhaps been the fishing industry.
Last year the fishing catch by Aberdeen vessels from the Faroes was only 14 per cent. of that of five years previously. That 771 is a decline of 86 per cent. in a short time. The fishing catch from Iceland waters last year was only 9 per cent. of what it had been in 1974. There is a real decline in the fishing industry, and if hon. Members from the Humberside ports were here they would confirm that.
The Humberside ports received special aid. I should like to see Aberdeen getting the same, and I shall be coming back to my right hon. and hon. Friends about that. They received that aid because of their special unemployment problems, and that highlights the grave nature of the crisis facing the fishing industry. The industry is extremely important not only because of the jobs that it provides, particularly in areas such as the North-East of Scotland.
This debate is perhaps not the time to go at length into renegotiating fishing terms, but, as my right hon. Friends have to go to Europe in the next few months and renegotiate the common fisheries policy, I briefly suggest five minimum conditions that we must obtain from the EEC. Perhaps the greatest single problem that the fishing industry is facing is uncertainty. We do not know where we are going. We do not know what fishing grounds we will have in the Faroes, what quotas we shall have from the EEC or what will happen if the Spaniards and the Portuguese are able to fish up to British shores. Although the renegotiation of the common fisheries policy will not put all that right, it will be the first and greatest aspect that we have to consider in this House.
First, we must have an exclusive zone for British fishing vessels, and 12 miles is the absolute minimum. Second, we must have a zone of preferential access for British fishing vessels, and I suggest that 50 miles is the absolute minimum to protect our industry. Thirdly, we cannot accept the ludicrously minimal offer by the EEC of fish quotas. My hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough has put in many hours of hard work on that problem. He is a dedicated European, as I am in this matter. It is totally unfair that the United Kingdom puts into the EEC waters some 65 per cent. of all the fish and yet is allowed to take out only some 20 per cent. That cannot be right. One cannot sell the idea to the fishermen or housewives of this country that we put in 772 two-thirds and are allowed to take out only one-quarter. We must say to our colleagues in Europe that we are putting in 65 per cent. but in order to get an agreement quickly we are prepared to accept quotas of approximately 45 per cent. That would be a fair compromise.
Fourthly, if we agree on quotas, we then have to agree on methods of enforcing them. It is no use trusting to fishermen of any nation. I make no chauvinistic distinctions here, although I have on other occasions and may do so in future. Quotas must be properly enforced. There-fore there must be comprehensive control which will include effort controls for the various countries, and within them there must be licensing controls for the particular vessels.
Fifthly and lastly, as a minimum condition we must have further conservation measures. If we do not conserve the fish today we will have no fish at all tomorrow. Although we welcome the speedy action taken by the Minister of Agriculture in bringing forward the conservation measures proposed by the Labour Government a few months ago and we are happy to follow the bipartisan policy, the fact is that those conservation measures on their own are not enough. I hope that when my right hon. Friend has had a chance to look at what we can achieve from the EEC in this renegotiation, he will come up with at least two firm conservation measures. The first is the enforcement of the one-net rule. We do not want one vessel carrying different-sized nets so that no one knows which fish has been caught with which net. The second is the extension of the pout box.
Also, in considering conservation measures, we must make it clear that we reserve the right, as the coastal State, to bring in further non-discriminatory conservation measures where necessary. In asking for these minimum conditions, we are not asking for special treatment for the fishing industry from the EEC. We are asking for justice.
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Martin J. O'Neill (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
I am pleased to speak in this section of the debate on the Gracious Speech because there are few parts of Scotland—or indeed of the United Kingdom as a whole—which make 773 such a varied and valuable contribution to the wealth of this country as my constituency. I am honoured to represent the producers of that wealth. Since the 1920s they have returned Labour Members with only one interruption—a five-year break between 1974 and 1979, when Mr. George Reid of the Scottish National Party worked hard for my constituents.
I am convinced that the state of the economy of Scotland persuaded the electors once again to vote Labour and to overturn one of the largest nationalist majorities in Scotland. They were only too aware of the success of the Labour Government's policy of protecting, sustaining and maintaining employment. Mine is a vast constituency, which is in three parts. It has a wide range of industrial activities—it is, in effect, the industrial heartland of Scotland. In fact, in 1759 the Forth Valley saw the start of the Industrial Revolution with the opening of the Carron ironworks. Now, 220 years later, the crafts of the foundrymen are still being applied but they are applied with the needs of modern technology in mind. They not only produce the traditional iron cast products, such as postboxes and telephone kiosks, but they make a range of kitchen and bathroom equipment of the highest standard and quality. These are the type of goods which suffer from the imposition of higher value added tax, and which even now require far greater protection against the dumping of shoddy Continental bathroom equipment.
In the Forth Valley are three of the largest mental hospitals in Scotland employing thousands of dedicated men and women who need the backing and financial support of the Government at a time when nearly one in every three of National Health Service patients is treated at some time in his or her life for some kind of nervous disorder. We hear precious little about private provision for these people. It is here that we need the greatest public expenditure. There is no BUPA for people with mental health problems.
On the north side of the Forth in this constituency there is the county of Clackmannan. The support for Labour there clearly indicates the relationship developed by the previous Government with industry. In a town like Alloa, the vast 774 works owned by the Wear group gave a clear testimony to the wisdom of the nationalisation of the shipbuilding industry. A stable and secure future for shipbuilding meant secured markets for the traditional suppliers of that industry. In fact, the first group of people I showed around the House of Commons was a group of shop stewards from the Wear group's pumps who were bringing equipment down here to put into the museum of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers. This is a classic example of the pride of the working man in the skills with which he has equipped himself.
The traditional textile mills in this constituency have been through an equally difficult time, like those in parts of Yorkshire. In fact, the difficult period of world recession has meant that the highly skilled work force has been kept together only with Government assistance. I am sure that all Members want to know what the Government intend to do about the temporary employment subsidy. I discovered this afternoon that Patons, the wool-making division of Coats Patons, had TES sustained for another period, resulting in the withdrawal of 350 redundancy notices. This was a last-minute reprieve, but it is no way to try to keep an industry going and to encourage the work force to co-operate. Efficiency cannot be improved if the men are living from month to month under the threat of the dole queue.
The major employers in my constituency read like a list of the basic industries of the country—motor vehicles, iron smelters, chemicals and mining. We have more than 1,000 miners living in the area. Although the pitheads are in the adjoining constituency of Dunfermline burghs, the bulk of the coal lies under Clackmannan. The record of the last Government and particularly the work of the hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie) as a Minister stand as a tribute to the efficiency and diligence of the public sector of our economy. I wonder whether there will be a continued commitment to the levels of coal-burning by the SSCB which were agreed to by the last Government. Also, will the Secretary of State for Energy look favourably upon the campaign for the refurbishing of the Kincardine power station on a coal-fired basis, using the coal from the Hurst seam under the Forth?
775 I am concerned that the laissez-faire economy will be allowed to ignore the problems of the fuel suppliers. In my constituency there are many textile mills dependent upon heavy fuel oil. It is ironic that one of the firms that has increased its production dramatically in the past year is being penalised for its success by the inflexible application of emergency controls on the consumption of fuel oil. If the Tory friends of small business men want to do something for small businesses, they should look at these cases quickly. I have already written to the Minister about the plight of the Coblecrook factory in Alva, and I look forward to his reply.
This constituency is in three parts. The part to which I have not yet referred is the Braes. It stretches from Linlithgow almost to Airdrie and skirts the town of Falkirk. It cannot be compared with the beauty of the Ochil Hills because it is pockmarked with pit bings, disused mine-workings and a canal which has been neglected over the years. But it stands as a monument to the rugged determination of its inhabitants to fight for a living against the rapacious mine owners and the ironmasters of the past. This area is in great debt to the Scottish Development Agency, which has rehabilitated land and made it ready for industrial expansion. This shows what can be done in a positive way to improve the environment with public money.
This is not just an area of industrial dereliction. It contains one of the world leaders in refractory brick production. It this leadership is to continue, there must be a good, strong home market. In order to have that, we must have the continued commitment of the Government to the British steel industry. This can only come from the fullest backing being given to the British Steel Corporation.
I have gone through the industrial background of the constituency, but I must make it clear that the overturning of the nationalist majority of 7,500 was no political fluke. Throughout the central industrial belt of Scotland there was a massive rejection of both nationalism and Conservatism because the achievement of the Labour Government was twofold. First, they supported the basic industries, allowing assistance to those that needed to expand and giving support to those in 776 difficulty. They also offered opportunities for retraining and hope for the future to those who were unemployed. Secondly and equally important, they restored the confidence of the Scottish people in the British system of government and dampened down the fires of separatism.
None of us who fought in Scotland as Labour candidates thought that the problems would be solved in a five-year period, but we saw that five years of Labour rule showed that State intervention, public enterprise and high levels of public expenditure are the right remedies. If these things are poisons, as was suggested earlier in this debate, these are poisons that we should have more of in Scotland. What is depressing about the Gracious Speech is that it answers so few of the questions that we have tried to ask. It suggests that the Tories have returned to power, as did the Bourbons in 1815, having learned nothing and forgotten nothing. The Bourbons perhaps had one advantage: they were not saddled with their Marie Antoinette.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ Mr. William Walker (Perth and East Perthshire)
I wish to thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to stand. I am sure that some hon. Members do not realise how difficult that is for me at the moment. It was interesting for me to follow the remarks of the hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. O'Neill) because I, too, overturned a fairly substantial Scottish National majority in my constituency. I fought the seat on strong Conservative policies.
I wish to say how much I enjoyed the address given by Mr. Speaker after his election. It was one of the most moving addresses that I have ever heard. One of the reasons for my enjoyment was that, in common with Mr. Speaker, I, too, come from very humble origins. I am honoured and proud to have been elected to this House as the Member for Perth and East Perthshire. I am only sad that the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) has gone, because some of the things that he said about Dundee made me very proud, because I am a Dundonian. But the Dundee that I know is not the Dundee that the hon. Gentleman dealt with.
I have travelled a long road from Dundee, West—a long and sometimes 777 bumpy road. Indeed, the biggest bump occurred on 28 January, when I hit the ground rather hard in one of Her Majesty's flying machines. Following that accident, I spent a number of weeks as a customer of the National Health Service in Stracathro hospital. Today I can lay claim to being one of the few politicians with a backbone of steel. Indeed, every time I come through the security checks, the lights flash and the bells ring. Unfortunately, I still have some difficulty when walking. This can be quite a problem, as I experienced last Wednesday when I had to conduct 50 schoolchildren round the Palace of Westminster. Normally this would not be difficult, but when one takes visitors round in groups of six at a time, and when one is all strapped up and not supposed to walk, it is quite a problem. I hope that we shall examine this situation at an early date, because there are difficulties when children have travelled all the way from Scotland. This is all the more relevant when we have just fought an election in Scotland on the basis that this is the place where Parliament must be situated. I believe that we should encourage children to come to this Palace.
I am advised by some of the more senior Members of this House not to worry about my problems of standing because, after all, I came here to sit. Therefore, I am looking forward to sitting—and to sitting for many years. Because I survived the crash, which by all accounts I should not have done, and because I thank God each day that I am not paralysed, which again by all accounts I should be, I am determined to enjoy my years of sitting in this House.
In the last Parliament my constituency was represented by a hard-working and conscientious gentleman, who I believe enjoyed being a Member of this House. Yet, oddly enough, he represented a party whose main aim was to remove Scottish Members from this House. It was an aim which, in the main, has been achieved—perhaps not quite in the manner that his party would have wished. However, he and his colleagues now have a number of years ahead in which to reflect. Who knows? Some of them may feel that a change of party and a change of view will at some future election improve their chance of returning to this House.
778 The constituency that I represent is both rural and urban. Over 50 per cent. of the electors live in the county town of Perth. This is a city of ancient traditions, combined with modern commercial and industrial enterprise. Perth was the seat of the ancient Scottish kings and sits astride the River Tay, one of the country's famous salmon rivers. Perth people are proud of their historic past, and equally proud of their city's international reputation. The city is the home of a great international insurance corporation, General Accident, the biggest employer in the constituency. There are other large employers, such as the blenders and bottlers of our famous Highland drams, which I understand—I am teetotal—are consumed in vast quantities by lovers of Scotch throughout the world. If my information is correct, we make a fair contribution to this consumption from this House—and long may that continue.
There is also the ancient craft of glass blowing in the constituency. Therefore, not only do we provide the liquid; we also provide the containers. We also have the world-famous bull and ram sales, which bring people from all over the world to the city of Perth. We also have a thriving electronics industry, a busy port and harbour, and a school for the training of commercial airline pilots at Scone. The remainder of the constituency consists of small towns and villages in a rural setting, containing some of the most fertile land in Scotland. We have two of the most beautiful glens, one of which, Glenshee, has been developed as an international ski centre.
It all sounds an idyllic and wonderful place in which to live. Unfortunately, Perthshire has not escaped the scourge of our time—namely, unemployment. In the small town where I live, an international company has decided to close a factory. A total of 340 people were made redundant at the end of last month when the Smedley HP factory in Blairgowrie closed. Nobody has ever said that the factory was unprofitable. Nobody has claimed that the workers were unproductive or militant. Quite the opposite has occurred. The factory had good industrial relations, and, indeed, a record of almost perfect industrial peace. With the impending closure of another mill, the small town of Blairgowrie could be faced 779 with an unemployment level of about 25 per cent. next winter.
I welcome the Government's pledge to create new jobs by encouraging small and medium-sized firms, by using tax incentives and by giving financial aid to firms in need over short periods. I also welcome the proposals to amend the Employment Protection Act and to increase the powers of the Director General of Fair Trading and the Monopolies Commission, and thus to improve prospects and competition—a necessary ingredient if we are to have more jobs.
I also welcome recognition of the fact that large companies are showing what has been described as "a retreating instinct", and that we are looking to small and medium-sized firms to create new and lasting jobs. As a former trade union shop steward, branch secretary and executive committee member, and with my experience as a training and education officer, as a director of personnel and also as a managing director, I know that a lot of rot is talked about industrial relations. I will not say where it comes from, because I am not permitted to be controversial
Industrial relations are not just about pay. They go on all day and every day in places of employment. They concern relations between the worker and the foreman, the foreman and the manager, the manager and the director and the director and the managing director. They should not be used as a political football.
Many trade unionists—and many of them voted Conservative at the last election—are looking to the Government to create a climate in which men and women who work and those who want to work will be given the necessary encouragement and will be provided with conditions that will enable them to work with management in order to improve productivity. We must improve productivity and thus protect jobs. As a former very active trade unionist, my message to the trade union leaders is that they should take serious note of the mood of their members and the mood of the country.
We live in parlous times. They are not times for us to be playing with people as political footballs. I therefore welcome the action being taken by my right hon. 780 Friend the Secretary of State for Employment and his plans for consulting the unions.
I have been working with the shop-stewards' committee of the Smedley HP factory in Blairgowrie to persuade the owners—the Imperial group—to sell the factory and the plant. I have enjoyed the support of the Labour and Liberal candidates. I should like to say a word about the Labour candidate. I was released from hospital just before the election was called. I am unable to drive, and the Labour candidate collected me every day that we had a meeting with the shop stewards and drove me to the meetings in his car throughout the election campaign. The Liberal candidate also attended every meeting. We have also enjoyed the support of the Tayside regional council and the Perth and Kinross district council, both of which are Conservative-controlled.
Private capital and expertise are available. The Scottish Development Agency and the banks have pledged their support, as have a number of local farmers. The shop stewards' committee, of which I am a member, has put forward constructive proposals to streamline operations and increase productivity. Tories can work with trade unions and shop stewards.
In addition, the committee has been examining the possibility of establishing a community co-operative in the event of private enterprise not being able to take over the factory. That may show Labour Members that we do not have dogma. We want to find solutions and to find jobs for people who want to work. If private capital is not able to get the factory going, we hope to establish a community co-operative in place of the private enterprise company.
In all our discussions, dogma has been absent from both sides. No one has attempted to make political capital out of the situation or tried to put groups or individuals into an impossible bargaining position. Instead, the managers, workers, shop stewards, permanent trade union officials, politicians and local government officials have been united in one common purpose—to save jobs.
I have been working with the shop sized firm that we hope to create will provide jobs and competition and could be a model of good industrial relations 781 and high productivity, providing, of course, we can persuade the large retreating Imperial group to sell.
I recognise that the group has no legal obligation to sell the plant and the factory, but I believe that it has a moral obligation to the work force which has been loyal to it and to the private family business that existed before the factory became part of a large group.
I look to the Government and the House to support the people of Blairgowrie in their efforts to establish this new company to provide jobs for the hardworking individuals who previously worked for Smedley HP, to support those fine men and women who want to work and to give them the opportunity to work. I do not believe that that is too much to ask.
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Cyril Smith (Rochdale)
I am sure that the whole House would wish to join me in complimenting the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Walker) on his maiden speech. He clearly demonstrated that he has a sense of humour, and perhaps I may say, in that vein, that some of the success was due to the fact that he had "steel" behind him. I am sure that we all look forward with eager anticipation to the hon. Gentleman's future contributions.
The debate has been interesting because of the large number of maiden speeches. I am intrigued that, with only one exception, every maiden speaker on the Conservative Benches has called for Government intervention to help industries in his constituency. That seems to be contrary to what I understand to be the Government's view of their policy and role in relation to assisting industry. We also heard an excellent maiden speech from the hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. O'Neill). I am sure that the House will look forward to hearing more of what he has to say.
I wish to put on record the Liberal Party's attitude to some of the employment and industrial policies, as we understand them, of the new Government. Of course, we have not yet seen any legislation. I do not complain about that, but it means that we can judge the policies only on what we have heard and read and on the odd speech of Government Ministers, 782 and my comments must obviously be subject to a sight of the legislation.
I wish to start by discussing trade union reform and employment, if only because those are the subjects that I have dealt with in the House on behalf of my party. I am not keen on bringing the law into trade union practice, but if the maintenance of an ordered society demands bringing the law into trade union matters, so be it.
My party will support any legislation to reduce the power of trade unions over individuals or the liberty of individuals. We shall certainly strongly support any legislation to make the closed shop illegal or less effective. A closed shop that results in an individual not being free to choose whether he joins a trade union is incompatible with individual liberty.
We believe that people should belong to trade unions and that an individual's right to belong to a union must be protected. However, we equally believe that the right not to belong must also be protected. The Government may rest assured that anything that they do on closed shops is likely to receive our full support.
We support secret ballots for the election of trade union officers and strongly support the idea that such ballots should be held at factory-floor level. If it is proposed that there should be Government finance to assist unions to conduct their affairs in that way, we shall be happy to support it.
However, I wonder whether unions should be compelled to use secret ballots. I heard today for the first time—in an intervention from a Government Back Bencher—that the use of ballots was to be optional. If that is a correct statement of Government policy, we shall support them, but if it is proposed that trade unions should be compelled to have secret ballots for the election of their officers, we must question whether Governments have a right to interfere in how trade unions decide to organise their affairs.
In determining whether to support what we understand is to be proposed legislation, the most difficult aspect is picketing. Any person must have the right to withdraw his labour. That is fundamental human liberty. Picketing—persuasion of others to one's point of view—must also be safeguarded. Trade unionists must have the right to try to persuade others to 783 come to their point of view, since to interfere with that right is again to tamper with the very basis of human liberty.
But equally, of course, if the way in which one seeks to exercise that right interferes with the liberty of another individual, it becomes a different matter. Certainly, during the past winter, we have seen bullying and the law of the jungle. I say in passing that I have no doubt that that played a major part in the defeat of the Labour Government. I believe that they were stabbed in the back by certain trade union leaders, either directly or indirectly through their inability to control their own members.
However, before we embark on law on secondary picketing, we need to think extremely carefully. The object of introducing law, presumably, is that law having been introduced, it should be enforced. The ultimate sanction of enforcement is imprisonment. One can trim it around with fines, suspended sentences, and so on, but if in the end the person refuses to accept the court's decision, the ultimate sanction is imprisonment.
All history shows that imprisonment of trade unionists is not a good way to proceed. What is equally or, perhaps, more important, all history shows that it is not a sensible way to proceed. Therefore, I urge the Government to have a little caution in their views on picketing and secondary picketing.
Frankly, I would be more convinced of the need not to introduce law if I felt that the TUC code of conduct would work and that the TUC would enforce it. But certainly—to be fair to the Government—there is considerable doubt as to the TUC's ability to enforce codes of conduct which the TUC itself may introduce. Trade unionists have little confidence in the TUC's willingness or ability to enforce codes of conduct. I know of trade unionists who, during this last winter, worked to rule because others in another union did so, even though their own union was telling them to work normally. But they themselves had no confidence that their own union, telling them to work normally, would back them up if they did so.
It is rather significant that unions often take action against people who do not strike when they are told to do so, 784 but I rarely, if ever, see an example of a union taking action against someone who strikes when he is told not to do so. Therefore, there is certainly a case for examining the law on picketing, but the Government should tread cautiously.
With respect to some Conservative Members who have been shouting for such action, as one or two of them have done during this debate, I point out all sorts of problems which need to be resolved. What is a secondary picket, for example? How does one limit the numbers that picket? How, having decided to limit the numbers, does one decide who are the legal pickets and who are the illegal pickets? Who is to make that decision? Is it to be the police? If the police arrest a legal picket instead of an illegal picket, what sort of problems will that cause for the police and for industrial relations in Britain? Therefore, again, my advice is to tread very warily in this matter.
I turn now to my new role in making a few comments about industry. Of course we must encourage industry in Britain. Everyone is agreed about that. We must encourage small businesses. We must encourage the growth of productive capacity and job opportunities. But I hope that the Government will, again, be extremely careful about abandoning all forms of direct Government help which at present encourage industry.
Perhaps I may try to make one or two constructive suggestions to the Government. First, I would advise them to get a little feeling of enterprise into the ranks and corridors of the Civil Service. For example, new companies usually need a building and they usually need plant. I suggest that if the Government could just encourage civil servants, when dealing with new small companies, to help wherever they can with buildings and plant, it would be a very good idea.
Let me give a simple illustration by telling the House of something that happened in my constituency over the last 12 months. There is an organisation called English Estates, which negotiates either the letting or the selling of purpose-built factories built by the Government in anticipation of need. A company in Rochdale decided that it would buy one of these small factories built by the Government and owned, as it were, by English Estates—or, at any rate, English 785 Estates was acting for the Government in the letting of the factory.
On 12 June 1978, the company applied to the Department of Industry. It said that it was interested in buying the building and in turning it into a productive plant. It was told by the Department that the price for buying the building would be £145,000. The company therefore went to its bank and negotiated for the capital required in order to buy the building for £145,000. It notified the Department that it had made all the arrangements and asked whether the Department would arrange for the building to be sold to it.
Lo and behold, however, the Department said "Oh well, now we have to send it to the district valuer, and he will tell us what the building is now worth." Within 10 weeks of the Department's agreeing with the company that the figure was £145,000, the disrict valuer said that the building would cost £200,000—a 25 per cent. increase, a £55,000 increase, on an initial price of £145,000 The whole of that happened between 12 June and 8 September. It was a matter not of years but weeks between events, and the price rose from £145,000 to £200,000.
I personally accompanied the directors of the firm which wanted to buy this factory to see the district valuer. As a consequence of arguing about ground rents and so on, we were able, within one and a half hours, to reduce the price from £200,000 to £175,000. That was still £30,000 more than the company had been told 10 weeks before by the Department, but, none the less, it was £25,000 less than it had been told two hours previously.
I then met officials of the Department in Manchester, together with representatives of English Estates. I said "Here you have an empty factory; it has been empty for two years. You have the opportunity of someone going into it to give productive work to numerous people." It was not distributive work or anything like that. It was work in producing cases to do with the computer industry, and so on. I said "Could you, for example, agree now not to charge the company ground rent for seven years to make up for the extra £30,000 you have now landed on it? Or could you tell the local authority to give it some sort of 786 rate relief for two or three years? Or could you give it two years in which to pay the £175,000?"
But no—none of that. English Estates said "We have no option in the matter. We must accept the district valuer's figure." The district valuer said "I have no option. I must sell it at the price which has been agreed as current market value."
I hope that I make a constructive point with that example. The name of the company was Taylor Engineering Ltd. It has agreed that I can disclose its name. If one wants to encourage new enterprise in Britain, one must do it in a spirit of negotiating at the point that the enterprise wants to take off. Civil servants must really be allowed, encouraged, trained, or whatever the word is, to come off this plane of what is the official line and what the rule book says, and so on, and say "Here is the possibility of this company employing 50 or 100 people and the chance of our letting a factory which has been empty for two years. What concessions shall we need to make in order to let it?" If a subsidy is needed in such a case, I hope that the Government will assist with that as well.
I hope that the possibility of interest-free loans or loans with low interest rates will be considered by the Government to encourage companies to invest in plant and machinery, and so on. I urge them to do so. I speak as a man with a small business. Earlier today, an hon. Member described a small business as one which had 50 employees. I employ 70 people, having started the business myself.
Small businesses also have great problems in financing sales trips abroad. The expenses involved are very high, and small companies do not find it easy to meet them. If the Government are looking for ways to use public funds more effectively to help companies sell, they might consider not merely arranging groups of small companies to go abroad, which occurs at present through chambers of commerce and the Government Departments concerned, but assisting them financially to go abroad to sell.
I come next to the National Enterprise Board. If the NEB constantly scanned a list of inventions and patents which are registered and encouraged some of them perhaps the Board could have a 787 useful role. What worries many of us about the NEB is its ideology.
§ Mr. Clinton Davis (Hackney, Central)
Is not the hon. Member confusing the role of the NEB with that of the NRDC, which specifically investigates matters of inventions, patents and the rest, which can be cultivated with State aid?
§ Mr. Smith
I bow to the hon. Member's greater knowledge of this subject. The fact remains, however, that large numbers of inventions registered here are developed abroad because insufficient attention is paid to them in this country.
I was about to talk about the NEB in terms of ideology. If the NEB was an end in itself, I should have a great deal of sympathy with it. But is it an end in itself, or is it a means to an end? I believe in a mixed economy. I do not believe in total State ownership. Frankly, many of us fear that the NEB is a backdoor method of nationalising companies, thereby ensuring that more and more companies come under State control. For that reason, therefore, I believe that it would not be improper for me and my colleagues to support the Government in a re-examination of the role of the NEB.
Perhaps its role could be reshaped so that it was compelled to sell off companies which in the past it had assisted when it was reasonable and profitable to do so. I do not think that it is any task of a Government to prop up lame ducks. Even less is it any task of a Government to prop up dying or doomed ducks. We Liberals believe that often there is a case for the State applying treatment which allows lameness to be cured. When that is done, the lame duck which has now been cured should be compelled to fly again in the free world on its own wings.
We should also like to see the NEB putting shares in the names or in the trusteeship of the employees of companies rather than simply in the State. On balance, we shall support the Government in their desire to clip the wings of the NEB, though we should really prefer them to reshape its role. The Government should be able to intervene and to assist an industry, but once the industry becomes a profitable concern the NEB should be compelled by law to sell it.
788 I come finally to the issue of special Government help to ease the unemployment position. I do so because it is referred to in the Opposition's amendment. Some of the schemes have been excellent. Others have been merely cosmetic. Some of them have been milked by employers, others have been effective. There is a mixture. When the Government begin examining these schemes, they should set off on a quite simple basis. It is wiser, better and sounder to pay a man to work than it is to pay him not to work. If the consequence of scrapping these schemes is that the people who are assisted by one subsidy go on the dole and receive State aid through another subsidy, I am in favour of retaining the schemes at least to make sure that in return for the money we pay out we get some service from those who receive it.
I hope that the Government's strategy works. I hope that we see all these jobs being created and all this great upsurge in British industry. It will mean that the need for Government subsidies will disappear in the long term. However, in the short term, I do not think that that will happen. That is why Government subsidies to help maintain people in jobs, especially community-based job opportunity schemes, are to be commended. In my view, such schemes should be retained.
To succeed, a company needs capital and labour. It also needs plant, machinery, a building and a work force. I realise that this Government are not likely to be keen on worker participation, but I hope that they will not ditch the idea altogether. We believe that common sense will prevail and that political ideology will not be the total dominating force. I am sure that the Government will realise that industry often needs direct help, that workers have rights as individuals, and that in the end we need to create not only new incentives but, as the Minister himself said, new attitudes.
We need, in other words, to unite capital and labour and not to divide them. We need to do so in an atmosphere of mutual trust and in a society based on individual liberty. If the Government's policy is designed to that end, the Liberal Party will support them. If it is based on pure ideology without regard to consequence in terms of dividing our society, we shall oppose them.
789 I return to what I said at the beginning of my speech. We await the legislation with interest. Meanwhile, it is no part of our task to obstruct the Government in the introduction of their policy. We reserve our judgment and our attitude untl we have seen the details. Until then, we shall support the Government and at least allow the legislation to be brought forward so that we can examine it in some detail.
§ 7.56 p.m.
§ Mr. David Madel (Bedfordshire, South)
I am pleased to be called immediately after the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith), and I join him in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Walker) on his excellent maiden speech and in saying how much we all look forward to his further contributions to our debates.
I am glad to be called at this stage, because the hon. Member for Rochdale referred to an intervention of mine during the speech of the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer). The hon. Member gave the impression that the Government intended to force trade unions to hold postal ballots. No such intention has been suggested. Throughout the election campaign the Conservative Party said that where trade unions requested financial help in the organisaion of postal ballots it was fair and reasonable for the Government to provide such help. Some unions already hold postal ballots for certain matters and I think that some would welcome financial help. I have in mind, for example, the AUEW.
I agree with the hon. Member for Rochdale about industrial democracy and worker participation. We have served together on Standing Committees upstairs which have considered such matters, and we agreed about certain amendments that were tabled to proposed legislation. We agreed especially that if the CBI and the TUC could not agree about how to proceed, the last thing that any Government should do was to charge in with legislation which was likely to upset one or both of them.
Basically, this debate is concerned with industry and employment, but I hope that I shall be allowed a 30-second digression. In fact, it is not too much of a digression because it concerns a matter that indirectly 790 affects industry in my constituency.
We read in the Gracious Speech:My Government will continue to support the arts and will bring forward proposals to safeguard our national heritage of historic buildings and artistic treasures.That having been read in South Bedfordshire, we are amazed that an unelected committee looking into South-East problems should, eight years after the Roskill inquiry, suggest blandly that an airport might be sited a mile from what was Wing and do what the Gracious Speech said will not happen, which is to knock down historic buildings and churches and mess up a great deal of industrial and house planning that has been done in South Bedfordshire in the past eight years on the basis that the rejection of the Roskill recommendation for a third London airport at Wing would be honoured. I put that on the record only to state that we in Bedfordshire are amazed that a committee should suggest again, eight years later, what was rejected by Parliament some time ago.
I welcome what the Gracious Speech says about matters in relation to the trade unions. I welcome especially the commitment of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment that there will be great and detailed consultation before legislation is brought before us to amend the law on picketing and the closed shop and financial aid for postal ballots. It is in the interests of everyone that we get this legislation right. That is why I welcome this period of consultation. It is important that we work with the grain of opinion in the country on this matter. It is equally important that we get a considered and measured response from the trade unions in what we are trying to do. It is fortunate that we have come into power at the beginning of the season of annual trade union conferences, which run until the end of July.
Shortly after the general election, Mr. Len Murray said that he hoped that the Government would not approach the TUC with a "take it or leave it" attitude. That is precisely what has not happened. We have said that we want consultations. The opportunity exists for the trade unions to consider and bring forward their suggestions, as they are now in the middle of their season of conferences. Equally, we are looking for 791 something further from the conferences about to take place. The document that the previous Government signed with the TUC in January mentioned the need for periodic reviews of the machinery and workings of the trade union movement. I hope that such reviews will be regular.
I refer particularly to the power of trade unions to call a strike. The unions need to look at this matter regularly in order to decide the circumstances in which the power can be used and the procedure that should be followed before such power is used. If the unions get it wrong and run ahead of opinion in a particular union or a particular factory, their proposed action can be rejected. A classic example occurred in my constituency last September, when the shop stewards at Vauxhall called for a strike, which was rejected by the work force. The work force was not saying that it accepted the 5 per cent. pay offer or the then Government's pay policy it was saying that more consultation and negotiation were needed before it gave the union power to call a strike. I welcome what was stated in January. I hope that the country will benefit from the measured consideration of the powers that unions possess to call a strike. Nevertheless, the way in which strikes are called and the procedures that have to be gone through should be under constant review by the unions.
I want to refer to apprenticeships and shortage of skills. If the problem of shortage of skills is not cured and if apprenticeships are not examined carefully, the Government's efforts for reviving the economy and providing more jobs will run into difficulties. There have been numerous articles in the last six to eight months about this problem afflicting the country. One headline stated:The skilled worker shortage takes a turn for the worse",an article in the Financial Times on 11 December was headedA case study of famine amid plenty",while the headline on an earlier article in the same newspaper wasHow Britain wastes skilled workers".The Government have to turn their attention to this worrying situation. The December article in the Financial Times states: 792According to the Engineering Industry Training Board (E1TB) some 19,000 new craftsmen and a smaller number of technicians are needed in engineering alone each year to replace the losses caused by retirement, promotion and movement out of the industry but over recent years, the industry's intake of apprentices has fluctuated with the economy.We know what that means. Sometimes, the intake has not been what it should have been.
I want to go one stage further back. In order to benefit industry and to get a sufficient number of young men and women into apprenticeships, we have to make sure that the teaching of mathematics and science in our schools is up to standard. It was unfortunately not possible to pursue the matter in April because Parliament was dissolved. But the then Government were about to announce how many teachers of mathematics and science in our schools were inadequately qualified, how many were only partially qualified and how many were not qualified at all. The previous Government were about seven months late providing that information which had been due in autumn last year. Now that Parliament is back in business, I hope that the Government can soon issue this information.
One cannot begin to get young men and women to take up engineering apprenticeships, and the advantages that go with them, if the teaching of mathematics and science in our schools has not been up to standard. Those standards cannot be attained until we cure the shortage of mathematics and science teachers. Without those standards, industry tends to drift along not knowing from where its apprentices will come and not knowing how to get a sufficient number of skilled people.
There is also argument in the industry about the length of the apprenticeship course. The engineering industry training board wants to reduce the length of apprenticeship from four to two years. The unions are not too keen on that suggestion.
The article of 11 December in the Financial Times refers to that point. A major employer, interviewed in the North-West, said:It is a fact of industrial life in the UK that the only way to get a craftsman is to train 16-year-old boys. We would love to take people in the 30s and 40s and have them 793 trained, but it is just not on. For the unions, the apprenticeship system is sacrosanct.That is an employer's view. I do not say that I wholly subscribe to it. The unions say that their attitude is changing on the length of apprenticeships and whether they will swiftly recognise qualifications gained by an apprentice who has been through a skillcentre. On skillcentres, we know that difficulties do not exist simply due to the argument over whether a course, once completed, is acceptable to the trade unions and therefore acceptable to the industry. Some courses are unfilled. There is a shortage of instructors in certain areas. Some of the siting of skillcentres has not been as carefully planned as it should have been. We have to improve the opportunities for further advance in his or her firm once a person has acquired skills in the engineering industry.
The earlier article on skilled people in the Financial Times last September pointed to a survey showing that 76 per cent. of young people leaving the engineering industry said that they were taking that step because of poor prospects for advancement. That was the main reason that a large number of people under the age of 35 gave for leaving the industry.
The article said that one of the lessons companies should learn was that they should actively recruit, where possible, on the shop floor supervisory, technical and managerial positions. In other words, they should look within their particular areas. This is a serious problem for the country and for the Government. It is equally a serious problem for the trade unions. In addition to the conferences which are now beginning, I hope that the TUC will set aside a full day in September for a measured and considered debate on the question of apprenticeships and skillcentres and on the question of accepting people into the engineering industry and the alterations that should be made. Following that debate, I hope that the TUC will approach my right hon. Friend with its considered view about what should be done.
I should like to turn briefly to the question of the subsidised job schemes that we have inherited from the previous Administration. I realise that the Government have only been in power for a fortnight and are considering these schemes 794 Some are ripe for consideration because they are about to come to an end.
The adult employment subsidy scheme was started in August 1978 to run for nine months. It is a subsidy of £20 a week for up to 26 weeks, offered to employers who recruit long-term unemployed people aged 19 to 64 for men or 19 to 59 for women. The experiment has been running in the Merseyside, Tyneside and Leeds areas. That nine months is almost up, and I am wondering how successful the scheme has been and whether experience of it has suggested to the Government that the subsidy might not have been better used to help people going into skillcentres. I do not know, but it is a matter of urgent consideration.
Next, there is the job introduction scheme for disabled people under which the employer is paid £30 a week for the first six weeks that the disabled person works for him. The trial period can be extended to 13 weeks in exceptional circumstances. This information comes from the latest Department of Employment Gazette of 19 April. Again, one would be interested to know how that scheme has gone, whether the provision for extension in exceptional circumstances has been taken advantage of and whether we should not be providing more opportunities for disabled people to learn a skill in a skillcentre, rather than this way around.
There is also the small firms subsidy, which covers small manufacturing concerns with fewer than 200 employees. It has been running for some time, since it started on 1 July 1977. I should be interested to know whether that money should not begin to be shifted towards opportunities in skillcentres.
Finally, last year the Manpower Services Commission started an experimental scheme called the skilled workers' mobility experiment. An article in the Financial Times on 11 December 1978 said that this scheme was drawn up to help people earning less than £5,000 a year who move their homes to find new jobs. This is a difficult one, because, as the article goes on:It is believed that many people would not be prepared to leave their home areas, whatever financial inducements might be offered.It went on to say that the right hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth), the former Employment Secretary, had admitted last December that 795 the position on skill shortages "has indeed worsened." I do not think it has got any better in the last six months. This is a major and serious problem for any Government—how to match the need for skills to the number of people entering industry and how to give young men and women a greater opportunity to acquire a skill, particularly in our engineering industry. Over the period of the last Government and the previous one, it has become evident that industrial difficulties and arguments between management and unions and between Government and unions always end in compromise. There are no spectacular victories, no Waterloos. There will always have to be an end in compromise.
That is why I should like to see both sides making greater use of the Employment Protection Act, which gives them a right to seek arbitration from ACAS. We do not need to set up a mass of new arbitration boards and committees. They are written into the 1975 Act, which is four and a half years old and which in one section provides that ACAS can arbitrate where there are difficulties between unions and management or, where the Government are the employer, between unions and the Government. I hope that the country realises that these difficulties will end in compromise and arbitration.
I wish my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment well with all the problems that are coming on to his desk.
§ 8.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Clinton Davis (Hackney, Central)
Characteristically, the hon. Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Madel) has made a thoughtful and constructive speech. I hope that that is not the kiss of death for him, although I fear that the kiss of death has already been bestowed on him. I wish that he were in this Government—but if he were it would be a different sort of Government.
I fundamentally disagree with only one thing that the hon. Gentleman said—his suggestion that agreement between the TUC and the CBI was an essential precondition of any progressive movement towards industrial democracy. That is asking too much, and I fear that this 796 Government have no desire to pursue the idea of industrial democracy. I believe that that is a retrogressive attitude.
I want to talk about asset stripping in the private and public sectors. In the public sector it can be immensely dangerous, but so it can—and it has been proved to be—in the private sector. We must be ever vigilant about the protection afforded to prevent a recurrence of what happened in the early 1970s. Yet this Government seem determined to make this country a land fit for asset strippers.
It is an interesting coincidence that the Queen's Speech should have been published just a day after the publication of the inspectors' report on the affairs of Dowgate and General Investments, about which some questions were asked earlier today. In the one, we have a Tory commitment to plunder publicly owned assets, and in the other, the report, a valuable insight into yet another unsavoury asset-stripping operation in the private sector during the halcyon days, for asset strippers, of the last Tory Administration.
I do not accept the current wisdom that those days cannot return. There is every danger that they will, given the present philosophy of this Tory Government and their doctrinal spasms. The Dowgate report also provides a useful account of the inadequacies of the takeover panel in safeguarding the interests of those whom it was designed to protect—the body of shareholders in that company.
Of course, the almost inevitable reaction of those whose activities have been copiously described in the report, some of whose hands were plainly caught in the till, is to yell "Foul" and to seek to camouflage their operations by denigrating the inspectors, whose public duty it was to ferret out the truth. We have heard it all before—most blatantly following publication of the Lonrho report.
But the misdemeanours of these people would not have been possible without the cupidity and willing compliance of certain merchant banks. One of the principal badges of dishonour during the whole period of the Barber boom in confetti money must be pinned upon the lapel of Keyser Ullmann.
It was the chairman of that outfit—I have given him notice that I propose to 797 raise the matter in this way—the right hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann), who described Keyser Ullmann's involvement in the squalid Dowgate affair asa very great mistake".He added:It should never have occurred.That is the self-same right hon. Gentleman—he has a collective responsibility for what happened under his chairmanship of that bank—who, as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, has pontificated so readily and so often about the Labour Government's alleged financial extravagance.
We all recall the words of the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph), now the Secretary of State for Industry, who said:All aids and grants to industry are harmful.It is worth noting, however, that he did not say that when it came to the launching of the Bank of England's lifeboat scheme which, with the help of substantial Government grants, rescued a number of secondary banks which got into trouble by making too quick a quick buck. If ever there was a case of double standards, it was that applied by the right hon. Member.
The Dowgate report provides yet another devastating example of corporate abuse about which the Conservative Party is so abstemious in its criticisms. It is a saga of abuse after abuse, involving company funds being milked to provide ocean-going cruisers for directors, conspiracies to mislead the take-over panel and false statements about the sale of shares by the Duke of St. Albans. It is a saga of the warehousing of shares and the manipulation of the assets of Dowgate and General by Christopher Selmes, who used them as his own and exercised a Svengali-like influence over people who were all too willing to allow themselves to be manipulated. A Henry Moore sculpture worth about £20,000 was substituted, together with a few pretty worthless shares, for a guarantee worth £17 million.
The mind boggles at what happened. Keyser Ullmann furnished 80 per cent. of the deal—£21 million to a £100 company—in the hope of making a huge profit over and above the interest on the moneys advanced. Yet that deal, incredibly, was never even discussed by the Keyser Ullmann board.
798 The two merchant banks that were principally involved—Edward Bates and Keyser Ullmann—knowingly issued a materially misleading press statement about the acquisition of shares, in consequence of which a better offer to the Grendon shareholders by Metropolitan Estates was frustrated.
The take-over panel, too, did not exactly cover itself in glory. There is abundant evidence that its inquiries were inadequate and insufficiently probing. Indeed, its admission to the press is enlightening. The panel said:It might be surprising if, after so long and detailed an inquiry, the inspectors were not able to discover some matters not disclosed to the panel.It can say that again.
Obviously, questions which might have been put by the most junior counsel were not put by Lord Shawcross, a former eminent member of the Bar. No proper request was made for the disclosure of documents. It was an amateurish affair which failed to provide the measure of protection to shareholders which should have been forthcoming.
More than that, there is evidence that the panel was obstructive in responding to the inspector's requests for assistance. More extraordinary, the chairman was busy writing private and confidential letters, evidently without consultation with other members of the panel, to a firm of solicitors engaged in the inquiry on behalf of one of the witnesses.
At the very least, these mistakes must be avoided in future. However, even more important than the revelation of the details of this sordid saga are the lessons that are to be learned. Is the self-regulatory system sufficient? The Financial Times stated on 15 May:With the benefit of four years' hindsight it is easy to see that this is just the type of case that makes a mockery of the principle of self-regulation. A code which is based on the assumption that the takeover game will be played in a gentlemanly sort of way is shown up to have been quite inadequate to cope with alleged conspiracy to lie, alleged bribery and a determination to ignore the interests of shareholders.When I was on a ministerial visit to Canada some time ago, I was advised by the chairman of the Ontario Securities Commission that, when it comes to surveillance of those involved in the manipulation of moneys and securities, self-regulation is virtually impossible.
799 I would not go quite as far as that. I agree with the Financial Times that we do not need to establish an American-type securities and exchange commission, but I hope that the Wilson committee will have regard to this report and the criticisms made by the Financial Times in suggesting some qualification of self-regulation. There is a need for more independent surveillance of the securities market. There is a need to provide a body similar, perhaps, to the take-over panel, but also drawing on the experience of the SEC. We need a body with real teeth, with the power to summon witnesses on subpoena and to compel the disclosure of documents. Furthermore, company law must be reformed to deal with the abuses revealed in the Dowgate and other reports.
I was most disappointed at the Government announcement today that they propose to introduce only parts I and 11 of the Companies Bill, which was introduced by the Labour Government. They do not propose to do anything until 1980 to deal with the abuses of loans to directors and insider dealing. We want to know why not. After all, there is a ready-made Bill which, in Committee and in the House, the Tories said they wanted. We are therefore entitled to an answer to that question.
I turn now from the venality of some engaged in the private sector to that of the Government in relation to the public sector. We read almost daily in the press of Tory proposals to engage in massive asset-stripping operations in the public sector. That was mentioned again yesterday in the Sunday Telegraph.
The Tory manifesto was forthcoming only in generalisations. It made a virtue of vagueness. The right hon. Lady, now the Prime Minister, said in a broadcast on the Jimmy Young Show, or something of that kind—I heard it myself—that it was not a promising manifesto. She too, can say that again.
The Queen's Speech was hardly more forthcoming. There was nothing about British Airways in it. It was like the dance of the seven veils, the first of which has not yet been dropped. Perhaps it might, mercifully, remain that way. It would be much more decent if that were so.
800 I mention only one industry under threat—one for which I had responsibility with my right hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Mr. Smith). I refer to British Airways. The Conservative suggestions, generalised though they were, have created uncertainty and anxiety about the future prospects of British Airways. That cannot be good for an airline which is engaged in the toughest international competition and which needs to have a secure future.
When in the campaign I referred to the Conservative plans to dismember British Airways, I was described in the Tory Central Office propaganda sheet, the Daily Mail, as having perpetrated a dirty lie. It was only number eight in the list of 12. I felt resentful. I should have preferred it to have been number one. But was it a lie?
For weeks before the election the Conservative spokesmen, the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) and the hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit), were busy floating their ideas for sinking British Airways. Some spoke of denationalisation and others of the so-called BP solution—the sale to the private sector of part of the equity of BA. Whatever the name, the prescription amounted to the emasculation of our national airline.
As the Tory manifesto uttered not one word about either of those hair-brained schemes, my right hon. Friend and I issued challenges to the Tories to come clean about their intentions towards this supremely national asset, in which 50,000 men and women were engaged and had their largest possible investment, their working lives. It is now time for the Government to come clean. With the maximum degree of irresponsibility they planted the seed of uncertainty at a time when the trade unions and management in British Airways had successfully negotiated a deal to secure a new wage structure for a decade. Did they give one thought to that situation?
It is no use the Secretary of State for Trade's saying that the work force would be consulted on the details of any such scheme. The work force said absolutely categorically that it did not want to be consulted on the method of castration to be applied. It did not want to be castrated at all. The senior shop stewards told the Government "Leave well alone".
801 Better industrial relations are essential if we are to gain the important objectives for British Airways, set by both management and the trade unions, to make it even more profitable, more competitive and efficient, and a vital ingredient of this is that workers need to be actively involved in the decisions taken by the board which shape their working lives.
It was unfortunate in the extreme, therefore, that Sir Frank McFadzean, the chairman of British Airways, allowed himself to be embroiled in the foolish conjecture about the future of the airline. Despite being the chairman of that important publicly controlled enterprise, he chose, during the sensitive time of the general election, quite reckless as to the damage that he might inflict on industrial relations and to the future of the airline, to aid and abet the Tory Party in its electoral propaganda by advancing the divisive scheme—the so-called BP solution—for British Airways.
Sir Frank chose to bypass the British Airways trade union council, not only on that matter but on another important matter that I shall not go into now. He bypassed the council, in which his own management and the trade unions had been anxious to engage in constructive participation and, indeed, had sedulously fostered, and thus he damaged its whole credibility. I hasten to add that I acquit the rest of the board in that respect and in connection with the whole sorry episode. It was a one-man scheme.
The lesson that we can learn is that in future we must have people in the high command of nationalised industry who believe in it and who want to see it succeed, not those who wish to sap its vitality and thus injure its well-being and that of those whose livelihoods are integrally connected with the success of the industry.
The Tories are now seeking to pillage the best of the public sector. They have had no scruples about prejudicing British Airways in the past. They gave away valuable air traffic rights without compensation. They intervened to support private helicopter operations over the North Sea to the direct disadvantage of British Airways. Some unseemly negotiations took place in the Department of Trade before the Labour Government took office.
802 If the Tories are successful in the asset stripping that they propose, they will be able to claim that the rest of the industry—the same applies to other industries—was unprofitable and that nationalised industry cannot succeed. It is the same with the National Health Service, education and council housing.
There is nothing which unites the Tory Party more effectively, nothing that prodnces greater cohesion, than the desire to engage in the plunder of public assets in the interests of its City friends. That, indeed, is why big business is in the Tory Party and why the Tory Party is in business.
§ 8.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton. North)
I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to catch your eye, and I am grateful to your staff for all the help and assistance that I have had in the past fortnight. The House will realise that a maiden speech is a daunting occasion, especially when the Member representing the constituency in which I live is sitting just over my left shoulder nearby in the Chamber—my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. Pawsey).
I am privileged to represent the constituents of Northampton, North. It is a great responsibility of which I shall be ever mindful. It is a wonderful opportunity to serve not only my constituents but the country that we all love and long to see restored to good fortune and dignity.
I would like to start by praising my predecessor, Maureen Colquhoun. She was controversial, but she had a great deal of courage. She had strong views and she expressed them well with dignity and forcefulness. She did much good work for Northampton and for many of her constituents, especially the less fortunate ones. Her work, with my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, South (Mr. Morris), to sustain the finances of the hospital service in Northampton was especially notable. There appeared a great deal of good sense, determination and compassion in her campaign to give fair play to prostitutes, although I must confess a personal lack of research. I always enjoyed her company and I am grateful for her past courtesies to me. I and, I am sure, every other hon. Member wish her well and wish her the 803 opportunity to use her considerable and undoubted talents.
It is 250 years since Northampton had two Tory Members of Parliament. I hope that it is another 250 years before we have any other representation. I have many distinguished predecessors. One who will be well known on the Opposition Benches was Margaret Bondfield, the first member of the fairer sex ever to hold Cabinet rank. There was Charles Bradlaugh, the Liberal, who I understand had some difficulty in swearing the Oath. More recently there has been Reggie Paget, now Lord Paget. He was a great servant of both Northampton and the country who is universally admired and respected by Members of this House wherever they sit and by Northamptonians, whatever their political allegiance.
My most illustrious predecessor was Spencer Percival, the Prime Minister, a Northampton lawyer who was first elected by acclamation at a by-election. On his arrival at this House he was told that a general election had just been called. He retracted his steps with vigour and enthusiasm to Northampton and was again returned with an overwhelming majority. For the rest of his career he was elected unopposed, trusted by all and with a reputation, not very common in those days, for incorruptibility. He was famed for his ability to select relatively unknown people who gave great service and who brought greatness upon themselves in later days. He had a career and character worthy of emulation save in its final sad detail. He was assassinated in mistake by a madman.
Northampton is a county and market town. Over the last few years the borough has expanded to provide homes and employment for people outside Northampton, mainly from London. The borough has long been a centre of the boot and shoe industry, and 100 years ago 40 men in every 100 worked in that industry. Although no longer dominated by boot and shoe manufacture, it is still our most important industry and it is rooted in family background and in the traditions and history of the borough.
I was privileged, last week, to attend the opening by His Royal Highness Prince Michael of Kent of the excellent new laboratory for the British Leather 804 Manufacturers' Research Association. We produce high-quality footwear the highest-quality footwear produced anywhere in the world. It is good value for money, and I was absolutely delighted to be told, when I was in Northampton last week, that the former Prime Minister, now Leader of the Opposition, wears our shoes. I only wish that, after the last five years, more Members on the Government side could afford to buy them. They are excellent and good value for money.
As well as the boot and shoe industry, we have in Northampton light engineering, the food industry, the clothing industry and office work. Over half of our eligible women are in work, which is a higher proportion than anywhere else in the country. By eligible I mean those of working age. In other respects, of course, the women of Northampton are all highly eligible.
Prominent amongst our companies are Barclays Bank, Plessey's, Ransome Hoffman Pollard, and Telfers. We boast an excellent football team, the Cobblers, once in the First Division but now, sadly, in less illustrious company. We are also the home of the Saints, our rugby football team which, I am glad to say, on its day, is the best team in the country. It has been said of the Saints that if a person can play for England he has a jolly good chance of playing for Northampton. I am very pleased that one of its players, Gary Pearce, is currently playing for England.
We in Northampton are very good-tempered people. We do not indulge in some of the unfortunate excesses which seem to take place in other parts of the country, and I shall now say a few words on one which has been causing many problems—that is, industrial relations.
There is a growing understandable, irrefutable resentment among decent working people in Northampton, and, I am sure, throughout the length and breadth of the land, about the amount of money which is taken from them in taxation and spent on benefits to those who are able to work, for whom employment is available, but who are too idle, workshy or troublesome to make any contribution whatever to our national economy.
I do not refer here to the unfortunate, the underprivileged or the victims of the complexity and pace of modern life. I 805 do not refer to the poor of our time, the disabled, the pensioner and, in particular, that growing army of poor, the one-parent families, for whom everyone on both sides of the House, I am sure, would wish to do all that is reasonable. But how can one justify to a hard-working, high-wage working man that each week sufficient is taken from his pocket to be paid to keep his idle neighbour who has not lifted a finger in years?
No doubt, to raise this subject is to open oneself to the accusation of wanting to rob the poor. But as such an accusation is, in truth, worthy of Dr. Goebbels at his peak, since it is so much a distortion of the truth, I feel that one can lay that accusation on one side.
The great injustice of our welfare system is not that we rob the rich to pay the poor but, rather, that we rob—that we clean out—the poor to pay for the idle, and nowhere is this so unjust, and seen to be so unjust, as in the State financing of strikes.
Surely, all right hon. and hon. Members must believe that a man is responsible for his own wife and his family—or, in the event that the wife alone is working, the other way round—and if people go on strike of their own free will when work is available, if they strike against the community—and in this day and age most strikes, after all, are against the community—why should society pay for its own disruption? Why should society be burdened with looking after a man's wife and child when he has the work available and chooses not to accept it?
As for the argument that this payment is as of right through insurance, what insurance company would pay out to a client who drove his car full-speed into a brick wall?
But there is a consideration of even greater importance than the injustice and resentment to which I have referred. I believe that this winter, as last, we shall face aggressive demands for wage increases, increases which we cannot afford, increases which will light the fuse to an explosion in inflation. Quite reasonably, my constituents wish and expect that the Government should do all in their power to prevent that from happening. Money is power. Lack of money is lack of power. If we stop the State financing 806 of strikes, there is a chance, surely, that the overwhelming majority of decent trade union moderates will be able to reassert themselves and, through secret ballots, will be able to vote against strike action and be able to vote against inflationary wage claims.
If the unions were once again forced—I say "once again" for this was the case in the past—to pay for their own strikes, who would want their money to be spent on anti-social strikes, who would want to use up union funds in marginal cases? The moderates would for once have an argument against militancy, and they might, with luck, prevail.
I am convinced that, if we do not introduce this change, we stand the risk of yet another winter of discontent. I know that my constituents are overwhelmingly in favour of the change. It is the one point which was mentioned to me most during the whole election campaign. They demand it. I cannot myself see any difficulty in this reversion if we do it soon, if we do it now. But there is no way we can do it later in the year when the new wage round is in full swing. To do it, we must do it now. If we do not do it out of a misconceived concern for the consensus men of Whitehall or the trade union bands, we shall reap the whirlwind.
§ 8.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Barry Jones (Flint, East)
I am glad to speak after the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow). As he said, he succeeds a brave and hardworking Member in Ms. Colquhoun and the House will miss her. He is to be congratulated by the House on his speech. His record in the Armed Services was distinguished, as to some extent it was in political research—and I emphasise "political research" He was well informed about the boot and shoe industry, and he pledged to serve everyone in his constituency, which will stand him in good stead. We shall always remember his generous remarks in opening his speech, but we warn him that when next he talks of scroungers he will have a rougher ride.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Varley) asked the right questions in his penetrating speech, but he received no answers. There is danger ahead for the British economy if the 807 Labour Government's policies are overthrown, and after this debate it appears that the Secretary of State for Industry is poised to initiate a hard-nosed series of measures. A Tory "get-tough" policy will be injurious to the already fragile economic base of my constituency of Flint, East. My right hon. Friend the Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth), as the Secretary of State for Employment, greatly helped our Courtaulds textile workers, and his subsidies currently prop up over 600 jobs. The then Secretary of State for Wales, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris), sanctioned the development of a 300-acre industrial park. The excellent jobs team value greatly the help that the Industry Act gives in attracting new industries to Dee-side. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield, as Secretary of State, scheduled Deeside as a development area and sanctioned the £50 million Airbus investment for the Broughton works, in my constituency. He thereby made possible the creation of about 1,000 new jobs and safeguarded the existing 4,000 jobs in aerospace. The shop stewards tell me that they greatly fear the new Government's planned intervention in a profitable, stable and hopeful aerospace industry.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield and his then Minister of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester. Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) gave great help to the Shotton steel workers. They protected the steel men's interests, as did their predecessors. They never sent them away empty-handed, and helped to restore morale after the crushing 1972 Conservative Government pronouncement of the end of steelmaking at the Shotton works.
I should like to have assurances regarding development status, steel making, subsidies for textile workers, the Industry Act and the aerospace industry. My area is a good example of how the Labour Government's industrial policy helped people positively. Unfortunately, it is a potential example of how the new Government's "get-tough" policy could affect an area in a thoroughly negative way.
Facing the Government Front Bench is rather like facing a row of fridges with their doors open. It appears to me that 808 this is an unsympathetic and ideologically overcommitted Government. However, they look a little guilty in the knowledge that they won votes and power by slick campaigning and incessant rumour-mongering. I invite the Secretary of State for Industry to visit the Shotton steelworks to see them for himself since he has indicated that he is prepared to move about the regions. He would see then the vast potential of this very fine steelworks.
The Shotton steel workers have earned new steel investment. They have always delivered the goods on time. They have built a magnificent new coatings complex. They brought on stream a new slab mill. They have never gone on strike, have worked together as a team of unions and management, and inspired the loyalty, as well as the very ready help, of the Clwyd county council. The local TUC steel committee and the action committee have never put a foot wrong. The Shotton campaign has only brought credit to the steelworks and to the local community.
For Shotton to be asked, in today's conditions, to sustain a job loss of 6,000 jobs directly and another 3,000 indirectly is a very serious matter. There is no sign at all of 6,000 new jobs in the pipeline, and all the time more and more youngsters present themselves for jobs in my area.
I support the concept of Shotton as an integrated steelworks. I believe that it should operate specifically for the export market and as a balancing plant. Proud as we are of our fine new coatings complex, many of us are not impressed with the published plans to transport more than one million tons a year of hot rolled coil hundreds of miles to Shotton with its heavy end non-operative.
Steel demand is never accurately assessed. The head office of the British Steel Corporation has been known more than once to get its sums wrong. Therefore, I suggest that we should not put all our eggs in the one basket of the big steelworks. We should let Shotton operate as an insurance policy against the possible breakdown of the current Corporation plans to operate only very large works.
To back my case, I should point out that on 7 March the motor vessel "Clan Grant" docked at Birkenhead after arriving from South Africa. It had on board 10,000 tons of steel coil—about £2 809 million worth of imported foreign steel. That means that it cost something like £200 a ton. I note that some of the bigger customers to be supplied were the British Rollin. Mills at Tipton, which was seeking 157 coils, and the Stourbridge Rolling Mills, which was seeking 176 coils.
It would be far better to propose that in future Shotton should make steel as an integrated works and thus help prevent the importation of steel. This would be preferable to seeing Shotton's heavy end closed, for us then to have newer plants supplying us with coil, to see that prospect fail, and then to have to import coil into Britain from foreign steelworks. That would be coil, as it were, over our dead body.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East)
As this is the first occasion on which I have addressed the House of Commons, I should like to thank the House for the great kindness shown to me in my first two weeks in this building. I should like to go further and thank hon. Members in all parts of the House for imparting to me their knowledge and experience.
Although I and my colleagues will sit on the Government side of the House, we shall be doing so as a separate and independent group.
I am told that in making a maiden speech one is expected to be non-controversial. Since I come from Belfast, East, the most important part of Northern Ireland, a country that is steeped in controversy, the House will understand my difficulty this evening. Indeed, I come from a party in which controversy has not been entirely unknown. My campaign was indeed controversial. Indeed, the policies I pursued were controversial, and therefore I face certain problems in making my maiden speech.
Before I go any further, I should place on record the appreciation of the people of East Belfast for the outgoing Member, the right hon. William Craig. Mr. Craig has been a colleague of mine for many years, and although we differed on policy matters I can say with confidence that we always maintained our friendship. William Craig has always been a gentleman, and I greatly respect him.
I shall be brief, and I shall do no more in this speech than nail my colours to the mast. Since I come from Northern 810 Ireland, I shall do no other than speak of the most important matter in the eyes of the people of Northern Ireland, and that is the subject of security. I was pleased to see in the Gracious Speech a statement of the Government's intention to restore peace and normality in my country. While that remains their policy, they will always have my full support and that of my party.
Hon. Members will all be aware of the terrible tragedy of terrorism. I know that it has come close to many in this House who knew Airey Neave. Those of us in Northern Ireland who knew him, loved and respected him, will appreiate the great loss occasioned by his death. In Northern Ireland about 2,000 people have died, over 20,000 people have been maimed and mutilated, and millions of pounds worth of damage have been caused in senseless and savage terrorism.
I ask the Government to adopt as their first priority the defence of the citizens of this part of the United Kingdom. I ask that they adopt the toughest security measures to put down terrorism in Northern Ireland. I may be stretching the idea of non-controversy too far if I suggest that the Government might even go as far as to bring in capital punishment for terrorist crimes.
In Northern Ireland many of us are aware of the great difficulty faced by the security forces. I wish to place on record my appreciation of the great job which they undertake against the propaganda that is put out by the Provisional IRA and other terrorist groups. I know that many hon. Members will take the view that I am too young to advise this House, and that may be so. But, despite my tender years, I have walked behind many a hearse and have looked in many an open grave. I have held the hand of many who have lost loved ones as a result of the terrorist campaign. I have carried in my arms fatherless children of many of the victims of Ulster sorrows.
Tonight, with all the force at my command, I call on the Government—because it is to this Government that my people look—to act with all speed and determination to solve the security problem in my country. On behalf of Ulster's dead, I call on the Government to act. On behalf of Ulster's 811 living, I call on them to do it now. I ask them to stand up to terrorism in Northern Ireland and let my people live.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Albert Booth (Barrow-in-Furness)
It must be rare indeed for one to have the opportunity to congratulate sincerely nine maiden speakers. We have heard maiden speeches from my hon. Friends the Members for Kilmarnock (Mr. McKelvey), Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) and Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. O'Neill) and the hon. Members for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Thornton), Rossendale (Mr. Trippier) Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark), Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Walker), Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) and Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson).
They were all fine speeches, and all reflected aspects of constituency interests and problems. If some paid limited or qualified regard to the convention that maiden speeches are non-controversial, they were none the less effective for that. In fact, it is rather appropriate that on the day when we are debating the first amendment to the Queen's Speech, controversy should enter some part of the speeches. I hope that the maiden speakers will take part in many more employment debates during this Parliament.
While the Conservatives were in opposition, their Front Bench spokesmen on employment and industry scorned the Labour Government's employment policies. They accused us of taking no account of the root cause of the problem of unemployment. We were told of our "failure to understand" and that they had a better way of dealing with employment problems—a way which would be more successful.
We have waited with considerable interest and apprehension for the first speech of the Secretary of State for Industry in order to learn what are those policies which will be so much better and more effective and successful. My interest is not satisfied and my apprehension has not been abated by the right hon. Gentleman's speech. He made clear that he did not intend to tell us precisely what his policies were but that he intended to give us his philosophy or, to use his own term, a new analysis. But there is nothing 812 new in his new analysis. Apart from some slight paraphrasing, it is identical to the analysis that he put before the House on 4 July last year. His claim should not be to novelty but to consistency in the way that he has presented his case on employment.
When the right hon. Gentleman was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) whether the Department of Industry would continue to aid the special development area of Merseyside, he answered that he would go there and learn by listening. If he had been asked the same question by any other hon. Member from any other special development area, he would presumably have given the same reply—that he would go there and learn by listening.
I do not recall from the general election campaign that it was any part of the Conservative policy on special development areas or employment policy generally that they would learn by listening. I recall more clearly and, I hope, more accurately that their case was that which we heard in the House in July and again today, namely, the new analysis and the different approach. It is hard to see how it is new. It is an idea which has been argued time and again and which has been overtaken by history.
The Secretary of State for Industry accused my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Varley) of not speaking of the Labour Government's record in this matter. I am prepared to make a few comments, to redress that balance, about the Labour Government's record, because we are debating an amendment to the Loyal Address about employment. Therefore, perhaps it would have been helpful if the Secretary of State for Industry had made some acknowledgment of the fact that the employed labour force of this country has risen steadily from 24,761,000 in the first quarter of 1976 to 25,025,000 in the fourth quarter of last year. It might also be a little fairer of the Secretary of State for Industry if he were prepared to acknowledge that when Labour left office there were more employees in employment in Britain than when he last left office. There are more people in employment now. Unemployment has been falling for the last 18 months. It dropped by 39,500 last month.
It would also have helped to get a little more balance into the Secretary of 813 State's contribution if he had acknowledged that a Conservative Government coming into office in 1979 certainly cannot, on the basis of what the Conservative Government did in 1970–74, say that these are matters which can be safely left to them. Many of the problems with which the Labour Government have struggled over the last five years in dealing with unemployment arose from decisions taken by a Conservative Government in 1970–74.
Therefore, the audacity of the Secretary of State for Industry was shown by his reference to the shortage of skilled manpower and the number of vacancies that exist for skilled people, because he was a member of a Government that presided over a most disastrous decline in the amount of training that goes on for industry. Between 1970–71 and 1973–74, the number of first-year apprentices in the British engineering industry declined from 33,000 to 21,000. That was a fall of 36 per cent. in apprenticeship entry into the engineering industry. That is something that cannot be put right in five minutes or five months. In many cases, it is something that takes five years to put right.
That is what we have been doing over the last five years By the introduction of apprenticeship awards, we have raised the number of apprentices entering the engineering industry by some 40 per cent. We doubled the amount of training carried out under the training opportunities scheme of the Manpower Services Commission over its 1974 level, and we trebled it over its 1972 level.
Therefore, one of the benefits which the present Government have inherited from a Labour Government is a vastly increased level of training going on in Britain, and those additional apprentices who entered industry in the first year of the Labour Government will be available shortly as trained skilled people to enter some of those vacancies of which the Secretary of State for Industry, very properly, talked early this afternoon. This will be a great benefit to the Government in dealing with problems of skill shortage.
I am not claiming—I never would claim it—that even in this area we achieved complete success. Far from it. But we were making progress, progress which is now threatened by a doctrinaire analysis, an analysis which does not fit 814 our current industrial situation or our recent industrial history.
That is why the questions which my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield posed this afternoon will not go away. The Secretary of State for Industry may glibly answer one of those questions at the end of the first debate on employment, but the others will come crowding back, because they are practical questions which need practical answers, and they need them very quickly.
I must confess to very strong constituency interests in one of the questions posed by my right hon. Friend. In my constituency it is probable that there is a higher percentage of shipbuilding workers than in any other in the country. Therefore, I am certain that I and others will be pressing for an answer to the question about shipbuilding industry support. If we do not, there will rapidly be other people knocking on the door of the Secretary of State for Industry because, in the real world, practical events in industry require practical answers. It will not be enough to tell those who will knock on the door of the Secretary of State because their jobs are threatened that the right hon. Gentleman is encouraging entrepreneurs.
The Gracious Speech makes no reference to the special employment measures run by the Department of Employment or those run by the Manpower Services Commission which currently are assisting some 240,000 people. There was no mention of those in the introduction to the debate on this subject of unemployment. There is no mention of the short-time working scheme or of the youth opportunities programme which has virtually eliminated the problem of last year's school leavers. I remind the House that there were 230,000 unemployed school leavers in August of last year. Today, hardly a boy or girl who left school last year either has not got a job or a place in training or is not about to enter a job or a place of training. That is a tremendous achievement. It is looked upon with envy by other countries in the Community which, according to the judgment of our new Secretary of State, have the balance right between the private and public sectors. Those are the countries which have encouraged the entrepreneur without finding that encouragement solve 815 the problem of unemployment amongst young people.
It is also significant that as yet we have heard from the Government no reference to the job release scheme. I look to the Secretary of State for Employment to tell us how far he sees these measures and those others which have contributed so significantly to the reduction of unemployment over the past 18 months being essential if we are to continue the decline in the level of unemployment and the increase in the number of people in employment.
I am willing to take any criticism from someone who can show me ways in which we can achieve more rapidly an increase in the numbers in employment and a more rapid decrease in the number of unemployed. What we cannot accept on behalf of those whom we represent is that all this should be put at risk or even thrown away on the basis of some new analysis which is not backed up by any hard policies or any proposition other than that the role of the National Enterprise Board should be curtailed and that taxation should be reduced.
If the Secretary of State for Industry believes, as I am sure he does, that the encouragement of the entrepreneur is all that is necessary to deal with this problem of unemployment, or if he believes that it can make a much more effective contribution, I suggest that he has to explain to the House why some of the other countries in the EEC which on his analysis have got it much more nearly right than the Labour Government did have experienced increasing unemployment over the past year. In the Community, unemployment levels have risen. In Great Britain, unemployment has fallen over the past year. So they, having got it more nearly right, have pursued policies which, if the advice of the Secretary of State is heeded, will be pursued here, and they have done so at the cost of rising unemployment. That is not good enough for the House. It is not good enough for working men and women.
The Gracious Speech, while promising little in terms of employment policy, is quite clear in promising legislation on picketing and on the closed shop and in suggesting that there will be some changes 816 in our employment protection policy. I believe, as I think does the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith), that a considerable part of the pressure which has been raised for changes in picketing law is a reaction to a campaign conducted in the media to discredit the trade union movement. It is a campaign which has been aided and encouraged by many right hon. Members on the Government Benches. It has been highly biased. It has been misleading in the way it has reported industrial disputes in this country.
It is as though a majority of Fleet Street papers had been working under some editorial instruction to equate every movement in the lorry drivers' strike to death, injury or suffering if some such connotation could be drawn. We saw in the Daily Express reference to the juggernaut siege chaos and to the panic in the shops. We saw in other papers such headlines as "Two million people facing lay-offs". We saw "Empty shelves in 10 days"
On page 2 of The Sun we saw:One thousand old people may die each day".The campaign waged in the press was a disgrace to British journalism.
Let us look at what actually happened. What was the truth behind the headlineOne thousand old people may die each day"?One person in that dispute died. The person who died was a lorry driver. A lorry went over him going through a picket line. Those injured were two pickets who had shots fired at them while they were picketing. Yet, as a result of the way in which the attack was waged upon the trade union movement during that dispute and in subsequent disputes, a new term has come into our language—the term "secondary picketing".
That term is to be found nowhere in the law books. It is nowhere to be found in our Acts of Parliament. But we are now assured by the Prime Minister that we are to have legislation to deal with secondary picketing. We might perhaps consider for a few moments, a little more quietly and a little more objectively than did the British press during the time of that strike, what is precisely the legal position on picketing. It is very simple. It is very clear. It is stated in a way that all can understand in section 15 of the 817 Trade Union and Labour Relations Act 1974:shall be lawful for one or more persons in contemplation of furtherance of a trade dispute to attend at or near—That is the right to picket in this country. It is a limited right. It does not allow the stopping of vehicles. It does not protect a picket from criminal prosecution if the law is broken.
for the purpose only of peacefully obtaining or communicating information, or peacefully persuading any person to work or abstain from working
- (a) a place where another person works or carries on business or
- (b) any place where another person happens to be, not being a place where he resides,
That right does not allow the stopping of vehicles. If hon. Gentlemen take the view that people have been acting illegally, they are dealing with a question of the enforcement of the law. It is no answer to the claim that the law is not being properly enforced to say that we need a tougher law and greater limits put on people who have a right now peacefully to persuade those who are affecting their industrial disputes.
§ Mr. Nick Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)
In last winter's industrial disorders, how many people were either charged with or convicted of violence in the course of picketing?
§ Mr. Booth
The number of people who were charged is a matter for the chief constables, and the chief constables reported to the Home Secretary that in general pickets were conducting themselves in accordance with the law. The hon. Member may feel that there is some way in which we could change the law which would cause chief constables to act in a different way, but in this country up to now we have properly regarded it as the duty of the chief constable to do two things in the event of an industrial dispute—first, to uphold the statute law and, second, to keep the peace. If, in order to do the second, he has to set aside the first, he is entitled to do so—
§ Mr. Booth
—but he has a duty to safeguard the public against breaches of 818 the peace and in doing that he may further limit, not extend, the rights of pickets.
It must be appreciated by Tory Members that the reason why chief constables did not effect a great number of prosecutions may be that the press gave a false impression and that the impression given by the British press, that pickets all over the country were breaking the law wholesale, was an inaccurate one.
The law that we now have makes no distinction between primary and secondary picketing. Therefore, if it is proposed to bring in a law which will allow primary and debar secondary picketing, definitions will have to be introduced. The test now of whether picketing is legal is whether it is carried out peacefully to persuade people and in pursuance of a trade dispute. The Government should think long and hard before they amend a law passed on that basis.
§ Mr. Budgen
In the course of last winter, did any member of the then Government give any directive or guidance to the police advising them not to prosecute in these cases?
§ Mr. Booth
I can certainly answer the hon. Gentleman. No member of the Government issued any directive to the police on the issue of picketing. Throughout those disputes, the Home Secretary worked on the basis that I stated—that the chief constables were well aware that it was their duty to safeguard against breaches of the peace and to uphold the statute law of this country. That agreement which the Government reached with the TUC, which had attached to it guidance on negotiating disputes procedures—
§ Mr. Booth
If the hon. Gentleman will wait a little, he may concede that the TUC has something to do with negotiating procedures and the conduct of industrial disputes.
Trade union organisation and the closed shop were the other two of the three subjects on which the TUC issued guidance to all affiliated membership, following discussion with the Government. There was a serious problem to be dealt with and it was dealt with in a highly responsible and serious way by those 819 Ministers, including myself, and those representatives of the general council of the TUC who held those discussions reached that agreement and welcomed the introduction of that guidance.
If anybody thinks that the unions will not comply with the guides, he should consider the way in which previous TUC guidance has been successful. For example, the TUC guidance for dealing with demarcation disputes was successful. There have been few such disputes since.
I urge Government Members to remember that the trade unions perform much quiet, effective and constructive work. The TUC and its unions provide membership of the Manpower Services Commission, the Health and Safety Commission, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, training boards, sector working parties and national joint industrial councils.
If the successful work of any or all of those bodies had received one-quarter of the publicity that has been given to certain trade disputes, we should be able to consider trade union legislation in a calmer and more objective manner.
I believe that the policies on which Government and trade unions can co-operate are of vital importance to industrial strategy and to the development of full employment. We have much experience on which to base that judgment. We have had much advice and co-operation from the trade union movement. If the Government pay for that co-operation by introducing legislation which will win them applause from the union-bashing lobby, it will be a high price to pay. It will be paid by the many who are trying hard to co-operate and to reach a consensus on good working policies which can create wealth.
The unions have made a notable contribution towards raising productivity. The new Secretary of State and I attended a function last week organised to mark the sixtieth anniversary of a national joint industrial council. The new Secretary of State—I applaud him for this—paid a tribute to the valuable work which has been done by those councils.
Without industrial disputes, workers have been organised so that there is a reduction in the labour requirements of a particular industry from 17,000 to 7,000 820 through the introduction of new computer-aided flour mills, which means that two men working a single shift can do what was previously done by 36 men per shift. Government Members would throw that type of activity aside to cash in on the cheap publicity and popularity that they would achieve through riding on a bandwagon involved in cheap union-bashing.
In an era when we must introduce new technologies, the Secretary of State for Industry could not have been more wrong than when he suggested that Labour hates wealth. We realise the importance of creating wealth, as does the trade union movement, which will co-operate in the creation of wealth. However, if it is to be done in an era when new technologies are coming about at an alarming rate, for some it can be done only if proper cognisance is taken of its social effects. It will require more, and not less, Government involvement and the creation and development of a link between the making of that wealth and the development of a proper distribution system which makes sure that it is not only the entrepreneurs but all who play the major part in its creation who will benefit from it.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. James Prior)
I start by paying a tribute to the nine hon. Members who made maiden speeches today. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Gars-ton (Mr. Thornton) was the first maiden speaker from the Government side. He used to be a river boat pilot. We are pleased to see the hon. Member fur Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. Dunn) back in his seat looking a good deal better than a few months ago.
We recognise the problems of Merseyside. I shall go to Merseyside on Friday. [Interruption.] If the Opposition do not want me to go, they only have to say so. We recognise that there have been a number of self-inflicted wounds on Merseyside over the past few years. Management and unions must learn from their mistakes and work together.
My hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Trippier) spoke about being a barometer of political opinions in Rossendale. That is true. He also dealt fully with the problems of working 821 widows. He had the full attention of the House on that point.
My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark), whose speech I am afraid I missed, spoke about British Leyland. I shall come to that later. Representing Birmingham, my hon. Friend knows a good deal about small companies. Over the years, small companies brought prosperity to Birmingham and the heartland of British industry. At one time, Birmingham was renowned as the city of a thousand industries. No one can say the same about it today.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Walker) on a speedy recovery. He spoke extremely well about the problems of his constituency. He is obviously extraordinarily knowledgeable about the trade union movement, having been a shop steward and trade union official. We look forward to hearing a great deal more from him, not just about the bull and ram sales in Perth market but also about industrial relations.
My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) paid a generous tribute to the former Member for that constituency. I am sure that that was received extremely well by the Opposition.
The hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) paid a warm and moving tribute to Airey Neave. We are grateful to him for that.
The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. McKelvey) paid a well-deserved tribute to the former Member. William Ross. He spoke of his practical experience of industrial relations. We shall look forward to hearing his views in future.
The hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. O'Neill) dealt with the problems of industrial Scotland. The hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) stated that there may only have been one Conservative Member of Parliament for Dundee, West in 150 years. However, there is already a Conservative district council. The hon. Gentleman had better look to his laurels. These were all maiden speeches of a high order. I congratulate all those who have taken so early to the batting list and made their maiden speeches today.
822 There have been some impressive speeches from other hon. Members. My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, Central (Mr. Grant) asked me about The Times dispute. I think that we all feel that it would be a good rule for me not to become involved in individual disputes from the Dispatch Box.
§ Mr. Prior
I did everything in my power, as the right hon. Gentleman knows only too well, when the Labour Government were in office to try to keep industrial disputes out of the House. Those disputes that concern the Government are Government affairs, but those that do not are best solved outside the House. However, the reputation of Britain suffers when a dispute such as that taking place at The Times is allowed to drag on. It is our only newspaper of record and it is one that is renowned throughout the world. It is a national disgrace when it is not published. I wish to make it clear that I shall be willing to take any opportunity to help in any way that I can to end the dispute. I am available to talk to any of the parties at any time.
Over many years my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Madel) has made a remarkable contribution to industrial relations in the House and to industrial relations policy from the Conservative Benches. I am grateful for his remarks and for those of my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough (Mr. Shaw).
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) spoke about fishing. I intend to leave that vexatious subject to others of my right hon. Friends, although, as I represent Lowestoft, I could say a great deal about the importance of the fishing industry in England as well as its importance north of the border.
The first Queen's Speech in any Parliament is always an important landmark. I remember the debate on the first Queen's Speech to which I listened at the time when Aneurin. Bevan was one of the great characters and one of our great parliamentarians.
§ Mr. Prior
Why do not Opposition Members listen for a moment? I remember Aneurin Bevan leaning across the Dispatch Box and saying to Mr. Harold Macmillan, who was then Prime Minister, "What do the Government propose to do with their victory? A heavy responsibility now rests upon them". This Government accept that we have won a great victory and that a heavy responsibility now rests upon us. It is in that spirit that I come to examine some of the problems of industrial relations and employment that are raised in the Opposition's amendment.
As we look back over 20 years since Aneurin Bevan made the remark to which I have referred—Labour Governments were in power for over half that time—none of us can take great pride or comfort in our achievements. Productivity and performance have deteriorated. Our record has been worse than that of almost any other country. Productivity fell in 1974 and 1975 and averaged a growth of only three-quarters of I per cent. in the years between 1973 and 1978. Output per man hour in manufacturing increased in the five years from 1974- to 1978 by just about 1 per cent. That compares with a comparable country such as France, where in the same period it was 3.7 per cent.
When we as a nation like to exercise our authority and influence over the rest of the world, it is perhaps well for us to remember the words of Ernest Bevin, whose statue adorns the main conference room at St. James's Square. He said,If you give me 200 million tons of coal I will give you a strong foreign policy".The same situation applies today. If we had a strong economy at home, undoubtedly we could exercise much greater influence in the rest of the world.
There is no doubt that bad industrial relations have greatly contributed to our bad performance, as is evidenced by the amount of time that two Labour Governments and one Conservative Government have spent discussing and dealing with the problems of industrial relations. There is no doubt that the public generally, including trade unionists and trade union activists, were shocked and alarmed by the events of last winter and that they believe, with the rest of the country, that some reform is necessary.
824 What are the reforms that are required? First of all there is the right to work free from intimidation and obstruction. Secondly, there is the provision of protection for those not concerned with the dispute but who find their jobs threatened. Thirdly, we must encourage the voice of the majority to prevail over the actions of the minority. Fourthly, we must give proper protection to the individual against loss of employment in a closed shop situation.
I suspect that many Opposition Members with sensitive political ears picked up the deep concern, almost despair, amongst their own supporters during the general election. I suspect that time and again they heard the words that I heard which were "We have been Labour all our lives, but enough is enough". That message was repeated up and down the country time and again during the course of the election campaign, and many of those who repeated that message to me were far more hawkish than the changes we are proposing.
Having said that, let me place firmly on the record our view on both the changes that have to be made and the part that the law can play. The law should always give full recognition to the inherent weakness of the individual worker vis-a-vis his employer, to the need for him to be organised in a union, and to the need for his union to have such exceptional liberties as may be necessary to redress the balance. That is fundamental, hut, having accepted that, the very nature of privilege is that it must always be restricted to what is necessary and never go beyond that.
That is the spirit in which we shall approach the changes that we believe are necessary. They are changes in the closed shop legislation, a wider conscience clause, protection for existing workers where a closed shop is brought in and, to cases of exclusion or expulsion, appeal to the High Court and not to the TUC committee alone. There should be a ballot of the whole work force before a closed shop is introduced. Only after there is an overwhelming majority will a closed shop be accepted. There should be changes on picketing, and our aim here is to limit pickets to those in dispute at their place of work and to protect those not concerned in that dispute who at present can suffer severely from secondary action.
825 I noted the words of the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith). I think that there are many important and difficult points involved in trying to get acceptance of this point of view. We shall be taking very careful note of what the hon. Member and others have said. I quote from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition on 16 January. He said:It is my view that in these circumstances indefensible hardship can be imposed on innocent people and on people who are not connected with the dispute. That is why the spectacle of secondary picketing has aroused widespeard criticism and the Transport and General Workers' Union has attempted to limit picketing to its orginal purposes, although so far with only some partial success." [Official Report, 16 January 1979£ Vol. 960, c. 1546–7.]We on the Government Benches believe that a combination of the legislation on the closed shop with what has happened on so-called secondary picketing means that there has to be a change in the law.
Finally on this point, I believe that there have to be changes to enable financial aid to be given for the holding of postal ballots for election to union office and perhaps for other purposes, too. The wider the means, and the more democratic those ways are seen to be, the more confidence we shall all have in the views expressed and the decisions reached. I believe that it is right that we should make this a voluntary measure, and the Conservative Party never once during the election campaign suggested other than that it should be something which we should seek to encourage. But it should be clearly understood that when we have got it into operation we shall expect and we shall urge trade unionists to take full advantage of the funds and the facilities that we make available.
§ Mr. Heffer
I was interested in the point which the right hon. Gentleman made a few moments ago about the overwhelming vote that the workers would have to produce before there could be a closed shop. Precisely what does "overwhelming" mean? Is it 80 per cent., 90 per cent., 99 per cent., 51 per cent. or what? Precisely what is he proposing?
§ Mr. Prior
I think that these are matters for consultation, and that is my next point. We believe in having full consultation on all these suggestions during the course of 826 this summer. But when I have been asked this question on previous occasions, I have said that by "overwhelming" I mean that we should accept what has, on the whole, been general practice with regard to the introduction of closed shops, and that is that about 90 per cent.—between 80 per cent. and 90 per cent.—of the work force would vote in favour of a closed shop before it should be introduced. [HON. MEMBERS: "0h"]. I think that I can honestly say that I know of no closed shop which has been introduced with less than about 80 per cent. of the trade union membership voting in favour before it has come into operation, and I certainly think that that is the sort of figure we would be aiming to achieve.
I expect that we shall be ready to introduce a Bill in the autumn to deal with the points that I have outlined. I think that it is quite clear that, despite some of the talk, there is no great issue of principle on the matters which I have outlined that is dividing either the House or the Government from the trade unions. The present position is unsatisfactory, and it is clear that good intentions are not enough. The concordat by itself may have been a start, but in this context I quote from an article which appeared in the New Statesman, obviously written by someone who took part in an election campaign:What is more, there seemed no plans in the pipeline apart from a vague agreement with some impotent TUC leaders to make it all better.That was written by a Labour candidate, talking about his experience on the doorstep, and it is, I believe, a fair reflection of the situation.
§ Mr. Prior
No, I cannot give way now: I want to go on. We shall work for a measure of agreement between the two sides of the House, and I very much welcome the remarks of the hon. Member for Rochdale.
As the hon. Gentleman will remember, and as other hon. Members have pointed out today, we offered a degree of co-operation and we offered an undertaking in 1974 after the passing of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act of that year that we would leave industrial relations alone in that form on the statute book and would work from that end. If 827 only that had been the case, it could have formed the basis for agreement in this House and in the country for many years to come. It was a tragedy that that opportunity was thrown away by the Labour Government when they were returned to office in October 1974. The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) should bear a heavy responsibility for what happened at that time and particularly for what happened last winter.
§ Mr. Cryer
It may be that some of the public schoolboys here are not used to good behaviour, Mr. Speaker. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned a Bill to be introduced in the autumn, and he also mentioned consultation with the trade union movement. Will he assure us that if the trade union movement rejects the items in this draft Bill he will drop them? Or is the Bill already made up and the consultations purely cosmetic?
§ Mr. Prior
What a silly man the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) is. I have a particular axe to grind about the hon. Gentleman. Occasionally I receive letters from the irate public complaining about why I have said that the Royal Family has done this, that or the other. It is not until I read the letters carefully that I realise that they are referring not to Mr. Prior but to Mr. Cryer. I have to be careful about what the hon. Gentleman says in these circumstances.
The right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) this afternoon used every old parliamentary trick in the book. He made a total parody of all that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry said in his speech, quadrupled it and proceeded to try to knock it down. He ended by saying that market forces cannot provide steady growth or deal with rapid technological change. He might never have been in Government for the past few years. It is abundantly plain from the election and 828 the experience of the past five years and those between 1964 and 1970 that the Socialist Government of which he was a member for many years failed abysmally and singularly to deal with the problems of technological change or steady growth.
If one thing stands out a mile, it is that there was absolutely no growth at all in the past five years. Commentator after commentator has remarked that after five years the Labour Party had simply no idea of what to do when it came to this election. We all accept that in our modern society, as in other societies, there has to be some intervention, but not just for intervention's sake.
I am glad that the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) is in his seat. I want to quote from a conference on unemployment organised at the Royal Commonwealth Society, London, on Thursday 4 May 1978, in which the hon. Gentleman took part. The report of his speech is as follows:The Parliamentary Secretary at the Department of Employment, Mr. John Golding, made a realistic and convincing case for cosmetic policies; especially to retrain and to create jobs, or even job experience for young people. He accepted there might be little or no net creation of additional jobs, since in the presence of controls on public sector borrowing the taxes needed to finance these schemes in turn destroyed other jobs elsewhere in the economy. While the schemes might be said merely to redistribute unemployment, they were redistributing it in accordance with the Government's prioritiesThat sums up intervention for intervention's sake. It is costly intervention and is Whitehall knowing best.
§ Mr. John Golding (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
I have not had the pleasure of seeing that report, but I do not accept it as a reasonable summary of my speech. My speech defended youth employment measures for young people. I said that certain of the measures did not create new jobs for young people but made it absolutely certain that young people got the jobs rather than those who were older. I did not go on to speak in the vein of that quotation.
§ Mr. Prior
What the hon. Gentleman is saying is what we have all feared—that one creates some new jobs for one class or one section of society, and in doing so one automatically rules out other jobs for other sections of society.
829 I shall carry this just a shade further. The right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East compared our economy with the economies of Japan, the United States, Germany and France, but he missed out one very important matter—the whole question of incentives. The incentives in those economies are totally different from those in ours. During the whole of the election campaign, my right hon. and hon. Friends and I faced up to this problem of creating incentives and getting down to the fact that we must encourage people to work and see that they have a better chance of taking home a bigger proportion of their wage packets at the end of the week.
There is far too much difference between the top line of the pay packet and the bottom line of the pay packet. That is why we have said that we will cut back on public expenditure—and we will—and that we would have to transfer some of the burdens from what people earn to what they spend.
That is a far more honest point of view than that of the previous Government when they were in office. On two separate occasions they put a great deal of extra surcharge on the employers' insurance contributions. The effect of that was to put up unit costs of British production. They kept down the rate of indirect tax merely to encourage imports at the expense of home production. There is no doubt at all that, over the last few years, not only have we switched the balance well away from home production; we have actually been importing other people's unemployment. That is an additional reason for getting down our own unit costs of production and, at the same time, switching the burden of tax from what people earn to what people spend.
§ In talking about industrial relations and the unions' responsibility, I must also emphasise the heavy responsibility on management. In recent years, management has been clobbered—on both tax and legislative grounds. As we take some of the pressures off management in taxation and in legislation, we shall expect it to be far more forthright and to do far better than it has done in recent years.
§ Replying to my hon. Friend the Member for Selly Oak I believe that Mr. Michael Edwardes in his running of British Leyland in the last two years has been an example of really good management. He has stuck to his guns and been firm in everything that he has said. Therefore, the unions know where they stand. The duty of management is to manage, and I hope that the measures that we will take in the next few months will give a proper opportunity for management to get on with its job.
§ Many problems lie ahead of us. The opportunity is now before us for a second industrial revolution. Let us cast aside the prejudice and emotions of past generations. Let us recognise the need for sensible change and the goal of higher prosperity.
§ This House has not distinguished itself in 20 years in industrial relations matters. Therefore, we should all resolve to make a new start—
§ Mr. Michael Cocks (Bristol, South)
rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.
§ Question put accordingly, That the amendment be made:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 259, Noes 341.835
|Division No. 1]||AYES||[10.00 p.m.|
|Adams, A.||Bradley, Tom||Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)|
|Allaun, Frank||Bray, Dr Jeremy||Cohen, Stanley|
|Anderson, Donald||Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.|
|Archer, Peter||Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)||Conlan, Bernard|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Brown, Ronald (Hackney S)||Cook, Robin F.|
|Ashley, Jack||Brown, R. (Edinburgh, Leith)||Cowans, Harry|
|Ashton, Joe||Buchan, Norman||Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, Tooting)|
|Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham)||Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE)||Craigen, J. M. (Glasgow, Maryhill)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Crowther, J. S.|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Campbell Savoura, D.||Cryer, Bob|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)||Canavan, Dennis||Cunliffe, L.|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Cant, R. B.||Cunningham, George (Islington S)|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Carmichael, Neil||Cunningham, Dr John (Whitehaven)|
|Bidwell Sydney||Carter-Jones, Lewis||Dalyell, Tam|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Cartwright, John||Davidson, Arthur|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur (M'borough)||Clark, D. (South Shields)||Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Lianeill|
|Davies, E. H. (Caerphilly)||Johnson, James (Hull West)||Radice, Giles|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Johnson, Walter (Derby South)||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds South)|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney Central)||Jones, Alec (Rhondda)||Richardson, Miss Jo|
|Davis, T. (Birmingham, Stechford)||Jones, Barry (East Flint)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Deakins, Eric||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Roberts, A. (Bootle)|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Roberts, E. (Hackney North)|
|Dempsey, James||Kerr, Russell||Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)|
|Dewar, Donald||Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Robertson, George|
|Dixon, D.||Kinnock, Neil||Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW)|
|Dobson, F. G.||Lambie, David||Rodgers, Rt Hon William|
|Dormand, J. D.||Lamborn, Harry||Rooker, J. W.|
|Douglas, R. G.||Lambond, James||Roper, John|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Leadbitter, Ted||Ross, E. (Dundee West)|
|Dubs, A.||Leighton, R.||Rowlands, Ted|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)||Ryman, John|
|Dunn, James A. (Liverpool, Kirkdale)||Lever, Rt Hon Harold||Sandelson, Neville|
|Dunnett, Jack||Lewis, Arthur (Newham North West)||Sever, John|
|Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Sheerman, B. J.|
|Eadie, Alex||Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert (A'ton-u-L)|
|Eastham, K.||Lyon, Alexander (York)||Shore, Rt Hon Peter (Step and Pop)|
|Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)||Lyons, Edward (Bradford West)||Short, Mrs Renée|
|Ellis, R. J. (NE Derbyshire)||Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson||Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)|
|Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)||McCartney, Hugh||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|English, Michael||McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Silverman, Julius|
|Ennals, Rt Hon David||McElhone, Frank||Skinner, Dennis|
|Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||McGuire, Michael (Ince)||Smith, Rt Hon J. (North Lanarkshire)|
|Evans, John (Newton)||McKay, Alien (Penistone)||Snape, Peter|
|Ewing, Harry||McKelvey, W.||Soley, C. S.|
|Faulds, Andrew||Mackenzie, Gregor||Spearing, Nigel|
|Field, F.||Maclennan, Robert||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Fitch, Alan||McMahon, A.||Stallard, A. W.|
|Flannery, Martin||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, Central)||Stewart, Rt Hon Donald (W Isles)|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||McNally, T.||Stoddart, David|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||McNamara, Kevin||Stott, Roger|
|Ford, Ben||McWilliam, J. D.||Strang, Gavin|
|Forrester, John||Magee, Bryan||Straw, J.|
|Foster, D.||Marks, Kenneth||Summerskill, Hon Dr Sairley|
|Foulkes, G.||Marshall, D. (Glasgow, Shettleston)||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton West)|
|Fraser, John (Lambeth, Norwood)||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald||Marshall, Jim (Leicester South)||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle East)|
|Garrett, John (Norwich S)||Martin, M. J. (Glasgow, Springburn)||Thomas, Dr. R. G. (Carmarthen)|
|Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)||Mason, Rt Hon Roy||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|George, Bruce||Maxton, J.||Tilley, John|
|Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John||Maynard, Miss Joan||Tinn, James|
|Ginsburg, David||Meacher, Michael||Torney, Tom|
|Golding, John||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert||Urwin, Rt Hon Tom|
|Gourlay, Harry||Mikardo, Ian||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Graham, Ted||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Grant, George (Morpeth)||Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Grant, John (Islington C)||Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)||Watkins, David|
|Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)||Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Weetch, Ken|
|Hardy, Peter||Morris, Rt Hon Charles (Openshaw)||Wellbeloved, James|
|Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)||Welsh, M.|
|Hart, Rt Hon Judith||Morton, George||White, Frank R. (Bury & Radcliffe)|
|Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Moyle, Rt Hon Roland||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Haynes, D. F.||Mulley, Rt. Hon Frederick||Whitlock, William|
|Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Newens, Stanley||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Oakes, Gordon||Williams, Alan (Swansea West)|
|Hogg, N. (East Dunbartonshire)||Ogden, Eric||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee East)|
|Holland, S. (Lambeth, Vauxhall)||O'Halloran, Michael||Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)|
|Home Robertson, John||O'Neill, M.||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)|
|Homewood, W. D.||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Winnick, D.|
|Hooley, Frank||Owen, Rt Hon Dr David||Woodall, Alec|
|Horam, John||Palmer, Arthur||Woolmer, K. J.|
|Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H)||Park, George||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Huckfield, Les||Parker, John||Wright, Mr s.|
|Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Parry, Robert||Young, David (Bolton East)|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen North)||Pendry, Tom|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Powell, R. (Ogmore)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Janner, Hon Greville||Prescott, John||Mr. James Hamilton and|
|Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Prfce, Christopher (Lewlsham West)||Mr. Donald Coleman.|
|John, Brynmor||Race, R.|
|Adley, Robert||Atkins, R. J. (Preston North)||Benyon, T. (Abingdon)|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Atkinson, David (B'mouth, East)||Benyon, W. (Buckingham)|
|Alexander, R.||Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)||Best K.|
|Alison, Michael||Baker, N. (North Dorset)||Bevan, D. G.|
|Alton, David||Banks, Robert||Biffen, Rt Hon John|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Beaumont-Dark, A. M.||Biggs-Davison, John|
|Ancram, M.||Beith, A. J.||Blackburn, J. G.|
|Arnold, Tom||Bell, Ronald||Blaker, Peter|
|Aspinwall, J.||Bendall, Vivian||Body, Richard|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay)||Bonsor, Sir Nicholas|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Gow, Ian||Maude, Rt Hon Angus|
|Bottomley, Peter (Woolwich West)||Gower, Sir Raymond||Mawby, Ray|
|Bowden, Andrew||Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)||Mawhinney, Dr B.|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes||Gray, Hamish||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Bright, G.||Greenway, H.||Mayhew, Patrick|
|Brinton, T. D.||Grieve, Percy||Mellor, D.|
|Brittan, Leon||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St Edmunds)||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher||Griffiths, P. (Portsmouth N)||Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove & Redditch)|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Grimond, Rt Hon J.||Mills, I. (Meriden)|
|Brotherton, Michael||Grist, Ian||Mills, Peter (West Devon)|
|Brown, M. (Brigg & Scunthorpe)||Grylls, Michael||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Browne, J. (Winchester)||Gummer, J. S.||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)|
|Bruce-Gardyne, John||Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom & Ewell)||Moate, Roger|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Monro, Hector|
|Buchanan-Smith, Hon Alick||Hampson, Dr Keith||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Buck, Anthony||Hannam, John||Moore, John|
|Budgen, Nick||Haselhurst, Alan||Morgan, Geraint|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Hastings, Stephen||Morris, Michael (Northampton, Sth)|
|Burden, F. A.||Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael||Morrison, Hon Charles (Devizes)|
|Butcher, J. P.||Hawkins, Paul||Morrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester)|
|Butler, Hon Adam||Hawksley, W.||Mudd, David|
|Cadbury, J.||Hayhoe, Barney||Murphy, C. P.|
|Carlisle, J. (Luton West)||Heath, Rt Hon Edward||Myles, D. F.|
|Carlisle, K. (Lincoln)||Heddle, J.||Neale, G.|
|Carlisle, Rt Hon Mark (Runcorn)||Henderson, B.||Needham, R.|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael||Nelson, Anthony|
|Channon, Paul||Hicks, Robert||Neubert, Michael|
|Chapman, S.||Higgins, Terence L.||Newton, Tony|
|Churchill, W. S.||Hill, S. J. A.||Normanton, Tom|
|Clark, Hon Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Hogg, Hon D. (Grantham)||Nott, Rt Hon John|
|Clark, William (Croydon South)||Holland, Philip (Carlton)||Onslow, Cranley|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Hooson, T.||Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs Sally|
|Clegg, Walter||Hordern, Peter||Osborn, John|
|Cockeram, E.||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Page, John (Harrow, West)|
|Colvin, M.||Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)||Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)|
|Cope, John||Howells, Geraint||Parkinson, Cecil|
|Cormack, Patrick||Hunt, David (Wirral)||Parris, M.|
|Corne, John||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)||Patten, C. (Bath)|
|Costain, A. P.||Hunt, Hon Douglas||Patten, J. (Oxford)|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Critchley, Julian||Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick||Pawsey, J.|
|Crouch, David||Jessel. Toby||Penhaligon, David|
|Dean, Paul (North Somerset)||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Percival, Sir Ian|
|Dickens, G.||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael||Peyton, Rt Hon John|
|Dodsworth, Geoffrey||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Dorrell, S.||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Pollack, A.|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine||Porter, G. B.|
|Dover, D.||Kershaw, Anthony||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Kimball, Marcus||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Dunn, R. (Dartford)||Klng, Rt Hon Tom||Prior, Rt Hon James|
|Durant, Tony||Kitson, Sir Timothy||Proctor, K.|
|Dykes, Hugh||Knight, Mrs Jill||Pym, Rt Hon Francis|
|Eden, Rt Hon Sir John||Knox, David||Raison, Timothy|
|Edwards, Rt Hon N. (Pembroke)||Lamont, Norman||Rathbone, Tim|
|Eggar, T.||Lang I.||Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)|
|Elliott, Sir William||Hangford-Holt, Sir John||Rees-Davis, W. R.|
|Emery, Peter||Latham, Michael||Renton, Tim|
|Eyre, Reginald||Lawrence, Ivan||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Fairbairn, Nicholas||Lawson, Nigel||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Fairgrieve, Russell||Lee, J.||Ridley, Hon Nicholas|
|Faith, Mrs S.||Lennox-Boyd, Hon M. A.||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Farr, John||Lester, Jim (Beeston)||Rifkind, Malcolm|
|Fell, Anothony||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Roberts, M. (Cardiff North West)|
|Fenner, Mrs P.||Lloyd, Ian (Havant & Waterloo)||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Finsberg, Geoffrey||Lloyd, P. (Fareham)||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Fisher, Sir Nigel||Loveridge, John||Rossi, Hugh|
|Fletcher, Alexander (Edinburgh N)||Luce, Richard||Rost, Peter|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Lyell, N.||Royle, Sir Anthony|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|Forman, Nigel||McCrindle, Robert||St. John Stevas, Rt Hon Norman|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Norman||Macfarlane, Neil||Scott, Nicholas|
|Fox, Marcus||MacGregor, John||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)||Mackay, J. J. (Argyll)||Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)|
|Fraser, P. (South Angus)||Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Fraud, Clement||McNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury)||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Fry, Peter||McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)||Shepherd, R. (Aldridge-Brownhills)|
|Galbraith, Hon T. G. D.||McQuarrie, A.||Shersby, Michael|
|Gardner, Edward (South Fylde)||Madel, David||Silvester, Fred|
|Garel-Jones, T.||Major, J.||Sims, Roger|
|Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian||Marland, P.||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Marlow, A.||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|Goodhart, Philip||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Smith, Dudley (War. And Leam'ton)|
|Goodhew, Victor||Marten, Neil (Banbury)||Speed, Keith|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Mates, Michael||Speller, A.|
|Gorst, John||Mather, Carol||Spence, John|
|Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)||Thompson, D.||Ward, J.|
|Spicer, Michael (S Worcestershire)||Thorne, N. G. (Ilford South)||Warren, Kenneth|
|Sproat, Ian||Thornton, G. M.||Watson, J.|
|Squire, R. C.||Townend, J. (Bridlington)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Stainton, Keith||Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexleyheath)||Wells, P. (Hertford & Stevenage)|
|Stanbrook, Ivor||Trippier, D.||Wheeler, J.|
|Stanley, John||Trotter, Neville||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Steel, Rt Hon David||van Straubenzee, W. R.||Whitney, Raymond|
|Steen, Anthony||Vaughan, Dr Gerard||Wickenden, K.|
|Stevens, M.||Viggers, Peter||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)||Waddington, David||Wilkinson, J.|
|Stewart, J. (East Renfrewshire)||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)||Williams, D. J. D. (Montgomery)|
|Stokes, John||Wakeham, John||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Stradling Thomas, J.||Waldegrave, Hon W.||Wolfson, M.|
|Tapsell, Peter||Walker, Rt Hon Peter (Worcester)||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Taylor, Robert (Croydon NW)||Walker, W. (Perth & E Perthshire)||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Tebbit, Norman||Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek|
|Temple-Morris, Peter||Wall, Patrick||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret||Waller, G. P. A.||Mr. Spencer Le Marchant and|
|Thomas, Rt Hon Peter (Hendon S)||Walters, Dennis||Mr. Anthony Berry.|
§ Question accordingly negative.
§ Main Question again proposed836
§ It being after Ten o'lock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed tomorrow.837
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. MacGregor.]