House Of Commons
Thursday, 26th October, 1967
The House met at half-past Two o'clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
I think that it would be for the convenience of the House if the nine Motions for Returns standing on the Order Paper were taken together.
Mr. Speaker, the Returns asked for are the customary ones, with one innovation: this is a Return relating to Special Procedure Orders. The lack of statistics on these
respecting application of Standing Order No. 31 (Closure of Debate) during Session 1966–67 (1) in the House and in Committee of the whole House, under the following heads:—
|Date when Closure claimed, and by whom||Question before House or Committee when claimed||Whether in House or Committee||Whether assent given to Motion or withheld by Speaker or Chairman||Assent withheld because, in the opinion of the Chair, a decision would shortly be arrived at without that Motion||Result of Motion and, if a Division, Numbers for and against.|
and (2) in the standing Committees under the following heads:—
|Date when Closure claimed, and by whom||Question before Committee when claimed||Whether assent given to Motion or withheld by Speaker or Chairman||Assent withheld because, in the opinion of the Chair, a decision would shortly be arrived at without that Motion||Result of Motion and, if a Division, Numbers for and against.|
|—[The Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means.]|
Private Bills And Private Business
of the number of Private Bills, Hybrid Bills and Bills for confirming Provisional Orders introduced into the House of Commons and brought from the House of Lords, and of Acts passed in Session 1966–67:
Orders has proved an inconvenience which should be rectified.
As it appears that these nine Motions are entirely formal, consisting of statistics intended to help hon. Members generally, I think that they might be put to the House formally and in that way preserve the maximum time for Questions.
Adjournment Motions Under Standing Order No 9
of Motions for Adjournment under Standing Order No. 9 (Adjournment on definite matter of urgent public importance), showing the date of such Motion, the name of the Member proposing the definite matter of urgent public importance and the result of any Division taken thereon, during Session 1966–67.—[The Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means.]
Closure Of Debate (Standing Order No 31)
Of all Private Bills, Hybrid Bills, and Bills for confirming Provisional Orders which in Session 1966-67 were reported on by Committees on Opposed Bills or by Committees nominated partly by the House and partly by the Committee of Selection, together with the names of the selected Members who served on each Committee; the first and also the last day of the Sitting of each Committee; the number of days on which each Com- mittee sat; the number of days on which each selected Member served; the number of days occupied by each Bill in Committee; the Bills of which the Preambles were reported to have been proved; the Bills of which the Preambles were reported to have been not proved; and, in the case of Bills for confirming Provisional Orders, whether the Provisional Orders ought or ought not to be confirmed:
Of all Private Bills and Bills for confirming Provisional Orders which, in Session 1966–67, were referred by the Committee of Selection to Committees on Unopposed Bills, together with the names of the Members who served on each Committee; the number of days on which each Committee sat; and the number of days on which each Member attended:
And, of the number of Private Bills, Hybrid Bills, and Bills for confirming Provisional Orders withdrawn or not proceeded with by the parties, those Bills being specified which were referred to Committees and dropped during the sittings of the Committee.—[The Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means.]
of the number of Public Bills, distinguishing Government from other Bills, introduced into this House, or brought from the House of Lords, during Session 1966–67, showing:
(1) the number which received the Royal Assent; (2) the number which did not receive the Royal Assent, indicating those which were introduced into but not passed by this House, those passed by this House but not by the House of Lords, those passed by the House of Lords but not by this House, those passed by both Houses but Amendments not agreed to; and distinguishing the stages at which such Bills were dropped, postponed or rejected in either House of Parliament, or the stages which such Bills had reached by the time of the Prorogation or Dissolution.—[The Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means.]
of the number of Public Petitions presented and printed in Session 1966–67 with the total number of signatures in that Session.—[The Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means.]
of the Select Committees appointed in Session 1966–67, with the Sub-Committees appointed by them; the names of the Members appointed to serve on each, and of the Chairman of each; the number of days each met, and the number of days each Member attended; the total expenses of the attendances of witnesses at each Select Committee and Sub-Committee; and the total number of Members who served on Select Committees; together with so much of the same information as is relevant to the Chairman's Panel and the Court of Referees.—[The Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means.]
Sittings Of The House And Business Of Supply
of (1) the days on which the House sat in Session 1966–67, stating for each day the day of the month and day of the week, the hour of the meeting, and the hour of the adjournment; and the total number of hours occupied in the Sittings of the House, and the average time; and showing the number of hours on which the House sat each day, and the number of hours after the time appointed for the interruption of business; and (2) the days on which Business of Supply was considered.—[The Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means.]
for Session 1966–67, of (1) the total number and the names of all Members (including and distinguishing Chairmen) who have been appointed to serve on one or more of the Standing Committees showing, with regard to each of such Members, the number of sittings to which he was summoned and at which he was present; (2) the number of Bills, Estimates and Matters considered by all and by each of the Standing Committees. the number of sittings of each Committee and the titles of all Bills, Estimates and Matters considered by a Committee distinguishing where a Bill was a Government Bill or was brought from the House of Lords, and showing in the case of each Bill, Estimate and Matter, the particular Committee by whom it was considered, the number of sittings at which it was considered and the number of Members present at each of those sittings.—[The Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means.]
Special Procedure Orders
of the number of Special Procedure Orders presented in Session 1966–67; the number withdrawn; the number against which Petitions or copies of Petitions were deposited; the number of Petitions of General Objection and for Amendment respectively considered by the Chairmen; the number of such Petitions certified by the Chairmen as proper to be received, and the number certified by them as being Petitions of General Objection and for Amendment respectively; the number referred to a Joint Committee of both Houses; the number reported with Amendments by a Joint Committee, and the number in relation to which a Joint Committee reported that the Order be not approved; and the number of Bills introduced for the confirmation of Special Procedure Orders;
Of Special Procedure Orders which, in Session 1966–67, were referred to a Joint Committee, together with the names of the Commons Members who served on each Committee; the number of days on which each Committee sat; and the number of days on which each such Member attended.—[The Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means.]
Oral Answers To Questions
North Vietnamese Students (Admission)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will make a statement on the request for visas for visiting students from North Vietnam.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department why he refused to allow three Vietnamese students to stay in London, for the purpose of accepting an invitation extended to them by a London student organisation.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will state his reasons for refusing entrance to this country to the three Vietnamese students who hoped to speak at a recent meeting at the London School of Economics.
I have nothing to add to the speech made by my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State on 23rd October. —[Vol. 751, cols. 1430–44.]
Can my right hon. Friend assure me that the letters sent to me on 3rd and 27th July do not represent a categorical decision of principle against such visits? In what circumstances can such visits take place?
I cannot answer hypothetical questions. They were in line with the policy which we have pursued for a number of years, but, of course, all relevant considerations are always taken into account.
Can we take it that the Home Secretary is saying that no one invited to visit this country from Vietnam to explain the position of North Vietnam will be allowed into the country for that purpose?
I was asked why we did not allow these students to come in, and this matter was very fully and, I thought, very admirably explained by my hon. Friend earlier in the week.
Does the decision in principle not to allow students from Vietnam to come in override the expression of opinion that all sides of this debate should be heard?
I think that all sides of this debate are heard. I must say that my hon. Friend is on a false point when he gives particular weight and status to these individuals as students. They were fairly advanced in age for students. While, clearly, there is room for different points of view on this issue, their alleged status as students was not a new factor in the situation.
In matters of this context, is my right hon. Friend's responsibility merely administrative with the policy made by the Foreign Office? Can that be cleared up?
For so long as I am Home Secretary, any Ministerial decision announced by the Home Office will be something for which I shall take full responsibility. At the same time, as is only sensible, we take into account wider considerations, including foreign policy.
The Child, The Family And The Young Offender
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he will implement the proposals contained in the White Paper on The Child, the Family and the Young Offender.
I intend to introduce legislation, as soon as Parliamentary time can be provided, to integrate the approved schools within a comprehensive system of residential establish. ments for children and to make other reforms in the law on children and young persons.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Does he agree that many people in relevant professions and many local authorities are very anxious to know soon what plans they should be making for the future, particularly for the provision of residential accommodation?
I am certainly aware that it is desirable to end uncertainty in these and related matters as soon as possible. I am also aware that there is pressure on Parliamentary time and that there has been and will, I hope, be in the forthcoming Session a good deal of Home Office legislation. We cannot do everything at once, but I certainly want to give a firm structure to the future in this field as soon as is practicable.
Police (Pensions And Allowances)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will seek powers to increase police pensions, and police widows' pensions and orphans' allowances, where members of the Police Force opted to remain under the former provisions of the Police Pensions Act 1948; and if he will make a statement.
Improvements to the police pensions scheme, introduced in 1956, provided for higher widows' pensions in return for increased contributions. Some policemen then serving opted for their dependants to remain subject to the former arrangements. A proposal to increase benefits under those former arrangements is under consideration by the Police Council for Great Britain, which is the appropriate negotiating body.
Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that in the case which I have referred to him the police widow is drawing a pension well below subsistence level? In the event of the Committee of the Police Council recommending higher pensions for such widows, will he lend his weight and authority to agreeing to an increase in pensions?
I cannot say anything about what will be decided by the Police Council. It is not a matter for the Home Office alone. Many authorities are represented on the Police Council and it would not be proper for me in any way to anticipate what will come out of the Police Council.
I hope that we are not to have another repetition of all the fuss we had to make before to ensure that police widows got adequate, proper and sound treatment. Do not let us have any fluffing on this occasion. Instead let us do what is just for these widows.
The position of those who opted into the post-1956 scheme is different from that of those under the pre-1956 arrangements. As for what will come out of the Police Council, I must give the lion. Lady the same answer as I gave to the last questioner.
Allegations Against Police (Reports)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, when he has obtained a report from a chief constable on inquiries made into allegations of police brutality, he will undertake to make the report available to the hon. Member for the constituency concerned.
No, Sir. I think that it is important to preserve the principle of confidentiality in police reports.
Would my right hon. Friend not agree that it is unsatisfactory, not least to the police, to have the accused acting as judge and jury in their own defence? In order that Members of this House can ensure that justice is seen to be done, will he consider making the police subject to the ombudsman, which would at least serve to de-masculate that gentleman?
The last point is a different question. On the first point, I do not think that in the particular case which I believe my hon. Friend has in mind, though he quite legitimately draws a general inference from it, there is any question of the police being judge and jury in their own case, though the allegations, which I was glad to discuss with him, were very fully brought out on appeal before the Recorder of Birkenhead and were before the court in considerable detail.
While on this subject, will the right hon. Gentleman say a word about brutality to the police.You will be aware, Mr. Speaker, that among the—[HON. MEMBERS "Question."] I was going to ask a question. I say, Mr. Speaker, that the Home Secretary will be aware that among the police officers who guard us in Parliament one has had his face laid open and another has had his head badly damaged in the recent riots in Grosvenor Square. Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that when cases of brutality of this kind are raised it is right to speak also of the brutality suffered by the police?
I certainly do not think that arises out of Question No. 5. I do not think that throwing charges of this sort across the Floor of the House necessarily helps matters. Certainly, when the police have a difficult situation to deal with, as I believe they did last week, they will command the support and sympathy of everyone in this House.
If the full report cannot be made available, would my right hon. Friend consider making available to the Member concerned the conclusions and the reason for them?
I am certainly always willing to discuss, in as much detail as I possibly can with any Member concerned, matters of this sort.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will make a statement about the illegal immigration and attempted illegal immigration of Pakistanis and others.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what further evidence has come to light in recent months of the methods used by would-be Commonwealth immigrants to evade the immigration control; and whether he will make a statement.
Eight men were taken into custody on 22nd August after landing clandestinely on the Kent coast. After enquiries and full consultation with the Pakistan High Commission, they were returned to Pakistan on 10th September. In proceedings before the Bradford City Magistrates on 19th September, evidence was given that another party of immigrants had landed by similar means in May. My right hon. Friend is determined to deal firmly with clandestine immigration and there is close co-operation between the Immigration Service and the police.
Could the hon. Gentleman say what proceedings were taken against the British crooks he said were engaged in this attempt to procure the immigration of these unfortunate Pakistanis?
As a result of what happened in that case, we know a great deal about the existence of an organisation overseas who plan this type of clandestine operation. Information is in the hands of the police and has been passed to Continental police forces and to the Pakistani High Commission. The immigrants are, of course, the victims, though not innocent ones, of the racketeers.
Does my hon. Friend realise that it is the easiest thing in the world for an illegal immigrant to enter this country via Southern Ireland, then Northern Ireland and then to here? Is it not about time he started making it imperative for passports to be shown on visits from Northern Ireland?
It is by no means the easiest thing in the world, because the authorities in Ireland have a very effective means of passport control and there is very little evidence at all of those people moving from Ireland into the United Kingdom.
Will the hon. Gentleman not be seduced by his hon. Friend, and will he make quite certain that no restrictions will be placed on any part of the United Kingdom? Might I also ask him whether these immigrants had forged papers when they were found?
In answer to the first part of the Question, I can assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that there is no intention at all of imposing some form of restriction upon those travelling from Northern Ireland to other parts of the United Kingdom. In answer to the second part of the Question, when the Pakistanis were caught, due to the effectiveness of the police and those who reported seeing the event, they were without any papers at all.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what further steps he is taking to reduce the influx of Commonwealth immigrants including relatives of those already here, and including also persons in East Africa who have no connection with Great Britain but who are entitled to British passports; and what assistance he proposes to give to immigrants in Great Britain who would like to leave.
The number of Commonwealth immigrants coming here with vouchers for employment is strictly controlled. The great majority of dependants now entering are the wives and children of Commonwealth citizens resident here. They have a statutory right of entry. I have no power to exclude citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies holding passports issued by the United Kingdom Government, wherever resident. Arrangements exist for paying the fare of a Commonwealth immigrant who wishes to return home and is unable to pay the fare himself or obtain it from other sources.
Has the right hon. Gentleman anything to say about the suggestion made by the Government of Guyana that the British Government might give assistance to West Indians here who might wish to settle in Guyana? Can he also say how many Asians from East Africa entered Britain in August and September this year?
On the first point, we are already prepared, as I indicated, to pay the fares of those who cannot obtain them elsewhere and clearly wish to go home, but we must have regard for those who wish to go home. As to the other figures, there has been a substantial increase in the numbers coming here. In August the figure was about 1,400 and in September about 2,600. I am glad to say that the indications are that the October figure will be substantially below the September one. This, as the right hon. Gentleman, above all, should know, because he negotiated Kenyan independence and left this problem, is a delicate problem.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of us are nauseated by the sort of racialist propaganda that the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) makes as his pet theme? Does not my right hon. Friend feel that the constant type of Question that we have had today from the right hon. Member can do nothing but stir racial trouble in Britain?
I expressed certain views about the previous Question from the right hon. Gentleman which did not appear to command absolutely unanimous support in the House.
Hooliganism (Football Matches)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will prosecute persons guilty of hooliganism at football matches under the Public Order Act of 1936, and thus allow magistrates to inflict heavier penalties on the offenders than at present.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he is taking to increase the penalties for unruly behaviour by members of the public at sporting events.
Responsibility for prosecutions rests with chief officers of police; it is not a matter in which my right hon. Friend can intervene. The Criminal Justice Act, 1967, substantially increases some of the maximum penalties for various kinds of hooliganism.
May I assure my hon. Friend that this kind of problem does not apply to Huddersfield Town Football Club? Is my hon. Friend also aware that thousands of people have their recreation at football matches ruined by hooliganism? Is he aware that I can see no reason why the Home Secretary should not instruct the police to prosecute under the 1936 Act, because by doing so stricter penalties could be enforced by the court?
I am aware that a lot of entertainment is being spoiled, but it would be quite improper constitutionally for the Home Office to start instructing officers of police when to prosecute and when not to prosecute. I can assure my hon. Friend on this point that in practice some prosecutions are now being brought under the Public Order Act.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this problem is not unknown in Scotland? Will he seriously consider the suggestion that anyone convicted of hooliganism at a football match should be instructed to report to a local police station at 3.30 every Saturday afternoon?
I cannot answer for what the Scottish Department has been doing in this matter. Again the question of the penalty to be imposed by the court is not something upon which the Home Office can give any instructions, because it would be improper for the Government to start telling the courts what to do.
In view of the fact that mob violence is getting out of hand, will the Minister do two things? Firstly, will he call the clubs together and instruct them of their responsibilities, and, secondly, will he suggest to magistrates that this problem will not be solved by imposing sentences which will deter no one?
I will certainly consider the suggestion which my hon. Friend has made, but again we cannot start instructing magistrates on what penalties to impose. This is quite wrong and there would be an outcry in this House if we started to do so. I can assure my hon. Friend that it appears from recent Press reports that a number of stiff penalties are now being imposed.
Miss Sue Berry
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement about Sue Berry, a Watford Post reporter, who was arrested in the West End of London on 8th July, detained in a cell for 2 hours 40 minutes, charged with obstructing the pavement having been told to move on and subsequently found not guilty, and who was urged by the police, before the trial, to plead guilty and not be a nuisance.>
The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis tells me that Miss Berry was arrested at about 8.30 p.m. on 8th July with 13 other persons. About half an hour later she was charged with wilfully obstructing the footway. She was placed in a cell while inquiries were made about bail and was released at 11.30 p.m. as soon as these inquiries had been completed. Nothing has been found to support the allegation that an officer suggested that she should plead guilty. Miss Berry has not been able to identify any such officer.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that one of the policemen who told this girl to plead guilty was the very man who gave evidence in court against her? Is he going to allow this kind of thing to continue? Is he to tolerate this kind of thing or will he make an example of this policeman? What does he think would happen to me if I as counsel for the defence went to a witness for the prosecution and said, "Do not give evidence against this girl, she is not guilty."?
I am not prejudging this case in any way. I am not necessarily accepting what my hon. Friend has told me. The position is that Miss Berry made no complaint to the police and, despite the fact that she is a journalist, she was unable when interviewed to identify any police officer alleged to have put this pressure on her. I certainly do agree that it is highly improper for police officers to put pressure on people to plead guilty.
Court Lees School
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he intends to reopen Court Lees approved school under local authority management.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will make a statement on his decision to withdraw his certificate of approval for Court Lees school.
I decided to withdraw the certificate of approval because I reached the conclusion that the managers of Court Lees did not fully appreciate the implications of Mr. Gibbens' report, and would not be able to give the school the fresh start it clearly needed. I very much hope that the school can be re-constituted in the near future under the management of the Surrey County Council. Delay in reopening, and consequent anxiety to the staff, has been caused by the refusal of the trustees to make the premises available, though the managers have now agreed that the Council may interview members of the staff with a view to making conditional offers of employment in a reconstituted school.
While complimenting my right hon. Friend on the very prompt and correct action which he took—[Horn. MEMBERS "No."]—may I ask him whether he could give an assurance that he will not allow the delay in the transfer of the school to continue unduly, particularly in view of the public money spent on Court Lees in recent years?
I am most anxious that the delay should not continue. It must be said that, so far as there is uncertainty about the future of the great majority of the staff, it is because of the refusal of the trustees to agree to this transfer. Although the school is a private charity, in fact £197,000 of public funds have been advanced for improvements and the purchase of the school—probably substantially more than the school is worth—and, of course, we have paid all maintenance, upkeep and running costs since 1937.
Has my right hon. Friend personally, through his own office, said to the trustees that it is on their shoulders alone that the delay is taking place and causing great anxiety to the staff? While on the question of the staff, will he pay tribute to the fact that the vast majority of teachers in this service—a very difficult service—do a first-class job and, therefore, the publicity which has been given to this matter does not necessarily rub off on any of them?
Yes, indeed. I attach the greatest importance to getting the school reconstituted at the earliest possible moment, which is clearly very much in the interests of the staff. There are two trustees who are themselves managers, although the trustees are not the same as the board of managers.So far as the service generally is concerned, I am very glad indeed to take the opportunity afforded by my hon. Friend to pay this tribute and to say that I am sure that what occurred, what was brought to light and what was certainly disturbing at Court Lees is not typical of the service.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his last statement has been too long delayed, and that the way in which he has handled this matter has been well on the way to completely demoralising people in charge of the service?
I totally reject that suggestion. I must express the gravest surprise that, in view of the statements, some of them rather inflammatory, made by hon. Members opposite in August, not a single one of them has even put down a Question about this matter.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what consideration he is giving to making traffic in drugs illegal, in view of its continued increase.
The existing law severely penalises any unauthorised transaction in hard drugs and prohibits unauthorised possession or importation of scheduled soft drugs. I do not think further provisions are required at present to deal with the problem of trafficking.
Does my right hon. Friend realise that the Office of Health Economics tells us today that the narcotic smugglers and pushers are now professionally prepared to operate in Britain, which is wide open to them, as they are doing in America, where illegal drug Acts already exist? Can my right hon. Friend assure us that our incoming Bill will stop all the holes which are open in the American Acts?
The position in this country is, I am happy to say, in many respects basically different from that in the United States, but none the less we have taken steps and, in a Lords Amendment proposed by the Government and accepted by this House only this week, we put up the maximum penalty for smuggling from two years to ten years.
Has the right hon. Gentleman any intention of taking action against those who advocate the legalisation of soft drugs?
No. I think that whatever view we may hold on this issue, it would be a very extraordinary view, which I doubt if even the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), if he were here, would propose that we should take action against those who express opinions with which we do not agree.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action he is taking to ensure that there are no further accidents to babies due to the construction of Pedigree Hipper and Cosy perambulators, following his investigation of the death of a nine-month-old Beverley child in such a perambulator.
May I correct the printing of the Question in the last line? "Beverley child" should read "Beverley Neal".
Further to that point of order. Having been consulted about this Question, may I point out that the words "Pedigree Hipper" should read "Pedigree Nipper".
I was most concerned to learn of this tragic accident. The manufacturers of the pram in question at once suspended deliveries and arranged for retailers to receive, free of charge, an additional locking device for fitting to any of the unmodified prams still in stock as well as to those brought in by customers. My Department has asked the British Standards Institution, which is about to begin work on a specification for folding prams, to ensure that adequate locking devices are prescribed.
But is it not quite appalling that some manufacturers are able to ignore representations about the safety of essential baby equipment of this kind, because there have been only voluntary standards of safety covering prams? Would my hon. Friend ensure that when the British standard for prams is drawn up it covers those which were manufactured before the safety standard came in? I ask that because there has been another tragic case with regard to a carry-cot which arose because the standards were not retrospective.
I give my hon. Friend the assurance for which she asks. I should like to comment on the other tragic event on which the Hammersmith coroner made comments. He criticised a carrycot stand which, because of its unsafe design, led to the death recently of a ten weeks old baby boy. I understand that the carry-cot was bought over two years ago and would not comply with the requirements of the Stands for Carry-cots (Safety) Regulations, 1966, which came into operation on 1st February this year. I would strongly urge all parents to ensure that any carry-cot stand in their possession has rigid stops at the sides and ends to prevent the carry-cot from slipping off.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will consider amending the regulations governing the grant of parole to prisoners, with a view to protecting the public against the abuse of this privilege by dangerous criminals.
New instructions were issued four weeks ago emphasising that special care must be exercised before prisoners with records of violence are granted short-term parole.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many people feel that more emphasis should be put on the safety of the public and less on the wishes and convenience of criminals?
I have heard the right hon. Gentleman make that statement before, but I am bound to say that I regard it more as a slogan than as a policy. If he is concerned with this issue rather than merely to exploit it, as he does with most emotive issues, for the purposes of his own "shadow" battle, he may care to note that this year we have so far reduced prison escapes—escapes from closed prisons—to about 20 per cent. of those in the last few years in which he shared responsibility.
Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that as one of Her Majesty's Ministers his duty at the Box is to answer questions and not sneer at Members who are doing their duty by their constituents?
I am bound to say that I have never heard a more ridiculous statement, even from the hon. and learned Gentleman. [Interruption.]
Order. There is too much warmth and not enough light at the moment.
On a point of order. Owing to the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I beg to give notice that I will raise it again at an early moment.
Marfords Remand Home, Bromborough
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will give the details, including the dates, of the consultations which took place between his Department and the Cheshire County Council regarding the decision by the Council to close Marfords Remand Home, Bromborough, last July.
The county council did not consult the Home Office before deciding to close the home. But they informed the Department of their decision a week before it was effected.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that information, but as he is aware of the widespread concern in my constituency over the secrecy which has surrounded the affair, will he agree to set up an official Home Office inquiry so that the evidence of the superintendent and his staff can be assessed objectively?
No, Sir. I think that this is a matter exclusively within the concern of the county council, which is, after all, a democratically locally elected body. I do not think that it would be proper to intervene, even if I were to observe in passing that it appears to be easier for a county council to close a home with very much less exhaustive inquiry than it is for a Home Secretary to withdraw a certificate of approval.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I give notice that I will raise the matter again at the eariiest opportunity.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department why the type of breathalyser used by the police is not available for sale to the public; and if he will amend the relevant regulations in order that they may become so available.
This is a matter for the manufacturers, not for regulations.
Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the reason why this type of breathalyser is not now available is simply shortage of supply and not any Government regulation, and will he give an assurance that when supplies are available the Government will put no obstacle in the way of the public buying such types?
This is entirely a decision of the manufacturers. It is not because of any regulation, as I said. Whether or not supplies are available and the public use them will not be matters for Government regulation again, although I must add that there are disadvantages in people testing themselves, as has been pointed out in the past. This is not regarded as something which should necessarily be encouraged because it might lead people to drink up to the limit, and also the circumstances might be such that what might be a guide on that occasion might not be a guide in general.
While I do not dispute the right hon. Gentleman's right to disclaim responsibility for issuing breathalysers, would he not agree that the average person is very anxious to comply with the new regulations and finds it puzzling that he is not provided with some assistance so to do?
I have given my Answer why the Government regard it as inadvisable for people to rely on private tests. As to supplies of the device, I understand that it is for commercial reasons that the firm has decided, for the present at any rate, not to put the device on public sale.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, in view of the forthcoming hard winter, he will cease issuing work vouchers during any period of unemployment above the average of the last five years.
No, Sir. Only a small number of vouchers are made available each year. They are issued by the Ministry of Labour to Commonwealth citizens who either have specific jobs to come to in this country, or have qualifications which are scarce here.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour denied that this was a matter for him and said that it was a matter for the Home Office? In view of the hard, dark winter promised by the Prime Minister and the industrial troubles and the unemployment foreshadowed, would it not be better to stop all vouchers during the winter?
The hon. Gentleman greatly exaggerates the problem. As he will know, since August, 1965, the number of vouchers issued has been reduced to 8,500. In 1966 only 5,461 voucher holders actually came in. Up to the end of August this year only 3,215 voucher holders have arrived compared with 3,802 for the same period last year. Admission on this scale, particularly of those with jobs to come to or to fulfil urgently needed requirements in this country, does not affect the employment situation here.
Taxicabs And Private Hire Cars (Departmental Committee)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress has been made with the independent committee of inquiry into the taxicab and private hire car services in London.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he expects the independent committee charged with the task of inquiring into the operation, structure and economy of the taxicab and private hire car trades in London to make its report.
Mr. Maxwell Stamp has accepted an invitation to be Chairman, and seven other members, whose names I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT, have agreed to serve. I will also circulate the terms of reference. It is too early to say when the Committee may be expected to report.
Will my right hon. Friend agree that this will give a good deal of satisfaction to the trade? At the same time, does he appreciate that, with the constant delays that have gone on in the past, there has been a good deal of lack of confidence in the intentions of the Government? May we hope that on this occasion the report will be an early one?
I certainly want the Committee to do a thorough job. I regret that it has taken as long as it has to set it up, but I thought that it was highly desirable to get a good Committee to do this important task. I will impress upon the Committee the need, compatible with its doing a thorough job, for speed.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of a growing tendency for taxis to cruise with "for hire" lit up and the flag up and to refuse to stop when hailed, which causes distress to visitors to this country? Will he look into the matter?
Yes, Sir; this will be looked into.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that on 9th June it was stated by the Minister of State that he intended to proceed at once to the appointment of this Committee and that it has caused a great deal of resentment among taxi drivers that the right hon. Gentleman is only just setting the Committee to work? Can he say when the Committee will first meet, and also how representations can be made to it by the taxi drivers who are so concerned about their livelihood?
I have already expressed the view that I wish it had been possible to set up the Committee earlier. But it is now there, and I am sure it is a good Committee and will do its job. It will be glad to receive evidence from the taxi drivers, but it is a matter for the Committee as to precisely when it meets and how it will receive this other evidence. There is no reason why certain legislation in this field should be held up pending the Report of the Committee.
Following are the terms of reference of the Departmental Committee on the London Taxicab Trade:
"To inquire into the operation, structure and economy of the taxi-cab and private hire car trades in London; to consider the respective roles of the two services in the carriage of passengers in London and the statutory controls needed for their safe and efficient performance; and to make recommendations."
The seven Members of the Committee are:
- Councillor H. Cubitt.
- Professor A. Day.
- Mr. S. Hill.
- Mr. O. A. Kerensky
- Miss A. Scott-James.
- Councillor J. L. Walker.
- Mr. R. G. A. Youard.
Pakistan (Civil Pensions)
asked the Minister of Overseas Development whether civil pensions paid by the Pakistan Government to British citizens are still being paid at a reduced rate as a consequence of the devaluation of the Indian rupee; and if he will make a statement.
The majority of Pakistan pensioners are being paid at the proper rate. The reduction applies only to a relatively small number of pensioners part of whose pensions are shared between Pakistan and India. In their case the answer to the first part of the question is yes.I have written to the hon. Member about the second part.
Is the Minister aware that these cuts in pension have gone on since February? How long are they likely to continue? In consequence of this, would the Minister consider giving tax-free loans to make good the pension that has been lost?
The hon. Gentleman will have seen from the letter that I sent him that we have been pursuing the matter with very great vigour. I have now a list of some 50 different initiatives that we have taken in an attempt to resolve it. We are hopeful that the two other Governments concerned will shortly be able to reach a conclusion in the matter.
Voluntary Service Overseas
asked the Minister of Overseas Development what is the reason for the decline in the numbers of Voluntary Service Overseas volunteers in 1967–68 compared with 1966–67; and what steps are being taken to increase the numbers in the coming financial year.
As the Answer is long and includes a number of figures I will, with permission, circulate it is the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Will my hon. Friend agree that this is one of the most valuable forms of aid this country can give and that it should be stepped up from year to year rather than allowed to decrease?
I entirely agree with what my hon. Friend says about the value of this service and we are hopeful that the trend will continue in an upward direction. My hon. Friend will have in mind, I hope, that last year's increase was quite exceptional and the figures for the present year are well above those of two years ago.
Has there been any significant increase in the number of non-graduate volunteers as compared with graduates?
We have been getting some increase here. It is a difficult field. I have recently had meetings with representatives of trade unions and of the C.B.I. with a view to stepping this up. It is not so easy to get recruits in this field but we are doing everything we can.
Following is the Answer:
It is expected that for 1967–68, 1,327 volunteers will be recruited. About 210 who went out last year are expected to stay on for a second year, and so 1,537 should be serving overseas. The numbers serving overseas in 1965–66 and 1966–67 were 1,323 and 1,719 respectively.
I am naturally a little disappointed that the dramatic increase in 1966–67 has not been maintained, but the figure for the current year is well ahead of that for 1965–66.
It is impossible to say with certainty why this year's figure has fallen. Uncertain political conditions in some overseas countries and increased emphasis on two-year service may well have contributed. The effect of the economic squeeze in this country may have made some volunteers more anxious than in previous years to establish themselves in jobs without any interval of overseas service.
The Societies have set themselves the ambitious target of 1,950 volunteers serving overseas for the 1968 programme. The flow of information and the recruiting machinery are constantly being improved and the Societies concerned will continue to urge upon the younger generation the virtues of this kind of service. In this they can rely on my full support and I have recently held meetings with representatives of Trade Unions and of employers which will, I hope, produce practical results.
asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs if he will make a statement about progress with the National Plan.
I would refer the hon. Gentleman to my reply to the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. G. Campbell) on 24th October.
I saw that reply, hut as the Minister is a member of a Government who pride themselves on planning, can he at least give an estimate of the date when this National Plan is to be published, and in the meantime can he publish a statement of the assumptions on which planning is being made?
Preliminary discussions are going on with N.E.D.C., and as soon as we are able to make an announcement to the House we shall do so.
Can my hon. Friend say whether the hold-up of the publication of the National Plan is in any way associated with the country's application to join the Common Market, and, if so, will he not confirm that that obstacle has now been removed?
I think the hon. Member is a little premature in his last assumption It is, of course, only one of the many international trading factors complicating the preliminary discussions at this stage.
asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs whether a Departmental Committee has yet met with the South-West Regional Economic Planning Council to discuss the draft strategy, Region with a Future.
My right hon. Friend has arranged to meet Professor Tress on 8th November for a preliminary discussion of the main recommendations.
Can my hon. Friend give any indication when he expects to be able to make a decision on the recommendations and ensure that they are at least not held up as some reports of Regional Economic Councils have been?
I appreciate the hon. Member's concern but I am sure that he would prefer to take perhaps a little longer to reach right decisions than to reach decisions more quickly which are the wrong decisions.
Would the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that what we need, after discussion, is action in the South-West and particularly on those recommendations for better roads and the inclusion of Plymouth and Okehamp-ton in the development area? Will he bear in mind that we need action?
Yes. It is with great regret we note that this action did not take place many years ago—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—but there are many views put forward in the Economic Planning Council's Report and they are being given full consideration.
asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will state the rateable value per acre for the proposed new counties of Powys, Dyfed, Gwynedd, and also the county borough of Merthyr Tydvil, respectively.
As at 1st April, 1966, the rateable values per acre were £2 2s.5d., £6 3s. 7d., £11 19s. 6d. and £74 15s. 0d. respectively.
Will my hon. Friend tell me, having regard to the figures. what were the grounds that drove the Secretary of State for Wales to recommend that Merthyr Tydvil should be deprived of its county borough status while, on the other hand, impoverished counties have been linked together which have far less resources than Merthyr Tydvil has?
As regards the figures, I must point out that they reflect the differences in density of development between urban and rural areas. They do not provide a proper measure of the resources of the authorities and they are not, therefore, the basis of the reorganisation proposals.
White Paper On Local Government
asked the Secretary of State for Wales what were the principles leading to the compilation and issue of the recent White Paper on Local Government in Wales.
The principles were set out in the Introduction to the White Paper.
Is my hon. Friend aware that what is laid down in the beginning of that Paper is a complete disgrace and that the last matter the Secretary of State for Wales should have referred to was the Commission's Report of 1961?
With reference to Merthyr Tydvil, the Local Government Commission for Wales in its 1963 Report analysed the matter in some detail. Circumstances have not materially changed since that time, and my right hon. Friend has accepted the Commission's analysis and conclusion.
Is the Minister aware that the proposed amalgamation of these counties will not add anything at all to their income, whereas their costs will remain constant?
That is a matter of opinion, but these matters are already under discussion. My right hon. Friend is having discussions with everyone concerned. They are important, and it is very necessary that some action should be taken.
asked the Prime Minister what consultations he has had with leaders of other countries during the last three months about the Middle East situation.
During the Recess my right hon. Friend and I have been in almost continuous consultation with governments in all parts of the world about this problem. I will circulate a fuller description of these contacts in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
I am very grateful for that informative reply, but could I ask the Prime Minister whether he can give an assurance that no British financial aid will be given to Egypt till such time as Egypt has opened the southern end of the Canal and let out the ships which are kept there?
My right hon. Friend has already taken up with the Egyptian Foreign Secretary the need for urgent action to open up the southern end even in advance of what all of us want, the general opening up of the Canal to shipping of all nations. Certainly I will give consideration to what the hon. Member has said, but I have not seen any suggestion at all for financial aid to Egypt, and I think the other question is certainly more urgent than any question of financial aid.
May I ask a somewhat similar question? Can we take it that no commitment has been made to anybody in Southern Arabia as to economic assistance following the withdrawal of British troops from Aden and Southern Arabia?
That is a different question, which the right hon. Gentleman will no doubt wish to put to my right hon. Friend about the Southern Arabian situation, but we did undertake to the previous Government in Southern Arabia to provide certain aid, but now, of course, there is a new situation, which we are considering.
Can my right hon. Friend say what representations the Government have made to the Egyptian authorities as a result of Egypt's sinking of the Israeli ship?
The sinking of the ship and other actions which have taken place this week, of course, only exacerbate an extremely difficult situation. Things were difficult enough in relation to making a move forward in the Middle East and towards the opening of the Canal. These other actions can only make it more difficult. I do not think it helps for us to express opinions about the merits, the timing, or the location of the events which took place last week. Our concern is, with the United Nations, to get the Canal open and then to find the best way to some general Middle East settlement.
Following is the information:
During the period I have discussed the matter with a number of Commonwealth leaders who have visited London. I have also been in personal correspondence with the Yugoslav President who had taken certain initiatives to explore the possibilities of a settlement. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has had personal consultations with President Johnson and with a large number of Foreign Ministers of Middle Eastern and other interested countries and with the Secretary-General of the United Nations. There have also been almost continuous consultations through the diplomatic channel with a large number of Governments including the Governments concerned in the Middle East and other Governments closely interested in the achievement of a settlement in the area.
asked the Prime Minister what steps he has taken in consultation with the Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth and the President of the United States of America to ensure the unmolested use of the Suez Canal by international shipping?
asked the Prime Minister if he will state what is the present position on the reopening of the Suez Canal accessible to the ships of all maritime countries.
The House will recognise the acute difficulties we are facing in our efforts to get the Suez Canal open We are in close and direct touch with all the Governments concerned and are also playing a full part in the United Nations' consideration of this question. Certainly it is our view that any lasting settlement in the Middle East must provide for freedom of passage in international waterways for the ships of all nations.
Is it true that the south exit has become silted up and unusable, and as it has been some months now since the Canal has been closed, will it be a matter of years before anything is done?
No, but it is certainly a fact that the longer the Canal is not in use the more there will be problems of silting, not only in relation to the exit but also in relation to the actual Canal itself, and ships which could have passed through six months ago will not be able to pass through, even when the Canal is opened, till further action is taken. We are concerned with the urgency of getting the Canal opened, and then clearing up all the technical problems, the administrative problems and the physical problems which have arisen through silting of the Canal.
Is it not extraordinary that the United Arab Republic can defy the wishes of every maritime nation in the world and of the United Nations? Will my right hon. Friend suggest to Lord Caradon, our representative there, that instead of indulging in pious platitudes he should adopt a more vigorous and less unprejudiced attitude?
My noble Friend is doing a tremendous job in the United Nations. With respect to my very dear and right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), his remark just now, I feel, was more in the nature of a pious platitude and less in the nature of something unprejudiced than what my noble Friend has been enunciating in New York. It is intolerable that any nation should keep the Suez Canal closed to international shipping. It is also intolerable that any nation on either side should not co-operate in agreeing conditions in which, with good will, this Canal could be opened. My right hon. Friend has put forward proposals under which there could be a withdrawal from the Canal shores, and an opening of the Canal, and under which we could move forward to settling some of the broader and more long-standing issues such as the right of all nations, including Israel, to use the Canal, and such as the settlement of the refugee question. But for people to insist on standing on their rights, getting everything they want and keeping the Canal closed is intolerable, from wherever it may come.
Can the Prime Minister say what is now the cost to the British balance of payments of the closure of the Canal and the Middle Eastern situation per month?
It is a serious cost, though I think that that cost will shortly be diminishing. I should answer the right hon. Gentleman frankly that during the period of closure so far—[Interruption.]—No. I could follow abundant precedent in all Governments and say that it is not in the national interest. But it is a fair question, and it will get a fair answer. While the Canal has been closed in recent months, the cost to Britain has been something of the order of £20 million a month. That is the estimate which we have been able to make. That figure will fall even if the Canal remains closed. In the early months, we had to buy a lot of very expensive oil in non-Middle East areas. In addition, B.P., for example, was very much under-tankered and had to charter large tankers at very expensive freight rates. Now, tanker rates are falling. This £20 million will fall, but it is still an intolerable cost for this country, just as it is for India and other countries which are suffering through the non-delivery of goods which they urgently need.
In view of the fact that it has now become cheaper to take oil in 200,000-ton tankers round the Cape than in very much smaller tankers through the Suez Canal, would it matter very much in the long term to our economic interests if the Canal remained closed permanently?
It is not in our interests or anyone else's—least of all is it in Egypt's interests, because she is paying a very heavy price for the maintenance of the closure of the Canal—to see the Canal closed. At the same time, those who think that anyone is in a position to be blackmailed by the continued closure of the Canal is wrong. The growth of big tankers is making the Suez Canal rather a pathetic irrelevance for oil tankers very soon. Certainly it is the intention of the Government, as I indicated some months ago, to see that we take all measures necessary to ensure that we get our requirements of oil to this country without being dependent on a canal which is subject to the political whims of people on both sides who can interfere with an international waterway.
Can my right hon. Friend say how much of that £20 million is represented by foreign exchange costs?
It is a cost on our balance of payments, and I gave a clear answer to the right hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath). Obviously, if we have to buy expensive oil in Venezuela and the United States, as we did for a short time, that increases our imports bill. Again, if we have to pay for foreign chartered tankers—some of them are British, of course—that adds to our foreign exchange costs. As I have said, the cost of the closure is sharply diminishing, but it is still intolerable, just as it is on India and all other countries which depend on the Canal.
asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the latest developments in Anglo-Rhodesian relations.
asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement upon the situation in Rhodesia.
I would refer hon. Members to the Answers I gave to Questions on this subject on Tuesday last to which as yet there is nothing to add.—[Vol. 751, c. 1496–1502.]
Does the Prime Minister agree that the six principles were embodied in the Constitution initialled on board H.M.S. "Tiger" last year, and, if the Rhodesian leaders are prepared to take the Constitution as the basis of a settlement, is he prepared to modify the formula for a return to legality imposed upon him by the Commonwealth Prime Ministers?
There is agreement between both parties on the need for a return to constitutional rule, and for the acceptance of the six principles. If I were to take at face value what Mr. Smith stated yesterday in his own Parliament, I should be extremely depressed about the prospects of reaching agreement; equally, if I took account of their savage maltreatment of the Conservative Party conference's findings on Rhodesia. I would be prepared to make available to the Library the statement issued by Rhodesia's Fascist-controlled television and radio service which was most unfair to right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and treated the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) as though he were the biggest enemy that Rhodesia ever had—which he is not. But we must leave this to the statesmanship of the talks which may come and not take too seriously statements made in the Rhodesian Parliament.
Or here in London.
In view of my right hon. Friend's answer on Tuesday that a lie has been carefully fostered about Nibmar, is he aware of a similar lie which has been fostered on the other side about the Secretary of State's visit; in other words, that we wish for some kind of settlement on terms which do not suit us? Would he shoot this one down again today?
I am not responsible for the lies fostered in any of these places. Everything that I have said to the Rhodesian Prime Minister—and there has been no precedent in British history —has been published afterwards and made available to the House. We are prepared to have a settlement with them, provided it is in accordance with the terms laid down by the House. It makes me a little anxious that, of the six principles to which all parties in the House are signatories, in the last two months the Rhodesians have thrown over in their public statements principles 1, 2, 3 and 6. They have never accepted principle 4, and now they are throwing out principle 5. Nevertheless, with statesmanship, I hope that we can still reach agreement on the basis of the six principles.
European Economic Community
asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the progress of negotiations with the European Economic Community.
asked the Prime Minister what progress has been made in Great Britain's application to join the European Economic Community.
I would ask hon. Members to await the the statement which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will be making later today.
While welcoming the Prime Minister's refusal to take Non for an answer, are studies being made of alternatives such as an Atlantic Free Trade Area possibly linked with E.F.T.A., Australia and New Zealand which might become necessary in the case of a veto?
Whether it is "No" or Non we are taking for an answer, or Non, mais or Oui, mais, is a matter of considerable argument and public discussion. All I know is that the Six have adjourned discussions until 20th November. There is no advantage in, and no question of starting looking at, alternatives such as those suggested by the hon. Gentleman. I have dealt with this matter in past Questions. As I said on Tuesday, our application is in and it remains in.
Is the Prime Minister still satisfied that conditions exist for fruitful negotiations which he announced his intention of discovering as long ago as 10th November, 1966?
I believe that everything that I said on 10th November and on 2nd and 8th May still applies. We believe that the possibility of fruitful negotiations is there, and no one will doubt our intention of negotiating a satisfactory final settlement.
Economic Secretary To The Treasury
asked the Prime Minister if he will give consideration to reviving the post of Economic Secretary to the Treasury.
In view of the way in which the Chancellor's forecasts of payments surpluses seem to go astray, and in view of the way in which the Prime Minister's own statements that we are paying our way do not seem to be believed in Europe, does not the right hon. Gentleman think that there is a case for strengthening the Treasury team, and might not the strengthening of this team enable us to forecast what is going to blow the Government off course next?
I happened to say at a northern seaside resort recently that I am amazed at the avidity with which hon. Gentlemen opposite seize on the difficulties which Britain may be facing at any time. As he will know, because he has his mind on these matters, we had got into the position of balancing our payments in 1967. The hon. Gentleman will recognise the effect of the closure of the Suez Canal, which was not exactly the consequence of any action by Her Majesty's Government, and, indeed, the Opposition were asking us to take much tougher action in June on the Suez Canal than we had done, and on Tiran; but basically we have reached a situation where we are paying our way. We have this surcharge on imports, on which I gave the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition some clear figures a few moments ago.
Going back to the original Question, why does not the Prime Minister issue an invitation to his right hon. and dear friend the Member for Easing-ton (Mr. Shinwell)?
I think that in this House, as in all Government matters, every right hon. and hon. Member should be in the position in which he can make the biggest contribution to the welfare of the nation. I am not sure that my right hon. Friend would necessarily have made a correct forecast of what was going to happen in the Middle East in June of this year, and I have not heard any suggestion from the other side about how the effect on our balance of payments—because I think that there has been substantial agreement about the handling of the Middle Eastern question —could have been safeguarded against that kind of action.
Arising from the Prime Minister's earlier answer, is it not a fact that the current balance of trade is no better than it was in 1964, despite an improvement in the terms of trade of about £300 million a year?
No, Sir. I think that the right hon. Gentleman is basing himself—though I do not think he would have done it when he was Chancellor and these things happened—on the effect on exports of what we must all insist are temporary dock strikes. This has an effect on the current balance of trade. Our balance of trade this year is an improvement on 1966, which was an improvement on 1965, which was an improvement on 1964. Ergo, we were doing very much better in 1967 than in 1964, but we have had the effect of the withdrawal of sterling balances in the Middle East, and we have had the effect of the closure of the Suez Canal, which has affected our balance of trade by the surcharge on our imports.
May I assure my right hon. Friend that, in spite of all the difficulties which face the Government and the country, if I have to choose between him and the potential political terrorists on the Opposition Front Bench, I prefer him.
I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend for that very limited statement of support, but I think that he rather flatters right hon. Gentlemen opposite by making them sound quite so positive or so terrifying by using that word.
Foreign Travel Allowance
Mr. Speaker, may I raise a point of order, of which I have given you notice? In a Written Answer on 24th October, at column 424, the Chancellor of the Exchequer told me that he would not, at present, increase the foreign travel allowance, but on the same day his Department announced that the allowance would be increased for certain categories of people. It appears, therefore that there must be an error in the OFFICIAL REPORT, and I am seeking your guidance about how it can be corrected.
If I were informed of an error of the kind described by the hon. Gentleman I would seek to correct it, but I would have to have information from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that it was a misreporting of what he said, and on whether it was accurate or not. It is not unknown that a Minister's replies do not always seem accurate to an hon. Member. This is no new feature of the British Parliament. It is really not a point of order for Mr. Speaker.
Further to that point of order.
I have ruled that it is not a point of order.
On a new point of order. In view of the evidence given to the House by my hon. Friend, and as the Chancellor is in his place, can he give an explanation of the discrepancy in his statement?
It is always in order for an hon. Member to seek an explanation from a Minister. This, too, is not unknown in the history of Parliament.
Docks Strikes (Liverpool And London)
(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Labour whether he will make a statement regarding the position in the Liverpool and London docks.
There has been a virtually complete strike of dockers in Liverpool and Birkenhead since 18th September. In London, the Royal Group, West India and Millwall docks, and to a lesser extent London and St. Katharine's docks, have also been affected. These strikes, which are unofficial, now involve about 16,000 men, and have caused serious interference with trade, in particular with exports.At Liverpool, the local system of pay, and, in particular, the arrangements for piece work, have been the major issue, and negotiations on this were in progress before the strike. I therefore appointed Mr. Jack Scamp, on 10th October, to inquire into the locally determined aspects of the system of payment and earnings opportunities. I expect to receive his report in the very near future. Mr. Scamp, at my suggestion, has also had extensive discussions over the period 19th October to 21st October with representatives of employers and workers in Liverpool in order to seek, in advance of his report, a basis for a resumption of work. As a result of these discussions, an agreement was reached between the employers and the union who have made strenuous efforts to explain to their members the advantages which it provides. I very much regret that despite this a meeting of the men decided yesterday to continue the strike. I have today received a letter from Mr. Scamp dealing with these negotiations. In it, he makes clear his view that the agreement reached is the best way to meet criticisms of the present system of pay- ment in the port expressed at his inquiry, pending a more detailed review and that it provides an acceptable basis for a return to work. I fully support his view and urge the men to reconsider their position. In London, the main issue—the procedure for the recall to their permanent employer of men on temporary transfer—was considered before 18th September and is dealt with in local agreements reached by the unions and employers as part of the decasualisation arrangements, which were then introduced. I am satisfied that any difficulties arising out of the application of these arrangements can be taken up by the union through the industry's negotiating machinery, and I urge the men to pursue any grievances they may have in this way.
May I strongly endorse—and I am sure that in doing so I speak on behalf of the whole House—the Minister's call to the strikers at the docks to return to work immediately? I do not wish to press the Minister for answers to questions which will in any way embarrass the situation, but, nevertheless, Parliament should be the sounding board for public opinion.May I, therefore, ask him whether, in the national interest, he can now tell us when the Government would regard it as necessary to take any emergency action to support the national interest, and whether he thinks that it might be helpful to make a statement on this matter before, rather than after, the next mass meeting of the dockers, which I believe will be tomorrow, so that they are aware of the view of the Government and of the House?
The right hon. Gentle-put his finger on the problem by talking about the difficulties of timing in this matter. What the right hon. Gentleman has been talking about is bound to be considered by any Government, but I put it to him that the situation would be fraught with danger if we made any statement now.A mass meeting is to take place on Friday. I believe that it is the desire of thousands of Liverpool dockers to go back to work. Every effort is being made today to explain exactly what the proposals are. Yesterday, there seemed to be considerable confusion about what they meant. The T.G.W.U. is making every effort to see that the men fully understand what it is all about. A decision will be taken at the mass meeting on Friday. I hope that it will be successful, but I repeat that it would be dangerous to make a statement at this time.
Is my right hon. Friend aware of the very serious problem facing the Lancashire textile industry? If, as we hope, the strike is settled soon, will be give an assurance that he will do all in his power to expedite the export and import of raw cotton immediately after perishable goods?
I am fully aware of the seriousness of the position. Particular representations have been made to me by textile manufacturers, and I think that I can assure my hon. Friend that that priority will be given.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the statement he has made will be well received—that there is a general recognition of the real grievances which the Liverpool dockers have had and still have? Will he tell the House whether the question of the interpretation of the 2s. bonus money, which could lead to certain sections of the dockers receiving only 1s., in relation to the stowback, is being dealt with? If it is dealt with quickly it can help a return to work.
I can assure my hon. Friend that that is one of the points that the Transport and General Workers' Union today is making considerable efforts to explain.
The Minister has referred to the agreement between the employers and the union. Does not he agree that what is needed now is a glimmer of agreement between the trade union and those whom it is alleged to represent? Does he agree, further, that the cause of this dispute has been not so much Communist agitation as the failure of the trade union leaders to recognise the true nature of the difficulties facing the men?
There is a substantial amount of truth in what the hon. Member says. There has been a failure of communication, but I am not happy to reflect on that today.
I accept what the Minister says about the difficulty of taking emergency measures in Liverpool, but can he say how long the Government will wait before they take some sort of emergency measures in London docks, because of the enormous strain now being placed upon our balance of payments by the failure to load exports?
Again, I can only repeat that this is a matter of judgment and I am not senior enough in the hierarchy to decide when a proclamation should be made, or anything of this character. The only advice that I can give the House at this time is not to follow the advice of my hon. Friend. We are not thinking of doing that in London at present. If we did, the House might be faced with a far more substantial crisis.
In view of the Minister's statement about a Communist plan for our winter of discontent, will he make available to the House the names and, if necessary, the political affiliations, of the members of the unofficial strike committee in Liverpool?
I have been wondering during the last week whether I am the most worldly-wise man in this country or whether I am the most innocent. I do not know. What I said in my speech I thought was stating the obvious. I was brought up in a Welsh coalfield. I know what the Communist Party exists for. I never said that these men were doing anything illegal. They are there to plot. If we are not careful the boys will be advocating a redundancy payment for the industrial officer of the Communist Party, and he does not qualify under my Fund.
British Iron And Steel Federation (Dissolution)
(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Power, in view of the impending dissolution of the B.I.S.F. on 31st October, what provision is to be made to compensate long-service employees of the Federation who do not accept the offer of transfer to the B.S.C. which reached them on 24th October, and whether he will make a statement.
In accordance with the arrangements agreed between the British Steel Corporation and the British Iron and Steel Federation every one of the staff of the Federation has been offered transfer to the Corporation on the same terms as those on which they are now serving. The Corporation has undertaken in the case of those who accept, to treat service with the Federation and the Corporation as continuous. Whether those who decline are entitled to compensation will fall to be determined under the Redundancy Payments Act and their contracts of employment.
Does the right hon. Gentleman think that that is enough? Does he recollect the clear, categorical undertakings given by the Government, in Committee, that the Federation staff would be fully safeguarded by the highest standards of personnel responsibility? Does he believe that an offer which is refused by those to whom it is made and which gives no indication what will happen to the men when their existing employer disappears in five days' time measures up to those standards?
I can only think that the hon. Member produced his second point before he had heard my Answer. I would have thought that the decision of the British Iron and Steel Corporation to offer every employee of the Federation a job with his existing conditions of service was about as generous as anything that could be expected.
Would my right hon. Friend care to draw a contrast between the treatment offered by the Iron and Steel Corporation to former employees of the Federation with that offered by many private companies which take over other firms?
If one were drawing conclusions, one could look at the shabby way in which the members of the last nationalised Steel Board were treated by right hon. Gentlemen opposite on the dissolution of the Board. I can only make the point—I do not know who has raised the point with the hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Patrick Jenkin)—that despite the shortage of time, up to this morning, which was only three days, over three-quarters of the Federation staff had already accepted the offer.
In making it clear that this is an offer which the employees of the Federation are invited to accept or reject, the Minister must also imply that for those who choose to reject the offer their full contractual rights under the existing compensation and life assurance schemes will be honoured—or is he saying that he is going to rat on those obligations?
This places me in a somewhat unusual position. As the Minister I am not responsible for the British Iron and Steel Federation. This is not a Governmental body, nor is there any Parliamentary accountability attached to it. The assurance that I gave in Committee—and this is the extent of my responsibility—was that the British Iron and Steel Corporation would act in a fair and responsible way in respect of its obligations towards these employees. To offer every single one of them a transfer on his existing conditions—not the Corporation's conditions—seems to me to be about as reasonable as one can get.
I agree with my right hon. Friend that the terms are very generous, but does not he agree that it might have been wiser to make a condition of payment that these employees should under no circumstances agree to co-operate with any future Government that might be so ill-advised as to try to denationalise the steel industry?
With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I wish to make a statement on our application to join the three European Communities.First, let me give a brief summary of developments since the debate in the House on the 8th, 9th and 10th of May. As hon. Members will recall, we then applied to join the Communities in terms strictly in accordance with the appropriate articles in the Treaties which deal with new members. Since that date, all the procedures laid down in the Treaties have been observed. Before the Summer Recess, and following the statement which I made at the Western European Union Council on 4th July, the Council of Ministers of the Six asked the Commission to prepare an opinion on our application. This the Commission did quickly and thoroughly and its report was presented to the Council of Ministers on 30th of September. The Commission's Report—which deals also with the application of Denmark, Ireland and Norway—has now been published, and copies of the English version have been available for some days in the Library of the House. The Report is an internal document of the Community and has not yet been fully debated by the six Governments. But there are two important points in the report to which I should like to draw attention. First, the conclusion that Britain's accession to the Community will strengthen it and afford it the opportunity for further progress. Second, the firm recommendation of the Commission that negotiations should begin. For, as it says, solutions can only be found in negotiations. As the House knows, this is our view and it conforms with Community procedures as laid down in the Treaty. It is the view of the overwhelming majority of opinion throughout Europe. We want to join the Communities as they are, on equal terms with the other members and we want, with our partners, to go from there and build with them on the foundations that they have laid, so that together we achieve a more united and more powerful Europe. I am glad to think that our purposes in this are now clearly recognised. The Council of Ministers of the Community discussed, as hon. Members know, the Commission's opinion at some length earlier this week. These discussions will continue on 20th November. Meanwhile, we in Britain should not rush to draw conclusions. We are confident that the procedures laid down in the Treaty will continue to be followed. The Treaty provides that the member States and the applicant State shall agree on the conditions of admission and the adjustments required. This means negotiations. We therefore continue to expect a reply from the Six as a whole that, having received the Commission's opinion on the point, they are ready to open negotiations with us. The Luxembourg meeting demonstrated what a lot of support there is for this application in the Community. I should like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the strong support that we received from a number of countries. We are confident that in the further discussions which the Six are to have next month the utmost efforts will be made to obtain agreement that the Community should begin negotiations with us in accordance with the Treaty. As the House knows, we have had the pleasure of a visit these last three days from the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany. This gave us a timely opportunity for a thorough discussion together on these issues. We were encouraged by the strong support which Chancellor Kiesinger and his Government continue to give us. I should like to remind the House of the statement which he made before he left London yesterday:
Her Majesty's Government will continue to press hard for negotiations to open. Our application is on the table. We, for our part, are ready to start negotiations now."The Federal Government is of the opinion that Great Britain should become a member of the European Communities. It will carefully examine the objections to British membership which have been raised within the Community of the Six. During the deliberations initiated among the Six the Federal Government will endeavour to help overcome the difficulties that have arisen and trusts that these deliberations will soon lead to the opening of negotiations with Great Britain".
We will, perhaps, be able to return to these matters in a little more detail on the Gracious Speech in a week's time. I will make only three short points now. We agree with the right hon. Gentleman that our application should lie on the table and not be withdrawn. [Laughter.] Not be withdrawn.We support the Government's request that negotiations should start as soon as possible. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition suggested, I think in November last, that there ought to be discussions in depth into such large questions as the future of sterling, and the possibility of an alternative reserve currency. We have seen no evidence that this has been done by Her Majesty's Government. How would the right hon. Gentleman propose to get over these difficulties and discuss these matters with our friends, and with the French?
I do not really know what the right hon. Gentleman meant when he said that he agreed that our application should lie on the table. It is on the table, it is there for active negotiating and if that is what the right hon. Gentleman meant then I agree with him. I had a feeling that in some parts of the House his remark was misunderstood. It is always a large part of my ambition to ensure that the right hon. Gentleman is not knowingly misunderstood.About the negotiations, I am very grateful for what he has said. I agree with him that we will do everything we can to ensure that negotiations are opened as soon as we can. On the question of the international rôle of sterling, again, I am not quite clear what he means by "examination in depth". I have said repeatedly, and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has said many times in various forms, that we do not see any way in which this is an impediment to our membership of the Community, but if any of our would-be partners in the Community wish to raise the question of changing the international monetary system—[AN HON. MEMBER: "They have."] Then we can discuss with them in what way it should be changed, what the new ideas should be, what the new formulation should be. We have put up ideas and suggestions about this. This can he part of the negotiations. But there is nothing in the international rôle of sterling which is an impediment to our joining the Economic Community. Certainly, one cannot undo overnight a system which has sustained international trade for a very long time, unless the others are willing to join in a new system to take its place. This is what we would negotiate about, and are very willing to do, and it should not hold up the process of negotiations.
Would my right hon. Friend agree that there is a very wide gap, perhaps the widest in modern literature, between the E.E.C. Commission's view of the British economy, and that in the excellent speech made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister at Scarborough? Will my right hon. Friend confirm, notwithstanding anything that is said by the French or anyone else, that there will be the same insistence in protecting British and Commonwealth interests?
I was about to say that there was more than one excellent speech made at Scarborough. If I could go on to deal with the other part of the question, my hon. Friend has concentrated too much upon one part of the Commission's Report and may have missed paragraph 192 to the end. Paragraph 192, which is where the Commission is summing up, says that the new members,
It then details what they are and ends by saying:"… especially the main one, the United Kingdom, would have to agree with the founder members on a solution of a number of problems which would be of vital importance for the harmonious development of the enlarged Community."
That is the operative part of what it had to say on this subject. We want negotiations to open and, of course, during them we will take care of our interests, as no doubt someone else will be trying to take care of their own."It is the Commission's opinion that, in order to dispel the uncertainty which still attaches particularly to certain fundamental points, negotiations should be opened … with the States which have applied for membership."
Will the Foreign Secretary make it quite clear that the Government are not ready to abandon sterling's international rôle in any circumstances, nor will they devalue the currency to meet a demand by the French?
I am not seeking to lay down conditions about the negotiations. I think that there is a good deal of misunderstanding, knowingly or unknowingly. The place to resolve all these misunderstandings, or what you will, is round the table when negotiations start. If any of the present members of the Community genuinely have worries or doubts, my right hon. Friend and I went through them with them in the course of our tour in Europe before we made up our mind to apply. If they still have doubts, the place to resolve them is round the negotiating table, where we can find answers to them, and we are willing to do so.
If the present bid were to fail, would my right hon. Friend be prepared to adopt a more vigorous style of diplomacy and put the blame for the continued division of Europe precisely where it belongs: at the door of the French and their own political ambitions?
I have not so far had the impression that such allegations as there were against me were that my style of diplomacy was not vigorous. On the whole, I would rather that thought rested with my hon. Friend than with me.
Would not the Foreign Secretary agree that an essential element for successful British entry into the Community is that our economy should be put on a sound footing? Will the Government provide the financial inducements and the proper competitive climate for this to be done?
We are putting the economy on a satisfactory footing, as anybody who compares its present state with what it was when we inherited it can see—and two and a half years is a very short period in which to clear up the mess which the Opposition made during the 13 years they were in office. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be speaking tonight in the City on all these matters and he will be dealing firmly with them.