HL Deb 23 May 1985 vol 464 cc403-5

11.21 a.m.

Baroness Burton of Coventry

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the decision not to proceed with the Nationalised Industries Bill will entail the abandonment of proposals put forward by the Department of Trade and Industry for reform of the consumer councils of the nationalised industries.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Lucas of Chilworth)

My Lords, the proposals for reform of the consumer councils are not being abandoned. Many of the proposals outlined in the 1982 Strategy for Reform paper have already been implemented. The Government will continue to seek a suitable opportunity to implement those outstanding proposals which require primary legislation.

Baroness Burton of Coventry

My Lords, may I express to the Minister my appreciation of the fact that he has come here today to answer the Question at some inconvenience to other arrangements, and of what he has said? Is he aware that those of us who have been working with these consumer councils have been afraid that the helpful and constructive proposals put forward by the Department of Industry might be lost in the catastrophe of the Treasury consultation proposals, which have been universally condemned? May I ask him also whether he is aware—and I think that he is, from what he said today—that all of us interested in the matter would very much welcome the opportunity to work with his department in salvaging constructive proposals put forward by it in the hope that they might come forward in the next Session?

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for her first remark. It is always a pleasure to respond to her Questions. I cannot agree with her that the Treasury proposals are catastrophic, but I can well understand that they may have received criticism. Secondly, so far as salvage is concerned only six items have been left outstanding, because, under the aegis of the National Consumer Council and in view of the progress being made with guidelines, the nationalised industry consumer councils have made great progress themselves.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, for the convenience of the House, will the noble Lord consider publishing details of those proposals that still remain outstanding, together with an indication of what action the Government propose to take upon them? In the meantime, is he aware that many of us on this side of the House welcome the sudden access of wisdom that has led to the U-turn and the decision not to proceed with the nationalised industries board, and express the hope that that will be the first of many U-turns over the next 18 months?

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, in reply to the noble Lord's first question, I do not think it would be appropriate to undertake to publish a paper. No doubt, if either he or his noble friend cares to write to me, I can give what he is asking for in a written response rather than publishing a paper. With regard to his last question, fortunately we are blessed with a lot of wisdom, which does not include making U-turns.

Lord Bruce-Gardyne

My Lords, is it true that the Nationalised Industries Bill was known in Whitehall as the Denis Rooke Bill; and is the reason for its withdrawal due to the fact that Denis Rooke is now to be released to rampage across and terrorise the private sector?

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, "No" to the first question and "No" to the second one.