HL Deb 22 January 1974 vol 348 cc1301-18

3.35 p.m.


My Lords, with permission I will repeat a Statement being made by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in another place. These are his own words:

"Six representatives of the T.U.C. came to Downing Street at 4.30 p.m. yesterday afternoon to meet me and my right honourable friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretaries of State for Employment and Energy. We discussed the possibility of relaxing the restrictions on the use of electricity in industry, the general economic situation and its prospects, and against that background the miners' dispute and the T.U.C. initiative.

"On the use of electricity in industry, my right honourable and noble friend the Secretary of State for Energy explained that, for various reasons, which I described in my answers to questions in the House last Friday, stocks of coal at the power stations were higher than had earlier been expected. If there were no significant setbacks, and there was no further reduction of supplies of coal to the power stations, it should be possible to contemplate an early relaxation in the restrictions on the use of electricity. It would be important to give the fullest benefit of any relaxations to manufacturing industry; and this would depend on savings by domestic consumers continuing at a high level.

"We asked the T.U.C. representatives whether, if some such relaxation were possible, they would prefer to see industry move to a four day working week or—if this was practicable—to a five day working week with industry using only 80 per cent. of normal supplies of electricity. The T.U.C. made clear that they would prefer a five-day week and 80 per cent. of normal use of electricity.

"This had also been the preference expressed by the C.B.I. at a meeting with my right honourable and noble friend in the morning.

"My right honourable and noble friend is now considering as a matter of urgency whether the technical problems of a five-day week at 80 per cent. of normal use of electricity can be overcome, so that he may be in a position to take a decision later this week, if the coal stock situation and supply prospects justify some relaxation.

"Clearly, one of the factors in his decision must be the industrial action of the mineworkers and its effects upon coal supplies.

"We then moved on to a discussion of the general economic situation, on which I expect to have further meetings both with the T.U.C. and with the C.B.I. My right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer explained the severe problems which exist in the field of domestic economic policy. The shortfall in energy supplies was bound significantly to affect gross domestic product in the first part of 1974. The substantial additional burden imposed on the balance of payments by the increase in oil prices made it the more necessary to take every advantage of our competitive situation to increase exports. There would be a sizeable demand for new investment, particularly in the development of new sources of energy. It was therefore impossible to envisage any increase in the volume of resources going into domestic consumption. Indeed, we could well have to be content with the living standards of a year ago, and deny ourselves the improvements in living standards to which, only a few months ago, we have been looking forward. In the light of this change of circumstances, Stage III of the counter-inflation policy now appeared if anything too generous.

"Against that background we turned to the coal miners' dispute and the T.U.C. initiative. The T.U.C. representatives stated that they were prepared to say that the miners were a unique case, that other unions would not use the special nature of the mineworkers' case as an argument in their own negotiations, and that the T.U.C. itself would not come to Downing Street in support of any other case this year. They claimed that in giving this undertaking they would be going further than the T.U.C. had gone before, and indeed could go no further, to ensure that any special settlement for the miners was not followed by excessively inflationary settlements of other claims. Their initiative had been almost unanimously approved by their special meeting on January 16.

"For my part, I made it clear that the Government recognised the significance of the undertaking offered by the T.U.C. and unreservedly accepted its sincerity and genuineness. Nor did we doubt that they could secure the implementation of the specific undertaking they were prepared to give.

"But the fact remained that the offer already made to the N.U.M. was in our view fair, and, in the economic situation facing us, as generous as we could afford. Within the limits of the Stage III pay code it treated the miners as a special case, and would in fact more than restore their relative position as it was immediately after the Wilberforce award.

"The N.U.M. had resorted to industrial action last November, more than three months before their existing agreement was due to expire. In the meantime 4 million people had accepted settlements within the Stage III pay code; and the change in our economic circumstances made it more rather than less difficult to envisage increases in excess of the Stage III code. Other groups had the same sort of power as the miners to damage industry, cause hardship in homes, and disrupt the life of the nation.

"I had therefore to say to the T.U.C. representatives that, if the miners' use of their industrial power was seen to lead to a settlement which was excessive by the standard of Stage III—and the nation certainly cannot afford more—there was nothing in the T.U.C.'s undertaking to prevent such groups from following the miners' example, and using their industrial power to seek to extort excessive settlements. The T.U.C. representatives agreed that this was the case, and emphasised that there was nothing further they could do by means of their undertaking to prevent that happening.

"I made it clear, and the T.U.C. representatives accepted, that the Government was not rejecting their initiative, or questioning its sincerity. In deed, it remains on the table, and I expressed the hope that we should be able to build on it in further discussions with the T.U.C. on future developments of counter-inflation policy.

"But the fact remains, and the T.U.C. representatives agreed, that in present circumstances their initiative would not protect us against the use of industrial power, by those who might be minded so to use it, in pursuance of settlements at a level which the country cannot afford. That is a risk which in present circumstances we cannot run.

"Mr. Speaker, a fair and generous offer has been made to the miners. I will, with permission, circulate details of it in the OFFICIAL REPORT. From that honourable Members will see that full use has been made of the provisions in the Stage III pay code which enable us to treat the miners as a special case.

"In addition, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Employment and I have made it clear that the Government is ready, as soon as normal working has been resumed, to start immediate discussions with the National Coal Board and the National Union of Mineworkers on the future of the coal industry, on improvements in pensions and in provisions for health hazards, and on the pay arrangements appropriate in the longer term to the industry's future and its manpower requirements.

"So the Government has done everything in its power, within what it believes to be right in the interests of the country as a whole, to make possible a settlement of this dispute.

"The T.U.C. has also offered everything that is in its power to offer to limit the consequences of a special settlement for the miners. The fact that we have had to say that it does not go far enough to prevent the dangers we fear does not mean that we fail to recognise the importance of the step they have made, to which I again pay tribute.

"But there is a third party involved in this affair, with whom the responsibility

THE N.C.B. OFFER (to be operative from 1st March 1974)
(i) New minimum basic rates:
£27.59 for surface workers (+£2.30).
£29.86 for underground workers (+£2.57).
£39.36 for face workers (+£2.57).
(ii) Increased shift payments To be 17p an hour between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. for everybody (in lieu of 2½p for day wagemen only).
(iii) Increased holiday pay To be paid at time rates prevailing at time of holiday, with minima of £61 for the main 2 weeks and £5.70 per day for the remaining 19 holidays.
(iv) Additional statutory holiday.
(v) Retirement benefits Lump sum at age 65 raised from £300 to £500. Increases for incapacity retirement from age 51 to apply from 1st January 1974.
(vi) Death benefits Benefits to be provided for all deaths in service to apply from 1st January 1974.
(vii) Efficiency payments Up to 3½ per cent, if a scheme is agreed and approved by the Pay Board.
(viii) Threshold clause In accordance with the Pay Code.
(ix) N.C.B. statement of intent to improve sick pay when circumstances permit.
(x) N.C.B. to discuss the implementation of a third week's holiday as soon as circumstances permit.

The Coal Board estimate that the offer (items (i) to (vi) only) would cost about £45 million (13 per cent.). These figures exclude the increased overtime payments resulting from the higher minimum basic rates. In addition all miners enjoy fringe benefits, worth an average of £2.64 per week.

In addition, the Government has told the National Union of Mineworkers that, if they were prepared to accept the settlement available to them under Stage 3, the Government would be ready, immediately after normal coal supplies were resumed, to discuss with both sides of the industry the future of the coal industry, the manpower requirements and the arrangements for pay and for other conditions of service appropriate to a modernised industry in the longer term.

3.48 p.m.


My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, for having read this lengthy Statement. The fact that there is very little about the position of the actual dis

bility for the future now rests. That is the National Union of Mineworkers. The offer which has been made to them, together with our proposals for discussions about the future of the industry responds to their case for special treatment, within the limits of what the country can afford, and provides a basis on which a secure future for the industry, and for employment in it, can be established.

"I very much nope, therefore, that the National Union of Mineworkers will recognise this, and will conclude that acceptance of the offer on the basis I have described will do justice not only to the aspirations of the miners but also to the needs and circumstances of our country of which we are all citizens."

My Lords, that concludes the Prime Minister's Statement.

Following are the details of the offer to the miners referred to in the Statement:

putes which are going on I shall refer to briefly. I think we are in one of the most desperate situations, and the Government must carry the full responsibility for this; they must be prepared to justify in debate very soon what is said in this Statement. There is one good item in it, the possibility of a return to a five-day week. But this, of course, immediately raises a question as to the judgment that led to the introduction of the three-day week. The noble Lord appeared to talk about disputes which disrupt the life of the nation, but I am bound to say that I think the Government carry a heavy responsibility for disrupting the life of the nation. I am particularly disturbed by the implication contained in the Statement that, … we could well have to be content with the living standards of a year ago, and deny ourselves the improvements in living standards to which, only a few months ago, we have been looking forward. The fact that we shall see a decline in our living standards was settled before the miners' dispute and, indeed, before the new oil position. This was made very clear by Mr. Gordon Richardson the other day.

My Lords, I think it is a tragedy that the Government have not accepted what I think Mr. Whitelaw would have called the olive branch that the T.U.C. put forward. The Government have acknowledged that in fact this was a remarkable development on the part of the T.U.C., and they say that they would like to build on it. But by their action now their chances of building on it have gone. I say with absolute seriousness to the Government that we may well see a worse situation with regard to the dispute in the mines. We shall see bitterness growing in this country. We do not know what is going to happen.

The Government may say they are right to be indecisive at the present moment. Are we to have an Election? If the situation is so serious, ought we not now to have an immediate Budget? What are the Government going to do? Obviously we cannot debate this fully this afternoon. I find it very difficult, in a situation of such acute seriousness, to find words that will not exacerbate the seriousness of the situation further. The Government were given an olive branch. They could have got the nation fully back to work. They have turned it down; and they have turned it down in pursuit of a policy which they must know they are not going to be able to enforce. As I said when we debated this subject before, the Government may or may not be right in their policy and their judgment of what ought to be done, but they are not going to succeed in it. We shall have to debate this very soon. I would only urge the Government to be a little more restrained in putting all the blame on the miners when so much blame attaches to their own misjudgment.


My Lords, I should like to make it absolutely clear from these Benches that we fully support the protection of Stage 3. This, I think, is absolutely essential when we are facing the inflation that is before us at the moment. I can quite understand the Coal Board and the Government not wishing to negotiate under duress while an overtime ban is on. But I stress "negotiate". Surely it might be wise to consider whether it would be worth while undertaking discussions, not negotiations, on the future of the industry as a whole even while the overtime ban is on. If it were possible for the Government to get the Coal Board and the miners to discuss seriously within wide parameters the whole long-term future and pay structure which is bound to be required for this industry against the background of the new energy situation, it might make a great deal of difference. Would there not perhaps be a chance of the miners accepting the present offer—and I do not see any reason for increasing it, because we have to protect Stage 3— if it were shown to be a stepping-stone to something much more advantageous over the next three or four years?

On one matter of fact, I heard in the Statement that pensions were to be apparently put to the next stage of discussion and negotiation. But under Stage 3 pensions can be negotiated because any contribution there is non-inflationary.


My Lords, I do not think your Lordships will expect me to enter into a debate with the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition about the points he has made. This does not seem to me to be the purpose of this Statement. I would only say this to him. It seems to me that the paramount duty of any Government, of any complexion, is to protect the living standards of the people of this country, and if possible, in so far as it lies within the power of the Government, to see that inflation does not erode those standards. I think your Lordships should consider very carefully the consequences of action by a Government which, because of industrial action and the power of one section of the community, sees those living standards put at risk by inflation. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Byers, is quite right in what he says about that.

We will of course debate at some other time all the other matters which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, wishes to debate. He is not right, if I may say so, about the four-day week. I think that the figures which have been produced by the Government prove conclusively that had the three-day week not been introduced at the time it was introduced then the position of the coal stocks in the middle of February in an ordinary winter would have been quite disastrous. It would have been most imprudent of any Government to do otherwise than take the action that Her Majesty's Government in fact took.

With regard to what the noble Lord, Lord Byers, said, about having further discussions, leaving aside whether this is possible or not, or whether it would be desirable or not, the difficulty is, as I understand it, that Mr. Gormley has made it abundantly plain that he is not prepared to negotiate with the Government or anybody else unless there is more money on the table.

3.55 p.m.


My Lords, while agreeing with the noble Lord that we do not want to have a protracted debate, would he at least answer one point made by my noble friend; namely, that the fact that we may well have to be content with the living standards of a year ago has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that the miners are working flat out on a five-day week and that this enormous threat posed by the balance of payments deficit arose before the miners started working on a full five-day week?


My Lords, I do not think that there is any need for the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, to get quite so indignant. If he will look at the Statement and read it carefully, he will see that the context in which that remark was made was the context of the Chancellor of the Exchequer explaining to the T.U.C. the whole economic situation in which this country finds itself. And, of course, it finds itself in an economic situation which, as we know, because we saw the trade figures yesterday, was made more complicated by the big increase in commodity prices, which accounts for most of the deficiency in our balance of payments; which is even more complicated by the quadrupling of oil prices; and which will be more complicated still if the miners' dispute continues.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether he is aware that he has missed one of the finest offers I have ever seen in a lifetime of trade unionism offered by the T.U.C. to try to make conciliation possible in this dispute? Is he further aware that what happened yesterday, after weeks and weeks of meetings, has most certainly disillusioned all of us in the trade union movement and has most certainly hardened the miners' attitude, as we will find in the course of the next few weeks. We shall all come to the conclusion that the Government are adamant on a confrontation with the trade unions.


My Lords, I think that the Prime Minister's Statement made it perfectly clear that he paid tribute to what the T.U.C. sought to do, but for the reasons which he set out in the Statement he did not think, and the Government did not think, that this went far enough. I would ask the noble Lord to consider this. In the light of the economic situation with which this country is faced, to which the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, drew attention, and to which noble Lords on the Front Bench opposite nodded their heads, perhaps it would be as well for all of us in this country to realise that if we pay ourselves too much we are going to find ourselves in even worse trouble.


My Lords, may I preface my question by the remark that I think, as most of us do, that the country is in a rather parlous state and that what is to be done should be looked at from that point of view. Is the noble Lord aware, as has been said by my noble friend Lord Blyton, that what the T.U.C. have offered so far is the greatest commitment in the whole history of the T.U.C. to any Government? I am sure the noble Lord is aware that the only way we shall win the battle against inflation that all Governments have been fighting since 1945 is by clear understanding and co-operation. Whether or not it is desirable is another matter, but it needs co-operation from the T.U.C. and the C.B.T. if we are to make progress.

When the Government say, as they say in the Statement, that they accept the assurance of the T.U.C. and yet they are not prepared to move at all in regard to the miners' claim, that it must be contained within Stage 3, do they not appreciate that this is the complete abrogation of collective bargaining? There has to be give and take even in this situation. I am sorry that the Government are in this situation, but it is not the only Government to have been in such a situation. There has to be give and take if this matter is to be settled. Finally, would it not be desirable for the Government to start thinking in terms of organising conciliation and arbitration to try to find a means of solving the problem?


My Lords, I do not think anybody in the House could possibly disagree with what the noble Lord, Lord Cooper, said in his opening sentences. Indeed it is contained in the Statement by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. I think there are two things involved, and I must repeat one of them again. I think that all your Lordships, everybody in this country, the Trades Union Congress and the employers, must now realise that the economic situation which this country is facing is very difficult indeed. We must also realise that what has been offered to the miners is more than anybody else will be offered under Stage 3. They have been treated, and are being treated, as a special case. It restores them to the position they were in after Wilberforce, and if Stage 3 is held they will retain that priority. I really do think that in these circumstances it would be right for the National Union of Mineworkers to look again at the very generous offer that has been made to them.


a: My Lords, if we accept, as some of us are disposed to do, the economic assessment which the noble Lord is now offering us, and if we remember that Phase 3 was worked out at a time when Her Majesty's Government were prophesying, or planning for, a 3½, per cent. growth in our national economy, does it not make it all the more absurd that we should have this confrontation on the basis of Phase 3, which so patently is completely unrealistic at the present time?


My Lords, if I may use the same language as the noble Lord, it makes it all the more absurd that people refuse an offer which is more generous than anybody else has under Stage 3.


My Lords, would not the noble Lord agree that the nation as a whole welcomes the general idea that the national interest and the wellbeing of the nation must come first, as the noble Lord outlined? However, is he not also aware that at least the majority of the nation greatly deplore the attitude that the Government have adopted in this very serious situation? It would appear, particularly to the trade union movement, that in all the talks that have taken place between the Government and the Trades Union Congress and others, it has not been a question of the Government seeking to find a compromise and to gain the co-operation of the trade union movement in getting out of these difficulties, but that the trade unions have been called together to hear the diktat laid down by the Government in this particular series of situations. This is not something that can go down very well in a free society. Are not the Government aware that their insistence on this talk about Phase 3, and the attitude they have adopted, has led to more serious inflationary tendencies than would have taken place had a compromise been arranged? In view of the statement that this is the best offer that has ever been made to the miners, often referred to as l6½ per cent., are not the Government aware that this is not 16½ per cent but, to the vast majority of the miners, only 7 per cent., and that the rest is made up ultimately of fringe benefits? Is it not time that the Government got the nation back to reality?


My Lords, the offer to the miners will be circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT, and noble Lords can see this. The offer amounts to 13 per cent., with 3½ per cent, for production increases, and the total is 16½ per cent. Your Lordships may like to be reminded that the miners are insisting at the moment on an increase of 30 per cent. on their present pay. That is something that I think your Lordships should remember.

May I say this to the noble Lord opposite? Can he really justify what he has just said when, in the Statement, the Prime Minister not only says that that is the offer under Stage 3 to the N.U.M., but as soon as normal working has been resumed the Government are prepared to start discussions immediately on the future of the coal industry, on improvements in pensions, in provisions for health hazards, and on pay arrangements appropriate in the longer term to the industry's future and its manpower requirements? In fairness, I do not think that anybody could say that the Government have not tried, so far as they possibly can, to treat the miners as a special case.


My Lords, many of us have inhibitions about turning a Statement of this kind into a debate. Can the noble Lord tell us how soon we can have a debate on this Statement?


My Lords, I am not a "usual channel"; but the usual channels are here.


My Lords, will the noble Lord influence them?


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord a practical question, not an academic question, in his capacity as Minister for Energy? On the assumption that the miners continue their ban on overtime, what are the prospects for a resumption of a five-day week, or even a four-day week? Does he envisage the possibility that the miners—and it may not happen—may respond to the appeal from the Prime Minister? Even if they have a ballot, there may be such a favourable response from the Prime Minister's point of view. But what does the noble Lord envisage if the miners, as a result of a ballot, have a full strike? Is there then any prospect of a five-day week, or a four-day week?


My Lords, if the miners responded to the appeal that has been made by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, we could go back to a five-day working week to-morrow because the coal will be there. I am going to answer the noble Lord's question. Does he want to interrupt me before I do so?


My Lords, the first question was the most important. What are the prospects of a resumption of the five-day week, or even a four-day week, if the miners continue the ban on overtime?


My Lords, I was only answering the questions in the reverse order. If the noble Lord will allow me to do that, I will. I was saying that if there was a full resumption of work by the miners, there would be no problem about going back to a full five-day week tomorrow morning. If the industrial action now being taken by the miners continues, and if there is average weather, and if, when I see the figures this week, they do not appear to have deteriorated from what one might expect compared with last week, then I think that there is a good chance that we shall be able to go to the equivalent of a four-day week. If there were an all-out strike by the miners, then naturally the prospects would be very much worse indeed.


My Lords, as a practical miner, may I say on the Statement the Minister has made in regard to a five-day week, that it is impossible under the present circumstances? People have had to man the pumps, look after the winding gear, the shafts, the airways, and so on, but there will still be an amount of damage inside the mines in this country which will take some time to overcome. From the practical point of view, it will take some time for the miners to put the mines into proper working order and condition. I say that quite seriously to the Minister. Arising from his Statement, would he not agree that while much tribute has been paid by his right honourable friend the Prime Minister to the attitude of the T.U.C. — and this has been commented on by my noble friends on this side of the House—because of what has been done in response to the attitude and manner of the T.U.C., is it not true to state that more credence has been given to the point of view expressed by the C.B.I., and that the Government have given more support to their view as compared with the proposal made by the T.U.C.?


My Lords, the Government seek to act, and I believe in this case are acting, in the interests of the country as a whole.


My Lords, I have two points. First, is the noble Lord intimating to the House that our present economic difficulties are due to the overtime ban by the miners? Secondly, I contest his assertion that what has been offered to the miners is more generous than offers to other workers. It is not 16 per cent. to all the miners. To some of them it would be only 7 per cent., and only 2½ per cent. of the manpower in the industry would get the maximum amount.


My Lords, I think I have answered the noble Lord's first question, and the second will be answered when he sees the figures circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether he recognises, as I certainly do, the fact that in the long run the only people who can settle the differential wage pattern of this country are those with the power to do so; that is, the trade unions? If he recognises that as a principle for the future, does he also recognise that this olive branch held out by the trade unions is the first time that they have taken a hand in settling at least one differential? On those grounds will the noble Lord please go back to the Prime Minister and say, "This is not only an important olive branch, but is the beginning of a pattern of behaviour on the part of the trade unions which has the greatest possible significance for the future, and to turn it down in this way is possibly to cut off a highly productive attitude which has been shown for the first time."?


My Lords, I should not for one moment seek in any way to suggest that the T.U.C. have not come a very long way. But if the noble Lord looks at what the T.U.C. have offered, I think he will agree that the result will not lead to what he suggests.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that it is difficult for us to accept the Government's view when the Government have been so often wrong? In effect, there has been no policy which has not been a complete U-turn of a previous policy, which they have asserted with the same arrogance, with the same certitude, as the noble Lord now asserts his views.


My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Lord should find it difficult to believe the Government because they have been so often wrong. I find myself in much the same position with regard to the noble Lord.

4.13 p.m.


My Lords, I think that the question of an early debate becomes very pressing indeed. It is even arguable that the House ought to order an immediate debate. I would say to the Leader of the House and his noble friends that we really must have a debate, possibly later this week. Many of us in this House feel, however important the legislation on the environment which is in front of us, that there is an air of unreality coming into our life in this country to-day. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has made a number of statements. I recognise their seriousness and the anxiety he feels but, even so, there were still errors. He said that the miners are insisting on 30 per cent., but the miners have repeated, again and again, that they are prepared to negotiate. They are not insisting. It is the Government who are insisting on a position which they have taken up. I shall really despair of the future of this country unless, even at this last moment, the Government accept the offers that are made to them. Probably we ought to talk through the usual channels, but I would say to the Government Chief Whip that we are exercising restraint in not pursuing the matter further now.


My Lords, of course I will talk both to my noble friend the Leader of the House and to the Chief Whip, and I hope that the usual channels will talk together, about the possibility of a debate. If it is the wish of noble Lords opposite and of the House as a whole, I am sure that that can be arranged.


My Lords, may I ask whether the noble Lord will then be prepared to answer not only some of the questions that have been asked, by my noble friend Lord Shinwell, and others, but also some of the questions which I specifically asked him on the last occasion and which he did not answer?


I thought I had, my Lords, and I am sorry. I certainly answered all of the questions of the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell. In fact, I answered one of them twice.


My Lords, I do not want to pursue the point beyond saying that if the noble Lord would like me to do so I will repeat the questions. But I do not intend to do so, and the Liberal Back-Benchers can relax. But I ask the noble Lord to have a look at some of the questions asked in the last debate and to answer them, so that we can really survey the prospects for this country.


My Lords, may I assure the noble Lord who is responsible for energy that he has not answered any of my questions, and indeed I never expected him to do so. The Government are in a mess, and everybody knows it; and some of us would like to take the Government out of the mess, in the interests of the country. But the Government themselves are preventing that by their severity, by their ineptitude and by the fancy idea that they have in their heads that they can have an Election and then adopt what is in the mind of the Prime Minister, though not in the mind of the Minister for Energy—a squeeze on wages. That is what they are hoping to do if they get what they call a mandate from the country. They are now entering upon the most bitter opposition from the workers of this country, the miners and others, that ever they have encountered.


My Lords, some of those comments show the danger of embarking on an immediate debate following a Statement such as we have had to-day. There has been the opportunity to question my noble friend for something approaching 40 minutes. The Government Chief Whip and I will certainly discuss through the usual channels a further debate on this extremely important matter, but I think it is now the wish of the House that we should again resolve ourselves into Committee upon the Pro tectionof the Environment Bill. My Lords, I beg to move accordingly.