House Of Commons
Thursday, 25th November, 1965
The House met at half-past Two o'clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Clyde Port Authority Order Confirmation Bill
Read the Third time and passed.
Oral Answers To Questions
Regional Planning Councils
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs what action he is taking to ensure that regional planning councils are adequately apprised of the needs of the people of their region.
Members of councils are widely representative of different types of experience within their regions. In addition, councils obtain information from the economic planning boards, and from their many contacts with local authorities, industry, trade unions, social service councils and other bodies.
While thanking my hon. Friend for his reply, may I ask whether he will not agree that the effectiveness of the operations of the planning councils and the public interest in their work would both be improved if it was possible for part of their membership, at any rate, to be directly elected?
That does not arise from the Question. The important thing is that these councils are working extremely well and are getting on with the job for which they were appointed. They will be judged by results.
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs if he will refer to the National Board for Prices and Incomes the impact of rates upon the householder.
No, Sir. We are tackling this problem in other ways.
Will the right hon. Gentleman inform the House whether he thinks that we can expect trade unions or employers to accept the implications of the incomes policy when rates alone increased last year by over 14 per cent.?
I fear that this has been a feature of life for a long time. The present Government, unlike their predecessors, have already announced that they are about to introduce a rating Bill which will help householders very much and give overdue assistance.
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs if he will refer to the National Board for Prices and Incomes the current trends in the payment of dividends, either in general terms or in specific cases.
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs whether he will refer recent dividend increases to the National Board for Prices and Incomes for their investigation.
The trend of dividend payments is one of the questions which will be studied by the N.E.D.C. in the course of their forthcoming review of the general movement of prices and money incomes of all kinds.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that that Answer does not inspire any kind of confidence? Is he further aware that this is a matter of urgency? Is it not the case that he will not get the agreement of ordinary manual workers unless and until some reference is made to the Board of dividends and profits? Will my right hon. Friend, in particular, look at the profits and dividends of the building materials industry which I think is worth close investigation?
I think I must have misheard my hon. Friend's first sentence. As to the second part of the supplementary, may I draw his attention to the figures I gave about the movement of dividends in the second quarter of this year after I had issued a warning, as compared with the first quarter. As to the third part of the supplementary, we have in mind the question of building materials as a possible subject. I am thinking here not so much of dividends as prices and costs.
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs what factors were taken into account in arriving at the estimates in Appendix A of the National Plan that 206,000 people would migrate from Scotland in the next seven years and that the population of working age would fall by 86,000 in that period.
In fact, a net migration of 178,000 people over seven years is anticipated in the Plan. The Government's policies are aimed at ensuring a steady fall in the annual loss from the peak of over 40,000 achieved in 1963–64.
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that these figures have caused great concern in Scotland where, although migration problems have existed for many years, we have never planned to create them? Are these figures in the Government's plan? If not, why are they included?
I believe that people in Scotland are glad to know that we are now moving away from the accelerating rate of migration which was characteristic of the period up to the peak of 1963–64. I am satisfied that the Government's policies will keep the reversal of this trend well maintained.
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs to what extent his plans for regional development have been affected by the selectivity of the Government's recent cuts on capital spending.
The effect of this selectivity has been to protect the less prosperous regions and will help to correct regional imbalance.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that his right hon. Friend said in debate on the National Plan that Scotland had been exempted from the Chancellor's financial restrictions? Is he further aware that only last Wednesday the Secretary of State for Scotland indicated that capital borrowing for the third quarter had been down by one-third, that house building this year had been cut by over 2,000 and that the road programme had been slashed? Is this exemption? Should not the Minister come to Scotland and see what is happening?
What is happening in Scotland is that, for the first time, Scotland is cushioned against the consequences of the need to restrict pressure elsewhere. My own experience is that the people of Scotland are very satisfied.
Will the hon. Gentleman give me an assurance that hydroelectric schemes submitted by local authorities to the Water Resources Board under the Water Resources Act will be exempted from capital restrictions where they apply to development districts?
That does not arise on this Question.
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs what increase or decrease there was in the staff of the Department under his control in the period 16th October, 1964 to 15th October, 1965; and what increase or decrease he anticipates in the period up to 15th April, 1966
Increases of 403 and about 50 respectively.
When the right hon. Gentleman considers the size of his Department and other Departments, notably the Ministry of Technology, does he consider that the country is getting all the government for which it is paying, or does he feel that people ought to be glad that this is not the case?
In the case of economic affairs, the country is being very well served.
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs whether he will refer rents to the National Board for Prices and Incomes.
Since the Minister has indicated by his replies so far this afternoon that he intends to adopt a wholly protective attitude towards the Prices and Incomes Board, does he not consider that rents form so high a proportion of the average workman's outlay that it is really anomalous that this should be excluded from the purview of our major anti-inflation mechanism?
I am sorry. The problem is that the hon. Gentleman has not really observed what is going on. We are dealing with rents in a slightly different way, but we are dealing with them and that is why we have legislation before the House.
Pay Claims (Early Warning)
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs how he intends to get early warning of pay claims in industries where there are no trades unions.
As is explained in paragraph 21 of Command Paper 2808, where there is no trade union or staff association, which is available, claims of any importance should be notified by the employer.
In that case can the right hon. Gentleman say why he does not use the employers to inform him on all occasions and why he has been so inconsistent in getting employers to do so on some occasions and trade unions on the other? Would it not be more sensible to use the employers throughout the whole operation?
We obviously considered that. It may be so to the hon. Gentleman, but I can assure him that it was not the same to the employers.
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs what action the National Board for Prices and Incomes propose to take in view of the increase in some basic foodstuffs; and if he will make a statement.
This is a matter in the first instance for the Government. The action we are taking to deal with increases in food prices is described in Command Paper 2808, laid before the House on 11th November.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that recently lower grade eggs were advertised at higher grades and, as a result, at higher prices? Can he say whether there is any temporary measure which might be adopted to stamp out that type of unjustified increase so far as prices and incomes are concerned?
We have had this particular issue in our minds and watched it carefully. We do not think that this was a case for reference to the Board.
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs if he will provide input/output tables which show the relationship between the various industries covered by the National Plan and reconcile the figures given for each industry.
Yes, Sir; a paper will shortly be published by the Department of Economic Affairs describing the techniques used in drawing up the Plan, and this will contain the input/output tables for 1970.
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs why the questionnaire which forms the foundation of the National Plan did not ask businessmen, who were providing answers on the basis of an arbitrary assumed rate of growth in the economy, whether they considered the figures they gave for their sectors were feasible.
Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that the questionnaire did not contain this question specifically? Would he further agree that the figures produced on the assumption that they were feasible have not been substantiated?
I would not have answered "It did" if the answer should have been "It did not". It did. Industries were asked, and now I quote:
That obviously refers to feasibility."To take account of all reference to difficulties likely to be encountered in reaching the estimated level of output."
Does the First Secretary realise that the questionnaire was subjected to very serious criticism by all commentators, both for what was in it and for what was left out? If, as we understand from the debate on the Plan, he is not going to have a questionnaire next year, what form of inquiry does he propose shall take its place?
It was criticised severely by commentators who had not read it, less severely by those who had, and hardly at all by industry, which was asked to fill up the questionnaire. Only yesterday I was present at one of the economic development committee meetings, attended by one of our largest industries. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that he is quite wrong. On the question of what we are going to do this year we are not, as I explained in the Plan debate, going to roll the whole exercise forward. We shall be filling in those parts which were not as full in the first year as we would have liked them to be. We shall be taking account of changes in the year, and the necessary questions for that purpose will be asked.
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs what are the other means, referred to in the National Plan, which the Government may use to make sure that total national profits do not get out of step with wages and salaries, taking one year with another.
Any means which may be desirable and effective for the purpose.
Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that he is more likely to gain general acceptance of the National Plan is he stresses its positive aspect, which is to increase productivity, and that productivity will not increase unless it is profitable to increase it? Rather than seeming to decry profits, would it not be wiser to concentrate upon the uses to which they are put? Does he not agree that one of the most useful purposes is that of reducing prices?
I welcome the conversion of the hon. Gentleman, and I commend what he has said to the attention of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell).
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs whether he will now make a statement on the South-East Study.
I would refer the hon. Member to my answer to the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) on 26th October.
Will the Joint Under-Secretary not recognise that his party's pledge to scrap the South-East Plan was a piece of empty and foolish rhetoric? Will he not now get on with it and recognise that many of the assumptions in the South-East Study made by the last Administration may form the basis for a development plan of this region?
It is not quite clear what the hon. Member means when he says "get on with it." Does he mean we ought to scrap the plan because he takes the view, as we do, that in a number of cases the assumptions made in it were wrong? We are reviewing the previous Government's study and we have announced some conclusions. We will announce the others when we are ready.
Do the Government expect to have a Plan for the South-East before they go out of office?
We are developing plans for all parts of the country, and we have a long time ahead of us in which to do so. This will not be used as an excuse for delay.
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs to what extent his current regional planning takes account of the proposed creation of a Greater Teesside authority.
We are aware of the importance of the proposal for a Greater Teesside and will take full account of its consequences for economic development in formulating our plans for the Northern Region.
Will my hon. Friend do all that he can to co-ordinate the work of different Departments to ensure that the full development possibilities of Teesside are realised and to minimise transitional difficulties in, for instance, the field of education?
Yes, Sir. Our Economic Planning Council and Planning Board are looking at the future of Teesside as part of their review of the problem of the Northern Region as a whole.
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Ecnomic Affairs if he will make a statement on the document, The Problems of Merseyside.
The report on tie Problems of Merseyside is being studied by the North-West Economic Planning Council in preparing their proposals for the Region as a whole. I shall be visiting Merseyside myself next month to look at the problems on the spot.
While appreciating the reply of my hon. Friend, I wonder if he would agree, having regard to the fact that the National Plan envisages very rapid economic growth on Teesside, and having regard to the report of the North-West Study, that this matter might well be debated in this Chamber?
This is not a matter for me. All I would say is that we are certainly fully aware of the need to make full use of under-utilised resources of manpower, such as there are on Merseyside, in order to achieve the objectives of the Plan.
Yorkshire And Humberside Region (Study)
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs what are the reasons for the delay in publication of the study of the Yorkshire and Humberside region.
The Yorkshire and Humberside Economic Planning Council started virtually from scratch in April and the assembly and analysis of the information takes time.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the interval for preparation of this study is longer than that of the studies of the North-West, East Midland and West Midland regions? Is he further aware that the absence of the information contained in such a study is inhibiting the advisory council in its work? Would he ensure that when the study is made, it spells out clearly the economic consequences of the establishment of a new city centre for the Humberside?
On the final point, we are certainly very fully aware of the potentialities of Humberside for growth. On the earlier point, we wish we could have been farther advanced, but we had to start with the material which we found when we came into office, and this was very little indeed.
I should like to ask my hon. Friend if he can give any indication to the House when this report will be published?
We are going ahead as fast as we can, but it would be premature to announce a date now.
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs how the estimate, given on page 75 of the National Plan, for Government expenditure abroad for 1970 of £510 million at 1964 prices is composed as between military, aid, and other expenditure abroad.
I regret that it is not possible to give more than a broad indication about the level of Government expenditure overseas in 1970 since the Defence Review is not yet completed; moreover, as we said in the National Plan, the level of overseas aid will be reviewed periodically in the light of the progress we make in overcoming our economic problems.
If the right hon. Gentleman wants the Plan to be accepted as a national and not a party document, will he publish those estimates, even those which conflict most startlingly with pre-election promises, and will he confirm that on whatever reading of those paragraphs of the National Plan, despite the fact that many forms of aid involve no balance of payments costs, it is none the less the intention to reduce the proportion of our national income which is given in aid overseas?
The answer to the second part of the question is "No, Sir." The answer to the first part is that the Plan is accepted everywhere except on the benches opposite as a national plan.
Did the right hon. Gentleman take into account the purchase of some islands in the Indian Ocean and the consequent expenditure on them over the next few years, and will he say what other possible purchases by Her Majesty's Government in Colonial Territories are envisaged in the next few years?
There are obviously figures that one works out for the purpose of doing the job, but does not necessarily publish in that kind of detail. I repeat that the Defence Review is now proceeding, and I would invite the hon. Gentleman to await its outcome.
Would the right hon. Gentleman help the House? We have this overall figure, but it is evidently impossible to break it down because we have not got the estimates from the Defence Review. How was the overall figure obtained, and, as the aid is not variable, why can he not give the House the figure for the aid?
If the hon. Gentleman thinks about it, he will realise that there are many reasons why I should not give the figures in that detail to the House and, therefore, the world outside. He may take it that in coming to our decisions we had the figures before us. I do not propose to go any further in public. But on the general question of defence expenditure, I repeat that we must await the outcome of the Defence Review.
New Industry, West Durham
23 and 24.
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs (1) what steps he is taking to ensure that the Economic Planning Council for the Northern Region is giving priority to the need for new industry in the part of Durham which is west of the Great North Road;
(2) what plans he has for the establishment of new public enterprises in those parts of West Durham affected by pit closures.
26 and 28.
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs (1) what estimate he has made of the extent to which the economic recovery of the Northern Region will be retarded when the recently announced programme of pit closures is completed;
(2) if, in view of the uncertainty in the coal mining industry following the announcements of further pit closures, he will now increase capital investments in the Northern Region in order to establish alternative publicly-owned industries.
The Northern Economic Planning Council is urgently considering the implications of the pit closure programme in the light of the remedial measures the Government have already put in train and in order to ensure that the present prosperity of the region is maintained.
Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that the policy initiated by the previous Administration on the North-East, which classified West Durham as a "travel to work area", not only caused bitter resentment throughout the whole of West Durham but has had disastrous consequences so far as attracting industry is concerned, and that we now believe that positive measures by the Government for public enterprise are essential to that part of the country?
Yes, we are very fully aware of what are the special problems of the west part of the County of Durham, and we are taking full account of them in preparing our plans for the region.
Does my hon. Friend appreciate the shattering impact that the recent news of pit closures has had throughout the coal industry? Secondly, will he also recall that the Plan itself, so far as closures are concerned, means a [most a compulsory mass migration from the Northern Region into other coalfields in different parts of the country, thereby increasing the difficulties with regard to new jobs and capital investment which is needed to a far greater extent, despite the efforts of my hon. and right hon. Friends in the Board of Trade to provide jobs in these last few months?
We are fully aware of the acute social problems that the necessary decisions about pit closures have produced, but I am sure that we can deal with them both in personal and welfare terms and also make sure that the Northern Region contributes increasingly to national prosperity by making full use of the manpower in it at the present time.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the National Plan adopts the conception set out in the Hailsham Plan growth areas, and, in consequence, will he realise that the National Plan in this respect is sensible, as it is only to growth areas that industrialists will go?
We recognise that some places have a greater potential for growth than others, but this is no reason why we should neglect the real human problems in areas like the west part of the County of Durham.
Will the Minister give the House a categorical assurance that it is not the intention of the Government to establish entirely new nationalised industries as envisaged in these two Questions?
I certainly will give no such categorical assurance.
Jam (Containers And Price)
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs if he will refer to the National Board for Prices and Incomes the increase in jam prices which has followed from a decrease in the size of jam jars.
According to my information, no such increase has in fact occurred.
In view of the fact that jam in 12 oz. jars is sold at the same price as jam in 1 1b. jars, which means an increase of a third in the price per 1b., and that there is no indication on the label of better quality, as the manufacturers claim, is it not clear that the public needs protection against such an increase in price without clear labelling? If my right hon. Friend has no information on this, will he institute a full inquiry, because I can assure him that it has happened and I think there is a danger that other manufacturers will follow suit?
I think not. The hon. Lady is clearly referring to the report of the Chief Inspector of Weights and Measures into which we looked very closely. I am told that only a few manufacturers are selling jams in 12 oz. jars. These are special kinds which are more expensive to produce, and all have been selling in the same way for more than a year. We have no evidence at all that ordinary jam is being sold in the smaller jars, except in one case into which we inquired, where it is also being sold at a lower price.
Retail Price Index
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs what change has occurred in the Retail Price Index since the setting up of the National Board for Prices and Incomes.
There has been a rise of a fraction over 1 point.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that this represents a distinct improvement on the previous six months, when there was a rise of just over 3 points? It also represents a distinct improvement on the corresponding period in 1964 when one allows for the change in the business cycle, and this presumably points to the growing effectiveness of the Board for Prices and Incomes.
Yes, I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. Since the policy has been working, since the Board has been in operation, prices have stopped rising as they did under right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. I do not know whether that is why hon. Members opposite laugh.
Can the right hon. Gentleman assure us that steps are being taken for this happy position to continue? After all, as he well knows, the first statement was on bread, and we are now faced with the position that there may well not be bread to go with the hon. Lady's jam. Is he satisfied that steps are being taken?
The difficulty of answering questions from hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite is that one is never quite clear whether they believe it is a good thing that this should happen, a sad thing when it happens or a wrong thing. If the hon. Gentleman puts down his Question in the terms that he means, I will do my best to answer it.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a comparison of the last six months with the previous six months is a ludicrous one, because in the previous six months there came the Budget in which prices were increased overwhelmingly and all the costs that we still have to bear were increased by the right hon. Gentleman's colleagues in the Government?
Where we increased prices because we introduced taxation increases, it was for reasons of deliberate policy which we explained to the House, which we explained to the country and had the courage to defend. If the right hon. Gentleman does not want a comparison with the previous six months, perhaps he will look at some of the years when he was a distinguished Member on the Government Front Bench. In particular, will he look at 1957, 1961 and 1964 and see whether he wants to come up again for air.
Board Of Trade
Export Rebate Scheme (Efta Countries)
asked the President of the Board of Trade what representations he has received from non-European Free Trade Association governments regarding Her Majesty's Gov- ernment's undertaking to abolish their export rebate scheme on exports to European Free Trade Association countries; and what action he will take.
Is the hon. Gentleman satisfied that the elimination of the export rebate only on exports to E.F.T.A. would be in conformity with the terms of the G.A.T.T., and, even if it would be, would not he agree that such elimination would depreciate the value of the E.F.T.A. preference to British exporters' preference?
The hon. Gentleman seems to be misinformed. As he recognises in his Question, we have not given an undertaking to abolish the export rebate on exports to the E.F.T.A. countries.
Development Districts, Scotland (Employment)
asked the President of the Board of Trade, what was the total number of additional jobs in development districts in Scotland created by the opening of new factories or substantial additions to existing factories during the first six months of 1965.
Some 4,450 jobs are expected to arise from projects known to have been completed in the first six months of this year for which industrial development certificates have been issued.
Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that this is a remarkable tribute to the efforts of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) under the previous Administration?
That may be true, but I can tell the hon. Gentleman that the I.D.C.s which have been approved during the first six months of this year will, we hope and fully expect, provide more than twice this number of jobs.
Cotton Textiles (Hong Kong)
asked the President of the Board of Trade what estimate he has made of the effect on Hong Kong of his future arrangements for textile imports into Great Britain; and if he will make a statement.
The opportunities for Hong Kong's exports of cotton textiles to this market should be slightly improved by my proposals, which provide for a modest element of growth year by year.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in Hong Kong the Board of Trade's recent decision was regarded frankly as in breach of Clause 9 of the 1962 Agreement, and that it therefore created a very bady psychological effect there? Why could not the Minister have given more warning of his intentions? Can he give an assurance now that there will be no further erosion of the Hong Kong position in the future arrangements now to be negotiated?
The hon. Gentleman seems to be misinformed. Under the proposals Hong Kong received a "country quota" identical to that which she has had since 1962, plus a 1 per cent. growth a year. This growth figure will apply to imports generally and is designed to maintain for imports and for domestic producers their present share of the British market. In fact, there is an increase.
Is my hon. Friend aware that during the last five years imports from Hong Kong have risen by 62 per cent. in respect of clothing, and by 27 per cent. in respect of textiles? Is my hon. Friend aware that our whole industry is expecting him to go right ahead with Labour's policy on textiles?
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the main problem facing Hong Kong at the moment is the question of carry-over from one year to the other? They were given only very short notice that the carry-over would not be permissible in this final year of the agreement. When will the new agreement be announced?
The hon. Gentleman is no doubt aware that the question of the carry-over was discussed in this House by Questions to, and Answers by, my right hon. Friend on 18th November.
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will call for an interim report from the Geddes Committee, in view of the serious position in the shipbuilding industry, following the closure of Fairfields and losses sustained by other large firms, despite full order books.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that a loan at 6 per cent., too late, to Fairfields is not a policy for shipbuilding? Is there to be no policy for shipbuilding until the Geddes Report has been received, considered and legislated upon?
I do not see any reason why there should be an interim report from the Geddes Committee. This would obviously delay publication of the final Report.
On a point of Order. Mr. Speaker, is it in order to make a false statement in a Question? Question No. 34 refers to "the closure of Fair-fields". That statement is untrue.
The hon. Member who tables the Question is responsible for any statement in it. I am not prepared to rule on the truth or falsity of it.
Exports (Exhibition Ships)
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will seek power to purchase the "Mauretania" or some similar vessel for conversion into a floating exhibition for British exports.
No, Sir. Having regard to the heavy cost and other disadvantages of exhibition ships, I see no reason to question the preference which British industry has shown for conventional trade fairs.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this Question was prompted by the great success of the London Fashion House show on the "Queen Elizabeth" in New York recently? If the cost of this sort of suggested exhibition is prohibitive, will the hon. Gentleman consider, as a compromise, whether similar shows by the London Fashion House can be arranged on ships visiting important ports throughout the world, and whether they could also be used for more serious exhibitions?
That is an entirely different question from the Question on the Order Paper. These exhibitions are different from a full-scale trade exhibition. There may be something in what the hon. Gentleman is suggesting, and we will consider it.
Life Jackets And Buoyancy Aids (Committee)
asked the President of the Board of Trade on what date the working group set up by the Board of Trade to consider safety appliances for craft under 45 feet in length will be calling its first meeting, in view of the need for regulations concerning standards of performance of lifejackets and buoyancy aids which may be sold to the public.
The first meeting will be held on Wednesday, 1st December, 1965.
While thanking my hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask him to see to it that immediate steps are taken, particularly in respect of the callous and irresponsible descriptions that are given for so-called lifejackets, because of the danger that is being caused by their use?
One of the main matters to be discussed by the committee will be the type and specification of the lifejacket to be recommended for use on board these small craft.
Advertising (Misleading Claims)
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether the proposed legislation to protect the consumer against misleading advertising claims will cover the types of cases relating to certain sale rooms, details of which have been submitted to him by the hon. Member for Cleveland.
This is a matter which my right hon. Friend has well in mind, but I would ask my hon. Friend to await the Bill.
Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that I am still receiving correspondence concerning cases of double pricing, and that I am looking forward to him taking action in this matter.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving me evidence of cases that have come to his notice. These have been taken into consideration.
Can the right hon. Gentleman give us some idea of when we are likely to see the Bill?
The right hon. Gentleman has not got long to wait.
Southern Rhodesia (Ottawa Agreement)
asked the President of the Board of Trade what is the expected loss of exports as a result of the termination of the United Kingdom-Southern Rhodesia preferential agreement of 1932, and of the emergency restrictions generally; and what steps are being taken to find other export markets.
It is not possible to foresee at this stage how British exports will be affected. The Government will continue to give all possible encouragement to the expansion of exports generally.
Will the Government please keep us informed as they acquire more knowledge, and will they please place in the Library any guidance which they give to exporters about how they should try to replace any markets which they may lose?
Yes, Sir. I shall give consideration to that suggestion.
asked the President of the Board of Trade what procedure was used in the termination of the United Kingdom-Southern Rhodesia preferential agreement of 1932.
Britain's trade relations with Southern Rhodesia are governed by the Ottawa Agreement, 1932. This agreement has not been terminated, but it has been suspended by Her Majesty's Government.
Shipping Lines, Belgium And United Kingdom (Reciprocity)
asked the President of the Board of Trade why British shipping lines do not enjoy reciprocal rights in respect of the carriage of passengers between Belgium and the United Kingdom; and what steps he is taking to establish reciprocity.
The Convention and Statute on the International Regime of Maritime Ports of 1923, of which both Belgium and the United Kingdom are signatories, guarantees equality of treatment between ships of all contracting states for purposes of international trade. The second part of the Question does not, therefore, arise.
Will the hon. Gentleman, therefore, tell the House why it is that no British ships sail between Ostend and British ports carrying pasengers?
The fact that the Belgians rave a monopoly of the passenger service is a matter of history, and not of legal right. We have a similar monopoly of the rail-ferry service.
Fiesta Tours Ltd And Holiday Clubs Ltd
asked the President of the Board of Trade if he has received the report from the inspector inquiring into the affairs of Fiesta Tours Ltd. and Travel and Holiday Clubs Ltd.
No, Sir. The inspectors have made good progress with their inquiry, but are unable to make their report owing to pending litigation.
Does my hon. Friend realise that there has been an inordinate delay in the publication of this Report, for over a year or so? A constituent of mine paid £50 for a trip to Yugoslavia, and he is still waiting to hear the outcome of the payment. Are the Government considering legislation to deal with this situation?
I can understand my hon. Friend's feelings of dissatisfaction, but, ES the purpose of the litigation is to prevent the inspectors from completing their inquiries and to prevent them from including certain evidence in their report, they cannot go any further until the litigation proceedings are concluded. I should like notice on the question of legislation.
Exports (Efta Countries)
asked the President of the Board of Trade what percent- age increase took place in Great Britain's exports to European Free Trade Association countries in the first, second and third quarters of 1965 compared with the comparable periods in 1964.
Increases of 6·6, 6·1 and 10·6 per cent. respectively.
Is the hon. Gentleman satisfied with this rate of progress in an area in which we have such overwhelming advantages? Has he any plans to deal with the matter?
I think that the hon. and gallant Gentleman has a Question on the Order Paper regarding plans. There has been an increase in exports to E.F.T.A. countries this year of a wide range of goods including metals, chemicals, textiles, non-electrical machinery and motor vehicles. I think that this is a success story which ought to be applauded.
asked the President of the Board of Trade what further action he is taking to increase British trade with the European Free Trade Association countries following his discussions at Copenhagen with representatives of member states.
The complete removal of industrial tariffs in E.F.T.A. by the end of next year provides great opportunities for British exporters. I have taken special steps to bring these opportunities to their notice, and to remind them of the services my Department can offer to assist their efforts.
Can the hon. Gentleman say whether the Government have any intention of postponing the removal of the tariffs for this area?
I understand the hon. and gallant Member to be referring to the import surcharge. We have a binding commitment on this and, as the House already knows, as our balance of payments difficulties are eased the import surcharge will be gradually lowered.
Is the hon. Member aware that during the visit of a Parliamentary delegation to Sweden during the summer it was reported to some hon. Members that the extentive advertising campaigns in Sweden by the British car industry have had to be cancelled because of the non-availability of car deliveries to that important market?
Our exports to Sweden are a striking example of the opportunities that E.F.T.A. provides. They are now about £200 million a year. This country of about 8 million people has become our largest export market in Europe after West Germany, and our fifth largest in the world.
Has the hon. Member's Department had any reports of the adverse effects of the import charge on exports to the E.F.T.A. countries?
Consumer Protection (Legislation)
asked the President of the Board of Trade how many interested bodies will be consulted by his Department before the Bill on consumer protection is presented to Parliament.
The Board of Trade have already sought the views of all bodies known to be interested on proposals for this new legislation. My right hon. Friend is taking their views into account in preparing the legislation.
I know that the Board of Trade has made inquiries of about 100 bodies, but I have been told that certain other bodies do not realise that information can still be given to the Board of Trade. Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that if anybody concerned in consumer protection wishes to lay information to the Board of Trade he can still do so?
The hon. Member will agree that we do not want to delay the final stages of the preparation of the Bill, but if any organisation has views which, even at this late stage, it thinks that we should take into consideration, we shall do so. As I have said, we do not want to delay the final preparation of the Bill.
Education And Science
asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what action he is taking to encourage the development of leisure centres for young people.
My right hon. Friend will be prepared to consider leisure centres as projects for future youth service building programmes if they are submitted to him by local education authorities.
School Building And Teachers' Salaries, West Suffolk
asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will increase the funds available for school building and teachers' salaries in West Suffolk in order to meet the needs of the county's overspill programme.
My right hon. Friend has recently approved for the 1967–68 major building programme three school building projects for West Suffolk designed to meet the needs of the overspill programme, and he is considering another. When the major building programmes are drawn up for the remainder of 1967–68 and subsequent years, any further projects to meet these needs will be carefully considered.The annual quota of full-time qualified teachers allocated to West Suffolk is based on estimates of school population agreed between my Department and the authority. These estimates will reflect increases in the county's school population resulting from the development of the overspill programme.
I am most grateful for that helpful reply. Will the Minister bear in mind that the widely scattered villages of West Suffolk also need more money for teachers and schools? Will he also bear in mind that as the population grows we hope that he will be able to increase the funds available and not cut them as he did in the case of the mini-minor works programme?
I do not accept for a moment that we cut back the mini-minor works programme. I assure the hon. Member that this claim on our priorities is increasing with the expanding school population.
Girls (Science, Engineering And Technology)
asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what measures he is taking to encourage girls to take up careers in science, engineering and technology.
The measures my right hon. Friend described in his Answer on 11th March to the hon. Members for Wolverhampton North-East (Mrs. Renée Short) and Norfolk, Central (Mr. Ian Gilmour)—provision for science teaching in building programmes, steps to improve the supply of teachers, and the work of the interdepartmental working party—apply to both boys and girls.
Does not my hon. Friend agree that women are Britain's greatest source of untapped manpower, and will he give them some encouragement? They would willingly take up careers in medicine, science and technology, where they are so badly needed?
I think that the appropriate answer is, "Yes, Sir."
Without wishing to compete with the hon. Lady for the saying of the week, may I ask whether the hon. Member agrees that a good start would be to restore the cuts in the technical college programme as soon as possible?
We have every intention of doing that.
Nuclear Weapons (Dissemination)
asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement about the steps being taken by Her Majesty's Government to prevent the further dissemination of nuclear weapons.
First, by the earliest possible reconvening of the Geneva conference, second, through discussions with the President of the United States, third through discussions with the Soviet Union on my right hon. Friend's visit next week, and fourth, through discussions within the alliance on the non-dissemination guarantees proposed in our proposal for an Atlantic Nuclear Force.
The Prime Minister will no doubt agree that one of the problems is the question whether India would now be prepared to sign a non-dissemination agreement without further guarantees of her security. Will he ask his right hon. Friend when he is in Moscow to explore with the Soviet leaders the question whether they would be prepared to join in giving such guarantees to India, through the Security Council of the United Nations?
The hon. Member has put a finger on what we would all agree to be one of the fundamental problems concerning non-dissemination at present. In discussions of this matter in international circles this question has been raised. I shall certainly discuss it with my right hon. Friend before he goes.
In regard to the problem of nuclear sharing in Europe, does not he think that a solution along the lines proposed by Mr. McNamara—of a special committee—would be more conducive and more likely to produce an eventual non-dissemination treaty than would the pursuit of the alternative solution of either an A.N.F. or M.L.F.?
We would all feel that there is great merit in the proposal of Mr. McNamara. One of the big problems here is the competing European propositions for a separate European deterrent, which the right hon. Gentleman has sometimes supported. This would be the end of any hope of non-dissemination.
British Broadcasting Corporation (Ministerial Representations)
asked the Prime Minister how many representations by Ministers in their Ministerial capacity were made to the British Broadcasting Corporation during the Summer Recess about the content of current affairs programmes.
I would refer the hon. Member to the Answer I gave on the 2nd November to an identical Question by the hon. Member for Howden (Mr. Bryan).
Does the Prime Minister realise that his Answer on that occasion was not accepted either inside or outside the House? Can he now tell the House why he misused his position during the Labour Party conference at Blackpool to bully an employee of the B.B.C.?
Whether my Answer is accepted or not is a matter for the hon. Member. There was no bullying of an employee of the B.B.C. on that occasion. There was one discussion—not in an official capacity—which I have reported to the House before, about the fact that the B.B.C. had changed the rules concerning Ministerial broadcasts over the last 12 months.
Does not the Prime Minister agree that the facts of this incident are in issue? His account of the Blackpool incident and other accounts are at complete variance. As the freedom and independence of the B.B.C. are at stake, would it not be wise to set up an impartial and independent inquiry?
The difference is that I was there and the hon. Member was not. He is relying on a slanted account which appeared in the Daily Mail two mornings later. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I was there, and I read the account. As for pressure on the B.B.C. it is a well-known fact that over the years party pressures—I am not talking about Ministerial pressures—have been in the ratio of about five to one in favour of the Conservative Party as compared with the Labour Party.
Is the Prime Minister denying that he had any discussions with any employees of the B.B.C., not about Ministerial broadcasts but about the programmes actually put on during the Blackpool conference? Is he also suggesting that the report of these discussions in The Times was slanted?
I do not recall what The Times said, unless the right hon. Gentleman is referring—[Interruption.] there was no statement in The Times at the time—to the statement made in The Times the following week. If that is the one he has in mind, I have seen it. I have already given the House an account on what the conversation was. I say further that stories that there was any objection to a particular individual delegate to the conference being put on the B.B.C. are quite false. There was no objection at all to Mr. Clive Jenkins or anyone else broadcasting.
Owing to the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.
Building Control (Departmental Co-Ordination)
asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the representations made to Her Majesty's Government by official representatives of the building industry on the danger to the housing target, and the large number of Departments affected by these representations, he will take steps to ensure coordination of the departments responsible for the building programme.
Satisfactory arrangements already exist and no further steps are called for.
Would not the Prime Minister agree that there is a conflict between responsibility and authority among these Ministers? Would he not also agree that he has appointed a Minister of Land without planning powers and that the Minister of Housing and Local Government has planning powers, but that appeals over land are delayed? He undertook to give a reply within a month, but has taken seven months. Does he not agree that the fact that he has removed the Minister of Public Building and Works from his Cabinet shows a lack of confidence in the building industry?
No, Sir. My right hon. Friend was never in the Cabinet. Ministers of Works were in and out under the Conservatives, and that did not always relate to the importance of the building industry. I particularly remember the Chief Whip who was sacked to make room for the Leader of the Opposition who was put in for a short time. On the more important parts of the hon. Gentleman's question, the Minister of Land and Natural Resources does not deal with individual planning problems in local authority areas. That should be the responsibility of the Minister of Housing, and it is. On the whole subject of consultation on housing matters, my right hon. Friend is in close touch with the building organisations, as the hon. Member for Folkestone (Mr. Costain) knows. He will see the results of this in the Housing White Paper published yesterday.
Commonwealth Governments (Peers)
asked the Prime Minister whether he will introduce legislation to remove the privileges of peerage, including the right to sit in the upper House, from any peer who acts as a Member of a Commonwealth Government not recognised by Her Majesty.
I do not think this would be appropriate, at any rate at this stage.
Does not my right hon. Friend agree that it is intolerable that a rebel against the Crown could take his seat in the House of Lords next week? Can my right hon. Friend say whether a sentence of impeachment by the Lords sitting as a court of justice could deal with the problem or whether a Bill of Attainder would deal with it? In any case, does he recognise that I am all in favour of reducing the House of Lords by any means at my disposal?
I note my hon. Friend's suggestions, but one should not use a steam hammer to crack a nut—not this particular nut, anyway. If the noble Lord—or Duke, I think he is, though he does not call himself one in Rhodesia—were to seek to take his seat in another place, I have no doubt that the Members of another place would know what to do with him. Those of us who have had the chance of observing this member of the illegal Rhodesian régime at close quarters will not treat him with such seriousness as my hon. Friend does.
Government Departments (Staff Review)
asked the Prime Minister what instructions he has given to the members of his administration to reduce the size of the Departments under their control.
My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has asked Departments to review their staffs in order to achieve the maximum economy.
Is the Prime Minister aware that it will be widely hoped that this will lead to reductions? Does he not accept that the larger the Civil Service becomes, the more inefficient it is likely to be and the lower the calibre of its staff? Would he not agree that, with the present rate of growth of the Civil Service, any alleged economies which result from winding up the Territorial Army will be more than swallowed up in three years by the growth of a monstrous regiment of civil servants?
The hon. Member could cast his net a little more widely for some of the unproductive forms of employment in other parts of our national life, but since he is concerned particularly—[HON. MEMBERS: "What parts?") There is a considerable number of organisations which spend their time dealing with unproductive expenditure on certain aspects of public relations—
They are included within the figures of the Civil Service which I am about to give. They are as follows: 1st October, 1964–654,900; 1st July, 1965, the latest date for which there are figures—654,900.
asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on his recent consultations with President Johnson about the conditions for ending the war in Vietnam.
asked the Prime Minister if he is aware that President Johnson's offer of discussions to end the war in Vietnam was not unconditional; and, in pursuance of Her Majesty's Government's policy of seeking a solution of the Vietnam problem, if he will make representations to the United States Government that they should remove their condition excluding recognition of the National Liberation Front.
asked the Prime Minister if, in view of the fact, recently published, that several offers of peace talks have been made to the United States Government by the North Vietnamese Government, he will, as co-Chairman, now ask the Soviet Government, jointly with Her Majesty's Government, to seek to arrange such negotiations between all the Governments and parties concerned.
asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of his declared 100 per cent, support for United States policy in Vietnam on the basis that the United States of America was prepared for negotiations while North Vietnam was not, and of the recent disclosures that the United States of America rejected proposals for negotiations made on behalf of North Vietnam, he will now inform President Johnson that Her Majesty's Government is no longer prepared to offer unqualified support, in particular to a further escalation of United States air attacks on North Vietnam.
asked the Prime Minister if, in view of the disclosure that the North Vietnam Government made peace overtures which were rejected by the United States Government, he will now, in pursuance of Her Majesty's Government's initiative towards peace in Vietnam, seek to renew consultations with the interested parties.
During the tragically long conflict in Vietnam, there have been many changes of attitude by all the parties involved, and these will no doubt be of great interest to future historians. But the immediate issue confronting the British Government is not what other Governments did or said in the past. We are concerned with the attitudes of the various parties in 1965, and these have not significantly varied over the past year. The United States still want unconditional discussions and North Vietnam is still demanding terms that amount to unconditional surrender. In our desire to promote negotiations, we shall continue to probe for any change in attitudes which can bring the parties to the conference table.
Does not my right hon. Friend think that it is very urgent to have fresh consultations with the United States President about the conditions for ending the war, particularly in view of the extension of the methods of indis- criminate terror in the conduct of that war, as described in the report of the Washington Correspondent of The Times this morning? Would my right hon. Friend undertake to read that report and to make a statement to the House upon it? Would he not also agree that it is a matter of major importance for this country to consider whether the terms offered by President Johnson a few months ago remain the same today?
I have said many times that, as long as this war continues, there will be a tremendous degree of terror, death and homelessness as a result. It could be ended only by getting all the parties concerned to the conference table. I shall, of course, be discussing the Vietnam situation with President Johnson next month, but this will not of itself end this problem until we get a positive answer from the authorities in Hanoi that they are willing to come to the conference table.
As this war is developing into one of the bloodiest in history, would my right hon. Friend not agree that urgent action is needed now? Would he consider seeing President Johnson not next month but next week and putting to him the views of the British people on this matter?
President Johnson is well aware of the views of the British people, as I have put them to him on various occasions. Even if I were to see him this afternoon it would still not get Hanoi to the conference table. We have had many discussions with President Johnson and have found it very difficult to get a line into Hanoi and to get an answer out suggesting any willingness to negotiate. But I still remain hopeful. We are not giving up. We shall continue to try to get them to the conference table.
Is the Prime Minister aware that, although we should all like to see the parties brought to the conference table, meanwhile the Americans, with significant Australian help, are fighting a decisive battle in Vietnam on behalf of the free world? Is he aware that it does not help that battle for freedom if people in the free world tug at the coat-tails of the Americans and Australians?
There are many lessons to be learned about people who tug at coat-tails in the free world. When the right hon. and learned Member calls this war "decisive", in one sense, knowing what he has in mind, I agree with him, but in another sense we have all said many times—both sides of the House have Lgreed—that this problem will not be solved by military means alone. It must require a political solution, which must require a willingness by both sides or, one might say, by the three sides, to come to the conference table. So far there is a block on that and I think that we all know where it is coming from.
Would my right hon. Friend say whether—whenever an offer of negotiation was made and wherever or by whomsoever it was produced—he is still of the opinion that whoever is against negotiation is against peace? Would he not agree that an escalation of the war as described in this morning's newspapers would be a crime against humanity?
I have always said that, as long as the war lasts, the danger of escalation either way was very grave indeed, with all that that might mean for a major land war in Asia or worse. I said in the debate on this matter that, certainly, the enemies of negotiation are the enemies of peace. That is the situation at present and will be so until we get some real proof—I hope that we shall have it soon—that there is a genuine willingness for negotiation.
Would not the Prime Minister agree that the willingness of the Communists to enter into realistic negotiations as opposed to propaganda statements is in almost direct proportion to the success of the American Army? Would he not agree that the many American soldiers who are dying in Vietnam are dying on behalf of a cause to which this country subscribes as well as their own?
There are very many who took the view that as the military situation became more balanced and as the monsoon came to an end, this might lead to a greater willingness on the part of Hanoi to negotiate. So far we have seen no evidence of this. I hope that we shall see evidence of it. If we do, there seems to be nothing at all—certainly nothing from the American side as far as I am aware—which would prevent full-scale negotiations. But we want, as the hon. Member does, real negotiations and not propaganda statements.
Following these revelations, what does the Prime Minister intend to do to help to stop this carnage, since both the Vietnamese and Russian representatives have stated that if the Geneva terms are accepted they are prepared forthwith to attend a reconvened conference? Will he now press Washington to drop its objections to this Geneva agreement?
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will, of course, be discussing this in Moscow next week. We have been seeking all along to get the Geneva Conference reactivated, and it has been made quite clear by the American Government that they are prepared to have discussions on the basis of the 1954 Geneva settlement. This is what all of us want to see. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] This is what all of us want to see, but the conditions stated up to now publicly and privately by the Hanoi authorities require the fulfilment of other conditions. They have never said that they are prepared to negotiate unconditionally. On top of that we have twice had statements from my noble Friend, Lord Brockway, that they were prepared to negotiate unconditionally, and then these have been publicly denied afterwards. I hope that the private statements are all right.
Order. There we must leave the Prime Minister's Questions today. Sir Keith Joseph, a Private Notice Question to the Minister of Labour.
Bakery Industry (Dispute)
(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Labour whether he will make a statement on the dispute in the bakery industry which is threatening bread supplies over a wide area.
It has been decided to refer the claim by the Bakers Union to the National Board for Prices and Incomes. I am seeing the president and general secretary of the union later today.
What effect does the right hon. Gentleman expect from any recommendations of the Prices and Incomes Board? Will he be telling the unions when he sees them this afternoon that the Government expect the strike to be called off now that the dispute has been referred to the Board?
I have forestalled the right hon. Gentleman by 24 hours. I told them last night that the Government expected the strike to be called off, and I shall repeat it to them tonight. May I take this opportunity of saying that this is a completely unnecessary strike and that they now have the opportunity of having the merits of their case discussed fully before the Prices and Incomes Board—and there they ought to take it. I am not here disputing the merits or demerits of the case. They ought to take the case to the Board and let it be heard. I have promised them that it will be dealt with as a matter of great urgency.
The right hon. Gentleman says that it will be treated as a matter of great urgency. When does he expect the Board to give its views?
I think that we should expect that some time before the end of the year.
In the course of the present dispute there has been an assurance by the bakers that hospitals will not be deprived of their supplies. Is my right hon. Friend aware that a hospital in my constituency is in the situation that for tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday they will receive only 50 per cent. of their supplies? Is is doing anything to help in this situation?
I shall be bringing all these facts, which are being collated in respect of hospitals and canteens and the rest of it, to the notice of the trade union leaders this afternoon. I repeat: it is their duty to call off the strike.
Are not these strikes openly organised like a military action against housewives, a gross misuse of collective action?
I would not care to reply to that question. Whatever be the mistakes of the present time, let us at least concede that the Bakers' Union have had nearly half a century of peace.
Will my right hon. Friend remember, when an issue such as this arises, that there are two sides involved and that it would be helpful if matters of duty and responsibility were not laid always on one side? Secondly, in view of the difficulties would he not agree that the end of the year is not early enough to give as a date to men who have already been driven to strike?
Of course there are two sides to any dispute. Why I said, and I repeat, that the Bakers' Union ought to consider it a matter of duty to call off the strike is that their case may now be heard properly and reflected upon. While we are prepared to open the doors for that to be done they should agree to hold their hand for a short time and save all the unnecessary hardship which occurs. They can do nothing but gain in the long run. This is what I am trying to say.
Is the Minister aware that there are important principles involved in the action which has been taken? Is it not an industrial dispute which is continuing today and has not the Minister of Labour a statutory responsibility to deal with it? Is it correct that only an hour was spent last night in trying to deal with this problem in the usual way? Has he not now passed his statutory responsibilities over to the First Secretary and then to the Board for Prices and Incomes? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] These are very important principles. By referring to the Prices and Incomes Board what, in fact, is an industrial dispute, is he not responsible for a compulsory reference to arbitration, which was always so strongly challenged by himself and his hon. Friends?
The right hon. Gentleman has not got it right. I have not passed any statutory autho