National Economic Development Council
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs what changes he proposes in the composition and functions of the National Economic Development Council; and to what extent it is the Government's policy that the Council will continue to be serviced by a National Economic Development Office of a size, professional standing and independence comparable with that which existed prior to 31st March, 1966.
My right hon. Friend—
Where is he?
Even if hon. Members are not interested in international affairs affecting this country, at least they ought to know that my right hon. Friend is representing Britain at the Ministerial Council of the European Free Trade Association.As I was saying, my right hon. Friend is proposing no changes at present in the composition and functions of the N.E.D.C., which is agreed on all sides to have a major rôle in the drive for economic growth. The Council will continue to be serviced by the National Economic Development Office basically as it was before 31st March, but with some strengthening of the staff.
I suppose we must take some comfort from that Reply. But does the statement by Mr. Catherwood that the National Economic Development Council could not expect to remain independent of the Government represent Government policy? If so, it represents a considerable change.
What Mr. Catherwood said was that the responsibility for economic planning is today that of the Government and not of the N.E.D.C. But, of course, we shall continue to receive independent advice from the N.E.D.C., as in the past.
Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that, so long as Mr. Catherwood makes the kind of statement referred to, the N.E.D.C. cannot continue to command the support of both sides of the House?
We have no evidence that the N.E.D.C. does not continue to receive the support of both sides of industry. Indeed, I would say that that support is as strong as it has ever been.
Productivity, Prices And Incomes
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs whether he is satisfied that sufficient progress is being made with regard to the productivity aspects of the Government's policy on productivity, prices and incomes and if he will make a statement.
No, my right hon. Friend would certainly not claim to be satisfied. But we are tackling the problem of increasing productivity with vigour and in many different ways.
Does not the hon. Gentleman feel that the time has come to broaden the main attack from the Prices and Incomes Board—which, in this context, is doing a useful job—to the "little Neddies", which could have a much more positive rôle to play in improving productivity in the industries for which they are responsible?
I agree that they have a very important rôle to play, but I think the hon. Gentleman is a little out of date and does not realise that they are already playing it.
How soon does the hon. Gentleman expect us to reach the 6 per cent. increase in national productivity which the Chancellor has promised?
During the course of the planned period, I have no doubt.
Management And Planning (Workers' Participation)
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs what steps he is taking in regard to the industrial and economic activities for which his Department is responsible, to encourage workers' participation in management and planning for greater productivity.
Trade unions already participate in the consideration of measures to increase productivity by their membership of the Economic Development Committees. I agree that there is also need for full consultation in these matters at factory level.
Is my hon. Friend still satisfied with that kind of answer? Is it not time that steps were taken to implement policies of industrial democracy rather than continue to talk about the desirability of having such policies?
I have considerable sympathy with my hon. Friend's point of view. I cannot pretend, however, that the trade unions have so far shown a very great interest in this subject.
On the subject of productivity—with particular reference to page 128 of the National Plan—what steps are being taken to get free access to London Docks?
That is a different question.
The hon. Gentleman has mentioned the desirability of encouraging consultation at factory level. What steps are the Government taking to encourage it?
As the right hon. Gentleman may know, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister proposes to call a conference on the subject this year. But, again, this is another of those matters which might well be dealt with by he "little Neddies".
Motor Car Accessories (Prices)
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs if he will refer the pricing of motor car accessories to the National Board for Prices and Incomes for report and recommendation.
Not at present. But we are continuing to keep a close watch on the prices of these goods.
Will my hon. Friend agree to take an even closer look? Is it not time that a long, close study was made of the inflated prices being charged for motor car accessories? Would it not be more important to do this kind of thing than to concentrate so much on wage restraint? Let us get some prices down.
I have a great deal of sympathy with what my hon. Friend has said, but he is mistaken if he does not appreciate that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Technology has a special interest here which he will continue to pursue.
Has this matter not already been investigated by the Monopolies Commission? What is the level of tariff protection at present enjoyed by this industry?
The answer to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question is "Yes, it has". I cannot answer the second part of his question without notice.
National Plan Publication
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs how many copies of the publication, "Upswing", have been published; to whom it has been circulated; and what was the cost.
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs what will be the cost of producing the newspaper, "Upswing", what he estimates its circulation will be; and what are its purposes other than the explanation of the National Plan.
38,000 copies of "Upswing" were circulated to all branches of industry and trade unions on 24th February. To meet requests arising from this circulation, 112,000 additional copies have since been circulated. Orders are still coming in. The total cost of publishing and circulating the first issue is at present £2,513. The estimated circulation of future issues is 200,000. The estimated cost of producing and distributing six issues on this basis is £13,900. The purpose of "Upswing" is to explain the National Plan and to report on the progress of it.
Does the hon. Gentleman recall that, apart from a very unflattering photograph of the First Secretary, this document, published just before the election, is a very thinly disguised propaganda leaflet for the Labour Party and disastrous for the prices and incomes policy itself? Is it not time that this disgraceful waste of public money was stopped?
That does not appear to be the view of industry. Otherwise, we would not have had such a very substantial number of orders after the election. Out of more than 4,000 replies which we received after publication, only 15 letters were critical, and only a very small proportion of these criticised it as party propaganda.
Will the hon. Gentleman consider renaming "Upswing" "Stagnation" in order to correspond more exactly with the actual state of affairs?
I have no doubt that that sounds very clever and would have sounded even more clever during the course of the General Election. I do not know whether hon. Members opposite want us or do not want us to try to take steps to improve productivity on the shop floor, but this is one of them.
Quite apart from the undesirability of using a magazine like this for party purposes, would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that he is exposing himself to undue danger by having to explain the failure of the National Plan? Would he be good enough to assure the House that if the National Plan has these reverses they will be clearly explained in this paper?
We are continually being asked to give greater publicity to the National Plan and to national needs. I am certain that as they no longer have responsibility for them right hon. Gentlemen opposite are not interested, but it is our responsibility and we shall continue to discharge it.
On a point of order. In view of the very unsatisfactory nature of the Minister's reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.
On a point of order. I understood that you called my name, Mr. Speaker.
Unfortunately, just as I called the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. W. Baxter) the hon. Member for Harrow, Central (Mr. Grant) used his right to give notice which precludes further questions. It is just unfortunate.
I should like your guidance, Mr. Speaker. As I understand it, once my name has been called I have the right to your ear. I understood that the intervention of another hon. Member, even on a point of order, did not supersede your having called my name.
I think that there is much in what the hon. Gentleman says. Mr. Baxter.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. As this seems to be a very important document which is in the possession of some hon. Members, will my hon. Friend see that other hon. Members get a copy of it so that we can intelligently follow the discussions which are now taking place?
I will ensure that a copy is placed in the Library.
Prices And Incomes Bill (Representations)
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs what representations he has received from trade unions and associated bodies on the Prices and Incomes Bill.
Representations have been received from trade unions and trade union branches and the T.U.C. have raised a number of points which my right hon. Friend hopes to discuss with them very shortly.
In the light of these and other representations, do the Government intend to pursue the Prices and Incomes Bill, and will the new Bill contain the old Clause 14 which laid down substantial fines for those who struck or advocated strikes?
We made it clear that we intended to reintroduce the Bill, but I cannot anticipate any details.
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs how the universal application in the United Kingdom of the principle of equal pay for women for equal work will affect the volume of purchasing power in relation to the volume of goods and services available for consumption, while the 3½ per cent. norm of incomes increase is maintained.
The cost of equal pay depends on the extent to which its introduction affects women's pay as a whole and on the method and speed of implementation.
To what extent is the hon. Gentleman asking the Prices and Incomes Board to give priority to the claims of women for equal pay when the Board makes recommendations on wage increases and other matters referred to it?
This matter is under discussion by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, the T.U.C. and the Confederation of British Industry. We must await their conclusions.
Planning Regions (Wessex)
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs whether he will establish a separate planning region for Wessex following similar boundaries to those of the Wessex hospital region.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that due to post-war developments Wessex is once again becoming a distinctive economic region of the country? Whereas it is no doubt convenient to Whitehall to divide the region between the South-West and the South-East, if regional planning is to make sense on the ground he must create a distinctive region in that part of the country.
I agree that Wessex is now booming, but this is true of many parts of the country, and has been particularly so in the last 18 months. We have to get large planning regions to get the full advantages from regional economic planning and I think we ought to stick to those we have.
Does the hon. Gentleman recall an undertaking given to me by the First Secretary, who said that if the people of the South-West required a separate region he would consider establishing that as a sub-region of the main region? What progress has been made in the matter?
I remember the representations which the hon. Gentleman made, but we are now satisfied that the region we have created is doing a proper job of work. What matters is that the people of the South-West should have improved living conditions, and that is what we are trying to give to them.
Due to the thoroughly unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I shall seek to raise the matter at the earliest opportunity.
National Plan (Parts I And Ii)
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs what proposals he has to revise the figures in Parts I and II of the National Plan.
I have nothing to add to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Dickens) on 5th May.
Is it intended that there shall be any change in the techniques used to collect and compile the figures for the National Plan? If so, will the House be so informed?
Certainly we are taking steps to improve the methods of collecting information from industry. There was a very inadequate statistical service in the Government when we came to office. There will be opportunities from time to time for us to inform the hon. Gentleman and the House of the progress we are making.
Water Rate (Southend-On-Sea)
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs whether he is aware of the large increase in the water rate for the county borough of Southend-on-Sea; and whether he will refer this matter to the National Board for Prices and Incomes.
My right hon. Friend does not consider this is called for.
As the reason for the increase is largely attributable to the last Bud get but one, will the hon. Gentleman refer the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the Prices and Incomes Board and so stop the price increase for which the right hon. Gentleman is responsible?
The hon. Gentleman has got it wrong. The company is having both to meet higher running costs and undertake heavy capital expenditure in order to meet the growing demand for water. That is why it has been found necessary to increase charges.
Departmental Reports (Publication Dates)
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs by what criteria he decides on the publication dates of the reports issued by his Department.
I am not certain what reports the hon. Gentleman has in mind. Command Papers are published as soon as they are ready.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the appreciation on this side of the House for the very great skill with which he manages to arrange the times when they become ready? Is he aware that his Department is being increasingly regarded as a subsidiary of Transport House in many respects?
If the hon. Gentleman wants to make accusations of that sort, he must itemise them. It would not be possible for him to do so in a single case.
Scottish Teachers' Salaries (Report)
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs when he expects a decision from the National Board for Prices and Incomes on Scottish teachers' salaries.
I understand that a report will be published shortly.
Would the hon. Gentleman give me a categoric assurance that no documents concerned with this report have been shown to the Secretary of State for Scotland or the Scottish Education Department?
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman appreciates that, in the course of any inquiry by the National Board, there is constant discussion over many factual matters with the interested parties. This has happened on this occasion, following precedents. The independence of the Board is in no way affected.
Is it not a fact that the Prices and Incomes Board recommended 18 per cent. and this figure has been knocked down by the Government?
I cannot deny that, since the Board's report is not yet available.
Will the hon. Gentleman answer the question asked by my hon. Friend? Is it or is it not the case that a draft of this report has been shown to the Secretary of State for Scotland or his Department? Will he give us an absolutely clear answer?
I thought I had given an absolutely clear answer—that in the interests of having an effective report, within the terms of reference given to the Board, discussions have taken place between officials on both sides. No report is available and, therefore, none has been seen by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs to what extent the staff of his Department will increase or decrease during the next 12 months.
The published estimate provides for the staff to increase by 25.
In view of the fact that by his Budget the Chancellor of the Exchequer is already going to push prices through the roof during the next few weeks and is therefore making the work of the Department abortive in this respect, and bearing in mind the fact that the Minister of Labour is now, quite properly, taking back his own functions of wages, what justification is there for this increase in staff?
The hon. Gentleman may be very pleased to know that, in view of some of the considerations he has mentioned, it may not be necessary for us to increase our staff to this extent.
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs whether he is aware of the drift of manpower out of the mining industry in South Wales and Monmouthshire, and that insecurity of employment consequent upon the announced closures of pits is accelerating the drift; and whether, to re-establish confidence and ensure the availability of labour for economic pits, he will now set up an interdepartmental committee of the Ministers of Power and Labour, the Board of Trade and the Welsh Office, charged with the task of ensuring that no pit is closed without alternative employment being available for any redundant miners.
asked the First Secretary of State for Economic Affairs if, in view of the economic consequences to the nation of the rapid contraction of the coal mining industry and the lack of confidence in the future of the industry, he will consider the setting up of a co-ordinating committee of representatives from the appropriate Ministries with the task, among others, of considering the halting of pit closures until alternative and suitable employment has been found for the redundant personnel.
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs whether, in view of the accelerating drift of manpower from the mining industry as a consequence of the insecurity of employment in the industry, he will make arrangements for co-ordinating the Board of Trade, Ministry of Power and Ministry of Labour to ensure that the present programme is delayed until suitable alternative employment is available in the areas affected.
As regards manpower trends in the coal industry, I would refer hon. Members to the Answer given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power, to the hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher) on 3rd May. As regards security of employment, there is no shortage of jobs in the coal mining industry for men who will accept work in different pits. The Government have already taken a wide range of measures to ensure employment outside the industry for those miners who are unable to move to the pits which are short of labour. I can assure my hon. Friends that there are completely adequate arrangements for interdepartmental co-operation on these problems.
Is the Minister aware that one of the reasons why we have 5,000 vacancies in the South Wales pits is because the young dynamic miners feel a sense of insecurity about their present position and are rushing into other industries? Would he ensure, in order to gain the confidence of the miners and obtain the 60,000 or 70,000 new jobs required in South Wales within the next five years, that urgent talks take place with the Board of Trade and that what we in Wales regard as complacency about the present position is ended?
I can assure my hon. Friend that there is no complacency. Some of the matters to which he has referred are matters for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power, but he can rest assured that within the Government we are taking this matter extremely seriously.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the nation will require an abundance of additional skill for many years to come? Will he ask his right hon. Friend to bring his personal attention to this problem because of the very humane qualities which his right hon. Friend possesses? Will he ensure that he deals adequately with the disabled miners who are thrown out of work?
The position of the disabled miner is a special matter to which we must give special consideration. On the general question, I think my hon. Friend should refer to the Answer given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the decline in manpower is creating difficulties and imposing very great hardship upon the disabled? Will he ensure that the Board of Trade and other Ministries are able to bring pressure to bear to see that alternative employment is available for them?
I am absolutely convinced that alternative employment will be available. As my hon. Friend knows, this is by no means entirely the whole of the problem. The problem is becoming a rather different one, which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power is considering.
Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the serious problem of wastage of manpower is by no means confined to South Wales? Is he aware that it is taking place in the East Midlands and in the most productive coalfields. Will he bear in mind that if this goes on many of the premises of the National Plan will be entirely vitiated?
We realise this, and that is why my right hon. Friend is continuing his inquiry into the situation.
Can the hon. Gentleman help to reassure his hon. Friends by asserting that the Government will stand by the coal target contained in the National Plan?
Of course, they will.
Does not the Minister agree that the imperative need is for the Government to issue a national fuel policy for the country, giving the coal industry a clearly defined place?
The coal industry has a very clearly defined place in the national fuel policy. It has to sell as much coal as it possibly can produce at an economic price. This has been made absolutely clear, and there is not a shadow of doubt that we shall continue to require a very substantial output of coal for the foreseeable future.
Messrs Short Brothers And Harland
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs what progress the Government have made with their plans for diversification of the activities of Messrs. Short Brothers and Harland; and if he will make a statement.
Sir Matthew Slattery, who was already acting for the company in a consultative capacity, and Mr. Derek Palmar, one of my right hon. Friend's industrial advisers, were invited in March to conduct the necessary negotiations. They are currently examining a number of possible propositions and progress is being made.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the seriousness and urgency of this problem as a result of the Answer to Questions given by the Minister of Aviation yesterday? In view of the many pledges given by the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary, the Minister of Aviation and the First Secretary, will he expedite matters, because the need for it must have been obvious, for over two years, since a decision to sell out to the cheaper aircraft industry of America?
We fully appreciate the urgency of this, and we are pressing ahead as fast as we can. We very much hope that there will be a successful outcome to the negotiations which are now proceeding.
Have discussions gone so far as to enable my hon. Friend to give some assurance that the numbers at present employed in these works will continue, at least for a few years?
It would be a mistake today to say anything which would anticipate the possible outcome of the work which the negotiators are doing.
Why were these appointments not announced in the House, despite a considerable number of Questions by myself and my hon. Friends in March?
We have certainly taken no steps to conceal the appointments. Our anxiety was simply to get on with the job as fast as possible and obtain the sort of results which I am sure the hon. Member wants?
Directors' Emoluments (Investment Trusts)
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 emoluments payable to directors of firms subscribing to investment trusts on behalf of the directors without the shareholders being informed.
No, Sir. But as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister told the House last week, my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade is already considering what provisions might be included in the Companies Bill about these matters.
Does my hon. Friend not consider that this matter is rather more urgent and that it is important that the utmost light should be shone on the discreditable antics of the Garda and Second Premier Trust, and other instances of this kind? Would he not agree that, without this scrutiny, a national incomes policy would be unrealistic and unjustifiable?
I have great sympathy with what my hon. Friend says, but if we agree on the main object of any inquiry the question is what is the best possible means to achieve it. We think that the Companies Bill is the right way to go about it.
When will the Companies Bill be introduced? How much longer have we to wait for this really substantial amendment to company law?
The House will not have to wait longer than is necessary.
Selective Employment Tax
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs if he will undertake a survey in conjunction with the National Economic Development Council to examine the effect of the Selective Employment Tax on areas of high unemployment.
The Government remain concerned about the economic position of all the less prosperous areas of the country. No special survey is required.
Is the Under-Secretary of State not aware that the Selective Employment Tax is directly contrary to the Government's policy of promoting employment in these areas of high unemployment? Would the hon. Gentleman give the House some assessment of the damage which the tax will do in those areas?
The hon. Gentleman's assumption is false and, therefore, his conclusion is wrong. The important thing is that we have to keep an eye on all areas, and we are doing a great deal to change the structural balance of the country. As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said, the new tax is a very flexible one and, over a period, may be used for a variety of useful purposes.
Would the hon. Gentleman reconsider the rather unsatisfactory answer he has just given? Would he not agree that in many areas of relatively high unemployment there is, for structural historical reasons, an imbalance between the service and manufacturing industries, and, therefore, in some areas the proposals may and probably will adversely affect those areas? Should he not make a special inquiry there?
May I make it clear that we are very concerned about what the incidence of the tax may be and to relate it to the needs of various parts of the country. In answer to the original Question, I said simply that no special survey seemed to be required.
As Northern Ireland has its own system of National Insurance, is there any administrative difficulty in excluding it from the tax altogether?
That question does not arise on the original Question.
Does the hon. Gentleman realise that certain under-developed areas, including the South-West, are largely dependent on the tourist industry and that this tax will have a very serious adverse effect upon them?
We fully appreciate that it will have certain effects within the country, and we shall watch what happens in the South-West as well as in other development areas.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in the north-east of England, where there is still a long-term employment problem, business people are writing in great dismay about the effects of the tax to those of us on this side of the House who represent constituencies in that area? Is he aware that they will view the answer he has given today with great dismay?
As the representative of a constituency in the same part of the country, all I can say is that in my experience business men in the North-East are a great deal happier today that in any period over the last ten years.
In view of the very unsatisfactory nature of those answers, I give notice that I shall raise the matter at the earliest possible moment on the Adjournment.
Printing Industry (Discussions)
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs whether he will make a further statement about the discussions which, on 10th February, he informed the honourable Member for South-West Hertfordshire that he was proposing to have with the Joint Manpower Committee of the Printing Industry.
The Joint Manpower Committee confirmed, on 25th March, that its terms of reference included the efficient use of manpower and decided that an independent chairman should be appointed. Both these points were in line with recommendations of the National Board for Prices and Incomes. Mr. Richard O'Brien has now been appointed and the first meeting under his chairmanship will be held as soon as possible.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that recently, in the Statist, the Chairman of the Newspaper Proprietors Association, Mr. Cecil King, wrote that the high labour costs in the printing industry are due to excessive overtime, over-manning and a network of restrictive practices? Nothing can justify the present rate of earnings in that industry except increased production, and no such increase is taking place. What is he doing about it?
We want good will and common sense to prevail in all these things. What we should do now is leave it to the new Joint Manpower Committee, under its Chairman, to get on with the job of solving the problems of the industry.
Building Industry (Selective Employment Tax)
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs if he will arrange a special meeting of the little National Economic Development Council for the Building Industry to consider the Selective Employment Tax.
A joint meeting of the Economic Development Committees for Building and Civil Engineering was held on 9th May, at the Chairman's suggestion, to consider the effects of the Selective Employment Tax. We expect to receive their views very soon.
Would the hon. Gentleman consider discussing with the "little Neddy" the problems created for firms undertaking fixed-price contracts in the building industry which may take several years to complete, because they have been considerably incensed by the Selective Employment Tax?
We have no evidence of their being incensed. I have no doubt that the "little Neddy" will consider matters of the kind to which he refers.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that many firms entered into fixed-price contracts to assist the Government to try to stabilise prices and that they will be reluctant to do so again if this is how they are treated?
Of course, that is on the assumption that there is no possibility of increasing efficiency in the industry, and that I very much doubt.
asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs whether he is satisfied that the release of agricultural manpower resources is proceeding fast enough to satisfy the requirements of the National Plan; and if he will make a statement.
Yes, Sir, my right hon. Friend is satisfied.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree with the Prime Minister that we should not have much trouble if the whole of our manufacturing industry did as well on labour productivity as agriculture? Therefore, from the point of view of his Department, would he agree that there is no justification for the penalties which the Selective Employment Tax, as proposed originally, will lay upon horticulture and agriculture?
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that these are matters which are at present under discussion. In any case, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer made it clear that the cost would be recouped, if necessary, in the Annual Price Review.
Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that only part of the products covered by this additional impost are included in the Price Review, and that agriculture is being called upon to meet a great deal of the cost without a hope of recouping it?
It has already been announced that this question is at present under discussion.
Will my hon. Friend consider a proposal that, before these Exchequer contributions are introduced, tenant farmers shall be allowed to deduct them from their rents?
That is really a matter for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture.
Would the Minister of State recognise that the Annual Price Review is a hopelessly inefficient instrument in this case for recouping the cost of the Selective Employment Tax? How does he think that a national review can possibly take into account the many individual cases which will affect the farmers of the country?
I think we had better leave the matter until we see the result of the discussions which are going on at present.
Board Of Trade
Overseas Trade Accounts
asked the President of the Board of Trade when the Trade and Navigation Accounts and the Overseas Trade Accounts will be published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office.
The Overseas Trade Accounts (which replaced the Trade and Navigation Accounts last year) are being published on the twenty-first working day following the end of the month. From July onward they will be published on the nineteenth working day.
Will the Minister of State take care to ensure that the Accounts deal specifically with the contrast between British and Japanese productivity and overseas trade growth and freight facilities?
I am not sure to what extent that point is covered in the Accounts, but I will look at it.
When the Accounts are published, will they not show that the average trade deficit for the first four months of this year, which is within the knowledge of the hon. Gentleman, has been considerably worse than the average for the comparable period of the first four months of last year?
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the figures have appeared today, and he will see that, successfully, the trade gap is still being cut.
Scottish Industries (Investment Grants)
asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will specify the particular industries in Scotland which will be eligible for the new investment grants.
I would refer my hon. and learned Friend to the proposals contained in the Industrial Development Bill, which was introduced on 4th May and to the announcement which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer made on 3rd May about extending the scope of the investment grants scheme to include construction.
Does the Minister not realise that my Question asks for details of specific industries? To enable industrialists to organise their productivity and exports accordingly, will he now particularise them?
I am afraid that I cannot anticipate the Second Reading debate on the Bill, which will take place next week.
asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps he is taking to counter the reluctance of municipalities, or organisations and individuals, in South Africa to order and buy British.
I have no evidence that the overwhelming bulk of South African orders, whether in the public or private sector, are placed on any but straightforward commercial grounds.
Is it not very surprising that the hon. Gentleman has no evidence, when it is well known to people familiar with these matters that there is a growing reluctance in South Africa to buy British goods because of the Rhodesian situation? Will the Government try to reach a solution in order that we do not prejudice that great market for British goods?
The hon. Gentleman is exaggerating the position terribly. There may be one or two individuals who will not buy from us because they disagree with our policy, and there may be people in this country who do not buy South African goods for a similar reason. But we have no evidence that I.D.I. is influencing our trade with South Africa.
Supplementary to the hon. Gentleman's previous answer, I was going to ask to what extent it is still the policy of his party not to buy South African goods, or is it just hon. Gentlemen over there who do not do it?
There is no change in policy.
United States Agricultural Produce (Imports)
asked the President of the Board of Trade how much agricultural produce, canned, frozen, dried or fresh, including fruit, is imported into the United Kingdom from the United States of America; and whether he will list these imports.
As the information requested is somewhat extensive, I will, with permission circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Will the hon. Gentleman go through the list very carefully to see whether we can save dollars by increasing home production?
United Kingdom imports of agricultural produce from the United States of America Year 1965
|Live animals (excluding zoo animals, dogs and cats)||648|
|Meat and meat preparations||6,723|
|Dairy products and eggs||135|
|Cereals and cereal preparations||60,468|
|Fruit and vegetables||17,908|
|Sugar, sugar preparations and honey||265|
|Coffee, tea, cocoa, spices and manufactures thereof||772|
|Feeding stuff for animals and food wastes||761|
|Miscellaneous food preparations||12,917|
|Oil seeds, oil nuts and oil kernels||6,986|
|Fixed vegetable oils and fats||266|
asked the President of the Board of Trade how much celery is imported into the United Kingdom from the United States of America; and what this costs.
I regret that this information is not available.
Why not? Is it not ridiculous that we should spend dollars on importing celery from the United States?
I leave it to the hon. Gentleman to go through the list in the OFFICIAL REPORT to see if he can extract the cost of celery imports.
Shipbuilding (Geddes Report)
asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps he will take to implement the Geddes Report on Shipbuilding.
I would refer to the reply given to the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop) on 28th April.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the estimates and recommendations of the Report are based on the assumption, in paragraph 68, that the naval shipbuilding programme will be maintained over the next ten years? Has he had an assurance from the Secretary of State for Defence that this will be so?
Discussions with the Ministry of Defence Navy Department are continuing on the proposals of the Geddes Committee.
Export Intelligence Facilities (Aberdeen)
asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will site an area office of his department with export intelligence facilities in the Aberdeen area, in adition to the existing marine offices.
I have no reason for thinking that the needs of firms in the Aberdeen area for export intelligence are not fully met by the services of the Board of Trade Office in Glasgow and its District Office in Inverness. It does not seem necessary to open an additional office in Aberdeen.
I suggest that as this is an area which is going to be developed there is a need for an office in the East of Scotland. [HON. MEMBERS: "Question."] Would not the hon. Gentleman agree with that?
No, Sir. Both offices have direct access to commercial diplomatic staff at posts overseas, and Telex and telephone communications are available between all Board of Trade offices.
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will reconsider his decision to exclude Gunnis- lake, Calstock, Callington, Saltash and Torpoint from the development area of Cornwall; and whether he will make a statement.
The economic circumstances of this part of Cornwall do not justify including it in the proposed development area.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that Gunnislake, in particular, has a higher unemployment rate than any part of Cornwall? The geographical location of Plymouth is such as to make it nonsense to include Gunnislake in the Plymouth employment area. Has he not had considerable representations from the county council and other sources? In view of this, will he reconsider this absurd decision?
The situation with regard to Gunnislake is as the hon. Gentleman says, but although the rate is 10 per cent. only 60 people there are unemployed. We have these small pockets of unemployment with which to deal. They represent a special case. We think that these problems can be dealt with other than by scheduling small pockets as development areas. I think that we can deal satisfactorily with these problems, but I would be glad to discuss with the hon. Gentleman the whole of this problem in the South-West, and particularly in relation to the areas which he has mentioned.
Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that flexible boundaries within development areas are needed so that areas which are in trouble can be included, and areas which have improved can be excluded?
Yes, Sir, I agree, and I have discussed this matter with the hon. Gentleman. I think that he appreciates the difficulties of scheduling such small areas.
Coastguard Station, Looe
asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will now give an assurance that the coastguard station at Looe will not be closed, in view of the numbers of rescue operations involving coastguards in this area during the past five years.
asked the President of the Board of Trade what proposals he as for the reform of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
Can the hon. Gentleman explain why it is that the Board of Trade is answering this Question in view of the fact that it was the Chancellor of the Exchequer who, during the election, announced that he was going to renegotiate the G.A.T.T.? Will the hon. Gentleman say whether his right hon. Friend regards the G.A.T.T. as a sacred cow, and will he assure us that he will bear in mind the fact that these agreements have reciprocal advantages, and that if we break them, others may break them against us?
I am answering the Question because the hon. Gentleman did not frame it in such a way that it was directed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. With regard to the second part of his question, the G.A.T.T. is always under general review.
Hotel Industry (Investment Grants)
asked the President of the Board of Trade why he does not classify the hotel industry as one of those sectors of the economy which can make the greatest contribution to strengthening the balance of payments; and whether he will now include them in the investment incentives scheme.
The Government welcome the contribution made by the hotel industry to strengthening the balance of payments. That contribution is, however, much lower than that made by manufacturing industry, and is not a sufficient reason for including it in the investment grants scheme.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is a deep sense of resentment in the hotel industry that on every occasion it seems to be on the wrong side of any Government action?
That is not entirely true, because we have increased initial allowances from 10 per cent. to 30 per cent. for the hotel trades, and in development areas, which have been very much widened, they are eligible for 25 per cent. building grant, and are also indirectly assisted by Government grants which go to the B.T.A. every year to the tune of £2 million.
House Of Commons (Specialist Committees)
asked the Prime Minister when he expects to complete talks with the leaders of the Opposition on the establishment of the proposed new specialist committees; and when such committees can be expected to start functioning.
I have as yet nothing to add to the Answer I gave on 5th May to a similar Question by my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell).
Can my right hon. Friend say whether the talks have begun, or whether proposals have been put to the Opposition? Can he further indicate whether these committees will be fully operative, staffed, and manned, before the end of this Session?
The talks have not begun, and the responsibility for this lies entirely with us, because we are going in some depth into the issues which have been raised, and are considering suggestions which have been made since the debate on the Gracious Speech.The strengthening of staffs is something to which we are giving a lot of thought, and we hope to be ready to talk to Opposition leaders in the very near future.
Is the Prime Minister aware that it is now three weeks to the day since he announced in his speech on the Address that he was going to ask us to take part in consultations—and of course we welcome these proposals—but so far there has not even been a suggestion as to when the discussions might start? Does not this indicate that this was again an ill-thought-out proposal by the Prime Minister, put into his speech to cover the barrenness of the Queen's Speech?
I should have thought that that was rather a churlish approach to this problem. I am aware of the date calculations which the right hon. Gentleman has worked out for himself, but it is the fact that when the talks start we should have these things worked out in some detail. There has not been very much time since the election, which occupied us all quite considerably, to work out new proposals for the new Parliament. There has been very little time in which to do that, and I thought it right to get the matter aired during the debate on the Address.
Ministry Of Land And Natural Resources
asked the Prime Minister when he intends to abolish the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources.
asked the Prime Minister if he will abolish the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources.
Not at present, Sir; an announcement about future arrangements will be made in due course.
Does the Prime Minister think it satisfactory for the House this afternoon to enter into discussions on a long and controversial Bill which is to be moved by a Minister whose departmental existence is in doubt?
No, Sir. I think that during the life of this Ministry we have been able to produce policies on two very important issues, the land question, in respect of which right hon. Gentlemen opposite entirely failed to produce a policy, and leasehold. This could not have been done if we had not had this separate Ministry, but it is being merged with the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, and I am sure that today's debate will be very productive. I shall be surprised to learn that our proposals are controversial.
Does the Prime Minister remember saying in his election manifesto that he was going to abolish this Ministry to streamline the Departments of State? Is he going to streamline it, or not? Is he going to abolish this Ministry quickly, or maintain it?
As the hon. Gentleman will know, integration of the staffs has begun. The question of the Minister will depend on legislation, and we have even more urgent legislation ahead of us. Certainly my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will have very important work to do in the next few weeks piloting this uncontroversial legislation through the House.
After the putting of these Questions to my right hon. Friend, has he any further need of evidence that hon. Members opposite regard the making of enormous profits from land speculation as a sacred cow?
I have never really had much doubt about their position. I do not think that we needed this Question for that purpose. What I have been unclear about is what their policy was in view of the omission from their manifesto of what they had previously said was their policy.
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House what the responsibilities of this Minister are in Wales? If there are changes, to which Minister will these responsibilities be given?
I hope within the next few days to be able to say what the position is not only concerning land but also those parts of the Ministry of Public Building and Works which are to be transferred to the Ministry of Housing. Any consequences for Wales will be notified to the House.
Export Trades (Skilled Workers)
asked the Prime Minister what action he proposes to take to ensure that export orders are not turned away because firms do not have the skilled labour to fulfil those orders.
I share the hon. Member's concern, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour is giving top priority to measures to increase the rate of training of skilled workers.
Is the Prime Minister aware that in some parts of the country export orders have been turned away because skilled labour is being attracted away by Government projects? I have particularly in mind a Royal Ordnance Factory in the West Riding of Yorkshire, which had nothing to do with the export industry but could offer inducements which no local private firm could offer. Will he undertake to see that Government projects exercise a self-denying ordinance in this respect?
I am well aware of the problems, not only in relation to export orders but even of bringing in work to development areas, caused by the shortage of skilled workers. I made a point of this in the debate on the Address, as the hon. Member will recall. I am not aware that the problem is aggravated by Royal Ordnance Factories, but my right hon. Friend will look into any case that the hon. Member mentions. Usually we are told that the argument works the other way.
Commonwealth Famine Relief
asked the Prime Minister which Minister is to be responsible for dealing with the subject of the emergency programme of Commonwealth famine relief.
asked the Prime Minister which Minister is responsible for consultations with other Governments about the proposal of Her Majesty's Government for an emergency programme of Commonwealth famine relief for Africa.
Mainly, Sir, my right hon. Friends the Commonwealth and Colonial Secretaries and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Overseas Development.
In view of the fact that the Commonwealth Secretary has now told us that this project has been abandoned, does not the Prime Minister agree that it would have been better for him to have dealt with these non-events himself instead of shrugging them off on to the Commonwealth Secretary, who has a good many of his own to deal with?
The hon. Member has been pursuing this point for some months now, with a certain degree of repetition. I want to make it clear that on 7th January, when the statement was made by us, there was acute concern about the widespread drought in South Africa—not least in Rhodesia. Hon. Members opposite were pressing us about this. We said that we were prepared to give any help that was needed and to approach other Commonwealth countries. Later in January very heavy rains came, and we were told by those in a position to know in Rhodesia that this help was no longer needed.
Does the Prime Minister recall the wide publicity that was given in January to his telephone calls to Mr. Menzies and Mr. Lester Pearson? Will he see that equally wide publicity is given to the statement made by his right hon. Friend the Commonwealth Secretary to the House two days ago, namely, that inquiries had revealed that there was no need for a general emergency programme?
I have already told the House on a number of occasions that there was every reason to do this planning at the time, because of the drought. Farmers in Rhodesia were saying they were much more worried about the drought than about the sanctions. It was not the result of any publicity or any statement in the House that heavy rains did come at the end of January. I do not think that either side of the House is in a position to claim credit for that, but it did change the situation.
asked the Prime Minister what information he has received from the United States Administration on the recent leakage of radiation in Nevada after underground nuclear tests; if he will request the United States Administration, in the interests of the health of the peoples of the world, to refrain from conducting further underground tests until it is certain that there can be no further leakages; and if he will intensify his efforts to secure a complete ban on all such tests.
As the Answer to this Question is necessarily rather long, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Can my right hon. Friend say whether his circulated Answer contains any reference to the previous radiation leak a few years ago, after tests for which the then British Government were partly responsible? Does he recall that we were then given assurances that it was unbelievable that there should be any such leakages again?
I would ask my right hon. Friend to study my Answer. There have been one or two cases in the United States, but none of them was in any sense a breach of the nuclear test ban. There was also one in the Soviet Union, due again, I am satisfied, to miscalculation and not to any attempt to circumvent the plan. All these have led to a small amount of venting, which all of us, and all countries, very much regret.
Will the Prime Minister make representations in the strongest terms to the Chinese People's Republic about the test which they have carried out in the atmosphere? These tests are infinitely worse than any underground test in the United States.
The hon. Member is absolutely right about this. The test carried out a few days ago—which, I gather, was about 130 kilotons—has undoubtedly involved a considerable amount of fall-out, although it may take a few days—perhaps up to a month—before it is possible to calculate exactly how much fall-out has occurred from this test, which is not a breach of the test ban agreement because China is not a member, but which is completely opposed to what the whole of mankind wants to see.
While we will continue to urge the Prime Minister to attempt to secure an overall ban on tests, can he confirm that there was no leakage from the last British underground test, and that he will therefore continue with such tests as necessary?
That seems to be rather a different question. The test which took place last September, on which I reported to the House—and which was a repeat of a test that failed a year earlier, under the previous Government—was not of the kind that would involve venting. It was a test for economy purposes which had failed a year earlier, at great cost. We repeated it and succeeded with it. [Interruption.] I hope that the House regards this question as a serious matter and not merely one for the giggling that we had in the last Parliament on these questions. In answer to the right hon. Gentleman, if it became necessary, for similar reasons, to have a further test, we would have one, but we succeeded in that test, so it is not necessary to repeat it a second time.
Has the right hon. Gentleman noticed the welcome news of a gradual decrease of strontium in human bones as a result of the partial Test Ban Treaty? Will he take note of the general satisfaction about the value of that treaty to the entire human race?
I think that all of us have noticed with satisfaction the progressively successful results of that treaty in terms of the index mentioned by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. That treaty was widely welcomed, not only in this country but throughout the world.
The following is the information:
On 25th April, 1966, a low yield underground nuclear test in Nevada accidentally released a small amount of radio-activity into the atmosphere, though the highest radiation level recorded in the immediate vicinity of the test was, I understand, many times less than that caused by ordinary medical X-ray treatment. Neither this test nor any other United States underground test has caused radio-active debris to be present outside the territorial limits of the United States. No danger to the health of people within the United States resulted and there was no possible danger to other peoples of the world.
Her Majesty's Government's policy in relation to continued nuclear testing of all kinds by all countries is to press forward as quickly as possible with the negotiation of a comprehensive test ban treaty.
President Of The Board Of Trade (Speech)
asked the Prime Minister if the public speech of the President of the Board of Trade at Oslo on 30th April about import duty policies represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.
Could we start negotiations with the Norwegians with a view to securing more favourable entry for British vehicles into their market?
It is a difficult question, because the barriers here are introduced as revenue tariffs and not as protective tariffs, covered by E.F.T.A. It may be argued that these are legal under E.F.T.A., but we would all feel that they are against the spirit of E.F.T.A. My right hon. Friend the First Secretary will now be discussing these matters in Bergen this week.
asked the Prime Minister what progress has been made since 16th October, 1964, in renegotiating the Nassau Agreement; and if he will make a statement.
When we have reached agreement in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation about nuclear problems, the necessary changes in the Nassau Agreement will then be made.
asked the Prime Minister if he will appoint an interdepartmental committee to investigate the future of the British Broadcasting Corporation's finances.
No, Sir. The Government are already reviewing the British Broadcasting Corporation's finances and there is no need to establish a further committee.