asked the Secretary of State for Wales whether he will now meet the Welsh Advisory Committee of the Trades Union Congress to discuss the level of unemployment in Wales, in view of the latest figures of redundancies.
Yes, I hope to do so very shortly.
I am pleased to hear that reply, because the position in Wales, with more than 50,000 unemployed and with 15,000 redundancies notified at the end of October last, means that unemployment is now at crisis level. The step taken by the right hon. and learned Gentleman will perhaps correct the impression given, rightly or wrongly, that his inactivity was resulting in the displacement of two generations of Welsh people who sought employment.
As the hon. Gentleman knows, I have had three meetings with the Welsh T.U.C., and I look forward to having further discussions with it.
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that in my constituency, some unemployment is already being experienced, and a great deal more is likely in the haulage industry due to the failure of the Government to provide permits to haulage firms to use their lorries on the Continent? Would he be good enough to have a word with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment and ask him to look into this problem?
I shall certainly look into the matter and write to the hon. Gentleman.
asked the Secretary of State for Wales what special steps he proposes to take to alleviate unemployment amongst young people in Wales.
A lasting reduction in unemployment among young people in Wales can only be brought about by renewed economic growth. We are pledged to achieve this. More immediately I am in close touch with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment about the part Wales shall play in the National Association of Youth Clubs scheme which he announced last week.
Does not the Secretary of State appreciate that most of us on this side of the House welcome the initiative of the youth clubs in Wales in this connection? At the same time, in Wales there are 50,000 reasons why we are extremely critical of the Government's unemployment policy. Would not the right hon. and learned Gentleman at least accept that he has a special responsibility to the young unemployed in Wales, and would he consider approaching directly public authorities, local authorities, nationalised industries and even private firms urging them to increase the number of apprenticeships?
I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is very important that there should be an increase in apprenticeships. As he knows, there has recently been a considerable increase in training facilities. I am fully aware of the seriousness of the unemployment situation. That is why I am glad that such massive reflationary Measures, many of which were announced last week, have been taken by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
In view of all these questions about unemployment, has my right hon. and learned Friend noted that in the New Statesman and in Tribune, which are by no means devoted to the support of the present Government, there have been deep criticisms recently about the sharp growth of unemployment in the latter days of the Labour Government? As the present Government also inherited a inflationary situation, does not that explain our difficulty?
If this Government are at fault, it is in their misjudgment of the deep-seated effect of the deflationary policies pursued by the previous Administration and of the effect of the serious wage-cost inflation with which we were left in 1970. That is why the massive and unprecedented reflationary policies announced by my right hon. Friend will be the only answer to the problems we face.
Is not the Secretary of State aware that by dismantling the regional development policy, mainly with the abolition of investment grants, the Government are responsible for what they are doing, which has resulted in 70 per cent. fewer jobs and 50 per cent. fewer industries coming to Wales than a year ago? This is the direct result not of the actions of the C.E.I. or anyone else but of the Government.
The hon. Gentleman is wrong. The regional policies announced by the Government offer a great inducement to industry to go to the areas when there is an upturn in the economy nationally.
Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that in North Wales at least, one slightly brighter spot in a very grim employment picture is that the whole picture for school leavers has begun to show signs of improvement?
Yes. Although the matter has been serious, I am happy to say that the majority of school leavers are in employment.
Whilst we all accept that there were difficulties during the period of Labour Government, would the Secretary of State explain why more new jobs were created in Wales during a period of deflation under a Labour Government than are now being created in a period of reflation under his Government?
I can explain that. It was because the deflationary policies pursued from 1966 onwards took some time to work through the economy. On top of that there was the unprecedented wage-cost inflation which was left for the present Government when we took over last year.
asked the Secretary of State for Wales what estimate he has made of the effect of additional Government expenditure in Wales on overcoming unemployment.
No precise estimate can be made but the additional Government expenditure announced in recent months is designed to improve employment opportunities in Wales substantially.
Is it not a novel doctrine of a so-called considered Government, which the Prime Minister promised, that measures are now being taken without any calculation of their likely effect? Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say how many jobs will be provided by the miserable 5 per cent. of the total amount allocated to Wales in last week's announcement?
The hon. Gentleman is extraordinary in the way he tries to denigrate the major proposals for Wales, the £21 million which comes with the infrastructure, the £9 million extra to be spent on roads and, in addition, the share of the acceleration of the nationalised industry expenditure. The hon. Gentleman tries to make light of that. Clearly, it will mean many jobs for Wales, but it is impossible to be precise about numbers because the jobs will be done by local authorities and many other bodies and it is impossible to get the figures.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the time has come to stop tinkering round the edges of the problem, which is all that the Government have so far done in Wales? Does not he take the view that we must now have a crash programme for employment in Wales?
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman heard the figures I gave. These are major additional figures to be spent within the next one and two years.
Cockle Industry, Burry Inlet
asked the Secretary of State for Wales whether he is aware that the South Wales Sea Fisheries Committee is prevented from taking action to reduce the number of oystercatchers in the Burry Inlet, which have a serious detrimental effect on the cockle industry of the area; whether he will consider a scheme to remedy the situation in conjunction with the Nature Conservancy and the National Trust, which own the land there; and if he will make a statement.
My right hon. and learned Friend and I are considering this matter further in the light of representations that have been made by the Association of Sea Fisheries Committees. I will inform the hon. Member of our conclusions in due course.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his reply. I hope he will realise this is an urgent matter. As he will be aware, the Home Office took these birds off the protected list in 1963. In the meantime nothing has been done to control their numbers, with the result that the present figure has reached 22,000, an increase of 25 per cent., within recent weeks. May I appeal to the Minister to do everything possible to bring the parties together so that there is some understanding between all those concerned that it is necessary to save this very important industry which is being threatened?
I am aware of the importance of this, and I think that the hon. Member was at the Welsh Office when the last application was made in August, 1969. We shall certainly let him know as soon as we can what our conclusions are.
Allis Chalmers, Mold
asked the Secretary of State for Wales what representations he has received in connection with the threatened closure of the Allis Chalmers plant at Mold; and what discussions he has had on this matter.
In addition to the representations made by my hon. Friend, concern has been expressed to me by the hon. Member for Flint, East (Mr. Barry Jones) and by the county council. I hope to discuss this subject with the hon. Members and representatives of the county shortly.
I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for that reply. Will he assure the House that he will maintain the closest possible contact with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry? Time is running out for these people at Allis Chalmers' plant and it is urgent to try to find another employer for the factory.
The Department of Trade and Industry has full details of this factory and will draw the attention of industrialists to it.
European Economic Community
asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will ask the Welsh Council to set up a study into shipping facilities from South Wales ports to European countries, as part of the necessary preparation for entry into the European Economic Community.
The council's recent report on "Wales and the Common Market" took shipping facilities into account. I understand that the council has further work in hand.
Is my hon. Friend aware that many South Wales industrialists are dissatisfied with the present cargo shipping facilities to European ports and find it extremely expensive to ship out of East Coast and other ports? Will my hon. Friend do his best to ensure that all possible steps are taken to improve these facilities before we go into Europe?
Certainly, Sir, and I should add that the work being done by the Welsh Council Communications Panel, which will be completed shortly, will also help in this regard.
Would the hon. Gentleman agree that the real inquiry should be into the sell-out of Welsh port interests by the present Conservative Government in authorising the carrying out of the Port of Bristol West Dock scheme, after the scheme had been rejected by the Labour Government on both commercial and technical grounds?
The hon. Gentleman has a short memory. If there had not been a Conservative Government last year, we should have seen the nationalisation of all ports in South Wales.
Local Government Reform
asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he is satisfied that 1st April, 1974, is a realistic date for the commencement of the new structure of local government in Wales; and if he will make a statement.
Yes, Sir. I am satisfied that the timetable I have proposed is realistic and sensible.
But does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman read the WesternMail or consider the concern expressed by many officials of local authorities that this date is too early to enable them to prepare properly? Does he not realise that Mid-Glamorgan, the new county which he has carved out by his surrender to the "Keep Cardiff a Tory Capital" lobby, has no administrative centre of its own and nowhere that the new county authority can meet? Does he expect that authority to ask the eisteddfod authorities for the use of the National Eisteddfod Pavilion as the only place where it can meet?
I have read the article. I notice that the Pontypridd and Llantrisant councils are already starting joint meetings, which I think is very sensible. The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that it is very important that a timetable should be adhered to. That is certainly the view of all the local authority associations and the staff association. I think that the time table which I have proposed is the right one.
Health And Social Services (Increased Expenditure)
asked the Secretary of State for Wales what will be the Welsh share of the recently announced increase of £118 million to be spent in the next four years on health and personal social services.
I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West (Sir A. Meyer) on 23rd November, 1971.—[Vol. 826, c. 352.]
I am grateful for that reply, which I read after I had put down my Question. I welcome the Government's conversion to increased public expenditure, particularly in health and social services. Could the hon. Gentleman ensure that a fairly substantial proportion of this money is reserved for spending on services dealing with the chronic sick and disabled people, particularly on the conversion of houses to meet the special needs of the disabled?
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that a great deal of this large increase is to be used for the elderly, the mentally ill and the mentally handicapped, and also for children. Taking into account the extra £5½ million announced last year, special additions amounting to £13 million at present prices have been made available for health and personal social services in Wales since the present Government came into office. This excludes infrastructure money totalling £7 million.
Bala (Growth Town Development)
asked the Secretary of State for Wales how much additional money has been offered to Bala Urban District Council for its capital expenditure programme in furtherance of his growth towns policy; and whether he will make a statement.
Capital expenditure incurred by Bala Urban District Council in connection with expansion proposals will be financed in the normal way. I hope to discuss the position of the growth towns in Mid-Wales with hon. Members representing the area and representatives of the Mid-Wales Industrial Development Association when I meet them shortly.
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the small and ambitious little council of Bala, which was encouraged to double the size of its township, has received a grand total of £450 in additional money towards the programme which the Secretary of State and his advisers set for this corporation? If he has no realistic plans to offer for the council, can he tell its representatives not to bother to come and see him on Thursday, since they could at least use their fare money towards their much-needed rate relief?
I informed the council that I was studying the possibility of widening the application of grants for basic services. This will be discussed at the meeting to which I have referred.
asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will now pay an official visit to the County Borough of Newport.
I have already paid several official visits to Newport.
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that if he were to visit Newport he would find that, within 18 months this once prosperous town has been turned into one of high unemployment, where the latest figures show that 2,339 men are competing for only 82 registered male vacancies? Will he come and explain things to the people of Newport? Then, perhaps, he can be persuaded to resign his office.
I am fully aware of the unemployment figures in Newport. I am also aware that there is great potential there. If I receive an invitation to visit Newport, I shall be very happy to consider it.
asked the Secretary of State for Wales whether he will ask the Welsh Council to make a further study of the incentives suitable for industrialists to invest in Wales.
I do not consider it necessary to ask for a further study at this stage but I shall certainly keep the possibility in mind.
In view of the failure of the Government's development area policies, could they not at least try to remedy the situation by allowing industrialists to opt between investment grants and tax allowances where they consider that grants are a superior form of investment incentive?
I disagree with the hon. Gentleman that the Government's regional and development policies have been a failure. In fact, they offer considerable inducements. With growth in the economy in Wales, I have no doubt that they will be a great attraction to industry in the region.
In view of the report published during the weekend about the pessimistic future for manufacturing industry generally, whatever support and incentives are offered, would not the right hon. and learned Gentleman accept that it is time for a radical reappraisal of the whole system of incentives and inducements, and also of the kind of industry which we are trying to get into Wales, in view of the fact that no upturn is likely in manufacturing industry in the next two years?
The hon. Gentleman will be aware of the massive reflationary policies announced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer which are in great contrast to the deflationary policies pursued by our predecessors. There is no doubt that when the economy of the country improves, as it will, Wales will benefit considerably.
Comprehensive Education (Aberdare)
asked the Secretary of State for Wales when he expects fully comprehensive education to be operating in the area of the Urban District of Aberdare.
Not before 1975.
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the present position causes considerable annoyance and embarrassment to my constituents, inasmuch as the constituency is covered by one education executive yet one half of it has comprehensive education and the other half has not? Will he ask his Department to try to persuade the education authority to speed up matters?
As the hon. Gentleman appreciates, it is for the local education authorities themselves to decide their building priorities. I would be ready to consider on its merits within the resources available any firm proposal for the area. I will certainly bear in mind what the hon. Gentleman has said.
Sully Hospital, Glamorgan
asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he is aware of disquiet caused by the plans of the Welsh Hospital Board among those who have worked at Sully Hospital, Glamorgan, and who have contributed to the reputation of Sully Hospital; and what steps he will take to ensure the continuance of the work which has been carried on at Sully Hospital in recent years.
I considered carefully and sympathetically the representations made by staff and others about the future of Sully Hospital and I am glad to acknowledge the high reputation which the hospital has earned. I look forward to the continuation of this work at the University Hospital of Wales and Llan- dough Hospital where it will be better provided for.
Will my hon. Friend take into account the admirable siting of this hospital, its very attractive and spacious buildings, the quality of its staff and the fact that it is one of the very few Welsh hospitals with an international reputation? In that context, will he reappraise the rather harsh decision of the Welsh Hospital Board, with which my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State has tended to agree?
I am afraid that I cannot alter the decision, but I gladly pay tribute to both the staff and the work which has gone on at the hospital. I agree with my hon. Friend about the position and siting of the hospital and join him in wishing the future of this hospital very well indeed.
asked the Secretary of State for Wales what is the percentage of the average income in Wales paid in rent at the present time by tenants of council houses and by tenants of privately owned property, respectively; and what the percentage will be, in both cases, on the basis of the enactment of the proposals contained in the Housing Finance Bill.
No figures are available which show average incomes of council or private tenants, or the average of rents paid. It follows that no forecast can be made on the hon. Member's assumption.
That is a strangely uneducated reply, when one considers that the current average rent in Wales, private and local authority, is £2·18 and that in 1976 it will be £4·18 according to a projection by the Department of the Environment. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that to 67 local authorities an increase of 50 per cent. represents 25 per cent. of the net unrebated rent and that if local authorities do not increase their rents by 1st April next year by the mandatory £1 this will represent in many cases 50 per cent. of the net unrebated rent? Lastly, would not the hon. Gentleman agree that the message of the Bill is that rents will go up and that he and the Secretary of State are guilty of abdication of duty by failing to take a place in the Standing Committee, where the people of Wales would like to see them?
If the hon. Gentleman will allow me, I will study his rather long supplementary question and write to him on it. On the last part of the question, as I said to his hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock), this is the first Government who have ever tried to bring common sense into housing finance.
Does the Minister of State mean that his right hon. and learned Friend agreed to this proposal without having any data to enable him to consider what effect this would have in Wales, when his right hon. and learned Friend has said before that he did not think that this would be unduly injurious to Wales? On what was he basing such supposition?
I do not see that that applies to the Question I am trying to answer. The only information is in the form published in the report for 1970 of the family expenditure survey carried out by the Department of Employment. The hon. Gentleman will find a copy of this in the Library.
Local Authority Contracts (Local Labour)
asked the Secretary of State for Wales whether he will issue a circular to local authorities in Wales recommending that they stipulate, when placing contracts, that local labour must be employed as far as possible.
No, Sir. Local authorities are fully aware of the employment situation in their districts and the need to take all practicable steps to alleviate problems of unemployment.
I am well aware of the difficulties in this matter, but is my hon. Friend aware that all too often major contracts, particularly construction contracts, placed in areas of high unemployment result in a very large immigration, very often from Ireland, of building labourers? At the end of the process of construction, the result is that the unemployment level is as high as it was before construction began. Is there not some way in which the situation could be remedied?
My hon. Friend will agree that specialist labour has to travel from job to job, but there is considerable scope for contractors to employ local labour in addition to specialist elements. If my hon. Friend has any particular cases in mind on which I could help, I should be grateful if he would let me know.
Perhaps I could help the Minister on this matter. Is it not a fact that most of the immigrant labour comes in when contracts are given to very large firms already contracting in the areas? Is it not true that the hon. Gentleman's Department has encouraged local authorities in Wales to put contracts out to private firms rather than undertake them with direct labour within the local authority?
Whether or not that is so, some 160 local authorities in Wales are at present using direct labour to carry out projects.
M4 (Economic And Social Results)
asked the Secretary of State for Wales, what research has been undertaken by the Welsh Office into the economic and social consequences for South Wales of the completion of the M4.
The decisions to proceed with the various lengths of the M4 were taken after careful examination of all relevant factors. I have no doubt that the motorway will be of considerable economic and social benefit to South Wales.
Is the Secretary of State satisfied that adequate research has been given to what will undoubtedly be the immense impact of the arrival of this motorway, and that adequate planning advice will be available to local authorities and others once the motorway is nearing completion?
Yes, Sir, I am satisfied. These projects are very expensive and I assure my hon. Friend that they were not embarked upon without a very thorough examination of the costs and benefits and the many other implications of having these excellent communications in South Wales.
Is the Secretary of State aware that there is considerable anxiety in the Amman Valley that the road linking Ammanford and its environs with the motorway at Pont Abraham will not be a road of dual carriageway standard? Would the Secretary of State look again at this matter, especially as the Welsh Office indicated at one time that it would be a dual carriageway?
I shall certainly look at this and write to the hon. Gentleman.
Cambrian Coast Railway
asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many deputations he has received in connection with his responsibility for grant-aiding the Cambrian Coast railway line; and whether he will make a statement.
One. I have brought this and the many other representations about the future of the line to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment with whom the responsibility for grant-aiding lies. The next stage will be a further public hearing by the Transport Users Consultative Committee in February.
Is the Secretary of State aware, if he has read the report of the Transport Users Consultative Committee, that the committee specifically stated in that report that it could not imagine alternative bus services being made available on this route? If that was its first report, is the Secretary of State trying to bully this T.U.C.C. to change its mind and bring in a favourable report?
No, Sir. I assure the hon. Gentleman that I have no intention of bullying the T.U.C.C. or anyone in respect of their views about this line. The reference to the T.U.C.C. is entirely without prejudice to the ultimate decision on closure proposals. The intention is to consider information which was not available when the committee held its earlier inquiry.
asked the Secretary of State for Wales what recent dis- cussion he has had with the British Steel Corporation concerning the future operations of the steel industry in Wales.
I am in close touch with developments and I will be personally meeting the Deputy Chairman later this week.
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman appreciate that there is considerable uncertainty and low morale amongst steel workers in Wales at present? Will he appreciate that the industry has not been helped by the hullaballoo over hiving-off operations and the Government's intentions concerning price increases and about holding up investment plans? Will he prevail upon the British Steel Corporation to discourage rumours prevalent at present of investment by the corporation in a green-field site on the Continent, when we have available green-field sites in South Wales?
As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Joint Steering Group is at present engaged on part two of the review—that is, the financial and economic implications of B.S.C.'s long-term development; and when the group's report is made, many of the anxieties that the hon. Gentlement has mentioned will be allayed.
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that there is a great deal of anxiety in the Wrexham constituency about the Brymbo steelworks and the continuance of that works in the orbit of the British Steel Corporation? Will he ask his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to decide once and for all whether the works should stay in the B.S.C.? Has the fall-off in production, when the works are already well below operating capacity, anything to do with the fact that the proposed buyer is a major customer?
I am aware of the importance of the steelworks to the part of Wales to which the hon. Gentleman refers. These decisions are being considered at present within the long-term financial review.
Pembrey Bambing Range
asked the Secretary of State for Wales what representations have been made to the Welsh Office in connection with the decision to continue using the Pembrey bombing range; and what reply has been sent.
Apart from the hon. Member's letter of 9th November to which my hon. Friend the Minister of State replied on 23rd November, Llanelli Rural District Council has also made representations. It has been informed that I have accepted the need for the continued use of the Pembrey range for the reasons given in a letter sent by the Ministry of Defence to the clerk of the council on 15th November.
Is the Secretary of State aware that not only in the area of Pembrey and Kidwelly but throughout Carmarthenshire, there is great concern regarding low-flying aircraft? Apart from the economic consequences of this decision—there is no economic benefit to the county, and Carmarthenshire receives more than its fair share of this activity—will the right hon. and learned Gentleman assure us that despite this decision, there will be no increase in the amount of such low-flying activity and that it will be brought to an end as soon as possible? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman further ensure that the people who benefit from this decision will be those bearing the brunt of the low-flying aircraft activity?
The level of activity at Pembrey will remain as it is now. As to the value to Carmarthenshire, continued use is necessary in association with Brawdy. An important factor is to ensure the civilian employment at Brawdy.
Will my hon. and learned Friend make it abundantly clear that Pembrey and the Royal Air Force base at Brawdy that it will serve will make an immensely important contribution to employment and the economy of the area, and ensure that this latest Socialist threat to employment in my constituency is firmly repudiated?
Yes, I agree with my hon. Friend that that is important. It is by the use of Pembrey that one can assure continuation of civilian employment at Brawdy.
Has the Welsh Office given any consideration to the effect of the continuation of this bombing range on the plans of local authorities to establish a countryside park within the area, which would help to improve the amenities and be of great benefit to the area?
Yes, Sir. Continued use of Pembrey range should not jeopardise the countryside park project.
Glamorgan Coastline (Pollution)
asked the Secretary of State for Wales what steps he will take to improve arrangements for the disposal of sewage and industrial waste along the Bristol Channel seaboard of Glamorgan, to ensure improvement in the cleanliness and condition of the beaches and the tidal waters.
Major schemes costing £10 million have been authorised and work is proceeding to improve existing sewage outfall conditions on the Glamorgan coastline. Glamorgan maritime local authorities are also considering further schemes costing f16 million to improve outfall conditions. I shall give them every encouragement to bring their schemes forward.
Has my hon. Friend noted the recent report which claims that pollution is worse in places near Cardiff, Penarth and Barry than in any other part of Britain? In view of the report, will he treat this matter urgently?
Yes, we are treating this as a very grave matter. The report is being given very careful consideration by officials in the Department.
Eastern Avenue, Cardiff (Emergency Telephones)
asked the Secretary of State for Wales what proposals he has to provide adequate telephone communications, for use in emergency, on Eastern Avenue, Cardiff.
I do not have this in mind. It is not general policy to provide emergency telephones on all-purpose trunk roads and I am not persuaded that the circumstances on Eastern Avenue make them necessary.
Is my hon. Friend aware that his reply will cause grave disappointment to users of the road and also to experts on road safety in the South Wales area? Will he reconsider the decision?
It is not Government policy to provide emergency telephones on roads other than motorways, and Eastern Avenue is not a motorway. But this matter is at present under consideration at the Welsh Office. If my hon. Friend would like to speak to me about it further, I will look at it.
Trade And Industry
asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if, following representations made to him by the hon. Member for Croydon, South, he will seek to amend the Trade Descriptions Act, 1968, so as to enable magistrates' courts to award compensation.
I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) on 15th November.—[Vol. 826, c. 20–21.]
Is my hon. Friend aware that I heard that answer and found it profoundly unsatisfactory? Would not he agree that one of the objects of the Act was to protect the consumer? That being so, would it not help the consumer if magistrates could award compensation in appropriate cases? Would he not also agree that an amendment of the law would also help the Government's professed intention to help the victim at the expense of the culprit? Finally, would he agree with me that people who suffer because they accept at face value representations about things subsequently found to be false ought to be compensated without having to go to the expense and frustration of civil proceedings?
I said that we would review this point when reviewing the working of the Act. I equally told the House on that occasion that if a trader was convicted under the Act he would be well advised to pay compensation voluntarily, because he would not have much chance of succeeding in a civil court in an action brought against him. That goes a long way to making sure that compensation will be available where it is due.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Act loses most of its validity and a great deal of its strength if he merely throws the victim of someone who has infringed it back on the civil courts? It becomes a reality only if the victim of the misdemeanour is compensated within the terms of the Act itself.
The hon. Gentleman must not forget the heavy deterrent effect of being convicted of a criminal offence under the Act and of the heavy fines which can and have been assessed on the convicted. That in itself is a major protection to the consumer.
Will my hon. Friend, when reviewing the matter in response to the Question of my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Sir R. Thompson), bear in mind that, even with legal aid, civil proceedings may be costly and will certainly involve delay? Is not that a fact which should lead to the adoption, if at all practical, of my hon. Friend's suggestion?
Given the provisions of the Misrepresentation Act, 1967, and the Civil Evidence Act, 1968, it is almost certain that a trader would have to pay compensation and, therefore, civil proceedings should be obviated by voluntary payments.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is a Criminal Justice Bill before Parliament which seeks to enlarge the area of compensation for those who are affected by crime? Will he not therefore organise his review immediately so that this suggestion can be incorporated in the Bill?
I have no doubt that my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General, who is in charge of that Bill, will have noted what the hon. and learned Gentleman has said.
asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what reply he has sent to the Scottish Knitwear Council further to its letter to him of 9th November dealing with Section 8 of the Trade Descriptions Act, 1968.
A meeting has been held when representatives of the council discussed the possible need for stronger general safeguards against the consumer being misled into believing that imported goods are British.
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that what the Scottish Knitwear Council is after is a measure of fair trading and proper identification in the labelling of goods? Is he further aware that many consumers are being swindled by companies selling goods on the basis that they are genuine Scottish knitwear products? Will he give careful consideration to this swindle to which our consumers are being subjected?
I have a copy of the letter from the Scottish Knitwear Council before me. As I understand it, all the points it makes will be met by the Bill which my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South-East (Mr. Peel) intends to bring into the House.
Will my hon. Friend agree that this question extends far beyond the issue of the Scottish Knitwear Council into the province of textiles and footwear?
It seems to me that it applies to all goods, that it should be impossible to deceive the consumer as to the origin of the goods and that legislation in this matter should apply to all goods and not to any particular category.
asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what new plans he has for increasing public investment in the regions.
Since the hon. Member tabled this Question my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced many helpful new measures on 23rd November, 1971.
Does not the hon. Gentleman recognise the great contradiction between the statement of the Chancellor last week and the determination, as pronounced in the White Paper of October, 1970, to cut public expendi- ture? When will the Chancellor's belated announcement last week about increasing public investment in the regions have its effect on the unemployment figures?
I do not acknowledge a contradiction for the very good reason that the timing is quite different. One has to be cautious in making forecasts as to the effect of my right hon. Friend's announcement, but I would expect that it would be certainly within the next six months.
Will my hon. Friend accept that already in the North, I am glad to say, some commitments by local authorities have already been brought forward and that I am grateful for this? At the same time, will he convey to the Secretary of State for Social Services and the Secretary of State for Education and Science that I am looking forward to some very good announcements from them for speedier procedures to meet commitments which could be brought forward? I am looking forward with keen anxiety to hearing good news in this connection.
I am always grateful for my hon. Friend's gratitude and I will convey her feelings to my right hon. Friends.
asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the progress being made in the development of Turnhouse Airport at Edinburgh.
Substantial development of Edinburgh Airport must await the outcome of the British Airports Authority's planning application about which a public inquiry is now in progress.
Can the hon. Gentleman indicate whether progress can be made meanwhile in improving the terminal facilities for passengers which have been a disgrace for far too many years?
If the improvements which the hon. Gentleman has in mind require planning permission, the answer is "No". If improvements internally can be made without planning permission, the answer would be "Yes".
Steel Industry (Oil Exploitation Equipment)
asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussions he has held with the British Steel Corporation regarding its ability to tender for equipment in connection with the exploitation of North Sea oil.
None; this is a matter for the Corporation to determine in consultation with the oil companies concerned.
May I crave the indulgence of the House to say how sorry we are to hear of the death of Mr. Hugh Stenhouse? It is a great loss to Scotland and to Scottish industry generally.
In relation to my Question is the hon. Gentleman aware that we are extremely perturbed about the possibility of loss of jobs in Scotland due to the lack of initiative, for example, of the British Steel Corporation in relation to supply facilities such as steel construction for the exploitation of North Sea oil, and about the direct loss of jobs in Glasgow because of the closure of the Tube Division office? What is the hon. Gentleman going to do about it?
I join the hon. Gentleman's expression of regret at the untimely death of Mr. Stenhouse.I understand that the Corporation has obtained a large Gas Council order for large diameter pipes and I see no reason why it should not compete for these other orders in the same way.
Has not the Department had some discussion with the corporation on the question of much of this equipment and the reports which have appeared recently? Can the hon. Gentleman confirm that discussions are now proceeding between British Petroleum and the British Steel Corporation on the specifications required and that there is every possibility that the Corporation could meet these specifications? Will he also confirm that the stories that have been published in, for example, the Glasgow Herald are grossly misleading? Surely the Government have shown some interest in the matter.
The Iron Steel Act, which the hon. Gentleman's own Government brought in, expressly forbids Ministers from interfering in the commercial management of the corporation.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the present Government, for purposes which we do not approve, have established quite different relations between Government and the steel industry from those which were laid down in the Act? Can he not use this possibility to discuss matters of major importance about which a Question was put on the Order Paper? Surely the hon. Gentleman should be able to give the Government's view on such an important question.
I can only give the Government's views about matters for which I have statutory authority. The hon. Gentleman knows very well that this Government, like the last one, have no power to intervene in commercial decisions of the corporation of this sort.
Rolls-Royce Sub-Contractors (Development Assistance)
asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether he will now take further measures to aid sub-contractors to Rolls-Royce (1971) Limited following the liquidation of Rolls-Royce Limited, in view of their need to fund new technical development and expansion.
No, Sir. It is for Rolls-Royce (1971) Ltd. to arrange for continuity of supply of components for its future programmes.
While thanking my hon. Friend for that reply, and reminding him that the renegotiation of the RB211 contract assured continued employment in the regions in the sub-contractual sector, may I ask my hon. Friend whether he could expedite the price negotiations for the assets of Rolls-Royce Limited, because many millions of £s and the expansion capability of sub-contractors are involved? These are two important questions.
My hon. Friend will appreciate that my power to influence the speed of these negotiations is limited. I assure him that the Government will do their best to help in any way they can. But it is a very complex calculation and it will take time.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that it is not good enough to leave this matter to Rolls-Royce entirely but that the Government should give some indication of future prospects? Is he further aware that the anxieties of the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson) are shared by many employees of sub-contracting firms and Rolls-Royce itself and that it would help to give assurance if we could have the early issue of a White Paper?
The White Paper will be issued very soon. I simply do not follow what the hon. Gentleman implies about giving assurances. I am not in a position to put a value on these assets, and that is the crux of the problem.
asked the Attorney-General how many prosecutions have taken place in November against people accused of drug peddling; and if he will make a statement.
The figures for November are not yet available. In the first six months of 1971, the latest period for which information is available, 238 persons were proceeded against in England, Wales and Scotland for unlawful supply of drugs.
Whereas those who are suffering from drug addiction need treatment and help, may I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether he is satisfied that even with 238 peddlers having been brought to prosecution everything possible is being done to identify drug peddlers at the earliest possible moment?
As the hon. Gentleman recognises, there are difficulties in identifying the peddler. When it is possible to bring a prosecution, that is done. I assure the hon. Member that those who peddle drugs will indeed be subject to police inquiries and, wherever possible, prosecutions will be brought.
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman appreciate that it is 21 months since this House gave a Second Reading to the Misuse of Drugs Bill, which incorporated in its provisions a new level of penalties for those who push and peddle drugs? When will these important provisions be brought into operation?
I cannot advise the House about that, but if the hon. Gentleman will table a Question on the subject I will certainly answer it.
Mr S Brett
asked the Attorney-General whether he will direct the Director of Public Prosecutions to accede to a police request to prosecute prisoner S. Brett, in view of the admission by Brett that he and others had planned to carry out a robbery on 3rd September, 1970 at the Great Eastern Hotel, Liverpool Street, and the fact that the police investigations proved this to be the case.
No, Sir. I am satisfied that it would not be in the public interest to institute such proceedings.
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman look at this case again because this man, who is a convicted criminal—the facts can be verified by the Attorney-General if he consults the police—claims that there should not have been a prosecution because he is innocent of the crime which he allegedly committed and for which he was convicted? Despite his criminal record, should he not be given a chance to prove his innocence of the crime for which he was convicted, although he admits to being guilty of the other crime?
The prisoner referred to in the hon. Gentleman's Question was convicted of conspiracy to rob premises at Brentwood and was sentenced to seven years' imprisonment. He made application for leave to appeal and that was refused. He is now applying to the full court and that matter is awaiting hearing. I understand that the grounds of appeal are that he was not conspiring to rob at Brentwood because he was conspiring to rob the Great Eastern Hotel.
Judge Michael Argyle, Qc (Threats)
asked the Attorney-General what action he has taken or intends taking in the light of threats against Judge Michael Argyle, Q.C., and his family.
The police have investigated the deplorable threats against Judge Argyle and his family but have not been able to identify the persons responsible for those threats. It has not, therefore, been possible to take any action against such persons.
May we have an assurance that the police will continue to make investigations into this matter because it was reported in the Press that there was at least prima facie evidence to show that the police knew who were at the back of these threats? Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that if that is so, the police should continue with their investigations?
The police made investigations and inquiries at the time these calls and threats were made, but there is no evidence against the person who was responsible for them.
Will my right hon. and learned Friend also investigate the matter of the besetting of the judge's house and the siege which Mrs. Argyle and her family had to endure for many weeks if not months?
My hon. and learned Friend is absolutely correct. Considerable distress and annoyance was caused to the judge and his family, and in particular to Mrs. Argyle, on 6th, 7th and 8th August. As I have said, this deplorable activity is obviously to be condemned by everybody.
Domestic Properties (Registration)
asked the Attorney-General if he will introduce legislation designed to require the registration of particulars of individual domestic properties.
No. The Government's policy is to extend registra- tion of title under the Land Registration Acts.
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that I am fully conversant with the Land Registration Act, 1925, under Section 130 of which he has power to extend registration? Is he not failing in his duty by not so extending it, remembering that the effect of doing so would be to cut the conveyancing costs of solicitors by one-third, according to my information? In view of the difficulty which particularly youngsters face in buying houses, would not this make a substantial contribution?
The Law Society made recommendations in 1965 on what might be called the log book principle, which the hon. Gentleman probably has in mind. However, the Law Commission advised against them and the Government of the day did not take the recommendations up. It is the proposal to continue with the substantial progress that is being made, and now some 22½ million people live in compulsory registration areas, which is about half the population.
Naturally the Law Commission would give that advice because it has a vested interest in the matter. Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman reconsider this matter, because if both sides of the House are in favour of home ownership and really want to encourage it, this would be a reasonable way to go about giving that encouragement?
The hon. Gentleman must have misunderstood me. It was the solicitors who made the suggestion to the Law Society but the Law Commission, which was established by the Labour Government, rejected it. The solicitors made the proposal but the Law Commission said the best way to proceed was in the way that is now being done.
While for once I regret that I must repudiate what my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) said in his observation about the Law Commission, for which we are immensely grateful in all parts of the House, may I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to accept that there is a case for speeding up the process of registration, which would make speedier and cheaper the task of conveyancing?
I agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman and it was the method about which I was disagreeing with his hon. Friend. I agree that the procedure and movement forward on land registration is of great advantage.
On a point of order. In view of the Minister's unsatisfactory Answer. I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.
European Economic Community
asked the Attorney-General what increase in the staff of the Lord Chancellor's Department will be required for the scrutiny of European Economic Community legislation and giving effect to harmonisation therewith; and what will be the cost of such increase.
Firm estimates are not yet possible, but at the most half a dozen additional staff may be required; the tasks referred to by my right hon. and learned Friend do not primarily fall to the Lord Chancellor's Department.
As the amount of work that will be required to be done is not yet ascertainable and in view of the possibility that it may be very heavy indeed, may I ask my right hon. and learned Friend to be astute and avoid the dangers both of improper scrutiny and undue strain and overwork on the part of these learned gentlemen?
This is certainly a matter which is obviously under consideration. As my right hon. and learned Friend will appreciate, each Department deals with its own responsibility. For example, the additional lawyers in the Lord Chancellor's office will deal mainly with the subject of what is known in the House as lawyer's law.
Will the Attorney-General answer the last part of his right hon. and learned Friend's Question, which he perhaps unconsciously avoided, and give us an idea of the cost of this exercise?
The hon. Gentleman is right and I apologise to my right hon. and learned Friend for not answering that part of his Question. The disclosure now of any cost is impossible because it would be premature to give an estimate at this stage.
Could not the assistance of the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) be enlisted for this important work, now that the Bar has recently suffered his retirement?
That has indeed been a loss to my profession, but I must repeat that the tasks do not fall primarily to the Lord Chancellor's Department; and, as I said, very few extra staff will be required.
asked the Attorney-General whether he will refer to the Director of Public Prosecutions, for consideration, the facts stated in the Compton Report with a view to the initiation of proceedings against Ministers and others concerned with them in the United Kingdom for conspiring to commit criminal assault on internees in Northern Ireland.
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman recognise that this is a very grave matter and that there is at the very least good prima facie evidence for believing that offences have been committed not only in Northern Ireland by those who have breached the law in this respect but by those who, within the English jurisdiction, arranged to do so? Will the Attorney-General not at least remove the doubt which exists in the minds of many people on this point by arranging for the matter to be investigated? Will he at some other time make a fuller statement on the subject and explain his reasons?
As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, the note of interrogation is set out in paragraph 46, page 12, of the Compton Report. It sets out the rules which were laid down in 1965 and revised in 1967. Nowhere in those rules are there any instructions or requirement authorising the commission of any criminal offence.
Is not this unfounded and scurrilous Question music in the ears of the gunmen?
I appreciate what my hon. Friend says, but I am answering a Question relating to criminal prosecution.
Have the Government given any consideration at all to whether the Compton findings reveal matters which are consistent or inconsistent with our obligations under Article 3 of the European Convention which, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows, prohibits inhuman and degrading treatment?
The Question to which I have directed my reply relates to the institution of criminal proceedings.