§ Mr. Speaker
Before I call the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, I should tell the House that no fewer than 40 hon. Members have sought to take part in today's debate. I propose to put a limit of 10 minutes on speeches between 6 and 8 o'clock. I hope that those who may be called before 6 and after 8 will also bear that limit broadly in mind. I call Mr. Secretary Ridley.
§ The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Nicholas Ridley)
First, I congratulate the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) on his elevation to the trade and industry portfolio. Those who have read his book tell me that it sheds no light whatsoever on his views, so we look forward to hearing whether he has any views in due course.
I congratulate also the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) on escaping from trade and industry before I had time properly to get to grips with him. We were grateful to him for his much more illuminating book and the commitments that he left behind in Labour's policy review. I shall return to those later. Conservative Members look forward to the hon. Gentleman dropping lots of green bricks at the environment portfolio. Last year on this day the Opposition debated the environment and industry in that order. Today, it is the other way round. I am grateful to the Opposition for allowing me therefore to open the debates on both occasions and for the fact that the hon. Gentleman has had to reply on both occasions.
The Gracious Speech contains the usual phrase:
Other measures will be laid before you.I am pleased to be able to announce that one such other measure is a Bill early in the Session to amend the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954. The Bill will make the changes that are necessary to bring the tenants of licensed premises and public houses within the protection of the Act, following the report by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission on the supply of beer. The role of the publican is important in giving the consumer choice. Licensees who are tenants of brewers should be able to shop around for the best deal without being penalised by the brewers for doing so. The Bill will achieve that result.
120 The Gracious Speech also contains a major environment protection Bill in which I was much involved in the summer and which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment will discuss. However, the Gracious Speech contains no industry Bill—because no such Bill is needed. British industry is stronger, more successful and more productive than ever before. The Opposition have been peddling a myth about the weakness of British industry, but Britain's industrial recovery during the past decade is no myth. The truth is that the quack doctors of the Opposition have conjured up a "malade imaginaire" and they have prescribed pills that might indeed make that patient sick.
§ Mr. Ridley
I shall come to the environment later.
Let us examine the state of the patient's health. It has enjoyed eight years of continuing economic growth at an average of about 3 per cent., manufacturing output is now at record levels—12 per cent. higher than in 1979 and 6 per cent. higher than the previous all-time peak in 1974—and a further small increase in manufacturing output is expected for 1990. The Opposition quack doctors achieved a significant fall in manufacturing output in their period of office using the dud pills that they now want to prescribe again.
There have been large volume increases in manufacturing investment last year and this and it is now at its highest level. We have achieved flexibility of working practices, far better industrial relations and commitment, at all levels, to the success of the enterprise.
§ Mr. Roger King (Birmingham, Northfield)
My right hon. Friend should cast his mind back to 1979 when we had had five years of Socialism under a Labour Government. Does he recall the Chrysler car company of the United Kingdom which, in 1978, endured 700 stoppages? Chrysler sold its business to Peugeot, the French company, for the equivalent of 66p. Nine years later, after practically no stoppages, that company is making profits of £100 million a year and is proving extremely successful in the British economy. Surely that says everything about our policies.
§ Mr. Ridley
What my hon. Friend so accurately remembers is what the Opposition called Socialist supply side policies.
§ Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)
As my right hon. Friend said, we all rejoice in the supply side achievements of the British manufacturing sector. My right hon. Friend referred to the 7.3 per cent. increase in manufacturing industry's total output between 1973 and the latest available figures. So that we have an accurate comparison, can my right hon. Friend say how that compares with the West German figures for the same period and the OECD average for 50-million plus population economies?
§ Mr. Ridley
I cannot give the figure—[Interruption.]—but the most striking success is in manufacturing productivity, which increased by no less than 50 per cent. in the 1980s. That rate of growth has not been equalled by any of our competitors, including the West Germans, nor was it ever achieved under the Labour party. Industrial profitability is at its highest level for more than 20 years.
§ Mr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East)
I should like to direct the right hon. Gentleman's attention to a British manufacturing firm that is most important to the Scottish economy in terms of employment and high technology. The right hon. Gentleman knows that I am referring to Ferranti. Because of the tremendous concern, especially in Scotland, about the future of that great British company can he reassure us that the outcome of the bidding that is about to take place for the equity of Ferranti will reflect not only the interests of the shareholders—we know that the board will take account of that—and those of the workers, which we are confident the unions will seek to try to defend, but the strategic and military interest of the company to the British people?
§ Mr. Ridley
We do not have any proposal before us yet, but I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence will give any views that he may have should a proposal come forward. The Director General of Fair Trading will also give a view on the competitive aspects of the matter. I cannot, however, answer a hypothetical question.
§ Mr. Vaz
The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the economic miracle in trade and industry. In that context will he consider the plight of the British textile and footwear industry? His Department has supplied figures to me showing that the number of people employed in that industry has declined by 50 per cent. in the past 10 years. What have his Government and Department done to save British textiles and footwear from disaster?
§ Mr. Ridley
The hon. Member knows that industries thrive or decline according to their competitiveness and the way in which they meet the competition. As he knows, the textile industry has been protected by the multi-fibre arrangement to a degree that many British industries have not enjoyed. The industry has stabilised and has a good export record.
Industrial profitability is at its highest for more than 20 years. The real rate of return on assets rose 6 per cent. in 1979 to 10 per cent. in 1988. Following decades of decline, our share of the value of world trade between major industrial nations has stabilised since 1981. In some markets it has actually risen. The volume of exports was 31 per cent. higher in 1988 than it was in 1979. In the two years 1987 and 1988, manufacturing output rose by almost 13 per cent. and exports by 14.6 per cent. Output in 1988 rose more than in any year since 1973. That is a formidable performance which should not be belittled.
I know that the trade deficit is unacceptably high. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor has taken steps to reduce it. However, the causes of the deficit not in the supply side failure but in the unexpectedly strong surge in consumer demand and record imports of capital equipment for industry. Some of the deficit is to cover investment which will improve supply side performance in the future.
This is a transformation by British industry which the Labour party should applaud. The hon. Member for Dunfermline, East is fond of talking about supply side Socialism. That reduced manufacturing output between 122 1974 and 1979 by 3 per cent. Since then supply side Toryism has increased it by 12.5 per cent. Let us compare the two.
We have carried out an historic transfer of publicly owned enterprises into the private sector where they belong. Across industry and commerce we have removed restrictions to allow business men to make the decisions and customers to choose. Personal and corporate tax rates have been cut and public expenditure has been restrained. We have made a concerted attack on regulations which burden business. Apart from regional grants, we have almost obliterated industrial subsidies. They make for bad economic decisions. The extent of these subsidies is best seen in the external finance given to nationalised industries. In 1978–79, this amounted to nearly £3 billion. This year, it is estimated that it will have fallen in real terms by 85 per cent. Today, virtually no industrial subsidies remain. Therefore, the reduction in subsidies has been just about matched by the growth in production.
On Socialist supply side policies—
§ Mr. Ridley
I shall not give way for the moment.
The great alternative on offer from the Labour party is, we are told, a new role for the Department of Trade and Industryto develop strategies, to identify prioritiesfor industry. A new role? Does not that sound depressingly familiar? Does the Labour party remember the Department of Economic Affairs? Does it remember the National Enterprise Board? They, too, were set up todevelop strategies and identify priorities for industry".Where did they leave British industry? Demoralised, shabby and afraid, stifled and battered by Government strategies and priorities and more and more subsidies.
Has the Labour party not learnt the lessons of the 1960s and 1970s? The only new idea is a new name for the National Enterprise Board—British Technology Enterprise. In other words, more subsidy. It also plans to create a British investment bank—not one but a network of regional investment banks. That will involve more subsidy. It intends to introduce new controls on the movement of capital to try to force investment in projects that would not justify investment on any commercial grounds. The Labour party's policy of a medium-term industrial strategy would simply lead to medium-term decline—the sort of industrial decline that the same policies caused in the 1960s and 1970s and which this Government have spent 10 years putting right.
§ Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch)
All Conservative Members recognise that industry's future depends largely on industry itself. One role that the Government have to play is to assist in the provision of proper transport facilities. Can my right hon. Friend explain why, throughout the debate on the Gracious Speech, there has been no mention at all of transport? Is my right hon. Friend aware of the strength of the views of the CBI and many others that the profile of the transport debate should be raised? During his speech will my right hon. Friend deal in any way with transport policy in the absence of the Secretary of State for Transport?
§ Mr. Ridley
My hon. Friend knows that the Opposition choose the subjects for debate. Today they have chosen 123 industry and the environment and not, I am afraid transport. I agree with my hon. Friend. Their choice shows the Opposition's undoubted lack of proper priorities.
I should like to return to subsidies. We have eliminated most of our own and are now pressing for others in Europe to reduce theirs. That is at the heart of a genuine single market after 1992. It is a central objective of the single market, and one that we wholeheartedly share, that the market should be both open and scrupulously fair. Industrial subsidy will just not be an instrument of protection for Governments in the Community.
The Labour party's policy review states that the single market will "create great opportunities" for Britain. Indeed it will, but one opportunity that it will not create will be for a Labour Government to re-erect all the subsidies and interventionist policies that they promise us. Any attempt to do so would run into deep trouble. The European Commission is working for radical cuts leading to the abolition of subsidies throughout the Community, and we strongly support its efforts. We shall join it in trying to root out open and covert subsidies on the continent which work against the principles of the single market and put British firms at a disadvantage.
I have to tell Opposition Members that nationalisation is out, too. We are already very concerned about the opportunities of state-owned companies on the continent to distort the single market. We strongly support the Commission in working for greater openness about the financing of state companies. They must not be allowed to undercut the competition with their losses made up by Governments. We are also pressing for the liberalisation of public procurement in the Community and the elimination of hidden barriers of all sorts to open markets to our firms. It is simply not on for our firms to face subsidised EC competition or areas of the European market that are protected in other ways.
The Labour party is trying to buff up its Euro image. I wonder whether the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East realises that his industrial policies would lead only to the European Court. Supply side Socialism is incompatable with the realities of the single market. Perhaps the hon. Member for Dagenham has been moved on so that the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East will have the chance to obliterate from the Labour party's review the industrial policies of the hon. Member for Dagenham. He could follow the lead of the hon. Member for Dagenham who has, I note, dissociated himself from the view of the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) and proposes to replace the community charge with a tax on the capital value of property and a local income tax.
For about four years I have attempted to get the Labour party to spell out the details of its policy on local taxation. The hon. Member for Dagenham has obliged with clarity and in detail. This month he said:Labour would look at a wide range of options some of which will be single taxes and some of which will not".Four years later that is the degree of clarity and precision that the Labour party put to the British people on local taxation. I understand the basis for the recent recycling of the Labour Front Bench. Every time they play musical chairs, the new spokesperson drops the old policies. That is quite right, too, because the old policies are no good.
124 The policy review threatens industry with a payroll tax. The hon. Member for Dunfermline, East should listen to this. The policy of the hon. Member for Dagenham would threaten industry with a payroll tax. How high will it be? On what point will it be based? What estimate has been made of the unemployment that it will cause? How much damage is it estimated that it will do to our exports? The hon. Member for Dunfermline, East has a clean sheet—I welcome him to his new duties—so perhaps his first action should be to drop the payroll tax now, as soon as I sit down.
The second area of policy where the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East must clean up the mess left by his predecessor is share ownership, on which the hon. Member for Dagenham gave a pledge. He said that the notion that provision of capital does not bring with it all the rights of ownership and control should be extended to the whole economy. Millions of people who have been given the opportunity to own shares by the Conservative party want to know the answer. Will he come clean this afternoon?
§ Mr. Dennis Turner (Wolverhampton, South-East)
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Labour party's policy on the poll tax is that we shall abolish it?
§ Mr. Ridley
I think that the hon. Gentleman did not hear what I said. I was speaking about the payroll tax. Is he aware that his party intends to bring in a major payroll tax on all industrial and commercial firms? Has he asked his hon. Friends what it will be like and how much unemployment it will cause in his constituency? Why is he so shy about it? Why does he not advocate the tax?
I move on to the environment, which is quieter, safer and greener ground. The Government's proper role is, by means of regulations, to ensure that free and fair competition is not undermined, to set and enforce regulatory regimes on monopolies, to prevent abuse and to set standards that protect the consumer and the environment. The Government should secure the necessary levels of environmental protection by setting emissions standards for pollutants and ensuring that they are properly enforced. That is one of the basic principles of a free market economy.
§ Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)
Will my right hon. Friend spell out with more clarity some of his ideas—[Laughter.]—for the industries of the future such as the space business in Britain? Does he regard the European Space Agency as an expensive club or as a worthwhile sponsor for important industrial enterprises?
§ Mr. Ridley
It is a complicated technical issue. My hon. Friend will know that we participate in space projects where we believe that it is to the advantage of British industry and science. He will agree that we should be selective.
We believe in the effective enforcement of high environmental standards. Conservative Governments always have. It was a Conservative Government who produced the first green Bill—the Clean Air Act 1956. It was a Conservative Government who introduced in 1972 the first measure to control—[Interruption.]—the movement and dumping of hazardous wastes. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Ridley
The principle of both Acts was the Government setting standards for freely competing companies. They have worked. The Environmental Protection Bill is not the first of its kind, but it is a major measure designed to tackle specific environmental problems.
There is an alternative doctrine. It is the doctrine of public ownership with a vague aspiration to behave in the public interest. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] It demonstrably does not work. The water industry is an obvious example. Until the creation of the National Rivers Authority, the water authorities were both providers of water and sewage services, and policemen for water quality standards. They struggled manfully to reconcile those incompatible roles but, not surprisingly, found it impossible to do so. In addition, the Labour party cut investment in water by half, in the public interest, and the cleanliness of our rivers and beaches declined accordingly.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Why did not the Secretary of State consult the chairman of the Nature Conservancy Council before deciding to break it up? He must have known perfectly well that it had offered territorial decision-making within the general framework of scientific research. There may be an answer. Could the Secretary of State give it to his parliamentary colleagues?
§ Mr. Ridley
I had many talks with the chairman of the NCC and we in the Government concluded collectively to make the decision which will be endorsed by the House when the Bill is introduced later this Session.
We are now putting things right. Our rivers and beaches are cleaner and the NRA will ensure that the improvement is maintained. It will have no conflict of interest. Its focus will be on improving water quality in line with national water quality objectives to be set by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment. That is a proper division of responsibilities. The Government set standards, the regulator enforces them and the operators comply with the standards laid down.
§ Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)
Is the Secretary of State aware that such has been the success of the NRA in Wales that weeks after it was set up the River Rhymney which flows through my constituency was so badly polluted that all its 10,000 fish were wiped out? Calls made to the NRA could not be answered because it had a minor problem on another river. Is that what the Secretary of State calls success?
§ Mr. Ridley
The hon. Gentleman must give the NRA time to get on top of these matters—[Laughter.] He knows perfectly well that if he has such a complaint he can refer it to my right hon. and noble Friend the chairman who will undoubtedly deal with it immediately.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment will say more about our policy for the environment and the important measures proposed in the Bill to be introduced soon.
§ Mr. Tony Favell (Stockport)
Does my right hon. Friend share my surprise that the British people have allowed the Government to control the water supply for so 126 long? Recently I was speaking to an American from Houston who said, "You allow the Government and politicians to control the water supply? What about food?"
§ Mr. Ridley
My hon. Friend is quite right. I notice that no one has ever suggested that the food industry should be nationalised, because we would get the same sort of standards in that as they have in Communist countries.
The Government's objective is to improve both our economic performance and the environment. We have the right policies in place to do that job. The need now is to get on with the job. It is sad to contrast these exciting policies with the supply side Socialism of the Labour party. It wants to return to the centralised industrial policies of the sort that have failed in Eastern Europe just when the people of Eastern Europe are making it crystal clear that they want no more to do with those policies. Only yesterday, the Polish Minister for Privatisation, in a letter to the Financial Times, wrote that the Polisheconomy is in a disastrous condition, and we want to turn it into a modern market economy as soon as possible".That is quite right because Socialist supply side policies have been a disaster not just for industry in Eastern Europe but, as is becoming increasingly clear, for its environment. We will believe the conversion of the Labour party to realism and modern policies when it appoints a shadow Minister for privatisation. Does it have to be behind the Poles?
§ Mr. Gordon Brown (Dunfermline, East)
Having heard the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry speak this afternoon, I am amazed that the Prime Minister did not see fit to invite him to address the Tory party conference in Blackpool last month. He is the sixth Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in as many years, and each of his predecessors has one thing in common. His period at the Department has been a vital career stepping stone on the way out of government and on to the Back Benches. I accept that in this Secretary of State's case, there is a big difference. When he goes, he wants the Department to go with him. I can imagine the conversation that he had with the Prime Minister when he was appointed to his job. He was being asked to take over a Department with a troubled history which will have to deal with unfinished business over 1992 and financial and banking regulations, with all the competitive challenges of the future and with the loose ends left over from his five predecessors. Did he say to the Prime Minister, "Give me the Department and I will finish the job." or did he say, "Give me the job and I will finish the Department"?
What is the day for the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry now? No longer are there working breakfasts in the inner cities to attend, no longer early morning briefings with Saatchi and Saatchi and the public relations agencies. I accept that the Secretary of State needs no help with his image or presentation. He strides into his Department, with his private office awaiting his every word and his press office ready to broadcast his achievements, and he opens his red box. What does he find? What does he decide—another takeover not to refer, another research initiative not to support, another European industrial collaboration project not to back, another export promotion effort not to support, another golden share to give away? A whole Department devoted to doing nothing. Nothing to do, and 12,500 civil servants to do it with.
127 Let me tell the Secretary of State what he should have said. He should have come to the House and admitted that he is faced with the highest interest rates, the worst inflation, the biggest trade deficit of our major competitors, a growth in output that is slowing faster than the growth in demand, a forecast growth for next year of 4 per cent. in Japan, 3 per cent. in Germany but, once oil is taken out, less than 1 per cent. in Britain, and with the failures of the present, matched by the failure even to address the challenge of the future.
What should the right hon. Gentleman have said? First, he should have said that he would learn from the mistakes of running a consumer-based and credit-based boom without adequate long-term, sustained investment to back it up, and that he would not seek to repeat them. Secondly, he should have said that he would end the exclusive reliance on interest rates which is so damaging to the industries that he is supposed to represent. Thirdly, he should have told us that he has proposed to the Prime Minister that the Government should open negotiations to join the exchange rate mechanism according to the objectives laid down by the Labour party. Fourthly, he should have said that his job is to ensure a proper balance between consumption and investment in the economy to guarantee the long-term future of British industry.
That is why the right hon. Gentleman should say that supply side measures are necessary for the future challenges that industry has to meet—investment in research and technology, investment in innovation and in the regions—so that they can play a full part in balanced economic growth in Britain.
§ Mr. Adley
The hon. Gentleman has not mentioned transport either. Was it a deliberate decision by the Opposition to avoid a debate on transport? Are they worried that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) would frighten the viewers, or do they not think that transport has as high a priority as some Conservative Members think it has?
§ Mr. Brown
I shall mention some of the problems that result from congestion and the problems that have been created by the Government. The Opposition have issued a statement on the developments that we want in transport. We are more in tune with the Confederation of British Industry, which has complained about the Government's failure to deal with Britain's infrastructure problems.
The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry told us about the silver linings, but he forgot about the dark clouds on the economic horizon. He has forgotten what business men and industrialists throughout the country are saying, and have said in the past few days. At the CBI conference there were complaints about the Government's addiction to high interest rates. Mr. Harry Keeman of Carville said:Small businesses are waiting along the edge of the cliff with a view to the abyss belowas a result of high interest rates. Mr. Roland Long, a member of the CBI, and not a Labour supporter, said:Soon we will be told that manufacturing is unassailable; then we should start worrying".Mr. Norman Record of C. and J. Clarke, said:What we have hadfrom the Governmentis an economic fairy tale.128 Yet the Government still tell us, as the Secretary of State was trying to tell us this afternoon, that we are living through an economic miracle and that the British economy is stronger than ever. They tell us the economic miracle which they have created is for export to other countries—as if other countries would want our high interest rates and the worst trade deficit. They are saying all those things about an economy which is falling into depression as a result of the policies that they have pursued.
Our complaint against the Government is about their mistakes in their approach to industry over the past two years and the fundamental errors of the past 10 years. They have shown a lack of concern for the problems that industry has faced in the 1980s, and a betrayal of the industrial future for the 1990s.
§ Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South)
The hon. Gentleman talks about the failures of the past 10 years. Will he remind the House what has happened to the inflation rate and the level of investment over the past 10 years?
§ The Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Chris Patten)
§ Mr. Brown
The Secretary of State for the Environment asks me about investment. During the oil-rich years of the 1980s, the share of national resources devoted to investment has been lower than that of almost all our major industrial competitor countries. It has not only been lower than that in Germany or in Japan but, as a share of national income, it has been lower than that in Greece, Portugal, Spain and Turkey. That is the situation the Government have brought us to.
Having failed, during the 1980s, to invest in our future, having created an environment in which a smaller proportion of the relevant age group in the United Kingdom goes to college or university than in not just Germany and Japan, but countries such as Taiwan and Korea, and having devoted a smaller proportion of our resources to civil research and development than have our major European competitors, what are the Government creating for our economy? They are compounding their errors.
§ Mr. Ridley
Since the hon. Gentleman insists on painting the blackest possible picture of the British economy, can he tell us what would be the effect of imposing a payroll tax on British industry? If the economy is as bad as he makes out, that would surely make it even worse.
§ Mr. Brown
I shall tell the Secretary of State what we are proposing—to do what the Germans do. We are proposing to invest in training. We are proposing to gain a partnership of industry to do so. Business men and industrialists throughout the country are worried about the Government's neglect of education and training.
§ Mr. Richard Holt (Langbaurgh)
I am interested to hear the hon. Gentleman say that Labour would restructure industry on the German lines. Does that also mean that he would instruct trade unions to reorganise on the German lines so that we had industrialised unions and not the hotch-potch that we have now?
§ Mr. Brown
I think that British trade unions would settle for the wages that are paid in Germany. The hon. Gentleman has misquoted me. I did not say that we would restructure industry on German lines, I said that we should have training on a par with that in Germany. Surely it is a noble objective for Britain, as it faces the 1990s and the 21st century, to aim to have the best skilled, best trained and best educated work force in Europe.
§ Mr. Ridley
Am I to take it that the hon. Gentleman is proposing payroll taxes on the level at which they are paid in Germany, which can be up to 80 per cent. of labour costs?
§ Mr. Brown
The Secretary of State is trying deliberately to misunderstand me. I said that we want training on a par with Germany. We will introduce measures that will enable us to move towards circumstances in which we have the best trained and best skilled work force in Europe. Is the Secretary of State saying that that objective is not worth while?
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The shadow Minister is not giving way, and two of the three hon. Members who are rising hope to speak later in the debate.
§ Mr. Brown
I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker.
We are being left behind in training, in the application of new technologies, in technological innovation and in collaborative research. Having allowed that to happen during the 1980s, the Government's proposals in the Queen's Speech will do nothing to remedy the gaps in training, research, science and technology which have opened up with our competitors.
§ Mr. Brown
No, I shall not give way.
What are the Department of Trade and Industry's responsibilities? What should it be doing to alleviate the problems of British industry and to help it prepare for the challenges of the future? I have here the job descriptions of the Secretary of State and of the Minister for Industry. What do they say? The Minister for Industry has responsibility for regional policy. What policy? He is responsible for financial assistance under the Industrial Development Act 1985. The Government believe neither in financial assistance nor in the Industrial Development Act. There is responsibility here for what the Government callgeneral R & D policy".Where is that policy? There is responsibility fornational collaborative R & D programmes".They have had such programmes but run many of them down. There is responsibility for European research and development. I suppose that that is something that cannot be mentioned in Cabinet. It is something that is knocked down every time Ministers go to Europe. There is responsibility for industrial research establishments, such as the British Technology Group. As Ministers see it, that is a responsibility for running them down. There is responsibility also for the inner cities. Ministers believed 130 that the problems of inner cities were solved after a photo opportunity or two last year. There is responsibility also, I may say, for intellectual property.
The Minister who is responsible for regional policy sees it as his job to abolish it. The Minister who is in charge of industrial policy sees it as his job to run it down. The Secretary of State, who is in charge of export credits, sees it as his job to eliminate them. It is the Department of abandoned responsibility. It is not the business which likes to say yes to people but the Department that loves to say no. That is the problem we face.
Nowhere is the problem that British industry faces—and Britain as a whole—greater than in the trade deficit, which is now approaching £20 billion. Imports from Korea have grown since 1979 by 250 per cent. Those from Taiwan have risen by 350 per cent., and from Japan by 250 per cent. We have a trade deficit with the largest trade deficit nation in the world, the United States. We have deficits with Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Peru. We have a deficit with East Germany, Russia, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Albania. We are told that trade deficits can result from freak figures. Can trade deficits concurrently with 76 different countries around the world result from freak figures?
Fortunately, we are in surplus with a few countries. We are in surplus by £59,000 with the Cook Islands. We are £300,000, surplus with the Vatican City. We are £5 million in surplus with Bulgaria and £10 million in surplus with Andorra. Unfortunately, we have a trading deficit with all the major trading nations with the exception of Canada. New products that were invented and patented in Britain and America have been developed in Germany and Japan and mass produced in Korea, Singapore and Taiwan.
§ Mr. Tredinnick
Is it not a fact that many of the imports coming to Britain are in the form of capital goods that will go into industry to generate future exports, for which I understand the hon. Gentleman is arguing?
§ Mr. Brown
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that matter, as it allows me to demolish another myth that has been produced by Conservative Members. The share of what are called investment and production goods in the trade deficit is exactly what it has been over the past 20 years. Another problem is that the investment and production goods that the Government describe as goods for investment rather than for consumption include headphones, microphones, burglar alarms, water meters, tailors' dummies, paper trays and hot air balloons. These are hardly goods for investment and production.
Even more worrying is that the trade deficits that we face are greatest not in our traditional industries but in high-technology industries. Nowhere is that more obvious than the deficit in information technology and electronics, which is now approaching £2.5 billion.
What is the Government's response to the problems that exporters face? It is to cut the amount of money available to the Export Credits Guarantee Department. They have threatened to privatise part or all of it over the next few weeks. They have cut support for small firms that are attending trade fairs for the first time. They have cut the availability of export services to many firms by charging them for advice and assistance in a way that has not been done before.
No other oil-exporting country has such a large trade deficit. No other major industrial nation has seen such a 131 small increase in industrial output. No other country has seen such slow growth in its manufacturing investment in basic industries. No Government with such a large deficit have shown such little concern for the problems that industry and exporters face. A nation that has progressed so far over the past few centuries by its industrial efforts now has a Government whose policy is to abandon their responsibilities to industry.
§ Mr. Christopher Gill (Ludlow)
Does the hon. Gentleman support the claim of the unions for a 35-hour week, which would give British industry the shortest working week in the industrial world?
§ Mr. Brown
I believe that there should be negotiations on such issues, just as I believe that there should be negotiations that lead to a conclusion of the ambulance dispute.
Let us consider some of the detailed problems that industry faces. Even when the market has failed in the business of research and development, even when other countries are spending far more, even when companies, business men and industrialists are begging the Government to introduce schemes that will assist the business of collaborative and national research and development, even when people in the most modern industries, such as microchips, are saying that the Government are forcing them to act with one hand tied behind their backs, what do the Government do? They have ended support for the fibre-optics research and development scheme, they have closed down the opto-electronics support scheme, they have even begun to close projects that they started after 1983, such as the micro-electronics support scheme, and they are now trying to prevent a European collaborative programme in the most advanced technologies.
§ Mr. Brown
I have given way several times, and I wish to continue with my remarks.
What budget does the Secretary of State propose for his Department? He intends to cut the money available for research and development so that we face the 1990s with fewer Government resources for future technology and new research and development than any other advanced industrial nation in Europe.
§ Mr. Brown
I shall not give way. I have given way a number of times and I shall not do so again. I wish to continue with my remarks.
What hope can the Secretary of State offer to British companies? Will he support them in the way that Germany, Japan, France and other countries support their companies? Britain is already the takeover capital of Europe, with British companies more vulnerable to takeover than companies in many other countries. Takeovers in the first half of this year were worth twice or three times the takeovers in France and Germany. Even the chairman of Britain's most successful company, ICI, expressed doubt about whether the Government would come to his aid if an asset-stripping operation started against his company.
132 The chairman of the latest takeover victim, DRG, said that only in Britaincould a company be taken over by an offshore raider from a tax haven"—and the Government would do absolutely nothing. The American Government are proposing to take action; the Governor of the Bank of England is worried and says that action should be taken to prevent the takeover of British banks; yet the Secretary of State's answer, in a speech only a few days ago, was to widen the possibilities for takeover by narrowing the grounds on which he would permit referral—even to the extent of permitting junk bonds in this country, and doing nothing about it.
A few days ago the Secretary of State said:A few said that I should be concerned about the spread of junk bonds … The judgment on the risks associated with junk bonds is for the shareholders of the target company to determine.The Secretary of State will do absolutely nothing to prevent a takeover with the use of junk bonds, yet every other country in Europe and the United States of America is sufficiently concerned to propose action to deal with the problem.
Nowhere is the Government's abandonment of responsibility clearer than in their attitude to golden shares. The Secretary of State accepted a special responsibility by adopting and introducing golden shares in a number of companies. When he was at the Department of the Environment, he introduced many golden shares—he even defended them in the debate on water privatisation and said that they were a help in organising action against the threat of a takeover.
Tell that to Jaguar. Just at the very point that the Government's golden share in that company could have been used to secure assurances of future investment, location and product development in the national interest, the Secretary of State gives Jaguar two hours' notice, tears up the golden share, and throws it away. The best that he can do for British industry is to give only two hours' notice to a company that it is to be thrown to the wolves.
§ Mr. Brown
No, I shall not give way.
What is the future for the British Airports Authority, even after yesterday's so-called assurances? What is the future for Sealink, which was protected against takeover from abroad in the past by a golden share? Will it be protected in future? What protection will be given in future to our water companies after they are privatised? What is the future for the royal dockyards and for Rolls-Royce?
Can you, Mr. Speaker, imagine the German Government giving Siemens or Daimler Benz two hours' notice that they are to be taken over? Can you imagine the French Government giving Renault or Thomson a few minutes' warning of such a takeover? Can you imagine the Japanese ever allowing such a situation to develop if Hitachi or Sony were ever faced by the danger of a takeover? If the Government refuse to accept their responsibilities towards the industries of this country even when they have the powers and have given promises to do so, one must conclude that there is not an industry in the country, not a company in this country and not an industrial sector in this country that can rely on the Government for support for as long as they are in power.
§ Mr. Tredinnick
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) referred to his hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) as "the wolf of Dagenham." Is that parliamentary language, and should it be allowed?
§ Mr. Brown
I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker.
Another of the Secretary of State's responsibilities is regional policy. Regional aid for Scotland is being cut from £200 million in the mid-1980s to £120 million next year, and to £100 million by 1992. Regional aid for Wales is being cut from £145 million to £110 million, and then to £90 million. Regional aid for the midlands and for the north of England is being cut—[Interruption.] I thought that certain Conservative Members would be interested to hear what is happening in the north, the midlands and in Yorkshire.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. With any luck, and if we can get on, some of the hon. Members who want to put their point of view may be able to do so at greater length later.
§ Mr. Brown
I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker. Conservative Members are not really attempting to question an Opposition Front Bench spokesman; they are making a deliberate attempt to cause disruption.
Regional aid for the north and the midlands is being cut from £350 million in the mid-1980s to £190 million by 1992—which is really a halving in real terms of the value of that aid. What is the Government's response? What did the Secretary of State have to say in the autumn statement that he made today? He said that regional aid will be cut further; that money for English Estates will be cut further; that the business development initiative will also be cut further. When the businesses of this country face high interest rates, what sense does it make to cut back even further the support that is available to them for further investment—especially when it is known that regional policy is in not only the country's regional interest but its national interests?
It makes absolutely no sense to have overheating, congestion, pressure on the green belt and skill shortages in one part of the country and forced depopulation, emigration and the underuse of resources in another. Do the French, with their policy of technology centres and growth poles, say that regional policy is a thing of the past, as this Government do? Do the Germans with their regional business innovation centres, say that there is no need for a regional policy? Do the Italians say that they should not bridge the regional gap? All other countries in Europe, all other countries that are building a successful industrial policy for the future, want their regions to play a full part in national economic development.
§ Mr. Nicholas Bennett
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) persistently to refuse to give way on any point that any Conservative Member may wish to make and then after never having given way to accuse Conservative Members of being organised groups of hooligans?
§ Mr. Speaker
The whole House knows, as the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) knows, that if the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) does not intend to give way, the hon. Gentleman should not persist with his intervention.
§ Mr. Devlin
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) to say that organised barracking is taking place on this side of the House, when he has just referred to Wales, Scotland and the north of England and made a number of misrepresentations about Government policy, about which Conservative Members with constituencies in the north, Wales and Scotland wish to ask him?
§ Mr. Speaker
I have not detected any organised barracking, and I hope that I shall not. We ought to gel on with the debate because a number of hon. Members who are now raising points of order are anxious to participate in it.
§ Mr. Brown
The record will show that I gave way on a large number of occasions and that on every occasion I gave way to a Conservative Member.
The Government still say that they are the right team for Britain 's future. Let us take all those on the Treasury Bench at face value, as united in their enthusiasm for the poll tax, for privatising electricity and water, for commercialising the National Health Service, for their high interest rate policy and the abandonment of industry, for the destruction of regional policy and for making Britain the takeover capital of Europe. They are united in destroying the trade and industry policy of a once great trading and industrial nation.
As we look forward to a new decade, Britain faces new and exciting challenges, yet when we have to meet the challenges of new technology, of an evolving Europe, of co-operation and co-ordination of economic policies across national frontiers, we find that the Prime Minister and the Cabinet are so busy trying to recreate the present in the image of the past that they have missed out entirely on the opportunities for the future. The Opposition believe in facing the challenges of the future. We believe that everyone—workers, industry, business and Government—should play their part. If the Government insist on abandoning rather than discharging their responsibilities 135 for the future, they should make way for a Labour Government who will fulfil their responsibilities for the future.
§ Sir Hugh Rossi (Hornsey and Wood Green)
The Front Bench spokesmen will forgive me if I do not continue with the subject that they have introduced. It has been agreed through the usual channels that this debate should be concerned both with industry and with the environment, because of references to legislation in the Queen's Speech. I shall address my remarks principally to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.
In the United Kingdom we have a long history of concern about the environment, dating back to the appointment of the first alkali inspector in 1864, continuing through to the smoke control legislation and public health Acts at the turn of the century and the Clean Air Act of the 1950s to the Control of Pollution Act 1974. The Queen's Speech tells us that there is to be a further development in the form of the green Bill that the Government are shortly to present.
In its day the Control of Pollution Act 1974 was a worthy piece of legislation, which broke new ground, but it is high time that it was re-examined. The new Bill will help close loopholes that have become apparent in that Act. It will provide for the control of new technologies that were not envisaged when the Act was passed. Most important, it will place a series of duties of environmental responsibility on polluters, encapsulating the new concept of "a duty of care" as well as the "polluter pays" principle.
All that is very much to be welcomed but it is a matter for concern that, in the desire to improve current systems of pollution control, the organisation and administration of environmental protection appear to have been overlooked. We have never had a fundamental review of the organisation of pollution regulation. Responsibility for pollution is divided between central and local government and, within central Government, between different agencies and Departments. The overall result is a hotchpotch because the system has grown up in an ad hoc way.
The responsible agencies today include local government. Environmental health officers have the chief responsibility but their responsibility is nevertheless reactive rather than protective. If land is contaminated, they have to wait for harm to happen before they can intervene to ensure that measures are taken to cure the contamination. Part of the responsibility lies with planning officers but they, too, can react only when planning applications come before them and they have to decide for which purposes land may safely be used. None of their powers covers cases where historic contamination of land has remained for several decades, with risks to ground water and the risk of migration of methane gas. Those officials hold no pre-emptive powers.
§ Mrs. Edwina Currie (Derbyshire, South)
My hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Sir H. Rossi) is making a most important speech and it would be as well if Opposition Members who profess to be interested in environmental pollution control, would listen. Does my hon. Friend realise just how strict planning officers and pollution control officers are these days? Shortly a massive 136 factory is to be brought by Toyota to my constituency in the midlands, without any public aid or assistance. I have been most impressed—as have my colleagues in the neighbourhood—at the effort that has been made to ensure that there is no pollution from the factory and that,right from the start, every aspect of construction should be designed to ensure that we shall have no problems.
§ Sir Hugh Rossi
My hon. Friend is quite right. There has been an awakening in the public and in the political mind to the dangers that our environment faces unless we deal with our new technologies correctly. However, there remains an enormous problem with historical sites which continue to present a danger to the environment. My remarks relate to the limited powers of environmental health and planning officers to deal with what is already there.
Other agencies have been created. For example, the National Rivers Authority has been in existence for a matter of weeks. The NRA is now the guardian of the water environment. However, one wonders why it has been given responsibility for leisure, land drainage and flood protection. What a distraction those other functions must be for an authority created primarily to protect the water environment.
The NRA is not alone in having responsibility for the water environment. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has a responsibility for the water environment in relation to the use of fertilisers and the nitrates that drain into our water courses and estuaries. The Ministry is responsible for the marine environment—for the sea which is the ultimate dust bin for everything that we do on land whether that involves industrial effluent or the produce from our sewerage systems.
Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution has responsibility for air pollution and for a small group of scheduled processes. Historically, it also has some responsibility for water pollution and that may well in practice overlap with the new responsibilities of the NRA. It also has an audit control, which we welcome, over the activities of the waste disposal authorities. Those authorities are yet another agency for dealing with potential pollution.
The Health and Safety Executive also has some responsibility for the environment, paticularly with regard to the carriage of hazardous substances and their handling in our factories and workplaces. The procedures to be followed in reclaiming contaminated land are part of the HSE's responsibilities while the waste disposal authorities and many other authorities are also concerned with those problems. The HSE has responsibility for the workers carrying out reclamation work.
The general approach in establishing those various bodies with their different responsibilities has been to react to a problem as it occurred. The remit of each agency and of the Government are correspondingly narrow and specific. No one seems to have stood back and looked at the system as it has grown and tried to rationalise it.
The piecemeal approach has coloured the whole nature of environmental regulation in Britain. The consequences have included inequalities in resource allocation. The size and importance of an organisation depend on historical factors rather than on any attempt to assess the environmental threat. Therefore, the NRA, with a staff of 6,500, has taken over various functions from the water authorities. However, HMIP has a staff of only 200. It 137 must monitor the atmosphere and it must even monitor 5,000 waste disposal sites, many of which are highly contaminated. When my Committee was conducting its inquiry into toxic waste, only five inspectors were responsible for all that. Since the inquiry—I like to think it is as a result of the inquiry—the establishment number has doubled and trebled, but only one new one has been appointed. [HON. MEMBERS: Why?] The answer is known to the House. I do not want to take up too much time on obvious points.
§ Mr. Chris Patten
I make it absolutely plain to my hon. Friend that I wholly accept the case for strengthening the inspectorate and for ensuring that it is adequately resourced. That is important to the credibility of the new control regime that we are proposing to introduce. With that objective in mind, we are examining and increasing the inspectorate's salary scales.
§ Sir Hugh Rossi
I am glad to have my right hon. Friend's assurance. Salary scales have been the greatest impediment to the recruitment of people with the required scientific knowledge and expertise. I am addressing not only the inspectorate but the result of the historical, traditional, hotchpotch, reactive approach to each environmental problem as it has impinged on our political consciousness.
§ Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
One issue which has not been touched upon and which creates a blight on the environment is opencast coal development. Whether they occur in a green belt or in any other belt, the Government tend to allow open cast developments to take place. They not only create a blight but all sorts of things can be dumped in the holes that are left. Lots of people make a lot of money out of that, including some who have tankers waiting outside the estuaries up and down Britain. The hon. Gentleman should tell his right hon. Friend the Minister that, if he wants a co-ordinated approach to the environment to clean up contaminated areas, he should stop opencast operations in the green belt in my constituency and elsewhere.
§ Sir Hugh Rossi
The hon. Gentleman should not tempt me to question the environmental impact of the activities of the Coal Board. The hon. Gentleman should look at what the Coal Board has dumped on beaches at Durham for decades. It has had a most disastrous effect upon the environment, and successive Governments have allowed it. The real problem is who pays for clearing it up. Is it the coal industry, which created the waste? The hon. Gentleman will find that the unions which he represents will not thank him if we opt to do that. The on-cost of a tonne of coal will rise considerably to the point of being non-competitive if the coal industry must clean up what it has caused throughout this land.
Other hon. Members want to speak, so I do not wish to detain the House for too long, but I shall pursue the theme of the consequences of the hotchpotch approach. I have mentioned the lack of resources. Equally important and worrying is the lack of authoritative knowledge of environmental issues. Available expertise is naturally dispersed through all the different agencies, organisations and strata of government, both central and local.
Local authorities and developers find it impossible to find an alternative source of advice to a particular problem. Indeed, my Committee experienced some hiatus 138 while HMIP was preparing its new waste management paper on landfill gas because local authorities did not know what to do. Even today, when we ask local authorities in Committee, "What are you going to do about contaminated land?" they say, "We do not have the expertise in-house, so we will contract out. All kinds of commercial concerns come to us and say that they have the ideal technology to cure our problems." The solution may be to incinerate the contamination or to pump out the leaches and to treat it with a particular chemical. It may even mean spraying the contamination with bugs that will then eat the organic components causing the contamination.
Local authorities ask, "How are we to assess whether we are being sold something that is really what we need and best for our problem? There is no central place to which we can go where all the different technologies on offer have been tested and where we can obtain advice as to the ones we should follow." Does that situation not call out for some reassessment of the way in which we have organised ourselves in dealing with environmental problems?
§ Mr. Wardell
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman and I know of his tremendous work as Chairman of the Select Committee on the Environment. Following the point that he is making, how far does he agree with the evidence given to his Committee by the managing director of Aspinwalls, which is one of this country's leading environmental consultants on landfill, when he said that the options open to industrialists in Britain had virtually disappeared as far as co-disposal in landfill is concerned because the Government cut research in the early 1980s, making it virtually impossible for industrialists to have such an option?
§ Sir Hugh Rossi
The hon. Gentleman has anticipated the last point that I wish to make regarding the effect of our hotch-potch approach. Because of the lack of a clear focus, for which I am arguing, our approach has not been well understood in Europe, where directives are now being made about how waste should be best disposed. In a sense, we have a long clinical record of dealing with wastes by co-disposal, mixing domestic waste with certain types of industrial waste in conditions which mean that they are sealed in so that natural chemical and biological activities will have the effect of neutralising and rendering them harmless.
However, because that has been done as a result of trial and error and experience, and because we are satisfied that it works, we do not have the scientific base whereby our consultants, such as Aspinwalls, can go to Europe to give evidence and say, "Here is the scientific data that proves this is safe and can be used."
That is another weakness from which we are all suffering and that weakness exists because we as a nation—not as a political party, one or the other—have neglected this issue. The Labour Government neglected this point just as much as the present Government have only suddenly become awake and alive to these problems. I advise the House that we are all in this together and that we must find a solution together. We should not be 139 constantly bickering and arguing about it. I think that I can say that because, as Chairman of an all-party Committee, I am possibly a little more detached than most hon. Members from the everyday political infighting.
When we are dealing with environmental matters we are dealing with questions that affect the way in which our children and grandchildren will live. How we deal with those questions will affect the kind of earth that we leave them and unless we address our minds seriously to those questions and recognise them as one of the major problems facing the human race, we will be reviled by future generations. I am delighted that the Queen's Speech contains a positive statement from the Government that they are looking to environmental protection on an international as well as a national basis. Many, if not all, the problems must be solved by international co-operation and agreement.
If our present structures are wrong, what are the alternatives? Some countries have established environmental protection agencies that regulate and initiate policies. In the United States the consequence of that has been the establishment of an EPA that our Committee considered excessively bureaucratic. We certainly do not want such an agency in the United Kingdom. There are alternatives, however, and we tried to highlight those in our report on toxic waste. We floated the idea of an environmental protection commission for the United Kingdom with overall responsibility for safeguarding environmental quality in the United Kingdom. It would have responsibility for initiating and enforcing policy on the environment. The commission could take a variety of forms.
§ Mr. Allen McKay (Barnsley, West and Penistone)
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that there is a problem about the disposal of toxic waste in the neighbouring constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy). That constituency has encountered difficulty in returning the toxic waste to America from where it came. Would the proposed commission take care of that problem?
§ Sir Hugh Rossi
I recommend to the hon. Gentleman the Basle convention that covers the transportation, import and export of toxic waste. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is keen for us to sign that convention. I hope that he ensures that the Government ratify that convention—perhaps we shall have a statement to that effect. The Basle convention, and all the controls that it would put upon the export and import of toxic waste, represents a major move forward by the international community. It is something that this country should ratify as soon as possible.
The environmental protection commission could take a number of forms and it need not be a large centralised body. It could closely follow the form of the present Health and Safety Commission, which has the Health and Safety Executive as its arm. The environmental protection commission could possibly incorporate the National Rivers Authority and include other functions for the protection of the environment—involving air, water and land. In that way we would have an integrated policy for environmental protection. One of the things we have learned in Committee is that there is a constant and 140 persistent interaction between air, land and water that affects the totality of our environment. We cannot deal with those elements in separate, watertight compartments and we must take a broad view. We need to create the proper organisation capable of doing that.
It was with great disappointment that my Committee noted the way in which the Government brushed aside our tentative proposals for an environmental protection commission. I believe that, with the changes that have taken place, the greater awareness of the problems and the natural sympathy of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for such matters, a fresh look will be given to the question of establishing a new organisation. I recommend such a commission to him. He will have to decide this quickly because the Environment Council's president, the noble Earl of Cranbrook, has today in another place presented a proposal for an environmental protection agency, very much along the lines of the Health and Safety Commission.
I have not yet had an opportunity to study the Bill which has only just reached me. If it follows the general principles which I have been seeking to outline, I hope that it will recommend itself to my right hon. Friend and the Cabinet.
§ Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh)
To someone from Northern Ireland, after the weekend that we have had, there is an air of unreality about today's debate. Industry and the environment, in the Northern Ireland context, which is hung about with so much violence, is almost unreal. When I listened to the eloquent speech of the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Sir H. Rossi) on the importance of the environment I was deeply struck by the gap between the priorities as he sees them in this country and those in the North of Ireland. In Northern Ireland it is difficult not to measure such issues against the background of an ordinary weekend, such as last weekend, when five humans were killed. It is not simply just another weekend.
There is a close relationship between the violence in Northern Ireland and what is happening to society there, and the lack of industrial and environmental concern. I am glad that the Secretary of State for the Environment is here because he knows from experience the problems, especially in the concrete jungles and urban centres, where lack of employment, industry and jobs—allied to the terrible social environment—create an atmosphere in which the sharks and godfathers of violence thrive. Those problems create such a context and if we are to deal with them we must look at them in totality. We cannot do that without considering the environment and employment. This becomes even more important when we consider some problems that are not related to those issues.
I hope to identify three such problems today in the hope, however vain, that at some time the Government will take them on board. The Queen's Speech referred to improving the economy through the framework of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Does it make sense in a small country like Ireland to have, because of partition, two agricultural policies, two different sets of industrial programming and planning, two tourist boards, two transport authorities and an absolute economic mess in the development of the island?
141 The time has come when the Government, in conjunction with the Irish Government, should plan in terms of developing the island. I am not making an ideological political point. That can wait for other times, other decades, perhaps even another century. It makes economic sense—especially as we approach 1992—to start to develop the North of Ireland in conjunction with the rest of the island and develop its potential rather than allow it to stagnate as at present. I make a specific request to the Government that such economic planning and economic harmonisation should be carried out so that we approach 1992 with at least a fighting chance of maximising our membership of the EC.
My second point, which I keep making in the House and to which I receive little response, is that life is difficult in an area of high unemployment. Male unemployment in parts of west Belfast is approaching more than 60 per cent. In parts of my constituency unemployment is near to 40 per cent. Those unemployed people live almost exclusively on social security benefit. They start off being deprived because they pay about 30 per cent. more for coal, energy and heating than do people in England, Scotland and Wales. They pay about 20 per cent. more for food and about 33 per cent. more for electricity. They do not have a mains gas supply. Those things mean that we are not getting parity in social security benefits. It is parity minus. The differentials relate to essential costs, not to luxuries, and I ask again for the special circumstances of Northern Ireland to he taken into account. The further we go down the line with the new social security arrangements the more those differentials become the difference between being able to cope and being caught in the poverty trap.
§ Mr Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)
The hon. Gentleman is right when he says that social security benefits do not take account of the real cost of living in Northern Ireland and Scotland. Is it not a bitter irony that the Government's economic policy has given us a 15 per cent. base rate even though many areas, such as Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the north of England, do not suffer from the overheating problems of the south of England?
§ Mr. Mallon
I agree with the hon. Gentleman. As I said before, there is an air of unreality about the debate. In one half of my constituency there is not a single industry; in those terms, the debate becomes even more academic. We must look at Northern Ireland not just in terms of how we can trim the sails peripherally. We must try to set out a five-year, six-year or 10-year programme of rejuvenation of industrial development, the environment, job creation and the quality of life. That would be better than the present ad hoc approach.
§ Mr. Roy Beggs (Antrim, East)
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that part of the cause of the unreality and the unawareness of hon. Members about the severity of unemployment in Northern Ireland is that records are not available in the Library for Northern Ireland constituencies as they are for other constituencies? The hon. Gentleman's party and mine are together committed to improving the position and to creating job opportunities for all our people.
§ Mr. Mallon
I agree with the hon. Gentleman, but I should like to add another reason—and here we are all to blame. We do not tell the House often enough. That is 142 because we do not have the opportunity, except in a debate such as this, to make such points. Opportunities are restricted in other debates. We are all at fault and could do more.
I commend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland for his statement yesterday. He made it clear that it was not enough to try to end the violence through security but that the effort would have to be reinforced by economic development, by giving people a better quality of life and by creating social structures in the North of Ireland. The Secretary of State is a man of courage and vision. He has taken a tremendous hammering in the House and outside over the past couple of weeks because of that courage and vision, but he should be commended for what he said yesterday.
It is a tragedy that when someone tries to think his way into the future and towards a solution a knee-jerk hammering is immediately doled out to him here and in other places. I welcome what the right hon. Gentleman said yesterday because it is true. An improvement in the economic position and in the environment, and the provision of jobs, will not end violence, but it will substantially weaken those who manipulate young people and who thrive in murky waters. It will also help enormously in psyching the people in the North of Ireland to get on with finding a solution to our problems.
I make my third point directly to my colleagues from Northern Ireland. We have heard much talk about devolution. We should start debating devolution in the House and clear up many of the misunderstandings. My view is probably different from that of other hon. Members. At present we have a system where others decide whether more or less power should be given to the North of Ireland. Others determine what economic policies will be pursued in the Province and under what type of economic restraints it will operate. Others decide who will close schools and factories and cut social security benefits. That is not an enticing scenario, as many will testify. Others decide what is expedient and just and, in many ways, what is life and what is death. Others decide what we shall or shall not get and what we shall or shall not give, especially in terms of the EEC.
The political parties from the North of Ireland should enter into proper, substantial negotiations and face with courage the reality that our economic and environmental problems and the violence in the North of Ireland will not be solved in this House. We are and we shall remain optional extras here. We have it within our power to get to grips with that problem. As a first step, we must do one simple thing. It could be done in the Tea Room, if we must go to tea rooms. If not, it could be done in the bar, which is more congenial. We should start to negotiate. I understand the frustration, resentment and anger of people who have made similar speeches here year after year, if not decade after decade. We shall continue to be optional extras here until we take matters into our own hands and decide that we no longer want to be optional extras.
The elected representatives of the people of the North of Ireland must be asked what powers we should like to operate on behalf of the people of the North of Ireland. We must ask for a fiscal relationship between the North of Ireland and Great Britain which will allow us to implement the type of rejuvenation programmes that are needed by a society which has been through the trauma of, in effect, 20 years of war. We must be allowed to decide what structure 143 is suitable for a unique political situation, rather than ape other unsuitable structures. Above all, we must be allowed to take on board the whole problem of security, policing, violence and justice.
The people of the North of Ireland will need the courage and will power to take on and examine those four areas closely and talk them through. The people of the North of Ireland must stand on their own feet and show that we can be sturdy, independent Ulstermen, rather than whinge to Ministers for a little more when we are getting a little less. We should start to take action to resolve the problems instead of whingeing that nobody will do it for us. Such an approach would allow us to take on the problems of industrial and social deprivation and unemployment and to create a quality of life to which everyone in the North of Ireland is entitled. After 20 years it is time that the realisation dawned.
We all have ingrained historical, electoral and other reasons why we should not adopt that approach. We all have our little bit of pride which will not let us move down roads that we have not gone down before. Are our ancient quarrels more important than the welfare of people who never had and never will have jobs, of young people living in concrete jungles who are prey to the men of violence and of elderly people entering their twilight years who are unable to make ends meet?
We can start looking at the problems from those four areas. I hope that by this time next year we shall at least have started to solve them.
§ Mr. David Porter (Waveney)
I am glad to have heard the speech by the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon). I take his reprimand that many of us consider these matters with an air of unreality, but each of us must speak for our area. I have the honour and privilege to be the first East Anglian Member to speak with the cameras on, and by that I mean the historic East Anglia of Suffolk and Norfolk. In the spirit of this week with the cameras on I prepared my speech to contain a certain number of sound bites, and that was the first.
This is the third Queen's Speech that I have heard since becoming a Member. I assumed that it would be the most difficult because all the commentators told us so. The programme outlined yesterday struck a positive balance. Clearly, the Government will not be too bothered by the ritualistic huffing and puffing of the Opposition as they try to blow down the reforms and advances built on a decade of firm foundations. The acid test is how people see the programme and, more important, how tomorrow's voters will see it.
Yesterday it was frequently said that with this speech we were leaving behind the 1980s. That is true. Now begins what undoubtedly will be the environmental decade. Perhaps that is sound bite two. In the environmental decade we shall take hold of all the hard-fought gains of the 1980s and hit the challenges of the earth ready for the 1990s and beyond to the next century. Today's primary schoolchildren will benefit most from a Health Service which is no longer in the 1940s at worst, or the 1970s at best. They will benefit from further industrial and trade 144 union reforms, the focus on developing training and enterprise, the control of public expenditure and the still further improvement of priority services.
Last week's Autumn Statement set an agenda which confirms that we are entering a decade of social spending and growth. Environment and growth, social spending and industry are all inextricably bound together. It is the environmental aspect which will benefit today's young people most and capture their imaginations most. We have only to look at what is happening in many schools, certainly in my constituency, to realise that today's pupils are tomorrow's environmentalists.
Yesterday the Leader of the Opposition said that the Opposition would fight hard to toughen the proposed environment protection Bill—sound bite No. 3. He means that he will play a kind of leapfrog on every issue to claim the green mantle. But every step on the environmental protection and management road must be workable, enforceable and based on fact, not fiction. To take just one example, everybody knows that global warming will melt the ice caps and raise sea levels—but will it? Or will it, as some scientists think, cause a wind flow to the poles which will increase the ice caps and lower sea levels? We need to know. That may be an extreme example, but it illustrates the point. I raise it because my constituency will resemble Atlantis if some of the pundits are right about rising sea levels.
We can take some steps on environmental matters. Protection of food chains, the seas and the skies should recognise no national boundaries. If we stopped all our nuclear energy production tomorrow, the French would remain 80 per cent. dependent on nuclear power. An accident in France could wipe out many Britons as surely as if it happened in the United Kingdom. Global problems need global action.
Naturally, some aspects are parochial national matters. Most people will welcome the proposed increase in the litter fine to £1,000. Perhaps that necessitates a review of the relative severity of fines. We do not want more expensive fines in magistrates courts for an inconsiderate litter lout who drops a McDonald's carton than for a drunken yobbo who hits a police officer. I welcome the new responsibility for litter that is to be placed on local authorities. Perhaps my right hon. Friends had the opportunity to read the ten-minute Bill that I moved in May this year—the Public Service Contract Bill—which would, among other provisions, have created a contract between community charge payers and councils so that there was redress when an agreed level of service was not delivered. We could be getting towards that with the Government's proposals.
I come now to sound bite number four. What East Anglia is looking for in the Queen's Speech is a co-ordinated North sea management policy, which recognises that it is not a European dust bin, but a busy and vital artery—as busy as Liverpool Street station in the rush hour—round the clock, every day of the year. We need a management policy to take account of fishing interests, gas and oil harnessing interests, aggregate dredging interests, tourist and leisure interests and even Ministry of Defence and NATO interests under, on and over the North sea.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Sir H. Rossi), the Chairman of the Select Committee on the Environment, spoke about sea defences as being a distraction to the National Rivers Authority. I 145 hope that he will reconsider that remark, because to those of us who rely on sea defences to keep our land together they are anything but a distraction. I welcome their inclusion in the NRA brief. In East Anglia, that is beginning to work, and a powerful start has been made.
In Waveney, our drinking water has always been supplied more cheaply and to a better standard by a private company. In the environment programme, we need to move forward, building on what the Government have already set in place. The announcement last week in the Autumn Statement about the extra money for coastal and sea defence is greatly welcomed.
Mentioning extra money brings me to what Conservative Members want. We want value for money on what is spent on health, care for the elderly and the handicapped, schools and teachers. We want the desirable to be deemed the necessary. In the past decade, we have learnt that desirability must also be affordability.
East Anglia still needs many road developments, not only for economic but for environmental reasons. To bypass Wrentham on the A12 in Waveney would bring untold environmental relief to the village. A third crossing of Lake Lothing on the A12 at Lowestoft before the end of the century would bring economic, stress-reducing and environmental benefit to thousands of my constituents. An integrated policy of transport, including road and rail, for the United Kingdom is needed now, and needed urgently for East Anglia, with the Channel tunnel and 1992 approaching and, in some senses, threatening to leave East Anglia as an island of poorer economic growth, unable to sustain its attractive environment. I regret the absence from this Queen's Speech of any plan to privatise British Rail, in the light of its consistently below-par service level in East Anglia.
As the Confederation of British Industry has said, in all this, business and industry are the solution in part and not the problem in total. Industry is not the environmental bogeyman. Cashing in on cleaning up is one thing. Responding to the rigid hand of legislation is another and codes of practice are still another. Working in partnership with today's climate of opinion for the environmental decade, as a wealth creator, is quite a different matter.
Without industry, where do Labour Members and others vying to beef up the Government's programme for the next year believe that the money is to come from? Consumers will inevitably pay more. Most say that they are happy to do so. Many said that they did not want tax cuts, and instead wanted the money to go to the NHS. I wonder how many people sent the money from their tax cuts to the Treasury in 1988?
This is my final sound bite. The bulk of the cost can come only from industry and commerce, trade and a growing economy in the United Kingdom, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment told the CBI this week, without letting civil servants and vested-interested Governments use environmental issues to erect new barriers in Europe.
§ Mr. Porter
No. I am nearly finished, so I will not give way. I am taking an example from the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) who did not give way earlier.
§ Mr. Porter
I will not give way. I am on the final sentence of my speech.
This Government, and only this Government, can deliver what is needed and wanted. It should be noted that our Prime Minister was the first world leader to put these matters on the world agenda.
§ Mr. Doug Hoyle (Warrington, North)
So far, the debate on the Loyal Address has shown a bleak prospect for British industry. The smugness of the Prime Minister has been followed by the buffoonery of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.
§ Mr. Hoyle
When I think of the Secretary of State, I can never decide whether he is a gravedigger or an undertaker. Neither of those people lives in the real world in which industry must exist. While the Prime Minister was making her speech yesterday, Inverox Chemicals of Warrington, a highly successful company, was announcing 300 redundancies. These were caused by falling demand and falling profits. That is the world in which industry lives. The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry made not one reference to why he gave up the golden share on the last independent quality motor car company—Jaguar.
§ Mr. Hoyle
Yes, without consultation. The chairman of Jaguar motors, John Egan, when he was giving evidence to the Select Committee on Trade and Industry, said that he was told at only quarter to 12 what was to happen. He told the Secretary of State not to do it, not to give up the golden share. We asked Sir John why that had happened, and he told us that we would have to ask the Secretary of State. Surely the golden share is in place to prevent takeover by foreign predators, and the Secretary of State's job is to look for the best deal for Jaguar, for the employees and for the national interest.
§ Dr. Woodcock
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that Sir John Egan said in London last night that only a few years ago no foreign investor would have paid a penny for Jaguar, but after five or six years of exposure to free market forces every motor car manufacturer in the world would like to own Jaguar?
§ Mr. Hoyle
I am sorry that I gave way, because the truth is that the idea of Jaguar, with its small size, being able to go it alone is a myth. I think that the hon. Gentleman served on the Select Committee on Trade and Industry, of which I was also a member. He will recall that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee said that Jaguar should stay with Rover because it was making a profit and was doing so because of the investment from the public sector, which had helped to develop a new model. The problem with Jaguar was that it was far too dependent 147 on a single market—the American market. It was doubtful whether it would ever, even in the good times, generate enough profit to develop new models.
The issue is where Jaguar should have gone. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman did not say that it should have gone to General Motors rather than Ford, or that the company should have been run in co-operation with some European companies. I am not saying whether any of these deals would have been better or whether it would have been possible for Jaguar, with money pumped in, to stay on its own. However, I am saying that the Secretary of State abdicated his responsibility.
Industry must look not only at what is said in the Queen's Speech but at what was said in the Autumn Statement. That allows for hardly any growth in manufacturing industry. The real problem is that high interest rates will remain. Tory Members boast about record investment levels, but they are a record from a much smaller industrial base, because almost 30 per cent. of industry was destroyed between 1979 and 1982. Those high interest levels will mean a cut in investment.
Nor did the Secretary of State say anything about takeover bids and what should be done about them. Manufacturing industry and service industries have to face foreign predators. At the moment Pearl Assurance plc is faced with an Australian takeover bid, but it could not make a reverse takeover bid because that is not allowed in Australia. No British insurance company would find it easy to take over a French, Italian or German insurance company, yet all our insurance companies are up for grabs.
As I said at the weekend, Australian Mutual Provident will have to pay £114 million in interest charges on the loan, but Pearl made only £60 million in profits last year. Where will the money come from? Will there be a sale of assets, or will the policyholders suffer? Something has to give.
Pearl is not alone. Other insurance companies are facing takeover bids, and nearly all of them could be at the mercy of predators from Australia, America, Japan and elsewhere. Insurance companies are the long-term investors we need for manufacturing industry. That is the state of affairs in the real world.
I should have thought that the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry would have mentioned the problems of the environment. Perhaps the Secretary of State for the Environment will say something about them. I expected the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to urge manufacturing industry to produce environmentally friendly products. We could take the lead and we could sell those products to other nations. With the present awareness of the environment, there will be a worldwide demand for environmentally friendly products, and we should encourage industry to go down that path.
I know that student loans will be debated another day, but they will cut the number of scientists and engineers that we produce, particularly those who come from working-class backgrounds. We can ill afford to lose them, because British industry needs good management and it has not been able to attract them. That will remain a problem.
I welcome the green Bill, but I do not think that it goes far enough. In Warrington, we were threatened with the 148 import of domestic waste from the United States earlier this year. We already have toxic waste sites, where hospital waste has been dumped illegally. We want tighter controls over the environment and real powers in the Bill, which we hope will be a pointer for the future. With the present hapless Secretary of State for Trade and Industry I shudder to think what will happen. He talked a lot about what the Labour party might do about industry when it came to power. My fear is that there will be no industry left when we come to power, if the Secretary of State remains in office much longer. There were some glum faces behind him. He has not made a good start with Jaguar.
What will the Secretary of State do about the Pearl hid and other takeovers? Will he bring in a Bill to prevent that happening to British industry? I fear not. I do not think that he will do much for industry in the regions either. I think the situation will be bleak and that conditions will get much worse before they get much better. The Government should lower interest rates, because they affect industry and everyone who has a mortgage.
The Government should give a stimulus to industry. When the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) asked the Secretary of State about the space programme, he looked like a startled rabbit, caught in the headlights of a car. He had no idea what he was talking about. Of course he did not know, because the space programme does not fit into the market. It cannot be left to the market, because, if it were, there would be no programme.
I fear that we are sacrificing our future. For example, Vauxhall now buys more components in the United Kingdom—headlight bulbs, bumpers and panels—but they are not the high-technology components with which the car of the future will be equipped. I fear that we are looking at the short term instead of the long term.
We have to meet the challenge of 1992—the single European market. The hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Adley) asked my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) about transport, and he was right. We need good transport systems to get our goods to market and to meet that challenge.
I have come to the conclusion that the Government are not interested in training or investment and, unfortunately, given the present Secretary of State, they are not interested in industry.
§ Mr. Robert Boscawen (Somerton and Frome)
By any standards, growth has been impressive in the United Kingdom during the past seven or eight years. In my part of the world it has been extremely impressive. The evidence is there for the eyes of those who wish to see it. It is quite clear that it is not in the eyes of the Opposition Front Bench spokesman, the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown), because he has no desire to see the growth that we have had since the early 1980s.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has the task of taming that growth to ensure that we protect the quality of life in Britain in ways in which we have not protected it before. He asks for new powers to control pollution and waste. I believe that the House will give him those powers, subject to the usual scrutiny. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Sir H. Rossi) said, control of pollution of the environment is in too many hands. Too many agencies 149 of Government and local government are involved to put it straight. We need to cut through that and to reorganise. I believe that the House will give my right hon. Friend the measures he wants to do that.
There are no differences between Members when it comes to trying to create a better environment with the growth that we need in the 1990s and beyond. However, there is much more my right hon. Friend can do by using existing powers to control the ravages of some industrial expansion, of transport and of pollution. When it comes down to it, he has considerable powers over planning controls. He needs to provide more certainty that his inspectors will stand out firm against developments outside the boundaries of local plans and the restrictions put on them by local planning authorities.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will confirm soon what his predecessor confirmed a few months ago—that, except in peculiar and overriding circumstances, he will stand firm and refuse appeals when proposed developments would go beyond boundaries which the local plan says should not be crossed. If so, he would do much to maintain the confidence of ordinary people who have no alternative but to live in such areas that business parks, industrial estates, supermarkets and large housing developments will not intrude ever further out of existing towns and villages.
I know that my right hon. Friend is highly sensitive to these matters and highly intelligent. I was his Whip for some nine years and I did not fail to realise that. I do not think that I ever won an argument against him. He knows full well that heavy vehicle traffic in the narrow residential areas that he and I have the honour to represent are a virulent form of pollution that ruins the lives of many people, especially the children who live there. When he is asked to give his consent to new industrial developments, I want him to take such decisions seriously and to ensure that he uses his powers so that one of the major considerations is the amount of heavy traffic that is likely to be generated and the provision of access roads for it.
I recognise that the Government have done much to give the roads programme a higher priority. The Autumn Statement was welcome. It has done much to encourage investment in industrial access to the rail network. My area has benefited substantially from the section 8 grant system of the Railways Act 1974. In the "Guidelines for Aggregates Provision in England and Wales" for 1989, the Department of the Environment states:For the economic well-being of the country, it is essential that the construction industry is provided with an adequate and regular supply of the minerals it needs. For the foreseeable future, most of the aggregates required are likely to be supplied from traditional sources … Creation of environmental nuisance by aggregates production and distribution cannot totally be avoided, but every reasonable effort must be made to minimise the environmental costs.I know that my right hon. Friend agrees with that. No sensible person could quarrel with it.
The south-west region supplies more than 70 per cent. of the imported stone needed in the south-east region and the London area. That is a vast quantity of stone. More than 10 million tonnes were required in 1985, and more than half of it comes from nine major quarries in my constituency in the east Mendips. That has created an enormous environmental problem. The industry has co-operated well with the assistance of section 8 grants. Some 4 million to 5 million tonnes is exported every year 150 by rail but, for compelling operational flexibility at each end of the journey, heavy lorries are the sole means of moving large quantities of aggregate.
The Department of Transport and the local highways department have, step by step, brought some relief, at long last, on trunk and major county roads, to the relief of so many who have suffered so much for so long. My hon. Friend the Minister for Roads and Traffic and I have cut ribbons lately. We have been opening bypasses and relief roads. I snipped two tapes on Monday; my hon. Friend snipped one last month and is to cut another in a few weeks' time. It all sounds very good, but I have to say that, for almost 20 years, I have been calling for such schemes. It still takes far too long to make essential environmental improvements near villages and towns because of our extended planning inquiry system.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will seriously consider doing something to reduce the delay between the announcement of a road or bypass scheme and the ribbon being cut. Access to prime sources of stone on principal routes is still an environmental nightmare in my area. Villages suffer 500 or 600 heavy quarry lorries grinding through their narrow streets day after day, sometimes night after night and recently throughout Sunday. I hope that my right hon. Friend will not rest satisfied and that he will listen to what we have suggested to help to solve this problem in my area.
Growth is essential to Britain and growth will continue, but it must have the willing support of the people it most affects. I trust that my right hon. Friend will always remember that.
§ 5.9 pm
§ Mr. Robert Litherland (Manchester, Central)
The demise of trade and industry under the Government has affected the environment in which my constituents live. Manchester was once a vibrant manufacturing area providing jobs and skills to many thousands of workers. Workers were proud of their crafts and were industrious, but suddenly the axe fell. Like dominoes, firms collapsed one after the other with stunning regularity. In the wake of the decline in manufacturing industry came the inevitable social consequences and the sinister hand of poverty.
I looked to the Queen's Speech for some hope. I noted that it stated that the Governmentwill continue to promote enterprise and to facilitate the growth of employment.The next paragraph states:They will maintain firm control of public expenditure so that it continues to fall … while allowing further improvements in priority services.There appears to be a contradiction, especially when I consider the way in which the promotion of enterprise and cuts in public expenditure will affect inner-city areas such as my constituency.
In the Prime Minister's mind, the promotion of enterprise is a way of getting into the inner cities, which is her desire. The Government have set up what they describe as regeneration programmes, which mean new office blocks, leisure centres, theme parks and theme pubs. These forms of regeneration may be desirable to developers, or speculators who have an eye for a quick financial kill. It is regrettable that the inhabitants of inner-city areas are not likely to be part of the theme.
The hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Boscawen) spoke of the quality of life. I can tell the House 151 that accompanying the so-called affluence in the inner cities is abject poverty on the peripheries of cities. Unemployment and the closing down of manufacturing industry has left its scar on people's lives. I am talking of those who will have no choice whether to purchase or rent the new residential properties that have been built. That choice will be confined to the yuppie element. I am talking of those who will not be able to afford leisure facilities. To these people, the new office blocks are meaningless.
Government money is being made available to developers, but its availability to those who are in real need is being cut savagely. For these people the regeneration of the inner cities is a mockery and an insult. Among so much private affluence the Government have created so much public squalor.
We all want new and exciting core cities. Similarly, we all want good quality housing. These developments should not be at the expense of the inner-city poor, and poor they are. Instead of poverty being eradicated, it is on the increase. In Manchester, about 30,000 people live in homes without central heating. There are about 20,000 homes with terrible damp. The Government's public expenditure cuts make essential repairs a luxury. Pre-cast deck-access housing awaits demolition, but the Government will not provide resources to rehouse the tenants and end their misery. Few houses are being built that will provide homes at low-cost rents. We need only relate the appalling state of the building industry to housing needs.
The Government talk about enterprise and choice, but the people about whom I am talking cannot choose. They cannot choose where they live, the schools to which they can afford to send their children or the private health care that they can purchase. The only course open to some families is to go short so that they can ensure that the kids are fed.
During a recent visit to a primary school in my constituency I was informed that 80 per cent. of the children required free school meals. Milk was supplied earlier than usual in the morning to ensure that the children obtained some nourishment. I was told that on Monday mornings some children were ravenous. That demonstrated that the conclusion of a report on poverty in Manchester, which suggested that about 80,000 people did not sit down to a roast joint or substantial meal during weekends, was close to the truth.
Recently, shops in Manchester selling second-hand clothing or second-hand furniture have mushroomed. Jumble sales are well attended. Unemployment has many spin-offs, and along with poverty there is a loss of dignity. Families break up, there is poor health and there is an increase in suicides. All these consequences place an increasing burden on local authority services—the very services that suffer when the Government cut local authority expenditure. The official indicator of poverty is the number of people who rely or exist on income support. Whatever the percentages, figures, graphs and statistics, there is nothing like coming face to face with a person who is distressed because he or she cannot eke out an existence from meagre means-tested benefits. I meet these people regularly at every advice bureau in my constituency, as do my colleagues in their constituencies.
That is what the Prime Minister lacks in Finchley. The right hon. Lady should come to the inner-city areas of 152 Manchester to feel and taste the poverty. She should spend the night in a cold and damp bedroom. She should queue with my constituents for benefit payments at the local DSS office. She should listen to their pleas when the loan shark calls for his pound of flesh. Perhaps I am wrong. On second thoughts, the Prime Minister would probably congratulate the loan shark on his private enterprise and initiative.
In 1978, 53,000 people received supplementary benefit. At the latest count, in 1987, the number had increased to over 83,000. The slight fall in unemployment in inner Manchester, according to the Government's manipulated and vetted figures, does nothing to alter the fact that the unemployed and their dependants form the largest group that relies on income support.
The sentiments expressed in the Queen's Speech sound hollow and do not represent the true picture of life in the inner cities. The termmaintain a firm control of public expenditureshould be substituted by a statement that the Government intend to impose further cuts and continue the strangulation of local authorities. It is obvious that if public expenditure is shifted from public services to private pockets, someone must suffer. The sufferers are not the vultures of the City or the grey morning-suited, top-hatted Ascot brigade. Instead, they are the very people who we should be helping by providing them with jobs, decent housing, good education, social services and, above all, good health.
The Queen's Speech states that the Governmentwill continue to support … policies aimed at alleviating poverty and promoting economic and social progress in developing countries.I can only assume from the indifference of the Prime Minister and the Government generally that they place Manchester and the north-west of England in the same category.
Poverty destroys the entire fabric of the community. If that is the Prime Minister's aim, she is surely achieving it. If we are seeing the fruits of an economic boom, God help the people who I represent if we slide into a recession. The claim of economic success has been exposed as a myth. The bubble has burst. The Prime Minister is being found out. The polls, the Euro elections, local elections and by-elections all tell us that the Government are on their way out. I look forward to the day when we have a Labour Government who will be sincere in their intent to eradicate poverty.
§ Mr. James Hill (Southampton, Test)
I must refute the last part of the speech of the hon. Member for Manchester, Central (Mr. Litherland)—indeed, I disagreed with about 50 per cent. of what he said. He attempted to denigrate my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, someone who has done an enormous amount for this country. She has introduced legislation to curb the excesses of the trade union movement and a series of privatisation Bills that, in every case, has meant the enterprise concerned moving on to greater and better investment. I raise my flag and state my firm support for my right hon. Friend, through thick and thin. The Opposition are trying to denigrate her and give her a personality that she does not have.
The hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) made a disgraceful remark. I do not think that he understood what he was saying, but it was aimed at the 153 University of Southampton. Anyone with any knowledge of the matter—and I have as the university is in my constituency—knows that the whole of the experimentation work on fibre optics was created and developed at that university. It is not staggering along on its knees, as the hon. Gentleman tried to suggest; it has gained another large contract. Fibre optics in the defence sphere is probably the only form of communication in local nuclear warfare. Consequently, it is absolutely essential that the work continues at the university. A vast amount of both private and Government money is being invested in that aspect of high technology.
My hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Boscawen) mentioned snipping tapes on motorways. I have a sad tale to tell because we cannot snip any tapes on the M3. The work has come to a grinding halt, and anyone motoring down to the coast and using the Winchester bypass knows to his cost that at least another hour is added to his journey. The various groups opposed to the M3 have succeeded, for almost 15 years, in preventing a small extension to the motorway. It probably qualifies for the "Guinness Book of Records". They are now saying that the road must go not around St. Margaret's hill, but through the middle of it, which would incur several million pounds of additional expenditure and delay construction even longer.
The port of Southampton needs the basic transport infrastructure of good feeder motorways. It is a thriving port—especially since the abolition of the national dock labour scheme—and it is looking forward to the completion of the M3 before the turn of the century. I should be only too pleased to ask my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome to snip tapes when it is eventually completed.
The most potent and important part of the Queen's Speech is the statementMy Government will continue to attach very great importance to protecting the national and international environment.My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, who has the pleasure of sharing Southampton with me, knows that we have had a great deal of trouble with pollution. It is gracefully called sludge, which means that the sewage does not go into the rivers around Southampton, but is stored in huge containers. That is very unpleasant in hot weather. It then has to await a ship that will dump it in the middle of the Solent. That is diametrically opposed to future EEC regulations, so Southern water authority will have to take action against it.
When the matter came to a head some six months ago, I received a communication from a firm in Birmingham—not too far away—that suggested what we could do with our sludge. We must take it seriously. There appear to be four ways to deal with sludge. The first is to dump it in the sea, but that should not be an option. The second is to put it on farming land, which must be absolutely devastating for those living in the surrounding area. The third is to incinerate it, but goodness knows what that does to the greenhouse effect. The fourth is the conversion of sludge to a new oil. All of those options are extremely costly. Incineration would be the most expensive as it would involve the greatest capital costs and extremely high running costs.
We must question how much we are prepared to pay for our water if we are to get rid of such monstrosities as storing sludge through the hot summer months. The 154 Opposition may attack the Government about the high costs of water and put leaflets through letter boxes that refer to terrifyingly high prices and so on, but the truth is that it has been caused by neglect over many years. It is quite wrong that for more than 20 years my constituents have had to put up with an awful stench throughout the summer months because Southern water authority did not have the money or the inclination to deal with the problem. We must take it seriously and I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will deal with it when we discuss the appropriate Bill in Committee.
One of the most serious political problems that we shall all face is the polluting of the environment, which includes the greenhouse effect and many other forms of pollution.
§ Mrs. Ann Taylor (Dewsbury)
The hon. Gentleman referred to investment in the water industry during the past 10 years. What representations did he make to his Government about increasing investment during that time? Does he accept the basic figures that investment under the last Labour Government averaged £1,254 million per year while under this Government it has averaged only £922 million per year? That is one reason why the hon. Gentleman's constituents have so many problems.
§ Mr. Hill
It is one of the great sadnesses of this House that the Opposition trot out little statistics, almost as though they are waiting to jump on some unsuspecting Conservative Member. I referred to the past 20 years, but the hon. Lady changed that to the past 10 years, obviously so that only my Government would be involved. She suggested that the last Labour Government did a great deal more than this Government to deal with sewage—
§ Mr. Hill
Yes, but I was referring to the problem of sewage. It is surely a non-political point to refer to the neglect of the sewage problem during, say, the past 50 years. Indeed, I could go back even further and bring in the Liberal Government and say that for 70 years there has been grave neglect not only of our supplies of pure water but in the dumping and disposal of sewage. It is possible that a proportion of the business investment that is to increase by 9.5 per cent. over the next year will be spent on improving pollution disposal plants. I am not as handy with statistics as some lady Opposition Members, but if investment is to increase by 40 per cent. over the next three years, I question how much of it will be spent on improving our balance of payments and how much will be spent—as was suggested by the hon. Member for Manchester, Central—on leisure industries, on office accommodation that is not required, and on highly priced homes in certain parts of the country.
The constituency that I represent—and even I am hardly able to believe this—has a Labour-controlled local authority, which has been handing out planning consents for every little frippery that one can imagine, including what is known as a Noddy railway that will waste another £50 million. That local authority has done nothing to create new jobs that will be long-lasting—though there are plenty of short-term jobs available in the construction industry, in the bulding of prefabricated supermarkets and rows and rows of shops.
§ Mr. John P. Smith (Vale of Glamorgan)
Does the hon. Gentleman acknowledge that one reason why 155 Southampton is experiencing something of an economic recovery is that it has a progressive Labour-controllled city council?
§ Mr. Hill
I have heard of ostriches, but it is nonsensical to make such comment. The hon. Gentleman may believe that what he says is true but it is absolute nonsense. I could take the hon. Gentleman around Southampton and show him where beautiful buildings have been destroyed and replaced by supermarkets of glass and aluminium. We are knocking down our heritage. I agree with the Prince of Wales—and I hope that he is listening to this debate—that the majority of modern buildings will not last 20 years.
§ Mr. Morley
Although I have some sympathy with the hon. Gentleman's comments on the way in which planning laws are applied, for I have experienced problems with my local council, does he accept that part of the problem is that the planning regulations were changed by the former Secretary of State for the Environment, the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), in such a way that decisions are usually made in favour of the applicant? The planning laws make it difficult for a local authority, regardless of its political colour, to refuse many applications. The blame for that must be placed fairly and squarely on the former Secretary of State, not local councils.
§ Mr. Hill
As I noticed you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, glancing at your watch, I shall not get into that larger argument as to whether the blame should be taken by a former Secretary of State, by local councils, or by anyone else. We Members of Parliament must ask ourselves how the cities, towns or villages that we represent will look in 20 years' time. I fully agree that planning applications that impinge on the green belt should be refused.
I am worried about how much of the investment in Southampton will produce jobs. We are losing, for example, the Pirelli factory, which the Labour local authority wants to turn into a shopping arcade where one can buy anything that one could possibly want when going Christmas shopping. How many real jobs will that produce? I must not allow myself to be swayed by the comments of Opposition Members, who avoid the argument that manufacturing investment in other parts of the country—particularly in areas such as those represented by the hon. Members for Manchester, Central and for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley)—has risen by 16 per cent.
Southampton university plans to double its size in the next 30 years. Although I want to see that expansion, the university will require 250 acres of woodland to achieve it. That demonstrates the different directions in which a Member of Parliament is pulled. Should I support the university in its plans to produce more graduates and job opportunities for tutors, or should I fight the battle for the environment? At the end of the day, individual right hon. and hon. Members must answer such questions for themselves. The House will in due course know my decision, because right hon. and hon. Members will be the first people that I tell. Meanwhile, I have reached the end of my speech and I thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to speak for the length of time that I have.
§ Mr. Mike Watson (Glasgow, Central)
I am glad of this opportunity to speak on certain aspects of the Queen's Speech as they affect Scotland. There is little of any substance for Scotland in the Queen's Speech, which is a great shame. Certainly there is nothing in it that is positive and that offers hope to the people of Scotland. Perhaps that is because the Government feel that they have already lost the argument in Scotland. They could be forgiven for thinking so, given that support for the Conservatives in Scotland is, according to the opinion polls, at the derisory level of 17 per cent.
It might reasonably have been thought after the 1987 general election that the fortunes of the Conservative party in Scotland had reached a nadir, but evidently that is not the case. I dare say that, if the Secretary of State for Scotland was given the opportunity today to achieve a popularity rating of 24 per cent. for his party, which was the level it enjoyed in 1987, he would welcome it. However, that will not happen.
One of the main reasons for the Government's unpopularity in Scotland is the continuing high level of unemployment there. In April, unemployment in the United Kingdom as a whole stood at 7.4 per cent.; in Scotland, 9 per cent.; and in Glasgow, 16.7 per cent. Youth unemployment in Glasgow stood at more than 23 per cent.
Sadly, the Queen's Speech contains no answers to the social and economic problems that cause, and are caused by, unemployment. It says nothing about reviving the Scottish economy. I admit that there has been a fall in unemployment in Strathclyde over the past year. The latest available statistics show that the number of people employed in Strathclyde has increased by 5,000, but that is well short of the fall in the number of registered unemployed over the same period, which is four times higher at 23,000.
That considerable gulf is accounted for by the outward migration of people from Strathclyde and from Scotland as a whole who are desperate for work. Scots are forced to leave their homes, families, friends, and in some cases their country to find work. That is in a country whose economy has, according to the Prime Minister as recently as yesterday, an underlying strength. As my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) eloquently pointed out, that is not the case.
There is precious little evidence of economic growth in the city that I represent. It has been devastated by the collapse of the manufacturing industry on which Glasgow was built. Much of that collapse is the result of the Government's economic policies. The people of Glasgow have received cold comfort from the dispersal there of a few Civil Service jobs and the establishment of Britoil's headquarters in the city—which has proved to be a mailed fist in a velvet glove, with hundreds of jobs about to be cut by Britoil's new owners, BP. We await with trepidation the announcement of how severe those cuts will be.
The only crumb of comfort in the Queen's Speech in respect of jobs for Scotland is not in the least appetising. The headquarters for the already much-discredited student loan scheme is to be established in Glasgow. If the creation of 150 jobs in what will be no more than a debt collection agency is thought to be a price worth paying for the establishment of some credibility for the irrelevant and damaging top-up loans proposal, the Government ought to think again. Glaswegians are not that easily deceived.
157 One of the indigenous Scottish industries that has been hit hardest of all during the past decade also merits a mention in the Queen's Speech. Somewhat cryptically it says:A Bill will be introduced to assist the financial restructuring of the British Coal Corporation.That sounds to me, and to many of my colleagues in Scotland, England and Wales, like a euphemism for further privatisation—for the sell-off of what remains of the United Kingdom's coal industry. Should that come to pass, it would probably prove to be the death knell of deep-mined coal in Scotland. With only 2,000 miners now employed in the industry, that will perhaps seem to be no great loss to the Government, or to the Secretary of State for Scotland, but it would be a severe blow to the future of Scotland's economy. The inclusion of that statement in the Queen's Speech will cause concern not just in Scotland but also in areas such as Yorkshire and south Wales where many people still rely on the industry for employment.
It is incumbent on the Government to state explicitly just what their intentions for the coal industry are. Privatisation would be an unmitigated disaster—yet another sell-off of public assets, the only beneficiaries being the Government's friends in the City: people who worship at the altar of international finance to whom money is God and the stock exchange the high church. They transfer millions of pounds around the world at the press of a button. To them, ordinary people are just numbers. They are of little importance in their grand scheme. Unemployment is, to them, a word that is barely capable of comprehension and, I am absolutely certain, is rarely if ever considered.
I referred earlier to new unemployment in the city of Glasgow. One method of tackling the chronic unemployment that continues to blight Glasgow and other major cities is the provision of training for those without work. It is a sad fact and, I believe, a scandal that the Government's attempts to help people to help themselves have been dismally, indeed woefully, inadequate. Opposition Members have consistently attacked the youth training scheme and employment training. They have exposed them as the confidence trick that they undoubtedly are. Such ventures are to training what hang gliding is to space exploration. That has never been seriously in doubt, not least among those who have been unfortunate enough to participate as so-called trainees.
If further research were needed, it came last week in the form of a series of well researched, well written and well presented articles in the Glasgow Evening Times, in the best tradition of investigative and campaigning journalism. The articles exposed a shameful abuse of Government funds—all apparently quite legal, which makes it no less shameful. They exposed sham training schemes, cheap labour and the cynical demoralisation of young people who desperately want training to improve their chances of escaping from the dole queue.
I should like to quote some examples. A man, unemployed for a long period, who wanted to be a driver said:We sat in a room doing exercises, talking, passing the time. There were two guys who had been doing it for 10 months, the same exercises over and over again. I wanted to be a forklift driver, to get a licence, but I've never been near a forklift truck.A further example concerns a group of people who were trying to acquire skills in the building trade. When they turned up on the first day, 158The place was in a terrible state. It was a derelict building. It was a shell. Part of our training, and of bricklayers and landscapers who went there a year ago, was to build walls, paint, plaster and put in doors and windows. After a year, the main work we've been doing is renovating the premises for the company. It's cheap labour, putting up doors and windows, building their offices.There are countless other examples in this well researched series of articles. It is a shameful expose of what ET really is today—quite contrary to what the Government and their supporters would have us believe.
ET does not stand up to scrutiny on quality of training, supervision or the monitoring of huge sums of public money. ET has done little to tackle the skills shortages that undermine Scotland's economic progress. Meanwhile, again as the articles point out, private companies are being established to cash in on what has become an extremely lucrative business. The Evening Times highlighted one such company with an annual turnover that is already in excess of £1 million. That is just the tip of the iceberg.
The Queen's Speech says:My Government will continue to develop training and enterprise councils.We in Scotland are particularly concerned about that. Scottish Enterprise is about to be established. That will lead to the sale of the Scottish Development Agency's assets, which will be a scandal not just in Scotland but in the United Kingdom as a whole. Even in the short period of office that is left to them, it is urgent that the Government should do more than just develop such bodies. The Government must ensure that they strictly monitor all training schemes so that at least some meaningful training is provided for people who are desperate to have work and who are crying out for the chance to train or retrain.
On that subject, however, as on so many others, the Queen's Speech is inadequate. I do not have sufficient time to touch on those issues, important though they are. My hon. Friends have already mentioned them. They range from developments in eastern Europe to broadcasting and to the imposition of even further vindictive shackles on trade unions. The Queen's Speech was bereft of vision, which suggests to me that the Government do not have sufficient confidence to plan for the long term. I believe that that judgment is justified and that it will eventually be vindicated. We shall be forced only once more to listen to a Gracious Speech in the name of this Government. Not least in Scotland, that is one saving grace in this year's shabby offering.
§ Dr. Ian Twinn (Edmonton)
My hon. Friends and I warmly welcome the assurance in the Queen's Speech that the Government are to attach great importance to protecting the national and the international environment. The lead given by the Prime Minister in galvanising international opinion and bringing together world opinion to tackle the problems associated with global warming should be welcomed by all right hon. and hon. Members. It will do no good, however, if any of us pretend that easy solutions to those problems will be found, nor if we believe that by ourselves we can implement solutions. Global solutions have to be found. The United Kingdom will have to make sacrifices in order to implement world solutions. We shall have to help to solve the problems of other countries that are less fortunate than we are. As we develop the quality of life theme that is outlined in the 159 Queen's Speech, we must ensure that that theme applies to the whole world. Britain must face up to its responsibilities to other nations by helping them to implement scientific findings that will lead to an improvement in the world's environment. That is just as important as the United Kingdom's environment.
I hope, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you will forgive me if I talk about the environment, as I see it in London, rather than about the world environment. I intend to refer to my constituents' experience of their environment in Edmonton and in the borough of Enfield. I urge the Government to use the town planning system more effectively so as to conserve and enhance the environment and the quality of life. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment's recent pronouncements have encouraged us to believe that a sensible balance can be achieved between the need for development and the need to protect the environment. My right hon. Friend's decision to refuse planning permission for the development of Foxley wood was widely applauded. I understand the reasons why my right hon. and hon. Friends applauded his decision to protect the rural environment, which is very important.
Equally important, however, is the urban environment. To my constituents, and to the constituents of many of my hon. Friends, the suburban environment, although sometimes seen as a slight joke, is equally important. The quality of life of a great many of my constituents depends upon the quality of the planning system as it operates in outer London, and the same applies in the outer suburbs of other towns.
I am afraid that those of us who represent outer-urban areas know that there is growing dissatisfaction at the pressure for development. People are uncertain about how the pressure for housing and commercial development is to be met. Britain has championed its green-belt policies, which are the envy of other countries, and it is quite right that we should be proud of them, but if we are to protect all green-belt areas designated over the past 10 years, the development will have to go elsewhere. Either it will crowd back into the cities, in which case my constituency will be affected, or it will leapfrog the green belt into virgin countryside well beyond London and our other big cities.
There is no easy answer to the problem. Recent Government guidance and the planning policy guidance on housing encourage us to believe that a sensible approach will be adopted to providing land for housing. Development pressure in the south-east will not go away. We may wish that development would occur in the north-east, the north-west and Scotland, and of course that will come as well, but the pressure in the south-east will remain. We live in a democracy. We have no intention of directing our work force and telling it where it should live. We do not want a centrally planned and directed economy that tells industry where it should move, taking its work force with it. Industry and commerce will continue to expand in the south-east and will continue to need labour, and people will continue to wish to live in the south-east of their own free will. Housing will have to be provided—in my constituency, in inner-city constituencies and also in the shire counties. I hope that my hon. Friends will accept that none of us has an absolute right to bar development in our areas; we must be positive about that.
160 There is growing disillusionment in the outer suburbs about the way in which the planning system operates. Local residents are unsure about the value of their input into the planning system and their local councillors and professional planning advisers are equally unsure about the status of their own plans. In too many cases—although not the majority, by any means—they have watched their policies being overturned by Government inspectors. In particular, that has affected the phenomenon that is now called town cramming, which affects my constituency among others where increasingly dense development has taken place and where the quality of life has suffered. We have houses and buildings that are not good enough to be listed in their own right but which nevertheless form an important part of the urban environment. Some are in conservation areas that have now been lost to development and some are outside. I would not want the use of conservation areas to be expanded to protect housing in areas that are merely pleasant to live in by giving the local authority control over demolition. That would be wrong. But if we are to prevent local authorities from giving in to pressure for more conservation areas, we must be much firmer about the way in which we operate our planning policy.
§ Mr. Vaz
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there is also widespread concern among local residents and local authorities about the state of the stop notice procedures that currently exist in our planning laws? Does he share my hope that a measure will be introduced in the near future to tighten up the stop notice procedure to ensure that companies and businesses that trade in residential areas cannot take advantage of a cumbersome procedure to continue to cause a nuisance to local residents?
§ Dr. Twinn
Many aspects of planning law and practice need to be simplified. The Government have recently encouraged us to believe that that will happen and that we are interested in improving the quality of life for everyone while allowing businesses to operate successfully, to make a profit and to be successful employers in our areas.
Let me give an example. The London borough of Enfield is pretty typical of a London borough. It is a fairly typical mixture of green-belt land—although there is none in my constituency—and pleasant suburban areas, mixed with what would typically be thought of as inner-city areas, with tower blocks built by typical Labour councils when they typically demolished very good housing—as Opposition Front Bench spokesmen typically realise.
Our borough plan was adopted in 1983 and, in accordance with good planning practice, has been annually updated in consultation with all those in the area who rightly have an input into that planning process. That plan could be considered up-to-date by anyone's standards. Since 1983, more than 30 initial amendments have been made to it. The problem has been that some of the Department's inspectors consider that the plan is not up-to-date. If we are to have good planning in London, with local councils making responsible decisions for their own areas, our borough plans need to be recognised as being up-to-date.
We have the prospect of the unitary development plan system coming into practice but it will not be possible for the plans to be on deposit before 1991. The problem in London is urgent. We have to tackle the problem of development now and that means that the Department 161 must recognise our plans as being up-to-date and take into account local authorities' opinions. I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is sympathetic to that view. We cannot afford to wait any longer. We know that the Government will take action to help, but our environments are being destroyed now and it is not reasonable to ask our constituents to wait any longer for us to stop the town cramming that is badly affecting the quality of life in outer-urban areas.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
Some concern has been expressed in our debates that the media may present us in terms of our looks and demeanour. My concern is much more basic—it is that they should get the captions right. A couple of weeks ago I was approached by a researcher from a well-known television company who asked me about my views on the European monetary system. I said all the right things: "Good idea. Not a panacea. A useful tool." I was then asked what I thought of the Prime Minister. After the Commonwealth summit at Kuala Lumpur and the Madrid summit, it is my view that the Prime Minister is congenitally incapable of keeping her word. The researcher said, "Oh good. Can you do a piece for us on film tomorrow?" I said that I would be delighted. I contacted the producer the next day and cheerfully introduced myself. There was a slight pause and then the producer said, "You are Bob Hughes, the Labour MP for Aberdeen, North, are you?" I said, "That's right." He uttered an expletive and said, "I asked my researcher for the views of the Tory MP, Bob Hughes of Harrow, West." If not in my interests, in the interests of the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Hughes), I hope that the captions are right so that his future career will not be blighted.
In many ways, the speech by the Secretary of State disappointed me. He has a reputation as a formidable debater. In the past he has shown sharp wit and a sharp turn of phrase. Unfortunately, what we heard today was a continuation of what Ministers have been saying for the past 10 years. They have made a dubious use of language from the beginning: words have been used to mean their very opposites. We have all been distressed by that from the moment the Prime Minister appeared, quoting St. Francis of Assisi. We have not had peace, we have had conflict. We have not had decentralisation, we have had centralisation. We have not had the public good, we have had the private good. If George Orwell produced the manuscript for "1984" today, he would be summoned to court by the chairman of the Tory party, the right hon. Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker), and the Attorney-General and charged with plagiarism. He would be accused of stealing ideas from No. 10 Downing street and from Conservative party central office. They would accuse him of stealing "newspeak" because that is what we have heard from the Tory party.
Over the past 10 years, we have seen a Mafia-style operation from the Government. They have been skimming and siphoning off the public wealth into private pockets. They have pretended to be legitimate business men, but they have skimmed off everything that they possibly could. The Government are an asset-stripping organisation. They have been laundering the proceeds of the sale of public assets and have given them back in tax cuts to the very rich.
162 The Government have denied everything that they have ever said. In the coming Session there will be another trade union Bill which, it has been said, will give trade union rights back to trade unionists. It has been said that the Bill will tilt the balance away from the all-powerful trade union barons to sensible business. That has not been happening. Month after month, year after year, the Government have steadily made it almost impossible for trade unionists to carry out legitimate trade union disputes.
There is a legitimate trade union dispute at Aberdeen Journals in my constituency. Earlier this year the journalists went on strike because the management arbitrarily withdrew trade union negotiating rights. That strike was fought and won and the terms to return to work were agreed. When the journalists went back to work, the National Union of Journalists discovered that the agreements were not adhered to, and there was victimisation and threats. The journalists went out on strike again. Anyone with a knowledge of industrial relations will know that when people have been out on strike and then return to work, it is not easy to get them out on strike a second time. The idea that they came out a second time because a small group of tightly knit and motivated men were determined to destroy the company is utter nonsense.
When the journalists came out on strike a second time, they were sacked within 48 hours. Since then, every effort to try to get negotiations started has been totally frustrated. Many of my colleagues from the north of Scotland have tried to speak to the management about these matters. I pay tribute to the industrial chaplain of the Church of Scotland, the Rev. Donald Rennie, and to the general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, Mr. Campbell Christie, for their efforts to get negotiations going.
A couple of weeks ago my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Doran) and I tried to start yet another initiative. We invited a broad spectrum of opinion. For example, we invited the conveners of Highland region and the convener of Grampian region who are no political allies of mine. We also invited the Moderator of the Church of Scotland's Aberdeen Presbytery and the Roman Catholic Bishop Conti of the diocese of North of Scotland, Orkney and Shetland. We invited Alex Mair, the president of Aberdeen chamber of commerce, and Members of Parliament from every political party within Aberdeen Journals' circulation area to come together and ask both sides in the dispute to meet and discuss the position. We hoped that the management would agree to begin negotiations.
All the people whom we contacted readily agreed to take part in the exercise. They were only too keen to participate. However, the initiative was completely rebuffed. The managing director said that he would not see the group collectively although he was prepared to meet people individually. Why can he not discuss the matter in a group instead of individually? Why must discussions take place in the bunker at Lang Stracht where he cannot have proper discussions? I do not know.
The managing director was the only person to rebuff the negotiations. However, more seriously and more sinister, he said that our aim, the commencement of negotiations, was not a path that Aberdeen Journals wished to pursue. That is the state of industrial relations to which the Government have reduced industry. That is extremely bad industrial relations. There is no doubt that 163 the managing director of Aberdeen Journals intends to use the law and sit it out in the hope that he will drive the journalists back to work.
I spoke to the managing director this morning on the telephone and I said that those of us who are interested in the future of Aberdeen Journals, in its readership and in the wellbeing of the NUJ are ready at any time to begin negotiations. Sadly, the Government's industrial relations laws, which thrust power into management's hands with no checks or balances, have led to dictatorial management and an authoritarian style of industrial relations. That is bad.
I have made my position clear. I support the NUJ and the right to negotiation. I support the right to solve problems through discussion, not by confrontation. The idea that the people on strike are gung-ho is absolute nonsense. If the managing director would sit down and discuss these matters with his employees—I believe that they are still his employees—we could achieve a proper settlement.
I said earlier that the Government have preached decentralisation and practised centralisation. I hope that on another day we shall have an opportunity to discuss the Williams report on the agriculture colleges in Scotland. The proposal is that the three colleges should be amalgamated and all the planning of educational courses and buildings should be centralised and run from Edinburgh. I do not know what the Government think they are doing. They have no idea of local initiative or the merits of local colleges. The proposal is based purely and simply on the grounds of efficiency and cost. There are no educational merits in the proposals. No one has said that the Northern College of Agriculture is a bad institution. It has a worldwide, first-class record. Students come from all over the world for training and teaching there. However, its future will be blighted because of the Government's blind disregard for anything that happens locally. There is a blind obsession that Whitehall or St. Andrew's house knows best. The Government will destroy the education system because of their blinkered ideology.
There is naturally and properly great excitement about the pace of events in eastern Europe. As a convinced democratic Socialist, I welcome the way in which people are standing up for freedom against authoritarianism. Many of us have argued for and have cherished real freedom for many years. I wish that the Prime Minister had mentioned the fact that other great events are taking place.
There has been an event of great historic significance in Namibia. A fledgling state is going through the process of democracy and we should be proud of that. I did not believe that I would see the day when it happened. That it has happened is a great victory for democracy. I send a message of congratulations to President Sam Nujoma of SWAPO. Having won the victory, his is a call for reconciliation; if hon. Members had experienced what the people in Namibia have experienced, defending themselves and fighting for freedom, perhaps we would not be quite so charitable in calling for reconciliation.
Great events are taking place in South Africa. We must welcome the fact that eight historically significant political prisoners have been released. That is a ray of hope and a cause for optimism. I have argued against colonialism for 164 many years and I have seen the end of the Portuguese empire, and freedom for Mozambique, Angola, Zimbabwe and now Namibia. We celebrate those victories. We have learnt the lesson that this is not the time to relax and let matters take their course. Those events have happened because of internal pressure and struggle and because of international pressure and struggle. The Prime Minister had better realise that if she relaxes and carries on in the way that she is now, she will not help to bring about the end of apartheid.
It might surprise the Prime Minister to learn that she and I share one fundamental truth. We believe that with the ending of apartheid will come the ending of the ways in which the multinational and giant corporations rob the people of their wealth. However, we draw different conclusions. The right hon. Lady believes that sanctions are wrong. I believe that sanctions are right. They are the way to freedom.
In the next decade, we will see tremendous changes in the world. The tide of democratic Socialism is on our side. The Government's days are numbered, and the days when my party will govern the country in the interests of the people are upon us. We shall succeed where the Government totally failed and destroyed our people.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)
I remind the House that a 10-minute limit on speeches is now in operation. I appeal for the co-operation of all hon. Members. They will find the digital clock winking at them when there is half a minute remaining.
§ Mr. David Martin (Portsmouth, South)
The first part of the Gracious Speech which particularly appealed to me and to many other hon. Members is the commitment to give every possible encouragement and support to the incredibly fast-moving changes taking place in Poland, Hungary and other countries to the east of the iron curtain. I hope that such encouragement and support will include increased economic and trading initiatives, too. Our efforts within the Common Market—I stress within the Common Market—should be directed to that end, in concert with other members. Apart from humanitarian considerations, such economic initiatives will aid our economy, trade, industry and employment and help to build up trading economies which, for many years, have been literally beyond the pale—controlled, subsidised and distorted by a variety of methods common to Socialist systems within the Russian empire and its satellites since the war.
I have mentioned financial help with our trading partners in the EEC. Crucial to our trading prospects is the passage in the Gracious Speech about working with our European Community partners to complete the single market and to enhance economic and monetary co-operation—not union, thank goodness; there are no starry eyes. This is no time for the European democratic group of the self-styled European Parliament to lecture my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and those who agree with her on how to conduct themselves in Europe. Certainly, for years my right hon. Friend has been managing very successfully and courageously in this country's best interests.
The letter in The Times of 17 November, which was signed by 30 out of 32 of those members of the European Parliament, has been interpreted as an attack on my right 165 hon. Friend's vision of Europe, as expressed most notably in her Bruges speech, which few of her critics have read and which even some of them delight in misrepresenting as anti-EEC. That letter pours cold water on a Europe of co-operating sovereign states in favour of what is described as a "closely knit community". I suspect that that code means to join the exchange rate mechanism of the European monetary system as fast as possible, at virtually whatever trading cost to ourselves, and swallow far too many of the Delors proposals, hook, line and sinker.
Such mass letters, which are signed by so many, have an unfortunate pedigree. They are in the same line as the infamous one that was signed by 364 economists in 1981, asserting with the utmost confidence that the Government's economic policies would not reduce unemployment and that the Government would fail. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has outlasted that prediction by nearly 10 years. Critics should note that my right hon. Friend's views are those of the majority in this country, across party political bounds. The Gracious Speech commits the Government to work with our European partners in the most sensitive way for this country, from the point of view of trading strength and maximum opportunities to keep control of those things which we cherish in our own ways of life.
Crucially connected with trade issues is the state of the economy and what we can afford by way of taxation for health, social services and the host of other claims on public money. I have worries because the bold spirit of 1981 is dead. That was when my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and, to his eternal credit, suddenly stood almost friendless and alone. However, seeing my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in his place, I have no doubt that my right hon. and learned Friend was not entirely alone. My right hon. and learned Friend took the right action at that time to curb inflation and explode the hopes of those who thought that no Government would dare to take the necessary measures significantly to reduce inflation.
In present days, with interest rates and inflation far too high, we heard in the Autumn Statement of the extra several thousand million pounds of public expenditure—on worthy matters, of course. I am as guilty as anybody else of finding many ways in my constituency and wider by which money can be spent to effect. Only last Friday, I visited the Portsmouth family support service, which provides excellent care for the elderly and the severely disabled to live as independently as possible in their own homes. More money is needed for that, as it will be needed to implement the community care proposals set out in the Gracious Speech and in the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986 which I have no doubt will be considered in conjunction with them.
But, with such pressures, let us not expect inflation to fall rapidly, or allow difficult confrontation over wage rises to be a thing of the past, or exhortations to others trading in the private sector to show the restraint that politicians dare not show. The situation reminds me of an upstairs-downstairs scene. Upstairs, an overweight madam is having her corsets laced up with a tourniquet wielded by her maid. Madam is almost fainting because of the constrictions which the operation imposes. Downstairs, however, cook is carrying out her orders to stoke up the stove and prepare dish after substantial dish 166 of tasty food for madam to consume. That is uncannily like the everyday life of the British economy. Only with few honourable exceptions has it had breaks over many years under all Governments.
I now refer briefly to the environment and to the Bill which we are promised will enhance protection in the national and international contexts. One of the major considerations attached to the national environment is development and planning in the south-east. My hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Dr. Twinn) has raised some relevant matters. There is no point in hiding the fact that there is a conflict between those who are responsible for representing towns and cities and those who represent mainly country areas. Hon. Members heard also from my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Boscawen) on this matter.
I do not wish to see vast areas of green fields and cherished landscapes ruined by irresponsible development. However, those who worry about that must keep a sense of proportion. In the south-east region, even if another 1 per cent. of land is developed, the area that is built on would still be under 15 per cent. of the total. In my constituency, and, I suspect, in that of my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton, only about 15 per cent. of the total is not built on. People do not wish to see housing need for the future aimed solely at so-called urban infill sites when, too often, in places such as Portsmouth, it means infilling precious open space.
Any Bill must address those conflicts as well as more general pollution issues. It should also address the quality of life in urban areas, particularly with regard to noise, dirt, litter, graffiti and bad neighbourliness. Sometimes, local authorities and police have insufficient powers to act in conjuction to improve matters for residents who feel strongly about such things. They write to me and speak to me about them in my surgery.
Many other measures in the Gracious Speech invite comment, but there is no time to do so. My belief in restraint in Government is accompanied by an equally strong conviction that speeches should be as short as possible. There is nothing like personal example to reinforce that view.
§ Mr. Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby)
I will not attempt to follow the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Martin) in his excursion into the economics of 1981. From his point of view, it is deeply out of fashion even with this Government. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will find a happy place in the monetarist museum at Liverpool university which, given the change in the climate, is probably where he should go.
I shall concentrate on industry, about which the Queen's Speech said little. That is a tragedy, because industry is the basis by which we as political parties can provide what the people of this country want for their way of life. Industry, and especially manufacturing, is the provider of jobs, the generator of growth and the generator of the surplus that we use to fund public spending. Industry pays our way in the world, yet for a nation that depends for its economic health on a powerful competitive industry, British industry is now in the position where our industrial base is too weak and has contracted too much to do the jobs that we as a 167 community expect it to do. It is too weak to support the superstructures that we, as an advanced industrial society, want to place on it.
In this crucial area of our policy towards industry and manufacturing, we see the prime failure of the past 10 or 11 years of Thatcherism. Those 10 years are the years of the greatest opportunities that this country has ever had. They were the oil-rich years that provided us with opportunities that we had never had since the war. We have had the economics of stop-go, but the past 10 years could have provided us with an opportunity to expand, through the constraints of the balance of payments, and to grow and to invest, to get back the ground that we have lost in industry over the years since the war. However, at the end of those 10 years of opportunity, we find that our industry is in a weakened condition. Yes, it is more profitable, but it is investing its profts in a competitive takeover frenzy, often overseas. Our industry now has a lower share of world trade and a much lower share of its own domestic market. It is not enabling us to pay our way in the world.
The analyses of those 10 years, such as the interesting one produced by Professor Wynne Godley in "The Political Quarterly" of April this year, show that, if we compare the Thatcher 10 years with the two or three previous decades, on all the measures of the things that improve or have some benefit to our quality of life in this country, the Thatcher decade comes out as the worst.
In terms of growth, we have had an average annual growth of under 2 per cent. in those 10 years, which is the lowest of over three decades. In terms of productivity as measured by output per employed member of the work force, our productivity is now at a lower level than in any of the last four decades. Only our manufacturing productivity has increased faster than in previous decades, but it has done so on the basis by which the Yorkshire county cricket club could improve its cricket performance—by shooting its last three batsmen to improve its batting average. It is on that basis that manufacturing productivity has increased, but in terms of the growth in manufacturing production, the past 10 years have seen the smallest growth of any of those four decades. I have some news for the Government Front Bench: we have been successful in increasing our manufacturing production more than Zambia—that is our one achievement in this area. Finally, the past 10 years have seen our worst performance in imports and our second most successful performance for exports.
Those oil-rich years have effectively been wasted. The oil has been used to finance the import of manufactured goods to destroy jobs in this country. The tax revenues from oil have been used to support the unemployed and the investment flows from oil have been invested overseas in the productive capacity of our competitors.
At the end, we are in a balance of payments trap that will stifle everything—the tragedy that will unfold over the next two years. We are in that balance of payments trap because the first three years of this Government saw a massive, unnecessary and stupid deflation. The economy was savaged by the dead sheep on an inconceivable scale. We closed one quarter of our manufacturing capacity in those three to four years and lost 28 per cent. of our manufacturing jobs. If one follows that contraction and 168 destruction with a huge expansion of demand, based on credit expansion and asset inflation, which is what the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer did, it is clear that British industry will not be able to cope. We suck in imports and run into the balance of payments trap, which will now cause massive deflation.
The Government won the last election in the same way that Ben Johnson won the 100 metres at the Olympics, by false economic expansion, and we shall now have to go through a detoxification process as our price for that expansion. The result has been disaster. The right hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Lawson) was wise to use the pretext of his argument with Professor Sir Alan Walters to get out while the going was good. His successor now has to clear up the mess.
We now have to face two years hard—and perhaps that is the easiest way out, because we are dithering on the brink of a sterling crisis and at any moment there could be a massive and sustained run on the pound. The Government are desperately trying to shore up the pound by high interest rates; they are effectively paying foreigners high interest rates to bring junk money into this country to close the gap that we cannot close ourselves by what we make in this country and sell from this country. That is what is happening to the economy.
We are on the brink of disaster. We have a deficit in overseas trade which is between 4 and 5 per cent. of GDP, which is bigger than the deficit America has been facing in the past few years. Indeed, when America was facing deficit on a similar scale four years ago, the dollar came down by about 40 per cent., and has only now begun to rise again. Sterling will have to do much the same if we are to get out of this.
If the approach to the deficit is to be high interest rates to choke back demand, those high interest rates will support the pound at an unrealistic level, which will penalise exports, subsidise imports and cripple investment in manufacturing. If we are not producing adequately in this country to sustain our demand for imports and if we face that by cutting demand, it will have to be by a massive cut in demand through interest rates. The process of cutting demand will cripple industry. In fact, the only way to fight back and to escape from that trap is to expand industry. However, we are contracting and over the next few months and years, instead of shifting the weight of the economy from domestic demand to export-led demand, we shall see the Government moving into a bunker phase of misery as interest rates remain high.
Although it could not happen to a nicer crowd, the consequences will fall on manufacturing and on industry. Those consequences will mean more bankruptcies, more liquidations and more closures, together with a rise in unemployment over that period, with exports stultifying because the pound is not competitive. Imports will continue to rise because the pound is overvalued and we shall see more takeovers by foreign firms in our markets and less investment, which is industry's means of facing the future.
That policy will not work. It will not get us out of this trap. The Government's only answer is to accept the Prime Minister's advice and to let the markets decide. Why should the market not be allowed to operate for exchange rates? Why is the market only appropriate to exchange rates when our exchange rate is going up? Why is it not appropriate when the exchange rate needs to come down, as now? Getting the pound to a competitive level by lower 169 interest rates is the only way in which this country will see a manufacturing turnaround. It is the only way in which we shall be able to close the gap in trade.
Deflation has never worked, and it will not work now. Deflation as an approach to the problems of industry and the economy is as useful as trying to sell timeshare flats in the Beka'a valley. That policy will cripple and ruin British industry at a time when we also have to face a challenge of being peripheral in a wider EEC, which is draining development from this country, and in a single market where competition will be more intense. We are entering that competition crippled by economic decline, deflation and high interest rates. That is what we are now facing.
I am emphasising industry because Grimsby lives by industry. We are proud of our industry. We are Europe's food town. We have food production, Courtaulds and textiles, engineering, chemicals and oil. We live by industry. It is that industry which is being asked to face the world and the crisis that the Government have produced, with the ball and chain of high interest rates around its neck. We are crippling industry, yet if we destroy industry in this way we will be destroying not only the prosperity of my town, but our ability as a nation to fight back and to face the world. We are destroying our way of life and the prospects for our future. Ultimately, only industry will provide the jobs. Only industry will generate the growth that we need to provide this country with the ability to hold its head high in the world because it pays its way in the world.
§ Mr. Robert Hayward (Kingswood)
Before I comment on some of the Labour speeches that we have heard, I wish to compliment the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) on his excellent contribution to the debate. He made a series of suggestions as to the way forward in Northern Ireland. It is rare for such suggestions to be made and I hope that all sides will consider them carefully.
§ Mr. Hayward
I am afraid that I am on the 10-minute limit, so I shall not give way.
I was extremely disappointed by the contributions of Labour Members today. The hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) suggested a formula that would produce rampant inflation. The hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) painted such a bleak picture of the economy that one could imagine that no one was employed. It is interesting that he made no reference to Ford at Dundee, although substantial reference was made to Ford and Jaguar in another context. Given the hon. Gentleman's constituency, he must be only too well aware of the implications for Dundee of the trade union decision at Ford. Equally, he failed to answer a number of challenges put to him.
The hon. Member for Dunfermline, East also commented on the social divide between north and south, but that statement does not bear the comparison that he sought to make. He drew a rosy picture when describing the social fabric and employment rates of Germany, France and Italy. If one looks at the unemployment statistics as they apply in West Germany one discovers that Schleswig Holstein, Hamburg and Bremen have unemployment rates above 10 per cent. In fact, 170 unemployment in Schleswig Holstein and Bremen is well above 13 per cent. In the United Kingdom only one region, Northern Ireland, tragically, has an unemployment rate above 10 per cent. The regions with the next highest unemployment are Scotland and the north with about 9 per cent. Those percentages come from official statistics and one must accept them when published by any Government. The OECD undertakes direct comparisons of unemployment rates and, in that context, unemployment in France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium and Ireland is higher than that in the United Kingdom. The regional variations in most of those countries are substantially greater than they are in the United Kingdom.
We have had a series of quotes from the Confederation of British Industry, and from Moger Woolley who lives in the constituency next door to mine at Northavon, concerning current Government policy on takeovers and investment. The hon. Member for Dunfermline, East quoted many people, but if he had asked whether they preferred previous Labour party practices, the latest Labour policies, as much as we can divine them, or Conservative Government policies, I believe that there would be unanimous support for our policies rather than those of Labour, which is putting itself forward as the prospective Government. Although the policy review was completed more than a year ago, we still do not know what is Labour party policy. This afternoon we heard a series of statements that were equivalent to saying, "I am against sin.". There was no statement of value about how policy would be achieved.
I should have liked a reduction in the amount of legislation contained in the Gracious Speech. We came in with a commitment to reduce legislation and I hope that we can achieve that in the long term. We have, however, allowed trade and industry to decide how to govern themselves. We have removed regulations and stopped interfering. We have not decided, unfortunately, to make a similar reduction in the level of government. I believe that we should give serious consideration to removing some county councils. I must admit that I was disappointed by the statement of the Minister for Local Government and Inner Cities who said recently in Norwich that the Government hadno intention of embarking on any major reorganisation of the structure of local government.A review of the London boroughs is being undertaken, but it does not appear that the number of boroughs will be reduced. Many of the boroughs that are now unitary authorities have populations substantially smaller than those of many major cities. Sheffield and Manchester were parts of metropolitan counties, but now they are unitary authorities. Cities such as Derby, Nottingham, Bristol, which I partly represent, and Leicester are larger authorities than the unitary authorities of London. Given the steady drift away from inner London, I believe that it would be right to reduce the current number of London boroughs from 32 to a more realistic figure of between 20 and 25. For fear that anyone thinks that I am suggesting that we should reduce every other level of government but the House of Commons, I also believe that the number of Members of Parliament should be reduced to below 500. If India's Lok Sabha, its lower house, has 532 elected members and most European countries have fewer than 600—in some cases fewer than 500—Members of Parliament, there is no reason why we should have 650 hon. Members.
171 I especially welcome the proposals for protecting the environment and the fact that people who drop litter will be penalised as well as those who commit acts of graffiti. Earlier this year, in conjunction with the local authority, I launched a campaign to improve our local environment. I was amazed by the response of the average member of the public who clearly does not like the conditions with which he is confronted. People would prefer a better quality of life in terms of their local surroundings.
A few weeks ago I was especially interested in a report that appeared in Today. It studied a number of different cities and constituencies and, interestingly, it found that Bath, represented by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State who is now present, was the cleanest constituency surveyed. The dirtiest constituency is Peckham in Southwark. I am afraid that many London authorities pay no attention to the quality of life of their ordinary citizens. The hon. Member for Peckham (Ms. Harman) responded by saying that, following representations, the authority was trying to improve matters. She did not say that those representations came from Conservative Members who live in that constituency. I wrote to the borough of Southwark in August 1988. The vast majority of our citizens would prefer to live in a better and cleaner environment; therefore, I welcome the proposed legislation.
A number of comments have been made about the Autumn Statement. I welcome its proposals on the National Health Service which showed a continued commitment to increased spending and to increased investment in the NHS. We have more doctors and nurses than ever before. I had hoped that the grading scheme would have been completed more quickly. I hope that it will happen in the near future.
I have been a Member of Parliament for only six years, but in that time three brand-new hospitals—the Bristol eye hospital and the hospitals at Weston-super-Mare and at Taunton—have been completed in my area. Massive redevelopments are taking place at Frenchay, the Royal Infirmary, the maternity hospital, Southmead, Manor Park, Glenside and Cossham. Those redevelopments demonstrate that there is a continuing investment programme in our hospitals. However, developments go further than that. Since I was elected to this House, the local ambulance station at Soundwell has been completely reconstructed, a new health centre has been developed at Cadbury heath and a new health centre is about to transfer from Soundwell to Cossham.
The Autumn Statement shows our long-term commitment to the NHS through its redevelopment. That redevelopment is good for all my residents and the commitment in the Autumn Statement will benefit the rest of the country.
§ Mr. John P. Smith (Vale of Glamorgan)
As a Welshman I am disappointed by the Gracious Speech because my country was not even referred to—some of my hon. Friends have already made that point, but it is worth repeating. I am especially disappointed, however, that the Gracious Speech offers no encouragement for the prospects of our trade and industry. I will take that a step further: not only does the Gracious Speech offer no 172 encouragement, but it includes the basic contradiction contained in Government policy over the past eight years—the reason for our manufacturing industry doing so badly. The opening part of the speech contained a reference to the desire to improve this country's economic prospects. Right after that is a reference to the Government's commitment to reducing public expenditure as a proportion of the gross national income in real terms.
The Government still fail, after 10 years of failure, to recognise the value and strategic importance of public investment and public expenditure when it is spent wisely and efficiently. As far as the Government are concerned, all that is private is good and all that is public is bad. In my part of the world, in Wales and in my constituency, that formula has been an unmitigated disaster. The industrial town of Barry in my constituency lost no less that 85 per cent. of its manufacturing jobs in the first part of this decade. Despite some recent welcome, marginal improvements in inward investment in manufacturing, that town is nowhere near returning to its previous levels of employment in manufacturing industry.
I could give a number of examples in which some imaginative public expenditure in manufacturing industry and trade would have enormous benefits. However, the Government lack the vision to see, as have our major competitors—the Americans, Japanese and Germans—over the past 10 years, the advantages which come from strategic public investment. That is why our competitors are doing so much better than us. Just one example is the Government's failure to recognise the strategic economic importance of Cardiff Wales airport, the national airport of Wales.
Everyone in the country—the industrialists and the vast majority of hon. Members from both sides of the House—recognises that this airport will play a crucial role in the next decade, particularly after 1992, in ensuring the economic fortunes of Wales. However, the Government have shown a total failure and a lack of commitment to providing the sort of updating of surface links to the airport to guarantee its future. A case already exists for providing such links.
Believe it or not, at the moment there is a single lane carriageway running from the capital city to the airport. The ludicrous position is shown by what happened recently, when a car crash entirely blocked the road to the airport. Passengers were seen parking their cars on the side of the road, carrying their bags and rushing on foot to try to catch their aeroplanes out of the country. That is scandalous, when we are seriously trying to attract investors from overseas to set up business there. They would trade mainly with Europe and want to travel by air, particularly to Brussels.
The Government seem to fail to recognise the importance of an adequate airport. In fact, they do not fail to recognise its importance because, on 13 June, the Minister of State at the Welsh Office, said:I realise the importance to Wales of a thriving international airport and the advantages which a rail link would bring but British Rail cannot provide and service such a link unless it is commercially viable."—[Official Report, 13 June 1989; Vol. 154, c. 886.]The Government, particularly the Secretary of State for Wales, have no intention of providing the necessary public funding to ensure an adequate rail link and guarantee that 173 the airport can meet both the expansion in air traffic over the next decade and the economic challenge which Europe presents for the future.
Only last week I addressed the Barry business men's club and referred to this problem, which is in my constituency. For the past 10 years, there has been a prima facie case for reopening the rail link to passengers; it already exists for freight traffic. After the discussion at the club, three business men representing three of the largest industries in my area told me that the last time they met was in the lounge of Heathrow airport. One way and another, they had to rush from their homes and companies in south Wales by train, car, bus or whatever to get to Heathrow airport to fly to Brussels when, on their very doorstep, there is an airport which should have regional and national significance. They thought that this was a scandal; I think so too, and, more importantly, the people of Wales think so.
§ Mr. Charles Wardle (Bexhill and Battle)
I trust that the hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Mr. Smith) will understand if I do not comment on his speech, because the 10-minute rule applies.
Conservative Members will welcome the Gracious Speech. There are three reasons why it will meet with approval from a wider national audience: first, because the Bills announced in it will introduce measures designed to improve the quality of life, enhance enterprise, extend choice and strengthen necessary regulations; secondly, because the volume of Government legislation appears to be just a little lighter than in the previous Sessions of this Parliament; thirdly, because it contains the important policy statement that the Government remain fully committed to the fight against inflation.
It is principally to this last point about anti-inflationary policy and its relationship to the trade deficit and Britain's competitiveness that I shall address my remarks. However, before doing so, I shall add my welcome to the Bill which will establish the pace and direction of reform in the National Health Service and community care.
The public debate about ways in which to deliver an even higher level of patient care than is achieved today has been intense and at times bitter. What is needed now is the statutory authority to bring about the changes which must take place if the NHS is to make maximum use of its considerable resources.
The volume of new legislation looks marginally less onerous. More government and less reform is by no means unwise when the management work load of every Government Department for overseeing change and supervising investment must already be enormous. We only have to recall the speed at which some recent legislation—for example, the Financial Services Act 1986—has already had to be overhauled to appreciate that my right hon. Friends have sometimes tended to rush their legislative fences. Perfectly sound Conservative policies have too often become blurred and confused in the public vision by the pace at which legislation has been introduced. The extraordinary number of Government amendments introduced after the Committee stage of several Bills earlier in this Parliament is evidence of a tendency which mitigates against otherwise excellent Government initiatives. Hopefully, these problems will not recur in this Session.
174 No matter what reforms make their way towards the statute book over the next few months, the all-important theme for 1990 will be the economy and Britain's competitiveness in world markets. That is why the clear message in the Gracious Speech, reinforcing what the Chancellor asserted in his Autumn Statement, is fundamentally good news. If in the year ahead the Chancellor will signal three messages—that he will continue to fight inflation, do all he can to encourage savings and take a close look at the indicators of broad money as well as exchange rates—economic management will be in good hands during a period in which it is more than likely that the going will be tough, as the Chancellor has already suggested.
I would go further: I do not share the Treasury's optimistic assumption that the worst scenario will be two quarters of zero growth in output next year. I am not talking anybody into a recession or about recessionary dangers which do not yet exist, but I suggest a look at the facts in the real world of business.
It is not just the high street retailers who are now feeling the pinch as consumer demand is quite rightly being squeezed by high interest rates. The order books of manufacturers are also tailing off because of destocking at the outlets that they supply. There is nothing alarming about that, because industry is now much more able in terms of productivity to cater for a cyclical downturn, thanks to the economic climate over the past few years. Manufacturers are already preparing contingency plans for the anticipated lower levels of turnover next year. The result may well be a short-term rise in unemployment, but provided their stocks are not too high and they have riot borrowed too much to pay for new plant and machinery, businesses will come through.
Next year's trading challenges have already been widely predicted, but I should like to add a caution. There is no point in the Treasury or the Department of Trade and Industry assuming, as has been suggested, that the surplus production capacity that will certainly emerge from the fall in domestic demand can instantly be diverted to export markets. That is not an overnight process. Winning extra market share overseas requires lead time in terms of design development and distribution, all of which has to be carried out in the face of fierce competition on price, quality and delivery. That takes time.
It will not help people in industry if some of my right hon. and hon. Friends who have not all taken part in the money-making process of manufacturing deliver too many homilies about the sanctity of market forces as some kind of superior alternative to an industrial strategy. No Government rely purely on market forces and refrain from intervention. Look at the Bank of England's role in the currency markets and the price fixing for research in proprietary pharmaceutical companies and at the defence procurement market. Those things are facts of life.
Industrialists will be faced with considerable challenges next year in trading conditions and on their strategy formulation for 1992 and beyond, and they can do without too many lectures on market forces. Instead, they need a clearly articulated Conservative statement of industrial strategy. They do not need a statement of the hackneyed Labour variety, full of empty promises of unworkable arid unsubstantiated infrastructure investment plans arid regional development plans. They need a sound Conservative industrial strategy free of any inhibitions about dirigiste and collectivist habits, which sets out clear 175 goals for free enterprise and in which the central object is for Britain to win. We urgently need a renewed endorsement of the importance of manufacturing. We cannot all be employed opening doors for one another while the Japanese, the Germans and the Californians make off with the new technology.
I mean no disrespect to our excellent civil servants when I say that the Government must soon include within their official ranks more people who understand markets, money-making and line management, so that they can add to the Government's understanding of the challenges that Britain faces in world markets. In turn, that will enable the Government to negotiate EC standards for 1992 that help and never hinder British competitiveness.
The 1992 initiative by the Department of Trade and Industry, though well intentioned, has been more like door-to-door salesmanship over the past year than a calculated strategic warning to British industry. It has lulled too many British companies into a sense of complacency because they have the idea that the Government have everything under control. Meanwhile, French companies have been busy building distribution houses in northern France ready to meet British retailers head-on after 1992, and they intend to do so on margins that are far lower than those that the City expects from our leading store chains.
The Government must also manage their huge investment programme in transportation, which was expanded so encouragingly in the Autumn Statement, with the professionalism, vigour, control and sense of urgency that have not always been evident. Private industry must accept that it must do much more with its own resources—not taxpayers' money—in research and development, marketing in the broadest sense of that discipline and in training in order to build on what the Government have already successfully achieved in those fields.
If private industry complains about the downturn or shows itself reluctant in the coming year to do more on its own behalf because it feels the squeeze of the necessary anti-inflationary expedient of high interest rates, the Government should make it absolutely clear to private sector management what is expected of it. That is not consensus, it is leadership, and that is what we expect of a Conservative Government.
Lastly, the Government should not be reluctant to remind the City, where there will be many institutional funds on the sidelines even after the privatisation issues, that it has a role to play, not at the Government's behest but for the sake of its own investors. The City should emulate German, French and Japanese finance houses by giving priority support to companies that demonstrate skill with product development and with tomorrow's marketing strategies. Instead, all too often the City indulges in the short-termism of paper-driven acquisitions which merely succeed in churning the fixed assets and human resources, to nobody's strategic benefit in the long haul.
If the Government appear informed and confident about British industry and are seen to enthuse about its many strengths, the private sector will no doubt play its part most effectively in a difficult trading year, and will certainly contribute to the upturn that will follow in 1991. In that fashion, the commitment in the Gracious Speech to 176 containing inflation will be borne out and British industry will continue to expand and prosper under sound Conservative policies.
§ Mr. Keith Vaz (Leicester, East)
We have had not a Gracious Speech but an un-Gracious Speech from an ungrateful Government who on three occasions have misled the people. I naively believed that the Gracious Speech would redress the mistakes that the Government have made in the past 10 years. They have engaged in a witch hunt against the vulnerable members of society, especially the old, the young and the sick. However, none of the Government's mistakes will be redressed by the legislative proposals.
There is agreement on some areas of general policy. I welcome the introduction of a food Bill because it is extremely important for consumers to be protected by legislation. Figures show that last year more than 40,000 people suffered some form of food poisoning. However, I and others will vigorously oppose any attempt by the Government to allow the import of processing of irradiated food. It is also extremely important for local authorities to be given effective resources so that they can enforce the legislation.
I welcome the introduction of legislation to protect the environment. It is long overdue and comes after reports by Select Committee and royal commissions. I hope to see in the legislation specific commitments to the allocation of greater resources to local authority environmental health departments. I especially wish to see, as I think does the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Sir H. Rossi), the introduction of clauses about the practice of landfill. The Barkley Thorpe area of my constituency is affected by the accumulation of methane. The residents there have fought a courageous campaign to prevent the city and the county council from developing houses on the site and to prevent developers from extracting the methane because such extraction would cause misery and inconvenience.
I welcome the proposed legislation to combat drug trafficking. However, more attention should be paid to the way in which we deal with the importation of drugs and their distribution. I and other members of the Select Committee on Home Affairs visited Washington where we saw the terrible effects of crack on the young people of America. I hope that as well as providing for international co-operation the new Bill will examine ways in which Britain's police forces can co-ordinate the fight against drugs. We should not wait until crack becomes a major problem. We should act now before it affects our young people.
I support the proposed legislation on legal services. The Lord Chancellor is one of the most radical that this country has ever had. I declare an interest as a former practising solicitor. Current restrictive practices which protect solicitors and barristers from proper competition should be removed, but in challenging them we must consider people's access to legal services. There should be measures on legal aid limits and the abolition of the means test to provide equal access to the law. There should be a measure about the operation of the duty solicitors scheme which, unfortunately, has collapsed in many parts of the country. I should welcome greater commitment to the Crown prosecution service. In the past six months, 38 177 solicitors have resigned from the service. I should like to see measures about court structure and delays and the establishment of family courts, which were promised in the Children Act 1989 but have not materialised.
There will be many disagreements over the health legislation. To allow hospitals to become self-governing is not the solution to the problems in the National Health Service. Exactly a week ago my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Ms. Harman) came to Leicester to see how the Health Service operates there. Consultants, junior doctors and general practitioners all appealed for greater resources for the NHS. They are tired of having to work 120 hours a week and risk the possibility that they will make mistakes in diagnosing illnesses. The solution lies in the hands of the Secretary of State for Health. He should provide the resources that doctors need.
In Leicester, we are struggling to open three beds in the new renal unit in Leicester general hospital. The health authority states that it cannot open them because it does not have sufficient resources. Many kidney patients are taking up beds in other parts of the hospital.
The student loans legislation will be vigorously opposed and I hazard a guess that by the middle of next year the Government will have withdrawn it. Loans affect people's right to education. I could not have had the education that I received if the student loans legislation had been in place. If we want to do something about education, we should consider the amount of money needed to repair our schools, especially schools in the outer parts of cities, which are neglected, and the teacher-pupil relationship.
We shall vigorously oppose the legislation on broadcasting. Although broadcasting could be improved in some respects, we have the best television in the world. That is what American broadcasters told us when the Select Committee went to America to see developments in cable television. They hoped that our system of broadcasting would give sufficient attention to quality and not allow television to be sold to the highest bidder.
Nothing in the proposed legislation will improve the problems of the homeless. There are 14,500 people on the housing waiting list in Leicester. Homes are being built in places such as the Hamilton estate in the eastern part of the city. Unfortunately, people cannot afford to buy those private homes because they cannot afford the current mortgage interest rates. The estate was to have had 4,000 houses, but only 100 have been built in the past three years and only 12 are occupied. Perhaps the Government will introduce legislation to give local authorities the power of compulsory purchase over those empty private houses so that they can make them available to people on the waiting list.
The proposed legislation will do nothing to save or protect the textiles and footwear industry. I raised that with the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he stated confidently at the Dispatch Box that there was nothing in the Queen's Speech relating to industry. Thirty thousand jobs have been lost in the textiles industry in the past year, and hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost in textiles and footwear in the past 10 years. Textile bosses and unions will come to the House on 5 December, hoping to meet the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and convince him that current interest rates, the value of the pound and a market awash with imports from Korea and Taiwan do not help textiles and footwear. They will demand that the Government take action.
178 There is nothing in the Queen's Speech about children. I hope that the Government will be one of the first to sign the universal declaration on the rights of the child. The way in which society treats its children is a measure of its civilised nature.
The Queen's Speech shows that the Government are running out of steam. They have run out of ideas and they realise that they have lost the support of the electorate, so they have introduced measures which they hope will redress the balance. They will not. This is the end not of the Thatcher dream, but of the Thatcher nightmare.
§ 7.5 pm
§ Mr. James Paice (Cambridge, South-East)
I welcome the appointment of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr. Patten) as Secretary of State for the Environment and, more particularly, the measures that he has already taken to demonstrate his commitment to the job that he has undertaken. It is not too much to say that the country has high expectations of him. Several of my hon. Friends have already welcomed the Bill on the environment outlined in the Queen's Speech. The British people are rightly more aware about the environment and everything that pertains to it. My right hon. Friend bears a heavy burden of responsibility, not least because many aspects of the environment are not national but international issues.
This week we have spent much time almost worshipping the changes in the political scene on the other side of what we have known as the iron curtain. We must understand that, in those countries, there is major industrial pollution. There has been much use behind the iron curtain of lignite, which is one of the most polluting fuels. It has destroyed millions of acres of Poland and parts of Russia.
I shall concentrate my remarks on the role of forestry in the environment of the United Kingdom. Much is made of the destruction of tropical forests, but I shall confine my remarks to the forests of the northern hemisphere, particularly those of the United Kingdom, and the role of managed forests as opposed to natural, wild and regenerative forests. Forests have a major role to play in the provision of habitats, in recreation and in the visual attractiveness of the environment. They have suffered badly from the reputation created by mass planting of conifers on the hills of Scotland. Modern planting and planning techniques have done away with that. By use of more mixed planting, a more visually attractive and beneficial environment has been created.
The most important aspect of trees is that they are nature's own scrubbers. Their ability to fix carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turn it into solid material makes them unique, along with the rest of plant material. In forests, carbon dioxide is fixed for a long time. I suppose that I should declare an interest—
§ Mr. Paice
No, I am not a tree, nor even quite as thick as one, although some may think so.
If the global warming estimates are right, half of my constituency would disappear under the sea, perhaps before I disappear and certainly before my children go to their graves. Developments in science have enabled the carbon-fixing properties of trees to be improved rapidly. We now have Douglas fir, every acre of which can fix four 179 tonnes of carbon dioxide every year. Most important, the maximum fixation rate occurs long before the tree reaches maturity.
We are rather paranoid about cutting down trees. We worry about it. We have massive marches and protests whenever it is suggested. In reality, we must harvest trees. So long as we replant them and they are rotated, they must be harvested to attain the maximum fixing of carbon dioxide.
In the past few years, forestry policy has suffered greatly. The changes in the tax regime, right as they were, unfortunately threw the whole industry into a turmoil from which it has not yet recovered. Only a week ago my hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory), the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, said that our present target for afforestation was 36,000 hectares a year. That is nowhere near enough. A massive increase in afforestation is needed. Ten per cent. of our total land area is under trees, compared with 78 per cent. in agriculture. Only Ireland and the Netherlands have a lower proportion of their land area under trees. Seven of the 12 Community countries have more than 20 per cent. of their land area under trees. Our ratio of 8:1 of agriculture to trees compares badly with those seven countries, whose ratio is less than 3.5:1.
My hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Housing and Planning will think that that is all very well but has nothing to do with the Department of the Environment, because forestry policy is dealt with by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. However, there is a precedent. In the past few months, the Countryside Commission, which comes under the Department of the Environment, has stepped into agricultural policy by providing an enhancement of set-aside payments for farmers in my county and those adjoining it who have developed recreational and leisure uses of the land that they have set aside. The principle of cross-subsidy of an activity is already entrenched.
We need to consider our forestry policy carefully, particularly as it affects the environment. There is a need for slightly, not dramatically, enhanced payments under the various schemes and for greater research into genetic improvement to ensure that trees grow faster, and therefore fix carbon dioxide more quickly and effectively. The work of the Forestry Commission on poplar coppicing and on developing new uses for poplar wood for pulp and particle board means that we can now look at fixation rates well in excess of four tonnes of carbon dioxide an acre. We need to adopt sensible targets. To double the acreage under trees is a realistic, achievable target.
I do not pretend that that would solve all our problems. Even if we afforested the whole of the United Kingdom, the trees would not take out anything like the volume of carbon dioxide that is emitted into the atmosphere from the United Kingdom. It is no use preaching at other countries. We should demonstrate our intent by practising in our own country that which we wish to be practised elsewhere.
Today's debate is about the environment and trade and industry. We import a vast amount of timber products. We are only 12 per cent. self-sufficient. The industry reckons 180 that at least 50 per cent. of our imports could be replaced by home production. That would be a massive saving in our balance of payments. We import 8.6 million tonnes of pulp. That import bill can be attacked in two ways—first by the afforestation policy that I have outlined and second by recycling.
Recycling has become popular because of the concept of saving a tree. I hope that I have made it clear that that is the last thing that we want to do if we care about the environment. We need to maintain a constant rotation of trees—planting, growing and harvesting them—to ensure that the environment reaps the maximum benefit from them. Recycling saves energy and imports. Moreover, it saves methane, which would be the result of degradation if paper were used as landfill.
The waste paper industry has gone through many changes. In the past few years there has been massive investment which means that it will need twice as much paper between now and 1993. Charities can play an important role and we rely on them for recycling paper, but this important matter should not be left to charities. The Government need to attach greater import to recycling and to research into the use of de-inking, soluble inks and soluble glues, as well as better collection methods. The present method is highly wasteful of energy. In those ways we can reduce the massive import bill for paper, board and pulp, which is running at more than £3 billion a year.
I wish to impress on the Minister the need for an effective forestry policy and an effective paper recycling policy. Both will do a great deal to resolve some of our balance of payments problems. Both will promote the environment and both are inextricably intertwined in their effect on our country and the world. I look forward to their inclusion in the Government's work on the environment.
§ Mr. Malcolm Bruce (Gordon)
As the only Liberal Democrat Member seeking to speak in this debate, I must put on the record my anger that I should be called so late and squeezed in at this stage. Clearly, it reflects a change in practice brought about by the introduction of the television cameras. As a member of the Select Committee on Trade and Industry and as my party's spokesman on the environment, I expected to have a longer opportunity to deploy our case than the 10 minutes to which my speech must be confined. It runs contrary to the assurances given when the 10 minutes rule was introduced that it would not be used to discriminate against third parties and prevent them from deploying their arguments fully on the Floor of the House.
Our environmental policy is at the heart of our political programme. It is not an afterthought, as it is for the Government and the Opposition, who have chosen to open the debate on industry and allow the arguments on the environment to be dealt with in the closing speeches, rather than fully explained.
I welcome the appointment of the new Secretary of State for the Environment. I believe that he is genuinely committed to environmental matters, but the company he keeps will make it difficult for him to implement the necessary policies. He will find that simply being in the company of people who wear green wellies will not make him an effective green Minister.
181 The Secretary of State assumes his new responsibilities at a time when the Government are a complete shambles. The Prime Minister, in a speech at the United Nations, claimed to put forward her plan to save the world. At the same time her Ministers in Europe were blocking any agreement to reach targets on the reduction of carbon dioxide outputs. They joined with Japan and the United States of America to block agreements which would have done something about the greenhouse effect. The Prime Minister claims to be worried about the greenhouse effect, but is incapable of pursuing any policies to help remedy it.
In the same speech the Prime Minister said that the real answer to the greenhouse effect was to expand nuclear power. That opinion is unjustified and not borne out by the facts, if she would care to recognise them, because the expansion of nuclear power will contribute to the greenhouse effect, while energy conservation is the way to fix it. However, she was making that speech when, at home, Cabinet Ministers were deciding to abandon the nuclear programme to which she was so committed. As a consequence, she returned to a Government in shambles. The Government's green rhetoric has been characterised by a policy of dither and delay. The Government have said that they cannot take environmental action unless it can be taken internationally and be backed up by full, worked-out scientific evidence. That is an excuse for inaction, an opportunity for delay and a cop out, as a result of which the Government will not take the action that they should take.
I accept that the market will be involved in some environmental action. However, I dispute that the serious situation that we face can be resolved simply by market solutions, as many Ministers seem to believe. There are economic benefits from recycling and energy conservation, such as reduced fuel poverty, increased competitiveness, and the use of recycled material as raw material.
However, when I asked the then Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, the hon. Member for Surrey, South-West (Mrs. Bottomley), how many local authorities have facilities for the collection of waste oil and how many local authorities have sites where textiles can be taken and recycled, her reply was that this information was not held centrally. Will the Secretary of State tell us how he will achieve a target of 50 per cent. recycling of all raw materials if he does not know what is being recycled now? How will he monitor such an achievement? In recycling Britain lags behind every other country in the European Community except Ireland. We are 11th out of 12 in the recycling of glass and paper. The Government have a long way to go if they are to achieve their stated targets.
The Bill that the Government will introduce will receive our support in so far as it achieves objectives on recycling and control of pollution. The Government have been telling us for years that we can achieve a 30 per cent. increase in energy efficiency by energy conservation, but in spite of 10 years of rhetoric, that has not been achieved. Why should we have any confidence in Government promises that they can achieve improvements in recycling when, on other aspects such as their energy policy, they have been incapable of coming up with the goods? The Energy Efficiency Office budget has been cut from £24.5 million to £15 million this year, and is to be held, and thereby cut in real terms, for the remainder of this Parliament. That suggests a Government who do not have the slightest idea of how to go about dealing with environmental priorities.
182 That is in sharp contrast to the record of Liberal Democrats in local government. The Minister is on record as saying that local authorities can do nothing. That is true if they are controlled by the Conservative party, but not if they are controlled by Liberal Democrats, who have taken initiatives. I offer an invitation to the Minister. We are more than willing to sit down with his officials and our councillors and campaigners to discuss how we might achieve the targets that he claims that he wants to achieve. We can demonstrate how our councillors are blazing the trail and have taken action that could usefully be followed by the Government. We act where others only talk.
The Government are in some difficulty because they have pursued a privatisation policy that has been an environmental disaster as well as an organisational shambles. We are being taken to court over water quality. We have a sewage problem that the Government deny exists, in spite of evidence to the contrary. There is no confidence in the management of toxic waste. Ministers claim that we are so good at processing toxic waste that we should process everybody else's as well as our own, but the Select Committee on the Environment made it abundantly clear that we have a disgraceful record on this and the Government have not begun to address the problem.
As part of the programme of visiting a number of sites where toxic waste processing is either being undertaken or planned, I went to Doncaster. Opposition to the planned expansion there is universal. It comes from all sectors of the community, including businesses, which see that the expansion of the Doncaster waste site will destroy the quality of their markets. For example, it will be impossible to sell quality food products in the shadow of toxic waste processing. In spite of that overwhelming opposition, the Secretary of State will take a year to decide whether to allow this project to go ahead. He should make it clear straight away that this is an unsuitable site for toxic waste processing, and the plant should be scrapped. He will find difficulty squaring the record that he inherits with his credentials. He has a mess to clean up.
I have already referred to the Prime Minister's speech on nuclear power. We have campaigned consistently against nuclear power and in the last fortnight all our arguments have been vindicated. Nuclear power is hopelessly uneconomic and billions of pounds have been squandered when they could have been invested in energy conservation and the development of alternatives. We could have saved many communities from being blighted by the threat of a nuclear power station. Even now, the Government should cancel all plans for nuclear power stations, release the sites that are tied up and recognise that the vindication of our argument shows the commitment that we have shown. Labour and Conservative Governments alike have refused to accept that, until too much damage has been done. Lord Marshall should be decommissioned himself, and forced to resign.
The Government will have to put up the money if they are to have an effective environmental policy. There has been a great deal of green mouthing. It would be nice to see the colour of the money and to be told where the greenbacks are to fulfil the Government's declared environmental policy.
§ Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth)
I must place on record, for the benefit of hon. Members not here, the fact that we have just seen the first example of what the media call "doughnutting", when eight assorted Liberal Democrat Members of Parliament walked into the Chamber specifically to be recorded on the cameras. It should be put on record that they were not here earlier. What is more, some of us who have been in the House for five hours do not take kindly to seeing the camera fodder come in.
§ Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is ridiculous and scandalous for the hon. Member for Bosworth (Mr. Tredinnick) to say that we are not interested in the environment or listening to the contributions being made. He is impugning—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)
Order. The hon. Gentleman must be aware that the length of speeches is limited under the 10-minutes rule and that he is taking time from the hon. Member for Bosworth (Mr. Tredinnick). Nothing out of order has been said.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman is impugning the motives and the intentions of hon. Members by saying that they have come into the Chamber simply so that they can appear on television.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman must have heard me the first time, when I said that I have not heard anything that was out of order.
§ Mr. Tredinnick
I was not referring to the environment. I was referring to the fact that the Liberal Democrats packed in for the cameras. That is what I meant.
§ Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was in the Chamber listening to the opening speeches of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and of the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown), who spoke on behalf of the Labour party. During both those speeches, the House was quite well filled with hon. Members of those two parties, each listening to their spokesman, who left the Chamber at the end of those speeches. Therefore, it is not unreasonable that hon. Members representing this party should come into the debate—it is in order for us to do so—to hear the spokesman for our party.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
That is not a point of order. The hon. Gentleman should have heard me the first two times. So far, while discourteous remarks may have been made, I have heard nothing that is out of order. All this is time out of the period for which the hon. Member for Bosworth can speak.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman must resume his seat when I am on my feet. The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) and his hon. Friends must contain themselves. The hon. Gentleman's remarks may have been greatly provocative and discourteous, but they were not out of order.
§ Mr. Tredinnick
I cannot believe that I have hit such a raw nerve in SLD Members. It is certainly a surprise to my right hon. and hon. Friends. If SLD Members want to major on the fact that they have packed in to the Chamber for the cameras and that those Benches were empty earlier this evening, I do not mind if they take time out of my speech, as it is a credit to my hon. Friends that they have have been here this afternoon. It does SLD Members no credit, because they have not been here.
§ Mr. Ian Bruce (Dorset, South)
I think my hon. Friend may have been discourteous to SLD Members, because they clearly did not know what their party's policy was, and they needed to come into the Chamber to listen to their spokesman.
§ Mr. Tredinnick
I have a short space of time and I have been waiting to speak for five hours, but Conservative Members are sufficiently courteous to give way.
§ Mr. Steel
To allow his speech to proceed, I hope the hon. Gentleman will accept it from me as a former leader of the Liberal party that it has long been the practice for my right hon. and hon. Friends to attend the speech by the party spokesman, just as it is the practice for hon. Members of other parties to be here in greater numbers to hear their spokesman. That has nothing to do with the introduction of the cameras, which are not allowed to pan the Benches.
§ Mr. Tredinnick
The right hon. Gentleman has confirmed the acute embarrassment that his hon. Friends felt because I have drawn the matter to your attention, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
I listened with amazement to the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) when he talked down British industry and ignored the Government's training schemes—the most ambitious and impressive that we have had in the United Kingdom—and the economic regeneration that has taken place in the past 10 years.
In Bosworth there has been massive investment. A new trading estate of some 600 acres is under development—300 acres by the excellent Hinckley and Bosworth borough council, and 300 privately. When land is released, it is taken up. That is a sign not of a problem but of continuing success. New businesses open every week and there is an underlying trend of prosperity.
Despite a fall in unemployment to 3 per cent. in the Hinckley area, traditional industries have had difficulties in reconstructing. The hosiery and knitwear industry is reconstructing successfully, and companies have brought in high technology. However, I appeal to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to maintain temporarily the multi-fibre arrangement, which has been in place for 15 years. The argument that it should be done away with because it has outlived its usefulness is not true. Companies such as James Bennett Knitwear have brought 185 in new material, plant and equipment to get over a difficult period, and they need an extension of the arrangement to help them through the next stage.
The shoe industry has suffered great losses, and I appeal to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to enforce existing treaties that protect the industry at a difficult time.
In my constituency there is an underlying positive trend. We have had problems with reconstruction, and now we have the problems caused by prosperity—a shortage of skilled workers. I was delighted to be present on Monday at the opening of the Hinckley enterprise agency, which has had tremendous support from the business community. It is not surprising that we need new training facilities, because 3 million new jobs have been created in Britain in the past six months, and that is more than in any other country in the EEC. We need those agencies and the training and enterprise councils. I welcome the fact that they are employer-led schemes as that must be the way forward. We need to target training needs accurately to fill the job vacancies of the 1990s and beyond.
I welcome the green Bill and the quality of life Bills that the Government are to introduce. Due to the raw nerve I touched on the SLD Benches earlier—Benches that are normally deserted, but are not so deserted now—I shall not be able to cover that ground. Opposition Members' interventions served my party well because they showed how ludicrous it is to bring in hon. Members for the benefit of those new-fangled contraptions—the cameras—which I do not think we are allowed to mention. I hope that my hon. Friends will allow me the luxury of mentioning them, as they have been here for only two days.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has taken the lead on environmental issues worldwide. I hope that she will do what she can to allow British technology to clean up plants and power stations in eastern Europe. My right hon. and hon. Friends have mentioned the tremendous problems there and I hope that that policy will be pursued by my right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Eddie Loyden (Liverpool, Garston)
Yesterday, the House listened to the Prime Minister's description of what can only be described as the fairytale land of Britain in the 1980s. We listened to the usual rhetoric—the hallmark of the Prime Minister—and an ever-changing Treasury Bench team into which no end of substitutes have been brought in the hope that we would not notice that, although the faces change, the direction and style of the Government remain the same.
The Government are locked into a set of economic and social policies that have brought about the decimation of British manufacturing industry, and a return to mass unemployment which is apparently no longer on their agenda. The prize that the Prime Minister is in search of, and for which sacrifices have been made, is the control of inflation. However, inflation is rising again, at a level above that of our competitors in Europe.
The Prime Minister has shown that, beyond any shadow of doubt, she is out of touch with reality. Although fairytale land may exist in parts of Britain, my region is a different world. It is a world in which unemployment in certain sections of the work force is as high as 19 per cent. and will remain so for many years. It is a region where pensioners cannot live at a standard 186 which one would expect in a country which the Prime Minister has described as a country of great wealth. The people who have accumulated wealth from the Government are not the people who produce it.
The maintenance of our towns and cities has further declined. They are suffering from decline and obsolescence as a result of the Government's cuts in expenditure and finance to local government. Like public expenditure, local government has been an enemy of the Government. As a result, local authorities are almost compelled to sell recreation land, parks and buildings to maintain some level of service. Tackling poverty, particularly in the northern region, Scotland and Northern Ireland, requires greater support from local authorities.
Unlike many other hon. Members, I did not expect the Gracious Speech to contain anything other than more doses of the medicine to which we have become used during the past 10 years. The shift to the radical Right represented by the election of the Government in 1979 has revealed that the intention was to shift the balance of power dramatically away from the people and to the top echelons. The price has been paid in terms of democracy, civil rights and trade union rights.
Capitalism has taken control of every aspect of life, but there is no accountability. We have experienced the results of inflation and of high interest rates on mortgages. The Prime Minister boasted about the number of people who own their own homes. She omitted to tell us how many people are having their homes taken from them because they cannot continue their mortgage payments.
The Gracious Speech does not mention the crisis in education. Headmasters and assistant headmasters in my area write to me daily about the crisis in schools in Liverpool. They say that the weight of work handed to them by the Government in the form of the national curriculum means that other work has been almost abandoned. That shows how the Government are treating our children's future. Nothing in the Gracious Speech gives us any hope of change. It seems that the Government have learnt nothing from the past 10 years.
Under this Government, manufacturing industry will decline further. Shipbuilding, one of our major industries, has declined on Clydeside and Merseyside and in Belfast. We know that an island nation requires a viable merchant fleet and we have put pressure on the Government to single out shipbuilding for the contribution that it can make to the revival of Britain's economy, but there is nothing about it or any other industry in the Gracious Speech.
Our merchant fleet is dissipated and is vanishing as each day passes. The Government have done nothing to reverse that. Our seamen are unemployed. Our shipworkers are unemployed. The skills and crafts that built the great liners and merchant fleets of the world lie idle. That is a scandal. I have no doubt that the direction in which the Government are going will lead to more decline and obsolescence in the regions, which have already suffered during the past 10 years.
The Government have failed absolutely in all their social policies. There has been a marked decline in hospital services and in the Health Service in general. There has been a virtual dismantling of the welfare state which was once an example to the rest of the world. This uncaring Government have listened to only one section of British society. They have not listened to those who live in the real world. People now realise that the Government do not 187 care for those who live in the regions. We believe that they are the forgotten people and there is nothing in the Gracious Speech to suggest that that will be remedied.
People now recognise that they made a great mistake when they put their trust in the Government, who have no regard for progressive social policies and who are indifferent to the creation of a better quality of life. The Government disregard the real poverty suffered by pensioners. People write to me and, I am sure, other hon. Members saying that they cannot maintain a reasonable standard of life. Often, they report that a pension increase is followed by a rent increase and a reduction in housing and other benefits, with the result that the pension increase is wiped out and their standard of living is lowered.
I hope that, in the not-too-distant future, the people, realising all this, will sweep out the Government and that a Labour Government will begin to rectify the problems that we shall inherit from the Conservatives.
§ Mr. Keith Mans (Wyre)
Before commenting on the Gracious Speech, which I find encouraging, I thought that I would welcome the many Liberal Members who have come to take part in the debate, but it seems that their presence here was brief as most of them have disappeared again. It seems that they want to listen to their own spokesmen but do not feel it necessary to listen to the rest of us. That is a great shame.
I should like to consider how environmental policies impinge on British industry. For many years now, a number of companies in Europe have recognised the need to pursue policies that can be called environmentally benign and tried to ensure that emissions and recycling are given a high priority—I think particularly of car and power station emissions.
On the other side of the Channel, notably in Germany, the motor car industry has made great strides in its attempt to clean up its act and to produce cars with catalytic convertors which cause much less poisonous exhaust fumes. I am pleased to see that, as a result of the European directives that are to come into force in 1992, we, too, will have to fit such devices to our motor cars. I urge my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to bring that date forward as it is important that the British car industry fits such devices as soon as possible to clean up car emissions. Only in that way will it have a chance of competing with car manufacturers in the rest of Europe.
I believe that we can take a lead, with the rest of Europe, in reducing emissions from diesel vehicles. A great amount of research has been carried out recently and we know that diesel vehicle emissions are poisonous. It has been shown that they can be carcinogenic. They have an effect also on photochemical smog. We must engage in more research and ensure that clean diesel engines are produced in Britain. We should insist that the European Commission produces emission standards for diesel vehicles in precisely the same way as those that are produced for vehicles with petrol engines. I should like to see Britain follow the lead taken by the United States in emission standards, where strict standards will be introduced in 1991 and 1994.
There are problems in energy generation as well, and this is an area in which we have a long way to go. I disagree 188 with the Liberal party spokesman, the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce). We can reduce considerably the amount of carbon dioxide that is released by power stations by continuing with our nuclear programme. I use the achievement of France over the past 10 or 15 years to make my point, with 70 per cent. of its energy needs being met through nuclear power. France is well on the road to reducing considerably the amount of CO2 that is dissipated into the atmosphere. If we are to meet some of the targets that have been set for ourselves and other countries in the short term at least, we must not allow the nuclear power programme to founder. We must ensure that there are other nuclear power stations apart from Sizewell B so that we can reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power stations. I agree that alongside that programme we need also to introduce a programme of energy conservation.
If we are to generate electricity by means of coal or nuclear power, and nuclear power is the cleaner way of doing so, we must not allow our nuclear programme to founder. We shall have a problem in future if we allow the amount of energy that we generate by nuclear means to fall much below 20 per cent.
The relationship between the environment and industrial policy lies in recycling, which was dealt with so admirably by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Paice). To add to my hon. Friend's statistics, we import what amounts to £9 million-worth of waste paper each year. There must be room for the encouragement of recycling. I hope that the Bill on the protection of the environment that is to be introduced will include clauses that insist on local authorities producing practical programmes to encourage individuals and companies to recycle the material that otherwise would be thrown away. We must seek also to enhance the reputation of recycling companies. The scrap metal industry, for example, does a great deal of good in recycling, but in the past it has not had the image that it deserved. I hope that in future its image will change and that it will be seen as a benefit to the environment rather than something which happens merely to exist.
We must ensure that our environment and industrial policies go hand in hand. If we do not, countries that have taken a more benign attitude towards the environment and insisted upon higher standards of environmental protection within their industries will have a distinct competitive advantage over our industries. We must ensure, therefore, that we reduce emissions from motor cars and power stations, for example, and make certain that we recycle the maximum amount of raw material.
I believe sincerely that the coming industrial revolution will be driven not so much by the microchip as by the challenge of the environment. We must continue to ensure that we provide the goods and services that our people need while protecting the environment in which we live.
§ Mr. Roy Beggs (Antrim, East)
Having had a lifelong interest in rural science and rural studies, I welcome the commitment to introduce measures to improve our environment. I regret, however, the reference yet again in the Queen's Speech to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Surely both Governments should acknowledge the complete failure of that accord. It should be allowed to die a natural death. Apart from that, there are many features of the 189 Queen's Speech that I can endorse wholeheartedly. I regret only that there may not be time for me to deal with them all.
I fully support the Government's policyto attach the highest priority to national and Western security and to the preservation of peace, with freedom and justice",provided that it is clearly understood that future security policy in Northern Ireland honours the Government's pledge to maintain support for the enforcement of law and the defeat of terrorism. The insecurity and uncertainty caused by the error of judgment of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in his statement that the IRA could not be defeated will not be removed completely until there is evidence that the Government fully support the clearer statement of the Foreign Secretary that the IRA must be eradicated.
The considered and more recently reported statement of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland that the Government have not ruled out, and will not rule out, any security measures consistent with the rule of law that would bring nearer the end of violence, and that terrorists cannot win and will not be permitted to win, is welcome. Such a statement is reassuring. Any remaining doubt or apprehension about the content of any ill-judged future statement will be allayed when tougher measures are employed against all terrorists in Northern Ireland. There must be no more unguarded statements that give encouragement to the IRA.
The military defeat of terrorism and of the IRA's 20-year murder campaign will open up new opportunities for co-operation among law-abiding communities in Northern Ireland. Calls from any quarter for further tampering with the Ulster Defence Regiment must be robustly resisted. The business community and industrialists in Northern Ireland must have confidence to invest for the future. I believe that inward investment will increase if there is confidence that Northern Ireland will remain firmly within the United Kingdom and that terrorism will be eradicated.
I take the opportunity to pay tribute to the Government for the support that they have given in securing the continuance of major industries in Belfast. I regret that other regions in the United Kingdom have fared less well. Employment opportunities and continuing opportunities for training in Northern Ireland's aircraft and shipbuilding industries are part of the key to future prosperity and to securing a sound industrial base in Northern Ireland.
There is a real need, however, in areas of high unemployment for additional facilities to be provided for the training of the unemployed. We have had too many action for community schemes that have provided no real skill and learning opportunities. I am concerned especially that Rathcoole in my constituency, like many other areas of deprivation and high unemployment, does not have adequate provision for the training of the young and long-term unemployed.
The Industrial Development Board and the Local Enterprise Development Unit continue to enjoy success in job creation, but much more must be done if we are to reduce the misery and poverty of the unemployed. I urge caution on any proposals for the amalgamation of those two organisations, but sharing their existing expertise could be developed further.
However much assistance the Government may provide, I hope that the Secretary of State agrees that 190 self-help within the communities of Northern Ireland and throughout the United Kingdom can assist significantly in reducing unemployment. I hope that he will encourage district councils in Northern Ireland, under the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 1972, to make more use of the existing powers. Under them a council maycontribute towards the expenses of any voluntary body which carries on activities within the district of the council, being activities for the purpose of—(i) furthering the development of trade, industry or commerce in the district or (ii) encouraging the pursuit by persons residing in the district of interests of a cultural or artistic nature.The council may alsocontribute towards the expenses of any association which carries on activities calculated to assist the development of tourist traffic in Northern Ireland.Greater use by district councils of funds to support local enterprise development and training will open the doors to further assistance from Government agencies and EEC funding and will stimulate local confidence and job creation which will be positive, even though on a small scale.
We want improvements to the roads in the west of the Province. We want the completion of the Belfast cross harbour link and the dual carriageway from Corrs Corner to Larne, as that would assist the flow of goods and products to and from Northern Ireland. I hope that the Secretary of State will encourage the Secretary of State for Transport to hold discussions with the Secretaries of State for Scotland and for Northern Ireland about future developments at Stranraer and Cairnryan in Scotland to match the excellent facilities at Lame harbour in my constituency. They should consult on the need for further upgrading of the A74 and A75 in Scotland and on the reinstatement of a direct rail link from Stranraer to Dumfries. Those improvements would contribute to improving industrial development and tourism in Northern Ireland, the west of Scotland and the north-west and north-east of England.
Northern Ireland thinks of Lame, Stranraer and Cairnryan—the shortest sea crossings—as the most logical link between the Province and the Euro-route to the Channel tunnel. Recognitition by the two sovereign Governments that the Anglo-Irish Agreement of November 1985 is incapable of achieving its objectives and that it will never be accepted by Unionists, together with the recognition of the legitimacy of Northern Ireland, would afford opportunity to the representatives of the majority, while taking account of the rights of and the responsibilities to the minority to endeavour to achieve meaningful relations within these islands, which would bring about beneficial changes for British and Irish citizens within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.
Contrary to the belief in certain quarters, it has always been the aim of my party both when in power at Stormont and since 1972 as an Opposition party in this House—to develop and maintain a good neighbour relationship with the people of the Irish Republic. At a time in Europe when new relationships are developing between East and West and between the sovereign nations therein, we trust that the Government of the Irish Republic, as they assume the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, will give priority to matching our efforts to develop a lasting relationship between north and south based on mutual respect.
191 My plea to this House and to the Government of the Irish Republic is that the obstacles that prevent Unionists talking and making progress be removed.
§ 8.5 pm
§ Mr. Roger King (Birmingham, Northfield)
I welcome the Gracious Speech, which shows that the Government intend to continue with their policy of change for the benefit of this country. The legislation proposed for the next 12 months is certain to improve the history and development of our nation.
I was fortunate to be allowed to intervene in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, when I said that we had come a long way since 1979, especially in industrial relations. I said that the state of British industry had reached such a low level that it was possible to buy a complete car manufacturing company for just $1 or 66p. That was the result of no fewer than 800 stoppages in 1978. Chrysler sold its company, and from 1979 the new owners, Peugeot Talbot, benefited from a growing process of legislation to enhance and improve industrial relations.
The history of industrial improvements, especially the dramatic improvements in productivity, must be viewed in the context of where we began in 1979. Industry was at an incredibly low level with poor productivity, outdated factories, outdated working practices and poor quality products. Each and every one of those problems represented a great challenge to overcome, but with the backing of a Conservative Government British industry has overcome most of them. I was delighted to note in the Gracious Speech that the Government intend further to improve industrial relations, with particular attention being paid to the wildcat strike that still causes problems for industry. The strength of the working man's position on the shop floor has been improved by giving him the right to ballot before industrial action. No longer does he face the prospect of the car park, rabble-rousing events that were the hallmark of the 1970s—and, indeed, our industrial history since the second world war.
The fact that manufacturing industry has got its act together to a far greater degree than many Opposition Members suggest is evident in the rising tide of quality products. I am proud to have in my constituency the Rover plant at Longbridge. The recent 200 series of cars has been designed and developed in concert with the Honda company of Japan. It has earned widespread acclaim throughout Europe, and especially in this country, as a very fine product. It is now the preferred choice of most motoring correspondents for its type—a medium-sized saloon car. It is a major step forward for the company, which previously had the hallmark of rather indifferent products.
Not only has there been progress in the car division. The first new Land Rover for 40 years was revealed during the past week. Called Discovery, it has been well received as a quantum leap forward in four-wheel, all-terrain techno-logy—a vehicle that set a trend just after the second world war, but lost the initiative to the Japanese. People who have seen and driven that car recognise that it takes a further leap ahead of the German and Japanese competition. That has been achieved because all involved in our factories know that, to maintain jobs and to secure 192 prosperity, the product must be good. Our engineers and designers have achieved many dramatic improvements in the past few years.
We look forward with hope and interest to a decision by General Motors that this country is their preferred choice of location for a new engine plant, which would enhance Vauxhall's performance in the European theatre as well as in this country. That too would be a major step forward for the British motor industry.
While it is true that Britain's balance of payments has deteriorated over the past few years, our exports have climbed. We are now exporting more per head of population than ever before. Paradoxically, our balance of payments gap will be closed in the 1990s partly because we have operated an open economy that has encouraged foreign manufacturers to market their products here. Our purchase of those products has created a balance of payments problem, and the car industry is a good example of that. However, the rising tide of car imports from Japan and elsewhere forced those countries to acknowledge the strength of the United Kingdom economy and market. Those manufacturers have transferred their service depots and some of their manufacturing plants to the United Kingdom. We are witnessing a major transference of manufacturing capacity from overseas, so that by the 1990s we shall return to our former position and will be exporting many more motor vehicles than we do at present.
The prospects for the future have been enhanced by the proposed takeover by Ford of Jaguar. The hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) criticised that development, considering Ford to be a wolf and a low kind of creature. His hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould), sitting next to him, looked particularly embarrassed at those remarks, because that major company in his constituency and its work force were being described as something worse than anything one might conceive. The hon. Member for Dunfermline, East suggested that they were unmentionables and should have nothing to do with Jaguar. In truth, Jaguar can, in concert with a major multinational, greatly increase job and manufacturing opportunities in this country. We look forward to a dramatic increase in Jaguar's output in the early and late 1990s, together with a widening of its market base as it works together with one of the world's largest motor manufacturers.
I was interested to hear the Opposition's views on the ways in which our industrial performance could be improved and how they want us to emulate Germany in almost every respect except the number of hours worked by car factory workers. Workers in the German industry work a 39-hour week, yet in Britain trade unions are actively attempting to establish a 35-hour working week. The hon. Member for Dunfermline, East could say only that such changes should be negotiated. He did not say whether he supports the current industrial action, which is hitting British factories, in an attempt to force a 35-hour week on manufacturing companies—which would put them at a great disadvantage by comparison with their international competitors. The hon. Member for Dunfermline, East would not or could not comment on that matter, yet he has the audacity to lecture the House on how the Labour party will introduce improved efficiency and determination in British industry. He did not answer the fundamental question of how many hours per week he expects British workers to work. We know why.
193 The problems facing British industry are, as always, very challenging—particularly for small businesses. High interest rates cannot be sustained indefinitely, and I look forward to seeing their reduction over the next 12 months. More than that, I look forward to a Budget for the business man. Without successful businesses, there can be little future for our country. Although a tremendous amount has been done to help the business man, more still must be achieved. I look forward to a Budget that concentrates on prospects for improving British companies, to help create the wealth that we certainly need. As 1992 rapidly approaches, we need a strong, sound manufacturing base of the kind that we have helped to create over the past 10 years to be developed further to serve as a springboard for our entry into the single European market in greater style in 1992.
Changes are occurring throughout Europe. The prospect of eastern Europe, including Poland, Czechoslovakia and East Germany, developing their own sophisticated manufacturing industries with the help of western Europe is something to which we must pay more than lip service. We acknowledge the political changes that are occurring but industrial changes will surely follow—and will probably be fully implemented first. Our manufacturing industry must be right on the ball in terms of its productivity and efficiency—because we shall have to fight off competition not only from the far east and from our competitors in the rest of western Europe but from a growing tide of manufacturing expertise in eastern Europe.
We have set the seeds for the development of British industry and have seen it grow, and the action on which the Government will embark over the next 12 months will enhance Britain's prospects even further.
§ Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill)
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King) seems to believe that British car workers are a mindless rabble who have no real grievances and can be spurred into action by a few fiery speeches. Given that a fair number of those workers must have voted Conservative in recent elections, presumably not a few of their number will change their minds when they read the hon. Gentleman's speech.
During the time that I spent in the Chamber yesterday and today, I have heard not one constructive word about Scotland's future from the Government Benches. It was only from right hon. and hon. Members representing various Opposition parties that I heard anything worthwhile on the subject of Scotland's needs. The Queen's Speech states:For Scotland, legislation will be introduced to establish Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise".We shall see whether Scottish Enterprise is enterprising enough to kick out those organisations that have taken public money to spend on worthless training schemes and instead to kick-start the provision of training schemes that will do a worthwhile job.
Scottish Enterprise will need to be extremely vigorous to overcome the problems that confront it. In the past year, £100 million of taxpayers' money was spent on employment training in Scotland, but no one knows how many trainees succeeded in securing full-time employment. No one knows either how many went back on the dole. We can be sure that, if the figures were good, we would have been given them and that the Scottish Office would be 194 broadcasting them with no expense spared—although perhaps it would not spend quite as much as the £00.000 that the Tories are spending on trying to win the hearts and minds of the Scottish people.
Will Scottish Enterprise at least make sure that training instructors are appropriately qualified? Although it may he hard to believe, there is no such requirement at present. Nothing could more clearly demonstrate the worthlessness of a training scheme than that the instructors in charge are without the necessary skills and do not have a clue about safety precautions.
A young lady named Ann-Marie Campbell of Clydebank went on an employment training course to learn typing. Given that women have little access to training opportunities, one would think it all the more important to ensure a sound training in the limited number of skills for which courses are available to them. From April to August 1989, of those who entered employment training in Scotland, 73 per cent. were men and only 27 per cent. were women.
I could not argue that Ann-Marie's training lacked variety. She was taught to solve a murder mystery, with as many clues as would keep a week of television detective stories in action. She had been taught how to survive on the moon. Perhaps her instructors thought that she would be more likely to find work on the moon than in Glasgow. However, she did no typing for 11 weeks.
One of my constituents was keen on a career in gardening. He was delighted when he began his employment training course, but did he learn anything about sowing seeds and planting trees? No. He was expected to travel from Maryhill to Airdrie just to spend his time clearing rubbish from a derelict site. What on earth are trainees supposed to do? They cannot walk out. If they do, they lose their money. To whom do they complain? They cannot complain, because it is all perfectly legal. Trainees on hopeless schemes such as that have been writing to hon. Members, but until there is a Labour Government who have a decent notion of training schemes, there is little that anyone can do about it.
Is it not time that the Government stopped this farce and faced up to the fact that industry in general does not have a good record of training the work force? Training has never been a strategic boardroom issue. Industrial training boards were set up many years ago precisely because individual firms could not all be relied upon to provide effective training and education. Now, instead of, as in the past, apprentices achieving qualifications that would be recognised all over the world, we have Mickey Mouse schemes because the Government are as much in touch with the real world as Disneyland.
The slogan goes:Training the workers without jobs, to do the jobs without workers.In Glasgow there are many thousands of unemployed workers and far too few jobs. Of the 20 worst unemployment black spots in Britain, eight are in Glasgow. Unemployment in my constituency, Maryhill, is 18.5 per cent., but it is even worse in other Glasgow constituencies. That percentage is the official Government figure, after they have counted out those on employment training and other schemes.
Much of the decline in employment has taken place in manufacturing industries. Since 1979, manufacturing employment in Strathclyde is estimated to have fallen by 47 per cent., with the loss of 153,000 jobs. That includes 195 such places as Peugeot at Renfrew, which has shut down completely. They cannot all become property speculators, share dealers, estate agents and barrow boys.
It seems pretty obvious that we need investment in industry. If the private sector will not do it voluntarily, the Opposition argue that the Government must intervene. If investors see that a faster buck is to be made out of foreign investments, the Government must take action to provide work in Britain, not only for the sake of those who languish on the dole but also for the sake of this country's future. In our competitor countries, the school-leaving age is higher than it is in the United Kingdom. They do not begrudge spending money on education and training and on the very latest methods in every subject that one cares to name. They can hardly believe their luck that the nation that led the world in industrial technology now buys in the plant and machinery that it could perfectly well make itself. Thank goodness that we shall soon have a Labour Government who will start up the engines and get us moving again.
It is a great disappointment once again, but no surprise, to note that the Queen's Speech says nothing about equal pay for women, or about part-time workers getting full-time rights, or about abolishing tax on workplace nurseries, or anything at all about improving nursery provision. As many hon. Members have said, the Queen's Speech says nothing about war widows, or about improving safety in the streets for women by means of better public transport and improved street lighting. It says nothing about ensuring that divorced or separated women and their children are able to rely, for at least their keep, on the Department of Social Security while the former husband is chased up for the money that is owed because payments are irregular or never made. The Queen's Speech says nothing about restoring maternity leave and maternity benefits.
The Prime Minister is fond of saying that we cannot buck the market. Women in Britain are in the market for equal treatment in all spheres of their lives. They know that only the Labour party will provide it.
§ Dr. Michael Woodcock (Ellesmere Port and Neston)
I agree with some of the sentiments of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mrs. Fyfe). British industry needs to harness the untapped resources of women, particularly at management level. Opportunities for women are opening up, but there is still a great deal to be done over equal pay and the provision of workplace nurseries. I agree with the hon. Lady that the Government need to do more. The elimination of taxable benefit status from workplace nurseries would be fairly easy.
It is wonderful that, once in a while, debates can be linked—in this case, on industry and the environment. Too often industry expands without proper concern for the environment. Too often those concerned with the environment fail to take into account industry's legitimate needs. We all want a healthy industrial base and a healthy environment. Despite what Opposition Members may think, British industry enters the 1990s in a much better state than it entered the 1980s. Ten years ago, much of our industry was overstaffed, riddled with restrictive practices and uncompetitive.
196 I have first-hand experience of how painful the restructuring process can be. There have been no fewer than 7,000 redundancies in my constituency, but they were not the result of Government policies. They were the result of years and years of failure to come to terms with world competition and economic reality. Much of what was the smokestack economy has now become the microchip economy.
Now, I am pleased to say, investment is at its highest level ever. More people are in jobs than ever before, our industries are more competitive, profits are at their highest level for 20 years and more people own their own businesses. A new business is being created every seven minutes in the United Kingdom. The verdict of international investors is quite clear. That is why the United Kingdom is getting a much bigger share of foreign investment than any other European country.
Industry—particularly wealth-creating industry—has faced up to that challenge. It is important that other sectors of the economy face up to the same challenge and that those who spend our wealth—I include in particular the National Health Service—become more efficient. That is why I welcome the proposed National Health Service and Community Care Bill. It is also important that those who provide services, including the legal profession, should cleanse themselves of restrictive practices and offer better value for money. That is why I welcome the decision to introduce a Bill relating to the legal profession.
The remaining nationalised industries must also face up to the reality of the market place. Therefore, I welcome the proposals for further privatisation, including the proposal to privatise some of the services provided by the Property Services Agency and the decision to restructure the finances of British Coal—but this time not, I hope, as a further subsidy by the taxpayer of waste and inefficiency but as a proper prelude to the privatisation of the industry.
When I talk to managers—every year I speak to many thousands of them—I find that what they fear more than anything else is a disastrous return to the policies of a Labour Government. After 10 years of sound policies, management has at last regained the right to manage. It is recognised that strikes are second only to inflation in destroying jobs. There is a new sense of realism in most of British industry. Teamwork and industrial partnership are coming to the fore. Again we are matching the competition; again we are putting the customer first.
I wish that I had the same rosy view of the environment as I have of industry, but I have not. That is why I am pleased that green issues are coming to the centre stage of British politics. I am concerned, as are many others, that throughout the past decades our green countryside has been so eroded. There have been huge and unnecessary losses of our traditional countryside features, such as hedgerows, ponds and broadleaved woodlands. Since 1950, our hedgerows have decreased by over 25 per cent. and our broadleaved woodlands by 40 per cent. That trend has often been encouraged by Government legislation—or by the lack of it. I trust that, since the over-production of food is with us, with the result that we are removing some land from agricultural production, we shall have the opportunity at long last to redress the balance.
I hope that the Government will do more to discourage the intensive use of nitrates and the insensitive siting of ugly farm buildings that do not require planning consent. I hope that they will tighten the law governing the ploughing and reinstatement of footpaths, because the 197 countryside is important for uses apart from farming. Our countryside is perhaps the most important part of our national legacy, and it is true that in the past we have not taken sufficient care of it.
At the top of the list of priorities for the environment is pollution, and in that term I include badly planned industrial development, buildings of little architectural merit, ugly fencing, the pollution of streams and rivers—sometimes by the water authorities themselves—air pollution, waste tips, litter and the dumping of sewage and colliery waste. I welcome the so-called green Bill and trust that it will address those issues.
Mine is an industrial constituency with a large petrochemical complex, an oil refinery and many large industrial sites. We generate our share of pollution—probably more than our share—but it is pollution that results from wealth creation. We also have a toxic waste incinerator which is shortly to be replaced by a larger and more modern version. No subject has inflamed local opinion more in the past year than the building of the new toxic waste incinerator. The present incinerator burns highly toxic waste, including PCBs, or polychorinated biphenyls. It burns waste not only from Ellesmere Port but from around the country and even some imported waste.
Believe it or not, the incinerator is sited within half a mile of the town centre of Ellesmere Port. It emits a dangerous-looking plume 24-hours a day. I say "dangerous-looking" because I have no reason to suppose the incinerator poses any danger or that it is not operated to the highest possible standards. All my inquiries support that view. It is clear to me that there are far too many regulatory authorities and that emissions standards are not sufficiently clearly defined in the United Kingdom. I hope that the so-called green Bill will address those issues.
Also in my constituency is a uranium enrichment facility. I have a high regard for the way in which British Nuclear Fuels operates that plant, but many of my constituents believe that discharges from the plant into a nearby brook are potentially dangerous. Whatever the truth may be, if people believe something to be real, it is real in its consequences. I hope that the Environment Protection Bill will help to reassure my constituents that there is no danger. I shall examine the Bill closely, but I find the concept of integrated pollution control appealing; it is certainly overdue and should be welcomed by hon. Members on both sides of the House.
Like the hon. Member for Maryhill, I welcome the reference in the Gracious Speech to training—probably for different reasons. It is estimated that today £18 billion a year is spent by employers on skill training—rightly so, because responsibility for skill training should rest with employers; that is where it belongs. In Britain today, investment in people is probably even more important than investment in products and plant. As the Secretary of State told the CBI the other day, we must either give employees more skill or face decline. I therefore welcome the training and enterprise councils to be led by employers.
I feel strongly that we still have a long way to go, especially in management training. The average British manager probably still receives less training than the average British plumber. Compared with some of our world competitors, we are still lamentably bad at training managers. For instance, only 24 per cent. of our top managers have degrees. In Japan and the United States, the figure is almost 85 per cent. We have only 12,000 198 MBAs—masters of business administration—in this country, yet we have 120,000 accountants, as against only 4,000 in West Germany and 6,000 in Japan.
In the United Kingdom, quite wrongly, there is a belief in pragmatism rather than in professionalism—a belief that experience is the only worthwhile teaching. We still have no generally accepted signposted route into business management. By contrast, in many other countries, including the United States, West Germany, France and Japan, there is a widespread belief that managers need to be properly educated and trained before entering management and then helped throughout their working life. Regrettably, that belief is not widespread in the United Kingdom. It is true that we have some excellent managers, but we simply do not have enough.
Let me follow the example of so many hon. Members who have spoken in the debate by referring to the developments in eastern Europe—especially in Hungary, Poland and East Germany. I am sure that all of us welcome those developments, but we should not forget that British industry has a major role to play in fostering them. Trade, as well as aid, will be important in achieving the objectives that we all hope to see achieved in those countries. Not only in eastern Europe but throughout the world countries are throwing off the shackles of state socialism, and it is to the principles of competition and free enterprise to which they turn.
Recently I was pleasantly surprised to learn that a book that I had written with David Francis had been translated and published in Hungary. The book deals with the development of management skills in a competitive environment. A few years ago it would have been unthinkable for managers in a Communist country to buy and read a book about developments of capitalist ideology—especially a book written by a Conservative Member of Parliament, and a fairly dry one at that.
That is just one more sign of what is happening worldwide. Governments are increasingly following the path towards a free market. Worldwide, Socialism is being rejected. Our industry will continue to prosper as long as we continue to pursue the Government's sound policies. Our industry is strong and, with the legislation outlined in the Queen's Speech, it will become stronger. I wish and hope that our environment will become cleaner.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
In my 27 years in the House I have discovered that when Government and Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen tend to be united on a particular subject, Government and Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen can both be wrong. I have the good fortune on this occasion to be addressing two extremely clever men who are open to reason—my hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) and the Secretary of State for the Environment.
As a Scot, I am dismayed at the proposal to break up, in effect, the Nature Conservancy Council. I interrupted the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry this afternoon to ask why he did not consult my old friend William Wilkinson and his colleagues at the NCC. He said that he had talked to them many times. That is not what they said again this morning at their meeting at the Royal Society of Arts, which I attended.
For the sake of greater accuracy, I quote: "I do not propose"—said William Wilkinson— 199to conjecture what the Government's real reasons for doing this may have been. Certainly it was thoroughly ill-prepared. Perhaps they should have remembered the Duke of Wellington's dictum 'time spent on reconnaissance is never wasted'. He was after all a Tory Prime Minister as well as a superb general! On this occasion there was no reconnaissance"—this refers to consultation on the bust-up of the NCC—and the Government's plan of action resembled the Bellman's map in the Hunting of the Snark—namely 'a perfect and absolute blank'.To continue the Lewis Carroll theme, we should adapt the Queen's pronouncement in "Alices Adventures in Wonderland,"—"Sentence first, verdict afterwards."
Will the Secretary of State for the Environment check with the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether his reply was accurate—I will not use words that would embarrass the Chair and result in me being thrown out and suspended yet again. His answer is contradictory to all that I have learnt from the Nature Conservancy Council.
§ Mr. Chris Patten
I wholly endorse the hon. Gentleman's commendation of the work of William Wilkinson who is a friend of mine as well as of the hon. Gentleman.
I can speak for myself. I have met William Wilkinson twice since I became Secretary of State for the Environment to discuss how, in the proposals put forward for the future of nature conservancy, we can best safeguard the science base for British work and an identity for United Kingdom activities on the international level with regard to nature conservancy.
The Nature Conservancy Council has today put forward very helpful proposals towards securing those objectives. We will respond to them as soon as possible. We will have an opportunity to discuss them in the House during the passage of our legislation. I hope that we will have found an accommodation with the NCC so that the best of its work can go ahead as well as possible. I can add only that the hon. Gentleman should consider some of the things that his Scottish colleagues have said about the future of the NCC because the Labour party's position on that does not appear to be at one north and south of the border.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I am aware of that and I began with a remark about both the Opposition and Government Front Benches being in agreement because I know what my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) has to say about this.
Let me say why, as a Scot, I am concerned about these issues. We are not concerned about the traditional landowners. Bluntly, as a Labour Member, I say that the Duke of Atholl sitting in Blair and the Duke of Buccleuch sitting in Drumlanrig will probably do the right thing for the environment. I am concerned about the agroforestry interests and the people at the top of tall buildings in the City of London who make decisions purely on an accountancy basis. That is why the impartial scientific decision-making at Peterborough is very important. Peterborough also gives some authority to the often young area officers who must enforce the actual decisions on conservation areas and sites of special scientific interest which may be unpopular in some areas.
What the Secretary of State for the Environment has just said about science was music to my ears. It is 200 important that science should be brought into decisions at the design stage. The scientists should not have to face a rescue operation. Science should be introduced at the very beginning, as Derek Ratcliffe, to whom I am greatly indebted and who after great service has just retired from the NCC, wanted.
What will happen to the funding? I hope that the funding question will be answered during the negotiations. It will be more expensive to break the NCC into three.
I want to see in print what the Secretary of State said earlier about the European aspect. I do not know whether he fully explained how the Government square their attitude to supporting the habitat directive, which is specifically designed to provide a uniform approach for habitat selection and protection throughout the EEC, with the Government's proposed splitting of the NCC which it would appear, from statements already made—but not necessarily, I concede, by the Secretary of State for the Environment—will create a different approach in England, Scotland and Wales for selection and protection of sites. There is considerable concern whether we are credible internationally.
§ Mr. Chris Patten
I hope that I can be helpful at least in part to the hon. Gentleman. I represent the United Kingdom on the European Environment Council. I believe that I am pretty well the first Secretary of State for the Environment from this country to do that, although I believe that one of my Labour predecessors attended that Council once. I represent United Kingdom interests on issues such as habitat and nature conservancy. That is the position, and I do not believe that it is affected by any reorganisation of nature conservancy work in the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Dalyell
May I then offer the Secretary of State some friendly advice. So far, the Minister for the Environment and Countryside—I mean no disrespect to him—has been dealing with people like Ian Presst of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. I am not alone in my views. I attended a conference at Baden-Powell house with Wildlife Link. The Council for the Protection of Rural England, the Worldwide Fund for Nature and 20 other organisations were represented and presented a unanimous view. My hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) has been in the Chamber now for a long time, so I will leave my point there. However, I was pleased by the Secretary of State's response.
In 1981 some of us spent many hours in the Committee considering what became the Wildlife and Countryside Act. We were trying to establish the principle of marine nature reserves. By wearing down the Government, who did not wish to guillotine the Bill, we were able to get the MNR principle established. It has taken a terribly long time. Something has happened at last in the Scillies and progress is being made with Skoma. There have been endless negotiations with many fishing interests. However, I want to be frank with the House. Part of the trouble is that some of the fishing interests are worried about the environmentalists being too curious, not because of the environment, but because of the involvement of the Inland Revenue and the possibility of having to pay tax where they had paid none previously. I do not say that all the fishermen are up to it, but I am sure that the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Livsey), like the people at the 201 NCC conference, is aware that that is true. Will the Secretary of State take a personal interest in MNRs besides meeting representatives of Wildlife Link?
I have a few kind words for the Secretary of State. We had various debates together on the rain forests in his previous incarnation. I welcome publicly and privately what he did in Brazil. Would it be possible to do the same for Colombia? That must be a Government decision. The Minister for Overseas Development said that we should do one thing at a time.
Last night at the Museum of Mankind I attended an extremely impressive lecture given to the Gaia foundation by Martin Von Hudebrand, the assistant to the President of Colombia. The biological and botanical diversity of the Colombian Amazonian rain forest is as great as that in Brazil. I asked Martin Von Hudebrand whether he wants the kind of agreement that the Secretary of State for the Environment negotiated in Brasilia and his answer was emphatically yes. In this environment debate I want to put down a marker that the matter is urgent in Colombia, although it involves a rather different problem from that in Brazil.
I hope that the new green Bill will not be guillotined. But if the Secretary of State believes that that is necessary, I say to him, after what he has said, "Bethink you: you might be wrong."
§ Mrs. Teresa Gorman (Billericay)
I welcome many of the liberating measures that were outlined in the Gracious Speech. It is almost a feast of solutions to over-regulation, and I congratulate the Government on putting together such an extremely tasty package. Broadcasting services are to be liberated, and we are to have more competition. There will be liberating measures for the Health Service, through the introduction of competition, which will be wholly good for the quality of service that patients are entitled to receive. We will liberate the coal industry by bringing in new measures to prepare that industry for the happy day when miners are able to buy shares in coal mines. We will also liberate the legal profession. For too long, it has been controlled by vested interests, which has made it difficult and expensive for ordinary people to obtain justice. We will liberate pensions procedures so that people will be more able to move their pensions with them as they change jobs and generally be more in control of that aspect of their lives.
Even the trade unions will get a little more liberation, with more power to control wildcat activities, and power to deem illegal actions which are designed to put out of business or jobs people who are unconnected with strikes. I am happy to note that we are also to liberate our fellow citizens in Northern Ireland by reassessing the amount of local control that they have over their affairs. That is a wonderful step in the right direction, and it will be accompanied by the formation of branches of the official Conservative party in Northern Ireland which, in the near future, I hope will elect Conservative candidates directly to the House. I invite the Labour party to join us in that most liberating mood. It will have a profound effect on the future stability of Northern Ireland.
I am delighted also to note that the Government are continuing their proud record by selling off parts of our cumbersome state machinery. I refer to the Property Services Agency, which has not been short of scandals in 202 its recent past, such as wasting public money by getting involved in dubious and unsuccessful enterprises. I refer also to the Crown Suppliers, which has acted as a kind of mummy figure for overseas Governments which, once upon a time, were considered to be too immature and too slow to cope with buying their own products from us. They have all grown up now that we are into the Commonwealth, and we are making it easier to buy direct from our firms.
All those ideas are wonderful, and I welcome them. They warm the cockles of my private enterprise heart. However, two measures trouble me a little, and we must pay close attention to them as we discuss the Bills in the House. I refer to the Bills on the environment and on our food industries. If we are not careful, those Bills could usher in a new wave of unnecessary or inappropriate bureaucratic regulations and intervention. Mark Twain said that politics is the invention of bugaboos. It has been part of the tradition of the political Left that it invents demons which only the politician and the bureaucracy can exorcise. The myths or scares that are drummed up are the means by which legislation is introduced to coerce people into doing things which they would not otherwise do.
In the 1940s, we saw the development of huge state corporations in the steel and rail inustries, and the nationalisation of the coal industry. Those measures brought Governments into issues from which the present Government have subsequently withdrawn with the greatest success. In the 1950s we saw the development of social services and the Health Service, which took from people control over those aspects of their lives, and again ushered in a massive bureaucracy which consumed a great deal of the resources available for those services and which we are only now beginning to unwind and, I hope, let in the fresh air of competition.
The 1960s was the era when housing became the subject of massive Government intervention. It was the era of planning and of the hideous tower block. We practically exterminated the remnants of the private housing market. Again, the Conservative Government have taken the initiative by allowing council tenants to buy their own houses. Again we see the need to liberate what we thought necessary to regulate.
The 1970s was the era of prices and incomes controls, greater Government intervention in the money supply, the development of massive inflation, intervention by the World bank, and the virtual bankrupting of this country by the Labour Government, which led to the election of the Conservative Government in 1979. Again, the Government have brought intervention under control.
The 1980s was the era of the liberation of privatisation, by bringing back markets and introducing competition. It troubles me that the 1990s might be the era when we start to move back from that noble position to more Government control in the food industry and the environment.
That does not mean that I am not concerned to ensure that our water is pure, that our air is fit to breathe arid that our food is clean, hygienic and healthy. Of course, like everybody else, I believe that, just as we all believe in God—to be against it would be a mortal sin. It is not necessary for the House to load industry with a great mass of new regulations. The private enterprise structure has its own solutions to these problems. To begin with, we have the common law, which has been much neglected in our legislative discussions. Under common law, one can 203 prosecute people who poison their customers, pollute the system or destroy public property. We should look to common law remedies to deal with faults.
People conserve privately-owned property. One way to conserve and improve the quality of our rivers is to make them privately owned so that people cannot dump their rubbish in them. The Government's proposals to set up new agencies to control rivers is one option. If animals are privately owned, people look after them. The way to save elephants is to create the private ownership of herds. They will then be properly husbanded, conserved and managed. If one owns property, one does not set about destroying it by over-using it, by drawing minerals out of the soil and so on. Again, there are private enterprise market solutions to the problems. Therefore, I welcome organisations such as the National Trust which, in the name of the public and its supporters, takes property into private ownership and, as we all know, does that job extremely well.
Many myths are abroad at the moment about the environment and the greenhouse effect. In passing and while I have the undivided attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, I should like to remind the House that, although we should all be concerned about carbon dioxide emissions, it is a fact that about 99 per cent. of the effects on the climate of our planet are due to our proximity to the sun, which we cannot alter, and to the presence or absence of sunspots, the eruption of which make a vast difference to our climate. The tiny amount of carbon dioxide emitted into our atmosphere—I stress that it is absolutely minute, being about 300 parts per million—is the equivalent of a needle in a haystack when seen in proportion to the effects of the natural elements over which we have no control. Therefore, before we begin lambasting industry and developing expensive devices which will make products difficult for people to buy or use—I refer, for example, to the motor car and the refrigerator—we should examine all these problems thoroughly and scientifically.
The same goes for food. We have heard so many stories about the dangers of food, but if one examines the number of poisoning cases—all of which are to be deplored—one realises that they represent only a tiny percentage of the portions of food that we eat. While we should urge people to adopt good hygiene practices, we must be careful that we do not end up taking the proverbial sledgehammer to crack a nut, by overlegislating and making it difficult and expensive for the private sector to undertake to continue to provide us with an excellent supply of good, cheap food.
Therefore, I urge the Secretaries of State concerned, when bringing their Bills before the House, to ensure that we have a thorough examination of the scientific cases behind many of these alleged problems, and that we thoroughly examine the free market alternatives to how we may deal with these public concerns. We must ensure that we do not legislate in such a way that the 1990s, or even the year 2000, become known as the era when we introduced a regime of regulation into two new areas—just as housing, health and planning in their times all became subject to a regime of new regulations—which a future generation of parliamentarians may have to dismantle.
§ 9.1 pm
§ Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)
I have spent nearly twelve and a half hours in the Chamber over the past two days to speak for but a few minutes. I hope that those outside who consider our proceedings on television will understand why our Benches are often empty. It is because to sit here is not the most cost-effective use of one's time when one is paid the salary of a Member of Parliament.
When we assess the Government's commitment to "sustained economic growth", the phrase used in the Gracious Speech, we must take three matters principally into account. The first is the effectiveness of economic policy. The second is the effectiveness of the industrial strategy—that is, if the Government still retain one; I suppose they do. The third is the effect of the combination of both on the reduction of unemployment.
We can consider economic policy only in the light of the substantial increase in interest rates during the past two or three years. We must also consider the Government's commitment to what is, in effect, an increase of less than 1 per cent. in growth. Another issue is the Government's commitment to what is clearly now a long-term policy of balance of payments deficits—[Interruption.] Perhaps the right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) would bear in mind that I should like to hear myself speak while I am on my feet. We must finally consider the Government's general attitude towards industrial policy.
When the Gracious Speech was announced, and following the Autumn Statement which was made last week, I went to the Vote Office to look up the figures on industrial development, aid to industry and the Trade and Industry budget. I found to my astonishment that last year we spent £1.7 billion on the Trade and Industry budget; this year we are on target to spend £1.4 billion; next year we are projected to spend £1.2 billion; and the year after we shall reduce that expenditure to £1 billion. So, at the very time when we have a major balance of payments deficit in this country, we have a Government who, for reasons that I cannot comprehend, are determined to reduce their commitment to industry, and especially to industry in the regions.
In defence of their position the Government tell us that if we are to comply with European directives and if we are to see a reduction in regional assistance throughout the Community—I understand that that is one criterion set down by the Prime Minister—it is for Britain to take the lead and to pursue a line that will lead to those major reductions.
I have found an interesting document, the "18th Report on Competition Policy" produced by the Commission of the European Communities and on the issue of assistance it says:For aid to industry, the development of expenditure in real terms over the period has differed between Member States: a downward trend in the United Kingdom, stable in France, a slow upward trend in Germany and a marked increase in Italy. In fact for industry in 1986 Italy gave over three times as much as Germany, four times as much as France and eight times more aid than the United Kingdom.That sentence in that extremely important report underlines the problem in industry in the United Kingdom. The figures are set out clearly in the document as well as in another book that I got from the Library on the relative contribution of Governments within the European Community to their various industries. Those 205 figures show that, over the years, there has been a progressive reduction in aid which has undermined our industrial effort.
In the book on relative Government contributions I also found a number of tables that set out the comparative position of each EC country in terms of regional aid. Every table demonstrated repeatedly that the United Kingdom is at the forefront of making cuts while being a member of the EC and despite the requirements on us to comply with directives. It is clear that far higher levels of regional assistance are paid in other EC countries.
Assistance to industry includes 100 per cent. exemption of local business tax liability in France. In Italy there is 100 per cent. relief from certain forms of corporation tax. Luxembourg offers substantial concessions on corporation tax and southern Ireland offers major concessions on corporation tax that do not expire until the end of the century. Those other European countries have been able to retain that level of assistance while the United Kingdom insists on reducing its levels of regional assistance.
When one compares the level of aid with our competitive performance abroad and our balance of payments, one understands why Britain has got itself into a sorry state. The figures on import penetration are revealing—for office machinery and data equipment it is 93 per cent., for man-made fibres it is 38 per cent., for instrument engineering it is 58 per cent., for electrical electronic engineering it is 49 per cent. and for the boot, shoe and leather trade in general it is 49 per cent. Those figures demonstrate a high level of import penetration into a country where much of our industrial base has been lost because the British Government refuse to accept that they have some responsibility for sectorally supporting and providing adequate assistance to regional companies to set up plant in competition with the major importers into the United Kingdom.
I have a few minutes left and I want to put a proposition to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. Suppose he were an American industrialist who wanted to establish a plant somewhere in western Europe. He would have the choice of major corporation tax concessions in Italy, major rate relief and other tax concessions in France, lander support through the industrial committee structure of Germany as well as substantial regional assistance. Backed by western capital he might also have the opportunity to put industrial plant in East Germany or in other parts of eastern Europe. On the same agenda there is the possibility of placing a plant in the United Kingdom, but, given the level of regional assistance available here, where would he put his plant?
§ Mr. Campbell-Savours
The Secretary of State may say, "Here" but from what I hear and the consultations which I have had with industrialists abroad, in the main they want to go to Europe where there are substantial levels of—
§ Mr. Ridley
The hon. Gentleman must stop making such silly points and realise that the real complaint in the Community is that the vast majority of overseas investment comes to this country rather than to any other.
§ Mr. Campbell-Savours
The Secretary of State may say that, but we went to the Commission last summer and we were told that a major effort was being made to attract 206 American capital and that regional assistance considerations within western Europe were very much on the minds of American industrialists.
§ Mr. Campbell-Savours
The Secretary of State may say that the officials to whom I talked were speaking rubbish, but that is what I was told.
When one follows debates in other European Parliaments, it seems that they think that the policy works and it is only here in the United Kingdom that the British Government feel that these matters are of no concern to foreign industrialists.
§ Mr. Bryan Gould (Dagenham)
In the Queen's Speech we are assured that the Government will continue to attach great importance to protecting the national and international environment. Those are fine words and we have no objection to the sentiments. Indeed, we welcome that assurance, but we question the delivery of that promise and the commitment to do so.
We have heard these same pious aspirations in a number of speeches, not least those made by the Prime Minister over recent weeks and months. We heard them in her speech to the United Nations a week or so ago. The Prime Minister appears to be happy to make speeches on the subject, and I suspect that her pollsters tell her to do so. However, she fails to grasp—she is someone of notoriously narrow and limited vision—the magnitude and urgency of the issues with which we are confronted.
I assume that the Prime Minister will not have seen the report on the greenhouse effect published today by a study group commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of the Environment. The report bears a sobering message for us all. It shows that, even on the most optimistic assumptions about all the other factors which might be involved—deforestation, CFC levels and so on—the CO2 emissions which we can expect will alone threaten a degree and pace of global warming which is simply unacceptable. The report clearly shows that, unless we take action now, that global warming will produce a greenhouse effect which will do enormous and unpredictable damage.
The report shows that we do not have much time left, that industrial countries must stabilise their carbon dioxide emissions within five years and that, having done so, they must engage in a major programme of carbon dioxide reductions if we are to avoid the worst outcome of the greenhouse effect.
However, there is no sense of this urgency in the Prime Minister's approach. She does not seem to understand that environmental damage operates on a ratchet which clicks forward at an ever-increasing pace and does not turn back. She does not seem to understand that there is no going back, the damage is irreversible, we cannot afford to sit and wait to see whether the damage materialises: the benefit of doubt must be given to our environment. The watchword can no longer be "Let's wait and see". We cannot say that our proper response is a leisurely programme of research such as the Prime Minister recommends. Action and safety must come first. We must avert the risk first, and then carry out the research to see to what degree suspect activity is to be permitted. If we do not do so, by the time we learn the facts, the damage will he irreversible.
207 Even in the face of this overwhelming imperative, this simple and central fact that matters so much to our planet's future, the Prime Minister's advice, in the speech she delivered to the United Nations, was that we can safely rely on the market. She goes further. Staggeringly, she tells us, without any apparent sense of paradox, that we can repose our trust in the multinationals, that we can look to them to protect our environment. That shows an amazing degree of naivety. The Prime Minister seems to be so impressed by the size and power of the multinationals that she is persuaded that those qualities somehow endow them with the character of public bodies acting in the public interest. She has not understood that the size and power of the multinationals make them that much more potent and much more potentially dangerous to our environment.
§ Mrs. Gorman
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the Socialist economies in eastern Europe are responsible for the massive emissions of pollutants and exercise no control, whereas the multinationals are under state control?
§ Mr. Gould
I am sorry that the hon. Lady felt obliged to make that point, because if we take her view that it is always somebody else's fault and responsibility, we are taking the most irresponsible of all attitudes and condemning our planet to an environmental disaster.
The Prime Minister is compelled to take her Micawberish view of markets and multinationals because she is trapped by her own ideology. For her, the market is infallible, and it follows that any intervention in the market is not only pointless but damaging. That is why there is always such a gulf between the windy generalities of the Prime Minister's speeches and the action on the ground. Despite the attempts by the new Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to arouse his Back Benchers to some response, there is some interest in what I have to say. At the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' conference in Kuala Lumpur, the Prime Minister felt obliged to oppose the concept of an environmental fund. Her Minister at the Noordwijk conference, who is not in the Chamber, was also obliged, no doubt by her diktat, to join a disreputable minority which refused to set any targets or any time scale for the control of carbon dioxide emissions.
§ Mr. Chris Patten
I assume that the hon. Gentleman is arguing for an immediate commitment to a target for emission reductions. Will he tell the House what baseline he will use? Secondly, what would he do about countries that import or export electricity?
§ Mr. Gould
I am glad to say that the Secretary of State illuminates the difference between the Government and the Opposition. He is right to suggest that we are arguing for the setting of a target and a time scale. The failure to do that marked the performance of the Minister who represented Britain at Noordwijk.
In terms of the baseline, we are talking about stabilisation within five years of carbon dioxide emissions. Beyond that, we have to engage in a major programme to reduce that level.
I assume that the Secretary of State has not yet seen the report to which I have referred. I recommend it to him. I was privileged today to speak to its authors. It shows that we have much less time than he or the Prime Minister have 208 so far assumed. In her speech to the United Nations in New York, the Prime Minister followed up what she said in Kuala Lumpur and what her Minister said in Noordwijk. She again eulogised about nuclear power, at the very time when she should have known that her Ministers were preparing to face facts and acknowledge that the market had decided that the game was up, that we had been sold a pup and that nuclear power was no longer to be regarded as economically viable.
Why was that? It was not just due to the pounds and pence of accountancy but because nuclear power is so environmentally dangerous that no one can foretell how much it will cost to clean up afterwards and to decommission nuclear power stations. That is why the Prime Minister presides over a Government who, day in and day out, neglect, ignore, and consequently damage the environment.
I now come to the Secretary of State for the Environment. It has to be said that he has been appointed by the Prime Minister to wave the green banner. It also has to be said that he starts with one great advantage: at least he is not his predecessor. At least he is able to utter the word "environment" without a curl of the lip. But we need and the environment needs more than a pleasant manner and a thoughtful expression. We need a Secretary of State prepared to remedy the deficiencies of the Prime Minister's deficiencies in matters of vision, analysis and commitment.
I am sorry to say that the evidence so far does not give grounds for optimism. Throughout the past decade or more of Thatcherism, the Secretary of State has managed to preserve a reputation for liberalism while nevertheless sustaining the Prime Minister as her researcher and speech writer. I fear that in the Secretary of State we have someone who is unlikely to tell the Prime Minister that she is wrong on this issue or on any other.
§ Mr. Gould
If the hon. Lady continues to say that long enough and loudly enough, she too may make it to the Cabinet. That is the one criterion that seems to guarantee promotion to that office. All that can be said in mitigation of the charges against the current Secretary of State for the Environment is that he is hardly alone in the Cabinet in being unwilling to tell the Prime Minister that she is wrong.
There is the odd glimmer of hope. I read in yesterday's newspapers that the Secretary of State told the Confederation of British Industry, or at least an assembled group of journalists, in Harrogate that changes in transport policy may be required if we are to get on top of the problem of carbon dioxide emissions. I assume that by that he means that some shift in the balance between private motor cars and public transport will be required. Opposition Members naturally applaud that, but it will not make him popular with the Secretary of State for Transport. For that reason, I believe that it may have been a somewhat unguarded comment and that we may not hear much more of the idea once his right hon. Friend takes him to task. If he is serious about it he will have to take on not only the Secretary of State for Transport and the Prime Minister but half the Cabinet.
The Secretary of State will have to do more than make the odd comment. He will have to demand action and tell the Treasury and his former Department, the Overseas Development Administration, that there is no point in 209 lecturing developing countries about destroying rain forests while tying them into a straitjacket of debt which they have no hope of repaying unless they can exploit their natural resources as they wish.
The right hon. Gentleman will have to take a serious step in talks with the Secretary of State for Energy. He will have to tell him that, with the chimera of nuclear power disappearing, we face a level of carbon dioxide emissions which makes a mockery of the Prime Minister's lip service to the need to combat the greenhouse effect.
The Department of Energy has revealed in figures released to the United Nations that on a business-as-usual, let-the-market-decide, no-intervention basis, carbon dioxide emissions will not stabilise or even decline but will power ahead. Those are the Department of Energy's own predictions. By the year 2020 those emissions will have risen to I billion tonnes—a 73 per cent. increase. What sort of example is that for developing countries which need a degree of growth and energy consumption to alleviate the problems of poverty and despair? Is it not wholly irresponsible for a rich country such as the United Kingdom to show so little concern for the need to limit carbon dioxide emissions? Is it not to add insult to injury for the Prime Minister to lecture others on what is required?
When will the Secretary of State tell his right hon. Friends that this is a rake's progress which makes neither economic nor environmental sense? More than that, when will he tell them that it cannot be allowed to happen and that what is urgently needed now is a massive commitment to energy efficiency and conservation? We need a complete reversal of the Government's policy, which is epitomised in the cut in the budget of the Energy Efficiency Office.
The Secretary of State's responsibility lies most directly in his Department. He is responsible for a water industry which is of major significance to our environment. As is universally acknowledged, the industry is in deep trouble. It fails to meet approved standards. It poses a threat to public health because of the dangerous levels of nitrates in the water. It gives rise to a great deal of public anxiety. It has already been sued by its consumers and is subject to prosecution within the United Kingdom and at the suit of the European Commission. It has a massive backlog of unmade investment and a massive infrastructure which is crumbling away.
What is the Secretary of State's response to that desperate state of affairs? Does he acknowledge the failure to meet the agreed standards? Not a bit of it. His first response is to go to Brussels and try to twist a few arms to avoid prosecution. It need hardly be said that he failed. Does he demand that standards should be met and investment made? No, he assures the industry that he will protect it from its failures by delaying as far as he can the application of legally imposed obligations. Does he guarantee as his first priority higher standards and fair prices to the consumer? No, his priority is to make room for private profit, to do nothing about the real environmental problems and simply to concentrate on transferring the industry at whatever cost into private hands. I say "at whatever cost", because today we know, by virtue of what is supposedly called impact day—the day on which the share price is decided—that the share price means that the loss and cost is enormous.
To sell the water industry to their friends in private industry, the Government have been prepared to accept on behalf of taxpayers a loss of at least £1.3 billion. Having 210 given away £5 billion in debt write-off and £1.6 billion through the so-called green dowry, and having settled for receipts under £5.3 billion, even if the sale succeeds and every last share is sold, the Government are forced to accept that loss. We all know that investing in water remains a dicey proposition. There are so many uncertainties—unmet obligations, unquantifiable legal commitments, litigation poised over the heads of water companies and political uncertainties. All that means that only by offering it at a give-away price can the Government begin to hope to float the industry, even at a £1.3 billion loss to the taxpayer.
Far from making good the deficiencies of the market, the Secretary of State's response is to invite it in so that it is the drive for profit and the values of the short-sighted and greedy which will prevail in the water industry rather than the public good. So much for environmental concern. For this Government and for this Secretary of State, it is clear that environmental concern means, "Let's sell it off to the highest bidder."
No wonder the Government's green credentials look so shabby. But not everything is yet lost. We are told that the true colour of the Government's concern will be shown when they publish and promote their environmental protection Bill. We have yet to see whether that Bill deserves the accolade of being described as a green Bill. It seems unlikely to measure up to the scale and urgency of the issues with which we are confronted. That is not to say that there will not be in the Bill much that we can support. I am glad to read that some aspects of the Pearce report will be reflected in the Bill's provisions. We welcome that as a partial repudiation of the Prime Minister's view that everything must be left to the market. We welcome the notion that some intervention is essential if we are to protect our environment.
Let me put the Secretary of State on notice that the "polluter pays" principle, while welcome to a limited degree, is not, and cannot be, a comprehensive policy.
§ Mr. Gould
I will tell the hon. Lady. She need not intervene, because I have heard her question and I will give her the answer straight away. The right to pollute cannot be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Some forms of pollution cannot be tolerated, whatever the price the polluter is prepared to pay.
We also support the measures designed to deal with the problem of litter. It may be thought that this is a small-scale problem by comparison with the greenhouse effect and the hole in the ozone layer. That is true, but I have always believed that the litter-strewn streets, the crumbling pavements, the stinking public places arid the graffiti-covered walls are the visible signs of what has gone wrong in Thatcherite Britain. Raising the fines for litter louts may be a partial response, but it is hardly adequate, and somehow raising fines epitomises all that is wrong in the pettifogging response that the Government make to real and widespread practical problems.
I am sorry that he is not present now, but I agree with the excellent speech made by the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Sir H. Rossi). We do not need piecemeal and superficial measures. We need a more sustained and comprehensive approach. He argued, and I agree, for an environmental protection agency. I also agreed with my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow 211 (Mr. Dalyell) that the last thing that we should be doing is dismembering the Nature Conservancy Council. I was interested in the Secretary of State's intervention, which revealed a certain embarrassment on his own account on that score.
Above all, we want real resources and real support for the environmental protection agencies that already exist, and I refer to the local authorities. If they are required to take on responsibility for littering, for recycling and for controlling waste, they must have the resources to do so. They cannot be constantly undermined by attacks on their resources, competence and independence. We cannot expect to tackle these problems—the hard, detailed, practical day-to-day local problems of litter, waste and recycling—if we constantly attack the agencies that are best placed to do the job.
I hope that I have said enough to show that we shall submit the Government's plans to a very harsh test, and we make no apology for that. That test will be one of practical efficiency. We have gone beyond the point where posturing and rhetoric are a sufficient response. Hard decisions and choices must be made. There is no evidence in prime ministerial speeches or in the information trailed about the environmental protection Bill that the Government have yet steeled themselves to take those hard decisions. If they will not take them, we will. That readiness to act in the future, for the future of our planet, is one of the most telling differences between the Government and the Opposition. That difference provides one of the most potent arguments for the election of the next Labour Government.
§ The Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Chris Patten)
Browsing through last year's Queen's Speech debate—not something that I did entirely for pleasure—as my right hon. Friend remarked earlier, I noted that last year the House debated environment and industry, but in that order. On that occasion the hon. Member for Copeland (Mr. Cunningham) opened the debate—how we shall miss his geniality on nights like this—and the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) wound up. This year the order of subject matter has been reversed, and the hon. Gentleman still finds himself bringing up the rear. Order of appearance is a more serious matter these days. While the ubiquitous television eye never sleeps, viewers are elsewhere. If they have any sense they will be watching Michael Palin at the moment. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I am glad that the duty doughnuts are on such good form tonight.
It may be over the top to see the hand of the would-be parliamentary Labour candidate for Hartlepool in the arrangements made today, but into the limelight steps the Labour party's coming man—the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown). The hon. Member for Dagenham was once the coming man. He seems to have come and gone, but I am sure that his day will come again as he is clever, keen as mustard and is even a member of the Wine Society, so all should be well. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about policy?"] I will come to policy in a moment.
The hon. Member for Dunfermline, East is the rising star for the moment. He has risen—I think that this was once said of David Frost—almost without trace. Having 212 listened to the hon. Gentleman for the first time today, I think that I can understand why. His speech was full of admirable sound bites—it was the longest sound bite that I have ever heard.
The hon. Member for Dunfermline, East denounced us up hill and down dale. He was tall on rhetoric, but rather more elfin on prescription. He was good on politics, but less overwhelmingly convincing on economics. The hon. Gentleman would find that, were he to inherit the purple, there are a lot of economics involved in being Trade and Industry Secretary.
There was one point of potential disagreement between the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East and the hon. Member for Dagenham. The hon. Member for Dunfermline, East allowed cliché to run away with him. He referred to the Jaguar motor company being thrown to the wolves. That was an extraordinary way to describe a firm which employs 48,000 people in Britain, and an extraordinary way to describe a firm which employs 14,000 people in Dagenham. I cannot believe that the hon. Gentleman meant what he said, unless he was one of those who threw his hat in the air when trade union instransigence last year lost £35 million of Ford investment in Dundee and 450 jobs.
When I listened to Opposition Members' speeches yesterday I wanted to take my right hon. and hon. Friends to task. Sometimes we are inclined to say that the Opposition have no policies. That is extremely unfair as the Opposition have several policies. They are, for example, in favour of low inflation and high employment. They want higher public spending and lower interest rates. They naturally want tighter credit and cheaper mortgages, although I recall that the hon. Member for Dagenham has his own policy on mortgages which may be subject to a smidgen of clarification from the Leader of the Opposition. They want higher productivity, higher wages, industrial peace and an easier life for secondary pickets. They are in favour of abolishing rates and of several different methods of paying for local services, all of which would naturally be entirely painless. Indeed, I suspect that most would be entirely costless.
There is no shortage of policy there. It is all perfectly clear, but the precise ways in which those objectives would be accomplished remains somewhat opaque. I assure the Opposition that we shall help them to hunt for the golden key to understanding of those policies in the months ahead in this Session. I am sure that they will join us in that voyage of discovery.
In several speeches, the growing awareness of the link between the two subjects of the debate—industry and the environment—was mentioned. First, I believe that it is common ground—I may surprise some people by saying this—between the main Opposition and us that we believe that industrial success can be an important ingredient in the enhancement of environmental quality. While we disagree about how to achieve it, we both believe in growth although, as the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) said, we both argue that growth needs to be sustainable. We believe that that is most likely to be achieved by a combination of Government regulation and market forces. We look forward to Labour's explanation that the answer is Government regulation and Socialism or even, perhaps, what is euphemistically called social ownership—if that is still on the agenda this week.
Secondly, there is general agreement that we need an effective system to control, regulate and reduce industrial 213 pollution. Thirdly, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Mr. Porter) that industry should be seen not as the problem, but as a major part of the solution to environmental improvement. We want to encourage cleaner technologies. We are helping to do that through our environmental protection technology scheme. There is a world market worth more than £100 billion a year in clean technology and I want British industry to win a much larger share of it.
To accomplish our environmental goals, we must act on three levels—national, European and global. At national level, the Bill that we shall introduce early in the Session will set in place what will probably be the most sophisticated and comprehensive pollution control regulations anywhere. It is trivial to dismiss that as being of little account, as the hon. Member for Dagenham seemed to do in an interview yesterday in The Independent. It is an important step forward in environmental policy, finally bringing to a satisfactory conclusion a story which began with the fifth report of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution about 13 years ago.
I should like to pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Sir H. Rossi) who made an extremely important speech—
§ Mr. Patten
I shall come to what I agreed with. These are the type of proposals for which my hon. Friend has been pressing for some time. He brings all the knowledge of his skilful chairmanship of the Environment Select Committee to bear on these matters. Until now, we have dealt with pollution of air, water and land in different ways, some of them more stringent than others. Regulation has been based on wholly different philosophies. For example, with water, the basis of control has been the impact of discharge on the quality of the receiving water. With air, it has been the technologies' ability to reduce emissions. On land, there have been no controls over the generation of waste, only controls over disposal.
Integrated pollution controls means that we shall bring all major industrial pollution under single control and a single piece of legislation. There will be one over-arching philosophy. This should combine the best features of the present system. In other words, it will incorporate environment quality standards and control through technology, and at the same time it will achieve the minimisation of waste at source and the best practicable environmental option. The system will be the means of delivering our international obligations including, for example, substantial reductions in emissions of sulphur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides following on from the large plants directive.
§ Mr. Dalyell
If the over-arching philosophy and the emphasis on "single" applies to pollution, why does not this emphasis apply also to nature conservancy? Let us suppose that the other place decided to send the proposed Bill back to this place with reservations on, or outright opposition to, the concept of nature conservancy being split between Scotland, Wales and England. Would there be any circumstances in which the Leader of the House—I ask my question in the presence of the right hon. and learned Gentleman—could ensure that the measure would not be subject to a guillotine motion, as it could well be, in this place? That could well be planned.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Despite my hon. Friend's expression of doubt, there is every chance of that. As there are different opinions on both sides of the House, is there not a case for a free vote?
§ Mr. Patten
When many members of the duty doughnut squad were not able to be present, the hon. Gentleman and I had a useful exchange about the future of the Nature Conservancy Council. I made it clear to the hon. Gentleman during my response to him that we were looking for ways to secure a Great Britain science base for nature conservancy work while establishing the existing councils on a territorial basis. I am obviously interested in what the hon. Gentleman says and I take note of his views. I am not sure, however, whether his views on the rights and wrongs of decisions that relate to the Nature Conservancy Council are shared by his Scottish colleagues. I have a welcoming statement from one of his hon. Friends. The hon. Gentleman might find it interesting to read what the Leader of the Opposition, as a Welsh Member, has said about the future of the NCC. It may not he that the Leader of the Opposition has a role in determining Labour policy, but the opposite may be the case.
§ Sir Hector Monro (Dumfries)
Will my right hon. Friend accept that the majority view of the NCC is entirely in accord with the Government's policy of splitting the council for England, Scotland and Wales? It sees a positive way forward that includes a science base. The Government's view is entirely in accord with that of the majority on the NCC.
§ Mr. Patten
As I said earlier in response to the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), I recognise that the NCC has put forward its own proposals for how we can accomplish shared objectives on a science base and on establishing a United Kingdom identity for nature conservancy work. We shall be responding to the NCC's propositions in the next day or two. I hope that we shall be able to satisfy William Wilkinson that we have a shared view on how to move forward.
§ Mr. Patten
If the hon. Gentleman had been brought up in London during the 1950s, as I was, and had witnessed the consequences of the Clean Air Act 1956 introduced by a Conservative Government, he would know that there is no paradox in proper environmental regulations and in using market forces as the most cost-effective way to achieve environmental goals.
The environment protection Bill will demonstrate that the Government are playing their full part in establishing a strong regulatory framework for protecting the environment. As I said, I have no doubt that market forces have a crucial part to play in meeting those standards. Before Opposition Members snigger, they should think about the incredible surge in demand for unleaded petrol, from 2 per cent. to 26 per cent. in a year. There is also the voluntary phasing out of CFCs from almost all aerosols.
§ Mr. Malcolm Bruce
Will the Minister explain how, after 10 years of free market forces, Britain is 11th out of 215 12 in the European Community for its recycling efforts? How will he achieve an upgrading of Britain's position without some intervention that goes against the philosophy that the Government have been practising for the past 10 years?
§ Mr. Patten
It does not go against our philosophy to promote recycling. However, I agree that it is one area in which we have lagged behind, and we must do a great deal better. One of our problems has been our system of waste disposal, where there has been no separation between those who do the regulating and those who are regulated. One way in which we shall, I hope, promote recycling and waste minimisation through our legislation is by establishing the true cost of landfill disposal, which is absolutely crucial if we want to encourage greater recycling and greater waste minimisation. I note a deathly hush among Labour Members—[Interruption.] I take it back—I am sure that the Labour party is about to provide us with lots of bright ideas on how to promote recycling. Chance would be a fine thing.
I want to say something else about the green consumer and the extent to which market forces can help to promote environmental quality. I have absolutely no doubt that there is a growing number of green consumers, and nor do I doubt that the best way to increase the strength of the green consumer movement is to ensure that there is adequate information in the market place. That is a powerful argument for a green labelling scheme, and we have been pressing for that within the European Community for some time. We are confident that a scheme can be in place before the completion of the internal market in 1992. A European-wide agreement is necessary, not least because it would be unacceptable to allow member states to freeze out imports of goods by claiming falsely that they are insufficiently environmentally friendly.
I attended my first meeting of the European Environment Council in September, and I shall be attending the next council meeting—
§ Mr. Allan Roberts (Bootle)
Does the Minister believe that the privatisation of waste disposal, which will put the dealing of toxic and chemical waste in the market place—where the profit motive will determine how it is dealt with—will be popular or unpopular with the British public? It will be as unpopular as the proposals to privatise water.
§ Mr. Patten
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman still does not accept the strong argument for making a distinction between those who regulate and those who are regulated. We are insisting that those authorities responsible for disposal should separate their disposal activities from their regulatory activities. I should be extremely surprised if local authorities took the same view as the hon. Gentleman.
We intend both at the next European Environmental Council meeting and at its future meetings to play a constructive role in the development of European policy. I believe extremely strongly that we should have as much information available to us as possible, so that we can compare environmental records in different member states of the Community. That is why we pressed for the establishment of the European Environment Agency in 216 this country. We believe that it should be sited here, and we have nothing to hide in respect of our environmental record. There is not a scintilla of evidence for the proposition often pressed by the Opposition that we have a worse record than other European member states. No member state has a better record of compliance with Community environmental directives. That is a fact, not a boast. It is a fact also that no country has a larger or more detailed programme of compliance with Community water directives than we have.
Action will of course increasingly be necessary not just at a European but at a global level. The problems of climate change or ozone depletion require that. Here too we shall play our full part in seeking essential agreements at international level to improve the quality of the environment. We were instrumental in securing the Community's agreements to a ban on all CFC use by the end of the century. My hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Mr. Trippier) played a key part in securing unanimous agreements at Noordwijk to stabilise carbon dioxide emissions by end of the century.
The issues that we are addressing are likely to dominate the international agenda for years to come. They raise matters of fundamental importance. They affect the economies of individual countries. They affect trade. They affect international growth. They affect the adequacy of international institutions. They affect sovereignty. They affect the relationship between rich countries and poor. Above all, they affect the way that we live today and the world that we shall pass on to our children. Those issues are not to be traded in a political auction, either at home or internationally. They are self-evidently the kind of issues where it does not make sense to make policy off the cuff or off the wall. That is not an argument for delay but an argument for building a secure foundation for international agreement and for global policy.
There are two requirements for effective international action. First, we must seek to include as many countries as possible in any agreement. It would have been a major setback for world action on the greenhouse effect if the Noordwijk conference had ended with the major economies divided. As they are the major CO1 emitters, it is essential that all industrialised countries remain actively involved in that process. As I said, my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen was instrumental in acting as an honest broker in achieving a positive consensus. That was the right thing to do and helped to secure future progress.
Secondly, it is right to wait for the evidence from the International Panel on Climate Change, which will be presented to the second world climate conference at Geneva next November, before deciding at what targets to aim. The panel's recommendations will be available then. It does not make much sense, to put it kindly, to pluck figures out of the political air, but I can pledge that when we sign our name we will deliver.
The hon. Member for Linlithgow referred, understandably, to the problems of tropical deforestation. I wholly agree with his remarks. We need to do more as an international community to deal with that problem. We can make a particular contribution because of our experience, our present science base, and the contacts we have made already, through our own aid programme.
I was delighted that in her speech to the United Nations General Assembly the Prime Minister announced that we should be spending another £100 million through our aid 217 programme on helping developing countries to sustain their own forests. As the hon. Member for Linlithgow knows, this year we have reached agreements with both India and Brazil with that objective in mind. We shall be legislating on environmental protection in the coming Session by playing a full part in environmental diplomacy in the European Community and on the world stage. We shall also be seeking to set out our whole strategy for the environment in a White Paper that will be published next autumn. We want to put down guidelines for the development of an environmental policy for the decade ahead. I hope that we shall be able to discuss that approach when we hold our debate on the Loyal Address next year.
It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
Debate to be resumed tomorrow.