HL Deb 13 October 1969 vol 304 cc1232-7

3.37 p.m.


My Lords, perhaps it would be convenient to your Lordships if I were now to repeat a Statement being made by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in another place. I must warn your Lordships that it is rather a long Statement. It says: "As the House knows, I announced a few days ago certain changes in the machinery of Government and departmental responsibilities, and I am taking this first opportunity of informing the House about them. There are two main areas where the responsibilities affecting a number of Departments are concentrated under a senior Minister, following the principle which has already been applied in the fields of defence, overseas affairs and health and social security.

"In the industrial field a great deal more responsibility will now be concentrated under the Minister of Technology. He will take over the duties of the Minister of Power, and, subject to the approval by Parliament of an Order which is being laid to-day, the two Ministries will become a single Department. The Ministry will also take over from the Board of Trade responsibility for the remaining principal manufacturing industries of which the Board of Trade has been the sponsoring Department. The expanded Ministry will also take over the responsibilities of the Department of Economic Affairs in the field of industrial policy including the Statutory responsibility for the Industrial Reorganisation Corporation.

"The responsibility for the distribution of industry, including industrial development certificates, advance factories, industrial estates in development areas, building grants and loans will also pass from the Board of Trade to the Ministry of Technology, as will the responsibility for paying investment grants to industry.

"This change means that the same Department, as sponsoring Department, dealing with the greater part of private and public industry, will also be responsible for executive decisions concerning the location of industry.

"As a result of these changes the same Ministry will now be responsible for electricity generation as well as nuclear power and the electrical plant industries, for gas and oil as well as chemicals, for the steel using industries, as well as for the production of steel, for the whole range of mineral development, for textiles as well as textile machinery.

"With the transfer of many industrial functions from the Board of Trade to the Ministry of Technology, the Board will concentrate the greater part of its energies on overseas trade and export promotion including a considerable proportion of the sectors responsible for invisible earnings. In ad- dition to its responsibilities for external commercial policy (including tariff policy) and export policy and services the Board of Trade will remain responsible for civil aviation, shipping, tourism, hotels and insurance. On the home side, its work will be primarily related to commerce including the administration of the Insurance and Companies Act, patents and copyright. It will continue to be responsible for consumer protection, for the distributive and service trades, including retail distribution, for newspapers, printing, publishing and films, these being more in the field of communications than in industries as normally conceived. My right honourable friend the President of the Board of Trade and my noble friend the Minister of State "will be able to spend more of their tine in direct contact on exports with industry throughout the regions, in addition to promoting the sales of British exports overseas. The regional export organisation will be strengthened.

"I shall continue to take the Chair at meetings of N.E.D.C, and responsibility for N.E.D.C. in connection with the agenda and consultations thereon with industry, and also the vote and establishment of the National Economic Development Office will be in the Cabinet Office.

"Certain other aspects of the change in responsibilities will be set out in the statement, which, with permission, I will circulate in the Official Report. This deals with the question of extractive industries, certain aspects of the work of N.E.D.C, and with the transfer of a number of productivity services from the Board of Trade to the Department of Employment and Productivity.

"The other area of Government where a concentration of responsibilities is taking place lies in the field of housing, local government, regional planning, land use, transport and the environment generally. This will be particularly important in connection with the consultations on the Redcliffe-Maud Report, and the work which will follow those consultations. The House will, I think, have drawn from the Maud Report the clear conclusion that in the modern world the work of local government and the range of decisions concerned with planning, land use and transport, social and environmental development, cannot in practice be separated. A Secretary of State for Local Government and Regional Planning has therefore been appointed. He will have working under his general direction, the existing Ministers of Housing and Local Government, and Transport. My right honourable friend will take personal charge of the local government negotiations, following the Redcliffe-Maud Report.

"My right honourable friend, assisted by my honourable friend the former Minister of State for the Department of Economic Affairs (Mr. Urwin), will be responsible for the Government's regional policy as a whole, taking over the work in this fiield previously carried out by the Department of Economic Affairs, and responsibility for the Regional Economic Planning Boards and Economic Planning Councils, as well as the follow-up to the Maud recommendations for greater devolution to the regions. My honourable friend the Minister of State will act in particular as Minister concerned with Northern Region affairs with direct responsibility to the Secretary of State.

"To an increasing extent, as the House knows, the work, reports and plans of the Regional Economic Planning Councils are not confined to purely economic development, but are concerned with transport planning and social development, urban renewal, the removal of pit heaps and other amenity questions covering the wide range of environmental problems.

"I have asked the new Secretary of State to go urgently into the question of environmental pollution in all its forms and to make proposals to me on how this should be dealt with, including any changes he may feel it right to recommend in the machinery of government or the law. His responsibilities of course extend only to England, but in this matter of pollution he will of course make his recommendations in consultation with the Secretaries of State for Scotland and for Wales who will retain all their present responsibilities and statutory functions.

"The House will be aware that for the time being the existing Ministries of Housing and Local Government, and Transport will continue, with the same statutory functions, but working under the general direction of the Secretary of State. I have, however, asked him to report to me on the changes which, in his view, should be made at a later date with a view to creating a more integrated Department.

"The House will be further aware that with the appointment of my honourable friend the former Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State to the Department of Education and Science as Minister of State in Housing and Local Government, the very valuable work he has been doing on sport, local and national, will now pass, with him, to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, which I feel is now the right place for these duties to be exercised.

"The other change in Ministerial responsibilities which I should report to the House is that my right honourable friend the former Minister Without Portfolio, Mr. Thomson, now Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, moves to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, where he will be the deputy to my right honourable friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary over the whole range of duties of that Office. In addition, he will take personal charge under the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary on all questions affecting relations with Europe, including the conduct of negotiations with the European Communities.

"The draft Order in Council providing for the formal merger of the Ministries of Technology and Power and certain other transfers of functions in the industrial and economic field is being laid to-day, and will require prior Parliamentary approval. Separate Transfer of Functions Orders relating to statutory responsibilities for sport will be laid before the House shortly. As the House knows, this will be subject to the Negative Resolution procedure.

"These changes in Ministerial responsibilities will involve some alterations in the arrangements for answering Questions in this House.

"Where the changes in responsibility have not required Parliamentary approval, interim arrangements for the remainder of this Session have already been made after discussion through the usual channels. Discussions will be held about the roster for the new Session."

The last paragraph, as your Lordships know, is not really applicable to us, but some arrangements will be necessary here.

Following are the other aspects of the change referred to in the Statement: